Catching My Breath

Happy 2015!

I think this last week has been one of the most chaotic in a long time. I just arrived back in the country from a wonderful two-week trip spent in Ireland and the UK, only to return to my internship as a counselor a matter of hours later. (Score one for my pure stubbornness in wanting to have as much time abroad as possible. Fortunately I was so happy to be reunited with my clients that I didn’t notice the jet lag until that night…) As I sit here writing this post in-between jotting all of my assignment due dates for my final semester of grad school (?!) and typing a draft of my final research proposal for graduation, it is suddenly hitting me just how much has happened this past year.

I am still working on the long post that I briefly mentioned in my last entry. The words aren’t coming to me like I had hoped, but to be continued!

But because it is a new year, I wanted to make just a few brief lists for 2015 goal setting. Definitely encourage anyone else to make their own!

MY WORD FOR THIS YEAR:

Last month I was challenged to pray about a word that God really wanted me to focus on. Before I even finished, the word integrity came to mind, plain as day. Integrity, for me, is needing to…

  • Stop trying to cut so many corners. This is something I am especially bad about in my schoolwork. Sometimes I get so involved and focused on my internship (which I love) and actually serving in the field, that I begin to resent my graded papers and assignments, and just do the bare minimum. I need to remember that I am in school to learn- I want to appreciate what time I still have left and commit more to the entire process.
  • Be more intentional. This is a really broad goal, but specifically, I need to be more intentional about studying the Bible and engaging in conversations about it. Although I don’t want reading the Bible to become a chore, and merely check it off each day, I tend to get lazy and make excuses if I go several days on end without picking it up. I need to be more intentional about setting aside specific time and generally use the “whenever I get around to it” statement less.
  • Be more direct with people. Working as an addictions counselor has definitely toughened me up, but my tendency in day-to-day life is to want to bend over backwards to make other people happy. I need to be upfront and honest more often if I am frustrated with a situation rather than just doing nothing about it whatsoever. Raised voices tend to set me on edge, which is why I need to practice and remember that caring confrontation does not actually have to involve yelling.

Gratitude List

Even though people tend to do this during Thanksgiving, a project I want to pursue is to actively keep a gratitude list. The quickest way to kill contempt is to tell God, or another person, things that you are grateful for. For me, this most often happens when I am driving. (I don’t know if it is because I suddenly have the angry desire to issue driving tickets via hand signals that are supposed to express “What are you DOING?!?!” in the car, and therefore actually think about being grateful more often, but this is usually what happens.) The other day in my head I just started telling God how grateful I was for heat. That gas is a whopping $1.99 all of a sudden. That I have a car. And suddenly my road rage was lessened a bit.

Highlights and Lowlights

This year was a great one. By God’s grace, I published a book (see tab at top of website), joined a church plant team in Ireland for three months (and met an Irish fellow I am quite fond of while I was there…), finished my first year of graduate school, and heard some really amazing teachings and sermons that made my desire to follow Jesus multiply. I am going to be the Maid of Honor in the wedding of one of my best friends, got to see two friends get baptized, celebrated a new birth into one of my favorite families, and traveled solo across Europe for a few weeks.

It was challenging at the same time. It was difficult not having access to income anymore, and I felt guilty spending any just about any money that wasn’t a necessity as it was all coming out of my savings. Although I have some amazing relationships in Charlotte, I also spent a bit of lonely time missing friends in other cities. My sense of time management became stretched thin as I began taking night classes and electives in order to graduate on time and complete my internship. This unfortunately meant that I could no longer attend a weekly Bible Study or a leadership training I was nominated for. This has actually been one of the hardest things to deal with in recent months.

Goals for This Year

  • In some ways, not knowing where I will be living or working in five months, after graduation, has caused me anxiety. In other ways, it has led me to appreciate more of what God wants me to learn and do here in the present day. One goal of mine is to focus more on giving up control to Him whenever I am feeling overwhelmed. Personally, I think the whole “God won’t give you more than you can take” notion is mostly false- I think He gives us a great deal more than we can take sometimes so that at the end, there is no question of who should take the credit for it.
  • I have already talked about the necessity of spending more time reading my Bible, but as soon as I have a spare evening again, I am very much looking forward to joining a small group again for Bible study. I am very much missing the provided accountability and friendship!
  • Continue to invest time and love into the Urban Eagles. Last month, due to my course schedule, I had to stop volunteering in Grier Heights. This was hard for me to accept (I think I was in denial for a bit that a new elective option would be added to a morning), but am so thankful to continue to commit to the Forest Hills neighborhood. These young girls give me some of the most joy all week, and the leaders are all now some of my very best friends!
  • Create boundaries. This is one I will not expand on here, but is certainly a continuous goal, especially for a social worker.
  • Above all, develop more of a passion to know Christ more so that I may be able to know and love others more.

Any prayers for me as I continue writing, studying, learning, and working are much appreciated!

Blessings. xx

The Problem With Living Like You’re Dying

This is a conversation that I have had with friends before. While it isn’t quite as common of a trend now, there were a few years where it seemed like every time I turned on the radio there was some song on about “I’m going to live like there’s no tomorrow”.

Now hear me: I am all for making the most out of the opportunities in your life. Someone once told me “You regret the things you don’t do more than the things you actually do”, which I love. By trying new things and actually taking a shot at doing the things we dream about, we open up entire new worlds that we may never have known otherwise.

So really, I think there can be a lot of good that comes out of thinking this way. But this post is just to present a counterpoint to this phenomenon with “YOLO” that has taken over pop culture.

Starting off by just looking at my own life, I am an ENFJ (extrovert), meaning that I enjoy having lots of noise and people around. While most of my friends actually tend to be more introverted, and enjoy solitude as a way to decompress, quiet stresses me out. I find it impossible to drive in the car without music playing and typically always have the TV on in the background if no one else is around. It is actually the first thing I do in the morning when I wake up, just to help keep me awake. This personality type also tends to mean that I like to be busy and involved. I won’t list everything I have taken on; nearly all of it is very enjoyable, but essentially I have a really busy schedule.

So you may be thinking okay…that’s nice, but what does that have to do with the topic here? Well, essentially, it means that I for one am often in this “What haven’t I done today that I might regret later on?” mindset. It’s led to a lot of really positive things in my life, and I am very proud of some of the things I have gotten to accomplish by God’s grace. But just as some people need some motivation to get going, go pursue their dreams, work towards making things better, others may need to slow down a bit.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” -Psalm 46:10

There are times when I literally sit and realize that I have not gotten to spend as much time in the Bible, decompressing, or reflecting as I would like. Typically during the day I am rushing from work, to volunteering, to one activity or another. I am truly thankful that I am so involved, but sometimes it seems like maybe I am trying to take on too much. When I am not occupied by a task, it has gotten to the point where instead of feeling restful, I get anxious and guilty. I feel like I am wasting my time, instead of taking that time and turning it over to God to fill my mind while I am being still.

I do not want to be so “busy serving God” that I am actually blocking out that time to just sit and remember that I do not have complete control, and am not Superwoman.

So while it is great to try new things, give in to change, and fill time in a productive manner, I wish in some ways that we would become a little less obsessed with “making each moment count” and “living like we are going to die tomorrow”.

I confess that in some moments where I might be a little crankier than normal, and I hear celebrities or musicians make statements like that, I think “Well sure, you have millions of dollars. You can just jet off to Italy tomorrow on a moments notice if you feel like it, really live it up. What about the rest of us?!” But that wouldn’t turn out so well because then I would hurt my finger when I jabbed really hard at the radio preset buttons on my dashboard out of frustration.

So really all I am asking for is some encouragement for everyone. That “Hey, you know what? You are doing the best you can. Maybe there are things you can do more of, maybe there are things you need to cut back on. But do not worry if each day doesn’t look like this picture perfect fantasy of accomplishing everything you want to do. Because friend, that takes time, and God’s timing is not immediate. God’s timing is perfect. Perfect is not immediate gratification. Perfect is having the strength to surrender control to a power greater than just you. And if God leads you to have a day where you just need to lay down with a wet cloth on your head while you read a good book because you are so exhausted, well then sometimes we need those days. Because that is life. This roller coaster of moments where you are full of bliss or despair, and moments that are so ordinary it’s beautiful.”

That is all I want to hear once in awhile: that it is okay to just be still, listen, and be quiet before you act. And those things that haven’t happened yet that you want? Work towards them, but realize they might not be just around the corner, and that that’s okay. God is going to be there by your side regardless of whether or not you have made that skydiving trip yet, and if you desire to work for His glory, things larger than you ever would have imagined will happen!