Being OK with Me

Being OK with Me Banner

I’m OK with myself. Really, I am. The title up there might indicate I don’t like myself very much. Most of the time, I’m OK with me. I see my strengths and weaknesses. I see how I’ve changed and grown over the years. I generally feel contentment about who I am, where I am and what I do.

But.

But, there is also this nagging feeling that I am not enough. I should be more or do more. I should fix something. I should try harder. There is a shadow following me around whispering, “I should. I should. I should.”

I know I’m not alone. I sense you feel it, too. I hear it when you talk about how you’re failing. I see it when you stand on the edge, wondering if you fit.  I know because, well, me too. I lay in my bed wondering what you think of me after our conversation earlier in the day. I cringe when you compare yourself to me, yet turn around and compare myself to you.

I read about it almost weekly on the internet. On a recent day, I came across two such posts. They were published on different days, but I stumbled upon them the same day.

I read these words and shout, “Amen!” Phrases that never come out of my mouth start popping into my head. “Preach it, Sista!” “You go, Girl!” You get the idea. The words of those posts are full of truth. They sooth and encourage, and I embrace them. I’m OK with me. For a few hours. Or maybe even a whole day.

But the shadow catches up to me again. I grasp for the truth, but it slips through my fingers.

My husband is leading a couple groups through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University this fall. At the end of the first DVD session, Dave says, “What would happen to the kingdom of God if the people of God were out of debt? How much of this world could we, as believers, change?”

I wonder the same about women. What could the women of God — the daughters of Christ — do for the kingdom of God if we were all OK with ourselves? How could God use us if I was OK with me and you were OK with you?

I want to recognize areas for growth and change in my life without a sense of shame.

I want to celebrate your gifts and successes without feeling like I’m not enough.

I want to lay in my bed praying for you, not worrying about what I said to you earlier in the day.

I want to compare my “right now” to my “used to be” and not some unrealistic idea of perfection.

You, too? Let’s wrestle with this for 31 days.*

*I originally intended to participate in the 31 Days series, but I was unable to complete the series in 31 days. It is an on-going series here. Thank you for grace as I work to complete it.

The Battle of Advent

I sit at a Christmas event at my church and chat with a friend. We’re not sure if it’s the unseasonably warm fall we’ve had or just the busy nature of life as moms with with young children, but we’re feeling like it can’t be Christmas already. We’re not ready for this season.  The event we’re attending is called “Essence of Christmas,” and its purpose is to remind us of the reason we celebrate. The speaker’s message is titled, “Give us eyes to see the wonder.” And I want those eyes, I really do. I just wonder why it has to feel like a battle, a war to find Jesus.

In a way, I’m prepared. I have my to-do lists, and I’ve crossed off much of the shopping. I’ve removed things from my list, even, freeing up some space to breathe. Trying not to be so busy that God is ignored. But this nagging feeling of distraction from the true meaning of Christmas is hovering. I can’t shake it, this feeling of having to fight to find Christ in Christmas.

It’s a daily ordeal, it seems, to keep my focus on Christ. One would think it should be easier in this season of Advent, of celebrating His coming. The decorations and songs are everywhere, reminding us of Christmas. Yet, instead of reminding me of Christ, I feel the pressure to remember the lists and the busy and the stuff. Can I let the sights and sounds of the season point my mind away from the list and to His love for us?

We try a new tradition this Advent season, a Jesse Tree. It will be good for the kids, I tell myself. A reminder for them that the season is not just about gifts under a tree, but the gift of Emmanuel, God with us. But the lesson is for me. I might need it more than the kids. They are excited for the presents, but not distracted by the busy.

I decide I have a good a pot to use for our Jesse Tree. It holds a wilting plant in need of a larger pot. I don’t anticipate how hard it will be to transfer the plant to a new container. The soil is dry, and the roots are tightly twisted and wrap and wind around themselves. Can I stop being so wrapped up in myself and my to-do list and open my arms to the gift God has so richly given?

I cut some branches from a lilac bush, arrange them in a pot and tie a bow. I stuff old newspapers around the branches to help them remain upright. The papers advertise holiday shopping specials, and as I push them into the pot, I almost laugh at the fight playing out before my eyes. Will I push away the “Buy! Buy! Buy!”, crumple the consumerism and fill my heart with Emmanuel, God with us?

I move some Legos, a few random toys and a crusty Cheerio, and place our new Jesse Tree on a bench in our dining room. In a moment, my almost 6-year-old daughter puts a Star Wars figure on a branch in the tree. There it is again. This tree intended to remind us of God’s story becomes a playground for my daughter’s imagination and a different story she is acting out. I wait for frustration to well up inside me, but it doesn’t come. Maybe it’s just part of the fight, I think. This act of seeking of Christ is more of a stumbling around. At least I’m recognizing the struggle. 

Our family of five sits around the table to eat. The kids are anxious to hear more about the funny sticks in a pot. We read Isaiah 11:1-2. Our 7-year-old son hangs a paper ornament on the tree. And then, we rush. Hurry, hurry! Clear the dishes; bundle up. We need to get to our town’s annual lighted Christmas parade. We’re at it again. Rushing away and leaving thoughts of God hanging like a paper ornament on a tree.

We drop off our son at his lighted float with the Boy Scouts and proceed to find a location to watch the parade. The buildings around our town square are decked out in holiday decorations, and people wear hats and mittens and blankets to keep warm as they wait for the parade. I walk with our middle daughter while my husband, a few strides ahead, holds the hand of our youngest daughter. The girls skip along and then stop to admire window decorations. It starts to snow. It’s a postcard moment, really, and I’m quite taken with the beauty of it all.

I hear a whisper. Enjoy this. I am here, too. And I realize, we have not left God behind, sitting by our Jesse Tree. Emmanuel, God with us! Why was I blind to seeing this earlier in the day? This Advent season is more than preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ and remembering a baby in a manger, but preparing to see Him daily come as a Savior who gives life.

I’m reminded of a passage that has become a favorite, Acts 17: 24-28.

God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. — Acts 17:27

He is not far. I can put down my boxing gloves and call off the fight. The battle may rage in the world, but for a moment my heart finds peace. The preparations of a new Advent tradition, of tying sticks and coloring paper ornaments, has done it’s job. It has turned my eyes to God. Christ came down. He is near.

___________________________

I’m including this post in an Advent writing project over at Wide Open Spaces.

 

Day 16: Halftime

I mentioned how much I love my Couch to 5K app when I run. It keeps track of the details so I can focus on moving my legs without being distracted. It has another feature worth mentioning. It tells me, “You’re halfway done!” at the mid-point of my run.

The halfway point is always near our local hospital. I figure if I collapse in a heap on the sidewalk, there’s bound to be a doctor or nurse headed to work that can help me. Although, thankfully I haven’t had to prove this theory.

Since halfway through running there isn’t halftime like a football game, the running continues without a show from the marching band. No pep talk from the coach. It’s just me and the sidewalk.

On one hand, it’s a relief to be halfway done! “Phew! I’ve made it halfway!”

On the other hand, there’s sometimes a feeling of, “Wow! I still have a long way to go!”

It’s easy to start playing mind games at the halfway point. I’m tired. I’ve gone far enough to get some exercise. I know there is more to run, but I’m not sure I’m up for it.

I have to remind myself to focus on finishing and press on.

I’m in the same place with writing about 31 Days of Running.

Wow! I’ve made it halfway!

Wow! I still have a long way to go!

It’s east to start playing mind games at this point. I’m tired of hearing my own voice. I’ve said enough. I’m know there is more to say, but I’m not sure I’m up for it.

And at the halfway point of writing this post I stopped and set it aside. I spent a fun day with my family yesterday and attended church this morning. You’ll never guess what our topic was in Sunday School class. Yep. Running.

It wasn’t directly about running, but more about how Paul used running and athletic training as metaphors for the Christian life.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. — Hebrews 12:1-2

Wherever you are in your life journey, whether you are just starting, close to finishing or somewhere at the halfway point, you can persevere. Fix your eyes on the finish. Press on to the end. It will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

Day 14: Delayed Arrival

Here’s another post from the archives, written last November.

——————–

I recently posted this on Twitter: “Last night [my two-year-old] successfully wore undies to bed! WE ARE DIAPER FREE!!!!!!!”

Guess what’s happened since then? We’ve gone back to night diapers and had a day time accident nearly every day.

I recently wrote Change is Possible — a post about feeling like I had accomplished so much by not quitting my running plan, even though it got tough. I got up extra early to run at a time when I had plenty of excuses to not follow through.

And you know what? No, I didn’t quit. But, I did realize that I had not arrived. Just because I had a sense of accomplishment didn’t mean that I was finished. There is still work to do. There are still days to run before I “complete” the running program. I still have to set my alarm, put on my shoes (and extra layers, a hat and gloves — brrrr it’s cold in the morning), and go run.

I am always a work in progress. I will never arrive. And just when I think I have, someone is going to pee in their pants.

“… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

There is comfort in that verse. God is working, and will continue to work, until we are finished.

But sometimes I find that verse discouraging. Sometimes I just want to arrive. I want to be complete. I embrace the “Learning. Growing. Becoming.” catch-phrase at the top of my blog, but sometimes I want it to say “Learned. Grown. Became.” It sounds grammatically awkward, and it’s also not humanly possible.

I understand that I am a work in progress — and so are you — but I easily get frustrated with what I haven’t learned. I recognize I’m learning some valuable life lesson, and I wonder why I’m just learning it now? Why did I not “get it” at some earlier time? How is it that it’s taken me 30 some years to see some issue so basic to my own personality? Why have I never understood some issue so basic to maintaining a good relationship? Why have I not grasped a concept so basic to the nature of God?

It is easy to get stuck looking at what I don’t know, don’t do or don’t understand. This is something I find myself doing often. (One of those personality things I’m just realizing about  myself.)

I actually started writing this post a few weeks ago, but then I got stuck with feeling so “un-arrived” that I wasn’t sure where to go with it. In the last few weeks, potty training has improved and I finished my running plan. (Woo hoo!) I feel confident in saying that my daughter is potty trained and in saying that I have learned to run. The truth is, there really hasn’t been an “arrival” in either of those areas. We do still have an occasional potty accident, and I still need to exercise on a regular basis and sign up to actually run in a race. (My Facebook status the other day: Woo hoo! I finished Couch to 5K! Now to keep from heading back to the couch …)

The only thing that has changed is my perspective. I’m not trying to “arrive,” I’m just thankful that I’ve moved from where I was. I’m not changing diapers and I’m not being a couch potato. Sure, I’m still going to clean up some accidents, and yes, I still have some (a lot) of work to do before I reach my fitness goals, but I have to stop and look at how far I have already come.

This is a key principle that I’m seeing as I read thru the Bible. In the Old Testament, the Israelites built altars or stone monuments in a place where God had shown up and saved them or provided for them. They put up the stones to help tell others that this was a place where they saw God, but it was also a way to remind themselves of how God had worked. In the New Testament, people often quote scripture or tell stories of Abraham, Moses and others. Those stories of God’s provision are central to their faith and current situations.

I must learn to do the same!  I have to look at the things I have already learned, many things that have become so much a part of my life that I rarely even notice them. I have to remember what God has already revealed to me and how much He has already worked in my life.

Yes, I can see how some life lessons would have been better learned years ago, but I also have confidence that ” … He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion.” I have many more lessons to learn. My arrival is delayed indefinitely. And that is OK.

Day 10: Change is Possible

This is a re-run post I wrote about one year ago. This trying to post every day is a challenge for someone who, prior to the 31 Days series, had only written seven posts for the entire year. It feels a bit like trying to run a 5K without training for it. So, I’m pacing myself a bit and leaving a few days for reprints and what-not. This post was actually written on a Monday last fall, so when it says, “yesterday” in the post, it is technically “one year ago.” I’m sure you’re all smart enough to understand. 🙂

———————-

Yesterday, I woke up at 5:55 a.m. — by my own choice — to go for a run.

Let me repeat myself.

Yesterday, I woke up at 5:55 a.m. — by my own choice — to go for a run.

This may not be such a big deal to some people, but for this non-morning person who has always hated running, it’s a pretty big deal!

My husband had to leave earlier than normal for work, so if I was going to keep up with my Couch to 5K running plan, I had to get my run in before he left. So, I set my alarm. Then, I had a hard time falling asleep because I had taken a Sunday afternoon nap. Then, I got woke up two times in the night by kids. And it would have been really easy to turn off my alarm. It would have been really easy to just quit.

But, I didn’t.

I got up early and went for a run, and I gained such a sense of accomplishment! My great feelings came less from the fact that I went for a run, but more from the fact that I didn’t quit. Usually, I just kind of give up. Or congratulate myself for at least trying. Or make excuses for why something just isn’t for me.

I cannot tell you how much I have learned from what I thought was just a silly little running thing. I’ll attempt to share more in future blog posts [good thing the 31 Days series is holding me accountable to that!], but for now I am just amazed to see that change is possible.

It’s hard.

It’s challenging.

Every time I run I still feel like stopping for a break.

And, man, it’s dark at 6:00 in the morning!

But, as I force myself to keep up with the running plan, I’m finding this new desire to tackle things that I’ve come to think might always stay the same.

I can stop being a night owl and learn to be a morning person.

I can become more patient.

I can be more organized.

I can love that person who always rubs me the wrong way.

If I can learn to run, well, then just about anything is possible.

And, if I can change, well, then you can change, too.

 

Day 5: Learning to Run [Part 2]

[Continued from yesterday…]

I have to wonder how many times I have sabotaged my own spiritual growth by trying to start off too fast? What if I used the same principles that are helping me do something I have never enjoyed, to do something I really desire?

I desire to spend time with God reading my Bible on a daily basis. What if I start by just reading on, say, three days a week. I hear myself protesting already, because I think I should just be able to do all seven. But what if I start out slowly, wait until I am ready to move on, and gradually add a day of Bible reading to my life?

I don’t expect my kids to learn to walk in a day. Or learn to ride a bike. Or learn to read. The list could go on. We gradually help our kids learn to do new things. Why do I think my Heavenly Father, who has love and grace beyond my comprehension, expects me to do everything perfectly the first time? In our hurried culture of text messages, fast food, extreme make-overs and instant everything, it’s easy to forget that I am a work in progress.

So, what about you? Is there something you’ve been trying to accomplish in your own strength? Have you tried to make changes too quickly without giving yourself the time to let a new habit stick? Do you need a grace-based training program for prayer, Bible reading or putting on the fruit of the Spirit?

“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7-8

The verse doesn’t say, “What is your problem? Just be godly, already!” It says to “train yourself to be godly.” It implies time, practice and probably some failures.

God gives us grace and mercy — not permission to sin, but an invitation for forgiveness and a fresh start. Thank you, God, for your great love! Remind us of it as we seek You and train ourselves in godliness.

Day 4: Learning to Run [Part 1]

**I first wrote this for my church newsletter and thought it fits well with my Learning to Run theme. It was written about five weeks into my first attempts at learning to run. **

_________________________________________________________________________

I have this love/hate relationship with writing.

On the one hand, it’s something I enjoy. It helps me tame the thoughts swirling in my head. I tend to express myself better in writing, as conversation has never been my strong suit.

On the other hand, when I write a little article and it ends all neat and tidy, it gives a false impression that I’ve got my life all figured out and put together. It gives the impression that life can be wrapped up in 500 words with an introduction, a few bullet points and a conclusion.

So, here I sit, working on [my church] newsletter with an empty space to fill and some words on my heart about what I’ve written in the past.

I’ve written about my struggles to focus on a relationship with God and not on a religious set of rules. I’ve written about my struggles to read my Bible with consistency. And guess what? I still struggle with those same things.

So, what is my problem? I mean, really? I have Christ living in me, so why do I keep resorting to old habits? If I am a new creation, why do I keep feeling like the same old, same old?

One reason is because I have an enemy and his name is Satan. I’m pretty sure he’d like me to be a religious rule-follower who never reads my Bible. He tells lies, and I sometimes choose to listen to them.

Other reasons include that I rely on my own strength and forget to ask God for His strength. I live as though I must meet some level of spiritual maturity before God can really work in my life. I forget about grace.

Another reason for my failures has been revealed in an unlikely way as I train to run a 5K. I know what you are thinking, “I didn’t know Cori was a runner.” Well, actually, I have always hated running, but I’m currently in week five of a nine-week program called “Couch to 5K.” (Clever name, huh?)

For about 30 minutes, three days a week, I do a walking/jogging combination around my neighborhood. Supposedly I’ll be able to run for 30 minutes at the end of the nine weeks.

And, you know what? The program is actually working! It’s not easy (it does involve running), but it hasn’t been nearly as hard as I thought it might be. The keys seem to be how slow the program starts out and the small, gradual increases in running. The program designers knew what they were doing. At coolrunning.com, the website explaining the program, it recommends not skipping ahead but repeating weeks as necessary until you are ready to move on. It says, “Too many people have been turned off of running simply by trying to start off too fast.”

I have to wonder how many times I have sabotaged my own spiritual growth by trying to start off too fast? What if I used the same principles that are helping me do something I have never enjoyed, to do something I really desire?

[To be continued tomorrow …]