What On Earth Am I Doing?!?

“WHAT ON EARTH AM I DOING?!?”

I was alone in my car, but I spoke those words out loud. I’m not sure exactly who I was talking to, whether it was just myself or if I was talking to God. It was spring break of my sophomore year of college, and I was driving on partially ice-covered roads to a camp I had never been to. Oh,and I didn’t know anyone else who would be there.

The story kind of started a week or so before spring break. A friend of mine and I attended a summer job fair on campus. We were both hoping to work at camps that summer, so the job fair seemed like a good idea. I was looking for a Christian camp, and quite honestly, didn’t think I would find a good fit there. Sure enough, there were several church affiliated camps, but most of them seemed to focus on canoeing, horseback riding, archery and the like. I’m sure those are all nice camps, but I was looking for more.

We were almost through the booths in the room when we got to one last camp. The guy said, “Well, we’re about telling kids about Jesus, so if that is something you’d be interested in, feel free to take an application.”

I had intended on applying to a camp I had attended as a child. Another friend of mine had worked there and got me an application. The application process was pretty lengthy. The “We’re about telling kids about Jesus” guy’s camp had a much simpler process, so I filled out the form and put it in the mail right before spring break.

My roommate and I drove to Colorado Springs during the first part of spring break. We had a good old time laughing at tumbleweeds, seeing mountains and going skiing that trip. I don’t remember the exact timeline, but we returned to Iowa in time for me to receive a call from a staffer at Ingham, Okoboji and Riverside Bible Camps (the previously mentioned “tell kids about Jesus” camps). They were having a weekend retreat for middle school students that weekend and were short staffed. They had received my summer application and wondered if I’d like to come up to Okoboji to help out and see if it was something I’d really like to do for the summer. I said, “Sure!”

Then I said, “WHAT ON EARTH AM I DOING?” as I drove to the camp. It seems to go that way sometimes. I agree to do something and then wonder what I was thinking when I agreed to said commitment.

I don’t remember much about that weekend in Okoboji, other than feeling very out of place, yet strangely in the right place. I ended my time there interviewing with the camp director for a summer position. A few days after returning to college, I received a letter saying I was hired for the summer. There is a whole lot more to that story that I’d like to share sometime, but not today.

Today I’m doing a re-enactment of that weekend in Okoboji. Instead this time it’s a weekend in Ohio. I’ve scheduled this little story to post while I’m driving to a retreat in Ohio. I’m pretty sure I’ll be saying, “WHAT ON EARTH AM I DOING?!?” at least once during the 684 mile drive.

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It all started last May when I read about a giveaway on a blog. I entered, of course, because blog giveaways are fun! I mean, I had never won anything on a blog giveaway, but you can’t win if you don’t enter, right? This giveaway had some lovely books, jewelry and artwork. The grand prize was a ticket to a retreat in Ohio. {Spoiler alert!} Kris Camealy was doing the giveaway in honor of a blog re-launch and to promote the retreat.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I got a message on Twitter from Kris asking if I had entered the giveaway and then telling me I had won the grand prize. I was all, “No way! I never win anything!” I mean, how totally exciting to win something!

I later received an email from Kris with more details. “There were nearly 3000 entries for this Giveaway, so consider yourself hand-picked by the Lord. :)” she said. “I don’t believe in coincidence.”

Cue the “WHAT ON EARTH?!?” thoughts.

I’ve said many times that I wish God would just send me an email or invent a God app. This is about as close as it gets. God used a giveaway app to pick me as the winner.

What is a person supposed to think when God sends them to a retreat in Ohio? I’m excited to see what He has going on, yet I’m a little bit wondering why He couldn’t do whatever He is doing closer to home. In the past, I’ve set my expectations way too high and then been disappointed a conference or experience wasn’t what I imagined.

I have to admit, my thoughts have included: why didn’t I just win some art or a book? Maybe the retreat will get cancelled. Maybe something will come up that will make my attendance impossible.

We’re (my family) in the middle of a busy, stressful season. Maybe God, in His ever-loving kindness, knew I was going to need a get-away. Maybe there is someone at the retreat I need to meet? Maybe there is a message I need to hear?

I started a 40-day Lent challenge to read through the New Testament. I’m hopelessly behind, but reading all four Gospels so close together makes certain things stand out. One thing I’ve noticed is how often Jesus escaped the crowds to spent time with his Father. My word of the year is small. Going to a retreat in Ohio seems anything but small. On the other hand, the essence of the word small is to simply take the next step. To reign in my focus from “everything” that’s “out there” and all the possibilities on God’s green earth, and to instead focus on what God has given me under my own roof. God has given me a ticket to a retreat, so I embrace the gift with excitement and anticipation!

 

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Being OK with Me — Scrubbing the Deck

Being OK with Me.I am in the process of re-staining our front porch steps and our back deck. We’ve lived in our house for 10  years now. It’s my third time tackling this project, so I know what to expect. I can’t just buy some stain and slop it on and think everything will turn out OK. There is a process, and like any home improvement project, it always takes longer than you think it should.

It’s kind of like the process of Being OK with Me. I can’t just rub on some new cream or say some magic words to make everything OK. I thought I would start with talking about our identity in Christ — digging into God’s Word and proclaiming the truth found in Scripture. Then I started to stain my deck and realized that being OK with ourselves is much like the deck staining process. First, I must do the prep-work, otherwise the stain won’t stick.

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So, first we need to clear away the clutter, sweep a way the dirt and scrub away the grime. We might have to get on our hands and knees. Some areas will need extra scrubbing. It’s going to be hard work.

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I used an old bottle of deck cleaner to start my staining process, and it didn’t get very far. There is a distinct line where I’ve gotten some wood clean and others not. the areas that have been cleaned are already looking so much better. I hope the same happens as we explore the obstacles that keep us from Being OK with Me. We’ll take a look at the clutter and dirt and start to scrub away the grime. The bare wood will show through, and it will look so much better.

And, more importantly, the bare wood will be ready for the stain. It will soak it in. It will look beautiful.

Acorns, Tire Swings and Work

When my seven-year-old daughter was four, she said she wanted to plant some acorns. I asked her why, and she said, “So I can have a tire swing!”

It was precious, to say the least.

She did not realize that it takes years and years for an acorn to grow into an oak tree strong enough to support a swing.  As I learned how to run, and as I’ve made small steps towards eating healthier, the lesson I’ve learned is this: I don’t realize it takes years and years for an acorn to grow into an oak tree.

This story continues over at The Journey today ...

My Year of Dance

There was significantly less dancing in 2012 than I anticipated.

DanceThe word Dance pretty much climbed onto my lap and demanded I pick it as my word, but then it seemed to retreat and disappear without a trace. It was everywhere I looked at the end of 2011: the impromptu classroom dance party, a wedding reception dance, a trip to see the Nutcracker with my girls, mom and sister. I even looked at my previous words and how they created a glaring equation … Discipline + Balance + Grace = Dance.

My initial thought about the word dance was to feel more free to act and live in the moment. To spend less time thinking about what’s next or what is behind, but to simply enjoy each moment as it comes.

It was the Nutcracker performance that got me thinking of another element of dance. There were darling little girls dancing their hearts out, clearly

enjoying every moment of being on the stage. And there were the “main” ballerinas, who had obviously spent most of their lives training for their roles. Every movement was precise and perfect, as near as I could tell. They had less enthusiasm than the little girls, but a more refined gracefulness and beauty.

The little girls and the professional ballerinas all spent many hours preparing and practicing for the performance. Dance is not solely the spontaneous, “in the moment” movement I initially imagined. That is only one part of it. There is another part that requires discipline and practice and time to learn new skills.

Maybe I need more time to prepare for dancing. As with most years I have chosen a word, insights into the word have come in spurts. I’m still thinking about all the words I’ve used in the past. It seems most of them are onions with many layers.

So, dance is not over. Maybe I need to chase it around or invite it to come play. There is a new word for 2013. Hopefully it gets along with my old words, because they all seem to be hanging around.

 

Writing Elsewhere

This space has been fairly quiet, which is not unusual. I have, however, been writing elsewhere. I post once a week over at The Journey. Some of it is recycled material from this space, but some of it is new.

Here’s some of my posts:

Progress, Not Perfection ::

I have really had to embrace the idea of progress, not perfection. I’m a human, so I’ll never be perfect. I’m going to skip exercising some days. I’m going to give in to a craving from time to time. I’m going mess up. But it’s not an excuse to give up!

Learning to Run ::

I have to wonder how many times I have sabotaged my own progress by trying to start off too fast? I decide something like: “I’m going to get up early, exercise, cook breakfast for my family from scratch, do a load of laundry every day, reorganize the whole house and end world hunger all before 10 a.m.!” Am I the only crazy person who does this?

Giving Up :: Lessons learned from giving up sugar for periods of time. (Basically my unfinished 31 Days to Change One Habit all in one post.)

 Apple Peanut Butter Snack Bars :: Hungry? These are easy to whip up and yummy, too.

Looking Around ::

The problem with looking around is that we have a tendency to look at the best and compare to our worst.

 

 

On Not Finishing 31 Days

I’ve been reading many things reflecting on the past year and setting goals for the new one, but I have some unfinished business to attend to before doing that myself. It seems my 31 Days to Change One Habit got stuck on Day 17.

I debated participating in the 31 Days series for numerous reasons. I wasn’t sure I had enough content to write for a whole month, and I was certain I would not have enough time to write. I forged ahead anyway, telling myself that I was making lame excuses.

I did carry through with my challenge of changing my online habits for the month of October. I learned a lot about how I waste time online and how to use my time better. I don’t feel as addicted to checking Facebook and reading blogs. As we climb out of the holiday season and return to our normal routines, I plan to re-establish better online habits.

I learned a lot more about myself during the month of October, though, that I wasn’t expecting. I realized I don’t enjoy writing “how-to” posts. I once envisioned this blog having more “how-to” posts, but it’s really not my thing. I much prefer to write about things that happen in life that help me understand another area of life, give me a different picture of God, or teach me some life lesson. There are hundreds of people who write about changing habits. There is only one person who can write about my life experiences.

A funny thing happened as I was attempting to write about how to change a habit: I had dozens of other things pop into my mind that I wanted to write about. But, because I was committed (at least initially) to writing on one topic for 31 days, I did not allow myself to write about those other things. It reminded me that writing begets writing. When I attempt to write daily, it is like throwing logs on the fire. When I’m random about writing, it’s like starting a fire with a piece of flint and straw. Sure, it’s possible, but it takes a lot of effort to get a fire started. Once the fire gets started, it’s time to pick up the kids from school or make dinner or go to bed. I’m still not sure how to fit writing into my daily life, but I’m making progress, and that’s encouraging.

So, while I failed to finish the 31 Day series during October, I feel like it was not a complete loss. I still learned a lot, even if it was not what I anticipated.

 

Day 10: Life Happens

I am now two days behind on my posts with a crazy week ahead that includes travel (to a warmer place that has a beach)! 

Life happens.

Yet, in the midst of life happening, we need to figure out how to keep up with the things that need to be done. Habits are important, even when we get busy. In fact, the good habits we have might keep us sane when life gets really crazy.

The truth is, it seems like the crazy stuff of life is always happening. I’ve been saying to myself, “Maybe this week will be ‘normal'” since my kids started school about two months ago. So far, every week has had some sort of event or circumstances that made the week seem not normal. I think I need to realize that “normal” might just mean crazy in this season of my life. It’s a good crazy. It’s just a busy crazy.

So, as I work to change my habit, I have to consider my life circumstances and continue to evaluate what works best for me. I cannot wait for perfect timing or a more normal week. I need to figure out what works when life happens.