Looking Inward

pexels-photo-235310.jpeg

I wonder how often people look at themselves, not simply in a mirror, at their achievements or what they’ve acquired. Actually, inward, at their beliefs, at their actions, thoughts, personality, character….. I’ve had a post sitting unpublished for about a week now, while in re-reading it I haven’t wanted to publish it. Events that have happened over the past few weeks have led me to reflect and look inward.

What do my writings say about me, what do my words show those around me, what influence am I having on people and what influence do people have on me. A few months ago I was asked why I was seeking a new job opportunity and I was told I gave one of the most thought out responses, which incorporated the thought I put into my goals, my kids, my family, my emotional well being. Over the past several years I have reflected on how my job influenced me and affected my emotional health, which influenced my relationships and my parenting abilities.

Now, where and what do I have left to reflect on? Me, my personality. I have been thinking why do I have the personality and characteristics that I have? What influences me, what am I surrounding myself with?

I have realized down to the words I say how influenced I can be by those around me. I realize how important it is to surround myself with people who will bring out the qualities in myself I most enjoy, the qualities my kids need and the qualities that bring other joy. I don’t like how easily I can be influenced by others. I’m not sure if it’s being easy going, just going with the flow, if it is that I don’t have the confidence in myself that I think I do or thought I did or if I am too much of a people pleaser.

It has been a year since my last ‘one word.’ The one word that started my writing, ‘radiate.’ I am not sure how well I did with that for each of the 365 days. I do know I made a lot of positive changes over the past year and I have more yet to go. I think my ‘one word’ this year will be ‘gentleness.’ My goal is to react with gentleness with my kids, husband and all those around me. To speak with calmness, patience and sincerity. Looking inward, I want to focus on my family, faith and health.

#myoneword ~ Gentleness

Advertisements

Some pursue happiness; you create it.

Some pursue happiness; you create it.

Fortune cookies sometimes have pretty good insight. As I read this one I could quickly say this is true for me. People complain about not following through with their resolutions, being unhappy in general, or searching for happiness. Making and searching for happiness are two very different things. Searching for it is longing for something that may never come. Making it happen is taking life into your own hands. 

Reading this I was especially reflecting on this past year as we were eating Chinese on New Year’s Eve. My husband and I have both noted that this past year was great for us. I think it has been the first year in our lives where we have fully taken every situation and made it what we wanted it to be. Every opportunity, choice, decision, big and small I look at my overall goal and our families core values, that I am sure I have referenced before, ‘comfortable home, education and cultural awareness.’ It has simplified life, if soemthing that comes our way will not promote those things, we chose an alternate path to meet our goals. 

I have never been one for resolutions, which to me probably helps our success. If I am ready to make a change, waiting for one day of the year to do it, will not foster long term results. Making, creating and choosing what fills my life, fosters happiness. 

Successes…

I haven’t posted in some time as I have been processing the stages of grief and I have been consciously aware that my emotions could have gotten the best of me if I let them control my writing. Each week at church I have been contemplating what I would write, but I could not focus on writing a new topic because my thoughts were preoccupied. Until the past few weeks anyway.

Right now has been a several week series titled Home Run Life, where baseball has been a metaphor for scoring in life. Start at home plate, win with God; run to first, win within; run to second, win with others; run to third, success; and score at home, again win with God. We have only gotten to 2nd base as of now reflecting on how we must first win with God and win within ourselves before we can win with others and have success. As I have been reflecting I can say that I have been seeing this play out. This has not been a short journey for me.

I recently received a compliment that I have seemed happy lately. That I am for sure of, it is true; but I of course still contemplated and wondered…what am I putting out there that is different, what are other people seeing that is different from a year, two, three years ago.  I wondered, could it be that I have been focused on my health and exercise; which had really raised my self-esteem? Then I heard the first sermon on Home Run Life, and I went, uh duh, light bulb moment…. I have been back at church for the past year. While God was never absent from my life, this past year I have been “winning with God” and truly focused on myself so that I can have the capacity to love others. To really be the way I want to be with my husband, kids, friends, family. And I can say it has been a progressively great year and it is getting better. Full of promises and the potential to be living the life we really want to have, more simple, secure, family oriented and fun filled. I will admit this reference to a home run life is just one example where I have seen or am seeing this play out, and it is a slightly more materialistic of an example as it does revolve around career success and a little more financial stability. I can truly say though I am at a point in my life that it will not be squandered, underappreciated or taken for granted. I want what to me, seems like basic things to come from financial stability, to not stress over monthly bills, get my kids a college education and give them experiences in different cultures. I want a smaller house not a bigger house, I want less expenses and more of a God filled life, filled with family and friends. To me that is SUCCESS!!

Just Jump!!!

Each Sunday seems to have direct meaning to some area of my life. Of course, I think if we are all introspective and look for meaning in things each and every part of our days can be a learning experience. With God empowering us on Sunday mornings, for me those mornings are some of the most meaningful connections I make.

We were led by a story of the disciples crossing the sea of Galilea and Peter asking Jesus to tell him to come to him, Peter then took a step of faith and walked across the water to Jesus. This story was a demonstration of what it means to have faith, to take risks in life to follow God. That taking those risks and following God leads us to the divine. 

I can say that in the past I have for sure jumped in and took risks. I have always been one to put my faith in God to get us through tough times, most often the struggles in the past have been financially. Today I realized even more connections of where that faith and jump has led me.  I jumped into a career that seemed to be pulling at me and just felt like the right move for me, that God was calling me there. With that however, meant a pay cut, a part time job and really, little room for advancement. But I knew I needed to do it and looking back I can see how God has provided for us through that time. And now, finally leading us to more financial security as we have entered our 30’s.  With the storms I have been faced with recently I made more connections today of how God has led me to this path. I was led to working in a career with addictions, I was taken into a path to learn empathy for situations I could not relate to, I developed a passion for what I do and with learning how addiction has impacted my family I feel this is the path I needed to be on to get through the storm I am facing. Had I not jumped into this career and trusted God, I may have sunk in this storm. As much as I know about addiction and how it impacts families, I can picture myself going down another path had I not had the supports in place that I do, had I not learned about addiction as I have. 

“We lose sight of Jesus and begin to sink.”- Pastor R. 

I can see times where I could have started to sink; I am always thankful that I have never fully lost sight of God. This statement could lead me to a spiral of what if’s, what if I didn’t learn about addiction, what if I had learned about the impact it has had for my family when I was much younger, what if I didn’t have supports in place or a loving husband, what if I had ever experimented with substances – where would that have left me. Fortunately I feel God has put me where I need to be and I don’t dwell on the what if’s. I feel blessed to be where I am at in my life because I never understand why one person’s journey is harder than anothers. I agree with Pastor R this morning when he said “the best decision we can make is to go, go and follow Jesus!” We need to “Just Jump!”

We were then asked “what are you needing to take the risk in yet? The risk to tust and follow Jesus.” One thing in my life I am most contemplating with is my career and the long term path of finances, stability, getting a masters, do I need more money, should I be content? I mean after all I know God led me to this path, so if he put me here should I be content? I finally thought of this a new way today, that maybe I had to “just jump” to get the knowledge I needed, to learn the empathy I needed, to find the supports I needed to get me through this personal storm. But, maybe in the long run I can still take another path, that God may stear me somewhere else, that I may need to “just jump” again when the time comes, even if I am afraid. That maybe I need to “just jump”more when it comes to facing things head on, especially conflict, because I can definitely shy away from conflict. I mean it is very uncomfortable. 

Whatever we are doing in life, if we are following Jesus and not just mimicking the motions, we should be jumping. Jumping all in and trusting the path God takes us in.

Just Jump!!

Personal Storms!

“Do we wonder if Jesus cares if we drown? When we are forced with a crash of change, do we maintain faith? Who hides the storm in their lives? You’re in the storm for his purposes.”- Pastor R.

These questions were very powerful for me. “Do I ever wonder if Jesus cares if I drown?” That one I can answer confidently, no, I always have trust and faith that he will keep me safe, that their is a purpose for what crosses my path in life. I know he won’t let me drown, if I drown in my turmoils, that is on me, that would be me rejecting him.

“When we are forced with a crash of change, do we maintain faith?” Do I maintain faith when my life appears to be crashing, when my world seems to be turned upside down, or even just hitting lots of pot holes along the road? Yes, I feel that I do. I may feel hurt, sadness, anger, betrayal, devastation, but I am always thankful that I know I have support to get through any situation that comes my way. At this point in my life I can say yes; I hope I can always say yes. 

“Who hides the storm in their lives?” My hand shot up in response to this faster than I anticipated. It was a spontaneous response, with no attempt to hold back my answer to that one. I thought, I for sure hide the storms in my life. Right now the storm is huge, and for the most part I put on a good face, continue with each day and my life goes on. After a few minutes something stuck out to me “You are in the storm with his presence!”- Pastor R. I love moments in life when I have the ah ha moments, when I feel enlightened because I realize or learn something new about myself. It is a very reassuring and calming feeling. This was one of them, I intially was struggling with the fact that I hide my storms, but at this moment I realized, maybe for a brief period I hide my storms, or maybe just to some people, but really for the most part I realized I am not hiding my storms, I am in them with his presence, his presence is still radiating through me. He is guiding me, keeping me strong, comforting me. Sometimes when people know I am going through a lot, like recently, I get looks that kind of ask “if you’re in a storm, why are you smiling, why do you look okay?”  I know that often people may be confused by my optimism, my ability to push through, to keep smiling and going forward. I also know it can be hard to describe, I mean I really can’t describe it, but in spite of things that happen, I still find myself feeling at peace, all because God is by my side. He not only provides me with his comfort, he has provided me with amazing friendships for support, a community of support and my faith that he is shaping me for the next twist in my path. 

“You’re in the storm for his purposes!” That next twist in my path, that next crash of change, sudden uproot of everyhing I know, they all have purposes. I may not always know in that moment what it is, but I can look back at my life and I can say that of the different bumps I have hit along the way, they have all had a direct influence on who I’ve become and where I have currently landed. I am realizing even now how amazing God is that he can guide us in a way and put us where he wants us. I chose a Bachelors degree in Pyschology for many reasons, one being that it is very vague. I have many different interests and I wanted many doors open to me. When I graduated I began job searching and I’ll be honest, there were some very appealing things about the job I accepted, that I knew I wanted to do. But other things came with the job that would have not been my first thought of a career or where I would belong. Looking back at my life and the situations and experiences I have had, all give me many strengths for my career. For the career that God clearly led me to, I have weathered my storms for his purpose and I am confident that I am continuing to live his purpose.
One final question we pondered which I think is one people often find themselves asking, is “did he cause the storm or allow it?” My only response to this is…. Does it matter? We grow from it, it is for his purposes!

 

Do you sink in your failures?

Two weeks I ago I sat down at church and during the first prayer I was flooded with blessed emotions. The prayer was reflecting “living like Jesus.”My flood of positive emotions was contentment, joy, humbleness, that I feel I am living like Jesus. Of course not perfectly, but my goal this year has to been to radiate. I can say I feel this working through me, I am happy on the path I am on and I continue to focus on radiating each day. 

The sermon focused on “it’s not fair.” Pastor R challenged us by asking “do you sink in your failures?” I am blanking thinking on this, I do not know what I would even consider failures. To me I don’t feel that I set myself up for failure, I don’t put myself in situations for failure. So maybe that means I don’t take enough risks, maybe it means I play to safe, or maybe it’s that I look at all situations on a constant changing path, with twists and turns, learning moments, but no failures, maybe I have faith that God will lead me where I need to go and without a few falls my path wouldn’t change. I’m thinking it’s most likely the later; actually I know it is.  Even in my past I don’t look at things with regret, I embrace things and how they have made me who I am. They are a part of my journey, my journey of following Jesus. Which means I may be tried, challenged, let down, I may make mistakes, struggle with moving forward at times, but all of those moments are experiences I have had, they affect how I percieve the world, they create empathy for others, they allow me to cherish what I have. So I am confident I can answer no, I don’t think that I sink in my failures, at least not for the significant life events I can think of. But, who knows what the future may hold; hopefully if I find myself sinking, this sermon will flood my memory and lift me up. 

A big part of avoiding the “it’s not fair”trap is accepting our situation, accepting what we can and cannot control and keep our eyes focused on our greater purpose. Pastor R said “what does what somebody else have, have to do with us, we follow Jesus.” Exactly!!! I know that this mentality, belief, perspective, that it may not be easy. It may be easier said than done; in order to live this we may need to reflect on who we are, why we feel and react to things the way we do, we may need some therapy to figure these things out, a friend to bounce ideas off of, a shoulder to cry on. But I cannot stress enough how important it is to get to the place in life that we just don’t care about what others have. I have learned to embrace what I have, cherish it, and to be present in each moment, with my kids, husband, family, friends.

Would you give it up for Jesus?

“What is one thing you love?”- Pastor Ryan.

 I always feel like these are trick questions because the obvious answer it seems we should give is God, but of course there is always more being saught than such a simple answer. I of course, could not just think of one thing, my mind raced with things I love: God, family, husband, kids, friends, yoga, exercise, nutrition, my current achievement of a size 4, outdoors, women’s radiant dance fitness class, my career, my church…….. Yes I know, some of these are heartfelt and things close to my heart, some are more materialistic, worldly, maybe a little vain to some. But, they are honest responses. 

Now, “would you give it up to follow Jesus?” – Pastor Ryan

Um…. would I give these things up to follow Jesus? I feel like I instantly fell into the trap because my natural response was to protect the things I love. I honestly can say the things I love, to me is part of following Jesus; these are things I feel God has made important in my life based on my strengths and characteristics, they are things I feel I do with God as the underlying factor. I know that loving my new size 4 body may not seem like having God at its core, but I started my journey of weight loss to be healthy, to care for the body that God has given me, to respect it and honestly have some self control when it comes to all of the food placed in front of us that many indulge on with little regard to the cost it can have on our health. I am also very aware of how becoming obsessed with exercise and my looks could be detrimental; and there are times I need to keep myself in check, making sure I am not putting exercise above all other responsibilities and being sure I am balancing it in my life. Overall I feel I do a good job at balancing all areas of my life. But, if I were given an ultimatum could I walk away from my family, well I can honestly say probably not. I know it may seem like making justifications, but I do not feel God would ask me to up and leave my small children, I do not see how that would be serving God. Now at the same time, would I do anything to protect them, especially for a greater purpose in life? Of course, but I feel they would be on that journey with me. 

After I sat feeling rushed with emotions on having to sacrifice the things I love for God and thinking, of course God knows not all people could drop everything to follow him, he did make us sinners, we are imperfect and he knows that. But then, Pastor Ryan went on to further explain what he really wanted us to sit with, and that is “are we holding all of those things we love loosly and holding on to God tightly?”  For me I felt relief that I could honeslty answer yes. I answer yes because I have worked very hard to let go of control and to be okay with change; to be open to the path God may lead me on. That means that if I felt God was leading me to another location, my family would move; if God took me down another career path, I would go; if God changed my life that I could not continue my nutrition and exercise routine, I would find another way (seriously that would be hard to give up though because I feel so healthy), but the point is … I truly feel that I have worked very hard to put God first and to allow my life to adjust and flow where he leads it. In all of the chaos that comes my way, I hold onto my relationship with God to lead me through it. 

I am not sure how many people could agree with how they hold the things they love, loosly or tightly. And I can say that, I have not always been at a point in my life I could have made sacrifices for God. The idea of leaving home and moving away used to terrify me; I have actually done that and honestly feel like it is one thing I have failed at. I went away for my freshman year of college and came running back, homesick, and not able to tackle something new, someplace new. I do not regret the path I took, but parts of me would have loved to experience college and young adulthood with more confidence and more open to possibilty. I could not always imagine the possibility of my world being turned upside down for any reason; but now, I feel that if God gave me challenges that were life alterning, I would be able to conquer them because I put God first and hold him tightly. 

Jesus, above it all, beyond it all, greater than it all!