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Christian Living

Why you should embrace “not yet”

As I mentioned last week, my phone died. Yesterday, the new phone we got arrived. It’s an iPhone 5. We decided to go with an iPhone so I can (theoretically) sync my novel and work on it both places. Frankly, the transition has been painful. I’ve already been cranky and feeling like progress is stalled in several areas of my life. It hasn’t helped to feel like I’m back to phone usage 101. I miss my android system! I miss the familiarity of it. I miss having free apps that do what I want them to do.

Been doing lots of whining, in case you couldn’t tell.

Today, I watched this video. It’s a TED talk by Carol Dweck, and in it, she talks about how children handle challenge. It was actually quite fascinating and exactly what I needed to hear. Sometimes I get so frustrated by the minute progress I see on my goals. I want to reach them now! Or at least to see significant progress, rather than 1% improvement every day. But life is about the 1%. If we really made 1% improvement every day, we’d arrive in 100 days. Better to be the turtle than the hare. But I digress.

TED talk. Children can be taught to handle challenge one of two ways. Carol Dweck used a math test to study this behavior. The first way is to see their failure at the test as a failure of themselves–they didn’t do well enough. They couldn’t do well enough. It engenders frustration and ultimately, despair.

The second way is to see their failure as a “not yet”–they haven’t learned enough to pass the test yet. Teachers who started giving their students the grade of “not yet” saw a huge upswing in their students’ scores. Telling your students/children/self that you haven’t gotten there yet reframes challenge as opportunity. It empowers you to study more or read the documentation for your crazy iOS system that isn’t working the way it should or whatever it is that you need to do to succeed. It creates a mindset where success is possible. And it helps your brain grow so you’re more able to handle the next challenge.

This morning, JB Glossinger, told Zig Ziglar’s “How to Train a Flea” story on his Morning Coach podcast. Basically, you put the flea in a jar with the lid on. The flea will always try to jump out. After some time, it learns not to hit the lid and begins to moderate its jumps. When you take the lid off, the flea continues moderating its jumps and will never escape.

Way too often, that is me. I don’t know if it’s a personality thing or how I was raised (or some combination) but I learned early in life to never do something outside of my competencies. Certain things I wasn’t automatically good at and so I would try them once (or not at all) and then not do them again. I didn’t get that “not yet” mindset.

As an adult, I’ve had to catch myself when I fall into fatalism. It’s easy to get stressed and overwhelmed in our crazy, busy society. But there’s always hope because we have a God who redeems everything. And if any religion has a reason to embrace “not yet,” it’s Christianity with our God who is always working our best and a future hope of eternal life with Jesus.

So! I challenge us to stop any time we hear those failure messages and reframe them as “not yet.” I haven’t mastered my phone or designing webpages or writing fiction or podcasting or parenting or teaching or being healthy yet. How about you? What haven’t you done yet?

Christian Living

Staying Balanced

One of my friends recently posted something on Facebook along the lines of “I wonder what the people who use ‘u’ and ‘ur’ are doing with all their extra time.” My husband and I chuckled over it, but then we started talking about technology and how it’s all supposed to save us time. Unfortunately, all that extra time never seems to materialize.

I’ve been thinking about that this week because my phone died unexpectedly. Three days of phonelessness has been… eye-opening and difficult. I’m surprised by how cut off I feel even though I still have my computer. I’ve also been surprised by how many times a day I reach for my phone to check something–our bank accounts, the weather, how platypuses lay eggs (or other school-related queries), my texts… well, you get the picture.

I know I am always trying to come up with ways to save time. I often rush through my day so I’ll have more time at the end. Granted, having more time to work my novel almost always puts a smile on my face. But, on the other hand, why rush? I’m frantically trying to finish my fantasy novel so I can start writing my next book next year. It’s a little silly.

In Tools of Titans, Derek Silvers talked with Tim Ferriss about his experience riding his bike (190). He would ride his bike on this path that was by the ocean every day. He’d pedal as hard as he could and then turn around and rush back and it always took him 43 minutes. But after a while, he started to hate his ride–which wasn’t what he wanted. So, he decided to just enjoy his ride. He watched the seagulls and other ocean life. He paused when he got to his turn around point. He enjoyed his ride back. And then he checked the time and discovered it only took him 45 minutes.

We live in a society where it’s acceptable and expected to rush, but are we really accomplishing that much with all our rushing? Does all our technology really add that much time to our lives?

I’ve definitely found that I’m more productive when I’m calm vs. rushing. I’m also finding that being phone-less has forced me to  be more intentional about what information I’m looking up. I’ve gotten so used to having the internet at my fingertips. But now, sharing one computer between the four of us, I have to weigh whether it’s really worth it or not to remember to look something up later and take the time to do it.

I recently started Beth Moore’s study Entrusted: 2 Timothy. I’m really enjoying it! One thing that struck me about 2 Timothy 3:1-5 is that the world is going crazy and will only get crazier. It’s easy to get weighed down in the current insanity that’s politics in our country or all the “wars and rumors of wars” or the small stressors that are closer to home (like having to buy a new phone). But we’re called to stand (Eph. 6:13) in the middle of that–not to get sucked into the busy, rushing, crazy.

I love that! I mean, it’s one of those things that’s easy to say and hard to do, but I love that we aren’t supposed to run around and fix things. We just have to hang onto our own balance. Physically, we have about three inches of space where we’re balanced. Balance is not hanging onto acres of area around us–or even the amount of space most of us have for our personal bubble. Spiritually, balance is all about hanging onto who God is and who we are in Him.

So how about you guys? What do you do to hang onto balance and/or keep from being sucked into rushing?

Christian Living

Room for Suffering

Anybody else glad July is over? Picture me cheering. Not that July wasn’t awesome for getting stretched and practicing handling stress, but I’m glad it’s over. I love fresh starts! There’s just something about having an extra opportunity to reground in who I am and what I’m passionate about, to let go of the past.

This past week I have been so thankful that Christianity has room for suffering. It’s actually one of the things that drew me to Jesus. There seem to be two main strategies (apart from God’s) to handle suffering: pretend it’s not that bad (for example, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff–It’s All Small Stuff”) or drown in how awful it is.

God, on the other hand, says that He bears our sorrows (Is. 53:4). Jesus wept (Jn 11:35). He’s not aloof from suffering. The incarnation is such beautiful proof that God is in the middle of our suffering. Jesus got hungry and tired and weak (e.g., John 4:6, Mark 11:12). He dealt with emotional hurts–being betrayed or not trusted by His closest friends (Matt. 16:21-23). Being alone. The list goes on and on. God doesn’t downplay our suffering. Paul says that they were pressed beyond their ability to bear to the point of despair (2 Cor. 1:8). Don’t you love that we don’t have to keep a stiff upper lip?

But we don’t have to stay in the “it’s awful” stage because Jesus transformed suffering from the inside out. Without the cross, suffering is awful and purposeless, senseless. With God’s redemption, He is always working. He says that He’s always working His children’s best (Rom. 8:28). As far as the rest of the world, I believe that suffering showcases God’s gracious gift of free will, that it proves man’s sinfulness and justifies God’s condemnation of sin, and that it provides people with opportunities for change–opportunities to cry out to God.

There is room for suffering in Christianity without falling to one end of the spectrum or the other. It’s a beautiful thing. On a practical level, it means we can mourn and weep and get stressed, etc. while still taking that to God and letting Him redeem it. As Paul says, there’s hope. I don’t know about you, but that reality gives me room to breathe even when things are hard.

Romans 5:2b-5: And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Christian Living

Following the Plan

Getting back into a routine has been rough. My darling children are tired and fussy post-camp so school has been a stretch this week. I have to admit that weeks like this make me feel like I’m on a hamster wheel–I have a hard time seeing progress. I’m tired of being sick and having chronic fatigue. I feel like my fantasy novel won’t ever be done (despite the fact that I hit 200,000 words last week–woohoo!). Evan and I have been working on a podcast which I will definitely be telling you guys all about once we start posting it. But progress is slow. Some days it feels so slow as to be nonexistent.

I was encouraged though that God has a plan. A plan to me involves a timeline or a path traveled–in other words, it’s progress.

2 Timothy 1:9 says that God gave us His grace before creation because of his purpose and grace. Check out this super awesome definition from The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament for the Greek word for “purpose”–prosthesis: “a setting forth, presentation, an exposition, determination, plan, or will. It involves purpose, resolve, and design. A placing in view or openly displaying something” (Spiros Zodhiates, 1219).

Purpose, resolve, and design. God’s grace isn’t on accident. It isn’t about staying in one place. And it has design–which to me means that it’s beautiful. Maybe not easy. Life is rarely easy. Although, as Jerzy Gregorek says, “easy choices, hard life; hard choices, easy life.” So life can definitely be easier. And it’s not worthless.

1 Cor. 15:58 is one of those verses I cling to. It says, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (NIV). How fabulous is that?! Whenever we’re giving ourselves to God’s labor, when we’re building where He’s building, it’s never a waste of time. We’re never actually on a hamster wheel.

And I love the resolve because that reminds me that God never gives up on us. He’s working His plan and He’ll do it until the day Jesus returns (Phil 1:6).

So if you’re in a place where you’re feeling a little stuck or maybe frustrated with how little progress there is, let me encourage you: God has a plan even when we can’t see it. He is the God who changes hearts, who drags us along when we ask Him to. No matter what you’re going through, God can transform it into something amazing–He’s the God of full redemption (Ps. 130:7), not partial redemption. There are no hamster wheels in His economy.

If you’re stuck because you’re not surrendering to Him, well, maybe you should check out this video by Tim Ferriss about Fear Setting. In my life, a lack of surrender has always come back to some fear–whether it’s fear of what God’s asking me to do or fear of what He might ask me to do or fear of losing myself, etc., etc., etc. But, when you do the last step of Tim Ferriss’ Fear Setting–which is to write down where you’ll be in 6 months, 1 year, and 3 years, I can guarantee the results of not surrendering are way worse than the results of surrendering. It’s just nice to see it in black and white, or whatever color ink you use.

Christian Living

Camp & To-do Lists

My kids are at camp this week. It’s been weird. You parents out there will understand when I say I almost don’t know what to do with myself 🙂 It’s the first time we’ve gone this long without seeing them and having so much time to ourselves is just plain weird. Fun! But weird.

Being out of my normal routine has definitely thrown my body for a loop so I’m sleep deprived. I don’t know if it’s the stress of trying to get a ton of things done while the kids are gone or what. For some reason, I had visions of hours of extra time–practically adding up to entire days of being able to work on projects and still go on dates with my husband. I forgot that we still have to eat, the dishes still have to be done, and I still need to do my regular self-health things like doing my quiet time every day and Tapping every day, etc., etc.

Basically, I had a to-do list that was a mile long and I still haven’t gotten through it even with my kids gone.

I was complaining to God about the situation when it hit me that I put way too much emphasis on my to-do list. I’ve actually gotten significantly better at to-do lists over the past year (thanks to JB Glossinger’s Sacred Six). I often complete my to-do list for the day. Things don’t fall through the cracks as much as they used to. And I don’t freak out as much if something doesn’t get done.

I think it’s that whole having extra time that’s been throwing me. I put all this emphasis on completing things this week. My husband and I are in the midst of starting a podcast and we’ve been trying to finish up our website and random other details. This week seemed like an ideal time to get them done. It’s hard to do though when we only have one functional computer.

Anyway! I was thinking about how I use my to-do list sometimes. Maybe you can relate. When I get stressed, I clamp down on the things I can control–housecleaning, what I eat, my to-do list, etc.–as a way to handle the stress of the things I can’t control. It’s funny how the more in control I try to be, the more out of control I feel. Have you ever experienced that?

I was raised to believe that getting things done was the epitome of success. Having a completed task list was this unattainable goal that I always thought would make me feel confident and at peace. But now that I’ve had several months’ worth of lists that are completed, I’m realizing it’s just a list. It’s just a tool, not a measurement. It’s similar to when our house first started being consistently clean. I thought it would lower our stress levels (and it did). I thought it would add to my peace but that never happened.

Peace comes from submission, from the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. It doesn’t come from our circumstances–clean houses, to-do lists, financial security, resolved relational conflicts, etc., etc. It’s God’s work in our lives that brings peace. It’s submission to God’s way of doing things–building where He builds (Ps. 127:1-2). Calm circumstances are nice but, like Elsa in Frozen, we bring our own storms with us. Only God can calm the inside.

Christian Living

How to troubleshoot your sacrifice

Today I’ve been thinking about sacrifice. I like to listen to the soundtrack for Star Trek Into Darkness when I’m writing so I regularly have that scene where Captain Kirk sacrifices himself to save the ship in my head. If you haven’t watched it, well, I realize there are people who don’t like Star Trek. It’s never made sense to me but I do know it is a fact of life 🙂 You can always watch the scene on youtube (although it loses something if you watch it without the context of the movie):

Anywho, sacrifice is one of the themes that pulls together many of the great stories–including Jesus’ life and death. It’s also where the rubber meets the road in the Christian life. We all sacrifice things every single day. Right now, I am sacrificing working on my novel, spending time with my kids, relaxing, and catching up on my to-do list for the sake of working on this blog. Every moment, we’re choosing to do something at the expense of all the other things we could be doing.

That’s why what you spend your time on says so much about who you are.

Sacrifice is one of those integral Christian values that I personally think we don’t spend enough time talking about. Maybe because we forget that we’re already doing it all the time. We sugarcoat sacrifice so as not to scare off non-Christians because it sounds daunting and painful. And it can be.

But imagine that I ask you whether you’d like to sacrifice your week of work for an all-expenses-paid vacation to the beach (or whatever your preferred destination is). Would you consider that a sacrifice? I bet you’d be lining up to ditch work. I know I would 🙂 I love the beach. Sacrificing to go to the beach is not a sacrifice–it is a joy.

Sacrifice is like an equation: (Present – sacrifice) + time = what God wants to give you. There are two parts to that sacrifice that change the equation: 1) the value of what you’re losing and 2) the value of what you’re gaining. You might not be so interested if I were to require your firstborn child in trade. Or a million dollars. Or your mint condition Star Trek collection 😉

Paul says he considers everything as rubbish compared to gaining Christ (Phil 3:8). In case that’s not strong enough, check out the definition for “rubbish”: “waste thrown to dogs, like filthy scraps of garbage (table-scraps, dung, muck, sweepings)” (Strongs, 4657).

So… yeah, that’s gross. It reminds me of desperately trying to convince my baby girl to let me wash the doll she carried around and sucked on every single day (we eventually cheated and bought a second one so we could trade them back and forth). It was super precious to her but also super gross.

That’s the kind of sacrifice God calls us to. He doesn’t just take something from us without giving us something even better. Like Jesus talked about with the grain of wheat–all seeds have to “die” to turn into plants (Jn 12:24). We sacrifice and God grows something awesome out of it (Rom. 8:28; Jas 1:17; Heb. 12:1-2). Sometimes it might be something completely different. Sometimes it might be the same thing–just sanctified and made into something that benefits us (vs. a germ-ridden, dingy doll).

I was reminded today that when I struggle to sacrifice something to God, it has everything to do with my perspective. Do I really believe God wants to give me something better? Do I really believe something better exists? And am I willing to be patient? Seeds don’t grow overnight. Dolls take time to wash. Sacrifices take time to bear fruit.

So what about you? What is God calling you to sacrifice? And, if you’re struggling to go through with it, which side of the equation is the problem at?

Christian Living

Why you’re a miracle

It was my birthday this week. I like my birthday about as much as I like Christmas, which, for those of you who have started reading since January, is down into the negative numbers. For the vast majority of my life, it has been a reminder of all the ways I’m not good enough. And since it tends to ramp up my PTSD, I end up being sleep-deprived and panic-attacked while I’m trying to remind myself what’s true and what’s a lie.

But you know what? The odds of any one of us existing are astronomical. There’s a pretty awesome info graphic based on Dr. Ali Binazir’s calculations I would like to show you. Note: Obviously, you can quibble over his calculations but the principle is the same.

If that’s not enough to blow your mind, you can also consider the fact that each cell was lovingly orchestrated by God. Psalm 139:13-15 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”

Chuck Missler talks about how God is the force signaling to our wee bodies when it’s time to start working on hands and feet, when it’s time to make the liver and the heart. The way babies develop in utero is fearful and wonderful! It doesn’t make sense but they go from one cell to a whole baby. It’s a miracle.

I keep a quote by Mel Robbins in my planner: “There will always be someone who can’t see your worth–don’t let it be you.” It’s hard when the people who matter to us can’t see our worth. And I think birthdays can be a big reminder of that to a lot of people, especially if anyone in your family holds that view. It’s like a once a year day to come along and poke a sore spot.

If your birthday is such a day for you, I’d like to tell you right now: you are a miracle. You are amazing. The odds against you existing as yourself right now are so slim that it is God’s hand that’s lovingly formed you, God’s hand that’s kept your parents together long enough to conceive you. And even if one (or both) of them can’t see your worth, it doesn’t matter. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it’s hard and painful. But it doesn’t change who you are. It doesn’t change that you are God’s miracle, created exactly the way He wanted you to be in this post-Fall world.

You are a miracle. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.