Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mess Haul

Lately, I’ve had a bit of what writin’ folks call “writer’s block”.  That, and I can’t figure how to fit writing into my new busier—and apparently messier--life.  Anyway, that’s why I haven’t been posting much in this here blog.  So, to get the ball a’rollin, I have decided to do a report on recent happenings in my little world.  If you are easily bored, or uncomfortable with disaster, check out now and go take a nap or whatever you do when you have a little free time.

I’ve had a few difficult days this week.  That feeling could be compounded by the fact that late Sunday night, after we had gotten home from the lake at 10:40 pm and I was cleaning out the cooler, a glass jar of salsa slipped out of the fridge and plunged onto the tile floor into about a million pieces, decorating everything with red tomato messiness.  Have I ever told you how much I hate messes? This was not happiness for me.  In fact, it felt like much sadness and I just wanted it to go away.  So my sweet husband, seeing my distress, offered to clean it up for me.  And when he had worked hard to get everything spic and span, and as I was moving the cooler to get the last of the remnants of glass underneath, a container of sour cream fell from the top of the cooler and broke open and splattered all over my floor and cupboards and dishwasher.  Really.  Too bad, we weren’t in the mood for tacos just then because we had all the toppings readily accessible.  Eyeing my repeated look of terror, my husband once again assisted me as I was near in tears.  Finally, after watching my rescuer clean up most of both disasters, and after pulling myself together, I vacuumed and mopped the entire floor.  Then I slogged to bed and collapsed smelling faintly of pico de gallo.

Now you may think this was the end of the food disasters, but you would be wrong.  There is more.  And I am beginning to wonder if something is wrong with me—like maybe I have an alternate persona or maybe God is trying to get my attention with some analogy that I am not quite catching…kind of like when He told Ezekiel to cook a barley loaf over human dung (Ezekiel 4:12)—what was with that?  Fast forward to Tuesday morning when I was dutifully making a green smoothie for my aforementioned helpful husband.  As I added ingredients and turned on my megablendeer, the sound it was making was unfamiliar but it often sounds loud and weird, I mean it has a 3 HP, 1560 watt motor (like a lawnmower), so I just left it.  I blended once, twice, and still my smoothie was not smooth, and still the whirring sound continued.  In my ignorance, I pushed blend again, and the Blendtec Wildside became furious and blew out the entire side of its plastic jar in protest, spewing green gunk all over my kitchen and dishwasher and sink and cupboards and windows and floor and myself.  As I surveyed the amazing mess I had made—again—I found a very disgruntled metal spoon which had accidently fallen in the blender.  Don’t ask me how.  I don’t know.  Maybe I was super tired and temporarily stupid.  Or maybe I was another person who had watched www.willitblend.com one too many times.

 Oh, and did I mention that this entire debacle occurred just 15 minutes before I had to leave for an appointment. Did I also ever mention how much I hate messes?  Especially messes that take place right before I need to leave? I cleaned up as best I could and left Shay to buff the stainless (stainless takes a huge amount of time even when I don’t dump green smoothie all over it) and wash the window—which she did—I guess—but it was still super streaky when I got home and a little green so I cleaned it again.  As an added bonus, I had a sink full of dishes when this occurred.  And since they were also covered with thick green goo, I had to wash them upon arriving home; exhausting and disheartening all at the same time. 

But now, just to convince you that I may indeed be struggling with another personality unaware, I had additional accident. 

With food. 

So, I was in Wal-Mart picking up a few things on the same day that I suffered the green smoothie explosion and I remembered that Shay had used the last of the cream cheese on the bagel she so sweetly prepared for me when I was hyperventilating.  I walked to the cheese isle, picked up a (plastic) container of cream cheese, put it in my cart, and promptly walked ahead.  The cheese fell out of the front part of my cart (where the seat is) and rolled to the floor cracking the top. 
I felt like crying.  And throwing up.  But restraining myself and doing neither, I walked to the check out and told the lady that this now-cracked container had fallen on the floor and broken.  And it was my fault.  I then asked if I needed to pay for it.  Seeing my pitifulness, she had mercy on me and said no.  Then she put it in a Wal- Mart bag and wrapped it up and stuck it under the counter just like nothing ever happened.  I wanted to hug her but I just paid for my undamaged groceries and left.

So that’s the news folks.  And because I am unsure if I am just one person or two (I’ve taken to calling myself Sybil), I am being very careful when I handle plates and crock pots and jars or even plastic containers of any kind since I never know when I might snap into the reckless Tori and destroy the rest of my house.

Pray for me.  And only serve me supper on paper plates. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


I’m scared about a lot of things. 

I’m constantly haunted by the fact that maybe I’m not doing what I am supposed to be doing—that I am keeping busy, but that this busyness may not be “the good works that God prepared in advance for me to do.”  Most days I have a sense of urgency—a sense of being unsettled—because I am afraid that I won’t be able to accomplish what I really want to do—the things I can see in my mind clear as day, but can’t figure out how to bring them to life.  I don’t have this sense of urgency because of lack of time, but because of a lack of courage.  I am often afraid to start big things—like trying to master a new language or complete a big dream, like writing a book.  These big things scare me into motionlessness because they seem too huge to start; I feel so ill equipped to even venture toward the goal.  I often see big, talk big, and then do nothing—because I really don’t know what to do.  This exasperates me, and I don’t understand how to fix it, so I push the vision aside and it sits on the back burner and taunts me with suggestions of “lazy” and “weak” and “disappointing”.

I really admire people, like my husband, who set big goals for their lives and set forth a plan to accomplish those seemingly “undoable” items.  I don’t operate like this; I can see the goals I want to reach, but unless someone clearly defines the path for me, I get lost in the brushy stuff on the side—wandering aimlessly until I finally find a comfortable spot and stay there.  Physically, I can push myself out of my comfort zone quite successfully, but mentally and intellectually, I like to stay where things are familiar and known.  This characteristic often hinders me when I am trying to establish new routines or develop good habits like memorizing scripture or reading more books.  The minute something gets difficult, I punt, and fall back into what is easy for me.

There are so many things I want to do and be and learn and I feel like I am the only one keeping me from them. 

I believe this familiar inertia keeps me from being the Tori that God intended me to be.  I often pray to push out of it—this “what I’m used to” attitude—and I can sometimes, with great effort, force myself to think in a broader way.  This type of processing, though, takes so much effort for me, that it only lasts a time, and then I’m back to where I started--scared of accomplishing much. 

Jesus wasn’t scared of accomplishing much.  He submitted himself to the Father’s will, and accomplished everything that God put before Him. 

I want to be like that.  I want to force myself to do the things He has given me even if they make me uncomfortable—even if I have to think really hard—even if I have to go way out of my cozy life to do them.  I don’t want to be afraid of doing big things. 

But wait…here’s a new thought:

Maybe my God is big enough to empower me for His greatness—not my own.  Maybe I struggle not with lack of courage, but lack of submission.

So maybe that is where I err.  I am trying to accomplish much on my own for myself.  I am looking for the “good works from God” to make myself feel great—to release the tension of my uncertainty.  Maybe I am much too focused on what I am doing—not what He is doing through me. 

Maybe my paradigm needs a little shift…

When I stop focusing on my own big dreams and when I begin looking for where God is at work and decide to join Him in His big goals, I am actually accomplishing much more that I could on my own. 

When I hold my own agenda for greatness in my own tiny fists, God will not work His will through me.  And I will have a sense of anxiousness because I am looking to myself and my skills for fulfillment.  But when I release these things that scare me, these big things I think I need to do, and when I tell Him I cannot do them, He unleashes His strength into my Spirit to bring Him glory.

This glory—God’s glory—may not look identical to my own goals—and I need to be Ok with that.  I must rest in His decisions.  I need to stop my mental pacing and name-calling.  I need to set my eyes on Him and not on the big things I think I need to do.

I need to keep reminding myself that it’s all about Him.

God is the author of this big story He is writing.  We are just the characters in it.  I often mistakenly think it’s my story I’m writing, but I’m wrong.  It’s all about Him.  It’s all for His glory.  And if I choose to put Him—not my perceptions of my own purposefulness—first, then all these “things” will be added to me as well. (Matthew 6:33)

So, is it my lack of courage, my refusal to start big things that is keeping me from becoming the one God intends me to be?  Or is it my refusal to put myself under His headship that stagnates all my plans?  I think the latter is probably true.

If I continue to look to my goodness and my talents to reach my goals, I will disappoint myself time and time again.  I can intellectually choose to force myself out of seemingly immovable inertia, but I don’t have enough willpower to make a perfect Tori.  Only by God’s Spirit can I achieve lasting change.

 If I make God my goal and His glory my aim, like Jesus did, and if I put myself under submission of His Lordship, he may release me from the fear of accomplishing much and do great things through me.  Or he may do small things through me.  He is the Author, remember?

Jesus accomplished everything that God put before Him.  Jesus was completely immersed in God’s will.  I think I can learn something from that. 

And then, maybe, I won’t be scared of so many things.

“Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God.  Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.  He has made us competent as ministers of the covenant—not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

2 Corinthians 3:4-6

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Running Home

My girls and I ran a half marathon on Saturday.  Actually, it was a 20K, but none of you non-runners care, so let’s just leave it at a half.  Anyway, as I was running it, I thought back to the first time I ran a full marathon.  It was a goal that I had thought previously unachievable…until I broke it down.

When I was contemplating running 26.2 miles, I read books on the subject, scanned articles written by veteran racers, and generally fed my brain anything marathon related.  I was interested in running these long miles, but unfamiliar with the how-to.  After perusing several Internet sites, I found a training plan that looked do-able and penciled into my calendar the miles I needed to run.  That way, when the marathon rolled around, I would be good and ready.  And I decided that I would obey my calendar even when I felt like ignoring it. 

This worked well for me.  After getting up in the morning, I would look at the mileage that was required that day and find a way to fit it in.  If I ignored the directives of my calendar, I knew I wouldn’t be ready to run when the big day arrived.  This fear of failure, of disappointing myself, kept me on the straight and narrow path when I wanted to give into the wide road of lethargy. 

The reason that this plan worked for me is because the long months of training were broken down into (relatively) small daily miles.  The big goal of running a marathon seemed achievable by training one day at a time.  Conversely, if I had the same desire to run a marathon, and if I would have gone out the first day trying to run 26.2 miles all at once, my attitude towards my goal would have been very different. The dream of the marathon would have seemed completely undoable, discouraging, defeating.  This is why, when we have a large vision, we start small and build slowly. Breaking goals down helps us to wrap our brains around this monumental task that we are attempting.  One does not become a marathoner in a matter of days, or even weeks—a marathoner takes several months to be race-ready. 

Why then, as Christians, do we expect to be spiritually mature instantly?  Why do we think we can become godly by “just going to church?”  In the same way that training for a race is a process, spiritual growth takes time…and effort.  It takes hours and hours of sitting at Jesus feet, learning from His Word, reminding ourselves of His Truths.  Spiritual maturity sometimes seems unattainable when we are struggling again and again with the same enslaving sin.  It seems far off when our desire for the Word wanes.  It seems unswervingly huge when we truly understand how incapable we are of achieving it on our own.  But it is achievable…when we break it down.

If we make it our goal to seek God daily and read His Word regularly, it will affect our lives.  Jesus promised, It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).  If we memorize scripture by reviewing it daily, it can help us to sin less; the psalmist said “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11).  And if we give up our rights to our lives, God will reward us with His abundant life; “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. (Matthew 16:25).  These are promises the Christ-follower can count upon.  One does not become spiritually mature in a matter of days—or even months—becoming more like Jesus takes a lifetime.

Although we will never achieve perfect maturity in Christ until we meet with Him in Heaven, we can take small steps here on earth to display a better reflection of Him to others.  It’s true, as Christ-followers, that we have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead at our disposal.  But it’s also true that we need to choose to use this power by disciplining ourselves and making wise choices every single day. The fear of the Lord and the reality of meeting Him face to face in the future make this obedience more appealing. Starting our day by looking at our “Guidebook” for direction is a great way to start.  And choosing to do what it says is non-negotiable.  Luke 6:46 poses the question, "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?"

Choosing righteousness is hard.  It requires dedicated training.  Sometimes it feels completely unreachable; our true Home seems so far away. Philippians 2 tells us that we must “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (all the while being aware of the Spirit within). So, keep making the next right choice, keep persevering in your quest to give God glory.  Keep choosing obedience over pleasure. Keep walking on the narrow path when the wide one beckons louder.  Keep training yourself to be godly, little by little by little. 

And it will happen.   And you will see more and more of God’s face.  And then, one day, you will hear the coveted words, “Well done good and faithful servant” when you reach the finish.

Keep running, my friend, keep running.

The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
Proverbs 4:18

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7