The Struggle

I have been struggling lately – I can’t seem to focus – and that bothers me.

focus
(Photo credit)

There are too many distractions. I can’t even sit and read a book anymore without my mind wandering to 1,000 places. I fight through prayer because I start thinking of other things that I need to do when I’m done. I have even stopped my Bible study homework to write this blog. Why? Why have I become the person who constantly has to be connected? I’m sure technology, social media, and the way society has adapted to it plays a big part in it. But I am curious if there is an underlying factor that I am refusing to address? Perhaps I’ve spent so many years being so involved in things that I’ve lost all ability to just sit and think? Is there a reason I’ve been so busy? What are my intentions… with anything that I am doing?

I am becoming frustrated with all of the projects that I start, and never seem to finish. I am annoyed that I can’t balance things in my life anymore. I am bothered by my lack of motivation because I’m overwhelmed with… well, everything. I can’t even be productive when I am home now because I have become too accustomed to being on the go.

I need a vacation. I need silence from the every-day chaos. I want to find the old, pre-Facebook, multitasking, creative, carefree me. I want to give 100% to my life again, instead of giving 1% to 100 things and 0% to me. I want a schedule that allows flexibility. I don’t want to pencil in “a workout if I feel like it.” I want a run to be part of my daily activity. I want things like my hobbies to be who I am again, without me blocking off a measly hour on my calendar to do things I enjoy. (Before anyone reads the previous as selfish, let me reiterate that volunteering and helping others are hobbies of mine… but I need to regain control over them being a hobby and not an expectation.)

And I want need my primary focus to be on God. I want to be able to stop what I am doing and immediately find Him. I need my brain to chill out and allow me to sync up spiritually at any second. I crave this more than anything. I have turned into Martha, distracted with much serving, now anxious and troubled, and it is keeping me from just being still before the LORD.

I wish I had an easy solution. My first thought is to kill all of  my social media accounts. I no longer use Google + (like I ever really did) and I have backed off of Twitter considerably. Facebook and Instagram seem to be the two thorns in my side right now. I’m seriously considering removing the Facebook app from my phone. I should probably consider removing Instagram and Amazon too. I need to actually turn this computer off from time to time. And I certainly need to stop being so physically involved in so much.

I can’t help but wonder… if I am feeling these things, how many of you reading this are overwhelmed too? Maybe I was lead to stop my Bible study and post this blog because one of you is struggling too. Are you having trouble focusing? Do you feel like your life is consumed with urgent things, but not necessarily important things? Let’s seek the LORD while he may be found (Isaiah 55:6) and pray for one another to be still (Psalm 46:10) and focus on Him. Let’s re-evaluate our priorities to make sure that we are living the life God intended for us; a life of peace and patience… not busyness and frustration.

I read a blog that said, “Our natural tendencies are pedal to the medal, full speed ahead. But in His Word, God is instructing us to put on brakes and be still. Being still before God is not inactivity, it is wisdom.When we sit still and trust God, it will silence the enemy as he knows God is our rescue.” It’s time to stop struggling.

Heavenly Father,
I ask that you help those of us who are struggling with focus to direct our attention to You. Please give us discernment in our daily lives so that things like television, internet, work, sports, volunteering, etc. will no longer consume our time from You. Let us be still, LORD, so that You may reveal Yourself to us and we will know You more.
Amen

 

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)

 

Balance

It has been nearly 5 months since my last post. I went through a period of guilt for not blogging regularly, but then I realized that there is no real rule to blogging. And sometimes…. real life happens!

That’s what I’ve been up to; living life offline. That isn’t to say that having a blog, or tweeting, or YouTube-ing isn’t life – or that it is bad. It isn’t, and I don’t want my statement to sound negative. I love my online life! I had just been devoting too much time to it, and had been forgetting to embrace things away from the computer or iPhone.

What helped force me away from social media a while was the job promotion I received shortly after my last post in October. It was not expected, and literally came out of the blue. It is best explained as divine intervention. I don’t think I even realized what my heart desired, so the promotion was proof that God always does. I must admit, the promotion was a bit more than I was mentally prepared for. It took me a little while to adjust to my new responsibilities and the higher expectations that came along with it.

Before I knew it, Thanksgiving was over and Christmas had hit me in the face. I hadn’t made time for any of my annual traditions, so I scrambled to do what I could in the short time I had. I was still running, and training for the Run, Run Rudolph 5K. Anyone who knows me, knows winter is my least favorite season. I started to pout about the cold temps, and well… by the time 2014 was here, I was ready to join the bears in hibernation.

So here I am, the day after the worst ice storm we’ve had in a while in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina, trying to find a healthy balance between being plugged into, and living away from technology. I hope to start blogging more regularly again. And hopefully, my friends will join back in with some new On A Mission fun!

In the meantime, check out my Haiti tab. I will finally be adding my first post to that page today.

As always, thanks for stopping by!!

The Perfect Amount of Salt

 You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. – Matthew 5:13

As Christians, we are called to be salt of the earth. What exactly does that mean? It actually has multiple meanings. One purpose of salt is preservation. It can actually keep food, especially meat, from spoiling. Believers in Christ are preservatives to the world. They help keep the world good in an ungodly society corrupted by sin. Another purpose of salt is to enhance the flavor. Christians also “enhance” the flavor of life in the world by living obediently to Christ. This influences the world in a positive way. Essentially, followers of Christ are supposed to be honest, peaceful, ministers to the needy, and share the love of the Lord. We’re supposed to do this behind the scenes, never calling attention to ourselves. Salty is not showy.

I have been unbelievably salty this week, but not-so-much in the above Christian context. Salt can have a negative taste if it isn’t used sparingly. And if too much salt is consumed, it can have lasting side effects like high blood pressure and fluid retention. I have been abundantly honest to the world this week, and it (what is supposed to be positive) may be leaving a bad taste in the mouths of those who have encountered my seasoning.

Have you ever wanted to tell someone the truth, but felt like you should sugar-coat it in order to protect their feelings? There are instances when someone needs to hear the softer version. Usually, when I share the truth, give advice, or contribute my opinion, I do it in a sweet manner. However, some situations require a less sugary delivery. That’s not to say that raw, honest truth has to be harsh… but pouring it out in excess can be as nasty as emptying the entire salt shaker on one french fry. And that much salt – well – it draws attention to itself.

I think someone has mixed up the granules in my metaphorical kitchen this week. Yes… I believe there is salt in my sugar bowl. In the past three days, friends and family have asked me questions or vented their concerns, and I have been brutally honest to the point of hypernatremia! [That's the medical term for an elevated level of sodium, otherwise known as someone having too much salt.] I am still sharing truth and giving advice solely out of love for them, but my delivery may be a bit cold and unwelcoming.

So my question is, what is the perfect amount of salt? Is there a good way to balance it with sugar? Am I being disobedient by sugar-coating the truth? Is it the responsibility of a Christian to be as salty as needed? Or is it possible to be too seasoned? I don’t want to lose my saltiness. I want to continue to preserve and enhance everyone that I meet. But I also don’t want to be so salty that I have lasting negative side effects. Please comment with your thoughts.

Seven: Day 1 {Possessions}

Show me how you spend your money, and I’ll show you what you really love.” – Jesus

Today has been tough. I assumed this would be a challenging week… but today down-right hurt. Not the kind of hurt that makes you say “That stung a bit”, but the excruciating pain that makes you scream “Ouch, that stepped on my toes until they became bloody nubs!!” Yeah, it’s that powerful on Day One.

This week’s “fast” is in the area of Possessions. I’ve been focusing on Matthew 6:19-21 and my task is to give away seven items per day for the next seven days. I am not supposed to donate clothes to Goodwill. The goal is to get out in the community, learn about local organizations, and actually fellowship with folks in need.

I had some free time today during work, since I’m wrapping up my current job this week before I make the jump to a different department. I took the time to start reading the Week Three: Possession chapter in the Bible study. I couldn’t put the book down. The more I read, the more emotional I became. Page after page and quote after quote, I was forced to face questions like:
In general, what do our houses jammed with possessions seem to indicate about what we treasure? and If “stored earthly treasures” is a clue about your spiritual health like Jesus suggested, what do you see? Any red flags signaling some wrong thinking?

I never viewed myself as a materialistic person, but after today’s read… I know that, like most in the US, I am. I don’t think I am materialistic in that I want a lot of things, but I place sentimental value on obscure materials like tshirts and books. That value prevents me from discarding old items when I bring new ones in. I cling to these things because I wore that tshirt to a concert or may need to reference this book again. This is not how God wants us to be. Roughly 15% of Jesus’s recorded teachings relate to radical Christianity (aka His ordinary discipleship) which is more that his heaven and hell teachings combined. We’re meant to live simply, love much, and give to those in need.

This afternoon, I spent time researching local nonprofits. I have clothing, books, craft supplies, and organizational products waiting, ready to be given away. I know it won’t be easy. I’ll try to reason and rationalize everything. But I have to let my things go. I have an abundance and it is time to be generous. I will share what I donate and with whom at the end of the week.

God, please let there be less of me and my junk and more of You and Your kingdom!

 

 

 

Value

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. – Mark 10:25

My heart hurts. I’m disgusted. And I am frustrated. 

I can’t even collect my thoughts, so I probably shouldn’t attempt to blog right now. If I type what I am thinking, I am certain I will offend someone. That isn’t my intention, but it may happen.

Tomorrow marks the end of my second week of The 7 Experiment and it has already impacted my life tremendously. There is something significant about praying the “less of me and my junk” prayer daily. I am seeing clearly how greedy our country is. I have always questioned things like: Why are actors, musicians, and athletes paid ridiculously large salaries while other careers, like paramedics or public school teachers, barely average $40,000 in some states? I have never understood why it is okay for a presidential candidate to spend millions of dollars on campaign ads, while telling voters that they spend money wisely. I have even asked friends who wanted to buy me gifts (for birthday, Christmas, or whatever) to save their money or – if they insisted on spending – donate to a charity in my honor. They would still get the tax deduction, and I would be extremely humbled by the thought. *Note: Only two friends complied to my request and it only lasted one Christmas. This was my mentality pre-7.

Post 7, in the midst of the experiment, I am now becoming a bit radical. My thoughts are being consumed by people in need, and my heart cries out for them. I am more conscious of areas in my life that I want (read: NEED) to change and I am nauseated that I have felt called to change but was never obedient. And I am appalled at the number of people who are walking around, unaware of the excess in which they live. It truly annoys me now.

The average cost of a wedding in the US is $28,400. Why? Statistics show 50% of marriages end in divorce. I’m guessing a lot of those divorces end because of financial strains. So $28K for a wedding doesn’t seem like a very good investment. Elaborate vacations. Expensive cars. Closets full of name-brand clothes. Ginormous houses. What are they all for? People in the US live above their means, period. Those same people often complain that they are “broke” when in fact they’re just in debt, trying to buy a social status or get something they think they “deserve”.

Will we ever learn (and accept) that our value is not in anything of this earth? God has made us invaluable. We are priceless. So why do so many of us worry that someone isn’t going to like us because we drive a modest car? Or why do we immediately scrutinize a person because they’re not wearing the latest name-brand styles. This form of judgement and discremination needs to stop! We’ve got to stop making ourselves feel better because we’re carrying $200 purses. In the same, we have to stop putting ourselves down because we don’t live in a 3,000 sq ft home.

How many times have you walked into your kitchen, gazed into your refrigerator (after going to the grocery store), and said “I have nothing to eat.” I am guilty. It isn’t that we don’t have food. It is that we don’t have what we want readily available. But friends, if we have a pantry full of food and our neighbors have nothing to eat, there is something wrong with how we are thinking!

Please God, continue to burden me with this. I want to see people through your eyes. I want to look beyond labels and finances. I want to have compassion for those in need. I want to be more conscious of what I have and what I can do without. I need less of me and my junk and more of You and Your kingdom.

it_is

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:19-21

Seven: Day 4 {Clothing}

Guess what? No complaints so far today. As a matter of fact, I wanted to share with you two things:

1. I didn’t wash clothes last night. Yay me!
2. I had to be at work around 7:30 this morning. I didn’t crawl out of bed until 6:15. I went straight to the shower and was out by 6:30. Thanks to my limited wardrobe, I was dressed and on my way to work shortly after 7am.

Typically, I don’t have to be in the office until 9am. I’m usually up by 6:30, in the shower by 7am, then spend an obscene amount of time trying on outfit after outfit. Some days, the first one works. Most days, something doesn’t fit right or look like it did on Pinterest, so I try a second or third time before I’m happy with my attire. I have spent nearly 30 minutes before, searching through my closet and dresser for the perfect outfit of the day.

What I realize now is that I have entirely too much. There are things hanging in my closet with tags still attached. There are also things in my closet that I am hanging onto because I think ridiculous things like, What if I get rid of that [corduroy blazer that barely fits] and suddenly need a tight corduroy blazer!? or That’s what I was wearing on the first day of my new job [three jobs ago]. Seriously. I place too much value on material things. I am 11 days into this 49 day day fast and can see that clearly. Meanwhile, there are people in my own city who would just like one pair of good, used shoes to replace the only old, holey pair they have.

God, please…. less of me and my junk and more of You and Your kingdom.

Seven: Day 3 {Clothing}

Hi. It’s me. Complaining again.

I volunteered at the local fair last night. I stood on my feet for 8 hrs. My poor tootsies ache, my lower back feels like it could go into a spasm at any second, and I felt some weird “ripping” pain in my right arch just before I crawled in bed. Word to the wise…. just because a shoe can be both dressy and casual, doesn’t mean you should stand around in them for long periods of time. Ouch! Oh, and can I mention again how cold it is?

Plus, I’ve already used my washing machine twice since I’ve started this fast. Granted, my machine is energy- and water-efficient, but still, I typically do two loads per week. At the rate I’m going, I will do laundry every night this week. I’m not down with that.

On the positive side, I have to admit… it has been SO nice being able to know exactly what I am wearing when I step out of the shower. A limited wardrobe is quite effortless – equally as boring – but effortless outweighs the boring right now.

Truthfully, my problems are so minimal and petty in comparison. I have really had the homeless community on my mind this week. Not having a coat or proper shoes has really opened my eyes (and my heart) to what these people have to do without on a daily basis, and the health risks and pain that they have to endure because of it. Oh, the things I have taken for granted.

God, please continue to move me. I pray for these people. I pray that I continue to hear you. I pray that you will guide me on how I can help them. I pray for their safety and health. Let there be less of me and my junk and more of You and Your kingdom.

 

Seven: Day 2 {Clothing}

Okay… it’s only day two and I need to vent.

Suddenly, North Carolina has arctic temps. (Maybe it’s in the 60s – but this girl and her Caribbean soul has a body freezing point of 72, so I’m COLD!)

Instead of complaining, I have caught myself praying. I seem to be focused on the homeless. I’m praying for those who not only are without a coat, but who may not have 14 items of clothing to choose from this week. I’m guessing when you don’t have a warm, safe place to lay your head at night, you probably travel light. My heart is heavy.

God, let there be less of me and my junk and more of You and Your kingdom.

 

Seven: Day 1 {Clothing}

Last night I tried to follow Jen and only select seven pieces of clothing for the upcoming week. It was impossible. Between work, volunteering, and 5K training… it just could not feasibly be done. Fortunately, Jen offers alternatives. One was, Grab a small bag (like a reusable grocery store bag). Whatever fits in there, including shoes, is what you have for the week. Shut your closet door and live out of the bag. I chose this option and placed (read: compressed) as many items as I could inside. In the end, I had:

Black dress pants
Khaki pants
Jeans
Running capris
Burgundy blouse
White longsleeve tshirt
Orange sweater
Black tank top
2 volunteer tshirts
Invest Hope tshirt
Pajama pants
Tech shirt (for running)
Dress
Undies

I didn’t include any accessories except for my pearl earrings that I already had in my ears. [They seldom leave my second piercing.] I had one pair of black flats that work for dressy or casual. No coat. No hat. No scarf.

I feel confident in these choices, and I feel good about this week’s fast. I am looking forward to how this week will change my perspective, and the absence of clothing choices will draw me closer to God. 

Less of me and my junk.
More of You and Your kingdom.

 

Seven: Day 7 {Food}

I made it! Day seven has come to an end. I have not only focused more on God but I have lost 5lb and have a lot more energy too. Eating pure, organic food is a really good thing. I’m making wiser choices about what I put into my body. I don’t want ice cream and cookies like before. I’d rather have a banana or some grapes. I will start eating more variety now, but I hope to remain conscious of healthier options.

Tomorrow begins week two of my fast. I’ll transition over to clothing. I’ve got another busy week, so I will have to start planning tonight to make sure I have every event covered with the appropriate articles of clothing. Should be interesting!

God, thank you for the past week. Thank you for the blessings, which include lessons learned through my imperfection. I pray that the next week will be just as (if not more) enlightening, humbling, and gracious as the past week has been. And yes…. let there be less of me and my junk, and more of You and Your kingdom.