Achieving Awareness

We make plans, and we make goals. On a vary rare occasion are we without them. What would happen if we just lived moment by moment. Is it even possible? How, then, would we accomplish anything?

Accomplishment. Ah, there’s the root issue.

Most people derive a sense of proud ownership over a completed task. We’re driven to finish what we started. And once we finish, to start something else.

Why do our hearts beat so?

I may not have the answer to this question, but I do know that humanity thrives on it. Our flesh has to constantly be “DOING” something. Our entire time on earth is filled with a history of prior achievements and dreams for future successes.

Is this wrong?

Not entirely.

I think there are healthy paths towards achievement, but there are also plenty of harmful paths that disguise their way unto our road map.

For instance,

Motivation.

One fat word that carves itself into each and every day.

You wake up. What influences your motivation for how you start your morning? Did you have a breakthrough the night before? Or a break-up?

If the first, you might have your heart set on following your new lead with a powerful ambition to explore the concept thoroughly and completely until you arrive at the best possible answer and (ahem) end up saving the world. If the latter, perhaps there’s a hidden vengeance in your agenda that day as you step on people to get what you want, or present a careless idea that could domino into a cycle of destruction.

While those examples might have been a little extreme, it shows how our motivation is what sets the standards we use for progress and how we define our success. Our level of success largely depends on the attitude and manner of how we acquired it.

Why do I write all this? Because I am one who likes to DO DO DO. I like to push myself and push others to ACHIEVE.

So, the big question is this. What happens when your motivation seems to be pure, but your progress is hindered? What does success look like then?

Before I answer this question, let’s add some more perspective.

When my life recently took an unexpected turn down a road that appears to have no outlet, my progress was brought to a halt. With no way out, my plans, goals, and dreams all immediately crashed into an impenetrable brick wall. Stuck, I was forced to step back and check my overall aim.

Was what I was trying to accomplish so terribly important? Who am I trying to impress? What would achieving this do for me? For others?

Road blocks provide us with the opportunity to pause and look at our game plan from new angles. Often times they reveal stained motivation, and recognition of this can then lead to a higher path with a better outcome than we had first envisioned.

As I peered deeper into the well of motivation I was drawing from, the questions I asked myself helped me to see clearer than ever before. What did I see?

I saw my worth.

Although my ambitions had outwardly well-meaning intentions, quite honestly, everything I had my heart set on accomplishing was so I would feel worthy. Worthy of love. Worthy of salvation. Worthy of friends’ and family members’ support. Worthy of my career.

As is the greatest temptations to all do-ers, by losing myself in a cycle of works, I lost sight of WHO and WHAT makes me worthy. And it’s definitely not me or anything I can do. With that kind of motivation, thank God He stopped me in my tracks.

So, let me re-ask that previous question. What does true success look like when progress is hindered?

Even with the purest motivation, I truly think it’s not what you accomplish but how and why you do it. (As I write this my inner achiever self is cringing!)

Still, my newfound opinion of success now steadily streams out of the way I handle the hindrances thrown my way. For, when obstacles jump in the way of my goals, I see it merely as a chance to reassess and reflect on what’s motivating me and how I got here in the first place.

Perhaps it will transfer me to a different path entirely.

Wherever it brings me, I’m succeeding in something we’re often too goal-oriented to achieve:

AWARENESS.

Though I may not see be seeing progress to the degree of which I had hoped, I believe this type of success isn’t dependent on how much gets done, rather, the success of inner reflection, trust, and grace along the way.

 

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Stuck by the Psalms

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It’s humbling when I realize I cannot move past a Psalm I have read countless times before, a Psalm that I had even memorized in elementary school and quoted from time to time. How do I brush over the very words I know I must confess but lack the initial desire to do so? I sat with my bible in my lap, staring at the page. Finally, frustrated by my stubborn mindset, I forced my lips open with a desperate whisper: “Spirit, please, soften my heart.”

Then, I read it yet again.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit

Although I read it without emotion, this time it punctured my heart with a conviction I could not ignore and knew had to be addressed. It was time to admit my childish attitude and surrender the selfish discontentment I had been focusing on for far too long. A poisonous perspective that had pulled me further into a world of impatience and waste. Did I really want to stay here any longer? No. I want to want to get out. But how?

As soon as I had a slight change of heart, the Lord mercifully brought my wandering mind into His truth, hinting that this is the prayer I need to be praying and the prayer I need an army to be praying over me.

How did I stray in the first place? I didn’t wait.

So many times in scripture it says to wait for the Lord.

And I do. Except for the times when I’m unsatisfied with the current scenerio and begin wishing for a better plan, grumbling and complaining about how where I’m at is not where I want to be. Then, without knowing it, my distaste for God’s will quickly turns into ungrateful distrust which only leads into a downhill depression.

People tell me to be thankful for hardships, that they are a test of faith. But by that time the negativity takes control and I’m tempted to respond back to their unwanted advice with “Well, I’ve already learned a lot in this season and I’m ready for what’s next. I’m so over this.”

Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord.

If God didn’t want me where he has me, I wouldn’t be here. But I’m still here. He has the key to the master plan, not me.

Even though I think I’m done, apparently I’m not. When my current situation appears inconvenient and complicated, that’s merely a signal for me to go deeper into seeking God’s transforming grace and to walk by the faith He has gifted me with.

So that’s what I was trying to do when Psalm 51 broke down my wall of rebellion, reminding me of my ugly sin, my dire need to be in communion with God, that I am nothing without Jesus, and that the joy I possess is not on accord of me or my surroundings, but abounds from the life eternal I have with the One who loved me first: the One who I will live my whole life loving.

In this world it’s definitely a fight to the finish, and I know there will be many occasions where my flesh will fail again… but HE GIVES MORE GRACE. He who makes new. He who sustains. He, my Joy.

Empty to be Filled

One can be doing wonderful things even when they’re empty.

This mash-up of emotions is truly a real condition, and unfortunately, it happens to be inhabiting my current state of being.

While I acknowledge a lack of joy and an increase of feverish exhaustion, and although I routinely face discouragement of impossible hardened hearts, I push forward with bravery and faith. For I believe 100% in the purpose for every single ounce of energy I pour out. To the point of emptiness.

How? How do I continue to pour into lives when I have nothing left? Because I’m choosing to love with love I don’t create. This love doesn’t depend on me, nor do I have to be in top form to receive it. Before I even asked for it, this love was mine to accept and to give.

Often I give from an overflow of this abundant love, having no caution for the lengths I go to serve. It’s easy. Effortless. Doesn’t seem like there’s any other way to live.

Other days I don’t want to give at all. For I fear that if I give, I shall have nothing left. It takes discipline, encouragement, and complete trust of the Father’s love. I survive only by depending– dependence of prayer.

Last Monday was one of these days. I found myself praying my way through the day. Humbled before my King Jesus, and with every breath, admitting my weakness and humanity, telling him that I have no strength to love today. That it has to be him. I’m empty. Open heavens storehouses. Replenish my supply.

I made it through the day, rosy cheeks, shaky legs, overheated and overwhelmed. The Lord used me to bring varieties of joy, hope, and peace to a people he greatly loves. This is an honor, a privilege, to make a living by being a vessel of Truth. But did I feel filled by this fact? No, still empty.

Through this season of emptiness, God is stretching me to exert myself beyond my limits. Although I don’t particularly like feeling this way, I’m realizing the beauty in it all. For, despite my weakness, God’s glory prevails. I’m doing nothing on my own accord, but relying 100% on Him whose name is being made known. Minute by minute, I have to consciously pray for help, for energy, for joy, for words. The things that usually come effortlessly are pressingly my top needs.

Even though I’m still empty and currently waiting to be filled, I’m seeing how this feeling of emptiness and yearning to be filled was created within a limited mindset of selfish, fleshly emotions. For the way God is filling me is much different than my human understanding of how I would expect to be filled. Instead of a confidence in myself and the tools I have available, I’m filled with the confidence of Christ in me and his surpassing greatness. My awe for His daily provision is growing and thus my lips are bringing forth praises boasting in God’s power and sovereignty.

It’s the firsthand knowledge of His glory that is filling me.

“He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
-2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Confessions

There have been so many times when the words of one of my favorite writers, Ann Voskamp, line-up completely with the state of my heart and recent reflections of how God is restoring my life. Today was one of those times; her outward transparency paralleled my inward insecurities to a raw extreme.

I find her transparency inspiring, and the boldness she has to publicly confess the flesh -the real- deeply refreshing. She confesses the things we as Christians feel like we ought to have ironed out by now but indeed still have difficulty grasping.

Quite honestly, I think that the simplest aspects of God’s love are often the most challenging to accept, especially when constant self-examination continues to expose the ugly, making our sin seem like a giant stain that will never wash-out.

And it won’t, not on our own.

That’s why we need Jesus. That’s why we need his church. To support and pray and practice forgiveness: both receiving it and giving it. To live out our relationship with the Lord in a way that challenges and refines the body, sharing lessons and confessions that lead us closer to the life God intends for us.

Ann’s confession did just that, for my sister’s struggle with the theory of grace mirrors my own. A struggle that has been holding me back from true love.

Because she said it so beautifully, I’ve decided to insert her words as my own confession. In doing so, I’m acknowledging my humanness and incapability to grasp such a holy concept, but at the same time re-committing my thoughts to be filled with the truth God has gifted to me.

For whoever reads this, I pray a revelation of receptive truth and acceptance.

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I struggle with grace.

I struggle to comprehend that I am fully loved by God no matter how much I fail.  That’s the place I go when I let too much cover up the truth of God in my life.

Because I know myself. I know all my weaknesses and failures. I know what I’ve done and what I regret and what I’ve been saved from. I know all the ways I continue to fail on a daily basis.

And if I’m disappointed in myself — then how is God not disappointed in me? How does He look at me with unfailing love and hope that I’ll do better tomorrow but won’t love me any less if I don’t?

It doesn’t make sense.  And sometimes it just feels easier to cover these insecurities up and pretend they’re not there instead of exposing them to the light.

Over the last few weeks God has shown His love to me in a hundred different ways, just small simple things.  There have been moments when I’ve almost felt like it was too much. More than I deserved. Confirmation that He is weaving together plans and purposes and a future I couldn’t have imagined.

And I’ve felt Him say to me in the deepest part of my heart, the part I sometimes let get too covered up, “You are so much harder on yourself than I am.”

I am. I’m hard on myself. I get caught up in the comparison game and feel like everyone is loving better, living more purposefully, doing more significant things and, essentially, blooming so much better than me.

I give other people the benefit of the doubt, but I never give myself that same grace. And that’s what God has been whispering over me.

Grace. 

He has never once looked at me, shook his head and said, “Wow. What a failure. I should have gotten someone else to do that.” That’s not how He works.

I don’t know if any of us have the capability or the comprehension to ever fully grasp the love of God. It’s too big. But I know that the only way we’ll ever grow and become what He has called us to be is when we expose ourselves to the light.  That’s where we bloom.

That’s where we have the fragrance that tells the world

who we belong to,

what He has done for us,

and that we are covered in ridiculous amounts of grace by the light of His truth.