Present Moment, Only Moment.

Being a present-moment kind of girl has never been one of my strengths.

On the positive side of things, I’m an ambitious, achievement-focused kind of person.

On the negative, I worry a lot about things that don’t need to clog up today.

Sometimes this means you’ll catch see me gazing out the window on car drives, ignoring my car mates, miles away from where I’m actually at — stewing on what should happen in the next three years.

Other times, that means sitting at Andy’s dining room table in beautiful Oregon, worrying about what next Tuesday will be like when I’m back home in Atlanta.

Both are unnecessary.

Am I right?!

Today is point A and I’m always battling the desire to know about point C. What about what’s after the next thing?

I’ll be honest though; while it’s helped me accomplish a lot, that phrase about “depressed people are living in the past and anxious people living in the future?” I’ve had my fair dealings with anxiety.

A great accomplishment over the past two years has been that — I’ve let a lot go. I’ve found balance in being in the moment and anticipating what comes next.

And a lot of that came from realizing how little control you can have in life. Realizing that sometimes the best things are unplanned.

For me that’s meant finding a new everyday life rhythm.

I’m content in my job and while I want to grow and move up the chain; my todays are focused on doing my tasks better than yesterday; learning something new every opportunity and finding ways to set myself apart.

In my personal life I’ve found a lot of peace in strengthening my faith. i don’t control the overall tide of life myself; but I can trust in the one who does. And I can have good faith that if I’m focused on today; tomorrow is going to come together.

How many times have I written about this? A lot.

The reason I write about it today is because one of the best ways to STOP worrying about the future is to acknowledge your worry. Realize that it’s pointless. Find the motivation of what’s REALLY getting to you. Make a plan, if you can, for how to absolve that. And then redirect your focus positively in the moment. 

And sometimes writing about it is the best way.

Being in a long-distance relationship has affected my ability to not worry about the future in polar opposite ways.

When Andy and I are together, it’s almost paralyzing how much I want to worry about fixing this long-distance 3,000 mile issue immediately. Then in other ways, it’s so much more complicated than a quick fix — that I realize i only need to focus on the way his hair smells. What his shirt feels like when I hug him. How nice it is to go to the store together. The crunch of his steps next to mine when we take a hike. How the intonation of his voice changes at different times of day. Or how when he gets really sleepy he starts twitching. Those are nice things people who see each other everyday appreciate also; but for us when we’re together–they’re intensely meaningful.

This time last year when I visited Seattle for the first time and Andy and I were embarking on our first stint apart; I experienced for the first time “present worry.” I was in the moment — experiencing Seattle and precious time with him. But I was worrying about when the present would end. Worrying about having to get on a plane and say “see you later.”

We had brought burritos up to his favorite park in Queen Anne to look out at the Space Needle and under the bench we shared was a simple plaque that said:

“Present Moment, Only Moment.”

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Maybe to you, it’s kind of a “duh.”

But in THAT moment. I thought “I’m such an idiot. I need to just look around. I need to just give him a hug. I need to just be here.”

Ever since Andy and I saw that plaque it’s been a way of living when we have these stolen days together.

It’s a mantra when I get sad thinking about missing him–and he’s sitting next to me. It’s a meditation when I’m tempted to daydream about the “what ifs.”

As a result of HAVING to stay in the moment I’ve come up with my own list of ways to control yourself when you get all worked up about controlling life:

  • Take in the five senses of right this second. What do I smell? How does that fabric feel? Have I ever seen the light fall like that? Isolate the sounds floating through the room.
  • Keep my phone tucked away as much as possible.
  • Abolish a schedule and instead focus on overall task priorities for the day.
  • Actively acknowledge a desire to think about the future or worry // and deny it. “No, we’re right here right now.”
  • Start your day with a prayer. Give away those worries at the start so that your day can stay clean. (This is my favorite.)
  • Create conversations. Mull over the best questions. Put your heart into it.
  • Distract yourself with something new happening TODAY. See something for the first time. Find a new route to take. Try a fresh recipe. Stop by that bar that always catches your eye.
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Sometimes, God Demands Your Attention.

The last 24 hours have been a different kind of test of patience.

While I’m on vacation and able to be home the last two days it’s coincidentally been the same days that plumbers needed to come in and re-pipe my apartment. That means holes in walls. Moving around my stuff to the point that it looks like I’m moving out. Dust. Invasion of privacy. And some lost sleep.

Apartment life is … getting old.

But the real kicker was that I got home yesterday and ALL i wanted to do was hang out in my apartment…alone…and watch television.

I’ve been a little distracted with Andy’s impending visit (today!!) and have let myself get stressed about the inevitable underlying question of our relationship….when will long distance not be….and who is going to move when….

That stress can creep in and ruin good moments. It can sadly diminish the BEST times when we’re actually together. And it takes a lot of will power to be in the moment. Crazy, I know.

So, anyway. Stress in the back of my mind. I wanted some crap television. That was going to help me focus on my excitement.

I walk in the door and see a weird blinking light on my internet router.

No signal. 

Instagram won’t refresh.

The horror.

I restart my router.

Restart my modem.

Turn on my television.

Nothing.

Holy. freakin. Crap. What an inconvenient day. Not only is my apartment a wreck I have no entertainment. I felt like I couldn’t even be there—it was the worst.

I’m seething in my lack of apartment luck for the day and begrudgingly grab a bag to instead go work out. (I REALLY wanted to sit on the couch, guys.)

After two miles of serious sweating I decided to take a break and just walk. After all, my cable wouldn’t be on until 9 p.m. what in the world else was I supposed to do.

And it was then that it hit me.

I needed to pray. I needed to spend some time with God before Andy’s visit. All of the stress that I let slowly build up? I haven’t been doing a good job at all about letting off the steam — and sending it up in prayer.

One of the hard aspects when you move is finding a new church and a new spiritual routine. For me, Winston took forever. Boston took a bit. Atlanta, I’ve sadly just been busy! Terrible excuse, I know. And when you neglect one part of your faith — the church routine. It’s really easy to start neglecting the other parts — your nightly prayer. Your devotions. Your practice of offering it up.

I’ve always struggled with not having control. I blame my mom. It must be something she passed down genetically 🙂

But, in my long-distance situation with Andy I could be upset about that every single day if I wanted. Luckily, it doesn’t happen that often — but I find that the longer we’re long distance, perhaps the more often that inevitably I stress out. So it goes.

It was an amazing gift to be focused for thirty minutes yesterday on just lifting up my struggles to God and realizing that not having control is an amazing thing because — you can do so much, but the rest you have to hand up to Him.

Sure one of us could FEASIBLY pack up and move tomorrow–but no we couldn’t. There’s a timing implication to this. There’s a career opportunity aspect. There are families involved. It’s bigger than us even though–we’re at the center holding it together.

Can you imagine what a relief it was to just have peace that in the right time ALL of the pieces are going to come together?

What a relief.

What a sigh of peace that I can just enjoy this week! I don’t have to be calculated and anxious.

The only one who can coordinate all of the complex parts of your life–yup, that’s Him.

One of the best parts of Andy’s and I relationship is that we’re both committed to knowing that ONE DAY we’re going to be in the same place. The timing and the exact location are written somewhere I haven’t seen yet. But I can rest in faith that God has a plan and I don’t have to stress at all.

Sometimes, God has to cut you off. He has to demand your attention. And if you’re not careful you may miss the opportunity that God is giving you to have some relief. I almost didn’t see what now appears to be such a clear opportunity.

Needless to say that since then I have felt amazing and renewed.

You need moments like that every so often to remind yourself that you’ve been a bit of fool.

I need to stop doing it all on my own and then … not doing it quite so awesome. 

Spend some time in prayer.

Be specific.

Trust in all areas. And you’ll start to see all areas flourish.

Water. Bloom.

My cable and wifi are finally back on but today instead of television, I felt compelled to sit in more quiet with my coffee this morning. What a gift to have time for reflection and rest as I gear up for the fun that is about to start.

10 hours until Andy touches down in the A!

xx.

When it’s out of your control, all you can do is trust Him.

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There are a couple of situations in my life right now that seem a little unsurmountable. There are a lot of prayers going up. And while I’m trying to just channel a lot of hard faith that things are going to work out the way that they are supposed to—I realized how easily I forgot this bible verse that I held SO dear just six months ago. It goes a little something like this:

14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

– Ephesians 3:14-21

Just a little devotion for your Thursday.

Sunday Devotion: Working on forgiveness.

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The past couple of days I have had some bitterness in my heart. That’s not who I am. And it’s really been a rather irritating ailment. But I’m having trouble shaking it and it’s started to affect outward parts of my day.

Not okay.

And as I sat down this morning to think about the Sunday reflection and devotion I wanted to share; I kept coming back to forgiveness and trust.

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7, NLT)

Bitterness though.

It’s a nasty creature. It makes you angry. It makes you irritable. It makes you impatient and it makes you resentful. It makes you want to control. And it can even make you want to cause hurt.

And it’s painful because you know that all of the above are irrational—if you would just let it go. Because bitterness? It’s a one-person problem. Bitterness isn’t caused by a fight where an apology is going to fix things. Bitterness doesn’t have a magical solution that any one person can fix. It’s a you problem.

Instead it’s caused separately when something has fermented and sat, and sat. You exacerbate the issue on your own. And you hold onto it white knuckled, because all of the symptoms of bitterness that I already listed? The motive of those is to focus on the negative and just make it worse. To soak in the bad emotions.

When instead, since this only lives with you — if you would just hand it up to God — and ask for grace. Ask for patience and understand. Ask for peace. Then it can start to break down. Then you can start to have healing.

Focus more on Jesus, less on your problems. Less desire to control, more desire to follow in faith. And God is going to restore your positive heart.

 

Sunday Devotion: Sharing this incredible love.

Our world saw senseless, heartbreaking destruction and loss this week. And in the midst of the sadness and disbelief I prayed for the families, because it was really seemingly the only thing that could make sense.

It’s sometimes easy for non-believers to lean back on the “Where’s God in the midst of this?” speeches. But pastor put it pretty succinctly this morning when he said “I do not know how people get through something like that without Jesus.”

There are some simple bad days that I couldn’t get through without my faith.

In fact, most days I couldn’t get by without my faith.

But if I ever had to live a day like that? Where I to suffer the unfathomable loss of a child or a parent, or a sibling, or a co-worker, or a spouse to such an act of violence . . . there would have to be Jesus, or I would get counted in the loss. I couldn’t get by.

Those people who don’t know the same God that I do; how would they deal? How do they keep any goodness?

It’s in times like those that I realize how important it is for me to share this amazing peace and comfort I have in my faith. It’s funny how the closer you pull the God, the more he starts challenging your comfort zone.

I feel this tugging. This invisible pushing. OK, you’re in the word. You’re aware. You’re listening.

Now, how are you sharing?

How are you showing?

Is it really enough to try to live the light and hope that people feel Jesus enough through you? Oh, I know the answer to that as soon as I type it. But it’s easy to convince yourself that by going about your ministry the passive way you might win more people in the long run.

It brings me back to Romans 12:3-8.

“3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity;the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”

God really does bless us in unique talents and strengths to be able to further the church.

If I’m being passive, and just trying to live the good word, am I really using what God has blessed me with? I’m not doing anything differently than a non-believing neighbor who might just have a good heart. I’m not furthering the word. I’m letting the talents I was given go to waste. And in the meantime, maybe there’s someone nearby who I could be helping. Who I could be sharing this love.

And yet, I am so overwhelmed by God in my life. I am so overwhelmed by His love in my life, His power, His direction, His grace and mercy. And ever so importantly, His peace.

How can you not want to yell about that from your apartment balcony?

I often actually want to do that; but I don’t because I’m worried about turning people off. I don’t want to close down connection. I don’t want to lose someone.

So I smile. And when Jesus comes up, I get really excited.

I am waiting on opportunities. But you know what, I don’t think it’s enough to wait.

There is destruction and pain, struggle and loss all around us every single day. A great quote reminds us, be kind because every single person has an unspoken struggle. You never know what a friend is carrying. You never know what could be relieved for someone in prayer. You never know what this great joy, relief and peace you’re carrying as a follower could do for someone else.

And isn’t that enough reason to share today? To save them a sleepless night. To save them some white hairs of anxiety.

There is so much relief in Jesus on a good day. There is a storm and surge of protection and support in Him in the worst days.

You have to share it. Have to share it. Can’t be afraid. It’s so incredibly, heartwarmingly, irreplaceably, game-changingly, earthshakingly valuable. (So much so, I’m making up words over here.)

I’m still searching for the best ways that I personally can share my faith. I invite friends to church,try to live my life as Romans calls us to do and share when I can find the opportunity (not wait). But in the meantime? I’m going to pray that God starts working on my heart to show me where my unique place is to serve.

Because there’s a place just for me. And I know so unmistakably that God is putting certain people in my life for a reason. And all the same, he’s putting me in other people’s lives for a wonderfully awesome purpose.

This is going to be a really wonderful adventure.

He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. . . And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God .” Philippians 1:6, 9-10

25 by 25: Catch-Up (a.k.a. How did she cross those off!?)

Sunday I was stoked to cross “#12: Find a church home.” off of the 25 by 25 list. But while, I was there making edits . . . I decided I felt ready to cross a few more off.

#11: Stop being afraid of commitment.

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This 25 by 25 is directly related to #24 “Be open to being in a relationship.”

It takes someone who isn’t ready to be with someone else, who is a little topsy-turvy when it comes to relationships, to think that the fear of commitment and being open to a relationship deserve separate to-dos. Apparently I was still reeling from break-up world to think that those two things are remotely separate. Now that I’m in a perfectly awesome place, it’s incredulous to me. If you’re good with the idea of being in a relationship, you’re good with the idea of commitment.

When I crossed off #24, part of the work was figuring out what would be needed to be in a relationship. And when I made that list of sorts, I also took into consideration what I really need to make a long-term forever-kind-of commitment. The second I answered that question for #24, I technically answered #11’s commitment fear.

The answer? For me to be able to fully commit one day I have to have an incredible spiritual connection with someone.

My grandfather gave me some of the most cherished relationship advice that I have. When asked how him and my grandmother have stayed together all these years, he answered that early in their relationship when marriage started to be even an idea on the horizon they prayed together. Through prayer and God’s peace they both felt like they were then eventually led to be married. And any hard day later on when the goings were rough or they might have otherwise questioned the decision they made years ago, they always remembered the prayers. And were consequently reminded it wasn’t just their decision. It was God’s.

Talk about accountability.

If a man can’t pray with me, he can’t stay with me : )

In many ways, I can over simplify and say that. In other ways, it’s still more complicated. But I know one day that I’ll have a spiritual peace and connection with someone that will make the commitment part easy. But in the meantime, I am completely open to where my life is going to go with relationships. God’s got a plan, y’all.

Done.

#25: Apply for something outside of your comfort zone.

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Okay, so I know I said it’s all on the line. And it still is. But this one I’m going to save as a secret. If I shared everything in the world here, that would leave little mystique. Let’s just rejoice that I’ve scratched this off of the list and I promise that there’ll be a big post one day if the application part actually turns into follow-through. Maybe it comes with a Bonjour? Or maybe it comes with an article appearing somewhere? Or maybe it comes with a medal? Or maybe it leads into more of that acting experience I mention somewhere else in the 25 by 25?

I’ll leave you with the mystery today and will one day post an update on what it was.

—–

Only 10 months left and so much to do. Love it.

Sunday Devotion: Praying With Purpose

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Do you keep a prayer journal?

Or do you keep a reminder list of things you want to lift up in prayer?

I remember being 20 years old in college. Struggling to stay on a prayer routine. You’re sharing a dorm room with another person who may or may not share your nightly routine. You can devote those ten minutes when you lay down to prayer, but sometimes they would be interrupted by questions, or noises, or distractions–or even worse, sleep.

Around that time I realized that I needed to find a new way to keep up with my prayers and coincidentally the realization happened around the same time my good friend Casey mentioned that she would add something I had been mulling over to her prayer list. She had a piece of paper with everything on it that she wanted to pray over each day. It was pretty great. And simple.

Here I was just going through the usual mill. (And mind you, I LOVE prayer. I could spend quite the time talking to God.) But I was running in some circles. Thank you, God for A, B, C and D. Please bless A, B, C and D. Please forgive 1, 2 and 3.

What a bore. I’m sure God was finely entertained by my conversation, but at the same time–it could have been so much more.

After seeing Casey’s list I started doing the same. When I would think of someone throughout the day, or a friend would mention a struggle or hope–to the list it went. And then when I was between classes or up early, I’d pull the list out. There’s no shame in praying by your notes, right? You don’t have to know it by heart.

What began as praying over a list kind of evolved over time.

Now I pray over a personal list too. Have something heavy on my heart? I have on that list a request for clarity. I’ve prayed for people to open their heart to me. I’ve prayed that God can use me to connect with certain people. I’ve prayed for friends to deliver healthy babies and I’ve prayed for other friends’s businesses to improve. I’ve prayed for peace and closure, I’ve prayed for a new church home and I’ve prayed for my brother to do his best on the SAT.

Long-term things. Things that won’t be solved in a week. Short-term things that will be decided tomorrow. Everything is list-acceptable.

The joy is experiencing the moment when you see God’s work. The day you get the SAT score or the day you finally sit in a pew that feels like home.

Then?

Then I date it. And check it.

And you know what? If it doesn’t work out? That’s dated and checked too.

Prayer MOVES things. Prayer is so powerful. But you have to really put a pulse on it to really appreciate its entirety.

One of my challenges is relinquishing power. It is really hard for me to not try to control my life. It’s hard for me to always trust that God’s got it under control, that he’s moving the tides. I often fall under the illusion that if I do this or go there, I’ll make what I want to happen come to life. If I’m in control, it’ll work out the way I want it to. 

But, that’s not how it’s supposed to be. I can never put to words the peace that I feel when I’m just at trust in the Spirit.

When you see prayer happening, it makes it easier to trust. God IS working in your life. Trust him and put it all to prayer.