April 29, 2012

fighting the fight

"fight the good fight of the faith. take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses." 1 timothy 6:12

13 years ago on april 25th, i decided to confess the name of JESUS and to be baptized for the forgiveness of my sins. i will never forget that moment for as long as i live as i felt a sense of transformation, relief, and identity. for a good amount of time, i allowed my existence to be defined by that decision...allowing my identity and self worth to come from the SOURCE of my new life. but as time passed by, and as i started to pursue other goals and ambitions, i felt a shift in my source of worth, joy, and delight.

i believe that many of us are suffering from major identity crisis...finding our value and worth in what we do instead of who we are. as i took my big, bad praxis exam yesterday, i realized that i have become a target of identity theft. for the past 2 years my self worth and value has been determined by scores. by tests. by my abilities. by my clinical competency. and by the future career on which i am about to embark.

as i reflected on this thought, i realized that i have allowed my identity to continually be defined by the things that i do. in high school my self worth came from the pursuit of musical and academic achievement, and my joy was the product of successful victories. it then took a turn in college, and i found myself pursuing social titles: sunshine girl, social club president, spring sing director, ensemble member...these were the definitions of myself that i chose to accept and to believe and that i chose to value and to define my worth. and now as i embark on a new adventure and phase of life, i have discovered that for the past 2 years i have only been known to myself as a speech-language pathologist.

i also believe that there is more truth to the phrase "pick our battles" than we realize because every day each of us chooses to fight a fight. but depending on what we allow to define our value, worth, and identity, in turn, defines the fight that we are fighting. as i read 1 timothy 6:12 this morning, i asked myself, "what fight am i fighting?" and i realized that i haven't been fighting the good fight. i've been fighting a fight based on my skewed concept of identity.

the truth is that we all have an internal battle raging within us: a fight for what will be our priority. what will we allow to be the center of our existence? what will we allow to define us? what will we choose to live and breathe? what will we be known for? what impression and legacy will we leave? what relationship will we value most? and what will be said about us when everything else is said and done?

instead of living and breathing the relationship i've found with JESUS CHRIST, i have been pursuing achievements, titles, and ambitions that yield either great success and self appreciation or great failure and disappointment. and when i examined these in the light of day, i realized that they are very empty and shallow measurements of value and that they don't accurately demonstrate identity. i simply have been picking the wrong fights.

and right in hand with fighting the good fight is taking hold of eternal life. but i realized that i can't take hold of eternal life or be filled with the fullness of GOD when i'm all wrapped up, tied up, tangled up in meaningless battles. i have been striving for perfection, not as my FATHER is perfect, but a perfection based on my earthly pursuits and my incorrect sense of identity.

while i am insanely excited about my new job and my new career, speech pathology is what i do and not who i am. my performance does not define my worth or my value. instead, i am choosing to take hold of a life...an eternal life...and for that life to define my identity, value, and worth. for that life to be the priority here on earth. and for that life to be the source of my joy and delight.

i am seeking to discover which fight is indeed good and to take hold of the life for which i am so eagerly desiring.

April 17, 2012

the parking lot

"don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you got till it's gone? they paved paradise and put up a parking lot." counting crows

life is like a parking lot. and we as passengers on the road of life are always looking for the best parking space that we can find. for some of us, that search can take just a few seconds because we are able to find just the right space at just the right time. my family calls this principle "living right." for others of us, the search can continue for what seems like hours as it feels like there is just nothing available and that spot will just never be found.

some of us, for fear of never finding another spot, settle quickly on the first available one that we see. without second thought or hesitation, we simply park the car in the space and proceed to walk to our determined destination.

others of us, just as we are starting to pull into such a spot, begin to question whether it really is, in fact, the best spot that we can find. and we start to wonder if there is a closer spot. or one that's in the shade. or one that isn't right beside a huge puddle. and what if that spot is waiting just in the next aisle?

and so some of us back out of the parking space that we found and begin circling the lot in search for another. sometimes that better spot is just waiting on the next aisle, and other times we prospective parkers are left searching for a long while. and on rare occasions, it is, in fact, that the first spot was the best spot, but upon recircling we discover that it has already been claimed by another parker. and sometimes it would have been faster to park further away and walk than circle the lot 100 times in vain.

sometimes, after minutes of mindless searching, we spot an available space only to discover that we are not alone. someone else in that exact moment has spotted the space as well, and it becomes a race to see who will get there first. and don't you hate it when that other person wins? it makes me want to honk or accidentally "graze" that person's bumper to indicate that that spot was mine.

and sometimes just because a spot is the closest doesn't mean that it is the best. that close space might be directly under a tree with a family of birds just waiting to leave an unholy anointing on your windshield the moment that you walk away. sometimes that close spot is directly under a light pole, only to leave you obsessing over the irrational fear that it is going to fall and destroy your vehicle while you are shopping in the store.

but in our quest for the perfect, sweet spot, there are three things that i have discovered.

there isn't only one perfect spot in the lot. there are many good spots that could be equal candidates in efficiently serving the purpose of holding our cars, and sometimes it's simply a matter of choosing.

we should learn what type of parkers we are and own it. some of us will be satisfied with settling on the first spot we ever find, and that will be just fine with us. others of us will constantly question if a better spot exists, and we will need to circle the entire lot before making a definitive choice. either way, we need to learn what type of parker we are, embrace it, and own it.

and ultimately, we need to consider all of our options and choose our space on our own time. whether we are fast parkers who are on a mission to find a space and keep on moving or whether we are over-analyzers who need to make the perfect, informed decision, we must make our own decision at our own pace.

we don't need to continue looking in our rear views and lamenting paradise lost, but we need to press forward through the parking lot and claim our spots.

April 14, 2012

if you will

"two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth..." the first 5 lines of "the road not taken," robert frost

i had planned my path perfectly. and GOD was blessing it, so i thought it was HIS will. my future job was almost signed, sealed, and delivered. my friendships and connections here in arkansas were dancing a beautiful dance of harmony. and my relationship was secure and continuing just as i had always hoped.

in a span of 48 hours all three changed significantly. some friendships started changing, which is somewhat to be expected, and i didn't really think anything about it or think it was that significant. but then my job situation changed, and i wasn't able to accept it due to its geographic location. and soon i found myself at our little, local coffee shop ending my relationship and wishing for singularity.

i won't go into the details of why all of these things happened in a 2 day period, and i'm not really sure that my why matters. all i know is that these things happened in a 2 day period, and that had never happened before in my life. my plans and path had never totally changed in such a short amount of time, but nevertheless they did. please realize that i am not discounting the goodness of the things that i lost but merely saying that they weren't meant to be mine. almost every tie and connection i had holding me here in arkansas was somehow broken, and the most frustrating part was that it was totally out of my control. there was nothing i could do but to let go and to let GOD.

so i decided to let GOD. and i watched HIM work directly in my life and change up all of my plans. and i learned a valuable lesson: even if you will, GOD's will reigns. GOD is sovereign, and HE knows the plans HE has for us, leading to hope and a future. and as much as i might will something to happen, HE ultimately knows what's best and is ultimately in charge.

i cannot tell you how many times i have delivered the following prayer: "LORD, let YOUR will be done, but if our wills could somehow coordinate perfectly in the fact that they are identically the same, that would be great, too." so many times i have refused to let GOD be sovereign and to listen to what is happening around me. so many times i have ignored the signs and signals and continued with my will even though my gut feeling was telling me that something was not right. and it took very obvious and very significant changes for me to finally wake up and realize what was happening.

i believe that we take the road less traveled in the christian life when we choose to let go and let GOD be sovereign in our lives. it's taken when we wake up and really look and realize that maybe, just maybe, GOD's trying to tell us something. it's when we stop and listen to the things that are being said and done. it's when we stop trying to read GOD's every, little move and allow HIM to make big moves that make our answers obvious and our directions clear. and it's when we surrender our will and let HIS will completely take over.

in the midst of all of my personal change, there have been two predominant emotions that keep reoccurring within me. surprisingly, there really hasn't been any sadness or distrust in GOD's faithfulness. i know that HE is faithful and that HE knows every desire of my heart. and i have faith that HE has a plan of one day allowing some of my will to come true.

more than that, i have genuine contentment about my current state and uncontrollable excitement about what is to come. my contentment comes from realizing that where i am going is exactly where i need to be. i am in the exact state i am supposed to be in right now, not because i believe it, but because GOD does. i am a single, almost 24-year-old woman with a new place, a new job, and a new life just waiting for me. i have nothing tying me down or holding me back, and while i hope one day to be tied and held, i am currently content.

i am unbelievably excited about the fact that the same GOD who allowed so many things to be taken from me and to change in my life knows what is meant for me and what is waiting ahead. HE knows how my story began, and HE knows how it ends. HE is the author and perfecter of my faith, and HE is the author of time. my time is in HIS hands, and HE knows the perfect timing of when my desires are to become my reality. and in changing my path, HE may be allowing those desires to become reality faster than they would have with my measly plan.

GOD loved me enough to give me something better than i have tried to will or create for myself. and while that something is yet to been seen, i know that it is there. that is why i am letting go and listening and being observant of the obvious changes that HE is allowing. and i believe that if we step back, watch, and listen, the road that is to be taken will become clearly defined.

"i shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence: two roads diverged in a wood, and i, i took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." the last 5 lines of "the road not taken," robert frost