About Prayer

It’s not as natural as some make it out to be… As I’m learning more about prayer… I’ve been encouraged and challenged by Andy Stanley/Northpoint Community Church’s series called Red Letter Prayers. I encourage you to download the podcast on iTunes or watch online!

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Role Collision

We all wear multiple hats… we play various roles in life. For me, those primary roles are (in no particular order): wife, student, friend, daughter, sister, adoption counselor, counseling intern, homemaker, volunteer, small group coach and church staff member. My identity as a growing follower of Jesus is an umbrella over all of those things, guiding the direction, decisions and motivation for each of my roles… but even that takes time and attention to maintain and grow.

Sometimes everything seems to work well together, each taking a general give and take, allowing one to be more important at times than another. And that’s reality… sometimes being a friend trumps being a worker – a friend might need a little extra time and attention during a crisis that should take precedence over the tasks of work… and sometimes it’s vice versa… The difficulty is when all of those roles seem to demand the same intensity of attention, time and effort. Often, that happens when I don’t allow myself to say “no.” And, sometimes there are just those seasons that are inevitable… everything simply seems to happen all at once… and that seems to be my current season. (For example: I started this blog almost two weeks ago and it’s taken me until today to get back to completing it since everything else on my plate had higher priority.)

So what do you do when everything collides? What do you do when all roles are demanding all the time? What do you do when time for self-care, peace and quiet and relaxation is difficult to come by? What do you do when the light at the end of the tunnel seems so far away?

Step One: STOP and take a DEEP breath. Nothing can compare to the power of prayer. Remember that God is able to do more than you can imagine (Ephesians 3:20) and offers a rest for your burdens that is unparalleled (Matthew 11:28). The time you take to focus on God’s goodness and mercy and strength and power is essential. You’ll never make it without Him. The days I ignore time in prayer and Scripture are the days I feel the most exhausted and defeated.

Step Two: Prioritize. Even though everything seems to be of utmost importance, there still can be some organization to help you keep your sanity. Establish or name deadlines… make your calendar and to-do list specific with plans and goals. It is times like this that organization and careful planning/scheduling is vital. Decide on the essentials and if anything can be dropped. The essentials are things that cannot be forgotten, the things that just have to be done. All the other stuff may need to be adjusted and possibly even let go. And, if you are spending regular time in prayer and Scripture, the Holy Spirit will help you discern these things. If you’ve already done that and you’re still overwhelmed with everything on your to-do list, find someone to help. Maybe that’s getting someone to help with specific tasks, maybe that’s getting someone to listen to your chaos and help give some perspective on your priorities, maybe that’s getting someone to commit to encouraging and praying for you in this season. Just don’t do it alone!

Step Three: Remember that it’s a season. This too shall pass. Even though the light at the end is small… there IS a light. Find what works for you in these crazy times and do more of it. For example, if regular yoga helps to ease the stress/tension, make it one of the essentials. If ending work at a certain time in the day keeps you from lashing out at your loved ones, make a point to keep that a priority.

Tomorrow’s a new day, with a new to-do list, and I’m sure something that will be unexpected… here’s to pressing on (Philippians 3:12-14)…

Obsessions

…ideas or thoughts that continually preoccupy or INTRUDE on a person’s mind… the things I over-think and think about for way too long, way too often…

  • My to-do list – I can often spend more time creating, listing and organizing my tasks than actually accomplishing them…
  • Plans – this sort-of fits within the to-do list category… but includes dates that go on the calendar that I have to fit my to-do’s around…
  • Times I mess up – I can replay embarrassing moments or word-mishaps over and over, wishing I could take things back or have a second chance to stay things stronger, funnier, more graceful, more patiently or simply not at all…

Because these are “intruders” of my thoughts, they are often difficult to ignore. However, with each day I realize more and more how I have to be careful to reign them in. Here’s why:

  1. My to-do list can become an idol directing my life. It causes me to spend time organizing tasks over spending special time in prayer or with people who need quality time. It can consume me with the idea that I can control or fix everything around me… it can cause me to become overwhelmed with duties, expectations and ultimately… “small stuff”. The biggest challenge to this struggle was April 1’s devotion in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. She writes, “You yearn for a simplified lifestyle, so that your communication with me can be uninterrupted. But I challenge you to relinquish the fantasy of an uncluttered world. Accept each day as it comes, and find [Jesus] in the midst of it all… your ultimate goal is not to control or fix everything around you; it is to keep communing with [Jesus]. A successful day is one in which you have stayed in touch with [Jesus], even if many things remain undone at the end of the day.”
  2. I think planning is good… it helps you to set goals and be prepared for what is comingHowever, obsessing about planning limits my spontaneity and ability to “roll with it.” I have also come to realize that it can be overwhelming for other people. Whereas having a plan decreases my anxiety by allowing me to have clear expectations of what will happen, too many questions/details can cause stress in other people. It causes me to be unfairly frustrated with another’s low interest in planning when some instances are actually no big deal. This tension causes me to go against my goal to be approachable, relaxed and fun to be around.
  3. Focusing on my weaknesses, insecurities and mistakes negates the grace that God has lavished upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9). It also allows mindless things to occupy too much space in my mind.

So, I’m learning to let go of control and work on the things that I can change… I’m learning to obsess a little bit less and choose to focus on/discern what are more important things… I’m learning to be more comfortable in the moment and experience the freedom of accepting the things I cannot do anything about.

Rest With Hope

Rest (v) = allow to be inactive in order to regain strength, health or energy…

to rest in = find support; place hope, trust or confidence in _______

In a busy and often frazzled world, times of rest can seem few and far between. It’s become a practice, a habit that we have to be intentional about building into our daily routine. On days that I find myself overwhelmed with tasks, questions or fear of the unknown future, I have to take a moment to sit back and remember that God offers a rest that not only offers peace and comfort, but a rest that provides hope and energy to continue moving forward. Experiencing rest in the grace-filled presence of God is invaluable as we look to find motivation, strength and confidence for tomorrow (or even the next 30 minutes).

“Let all that I am wait quietly [find rest] before God [in God alone], for my hope is in him.” Psalm 62:5 (NLT)

What I Fear…

“What Women Fear” is a book by Angie Smith. I purchased it last September and have had multiple opportunities to read it, yet I find myself choosing something else… something “easier on the brain” each time. The title is engaging yet intimidating. I want to see if Angie has anything profound to say to help overcome and conquer fear, but I’m a little scared of what reading it might cause me to think about or even challenge me to DO… because ultimately, overcoming fear is about stepping out of what’s comfortable. Choosing comfort is choosing to be safe. It’s a fine line I often walk between the two. And I although I trust that safety and comfort are found in God’s loving care, I wholeheartedly believe that they aren’t a part of the transforming faith he’s asked of me. And, if all this is stirring simply by reading the title, who knows what reading the inside pages might do!

I Wish…

I wish I read more…

I wish I were a runner…

I wish money was a non-issue…

I wish I had unlimited knowledge that could be creative in solving any problem…

I wish I were more up on fashion (and it was a part of my wardrobe)…

I wish I could go to culinary school and start my own restaurant…

I wish I could perform on Broadway… just once in a really fabulous show…

and I wish I could be a part of creating it…

I wish I could be greatly respected…

I wish I could be a little more in control of timing…

I wish people could know my heart when I’ve unintentionally wronged them…

I wish I could effectively think as a multiculturally accepting individual, honoring everyone’s personal story, history and culture…

I wish I could get myself out of bed early in the morning to sit in the quiet moments with God before the rush of my day began…

I wish I had more self control over what I ate…

I wish bitterness was a little easier to let go of and forgiveness was a little easier to master…

I wish my faith were even the size of a mustard seed to vanquish all my fears and insecurities…

But…

am blessed. I am loved. I am able to pursue and make many of those wishes come true. I do have the power of choice and the ability to take action. Some never may come to fruition, but that’s ok. I will do what I can and let go of what I can’t and sit in the peace that comes with releasing control to someOne greater than I who has crafted the big picture so much greater than I could ever imagine. But sometimes, it’s nice to dream… to imagine… if all wishes were possible, what that might look like.

Love Forever…

A few weeks ago I visited the mall with my mom. As we were walking through, I was somehow sucked in by one of the workers at a nail product kiosk. My mom, however, sneakily escaped and continued on with her window shopping as I was left alone with a long-haired, dark skinned flirtatious salesman. He reached for my left hand to begin demonstrating the wonder of how his product would leave a brilliant shine on my natural nail… and this is how the conversation went as he’s holding my hand and filing my nails…

“What’s your name?”

“Melanie.”

“Oh, Melanie, you are so beautiful.”

“Hmmm… (I’m thinking he surely says that to all the women, and roll my eyes a bit. Who takes him up on that line to buy whatever it is that he’s selling? And where is my mom? Why am I stuck here alone? How did this happen? I would so rather be almost anywhere else, but I hate to be rude.”

He notices my wedding ring… “Melanie, you married?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, you break my heart. For how long?”

“Five years.”

“Five years?!?! That’s too long. Me, I was married two years, and that was enough. Now I’ve moved on to many more women. And… voila! See your beautiful, radiant nail!”

I kindly (at least I think it was kindly as I took the opportunity to escape) said thank you and was off to find my mom and continue our day of shopping.

Even now, I’m surprised by his candor. I’m not sure how relationships work in his culture, but I do wonder how that woman might have felt. Did she so easily move on? Was she able to not bat an eye as she briefly mentioned her quick marriage in the midst of a sales pitch? One of my best girlfriends told me that she prays often that she will always love her husband. She told me a story of how she was speaking at a women’s event at church and mentioned that thought. Another woman approached her afterward and said that was a crazy idea, of course she would always love her husband! My friend asked her how long she had been married, and the woman told her it had only been a few years. Many years later, the woman came back to my friend and said that she now understood, and she now prays that she will always love her husband.

I too thought the idea of praying to always love Tony was a little silly. But, I trust my friend who has been married at least 10 years longer than I. Struggles and trials and temptations are sure to come. And in the midst of it all, yes! I DO pray that I will always love him. I don’t think I pray it everyday, but I do often, every time I relish the thought of the love we share. I think I pray for it every time we have sweet moments and special days together… every time I know without a doubt that life wouldn’t be the same without him. I pray that our marriage will always be so sweet, so lasting, so fulfilling, so honoring to God. I pray our marriage can be an example to others of how God created us as husband and wife and how he has designed marriage to be. This September will make five years… and I pray for fifty-five more. I pray my marriage will last in a world where that is often not the case.

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