And so on

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So, except for 1 day, I completed another 31 Days challenge, and I can tell you, it felt so good.

You see, I’m not known for my stick-to-it-iveness or consistency when it comes to finishing things I start.  Not so much the major things (like parenting, for instance – not the kind of job you can just give up on when you get tired of it.  As much as there are days when I wish you could….).  Going to uni and getting my nursing degree was really the first thing in my life I started and finished, and it’s taken until being well entrenched in my 30’s for me to really get it.

I don’t finish things I start, and give up way too easily because essentially, I behave like a spoiled brat.

Yep.

I start something, whether it’s something I’ve done before, or something new – be it a new creative endeavour, study, fitness, clean eating, DIY – and inevitably there’s a point of ‘I’m bored/ tired/ sick of this/hungry’ or ‘it’s really difficult/ boring/ challenging/ confronting’, and so more often than not, I just walk away (again, not the big things – I go to work and I parent my kids and work on my relationships, which are all the definitions of challenging and difficult at times!).

And always feel either guilty, or full of regret.  Or both.

I always end up feeling like a failure.

It’s actually become my comfort zone, because it’s what’s familiar.  Start, stop.  Start, stop.

It can take me months, even years to finish a creative project, because I get bored, or distracted by something shiny and new.

I start a new fitness routine, and then it gets too hard, and too uncomfortable, and sitting on the couch with a book is always a better option.

I change my diet to what I know is so much better, but then just cannot resist that one sweet thing or piece of artisan bread, and it’s all over.

I’ve started numerous study courses, and ultimately end up deferring because there’s always something more important to deal with (but really, I don’t want to put in the hard work).

I get started on a house project, and it takes months and months and months because, well – I could list a thousand reasons, but ultimately, I get bored and find something better to do.  Like sit on the couch with a book.

On and on it goes.  Nearly ever time.

Rinse, repeat.

Cue guilt and inadequacy.

But here’s the thing.

If I start with the expectation of not finishing – as I do nearly every single time (because it’s what’s nearly always happened) – I’m giving myself permission to fail.  And because it’s been my pattern for so long, the people who know me best pretty much expect this to happen, so there are no surprises.  There are low to no expectations, therefore I’m not likely to disappoint anyone when I don’t live up to them.

U-huh.

I know.

I’m awesome at self-sabotage.  And making excuses.  And justifying anything.

Only it’s not working anymore, because inside my head?  I can’t get away from me, and every time, I know the truth – this is not who I was made to be.

I’ve come to believe the lies of the enemy – self-indulgence,  fear, comparison, unworthiness, there’s-something-better, distraction.  And they’ve defined whom I’ve come to be.

Only that’s not who I am.  It’s not who I AM has created me to be.  I am created to be His masterpiece, so I can do all the good things he planned for me so long ago.

Pretty simple, really.  And by allowing myself to be distracted by the world, to believe the lies of the enemy, I’m not living in the fullness who God has made me to be.  No wonder I’m so often left feeling empty and wanting.

But.

Here’s the beautiful thing.  Because I have been made by the hands of God, because I am a new creation in Jesus, I can rest in the truth that I if I listen to Him, I can do anything in His strength, anything that will show His goodness to the world.  Whether that’s writing a blog, painting my house, planting a garden, talking with a friend, writing a report for work – it’s all God, all the time.  I don’t need to rely on my own self to do any of this – history shows that doesn’t often end particularly well when I do!

I don’t find it easy to trust God with what I think is my responsibility.  Which is pretty much everything in my life.  I think if I don’t deal with it, if I don’t take control, it won’t get done, and I’ll have failed.  Again.  And I’m tired of that.  So very, very tired.

This is why finishing the 31 Day writing challenge was such a big deal to me.  I started it, I kept going – even when I wanted to give up – and I finished.

Because God was all over it.

It wasn’t perfect.  It wasn’t how I wanted it to be.  Sometimes I wrote with a half-hearted effort.  But it was done.

And now?  I didn’t create this blog to write for 31 days and be done with it.  So on it goes.  Where, exactly, I really don’t know.

But it’s going to be fun finding out.

What are your barriers, bumps in the road, things that prevent you from achieving what you set out to do?  How do you deal with them?

 

 

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Day 31: In the end, and for now

This life we live?  This crazy beautiful, heartbreaking, wondrous life?  It does all have a purpose, despite that feeling of wandering lost in the wilderness at times.  Often, if you’re anything like me.

But one day, one day, it will all make sense.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13: 11-12)

Right now, we think and see and live with earthly-based minds, because that’s where we are – in the here and now, down on this earth.  But on that day, that glorious day, when life and love all comes to completion in the heavens , and we come face-to-face with the One who loves us more than we can possibly fathom, everything will fall in to place, and we won’t be left wandering or wondering anymore.

For today, tomorrow, and all the days to come we have to live out here on earth, in amongst the people we love and don’t-love-yet, we have a job to do, a direction to follow that has been given to us so clearly, there cannot be any doubt.

We are to love.

Actively.

Every. Single. Day.

Even when it’s hard.

Even when it’s really hard.

Even when it feels like we need to turn ourselves inside out just to summon up one skerrick of love-as-God-tells-us.

This is who we are created to be, this is how God intended for us to live amongst each other.  And He sent His precious son Jesus to teach us this.  Even though the teaching involved pain beyond anything we can imagine.

This is why love is the biggest, the most, the greatest.

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. (1 Corinthian 13: 13, The Message)

Trust steadily.

Hope unswervingly.

Love extravagantly.

Right now, in my tired, worn out state, I can barely even begin to fathom what it takes to love extravagantly – what comes to mind is that it means to love like God.  To love each other like God loves us.

Without fear.

Without anger.

With hope, and patience, and endurance.

Writing about love, real love for 31 days has shown me that there is so much I have to learn, to discover, to embrace, I feel like I’ve only skimmed my fingertips across the surface of the His truth, of what it is He wants us to know and to breathe deep.

Love is the greatest.

Day 30: Love wins. Every time.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be cancelled. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10, The Message)

Love never fails.

Not now, not ever.

In the end, when this world as we know it is gone and we are living in the heavenly realms with the One who is love, it is love that will endure, not any spiritual giftings or anything else.

But for now, it is love that keeps going, love that never gives up, never gives in, never fails us.

When we choose to love, we are choosing victory and triumph over despair and hopelessness.  I know this, because I chose love, even when it seemed impossible, and He who is love defined made the way for the impossible to become so very real.

My husband and I are living proof that love never dies, love always wins, despite how things may appear at times.  Love changes, yes, and there are peaks and troughs and ebbs and flows, but it is always living and breathing within us.  And that’s because God is love, and whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4: 16).

I’ll leave you with this song that speaks so beautifully of this truth – love never fails, God never fails, even when we do.

Day 15: The story of us (Part 5)

It took 3 years after we separated, a year after we were divorced, for us to start talking to each other again.  Oh, we’d had some conversations during that time, over the phone – once we’d started court proceedings in the early days, we didn’t see each other in person.  It was just too hard, and never ended well.  We had a few phone conversations, but primarily any communication was via my mother-in-law, or brief notes.

A few times, I had asked my husband through his mum if he wanted to start meeting face-to-face when we dropped the kids off and picked them up, but he wasn’t ready.  And in hindsight, I probably wasn’t really, either.  Throughout this whole time, I thought I was coping with everything fine, that I had ‘gotten over’ our marriage breakdown and was looking ahead to all the possibilities life had to offer.  I certainly wasn’t living in regret and wallowing in self-pity – I was studying for my nursing degree, I had (and still have) a wonderful new family within my church and was loving the discovery of living life in Christ, I started running and had a great social life.  For the first year after we separated, I went to counselling regularly and that was a huge help in learning how to live life day-to-day in the aftermath of the death of a marriage.

But there was always something missing, and for the longest time, I couldn’t work out what it was.  Not in my head, anyway, but deep within, I knew what it was.  I just chose to ignore it completely.  He was missing, my husband, my love, the boy I knew I was going to marry even before we began.  The part of my life that had grown to envelop him and his love for so many years was empty, a ragged, gaping wound.  And I just ignored it, as much as I could.  I thought it was easier to just pretend the emptiness wasn’t there, to fill it up with other things and to believe that a new relationship would make everything better, would make me whole again.

Not quite.

In fact, not at all.  God wouldn’t let me ignore how I felt, wouldn’t let me pretend the emptiness wasn’t there, and slowly, over time, He led me into that space I kept trying to run away from and taught me how to just sit there and let Him love me in that place.  And to do that, He started by bringing my husband and I back together, in the most uneventful of circumstances.

My mother-in-law was going to be away for a few weeks, and there wasn’t anyone else who could facilitate the kids going between our homes, so the time had come where it was up to us to start making it work.  And to put it simply, it did.  3 years of being apart had given us the time and space – and grace – for the rawness of our wounds and hurts to settle, to start to heal, and we were able to feel safe with each other again.  We started by meeting in a carpark and then at his mum and dad’s house, and I smile now at thinking how polite we were with each other.  From the first time we met with the kids, I felt such peace and a very real sense of God’s presence, and I knew that it was His perfect timing.

And I knew that I still loved him.  That I had never stopped loving him, as much as I’d tried to convince myself that I had.  I perhaps didn’t love him as I did when we were married, but that deep, true, forever love was still there, and I only wanted to see the best things in life happen for him.  Which, to my mind, included him meeting someone new and forming a new relationship, because he deserved that.  Just like I did.  I fully believed that we would both be happy in new relationships, and that we were in a place where we’d each be ok with that happening for the other.

See, I had it all planned out, because I thought I knew what would be the best thing for all of us.  And really, it’s easier to start again with something new than to repair something that’s broken, isn’t it?  Isn’t that what our throwaway culture tells us?  Don’t worry if it’s broken, you can always get something shiny and new?  It’s what I saw in broken marriages and relationships all around me – broken hearts trying to find healing and wholeness in something new, in someone new.  It’s what had happened for my parents after they divorced, in that they both remarried. I thought that’s what you did after a divorce.

I saw new relationships and new marriages after divorce everywhere I looked.  I didn’t see people holding onto hope for their marriage to be repaired after its’ destruction.

I didn’t see anyone believing that people can change, that what is broken can be made new.

I didn’t see people living the reality of love – myself included.

I didn’t see people fighting to hold onto what they once declared they were to committed to.

I didn’t see ‘for better or for worse’ being lived out in all its’ brutal reality.

I didn’t see people saying ‘This was my fault, too, and I know I need to change’.

And yet I still saw the beauty of love being lived real in the marriages of my friends and family who got it.  Who knew that marriage was a lifetime deal, through everything that life threw at them, and that you don’t give up on your marriage or your spouse just because of how you feel.

Who knew that love isn’t a feeling, but it’s a verb, an action, a choice you make every single day.

Who were living love and marriage as God created it, a promise and a covenant that binds hearts and lives together forever.

That is where my hope came from, where the glimmer of possibility started to emerge.  Not just in the words I read in scripture, not from something someone tried to tell me, but by seeing love and marriage lived for real.  The good, the bad, and the ugly, the easy and the hard, the joy and the sorrow.

As my husband and I got to know each other again, I became more sensitive to everything related to love and marriage around me.  it was like my senses were heightened to everything I wanted to know, I was hungry for information and examples of how to love someone, how marriage works, how you keep your commitment of ’till death do us part’.  And yet I still didn’t believe that I’d need any of that for my husband and I, that we were still destined to be married to other people.  Yes, I know, you can say it – I was a slow learner.  Which was ok, because God is infinitely patient.

But at the same time, my senses became more attuned to the hurt and wounding that happens in marriage, and it was through this time that I developed a heart for seeing marriages not just work, but thrive.  I have often said that I’ve learnt everything I know now about marriage from being divorced, and I am very grateful for the lessons along the way (although you wouldn’t have heard me saying that at the time!!!).

So my husband and I continued to get to know each other again, and slowly and cautiously started to believe that we could actually make this work, that any part of life we created to work together in wouldn’t collapse around us again.  And it was in taking this risk, in having to trust God completely that I started to learn about real love, about living out love for real every day.  He was making something new, bringing out beauty from the rubble and ashes, and creating new life in us.

It was only the beginning, and we were in for the ride of our lives.

To catch up on our story, follow the links below:

Introduction

The story of us (Part 1)

The story of us (Part 2)

The story of us (Part 3)

The story of us (Part 4)

Trust and hope and perseverance (Part 1)

Day 14: Love does not envy

comparison

via pinterest

‘Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have’ (The Message)

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with this every day.  For me, it’s not about things, objects, ‘stuff’, but more about ability, as such.

I wish I could write better (or as well as her, or that blogger, or that author).

I wish I naturally had more patience (like that mum I know who I’ve never heard raise her voice at her kids and never seems to get frustrated with her family).

I wish I was more disciplined by nature (like my friend who is always so organised and has everything under control and exercises every day and only cooks gluten free….).

I wish I had more confidence in my opinions and expressing them (like so many people I know who are so sure of what they say).

I wish I felt assured that I am enough, and I don’t need to keep trying to be more (like so many women I know in real life and online whom I admire).

Before my husband and I came back together again, I so desperately, desperately wanted to be in a relationship, just like the majority of my friends and people I knew – even though I knew their relationships were far from perfect.

I wish, I wish, I wish……..

I can get so caught up wishing for things I don’t have (or think I don’t have – it’s all about perception), that I lose sight of what I do have.

At the absolute basic level of life, I wake up breathing every day, I have a roof over my head, food on my plate several times a day and people who love me.  Everything else is gravy.

I have the ability and the opportunity to write every day, because I was born into a world that values education and literacy, and encouraging creativity.  I write because it is how God has created me, and I’ve been able to realise that.

Whenever I’m impatient in life, with anything, it gives me the opportunity to practice grace – with myself, with other people, with whatever situation I’m in.  If I’m cross with the kids or frustrated with my husband, it’s because they’re in my life, and I love them.  Because we are all human beings, we are imperfect, and we all rub each other up the wrong way at times – if we didn’t have that, we wouldn’t become impatient and cross and frustrated.  So I’ll take impatience over nothing any day.

I may not be as disciplined as I *think* I should be, but I am plenty organised enough to provide my family with what they need, to perform in my job effectively and efficiently, and to know how to take care of myself.

When I am sure of what I know and what I believe, I have no fear in speaking it out, and am learning to stand in the courage of my convictions, even when they fly in the face of what the world around me thinks.  I’m learning that whatever we think or do or say, if we do and say it with love and kindness and respect, and without judgement, it is heard and received as it’s intended.  I still have the element of ‘what will they think of me?’, but I am learning to counter that instead with ‘what does God think of me?’, to live with the power and courage that the Spirit gives us .  It’s working.

I was created in the image of God, and He has claimed me as His own.  I am enough for Him, so how can I not believe that I am enough? Being anything more or less than who I already am will not make Jesus love me any more or any less, He loves me just as I am.

And for the whole time I was praying and hoping and despairing and crying over the desire for a new relationship, God was working in me – breaking me, moulding me, reshaping me into being more like Him (I’m still a long, long way away from that).  Without that experience, I would not be who I am now, and my husband and I wouldn’t be together again.

Strong’s Concordance gives the translation of ‘envieth’ (as in the KJV) as ‘to have warmth of feeling for or against: – affect, covet (earnestly), (have) desire, (move with) envy, be jealous over, (be) zealous, zealously affect’. Love doesn’t feel these things, doesn’t behave this way – we do, because of our humanness, but we can choose not to, when we choose love, when we choose to live like Christ, and not give in to our self.  Believe me, I know that that is far easier said than done, and it’s something I have to be conscious of and work on every single day.

God gives us every single thing we need, even if it’s not what we think.  He knows what we need – not want, but need – more than what we do.  Wanting something else takes our attention away from what we already have.  Envy steals faith.  Jealousy binds up our hearts with bitterness and the desire for what we don’t have.

But when we love, when we choose faith and trust over envy and jealousy, we see what we have, the blessings before us that God has showered on us with abundance.  Which He does because He loves us more than we could ever fathom.

What is your ‘weak point’ when it comes to envy and jealousy?  How do you counter that, and try not to let it affect how you live?

Day 12: The story of us (Part 4)

When I first heard God speak to me about praying for our marriage to be restored, I thought He was crazy.  Then I thought I was crazy for thinking that, because I know that really, God is the only one of us who is completely not crazy.  As crazy as His ideas appear at times.

Trust me, there was a whole lot of craziness just beginning.

At the time of our lives that this was happening between me and God, my husband and I weren’t even speaking to each other.  We were both still healing in our own ways, and for a time of several years couldn’t communicate effectively with each other directly.  God gave us an amazing blessing in the form of my mother-in-law, who kept the lines of communication open between us (albeit indirectly), and who helped us maintain what had become the normal routine for our kids.

So how on earth could this marriage be restored, completely renovated and rebuilt when neither of us had the tools or inclination to even want to make it happen?  We didn’t even remotely like each other at that point, let alone want to be married again.

Here’s the thing I know now – it was never up to us to make it happen.  That was God’s job, His desire and His plan, and He knew how it was all going to play out.  And so many times along the way, I really wished He’d given me the script of how this story was to unfold, because for the most part, I was completely lost.

It took me some time to actually become an active participant in this grand plan – well, active in that I decided to take part.  That makes me laugh so hard now, thinking that I actually had a choice about this whole thing.  Of course, I had a choice (we can always choose whether we follow God’s leading or not), but ultimately this was God’s master plan for us, and He created the desire in me to want to follow the steps along the way.

A month or so after I reluctantly prayed the prayer to see our marriage restored, I went and saw the movie ‘The Lake House’.  It’s the story of two characters separated by time, communicating via letters left in a letterbox at a lake house they both lived in at different points in time.  Without wanting to spoil the story (and I highly recommend you do see it if you haven’t already, it’s a favourite of mine), there’s an event that leads Sandra Bullock’s character to implore Keanu Reeves’ to wait, to just wait.

As I was watching the scene, I heard God speak to me again, as clear as day, in the voice I was coming to recognise as His.  I heard Him say ‘Just wait, I promise you it will be worth it’.

I came out of the movie completely energised and so excited to see what that would mean, what this promise of ‘it will be worth it’ would look like, how it would come to life.  I was convinced that it would be in the form of a new relationship, and that it would happen soon, because surely His promise was about fulfilling the deep-rooted desire I had to be in a relationship.

It was.

It totally was.

Just not exactly how I was picturing it.  Or in my ideal timeline.  Or by my reckoning.

In fact, what I thought I wanted did not even remotely look like what God had in store for me, and had I known the details of what would make up the journey ahead, especially without knowing the ending, I doubt I would have been a willing participant.  It was my first real lesson in faith, in trusting God, and learning to understand why God doesn’t give us a blow-by-blow description of what’s ahead of us because if we knew, what would we need Him for?

It took another several months before the first signs of repair and rebuilding between my husband and I really started to show.  During that time, we were both in the ‘planning stage’, much like when you build or renovate a house.  Not that we knew it at the time, but God was doing His work in both of us, quietly and without fanfare.

He was laying the foundation for a new building, a new life, a new love.  I had no idea how painful and difficult that would be, but man, was I about to find out.

To catch up on our story, follow the links below:

Introduction

The story of us (Part 1)

The story of us (Part 2)

The story of us (Part 3)