February 2, 2009 · 10:18 am
I haven’t written a post about my thoughts during this sabbatical period for quite a few weeks. It has now been over 2 months since my last day of work, and I can honestly say that the experience has completely exceeded my expectations. During my time off, I have been focusing on relationships – deepening both my relationship with God and my relationships with others. I have enjoyed spending time with my friends and not watching the clock to ensure that I make it back to work on time. It has been a time of introspection and reflection. I have grown closer to God and felt his leadership in my life more fully than ever before. Honestly, I believe this is because the busyness and distractions from my pre-sabbatical routine kept me from hearing God and having the intimate relationship with Him that I’ve always desired. I have joined a women’s Bible Study. I have learned to knit. I have spent time at my sister and brother-in-law’s house in Alabama enjoying their new baby. I have gone out on dates – and finally realized that, first and foremost, my heart belongs to Jesus. And that He will guide me to the husband that He has chosen for me. It’s such a big relief to quit carrying things on my shoulders and rely on His much stronger ones. Because it is not all about me – it’s only about God, His kingdom and His perfect plan.
However, I must admit that it has not been a time completely free of anxiety. I don’t hold a fully mapped out plan of the next few months or years of my life. A lot of my friends are losing their jobs, and I wonder if I am crazy for quitting my job. I feel God calling me to things that are new and scary – things that will only succeed if I completely rely on Him instead of my own skills and abilities. I feel God asking me to lay down my fears regarding financial matters and vocational decisions at His feet. Basically, I believe God is asking me to surrender to Him – all of me, not just the parts of me that I feel okay letting go. And even though I’ve been singing it and saying it all my life, it’s time to actually do it. I surrender all.
I have learned that the act of surrendering is not a one-time exercise. For me, it’s a daily activity that involves repenting when I try to grab back control of my life from God. Maybe it’s not happening on my schedule or my timetable; maybe my sinful nature thinks I can do it better or do it all by myself…so I forget God’s plan and start living my way again. For me, surrendering is a daily commitment to Jesus that I have faith in His plan, His Lordship, His way, and His redemption of me. And surrendering to His grace when I totally mess that up, too.
P.S. I saw this post’s title on a church sign as I was driving by it a few months ago. It took a few seconds for it to sink it, but I love it!
Filed under God, Sabbatical
January 7, 2009 · 11:04 am
Today, I went to my first women’s Bible study class at my church here in Nashville. I have been a member of this particular church for almost 10 years and have participated in small groups, young adult groups, children’s ministry, etc. But I’ve always hesitated to join a women’s Bible study group. I think it’s because most, if not all, of the women my age in these groups are married and have children. And it has always bothered me to see these women at a place in their lives where I desire to be, a place to which God has not yet brought me. I always thought I would feel uncomfortable with the conversations regarding diapers, potty training, preschools, and so on; I thought I would be envious of what these women have that I do not have. So, hesitantly, I showed up at the 10AM class today, knowing that I would be the only person there at that hour who wasn’t a stay-at-home mom, the only person who just decided to quit her job and begin a sabbatical because God was calling her to do it. And I was reminded once again, when God calls us to do something, He completely provides for us and blesses us each step of the way.
Can I say that I was 100% comfortable today and that it was the best thing ever being the only single person in the group? Nope. However, I can say that God is bigger than all of my anxieties, my insecurities, and my hesitations. When we obey God’s calling to get out of our comfort zone, He can really work in our lives. Those women accepted me and totally celebrated the fact that I was able to be there with them in the middle of the day. I felt so encouraged and loved by them. I realized that regardless of marital status and mommy status, we all have similar struggles as women, and we all need a community to pray for us and encourage us, and that, of course, we all worship the same loving God. Those similarities are enough to overcome our differences.
Oh, and regarding God showing up and reminding me that I was exactly where I was supposed to be this morning. Each of us had to select a piece of paper with a question from a bag and then introduce ourselves while we answered the question. My question was: “What is your dream job?” Okay God, I hear ya. I was able to share my story about my sabbatical and then share my dream job. It was the first time that God basically asked me to have the courage to admit to a roomful of people (and now an internet full of people) that my dream job is to be a writer. Or more accurately, that God created me to be (and thus I am) a writer, and I need to get to it!
I praise God that he brought me to this place, a place where I am free to attend a Bible study at 10AM with no work (or family) commitments hanging over my head, a place where He keeps encouraging me to dream big and seek His purpose for my life, a place where I’m finally content – for once – to be just where He wants me to be.
P.S. God uses a lot of people to get us to the place He wants us, and I cannot end this post without giving props to Annie Downs, a gifted writer, who was willing to be used by God in my life this week in a major way.
December 17, 2008 · 10:53 pm
I haven’t posted anything in quite a few days. I’ve been processing a lot of thoughts during this sabbatical, and hopefully changing a lot of my subconscious thought patterns. I’ve realized that there are things that we know (intellectually, consciously), that we haven’t actually internalized as part of our being (emotionally, spiritually).
Here is an example. “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know” are lyrics from the song Jesus Loves Me. Intellectually, I have known this statement my whole life…I sang it from the time I could speak. But when did I know this to be true? When did it become part of my being/heart? When did I start feeling this security that Jesus loves me unconditionally? This love is part of my being now, and I daily experience the freedom and peace that comes with it. However, it didn’t move from my head to my heart in one instant. I think there are many “Christians” out there that still haven’t completely internalized the love of Jesus. There are a lot of subconscious barriers that can keep us from understanding and internalizing this love. For example, some of us were not raised to understand unconditional love in our home environments. If you are “good” at home, behave well, do well at school, sit quietly, and so on, then you get positive loving results from your parents and teachers. However, if you do not perform these tasks well, you get negative, or sometimes angry, results from those caretakers. In a young, developing mind, a child can quickly internalize this unwritten “rule” that one must be good to be loved. But this is not true when it comes to our Heavenly Father. He loves us unconditionally, in a way that our human minds struggle to understand – in a way where nothing we do WELL can make Him love us more and nothing we do WRONG can make Him love us less. Seems too good to be true, huh? Learning and internalizing this unconditional love changed my life and my perception of our God.
There are other thought patterns that I am currently re-learning during this sabbatical. I’ve had many negative, subconscious thought patterns, and some of them were buried very deeply. I believe that only this period where I have completely removed the responsibility associated with work/career/job could expose some of these patterns. Here are some of the “lies” that I subconsciously internalized along the way:
- If I make a mistake, I am a mistake (or a failure)
- If my house is messy, I am a messy person
- If I am not working, I am a lazy person
- If I don’t have a job, I am not valuable
I did not consciously think or tell myself these things, but these lies lurking below the surface triggered certain reactions and behaviors on my part. I believed these things in my heart because of unhealthy patterns that I internalized along the way. And now I must re-train myself in a healthy direction:
- I will make mistakes, and I can apologize and move on
- If my house is messy, it’s because I focused my attention on people instead of tasks today
- It’s okay that I’m not working today
- I am valuable, just for being me
I don’t have all the answers. I’m still working on changing negative patterns into healthy, positive ones. A lot of these things are still only known in my head, and I cannot get my heart to understand and internalize them.
You may struggle with different lies and subconscious thought patterns; these may be the easy ones for you. But I believe it’s worth the time to figure out what is driving our actions and behaviors. Because at the root of all of our anxiety is some type of fear, which was probably created by a lie that was internalized along the way.
Filed under God, Sabbatical
December 3, 2008 · 10:47 pm
This week, I’ve struggled with not feeling productive. I’ve been surprisingly busy for not having a job, but I don’t feel like I’ve been productive. By this point in my sabbatical, I expected to have the closets cleaned out, bank statements reconciled, the house re-organized, etc. Those are the kind of things that feel productive to me. Even though I’ve only been on this sabbatical for a mere 6 business days, I’ve already had to adjust the expectations I’m placing on myself. There are still dirty dishes in the sink; I continue to ignore my mail; there still don’t seem to be enough hours in the day. And I feel guilty – now I have no excuse for these things remaining undone. Perhaps work wasn’t always the culprit deserving so much of the blame.
However, I also need this period of rest for myself. And I need to be okay with that instead of feeling anxious and guilty. I’m trying to learn how to be still and listen to God. I’m trying to learn the concept of “being” instead of “doing”…and knowing that I’m still a valuable person even when I’m not doing. For those of you who know me, you realize this is very difficult for me. Even writing that sentence seemed foreign to me…of course you have to DO something to be valuable. That falsehood is our form of control. It’s also one of the ways that we push God out of our lives. We start to believe that we can do it ourselves, and we forget that our Creator gave us the gifts we’re using and the life we’re living. I realize that busyness can get in the way of my relationship with God. This is obviously not a new concept, but I have recognized that it can take many forms…not just our job/career/work. It can be the amount of time we spend online, the volunteer work that we do, the people with whom we choose to spend our time, etc. These are not bad things – some of them are very good and essential – but they keep us busy and can distract us from listening to God.
Does God really want a bunch of “productive” followers? Probably not in the way that I usually define the word. I may feel productive if all of the dishes are clean, the laundry is done, the bills are paid, and everything else is completely in order…but am I really fulfilling my purpose if I’ve ignored God and ignored people in the process? Would He rather my day take the form of a “to do” list, or would he rather that I follow Him? I’m counting on the latter, but I’m still learning how to let go of my “to do” lists and redefine productivity.
Filed under God, Sabbatical