Devotions

“Wherever there is any element of pride or of conceit, Jesus cannot expound a thing. He will take us through the disappointment of a wounded pride of intellect, through disappointment of heart. He will reveal inordinate affections–things over which we never thought He would have to get us alone. We listen to many things in classes, but they are not an exposition to us yet. They will be when God gets us alone over them.” -Oswald Chambers

“…things over which we never though He would have..”

Out of the entire devotion that day (I am going through ‘My Utmost For His Highest’) this is the phrase that caught me. It captivated me. I was in an empty room at work with the door open. I kind of wanted to cry, or maybe just jump up and down and yell thanks to God. That is how this entire devotion has affected me. It seems that each day as I read I feel relief mixed with…I am not really sure of the word for the other sentiment…I wanted and didn’t want to say obligation…no. No. It’s gratitude. Relief, gratitude. The feeling that somehow for this wonderful revelation, one right after the other, I need to give thanks. I need to show how thankful I am to God for revealing these things to me.

This is thought in one breath, but in the next are the words of a pastor, which were first the words of Jesus: “‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her,'” Luke 10:41-42. Mary was simply sitting at Jesus’ feet, while Martha was hurrying and scuttling about to make sure everything was perfect for Him.

I used to sort of despise Mary. I wanted to come to Martha’s defense. She was only showing her love and gratitude for God. She wanted to do great things for Him. Who, that knows and loves God, hasn’t had that thought cross their own minds? While Mary just sat there. She did nothing. She offered no help, no meal, no drink. She just sat there at His feet.

She just sat. Still. Waiting. Listening.

I still want to defend Martha, but I realize that part of me is the part that could never truly see what Jesus wants. He wants us. It’s that simple. It stops there. He doesn’t want us “to” or “there” or “here” or “then”. He wants us.

She just sat. He just wants her.

She offered herself.

Not by doing anything. Not by cleaning, not by preparing a meal. Not by giving something up, nor by trying to be something. She just sat. Still. Waiting. Listening. And guess what? Jesus spoke. He taught. He cherished.

He defended. But this story isn’t about who was right and who was wrong. This story is about Jesus wanting us. We are enough for Him. As we are. All bloodied with guilt and lust and murder. Isn’t that crazy? The man went to His death willingly, so that He could know us. So that we could know Him. Just so that we could have the opportunity to just sit at his feet and breathe and listen and be still. To let Him cover us, love on us. How in the world do we have that kind of impact on the Word of God? How do we even begin to impact what He chooses to do?

To me, it’s a paradox. We are meaningless without Him, but with or without Him, we mean a great deal to Him. God, the love of God, the God of love, is a great big huge gigantic mystery. How can we ever fathom? So in each moment, in each devotion when something is revealed, how do I not crave more? How can I possibly let an idea, a curiosity rest? But He doesn’t ask me to understand. In fact He tells us that there are some things we will never understand until we are finally with Him. So what do I do with this knowledge He has revealed to me? In Matthew 10:27 He tells us to shout it from the rooftops. But besides that…He doesn’t want me to be consumed by it…? He just wants me to sit in His presence? Not even to relish the fact that He has revealed anything, but to simply sit with Him, hear from Him, absorb His instruction and His love.

I believe I have written about it before: I am in a place in my life I “never thought” I would be. And I have struggled with things I thought I “never would have.” I have even considered the pain I have put myself through to be unnecessary–consequences that could have been avoided if I had only been obedient.

Trust me when I say that in no way do I think God would ever want us to be disobedient. He gives us instruction through His word and convictions that are meant for our good and for the good of our union with Him. However, also trust me when I say that God can and will use every.single.thing. for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His good purpose (Romans 8:28). Even if those things made us feel the furthest away from God that we have ever been, trust me when I say He noticed. He was wanting you with Him during that time as much as He wanted you with Him when the worship songs at church were your life. Haha. And those terrible things may have involved a “disappointment of a wounded pride of intellect, through a disappointment of heart,” but they can all be used to draw you near to Him.

Without these things, that I thought I would never know (as in partake in), I may never have learned to be still.

Life is but a dream.

Some days, like today, make me think that what I’m living currently just can’t actually be my life. I’m not sure what it is about days like these (probably my state of sin or state of grace) that makes me ultra reflective about the life I have lived, super-conscious of the life I am living, and really afraid of the life I might lead; but I do know that today, and all of these days past and future, makes me wishful for a state of coma. Like, ‘It’s alright. Any second now I’ll wake up and this regretful life would have been a hopeless dream, but only a dream.’

Then, kid you not, I close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to wake up. I’m sure most coma patients are not excited when they hear they’ve missed out on days, months, or years of their lives, but I imagine the relief I would feel. And then, in anticipation of this relief and with a little heavier of breathing, I open my eyes. There I am.

In my room, in my car gazing up at the stars, on a swing in the park. I’m alive. This is real. My life, as it is.

I have to say this (because everyone feels they must when pouring out their thoughts) I know there is real suffering in the world, I’m not blind to it. In fact the little of the old me that still exists is dying to do something about it. I know I am blessed to be even where I am now with a home, loving parents, and an able body. I know that not everyone has this.

Maybe in my last blog and perhaps the one before that, I said this would take on a more hopeful direction. It would be more about big dreams, and less about the pessimistic realities of life. Well, I changed my mind. I’m not going to label this as a blog for school, a blog for big dreams, a blog on how to pursue those dreams. I will simply let it be what it is.

It’s been a while.

Yeah, it’s been a while. I’m not even sure what I want to write about now. I just feel like I want to get back into this. :) So, I’ll just dive right in with what’s on my mind. I’ll be the first to say that my blogs haven’t exactly been optimistic or exactly encouraging…or like at all anything shiny and positive whatsoever. It’s a little contradictory to the name and title of this blog: “Abundant Infinity: Dream Big.” Yeah. So. About that.

Dreaming big used to be my thing, I guess. As I grew up though, I came to see my ‘anything is possible’ mindset as more of an innate naivety. To me this was a hindrance rather than an asset to my future. So I set out to not be naive. That didn’t end well for me, but what I learned from the experience has helped me look at life in an entirely different way: neither naively, nor rationally.

My faith is something that is just always going to be a part of my life…thankfully. So, I can’t help but mention it here. In the Bible, John 10:10, Jesus tells us that He came so that we could have life, and not only that, but life abundantly. With this in mind, regardless of circumstances, why should any of us refuse to dream? And dream big at that? We all have a story and if you are to assume anything about mine just because I say big dreams should be made, then I would have to assume something about yours as well. So let’s just agree to disagree, if you disagree.

I know there isn’t a whole lot to this written word, but it’s just some thoughts. In other news, I have finalllllly graduated with a bachelor of science in business, accounting emphasis. What got me through was the realization that accomplishing the goal of this degree was important to me and it was important that it was important to me. And that is what had to give. I had to let myself and my dreams be a priority. I had to give myself grace by acknowledging that even though I screwed up, I wasn’t a worthless cause.

Speaking of grace, boy, has it been a journey to even glimpse an understanding of that word. God has really been working on me and bringing me to it though! I joined a Bible study that I have gone to every now and then and it has just been exactly, perfectly, what I needed. I am not even sure of all the the steps and things that lead me to this place where I can finally feel the Holy Spirit again, but I’m definitely here, with hope. I might write more about this journey back to peace later.

Let’s see what else? …..I have not been able to find a job in line with my degree. Shocker there. Yawwwwn….Hmmm…I am going to take more time to discover what my big dreams were before other people’s views of reality nudged them out of my mind’s eye. And I’m thinking maybe I was meant to be something other than an accountant. I’m searching for my passions, which I will hopefully reignite and make something of. It will take bravery to try, but I think I’ll do it. We’ll see what the future holds.

Something. Has got to. Give.

So from my previous ramblings about hope you can probably tell it’s an up and down thing with me. More recently I have come to view hope as a double edged sword. If you have hope, that means you are in a state of hoping; meaning you do not yet have that which you hope for…ha. On the other hand if you don’t have hope, you basically have no motivation, nothing to work towards, and nothing to pick you up when you inevitably fall down.

Falling down.

Sigh. This I understand oh so thoroughly. Honestly, over the last three years it is all that I have been doing. I made a decision three years ago that wrecked my view of my life. In the big scheme of things it seems inconsequential: I moved 1,300 miles back home to switch colleges. So, I feel like I need to explain myself a little bit when I use a word like “wrecked”.

God was my all. I delighted in Him, delighted in the innocence and purity He gave me, was comforted by His peace in a way that passes understanding. I was so wrapped in His presence that I saw His love and pursuit for me in the way leaves danced in circles around me in the fall. I was so aware of Him that He spoke to me through nature, through strangers, music, class assignments, books, and His Word. I wanted everything I did in my life to be because of Him, to be in pursuit of Him, to glorify Him. Then I disobeyed Him.

I turned my back on the great adventure Jesus had set before me. I chose to leave this amazing place where I had discovered so much about God, myself, and the people I left back home. I chose to leave the place that I had looked forward to going to for at least five months. That I had for over a year felt the calling on my heart again and again to go to. That my family had spent time and hundreds of dollars preparing me for, traveling with me to, and worrying and praying over me for months to be well at. All over a minor inconvenience in class type and scheduling. Very minor. I hit a bump in the road and I bailed. I just left.

I didn’t realize how wrong I was until I was crying in my car, trying in vain to hide my face from my dad who was driving (he insisted I shouldn’t make the trip on my own). But I think deep inside, I knew before then. As my dad came to the airport to pick me up, he was ecstatic to see me, I could barely fake a smile. Before that I went to turn in my room key, they were always closed and I was beyond irritated: somehow it felt like my heart was breaking. And earlier as I was packing I did so sluggishly. All I could think was that I failed. I was sad. I didn’t want to be around anyone. I just wanted to sulk. So I did. On the car-ride home.

And for at least a year after that.

Then on and off for another year and a half.

That catches us up to the present. Again, I feel I have to say this is a seemingly inconsequential action in the big scheme of things. Switching colleges. Changing locations. What’s the big deal? Well…to me everything. While I didn’t know what I was going to do after my time at that college, everyday I felt closer to God and closer to knowing His plan for me. It was there that I embraced the idea of using my business/accounting degree for Him, in ministry to women who were rescued out of abuse, slavery, hopelessness… When I came home I no longer had a direction. I didn’t know anymore what I wanted to do. Of course the idea of working with women has been explored and planned and thought on. But I figured that would be in the future.

So I spent (or wasted) time wandering. Dropping classes (something I hadn’t done yet in 2 1/2 years of community college and the university). Begging forgiveness for financial aid that was given for those classes (again, new to me). Failing classes. Switching majors not once, not twice, but three times. Switching back to my school, but online (which was part of my original problem). And personally allowing myself to be drawn further and further (and further still) into a world of sin. Failing myself. Failing God (right? I failed Him, right).

And now here I am. Two months away from graduating. Three gen-ed/gen-busn classes to go and I am writing this blog instead of doing the really easy homework I have to do. That was due last week. That for one of the classes would be the first thing turned in (I’m three weeks in). Graduation is so close. Yet I have no ambition. No willingness to do the work to get there. I went from a 3.6 GPA and failure not being an option, to a 2.7 GPA and failure being…eh, what’s new? I have developed more than a few bad habits sense being home (btw, I feel the need to say that I have had jobs for most of my time being back, so it’s not like I was sitting around doing nothing…all the time…). I admit I’m lazy. I am physically drained because I have not taken care of myself at all. I have Spiritually gotten to a place I never imagined I would be in (it’s not a good one). I guess all of this is to say that I don’t know how to get back on my feet. I’m making it through each day, going to work. Sometimes doing the schoolwork I need to. But I literally have no ambition. I do not want to work for the things I want.

To me they feel unattainable. Maybe I feel that whatever I do, it won’t matter. Because I have already failed. In my head, I know that’s not true. I know that what happened in the past can’t be changed. I know that what I do today and tomorrow is what matters. I know that I can still make my life what I want it to be. I’m not sure what that is, and I’m not sure what God wants it to be either. I know that the change has to come from within me though. That is one thing I know for sure. I know that my heart can’t stay broken like it is or I’ll never move on. I also can’t wish and long and hope for change and be heartbroken when it doesn’t come about because I didn’t do anything to get there. But how do I work hard with an already broken heart? Something inside me has to give. Something has to stop fighting against everything that is true and good and just do right.

I’m not one who likes to complain without offering a solution, so if you have one, please, comment. Let me know. I’ll try it and then we will see. What happens next? I’ll write again when I find out. But really, something has got to give.

Deciding not to hope.

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/rtv/originals/where-your-hope-lies

 

The above is a link to a video that goes along to an audio of words on the subject of hope. What the speaker says makes some sense, but it also brought a couple of other thoughts to mind. One thought was the memory of once asking God to take away my hope…and this lead to the second thought: that people decide not to hope when they are certain they know their future. See, the reason I asked God to take away my hope years ago was because I believed that hope brought me nothing but discontentment. In that moment of asking I felt that I knew exactly what my future held, and that hope was just the presence of naive dreams.

Then God took away my hope. Instead of feeling relief at His answer to my petition, I felt even more discontentment. (It’s a really weird circumstance to describe and I’m not sure I can do so accurately, but I’ll try.) I couldn’t believe that how I had decided my life would go (outside of ‘naive dreams’) was such a devastating let down. I did not have hope and because I didn’t have it there was no reason to dream. There was no reason to want more out of life, or to try and do more for others, I had decided my life would never amount to more than a narrow box-like a tunnel with no light except the distant eternity I knew I was promised.

Needless to say, I asked God to give me hope again. Since then I have discovered that hope in itself is a promise from and fulfilled by God. I have also learned something about those naive dreams (and I continue to learn…hashtag just keep growing ;) ). The dreams weren’t necessarily naive, in fact they were very realistic (though the majority of them have yet to come true…), but they were still narrow, sort of like that hopeless tunnel. God has shown me that even my dreams can limit the power I give Him in my life. His dreams for me, and for you too, are so much greater and more detailed, good, and lovely than our own dreams.

All this is to say, I guess, that we shouldn’t limit God with our hope and with our dreams or with deciding not to hope at all. The intricacies of His plans are playing out in life right now. As the speaker in the video said, we need only to trust Him and surrender our hopes and dreams to Him. Not that we don’t have them, but that we acknowledge that they are in His hands. Much easier said than done, but surrender is a daily and even momentary decision. It takes work. I also want to note that dreams take hard work, and even though we surrender the outcomes and current circumstances to God, we should do our absolute best at the work we put our hands to. The rest is in God’s hands. We should always remember that we don’t have it all figured out, and there’s no way we ever will.

“For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” Romans 8:24-25 (NASB)

Hope?

I don’t know about you guys, but I kind of have this thing where my life doesn’t turn out anything like I planned. Let’s face it, I’m into accounting and finance, I’m a planner. I remember sitting down as a kid and writing down my goals, and everything that I could do to achieve those goals. I ended up achieving the ones I didn’t really dream about, and regretting the ones I did. I mean, regretting the fact that I never met them. They weren’t just goals, but they were…expectations. Things that at the time I guess I didn’t realize weren’t a given in everyone’s life.

I have faith that makes me who I am and I would hope affects every part of my life. Including my planning, and goal making. My dreaming. I know, as a woman of faith I should be surrendering to God and giving up my worries that the things I wanted long ago may not come around. The truth is, none of us know if those things will come around, or they could just be on a different schedule.

Also, who wouldn’t want that? To just completely trust all of your desires in the hands of an all-knowing God. I mean, we wouldn’t have to think or worry about anything, we would just live freely. The thing is this is God’s intention for us-to live without worry, in complete freedom. So how do we let go of what might be, or could maybe be, or possibly there’s a teeny chance that this could happen? How do we do that…and maintain our hope?

I think the obvious answer is that we put our hope in what is sure: the eternal. However I have to wonder, where is the fun in that? I guess the fun is that we get to live freely in this moment, without the worry of the what if’s. Is this moment enough for you? Any tips on making it enough?

I would like to add that I completely believe there are things that you can control and work hard for that can be all yours. My point of this blog is not to take away from that power that God as given us, but actually to ask, how do you keep hope for the things that you can’t control?

Peace and blessings to you as you reconcile your hopes and dreams with the reality life. I just realized this post seems really negative (also, it seems a little too honest for a blog post), but it is just a part of the journey to discovering the light-hearted life. :)

~Anna M

When I grow up…

I remember when I was a little kid, I had all kinds of plans for my future. It seems that children have this amazing ability to dream without inhibition. I was going to be anything from a hairdresser, to a teacher, to a famous country singer. Maybe I would do all of these at once, while also having a husband, and leading children.

As I grew older my dreams changed, but there was still this natural tendency to think of fantastic dreams. I went from being a hairdresser to owning my own salon/clothingstore/bakery. Can you imagine getting your haircut in a place that bakes muffins in the back? It might smell good, but probably doesn’t leave a great image (hair in a cupcake?). I also imagined things like producing music (ah, music) and owning a Christian retail store.

The point is, that kids (even teens) are not afraid to have big dreams. As I was finishing up my last two years of high school, I found the common denominator in all of my dreams: my own business. I asked my mom what classes were offered that might help me with this because I wanted to get a head start (which makes it ironic that I am now in my fifth year as and undergraduate, finishing a four year degree). This is where I met accounting, and very mistakenly thought it was for me. I think was amazed by how much it taught me about business. However, as I got into college I heard so much about what a big deal it was. Apparently (as I later found out) it was an extremely difficult field, which paid off a few years into the career. 

As stated in my previous posts, I have explored information about the opportunities that the study of accounting can give. I don’t know if it was the crazy intense course work, with knowledgeable yet poor (in ability) teachers that set me on the right path at my previous university, but I realized I had forgotten that common denominator I mentioned. It wasn’t exactly accounting that I loved (though if there was any love for it, my previous university destroyed it), but it was business! I had allowed the positive stigma of an accounting degree, and the pessimistic view of new businesses in our economy (and my small town) take my real dream out of view. That wasn’t fair to the little kid in me, or the nervous college grad.

So I had this revelation and returned to the the 4 year university I had started with. A business degree with an emphasis in accounting. Now this seems perfectly suited to me. Until I realized that I’m graduating in 7 months and have no idea (!) what kind of job I am going to get. All of the horror stories I had heard of business students starting out in entry level positions (that high school grads can get) came flooding back to me! In the same moment I thought of my enormous student debt that had resulted from well meaning, but horribly wrong university/concentration decisions.

So, to calm my precious and scattered nerves, I decided to do a job search for people with my degree.

It didn’t help.

Remember that important post about internships? Yeah, I should have taken my own advice. The general idea: ‘If you don’t have the degree, at least you might have some experience.’ No. Not me. So, what did I decide after I scrambled to maintain some sort of composure? 

If I have any hope of moving out and paying off my student debt, I need to get a master’s degree. Which is great, because you know, those are free…

Anywho, my point is to say, I messed up. I let go of my childhood dreams, and bought into this idea of this crazy intense career that had a big payoff. My advice to anyone beginning a college education:

  • get away from influences (the media, family, friends) and find out what you want to do with your life
  • write your dream down and keep it where you can see it, you will be reminded and keep focus
  • get your general education courses out of the way (i recommend a cheap, but well known junior college-you could finish these for free)! you won’t want to have to worry about theses pesky requirements while you are in your high level classes (or trying to graduate)
  • stop, pause. have your dreams changed? have you learned any new information about your field of study that makes you think it is not for you? consider this new information with who you are, what your values are, where you want to be, and who you want to help
  • honestly, take a break if you need to figure things out. do not aimlessly take classes and switch schools while trying to figure things out. maybe dabble with a few classes to see what you like, but do not risk your GPA or financial well being
  • finally, pick a school that has exactly what you need, and what you want in order to complete your degree. location is as important as you make it, but if you do go away have a way to come home for breaks (you will want it more than you think).

I am not saying my journey wasn’t worth it. In one of my first post I mentioned my great big dreams for a nonprofit organization for women. Everything that has lead up to the scared college graduate writing this, also lead up to her realizing that dream. My only hope is that I can help others realize their dreams, and maybe with a little less turmoil than I did (that’s another post, for another time).

Carefully consider what you want for your future, and do not waste money in the process. You have time to figure it out. You can always hit the books harder later to stay on course. From one almost college grad, who is very unsure about life after the books, don’t forget your childhood dreams. They make more sense than you think.

~Anna M.