Finding Respect, Purpose, and Growth at Thirty-Ten

I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are fair, and that in faithfulness You have disciplined me. 
O may Your lovingkindness and graciousness comfort me, according to Your word (promise) to Your servant.  Let Your compassion come to me that I may live, For Your law is my delight. (Psalm 119:75-77, AMP)

All of these emotions are running through my mind.  I keep waiting for these feelings to pass, but they continue to be there.   I gravitate towards the psalms for comfort, but still these feelings persist.   Feelings of not being capable or competent enough, as if what I have to contribute isn’t valuable.  At the same time, I know that I AM capable and competent, which leads to emotions of frustration and anger that my comments or contributions are at the least carelessly disregarded and at the worst blatantly disrespected.

I don’t take my words in important conversations lightly.  If I am giving an opinion or observation in a group conversation it has been carefully and thoughtfully done.  These opinions and observations have many years of experiences and studies shaping them.  I don’t throw out random comments, especially when they contain concerns for the needs of others, without having put a lot of time, thought, and/or conversations with other peers into them.

So why do I feel like I am oftentimes chastised or belittled for not being compassionate enough, empathetic enough, positive enough, spiritual enough or educated enough to make these contributions to the conversations?

How do I speak positive affirmations into a conversation while also speaking my truth when necessary?  My life hasn’t been pretty (who’s has been?) and I have dealt with a lot of heavy things throughout it. Sometimes that means my experiences may color my perception and views differently.  Just because someone else’s experiences have been different doesn’t give them the right to disregard how my opinions or views have been formed.

Just to clarify, I don’t believe that I have the only valid and/or right opinions or observations, but at least engage with me respectfully when I offer them.  It isn’t even about right and wrong, but about allowing me to share my thoughts based on my perceptions, and then discuss with me in a conversation about where our views may differ in a way that doesn’t leave me feeling discounted, belittled, or in the wrong.  This is where learning and growth can occur.  I am a curious person and eager to learn new things, thoughts, and perspectives.

At the same time, I am feeling weighed down by exhaustion and fatigue.

Perhaps it is the stress from an overly busy time in my life with work, church, and family responsibilities.  Or it could be the ups and downs and guilt that comes along with parenting.  Most likely, however, it is the fact that I am getting older and starting to see life in a new way.  There is a lacking of willingness to continue on down the old familiar paths just because I have always trod along them for so much of my adult life. My perceptions are changing, my energy levels are changing, what’s important to me in my life is changing, and my self-worth is changing.

No longer do I feel I should hold back in conversations because those around me are older and more experienced.  It is time for me to move into that space of being one of the older persons with valuable life experiences and own it along with my story and all the baggage that comes with it.

It is during these trials in my life that I realize how much I need to depend on strength and direction from God.  At the end of the day, the only one that I need to be accountable to is God.  Am I loving as he would have me love?  Am I trying to live out his will for my life?  If I can answer yes to these questions then I can be content and rest in the arms of our heavenly Father knowing that he will use all of the experiences in my life for good.

This does not give me permission to stay mired down in places of discouragement.  Moving into this next phase of my life is going to require me to evaluate the things I do and the ways that I use my time.

If it is something that is life-sustaining or life-giving it stays, if it is something that is no longer supplying a need or bringing me peace, joy, or contentment then it may need to be changed or left behind completely.  Miring myself down in the things that bring constant frustration distracts me from the important things in my life and drains the time and energy that could otherwise be used for the good things that do fulfill God’s purpose and will for my life.

I think that I have spent much of my adult life wondering what God is calling me to be.  Now I am realizing that I already am what he is calling me to be – and that is His child.   I don’t know if I am discovering this because I am now thirty-ten and re-evaluating where I am at in life or if it is just a lesson that I am finally getting around to learning.  God has made me for good, he has a plan for me, and wants me to thrive.  If something isn’t bringing me calm, joy, peace and a sense of purpose or accomplishment, then perhaps it is time to move on.

It doesn’t change who I am, as my identity isn’t what I do, but it is in Jesus Christ that my identity is found.  Remembering this will hopefully help me to work through these emotions and feelings, make the changes that need to be made, and keep leaning on the courage, strength, and love that God equips each one of us with.

 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control]. (2 Timothy 1:7, AMP)

Seasons Changing

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven

Ecclesiastes 3:1, NSRV

Voices of the past are echoing through my head this beautiful fall afternoon.  There is something about the crispness in the air at this time of year that makes my thoughts turn nostalgic and a little melancholy at the same time.  When I feel this way I always wonder if I am secretly an introvert pretending to be an extrovert.  Regardless, a reflective mood is upon me.

Life hasn’t taken me where I thought it would.  Then again, does life truly ever turn out the way we think it will?  My current reality looks very different from my childhood dreams and visions.  By default I am not implying that my life is bad in anyway, but it definitely doesn’t resemble the dreams of being a stay at home mom of two or three that drives a mini van and goes on play dates at the library with a lifelong best friend.  Not bad, just different.

Along the way I have made choices that set this path before me.  Other times choices were made for me based on the needs of my family.  One of the things that I don’t think I did enough of earlier in my life was pray to the Father about where he wanted me to go. I didn’t ask what choices he wanted me to make.  Have you ever wondered if God regrets the whole humans have free will thing?

The faces of dearly loved ones who have now departed from this life also fill my mind on these first days of Autumn.  The years that have passed since losing them slip away but the ache of missing them still runs deep.  It seems like they were just here yesterday and doesn’t seem possible that is has been years since I last talked with them.  The wisdom they shared with me lives on in my memories.

The faces of dear friends that are kindred spirits also come to mind as I am in this melancholy reverie of sorts.  I treasure the memories of deep conversations on religion and also fun times of fellowship with these wonderful guys and girls that were here in my life for a season but have since moved on to the next stops in their journeys.  Perhaps I am feeling that loss so keenly right now because I am discovering so much in my Fellows readings that I am just bursting to have discussions about.

But all of those choices and people have brought me to the place I am today.  So I am very grateful for every choice, every voice, and every face that I now miss.  Each choice and each person in their own way shaped me into the person that I am becoming today.  There have been moments of extreme laughter as well as times of excruciating pain, but every experience has had a hand in shaping me into who I have become.  So while I sometimes wonder what life would be like if different choices had been made along the way, I am incredibly grateful for all of the blessings I have received in this mixed up crazy existence of mine.

This latest path in my journey may just be the start of the next big chapter.  Who knows what wonders and experiences the path holds for me, but I am secure in the knowledge that I am no longer alone in my travels.  With God as my travel guide the skies are the limits.  My future could look very different indeed from my present.  Perhaps there is an occupational change around the bend.  I don’t know where this new adventure in learning is taking me, and that is okay, because I have the heavenly travel guide laying out my path and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.

Psalm 138:8, NSRV

Falling Down

Lately I have been struggling more than usual on this journey called life.  I have been finding myself filled with the bitterness of disappointments and wallowing in despair about life in general.  Last week all of that yuckiness built up to an all time high and situations at work allowed those feeling to implode leaving me an emotional and stressed out wreck.

Last night I attended the Winter Cluster meeting for the Ohio Conference of Mennonite Church USA for our region.  During the devotional time, Regional Pastor Ralph Reinford, talked about seasons and the different seasons of life.  He went on to say that no matter what the season is, it will always pass and change to another season.

That made me reflect on what I have been experiencing lately and it filled me with new hope.  I have been going through a season of frustrations, and it too shall pass.

At home we have been dealing with the changing moods and attitudes of our eleven year old son, Max.  I would voluntarily go back to the terrible twos!  In addition to the changing family dynamics, impatience with our finances has me chomping at the bit to FINALLY purchase our own home.  We are so very close!

On the church front there are the usual issues that come up while serving in a small congregation.  Changes are being made either too quickly or too slowly, depending upon who is asked.  Couple that with the polity issues that are happening around the larger Mennonite denomination as a whole, and there is a recipe for instant frustration.

Then there is the guilty frustrations that come when you have new dreams that you can’t quite seem to make happen.  I want to embrace this dream of writing and run with it.  Unfortunately reality doesn’t agree with my agenda at the moment.  It has been incredibly hard to find the time to write regular blog posts, let alone focus on other areas of this dream.  I would like to find the time to learn more about the craft of writing to improve my new-found skills.  There is also an impatience because I feel so strongly that God has been calling me to this but I don’t know what more I need to be doing with this gift.  Should I be focusing on magazine articles?  Is it a book that I need to write?  Fiction or Nonfiction?

However, it is the stresses I have been experiencing at work that were the final straws on the proverbial camel’s back that broke me last week and pushed my frustration level to the moon and back.  By Friday afternoon I felt utterly disrespected and disillusioned.  The sting of betrayal from a superior was more than I could bear and the blindness of the said supervisor that allowed the perceptions of another employee to take precedence over my proven track record of integrity and team work was like salt to the wounds.

I went home for the weekend belittled, indignant, and hurt.  Hard work should be the stick we are measured by, not whether we have a degree or what gender we are or what the opinions of other are, right?  Why is this happening?

Monday morning rolled around.  Leaving the safe shelter of my home to go to work was incredibly difficult.  The events of last week still plagued my troubled soul and The Dixie Chicks song Not Ready To Make Nice was playing in my head.  I quietly hid in my office for most of the day still seething internally.

I had heard a Proverbs 31 Ministry Moment on the radio on my way to work that said if I wanted God to fight my battles for me then I need to ask him to do that.  When I laid down my head to go to sleep Monday night that thought was bouncing around in my head.

I spent a very restless night and eventually woke up around 3:00 am.  By 4:30 am I gave up on trying to sleep and decided to get up and spend some extra time with God in his word.  I was looking for his comfort and some answers.

By the time I picked up my Bible I had concluded that I can’t change people’s perspectives about me.  I had also decided that if someone labels you as “difficult”  it is not because you actually are, but because they just don’t want to hear what you have to say.  And that is okay because it is their problem and not mine.  They must be insecure or stubborn, and they are afraid of what might happen if what you have to say brings about a change.

I was looking for a battle plan.  Something I could use to fix the injustices.  So I looked to a Psalm that has helped me in the past.  In Psalm 25, David is asking for guidance and deliverance from his enemies:

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.  O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.  Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; Let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.  

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.

Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.  Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!

Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.  He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.  All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.  Who are they that fear the Lord?  He will teach them the way that they should choose.

They will abide in prosperity, and their children shall possess the land.  The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes his covenant known to them.  My eyes are ever towards the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.  Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress.  Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.

Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me.  O guard my life, and deliver me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.  May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you. 

Redeem Israel, O God, out of all its troubles. (NRSV)

Revelation!  A flash of insight popped into my head — I am just as much to blame for difficulties I encounter and the frustrations that I am feeling if I don’t trust in the Lord with all my heart.  My reluctance to let go and let God lead me through my day has created an opening of bitterness that the Devil is waiting to use to thwart my purposes.  This impatience on my part is what is truly causing my unsettled mind!  I can’t help how others act  or change their perceptions and assumptions about me and I don’t need to.

 I need to humble myself and allow Yahweh to lead me.  He will guide me along the right paths and he will fight any battles for me.  I just need to ask him to be my defender.  Then I need to allow him to actually lead me gracefully from season to season.

Tuesday morning looked a lot different in comparison to Monday.  A humble Pixie left for work and I started off the day by reading again Psalm 25 out loud at my desk before beginning the days tasks.  For the first time in days I could feel a calm and peace descending over me.

Today I ran across Jeremiah 17:7-8 and I am convinced that it is Yahweh telling me that I am on the right path as long as I continue to trust EVERYTHING to him:

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.  They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream.  It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. (NRSV)

These two pieces of scripture from the Old Testament are going to be my mantra, at work especially, going forward.  I have printed both passages out and they are now taped on my wall right next to my desk.  When I arrive each morning I will be using these passages as prayers to help me center myself for the day and to help set my tone and attitude.  It is also handy to have them right next to me as I work through the day.  I can quickly glance over and re-humble myself to continue on with strength, grace, and integrity.

Falling Down Picture 1Falling Down Picture 2

We all fall down.  It is up to us to choose to trust in the Lord and let him help us get back up, or to give a victory to the evil tempter by staying knocked down to dwell on things we can’t change and that are out of our control.  No matter what, though, the love and mercy of our heavenly Father is always available to us.  Whether we start over right now, tomorrow, or next month, it is never to late to get back up.

It doesn’t matter how many times we fall down either.  He will  always surround us with his love and help us pick up the pieces and start again. Every. Single. Time.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23, NRSV)