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Creating an epic journey

I finally got to see Donald Miller, one my favorite authors, speak a few weeks ago in Whittier about his book, A Million Miles in a 1,000 Years.

This book and lecture is about story. The story we are telling with our lives. How we live. What drives us. What are our goals. Role of conflict? How do we live to make sure that our lives tell an epic journey?

It really made me think about my life, especially where I am now and what’s next for me. Yet what really grabbed me most was his notion that God doesn’t have a specific plan for our lives and that we are not complete in Him. So what then is the story and how do we tie into HIStory and if we are not complete in God what’s the point? Thought provoking isn’t it. Don’t call it blasphemous just yet.

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Transitions and New Beginnings

In many ways I viewed coming back to Southern California, coming home. This is where I lived for 15 years. This is where my closest friends are. This is where I feel most like me. In essence this is where I grew up. This is where they have wonderful non-chain restaurants.

Yet, coming back has been wonderful and more difficult than I thought. A lot has happened in the last two years. I’m not saying you can’t go home again, but I wasn’t prepared for the adjustment.

Ah yes adjustment, that could be why I keep dreaming of fake weddings which are ironically about death, the end of an era so to speak. That is definitely the case for me.

Coming here is a great new beginning, not just a continuation of the life I longed for while I was in Ohio. That life is over. Friends move on, get married, have babies, move away, or you just have less in common. It happens.

So this is a new beginning. With new beginnings comes awkwardness, uncertainty, fear, exhilaration, nervousness, and risk. Yet there is also much anticipation for what will be and what I am becoming.

One of the great things about this time, before I find a job, is that I am having a chance to reconnect with people that weren’t as big a part in my old life. I had coffee with a friend I haven’t seen since college. It was great. I’m also meeting new people and am actually going to church. I’m having a chance to reconnect with God, outside of the bubble that is my family and all of the baggage that entails. I like it when its just me and God. I am finally able to reconnect with his love for me. I couldn’t feel it there for a while.

All of this means that I am slowly getting back to me and coming back alive. I feel like I’ve been sleeping, surviving, and enduring, that is not living. I’m scared out of my mind about many things but I’m finally getting some traction and moving forward. I am grateful for this time of reflection, healing and rejuvenation. So much to process. So much to decide. So much to absorb. While I’m starting to worry about finding a job, I know this time is sacred. I wasn’t ready to jump into a job when I first got here. I’m getting there.

Desires of the Heart

A conversation I had with my Uncle Sean a few weeks ago has been stuck in my head. We were talking about dreams, goals and prayer which lead to a discussion of God’s will and what that really means.

I know that God’s will isn’t a yellow brick road that you magically find, skip along and end up meeting the wizard. I believe that God’s will is found in the small, seemingly inconsequential decisions that reveal our true character and faith. This is where the daily struggle is found. This is why we can’t wait til the big decision to invite God into the equation, by then it’s too late.

With this definition of God’s will, the verse “God will give us the desires of our heart” has a whole new meaning. We read the whole verse to see that our dreams come true when we delight in him.

But Uncle Sean took it a step further when he said we place the emphasis on the wrong part of that verse. God will GIVE US the desires of our heart. It doesn’t mean we create those dreams it means that he gives the dreams to us when we delight in him. It isn’t about us at all. They aren’t technically our dreams, they are his that he places in our heart when we’re in tune with him.

Ewwww! That throws a monkey wrench into my prayers. See I have been pestering God for months about where I should live. What should I do with my life. Will I ever get married? Are kids in my future at all? He cares about these things because he cares about me, but that isn’t the point.

My life thus far has been consumed with the wrong things. In part, my restlessness has been because I was praying for the wrong things. My old pastor always said that God cares about our character not our career.

Today, during the sermon, our pastor was talking about how God doesn’t play second fiddle  to our flesh (desires, ambitions, and sins). Ouch! God’s will for us isn’t about careers, job, marriage but who he is shaping us to be. The story he is telling through our lives is about emptying us of our junk, maturing us, and building relationships as He uses us to help others on their journey.

So, I am smack in the middle of God’s will when I’m uncomfortable, stretched and beyond myself. A.k.a living in Ohio, navigating the wake of my parent’s divorce and struggling to finally put my childhood to rest. Yea fun. But necessary. This isn’t just a detour, but is a major part of what God is doing in me. I need to face these things. I need to grow in ways that only these situations will allow. God fully intended for me to traverse this path to get where he wants to take me.

So its not about rules, self-righteousness, playing church, appearances, approval from others,  or any host of other things that fall outside of the realm of what God is trying to do in and through us.  But God can’t take us to where he wants us to go unless we submit everything to him. That’s the kicker. Stay with me.

We have to surrender our dreams, goals, and ambitions. It is part of the refining process he wants to do in our lives. He needs to mature us. God wants us to be whole. He doesn’t want us to be stuck in the past with our hurts, destructive patterns, fears, and wrong ideas. The sermon today was about God’s maturing process. How he moves us forward. The fruits of the spirit are evidence of a mature heart. They aren’t something we are given at salvation. They are something we are continually working on as we grow in Christ, grow in love, grow in maturity.

So rather than pray about where to live, what job to take in order to get where God wants me to go I need to pray about what I need to learn, where I can grow and what he’s trying to show me. Through these things my course in life will be revealed. That almost sounded like a fortune.

But it gives new focus to my prayers. It also returns my focus to my relationship with God instead of trying to make him a genie. I think that is what God cares about more than how much I miss California. He misses me. What a concept. God loves me so much he wants to spend time with me. He longs for me. He desires my attention. God wants me. Sitting with that notion is humbling, comforting, and peaceful.

Yet I know God is willing to let the tough times come. He will put me in the wilderness. He will lead me through the fire. He will do what it takes to help me put my flesh to death so that more and more of Christ shines through me. We have to die to ourselves. We have to live in the freedom of our salvation. But that doesn’t mean we get what we think we want. It means we’re willing to let all of that go and embrace the journey God has us on that includes the wilderness, the dry times, the times when he seems silent. There is a point to all of it, it really isn’t about torturing us. It’s about us pursing him and those things that are important to him.

Lots to digest. It feels like I’ve heard these things all my life yet separately not together. They were disjointed thoughts that have been crystallizing over the past few weeks (years apparently here was a message I heard nearly two years ago about this same thing, kind of). Maybe he’s tired of my prayers. Or maybe this is my answer to those prayers. Not sure. Haven’t gotten that far.

But at the end of the day I’ve learned its more important than ever to live in the moment. Be grateful for what is and not wish it away. I need to suck the joy and pain out of every circumstance because there is a point to it that makes me more of who God wants me to be. I am becoming. I am in process. I am in progress.

This doesn’t mean I stop dreaming or setting goals it just means that as I get closer to God my dreams might change or they’ll become clearer and doors for them to come true will open. Because our pastor also reminded us that it is as we growth that God can open new options. As we mature we can move beyond the childish things that used to occupy our time, namely ourselves.

See God’s Word and psychology do line up. Emotional maturity is characterized by the ability to be other-centered and belief in something bigger than ourselves. All truth is God’s truth regardless of where it comes from because he is the author of it. But that is another post 🙂

Ok this is a lot to process. These are the things rambling around in my brain. Welcome to the chaos and insanity.

Restless and Dreams

I’ve been ferociously restless lately.

I don’t know if its the onset of my 30th birthday and all that entails – I’m still single, no family, no house, haven’t figured out what I want to be when I grow up. The break-up with my boyfriend or contemplating getting back together with him. Not knowing where I belong, should I stay here or move closer to my family. The doldrums of being smack in the middle of my grad school program. Or maybe that I am looking at all these things as the glass half empty.

Not sure what the root cause is. Maybe its everything all rolled into one giant malaise that I can’t seem to shake. All that to say that this morning I was reading the Singles’ Channel on Christianity as I procrastinated on my thrilling lug nut endeavors and came across a little article on dreaming. I’ve copied the paragrah that really grabbed my attention, see below. It made me wonder, have I procratinated on my dreams too. Is that why I’m so unsettled in my life. Maybe I just need more focus. But it made me feel little kid excited to think about the following things:

“One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given was to make three lists: things I want to have, things I want to do, and things I want to be. These lists are supposed to contain everything from the trivial to the over-the-top. For example, my “have” list contains such things as owning an antique armoire, achieving flat abs (that’s over-the-top for me!), and having a home where people always feel free to stop by and hang out. My “do” list includes taking a cooking class, setting my roommate up with a cool Christian guy, and reading through the entire Bible. My “be” list contains being debt-free, becoming a letter writer, and being comfortable sharing my faith.” – Camerin Courtney

So tell me what are your dreams? Things I want to have: A family of my own. Things I want to do: Go to Europe. Maybe clean my room. Things I want to be: More organized. Those don’t really seem that lofty or exciting.

What really is the dream of my heart – no idea.