Dream vs. Reality

I have hugely wild, huge and ambitious dreams of what I want to accomplish in my life.  And some days, I feel as though I’m failing miserably.

But, am I really failing miserably?

Many of these dreams are things that I truly feel God has put in my heart to do.  And I pray every single day for God’s guidance in my life on what I’m supposed to do.  And day after day after day after day, here I am, just trudging along.

I feel as though I’m not making any progress on those dreams.  And in the things I am doing to work towards some of those dreams, well some of those things I feel aren’t making any progress.

Currently, I have a job that I don’t honestly feel reaches my full potential.  I am a Teacher’s Aide.  I’m the low man on the totem pole.  Don’t get me wrong, I do feel that my job is important.  And I do feel like I am making a difference in the lives of the students I work with.  I know that I do different, more complex things than many other people with my job title.  And I honestly do feel like this is where God has called me to be right now.  Yet there are times that I want more.  For a couple of reasons.

I am looked down upon by some of my colleagues.  Not that any of them would every blatantly say that.  But it’s in the little things that I experience that tells me they value my worth less than other certified teachers.  For example, yesterday, one of the other teachers went all the way around me to ask for a key to my room, so she could use my room when she needed.  She didn’t ask if that was ok with me.  She went all the way around me.  And then, when she did have the opportunity to discuss it with me, well, she didn’t.

But, beyond that, I feel like God has put things on my heart to want more out of life.  More than what I’m currently doing.

I’m just not so sure of what that is.

But…

Perhaps all of these things are preparing me for something else.

If I turn to the Bible, what does it tell me to do?  Be humble.  Be a servant.  Love God.  Love people.

Humble.

This one is tough.  Because I have always struggled with my self-worth.  But if I have low self-esteem, am I really just being humble?  Well…no.

Low self-esteem basically means I feel I have absolutely no value in the world.  I am worthless.

Being humble means I recognize that I can do great things, but not because I am super awesome and amazing.  No, no.  I can do these great things because God has given me these gifts, talents, abilities, strengths, etc.  Knowing that someone far greater than I is in charge, and the one that really has those talents and abilities.  That is being humble.

Servant.

Jesus tells many parables about how the last shall be first and the first shall be last.  How we should strive to serve others.  To help others when we can.

Have you watched the show New Amsterdam?  If you haven’t, as soon as you’re finished reading this, go watch all of the episodes.  My DVR is full of TV shows and movies that I rarely have time to watch because I’m too busy doing other things in life.  But this show, this is one I love to watch.  The main character is the head of a public hospital in New York City, and his entire world is filled by one question.  “How can I help?”

Each show revolves around some new challenge that must be faced, and no matter what is going on in his own personal world, the offer to help others is always forefront in his life.

I know that the show is fiction (though based loosely in reality).  But even fiction can help us grow as humans.

How can I help?

This phrase changed my life.

When I go to school, my main role is to help others.  Other teachers.  Administration.  Students.  How can I help you?  What can I help you do to be successful?  Even on the farm, I take the same approach.

I get a little salty about some of the things I end up doing.  Because I do want to do more.  And sometimes I feel like I am not only being held back from doing greater things, I feel like I’m being pushed down.

One of my bucket list items is to help during harvest by running the combine all by myself.

I have barely been able to convince my dad to let me cut the last little strip of beans, while he watches over every single move I make.

But what my role typically ends up being is the gopher.  Meaning…I do all of the little jobs, that, though vitally important to the operation of the farm, really kind of stink in doing sometimes.  I take a wagon out to the field.  I make a trip looking for engine oil because there’s an oil leak.  I make parts runs.  I go put drops in my grandma’s ears because she has a Dr. appointment in a couple of days.

I get the minuscule tasks that really don’t seem all that important.  And it’s easier for my mom to be the one to run the combine because she’s been doing it for years and years and years.  Not that I can’t learn how to do it.  Not that I’m incapable of doing it.  I just don’t know how.

I do know that value is found in those small little tasks.  As I said, they are vitally important.  Because, if I hadn’t gone to retrieve the oil, we would have been shut down for hours.

So I get it.  Those tasks are important.

But I still want more.

But maybe putting in my time, learning the value in those smaller jobs, whether on the farm, or at school, maybe one of these days, they will all lead to bigger and better things.  Maybe these things are preparing me for something much bigger.

Or maybe I won’t get to experience all of those great things myself.  But my role in life as the servant doing these things is part of a much larger plan for something else.

Only God knows.

I know that no matter how salty I get about things, this is where I am supposed to be right now.

Love God.

This one shouldn’t be difficult.  And in the overall, big picture of my life, it isn’t.  But, like any relationship, we have our moments.

Some days, I really don’t understand why I am in the places that God has me in.

But I trust in God’s big plan for my life.

Love People.

Other people make this a challenge sometimes.  Sometimes, I may not be all that easy to love myself.  But the best marketing plan any Christian can do is to love other people.  No matter what.  No matter who they are.  No matter what they have done.  You love other people.

So…here I am.  Trudging along in another day.  I’m not where I want to be in so many areas of my life right now.  But I trust with my whole heart that I am where God needs me to be.

Ok, God…I Get It

“What comes out of your mouth is an overflow of what is in your heart.”
-Jeff Michael

“It is because of the hurt we have experienced that we are capable of showing great love towards others.”
-Me

I have a name that has been mispronounced so many times, I’m not even sure I pronounce it correctly any more.  Honestly, it shouldn’t be that difficult to pronounce.  But clearly it is.

As a result, I intentionally make sure I try to pronounce other people’s names correctly.

I have a digestive system that is high maintenance.  Which often leads to feeling left out.

As a result, when I know someone else has issues, I make the appropriate accommodations, and make them something they can have.

I have a birthday that is difficult to celebrate.

As a result, I try to make sure I am joyous over other people’s birthday.

I have been having a long talk with God this morning, because I feel the hurt this week.  I feel the hurt today.  I feel the hurt right now.

But in life, hurt will happen.  We will be both the recipients and the deliverers of the hurts.  I’m not perfect.  I know that I have hurt people in the past.  Not that I’m a horrible person and purposefully hurt other people.  But I’m human.  And it happens.

And when that hurt happens, we have to choices.  Two polar opposite choices we can make.

1. We can let that hurt and hatred settle in our hearts, lash out at others, and try to make others hurt as badly as we do.

OR…

2. We can let that hurt and hatred settle in our hearts, and try to make sure no one else ever has to feel that way ever again.

Both choices define you.

I can’t say that I am grateful to have gone through the things that I have.  But I also know that experiencing and surviving some of the things that I have have defined my character.  It was a conscious choice to choose the God path in my life, and realize that the only way to combat hate is with great love towards others.  The only way to combat violence is with great love towards others.

When asked about what the greatest of the commandments were, Jesus answered quite simply “Love God, and love other people.”

He didn’t say to love them when they loved you.

He didn’t say to love them only when they were worthy.

He didn’t say to love them only when they agree with you.

He didn’t say to love them only when they were the same race as you, the same gender as you, the same belief system as you.

He just said to love them.

Love them all.

Love them fiercely.

Love them without condition.

Just love them all.

You may be struggling today.  You may feel like no one cares.  Like you’re no one special.  Like you’re the only one that feels this way.

You’re not.

Read that again.

You.  Are.  Not.

You ARE special.

You ARE loved.

Want to know what you are not?

You are NOT alone.

Take a deep breath.  Take a step forward.  Then take another step forward.  Use the hurt you feel.  Use it for good.

Because the benefits you receive from that will change your world.  Change it for the better.

Life is an Adventure

Youth group: last night.  12 teens, 6 adults, sitting around my friends living room.  Awkward looks across the room. How is this going to go? Am I really prepared to do this?  

Of course I am.  

I love youth group.  

Stressful as they may be to work with at times, and yesterday was definitely a stressful day, I love working with teenagers.  

And the series that we are starting with is so much fun.  Life is an adventure.  

So here are the basics of it:

There seems to be this formula for being a Christian that we all think we have to follow to make it to heaven one day.  But look for more unique, or beyond the normal ways of spending time with God.

When asked what they thought of when asked how to spend time with God, we got a whole list of church answers.  You know what I’m talking about. Read my Bible. Pray. Go to church.  

Don’t get me wrong, I do think those things are important.  Because they are. But they are far from the only ways to spend time with God.  

Several people opened up last night that they struggle with reading the Bible.  They just simply struggle with being able to comprehend what it actually means, or the message that it is trying to convey.  I get it. Been there myself. Some days, I still am there myself.  Because when it gets into Deuteronomy and it keeps listing the rules over and over and over and OVER again, my eyes start to cross, and I simply start to wander off into la la land.  

It happens.

Don’t tell me you’ve never experienced it.

But there are strategies to help focus more, and to understand what the Bible is actually talking about.  For one, I started reading a Life Application Study Bible. So beyond actually reading what the Bible says, super smart people also tell us what’s actually going on, why it is important, and how you can apply principles that were established thousands of years ago, to life today.  For example, in my Old Testament reading I am currently in Exodus, and it’s the part where Moses is explaining all of the rituals that God commanded them to have in order to worship Him.  

The first few times I read this, I thought it was absurd.  And I didn’t understand it. And I got frustrated. But there was one comment in my Bible that has helped me tremendously.  People living at that time didn’t know how to worship.

Did you catch that?

Worshiping God was a completely brand new concept.  

So looking at this, reading this, from the perspective that I have, where people have worshiped God for thousands of years, we kind of know what to do.  

But back in the day, no one had any idea of what to do, or how to worship.  What they weren’t supposed to do, or wear, or anything.  

So knowing that one teeny, tiny piece of information makes complete sense.  So now I’m reading with that lens in place, and it is far less ridiculous.  

If you go back to the beginning of what I was writing in this post, you should recall that our discussion last night centered around the non-formulaic ways to spend time with God.  And then I brought up Exodus, and the very strict formula they were given to worship God. So why did things change? 

Easy.

Jesus.

Jesus changed everything.  

Jesus made this relationship possible. His life, his death, his sacrifice, made my life possible.

So…adventures.

The last big adventure I went on was near the end of summer, and I went on a short trip with 2 of my girlfriends from college, to celebrate our 20th anniversary.  Which just seems ludicrous. Because there is no possible way that I started college 20 years ago. Except, we did. So when we started planning this trip, and the location that we chose, it was mentioned that ziplining was available.  

My mom has even stated that she wanted to try ziplining sometime.

So I mentioned that I had never went, and I needed to check it off my bucket list.

I’m an idiot.

Because guess what?

I hate heights.  Like, really hate them.  A lot. Just thinking about it gives me heart palpitations.  And I might cry. Or pee my pants a little.

Ok, maybe not.  

So first of all, let me tell you one thing.  When we actually made the plans to go ziplining, I started praying.  A lot. Because I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make it.  So I prayed, and prayed, and prayed. Before, during, and after.  

If life, and my relationship with God, is an adventure, I think my experience ziplining describes it quite perfectly.  When I was standing on the platform, getting hooked up to the line, I was terrified. Absolutely terrified. I was scared to take that leap the very first time.  Because I had no idea what to expect. Am I really about to trust a harness and a little strip of cord to support me and carry me to the next platform? What is it going to feel like?  Am I going to vomit? I had no idea what to expect.  

For those of you who are tentative about beginning a relationship with God, you may feel much like I did standing on that platform.

But I lept.  And it was amazing.  

I landed on the next platform, that happened to be up a tree.  So we’re all standing on the platform, and it’s swaying a little.  And I really think that I might puke. I am completely freaking out yet again.  And then it was my turn to zip once again. I stood up to get attached to the line.  And I couldn’t lift my feet. I thought they were going to have to push me. But then I had the realization that being stuck up the tree was my problem.  That is what was making me nervous. I knew that as soon as I lifted my feet, and trusted the line and the harness and our guides, I would be perfectly fine.

And.  I. Was.  

Maybe you’re exactly where I was up in that tree.  You’ve began your relationship with God, but you’ve landed on the platform, which isn’t a bad place to be.  But you’re afraid to move forward. You’re afraid to take the leap, because you just aren’t sure of what is going to happen.  Things turned out fine the first time, but what if the next time, they don’t. What if it isn’t going to feel the same? What if it’s worse?  

Well, guess what?  I had 7 lines to zip.  And every single time I had to lift my feet and jump, it kept getting easier and easier.  

By the end, I wasn’t holding on with a death grip.  I was relaxing, and going with the flow. I even let myself flip upside down, because I trusted that I would be ok.

Your relationship with God is and adventure.  It can and it will be scary sometimes.  But in the end, it is so totally and completely worth it.

Personally, I can’t wait to go ziplining again.

Yes, you can be nervous.  But take the leap. I promise, it’s worth it.  

Live the adventure.

Love the adventure.