Please understand I am scared.

woman on bike reaching for man's hand behind her also on bike

I really want to be understood. I want someone else to know what I’m feeling. I don’t want to be alone.

And yet, lately I’ve been pushing people away with my anger.

There are a lot of scary things in life. So I use a lot of brain power worrying about these things. In an attempt to be calming, a common platitude offered is “You don’t have to worry about it” (or they add the foreboding “yet” at the end). They mean it in a loving manner, but their best intentions nonetheless trigger me to anxiety. This statement makes me feel that the speaker has no clue. The fact that she claims there is no need to worry is clearly a demonstration that she doesn’t understand the situation. And now, not only do a have a stressful situation, I’m left with teammate who is working against me!

Almost immediately I become terrified and either start flighting or fighting. If I feel I can’t avoid the situation, I become somewhat of a bull in a ring–terrified and lashing out in desperation. Anxiety rushes in and I feel panic and alone, unsafe and in danger.

Hopefully you can’t relate at that level (anxiety is irrational). And yet, I wanna bet that every human can relate to the pain of being misunderstood and the calming essence of feeling understood. I want to be a voice for every bristly human who is putting up her guard because she does not not feel safe and understood. I’m advocating for seeking to understand instead of seeking to pacify. Seeking to hear before seeking to teach. Seeking to connect before seeking to fix.

girl holding umbrella on grass field

“I can hear your fear and I understand why you’re scared. I’m sorry, because I know you don’t want to be afraid and it’s so exhausting when things feel unsafe.”

If you responded this way to me when I was starting to get bristly, I probably would cry. I know that is likely enough to scare you away, but I want you to know that it would only be because I needed it and this statement would make me feel understood and safe enough to release my tears.

I’m asking to be understood and helping those who care about me to understand me.

I want to hear and understand you, too. I welcome comments.

Anxiety

How would I define anxiety? How would I describe my anxiety to another person?

Anxiety is having limitless questions with no answers–and seemingly very high stakes. No answers because you don’t trust yourself. You don’t even have a gut to follow because you don’t trust any of your own thoughts, so they become only more noise in the swirling tornado.

Not having answers becomes very serious when you ask questions like “Is this issue even important?” When you don’t know which issues are life-changing and which won’t matter three seconds later, the fear is that you’ll let something go that really matters–that you’ll screw yourself over by dismissing something that was actually lifeblood.

Granted, you can ask other people for their take, and there is relief when they can confidently make a decision or offer an answer …unless for any reason it comes into question or conflict. Like when my counselor says one thing and my dad says another, but my gut offers no direction. I am paralyzed.

How do I know who is correct? I can get a third opinion and ask my boyfriend and then majority wins, if I’m lucky enough for everyone to give clear and distinct direction. But what if my dad questions my boyfriend? Then, somehow again, it’s one against one–now in two different scenarios and everything is multiplied!

tornado on far side on plain

There is no sense of confidence and every question spiral becomes eternal. Especially when someone suggests that perhaps the biggest issue is my overthinking it. “What if I am overthinking it? Would I know? Is something wrong with me? How do I stop overthinking it? If I try to ignore it, am I stuffing it? Will it come back to bite me later? What does my counselor say? But is my counselor trustworthy? Should I just make a decision? What if I make the wrong decision? Is this an important issue? Would a wrong decision really hurt me? I don’t know. How do I find out? Maybe I just need to make a decision and stick with it. Maybe it’s the sticking with it that will make it work. But now dad asked me a question that questions my commitment! Abort! Abort! This is probably a bad choice! So what do I do instead? Should I just stop thinking about it? How? If I don’t think about this issue, what happens to it? Am I becoming a victim because I’m just letting it happen instead of being proactive about it? Wouldn’t the responsible person be proactive? Maybe I’m not responsible. If I’m not responsible, maybe I can’t trust this decision. How do I know?…”

That is anxiety. That is the string of questions that I can’t shut up. Partly because they haunt me of their own accord and partly because I fear they speak some truth and to shut them up would be to silence wisdom. And wisdom is what I’m so very very desperate for right now.

Am I ashamed of this anxiety? Sometimes. Am I crippled by this anxiety? Certainly. Does this anxiety take my emotions and whip them around like a Jackson Pollock painting? Without a doubt.

AND my worth remains the same with or without anxiety. With or without shame. With or without any sense of confidence. With or without feeling valuable.

My very existence is pleasing to God. And in my weakness he is strong.

As I wrote in a previous blog post: “[God] is here in me. In me. And I do not have to fear. And when I do fear, I do not have to shame. And when I do shame, I do not have to believe it. And when I do believe it, I am still enough. I still have God in me. I cannot get rid of God.”

two persons sitting beside body of water

I want to be real and to be honest. I want to be a safe place where you can be real and honest.

Maybe this is what it looks like to pursue the path of trusting God, rather than the path of trying to please God.

So today I will speak truth to myself, whether or not I feel it. Because faith is not a feeling and truth is not dependent on emotions.

Safe Enough.

grayscale photo of man hugging woman

My dad’s mother died when he was 14 and he learned to fend for himself in a wild world. When he had children of his own, he wanted to raise us to work hard, think rationally, make wise decisions, and live a respectable life. There would be no mooching off of others. I was taught to pursue independence and work toward self-sufficiency.

This is a great work-ethic to have, but I might’ve taken it farther than I was meant to. I am an Enneagram type 7 and my type interprets much of childhood through the message, ” It’s not okay to depend on anyone for anything.” This message felt amplified through my dad’s past.

In this imperfect world, I live with anxiety constantly poking at my side and leaning forward to whisper, “It’s not safe to rely on people. It’s not safe to be in relationships.”

And what can I argue? People have fallen through in my life. People have really hurt me. I have cried many a tear as the result of one relationship or another and no matter who I surround myself with, I have yet to feel ultimate security.

blue lego minifig on white surface

So I–along with my anxiety–conclude it is true: relationships are not safe.

My counselor picked up on this line of thinking I have. She–like a good counselor–didn’t ask me to bash it in the face and leave it for dead along the side of the road. She challenged me, “Anxiety might be right that relationships aren’t entirely safe. But could they be safe enough?”

Save enough to have. Safe enough to pursue. Save enough to accept?

And, thinking on this, I was reminded again of Immanuel. Immanuel–God with me. God in me. God who cannot leave me. God who doesn’t shy away from my sin and my faults and my mistakes.

God who loves me when I am unlovable. God who knows me when I feel unknowable. God who gives me value when I feel worthless. God who defines value.

My identity is secure. My worth has a rock solid foundation. If all other relationships failed, nothing would change in my identity with my God.

And if this is the case–if I can be 100% certain of my God, secure in my identity, 100% safe in this relationship–then so what if other relationships aren’t entirely safe? So what if they hit some bumps and I argue with my sisters or scare my boyfriend or lose contact with best friends from the past?

I mean, yes, there are repercussions. Obviously my security in God has not saved me from the tears and hurt I’ve experienced in the past. I still have to be careful about who I offer myself to and with whom I am vulnerable. People will still hurt me and I will still feel like a failure. That kind of safety I am never guaranteed.

But at the end of the day, these relationships do not–and cannot–define my worth. And because that, at least, is secure. Entirely secure. I have wiggle room in my other relationships. I am free to take risks and take chances. I am feel to be in a relationship with another imperfect human because my safety is not tied to this human but to my immovable, inseparable God.

And what relief! Not only relief to me who is now free to love sisters, to love a boyfriend, to hop back into contact with best friends–to love and forgive and learn and grow–but these significant people in my life are freed from the responsibility of being perfectly safe and secure for me–a burden far too great for them to ever live up to!

Thank you, Lord!

And because of Immanuel–because of God in me, never going to leave me, always 100% safe, I am safe enough. Anxiety speaks truth–relationships are not safe. AND God also speaks truth. Because of Immanuel, I am safe enough to be in relationships.

Dreams-and Lack Thereof.

rectangular beige board

Living in the land of dreams where you can do whatever you put your mind to, be whoever you chose to be, and pursue the American Dream, to feel dreamless can feel like failure. My lack of direction, dreams, and pursuits has filled me with a steady sense of “not-enough” and “wrong,” whispered (and sometimes shouted) by shame and anxiety on a sometimes-daily basis.

Ben Carson didn’t wishy-washy his way to greatness. Martin Luther King Junior didn’t achieve through average life. Bill Gates didn’t stumble upon success. These people all followed their dreams with a motivation that only comes from having dreams that call your name.

So, clearly, my day-to-day life–focused more on holding back tears in the midst of anxiety as opposed to smiling broadly into mid air while a dream swirls around inside my head–leads me into the life of a failure, as I see it.

man standing

And then sometimes God speaks through a song. Casting CrownsDream for You” is speaking from God’s perspective.

So come on, let Me dream, let Me dream for you
I am strong when you’re weak and I’ll carry you
So let go of your plan, be caught by My hand
I’ll show you what I can do
When I dream for you
I have a dream for you

American culture teaches us that to be somebody, we have to have dreams and plans. If we don’t we are headed toward failure.

Maybe that’s not how God thinks.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying God prefers couch potatoes to ambition (though I will be the first to argue that God loves couch potatoes every single bit as much as those ambitious people. I mean, com’on! Are we trying to please God or trust that he loves us as we are?). I’m also not saying “Quit planning.” Often God gives us dreams and when that happens, my friends, you are so right to jump on it!

But God does all things in his timing and maybe today–this year–or even this decade, my lack of plans and direction and confidence in a goal is my greatest asset–as it leaves me open to whatever dreams God is preparing for me.

You know how in the Lego Movie, despite his total and absolute un-impressiveness, Emmett’s completely empty brain is actually an asset? Despite it’s apparent uselessness, his mind’s lack of activity saves him years of trying to empty his brain to become a Master Builder. I’m just thinking–maybe there is some insight there!

A Lego Movie Review – All that Glitters is Not Gold | simmerings of a saxon

I want to be a someone. I want to be seen as ambitious. Sometimes I even think I could impress God if only I had more direction.

But maybe in His lovingkindness, in His wisdom, and in His timing, He is creating fantastic dreams for me all on His own. And maybe, for now, that means resting in his hand and letting him dream for me.

At the end of the day, would it be surprising if resting in God’s dreams for me is what God wants more than me “becoming” somebody by dreaming for myself solo?

The Impossibly Hard Work of Letting Go and Relaxing

man on antelope canyon during daytime

My God cannot be put in a box. My God cannot be thwarted. My God is a big God.

If I fear that any decision I make will destroy my life, I have forgotten the power of the One I’ve committed my life to. My God is big enough to turn this ship around. He’s big enough to pick me up kicking and screaming and land me wherever he wants. He’s big enough to uproot all expectations and crush my world–according to his great plan.

Honestly, my Father makes the ultimate decisions. My friends or my life may ask me questions and I may answer as confidently or confusedly as I may, but in the end my Father dictates what happens. If one toddler asks another if sh’ed like to set her hand on a hot stove, she may agree that, indeed, she’d love to! But her father will whisk her off the stool and not allow it if it is not safe. Likewise, a child may reach for a piece of candy offered, but it the father disagrees, he will get to that candy first and pocket it for his child’s health.

I am not so powerful as I fear. Yes, we are allowed free will and we may decide to make choices against God’s will that he may allow us to follow through on. But why am I fixated on that fear as if my Father is constantly putting me to the test? God loves me and we are working on a team. As long as I am pursuing after him as best as I know how (however inadequate that may be), I have no reason to believe he’s out to watch me fail and punish me for it.

child and parent hands photography

My God knows my lack of wisdom. He understands the skewed vision with which I see. If he wants to make something clear to me he is every bit capable of literally rocking my world. And, he knows exactly how much rocking it would take for me to notice. My God knows me.

So why should I spend day after day entrenched and fully engulfed and even paralyzed in constant fear of running my life over a cliff when I’m not in the driver’s seat anyway?

How much safer, perhaps, to move forward with confidence that I am where God wants me right now. And I will remain here confidently until he makes it clear that I ought to move. And when he wants me to get a new job, it will be clear. Wouldn’t I rather risk requiring God to speak a little louder–as he’s very well capable of doing, than to spend unknown units of energy, tiptoeing around in worry, fear, and anxiety that I–walking far in front of God–may be leading us down a wrong trail?

Pastor Kirk said that God is leading us. We are not leading God. What if, instead of anxiously trying to predict his will, I simply leaned back into trust and let him lead me with a firm and gentle hold on my hand? What if I settled confidently here for a minute–sure that, for now, I am where God wants me? And, in doing so, opened the opportunity to be fully present, fully grateful, fully alive in this moment, trusting God to guide me to the next one as the time arises?

Is not my big God capable of making his will known? And, if it’s trust–innocent and as best I can–that leads me to stay just a minute longer than perhaps I could’ve, so God himself has to pick me up and direct me–do I really think I will disappoint him? Will he be upset that I snuggled back against his warm chest and let myself find peace in his guidance? Will relaxing into his power and guidance truly offend him? Will I loose his goodwill if I stop trying to anticipate his plans and always be one step ahead?

man holding girl heading towards sea

Is it not my fear of missing out, of falling short, of missing my opportunity what leads me to white-knuckle-grasp this anxiety which, in turn, makes me carry the weight of the world? And then, is he impressed by the unnecessary load his princess is shouldering and does it bring him the pleasure and joy that I hope it will–to earn his love?

Am I seeking to please God or to trust him And does trusting require that I release this burden and instead snuggle surely into his mighty protection and wisdom?

Though it seem like the lazy thing, the foolish thing, the disappointing thing, what if being the most I could be and loving him the best I could really meant sitting here–right where I am in the retail job I have, in my parents house, with a counselor I’m uncertain of. Exactly here. And simply living it up? Finding joy in the here, not because I followed my plans to get here, not because I will impress God here, not because this is the summit of all my dreams, but because, at this point, this is where God led me.

And to trust him, rejoicing in the day he has made, I bring him the greatest glory, though my calendar contains no noteworthy events and my resume no impressive titles, is to bring him the greatest pleasure? Could I humble myself to accept this offer? Could I trust this enough to rest in it? Can I relieve myself of the weight of the world for just today? Maybe just this hour?

person lying on hammock

Is that what trust requires? The impossibly hard work of letting go and relaxing? Am I willing to test this journey and this way of life?

Trusting God vs. Pleasing God

man wearing gray T-shirt standing on forest

As the famous poem goes, 

“…Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by, 

And that has made all the difference.”

Or at least, that’s the part we all know. Oh yeah, I’m Luke (the boyfriend), by the way! I decided to write a post for once, so welcome to this limited edition of The Adventurous Life.

In his poem, Robert Frost comes upon two roads in a yellow forest. Both of them have inviting features, but he can only take one. I also came upon a fork in the road two weeks ago, and I have been finding it rather hard myself: do I want to please God, or do I want to trust God?

Now, I know what you’re thinking: both! You want to please AND trust God. I agree, however, I have to choose. You may be thinking, “You don’t have to choose, you SHOULD do both!” They sound like they could go well together, but in practical application, when I’m working to please God, I am not trusting that I am pleasing to God just the way I am. And when I do take the path of trusting that my identity alone is pleasing to God, there is no longer reason to work at pleasing him. If you’re striving to please, you’re no longer trusting, so they cannot happen simultaneously. 

yellow arrow road sign

The other day, I was reading Truefaced, and in it the authors were talking of two trails that lead to two completely different places:The Room of Striving to Be All God Wants Me to Be and The Room of Grace.

I don’t know about you, but I was always taught that salvation is through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). No works I do can ever be enough to get me to heaven. They all fall short (remember that cliff illustration? God over there, me over here with the cross spanning the gulf. Beautiful!). So as you can see, we all start our salvation journey by faith (or trust) alone.  However, after I gave my life to Christ, trusting Him to save me, I was placed on a journey that brought me to this sign that marked to paths: “Pleasing God” and “Trusting God”

This confused me because I sang a song in church that said “Trust and obey.” Did I just get the wrong conjunction? No, that’s the way the song goes, and both things are important, but like we discussed before–we have to choose only one to be a priority.

I, however, confused my priorities and I started walking down the path of Pleasing God because, after all that He’s done for me, I want to please Him with my life. I opened the door to the Room of Striving to Be All God Wants Me to Be. In the room, I saw many people, and they looked good, all put together, and really pleasing God. This is where I’ve spent the majority of my life–wearing the mask of good intentions.

It was hard staying in The Room of Striving when I had things in my life that would make it look like I wasn’t really striving to be all God wants me to be. Just being honest here, I’ve got some sins that I am currently struggling with that many Christians would gasp at and maybe even wonder if I’m truly saved if I still struggle with these things. This makes me want to hide them away so I can look like I’m pleasing God. Then I go to sweep up my mess when nobody’s looking. I wanted to be accepted so I had to wear a mask to cover up my scars. 

woman in orange and blue life vest on water

In The Room of Grace, however, I don’t need a mask. When I walk down the road of Trusting God, I find that God says I’m His masterpiece and that He is rather fond of me. He says that he hates it when I put my mask on and asks me to leave it at the trailhead. He wants to walk with me and He wants to enjoy me for me. 

And with this we find the answer to our paradox: when we walk down the road of Trusting God with who we are, and stop trying to please God by hiding our sins, He can then stand with us, with our sin out in front of us, and He then grabs His shovel and starts digging away at my sin. What about you? Are you willing to put down your mask with me? God wants to love us for who we are, not for who we’re trying to be. 

“…Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

Re: Cheap Toilet Paper and Free Salvation!

person holding white toilet paper roll

Since the toilet paper scare of 2020, Aldi began buying paper products from other providers in addition to their normal ones and, very quickly, became immensely overstocked in paper products. After cramming the small back room full of towers of toilet paper and paper towel in dozens of brands, corporate finally let us put them on sale to clear out the extra.

We put them out on the sales floor dirt cheap. Quality toilet paper was selling in 4-roll packs for 49 cents each. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal!

Obviously, I stocked up for myself. Then I bought a supply for my family. Then for my boyfriend. Then I proceeded to tell others I knew about the fantastic deal. Toilet paper and paper towel is something everyone needs. Aldi wanted to get rid of it and my friends were going to use it–what a win win to share with the world!

Was I embarrassed to share this good deal with the people in my life? No. I’ll admit I laughed at myself when others laughed at me, but what’s a little laughing in the face of some fantastic savings?!

Why is it so easy to tell those around me about a fantastic toilet paper deal, but so hard to share about a free salvation deal that I also know about? I don’t mind looking a little goofy to spread the good news about toilet paper, but how awkward it is to share the good news about salvation?

Image result for angry preacher

I think it’s because of the stigma. Christians have earned a reputation for beating others over the head with a Bible, and judging people into the faith with stories of damnation to hell. We’re known for our “I know what you need more than you do, and for your sake, I will continue to shove it down your throat!” approach. Motivated more by our hate for sinners than our love for those around us.

And when I focus on this stigma, I’m rather put off from evangelizing. Which, in some ways, I think is a good thing. Traditional evangelizing doesn’t go over so well in our generation. Our generation has already had a million and a half things shoved down their throats through constant advertising and this approach isn’t so very effective to us younger folks.

At the same time, if we really do have the good news, what does it mean to not share it? Penn Jillette, a well known atheist, made this hard-cutting point: “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

When I found the toilet paper deal, I didn’t work hard to manipulate the topic of every conversation toward the direction of toilet paper, in order to “win over” the masses. I didn’t go out on the street and yell at people, telling them if they didn’t make the most of this deal, they were money-wasting idiots. However, when the opportunity arouse, I also didn’t hesitate to smile a bit of a dorky smile, and share the good news I had found.

brown wooden tissue box

What if we start sharing the gospel the same way we share about other good news we stumble across? Not with manipulation or force, not with judgment or attacks, but simply with a goofy smile, when God surfaces the opportunity, and with the knowledge that it is not our job to save people–only to share the deal we ourselves have embraced.

Our God is not a manipulative God. And the message we share about salvation can stand on it’s own two feet. We are called to share the good news–not to force the good news, nor to attack with the good news.

By now the cheap toilet paper and paper towels might be sold out. But the gift of salvation isn’t. You’re welcome to look into that deal more and I’d be happy to offer reviews on my experience with my faith (comments on my posts are always appreciated!). I care about you, so I share my gospel with you. Like with the toilet paper, you can choose to take it or leave it but know that my love for you requires that I at least say something when the opportunity arises.

“How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

Pleasing God without the Dreams.

silhouette photo of five person walking on seashore during golden hour

My Christian college took the idea of the secular “American Dream” and Christian-ized it to be preached in a godly way to the Christian university population. What was the American Dream became this Christian perspective: if you play to the strengths God has given you, you will be able to “Build a life that matters.” What I took away from that was that, so long as I was playing to my God-given strengths, I would have no problem finding a fulfilling job where I truly made a difference. And, of course, if I was appreciated at work, I should be able to make enough money to live independently. Along with that, I’d come home from work confident and unstressed–ready to use my strengths outside of work to build fulfilling relationships and encourage my friends, spreading joy wherever I went.

Yeah, yeah, I know the American Dream isn’t real, but this sounded like it could merge with my faith. It also sounded pretty darn nice: use the gifts God’s given you and, in return, he will provide fulfilling satisfaction. Why not? I mean, God’s totally in the center of that equation, so it’s fair to believe he’ll honor that system, right? He wants to be in the center of our lives.

God created me to accomplish things beyond what I could imagine. He has great plans for me.  Ephesians 2:10 has been quoted to me countless times: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” He set up my fulfilling life before I was even born! There is good stuff out there for me!

When I graduated college, I had no clue what career I wanted to pursue, but seeing as how I had wrapped school up earlier than most and I finished valedictorian, I clearly had God’s blessing. So I was off to find and then offer the world my amazing, God-given strengths!

So far I’m finding my story far less picturesque than I was led to believe it could be. I did find a job and moved away independently. It was even at a Christian camp, so that seemed a god place to grow God-given strengths.

But then, with this good set up, out of the blue, I was asked to resign and I returned to my parents home and started working retail.

Every so often my college will ask for updates with questions like, “Have you gotten married? Started a new job? Achieved a new goal? Share your updates with us!” I delete the email in shame thinking about what “pride” I’d bring my school if I told them, “No, I actually got fired from my job and then started a job a high schooler could do. My boyfriend and I ran into a hard patch and I don’t even have goals to aim for!”

What about God carrying through on my “building a life that matters”? What about my strengths being appreciated and changing the world? What about my confidence soaring?

silhouette of man and woman under yellow sky

And most days, carrying on my daily life, working my high school job from my parents house, I think about how I let myself down. How I let my school down. And, evidently, how I let God down. I was told God has great plans for me. Clearly, I’ve failed something, and missed out on those. I assure you, right now, I am not living out any great plans.

Yesterday I read the following: “But Jesus did live with family, and, as Betsy Ricucci points out, that’s all he had done at the time the Father proclaimed, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’ (Matthew 3:17). ‘What had Jesus done to receive such praise? Nothing but live in his own home, honoring his parents and serving his father’s carpentry business. Apparently that was enough to please God.'”

And Luke shared with me the other day from a book he was reading. He said you can live your life trying to please God, or you can live your life trying to trust God. When you try to please God through your works, you are not accepting the fact that he is pleased with you completely regardless of your actions. However, when you live your life with the goal of learning to trust God (even in the simple things), you are doing what he created you for: you are pleasing him. Your existence is bringing him joy.

woman riding on swing during sunset

I don’t know how to accept this truth. Too long I have been caught up in the “God has great plans for you. The moment you are living in his great plans, both you and God will find the ultimate fulfillment.” But the truth that Betsy Ricucci and Luke’s book point out is that, even in my parents house, even without career goals, even having been fired, even when Luke and I hurt each other through our imperfections, even in the uncertain mundane, every moment of my existence is pleasing to God.

Oh Father, help my unbelief!

All the time in the world.

analog clock at 12 am

As a teenager, I started this really weird habit of jogging in place in the shower while rinsing my hair. Mostly it was because I was using freezing water in an attempt to save on our electric bill (thanks, 2008 recession… I owe a lot to you…) and had to stay warm somehow, but also because if I could get at least part of a workout in while I was showering, think of how much more productive my shower would be! This is also why I’ve clipped my nails while driving, read books while on the elliptical, written letters in church, and brushed my teeth while sitting on the toilet (some of these are certainly far less advisable than others and just because I mention them does not mean I am condoning them).

Efficiency brings me excitement and the passing of time brings me anxiety. The natural result is multitasking at desperate levels. After all, who has time to accomplish all the things life requires of us? And isn’t every day spent rushing to complete the tasks which we barely finish before another one arises?

And I live certain that joy is just around the corner… when I finally arrive at that place where multitasking and hurried efficiency is fully accomplished and every day I have made a little extra time for myself. When my to-do list is finally done and I am left with no commitments because I have already checked them all off the list.

person clicking Apple Watch smartwatch

Somehow it feels that would be the moment when I have finally found satisfaction and relief in the race of time. Honestly, I sacrifice a lot in pursuit of this goal.

And, in the midst of it–literally–as I was reading a “self-help” book during a cardio workout, I found this thought:

“God gives us time. And who has time for God?

“Which makes no sense.

“In Christ, don’t we have everlasting existence? Don’t Christians have all the time in eternity, life everlasting? If Christians run out of time–wouldn’t we lose our very own existence? If anyone should have time, isn’t it the Christ-followers?”

I have been pondering this since the moment I read–and then reread–it. Wouldn’t I argue too, that Christians have eternity in their future? And what does that mean for my hurried breakfast on the drive to work and three pots on the stove top at the same time?

On the one had, nothing. Nothing! I might have eternity in my future, but I still will not have time to strengthen my muscles if I don’t do calf raises at work, or make a decent dinner if I don’t cut corners and not actually peel the carrots, or write my next blog post if I don’t zone out while my sister is talking with me. So. A lot of good eternity is going to do me if I can’t even get my crap done today! Deadlines are now… not off in forever!

brown-and-white clocks

On the other hand… I do have eternity. And to see from that perspective is to see from a perspective where maybe whether or not my teeth were brushed before I went to class, or my calves were toned, or my nails clipped, or my blog post written is really not of that much significance.

So I’m currently tied up in the middle: my emotions still desperately seeking after the “efficient” multitasking in the search for success, while my mind is trying to pause long enough to question if this busywork is as important as I make it out to be.

Would I live differently if I recognized I had all the time in the world? What about if I had more time than that–because my life continued even after this world stopped? Would that change a single thing I do? Not just in theory, but in real-life action?

Maybe I’ll ponder that while I am at work, finishing up the nightly duties, or while I’m working out, or maybe while I’m writing a blog post. But will I ever stop, stop the rush, and ponder that alone while not doing anything else? Will I live like I have endless time?

Hurting is Okay.

a woman sits on the end of a dock during daytime staring across a lake

“So, what did you come here for?” The doctor asked, pretty much cutting through the small talk to the actual intent. I could get behind that.

“Well, especially with how I was feeling in the bleak of winter, we started to question if I am struggling with depression/anxiety and I was desperate enough to set up an appointment (which is saying something!). I pretty much hated everything about life and felt there was nothing to look forward to.” I didn’t state in in a self-pitying way, but in a “this is my situation and I freaking need something different” kind of way.

The doctor, washing his hands, turned his head my way. “Was there anything to look forward to?”

I may have smiled a self-conscious smile. “I have a lot I should be grateful for. I feel guilty for not being happier with what I have…” Then I continued, “…but, no, I don’t think there was anything specifically to look forward to.”

smiling emoji balloon beside black car during daytime

There it was. I wanted to share honestly, but I was pretty sure I just sealed the deal on the “depression” diagnosis. The person who, in honesty, admits there is nothing to be excited about has something wrong with her, right?

I like doctors who aren’t that predictable.

He responded, “So why would you expect to be excited and looking forward to the future?”

Got ’em!

I do think that depression is a real thing, and that there is a healthy level of joy that the average person should have–enough to at least motivate them to keep living. Pain is a signal that something needs to change. If you’re constantly depressed and hating life, I’ll side with you: something needs to change. Normalizing the pain isn’t a safe answer in and of itself.

At the same time, do you ever wonder if the dissatisfaction and general seething frustration in life is–at least to some degree–a self-fulfilling prophecy? For instance, say I find myself generally upset with life and starting to question what there is to inspire life to continue. Then I startle, and realize that I just asked “what’s the point?” Normal people don’t ask “what’s the point?”! They just come pre-programmed with a desire to live! Gosh! Something must be wrong with me! And, holy cow, if something is wrong with me, what the heck is the point??

a man walks alone in the haze

Yes, yes, it certainly goes deeper than that and the doctor wasn’t trying to “solve” my possible depression simple as that. Recently I read On My Worst Day which included a terribly relatable quote: “I’m in way too much pain to carry the added pain of disappointing you.”

I’m not saying recognizing this world is depressing is going to stop real depression. But some days what pushes me over the top isn’t the actual hurt in the first place, but the sense that I am wrong to hurt.

Some days, months, seasons I hurt a lot. And then I add to that hurt the feeling that I am wrong to hurt. And… I hurt worse.

The doctor’s question didn’t solve my pain. But it did take away some of that extra pressure I was putting on myself–at least for a moment. If there was nothing to be excited about, why am I wrong to not feel excited?

Dudes (talking to myself here!), when you hurt, have some self-compassion. When you recognize that you’re not as happy, as empowered, as brave, or as content as you’d like, maybe–ironically–asking the question, “Why do I expect myself to be happy/empowered/brave/content?” might bring some clarity.

Don’t ask “Would I like myself to feel happy/empowered/brave/content?” That’s focusing on where you’re not. Been there, done that, wouldn’t suggest it.

I am working hard to relax into the belief that I am okay, I am valuable, exactly how I am. I may not like how I am, but I am not wrong to feel as I do. I should not have expectations for myself that, although they may be pretty, idealistic, and make everyone else jealous, are actually only shooting myself in the foot.

pink and red flower illustration

Wanna join me in this search for self-compassion? Don’t try to fix me, and I won’t try to fix you. You’re not wrong to hurt. Don’t add disappointment and shame on to the pain you’re already feeling. Life already hurts too much to add that pain too.