Loving Your Right-Now Life

I often find myself thinking I’ll be happier when I achieve certain things or change this or that. But there’s always something else that sneaks onto my list. It never ends.

And I’m pretty confident that I’m not the only one.

It’s easy to think that acquiring more things or achieving bigger goals will make us happier. And maybe they do. For a while, at least. Until some other shiny thing catches our eye.

When is enough enough?

How do we get to a point where we can just love the lives we’re living right now?

I think we can start today. We can start right here, right now. Wherever that may be.

We don’t have to wait for tomorrow, next month, or next year. We don’t need more money, better jobs, bigger homes, or more impressive lives to flaunt on social media. We just need contentment. We need to be grateful for what we have and see the emptiness of continually chasing after what we don’t have.

If we don’t put a stop to it, we’ll find ourselves in a never-ending chase. We will never be satisfied. We’ll keep pursuing one thing after another, hoping the next one will bring us happiness, only to find that none of them can.

So, how do we find contentment? How do we satisfy ourselves?

We find ways to love our right-now lives. We pursue joy right now, right here. We don’t put off happiness until something else happens for us. There’s no guarantee that it will. The only way to really live abundant, wholehearted lives is to embrace the beauty of life as we know it today.

What can you love about your life right now? It’s easy to see the things you wish you could change, but I want to challenge you (and myself, too) to seek out and list the things that are going well.

Are you healthy? Are your family members healthy?

Do you get to spend time pursuing a hobby or favorite pastime, even just a little bit?

Do you have enough money to provide basic necessities (food, gasoline, mortgage/rent, utilities)?

Do you have access to a wide variety of entertainment options (Netflix, cable, books, music, podcasts, radio, movies in the theater)?

Are you in a season that will pass all too soon, one that you should savor and appreciate as long as it lasts?

Do you have a vehicle that safely gets you from point A to point B?

Do you have a solid community of people to support you and live life with you?

Are there moments of everyday beauty you can pause to enjoy? How about things like the sunset and sunrise, your child’s perfectly imperfect artwork, an adorable puppy, a gorgeous flower, a moment of quiet before the chaos of the day begins, a delicious meal, or a sweet conversation with a friend?

For me, loving my right-now life looks like being grateful for the job I do have instead of spending all my time dreaming about another one I might like more. It looks like investing in decorating and updating my current home. It looks like pouring into my friendships because I have the ability to do so right now without a family of my own to devote time to. It looks like being grateful for my safety after sitting in snowy traffic, because although I had to wait to get around a handful of car accidents, I wasn’t a part of any of them.

What things do you love about your right-now life? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

Image source: Artem Kovalev, unsplash.com

Ordinary Courage

“…speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage. Heroics is often about putting our life on the line. Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. In today’s world, that’s pretty extraordinary.” – Brené Brown

We’re called to be courageous. For many of us, that most likely won’t look like fighting in epic battles with weapons at our sides, at least not in a literal sense. And it probably won’t mean taking a bullet for someone or saving anyone from a burning building.

But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t courageous.

We exhibit courage when we show up, presenting our authentic selves to the world, offering everything we have for the taking. Courage is saying, “Here I am, all of me, opened up for you to see, poured out for you to use as you will, as you need.”

It’s taking risks. It’s admitting when you just don’t know. It’s stepping up to help whenever and wherever you can, even when you’re not sure how much your efforts will really make a difference. It’s being willing to try even when you know there’s a good chance you might fail. It’s sharing your stories of failure and imperfection, encouraging others by letting them know they’re not alone. It’s asking for what you need and being honest about how you really feel.

None of us want to live in fear, held back by the weight of the things that scare us. But it’s far easier said than done. It’s not as simple as saying, “Don’t worry. Be happy” (even if that does make for a catchy slogan).

In order to overcome our fear, we need to believe we can conquer it, that we will be victorious in the end, even when we encounter setbacks (which we will). And we need to know that the risk is worth the potential reward ahead.

It begins with an adjustment of our beliefs. If we think we’re alone and it’s all up to us to conquer our giants, we’ll fall. But if we know that we’re not alone, that we have the strength to knock down our obstacles, we’ll be setting ourselves up for success.

And if we’re trying to be really careful to avoid any and all setbacks or risks, we’re going to miss out on opportunities to grow. We have to take risks and step outside of our comfort zones in order to challenge ourselves to grow and develop new skills and become the best versions of ourselves.

 

What does ordinary courage look like for you? What courageous things are you aspiring to? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

 

Further reading:

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

 

Image source: https://morguefile.com/creative/hotblack

What I Can Do

Do you ever get tripped up complaining about how things aren’t going the way you want them to? Wishing things could just be different?

I do.

I find myself listing off things that aren’t the way I’d like them to be in a perfect world. But, in case you weren’t already aware, our world isn’t perfect.

And worse, it isn’t at all productive to just sit and stew in the midst of a pity party, feeling sorry for myself because things aren’t being handed to me on silver platters.

I’m trying instead to ask myself a follow-up question. When I begin to think, ‘I wish this was different,’ I probe further to ask, ‘What can I do about that?’

Can I change the situation?

Can I change my expectations?

Can I do something to prevent it from reoccurring?

Can I react better?

Can I put on my big girl pants and just deal?

Asking myself what I can do about a situation is productive. It takes the blame off the shoulders of others and puts the responsibility on mine. But it doesn’t burden me with unnecessary worries about things I can do nothing to change.

Sometimes challenges seem really, really intimidating, and I think I’m incapable of doing anything to make a difference. But when I take a moment to think about it, there are little things I can do to make small differences.

I can’t wipe out hunger, but I can donate money and pack some meals with organizations that serve the hungry.

I can’t magically transform the atmosphere of my workplace, but I can choose to be positive regardless of the negativity around me.

I can’t resolve the refugee crisis, but I can support organizations who are working on it.

I can’t stop child labor, pollution, or animal testing, but I can buy products from companies that are sustainable and responsible.

I can choose love. I can choose hope. I can choose faith, perseverance, and humble service.

There are times when I can’t do much of anything except trust that things will work out. There are times when I can only have faith that God will carry me through, believing that He’s doing something even when I can’t understand it.

My job is just to trust. To trust and do my part to make the world (or at least my little corner of it) a better place. And I do that by living like love, pursuing joy, and having faith through it all that while my abilities are limited, there’s nothing my God cannot do.

 

What are you reminding yourself that you can do today?

 

 

Further reading:

How We Can Love Refugees Today- List of Organizations by Jennie Allen

 

Image source: Kathy Jeffords, The Dreamy Giraffe

That Reminds Me

Do you ever hear a song and feel like it was written specifically for you? Or played at the perfect moment, just when you desperately needed to hear it? That happens to me quite often.

I decided that my word for this year is beloved. I’ve been asking myself if my knee-jerk responses to circumstances, conversations, and actions of myself and others are loving or not as a filter to determine how I should respond. Sometimes I do myself proud and choose a more loving response. Sometimes I forget completely and allow my default reaction to surface– one that is often not very loving in nature.

But I’ve heard several songs on the radio lately that remind me of who I am, and they have served as well-timed and desperately-needed reminders of my identity, regardless of how well I perform or try to respond more lovingly.

So whether I need to remember who I am, who Christ is, or what my purpose is, these songs (and plenty of others) come to the rescue with little daily reminders that I so desperately need.

You are loved
If your heart’s in a thousand pieces
If you’re lost and you’re far from reason
Just look up; know you are loved
Just look up; and know you are loved
When it feels like something’s missing
If it hurts but you can’t find healing
Just look up, know you are loved
Just look up, know you are loved

And you, don’t have to prove yourself
Don’t try to be someone else
You don’t have to prove yourself
Don’t try to be someone else

You are loved

-“You Are Loved” by Stars Go Dim

You are essential, not accidental
And you should realize
You are beloved
I wanted you to know
You are beloved
Let it soak into your soul
Oh, forget the lies you heard
Rise above the hurt
And listen to these words
You are beloved
I wanted you to know
You are beloved

-“Beloved” by Jordan Feliz

I’m tellin’ you somethin’
This racing, this running
Oh, you’re working way too hard!
And this perfection you’re chasing
Is just energy wasted
Cause He love’s you like you are!

So go ahead and live like you’re loved
It’s okay to act like you’ve been set free
His love has made you more than enough
So go ahead and be who He made you to be

And live like you’re loved
live like you’re loved
live like you’re loved
live like you’re loved

And live like you know you’re valuable
Like you know the one that holds your soul
Cause mercy has called you by your name
Don’t be afraid to live in that grace

…Live like you’re loved, walk like you’re free
Stand like you know, who he made you to be
Live like you’re loved, like you believe
His love is all, that you ever need

-“Live Like You’re Loved” by Hawk Nelson

I’m sure there are many other songs with similar messages, but these have been hitting me square between the eyes lately. If you’re looking for more uplifting, encouraging music to remind you of truth and give you better perspective throughout the day, I suggest you check out Air1 and KLOVE— they’re some of my favorites! In the meantime, look these songs up on YouTube. You’re welcome. 😉

 

Are there songs that have impacted you deeply? Feel free to share below in the comments!

For When I Don’t Understand 

Sometimes I just don’t understand. I don’t have an answer for my questions, and they just run on a loop in my head.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why are precious little babies lost?

Why does cancer strike?

Why do people think violence is the answer?

Why does the prospective job fall through?

Why, why, why?

I can’t say I really know. And I’m not going to pretend I have all the answers. I know we live in a broken world. I know God is in control. I know He has a big, glorious, mind-boggling plan for this world. I know life won’t be perfect this side of heaven.

But sometimes I’m struck anew by the weight of the brokenness in the here and now. When things happen to my people. When the headlines draw my attention to yet another instance of injustice or natural disaster.

In those moments, I’m forced once again to admit that I just don’t know. I have no real choice but to fall to my knees, admit the limits of my understanding, and commune with the One who knows the whys behind it all.

Lord Jesus, You are with us in the midst of our pain and confusion. You lend us Your strength when ours has run out, and give us hope knowing that we don’t have to understand but can still have faith in our doubting. Help us to have faith beyond what our eyes can see. And help us to love one another through the times when we just don’t understand. Help us live like love.

Now What?

I generally stay away from posting about politics, but now that the results are in, I wanted to share some brief thoughts on the subject as we move forward.

Despite how we may feel about the results of this year’s election, may we all remember that:

God is good. He has given me (and us, collectively) so much, and nothing that goes on in the world of politics can change that.

God is in control. I have no idea how things are going to play out, but He does.

God works outside the confines of the American political system. He is far bigger and greater than we give Him credit for.

God, the Gospel, and our purpose have not changed. We are called to love those around us. That’s what our life is about. That hasn’t changed.

We, the Church, are not limited to our ability to vote for a particular political individual or party to enact change. Our influence reaches into the lives of those around us by other means. We can do more. We are called to care for widows and orphans, to give a helping hand, not just to cast a vote and call it good.

Fear hinders us only if we let it. The future is unknown and scary, but God knows what it holds. We’re called to be faithful to the end, not cowering in the face of change or challenges. We can tap into God’s strength and press on even when we don’t know what lies ahead.

God allows all things to happen for a reason and makes it all work out for good and His glory in the end. Even when we can’t see it because we’re standing in the middle of the mess. He sees the bigger picture.

We are blessed to live in a country in which we can take part in electing our government representatives. Whether or not the people we are rooting for are the ones who garner the most votes, we got to have a say. There are many places throughout the world where people don’t have that privilege.

This election really could have gone one of two ways, and neither one would have been a smashing success. We all know this political season was especially volatile, and we would have chosen an imperfect, fallible human to guide us forward regardless of which box we checked on the ballot.

Our hope for the future shouldn’t hang on who wins or loses, because our hope shouldn’t rest on the shoulders of people at all. Neither administration would have solved all of our current problems or avoided causing any future ones; believing they have that kind of power immobilizes us as citizens and strips us of our motivation to utilize our own strength to stand up.

We have a responsibility to one another, despite the divide that politics has caused in this country. We have to fight for the truth and stand up for causes that are nearest and dearest to us. We have to stand together.

The newly-elected officials have limited reach and a finite term in office. While not everything hinges on who we elect, we get the opportunity to do so again in the future. Whether you’re content or concerned about how things played out, this is not the end.

There is a myriad of emotions surfacing in the wake of this, but I hope we choose compassion and hope over fear and hate.

We have so much to be thankful for. If nothing else, the ads are over and we have four more years until we have to go through this again!

 

Further reading/viewing:

Ellen DeGeneres’s Post-Election Message

Kid President on Disagreeing Respectfully

James Corden’s Post-Election Monologue

How the Church Can Move Forward Past Election Day by Janice Wood, Relevant Magazine

How to Be Worry-Free in Times Like These by Jennifer Dukes Lee, (in)courage

5 reasons why America will be OK, even if your candidate didn’t win by Josh Hafner, USA Today

Donald Trump Is the President-Elect. What Now? by Aaron Cline Hanbury, Relevant Magazine

Great Expectations

What kind of expectations do we have, either consciously or subconsciously for this life we’re living?

Do we feel entitled to certain things? Do we think our lives are supposed to be easy, free from pain? I think it’s very easy for us to get comfortable and assume that we’re secure, ignoring the fact that hard times come, and that’s not a sign that we’re not loved, but an indication that we live in a world fraught with sin.

Do we forget that we were told that we would have trouble (John 10:10)? Do we forget that we were given hope for that very reason? There’s a reason that the reminder that we will have trouble in this world is followed with the command to not fear. Our first response to trouble is often one of fear. But that’s not the end of the story. We don’t have to live in that fear.

Do we remember what lies ahead of us? Do we remind ourselves of how this story ends? No matter what happens here and now, we have eternity set before us, a promise of a life to come with no tears, sorrow, crying, pain, or death (Revelation 21:4). Good and truth will win out. Our God conquered death and overcame sin and evil for us, and we are more than conquerors through Him. That is what we should expect– not that life will be easy or that we will win every battle, but that in the end, we will be on the winning side of the war.

Do we live in anticipation of God working in the world, and in the lives of those around us? Or do we let our eyes deceive us? It’s easy to think that because we don’t see God moving in our daily lives or working some big, dramatic miracles in the ways we expect that He isn’t at work.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. – Ephesians 3:20

He is at work. He is moving. In big ways and small ways, through some of the most unlikely circumstances and people, He accomplishes His purposes. And He wants us to be a part of it. But I think sometimes we let our expectations get in the way.

Do we expect too much? Do we expect some big, grandiose enlightenment or life-changing moment to happen to us before we can do something? Are we waiting for the next big thing before we really live our lives? Are we holding back in the hope that something has to happen before we can step out and make a difference in the world? What are we waiting for?

Do we expect too little of ourselves? We’ve been blessed with the resources and gifts we have, given a unique personality and calling, a precise footprint to leave behind us in this world. We are all where we are for a reason, and there’s always something we can be doing, even while we wait. Our lives are made up of small moments, and we can always love those around us like He loves us, no matter what our day jobs or present circumstances are. We can live differently. We can be present. We can love. We can have faith. We can encourage and uplift. We can serve. In big ways and small ways, we can live like love.

May you and I both consider what expectations we’re holding for our lives and be willing to let them go in favor of understanding the truth of what we’ve been promised. There is a great inheritance for us ahead, but the road we have to take to get there is sometimes bumpy. If we’re willing to hang on and even adjust our outlook from time to time so that we can see the bigger picture, we might just find that life exceeds our wildest expectations. Now wouldn’t that be something?