Don’t Rush Ahead

Do you remember going for walks or bike rides with your family as a kid? Were you the one who always went as far as you possibly could because you were just too excited to hold back? Did your parents have to tell you to stop and wait for them to catch up, to not go any farther than they could see?

I don’t think I really did that when I was a kid. I have always been really cautious when it comes to things like that. But I do think I take a similar approach to other things in my adult life.

I want to know what’s coming. I want to be prepared. And, if at all possible, I want to get ahead. I want to feel like I’m buying myself extra time by skipping steps or getting things done faster now so I can have a buffer later. And I certainly don’t want to feel like I’m wasting my time doing things that I don’t need to be doing.

I don’t like waiting. I don’t like doing the foundational work that feels like nothing at all. I want to get to the big, fun, challenging, heart-of-the-work things that produce results and give me something to show for all my work.

I have a bad habit of cheating myself out of my stretching before and after my workouts. I do stretch some, but not nearly as much as I should. And, of course, I never realize it until the next day when my muscles are sore and tight because I didn’t take the time to stretch them properly.

The problem is that I don’t give stretching its due. It feels useless. I have limited time allotted for working out, and I don’t want to “waste” it on stretching when I could otherwise be doing cardio or strength training- things that make my heart beat harder or strain my muscles in ways that I can feel in a more tangible way right then in the moment.

When I was in school, I always loved the professors who gave out course calendars and detailed rubrics for projects ahead of time. I loved knowing what was coming and what was expected of me. It allowed me to plan out my time and energy efficiently. In courses where I didn’t have a clear view of what came next, I found myself wondering what laid ahead.

And I’m finding myself in that place once again. I started a writing course a couple weeks ago, and I’m having a really (REALLY) hard time not rushing ahead. I did the prewriting exercises faster than the standard course timeline laid it out, but now I’m finding myself itching to look at material I’m not slated to encounter for a few more weeks yet. And I really don’t need it until then. But this little part of me just wants to know it all. To be prepared. To avoid surprises.

The more I think about it, the more I come to realize I do that with all of life. I want to avoid big surprises. I want to know what’s coming. I want to be prepared.

But life’s unpredictable. And if I run ahead, I might encounter something sooner than I’m meant to, and I might not be prepared to handle it because I didn’t let the waiting do its work. If I skip steps in my writing, I can most likely come back to them later. If I forget to stretch, I’ll be sore the next day, but I’ll survive just fine. But if I skip steps or rush ahead in life, I might make wrong turns, poor and uninformed decisions, and find myself ill-equipped to handle obstacles because I didn’t let my character grow before plowing forward. And if I knew everything all at once, I would certainly get overwhelmed.

I know it’s important to take things one step at a time. The steps exist for a reason– they make the journey easier, allowing me to tackle just one at a time instead of the whole staircase. I just sometimes need the reminder to not skip steps and try to rush ahead without doing the important foundational work first.

So today I’m reminding myself: Take life one step at a time. Don’t rush the process. Don’t skip steps just because you can’t see why they’re important right now.

 

Do you tend to run ahead? Do you have any tips for taking things one step at a time? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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Be “All In”

all_in_graphic_1110_624You and I both know that we do much better work on things when we give it our all. If we’re not fully committed, we’re more likely to try to get by with just the bare minimum instead of putting our heart and soul into something to make it really extraordinary.

But isn’t that what we really want out of our lives– something extraordinary?

If we want to get more, we’ve got to give more. We need to be all in.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to go through life on autopilot. Being all in takes intention and purpose. We have to know what direction we’re headed in, what we’re aiming for, and why.

It requires vulnerability and authenticity, being willing to be our truest selves, not holding back. That’s no insignificant risk, one that we often feel deeply.

But that’s the only way to really live. If we don’t let others get to know our hearts, we’ll never really get to know them. And what’s life without any real connection? We can’t hope to really experience joy, love, friendship, or wonder without allowing ourselves to truly connect with the world and the people around us.

If we want our relationships to really thrive, we need to be open and authentic. We need to be present, giving our friends and family our attention and putting effort into maintaining those relationships. They don’t just happen, and they can really suffer when we only give them a half-hearted effort.

The same goes for our work. Whether it’s our day job or a side hustle or hobby, the end product is directly related to the amount of heart and effort put into it. If we want to do a good job, we’ve got to be willing to put in the time and the work.

But ultimately, if we want to live a truly satisfying life, we have to be willing to be all in. We have to be okay with getting dirty, entering into the messy, nitty-gritty moments of life as well as the beautiful, joyful experiences. Both are necessary parts of real life, and both require us to engage fully with the world around us and with our own hearts.

If we distance ourselves from the bad things to avoid feeling the full brunt of pain and disappointment, we won’t be able to fully bask in the greatness of joy and celebration when the good things happen. The two are inextricably linked; we can’t dull one without dulling the other. And I don’t think any of us want to live a dull life.

We only get one chance at life, and there’s no guarantee that we’ll even get another day. So we’ve got to make the most of the limited time we’re given, really investing in the lives of the people around us, living intentionally, and not being afraid to jump in with both feet.

 

So are you all in? Are you willing to give your life your all? Will you jump in? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

 

Image source: http://theaterchurch.com/media/all-in1

Shine Bright

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t like being the center of attention. I feel uncomfortable when all eyes are on me. I shy away from being center stage, in the spotlight. I much prefer being behind the scenes or part of a group.

But I think that tendency bleeds into other areas of my life, causing me to be hesitant in sharing things with the world around me. I instead hold things tightly to my chest that were meant to be shown.

I know I’m not the only one.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. . . . We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. – Marianne Williamson

So what are we so afraid of, really? Do we think it’s selfish to pour energy into the things we’re creating or too self-promoting and bordering on bragging to share it with the world? Is that why we hide behind closed doors and backstage curtains?

Are we willing to let fear hold us back from embracing our true identity? Is that enough of a reason to keep to ourselves? Really, we are so much more than we think.

Why can’t we recognize and embrace the connection between the kind of art we long to make and the reality of our truest identity?

What if you desire to do a particular thing because God created you a particular way, not to tease you or to make you miserable, but to actually mold you into becoming more like him, for his glory and the benefit of others?

Could it be possible that the thing you most long for, the thing you notice and think about and wish you could do, is the thing you were actually made [for] and are being equipped to do?

Could it also be possible that somewhere along the way you got the message that to follow desire would be selfish, when really, it would be the opposite? – Emily P. Freeman

Wow. How crazy of a thought is that?! The things we long to do, to create, are part of what makes us who we are. And it’s those very things God plans to use to make us more like Him and to touch the hearts and lives of others.

We don’t have to take center stage or grab the microphone at every opportunity if that doesn’t suit our strengths (hello, fellow introverts!), but we can’t be afraid to contribute what we can in other ways. What are you working on? What’s the most logical way to share it? Maybe you’re writing a book, putting together a class, editing a video, or creating a recipe to share. Don’t be afraid to put those things out there.

By being the first to step out of our comfort zones and do the scary thing of sharing our precious creative treasures, we set an example for those around us. And because our talents and gifts are uniquely different from our neighbors’, we begin a chain reaction of contributing one-of-a-kind gifts, shining our lights like no one else can.

Just imagine for a second what the world would be like if people more willingly shared their hearts and their creativity, their distinctly different lights. God would be glorified. Creative solutions to problems could be reached. Collaboration would increase exponentially. Problems would get solved. People would work together instead of against each other. Compassion, empathy, understanding, grace, and kindness would abound. And it can start with us. Right here. In our homes, our families, our communities, our workplaces, our schools.

Now what’s our excuse for keeping that gift from the world around us?

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. {Matthew 5:16}

Go out there, friend, and shine. The world needs your light.

 

Further reading:

Sunday Scripture

The Email I’ll Never Forget by Emily P. Freeman

Our Path Is Lit by Jennifer Studio, (in)courage

Keeping Up With the Joneses

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Why do we work so very hard to accumulate things to impress others? Why do we waste so much of our precious time comparing ourselves to others? Why do we feel so dissatisfied, like we never have enough or do enough to be content? Why do we crave more, and more, and more?

Our paths in life are uniquely our own. We may walk alongside others for a season, but we have each been given a role to play in this world, one that is designed specifically for us.

We don’t have to strive to attain what those around us have. We can choose to focus on the path we’re on, appreciate what we have, and work toward our own goals. Not everyone is called to the same lifestyle. Those around you aren’t called to the same purpose you are; they have their own just as you have yours. And when we all go boldly in the direction of our own path, our actions work together with those of others, creating a beautiful piece of art that wouldn’t have been possible if we had all tried to paint with the same color.

When we spend too much time looking at what others have and what they’re doing with their lives, we lose focus on our own lives. We think we need to copy them in order to be happy. So we pursue the things they have, do the things they do. And yet, somehow the result isn’t a reflection of their happiness. We’re still empty. We’re surrounded by things we worked really hard to attain, but haven’t found satisfaction in. We don’t feel comfortable in our own skin because we’ve been trying to fit ourselves and our lives into the box we’ve created from our misled expectations.

Social media has made it even easier to constantly compare our lives with those of our peers. But what we have to keep in mind is the fact that the things we see online are just small glimpses into the lives of others, and often only the highlights. Our friends and family members may also be a few steps ahead of us, and it’s only going to discourage us if we keep comparing our progress to theirs instead of focusing on our own paths. So let’s set our eyes on the goals we have set for ourselves and resist the temptation to draw comparisons between our lives and the pieces of others’ lives that we see.

If we can see that we were uniquely created for a specific place in this world that nobody else can fill, we just might find the ability to deviate from the course we thought we had to walk down and instead forge our own path toward a much greater destination, one specifically designed for us by our Creator.

Consider this your permission to do just that– throw off the weight of the expectations placed on you, the constraints of the box you’ve never been able to fit comfortably in, and the hoops you’ve tried so unsuccessfully to jump through. May you and I walk confidently toward what lies ahead of us, freed from the burdens we’ve carried, ready to embrace our unique paths and all life has to offer as we travel them.

 

Image source: https://annegarrisonstudio.com/products/be-yourself-everyone-else-is-already-taken

A Word on Work

Ephesians 6:5-8 – “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. 6 Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. 7 Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 8 Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.”

Working wasn’t something I really wanted to begin doing in high school. I wanted to just be a kid and spend my free time however I saw fit. But I realized pretty quickly that if I wanted to pay for activities, clothes, gifts, or save any money for college expenses, I would have to earn more money somehow. And with that, I entered the working world.

Work isn’t an evil thing or a punishment, although many of us often have that point of view. It can be difficult, for sure, and we may endure a season or two of jobs that don’t suit us well, but there is purpose even in those times. Our experiences serve to stretch us, teach us, and grow us into the person we’re meant to be.

We need to realize that we’re called to submit to those in authority over us, to treat them with “deep fear and respect,” no matter how we feel on any particular day. What would it look like for us to truly, deeply respect those we work for, trying to please them in everything we do, even when they’re not watching?  Reminding ourselves that we are to serve our earthly masters “as sincerely as we would serve Christ,” we just might see some changes happen in our workplaces.

If we work diligently, as if we were working for the Lord, not for people, we will likewise turn into more committed, hardworking individuals who are more valuable. Whether we love our jobs or hate them, God has placed each of us in our unique circumstances to serve those around us, being His hands and feet to the world.

In serving others as if we are serving the Lord, we are serving Him, so it’s like killing two birds with one stone. When we realize the amazing gift He gave us in His death, we ought to see our role as servants of others in a whole new light. If we think we’re entitled to be served, we’re in need of a little reality check. We’re all flawed, broken people in need of a Savior. Those of us who have encountered Him have been burdened with the glorious purpose of sharing Him with those we interact with out of gratitude and obedience to Him. Because He loved and served, we love and serve. We can never out-give or out-serve Jesus, the Servant King. Everything we’ve been given is really His, and we’re called to manage it well, which means sharing it with others who need it.

So how can you show respect for your earthly masters as a way of glorifying and serving your Heavenly Master?