staying faithful : band-aids and burns and pie

Sometimes, you roll with the punches.

Sometimes, you just get punched.

Over the past few weeks the ratio has not favored rolling. And because humans are built to avoid taking punches, I’ve tried to make things better on my own by showing myself some grace.

I tend to be really good at doing that. Gold medal grace-giver, right here. And in a variety of ways, too! They include:

  • having frozen yogurt for dinner
  • skipping workouts in favor of sitting in the sunshine reading magazines
  • having pie with a side of cookies for dinner
  • watching an indeterminable amount of NFL Network
  • watching an indeterminable amount of Friday Night Lights
  • not washing dishes
  • not doing laundry
  • have we talked about pie?

[ last night’s dinner-and-distraction grace session ]

I really believe that sometimes it’s advantageous to skip a workout and rest. Sometimes it’s healthy to not even consider the presence of vegetables on a dinner plate. Sometimes it’s nice to zone out for a few hours and imagine your life as Tami Taylor.

As per all of the above, I’m a big advocate for giving yourself some grace from time to time (especially when it comes in a pay-per-ounce self-serve cup). But…

Oh, is there ever a but!

Sometimes Most times when I give myself grace what I’m really doing is giving myself an excuse to be less than my best.

It’s so true.

There is a time and a place for grace. But consistently responding to life’s problems by taking the easy way out is kind of like trying to heal a burn with band-aids. They might cushion the wound for awhile. But it won’t improve without proper care. A burn requires real medication.

Self-discipline, though not as enjoyable as grace, is real medication.

Because when you’re getting punched, standing up and fighting back is ALWAYS better than backing down.

Fighting back with self-discipline on the hard days – working out when it’s the last thing I want to do, swapping quinoa for cookies, muscling through a to-do list on my computer instead of sitting motionless in front of my computer – it makes the hard days feel so much more victorious. It put a W in a column that would have been all L’s otherwise. It’s worth every ounce of stingy effort. Fighting back with a response that doesn’t just feel good to me but actually is good for me is an action that is so much more in my favor in the long run.

It’s an action that will make me better. In all ways.

Yesterday was a hard day. I did not fight back. I flew my white flag high and proud (clearly: see above). And some days are like that, as much as I wish they weren’t. But even though I was pay-per-ounce soft-serve girl yesterday, today I am praying for the resolve to be this girl:

She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs without fear of the future.
When she speaks, her words are wise,
and she gives instructions with kindness.
She carefully watches everything in her household
and suffers nothing from laziness.

[ Proverbs 31:25-27 ]

And to live this way:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

[ Hebrews 12:1-3 ]

If you need a beneficial break, take it and don’t look back! Soak up all the grace you can so that you are ready to fight the good fight again tomorrow!

But if you can marshal some reserves of strength and keep pressing on today, if you can show yourself some personal tough love knowing that you are really giving yourself a gift in the process, if you can fix your eyes on Jesus and trust that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him,

all the better.

staying faithful : a decided end to career confusion

People…you are going to laugh because I’ve sung this song before…but I’ve finally made peace with the career confusion that has held a less-than-cherished place in my life ever since the first time someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I had no idea how to answer the question.

Because when I was at Making Things Happen, (and, by the way, who is up for The Challenge??? come on, people!) I kept hearing myself say the same thing over and over when we were asked what we wanted to make happen. And, as per above paragraph, I had no idea how to answer that question. Everyone else had really great answers – businesses and goals and families –  and I admittedly went without a tangible item to make happen. But one thing made it’s way from my heart to my lips all day long and shocked me with it’s fervor:

I want to live a life that is faithful to the Lord and to who He created me to be.

That is my career.

God did not design me to be a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher. He did not place a single dream in my heart that was meant to be followed directly to a paycheck. He did not give me an easy answer for what to do and how to do it.

I’ve not been a fan of that decision. But finally, I am so grateful for it.

Because what He did give me was a passion for a thousand different things: writing, photography, beauty in any and all forms, magazines, food, food photography, laughter, mentoring, encouraging, love, love, love, athletic challenges, running, design, color, FOOTBALL! He gave me the gift of passion – that overwhelming nose-to-toes fire about everything from oatmeal to peonies to Lambeau Leaps. And He gave me the gift of Himself; the gift of knowing Him personally and daily seeking to know Him more.

Those two things? Desiring faithfulness to the Lord and faithfulness to the real person He created me to be? More than enough. They are more than enough. What more could I possibly ask for?

So if that means that I live in Rochester and do a handful of jobs that’s ok because the people I love live in this state and I know where all the best food lives too. And if that means that I move south to see the sun for more than 3 months a year then glory, glory, hallelujah, I’ll start rejoicing and praying for my hair to suddenly be able to withstand humidity with more than mild success. If that means that I go to Green Bay and line up to shovel snow from the stadium on weekends and dress in nothing but green and gold from August – February then I’ll be sure to pack tissues because we all know how well the first trip went as far as buckets of joyful tears are concerned.

What that means is that I finally believe Galatians 5:

 22-23But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

 25-26Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

There is no grand conclusion. I do not now nor will I ever have a job title to attach to the question, “But what do you want to do?”. All I know is that I want to do this:

12-13 So now Israel, what do you think God expects from you? Just this: Live in his presence in holy reverence, follow the road he sets out for you, love him, serve God, your God, with everything you have in you, obey the commandments and regulations of God that I’m commanding you today—live a good life.

[ Deuteronomy 10:12-13 ]

That’s all. And that’s enough.

staying faithful [nc series] : making things happen 2012

So, let’s talk about the real reason I went to North Carolina. The greenery was beautiful, the food was plentiful, and the tea and friendships sweet…but attending Making Things Happen was the culmination of a host of long-hoped-for dreams. It was so much more than I ever imagined it could be. Kind of like the first time I went to Disney world…as a wide-eyed 20 year old…and fell head-over-heels in love with something I knew I would love but couldn’t fully anticipate just how overwhelmingly I would love it. Or like visiting the holy land, Lambeau Field, during the road trip. Clearly, I knew this was going to be good. But I didn’t think I would lose complete control of my tear ducts for hours on end.

Making Things Happen was a similarly expectation-exceeding (and tear-duct-draining) experience. Meeting mentors I’ve only previously known on my computer screen, getting to know the other thirty wonderful women in attendance, harnessing the power of speaking tiny dreams and big fears and tiny fears and big dreams into existence just by saying them out loud…it was just more. So much more than I had hoped for.

Far be it from me not to launch into a long and drawn out monologue about every detail of this experience…but I’m actually not going to launch into a long and drawn out monologue about every detail of this experience. Mostly because my Making Things Happen experience is still happening. What started in that conference room continued on the drive home and has been growing ever since. So talking about my Making Things Happen experience right now would be like talking about the gorgeous flowers in my flourishing garden beds when I’ve only just tilled the ground and planted the seeds. Aside from a lot of hard work and a lot of grace-filled weather, there isn’t anything to really talk about yet. It needs time to grow.

Even though it’s not quite time to delve into the personal side of Making Things Happen, one thing I do want to talk about are the practical lessons I learned and have been implementing from the workshop. Where one series ends, another begins! Over the next few posts next week we’ll be talking about the every day ways in which MTH is changing my workflow, efficiency, mindset…even my furniture arrangement!

But for right now, I’ll just close with these verses from Romans 8, which are changing my life.

Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

[…]

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died —more than that, who was raised to life —is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

staying faithful : imaginary problems

[This is a fake post scheduled pre-trip. Right now I’m probably doing anything and everything in my power to soak up as much warmth as possible over the course of 48 hours. There is likely sweet tea involved. There is definitely Chick-fil-A involved. Full updates next week!]

The kids that I nanny for are a brother and sister, 2 and 4, respectively. They play really well together. But as siblings, it’s in the contract that they get into arguments at least once per hour. It’s relational law.

More often than not, these spats revolve around whatever imaginary game they happen to be playing at the moment. My favorite is when they FREAK OUT over the injustices that have just befallen them at the hands of each other’s imaginary actions. Last week we were playing with their kitchen set. Brother is pretending to make a tray of imaginary cookies, big ones and small ones, as per his description. Sister proceeds to gobble up said invisible baked goods. Brother turns to me and, with a look of horror, wails, “SHE ATE ALL OF THE BIG ONES!!!”

Troubleshooting these situations is always an adventure because you can’t just whip out a tub of imaginary big cookie dough to make another batch, as per my initial attempt. Oh, no! That’s just unacceptable. What needs to happen is an official time reversal in which, as it turns out, Sister did not eat all of the big ones, and there are still some left over for him and me there in the corner of the tray. We just couldn’t see them originally because they were hiding underneath the flower decals on the baking pan.

Duh.

The imaginary crises bring me no end of joy because it’s so funny to see what they come up with and what solution they’ll agree to. But on the other hand, I really love those kids like you would not believe, so I want to fix all of their problems, imaginary or not. And last week while I was desperately seeking a solution that would result in a healing of the Big Cookie Wound, I thought about how much easier it would be to solve an actual, tangible problem – one that was not controlled by the highly subjective entity that is 2 year old logic.

And then…because I can’t turn off the wheels that create odd connections in my brain…I thought about how much easier my life would be if it were not controlled by the highly subjective entity that is my human logic.

Because, really, about 99% of the time I do the same thing the kids do. I work myself into a panic about imaginary problems that only exist in my overactive mind. Problems about what may or may not happen to my parents, my friends, myself. Questions about where I may or may not live or what kind of career I may or may not have. Crises that involve wondering whether or not I’ll ever see a Packers game at Lambeau Field or live within walking distance to Trader Joe’s or Jamba Juice or Chick-fil-A.

These are the things that keep me up at night.

But they are imaginary things of my own creation. There is nothing real about them. It’s just as foolish to get my feathers ruffled over potential future employment opportunities as it is to be outraged at the violation of imaginary personal property. It’s literally no different.

It makes me think of this:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

[Isaiah 55:8-11]

…and this:

What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

[Matthew 6:33-34]

It would be so helpful to remember those verses more often.

And as for the imaginary problems I just can’t quit no matter how hard I try? God wants to take care of those too, even though they’re fake! I wanted to comfort my little baker in his grief over stolen cookies – whether they were real or not didn’t matter. I wasn’t judging him or discounting him on account of the fact that we were trying to solve a problem about air…it felt real to him so it mattered to me. If that’s how I feel about a child I just get to play with on weekdays, imagine how much greater the love of God for his children and their problems – real or imaginary.

So, friends, may all of your big cookies be real ones. Eaten only by you, and not your sister. And may the fake ones either disappear or be given to the Lord, who is ready and willing to take good care of them – and you, too.

staying faithful : open windows

First things first…when it comes to nights that are not ideal to leave your cell phone at work, the night before your birthday is probably pretty close to the top. Sorry, world. But I’ll be back soon!

This concludes this morning’s Public Service Announcements. In other news…

On Sunday night I went to bed late. (You’re probably thinking that this post is really riveting so far, but trust me, it gets better!) The kind of late when you hope you go straight to sleep in .05 seconds so you’ll get as much sleep as possible to make up for your decision to stay up into the early hours of tomorrow.

But I couldn’t get comfortable. Oddly, because it’s only mid-April in Antarctica Rochester, I was too warm. I wanted to crack a window for some fresh air but there were a variety of reasons not to. Street noise was a big one. The proximity of my face to the fire escape was a big one too, seeing as how it’s the place where all the good drunken ramblings and domestic disputes take place (thank you, city living) and I didn’t want an inebriated stranger crawling through my window to snuggle with me in the middle of the night.

The lull of fresh air, though – air that was reportedly not freezing – it was just too much to take after 6 months of frozen air! So I pulled the blinds, pushed back the curtains, and opened the window to backfiring buses, HBO-style feuding, and…

the most welcome gust of cool night air I’ve ever felt.

I was in awe. The gentle breeze, the warm lights from distant windows, the beauty of angles and architecture. All of which I had the chance to experience solely because I decided to open a window. I opened it despite of the perceived inconveniences. And I received SO MUCH MORE in return.

I went to sleep that night feeling so grateful for life. For the scene right before my eyes. For falling asleep in a bed, under a roof, with clothes on my body and food in my stomach, employed by a variety of gracious employers, loved by two parents whom I love, surrounded by wonderful friends whom I don’t deserve, overwhelmed by the Lord’s constant presence, mercies, and unfailing love.

I slept better than I’ve slept in weeks. And I woke up to this:

It made me so aware of the abundance of blessings I too often take for granted – or worse – choose to complain about. It made me so aware of the Lord’s great love and of my great ingratitude.

Today I get to start a new year. (If anyone knows how I’ve already arrived at 26…please feel free to fill me in.) Today I get to set the pace for the 365 days that are to follow. With that in mind, this year I’d like to:

  • be fiercely, relentlessly grateful for every second of my beautiful life and the nouns that make it so meaningful
  • stay humbled by God’s moment-by-moment love, grace, and provision and to share that same love, grace, and provision with everyone I encounter
  • open windows of all kinds, without hesitation, every chance I get

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?

Romans 8:31-32

[Thank you, Lord, for LIFE!]

beka stays faithful : surrounded by scripture

“Change the thoughts, and you change the person. If today’s thoughts are tomorrow’s actions, what happens when we fill our minds with thoughts of God’s love? Will standing beneath a downpour of his grace change the way we feel about others? Paul says absolutely! It’s not enough to keep the bad stuff out. We’ve got to let the good stuff in.” – Max Lucado, A Love Worth Giving

When I was a kid I went to AWANA, a weekly church club that focuses on scripture memorization. And because I’m nothing if not irrationally competitive (and spiritual, clearly), every week from preschool until 6th grade I memorized as many verses as my little brain could contain. While I’m sure I bemoaned the practice every once and awhile it’s something that I’m very thankful for now.

(And thank you, Mom, for making me go every week and helping me learn verses by making up little songs. I credit you with my penchant to turn anything I want the kids I nanny for to remember into something that rhymes.)

Those childhood memory verses and so many more have come to mean a great deal to me. They are now my road map for decision making, my comfort and peace, my daily reminders of what really matters.

Over the weekend I felt the need to collect a few of my favorite verses to tuck away in different spaces – over the kitchen sink, in the car, inside a purse, etc. There is undeniable power in scripture, in knowing it and reading it out loud, and I wanted to have that source of strength close at hand.

So I started curating what I thought would be a short list. Just a few special verses. But I kept thinking of more and more to include and before I knew it…I had a gigantic list.

And I LOVE it!!!

I love it so much that I want to share it with you, just in case you are also feeling the need to be surrounded by scripture these days. You can read each verse below, but I’m also attaching the document so you can print it out or customize it to your liking. (You’ll also be able to find the document on the resources page from now on, too.)

Here’s the Word document: Surrounded by Scripture

And here’s the list!

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 So now Israel, what do you think God expects from you? Just this: Live in his presence in holy reverence, follow the road he sets out for you, love him, serve God, your God, with everything you have in you, obey the commandments and regulations of God that I’m commanding you today—live a good life.

Joshua 1:8-9 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

Psalm 19:1-4 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

Psalm 19:14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 118:24 This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Proverbs 4:20-23 My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

Proverbs 16:3 Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.

Proverbs 21:26 Sinners are always wanting what they don’t have; the God-loyal are always giving what they do have.

Proverbs 31:25-27 She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.

Isaiah 43:1 Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

Isaiah 55:8-12 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting promise, which will not be destroyed.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

Jeremiah 33:3 Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.

Matthew 6:33-34 People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Luke 1:45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.

John 5:39-40 Here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want.

Romans 2:4 God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.

Romans 9:11 What God did in this case made it perfectly plain that his purpose is not a hit-or-miss thing dependent on what we do or don’t do, but a sure thing determined by his decision, flowing steadily from his initiative.

Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritualact of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

1 Corinthians 17:7 And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there.

2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Ephesians 3:17-21 And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 4:1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 4:4-8 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

Hebrews 6:18-19 So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.

Hebrews 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace—who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.

beka stays faithful : even better easter inspiration!

While I was searching for Easter inspiration on Pinterest yesterday I came across so many scripturally-based designs. These are the real gems!

truth

pinned here via here

pinned here via here

John 16:33

pinned here via here

Philippians 4:8

pinned here via here

Jeremiah 29:13

pinned here via here

(which you do not know)

pinned here via here

Isaiah 43:1

pinned here via here

.

pinned here via here

always loved this verse

pinned here via here

Matthew 28:6 "He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay."

pinned here via here

Enjoy celebrating Easter, friends! Yellow daffodils and jelly beans and hopping bunnies and all – but especially the hope we have in Christ!

(That’s the best part…even when Easter candy is involved.)

beka stays faithful : holding onto what matters

love it

pinned here via here

I hesitated to start writing this because Lord have mercy, we’ve been here before.

But…that’s what this blog is all about, right?

So, grab your waders! We’re heading back into the muddy waters of learning how to stay!

Today was a beautiful day for me. I got to go to a job I love (working at the juice bar). I ate lunch outside at Wegmans. Then I piled groceries into my cart at Wegmans. I made a pie. I delivered a pie. I got to see a family I love. A nice man came and fixed my TV. I ran on the canal at dusk. I had my favorite kind of dinner – picking and choosing between a mountain of fresh produce. I sat on my couch in sweats reading with the windows open.

What’s not to love?

Well, nothing. It was a great day! And I never wished it were any different; I was quite content with how the day unraveled.

But while I was running, I caught myself in a familiar pattern. Thinking about my next career/geographic/relational moves. Thinking about how things might change. Thinking over an endless stream of possibilities that would result in said changes.

I was surrounded by over-the-top beauty, running outside in the middle of March in Rochester, in the midst of a day that made me joyful and grateful and content…and yet my mind was a million miles away, burning rubber trying to whip around a thousand and one curves.

As I ran past an open field I spotted a big crowd of deer in the pasture. It was a moment that Bob Ross would have lovingly depicted on a canvas with streaks of pink sunlight and new spring greenery and “happy clouds.”

And I just felt like God was saying, loud and clear, “YOU ARE MISSING THIS!” You are here, but you aren’t. You are smack dab in the middle of what I’m trying to give you, and you’re missing it.”

Unsurprisingly…he was right.

When I titled this blog “beka stays” I knew it had a deeper meaning than just staying in one location geographically, even though that was the catalyst for it’s creation. The heart of my inability to stay lies in my inability to stay present.

And apparently just because you write a blog about it doesn’t mean the problem is solved. Darn it.

So, here’s the thing. This lack of staying power is twofold: on one side, I feel responsible for making the most of my future. So I try to plot it out as best I can because I want to honor what I’ve been given. But the other far more dangerous side is that I fear embracing today in light of the possibility of losing tomorrow.

I don’t want to be too enthusiastic about today because what if tomorrow isn’t quite as good?

I don’t want to love the family I nanny for too much because what if I have to leave them?

I don’t want to invest too much in Rochester because what if I have to move?

I don’t want to dive into thriving with complete reckless abandon because what if nothing changes?

I don’t want to give 100%, of myself to anything because what if it doesn’t work out?

It’s the sad truth.

But then I felt God leading me toward another truth: I don’t get to keep anything forever. Not the place I live or the people I love or the body I inhabit. Anything I tangibly have right now. There will come a time when I don’t possess it.

Except for Him.

He’s the only thing I get to keep.

And for some reason that thought made everything click. It was like someone turned on the lights in my sparsely inhabited brain. “OHHHHHHHH, this. THIS! This is what you mean. This is joy, freedom, peace in the moment – knowing that all I have is You, all I can keep is You, and all I need is You.”

If I can trust that holding onto God means that I’m holding onto the only thing that matters, then everything else falls into it’s proper perspective. Protecting “my” life becomes completely irrelevant. I don’t have to worry about loving too much, giving too much of myself, investing too much into each day. I don’t have to worry about what may or may not lie ahead, how my life might change or who/where/what I could lose, because I know that ultimately, my future is secure.

It seems so simple.

Now if only I could remember it.

beka stays faithful : staying present

Trust. Worry is a waste. Where does it really get you anyway? Tense. Unfocused. Unproductive. Complaining. Give thanks in ALL circumstances - yes, ALL of them - and you just might forget your worries completely. Don’t you always end up saying to yourself, “why did I ever worry in the first place?!” Yeah. You do. So, give the creator of the universe some credit and give up the reins. Trust. Do not worry about your life. He has this. ‘Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?’ Luke 12:25

pinned here via here

My dad said something to me on the phone the other night that made me moderately to majorly annoyed.

I had called to catch up on a few things that had happened that day. I was in a particularly good mood so our conversation was spirited. And then he lowered the boom.

“You know, sometimes when you call you sound so down in the dumps and I think…why? What more could you want? You work for people who love you, you live in a city you love, you have your health, you have so many opportunities and so much going for you…what else could you ask for?”

I reacted defensively, because, well, that’s how I was feeling at the moment.

“Dad…I do love my life. But I feel like I can’t just settle for what I have right now. I have goals! I have high standards for myself!”

To which he offered another boom.

“That’s fine. But good grief, stop kicking yourself in the meantime. You’ll get there! But you’ve got to cut the present some slack.”

It’s 4 days later and I’m still thinking about what he said. Not because I’m still annoyed. But because he’s so right. Soooooo right.

Darn it.

The truth is, I spend the majority of my life forgetting this verse:

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

[Matthew 6:34]

In fact…let’s rewind and just give the whole passage a once-over:

25-26“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

 27-29“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

 30-33“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

 34“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

You know what really puts me in my place? This verse: “People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works.” Oh my word…it makes my stomach do back flips in shameful regret. Because I do know God, I do have a personal testimony of his faithfulness that has been born from experience, I do have faith that he is who he says he is and does what he says he will do. But more often than not I don’t act like it. As per the passage, I’m not necessarily worrying about what I will wear (um, sweatpants, clearly)…although I have stood in front of a mirror and wished to grow just another inch or two. Most of the time, though, my discontent with today and worries about tomorrow aren’t attached to anything in particular. Instead, I decline taking the maximum amount of joy in the good things of today because I fear losing them, not making the most of them, or just completely missing out on something better tomorrow.

This trait – sacrificing the joy of today because of the uncertainty of tomorrow – is built into my DNA. It’s a lethal combination of hating change, fearing the passage of time, and having a pension for overachieving. So the propensity to never be fully invested in the current moment is nothing new, even though it has been on overdrive lately. It is, however, something that needs to change.

This week I’ve tried to catch myself in every negative thought and turn it into something grateful. In every anxious, frustrated postulation about the future and refocus on what is happening right now.

Because I have so much right now.

Thanks for telling me the truth, Dad. I needed to hear it.

beka stays faithful : the aftermath of exclamations

There are quite a few sentiments I could start with today after being fortunate enough to be featured on Tebow’s Eye Black yesterday. Among them:

1. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It kind of takes the whole being the exclamation point thing to a literal level.

2. Posting what I write is harder than posting what I photograph.

This whole exercise was not unlike walking through a haunted house: half terrifying, half exhilarating. I mean, I had no trouble posting what I wrote to the blog because I know everyone who reads the blog and their numbers are not vast. But sending the post out as a submission, then posting it to Twitter and Facebook? Nauseating. The funny thing is that I regularly post to the blog/Facebook/Twitter when I take new pictures, and without a second thought. But I’ve never done it with just a written post before. I found that it’s kind of like standing alone on a big stage with just a microphone as opposed to standing alone on a big stage covered in huge colorful pictures. (I really didn’t have to go too far to muster up that analogy, but there you go.) It’s easier to stand there behind a slew of distractions than it is to stand there and talk about what makes you tick.

3. Posting what I write is infinitely more gratifying than posting what I photograph.

Well…shoot. If I were to confront this fact in earnest we might end up with War and Peace on our hands due to the depth and length of angst it’s bound to cause. Suffice it to say that this was an eye-opening experience and we’ll talk about it more later over lots and lots (and lots) of coffee.

So instead, let’s backtrack a little. Because yesterday I got to cross off one of my Big Projects for 2012 (which I didn’t post in detail, but it was #5: contribute to another blog/website/magazine!) and I’m still a little amazed. So how did this happen?

Here’s what I think may have helped:

1. I started having conversations with God again.

This is not to be confused with, “I started praying again.” God and I were not on the outs prior to yesterday’s post. It’s all good in the hood. But recently I noticed that my prayer life had lost a little of it’s luster, mostly because I was straight up boring. Seriously. I was going through the same old, same old with no emotion or intention. After being convicted about the actual power in the power of prayer, I changed my tune. I’ve recommitted to speaking in earnest – not just having one-sided petition lists that read more like grocery lists – whenever I pray. I’m being bold, praying in faith over specific areas of my life. And shockingly but not shockingly…I’m already starting to see things change. One of the things I’ve been praying is that God would create opportunities, help me to see them, and give me the courage to follow through. He definitely delivered on that one yesterday.

2. I stopped trying to fix the problem.

As I mentioned in the post, I’ve tried to pray away my lack of confidence for the better part of 25 years. But this year I decided that instead of praying it away, I’m going to ask God to use my insecurity for his glory. Without realizing it, I was having a II Corinthians 12 moment:

At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, ‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’ Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

Hello, Paul. Mind if I grab an oar? Because we’re definitely in the same boat.

3. I leapt.

I had the idea for yesterday’s post on Sunday night. I was about to go to bed. But then I decided to stay up a little longer to hash out some of the ideas running through my head. On Monday morning at 7am I reopened the post, thinking I’d wrap it up nicely in 5 minutes or less since I had planned to do about 18 other things before my closing shift at the juice bar later that day. None of those things consisted of me sitting on the couch still in pajamas at 1pm frantically writing and rewriting and publishing and submitting a crazy post about punctuation…but that’s what happened.

Clearly, I support careful planning and preparation…as per the barrage of 2012 posts last week. I believe that dedicated hard work lays the foundation for future success. But I also believe that most of the big opportunities that come along can not be written into a planner, nor do they present themselves during brainstorming sessions. It’s probably how God keeps us humble. More often than not it seems like opportunity arrives in the midst of slogging through daily disciplines and invites us to take a leap of faith into something unexpected. Most of the time I keep my feet firmly planted in familiar territory. But yesterday, I leapt! Being open to following God’s lead – a lead that left me with plans unhinged and workout undone and teeth unbrushed in exchange for something better – was a game-changer. I’m hoping it’s a lesson I won’t soon forget.

So, as my mom would say, that’s that. I think yesterday was an exclamation point kind of day. Here’s to making today one too!