Saturday, January 26, 2019

My 500 words Challenge

I just signed up to do a writing challenge, put out by Jeff Goins.  The challenge is to write 500 words every day for atleast 30 days.  This is Day 2.  I want to develop a writing habit; what better way than to attempt this challenge?

In the last two days, my husband and I worked on cleaning out our playroom and changing it over to a home office/craft room.  It had been a complete mess. A while back, I attempted to make it usable for me to paint and craft in, but then everyone else's stuff crowded out my things on the community table in the room, until there was really nowhere for me to be. It was very frustrating.   The truth is, for most of my marriage there has been nowhere in the house that was truly just mine to do with as I wish.  Anywhere I would stake my claim would quickly be overrun with other people's stuff.  My sweet husband could look around and see this was true, so on our date on Tuesday, we talked and he agreed that it would be a good idea for us to each have our own desks and to have the table to be for the kids, for board games, art, and sometimes their sewing projects.  This way, he and I both have one place in the house that is just ours, and we can keep it how we like it.  We talked about fixing the room on Tuesday, but I expected it would take a while to do.  But to my excitement, on Friday, while he was off work, he began rearranging the furniture.  Then yesterday, and this afternoon, we were able to find two used desks that fit the space requirements to go in the room from the salvation army and another thrift store. (One of the desks was only 7 bucks!) We decluttered and sorted, and moved furniture, and now tonight, here I am sitting and typing at my new space for creating.  To say I am excited is an understatement.  I sit here, sipping a decaf coffee, with the smell of toasted vanilla chai candle wafting in the air around me, feeling a sense of accomplishment and peace.  Now I have a sacred space for my writing time.  And now I am on day 2 of the writing challenge. 

I am not sure exactly what direction I will go in with this writing challenge.  I have said for a long time I would like to write a novel.  I also ordered a writing planner online, that should come while I am attempting to do this.  When it gets here, I may blog less and work instead on attempting a novel.  Of course, I would love to think it would be a GOOD novel, but in reality at this point, I think I would just feel good if I actually finished one, even a terrible one.  I am over forty years old; that means a good bit of my life is past.  I hope to be around for a long time, and to live a full life, but no matter how long I live, I know life is short.   I want my life to count for something.  Not with people, necessarily, but with God.  I believe God put me here, with things to do, and maybe some things to say, and a voice to say them with.  I want to find that voice, and use it, while there is still time.   I don't want to waste my life just trying to make everyone happy and coming to the end and finding I wasted my time, and missed the point.  I am not sure if writing figures into this or not for me, but I will never know unless I try. 

I will probably go through my Scrivener tutorial tonight or tomorrow, just so I understand how to use the writing software. 

Friday, January 25, 2019

I am not "successful", and that is okay.

Well, I am trying to build a new daily writing habit.  I am not sure what will emerge or come from this attempt; perhaps it will fail like other attempts I have made.  So much fear of not being enough has honestly always held me back.  I heard a podcast by Jeff Goins, called The Creative Portfolio, entitled The Most Transformative Year of My Life, or something like that. It is an awesome podcast, and I highly recommend it. It resonated with me on so many levels, and the words that came out of his mouth could easily have been mine.   He talked about how all his life, he felt like nothing he had done had been a success.  How he had this core issue of feeling like he was never enough. This was man making a six figure income as a writer, who is living part of my dreams.  It's hard for me to understand someone I view as being so successful feeling that way, honestly.  Maybe when you look at my life, it makes more sense.  I don't know.  But the truth is, it's how I have felt too.  I look at my paltry efforts in life, and feel sad.  I have lived half my life, doing the best I can, giving all I have, and it just seems insufficient.  It's like there is this emptiness inside me, that as much as I have tried to assuage and repair, it's always there. I have run from it, tried to hide it, tried to make up for it, worked harder, pushed harder, made checklists, anything and everything to "fix it".  But yet it has remained.  The emptiness and fear and uncertainty.  I know people see it in how I talk.  In my almost frantic search for answers, for a relief from the pain of not being enough.  From not being sure of who I am and what God put me here to do, and this horrible feeling that I am botching things all up.
Maybe this sounds strange for a person of faith, but it is my struggle.  And it's NOT because I am not a person of faith.  I am a Bible believing Christian.  I had an awareness of my sin at the age of six, and I understood intuitively I could not come to God on my own merits.  On one level, from an early age, I have known peace with God.  I have understood that Christ was my mediator because of the cross and Resurrection, and I willingly and gratefully accepted that truth and embraced it wholeheartedly.  I longed for His holiness and His love, goodness, and purity to cover me, and to radiate outward from me to others.  I have spent my whole life trying so hard to "be good", not to earn salvation, for I knew I already had that, and yet, somehow, what God had already given me, I was trying to prove worthy of.  Yet when I looked at my life, it is filthy rags.

And as I listened to this man's podcast, I understood how I had known spiritual truths in my head but hadn't let some of them get to my heart in a way that they would change my thinking.  I realized I have lived for so long in fear of what others will think of me, even in fear of being such a colossal disappointment as a daughter to God,  that it had robbed me of  the joy of knowing Him at times, and even of knowing and loving myself.  I am over forty and I honestly don't know that much about myself.  I have waited for God to come down on a cloud, or speak to my heart in a way that would let me know what He expected out of me.  Because I don't know.  Now, don't get me wrong. I know His moral law.  There are things I do know he expects out of me as regards morality, and I do my best to live according to His will in that.  But there is a whole lot of life that I have no clue what He is wanting. And the truth was, there have been times in my life where I failed in living His moral law out.  I was the youth pastor who got pregnant out of wedlock, and I knew what it was to feel like a bunch of God's people had turned their backs on me.  Now in all fairness, there were also believers and friends who stuck by me, and loved me.  But it was harder to see that, when I was so focused on those who rejected me and didn't stand by me.  Who didn't even want to acknowlege me or my failure.  And it seemed I have lived this rejection over and over, confirming my unworthiness.  Confirming my lack.  Confirming that I was not enough.

 I have all these decisions I am trying to make, truly wanting to please Him, wanting to do what is best, and I honestly have no idea.  There has been no Jesus coming down on a cloud to speak with me, as much as I would like that.   And all this time, there has been this fear in me, that doing the things I enjoy might lead me to sin yet again,  or to go against God's will.  Since I didn't know what He wanted, I was afraid to pursue what I wanted, lest I fail and He abandoned me.

Maybe, writing it down makes it all sound silly.  I do know some doctrines, like God's Sovereignty. I regularly read and study my Bible.  Still, it brought me only a little peace.  I was never worried, mind you, that I was going to mess up God's bigger plans. The concern was always that I would make choices that ruined my own world.  Even the fact that God would use my mistakes for my own good, if I trusted Him, wasn't much comfort, since I was struggling to know if I was trusting Him that well, even though I was trying so hard.  I just felt like God's problem child.  I knew I was His, but others around me were the sons and daughters that made Him proud.  I was the black sheep, the woman with a scarlet letter,  Because of past sins, and even just my own lack of "success"- which was always that nebulous, unattainable thing that others had and I didn't- I felt like an outsider among God's people.  Even though I loved them.  Even though the deepest longing of my heart was fellowship with them.

The funny thing was, I could get alone with God, and things would be okay. I would feel peace.  I would experience His love.  I would know for a brief moment that I WAS enough in His eyes, and because of Jesus, I could have relationship with Him.  But as soon as I was back out in the world, all the doubts and fears and realities of my insufficiency would overwhelm me like a tsunami of grief and loneliness.  And when I talked to people, I could see they were trying to help.  But their words felt like platitudes.  Like bandaids on a mortal injury.  Just as insufficient as I felt.

But then I have realized some things recently.  Yes, I am broken.  There are definitely parts and things about me that still need redemption, and need to change.  I openly admit that.  But there is some fundamental part of me that God also loves, as I am.  There are things about me that God made, that are how God meant for them to be.  I can trust Him, and by extension of that, I can trust that He will lead me using that part.  It's okay that I don't have all the answers.  I can learn.  I can grow.  I can make mistakes and keep learning from them.  So I have tried to acknowledge my fear, to feel it, to accept that I struggle with it, and to move forward regardless.

I have tried to start this year, with what I know about God, about my relationship with Him, and about myself.  I know a few things. I know that I love Christ, and more importantly, HE LOVES ME. I am not the black sheep, even though some people might see me that way.  I don't have to be successful according to the world's standards, because, according to what Christ did on the Cross, while I may be broken and insufficient in many ways, He doesn't see me that way anymore. I am made ENOUGH. And I can trust, because of what He is doing in me, renewing a right Spirit in me, that He will lead me.  Failure isn't fatal anymore.  In fact, if my motivation is right, failure is irrelevant.

I don't have to apologize anymore for being emotional, or making people uncomfortable because of being essentially who God made me to be.  I can choose things for myself, based on listening to God's moral law, and when that is unclear, then I can trust Him to lead me from the desires of my heart, out of good things.  Because I do want many good things.  I want to be a vessel of honor for God.  I want to be used by Him to love on other human beings. I desperately want my life to count for eternity.

I have tried recently to consider what things I actually enjoy, that I would do whether I felt compelled to do them or not.  What would I do, if there was no other agenda and no fear of failure holding me back?  If money were no pressing concern?  I think I would still homeschool my kids, because I value my relationships with them so much, and because the honor of discipling them and coaching them is something we as parents only get for a limited time.  Having a grown daughter has made that all the more apparent to me.  I think I would also choose to teach classes to other older students, because I love teaching.  I love history, and literature, and science, and writing. I love seeing kids wrestling with great ideas.  I love seeing a kid's face light up when the see a truth for the first time, or fall in love with a great author or great book, or a science concept makes sense and excites them.  I think I am someone who loves to facilitate connections.  I love helping connect people in ways that bring healing, and build community.  I love writing poetry , and ministering to people with my words.  I love that by sharing my story, someone else can understand that they are not alone in their struggles, and be encouraged to press on.  I love to create art that ministers to someone.  I love to run, even though I run slowly.  I feel powerful when I push my body and accomplish goals.  I love God's word. I love discipleship with individuals, and encouraging others to run their race, especially women and young people.  I know too, that I love spending time with my Savior in His word, and beholding His face.  I think maybe I am beginning to know myself.  And this person I am, because of Christ, has some redeeming qualities, despite my fears.

I still have alot of things I am unsure about. I am not sure where God is taking me.  I have many decisions I am praying about right now, but I have more peace than I have had in a long time.  And I believe it's all going to be okay.  I have decided to focus on building habits, rather than punishing myself for all my mistakes.  I set my first priority as being in God's word on a daily basis, and am working my way though a plan on my Bible app.  Then I decided that I want to write, and I need to just do it. I may look stupid, I may be ridiculous to anyone else and it may be a pipe dream, but I have decided the attempt matters more than the result. My husband has encouraged me to follow my dreams, whether they are financially prudent or not.  To do what I love, and quit worrying so much about having enough or doing enough.   Or even being enough.  To accept that I AM enough, and I have nothing to prove anymore.  So here I am.  I plan to get up at 5 am each day just to write for an hour each morning.  Today was the first day I did that.  It's time to see if the dreams I have are truly my dreams, or it's time to dream new ones.

For too long, I have stared at the road less traveled, afraid to take the first steps.  But now, it's time to begin.