Over the past year or two, I’ve really been thinking more about God’s will for me. I’m not sure I’m where I’m meant to be, and I’m not sure I’m headed in the right direction. For now, I’m kind of floating along, looking for signs, waiting for an obvious push in the right direction, and in the meantime, living life day by day.
Of course, also on my mind right now is the election. How can it not be? The flow of shares on Facebook related to the candidates are endless, and NPR is constantly doing stories on each of the candidates, what the primary loss or win means, who’s still in the race, and who might be dropping out…not to mention what to do about Mr. Drumpf.
After a recent discussion with a coworker, as I lie in bed trying to take a much needed nap, a thought came to my head…
Why be so concerned about which candidate will win? God will take care of it. Whichever candidate wins is God’s will.
But I realized that’s not right. What will happen will happen, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not meant to play a role in how it happens.
I’ve been reading Mother Angelica’s Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality by Raymond Arroyo, and I’m currently in the chapter about God’s will (which is perhaps why it’s on my mind more than usual), and she proposes 3 questions to check if something might be God’s will or not. So I thought to myself, which candidate is God’s will? Well, what’s the test for it? The first is “Is it consistent with the Bible?”*
I was overwhelmed for a moment thinking that it would take forever to go through the Bible and determine this, but I quickly knew that love…love was the answer. (It always is.) The main message of the new testament is love.
So which candidate is most likely God’s will? The candidate that most embodies love.
Which candidate is patient? Which is kind? Which candidate does not envy or boast? Is not proud or rude? Is not self-seeking or easily angered? Which candidate does not delight in evil but instead rejoices with the truth? Who protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres?
There’s your candidate.
(I think mine passes the test. Does yours?)
If you’re Christian and want to vote consistently with your faith, then vote for love. Forget the lines of republican or democrat. Forget liberal or conservative. Forget self. Love others, and love God. Let that guide your decision.
And God bless.
*Note about the question above: Actually, in the book, this is not the first question. The first question is “Does it violate any of the Commandments?” However, I was lying in bed and didn’t have the book with me, so I believe that I was drawing partly from what I remembered from another source. The idea is the same, though–is it consistent with what we’re told in the Bible? Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. Love is always the answer.
I found the Willpower Training 7-Day Challenge on Pinterest while I was searching for week-long challenges, and as I said in my previous post, I knew it would need to be the first challenge. How could I succeed at losing weight and exercising if I didn’t have the willpower to ignore the temptations of staying up late, of sweets, of eating too much, of playing Candy Crush or watching TV instead of getting up and moving?
So once that I was back to falling asleep okay without feeling like I constantly needed to cough, I figured that it was time to get started.
The seven days of the challenge each add a different habit to help you curb temptations:
Day 1 – Sleep
Day 2 – Meal Planning
Day 3 – Meditation
Day 4 – Replacing TV time
Day 5 – Learning new skills
Day 6 – Limiting handheld devices
Day 7 – Exercising / Doing a Challenging Workout
Each habit, once introduced, is continued through the rest of the week so that the challenge is progressive. Details about each step can be found at the link above if you’re interested in giving it a try, too!
5 Things Learned
- Kids, man. Kids. Let’s just say that I was glad I was going to bed earlier each night because my daughter was getting up for a couple hours in the middle of the night or waking up two hours early. Turns out she was coming down with another cold (that she so nicely passed on to me so that I’m up late coughing again), but without that extra sleep, it would’ve been an even rougher week. In the end, I learned that getting sleep in this house had less to do with my own bedtime routine and more to do with kids that could sleep peacefully through the night!
- I learned that I still hate meal planning. For someone who likes to plan and organize, you’d think it’d be my favorite thing. I just can’t figure it out and get it simplified to my liking. It’s hard to plan within budget AND what everyone will be willing to eat based on preferences and diet, and it never works the way I want it to. There are just too many days where I come home exhausted from work and just don’t want to cook…no matter what the meal plan says.
- Even with the previous statement, though, I also learned that meal planning and sticking to it can really make a difference. There were times when I wanted a snack here and there, but it wasn’t written on the meal plan….so I skipped it or had one of the designated snacks for the day. It really helped provide willpower: I can’t put it in my mouth because it’s not on the meal plan. But I would have to plan out every bite of every day, and I don’t think I have the time or energy to do that. (If you would like to give meal planning a try but don’t have ideas for dinners, a meal planning site might help. I’ve been using No More T0-Go this past month to get some new recipes and add variety, and there have really been some delicious dinners as a result. Sausage Ragu or Chimichangas anyone?)
- I learned that meditation, in my case at least, is good for sleeping. The first day that I did it, I was almost falling asleep sitting up, and I realized it’s because the method that I was using from Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Understanding the Mind that I found after a little searching was one that I actually used at night when I was lying in bed and not able to easily calm my mind and fall asleep. So I’ll be saving meditation for bedtime.
- I learned that when I’m working I actually don’t watch much TV and what little I watch I don’t want to replace with other stuff. I mean I watch one 20-minute episode of something each night before bed, and I’m okay with that.
Although each day of the willpower challenge had good ideas, I learned that when I’m working, I am entirely too busy to implement them all. I just couldn’t fit them into my day while working, cooking, and taking care of kids. So I have to admit, I gave up at the end. Once I started back to work and my cough came back, all bets were off. I managed to get to bed early–I had to considering how exhausted I was, but that’s about the only day of the challenge that I was able to keep up the whole time and will continue. It’s actually one of my goals for the year–develop the habit of going to bed 8 1/2 hours before wake time–so I think that was more of a motivator than this challenge was. In the end, I had to do a lot of searching online and finding my own ways to implement each day of the challenge. I would’ve been nice if the challenge addressed a little more of the practical side.
If you would like to give the 7-Day Willpower Training Challenge a try for yourself, you can use the checklist below (click the picture to get access and download the Word document) to help motivate you. I printed one off and had it hanging up as a reminder of everything I had to do each day. If you try it, don’t forget to comment below with your own experiences and progress!
And though I know the Bible verse that I quoted above is intended for more serious temptations, I think keeping it in mind is important. Even with every day basic things, or maybe especially with the basics, I know I can avoid temptation if I set my mind to it because God created me with the ability to overcome anything that is thrown my way. The rest of the verse says,
“But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently.”
It’s a good reminder to trust Him in all things….even the small things.
I, however, am not. Not at all. At least I feel like that tonight after walking down the stairs from putting my 2-year-old daughter to sleep. The constant tossing and turning and refusal to just lie still so that she can fall asleep. Aaaaahhhh!
I try to remember this verse while I’m up there with her.
And who isn’t familiar with this I Corinthians verse? If you’re married, this was likely read at your wedding. I even know non-Christians that have had it read at their wedding because, well, this is what we all hope that love ends up being in our lives, and it’s hopefully what we all aspire to as humans.
You’ve probably heard the story of the mom that asked her daughter to change “love” to her boyfriend’s name to test and see if he really is showing love…or something else. You may have also seen the challenge to replace “love” with your name:
Sarah is patient.
Sarah is kind.
Ha! I can’t even make it first the past two. I mean…I have my patient moments. I have my kind moments, but mostly, I am neither. And, is it just me, or is it often hardest to show patience to those we love the most? It’s time to work on this.
The article “How to Become a Patient Parent” provides 10 tips to try to develop the habit of patience. Yes, habit. It makes sense really when you think about my article about triggering habits. Habits, good and bad, have triggers. If we have a bad habit, we can’t just stop it. We have to replace it with a good habit, so if lack of patience shows itself with habits of yelling at the children, snapping at my husband, or just plain snarkiness and sarcasm, then I need to figure out what the triggers are (1st grade homework and toddler bedtime anyone?) and then replace those negative reactions with good habits. The article has some good suggestions that I’m going to try (see the original article for the details about each one):
- Counting to 10
- Taking deep breaths
- Imagining that someone is watching you
Let’s try, with the people that we love, to have more patience. Love is patient. We are patient. We are love. (New mantra!) Of course, we are called to love all people, but if we can develop the habit with our families, then maybe we can apply it with strangers (like during rush hour maybe?). Let me know how your struggle goes. What are your triggers? What methods do you use to help you develop a habit of patience? What’s working? What’s not? Please share!
My birthday is coming up next week, which means it’s time to start thinking about lent.
I’ve been on quite a spiritual journey over the last several months, and I feel more in tune with my faith than I have in a long time (or maybe ever have). As a result, though I’m not exactly a practicing Catholic anymore, I thought it might be good to try out some of the ideas for lenten promises I’ve seen online. Here’s one in case you’re looking for ideas, too: 100 Things to do for Lent.
What are you giving up or doing for lent? And do you think you can make it stick and continue to do it after lent? I intend to really examine what some of my weaknesses are and try to address some of those areas during lent. Then, hopefully, I’ll be able to continue those good behaviors beyond Easter. Good luck in your own soul-searching journey!
UPDATE: And then there’s this: Pope Francis’ Guide to Lent: What You Should Give Up This Year
Until recently, I was more of a proponent for taking baby steps towards goals. To try to motivate my international students, I would talk to them about how learning English was a necessary stepping stone toward their bigger goal. I encouraged taking baby steps toward learning English like gradually increasing how much English they use in a day. In my personal life, I tried to introduce little changes that would improve different areas of my life, like adding a glass of water or some yoga to my morning routine, and we follow Dave Ramsey’s “Baby Steps” for financial security. I read a book by John Acuff called Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job. In it, it talks about how he worked extra hard on weekends, early mornings, and late nights to work at his day job and work towards his dream job. Basically, he took baby steps.
In an episode of Friends, which I’m happy to say is now streaming on Netflix (!) Joey and Chandler talk to Rachel about “the fear.”
Having “the fear” motivates you to move forward, to go for the things you want. Quit the job you hate so that you can go for the job you want. Go all in and all out for your career.
Recently, I’ve been watching The Biggest Loser. The people on that show leave their families and their lives. They dedicate weeks and weeks to becoming healthier, to eating right, to exercising, and to losing weight. They are going all in and all out for weight loss, for themselves, and for their loved ones, and their transformations both on the inside and outside are amazing!
When the new year started, I decided to go all in, too. I started on Weight Watchers (the free version), I started exercising some mornings (pilates, yoga, strength) and some evenings (cardio on treadmill), I cut out diet pops, and I cut out all desserts. Last year, I wanted to do all of these things. I thought about adding them in slowly, but none of it stuck/most never happened. It’s too easy to back out of a baby step. It’s a lot harder to quit if you’ve gone all in.
All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life by Mark Batterson has changed my perspective on things. He talks about Cortes and suggests that part of the reason for his success conquering the new world when others had failed was that he ordered his men to burn the ships so that they knew there would be no returning home. Later he states, “Nine times out of ten, failure is resorting to Plan B when Plan A gets too risky, too costly, or too difficult. That’s why most people are living their Plan B. They didn’t burn the ships.” It’s a do or die thing really. Sink or swim. When there is no alternative, the only choice is to fight harder to make sure Plan A works. You have to go all in and all out; otherwise, you lose.
We are able and willing to apply this to our lives in so many aspects. We go all out for our jobs, for our health, for our families, and especially for our children. What we wouldn’t do for them! But what really speaks to me about Batterson’s book is basically that we need to go all in and all out for God. First and foremost, it needs to be, “What we wouldn’t do for Him!” He says, “Every second of time, every ounce of energy, and every penny of money is a gift from God and for God.”
If you haven’t read All In, read it. (I loaned it from the library for free through Overdrive.) It’s an amazing message that may help you put life into perspective. Let’s try going all in for God, and start to see how our lives change. As Batterson says, “It’s all of you for all of Him.” It’s not easy, and we will all falter…but for God’s grace.
We can’t be who we are now or become who we are going to be without our past experiences, and sometimes those past experiences, however insignificant or frivolous they may seem, intersect and connect themselves in the brain to form an idea. 5 experiences/pieces of knowledge have led me to one idea: Need a Miracle, Be a Miracle.
#1 – You’re probably all familiar with the story of the woman who is stuck on the roof of her house during a flood. She has faith that God will save her. Several people come to rescue her, but she refuses their help saying that God will rescue her. In the end, she dies because she failed to see that God tried to save her by sending people to rescue her. One obvious take away from this story is that God helps us by sending His people to us. We are the ones who do God’s work here on Earth.
#2 – That story always leads me to think of the movie Bruce Almighty. At the end of the movie, God tells Bruce to “be the miracle,” and Bruce ends up adopting that as his new tagline.
I love this message. In the movie, God is saying that we do miraculous things in our own lives. We can be miracles for ourselves, but I think we can also be miracles to others.
#3 – Which leads to the message of Pay it Forward. You do 3 things for 3 different people, but like the main character says, they have to be big things, things that the people can’t do for themselves.
The people who paid it forward in this movie were performing miracles, don’t you think? With all the horrible things happening in the world right now, imagine if everyone started performing miracles for each other.
#4 – This past weekend, I heard a couple of guys talking on our local Christian radio station about how they always hear people say, “If I only had more money, I could do so much good.” Even I have caught myself thinking, “When I’m finally out of debt and have some money saved, then I’ll be able to give so much.” They explained, though, that money is not a prerequisite to doing good. They gave the apostle Paul as an example. All he did was write letters to comfort friends, and look at the huge impact he has had on Christian faith.
#5 – Recently, we’ve been short on money due to my husband being short on work, so I’ve been trying to sell Ada’s old baby stuff and other odds and ends that we don’t use any more on some of the local buy, sell, and trade Facebook sites. A woman finally messaged me about buying a huge lot (50+ items) of 0-3 month baby clothing. When we met, she told me that her husband is the pastor at a local church and that she was buying the clothing for a woman that was having a baby and was going to be a single mother. I was so happy to hear that the clothing was going to a good cause, and the more I thought about it, the clearer this new idea became in my head…
What if there were a site to match people that needed miracles with people that wanted to be miracles for those people? We don’t always have the resources to help everyone that we want to, but we might just have exactly what someone needs more than anything at that moment: clothing, food, someone to talk to, a referral to a good church, etc. A single mother could come on to the site and say, “I need 0-3m clothing,” and another person could say, “I have 0-3m clothing. Here.” To her, someone giving her a pile of free clothing for her new baby might be just the miracle she needed so that she could save money for formula, diapers, and wipes. We all have things we don’t want, need, or use anymore. Those things might just be someone else’s miracle.
So I started a Facebook group to get things started. It’s Christmas, and Christmas is about giving. Let’s try to be a miracle for at least one person this season!
If you need a miracle, please visit Need a Miracle, Be a Miracle and post what you need. Read the pinned post for specific post requirements.
If you want to be someone’s miracle, read the posts by others. Comment and connect (pm) with anyone you would like to help. Be sure to also read the pinned post for some guidelines and tips on helping others.
Either way, please share the group on Facebook. Get the word out!
A final note – As I went to Facebook to set up this group that I was so excited about starting, I read a few posts on my timeline. One of them was from a local buy, sell, and trade group that I joined a few months ago. Someone was warning everyone about a women that was asking for free baby items to a help a family in need. Then, she was turning around and selling those items for a profit on other pages. This hit my heart so deeply. I started to question whether starting Need a Miracle, Be a Miracle was a good idea. It might just be welcoming people like that–people that would take advantage of other people’s kindness. Did I really want to deal with that or perhaps even be contributing to it by providing a spot for it? I thought about it and prayed about it, and I finally realized that I can’t let the fear of what might happen stop me from helping others. I hope others feel the same.
How have you been “a miracle” to others this season? Share your inspiring stories here!