Saturday, December 12, 2009

Divine Coach

I've never considered my self a sports person, so I was surprised when I realized that what I really want right now is a coach. Someone to coach me through the maze of my health. Who knows what is going on, can point me in the direction I need to go and is capable of planning to get me steadily from point A to point B. Someone who recognizes my limits but knows when to push me harder.

And why stop with health? Why not keep wishing? Why not wish for a life coach? Someone who knows where I want to go (the stars) believes I can get there (even when I don't) and knows what steps to take. Someone who can instill my every action with purpose because it's all part of the plan to reach the goal. Someone who can inspire me when I'm down and can set the bar just a little higher when I'm feeling confident. Someone who can praise me when I do well and correct me when I'm wrong. Someone who sees me more clearly than I can see myself and will do anything to help me succeed from the inside out.

(If you are interested in this job offer, call me. You also need to live in my area and be willing to work for no pay.)

As I began to put words to this desire a growing conviction started rising within me. "God is all I get. Some stranger is not going to knock on my door tomorrow offering to babysit me through life, I'll have to make do with God." I was actually disappointed. Don't laugh too hard, I know you've done the same thing. I didn't really want God, I wanted a coach. I didn't really want God as a coach either, I wanted a human that currently walks the earth.

I knew it was silly, but I also knew it was honest. So I told God that I didn't want Him, got over it, and started planning with my new Coach. I started thinking about what it would look like for God to be Coach. I figured out pretty quickly that He probably wouldn't let me dictate my life goals to Him so I asked Him what our goal would be.

Goal: To know and experience that I (God) can be whomever and whatever I want to be in you.

Close on the heels of the goal came this statement,
Fact: Your flaws are not big enough to stop Me.

This may sound nice and spiritual to you, but I get very nervous when God starts using all inclusive wording such as "whomever" and "whatever". I know that He has carefully considered the boundlessness of this wording and means it in its entirety. I get the feeling of falling into deep space when I try to imagine what these words might or could include.

I want God to only be in me things that look and feel nice. Things that large portions of the world, both secular and Christian can respect. More importantly, I want God to be in me someone who makes me feel reasonably proud of myself. Normal is not good enough. I want Him to be astounding in me. Less than normal, by my measurement is not okay for God to choose.

Oh, well. I did know better than to argue with the goal. At the same time that it scared me, it also sounded pretty good. To know God better, to trust Him even more, to let go of fear, it does sound like a challenging adventure.

For God to be my Coach He had to have a plan and I had to follow it, but I knew that He wasn't going to give me a detailed daily schedule. So we agreed that I will head for the goals I already have, including health, schooling, and work, while keeping in mind the real goal. God, as Coach, will guide me in the way that He always has, I trust Him and step with confidence. He doesn't write up a plan with steps to follow, He lays the next step in front of my feet.

So, the actions of my days have not changed much, if at all. But fear that I might be heading in the wrong direction has left. The feeling of being alone among decisions that were too big for me, has left. The feeling that I am wasting my time one precious moment after another, is gone. I am no longer traversing crazy, random, daily days hoping that I make the right decision for my time. Every decision I make is His responsibility. He is a good Coach and He will do anything to see me reach the goal.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Faithy Waithy Stuff

I don't actually want to tell you what's going on with me because it doesn't travel in a straight line. It's kind of like what Doctor Who says about time, "People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but, actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff."

Except just put 'faith' in where 'time' is now. Like this, "People assume that faith is a strict progression of cause to effect, but, actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... faith-y waithy... stuff." And it gets kind of embarrassing when you go trying to explain it.

For instance, I'm taking the ACT this December, hoping to get a 32 or better. So far, so good. But to explain why . . . it's because I want to go to Oxford and study Chinese in their Oriental Studies program. I chose Oxford because it sounded cool to me, and even crazier, I think God meant it to sound cool to me. Yep, that is my faith reason. It sounds cool.

All I know about Oxford is that they require an ACT grade of over 32 plus 3 SAT II tests just to be considered, that the school is in England, it's very pricey, and it's very rigorous. When I tried to reason with myself that this was a very big decision to make on a whim, I'm pretty sure that I heard God say, "Nah, not really. You should go for it." God often gets in the way of me making mature decisions.

I wonder if those heroes of the faith we hear from in the Bible didn't actually hear God speak in straight forward and impressive King James English. I wonder if David didn't go to kill Goliath because he thought it might be cool, and when his lack of good sense flag went up, God put it down with a, "Well, I think you should go for it." Not a command, just a friendly suggestion you know, from . . . God.

The thing about hearing God speak is that you can only count on the words you actually hear. You cannot imply anything into the actual words He spoke. I'm not saying lightning will strike if you do, I'm just saying not to jump to conclusions. So, I'm aiming for Oxford on a word from God which I quote as, "You should go for it." Notice this leaves out anything about making it, or any promise of the future at all. All it really gives me is something to do today.

Why does Faithy Waithy Stuff always come back to waiting and trusting and just living through today? I've very nearly decided that waiting is so hard because it involves time, and humans weren't made for time, they were made for eternity. Even a patient person, I think, has just learned to swallow their impatience down again and again, they never really get rid of it. I won't argue this idea, it just makes me feel a hair better about being impatient.

Faithy Waithy Stuff does not ever make the doer look impressive unless you are reading the entire story, with footnotes from God, in the Bible, with rose colored "these words are straight from God" glasses on. In other words, you and I don't have a chance of looking impressive. If it left off at 'not looking impressive' I might be okay with it. But it doesn't, it passes that and goes right into 'looks like a crazy daft idiot'. Often feels like one too for good measure.

Oxford isn't even the first half of what is actually going on in my life, that's just the most easily explainable. Every day I get up at a ridiculously and embarrassingly late hour, as in from 11 to 1, with half of my day already gone. I'm starving, but I hate to eat because eating after I wake up makes me feel bad. After that, there is no guarantee to how my day will go. I might go out and help Ellen, more often lately I stay inside, I might watch movies on Netflix, knit, read, wander around facebook, study Algebra, make a meal, make my bed. I might feel okay, I might feel terrible, I might not know if I'm feeling fine and being lazy, I might not notice that the real problem is I can't think clearly enough to make basic decisions.

That's actually a life changing revelation that recently occurred to me, I don't think clearly enough to make basic decisions. Which in some strange way, has helped me think more clearly. It's like I'm out of touch with reality unless I'm writing or talking to a person. My thoughts wander incredibly, and seldom come to a conclusion. Yeah, I might be going crazy, or I might be coming out of it.

The point is that I am not in control of my life, and I can't explain it to anyone, even myself. What is strange is that I am one of the most content people I know. I know that I'm supposed to be at Sloans Creek Farm, I know that not being in control of my life is okay, I know that not understanding is okay. More than any of that I know that this strange, apparently haphazard, life of mine is literally overflowing with meaning and purpose.

It reminds me of the items that Michael Jennings sends himself in the movie Paycheck. They appear worthless, but when the time comes, they are just what he needs. Why is it that we love to see the ignored or underestimated triumph, whether a paper clip or a human? That's how God works I think, apparently worthless days linked together, circumstances and happenings that we don't understand, don't like or don't even notice, all turn out to be exactly what we needed.

For some reason, this makes me smile, not a nice sweet smile but an "I can't wait to watch this explode" smile and enjoy the boring dailiness of life as the biggest and most complex disguise ever created. The Faithy Waithy Stuff is pretty neat, even if I do sometimes crave a boring straight line.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Birthday Well Wishers Get Their Wish

So many people wished me a happy birthday that I thought I might share with my well wishers exactly what kind of a happy day I had.

My birthday really started one day early with a box in the mail from a dear friend. This box contained nice roving and one handmade, particularly pretty, green scarf. Well, I was off to a good start.

The next morning I woke with plans to finish painting my room. It just so happened that my birthday this year was on a Friday, which also happens to be one of the busiest and most stressful days on the farm. We spend Friday making sure that everything is ready for farmers market on Saturday. After I had an amazing country breakfast, that Nathan made, Ellen asked me if I would help her move some cows before I started painting. No problem.

We then spent the morning traipsing over various pastures, rearranging various herds. There was a sick calf that was lost in prairie grass as tall as we were so we spent a while half-heartedly searching for it. When we finally gave up and decided to get back to the house, we found it in the wrong pasture. As soon as it saw us moving towards it, it went even farther in the wrong direction all the time hacking and coughing but moving pretty quickly none the less. So, after about a half hour of careful maneuvering we finally got the calf up to the house to be treated. So ended my eventful morning.

After lunch and a quick nap I finally got to paint while listening to an audio version of Prince Caspian. My painting was interrupted by a birthday call from my oldest sister which was interrupted by the advent of a familiar but unexpected green car. After becoming rather confused and hurriedly being let off the phone by my oldest sister (poor dear) I ran out the door to find that Gracie and Cassie had both surprised me with a visit. I was ceremoniously sprayed with my own silly string while babbling incoherently about only God knows what.

Apparently, Ellen was in on the whole thing and she invited us to come with her and Nathan on an errand to Dallas with supper as part of the deal. She also mildly berated me for having my birthday on a Friday because she felt that she was too busy to do it justice. She was much more concerned with the well being of my birthday than I was. As Gracie noted, "Somebody's got to be concerned with it."

Supper was Italian and the Tirimisu was great. It was suggested numerous times that I should use my new liberty to buy and drink alcohol legally but we never got around to it. I was personally thinking about a few months ago when it would have been nice to be old enough for rental car agencies to recognize me as an adult.

I received three good books from Cassie and Gracie. I hadn't gotten books for my birthday for a few years and look forward to enjoying these.

I had requested pumpkin pie (from the home grown, all organic pumpkin that Ellen and Nathan were very proud of) but there wasn't time in the busy day. Which meant that my birthday got stretched to Saturday as well. God gave me the birthday gift of a rainy Saturday, which meant no farmers market and no getting up early.

We enjoyed a very nutritious breakfast of pumpkin pie and whipped cream. Unfortunately, we put the candles in a little too soon and they melted so fast from the wrong end that we barely had time to light them and blow them out before they were nothing but soggy wicks. Then, we had to figure out how to remove the unusually large amounts of still hot wax from the pie. It ended up being a holey pie.

I am blessed. As I consider how grateful I am, I can't help but add that the only thing that could have made my birthday better was to see you all. People that, as a general rule treasure me, but as a definite rule people whom I treasure. I know it sounds cliche. My only defense is, cliches become cliches only because so many people identify with them.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Joy Revisited

For some months now, I have felt rather odd when I have had the chance to interact with people who are hurting because of life. I usually welcome these interactions because I understand and I have hope from my own experience to offer. Lately, I have felt as though I had lost my right to say that I understand.

Life is still . . . unpredictable. There are still painful situations that I wake up to every day, all is definitely not right in the world. Yet, it all seems inexplicably okay and suffering seems to be unrealistically absent in my life right now. Not just a dull detached 'okay,' but a rich often delightful 'okay.'

I was trying to explain this, and my confusion because of it, to a friend who was being crushed by the weight of her own life problems. She surprised me by saying that I should encourage others with this. How could it be encouraging to a suffering person to tell them that my life is very enjoyable right now? I was still trying to excuse it as some kind of weird and embarrassing anomaly. Then I remembered my post from December of last year.

I wrote about joy. I had found that it was not a luxury but a necessity and I accepted if from God by faith, in the face of contrary feelings. Could it be that this strange 'okayness' in my life was a direct result of that acceptance of joy?

I am still not entirely convinced. I still feel a strong urge to apologize to the world for not currently being in pain of some sort. But it does cause me to wonder, why don't we think of joy as a practical gift of God? Why do we never hear sermons on the necessity of it? Why do we still believe that joy can only exist when our circumstances line up favorably?

Nehemiah 8:10 says, " . . . the joy of the Lord is your strength." Being sick and experiencing physical weakness has made me realize that strength is not a vain desire but a necessity for life. My mind kept wanting to tie this in with the armor of God in Ephesians. I think I finally found a viable connection.

Armor is useless on a person without strength, not only useless but incapacitating. Joy is necessary. If you are living without it you are only barely surviving. I don't know what joy is exactly, I suspect that it is an unexplainable mystery.

I am particularly interested in your thoughts about joy. Have you thought much about it? Have you heard much about it? Have you experienced it? Do you consider it fleeting or lasting? What is your general understanding of it? Has God brought it to your attention? If so, what came of it? How do you think it is related to emotions, circumstances, and faith?

Thank God, I don't have to understand His gifts to accept them, experience them and live in them.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

To Be a Friend

Why can I not always be there for my friends? Am I doomed to fail as a friend? What is a good friend? Am I afraid to trust people? What is God doing? Is He using me in my friend’s lives to prove that you cannot rely on people? Why do my actions not follow my intentions? I need to try harder. I cannot try harder, I have tried that before. What is holding me back? My immaturity? God? Or just human limitations?

I know that God is in control. I know that I am letting my friends down, people that I love. I know that God is using me, but He uses Satan too. Yep, that is exactly how I feel: Used. Am I supposed to be grateful for being used to disillusion people that try to trust me?

All these thoughts have been churning in my mind the past three months. I talked to God about it. I knew He was up to something. He did not give any definite answers. Every now and then, I thought He might have but the more I grasped at it the less stable it became. Waiting again . . . I was frustrated. Some people have said that I am a patient person but I have noticed it is only the ones who have not spent much time around me. God just kept churning, until the real question solidified and came to the top like fresh butter still floating in cream.

The real question was this, “Can I trust God?” I really thought that this question was all settled. My goodness! It has been asked and answered often enough. Thank God that He really is patient; He never gets tired of answering this question. I begin to think that He brings it up and presses it out of me because He actually enjoys answering it. In fact, I know that the question originates in Him, “Lauren, did you know that you can trust Me in this situation?”

When He pressed me to admit that I felt used, as in “used and abused”, He immediately responded, “I no longer call you servants but friends, for a servant knows not what his master is doing.” In case you were wondering, I was not comforted by this at all. I replied to this divine revelation with the all encompassing, “Whatever.”

So God kept churning. I wonder what the rest of that verse says. Does that imply that I know what He is doing? Yeah, I know what He is doing; He is using me to make my family and friend’s lives miserable. “I no longer call you servants . . .” I wonder what the rest of that verse says . . . what is the context . . . has God really told me what He is doing?

John 15:15 “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” This is when Jesus is pouring His heart out to His disciples, He talks about abiding “I in you, you in Me, I in the Father . . .” He talks about loving each other, He talks about the Holy Spirit. So what are You doing? “I am making them one with me. I am making you one with me. I am glorifying the Father, you are glorifying the Father. I do all things well.” Hmm. So, You are using me to . . . “I didn’t say how I was using you, I said that I told you what I am doing.” Oh! I am not to focus on how You are using me, whether it is good or bad, or even whether You are using me. I am to focus on what I know You to be doing in my life and in other’s lives. You do all things well.

Just for the record, where does that leave me as a friend? I cannot be the friend I thought that I could be. What do You say a good friend is?

“A good friend knows Me.”