Monday, October 1, 2012

You Are Made for More

 I just now finished Lisa Osteen Comes' book (not to be confused with Jim Cymbala's book, which I am now interested to read...maybe next month.)

I've been working on what I call "the Lisa Osteen book" for about three or four weeks now, though it hardly seems that long. It seems like this one was written just for me. Every chapter deals with a piece of my heart, a part of my life, that I needed help with. Whether it's fear, insecurity, jealousy, unforgiveness, or even just a crippling sense of "why me?" There's a lot of things that I've struggled with in my life, especially recently as I become more self-aware, and Lisa's book seems to address them all.

For those who don't know Lisa's story, definitely pick up this book. Her testimony is absolutely amazing and I think that even just knowing what she got through on faith will positively impact your life. As a brief summation:

At a young age she opened a mail bomb intended for her father. Although scarred, Lisa was mostly protected from the bomb in a way that even investigators and doctors consider to be miraculous. They still haven't found the person who sent that bomb, and for a long time she had to struggle against the fear that they'd try again. But she overcame.

Shortly after getting married to the man of her dreams he turned into someone she didn't know anymore, and then sent her back home to her parents and filed for divorce. She didn't want it, she fought against it, but it happened anyway. She had to overcome insecurities, had to learn to accept that sometimes things don't go as planned, and she had to learn to forgive herself and her ex husband for whatever it was that went wrong. God used her pain to help push her into a ministry position where she could help others who were going through divorce.

When she did find a new mate (several years of healing later) they discovered that she could not bear children and her heart was broken. But she and her husband placed her faith in God and nine months after the day they found out that Lisa was barren, she and her husband brought home an adorable set of twin girls. They were able to adopt the girls and help the teen mother who bore them because of the things they'd already been though, because they trusted God when all of their dreams seemed to be crumbling around them. They have since also adopted a little boy, and their family is as close-knit and loving as any blood-related family could hope to be.

With all that she's overcome, all that she's gone through, Lisa has learned to trust God to help her overcome - and her book is one of the tools she is able to make available to others who need to learn the same. It's truly amazing, and I know that my brief summary here doesn't begin to do it justice. This is a book I will return to again and again, knowing that I'll find something new and perfect for that time.

A few of the things that I've highlighted in this book:

  • "God will not just pick you up one day and put you into your destiny. You have to take steps toward it and know that God will direct those steps."
  • "You must do something, otherwise you will do nothing. Why should you sit in defeat with everyone else when God has a destiny for you to fulfill?"
  • "Healing begins when self-pity ends"
  • "A dream from God requires faith because dreams don't come to pass overnight...But whether we realize it or not, God is at work right now, today, in our lives. He's making things happen that we don't even realize - yet. See, *yet* is the key, because if there's one thing we can count on, it's that when God begins something, he will complete it. That's his promise. In fact, the bible tells us, God wants not only to complete things for us, but bring our lives to a flourishing finish. ... That means that no matter what's happening in your life right now, no matter what you've lost or what dream has died, it's not over."
  • "Fear pulls us down, traps us, paralyzes us, sinks us into inaction. We can get stuck in fear. ... [T]hat in-between place, that stuck place, is nowhere worth living. ... We're made for so much more than sitting around in fear. We're made to live boldly."

Already Dead (Five lessons before 10AM)

Today, as you may notice, is the first day of the month. It is also a Monday (the first day of the week, as far as I'm concerned). What you may not know is that it is also the first day of a new journal for me. I burned through the last one REALLY fast, and I'm kind of excited about that.

New journals are always an exciting idea for me. I look at each journal as a separate book in the story of my life. In reality they're more like chapters or subchapters, but each journal signifies to me that there's a brand new chance to start all over again and do it differently, to do it better.

I LOVE having a new journal.

So today being the first of the month, a Monday, AND the beginning of a new journal struck me as a sign: Today was the perfect day to start a new habit.

Lesson number one: Laura, dear, stop taking everything so seriously. Some coincidences are just coincidences.

Lesson number two: No day is the perfect day to start a new habit and for that reason, every day is. Starting a new habit is hard, it takes a lot of going against what your subconscious has already been programmed to do, and that takes a lot of self discipline. And, let's face it Laura, you're not so great at self discipline just yet.

Nevertheless, I went to bed with this brilliant idea of starting a new habit in the morning, on the perfect day to start a new habit. There are many habits I want to develop but I decided to start with what I was pretty sure would be the easiest one: Exercise. I have, after all, only had my gym membership since June. It's about time I used it.

So this morning I dragged my sleepy butt out of bed at the absolutely ungodly hour of six AM and got myself into the gym - a bit later than I had hoped. It turns out when you drag your sleepy self out of bed at six AM it takes about half an hour before you're capable of leaving the house. Then another fifteen minutes to the gym. So at 6:45 I was FINALLY on the elliptical.

I'm convinced that some day they'll have a magic pill for weight loss and historians will wonder why we ever put ourselves on these torture devices.

I took the half-hour opportunity while on the elliptical to read my bible. After all, what else is there to do for a half hour when the gym music sucks and the news is the only thing on TV? Yeah, I'm still working on the whole discipline and priorities thing, but I'm getting better.

As it turns out, the elliptical is actually the perfect place for me to read my bible! I hadn't realized that my previous better-than-nothing-but-still-not-awesome habit only took 8 minutes to complete. Not much room for any real bible time in 8 minutes.

As soon as my half hour was over I raced home, took the fastest (and coldest) shower I've taken in a long time, and hurried to get ready. I was running a little bit late. Actually, a lot late. Fortunately, I tend to be half an hour to an hour early for work most days, so late didn't really matter.

Lesson number three: Adding a half-hour habit to your day means that you have to sacrifice a half hour of something else. Probably sleep.

I finally got out the door *just* in time to make it to work on time and - reminding myself to be calm - popped in a motivational CD for the drive. After all, if I'm going to spend a half hour in the car, why not make the most of it? (see, I'm getting better.)

About halfway there, I realized something dreadful. I was driving our Spectra because Dearest needed the Prius today for his running around, and the Prius key was still in my purse, which was right next to me in the car. And I had *just* seen that 167 northbound (the road I'd have to take to get home) was stopped up because of a multi-car collision.

I was going to be very late.

Lesson number four: Accountability goes a long way. I'm usually quite early to work, so my bosses thought little of it when I called and explained what happened, apologized, and told them I'd be late.

Lesson number five: No matter how wrong your day goes, your response to it really is your choice. This has been a hard lesson for me, one I've failed at and had to repeat many times. Today, I could have been very frustrated. I had every right to be. I tried to do a good thing and it screwed with my entire morning, ultimately contributing to me being late to work. However, it is in these times that I've been taught to talk to myself. Self-talk can be an awesome tool. The odd part is what I was saying to myself:

It's all right, I'm already dead.

Before you start worrying, this is an affirmation that my husband actually uses for himself when his anxiety starts to spike and it's biblically based. Sort of. The place he gets this affirmation from is where it talks about not worrying so much about what other people think about us because we've died to our old selves. We're not tied to the world in the same way anymore, we're not the same people we used to be, those old selves are dead.

It's all right, I'm already dead.

The first time my husband told me about this affirmation it was a little weird for me. Many of you know that he had some serious health challenges last year and it was a really hard time for us - a time during which is most frequent statement was "I just want to be dead." So you can understand how I would be taken back a little by an affirmation stating that you ARE dead! But I tried it today. Stuck in traffic and very, very late for work, I made a choice. I loosened my deathgrip on the steering wheel, leaned back in my seat instead of forward , and said "You know what, it's all right. I'm already dead anyway."

To my amazement, it worked. The tension slowly left my body! So I tried it again, and again, feeling lighter and more at peace each time. By the time I was home to give my husband his car key I was relaxed and only regretted that I couldn't curl up in bed with him and take a nap. I finally got to work (not as late as I thought I would be after all, though still late) and was able to actually smile. Sure, I've had a hectic morning. But what does it matter anyway? What's the point of getting upset that it didn't go the way I wanted it to if I'm already dead?

I think sometimes, when we decide to do good things that we haven't been doing before, life (or the devil, depending on how much credit you want to give that jerk) will throw stuff in our way. It's like Newton's first law of physics: A body in motion tends to stay in motion and a body at rest tends to stay at rest.

Change is hard, it's hard on our minds and hard on our bodies and sometimes even hard on our spirits - even if the change will benefit us in the long run. Developing a new habit takes rearranging your schedule a little bit, probably sacrificing some sleep or some free time for at least a while until you get things figured out. It requires things like dragging yourself out of bed when your whole body is crying out for just a little more sleep. "Five more minutes!"

But the difficulty, how hard you have to work for that new habit, is part of the point. It it was easy, everyone would do it. Things that are good for you tend to be difficult to pull off, to follow through on, to even start in the first place. It's getting through that difficult part, telling yourself whatever you have to tell yourself to get up and get dressed and get out there, or keeping yourself calm when the new habit throws your day a little bit - it's responding to that difficult part the right way that makes the difference. That's what makes the victory worthwhile.

So here I am, ten in the morning (well, ten thirty by now), five life lessons richer, violating every story-writing rule my grammar teachers taught me, and feeling pretty good about myself. Because today my morning was hard, but I got through it, and I did the right thing anyway. And one of these days, when I'm down to my ideal size and full of lean muscle, I'll be able to look back and say "It was a Monday, and the first of the month, and the first day of a new journal, and because I decided to do the right thing that day, that's what started it all."