Saturday, August 19, 2017

Reason Enough

My entire life I have struggled with not being good enough and not being seen.  In some situations, this would cause me to point out things others did wrong in order to make my insignificance a little less so. Or in others it would lead me to brag about the smallest of things in order to be noticed.

I grew up in a trailer park which sat at the top of a hill from a lake.  At the bottom of the hill, around the lake, was a campground.  I lived in the most magical place on Earth, or so my young self thought. I had friends and adventures.  I had the freedom to play and grow the way kids of the 80's did. Despite all this, I was still picked on relentlessly up through middle school. We moved in high school, I thought it would change, but the only thing that did was the trailer park we lived in.  You see, I had unfortunate growth cycles - this offered me many more years of roundness than height. I've also been plagued with poor eyesight, fine hair, and a challenging complexion. I began to build walls.

Because of these walls, I did everything in my power to be better at things. If I couldn't be noticed for me - maybe I could be noticed for what I did. In school, I tried to out shine and beat the other kids.  That didn't work so well, despite my eagerness otherwise, I was just an average kid - no Einstein blood flowing through me. I still gave it my all and tried with the best of them which led me to fail more than succeed because I either didn't have the passion or the ability to excel. I carried this through all of my schooling years.  (Don't give up on reading this yet...)

Then, I got into my working-world years. Oh, how I would push and push. Striving to be better - applying for every job I could because new meant better. Essentially, it boiled down not one lick to whether I liked the job, but that it meant I, too, was better.  It would puff me up. Yes, I was that person. If I saw anyone doing better or getting more recognition, I'd fight all the more to prove my worth. I'd work more hours and run more circles around everyone to show I could handle a larger workload. I'd do the jobs no one wanted and work in every department that had a spot open to work, not because it was being helpful, but because it was making me better - I'd simply know more.

There was some good that came from this.  I was afforded opportunities I am sure never would have come my way. For this, I am truly thankful.  However, while holding 'bigger' roles I didn't have the social graces to excel and I didn't have the academics to fit in.  So, I did what I do best.  I became the bull in the china closet and did what I could to be seen; just like I did as a kid.  I wanted to be enough and in that process lost many more opportunities than I gained.  It has a way of working itself out, it seems.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with, well, anything. I'm working on closing out my thirties. This decade has been both good and bad.  While there are some ways in which I have grown there are areas of my life where I still see the pattern of me wanting to be more, to be better.  I have struggled with aggression equaling confidence - it doesn't.  I've struggled with education equaling worth - it doesn't. And I have struggled with exactly where I fit in - I still don't know.   What I do know - it was almost an epiphany - is that I am average. I was never meant for greatness, I don't hold the ability or personality for it.  I was never meant for big roles - I don't have the mental fortitude for it. But I was meant to be me - in all the simpleness it holds.

Learning this is allowing me the opportunity to stop struggling, to stop forcing myself into my circumstances. I am average, but I am no less important. I don't know my purpose, but I know what I know and someday where those two meet, I'm going to be ready. I'll be able to show up and say, "Yes, here I am." And even if no one else sees that God is going to say, "I never once took my eyes off of you.  You have always been enough for me".

That's it, too, dear reader.  You are enough. No matter who has passed you by, no matter who has belittled you, demeaned you, tore you down.  No matter what title you do or do not hold.  You are enough. God sees you.  He sees every single bit of all that you are and all that you go through and to Him none of it is insignificant. And all of that is possible simply because He loves you more than you will ever fathom.

So, let go of those things that are holding you captive.  Those battles you are fighting - the ones that are against no one else but you.  Those struggles you are so wrapped up in because they are comforting to you.  Let them go because He sees you.  He knows you.  And to Him, you will always be reason enough.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Discouragement

One of the devotionals I read recently talked about the most effective tool in the enemy's toolbox.  This tool is one common to everyone and one that debilitates, to some degree, all who pick it up or even happen upon in.  I hate to admit the number of times, I too, have fallen to the pull of this tool.  To be honest, I've been holding it firmly in my hands with a white-knuckled grip lately.  This tool and I have gotten to know each other.  There are some days where I can't see how life could function any other way.  Then there are days where the freedom of a victory causes me to set the tool down and walk in the blessed assurance that all is right and good in my life.

Discouragement is a mighty tool of the enemy.  People I am so discouraged right now.  It feels like one step forward and two steps back with things. In fact, I have begun to question whether having goals and dreams and desires is even worthwhile.  Most especially when I am trying to teach my Littles that in order to become who or what you want to be you need to work hard at it and have faith in the process. I have these people who are looking up to me and yet I am struggling to keep it all together.  Honestly, I just want to give up on it all.  Who was I kidding?  If I was ever meant to be a teacher I would have worked harder decades ago despite the circumstances of my life at that time. I just would have.

To top it all off, I have been diligently working to find a new line of work, something that keeps me busy, spurs a level of excitement within me, and pays the bills.  I must admit, the more jobs you apply for, the easier it gets!  I think I'm beginning to master the art of catered resumes and pointed cover letters.  I may, to some degree, be a bit straight forward, but I am honest.  If I can't get them to call me, the least I can do is tell them straight away why I am a good fit for the role - it is what the cover letter is for, right?! In all of this applying, I have also reapplied to schools (colleges/universities) who have recently opened up more adjunct roles.  I've gotten no calls or emails.

I know it has been said the waiting is the hardest part, and it truly is. I have no doubt the Lord is making me wait simply because there is something I still do not know.  There is something I still have to learn.  He is still working to make me the best teacher He can.  I have to bank on that reality or else the weight of the other possibility is simply too much for me to handle. I am not so naive to think that all childhood dreams come true, but for some reason, I was hoping that just maybe this one could happen. So, in the waiting, I will keep praying, keep reading, keep learning, keep becoming the best possible version of myself for that moment when the Lord finally lets me become a teacher.

Perhaps maybe this is the lesson I am to teach - He has our best tomorrows planned.  He has the best things in mind for us.  He knows us better than we know ourselves and He knows the best role we are to hold in this world which will light the path for our eternity. While I am waiting and keeping-on, I will have to have faith He is not finished with me yet and that His timing is the best timing. And someday, when I get the honor of becoming a teacher I can look back and see all the work the Lord was doing and realize He had it all under control - I just had to set the tool I was holding, aside.

Have a blessed day,
- M

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Forest for the Trees

There comes a time in life where you expect to have finally arrived.  What that arrival looks like for you is wholly dependent upon the thing(s) that drive you.  Me, I wanted to have a career I cared about and a feeling of self-worth.  Before you click off and chose something else to read, hear me out on this.  I have long maintained my favorite book of the Bible is Ecclesiastes; it still is.  I love that book for a myriad of reasons, but most of all because the author got it.  He just did.  Solomon was a great guy.  He had more wisdom than anyone else in all of history and yet still had issues.  I love the story of how he became the wisest person to ever be.  When he came into power, so-to-speak, the Lord asked him to name whatever it was that he wanted.  He could have the cattle on 1000 hills, he could be stronger than any man alive, he could, well, be anyone and anything.  Instead, he, in all his humbleness, simply asked for wisdom.  And it was in this request, he gained all other things.

But the problem with 'the things' is that they never filled him up.  They never quite got him to the place where he was completely and totally filled to the brim with happiness, contentment, and peace in life.  In fact, he quite vehemently stated all of it was "meaningless".  That all the toil and work and striving brought about nothing but more pain and strife and emptiness.  That each and every situation, desire, temptation, struggle, success in life was nothing new - it has all been seen and done and experienced before.  Sadly, the only thing new about any of it was the time frame in which it was occurring and the peoples in which it was happening to.  In some regard I find comfort in that, in others, I want to yell all the more loudly.

Where does all this fit into the "arriving"?  This morning while reading my Bible and doing my devotionals it dawned on me where I am in the timeline of my life.  I have had the opportunity in the recent past to work with some kids who have just entered the next phase of their lives.  These are kids who will be entering their first year of college in the fall and have their whole lives ahead of them.  These kids are equally cloaked in promise and ignorance. It has been a joy to listen to them share (when asked) what their dreams are and what they want to study.  It has been an even greater joy to listen to them express, with all their youthful wonder, what they want to be when they grow up and what impact they want to have on the world. I remember being that kid once.

As I have listened I have also encouraged them to stay strong and to not give up on school even when the temptation to work more or study less comes along.  I've tried to encourage them to stay focused on their goal, rather than the smaller wins that come in between because to lose sight of what they want is like missing the forest for the trees.  (They didn't understand that analogy, but it was apropos.)  While each of us starts life out with different driving forces and different factors that imprint our lives, we all have an opportunity to arrive.  Sometimes, it takes many years.  Sometimes, it happens straight away.  And sometimes, it doesn't happen on this side of eternity.

In any case, I am most certain, the meaning of it all is directly related to the perspective you give it. I didn't have the opportunity to begin college straight out of high school.  But I did have the opportunity to put myself through school and in doing so gained a greater appreciation for the education I paid for.  After receiving my Associates, I continued on for my Bachelors, and then most recently my Masters.  All of these taking a span of 12 years or so to complete.  While not the best timing in many cases, I think the life lessons gained along with the formal education were perfectly timed. I have hopes of returning for another degree, I don't know what degree or what subject matter just yet, but I have a great passion for learning.  I have an even greater passion for teaching.

So how does all of this fit?  Simply that life, while meaningless in bits (trees), has an ample opportunity to give you something magnificent to look at (forest) as a whole.  Isn't God so good?

-M