Earning Love

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks.

Having additional time off and not staying crazy-busy has sent me into a bit of a tailspin.

I had no idea how much I crave busyness. During the school year, I rarely have down-time. During the summer, even with my part-time gigs, I underestimated just how much down-time I would have. I seem to have forgotten the negative effect down-time can have on me. Suddenly, I have time to think. And when I have time to think I have time to obsess. And when I have time to obsess, I have time to be anxious about everything. And when I have time to be anxious about everything, I have time for panic attacks.

Before going to bed, while in the shower, while prepping for tutoring, while babysitting, while in the doctor’s office, while waking up in the middle of the night, while preparing for the day… panic, panic, panic.

It didn’t actually occur to me that I was having panic attacks until I took the time to look it up. All I could think was, “What the heck is wrong with you?! Chill, woman. You’re being ridiculous.” But all the chastising in the world couldn’t bring me down from the ledge I was about to hurl myself over. It all came to a head while in the shower one afternoon, freaking out about the numbness in my leg, convinced I had a life threatening disease that was going to kill me right then and there, when I pulled the towel off the rack, tied it around my head and…

A spider, the size of Cincinnati, crawled out of the towel and into my hair. The result? There is no gif adequate enough to properly convey the madness that followed. The screaming, the throwing, the hyperventilating… Winston (who doesn’t get up for anything) actually came to check on me. That’s how bad it was. When I realized I had trashed my apartment and emotionally fallen apart over a spider? I knew it was time to see the doctor.

So, of course, the doctor prescribed me something. But, of course, since it wasn’t a magic pill, it took a few days to kick in. (Actually, I may still be waiting for it to completely kick in…) In the meantime, I surrounded myself with Bible verses and prayer and sleep. (Well, the best sleep I could get when I wasn’t obsessing, worrying, and panicking.)

One night, while in the throes of yet another panic attack that had awoken me at 3:00 in the morning, Winston jumped up on the bed to offer his company… and I immediately launched into what I like to call my, “Have-To” mode.

I have-to cuddle him. I have-to let him know he’s appreciated. I have-to show him he is loved. I have-to give him some attention. I have-to be a better pet parent. I have-to brush him more, feed him less, play with him more, hold him more, leave him home alone less, etc, etc, etc. I have-to do this, that, and the other thing for him, right here, right now, otherwise, it’s all going to fall apart.

Okay, clearly the have-tos play a big part in my anxiety… But it was in the midst of me tearing myself down over how much I wasn’t doing and how much more I could be doing that the following thought crossed my mind…

Maybe Winston just wanted to give me some affection. Maybe he wanted to keep me company. Maybe he wanted to check on me. Why couldn’t I  just let him love me? Why couldn’t I just let myself be loved… period??

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a thought. Maybe it was a prompting of the Holy Spirit. But it was this thought and/or prompting that made me realize… If I can’t even let my cat show me love, how can I ever expect the Lord to get His foot in the door long enough to show me love? I’m always so worried about what I’m doing earn that love – any love – all love – love from family, love from friends, love from coworkers, love from Jack, love from God, even love from my pet. What it boils down to is the fact that I seldom am able to receive love because I’m always convinced that I haven’t earned it. I haven’t done enough, I’ve done too much, I’ve done it too often, I’ve done it too seldom, I’ve done it too late, I’ve done it too early, I did it too eagerly, I did it impersonally, I did this wrong, I did that wrong, I didn’t do the other thing well enough… And until I can fix it all, and tie up the loose ends, and prove I’m worthy of love, I shrug it off, push it away, and ignore it altogether because… anything that unconditional… that free…. can’t be meant for me. I’m not good enough for it.

Why can’t I just receive it? Who said I had to earn it? What makes me think I’d ever be able to earn any of it? EVER?! That’s what’s so amazing about our Heavenly Father’s unconditional love… it’s just always there for the taking… but we’re not taking it… because we’re too busy trying to earn it.

At least I am. And it’s exhausting… and probably an excellent source of all that anxiety.

So, as I settled back under my covers with Winston nestled under my chin and drifted off to sleep, I realized, I can barely do enough to earn my cat’s love, thank God I don’t have to earn His. And with that, I let Him love me, as I settled in for the best morning’s sleep I have gotten in a long time.

 

 

 

 

 

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Let Me Break This Down for You…

Let’s get you caught up, shall we?

A few weeks back, I imported all my work from my deleted blog over to this blog so you’d have some idea of what I was talking about with this “Catholic Conversion” stuff.

Although, jumping from blog to blog didn’t provide much of an adequate segue about the why and how and when of the conversion and how it resulted in a reversion.

So, let me break this down for you piece by piece without going into too much mind-numbing detail so as to lose your interest.

Let’s see here… It all started when I started working as a teacher at a Catholic school.

The people at the new Catholic school were very, very nice. They welcomed me, they helped me, they answered all my stupid questions… they were very kind and thoughtful and Mormon-like. (What? Like we don’t already know the Mormons are the nicest people on the planet? What, like we’re going to pretend they’re not? Puh-lease.) Basically, they treated me like their new Protestant pet.

giphy lilo

THEN, I started going to Mass… and became mesmerized by the smells, the bells, the chants, the kneeling, the robes, the high arched ceilings, the statues, the stained glass, and the shockingly shiny metal ware they used for communion.

ooh

This is church like I’ve never seen it before…

And then my mom died… and they were all…

“Let me offer this Mass for you.”

“Here’s some homemade bread.”

“Are you okay?”

“Do you need to talk?”

“Can we pray for you and your family?”

And I was all…

aw shucks

You like me! You really like me!

And so, I put on my rose-colored glasses and started to question some things about my church background.

Things like…

Why do we need coffee at church?

Why do we build churches like malls and shopping centers instead of places of worship?

Why do we have to entertain the faithful with rock bands and light shows and fog machines?

Why are we always talking about what God can do for us and what we can get out of a relationship with Him instead of how we can better serve Him and further His kingdom?

So… I started to ask some questions. And I started to study. And I started to meet with a priest. And I prayed and I dug and read books and read all the really hard questions until finally, I was all…

“Yup. This is it. Christ’s one true church. Let’s do this.”

So, outwardly I was all…

YES

But inwardly I was all…

hold on

Marian devotions? Praying to the saints? Purgatory? Doing penance to shave time off of purgatory? Annulments? Transubstantiation? Wait a minute…

But I couldn’t actually say that. I mean… I had people to please. I had people to impress. I had people to answer to! I work at a Catholic School, peeps!

But then, I figured, “Meh! I’m never going to have to deal with any of that stuff anyway… No church is perfect. Let’s do this. I got this.”

Annnnnd… apparently, that was really the wrong, wrong answer.

I guess, coming from my church background, I just thought, if you change churches, you can always change back… it’s not that big of a deal. A Christ follower is a Christ follower is a Christ follower. God is present in all His churches.

But that’s not quite how it works in the Catholic Church. Once you become Catholic… you can’t just… go back. If you receive the teachings of the Catholic Church as true, and believe them to be true, you can’t just… change your mind. You can’t go back. Once you’re Catholic you’re locked in…

forever

So… IF I do decide that maybe I don’t agree with all the Catholic teachings, maybe I’m not “Catholic” after all… and IF I decide to go to another church…

I’m destined for…

Well…

Hell.

Because I’ve rejected the teachings of Christ’s true church. And apparently I don’t want to have anything to do with Him… or them. So, therefore…

Hell it is.

But… I have difficulty with this teaching. Because I’m not rejecting Christ. I’m not rejecting His teachings. Everything I do, I do to honor and glorify Him. It’s just that some teachings of the church are what I take issue with. Because I can’t quite believe that the teachings of the Catholic Church are indisputable and infallible… because it’s still a church run by man… and man can be incorrect… even if they do claim that every teaching they put forth has been ordained by God… how can one be sure? Man is fallible. We get things wrong all the time. I just can’t believe that Martin Luther was wrong about everything. I can’t believe that Christ was as unmerciful and unmovable as some Church teachings suggest. I can’t believe that all the Catholic Church’s teachings are 100% correct.

So… because of this… because I’ve already agreed to be Catholic, and now I’m backtracking…

I’m now destined for Hell.

Which is…

You know…

Icky.

A few months back, I had a conversation with Jack about this very thing. Jack is just about the most practical human being on the planet. Nothing ruffles his feathers. He’s methodical and sensible and reasonable and calm and decisive… and he does what he does and if someone doesn’t like it… OH WELL. (I seriously want to be this man when I grow up.) So, we were talking about the fact that if I decided not to be Catholic, I would be going to Hell, supposedly.  And I was trying to explain that I knew, deep down, that I wouldn’t be going to Hell just because I decided not to be Catholic, but what truly bothered me was that there would be other Catholics out there who would think I was going to Hell because I decided not to be Catholic. And that’s what truly bothered me about this whole “Catholic – To Be or Not To Be” Conundrum.

And because he is Jack, he was all, “But who cares? You know where your spiritual walk is. Why are you bothered by what other people think?”

And I was all, “Because they THINK I’m going to HELL. That’s a pretty big deal! How does it not bother you that all these Catholics might think you’re going to Hell because you’re not a Catholic?!”

And he laughed and said, “Because it isn’t true! They can think what they want to think, but they’re wrong. So, why should I care?”

The confidence of this man is truly mind-boggling. I have never, ever, had that kind of confidence in my life. I have never been 100% confident of anything ever. You know how much anxiety that creates inside of a person?! To never feel confident and secure about anything? I mean, I know what I believe and what I think, and I can be maybe 95% certain about it… but I’m never 100%. Maybe it’s due to years of being brain-washed as a youngest sibling. I could think something, but more often than not, my older siblings would disprove what I thought and I’d be all, “Ohhhhh…” because I was young and stupid. I could never trust myself 100%. There was always that chance I could be wrong. And so, here I am, at 35 years old, bright-eyed and bushy tailed and uncertain about EVERYTHING I HAVE EVER BELIEVED IN MY LIFE BECAUSE… CHANCES ARE… SOMEONE ELSE IS USUALLY MORE RIGHT THAN ME… SO MAYBE I AM GOING TO HELL.

I might love God, I might follow Christ’s teachings in my life… but I’m still… going to Hell.

You guys… being me is truly exhausting. You have no idea.

So, what do you think? Am I wrong? Am I right? Do I just need to calm down and grow in confidence?

That’s not even what this blog post was supposed to be about… I just got a little distracted. Sorry peeps. Let me know your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

A Christ Follower

Being the nerd that I am, most weekends, I spend a decent portion of my time watching documentaries. Sure, I could watch any old thriller or comedy… but I’d much rather learn something… anything… if I’m going to stare at a TV screen for a couple of hours.

This weekend, it was learning all about eating disorders in “THIN” and the process of a proper Amish shunning in “The Amish: Shunned”. It was during the latter that I heard the following quote:

“For the Amish, Jesus alone is not enough. Working, trying your best, following the rules and traditions of the forefathers. You do it all just right hopefully, you’ll make it into heaven. To me, all the good works, and traditions, and rules, and regulations covered up the simple, easy play of salvation…. Are we going to follow man or are we going to follow the scriptures?”  –The Amish: Shunned

This quote, oddly enough, describes much of my experience within the Catholic Church. The church would claim that they too, believe that faith alone in Jesus Christ is what is necessary for salvation… BUT… it is the good works that aid us in our journey toward heaven. To counter that, the Protestants claim that the good works are a direct result of faith in in Jesus. So, to simply things… Catholics believe that good works aid in our salvation. Protestants believe that salvation aids in our good works.

That was something I struggled with entering the Catholic Church. Yes, I believed in the teachings of Jesus. Yes, I wanted to serve and honor God in all I did. Yes, I had faith and a relationship with my Lord. BUT, it was my baptism that first sanctified me, and it was the works that I did that further sanctified me and fully prepared me to be accepted into heaven.

IF I went to church every Sunday. IF I received the Eucharist worthily. IF I went to confession once a month. IF I did corporal works of mercy. IF I prayed daily. IF I asked for the intercession of the saints. IF I observed all Holy Days and Feast Days. IF I kept up with the daily scripture readings of the church. IF I tithed and fasted and lived well and kept a good witness… THEN, I would at least be accepted into purgatory to be further sanctified and perfected until eventually I would earn my heavenly merit badge and be accepted to be with Christ for all eternity.

It was a long year and a half of walking on egg shells. I couldn’t miss Mass. I couldn’t miss confession. I couldn’t forget to say grace. I couldn’t refuse to learn more about the saints. I couldn’t not know my catechism front to back. I couldn’t read a non-Catholic Bible. I couldn’t listen to Christian music, (but rather, it was best to listen to Catholic pod casts.) I couldn’t forget my Holy Days of Obligation. I couldn’t go to another church. I couldn’t receive communion anywhere else. I couldn’t not appreciate or embrace suffering. I couldn’t not silently judge and pray for the salvation of my non-Catholic brothers and sisters. I couldn’t not perform to my full ability. Anything less would mean not offering all of myself to Jesus. Anything less would be one further step away from purgatory. Not even heaven, but purgatory.

Looking back, I can’t believe how tied up in knots I was. Every day… trying to prove my worthiness. Every day… worrying that if I were to die that day would Jesus still want me? Worrying that I hadn’t done enough to merit His grace and mercy and love. I needed to earn it. I needed to trust the teachings of the Church, follow the rules, and hope for the best. That’s all any of us could ever do.

Admittedly, I feel like a good portion of churches all around the world have begun to rely too heavily on the grace of Jesus Christ – as though it’s a Get Out of Jail Free Card. We can do what we like, forget about God, and somehow His grace will see us through. Yes, His grace is a gift – it’s not something that can be earned – but we’re still expected to live rightly.

I think some Catholics fail to understand that Protestants don’t view salvation as a “One and Done” deal. I haven’t met a single Protestant who believes that. We still believe we have to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling… but we don’t believe that we can earn brownie points just by doing the right thing. We don’t think we can shave time off our sentence in purgatory simply by praying for the dead. We don’t think “work” of any kind will ever make us more worthy. Because our righteousness is as filthy rags. There’s nothing we can do to deserve His grace. It’s a gift. A true gift. No matter how much time I spend in church praying, no matter how much I give to the poor, no matter how consistent I am with confession and communion and charitable works… I still won’t deserve it. I’ll still be unworthy. And God knows that. That’s why He sent His son to die on the cross as reparation for our sins. So, why are so many of us working so hard to EARN it?

I look at my time in the Catholic church and sometimes I wonder, “What was I thinking?” and yet other times I think, “Meh… you know what? They’re right about that.” There are things I vehemently disagree with within the Catholic church and things I downright love. Thus the struggle. This “breaking” so to speak with the Catholic Church wasn’t a sudden, overnight epiphany. I didn’t wake up one morning and realize, “Huh. Maybe I’m not Catholic after all.” It’s been months of praying and seeking and reading… and I still don’t know all the answers. All I know is that I want to throw these expectations of what a Catholic is and what a Protestant is right out the window. All I want to be is a Christ follower. What’s so wrong with that?

Little by little by little

Just when you think you’re good.

Just when you think you’re happy and healthy and on the road to recovery.

Just when you think your past is behind you…

It comes screaming back to smack you in the face and beat you over the head with the fact that you’re a failure, a loser, and broken beyond repair.

There’s no coming back from that past.

There’s no hope.

You screwed the pooch and now you must deal with the consequences.

It’s just swell.

I haven’t felt this way in a long time. A long, LOOOOOOONG time. But, lately, it’s been creeping back. Little by little by little.

A Facebook post here, a text there, a homily… a letter… a lecture over coffee.

“Annie, you’re broken. Your life is in tatters. And there’s no coming back from that. But it’ll be okay. You have your cat and Jesus. That’s all you’ll ever need.”

I knew I never should have fessed up about my divorced status to my Catholic coworkers.

I knew I shouldn’t have become Catholic.

I knew somewhere, deep down, everyone was secretly judging me for the ass hat’s mistakes.

It all started when I told my priest friend I was divorced.

So, he told me to get an annulment.

Then, I became Catholic.

I became a divorced Catholic going through an annulment.

Life was fine. I mean… it was weird… and kind of lonely… but fine. I was doing what my priest friend wanted me to do. I was staying on the straight and narrow. Mass every week, confession every month, service projects when I could, keeping the whole “divorce” things under wrap and staying away from online dating sites…

Until…

Until I got asked out.

But a fellow divorcee.

A non-Catholic divorcee.

“What the heck!” I thought. “I’ll get a free dinner, we’ll compare tragic marriage stories, and I’ll make a good friend.”

So, I went.

And I fell head over heels, madly in love with this divorced non-Catholic dad.

You’d think this would be a good thing, a happy thing, a cause for celebration.

Oh, no. Oh, no, no, no, no, no.

Not in the Catholic church, it’s not.

In the Catholic church it’s a reason to call you on the carpet and beat you over the head with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“Don’t you know dating as a divorcee without an annulment is ADULTERY? Why are you committing adultery? Why do you hate Jesus?”

Don’t get me wrong, I was strong enough in my Christian faith to know this wasn’t true, but… my priest friend saw things differently.

And so it began…

A scolding over coffee: “Are you lonely? I know it wasn’t a mistake for you to become Catholic. Why can’t you wait until your annulment is final and find a good single Catholic man?”

A flurry of frantic test messages: “Jesus tells us He hates divorce. You are still married to the ass-hat. You are committing adultery. Why are you doing this?”

A not-so-subtle homily: “We should praise and encourage these faithful Catholics who are choosing to embrace a chaste, single lifestyle – separated yet still married to their spouses! This is their cross to bear in the face of divorce – and they bear it well!”

A biting Facebook post not directed at anyone, but the message was clear : “How dare you “faithful” Catholics praise and “like” the new relationship of a divorced Catholic! You are encouraging adultery and mocking God!”

Little…

By Little…

By Little.

And I would shrug it off and laugh and say, “I know where I stand with God my Father. I know I’m in His will. I know this relationship is a blessing from Him.”

And yet… the little nagging voice…

What if.

What if the priest IS right?

What if you ARE committing adultery?

What if God IS just as disgusted and disappointed as the priest is? How dare you commit this sin against a God you claim to love?!

You’re divorced. You’re broken. And now you’re going to add a multitude of sin on top of it?! What is the matter with you?! How stupid are you?! Sure, God still loves you, but you made your bed. The ass hat left you. Now you deal with the consequences. Live like he’s your husband and don’t move forward until the Church gives explicit permission for you to do so! He’s not going to bless you moving forward! He’s only going to bless you in your sorry state of robotic obedience to the church! But He’s certainly not going to bless a new relationship! Who authorized this?! Certainly not God… and most definitely not the church!

Little…

By little…

By little.

Until you’re so convinced that you’re wrong and so beaten down… that it just becomes easier to throw the blessing under the bus, and go back to your sorry situation of blind obedience. Being in their good graces is better than having them think you’re destined for Hell. And being the champion people-please I know I am… I’m sometimes willing to give up the blessing in exchange for their approval. The fact that I would take heartbreak and devastation over having a priest think ill of me shows the depth of that people-pleasing addiction.

I wish I had never joined the church. I wish I had never gotten asked out. I wish, I wish, I wish. Life is easier when you live in stagnation instead of fear of failure and regret.

 

 

 

Welcome to Catholicism

Where everything is your fault… and even if it’s not, you may as well do penance for it.

I don’t know if I mentioned this… but I joined the Catholic Church about a year and a half ago.

Apparently, I don’t have the staying power the cradle Catholics have because I started pulling up stakes a few months back.

I just couldn’t do it anymore…

I mean, not really…

I could go through the motions and pretend, but…

But even the pretending became burdensome. You know you’re doing it wrong when the whole time at Mass you’re thinking, “I wonder if I can find something decent on Netflix after this…”

I tried. I really did. But what with all the suffering, and the Marian devotions, and the guilt and the shame, and the bickering over how pious and holy one would have to be to attain perfection and gain admittance into heaven… It just became too much. I couldn’t buy into it anymore. I didn’t buy into it anymore. It all became too convoluted and treacherous and… well… backwards.

I mean, when you start to brow beat yourself for thinking that Billy Graham certainly made it into heaven, and feel guilty for not praying for his admittance into purgatory… You know there’s a bit of a problem.

I mean… really, Annie?

It just became… exhausting. And worship had become… forced. And Jesus had turned into a sad, angry, hurt martyr… and God was mad at me ALL THE TIME… and all semblance of grace and joy and peace had been left in a dust heap by the door…

It was just time.

So… here I am. Trying to figure out the why and the “HUH?” to my conversion and reversion and making my way back around to the light and joy and the peace.

I don’t know… Like I said… Over and under, around and through… I guess that’s the only way I really learn.

 

 

 

A Season of New Growth

How many of you do the Lent thing?

Ever since I learned about Lent, I’ve always had the same question: WHY ISN’T EVERY CHRISTIAN DOING LENT?! At what point in time did Lent become a Catholic or Lutheran thing? Lent should not just be for “certain” Christians. It should be for every Christian. Because Lent is all about clearing out the old, ushering in the new, and preparing our hearts for the greatest of Christian celebrations: Easter! Lent is a spring cleaning – working on rooting out those things that draw you further away from the Lord and putting extra effort into drawing closer to the Lord and improving your relationship with Him.

Granted, this shouldn’t be a “one and done” type deal – this should be an ongoing project every day of our lives, but Lent gives us those 40 days of opportunity to really dig our heals in and reflect on what needs changing and focus on changing it. I love Lent. Even if I wasn’t “Catholic”, I would still be doing Lent. I need the renewal that Lent brings. I crave it. For the past two years, I stay in this holding pattern after Christmas – just waiting, watching, eagerly anticipating the start of Lent. And then when it comes, it brings with it such hope and the opportunity for a fresh start and new life that… well… it just seems stupid to dismiss it as a “Catholic” or “Lutheran” thing.

So, now that Lent is upon us, I realize I haven’t really, seriously thought about the 3 things I was going to focus on this Lenten season. (You know how it is. One minute you’re all, “OOH! Lent is coming! What am I going to focus on this year?” and the next you’re all, “OOH! My cat is dragging his butt across my carpet! WHAT NOW?!”) That’s been my winter thus far…

But, you see, the celebration of Lent asks us to focus on 3 things:

  • Fasting
  • Almsgiving
  • Prayer

The fasting portion asks us to do away with something that distracts us from our relationship with the Lord. It could be food, but it could also be something more substantial like social media, over-spending, dating, sex, alcohol, constant noise, entertainment… anything that causes enough of a distraction to pull us away from the things of the Lord. Sure, you can give up chocolate or soda… but unless chocolate and soda honestly distract you from walking closer with the Lord, it’s not going to do much for you. I mean, “SCORE! You TOTALLY gave up that soda you only drink twice a week, brah! Way to nail the Lenten fast! High five!”… Seriously? It’s about deepening your relationship with the Lord… not being a dork. I’m just sayin’…

The almsgiving portion asks us to give something extra of ourselves, but this doesn’t always have to do with money. Yes, you can put something extra into the offering plate every Sunday, OR you can give something extra with your time and talent. Volunteer for something at the church, call or write notes of encouragement to people you usually forget to keep in touch with, do some charitable work – something that will require you to give more of yourself and foster a deeper dependence on the Lord.

And lastly… prayer. This portion isn’t rocket science. You just… pray. But again, it has to be intentional. Maybe you’re really good about reciting those memorized prayers every morning and evening, so instead start practicing some spontaneous prayer and just having a heart to heart with the Lord. Maybe you’re constantly distracted with a million other things during times of prayer. Make a conscious effort to employ the “Pirate’s Prayer” (the A-R-R-R technique of praying) during your communication with the Lord so it’s a two-sided conversation rather than a soliloquy. Maybe your prayer life has been lacking and you don’t pray very often. So… start praying – make a conscious effort to spend just 15 minutes alone with the Lord every day.  The prayer portion of Lent is probably the most difficult for me. It’s hard to buckle down and concentrate long enough to truly commune with the Lord. So, it might not come easy at first, but you’ll be amazed by the fruit it produces.

So, this Lenten season – let’s be intentional. Let’s make a conscious effort to deepen our relationship with the Lord and grow in our spiritual walk. And if you don’t usually “do” Lent – give it a try. You may just be surprised by what the Lord is longing to share with you.

Beauty in the Mess

The first day or week of a new year always brings about a flurry of excitement. Big expectations and high hopes for what the new year will bring. Endless optimism and determination to make it the best year yet. Some people hope for big answers to prayer, others are longing for a return to normal after a tumultuous year.

Every year I used to go through this.

New Years Day always brought with it heightened anxiety and desperation for big changes, better things, and happier times. Honestly, there were times I would spend the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s praying feverishly for something “good” in the new year. An answer to prayer, a respite to suffering, a resolution to a problem, a dream come true – something… anything that would just make that year different and maybe a little bit better than the year before.

And now?

Now the new year means little more than heading back to school after Christmas break.

And you know what? I’m happy about that. Gone is the anxiety and desperation for something bigger and better. Because every year is going to have its share of ups and downs, good times and bad, successes and failures, happiness and heartbreak. Because that’s just life. That’s how it works. Worrying yourself to exhaustion through gritted teeth and sheer determination to somehow create a better year for yourself… well, it’s just not worth it. God’s got it under control. Nothing we do or say is going to change the future. We just have to trust that He’ll make all things work together for our good.

I look back at my life the past few years and compared to other people, my life thus far has been a roller coaster. I’ve been through more changes in my measly 30 years than many people experience their lifetime. I feel like I’ve lived 5 or 6 different lives instead of just the one. Every season has been so drastically different from the one before that sometimes it’s difficult for me to remember what life was like before this present season. It’s difficult wrap my head around the fact that at one point in time, my life looked nothing like it does now. My seasons of life have differed so drastically that they look like the different lives of different people… but in reality… it’s just my life.

And you know what’s funny? I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Most people have the one life. They do the thing that leads to the next thing that leads to the next thing that leads to the next thing until they look back at their life and they discover they’ve forged a neat little trail of experiences that fit perfectly into “their plan”. My experiences have never fit into my plan. Instead, my life has been a series of dead ends and detours and round-abouts and endless road construction. I’m honestly not completely sure how I got from Point A to Point B, and I haven’t a clue what lies ahead at Point C.

But really… How exciting is that?!

I would hate to have a boring, scripted life. I never wanted an ordinary life. I used to pray for God to give me a “Life Less Ordinary”. And you know what? He has. Every heartbreak, every disaster, every situation I thought I wouldn’t or couldn’t recover from has made me into the person I am now and brought me to a place where I never thought I’d be. Every roadblock and dead end and detour has resulted in a mixed up yet gloriously beautiful road map that simply glorifies God and testifies to His goodness. That’s what God does when you let Him take over. When you give up on your perfectly scripted plan and give into His… it ends up being a messy, wonderful, exciting ride that just gets better with every failure and every triumph.

So, bring on 2018 with all its messiness. I’m thrilled to bits to see what He’s going to with this new year.