Living Others’ Lives for Us

imagesNot everyone takes the same path we take. I know, it seems like such an obvious observation, but as I listened to people talking one day, I noticed the hint of judgment in the discussion.

It mainly centered on work and education. It was a casual conversation, but it included statements, such as,

  • If he/she would only get more education
  • If he/she would only use his/her education
  • If he/she was willing to work different hours
  • If he/she was willing to put in some extra time
  • If he/she was willing to…

You get the idea.

Every “if only” was following by the declaration that a particular choice would yield more money, status, or success. The underlying tone was, “Why wouldn’t someone choose this route if it will lead to more money, status, success?”

Because…not everyone defines success, status, or “enough” money the same.

We have to be careful. There are plenty of people who are living different lifestyles than us and doing just fine. They might not have all that we have, but that’s not a bad thing. They might not even want what we have, and that’s not a bad thing either. After all, do we always look at someone who has more and long for it? And if that person were to say, “all you have to do to be like me is…,” would we jump into action, or would we skeptically refuse to believe it’s as easy as someone makes it sound?

We might wonder why people don’t try harder and do more, but are we comparing them to ourselves and our ideals? Perhaps we could acknowledge they can provide and succeed in different ways, and we can encourage them where they are and toward where they want to go. Maybe they’re content in the work/money sphere, and their focus on change and growth are in other areas of their lives. Maybe we compare because it makes us feel better, as if our ideals are right. If we begin to admit someone leading a life different from ours, one we see as “less” than ours, can be satisfying, we may feel less about our standards and our lives.

Maybe we can respect and encourage others without making it about ourselves.

Carbon Copy

816889570-papier-calque-bulletin-de-salaire-boite-a-cartes-ficheMaybe you don’t know what a carbon copy is. Except perhaps to know it’s what the “cc” stands for when you email someone.
But you’ve seen it work. You’ve seen the receipt books, where someone writes on the top page, and there are two or three different colored copies of the same form beneath the top page, so what’s written on the top page gets transferred? Workers who come to your house often have receipt books to take a copy and leave a copy.
People used carbon paper in typewriters to make multiple copies at once (although the back pages were often lighter or smeared). My husband’s grandma wrote letters to her daughters with carbon paper between, so she could share the same news with half the writing time.
But carbon copies are never identical to the original. The carbon paper shifts or smears. Inconsistent pressure with writing created differences. And there was no erasing.
Carbon copies are handy when emailing people. We get to communicate with several people at once. (But please use “bcc” – blind carbon copy – when emailing a lot of people, so everyone doesn’t have everyone else’s email address to spam later or can “reply all” and inundate our inboxes with chatter.)
But the concept of carbon copies has it’s drawbacks, especially when we try to apply it to people. For example, we declare what a mom should do or look like, or what a successful person does or looks like. We declare a look or behavior as less or more manly, attractive, or worthwhile. Then we hold ourselves and others to the standards we claim.
Standards aren’t bad, but projecting the need to squeeze into a mold can be harmful, not to mention a waste of time. Becoming like someone isn’t the same as becoming the person. We have role models and try to emulate their most positive attributes, but we can never become them.
In the Christian faith, we often emphasize the importance of becoming like Jesus.  But we aren’t and never will be the same as Him. We look up to Paul, David, Ruth, and Mary, but we don’t become them. We respect people who have mentored and taught us, but we don’t become them. We gather the very best of them and let those qualities seep into our lives, and we become the best us we can be.
We’re not the same, and we weren’t intended to be. We have common, but not identical, purpose. We have threads of similarities with streaks of differences. We have unity but not uniformity.
Becoming like in order to become ourselves. No carbon copies.

I Want to Do What You Do!

whereyouare

“How do I do what you do?”

How many times have you asked the question, thought the question, or heard the question? Aspirations to grow into something else aren’t bad in and of themselves, but we often miss what God has for us right where we are when we focus on the “next, great thing.”

When people ask me how they can start traveling and speaking at women’s events, how they can publish a book, and so on, I can give them a few practical tips but the bottom line advice is “Do what God has planned for you today, because it’s your preparation for tomorrow.” God prepares us in ways we cannot imagine. None of us get to our today via a straight line series of our yesterdays. Of course, we know a common thread is woven through the twists and turns of our yesterdays, but we likely couldn’t have predicted where our experiences were taking us. I couldn’t have planned to do what I’m doing today. In fact, even when people ask how I got to where I am as I travel around, I can’t really give them a clear answer…except that God led me here.

And God is leading me somewhere else.

I don’t know where that somewhere else is. I don’t know what it entails. I don’t know if it will be similar to what I’m doing now or drastically different. But I’m certain that what is going on today will not be wasted. God uses it all. When I get to a tomorrow somewhere down the road, I might be able to look back at my current todays and make a bit of sense of them, but it certainly won’t all make sense.

It’s certainly okay to have goals, but if you become too focused on future goals, you will miss out on the experiences God has planned for you today. You will begin to look for those things that fit into your expectations and ignore or avoid others. Before long, your will might just eclipse God’s will in the way you approach your daily life.

If you believe God is calling you into something, doesn’t it make sense that he will provide the way, including the timing? And wouldn’t it make sense to trust his way instead of trying to make sense of it on your own?

You might look at someone else and what to do what they do, but remember her today isn’t your today. Her tomorrow isn’t your tomorrow. You can’t replicate someone’s journey. You have your own, and no one else can take your place. If you choose to focus on anything other than where you are and what you’re supposed to do right now, you’ll miss out. And when you miss out on something today, you’re not quite as prepared for tomorrow.

What is God prompting you to do where you are…today? Get started!

Fit Faith: Goal: Surprise Hiking Companion

My husband and I were on our first walk together in the Rocky Mountains. A gentle snow began to fall. We were in a canyon, and silence surrounded us. Everything was lightly dusted with snow. We could see the steps we had made. Other than that, the world looked untouched. We said very little to each other. It was too peaceful to disturb with chatter. I had been in the same area several years before, so I didn’t worry about not seeing a defined path. I walked a couple steps ahead of Tim.

After walking a short distance, I suddenly stopped. Tim ran into me and started to say something as I put my hands slightly out to the side to try to communicate I had stopped for a purpose. Without glancing back to make eye contact, I quietly said, “Slowly back up.” I pointed to what looked almost like a furry white blanket meandering across our path less than 20 feet ahead. It was a wolf. I had no interest in becoming a party of three.

As we backed up, we realized he wasn’t interested in us. He seemed to have been as caught off guard by the snow as we were. His coat was nearly completely showered with snow. He blended in well as he silently moved across the snow. He seemed to be looking for a place to bed down to continue an interrupted nap. He had no interest in us.

Tim and I stood still for several minutes after he was out of sight, awed by what we had just seen. Our silence was broken when Tim said, “Grab the camera out of the backpack.” I knew where his line of thinking was going, and there was no way I was going to pursue a wolf who was trying to escape the falling snow. He could nap in peace. The potential adventure was nearly too much for Tim to bear, but he agreed we had seen enough. We walked just far enough ahead to look at the wolf’s trail, but the snow was now falling fast enough to have covered everything but a slight dip in the snow. We turned toward another trail and rerouted our hike.

Sometimes we need to persevere despite obstacles, but sometimes it’s wiser to adjust our goals. Seeking God’s purpose for our lives and letting him reveal his vision to us is important. However, we won’t get it perfectly the first time. We’ll need to make adjustments along the way. We can have our life plan plotted on a timeline and intend to check off each accomplishment, decision and relationship along the way. It won’t be long before something crosses our paths that doesn’t just distract us but reroutes us. We can be just as intentional in our shifted goals as we were with our original goals. Goals are goals.

Think about when you were young. What did you want to be when you grew up? Did your dreams change? Did your interests change? How did your experiences impact your priorities? Who helped you clarify and focus on your goals? Who had little regard for and distracted you from your goals?

“I do not mean that I am already as God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal, but I continue trying to reach it and to make it mine. Christ wants me to do that, which is the reason he made me his.” (Philippians 3:12)

God intends to keep you focused on the goal of your life. It won’t usually perfectly align with his goal for your life. You’ll have to constantly tweak your goals to match God’s along the way. It’s okay. He’ll help you. Sometimes he’ll place obstacles in your way, and you’ll need to rely on him to guide you to determine whether it’s an obstacle you need to persevere through or accept rerouting. You’ll get distracted, and you’ll need to rely on God to guide you to determine if the distraction is to call your attention to something God wants you to see or to help hone your focusing skills.

Even in the peaceful times, he might invite a beautiful sight to alter your path. Savor the moment. You’ll likely never duplicate it. Yet the timing and appreciation will affect your next steps and experiences.

Fighting for Air

After accepting the Ultimate Climb Challenge for the American Lung Association Fight for Air, I’ve determined one thing: becoming a world-class stair climber is not one of my life goals.

Oh, I’ll likely do it again! It was definitely worthwhile. I enjoyed interacting with and watching people. And I learned a lot. Next time, I’ll wear gloves and keep cough drops in my pockets. The biggest lesson I learned is that there are places in my lungs that rarely get air. I think I used every miniscule space in my lungs that day. I managed alright and had no light-headedness or heavy coughing, but my lungs were definitely fighting for air.

I now better appreciate not only my body’s ability to take in and process air but also the availability of breathable air around me.

Air is filled with life-sustaining nourishment. God created me with the capacity to physically take it in, process it, and efficiently use it. He also created me with the capacity – the need – to spiritually breathe. He gave me the Holy Spirit to invite, yield to, and allow to nourish me to do God’s will. Without the Holy Spirit, I am a shell of who I could be. My life is incomplete and unsustainable. God breathes life into me through the Holy Spirit.

Yielding to the Holy Spirit is challenging. Sometimes I feel as if I’m fighting for air. I want to grow, but it feels like an uphill climb. My legs and lungs burn from the effort. God doesn’t say life purposed for him will be easy. In my own efforts, I’ll collapse on the first landing or procrastinate getting started. I’ll try to determine the right pace and rationalize the distance of my goals. And it still won’t be easy.

With God, I have purpose. I can yield to the right pace. I catch glimpses of the goal. I notice people cheering me on. I encourage others along the way. I don’t overextend myself nor do I underextend myself. Whether I feel overextended or not becomes secondary to letting God define where I am and how I’m doing. He determines my ability and progress. He determines my pace and purpose.

In what areas of your life are you most fighting for air?

Are you fighting for air on your own or are you trusting God to guide your every breath?

Accept God’s ultimate climb challenge. The journey is worth every breath.

So let us run the race that is before us and never give up.  (Hebrews 12:1)

Fit Faith: Antagonistic: Good Shoes

I’ve learned my lesson about quality shoes. When I work out in cheaply made or worn out shoes, I get aches in places I didn’t know existed. I need support to do what I’m doing. A good running shoe has a different support system than well-built walking shoes. Cross-trainers can generalize purpose a bit, but I wouldn’t recommend running very long or frequently in them. It’s important to personally try on the shoes instead of simply taking a friend’s word for their level of excellence. Where one person needs little support, another needs maximum support. It’s important to know your weak spots and insure you’re walking on a supportive foundation.

The support of the people around you is equally as important. When you have a lack of support, you’re more likely to quit short of your goals. Cutting carbs out of your diet when everyone in your house is consistently devouring breads of many kinds is going to be difficult to say the least. Getting away from the house to walk or visit the gym is difficult when your family members are complaining about you being gone for more than five minutes. Downsizing your portions isn’t easy when your friends only get together to eat out and want to sip on high caloric and sugar-laden drinks in between visits to the pastry and dessert restaurants.

You want to continue to build relationships with people in your life, so you can’t avoid everyone around you. When everything they do seems to undermine your strategic efforts to exercise and watch food intake, throwing your hands in the air and tossing aside your personal goals seems to be the easiest answer.

Perhaps it’s not your friends who do most of the undermining. You can lack support for yourself, too. Your own lack of support gets in the way of your goals. You might get easily discouraged. You might rationalize excuses. You might be passive aggressive, avoiding or undermining the very goals you made for yourself.

Any lack of support from yourself or others is antagonistic to your goals, whether they be physical, academic, employment or spiritual. It’s important to be mindful of the type of support you’re getting.

Get up, Ezra. You are in charge, and we will support you. Have courage and do it.” Ezra 10:4

Are the people in your life supportive or antagonistic about your spiritual growth?

I have a deal with several women in my life. All I have to do is text them one word: Pray. They don’t need to know the details. They won’t demand a lengthy conversation. They know God knows the details and that I’ll share when I can. In the meantime, they’ll do the most helpful and timely thing of all: pray. Of course, the deal goes both ways. I’ll do the same for them.

Not all the people in my life are supportive of my passionate pursuit to grow spiritually. I’m not going to cut off everyone who is antagonistic, because (1) some of them are an important part of my life and always will be and (2) antagonism from time to time reminds me to stay on my toes and resist temptation to yield to the status quo of those around me. Antagonism gone wild can be discouraging and even destructive. Antagonism in small doses can provide motivation.

It’s important to keep an accurate measurement of antagonism, insuring encouragement is outweighing it. As a ministry leader, I can get discouraged with those who aren’t happy with what’s going on or seem to drain me of energy with their constant needs and whines. However, someone can share how they connected with others in authentic ways for the first time at a recent event, and I’m recharged for weeks. I can question whether or not I’m impacting anyone’s life with writing and speaking, but when I get that one “You’ve touched my life and encouraged me” message, I’m rejuvenated.

What drains you?

What nourishes you?

Consistently measure what’s coming in and going out of your life. God supports you. “See, God will help me; the Lord will support me.” Psalm 54:4