Monday, September 9, 2013

seasons: the ugly parts.

In February, GOD and I had another conversation that led to a revelation of sorts.
I wanted to hear what HE had to say to me, but you can't really force that kind of thing, so I ended up talking to HIM instead.  (You know how that goes...)

Looking at YOUR SON,
I see Redemption.
Endless Love.
   Willing to go to extremes
    to make things new.
HE was not afraid.
HE loved without judging.
HE was not threatened
    by anyone else.
HE was fully confident
    in HIS role.. HIS identity.
HE touched.  HE moved.  
            HE spoke.

I let something block me from ever fully expressing in written words. Why GOD?

And just as naturally as my words flowed from me, HE reciprocated, allowing HIS words to flow into my heart and out of my pen.

You panic.  Perfectionism gives you writer's block.

There was a pause.
(Maybe to allow me a moment to catch up to what HE was trying to say.)

You aren't willing to work in layers, phases.  
You want perfection from beginning to end.

And I knew it was true.  HE was so right.  That's why I'd sit for hours, agonizing over the introductory paragraph of every paper I ever wrote in college.  It had to be perfect.  It had to capture the reader.  It had to be just right.  I'd type and re-type sentence after sentence, carefully considering ever word, so as to express my thoughts flawlessly.  I had trouble moving forward if I wasn't certain that everything was as it should be.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my problem with perfectionism didn't only apply to my writing habits.  It was an issue in my life.

I could not allow something to remain unresolved.
I couldn't stand loose ends.
Especially if they were jagged and rough.
I wanted clean solutions.
I wanted pretty endings.
I couldn't stand the ugly parts.
So I agonized over every incomplete paragraph, and I desperately fought for resolution in any damaged friendship.  Or relationship.  Or work situation.  Or.... (you get the point.)

I would find a way to make it right.
I would make you like me again.
I would analyze every inch of that ordeal until I understood exactly why you felt the way you felt which made you act the way you acted and what I did to make you feel that way and what I would need to do to take away the bad feelings and replace them with good feelings because I don't want you to think poorly of me and I hate when I can't do anything about what you think of me and I really really hate when I can't fix it.

And that's exhausting.
(and a run-on sentence)

Yeah...  It might be an understatement to say that I had trouble moving forward if things weren't as they should be.

But you know what?
Sometimes you can't do anything about the mess.
Sometimes it's not something that can be fixed right away.
Sometimes you have to walk forward with no promise that resolution will ever come.
Sometimes you have to let go.

An amazing thing happens when you release your death grip on a situation:  It can breathe.

It's funny, I have a lot more I want to say about this...
So many more thoughts about the beauty of even the unresolved...
But I just can't seem to figure out how to say it...

So I'm going to follow the other piece of advice HE gave me that day:

Be content with the unfinished.

It seems that even in-- and maybe especially in-- the ugly parts, there is hope.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

choose better: part 1.

This has been HIS theme for me this year.
Choose better: don't settle for the lesser things.

It was January 2nd that the message started being formed for me.  I'd felt it coming.  You see, the year before, I had experienced a great season of intimacy with the LORD.  It was an intimacy that I was led to out of desperation.  2011 had been a very difficult year (to put it mildly), but as I desperately ran to the FATHER for healing, I found it.  And my desperate season gave way to redemption and resurrection and refreshment.  It was beautiful.  But as is our nature, the further I found myself in the new season, the less I felt the need to run.  My pace was slowed.  The sense of urgency had left me. The next thing I knew, my connection with the LORD had lessened, and I felt myself in danger of losing all that I had found.  For months it had been obvious that I had to turn to HIM out of discipline, not desperation.  I would only continue to deepen my intimate relationship with GOD if I chose it.

As of January 2nd, I hadn't been choosing it.

But it was a new year!
I was resolved to do it!
My choices mattered.
I wanted to choose HIM.

Apparently HE was leading my friend (and fellow blogger), Annie, to some similar realizations.  As I read her blog that day, my thoughts were affirmed.

This was a year to choose.

I wanted to choose life.
                               my dwelling.

But choosing better isn't easy.  If it was, more people would do it, and it wouldn't require discipline.  I wrestled a lot with my choosing.  I wasn't sure I had it in me.  Could I really do this?  Had I become too lazy?  Was I prepared for this?

I prayed: LORD, I choose YOU.
I want to prove that to YOU.
Time with YOU.
Not wasting the moments that can be cherished.

I looked for clues everywhere.  How am I supposed to do this?  The following week, I just so happened to be at the National Conference on Youth Ministries (NCYM), where I had the opportunity to hear a number of talented speakers.  I was trying to soak up all that I could glean from what they each had to say.

Greg Anderson said, "Practice awareness of GOD's pursuit of you."

LORD, is this the key to the discipline I'm looking for?

David Skidmore challenged us to write out a personal mission statement for our life.
"Jenna Lupo exists to _________________."

Will this help me focus?

Frank Viola spoke words that deeply stirred my spirit.
"Live in the reality of what you are trying to proclaim."
"Be who you are where HE has you."
"The gospel spreads best, not through force, but through fascination."

LORD, I want to be like that.  I want to be YOUR scent.

In one of Chris Seidman's classes, he said something about "a hard year of discipline."  He said it's tough, "but you'll see this GOD stuff is really real."  He talked a little about Psalm 119: "understanding through obedience."  (This part is starred and highlighted in my journal with a note to the side that says, "notice this Jenna.")

As I look back through my journals, it's apparent that the answer I was looking for was not coming easily.  I wrestled with this for several weeks.  But in the midst of a Bible Study that I was working through with a few close friends, HE spoke.  (Interestingly enough, it was a study called "How to Hear GOD's Voice.")

On February 19th, when I asked HIM a few very simple questions about HIS love for me and HIS desires for me and I gave HIM time to respond, HE clarified HIS message in very simple terms.

You have been satisfied with the lesser things, HE said.  Choose better.  Not out of condemnation.  Out of love.  MY Love is good.  Come back in, Jenna.

It was like a breath of fresh air.  Pure.  Clean.  Good.
As I tried to construct my game plan to choose better, starting with how I eat, HE whispered to me again.

What is it that you are craving from back there that I AM not enough to satisfy?  If you keep holding on to what you thought was so amazing, you will never enjoy all we can have.

(I'm thinking HE was talking about more than my eating habits.)

The following Sunday morning in church, I felt really distracted.  I needed to focus, so I prayed.  Push the enemy out, SPIRIT.  Fill this place.  Fill me.  Fill us.  Consume us.  May the enemy not distract from YOUR glory and power.

HIS reply?

Do not neglect the calling.
The urgings in your depths are from ME.
Follow them.
Make space and follow them.

Jason's lesson that morning was on deliverance.  The story of Moses and his enslaved people.  Jason asked the following questions:  "Are you free?  Or are there taskmasters in your life? What are you enslaved to?"

Perhaps I was enslaved to the lesser things...