Working in Reality

Working in Reality

My pastor taught a sermon on work ethic yesterday. While God has transformed my work habits for the better over the past couple of years, there are definitely areas of improvement for me. Lately, I’ve been struggling with discontent in the workplace. I fantasize about how much happier, creative, and comfortable I’d be if I could start working for myself sometime around the year of… now.

It’s hard working a full time job, working extra to pay off debt, and then using the remainder of my energy to work on my dream. I can’t express to you (and maybe I don’t have to) how easy it is for me to get into negative self talk. Before I know it, I can’t get out of bed in the morning because I don’t want to face the day. My mandatory work appears uninspiring. It begins to seem tiresome and demanding. I get lazy just thinking about it and pull the comforter over my head.

The joy gets zapped from me and I just stop doing… everything. Laundry doesn’t get done, dinners don’t get made, codependency recovery slows, and I begin to do the minimum necessary to survive and keep my dogs thriving.

I believe this happens when I reject reality and focus in on a fantasy.

Fantasies always seem better than reality. There are no bad feelings in fantasy. No hardships. No one forces you to do anything. You only do what makes you happy in the moment. How can reality top that?

Fantasy vs reality continues to be my battle. Why? Because thanks be to God, He has allowed me to discover the full beauty of reality the adventure of a life lived to honor Him. Before, I just lived in my fantasy world. I didn’t know reality. I ignored it. I trudged through the present desperate for the hope of tomorrow. That’s why I’m a huge Springsteen fan. I’m “just around the corner to the light of day!”

Fantasies come from a desire to escape. We don’t like where we are or who we’re with or what we’re doing, so we escape reality by getting lost in the future. If I can just get this everything will be better. If I find someone like that then I’ll finally be able to feel safe and rested. If I didn’t have to do this then I’d be happier.

I’ve lived much of my life in misery because I didn’t stop and face the fact that I was running. Ultimately, when we push ourselves away from reality, we isolate ourselves from God in the process. When we face our misery and surrender it to God, we can walk in the light of God’s reality with a lifted spirit. Reality with God allows us to experience the joy of Him using us in ways we couldn’t have fantasized about.

A day with God is one of intrigue. How are You going to use me today? What do people need? Who am I going to meet? What will happen? It’s all a surprise! You think you know how your day is going to go, but you don’t. You think you know how the rest of the year is going to fold out, but you don’t! There’s comfort in that because we know that God is good and He will take care of everything.

When we wake up with a boring, defeated idea of how our day is going to go, we rob ourselves of the adventure.

Joseph in Genesis, found himself in some unpleasant realities. Before he was named second in command over Egypt, he was thrown into prison for 13 years! Now that is a reality I’d imagine it’d be easy to want to escape. This reality of his was nothing like the actual dream God had given him when he was younger of power and authority.

However, Genesis reminds us that the Lord was with him in his present circumstances. And isn’t that the point of life? To be with God? The greatest blessing of choosing reality over fantasy is to be in the presence of God. It was the favor and presence God put on Joseph that got him to a leadership position within the prison. Genesis 39:23 states, “The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” Even in the midst of awful circumstances, Joseph could experience a little heaven on earth.

Did you know you have favor with God?

It pleases Him to glorify Himself through you. We have the privilege of working for a higher power. We can turn any job into an adventure, because we know there is an eternal, solid purpose to what we do. Paul in 1 Corinthians told the church, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” He wanted the church to know that they weren’t going to work for money, for status, or for purpose. They were going to glorify God and hopefully share truth with lost souls. People need God and God cares about people. When we take our earthly work and see it from an eternal perspective, it gives life to what we do. It adds color and purpose and joy! We can see that relationships matter and how we work matters! We receive everything we need for the day from God. We see God move because we’re paying attention.

If you sense that you are running from reality and living in a fantasy, I encourage you to stop and reflect. Don’t live in an alternate world anymore. Surrender your pain to God and watch Him transform your view of reality.

 

Dealing with Shame from Authority

Dealing with Shame from Authority

This week, I’m going to write about a personal experience from my childhood. The point is to show you that no memory is too insignificant to process in regards to recovery. It’s also to show that God is faithful to bring us healing when we ask.

Ever since I’ve had jobs, I dealt with anxiety towards my bosses. I’d set high expectations for myself, work hard, and feel like I was running from reprimand. The thought of doing something wrong haunted me. I would feel sick at work and obsessively think about stupid things I had done or said. If my boss asked to speak with me, I always assumed it was a bad report.

This past month, I started processing why I feel so much shame at work and I asked God to reveal to me what I needed to see.

As I was going to bed one night, a memory flashed in my head. It was a memory I hadn’t thought of in a long time. On a family vacation, in the middle of the night, I had gotten up and was scared. At home, when this would happen, I would go into my parents’ room and sleep with them. Here, we had so much family around, I wasn’t sure where everyone was sleeping. I made it to a bedroom where my grandparents were sleeping and snuggled up with them. At some point, my grandmother realized there was someone else in her bed and was somewhat startled. She startled speaking loudly, which woke me up, and by some force of nature, I ended up falling on the floor. When she realized who I was, she yelled, “Get back in your bed!” I was mortified. I ran back to the room I was staying in and dove into the covers. My desire was to never leave my new safe haven for the rest of the trip. I was humiliated and traumatized by the rejection. The next morning, my grandmother told everyone what had happened like it was hilarious. I was further mortified by the whole occurrence.

Once that memory popped into my mind, it surprised me how embarrassed I was about it. As an adult, I didn’t want to tell anyone. In my head, I was thinking, Surely this little incident couldn’t be affecting my work relationship with bosses… right?

I wrote a letter to God about it and read it to my counselor. She told me some very helpful elements about my story:

  1. I didn’t do anything wrong
  2. I wasn’t given appropriate coping mechanisms to deal with separation anxiety
  3. My grandmother showed me I had bad ideas and that I was wrong
  4. That led me to believe I had the potential for wrong/bad ideas
  5. This led me to doubt my abilities and fear getting in trouble for my ideas

Basically, the unprocessed shame I experienced in that moment kept me wrapped in fear, doubt, and guilt into the future.

Here’s how the scenario should’ve gone down:

When I was scared and would go to my parent’s bedroom, they should have brought me back to bed and instilled in me healthy coping mechanisms for fear and loneliness (praying, reassurance, etc.). My grandmother should’ve done the same. This would’ve validated my feeling afraid, but helped me learn how to overcome that fear by seeking God.

However, my parents and grandparents were doing the best they knew to do. They weren’t shown the proper way either. After talking through all this and asking God to remove my anxiety and shame from this memory, it was astounding how different I felt at work! I can’t express the peace and certainty that sits with me now. Can you believe it? From unpacking one, traumatic (but seemingly silly) childhood memory!

I know there’s more to my periods of anxiety at work, but God has been gracious to give me a little respite. I can tell that I feel more freedom now to be genuine with my bosses. God is in control, therefore, I don’t need to worry. I can have peace in all situations.

So, if you have a memory hanging around and it seems ridiculous, process it! See what God does with it. When we keep our shame to ourselves, it grows. When we share it with someone we trust, it is destroyed in the light.

Fear of Success

Fear of Success

This year, my goals consist of some health things, some emotional recoveries I’d like to process, and some tangible, deadline-kind-of goals. One of my tangible goals is to get published. I’ve focused in on a family-geared book and this past weekend I handed my first draft over to someone whose opinion really matters to me. He could possibly even help me move this project forward.

When I first wrote out this goal and my first step towards making it a reality, it seemed like an awesome, bold idea. Halfway towards the weekend, it started seeming like an exhaustive project with no end. One day away from presenting my first draft to someone important… I was terrified.

Usually, I’ve sabotaged myself by then. Since I didn’t quit, a daily inner discussion with myself began about when the proper time for sabotage will be.

Is it when it comes time to print out my manuscript? Will I just not? Or will it be when I arrive to present my book? Will I keep it in my bag and pretend it never happened? Will I regret going forward with the whole thing if he looks at it with a tired expression or one of indifference? Maybe I don’t want to know what the reaction to my hard work will be to a person I highly respect that hardly knows me… Maybe this whole thing is a bad idea. I’m not a great writer anyways. Why would people want to read my stuff? Why would a publisher want to publish my stuff?

It’s all very frightening.

However, this time I knew I was different. I’d been in recovery for two years. I coached myself.

I will push through my fears and just do. Not everyone is meant to be famous but I know God made everyone with a purpose. He made everyone with gifts uniquely designed to glorify Him. Since I was a kid, I have loved reading, writing, and drawing. It’s how I express myself. I believe it’s how God has designed me to glorify and praise Him. I enjoy it and it’s come to my realization that using our gifts for God is not a suggestion but a must. He must be glorified.

Knowing that my goal was God’s glory made each action easier. It wasn’t about me. It was about Him.

The handoff of my manuscript was pretty anticlimactic — but it happened. The fact that I stuck to my goal was a huge victory for me. I’m not doing scary things in life for myself… it’s not worth it. I’m doing it for God. He gave me the gifts and He will orchestrate them to be used in His time to spread His truth to whoever needs to hear it. His truth. I live my life by it and for it. There’s nothing better.

Here’s to kicking fear of success out the window in 2017!

Loss of Control

I have bad weeks.

This past weekend – bad weekend. What was so bad about it? Externally, nothing. God is in control and He has blessed me with many great things. I got to go to my last class on church history for the semester on Saturday, discovered my car has an electrical problem (need to get that fixed), I got out of class early and hung out with my roommates and my dog, I went on a walk with my neighbor, and after all that went to bed. I tried a new church on Sunday (I think I’ll stick with my current church), got home before noon, hung out for awhile, and went to a Christmas show… came home with a migraine and nausea so I went right to bed. Woke up the next morning, and wanted to crawl straight back into bed and forget my existence. I was low. I was anxious. I was guilty. About what?

What I didn’t tell you in my weekend summary, is that underneath all the activity, there was a growing feel of pressure, anxiety, stress, and guilt. A nervous feeling of being in a rush and having my time stolen. What I really wanted to do all weekend was nothing. And when I say nothing, I have this image in my mind of slowly waking up with no alarm, sitting on the couch drinking coffee and staring at my Christmas tree, no time commitments, just hours of free time waiting to be filled with relaxation, reading, and creativity. There would be a couple of nice dog walks in there. Work on some manuscripts and enjoying the warmth and safety of home.

I’ve created time slots for mini versions of my day dream into my planner. At the beginning of the day, I have 30 minutes to drink coffee, sit on the couch, and write. At the end of the day, I set aside 30 minutes to sit in a chair and read whatever I’d like. I have intentional time with my dog, Tucker, for both parts of the day and it’s in these times that God refuels me to go back to work and spend the majority of my time earning money to not be homeless.

It’s a nice system I have, however, what happens when a stick gets thrown in the spokes? I mentioned I had class this Saturday. Did I mention it’s from 8-5? Yes, an all day class. Which is basically going to work for another full day. Also, did you catch that my car has an electrical problem? The turn signal, headlights, and interior dashboard lights are all not working. Yaayyyy. That means I have to find time to get to the dealership (which does not have weekend appointments). Also, I tried a new church and had a Christmas show Sunday evening. Does any of that sound like my day dream of the perfect day? No! A thousand times no!

And guess what I did all last week? I dreaded the weekend (and that was before I knew I’d be having car troubles). Last week I was tired. The work days seemed longer and I just needed some time! But I wasn’t getting any because people and institutions were taking it from me. Every week I feel robbed and I choose to focus on the negative rather than the positive of each day. And somehow, doing that leads me to feeling out of control, anxious, resentful, trapped, and guilty.

Work and rest are both important. If I spend all my time at home, how will I be an ambassador for God and have those conversations that really matter? So, my job is not just to refrain from homelessness, it’s to be a walking light of truth to those in darkness.

I know things need to change, but it’s going to be so, so hard. I do love my resentments and I do love possessing my time and working towards that day dream. There are three forms of codependency going on with this part of my life: fear, control, and fantasizing.

To start, I’ll write a letter to God and describe in detail all the things that are bothering me. I’ll surrender them to God and ask Him to remove the feelings of anxiety, fear, resentfulness, and guilt. I’ll ask Him to replace them with His characteristics and to forgive me for idolizing my schedule, my dog, and my dreams over Him. I’ll thank Him for the good work He is going to do. I look forward to it! He’s always done me right in the past and I know for certain He won’t stop now.