Archive for May, 2014
I’m not asking this question in an “I have no meaning in life!” kinda way. I may be working through my identity and what to do with myself and where to go from here, but I know the ultimate, you know, LIFE thing is God’s plan. Whatever the heck it may be, I know He’s got one. I’m just waiting for it.
Meanwhile, I have good days and bad days, so I’m allowing myself to ponder questions about my life. I guess I would describe what I’m going through to be deep rather than dark. (And I don’t mean “deep” as in, “oh my, that Bethany has some seriously profound wisdom rolling through her brain these days!”. I just mean that it’s real and kinda vulnerable stuff for me. But anyway. Enough disclaimers.) So even though I know some of the answers to some of these questions, I’ll write them out just because, well, I can. Buahaha! (Keeping it lighthearted. Or evil. Whichever you prefer. BAMBLING!)
Is Life For Others?
All my life I’ve wanted to help people. It probably comes from who I am as a person (definitely a supine), mixed with the fact that I know helping people is what God wants and loves for us as humans. I’ve always wanted to have friends so I could be a friend. Always wanted to raise a family so that I have someone to be there for for life. Always wanted to find some way to serve where I can be of use and make a difference, whether it’s big or small.
I joined New Life and was a vital part of a team for 2 years. I felt like I had something important to do there, that I was able to make a difference somehow. And even before that, when I was home and helping out with the middle school youth group, that gave me the chance to do something for other people. It was an opportunity to focus my energy in a non-selfish way, and I felt like I was where God wanted me.
Everyone is so cute and little on our first Oklahoma trip! 😀
But right now, I don’t really have too much of an outlet for that kind of thing. Nor do I know if I have the energy and strength to pour myself into other people right now. At least not as much as I know that I want to. The little that I do for other people… it feels tainted by neediness and wanting to be recognized for what I do. And that just makes me feel more selfish.
The reason I’m not worrying about that being my main focus right now, is that I know I need to take care of myself before I can pour all of myself into someone else. And so I know things will get better, and eventually I can start giving more of myself to others. But the lack of it makes me feel guilty a lot of the time. Which leads me to my second question.
Is Life For Me?
So I’m supposed to be taking care of myself, right? Put the oxygen mask on my own face before I try to save everyone else. (Thanks, “Mom’s Night Out”.) Alright, that’s all well and good. But what does that entail?
-Is there a line between giving myself time to heal and just being lazy or complacent? Where is that line, and what’s the difference?
-Should I feel guilty for being by myself a lot of the time?
-Am I supposed to always be doing something “productive”? And if so, what counts as productive?
-Should I seek social interaction for my own sake, or for others?
During my free time, sometimes I spend it cleaning, sometimes out for walks, sometimes watching new TV shows or movies, or reading or Facebook or whatever. And clearly, some of that feels more “productive” than others. But it’s about me, right? If I’m spending the time by myself, what does it matter what I do? Can’t I just do what I want? What counts as “productive” and “healthy”, and what difference does it really make?
My own answer, instead of leaving all these questions open like they were a week ago when I wrote them, is as follows. If I am finding my life to be complacent and unsatisfying because I feel like I’m getting stale or lazy, than I have the freedom to do something about it. I don’t have to do it because someone tells me to, but I should do it because I know I need it. If I would feel more satisfied by cleaning the house than checking my Facebook, or by taking a walk instead of watching another Dollhouse episode, than I should do it. Not because it’s all about me, but because I have my own sense of what is probably ok for me versus what is better. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know myself. And if being “productive” makes me happier, than by golly, I can be productive! And when I’m just overwhelming myself with “stuff I have to do”, than it’s time for a break without a guilt trip. Either way, the choice is mine, and the consequences will be mine, both good and bad.
Well, Really Life Is About God. But How Does That Help?
Glorifying God is what life is about. Ultimately, entirely. Whether that comes from taking things a little slow and resting up emotionally and spiritually, or whether that means jumping into ministry wholeheartedly to share where God has me.
The thing is, God is awesome and big enough that He’s glorified no matter what I do. He’s glorified when I try to live for Him, and somehow, miraculously, He’s glorified in my mistakes. So, once again I ask myself, what does it matter what I do? If it’s about God, what can I possibly do to make His life better? Nothing! He’s already perfect. I’m not supposed to think of Him out of obligation, because I’m not ruining His life when I forget Him. He’s not depending on me. He gets along perfectly fine without me.
But… there’s still a reason why God has a RELATIONSHIP with us. Whether it’s entirely for our benefit (because clearly the perks on our side are fantastic, what with the whole our-souls-being-saved-from-destruction thing) or all for His enjoyment/glory, you could debate. But the fact that it’s a relationship changes it from a “what do I have to do?” question to a “what do I want to do?” question.
Again, NOT that it’s all about what I want! Please don’t think that the conclusion of my blog is
that I know what’s best and that it’s all about me. That’s why this 3rd part is in here, to counteract that part of life.
Because as I’ve walked with Jesus, our friendship has grown and I now WANT to make Him happy. I have a heart like His, and I know that, even though my messing up does not leave a void in the heart of God, that when I do things for or with Him because I love Him, that it brings Him joy and pleasure. Something happens there, where He is still the same God but my actions make a difference in our relationship. And maybe it only makes the difference for me. Maybe it’s just that my doing stuff for Him makes ME happy. I don’t know how He works; trying to figure out God is like trying to smell the color 9. (Thanks, Chris Rice.)
But somehow, He’s the answer to my question about what life is about.
How does that apply to me practically right now? I’m not really sure. But this is a revelation I had this week that kinda sums up my view on this.
I never feel like I’ve been good at studying Scripture. But the importance of knowing the Scriptures has been continually emphasized to me by several sources lately. Sometimes I say, “Well, I don’t know what to study or read; the entirety of the Scriptures is so daunting, so I should just wait until I decide how to do it”. After all, I don’t want to be reading just out of “obligation”, right?
Actually… who cares?? What does it matter if I make reading Scripture a pattern because I feel like I should, instead of waiting until I “want to”? If I’m gonna feel guilty about it, it would be better to feel guilty and read the Bible rather than feel guilty and NOT read the Bible, right?
So!!! I am going to read through several books of the Bible all at once, by picking a different book for each day of the week (except Sunday). Starting this week:
I’ll read one chapter a day minimum. I’ll journal about it if I want to, but even if I’m tired and “just going to go to sleep”, I will at least read the chapter. Because I want to soak it in. I want to KNOW the Scriptures. I want to know what it says. Maybe there won’t be verses that “speak to me” very often. Maybe I’ll journal only silly, rambly nonsense about the passages. But at least I’ll be doing something that I know God loves. And I know, even if I can’t give a reason practically why it made a difference that day, that it is good to do.
So, IN CONCLUSION!…
If all I do is just try to make it from day to day (working, watching movies)…
While taking time for things I enjoy (blogging)…
Caring about others whenever I can (letter writing)…
And trying to stay close God (Scripture reading)…
While making Jesus a part of all of it…
Then I feel like I’m finding a reason to live. I want to know God even more. I want to be better at understanding Scripture, and at hearing God’s voice. I don’t want it to be just about me, or about obligations, or even about everyone else. I just want to spend the rest of my life with my Best Friend. And that’s what my life is about.
I was never the “drama” type in high school. I mean, I thought my youth group’s drama team was awesome, but they also really scared me. (I heard so many stories about the embarrassing and gross improv games they played; I think that’s honestly the main reason I never joined.) I’ve always loved watching plays and skits, and enjoy directing family Christmas plays with my siblings, but I was never like, “Oh yeah, I totally wanna be an actress!”
Well, New Life teams had been coming to my house for years. Hannah traveled with them for a year and loved it, and I always thought the people who came to our house were really cool. I knew that joining would be an adventure, so when the opportunity presented itself, I said, “Why not?”
Summer tour of 2011 was my first tour, and I was 20 years old. It was 9 weeks of ministry on a team of 8 people, and we traveled through the Virginias and Carolinas. I liked everybody on my team. I felt like I was the “team giggler”; my role was to laugh at everybody’s jokes and dramatic antics. Though I felt like too much of a nervous newbie to join the 3 girls dancing in the street next to our van as the song “Fireflies” played one night, or even when I turned completely red when the girls gave me a makeover at a hotel and I had to answer the door for one of our guys, I had a thoroughly great time of adventure, ministry and fun that summer. I was told by one of my teammates that when he had seen me at the beginning of the summer, he didn’t expect me to make it because I was so shy and quiet; but he said I had surprised him.
Picture of my makeover with my hair straightened, one of the girls’ shirts and lots of makeup.
I didn’t travel again until the following spring, where I hopped on almost last minute with a team. During that tour, I prayed and felt God giving me peace about joining full-time. So I went home for the summer to finish out my commitments with my youth group, and then I hitched a ride back to homebase with a team in late August of 2011. Then the adventures REALLY began.
I was put quickly into a leadership position on the teams, and also got immediate training at the homebase offices when I was pulled back to Tennessee for a few weeks. And boy was there a lot to do!
-I learned how to make booking calls and got to see the inner-workings of the NLDC offices.
-I learned how to finance and be a secondary leader
-I learned how to lead services and how to teach workshops
-I learned how to fast, different ways to pray and worship, how to learn, how to follow, how to lead, how to take instruction.
I will expound more on my adventures and what God taught me in my following blogs, but the synopsis is that God has used my experiences to help me grow: both in allowing me to step outside of my comfort zone, and giving me opportunities to do things I always wanted but never got to.
I changed during my time in New Life in many ways. Not in the sense that I “became an entirely new person”, necessarily. But more like, I got the chance to really let WHO I was grow and develop and be seen. The most obvious change I can see is that I’m a lot more comfortable speaking up around people in public settings. It’s not because being silent is a bad thing. Some people are just good at sitting, listening and taking things in. And that is very often what I do.
But during my time in New Life, for the first time I felt like I had a voice. There were people who genuinely cared about what I had to say. I spoke in front of churches… I prayed with my teams… I joined in with dancing and silliness… I was consulted on decisions… confided in as a friend… I spoke up in the van during theological debates. These expansions of my horizon gave me practice in sharing what I believe in and who I am.
I’m no longer the silent senior in high school who was too scared to pray out loud in my Sunday School small group. It’s kind of hard not to come out of your shell a little bit when you have to flail and scream obnoxiously “GOD DON’T SQUISH ME!!” on your knees on a stage in front of a crowd of prisoners…. or when you’re depended on to take a ministry team of 5 young adults and help it run smoothly.
God knows who He created me to be. He knows what and who will help transform me into the person He has designed me to become. New Life was just one big step forward on my journey of self-discovery and spiritual growth. 🙂
So I decided to create the blog category “Second Saturday Scripture Spotlight”, where once a
month I will write a blog on some Scripture I’ve been reading and how it’s struck me. This is not because I’m all like “I WILL TEACH YOU WISDOM, PEOPLE!” No, hehe, it’s because I want to get back into reading Scripture better than I have been, and I think committing to writing about it publicly at least once a month will help me stay motivated. If it works well, or I feel like I need an extra push, I may do it twice a month, but for now I’ll start off slow.
Disclaimer: Hopefully my future SSSS’ will be a little more put-together. I kind of just edited my original jumbled thoughts and posted them for you to read, so I apologize if this post feels extra rambly or sporatic. Hopefully they’ll make more sense in the future. 🙂
Anyway, so last fall I started reading through Isaiah randomly and journaled about it for a little while, but I ended up getting sidetracked and didn’t get very far. So the other day I picked up where I left off, in chapter 5. I was planning on reading the whole chapter, but the first 7 verses stuck way out to me. Here are my thoughts on them.
1 Let me sing now for my well-beloved
A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard.
My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.
2 He dug it all around, removed its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
And He built a tower in the middle of it
And also hewed out a wine vat in it;
Then He expected it to produce good grapes,
But it produced only worthless ones.
3 “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,
Judge between Me and My vineyard.
4 “What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?
Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?
5 “So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard:
I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed;
I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground.
6 “I will lay it waste;
It will not be pruned or hoed,
But briars and thorns will come up.
I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.”
7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel
And the men of Judah His delightful plant.
Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed;
For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.
Well, as I was trying to figure out what this analogy meant, my first thought was “The ‘H’ on ‘He’ is capitalized, so clearly it’s talking about God”. 🙂 (Thank you NASB for doing that!) So that helped to make that clear. But then of course, the last couple of verses kind of EXPLAIN the analogy. So, so much for the glorious genius of THAT observation.
So this parable (is it a parable?) is about how God is viewing Israel. My favorite phrases in it are, “What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?” and “Judge between Me and My vineyard.” I think they’re really interesting.
However, as I started writing about it, I got myself a little confused. Well… let me just show you my thought process. Here is a slightly more coherent version of what I first wrote when I was journaling about this passage:
“God doesn’t say He’s going to remake the vineyard or ‘prune’ it. He’s going to destroy it, and let it become a waste and a deserted garden. This is quite an interesting analogy about God. …. So, He’s God and all, but He’s basically saying that they (Israel) became evil and worthless of their own choices. It wasn’t because He hardened them, because He did everything He could to produce good grapes. Clearly, it wasn’t out of His control because nothing is… but isn’t that what this implies?
“You have to take this with all the knowledge of God, of course. But with this, you have to understand that He prepares and works and does what He does, but choices are still made. And… He lets it happen? But He didn’t WANT the bad grapes!
“I know, I know, I can’t take this one parable and base all my knowledge of God on it. I know that God is all-powerful and so there’s no way that this is ‘out of His control’. And there’s context and the rest of the Bible and all that. But this IS a picture of God versus people. And there is some way in which He lets us “take control” and do our own thing, and become whoever we are to become. How does this fit? Who is our God? How much does He allow, and how much does He try to prevent?”
As I was wrestling with my thoughts, and putting this newfound passage together with what I know to be true about God, it suddenly started making sense. And the answer was in the passage.
“Well…. perhaps it’s because God LETS them grow. He could have snapped His fingers and made good grapes, but instead, He wanted to prepare a vineyard and let them grow however they would. Just like we can go buy grapes if we want to be sure to get good ones when we want them, but sometimes people choose to make them themselves, understanding the risk but still willing to make the sacrifices in the hopes of what will come.
“So, like a farmer, God did everything that one does when preparing a vineyard, but then He let the natural process take place. His desire was not to just snap a perfect feast into place, but to create opportunities for growth and then allow us as free-will beings to become good or bad. And THEN He took action, depending on how the grapes (His people) turned out.
I’ve had a lot of discussions with people over the past couple of years about free will versus predestination. And even though the term “free will” doesn’t show up in the Bible and the term “predestination” shows up multiple times, there appear to be clear examples and evidence for both. From what I can gather from this passage, God sees Israel as a people that He guarded and protected, set apart and fed in every possible way, and yet they still refuse to listen to His prophets and they turn away in rebellion, idolatry and bloodshed. This is all a part of what God’s ultimate plan is and everything works out for good, but the fact that He created them to make their own choices doesn’t mean that those choices are pleasing to God. It is part of His plan for consequences to come after the choices.
My final random thoughts:
“In this passage, because the grapes were bad, clearly we’re going to see His wrath. But again, who is “we” and when is all this? Has all of this prophecy happened, like during the exile of the Israelites? Or is it perhaps end-timesy stuff? No clue. But I thought this part was really interesting.”
SO! 🙂 That was my first Scripture Spotlight. Hope it made sense for the most part. Anyway, talk to y’all later. 🙂
What gives your life meaning? What gives you a purpose? What makes you feel alive?
I gotta admit, I’m having a hard time feeling like I have a purpose in life lately. At least right now. I feel like I’m meandering aimlessly through a forest where nobody needs me or wants me, but I am still obligated to do more than sit around and watch movies. I don’t know what or who I’m supposed to invest in, and yet I feel like a horrible person for days of not being “productive”.
I’ve tried to find healing, purpose, passion in things around me, but sometime it feels like the more I try, the less it satisfies.
-Food is desirable when I’m bored, hungry or stressed, but it’s only temporary and doesn’t give lasting satisfaction
-Work is clearly important and necessary, as it is the means to adulthood. But it doesn’t fulfill my life. The job I have now doesn’t “complete” me, and I don’t have a career in mind to push towards; no passion, no ultimate goal to pursue through my work.
-Facebook is a great way to keep up with people, but this social network is not the place to go for happiness; vying for attention and hoping for responses is enticing, but it’s not enough. Likes won’t bring me happiness, and comments won’t fill me with purpose.
-Friends are distant and far away. I know what it’s like to be close to a group of people for weeks at a time and to be a team; I know what it’s like to have a best friend who makes it their responsibility to be there for you, and you for them. Now I have neither. Catching up with people is great, and each time I get to do that it’s very special, but those times are few and far between. I miss everyone.
-Going to church is not the same as having community with the Church. While I go whenever I don’t work, and I want to further my knowledge of God and “stay disciplined” and get connected to believers and all that, it’s hard when I’m not close to anyone at either of my church communities. And maybe I just need to accept that it’s a slow process, but that doesn’t make it any less hard.
-Family has always been there for me, and I love them to death. But I’m 24 years old, and I need to figure out how to make my own way in the world. Who am I? What am I here for? My family will support me and help me along the way, but this is my own journey.
-Goals provide things for us to work towards in life. But if my “goal” is to be a stay-at-home wife and mom… I can’t really pursue that out of God’s timing, can I? So what can I do right NOW?
-Giving to people is something I’ve always loved and wanted to do, whether it’s of my time or my friendship or my help. But what if nobody needs my help? What if I’m constantly looking to give, but only with the selfish motives of wanting to be praised and thanked for it? Am I truly loving people, or am I just loving myself?
What am I supposed to do? Nobody really needs me…. I have nothing to give… and yet I feel so selfish for doing nothing. The little I do for others feels selfish, and NOT doing anything for others feels selfish… can you see why I’m feeling kind of aimless?
I honestly don’t know where I would be without my relationship with God. If Jesus wasn’t a part of my daily life… if I couldn’t find purpose in interacting with Him on a regular basis, with Someone who cares about every little thing I do and is always there for me… I don’t know what I would do or where I would be.
I’m honestly not saying this to throw a pity party. I know that I am cared for and loved, that I have people who are there for me, and that God has a plan for my life, no matter how little I can see. I get all that. I’m just explaining what is particularly hard for me right now, and the kinds of questions I’ve been wrestling with. Not to get a response, but just to share my own.
But the main thing I’ve been discovering is how, despite all of what I’m feeling, Jesus is the only one who can always make me feel better. Whenever I feel discouraged these days, just going out and BEING with God, singing songs to Him and dancing, can be enough to make me feel something again. It’s a reminder that God is with me every step of the way, and that His love for me is so much greater and deeper than I can imagine. Worshiping God can be enough. I don’t have to be a specific somebody or do anything for God to be pleased. Just being with Him is enough.
When NOTHING else gives me a purpose…
When NO ONE else can fill me with true and lasting joy…
When NOTHING I do is good enough to fill that void…
Jesus is here, and He makes me feel alive.
So the past few days this week, I have spent WAAAY too much time watching YouTube videos. I watched a Blimey Cow video that someone had posted on Facebook, and when it ended, I found another one to watch, and another one, and another one, until I have now seen almost all of them! 🙂 Then I moved on to watching Emma Approved, a video series my sister Elizabeth has been keeping up with. Basically, I’ve gone a bit nuts with them lately.
So guess what? I’m gonna post 2 videos from each of my 4 favorite YouTube channels! These are pretty much the only 4 I’ve ever actively watched, so here’s a little taste of it for you. Enjoy!
1. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
Elizabeth introduced me to this last summer. It’s a video blog series by these guys called Pemberly Digital, and they made 100 episodes of a modernized Pride and Prejudice. I’ve seen the first 4th or so of it, and I saw the ending, but I somehow missed some bits in the middle. I’ma go back and rewatch them now that I finished the other channels.
Lizzie Bennet is an independent and sarcastic girl who’s trying to figure out her life in her college-aged years, and she and her friend Charlotte are making a video documentary on her life. For those who know Pride and Prejudice, it’s lots of fun to see how they interpret the characters in different and unique ways, as well as the situations. Since the social norms in the books are not the same as they are today, Pemberly Digital changes the plot up with equivalent situations. Anyway, it’s a lot of fun. I posted the very first episode, and then one of my favorites when you see “Bing Lee” and Jane interact for the first time.
(In this one, Jane and Lizzie are living at Netherfield for a little while due to their house being remodeled, and this is the first time we see the famous Bing Lee. 🙂 )
2. Kid Snippets
Ok, ok, I know I posted a bunch of these videos a couple of weeks ago. But I figured I’d reiterate it in this blog. I didn’t go through and watch them all in order, but I did spend a good day or two watching through as many of the videos as I could. They’re not all great, but occasionally you get the gems such as the first one I ever saw, and then this second video that just makes me laugh from its utter cuteness.
3. Emma Approved
The Emma version of the Lizzie Bennet diaries! They only have 48 videos up so far, and I watched them ALL yesterday. Emma Woodhouse is making a documentary of her business in helping people, with Harriet as her assistant and “Alex Knightly” as her business partner (eventually to be marriage partner, of course. 😀 ) Again, Pemberly Digital does a very interesting job of transferring the written characters into modern day folk, and I think they do it rather well. I hope they do Sense and Sensibility when they’re done with Emma Approved.
(This is after one of her latest “Making Your Life Better” projects, when she saved the marriage of Annie and Ryan. Now she’s off to find someone for Harriet. In this episode you get to see Elton for the first time, as well as get a glimpse of Harriet.)
4. Blimey Cow, Messy Mondays
Most people know about Blimey Cow. Jordan Taylor, his brother Josh, sister-in-law Kelly and other random folks create a video each Monday that has Jordan ranting so sarcastically about things he feels passionate about, or giving tips on how people can relate to one another. He just finished college, used to be homeschooled and is a Christian, so many of his videos have to do with those topics. He also rants about technology, spelling, politics, the media, and more. His over-the-top skits that break up his videos are cheesy but they make me giggle a lot, and Big Head Kid is just silly but so much fun.
The first video about Link Bait made me laugh because it’s SO TRUE, and in the second one he makes some good points about knee jerk reactions.