Tuesday, October 22, 2013

the self-pity slide

Sometimes life gets to be too much.

Maybe I'm the only one to ever feel this way, but some days it is all too easy to get overwhelmed.

Surely I'm not alone in this, right?

I'm not talking about the big, important, life-changing events here. No, I mean the incredibly unimportant, miniscule things that shouldn't have any sort of real impact on your day.

Yesterday was one of those days for me. Well, I guess technically it started the night before. Nathan and I watched a movie after the kids went to bed and I fell asleep part way through. That's a pretty common occurrence in our house...and by "pretty common" I actually mean "pretty much every night."

So for some reason, I woke up at 11 pm cranky. No real reason, just plain not happy. I was ready to go to bed, but Conan had spilled something on my phone yesterday morning (again) and so my phone was in pieces drying out (again). That left me without an alarm.

Yes, there was probably an actual clock somewhere in our house that had an alarm, but I wasn't about to go looking for it. Instead I was just going to use Nathan's phone. The problem was, his phone needed to be charged. Not a problem really, though, because my sweet husband told me he would charge it and bring it to me when he came to bed after the movie. I think I muttered something along the lines of, "Fine. Night," and stumbled to bed.

So then I woke up at 2 am with the tv still on in the living room and lights still on elsewhere in the house. I clawed my way out of the bed and went to ask Nathan ever-so-sweetly if he was going to come to bed. Or at least as the loving, considerate wife I am when I wake up at 2 in the morning I meant to ask him sweetly. Pretty sure it came out as more of a mix between a whine and a growl, though.

See, there's this thing about when you let little things get to you. They start you down this path of feeling bad for yourself where every little thing that happens makes you start saying, "poor me!" That path, though, isn't very easy to get off of--it's a bit like that best slide you ever went on as a kid. In my case that would be the giant red bumpy slide on the playground for the lower elementary that everybody waited in line for, even if you had to spend half your recess standing and waiting.

So, back to my bad mood. If I hadn't been half asleep when I got up at 2 I would have been able to see myself getting closer to the edge of that slide...

Fast forward a few hours, past the strange dreams of everybody I know turning into werewolves. The alarm went off like it should have, but I hit snooze too many times and woke up late, leading to me getting Raiden out of bed late.

I was inching closer to the slide...

Both kids ask for cereal, but I'm a terrible mother and can't even keep clean bowls in my house and I have to wash bowls for both of them and find spoons...because somehow we have a bazillion forks out of the sets we got when we got married but are down to only 3 spoons (which I did manage to fix, so now we have spoons, they just don't match!) and wash those, too.
 
Now skip forward a bit more to 8:00. Raiden ate breakfast super slow, so she still needed to brush her teeth, put on shoes and socks, and brush her hair before the bus came at 8:13. That should be plenty of time for a 6 year old, but it wasn't. 2 minutes before the bus came she was sitting on the couch putting her shoes on. The problem was, she was too busy telling her brother he couldn't color on the cardboard box to get her shoes actually on her feet. So now I'm yelling, telling her to get her shoes on her feet while I'm trying to brush her hair and at the same time telling her that Conan has just as much right to color on the box they were (both) playing with the day before.

...feet are right on the edge of that slide now...

She doesn't know where her backpack is, so while she's putting on her other shoe I run up to her bedroom because I remember telling her to get her backpack off of the middle of the stairs over the weekend and I get down with the missing bag and she doesn't know where her coat is and she's still telling Conan not to color anything like pictures on the box and I find the missing coat and put it on her as I'm pushing her out the door and trying to explain again that Conan can color on the cardboard box because we have lots and the bus is coming...

...and I'm sitting at the top of the slide now...
...not the self-pity slide...

And then Nathan gets up and asks me if I'm having a good morning.

That was it, the last nudge I needed to send me down that slide. It didn't help to get to class and find out I got a 77% on my first dosimetry test and then listen that afternoon to my professor for the physics of radiation course talk about how disappointed he was in some of our tests and that some of us may want to consider whether or not we really want to be in the field of medical physics...especially since I knew going in that I wasn't really prepared for the test.

not that same slide...and Conan is much happier!
And that self-pity one? It's definitely a good slide in that sense.

Yesterday was one of those days where I questioned just about every decision I've ever made and came to the conclusion that I'd chosen wrong pretty much every time. Funny how a bad mood can color your whole outlook like that, huh?

When I was little, I sometimes resented having to memorize Bible verses. I didn't see the purpose, to tell you the truth. I had spent so much time learning how to find any verse I wanted to, so why in the world would I need to memorize stuff?

Apparently, my parents knew what they were talking about (they have the annoying tendency to do that--the whole "being right" thing). Memorizing verses lets them pop into your head at just the right time.

Like this one:
"But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.'" (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Days like yesterday show me just how weak I really am. I can't keep a spotless house or get my kids to put their coats in the coat closet. I let my temper fly for dumb things. I let the first half of the semester get away from me and didn't do well on my first exams in medical physics. I write whole pages I don't like.

But you know what? That's okay.

"For when I am weak,
then I am strong."
(v. 10)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

butterflies and daisies

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose...What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:28 & 31)

These two verses seem to be favorites for a lot of people, and understandably so. Taken together, it seems people take these two verses to mean that everything will go smoothly for Christians. The flip side of that, then, is that if life is hard--
if things are going wrong
or falling apart
or disintegrating right before their eyes--
for someone who claims to be a Christian, then there must be something wrong in that person's spiritual life. After all, here in Romans we're told that God works things out for those who love Him, and that nobody can go against us if God is for us.

Right?

It would be really great if that were the case. I imagine it would be pretty easy to persuade others to become Christians then, too. If God's whole goal were to make us happy, to make sure everything rolled along splendidly for the people who love Him, and to stop anyone who dared oppose us, who wouldn't want to be a Christian?

To be honest, I wouldn't mind if Paul's letter to "all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints" (verse 1:7) had been made up entirely of those two verses. You know, he could have signed off with something along the lines of, "Love God and everything in life will fall nicely into place. You will be happy and healthy and never have to worry about a thing!"

It seems like that is the message many in the US hear preached from the pulpit each Sunday: God's whole purpose is to see us rich and comfortable. If we will do this whole "Christian" thing right, we will get everything we've ever dreamed of and all will be right with the world.

The truth is, though, that's now what we're promised. Even in that chapter in Romans, that isn't where Paul stopped. In fact, here's the note I have written in on that same page in my Bible, just a few verses down:


That note is next to verse 36, a quote from Psalm 44:22.
"For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."

Huh.

For understandable reasons, especially in a country like the US where we have been spoiled and don't have to worry about true persecution, verses like this tend to be ignored. I'll admit it doesn't seem like the most comforting of verses. The thing is, being a follower of Christ was never meant to be a comfortable thing.

"I have given them Your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world" (John 17:14)

"For there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now--and never to be equaled again." (Matthew 24:21)

"If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me." (Matthew 16:24)

"Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of Me." (Matthew 24:9)

"The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name." (Acts 5:41)

Stephen was stoned to death, Paul was imprisoned and tortured (among other things), James was killed by Herod Agrippa. According to historians, the apostles suffered horribly for their faith.

Followers of the Way have, through the years, 
been crucified 
flayed 
fed to animals
beheaded
tortured.

Today, those who follow Christ around the world are killed instead by bombs and bullets. Though not talked about by the US media, the attack in Kenya and the atrocities carried out on an almost daily basis in Egypt are aimed at Christians.

We were never promised that life would be easy, despite what is popularly preached here in the US. Actually, we are told pointblank that life will be hard and that we will be hated by the world.

The amazing thing, though?

"I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! 
I have overcome the world."  
(John 16:33)

So jumping back to what Paul said in Romans:

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? 
Shall trouble 
or hardship 
or persecution 
or famine 
or nakedness 
or danger 
or sword? 
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 
For I am convinced 
that neither death nor life, 
neither angels nor demons, 
neither the present nor the future, 
nor any powers, 
neither height nor depth, 
nor anything else in all creation
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35, 37-39)

No, life isn't all butterflies and daisies.

But we serve a God who is powerful enough to hold onto us through everything, One who gives us the strength to be conquerors--no, more than conquerors--in the midst of unimaginable hardships.

And I think that's pretty awesome.