One of the tenants of the Christian faith is the idea that God sent his son to die on the cross to forgive us of our sins.  Our sins are wiped clean by our faith and commitment to follow God and his teachings.  While there are variations on “how” this is done – by grace alone vs acts of faith and good works – change by denomination, the basic idea is the same.

Right now the Dugger family and their supporters have been loudly proclaiming this very idea to anyone who will listen – God (and in this case the victims) have forgiven Josh his transgressions and he is a new person in Christ.  And as a Christian I have to believe that is the truth.  Not because I am a Christian but because I believe that it is possible with God and that I have myself had the benefit of that forgiveness.  I can’t accept it for myself and deny it for others.

So why is it so hard for non-believers to believe in this idea?   My personal opinion is that we Christians have given them no reason to do so.

We don’t live our faith.  We  promote our ideals but we don’t tell the truth about who we are.  Or we tell people we are sinners but we don’t extend any grace for the sins of others.  We spend our time pointing fingers at those we don’t agree with and we use our status as believers as a battering ram against those who “offend” our Christian sensibilities – all the while committing sins that in the end are just as egregious to God as the ones we spend our time pointing out in others.

I posted something on Facebook last night that I saw on a friends page about Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner.  It said “For God so loved Caitlyn Jenner…” and it linked to a Washington Post article that basically said – Jesus would not have mocked this situation.  Mockery – in the words of my friend Jeff – is not a characteristic of Jesus.

I can’t say I understand the journey that took Bruce to Caitlyn but it is not my job to understand.  It is not my journey.  My job is love people.  That is what the Bible has commanded and mockery is not love.

I also believe it is not my place to name others sins.  What is a sin or if what was done is a sin.  I leave that up to the one who created me.  For now I will continue to just love – as I was commanded.

Sifted

So my last post was rather dark…

If you missed it, I wrote about this crippling self doubt that is haunting my work life right now.  I clearly have things I am working through.  No surprises there.  I have been in therapy for the last 6 months or so and this week we talked about work which prompted the blog post.Whenever I have a session, I spend the next week or so going over and over the things we talked about – there is usually something that stays with me and makes me think all week.

I realized this week that God is sifting me and my job is the easiest way to reach me right now.  At 41 it is hard to imagine that I still carry so much from my past, but there it is.  And to make me a whole and complete person, He is working to get me to process those things and get them out of my system.  It is painful and most days I wish I could just be “normal”.

But what is normal?

I am excited to see what this sifting will bring out in me.  I can only hope that I learn the lesson sooner rather than later :)

Crippling…

I have never been someone who was overly confident.  I have always had some measure of self-doubt.  Part of it was due to my weight, part of it was having a sister who was not only thinner but more social then i was, part of it was just that I never felt like I was enough.

Work was a space where I didn’t suffer the same doubts.   Usually.  And then I had an experience where I had worked somewhere for 8 months and was told I was awesome…and then at 8 months was told I had 30 days to clean up my act or I was out.  What?

I was blindsided and in fact 30 days later was fired.  Let go.  I didn’t measure up.

My next job helped to rebuild that confidence.  Largely it was done by giving me more responsibility, more work, more jobs, more clients.  I was secure because they included me and they needed me and they trusted me with more and more.  I was overworked…but we all were.

So here I find myself at my current job and I am crippled by doubts.  Due in part to a combination of working for a company that is continually trying to make me better (by pointing out areas for improvement) and clients who need more and more from me, I have become defensive and I cry way too often.   And I lay awake at night thinking about the things I need to do, change, be so that I am not blindsided again by a job.

I find myself saying “are you sick of talking to me yet?” or “sorry to bother you when I know you are busy” way too often.  I either avoid asking for help or I become needy because I don’t want to make decisions for fear of making the wrong one.

I have turned into someone I don’t recognize most days.

I am not sure what the next step is but I need to get healthy.  I need to make some changes.  I need a shot of confidence and soon.

The New Testament in 8 Weeks – Week 1

Last week I embarked on a new adventure to read the New Testament in 8 weeks.  Aack!

About 60 people from Culpeper Baptist Church are on this journey with me.  The study lets you read the Bible in a new way – the books are arranged chronologically and are written without chapter and verse markings.  You read it like a novel.  And honestly, after just 1 week, I have realized a few things about the Bible.

Week 1 was the book of Luke.  And while I had read many of the passages, I had not read the whole thing.  Here is the quick look at what I learned:

1.  There were passages I had never read before.  For instance, after being tempted in the wilderness, Jesus went to Nazareth and his hometown tried to kill him.  They tried to throw him off a cliff.  (I know…right?)

2.  Being able to read the book from start to finish allowed me to get a better sense of the flow of Christ’s story.

3.  The loss of chapters and verses meant that I saw the bigger picture of some of the stories I thought I knew.  Being able to see what came before and after the parts I knew well made those stories make more sense.

4.  Jesus was a lot more stern than I remembered him being – and certainly there was a lot more tough love aimed at those he spoke to.

5.  I have a lot more compassion for the day to day life of Jesus after reading how day in and day out he told the story of his impending death and tried (knowing he would fail) to get the masses to follow Him.

6.  It is very easy for me to get lost in the language – especially in the parables – and I have to read many of them over and over to get what He was trying to say.

7.  Finally, something I knew but that came more clear the more I read – the disciples really didn’t get it most of the time.  Like me.

I am looking forward to week 2 – Acts and 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

Letter to Myself

Dear Michelle,

It has been quite the 2014!  You accomplished a lot this year and you should be very happy with the direction your life is taking.  It was certainly not without its hiccups.  But overall, the year was pretty darn fantastic.

So in looking forward to 2015, there are a few things I want you to remember:

  • You are more than capable if you put your mind to it.
  • It is possible to achieve what you want if you work hard enough to make it happen
  • Don’t give up or give in when things get difficult….if it is difficult it is probably worth it
  • But be good to yourself – reevaluate what you want often to make sure it is the right thing (rather than struggling for no good reason)
  • Let love into your life – let others love you and make sure you love others as much or more.  Mostly love yourself.
  • Finally, you need to fully participate in your own life.  Have opinions, don’t be pushed around, do the things you want to do without apology, and don’t have regrets at the end of the year.

Here are a few things I wish for you for 2015:

  • Since your word for 2015 is CONNECTIONS, I want you to make some friends this year.  I know how hard it is for you to do but make the effort – it will be worth it.
  • Find some balance between work and life.  2014 was difficult and you never had a chance to really get used to anything before it was upended.  So this year, make sure that you are able to settle in and find normal (whatever that looks like).
  • Reduce stress.  You need to sleep more, rest more, give yourself a break more.
  • Be willing to try things that scare you.
  • Be learning everyday.  Whether it is about work or art or history or literature – learning will never be a bad thing.
  • You need to move more and eat better.  You have done a great job with eating less – now you need to make better choices.  And moving some everyday will eliminate some of the issues that 2014 revealed.  So continue with Zumba and use the Wii that J got you to move around the living room daily.
  • Its been 5 months – its time to get the office and the craft area organized.
  • You need to be creative this year…the journal project will be key.   Make sure you keep up with it – and set aside time each week to make it happen.  Never let 2 weeks go without completing a page.
  • Trust your instincts.  When it comes down to it, your gut is the spirit leading you where you need to be and away from the things you don’t need in your life.
  • Finally, pray more – for the needs and for the praises.

I know you decided not to set any resolutions or to do lists for the year….good.  They just make you feel bad when that is not how things turn out.   So take these wishes and make the year everything you want it to be.  And if it is not, so be it.  God has a plan Michelle.  And there are great things coming for you.

Wishing the best year yet for you in 2015,
Michelle

Making a decision

I rarely shy aware from making a decision.   There have certainly been times when I have struggled with what is the right way to go, but I usually do not let myself sit on the fence too long.  I muddle it over, I agonize, I talk it out and then I make a decision.  One way or the other and then the issue is just dealing with the decision I made.  I can’t predict the outcome and there is something that makes it ok to just learn to live with my choice.

And, I am not often in a position where the opinions of others really matters in my decision making process.   But I usually am someone who needs to talk through an issue and so I involve others (to varying degrees) in the issue until I get some personal resolution.   It means that many people know bits and pieces but rarely is there someone who lives with the issue in the way that I do.  I don’t have anyone to talk to daily, so even my closest friends, know just a portion of what I know.

However, I have recently had to make a decision that was more difficult that usual.  This particular issue was such a big deal that I started to see a therapist.  And every week we would talk about issues surrounding this situation – how I felt, what it meant, how I was coping, how it affected and effected me, and mostly what did moving forward really mean – what did this choice would do to my life and what would it mean to me now and later.

The final decision was not easy and a large part of what made it so is that I was afraid that it would mean I could lose some people in my life due to the fact that they do not agree with me.  At the end of the day, I had to choose, and I will have to live with the consequences.  I will be right or I will be wrong.  I can only hope I don’t have to walk this path alone.

Christmas Manifesto

Every year I am overly ambitious in November trying to plan the perfect December and by December 3 those plans have gone astray and I just give in to another year without that thing – whatever it was – that I thought I needed.  So this year I start the season with a manifesto.

This Christmas I will not over plan,  I will enjoy each day and not worry about all of the things I SHOULD be doing…and instead enjoy the things I AM doing.  I will document what I can about the holiday, I will embrace the newness of my life situation and I will take a moment each day to reflect on what made the day great.  Most importantly I will let myself off the hook if one or more of those things becomes too much to handle.  I will enjoy Christmas this year – all of the craziness, busyness, and the joy of it.  And when this Christmas is over, I will remember it fondly as a first.

I hope you too will find some peace and joy this Christmas – or at the very least – you will allow yourself to give in to what Christmas is and stop worrying about what it should be.