Thursday, January 1, 2015

Worship in the Wilderness

Yes, yes, I am one of those people. You know the people who have to theme everything. It's probably why I love parties so much because usually they involve themes. Pumpkin pancake pajama party, A Christmas Story Christmas party, Sparkle New Year's party, Welcome Spring party, Fall Food party...yes all of those are parties I have hosted. As if the holiday or season isn't enough of a theme, I find the need to zone in and really get the most celebratory enjoyment out of it by theming it.

 And what better time for theme development than a brand new year!?

I think I started theming my years a few  sun revolutions back. I like themes in general because they sort of make things more fun and interesting. I like year themes because they help me zone in and gain some focus. On the edge of a brand new year...focus is something really important to find. I mean. Sure a brand new year brings lots of hope and potential and excitement for what could come and what could be...but with a brand new year also comes uncertainty and the daunting task of facing the unknown and somehow figuring out how you will be a better person, with an ever approaching deadline of next New Year's Eve.

For an obsessive compulsive fixer/self improver like me, that last piece of the New Year brings an onset of equal parts excitement and panic. I start shuffling through past years, and past goals and I quickly become overwhelmed with just how much fixing really needs to happen and then I shutter a little bit thinking about how quickly that last 365.25 days flew by and how much faster I am sure the next chunk of days will do the same. I am a self perfectionist and on top of that an overachiever and thus goal setting can quickly become over the top and impossible. Often in my attempts to succeed and grow and become I set myself up for failure by expecting far too much of myself. As soon as I start making the list of things to accomplish within my allotted 365.25 days it's hard to stop because I am so determined to capitalize on the fresh start, the brand new stock of potential, and the new found hope that by the end of this year I will certainly, hopefully be the person I have been trying to become all along.

Great intentions. Awful execution.

After more than a few New Years reflecting on the previous year's goals and promises to myself and feeling like a complete failure on the eve of what should have been a brand new start, I started theming my years. I finally realized that I had to go a little bit easier on myself. Of course there is much growing and becoming to accomplish, but there are many, many years to fit it into. And besides, what good was I doing myself to set a TON of lofty goals and only accomplish pieces of all of them. It left me feeling unsatisfied and unaccomplished. I knew I needed to zone in. I needed to focus on the quality of what I intended to accomplish in the new year rather than the quantity.

That's exactly what the theme does for me. Of course the theme carries with it lots of little goals within the overarching one, but it's a whole lot easier to remember one simple phrase all day every day, then a huge, long, overwhelming list. With a theme, I can incorperate it into everything I do every day. I don't have to split my chunk of days and my focus among several separate tasks. And let me just be honest, the words lover in me can't resist an eloquently worded, inspirational sounding phrase or theme of sorts. It's sort of like every year of my life needs to be a new, epic chapter, and every epic chapter needs an epic title. Sometimes I am such a writer.

That being said...

This year's theme is.... #drumrollplease...


If you have been following my blog at all or talk to me on a fairly regular basis, then you well know that my life theme of sorts as of late has very much been "wilderness." In fact if you scroll up even a few posts back on the blog, you will see that often I write about surviving what is my own personal wilderness. Right now. 

My prayers lately have been very simple. Mostly uttered out of frustration and exhaustion. Usually as I am falling asleep. And usually they end with an exasperated, half-statement, half-question for God to just figure it out and show me something while I sleep. The crazy thing is, usually He does just that. Sometimes I will toss and turn and wrestle with things all the while. Sometimes there will be dreams. Sometimes I just wake up with a scripture or a thought so vividly in my heart and mind that I am sure He had to have put it there at some point during the night. 

That's how I ended up with this year's theme. One morning I just woke up and the words were flowing over and over again along with a list of ways I was going to go about this. And let me tell you...the way I have been praying lately I was more than certain I had not developed this on my own. I knew it was a God planted seed and because I knew that I knew I had to spend this year watering it and helping it grow up in my life. 

So there we have it. Out on the world wide web for anyone and everyone to see. I guess it's my own way of securing as much accountability as possible. Because I know I am going to need all of it and more. People to remind me over and over again to worship in my wilderness. 

Usually by this time I have packed up and left Ohio. For the last seven years I have swooped in to celebrate Christmas with my family and then packed up my bags and boarded a plane back to somewhere else. Back to something. Back to action. Back to school and ministry or a big city and a job. But Christmas has come and gone. The new year is officially here, and so am I. Officially in Ohio. Officially in the wilderness. There's nothing to go back to. No action on the horizon. This is the part of the wilderness I was most afraid of. 

And don't get me wrong, it has nothing to do with Ohio. It's not like I hate Ohio! It's just that Ohio happens to be an in-between place and a place where I find myself confused and lonely and sort of stuck. But this is precisely the place in the wilderness when worshipping is of the utmost importance. 

This is the point in my wilderness journey when I can either turn around and stomp my way back to wherever I came from (which offers just as much uncertainty and uncomfortably as the alternative although we often don't see it that way) OR when I stomp forward with strength and determination to find out what is over the edge of that distant horizon. And if I don't start singing and expressing gratitude on the journey, I will not find the strength to arrive at that edge. And then I really will be stuck and miserable with no strength to reach the edge in either direction. 

So this year, I want to get back on track with my health, I want to learn how to braid my own hair, I want to become fluent in Spanish...and all of those are wrapped up in one simple phrase. "Worship in the Wilderness."

How, you might ask?

Because I am not going to be stuck. I am not going to be held still by my own misery. I am going to sing and dance and learn and grow in this super hard place. Some days that will look like forcing myself to go on a run even though I hate the scenery there is while doing so and the bitter cold that wants to keep me inside. Some days it might look like learning one more Spanish verb even though I can't remember the last nine and I don't get to be in the place I would actually love to be while learning it. And some days it might look like watching a Pinterest tutorial on french braiding one more time and trying it out one more time and smiling to myself when I finally get to run my errands with the braid I have always wanted. 

It's going to look different every single day. But mostly it's about learning to sing when I would rather scream and learning to take one tiny step forward when I would rather run 47 backwards. It's about deciding to see silver where there is lots of gray and to say thank you when I would rather say thanks a lot. 

I leave you with this song of worship that the Israelites sang in about the middle of their wilderness journey. A song I will learn to sing this year when I find myself at about that place in my own wilderness journey...of course they couldn't have known they were half way there at the time...and neither can I. But for however long this journey may last, let this be my song for the remainder and beyond the edge. 

"The Lord is my strength and my song; 
He has become my salvation.
He is my God and I will praise Him, 
my father's God and I will exalt Him...

In your unfailing love you will lead 
the people You have redeemed. 
In YOUR strength you will guide them 
to Your holy dwelling."
-Exodus 15 (selected)

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