Friday, January 31, 2014

Road Rash

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

We really don’t have to go quite that dark -- good intentions pave a lot of roads.  Why lately, my own good intentions have paved the road to piles of stained and ruined clothes (thank you, stupid Pinterest projects!), as well as a little extra -- as my son so lovingly puts it -- “fatty-flubber” to compliment my ever-slowing metabolism (these quads don’t function under 32-degrees – sorry, fitness-level). 

In fact, just a few moments ago, my good intentions of getting some errands done before work led me directly down the road . . . to Chick-Fil-A.  Seriously, right now I’m typing with one hand so I don’t have to loose my death grip on the most delicious chicken sandwich on the planet!  Yes, diet drink, too.  I. Am. The worst. (But, CFA is the best!  Love you, Mr. Cathy!)

So with fast food in hand, as I count on one finger the number of times this body has purposefully been in motion this week, I am sad.  Feeling SAD at myself.  <insert violin music>  The past few months have been full of changes and  good intentions gone wrong, or at least gone in a way we didn’t expect at all.  It has inspired much apathy and laziness.  Even visiting this blog reminds me of another good intention that belly-flopped.  How long has it been since that last post?  I’m afraid I’ve lost my compass. I need to get my gumption back.

Care to join the pity party?  It’s the end of January, people.  How many resolutions have you already tossed in the can, kicked the can over, picked back up and tossed in again?  Oh well.  We’re getting a little negative here, so let’s turn this ship around.  Time to keep on keepin' on even through the trials.

I just finished James MacDonald’s book “Life is Hard”.  It was given to me by a dear friend who probably could have written the book herself.  It’s been a lifeline through what has been, and in many ways still is, a pretty confusing time.  Trials, pain, uncertainty – how do we deal?  How do we, as believers, reconcile it all?  Can we hope to actually benefit from failures and heartbreak and weeks that just, frankly, suck?

As an illustration, let’s go ahead and dive into something monumental:  craft/food projects. (okay, only slightly monumental). But seriously, folks, every single time I pin that DIY project or recipe, I have every intention of creating something beautiful or inspiring or yummy for those around me.  I really think I’m capable of making it happen, or I wouldn’t waste my time and money getting started.  Good intentions!  Not always so great a result. 

Now how about something that truly matters?  Let’s say I take a big step of faith, trusting that God is leading, ABSOLUTELY SURE that God is leading . . . and it all falls flat.  It was for Him and because of Him, but now things are hard.  What gives?  Or let’s say I do all I can to nurture and control my family’s environment and keep them safe, but they still get hurt.  Surely, this is not the way things work!  Do the right thing = get the reward, right?  That's amateur spirituality talking there.

Remember that refining gold is a dirty and painful process.  Amazing how I forget that so easily. 

If you would, allow me to share a little of what I’m learning.  Here are a few thoughts from “Life is Hard” that have been driving me lately:

*Every trial I face is allowed by God for my ultimate good. 
*Trials need not steal my joy.
*God is never more present than when His children are suffering.
*Until I embrace my trial in unwavering submission to God, I will not reap the good.

Tough stuff, right?  Just reading that list in the table of contents made me want to deposit that book right under the slimy dinner scraps and next to my New Year’s resolution list.  But, guys, I have to tell you, I wept and studied through every scripture, every page, and it’s true.  It’s hard and at times it stinks, but it’s true. 

The end of it all is that God loves me.  He loves my family.  He actually does have us in His hand (though sometimes UNDER His hand).  And, thankfully, God’s big Story trumps my good intentions every time.  He actually does want me to come out as gold -- beautiful the way He planned, not by my own design.

A crazy-talented songwriting mentor of mine says that if you start a song, finish it.  No matter that you think it’s beginning to grow mold and stink – finish it!  Every botched attempt is a stepping stone.  EVERY failure and disappointment gives you an experience, a new verse that the great Artist will color with His beauty and use to inspire the world.  Always, always finish.  Keep going.

I shared with my book-giving friend that, as God’s always intriguing sense of humor would have it, months and months ago when I started my year-long songwriting project (which, of course, I am behind on), the first song I wrote was called “After the Fire”.  It depicts the principles in this book to a tee, long before the current trials even began, long before I read Mr. MacDonald’s book.  I wrote the song for a few other friends going through the flames, and turns out God wanted me to hear it for myself, as well.  It drives me nuts --  and brings me unspeakable comfort -- when He does things like that!  God is truly good even when we’re swimming in the bad.

Probably most of you are struggling with a trial of some sort to one degree or another, each a unique journey with you and your God.  For me personally, He is showing me that one of my biggest hang-ups is control.  Yes, I tend to helicopter-mom everyone and everything around me.  My good intentions are really a means of controlling my world.  I can have plans A-Z mapped out for every possible scenario before you can say, “Take a chill pill.”  So, God has slapped me pretty hard with the reality that I do NOT have any real control – not over jobs or kids or plans or inspiration or health or my path in this life.

And, you know, I’m just starting to believe that THAT IS GOOD NEWS!

I'm realizing now that this post has been a little vent-y and wander-y, so sorry 'bout that.  Here's my heart in this matter at the moment:   “God is infinitely wise and infinitely loving.”  (borrowed that from a fabulous podcast yesterday) I'm holding on to that.  No matter my or your current situation, this truth is a constant.  I suppose that whether we see it or not depends on our seeking Him in the middle of the muck.  Pray. Believe. And keep going for the gold.

*You get that Olympic pun for free.  J