Meaning in the Mundane

When I was a kid and my mom asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I gave her a schedule with a different occupation for each day of the week. Dolphin trainer and teacher were two of the ones I remember. I am a dreamer by nature. As a teenager, I was obsessed with dramatic interior design, bright color, and traveling. I wanted to go to other countries on mission trips. I wanted to create a blog and write a book that would influence the way people thought. I was the one who created a plan for my friend and I to follow so we wouldn’t waste our summer. I was the one who planned out exactly how we should redo the basement and what items I needed to decorate my room with. I took for granted all the business trips we went on with my dad and all the times we visited family.

It’s coming up on three years now that I have not traveled much, though. I guess you could say life after high school has redefined how I see the “good life.” Being “stuck” in one place for so long has taught me the value of the area I call home, Central Virginia. High school kids who grew up here often say there is nothing to do here. But as my Literature teacher pointed out this past semester, where ever you go, you will find it boring after being there a little while. Traveling and seeing other places and people is exciting, but living is mundane (even in other places).

Still, home has a special allure that traveling never can. It’s subtle, not flashy; comforting, not thrilling. The efforts to invest and put down roots can bring a special kind of contentment and joy. The mundane is a balance of restful and industrious, while being something expected. It is at home that we see the benefits of consistent labor. A garden takes consistent care. If it is given care each day and each week, it provides fruit, veggies, and beautiful flowers. The same goes for life. When we invest time and energy in the everyday tasks and whatever is placed in front of us, a beautiful life is made.

The big, exciting, perfect life is just not all it is cracked up to be. Simply reading that sentence won’t make you believe it, though. In fact, sometimes I don’t believe it. (Especially after spending time on social media!) The younger version of me who wanted adventure, a beautiful life (and house), and to serve God in a big way is still here. Just now I have less opinions and impatient drive and a little more grace for the detours that are life. Most of my goals are good, but when given too much control of our hearts and minds, even good things become bad things.

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11).

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16).

Yet, goals and dreams are good things, so what were these authors getting at? I think they were asking us to examine why we are living the way we are. At the beginning of the day, do we love Jesus more? More than our desires? More than our goals? When Jesus is enough for us, not only do our goals take on new meaning but the mundane is transformed. It goes from boring to a sacred– we begin eagerly anticipating that God will move in the everyday. We can enjoy the big adventure moments of life, but we don’t need them to find joy in life when Jesus is at the center of our hearts and minds.

What You Can Know When You Want to Say, “No!”

I was scrolling through Facebook and found a quote that cut right to the heart of what I have been learning lately:

“Only if your God can outrage you and make you struggle will you know that you worship the real God and not a figment of your imagination.” – Timothy Keller

It’s just like any other relationship, only more because God’s thinking is so much higher than ours. There will be conflict between what we believe or want and what God says or asks of us. When this happens, we will struggle with our heart.

In Luke 9:57-62, Jesus makes it clear that following Him will be hard.

 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The one that sticks out to me is having nowhere to call home. I hate that. A couple summers ago, I volunteered at a summer camp. The dorm-style rooms we stayed in were not very welcoming and overall did not feel like home. I looked forward to the weekends, when I could spend at least a few hours in a real home. A kitchen, a couch, a bedroom, a normal bathroom, decoration- it’s all so beautiful. Being home allows me to relax. But Jesus makes the point that sometimes we won’t have simple luxuries like home. Sometimes saying “yes” to Him means giving up something very valuable to you. Other times, it means jumping in right now without having everything squared away.

God’s plan is not our plan. To follow Him, we often have to let go of dreams and sometimes go against what makes logical sense. And that is okay because we serve a God who can turn water to wine (or blood), calm a ravenous storm, make the blind see and the seeing blind, and so much more! He knows what He’s doing and we can trust Him, even when it hurts, even when it doesn’t make sense. More so, we can know we serve and worship the real God when what He asks of us goes against our will and heart.

Goodbye Shame, Goodbye Guilt

It hit me the other day just how much our society likes to measure us up. It starts with school. Each assignment is measured according to a number and letter system. The higher the number, or lower the letter, the better. It seems like a lot of life includes some sort of grading system like this. It becomes part of our mindset to try to perform well and wonder how we measure up. When we start viewing God as though He’s grading us, though, things go awry.

A big part of why we see God like this is because we focus so little on the relationship, and instead, end up focusing on the action part of faith. We do all the right things because we’re supposed. But living as though God were waiting for us to mess up so He could be mad at us is not good motivation for living a moral life.

In any healthy relationship, the people involved feel free to be themselves. The same thing applies to a relationship with God. He won’t hate you if you mess up, but He will convict and encourage you toward real holy change. Patience is an incredible attribute of God we can easily forget about.

We will mess up; we will sin. This is a fact, not something any one of us can defy with the most meticulous work. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8b) If that isn’t encouraging- that we are loved even when we’re at our worst- than I don’t know what is.

You and me will never be “too far gone” to approach the throne of grace. Any moment is a good moment to talk to God. And maybe by realizing His forgiveness and love for us, we can begin to let that define how we see ourselves.

It is the enemy who wants to destroy us with guilt and shame and fear; God brings peace and joy and love. That is the kind of relationship and life we are offered.

Waves That Crash

Over three weeks of the semester have passed. In this time, I’ve made friends and learned some fascinating things, but most of all I’ve been drained. A roller coaster of emotions and stress has drained my energy. Maybe you noticed that I haven’t been posting as often. This is the reason why.

This place of feeling tired isn’t new, and I find that my reaction each time it visits is to carefully control my activities and to dread the coming day or week. To an extent, I think stuarding the energy we’ve been given, along with every gift, is wise, yet always holding back and dreading is no way to live. (Especially in God’s upside-down kingdom.)

A couple summers ago I worked at a summer camp for two months and was beyond exhausted all the time. God came through for me in a way I had never experienced, though. Looking back, I know His strength is the only reason I made it. Each day I made it through and the days added up to two months.

By the Lord’s prayer, Jesus taught us to ask for daily bread. In other words, the sustanence for today. Another beautiful truth we are reminded of is that His mercies are new every morning. God doesn’t give us the mercies we’ll need for the whole week at the beginning. Each morning we can look forward with eager anticipation to seeing how God will provide.

I’m learning a lot through this trial, especially about relying on Jesus each day, but that does not negate the dilemma of having less energy. Therefore, for this semester, I will post when I can but that probably won’t be every week.

Hope this post finds you well,

Sarah