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Archive for the ‘Emotion’ Category

Sometimes one huge thing completely derails an otherwise fine day. Sometimes lots of little mishaps add up to create an unpleasant week. Such things can really mess with rational thinking.

When you’re having a bad day, week, etc., does it ever start to make you feel miserable about something completely unrelated?

Personal example: Back when I had a sad, unhealthy body image, I would feel miserable about being fat even though that really had nothing to do with why I would have a bad day. Perhaps I hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before, I had a difficult assignment at work, the coffee was stale, I was defriended by someone on Facebook, and my electric bill was higher than I expected it to be. Somehow this would end up with me being miserable about my weight, even though my weight had absolutely nothing to do with anything else going on. It was just something that seemed easy to point at and focus on and wish to be changed.

Since working to make peace with my body, this doesn’t happen so much anymore. But yesterday I found myself doing it again, only about something else.

I’m having some issues at work, and this week I felt quitting—and I mean quitting in a loud, dramatic way that would be truly memorable at the company for years to come. I didn’t; I’m still here. But it’s contributed to my already-growing job dissatisfaction, anger at a coworker who hates me for no reason, frustration with my limited budget, and exhaustion from two years of ridiculously early work hours.

Because of my penchant for the dramatic, the rise of formerly buried feelings, The Enemy sowing seeds of discontent, or any combination thereof, I began to feel frustration with other aspects of my life besides work. This occurred even for things I had been content with the day before—and my singleness in particular. It’s not really a surprise, since my singleness is still an area where my contentment is weak overall. But on my way home, exhausted and drained and just weary, I started to wish I wasn’t single, that I had a boyfriend to vent to (I don’t know why this would be different from calling an existent friend and ranting to her, but therein lie the logical fallacies), and the familiar feelings of “Ugh, WHY DON’T IT??” came back.

I’m not sure what it was that woke me up from this way of thinking—most likely simply the promptings of the Holy Spirit—but somehow I realized, “Hey, my singleness has nothing to do with these problems I’m going through right now. And if I magically became romantically attached at this moment, it still won’t solve these problems.”

I don’t know what human inclination it is that makes us place blame on some outside object, even if it’s completely irrelevant and irrational, but it seems to happen to a lot of us, and I am not immune.

So, based on my own recent experiences … if you find yourself feeling low about your single status (or something else entirely), try to trace your thoughts and feelings and pinpoint the true source of your discomfort. If it’s something you can fix or change, do your best and then move on. If it’s something completely outside of your control or abilities, submit it to the Lord, pray through it, and be patient.

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Philippians 2:14-16: Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

Moving from the MidWest to the DC Metro Area has been a massive learning experience. One thing I have learned is that Washington, D.C., really does have an attitude of, “I am the center of the universe and everything works through Me.” Considering the nature of government, and everything that goes on here, this attitude is definitely not unfounded—though that doesn’t mean it’s right. Even someone like myself, who neither works nor lives within The District (and indeed has a suspicion of government that runs deep, long, and wide), can get a little bit caught up in this sentiment.

But you know what? It’s not just me, and it’s not just here. It is, in fact, one of the less beautiful things about being human. To each of us, our problems, our feelings, our ideas and opinions, are the most important in the world. In a small way, that’s necessary to maintain a sense of self-preservation, without which the human race would die out. But we always take that too far, turning it into a terrible attitude of arrogance, self-importance, and disinterest in our fellow human beings.

I started thinking about this in depth yesterday, when I had to summarize an article about children in Guinea who are dying of preventable diseases such as smallpox, measles, and mumps. Their health needs are going unheeded because of sectarian violence that has gripped the nation and distracted the government, the economy, and the people, while international sanctions are preventing any kind of aid from reaching them. The article is here if you’re interested, but be warned that there are some pictures that may be disturbing.

Anyway, I shared this article with Bethany, who pointed out that this made her feel kind of ashamed of the things she complains about. This got me thinking: If I kept track of everything I complained about in a single day, I think I would be overwhelmed, embarrassed, and probably a little indignant, too.

Right now, the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region is still reeling from 8 days of heavy snows and wind. I’ve gone to the office only 4 of the past 9 workdays. Two weekends’ worth of plans have been disrupted, and I’ve been crabby with my roommate and bored with the food supplies I had stocked up in anticipation of these storms. We’ve had electricity and Internet go out a couple times. There’s been a lot for us to complain about.

BUT: I do not wake up in fear for my life, and I do not worry that I’m going to get shot as I go about the course of my day. I’m concerned about germs and proper food storage, but in my daily activities I’m not actually worried that I will catch a life-threatening disease. I’m not worried where my next meal is coming from, or that it is not coming at all. I’m not worried that my entire family could be killed simply because my religion is different from my neighbor’s.

But guess what I have? A roof over my head. A refrigerator full of food. Bottles full of basic medicines and vitamins. Bottles of vitamin water. Soap, makeup, perfume, and shampoo. A car with a full tank of gas and a snow shovel to dislodge it from its parking space. Hot water. Piles of blankets. Piles of clothes. Clean air and sunshine. A cell phone to keep in touch with people. Grocery stores within walking distance. The power has not been out for more than a few hours at a time. I can work from home and not use up vacation days or risk my safety.

And what have I been complaining about lately? How much I hate Valentine’s Day. How disappointed I am at not seeing the friends I want to see when I wanted to see them. I’m stuck inside, in the warmth. I have to shovel snow off my car. I’m not getting the right attention from the right guys. The sidewalks aren’t shoveled. My bedroom window is drafty. I don’t have any chocolate in my apartment. My church service was canceled last week. My boss actually expects me to work and do my job. I’m tired. I’m bored. My mom is too busy to call me back. The Subway where I’m writing this post is playing country music.

Maybe, just maybe, that whenever I complain about truly vain and trivial things, I will think of the children in Guinea, and I’ll pray for their physical health and spiritual salvation, and maybe I’ll have an attitude with a little more gratitude and humility. And remember Philippians 2:14-16.

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Something I’ve realized as I go dancing through life:

It may be hard to be kind and polite to, and to pray for, people you don’t like. But being kind to them, and especially praying for them, also makes it harder to dislike them.

I know it’s a basic concept, but sometimes we need a little refresher. Since God gave me such a reminder tonight, I thought I would pass it on.

Bless!

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Do you ever listen to speakers, and they say something that sticks to you, even though it’s not wholly related to the topic and would normally get lost in the flow of words and ideas? That happened to me this past Sunday at church. The message was part two of two, discussing the church community. (Because of out-of-town travels, I missed part one.) It was a good message, but there was something that I heard that wasn’t a main point, but it got plugged into my head and stayed there.

The speaker (not our usual pastor) discussed service within the Christian church community, and briefly compared it to marriage. In a marriage, he said, instead of looking for the right person, what you should be focused on is being the right person. He went on to discuss other points, but that one sentence is what I remember most from the message.

There are two reasons, I think, that this stuck with me:

1. It’s true.

2. I have failed.

As my own worst critic, I struggled to avoid thinking, “I haven’t been doing this, therefore I’m a horrible person.” That’s another trap we must avoid. There’s a balance between liking oneself and recognizing one’s faults. Of course we should be humble, but not to the point where we fail to recognize our merits. Of course we should be aware of our faults, but not so much that we consider improvement to be impossible.

For those single ladies out there who don’t want to be single: Where is your focus? Are you constantly looking outward, at the world around you, keeping an eye out for that one person who will catch your attention, the one you’ve been waiting for? Do you have a long checklist that this person must meet, otherwise it’s no use? Are you only looking outward, instead of upward (to God) and inward (at yourself)?

Could you meet someone’s checklist? Oh, I’m not talking about “blue eyes” or “over 5’5″” or “athletic,” but qualities that a sane, genuine, emotionally healthy person wants in a spouse. While you’re searching for the right person, are you working on becoming the right person—that is, Christlike? Or are you rejecting people because they have specks in their eyes, when you have an entire plank that has been ignored?

Have you been cultivating a spirit of generosity, kindness, love, and honesty? Have you been forgiving when you are sinned against? Have you been apologetic for the sins you’ve committed against others? Have you been someone worthy of trust? Have you been growing in your walk with God, putting Him first in your time, resources, and decisions?

And if you haven’t … then why should you deserve someone who has?

This can be so frustrating, because it’s hard. Ultimately, yes, it is the Holy Spirit that changes hearts and minds and forms us into a more Christlike shape. But there is work for us to do, and sometimes—most of the time—we don’t feel like it. At least I don’t—I just want to be who I am, and have someone accept me that way.

But friends, that’s nothing but stagnation—and it literally stinks.

So what should we do? Take our cues from Micah 6:8: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

But also remember that we should be cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit: Galatians 5:22-23 says it is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

But the reason it is the Fruit of the Spirit is because it is not our fruit—we can’t grow it ourselves. That’s why we need the Holy Spirit to initiate the change, while we perform the work God has for us.

I’m not saying, “Do these things and you will get a husband/boyfriend/significant other.”

I’m saying that these are the things that attract the right kind of people, and make us into the right kind of people. And it involves putting God first, which is always the first step

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This is one of those entries that kind of scares me to post, because I’m exposing part of my soul here, and it makes me feel vulnerable. But I’m doing it because I think it’s important to share, so here we go. (I just hope that at the end of this post, y’all don’t think that I’m a prophetess or a psycho.) I didn’t really expect to post again this soon, or about this topic in particular, but I received inspiration from a comment on my last one by my online friend, Joel. After saying that his wife would back me up on the last post, he then added:

… [O]ne could rephrase your exhortation to your fellow single Christian women this way: “If you are a single woman, and you don’t feel deep down that you could spend the rest of your life joyfully serving God, and never having gotten married, please don’t get married!”

Yes, that’s another excellent way to say it, and something that I have actually been working towards for years. Less than two weeks ago, on this mission trip, I think I achieved it. I’m not sure when it happened—probably on Sunday, July 19, because that was a pretty magical day for me all around. Whenever it was, at one point I was in my room alone and thought, This singleness thing? I could do this. If I have Jesus, get to serve Him, and worship Him with dear friends, I could do this for the rest of my life, as a single woman, and do so happily. Of course, human feelings don’t last, but I do believe the resolve has stayed with me.

That’s not to say that I am 100% sure I will never marry—I still don’t know what God has planned for me in that area of my life. But I could be content to trustingly, worshipfully serve God and glorify Him as a single woman, if that is what He called me to do. I’m not hoping to get married, and I’m not hoping to stay single. Either way of life will be a blessing from God that I will gladly accept.

Honestly, this is something new to me. Before, my attitude was mostly, “Well, if God really wants me to be single for a long time (or forever), I guess I could deal with it,” or, “OK God, I’m content being single. You can bring me a husband now!” Neither of these carry much of a spirit of obedience or worship.

But this new attitude is more, “Yes! If You ask me, I will do it, and joyfully!”

I’m very happy to have achieved this—I’ve been working toward it since my freshman year of college, when God spoke to me.

Yes, there’s a story here. There’s really no way of telling it without sounding like an utter loony, so here we go. When I say that God spoke to me, I don’t mean “God placed it on my heart,” or “I felt the Holy Spirit move me,” or “I read this verse that really opened my eyes.” I mean, God spoke to me. I mean, I heard words. In a voice. In my head. Oh, yes. And nothing similar has happened to me before or since, either.

Anyway, I was driving home for a weekend, or a seasonal break, and feeling crappy about being single and just wishing I had a boyfriend (I wasted a lot of my time in college doing that, silly me). I was halfheartedly praying about it, when I heard very clearly in my head: “Emily, I am all that you could ever want or need. If you’re not happy with Me. you’re not going to be happy with a fallible human.”

Hearing that didn’t freak me out as much as you’d think it would have. I knew it was the Lord, and I knew it was true. I felt kind of like I had been lovingly slapped in the face, but there was a peace about it, and a little shame because it showed me how foolish I had been. I haven’t always lived by those words, but I’ve never forgotten it. I have never understood those words as clearly as I do now, and I am calling on my sisters in Christ to take them to heart: Pursue God first.

And hey, since we clearly have a number of male readersBoys, that goes for you, too.

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Hello, all! I have returned from my mission trip to England, and I would be lying if I said I was pleased about that. Since it was 1) in England, which has always topped my places-to-see! list, and 2) a mission trip, during which amazing things tend to happen, I was expecting not to want to come back. And I didn’t.

(Saturday was especially difficult, with my roller-coaster emotions culminating in a Marianne-Dashwood-esque walk through the rain, feeling generally miserable, and today I have a sore throat, I kid you not, that will probably result in my becoming severely ill and bedridden so that someone will have to send for my mother to come and be with me right before I die.)

But that also means that the trip was incredible, right? Returning to the craziness of real life—work, moving to another apartment, catching up with family and trying to explain a fraction of what I experienced on the trip—has not been appealing. It’s kind of like something I remember reading in Stuff Christians Like once, only more so.

Anyway, as I continue to adjust and process what I’ve gone through, I’m sure I will have many things to discuss on this blog. The first thing I wanted to share is, in fact, something I did not expect to learn.

As an only child of divorced parents, I didn’t have that much of a male-leadership presence growing up. I never had brothers, and although I love my dad, we’re not extremely close. I’ve never had that many guy friends, Christian or otherwise. And even though I’m not a crazy feminist, my attitude for much of my life has been, “Meh. I don’t need a man.” (Though there have been times of feeling, “Wow, a boyfriend would be really great right now,” to which all single women can relate, I’m sure. Or at least Bethany. And Jenna. And Kara. And Jessica. And Katie. OK, yeah, so all single women.)

Obviously, having been made complete in Christ, that’s true in a sense. At least, we don’t need a man to complete us. In fact, one can’t. Except for Jesus, Who was obviously more than just a man. But anyway, I didn’t quite appreciate, or realize the importance of, solid Christian male leadership. The more I write about this, the harder it is to put into words, I’m finding. But to see the men at this mission conference step up in faith, show commitment to God’s work, demonstrate the love of Christ, and be honest about their mistakes was encouraging, beautiful, a relief, and all sorts of other lovely things.

We may not have been preaching the gospel in the jungles of Africa, or feeding malnourished children at an orphanage in South America, or secretly distributing Bibles in China, but the spiritual battleground was no less real in the streets of London. During that time, I gained a little more insight into the kind of leaders that God has called men to be. I also became more aware of the importance of finding a man—God willing—who can show that kind of leadership. The analogy that female Christians are princesses because we are daughters of the King can get a little tired and nauseating at times, but there is truth to it. I believe that not only do we owe it to ourselves to seek and to truly desire a man after God’s own heart, but we owe it to our Heavenly Father. I think it’s disrespectful to Him, as our Creator and Savior, to settle for anything less.

(Imagine someone serving you an incredibly expensive, intricate, complicated, delicious meal prepared with care and anticipation. And then imagine snubbing that meal for a Big Mac. Sure, the Big Mac was tasty, but someone went to trouble of making that fabulous meal just for you, and you pushed it aside for a cheap grease-fest.)

In short, ladies: Don’t compromise your beliefs for any man. And please, please don’t settle for less than God’s best for you. I may be Perpetually Single, but even I learned that the hard way. Trust me on this. God loves you, He has your best interests at heart, and He knows exactly how to get that done. He’s also bigger than whatever you may be facing: loneliness, a bad relationship, uncertainty about the future. You’re His daughter, and you deserve a man who recognizes that.

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This post was going to start out in a very rambling, unfocused style, but let me first point out one important thing, so that what I say makes sense. Stuff Christians Like has a great post today about how powerful God is: almost all powerful. Go read it, and then meet me back here.

I’ll wait …

Anyway, that blog got me thinking—which is a good thing, because I finally got the message that God seems to have been pushing to me for a while now.

I will be honest: There’s a lot going on in my life right now, spiritually, physically, occupationally, socially, etc. I’ve been praying about all these different concerns, but I still worry about them. And then there’s the things going on in the lives of others that I’m also praying for and concerned about. Sometimes it seems like prayer gets me nowhere—why is that?

Well, staying worried makes the prayers rather pointless—since obviously I’m not truly giving up my own concerns, plans, and power, and I’m not fully trusting THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE Who, by the way, HAS A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH ME, to care enough to get done what needs to be done, His way. If I say “Please God, help so-and-so with this-and-this,” but I still worry about it, I haven’t given Him the problem to take care of. I’m just speaking words without actually trusting that He’s going to take care of it. I’m still ruminating and wondering what I can do about it. The words alone are then meaningless.

This spills into my daily life, when I worry about too much. It builds up and builds up until I almost forget that God has any power at all over what happens to me, that I am, in fact, not subject to the whims of fate. Kind of like what I said in my post on fear, worrying takes the focus off God, and can prevent us from living the full life in Him that He desires for us.

Do any of these sound familiar?

If I don’t get into this grad school program, I don’t know what I’m going to do.
I can’t be late for this meeting or I’ll lose my job and then where will I be?
If this guy isn’t interested in me, then I’ll probably never get married.
I have to get this promotion, or there won’t be another opportunity and my life will be over.
If I don’t find the ingredients for this recipe I’m making for this party, I’ll be a social outcast.
I can’t survive without my family/pet/best friend within easy reach.

Yes, some of these are exaggerated, and some sound kind of funny, but how often do we actually think like this? (And as one who leans toward the melodramatic, I know I do this a lot.)

Does God not care? Is He incapable of handling the situation?

Guess what: Neither. He’s got it all under control. He loves you. He is not under the same restrictions as you are. Just chill. He will give you what you need, tell you what you need to know, and get you where you need to be. All when you need it. In the meantime, we are called to trust Him, love others, and be obedient.

If things don’t go as we planned, does that also mean things aren’t going as God planned?

(Hint: No.)

On that note, have some Scripture:

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Habakkuk 3:17-18

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I Thessalonians 5:16-18

For I am the Lord your God, Who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.”
Isaiah 41:13

Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.
Psalm 55:22

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hears and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.
Lamentations 3:24-25

I am the Vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from Me you can do nothing.
John 15:5

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