Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mid-Year's Resolutions

This is the year of TLC for TLC. In other words, I've been trying to get my crap together so that I can be the best version of myself for God, others, and myself. My New Year's Resolutions were:

- Part of my day that nothing infringes on #1: Jesus.
Reading the Word, praying, listening to Him, listening to sermons (Matt Chandler, Perry Noble, Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, and Greg Pinkner are my faves).

- Part of my day that nothing infringes on #2: Gym.
I've lost 30 pounds this year, and I'm not stopping there. Bring it.

Here are the ways that God has brought other healthy changes in my life and what I've done to work that out:

- Overhauled my schedule to where I work no more than 40 hours a week. That's a big deal for me. I used to work around 80-100.

- Tried to get 8 hours sleep at night. I spent 8 years getting 4-5 hours per night, so I'm seeing the benefits of sleep now for sure!

- Narrowed my commitments and prioritized my relationships according to the places and the people with whom I believe God wants me to spend my time. I need people who mentor me, people to mentor, and people to be on the level with -- and most of these need to be people who are in my life on a regular, frequent basis.

- Visited the doctors that I've been avoiding. It ended up being far more encouraging than I ever thought! Woo!

Most surprising thing I've learned during this time.

During this overhaul of my life, I realized that I'm more of an introvert than I ever knew. That doesn't mean that I don't love people -- I so do! It means that I re-charge when I'm alone. I need downtime. The best way that I can serve the people I meet on tour is to have lots of time alone to order my head and my heart. I've been slighting audiences for years, and it breaks my heart that I'm just now realizing this. I am so sorry to all of you who have gotten less than the best I have to offer. I'm doing what I can to fix that, but sometimes it may look like I'm not offering as much by way of time.

Here are the things I'm resolving to stick to for the rest of the year:

1. Gym. Every single day that I'm home and every possible day that I'm on the road.
2. Finish the new book by the end of September, edits and all.
3. Churn out at least 4 songs that I LOVE by the end of the year.
4. Try very hard to get at least 7 hours sleep each night. If possible, 8 hours.

Now it's out there for everyone to see. The past 7.5 months have been awesome, and I'm looking forward to the ways God will grow me and change me during the rest of 2008. Wooooo!!!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

By Comparison

People often comment on how NYC has the most beautiful people in the world (and yes, we do), but here's something to remember: while some people are naturally beautiful, others spend small fortunes to look that way. Not just on plastic surgery, but on laser skin resurfacing, cellulite massages, personal trainers, organic meals, toxic cleanses, hair stylists, manicures, pedicures, waxing, tanning, stylists, etc.

Hear me out on this: It doesn't mean that people who don't invest in those things are better than the people who do. OR worse than them. It just means that if you can't afford to spend the $20,000 a month that Jennifer Aniston does to maintain her beauty, then you shouldn't feel inadequate when you compare yourself to her.

One of my desires is that I will stop comparing myself to others. It's not what God intended when He created us -- it turns us into divisive, catty, selfish people. I pray that God will heal those broken parts in us and restore us into people who will encourage and lift up our sisters with words of life.

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. - Phil. 2:3

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cooking Up Some Awesome

Some of you may not know this, but I studied cooking at one point. I was so passionate about it then, but I haven't really gotten to do it much since I started touring. These days, even though my schedule has slowed, I live in an apartment with a kitchen that is roughly the size of my pancreas. I crave a big, open kitchen with lots of space to dance around in while I cook and bake.

In NYC, eating out is a fairly normal thing to do. Depending on where you're willing to eat, it's not much more expensive than cooking at home. There's a place in my neighborhood that will give you a free pizza (yes, a whole pizza) for every beer you buy.

That's all well and good, but I wanna sling some batter! So I'm trying to cook more. And I want to tell you about this superb new device I purchased for $4 at TJ Maxx! It has been assisting me in my attempts not to burn myself as I maneuver my body into the positions required to fit all four limbs into my kitchen simultaneously. Behold, The Grabber:

It's a step up from the OveGlove. An even bigger step up from the traditional oven mitt. This is something even a dude could use without shame. It's not frilly. And you can order it here for $7.99 if you can't find one in the stacks at TJ Maxx.

Now... off to defrost something made of meat.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Light for the Journey

I'm still reflecting on the whole "angry with God" thing I mentioned a couple of posts ago, and I can't get over how profound it was for me. I tend to be such a "God is awesome!" person, all smiles when it comes to Jesus. Had I not gone through that, I would've missed out on something crucial to the development of my relationship with Him.

In that time, I saw what it was like to feel at odds with God, to lay out my questions for Him like Job did, knowing all along that He would be able to come back at me with things like, "Who commands the morning?... Who carves a channel for the lightning bolt?" (Job 38) I fought with Him, I struggled. And in that, I saw the hearts of some of my friends... people who live in that place instead of just renting a room there, like I did. Their struggles prompt a depth in me that I wouldn't have otherwise, because it shows me a different aspect of what a relationship with God can look like. It's not all sunlight on oceans... sometimes it is walking in the dark with barely enough light for your feet and you're squinting and cold and tired. (Psalm 119:105) But it is all still God, and it is all still His Love.

More than anything, I think my frustration with God helped me to understand a little more about the depth of His commitment to me. If I knew anything, it was that He would not leave me. He couldn't. If someone was going to leave, it would've been me... but not even that was possible. I am sewn into Him. Inextricably. This is commitment. Through joy and anger, ups and downs, I am my Beloved's and He is mine.

I want to go back to the thing I said earlier about light. "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." The foot-lamp referred to provided only enough light for the next step... it didn't illuminate the whole path. That kind of light can be frustrating when I want to see the end of the journey, but ultimately, it keeps me near Him. I keep having to ask, "What now, God? Where do You want me to step now? How can I please You in this situation?" And He, in His love and mercy, keeps answering.

Blessed be the name of the Lord, my Lover, my Husband, my Lamp.


P.S. I really want to say "I love Lamp" here... just go with it. :)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Love Boat

Last week a very dear friend surprised me with the opportunity to go on a cruise for free, and I gladly accepted! One day I was heading to the ship's gym, preparing to listen to a Mark Driscoll sermon while sweating. I put my headphones in and prayed a quick prayer, asking God to speak to me. I turned to look out the window and this is what I saw... a sunlight heart on the Atlantic Ocean. As soon as I snapped the shot, I took my phone down and it was gone. Just like that.

I took the picture with my Blackberry, but the quality is good enough that I can use it as my laptop wallpaper. Just a fun little reminder for you and for me: He loves you.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Angry with God

I met Jesus when I was four years old. It is my second memory. I don’t have a clue what life is like without Him, because He has been with me for as long as I can remember. The most intimate relationship in my life is (and always will be) with Him.

But recently, I experienced a new thing in my relationship with Him: deep, true anger. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I’m not an angry person in general—I don’t yell or have emotional outbursts—and I can only recall maybe one other time when I felt resentment toward God. The worst and most dangerous thing I could imagine would be to give God the silent treatment, so I told Him my thoughts. I wrote four pages in my journal… questions, accusations, fears. I knew He wouldn’t be threatened by my words. He knows them all; they don’t surprise Him.

Even as I tore across the pages with my pen, I knew that God stood by, loving me. I knew that He understood more about my situation than I did. And I knew my anger was rooted in selfishness – the kind of thing that says, “I have a better idea than You. You aren’t listening. You owe me more than this.” My feelings proved to me that I didn’t trust God to be God… I thought I could do a better job. My anger was—at its root—sin.

It hurt me not to trust Him. It scared me to be angry with Him – not so much because I feared His wrath (Jesus bore that for me on the cross), but because I do not even know how to breathe without Him. Being upset with Him felt like a crack in the surface of the universe… I couldn’t bear the distance I was choosing to put between us. I became aware of my great need for more faith in Him. I prayed, “Lord, I believe… help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

In His love, He rescued me from my own anger. As I hurled my fists at Him, He embraced me. And in case you’re in a place of being angry with God (or even doubting His existence), here are two significant things that helped me work through things:

The Shack – a controversial book with a few theological flaws, but that ultimately served to remind me of the relationship I have with God. If you have doubts (even if you’re not a Christian), this is a phenomenal read.

This sermon by Perry Noble – I will probably think about this sermon for the rest of my life. I’m not kidding. Watch it or listen to it.

I don't know if or when I'll be angry with Him again, but I'm grateful that He walked me through it. And I can even appreciate that the experience might allow me to understand what some of you are dealing with. So, tell me your story... what has it been like for you when you've been angry with God? How did you handle it? What was the result?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Getting out of God's Way

A while back I wrote a note on my mirror that said, “How can I reflect You today?” I immediately felt like it was a little too cheesy-punny for me so I changed it to “What can I do for You today?” The point of the question remained, though: what attitudes can I have, what actions can I take, what smiles can I offer… to show the love of Christ to the people I encounter?

Sometimes God answers me with something very specific – He tells me to call someone and pray for her or He tells me to encourage a certain person with His words. But sometimes it’s the really hard stuff that doesn’t look at all glamorous… sometimes it is “Do your roommate’s dishes.”

I've been blessed with many great roommate relationships, so please know that I’m not using this as a space to vent frustrations. This is about MY flaws. I am selfish, and living with others has revealed this to me on a few levels, but mainly this: when things are left in the sink, I get frustrated. I used to wash my own things and leave hers sitting in the sink, sometimes for weeks. It was a passive-aggressive move, for sure—intended to convey the message, “I am keeping score.”

One night at 2:00 a.m., I returned from a month-long tour, knowing that the sink would be full of the dishes my roommate had accumulated while I was away. I started to get frustrated before I even got home. “It’s not my job to clean up after her mess!” I thought. “I paid rent for a month on a place I didn’t even see and now I have to come home to a filthy kitchen and clean it. It’s not my job!

And that’s when God interrupted me and said, “Yes. It is.”

And then I started to remember things like, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Consider others as better than yourself.” “Serve one another in love.”

Um. Ouch. Yes, God. You washed the feet of Your betrayers. You said to bless those who curse us, so the very least I can do is lovingly serve a roommate that I adore. And here’s the other thing: These acts of “love” are pointless if I continue to keep score in my head. I can’t walk around thinking, “Look at me… I’m washing her dishes without even complaining. I hope she notices.” Or “I did her dishes. I’m such a servant. I’m really being like Jesus.”

Being like Jesus implies the willingness to forget myself, to commit the act of love without trying to draw attention to it, to die to self in a way that completely extinguishes the desire for validation or reciprocity.

So when I wake up and ask God “What can I do for You today?” and God says, “Love your roommate. Do her dishes,” I know it’s going to be a lesson in self-forgetfulness, which I desperately need. God, help me.