Life

Slowing Down in a Speed of Light World

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I will be the first to admit that our generation (the ones just coming into adulthood or just barely there) is a group that wants quick fixes. I recently wrote about how that doesn’t work for our relationship with God, but almost every facet of life could benefit if we took our time.

Gone are the days of having to wait for “snail mail” in order to hear from someone, the days of working for years on a project before releasing it to the world. Now, we use all the fast technology that we can get our hands on and complain when the internet’s a little slow.

I don’t want to point fingers or cast blame today though. Instead, I want to look at the benefits of slowing down in many areas of our lives.

Experience

They say it takes 10,000 hours of doing something to become a professional. 10,000 hours. That’s 416.67 days of working around the clock. 1.14 years. However, if you can’t constantly stay awake and don’t want to skip dinner on a regular basis, it would take 27.4 years to reach that level of expertise at just one hour a day, every day, holidays and weekends included.

That is a lot of time. That is almost 10 more years than I have been alive. And yet, we often want the results of those 10,000 hours in the space of a few weeks at most. Think of someone who is a star in your field. Do you like music? How much time did Mozart spend practicing? Writing? What about C. S. Lewis?

Slowing down and taking the time that gaining a skill requires gives you the experience needed to be good at that skill. There’s nothing wrong with latching on to a hobby or something interesting for a few weeks and then moving on, but if you really want to be good at something, you have to put in the time.

Quality

Experience in an area naturally leads to a higher quality product, whatever that may be. Do you know of any famous football players? Me neither, but we can imagine. When they first touched a football, they were likely not getting a lot of touchdowns. They couldn’t do very many pushups. They didn’t know how to tackle the other team. (Please forgive me for where the analogy falls apart and reimagine it in a more accurate way)

They spent years all through grade school, college, and now on a professional team honing their skills and getting better at their game. The quality of their skills has grown with them because they put forth so much time. They were patient as they went to the gym every day. I don’t know of any pro football players who were regular 25 year olds who decided one day that they wanted to join the Patriots and were good enough to make the team.

Spending time on something not only gives us experience in that area, it also increases our ability to perform well day after day and year after year.

Joy

Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always liked the slow pace of the idyllic southern summer. Sitting on the porch with ice tea, going to the creek, making pancakes in the morning. Slow is nice. Slow lets us enjoy what we do.

Almost none of us live at that pace though. We’re up before dawn, drinking coffee and off to work or class. We’re meeting friends or doing homework all day long. We catch an hour of Netflix at the end of the day before falling into bed, setting our alarms to do it all again the next day.

I’ve mentioned it before, but the song “Breathe” by Jonny Diaz describes it perfectly. Go listen to it, but here are a few lines from the beginning of the song:

Alarm clock screaming, bare feet hit the floor
It’s off to the races, everybody out the door
I’m feeling like I’m falling behind, it’s a crazy life

Ninety miles an hour, going fast as I can
Trying to push a little harder, trying to get the upper hand
So much to do in so little time, it’s a crazy life
(“Breathe” by Jonny Diaz)

But what if we slowed down? Would the world come crumbling down around our ears if we took our time to do things well? I don’t think so. We’re all incredibly busy – I’m not trying to say otherwise. There¬†is a lot to do in a day. But I know there are also ways to slow down, take our time, and enjoy it more, no matter how busy we are.

It doesn’t have to be world-changing. How about an hour a week to talk with someone you haven’t seen in a while? Twenty minutes to read a book for fun? Doesn’t that sound nice? If we don’t have to have everything instantly, we can have the fun of getting there. Even taking some extra time to learn while working on a project can be more fun that rushing through it last minute. As the popular saying goes, it’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey.

Slow down

It doesn’t take much to fight against the impatience that we’ve nurtured inside of ourselves. The benefits of not rushing through life far outweigh any costs. If we are patient, we can be among the best at what we do, we can create better things, and we can enjoy what’s around us a lot more. So, slow down. Take your time. I promise you’ll be fine.

Kira

Thanksgiving

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I thought about delving into the meaning of Thanksgiving today, but it’s a holiday week and there is much food to be eaten, so this week’s post will be the traditionally simple list of things for which I am thankful. Maybe add a few of your own in the comments…

  1. my beautiful dog that kept me up half the night and is not sorry at all
  2. a job where I can meet different kinds of people (and make money…college savings!)
  3. the Bible (“of course!” you might say, but think about how many people cannot hold a copy of God’s Word in their hands)
  4. fiction to delve into both to escape and to explore the world
  5. my soccer pants (I really love them)
  6. a great chemistry lab teacher who helps me actually understand some of this crazy science thing
  7. a beautiful friend (more like a sister) who checks in on me during the week from the middle of her own crazy
  8. chocolate covered espresso beans (thank you Sara! I’d never had them before Saturday and, you guys, they are amazing)
  9. a mother to help me edit countless scholarship/college/high school essays
  10. school (no, really)
  11. my drama team of wonderful middle schoolers who put up with my perfectionism as I try to direct them
  12. a pretty car ūüėČ
  13. running and working out until it hurts so good for days
  14. an online writing community that is both encouraging and challenging (Young Writers Workshop, if you’re interested)
  15. audio books for killing two birds with one stone with those long reading assignments
  16. the library (enough said)

You’ve got leftover turkey to enjoy and Christmas trees to put up so I’ll leave you with that. What’s something creative or weird that you’re thankful for?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Kira

It is Good to be Near God

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For me it is good to be near God. (Psalm 73:28a)

I’ve been caught up in a lot of stuff lately. I just turned in my first two college applications, my car keeps breaking in expensive and obnoxious ways, I’ve just had to leave a steady nanny job to look for different work, and so on. My mind is always consumed with something.¬†Will my chemistry homework get finished? When’s the last time I worked out?

I’ve always thought myself a busy person, but it’s amazing how you can handle more¬†stuff in life than you think. Just when you think you’re at capacity, one more things is added to your schedule and you still somehow survive.

One of the things added to my schedule a few weeks ago was preparing a Bible study for a discipleship ministry that I’ve been a part of for about eight years now. I’ve done a few Bible studies for the group before and preparation often involves listening to sermons and reading commentaries on the passage (Romans 6:1-14 in this case) in order to learn as much as you can before leading the team in the study.

While listening to a sermon by Sandy Willson called “Lord, Change Me“, I began to realize how I have been drifting into trying to run my own life. One of his three lessons at the end of the sermon was to invest real time to cultivate the relationship you have with God. He said, and I quote, “You can’t microwave this, America!” (By the way, you should all go listen to Sandy Willson – he’s awesome)

A relationship with God never reaches its full potential, at least in this life. There is always more room to grow and the amount of time I have been devoting to my relationship with God is not enough. That’s why I’ve been so wrapped up in the world. That’s why my car, college, and career are such a big deal.

When we don’t pour ourselves into our relationship with God, we become envious of the wicked in Psalm 73: they seem to suffer no consequences for their sin and even seem to prosper. But when we go “into the santuary of God”, then we can discern their end (Psalm 73:17).

When we go into the sanctuary with God and spend time with Him – in His Word, in prayer, in coming to know Who He is – we realize that we do not need the things that we so greatly desire. We realize that “for me it is good to be near God.”

I’ve been learning that through drifting my own way and then coming back. For me, Kira, it is¬†so good to be near God. And the same is true for you.

Kira

Redirection (Not a Real Post)

I don’t have a¬†*real* post for you this week. I’ve been sick and running all over the place between work and babysitting. I’m also preparing for the SAT this Saturday and getting a Bible study ready for Monday with the time I do have at home. Plus school starts in a few days. And for some reason, I feel the need to list for you every single reason (excuse…) that I have for this cop-out post, so there you have it. My week in a nutshell.

Through all of this, I’m tired and I do not want to keep going. I’ve felt this way before and I pray that it will pass soon, but for now it’s still here. I wanted to redirect you to an article that I just read a few minutes ago which I found both encouraging and convicting through my disenchantment with life. Please take a few minutes to read it and respond to the lovely writer who God used to say such true things.

Dear Tired Rebelutionary, Don’t Give Up

Kira

An Experiment in (not) Complaining

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Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a conversation which you absolutely hated, only to discover that it was due to the other party’s constant whining about their circumstances?

Have you ever been in a decent mood and dragged yourself downward by dwelling on all the things going wrong – or at least not going right?

Have you ever heard those dreaded words from the back of a car: “Are we there yet?”

Then you, my friend, have had experience with complaining.

I realized recently just how much I complain about my life and circumstances. I slip easily into a negative mindset and just as easily let those thoughts slip out of my mouth. It effects not only my mood and actions, but those of others as well, and, as a child of God, that is not something I should be allowing to happen.

This realization hit me about a month ago, and, as soon as it did, I began to notice every time I complained to myself or someone else. I often didn’t make it through an hour without some negative thought passing through my head or out of my lips. There were a few key times in which I especially noticed this unpleasant tendancy of mine, including when I got home from work, when I felt tired and unmotivated, and when other people’s actions interfered with what I wanted.

I decided that I would spend the next month doing my best not to complain and seeing how it effected me. This time included three weeks of counseling at camps, a few very long days (and one night) at work, and the gloriously high temperatures of late summer in Virginia. Here’s what I learned.

I can’t do it.

Right from the beginning, it became apparent that I was not able to keep myself from complaining by my own strength. Duh. But it was still something that I had to learn and remind myself of over and over again. Once I had that figured out, there was a lot more prayer involved in my quest to keep myself from the sin of complaining.

I really can change my own mood.

Remember when you were a kid and really angry about something and your mom would tell you to just decide to be happy and you could turn yourself around? Just me? Okay.

Anyway, the last month has shown me that my mother actually knew what she was talking about. Who would’ve guessed? There are still lovely things like hormones and bad circumstances to be dealt with, but choosing to keep a positive attitude about things really does make a difference. Sometimes, I would catch myself talking about how awful things were at work one day and realize it was putting me in a downright bad mood. When I changed my thoughts to what was good about the situation (I have a job, some of my coworkers are really great, etc.) or to something else entirely (what to blog about when I got home, how great this morning’s run was, etc.) my mood instantly began to rise. Even just the action of putting a smile on my face helped a lot.

The people I interact with impact my actions.

There’s a saying that goes something like this: Show me a man’s five closest friends and I’ll show you his future. And that is true. When I’m around people who complain themselves, I am much faster to complain. When I’m with cheerful people, I’m quicker to be positive. Choose your friends wisely, for you will become more like them, whether you want to be or not.

There are other things to talk about.

I never realized how many of my conversations consisted of 1) complaining or 2) gossip. Since I included gossip in the category of “negative thoughts”, that had to go as well. And as it turns out, there are other things to talk about.

The world is full of interesting and good things to talk and think about – we need not dwell on the things that upset us.

Complaining is a form of pride.

How often do you complain for someone else’s benefit? If you’re anything like me, it’s not very often. Complaining is all about me, myself, and I. It is all about what I can get out of life and what will make me happy – not what I can do to please God or serve others. It puts all of our focus on ourselves, which is not how God would have us live our lives as His children.

As C. S. Lewis wrote in¬†Mere Christianity¬†(giving the picture of a truly humble man): “Probably all you will think about him¬† is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what¬†you said to¬†him…He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”

I complain a lot. Still.

The past month has not cured me of my desire to complain (or my all-too-frequent fulfillment of that desire, as my family can tell you). I am still working on this discipline, and I probably will be for a while. Thankfully, when I get discouraged, I can return to the first point: I can’t do it on my own.

I’ve learned a lot from just the realization of how much I complain in a day, and I am grateful for the conviction, painful as it may be at times. I hope that my experiment in complaining will cause you to examine your own life and thoughts and will lead you to a more God-focused, self-forgetful way of being. Because that is what we are made to do.

Kira

What helps you keep yourself from complaining?
Are there any places/circumstances that trigger complaint?

My Testimony

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I was born into a Christian home. I grew up hearing all the Bible stories and, of course, believing them. My parents said they were true.

As a kid, I was selfish beyond belief. Everything had to be perfect and if something didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, I would get angry. I wasn’t very loving to my siblings because I didn’t think it was “cool” or “mature” to spend time with them. Absolutely every facet of my life had to do with making myself happy. And, believe it or not, that actually resulted in a lot of unhappiness.

I can’t point to the date on a calendar marking my salvation. It was more of a gradual thing (and I struggled with whether that meant I was saved for a long time). I had always heard the stories and I always believed them. But I didn’t own my faith until I joined a ministry that put a huge emphasis on discipleship, around the time I was ten or eleven years old.

All of a sudden, I was being encouraged to do something called “devotions” and to look at my life and try to become more Christ-like – to really commit myself to Him. I had more accountability than I wanted for a long time. It made me uncomfortable until I started purposefully investing in my relationship with God.

I thought I had pretty good faith, you know, as far as faith goes. I wasn’t an Abraham and I wasn’t Corrie ten Boom, but I was alright. The thing is, as soon as you start thinking like that, God tends to let you know exactly where you are faith-wise.

Our family does foster care and we got a tiny baby girl when I was eleven years old. We kept her for the first four months of her life and then had to give her up. She had become a sister to us and we all cried when she left.

I was also angry. I didn’t see how God could possibly think that it was okay to give her to another family. Our family was an amazing place for her to be and it would be good for her to grow up with us.

A few months later, we got a phone call from her grandparents, asking if we wanted to come see her. We went to their home and visited our sister. After a while, we got to see her again. Then we started babysitting her for a bit. Soon, she was living with us again.

It wasn’t until I looked back that I saw God’s providence in the whole situation. His plan was good, even when I was angry with Him for what He had done. I didn’t have faith in Him and His work. But He taught me that He knows what He’s doing, even when I don’t want to think so.

My faith is still growing. I catch myself doubting all the time, not wanting to step out of my comfort zone or be content that everything is worked out for good. Fortunately, God isn’t giving up on me. And I am grateful for that. I pray that He would be glorified in my life and that I would continue to become more like Him.

This isn’t my full testimony, but it’s a good part of it. One of my favorites, in fact. To get the rest of it, you need simply read past blog posts. They document what God is teaching me and how He is growing me throughout the weeks, months, and years.

Thank you, Lord, for my testimony!

Kira

All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”
Daniel 4:35

Your Testimony Is Not Boring

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How do you start your testimony?

Most of the ones that I’ve heard begin with the same sentence: “I was born into a Christian home.” It’s usually said dramatically or with an eye roll, trying to cover the embarrassment of having the same opening line as so many other testimonies. I’ve said it that way myself, several times.

So why do we consider that line to be such a bad thing? I think it comes down to the fact that we want our testimonies to be unique – different from everyone else’s. But have you ever heard two testimonies that were exactly the same? I haven’t. No matter how many times someone opens with “I was born into a Christian home,” they never go on to give a testimony identical to another believer’s.

God is doing something different and special in each one of our lives and it’s beautiful to see. He has an individual plan for all of us and that plan is good.

Maybe the awkward laugh after opening our testimonies has to do with something else. Maybe we think it’s not that special. We can’t claim to be former drug addicts or zealous Muslims or anything like that. We’ve been hearing the gospel since before we were born and we know the Bible stories by heart. After all, we were born into a Christian home.

I’ve struggled with the idea that my testimony is boring several times. It’s something that seems to keep coming back. But then God hits me upside the head with the fact that my testimony is what it is because He wants it that way. He put me in the Christian home and He saved me at a young age. He didn’t want me to suffer all the things that I seem to be jealous of (which, when I think about it, is kind of ridiculous).

Being born into a Christian home is a blessing. We needn’t be embarrassed by it – we should rejoice in it! We have the privilege of being surrounded by Scripture and the church from our first breath. Many believers would give so much to have had that, and yet we envy their “interesting” testimony.

Let’s give glory to God for our testimonies. He has done what is good in our lives. It’s our skewed perspective that leads us to believe otherwise. We don’t think our salvation story is all that amazing. But isn’t it amazing that we were saved at all?

On another note, your testimony doesn’t end at salvation. That’s really just the beginning. Your testimony is the story of your life as God’s child. Mine includes foster care stories, discipleship teams, and plain old emotional struggles. Some of those seem thrilling and some of them are average, day to day sanctification. But all of it is God’s work in my life. None of it is boring or accidental.

Your testimony is not dull. Your testimony is the work of our Creator and Lord in your individual life. Relish it – every detail.

Kira

What’s your testimony?

It’s Okay to Enjoy Life

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Did you know that God created this world for His children? If you believe in Him, it was all made specially for you.

I made this discovery whilst putting together a Bible study on the first few verses of 1 Timothy 4. Paul is telling Timothy about false teachers who require “abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” (1 Timothy 4:3b, ESV)

By those who believe and know the truth…

Isn’t it incredible to think that all the good things in this world were made especially for us? That God had us in mind when He formed trees and stars and whales?

But, awesome as that is, it’s not my main point for today.

It’s amazing to think that God made all of this for us – but it doesn’t matter if we don’t enjoy it. God created good things with the intention that we would look at them and experience them and think of Him. The next couple verses of 1 Timothy emphasize that.

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:4-5)

Why would we even think of rejecting the good that God has given us? And yet, we do it without thinking all too often.

How many times are we too busy to take a walk? Or too concerned with fitness to enjoy our run? How often do we pull out our phones to take pictures rather than enjoying the beauty in the moment?

I choose the busyness and pressure of this world far too often. But every time I choose to stop and enjoy the good things God has given me, I am thankful and happy.

A lot of times, it feels like cheating to take a break. How could we waste time looking at the stars when that paper is due next week? And yes, we must do our work. God has given us that as well. But He didn’t intend for us to drown in it. There is no reason to feel guilty for enjoying what we have been given to enjoy. It is healthy and it is good.

God loves us and He has blessed us with so much. Let us receive it with thanksgiving.

Kira

What has God given you to enjoy? What are some things you like to do to enjoy them?

What Are You Going To Do With Your Summer?

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What are you doing with your summer?

Most of us are already a few weeks into the blissful time of the year known as “summer.” It is a magical time, a time of no school (sorry homeschoolers – I’m right there with you), a time of hot weather, a time of consuming far more watermelon than should be consumed by a single person in such a short space of time.

Summer is also usually a time that is seen as a chance to “relax.” We go go go all school year and then get two months off. Two months to do whatever we want and not think about work or stress or any of the other craziness that bogs us down the rest of the year.

The problem with that mentality is that it tends to turn us into lazy and selfish people during our vacation. Rest is good. Rest is healthy. But rarely do we need two full months of it. And often it can be accomplished by simply changing what we’re doing – not just laying in a hammock drinking iced coffees all day.

And a chance to do things that we enjoy is also excellent. Hobbies and passions are great and they turn us into well rounded and interesting human beings. It’s nice to go for a walk by yourself or read a good book or sing along to every single Disney song ever written in all of history. Ahem.¬†Moving on.

But what can we do to serve other people this summer? What can we do to grow spiritually (or mentally) this summer? What goals could we reach over the next months with the extra time we have?

This summer, I want to tighten my relationship with one of my sisters and be friends with her.

This summer, I want to finish memorizing 1 Timothy.

This summer, I want to finish the third draft of my novel and revise it one time after that.

This summer, I want to train for and run a half marathon.

Those are some of my goals for the summer. Let’s not waste this summer. It is an amazing opportunity and it holds so much life. Let’s live it.

Kira

What are your goals/plans for the summer?

The Upside of Gutting it Out

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“You seem to be disenchanted with life this morning.”

My mother’s words before church on Sunday perfectly captured what I had been feeling for the past week or so (and am still feeling as I write). Disenchanted with life… I don’t want to get up in the morning because it’s just another day of school and work until falling into bed. I’m exhausted from the minute I wake up to the minute I fall asleep. Social interactions and books don’t hold my interest. There’s not much time or energy for writing. And don’t even mention working out – that hasn’t happened in weeks.

Living like this is frustrating. It feels like nothing’s working even though I’m trying so hard. I just don’t love life.

I don’t know what the cause of this is. Maybe it’s just a phase or season. Maybe I’m not getting enough vitamin C (though I know it’s not that – gotta ward off those germs). But I do know something that has helped me. Habits.

A couple years ago, I formed the solid habit of doing devotions (Bible reading, prayer, verse memorization) every day. I don’t often miss it. When I got a job and suddenly became busy, I formed the habit of praying constantly. Through years of siblings waking up bright and early, I formed the habit of getting out of bed by 7:30am at the latest (and considering that sleeping in).

I’m in the shower by 7:10 every morning. I work on school with most of my spare time. I get my chores done (mostly) in between various things. These things help me mechanically move through time, even when I’d rather not move at all. I can still get work done, I can still move forward, even though I feel terrible.

I don’t say any of this to brag. I say it rather to urge you to form solid habits. Decide when you need to get up in the morning and work on it until you wake up before the alarm rings. Pick a book of the Bible and read a chapter every day, at the same time every day, and pray afterward. When do you need to work out? Do it (and I say this one as much to myself as to anyone else).

We have so many feelings and they’re not always good. Bad moods, frustration, “disenchantment with life” will sometimes overstay their welcome. But life can’t stop for a week of disenchantment – or two or three.

Use the good times to form habits. They won’t fix the bad, but they’ll help.

Kira

What habits help you keep moving when life’s got you down?

Any new ones that you need to form?