Thursday, January 8, 2015

Mistakes (fka: Rewards)

I'm calling a do over.

And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.
                                                                                                Hebrews 10:18

I came away from my earlier post thinking people may have gotten the wrong idea. I don’t sacrifice because I’m atoning for something. I sacrifice because I find myself turning to things (food, shopping, etc.) instead of God.

I eat when I’m bored or tired or angry or happy. Not because I’m hungry. I was designed by God to feel hungry and eat to in order to nourish my body. I was not designed by God to eat in order to nourish my soul.

Buying things should be about what I need and {occasionally} gifts for holidays or even the occasional special achievement. Not -- Everything I see -- I want -- I buy. Which it honestly has become.

I did the exercise. The one my Husband asked of me that I refused to do. I added up all my iTunes & Amazon purchases I made in 2014. It was not a pretty number.  The dollar amount was ugly and the number of orders was ugly. And those are just the two easiest places to see what and when I purchased. That doesn’t include my infinite trips to Walmart, TJ Maxx and others.

Every one of those trips put me further away from going back to school. And I am frustrated with myself because I want to return to school. I need to return to school.

I was meeting with my Ministry Candidacy Mentor a few weeks back and talking to her about how frustrated I am about not being in school and how people just can’t understand why I’m so frustrated. And she said exactly what I’m feeling. “When God calls you to do something, there is this immediate urgency you need to do it now. There’s this drive that comes from within you and you can’t imagine not doing it.” And I sat there thinking “Yes! That’s it, you know what I’m feeling!” And I left there and returned to life and continued to be frustrated, blaming pretty much everyone in my life but me.

Because I didn’t want to face the ugly truth I finally faced this week. The only thing holding me back is me. I don’t need to stop shopping because shopping is inherently bad. I need to stop shopping because shopping is keeping me from following my call. And not following my call is creating a frustration in my life which is affecting not only my relationship with God but my family, my friends my everything.

And the same goes for my weight loss journey. It’s funny how these two seemingly unconnected journeys are so interwoven. In both of those situations I was using things to replace God. Food and shopping were my comforts.

Retail Therapy? Yes. Please.

Another chocolate chip cookie? Don’t mind if I do.

And the more frustrated I got the more I ate and the more I shopped until there was barely time for anything else. I wasn’t spending time with God, nope too busy having lunch or dinner out. I wasn’t reading my Bible, nope I need to download that new song. And then I couldn’t return to college, and that was frustrating so I might as well just go shop and eat. There now I’ll feel better.

But as I start this new year and I look at those pictures from the post earlier this week I don’t feel better. I cannot redo 2014, but this year, this is a new one. I haven’t messed it up yet!  We, as a family, decided no “frivolous” spending. And so far this year we haven’t done a lot of things. But one thing we did do is sit down and budget everything. Right down to the kid’s birthday parties/gifts.  And if I’m able to stick to it, school in the Fall should be no problem at all.

And even more importantly it will improve my relationship with God and the person God gave me to walk through this life with. You see my husband is a planner. He needs to know what to expect. And financially I was killing him, he was reviewing the bank accounts and credit cards regularly finding surprise purchases everywhere. He can’t plan financially around that. And every single time he tried to discuss it I would shut him down by pointing out his own spending. Because for a long time he spent and I spent and we didn’t discuss it. Because we were a two-income family and we could afford it. But we aren’t that anymore. And I can’t keep acting like we are.

So instead of viewing this like some kind of punishment, I’ve realized it’s more of a blessing.

The post below this is crap. Sure there are good points, I guess but it's not what I really wanted to say.

There are times in my life that I draw close to God. I have this open dialogue and I can sense His guidance in my decisions. Then there’s these other times.

The other times are divided into 2 categories. The first is separateness from God. It’s my own doing, I create a wall I run and hide not unlike Adam and Eve after eating that fruit (funny how eating keeps coming up). So I create my own aloneness. Those times dark and scary.   The second category of other times is where I’m talking to God pretty much all the time, which means I’m not really listening at all. It’s in those times I often substitute my desires, my wants, my needs for the plans God has for me.

That second category happens more frequently than I’d like to admit. I’m wandering in darkness I just don’t see it because I’m focused on the flashlight beam in the mirror. Yes, usually instead of looking to God for answers I’m looking to me. And the answers I find I actually believe are coming from God. Until I finally see my face in mirror and realize I was wrong. I just recently found myself looking in the mirror, yet again.

I’ve been struggling with another journey of late, my Call into Ministry. In order to follow where I feel I’m being led, I have to go back to school.  And from a financial perspective that’s not really feasible right now. Either we’ve got to reduce our out flow or increase our income. 

I like to shop. A whole really lot. New stuff is awesome. When I’ve been successful in my weight loss journey I reward my sacrifice with shopping. Usually right after a good weigh in, I’d go straight to Marshall’s or TJ Maxx and buy me a little something to reward my good behavior. But I didn’t stop there.

My husband recently asked me to give him an accounting of how much stuff (books, movies, music & apps) we’ve bought on iTunes in 2014. And I resented him for pointing out my failures. Getting an accounting of an iTunes account is not an easy task.  You have to page through 10 days of purchases at a time and add them up. You cannot print this accounting. You cannot cut and paste. And then I pointed out that he seemed to be focused only on my failures.  How about if we pulled out the Amex statements and looked a little closer at what he spent where. There was no further mention of the iTunes expenditures.

So quitting shopping? Been there, done that once for Lent and don’t have the t-shirt (because I couldn’t buy it). It was hard. Really hard. For 42 days I bought nothing other than food and household needs. But during Lent I can start my seeds, and plant plants and nurture them and watch them grow and be distracted from my distractions.   But to quit shopping altogether? Surely God is not calling for THAT kind of sacrifice?

So I immediately was drawn to the other option, increase the income. I could simply go back to work. As I read a book the other day, I felt strongly that God was blessing my return to my former Profession. Here I was convinced I had found my answer. And I was all smug talking about how I heard God tell me to move forward. That going back to work thing was what I should do.

Except. I really didn’t want to. I left that Career partly because I hated it. And partly because I didn’t believe that what I was doing truly helped people.  And partly to be home with my children and watch them learn everyday in my dining room turned classroom. And partly to do all the volunteer things that I do -- the ones where I know I help people. And a whole really lot because God told me to.

And so I prayed that prayer the one nobody really wants to pray, the prayer of complete surrender.  That prayer that Mary prayed in Luke 1:38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said”. And the prayer Jesus prayed just before he paid the price for all of us, “ Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) My prayer wasn’t as eloquent or as important, but it was complete surrender, “God if this is your will Let it be.”  And after four business days I had no good leads from the headhunters. Even one I reached out to and know personally hasn’t gotten back to me. And so I think today I realized me going back to work is not God’s will.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”  Luke 9:23

Which could only mean God wants me to stop shopping. My reward will be the ability to go further with God.  I wish I could say I look forward to this. I want to be able to say I am eager to do this. I feel like I’m supposed to be happy here. But I’m not. I am unhappy and looking for loopholes and trying to justify how I can spend just a little money here  and there. I can’t say I’ll be perfect, and I know it won’t be painless, but I am convinced when I look back on this journey I will learn something. I will grow and I will be chiseled. More rubble will be left on the workshop floor.

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