Discipline to Challenge

Lately, I have been doing a lot of thinking... but not necessarily the good kind of thinking. Let me try to explain. Do you ever have chunks of time where you feel like all you are doing is worrying or having uneasy, not peaceful thoughts? I don't know about you, but I go through little spurts of this here and there. Usually I can recognize when I am feeling this way by noticing that I am especially anxious for no reason or just being really sensitive. And once I'm aware that this is how I am feeling, then I think it through, allow myself a little bit more slack and a few days later it wears off or something.

As of late, I have been struggling with this type of thinking for more than the typical few days. I have noticed myself being especially worrisome, self-conscious, sensitive, and definitely not confident. This is an uncomfortable phenomenon for me. Yes, these are things that I think everyone deals with daily. But we all have our ways of coping with them and feeling like we can conquer them, do we not? It has been starting to bother me that I feel like I am not reaching that place of peace where I feel like I have control over my thoughts. It makes me feel out of whack, like I'm somewhat of a crazy person.

Last night as I lay awake in bed, I was trying to sort through my thoughts and get to the bottom of this. And I feel there are many contributing factors that have brought me to this place of what I feel is not 'good thinking'.

1. I am not being challenged in my job. Taking a job at a boutique, I knew that it would be completely different from my past experience working as a Ministry Assistant with the college ministry. But what I didn't realize was how much it would affect me. I feel like my brain has slipped into a place of laziness because, well, what's the hardest thing I have to think about at a boutique... hmm what shirt will go with those pants? How can my boss operate that way, what is she thinking? Where should I put these scarves so they will sell faster? Yikes. Coming from a girl who loved developing a study curriculum for college students, and got really energized from writing and delivering a 25 minute message to students- feeling like I was in a place where I was constantly thinking about things that were challenging... this new place is really doing nothing for me.

2. I have not set aside time to do reflective thinking. As you can see based on the last time that I blogged, it has been quite awhile since I felt I had something to say. This is not okay for me. It really helps me to be processing out loud, via type or what-have-you. And to see that I have not done this, shows me that something is off, that I am clearly not myself or that I am disconnected for some reason. I have not given myself the chance, or Challenged myself to think deeper. To make my brain work in a different manner than what I have been doing in my 'working hours.'

3. I have not been digging deeper in my relationship with the Lord. This, above all else, is really what my 'funk' comes down to- I know that. Being in this new place in my career (can I even really call it that at this point??) I have allowed myself to become a lazy thinker. Not being challenged in my job, being pushed to challenge myself- I feel like I have become a more undisciplined person. Life is all about discipline, is it not? Disciplining ourselves to eat right, to work out, to study in school, to be kind to others, to spend time in the word. I'm digressing, but the point is... for me- I have let my disciplines fall to the wayside. I miss studying the word regularly. I miss being in a small group that challenges me, asks me hard questions. I miss reading books that push me to think outside my little box. I miss being self reflective. I miss feeling like I am making practical steps towards being transformed more into Christ's likeness. (Yes I realize God is the one who transforms us, but it takes our personal discipline too.)

What I think this all comes down to is this. I have gotten lazy. I have gotten complacent. I hate that word by the way because what good comes from complacent? I NEED to be CHALLENGED. That means first and foremost I need to really hype myself up, challenge myself to be in the word daily, to set aside time for reflective thinking, and to take a class, read a book, or do a study that is going to help me learn new things about/from the Lord. And secondly, I want to continue to ask myself- what am I doing? or- what can I be doing differently to challenge myself more? Maybe that will mean finding a new job where I am at least encouraged in my discipline of challenging myself.

I think I just figured it out. I think I finally put it to words... Discipline to Challenge. That's kind of an awkward title/phrase/whatever-you-call-it. But stay with me for a second. To challenge means "something that by its nature or character serves as a call to battle, contest, or special effort..." The part that jumps out at me is the beginning - 'something that by its nature or character serves as a call." That's what I feel like I am missing!! I am missing the SOMETHING that is serving as a call for special effort.

As a disciple of Christ, He is the something that serves as a call to battle, contest, or special effort. I have been called by Christ to be His follower, to share His love with the world- and it is by His love, it is His nature that "serves as a call", that Challenges me.

Forgive me for blabbing on and on and on. But apparently I've gotten so out of the habit of thinking in this reflective way that it took me this long to realize where I was going with this. But here it is...

1. What I have been missing as of late is the reminder that I am constantly being challenged- that I am constantly being called to put forth special effort by Him to follow Him.

2. I need to be continually finding the other somethings in life that also serve as a call for special effort, that encourage me in my endeavors of the first, most important challenge.

PHEW!  I did it!  Finally feel like I had some "good thinking!!"   

As I leave you today, I am going to continue to process this realization that I made about myself this morning. I am going to take steps towards drawing nearer to the One who ultimately challenges me, serves as my call. And I am going to work on the practical aspects of my life, that help me build up that discipline to be challenged. May it be finding a different job, getting back into a work-out schedule... whatever it is- I need to make sure that the aspects of my life all come back to the Ultimate Challenge in my life- that is to Follow Christ as He calls me.

Let me leave you with a verse that God put on my heart today.  

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me- put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.  Philippians 4:8-9 (emphasis added)

Taking a breath

If there's one thing that I learned from my working days since college, it is that taking a breath every once in awhile is so important. In fact it is crucial- to both remaining sane, and giving ourselves the time to think, to reflect, to lament if need be, about where we are in life and what we have to be thankful for. 

Almost a month has gone by since I started my new job at the little boutique- and I feel like now is the first time I have had to just be on my own, have some Mindy time, and breathe. So that is what I am doing today. Yes, I have a list of things that need to get done, and an engagement this evening- but for the next 5 hours I am going to unwind, and think about where my heart's at.

I am definitely a person who highly values balance. Although I don't mind being constantly busy, having lots of fun things to do, with many plans - if I don't have a "down" day or a day to relax in between, then I will go a bit crazy. I feel like life has been like that lately. Just a bit all over the place, especially with me and my husband starting new jobs this month.

Maybe I should start there by saying that we could not be happier that my husband made the move to this new company. I feel like I have not meditated or given God the praise that He so deserves for providing this huge blessing for us. As you may remember, I've posted quite a few laments about his last position. He wasn't getting home until 3 in the morning, we never ate dinner together, he was working weekends, and the list goes on and on. But now it is like a complete turn around. My husband is home by 6:30 or 7:00, they do not email in the evenings, they don't email on the weekends, we have eaten many dinners together, and they even organize fun things like happy hours for their employees. It is in the world of Chris and Mindy- a dream come true.

With that said, I am still adjusting to this new place we are in. I have no complaints, because it is a good place, a wonderful place, a more normal, married couple place. But I am still adjusting.

Part of that adjustment is that I have re-joined the working world as well. To be honest, that is probably more of the adjustment for me. Not that I am having trouble having a desire to work, but I am having trouble balancing it all. Before, I was not working- I did all the housework, cleaned, laundry, dishes, etc. I made dinner here and there but he was hardly home. Now its a completely different picture. I am not home all the time, and he is home a lot more often. So we have started to share the responsibilities. This sounds great doesn't it?! Well for some reason I am having a hard time adjusting to this. I want to be able to cook him meals, to have him come home and smell the delicious concoction I am making in the kitchen. Overall I want to be a good wife. Call me traditionalist, which surprises me actually- but maybe I want to be a bit more of the traditional wife than I realized? That thought is weird for me. (I think I'll come back to that thought in a future post.)

This post is a bit all over the place, perhaps because that is where my mind is today- all over the place. I have a slight problem with over-analyzing everything. I have a hard time not over-thinking things. I think that's why for me, these days of "taking a breather" attempting to not think so much, are SO important to my sanity. With that said, I am having a hard time not over-thinking my new adventure at the boutique. Coming from a job where I worked at a church, in a position where I could really each day connect with my purpose, where I could walk away knowing, okay this is why I am doing this- to care for God's people and to better reach more people.... and now in a position where the purpose is to sell, to make the store look pretty, to encourage people to buy things, to tell customers how fabulous they look in the beautiful coat they are trying on, I am having a harder time connecting with my purpose in life. I know that my role as a follower of Christ, and my purpose in life does not change with me being in a "secular" job now. But it does mean that I have to be a bit more creative in connecting with that purpose each and every day, with being loving when my boss is being oh so critical of the way that I decided to arrange the display or the folded sweaters on the shelf.

This place in life is definitely a new one, and I am intrigued to see what God has in store. So for now, I think my challenge is to continue to trust Him, to continue to lean into Him as the one who knows All- especially when my little brain is trying so hard to figure it all out. So for today, I've done my thinking (as this blog often helps me do) and it is time to unwind, to relax, to breathe- and just simply be thankful for what God has provided for me.

A New Adventure

It has been about two weeks since my last post- and I can't believe how fast that time has gone by. If you recall, my last post was an exciting, joy-filled post about my husband finally being able to relax and enjoy himself because he decided to leave his last crazy job to move onto what we hope will be a better fit for us. These last two weeks have been SO GREAT. My sweet hubby finally had a chance to just RELAX!!! He was able to go shopping for the pants and socks that he really needed. We were able to go on a little trip to Florida (for a friend's wedding) with no concern of being interrupted by his work Blackberry. We made meals together; we made cookies together. He napped during the day! We really got a chance to re-connect and just BE together. It was seriously such a blessing.

As I sit here today in the quiet of our apartment, I must admit that it is quite lonely. Last night as my husband and I wrapped up our Sunday evening in our traditional way- watching Iron Chef on the Food Network, I started to feel a bit teary. Knowing that our special time together was coming to an end, I was reminded of the many times when he would have to leave on a Sunday night. For those of you who don't know- my husband and I endured much of our relationship as a long distance one. (Not just a couple hours, talking mid-west and east coast sort of distance). It felt like one of those sad days where he had to leave me again and it wouldn't be quite awhile until the next time I saw him.

I know that this obviously is not the case. Thanks to getting married, I now live with him and have the pleasure of seeing him everyday. But- with his old job, we were so robbed of the everyday pleasure of spending time together. Although we have hopes that this new position will be 60-70 hours a week versus the 90 he was doing, the fear still creeps in a little bit as I send him off to his new job today. It is hard not to be afraid that what happened in his last position is going to happen again here. But then I need to be reminded of how faithful God has been to us.

I feel a little out of whack as I write this post, as if its been so long since I've found my "blogging voice"- but the point of this post is just to reflect on and be thankful for the blessing of this new adventure that we have been given. The crazy thing, that I have yet to share in this venue, is that I too am starting a new adventure. A short two days after my husband left his previous position to accept a new one, I found myself a fabulous little part time job. I am sure there will be many posts to share about this one. But for now, the basics. I started last working last week at a little boutique only a few minutes away from where we live. I will have the pleasure of tapping into my love for fashion as I basically act as a personal shopper to any customer who comes in, helping her find some pieces that look great on her. This is SO completely different from my last position working in a church, but I am excited for this change- and I look forward to the fun (and I'm sure some frustrations) that will happen.

Well I must end this post, in a rather unpolished fashion (ick), as I need to go find myself some comfy flats or boots to wear for standing on my feet all day at the new job. Any recommendations for places to find these great shoes, send them my way.

Overall- I am so thankful. So blessed, to the point that I haven't even wrapped my mind around it yet. God is good. If you're in place where you don't feel thankful and blessed, hang in there. Choose to be thankful (even for the little things) - it changes your attitude helping you focus on the things that are good. God is faithful and will bless you in the best way He knows how, in His timing.