Time Out

“Miss Mowwyy…” I felt a tap on my knee from a tiny hand. I looked up from my work and saw one of my students, her usual smiling face was gone. Her eyes were red and tears were rolling down her cheeks. I got up out of my seat and knelt down next to her.

“What’s wrong sweetie?” She sniffled a few times and started to talk.

“I’m really worried. I don’t know what I should study in college. Not to mention, What meal plan should I choose? Gosh. What if I graduate college with a degree in English but can’t find a steady job? How will I support myself? How many kids is too many kids? What if my husband and I can’t agree on where to live: city, suburbs, country? What about my kids? Should they go to private school or public school?”

This conversation never happened, I’ve only been a preschool teacher for a month, but I bet you $3 that it never will. Why? Because kids live in the moment. They don’t worry about stuff. Sure, it helps that 4 year olds have no concept of time or what day of the week it is, but still.  As exaggerated and untrue as the story was, I realized that I sound a lot like a 4 year old worried about what college, when I worry about the future. The 4 year old sounded so silly because she didn’t have to make that decision as a 4 year old. Sure that 4 year old one day will be 18 and have to choose a major, but that’s 14 years of life to figure it out. She’s going to grow a lot, find friends, find her talents and gifts. Study, learn, go through classes. She’ll experience stuff that is going to shape her. Then when that day comes she’ll have all the information she needs to make that choice.

I have job now and it only took a week for me to start worrying about what I was going to do next school year which  is over 300 days away. A lot has to happen between this moment and that moment when I make a choice of what to do. Trying to figure out, or plan what I’m going to do 300 days from now is like trying to guess the picture of a 365 piece puzzle with only 65 of its pieces. It’s frustrating and nearly impossible.  You know how you put a puzzle piece together? one piece at a time.   And guess what,  “The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time,” said Abraham Lincoln. And isn’t that great news?

So my friends, Don’t let the future distract you from what’s going on right now. Don’t allow the unknown days to come to rob you of the experiences of today. Try something for me: put your hand out in front of you and wiggle your fingers. See that? You’re alive. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is unknown, and today is all you have. And like Jesus said Today is enough. Did you hear that? Today is enough. I know this all sounds like cliche mumbo jumbo, but it never hurts to be reminded. Worry is a contagious disease, and a silent killer. It kills your joy, it kills time. It’s okay to think about the future. It’s okay to make plans, to consider different options for the future.  But, as I’ve come to realize, my ideas and plans fail in comparison to God’s plans for my life.

Last little story, I went to a camp as a leader this summer. It was a Christian Adventure camp and they did not give you a lanyard with the hour by hour schedule. Nope, no one knew the schedule for the day except the counselors. And if anyone asked a question like: What are we doing next? or What’s for dinner? The counselors (and anyone on staff) would answer “WAFO!” which stands for Wait and Find Out. It was so frustrating at times, but it also freed me up to enjoy each moment. Not knowing what was going to happen next allowed me to enjoy whatever was happening at the moment. It also freed me from having expectations. On Wednesday night, there was an awesome blacklight, glowstick dance party. It was amazing. But If I had known about that on Monday morning, I would have had 3 days to imagine what it would be like,  and build up all these impossible expectations, then ultimately be let down because it didn’t measure up to what I imagined in my head. Instead, I enjoyed each activity for what it was, because I couldn’t build up any expectations.

Remember, the future happens one day at time.

Until then, WAFO, and enjoy today for what it is.

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The last 5 months

5 months ago, I walked across a stage with a diploma in my hand and a big stinking smile on my face. The battle was over, I had survived and even thrive in college! I was not excited about leaving Howard Payne. I was scared. HPU was the first place I felt accepted. I got to do so much, be apart of so many organizations which gave me a a lot of chances to serve, lead, follow, volunteer, grow, and learn. In highschool, my life was band. College was a different story. I was in band, yes, but I got to do so many other things. I have one huge regret and I didn’t realize what I had done until I graduated college.

I did not spend time with Jesus.

I spent 16-18 hours a day at school,rehearsal, meetings, bible studies, ministry events and homework. And zero time (usually) with God. It’s so easy to pretend, to perform. We all know how to talk the talk. We all know Christianese. As Matt Chandler said, we walk around throwing Christian sprinkles at each other with cheesy smiles on our faces. But deep down we’re suffering. Boy, did I suffer. I lacked in the relationship compartment with God and that’s what matters most. The zero one-on-one time with Jesus had a huge effect on me, post-college.

When I graduated college, all that followed me back to Dallas was Jesus. Guess who I continued to ignore? Jesus. I spent so much time talking about Jesus at school,  I neglected to talk to Him. When I got home, there were no group Bible studies, or Student Led Worships, or chapel, or FLEM meetings. I couldn’t walk to my friends apartment and just start talking about our week. There were no more ministry events, or Saturdays at the park. Just me, my house, and a Bible with dust in it. God took this girl (me) who found her worth in doing all the things all the time so that people could see and be pleased with her, He put that girl alone in her home, unemployed and alone. I hated every second.

I felt worthless. And I realized why; I had become so wrapped up in doing things for God, I figured that He loved me less when I (post college) spent all day (all week) inside my house not doing a thing. And somehow He loved me more when I was chaplain, or on a mission trip. That’s legalism people. And man, was I slave to legalism.

I felt alone. And that’s normal, post-college. You start over in a new city, with your friends spread out over the country instead of just being spread out over the campus. I also felt alone, spiritually, because I traded in a relationship, for religion. My time with God in college was the time I spent at events on campus. Group bible studies, chapel, church on sunday, worship on thursday. In between those  events? Not much happened between me and God. So, lo and behold I get home and suddenly I’m responsible for how much time I spend with God. And for the first month? Nothing, guys. And it just made things worse.  I’m not going to say that I just started praying and all the loneliness went away. Because that’s not true. I’ve learned how to be alone, and how that doesn’t have to equate to loneliness. Instead of moping, I’ve found that I love to go on bike rides, or walks, I like to go feed the ducks in the pond and watch the sunset. I’m learning to love myself, how to love God and be loved in return.

As I’m getting more involved in a church here in Dallas, its tempting to want to jump into the same habits from school. Fill up my schedule with church event after church event, and have zero personal time with God. I’m starting to ask myself a few of these questions, and maybe you can ask them yourself too?

Are you performing for others approval or are you pursuing Christ?
Are you checking off boxes or checking your heart?
Are you doing this to feel more loved by God, or in response to God’s love?
Are you spending more time talking about God or to talking with God?

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, forthey think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them,for your Father knows what you need before you ask him

Matthew 6:1-8

-Marlie (by the way, i have a job! teaching preschoolers. I love it. more on that later.)