Perseverance and Grit…

 

I love the show American Grit on Fox. I so much enjoy watching people dig deep and do things they never thought possible! (Although admittedly, the first season was way more intense and challenging than the second season.)

September is now, and forevermore known as “Sucky Sober September.” Obviously the name alone makes it sound like it is connected to alcohol only, but in reality it is a shout out to a friend who almost died a year ago. – You see, in solidarity, the best friend Trifecta adjusted our eating habits for a month to help one of us get healthy again, and in that process we also gave up alcohol. Because we do all the healthy things, we also change the name depending on how we are feeling and add various descriptive S words.

To some people, Sucky Sober September sounds dramatic and crazy that we remove alcohol from our diets for a month, and yet other people don’t understand why that’s even necessary (“do you drink that much?”).. In all honesty, it’s not hard, but, the reality is that living in DC, most social activities revolve around alcohol. So, we have removed alcohol from September moving forward, but alcohol is only one facet of what happens throughout the month…

In September, I am finding my perseverance and grit.

My grit physically looks like running 3 days a week, and doing strength training at the gym 3 days a week.
September means choosing to hydrate appropriately (and praise the Lord for sparkling water), exercise 5 days a week (usually meaning I have to get up early and workout before work), meal prep for the week, and remove sweets and junk food from my diet.
It is difficult to describe how challenging it is, I hate running, I hate mornings, and I hate being up before the sun. But, it is also hard because I have a disorder that means my tendons and ligaments don’t have enough collagen and I dislocate easily… Meaning, I am in some sort of pain most days, and while getting into shape definitely helps hold my body together, it’s significantly harder for me to get into shape because I cannot over fatigue my muscles or I will dislocate while I sleep.

Yet, here I am, 5 days a week, making it happen because I have decided. Simply saying I am showing up isn’t enough, it’s actually more about being diligent, persistent, holding steadfast and persevering day after day no matter how I feel.

On top of getting my life together physically, I am also in this corresponding spiritual season of resetting all of the things.

I have started doing a morning devotional phone call at 6:45am (it also helps to make sure I’m up and out of bed to workout too!), I have purposefully created time each day to journal through my thoughts and prayers, I have desired and created space to spend a ton of time reading scripture, and reintroduced fasting into my spiritual diet, I am also fairly certain I have been living on worship music alone. – This month I realized that when I’m not listening to worship music, my heart begins to fill with fear, anxiety, and insecurities… Neat.

There is a war going on, do not be fooled, the enemy is fighting whether you are or not.

Physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually I am hitting reset for September; which sounds super fun, easy, and like it should be the type of motivation that gets others up and going too… But, let me assure you, it is actually insanely hard, it sucks most days, it hurts in every single sense of the word, and many days I am not sure how I will make it through.

Two things the Lord has consistently communicated to me this month:
Steadfast and Perseverance. 

Doesn’t that sound like I should post such a nice little inspiration about how great and important being steadfast and persevering is? – In raw honesty; it looks more like a $h!t show, brokenness, hurt, pain, exhaustion, joy, faith, hope and then choosing obedience no matter how I feel day to day. It is much harder to be steadfast and persevere than anyone can easily explain.

Don’t get me wrong, some days have been so amazingly good, full of fun, laughter, joy, contentment, gratitude, and so much Grace from the Lord.
But, many days have been headphones in, head down and just getting through the day while hurting, and choosing to be obedient to what I have had laid out before me.

In my attempt to heal and restore my heart and insecurities, to work through and calm fears and anxieties, and to gain greater understanding, clarity, and more wisdom, I have spent hours every day reading through scripture. I have copied impactful passages into my journal and reviewed them almost daily. This month I have lost track of time as I research and read through scripture on peace, steadfast, perseverance, obedience, character, the armor of God, and fruit of the spirit.

In Ecclesiastes 3 it talks about how there is a season for everything; this season for me is intense, it is hard, and I am learning how to be steadfast and persevere regardless of how I feel. Yet, I am unable to close down my heart like I do naturally.

I am finding my perseverance and grit emotionally.

A few months ago, I began praying that the Lord would help me learn how to better navigate my head and heart together simultaneously. I have a tendency to shut my heart down and set it aside when I need to get things done, when I’m hurting and have to push forward or when I feel overwhelmed… I very often forget to check and see how I am feeling or what my heart is working through. My go-to is to think through my feelings, sometimes obsessively before I share them or even allow them to be seen or experienced by anyone else. – I want to have a grasp on what I’m feeling before I expose myself and choose to be vulnerable. And yet, a few months ago, after something my pastor said, I realized that the Holy Spirit is the perfect blending of both head and heart. In order to follow after and be more like Christ, I absolutely must do a better job of balancing both at the same time.

So, earlier this summer, I began intentionally working to balance both and not requiring myself to have my heart figured out before I shared it with anyone else… I decided to choose to let people into my process if they asked, and to take the time to actually consider my heart in the moments.

In September, I began the month not well, I found myself full of insecurities coming out to play. I was struggling with the things the Lord and I have been slowly exposing in my heart over the last couple months. In order for Him to heal the brokenness in my heart I had to be open, and yet, in my fear and anxiety, I shifted my focus from the Lord healing and restoring me, to someone tangible being responsible to fix my insecurities.

Nope. Not good, not healthy, not ok, and not acceptable.

Hard reset.

Once I shifted back to the Lord, I began asking Him to heal me, restore me, and to show me what He wants from me right now, in this season.

Repeatedly I keep coming back to Steadfast and Perseverance.

I know what it means, I know how it applies, I am aware of the situations in which Steadfast and Perseverance are directly connected. I know that the Lord is putting the challenge before me to be obedient. I have a choice, and it is not an easy one.

I am finding my perseverance and grit spiritually.

This season has been equally beautiful and rich but also hard and painful spiritually. My heart desires a closeness with the Lord that I have not experienced in more than five years. I cannot say that I feel like the Lord has “said” anything specific to me, but more a confidence and guidance as I press in and spend more time with him.

This September has felt a lot like God is asking me to “adult”…

Almost like He is saying,
“Ok, you know these things, you hear me telling you to be steadfast, to persevere, to be obedient.
But, will you?
Are you going to choose to exhibit the fruit of my Spirit?
Are you going to come to me when you are weak and weary?
Are you going to be selfless and love unconditionally like I do?
Are you going to look to me when your heart is hurting and broken?
Are you going to come to me when you’re angry?
Will you decide to give up your anxiety, fear, and insecurities to me?
What will you do with what I’ve taught you?”

Yes. Yes, I will be obedient.
Yes, I will turn to you my God when I’m hurting, broken, angry, weak and weary.
Yes, my sweet Lord, I will choose to be selfless, and I will choose hope and faith. Help me when I cannot and give me more Grace.

I believe that God’s Grace is sufficient for me. That today, in this moment, He will give me what I need to persevere, to hold steadfast, to be selfless, to love well… I cannot worry about tomorrow, next week, next month or the one after, I have to hold steadfast in the here and now; the Grace for today.

Today, I choose to be obedient.

But, let me tell you: It. Is. Effing. Hard. – being obedient is not for the faint of heart, it takes grit, determination and willpower to push through the moments and days that I just don’t have it in me.

On my hard days, my perspective is very much that I do not get an option, I have to dig deep and find my grit to persevere, to actively decide to choose grace, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control. It rails against everything I want to do in those moments, but it is obedience.

I have also realize that sometimes I literally run out of my ability to navigate and hold steady, to persevere, to choose to be obedient. And that sometimes, by the end of the day, it is like those parts of me have been exhausted and tapped dry. – Those are the moments when journaling my struggles and processing the day, when reading scripture and praying for the Lord’s blessing the next day, asking for more of His Grace make every bit of the difference.

He is faithful and He is enough.

So, Sucky Sober September is a month of making decisions against myself and my natural way of doing things. It sucks, it is hard, it is not easy, and I have no idea what is to come, but it is so good! I am not promised that things will change or get easier in October or November. I am not given assurance that everything will pay off…

But, what I do know and what I am holding fast to believing in Faith and choosing hope:

But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.” – 1 Timothy 6:11-12

Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.
We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.” – Colossians 1:10-12

“But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…” – Romans 8:25-26

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58

Generosity is the Key…

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I have always sorta known that being generous was important. Without realizing it, I saw it growing up in my parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents etc.. I understood that they were kind and loving, but I do not think I interpreted their actions as generous at the time because it was just sorta how they were.

Grandparents on both sides of my family were generous with food… Literally feeding everyone who came and went from their house. People in my family seem to be known for taking people in to live with them… and feeding them. They always had things to give them, and lived a life that repeatedly said “people are more important than things” – Sometimes actually repeating this mantra.

Now that I am grown, and trying my best at this adulting thing, I have realized so many of the ways that my parents were generous. My parents never ran out of time for you. Hours upon hours have been spent talking and spending time with people in my house growing up. Sometimes it was me and my siblings that needed the time, other instances it was cousins or other family members, students, co-workers, friends; regardless, my parents have always been generous with their time.

Growing up it would drive me bonkers because we were endlessly late places. – Why? Why could my dad not stop talking and get in the car so we could go?!… Looking back, so many hours were spent in parking lots and at restaurants giving people what only my dad could give, and what people needed most: his time. People are drawn to my parents, to their kindness, to their wisdom, to their knowledge, to their genuine authenticity, and to the joy and love that they spill out to everyone. Whether people realized it or not, they have always been drawn to the way that Jesus exudes from my parents.

Thankfully, I feel like these traits of my parents has been passed on to me and all of my siblings.

I never totally understood growing up what was happening because generosity was just a part of our family… But, because we did not have money, I had separated in my mind that generosity was supposed to mean with your money, everything else was sorta just how my family was.

As an adult, I realize how flawed and totally wrong that perspective was. So totally wrong.

Being generous certainly can include money.. which is why I think tithing and gifting is so important. It helps you separate yourself from the control that money can have on you. But, in reality, generosity is so much more pervasive and multi-dimensional that just currency.

Generosity of any kind changes people’s lives.

Generosity has a rippling effect that impacts people we will never meet face to face.

I find that as I get older, I take note of the generous people in my lives and are drawn to them, respect them, and desire to surround myself with them at an ever-increasing level.

Two of the most generous people I have ever met are my lead pastor Mark Batterson and his wife Lora. I do not really understand how they always find the time, money, and attitudes of generosity, but they do, endlessly. Pastor Mark says all the time that he wants those who know him best to respect him the most; and it is true. The more you get to know him, the more you respect him; I am fascinated by how true this fact plays out, even working at the church that he has been pastoring for 20 years! He and his wife’s giving spirits are so built into their lives that I do not even think they realize some of the ways they are generous. Interactions with them are teeming with graciousness, kindness, and generosity… So much so that it is tangible!

Sometimes, I think my friends get tired of how much I love and respect this next person (who I have only met once); but Josh Garrels is another person whose generosity has made a huge difference in my life. I shared once a while ago about how much his generosity weathered me through a horrible season because he put his albums up on Noisetrade for free. This week I was once again reminded of his double blessing generosity; he put out on Noisetrade an anniversary album that included bonus tracks, and instrumental tracks from his album Home. While the album is free until April 28th, he also included a note that any tips you leave him on Noisetrade will be donated to World Relief and One Million Thumbprints (Check them out, it’s pretty amazing).  – All I could think is of the abundant generosity that exhibits of him and his wife!

Here I am as an adult, finding that the most generous thing I have to offer is my time, my joy, my kindness… and a little food certainly doesn’t hurt. People are more important than things, and letting people become more of “my people” and join my community is one of the most generous things I can do. And, oh how I love it.

I cannot always give money, but I can always give time. – Especially as I become more diligent with my time management.

I think the world can absolutely become a better place with more kindness, more generosity, and more stepping into community that is hard to love people well.

Generosity is the key to changing the world one impactful moment at a time.