Friday, September 30, 2016

Flashback Friday: Fiery Trials

            **This post is a part of the Flashback Friday series. Participants use the last Friday of each month to repost an old post that needed more attention, that you're very proud of, that you think is still relevant, etc. It is hosted by Michael G D'Agostino at A Life Examined. I wrote this post exactly 4 years ago on September 30, 2012, and it only got 2 views, so I thought it should be resurfaced.**

Fiery Trials
            Do you ever get the feeling that you've been outdone by someone else?  Maybe that's not exactly the right way to phrase it...Has there ever been a time that you have felt down-in-the-dumps depressed and then you come across a story or some news that is far worse than what you are going through?  When you hear about someone whose life is harder than yours, do you feel upset with yourself for feeling down about your own situation?  Or maybe it's the opposite: Do you ever feel like other people have it too easy and barely have any problems?  Of course, there are many different levels of pain both emotionally and physically and each of us handles things differently, so I guess we can't really put our trials on a scale. 

            God knows everything about us, so He knows what we can and cannot handle.  Maybe, when you are in the midst of the fire, you may not feel like you will make it through the flames.  But, if you call out to God for help, He will not let the flames completely consume you.  He discerns and assesses your situation and knows exactly how much oxygen you have left and when to pull you out.  I've heard it said in church that God uses the trials in life to refine us.  Just like pottery, we have to go through the fire to become a finished piece.  1 Peter 1:6-7 says, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith -- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire -- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." 

            Christians will all go through trials and tests of their faith.  I'm speaking to myself when I say there is absolutely no reason for us to compare our troubles to one another.  Each person is unique and struggles with different things.  Romans 12:15 says, "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep."  So, instead of trying to judge what seems fair or who is better off, we should just be encouraging and comforting to one another regardless of our own situation.  And when you feel like the flames are surrounding you, just remember all the blessings God has given you. 

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail."
-Lamentations 4:11

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
-James 1:2-4

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Regaining Energy

            “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (NIV1984)

            That verse has so often applied to my life, especially this summer. I thought I had some great posts planned out and ready to be scheduled during the past few months, however, the summer turned out to be a lot busier than I thought it would outside of the blogging community. In the last eight to ten weeks, I have had two, maybe three, full 24-hour days spent at home. I have been constantly on the go to work, church activities, shopping trips, and outings with friends and family. In early August, I went to an amazing youth conference as a youth worker/leader, and I am really glad I decided to go. Besides my job, I do enjoy all these aforementioned activities, but my introverted self is in desperate need of some alone time to recharge my energy. Without being recharged, I feel strained socially, mentally, and emotionally. If you have come across me, whether in person or online, I apologize if I seemed cross or unpleasant; it may have been one of those completely drained moments.

An important part of the blogging experience is the community, and I enjoy reading comments and posts from my fellow bloggers. Even though it is a lot easier for me to interact with people in writing, I do still consider blogging a form of social engagement and it has been hard to get into an interactive mood lately. So, what have I been doing with those seemly few hours I have at home? Mostly, I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching. I’ve been thinking about my personality and how it affects my choices and goals. I’ve been thinking about majors I should have picked in college, like psychology, neurology, or journalism. I’ve been thinking about my dreams and desires and wondering if some will ever be reached, like marriage. I’ve also spent a lot of time in prayer during this introspective process. I think God did use this socially-overwhelmed time to help me to spend my leftover time away from communicative activities and more into studying and learning by myself. I cannot say that this process is over, but I am ready to attempt to get back on a regular blog post schedule. I have been trying to get this particular post written for the last month, and here it finally is! The thing that has bothered me the most is all the work I put in to visit and meet new bloggers in April’s A to Z Challenge seems to have fallen apart during the summer. That is another area I should work on, consistency. Thanks to those of you who continue to bear with me! You are great friends!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

September IWSG and Belated Question of the Month

            Time for another posting with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, where writers can share their insecurities and encourage one another. IWSG was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh and we share our posts the first Wednesday of the month. The IWSG poses a question for us to answer in our monthly posts. Here is the question for September: How do you find the time to write in your busy day?

            This question represents something I like about the IWSG, because it proposes a great way for us to share advice with one another. I look forward to reading as many posts as I can get to. But, you are probably here to read my answer, and honestly, I do not make very much time for writing on busy days. I usually squeeze it in around bedtime (when most of my ideas suddenly hit) and jot down a few senseless notes before dozing off. There were a couple times when I was being a little more proactive and recorded some of my thoughts on my phone as I drove to work. I’ve been listening to The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy by Chris Bailey, and I am beginning to see more and more that my problem is not a lack of time as much as it is a lack of energy. As an introvert working at a job designed for extroverts, I am feeling the energy drain more and more when I do not get time alone at home to recharge. When I actually do get a day off to myself, depending on how long I’ve gone without my recharge time, I can sometimes find my energy again which leads to writing motivation. I know sometimes, motivated or not, I just have to write, which I can do fairly well when I have a deadline, like a monthly blog post or an anthology contest. In an ideal energy situation, I would probably set about 30 minutes to an hour aside to write in the evenings before rewarding myself with a TV show or computer game. Speaking of technology, I often shut my computer down and write by hand because my computer is full of distractions and writing in a notebook helps me to focus better.

I missed the Question of the Month on Monday. I left for a conference the day that our host Michael G D’Agostino emailed the question and I did not see the question until posts went up. The question was: What kind of music best speaks to you?

I’m going to try to keep this answer condensed, it usually depends on my mood. My music collection is very eclectic, but most of it falls into three different genres: classical, Christian, or soundtracks/musicals. When I’m feeling sad, I like softer Christian artists like Selah or Casting Crowns. When I want something more upbeat, my favorite Christian bands are Audio Adrenaline and dc Talk. When I’m feeling reflective or need to be calmed, I enjoy classical music, and I shared many of my favorites during the A to Z Challenge this year. When I’m in the mood for some fun (or sing-a-longs in the car), I listen to my soundtracks. I own the movie soundtracks for Phantom of the Opera, The Music Man, Les Miserables, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and a collection of Disney songs.

*As Chris Bailey would ask, how do you balance your time, energy, and attention?
*Does your music vary with your mood?
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