Stuck in the Middle

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

Frederick Douglass

You know that excitement you get when you begin a new project? What about the sense of satisfaction when you finish one? Do you ever hear anyone say, “I’m so excited about working fifty rows of  K1 P1 ribbing?

For the non-knitters, K1 P1ribbing is knitter-speak for knit one stitch and pearl one stitch until you lose your mind. The stitch pattern makes a lovely edge for sweaters and hats, but it can be a little boring. It also takes a little attention to detail because you constantly switch the yarn from the back to the front to the back again. If you are just knitting a row, you don’t really have to think about it as your hands use muscle memory to just do it. The ribbing takes a little work.

Writing books is very similar. You are excited about the idea in your mind and start creating the character and their world. You look forward to finishing it and getting it published. In between the two lies the ribbing, aka figuring out how to get your protagonist from point A to point Z without losing your reader or your mind. It takes a little work.

Our spiritual lives are not really that different. When we first come to know Christ, we are excited and eager to dive into the Word and live the Christian life. It’s a great time. Then, we are also thinking about what it will be like when we get to Heaven and everything is complete and whole in Christ’s presence. In the meantime, life happens and we get distracted by daily tasks and demands on our time. Keeping our enthusiasm during the daily grind is difficult sometimes. It takes a little work.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Hebrews 12:1

Christians are a work in progress. We have been saved, but God is still working on us. The key word is work. It requires a struggle, but nothing good ever comes easy. The good news is that it’s not all up to us. God is working on us, and God will finish what he starts.

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Philippians 1:6

There is no greater example of this than the caterpillar becoming a butterfly. It takes time for the transformation to occur, and when the butterfly is ready to emerge from the cocoon, it has to struggle. The thing about the struggle is that it makes the butterflies wings strong so that when it is finally free, it can fly.

When you find yourself struggling in your daily walk, remember that God is not finished with you yet. Struggle means you are growing spiritual wings so that you can fly. Meanwhile, you can’t speed through the process like Adam Sandler’s character in Click. His remote control allowed him to fast forward through the parts of life he didn’t like, but in the end he realized that he’d fast forwarded through his life and missed a lot of great little moments. So, learn to slow down so that you can enjoy the little moments because that’s where life is really lived: in the middle.

Hope Continues

I finished my hope notebook this week. I also finished a couple of projects, so I deemed this Finish it February. My goal is to finish some of my works in progress this month, which include projects around the house, knitting projects, writing projects, and even reading projects. It’s time to settle down and get things done. However, I have realized that one thing should not be finished: hope.

Day 36

24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it….28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:24-25, 28

We continue to hope with patience because we know that God only wants for us to have the best life. When we join with him in His will for us, then we can know that He will take whatever happens and use it for our good. Sometimes it’s not immediately clear what God is doing and some things we may not understand this side of Heaven, but we can know that He is at work and we can trust Him to handle whatever comes our way.

Day 37

And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the Lord do to all your enemies against whom ye fight.

Joshua 10:25

When we hope in God, we don’t have to be afraid. We can be strong and courageous because of His Spirit within us. When we are in His will, he will fight our enemies for us. He never stops fighting for us.

Day 38

But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more.

Psalms 71:14

Every day we have hope because the Spirit lives within us. When we focus on that hope, then we have more to praise Him for than ever before. Each day we have new reasons to praise Him. Praise also renews our spirit and centers our focus for the day to come.

Day 39

And thou shalt be secure, because there is hope; yea, thou shalt dig about thee, and thou shalt take thy rest in safety.

Job 11:18

Hope is also rest. We can be assured that no matter what is going on around us we can rest in safety in the arms of Jesus. The Lord is able to save us from trouble, but even if he doesn’t, He will go with us through it. We can trust Him with our future.

Day 40

For the final day of my 40 Days of Hope Notebook, I made a picture with all the scripture references. 39 references to why we have hope even in times like these. All we have to do is open up the Bible and we will find reasons for hope.

As my hope notebook project (#Myhopenotebook) comes to a close, my hope does not. I continue to hope because God is not done yet. It doesn’t end until, like the song says, we all get to Heaven. In the meantime, we continue to hope and rest in God’s promises while we wait to see what He will do next. Life is full of ups and downs but it is a great adventure when we live it in this hope: the mystery of Christ within us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

One Step at a Time

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by something on your To Do List? You know it needs to be done, and there may even be a deadline approaching, but you just can’t seem to get started? I have several of those projects staring me in the face. Some days I procrastinate, and some days I can’t even bear to think about them. Today I had great plans for tackling at least one of those projects but was diverted by a problem with my car that took up over half of my morning. One of the biggest issues is planning to do it all, or most of it, in one day. That approach rarely works because of days like today, so we should take a page from Nehemiah’s playbook.

Nehemiah came to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of the city. It was a daunting task that two other groups had failed to complete. Nehemiah approached the problem differently than the other groups, and that approach can be applied to any project. First, he started with prayer. There was nothing he did that wasn’t preceded by prayer. Next, he looked at the project objectively from every angle to see what needed to be done. Then, he designated out sections to different groups. Finally, he followed through despite obstacles and opposition.

Starting with prayer is always good advice for any situation we may encounter, but sometimes we don’t think about in when doing practical everyday tasks. God wants to be involved in even the smallest details of our lives.

Looking objectively at a daunting task can be overwhelming at first, but until we get all of the details down, we won’t know exactly what is required or the best way to approach it. It is like cooking a recipe. You need to know what ingredients you need for the recipe to see if you have them all in the kitchen. If not, you need to add a shopping trip to the list.

While you may not have other people helping you with a task, it still helps to break things down into smaller jobs. That way if time is limited, you can still accomplish part of the job. Progress of any kind is still progress.

Finally, it is just a matter of not letting the world and everyday problems get in your way. You have to keep working until the project is done. It may take longer than you first thought, but it doesn’t matter as long as it gets done.

Take advice from Nehemiah and tackle big tasks one step at a time. Don’t let naysayers get you down. Focus on the goal and keep moving. Let God lead and he will help you through step by step until you get to the finish line.

Not Responding

Not Responding. Those two words seem to be the phrase of the day. I spent an aggravating hour, on and off, trying to reach the mortgage company to find out how to proceed with taking care of an issue. First, I waited in line on hold only to have the operator never pick up after 10 rings. I tried twice with same result. Finally dialed another number and got a response but forgot to clarify one thing. Started over and was sent to the same person’s voicemail that has not returned my last 3 voicemails…still not responding.

I went to the garage to see about mowing the yard. My tires all loose air, so I have to pump them up before I start every time. I pumped them up, but one tire looked suspiciously out of kilter. I backed the mower up a bit and my fears were confirmed. No matter how much air I tried to put in the tire, it was not responding. It had come off its rim.

Just now I decided I should just work on grading papers until I could get someone to assist me with the rim and downloaded a file. When I tried to open it, Word was not responding.

I was afraid to touch my knitting at that point, or anything else for that matter.Needless to say, I was getting very frustrated, but a thought occurred to me. I wonder how many times God has sent me a message or given me a task to do, and I was not responding. How many times has he left a voicemail that was un-returned, tried to work with stubborn material, or had his commands ignored? I’m not sure I want to know the answer.

 

UFOs and the Power of Finishing

In knitting there are a lot of technical knitting terms, but there is also universally recognized jargon.  One such term that falls under jargon is UFO, which stands for Un-Finished Object. A UFO is when you start something and later discard it for any number of reasons, including it was too hard, confusing or boring. It then ends up under the bed, in the back of the closet or in the bottom of one of multiple knitting bags. If someone were to pick it up, it would most likely be unrecognizable to anyone else and possibly yourself. In contrast, a WIP (Work In Progress) is a project that you are actively working on or at least contemplating. You know what it is and have a good idea where you are even if you have laid it aside for the moment.

In a previous blog I wrote about having a few UFOs lying around. They had been lying around long enough to cease being a WIP. As a task-oriented person, UFOs bother me. Most of my goals for the New Year include finishing some things I started. For instance, a shelf of books that I’ve been meaning to read and some knitting UFOs that I found when I cleaned up the house for the holidays. I have read 6 of the books and finished 3 of the UFOs. Finishing those things makes me feel lighter and productive. It makes me want to finish other things.

One of the principles of physics is that an object in motion will stay in motion, and an object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon. I had become an object at rest, but the word rest is misleading. I was sitting still, but I was not resting. The goals I set for the New Year and the cleaning fit I get when it is time to put away the Christmas decorations set me in motion. The more I finish, the more I want to finish. Then, I can move on to new things.

So, do yourself a favor. Look around for a UFO and turn it into a finished project. It will make you feel better. If you totally are not interested in the UFO anymore, get rid of it. Frog the project (undo the stitches and roll the yarn into a ball) and do something else with it, or just give it to someone else. Lighten your self-imposed load and free yourself to do something else, just don’t become an object at rest or worse yet…a UFO.