Thursday, September 5, 2013

Micromanaging God

Have you ever been micromanaged by someone? I don’t know many people who enjoy it. It’s rather disheartening to be asked to do a job that you are more than capable of doing and then have someone question everything you’re doing, reverse all your decisions, and take away whatever little authority you thought you had in the first place. It certainly does nothing to boost morale.

My mom used to do this to me when I was a kid. One of the chores I had to do was dusting. I would dust the coffee table and the end tables and an hour later I would see her doing it over again. What was the point of having me do it if she was just going to re-do it? I didn't do a bad job of dusting. I just didn't do it perfectly the way she wanted it done.

At its core, micromanaging is an issue of trust. People who micromanage probably had their trust demolished by someone in their past and now they’re getting their control freak on to make sure it never happens again. Meanwhile, they make everyone around them miserable. When someone breaks your trust, it’s very difficult to pick yourself up and open your heart wide again. It becomes easy to distance yourself, ignore criticism, and become a dictator. There’s just one problem with this: all relationships are built on trust. If you stop trusting people, you might as well go live off the grid somewhere because no one will want to be around you.

I've had three friends obliterate my trust. The first one was around 4th grade. She introduced me to her new best friend and dropped me like I was last year’s cool toy. In high school, one girl “unfriended” me because she thought I was making a move on the guy she liked. (Is tossing a Frisbee to a guy some kind of mating ritual I’m not aware of?) Another friend approached me with a literal gang of people I had never seen before (while I was on a date!) accusing me of telling her mother that she was doing drugs in the back seat of her car. I didn't know she was doing any such thing, but if I had, I probably would have told her mother! I was blindsided in every case. Yeah, I have trust issues.

For the past two and a half years of my husband’s underemployment, I've been doing a fair amount of yelling at God. I've been telling Him how to do His job. I've questioned His timing (Why does God always seem to act at the very last moment?), His care, and even His love. Why can’t He do things the way I want them done? And then it hit me: I've been micromanaging God. Imagine what it must feel like to know that you are the most capable being in the universe and have someone question your capabilities! God sent His only Son to die on my behalf so that I, a wretch who couldn't be more undeserving, could spend a blissful eternity with Him. And I have the audacity to question Him? Really?

I think it may be time to start focusing on the things God has done for me. He enabled us to eliminate $25,000 worth of debt in four years and stay debt-free for 14. He brought me and my husband together though we grew up 10 years apart and came from very different backgrounds. (Isn't every married couple a mini-miracle?) He provided the down payment for our current house, which saved us about $300/month and is the only way we are staying afloat financially right now. What exactly isn't He doing right? Do I really want God to do things my way? Yeah, my way would be never wanting for anything. I don’t see that working out so well for basically anyone who lives in Hollywood, so what makes me think that would work out any better for me?

This micromanager needs to find a way to trust again. How do you rebuild trust? Baby steps. What if I actually prayed for guidance on how to proceed with a major task today? Or maybe the next time that difficult person comes around I could send up a silent prayer--Lord, help me to see them through your eyes. Perhaps instead of worrying over my husband's job, I could choose instead to simply rest in God's plan and trust that whatever He's working on, it's going to be good. If I took the time to get to know God better and really watched Him at work, I would stop micromanaging because I would recognize His capabilities. The funny thing is that He was capable all along. I just have to take my eyes off myself and put them on the right person to see that.

Copyright ©2013 by Cherry Lyn Hoffner. You may not reproduce this post in any form without permission. However, linking to this post is encouraged.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Prairie Salad

I am looking out over the prairie at Taltree Gardens & Arboretum on a perfect 80 degree day. It reminds me of the meadow that was next door to our house when I was little. I remember making a bed in the long grass and lying in it so that I could watch the puffy clouds as they strolled by. I wondered at the balancing plates of Queen Anne's lace, giggled as I chased after yellow moths, and stood in silent amazement upon discovering a monarch cocoon on some milkweed. One of my favorite things to do was create prairie "salads" for Mom out of mixed greens, "bacon bits" of yellow dock, and the yellow "eggs" of wild snapdragons. Most of all, when I think of that meadow, I remember joy. Pure, unspoiled joy.

Queen Anne's Lace
Yellow Dock
Wild Yellow Snapdragon
As I sit here at Taltree and watch two butterflies dance and see a hummingbird alight on a tree and spy a hawk soaring overhead, I catch a wisp of that joy and I want to seize it, bottle it, and take it with me so that I can fight off the sadness and bitterness of the world.

Is that kind of joy still possible as an adult? Is joy allowed? Can we still find pure, unadulterated joy when there are work deadlines looming and dinner needs to be on the table and chores never end?

I am learning that a lot of what keeps me from joy is my perfectionism. Why can't I shake it? Why can't I give up the control? I do a terrible job of running my own life—why can't I put my life in the hands of...oh, I don't know...the One who made the universe? If He can spin planets and hang them in the sky, I'm pretty sure He can handle my mundane life. Why can't I learn to wait? Why do I demand that God always work on my time schedule? Why can’t I just learn to trust, rest, and relax? Little happy Cherry haunts me because I struggle to believe I once was her and I can’t quite figure out how I got here.

So I have a chat with God in the prairie. I pour out my heart. I tell Him how desperately I want to let go of the control. I want to trust Him, but how? I think about how I learn to trust anyone. I spend time with them, watch them work, look at how they treat others, and observe if they keep their promises.

So if I’m going to trust God, I need to spend more time with Him. I’m pretty inconsistent with that, but I can improve. I've seen God do amazing work in my life like provide well-timed housing and $1 cars. And hasn't He turned many things I've called “bad” into good? Why should I expect the current trial to be different? What has God done in my life that I expect bad from Him? God wrote the Golden Rule, so I’m pretty sure He treats others better than anyone I know. And He always keeps His promises. So what’s not to trust?

If I don't grab hold of His grace and mercy and love every day, the world wins. So often, I start the day asking the Lord to show me how to prioritize my day and then I jump in with my Type-A boots on and do my own thing and completely ignore Him. I long to relax and let go; let go of the worry and fear and pride and selfishness and just live for today and enjoy it.

Lord, remind me each day to meditate on your Word and rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance. Show me how to wait for you and trust. Teach me to thank you for every good gift (and they’re all good). Help me realize just how big you are so that I can see just how small I really am. Teach me to abide. To rest. To love. Remind me that I can do NOTHING without you. Grant me more moments of this peace that embraces the soul.

Help me to capture this joy and never let it go.

Copyright ©2013 by Cherry Lyn Hoffner. You may not reproduce this post in any form without permission. However, linking to this post is encouraged.

Friday, July 19, 2013

"I Just Want My Life Back"

OK. So apparently, I'm not quite done with my pity party. There have been many times over the past two and a half years since my husband lost his job due to budget cuts, that I have heard myself say, "I just want my life back." When he lost his job, we lost half our income. We lost half of our living space. We lost vacations and discretionary spending. At one point we actually visited a traveling food bank to offset our food expenses for the month. For several months I was terrified that we would end up homeless (chalk that up to catastrophic thinking!). Despite the fact that I was and am a Christian, I just couldn't (more like refused to) see what God was doing. I felt that I had lost all of my coping mechanisms. I sought out counseling to help me regain my sanity. (A great idea, by the way, when life gets rocky. It's helpful to have someone who can pick you back up and set you straight.)

I was consumed with thinking, "I just want my life back."

That thought still overwhelms me from time to time. So I finally asked myself, what do I really mean when I say that? Do I want Dave to go back into ministry? Do I want more living space? Or do I just want our income back? Ouch. There's the knife. I want more money. I want more things. I want more status. Yuck. I seem to recall a verse that says the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10); and another verse that says you can't serve God and money (Matthew 6:24). They are mutually exclusive. Did you know that you can love money even when you don't have any?

I recently finished the book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. It was excruciatingly challenging. It's a book about fasting from the things that take our focus off of God. Things like media and food and possessions and stress. It made me want to reboot my life and check my attitude.

I hate clutter and disorganization and...stuff. So do I really want more of it? No. I don't really want more square footage - it was too much to clean. I don't really want to eat out more - I gained 10 pounds from eating a bunch of junk. I don't really want more stuff when looking at the stuff I have makes me want to vomit because I know every single piece of stuff I own requires maintenance or thought or organization. I have better things to do with my time!

What I really want is closer relationships - more quality time with God, with my husband, with friends and family. I want to learn how to cook so we can eat out less and Dave can relax more. I want to let go of the things that I allow to steal minutes and hours from my day.

I'm not sure yet what God is going to do in our lives. I don't know if He will give us more income. I don't know when Dave will no longer be underemployed. One thing I am really trying to master is trusting God to work it all out for good. Yes, I realize it is an oxymoron to master trust. Trust by its very nature is rest. It's not a skill to be learned, it's a letting go of control; resting in the ability of someone else to do what needs to be done. That's a tough concept for this recovering perfectionist to comprehend.

When Dave and I were first thinking about moving to Indiana, he was considering two job offers. Ironically, the other job is exactly what he's doing now. What if we had stayed in Wisconsin? Would we be happier? I don't know. I know that there are a bunch of wonderful people I would never have met if we hadn't moved. Beyond that, I'm really not sure of anything. Today, I came across a thought that arrested me. It's from One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. There's a line in the first chapter that says, "Maybe you don't want to change the story, because you don't know what a different ending holds." Indeed.

I can mull over the decision we made 14 years ago until the end of my time on earth, but I will never know how our lives would be different. I can't change that decision. We don't get do-overs in life. In the words of one of my favorite worship songs, "I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way that He loves us." (How He Loves Us by John Mark McMillan) God loved me so much, He sent His Son to die for me. He loves me unconditionally. He loves me despite my failures. Why am I wasting time thinking about what might have been instead of resting in the arms of my Savior who is far better equipped to orchestrate my life than I am? It's time to stop telling myself that I want my life back and start fully living the life I've been given.

Copyright ©2013 by Cherry Lyn Hoffner. You may not reproduce this post in any form without permission. However, linking to this post is encouraged.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Let's Try This Again, Shall We?

Things that matter in life: relationships. When you boil life down to the empty pot, I'm not sure anything else in life matters more.

Sadly, I have failed in my relationship with you.

I haven't blogged since my spiritual birthday last year. Please forgive me. There are a couple reasons for this, though neither of them is really any good. First, I've been throwing myself a pity party and didn't invite you. I wasn't sure you would come. Who wants to come to a pity party? (All the codependents said, "Me! I would have come! I would have made you cookies or cleaned your house or hugged you til your arms fell off! I would have fixed it for you! Why didn't you tell me?)

I've been having a pity party because my life has not exactly met my expectations - which are pretty high. (If you recall, I'm a recovering perfectionist). I'm not a parent. I'm not a world-famous writer. I'm not wealthy. I don't live in my dream house. I haven't traveled the world. High expectations, wouldn't you agree?

So I've been feeling sorry for myself. I play the comparison game and see others pursuing their dreams and going on fun vacations and looking happy and I just want to crawl in a hole and cry. Of course, there is no benefit to this behavior whatsoever. It only makes me more miserable to dwell on my shortcomings and broken dreams. Pity parties are no fun.

The second reason I haven't shown up for my own blog is that I'm afraid of you. Yes, you read that right. You scare me. I worry that you won't like what I have to say. I worry that I won't say what I really need to say because I'm worried about what you will think of it. I worry that I will say something kinda spiritual and then you'll see me doing the exact opposite of that spiritual thing and you will label me a hypocrite. I worry that you'll put me up on some kind of pedestal and admire me or some nonsense like that.

Obviously I live in a fantasy world.

My delusions of grandeur are exceeded only by my self-doubts. I have wanted to be a writer since I was 12, when Mrs. Czechvala gave me an A+ on my limerick about a toad who crossed the road (hey, it rhymed!). At that moment, I thought, maybe there's something here. Come enter a typical Cherry daydream: I will write stunning books of poetry; novels that make you laugh and cry; articles that will inform and transform. I will be the next great screenwriter. I will be...famous! (To get the full effect of that statement, you need to picture me with a flourish of outstretched arms and a silent "ta-da" in the background. And while we're at it, why not add the Oscar orchestra playing me off stage as I thank all the little people for their contributions to my greatness.) This is how my brain works people.

Reality: I got a couple poems published in a university publication, wrote a monthly column for a church newsletter, and published exactly one article and one interview - at least 15 years ago. Oh, and I wrote seven posts for this blog which I selfishly abandoned. That would hardly qualify me as "a writer."

I would like to believe that writing this post will be a breakthrough for me. For a long time, I've been trying to figure out why I haven't been writing. Now that I know that I'm afraid of you, I can choose to see you for you who really are - normal, not-so-scary people who just want their lives to matter too.

I started this blog to work out spiritual truth in my life and discover what really matters. I want to get back on that journey, and again, I would like to invite you to walk that path with me. I don't want to sugar-coat my life. I want it to be raw and real. That is really scary. But I know One who is way bigger than any of my fears.

So I'm back. I hope you're glad about that. If you're not, or if you don't care, I'm okay with that. I'm writing, I'm obeying, and I'm searching. And that matters.

Copyright ©2013 by Cherry Lyn Hoffner. You may not reproduce this post in any form without permission. However, linking to this post is encouraged.