When things don’t go your way, get excited

You don’t always get what you want. It’s one of those life lessons we learn at an early age, usually when birthdays or Christmases come around. You know what I mean.

Even if you’re overwhelmingly grateful for the gifts you receive, if someone has totally guessed wrong, it’s a little sad. One year, a relative gave my brother bedsheets for Christmas. And it’s not that he wasn’t thankful for the sheets. He needed them. But for Christmas? When you’re like 7 or 8?

It’s a good lesson to learn, though, to be thankful for what you’re given, even if it isn’t what you wanted. It’s good to learn it early because that’s a lesson that doesn’t change as you age. Most of the time, you aren’t going to get what you want out of life. So decide how you’re going to handle it now.

christmas-xmas-gifts-presentsToday’s verses are James 1:2-4.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

I have a lot of plans. I want a lot of things. But what I want is rarely what I end up getting, and that’s okay with me. God isn’t keeping me from achieving my goals or hitting my deadlines because He wants to make me miserable. He isn’t holding back all the things I want because He’s mean. If He holds anything back, it’s because He’s got something better in mind. If He prevents me from hitting a deadline or making a goal that I think is important, it’s because He’s got something bigger planned.

God never intends for us to go without. He never wants us to have less than we need. But if we want to have all the things He’s promised for us, we’ve got to get on board with Him. We’ve got to follow His plan. We’ve got to get on His schedule, because He’s the one who can make things happen. So that means we have to start living life by His rules and seeing life through His eyes.

That means we rejoice when we don’t get our way. That means we get excited when we have to work harder to achieve something we thought would be easy. That means we leap for joy when someone makes like tough for us.

It goes against everything we feel, I know. When we hit tough times, it’s tempting to want to sulk, but don’t give into that mindset. That’s not an attitude God can bless.

So the next time you don’t get your way, thank God for it. It won’t feel natural, and that’s okay. It isn’t.

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Facing trouble is like riding a bicycle

I got a bicycle for my birthday this year. It’s pretty epic. Vintage, even. It’s not new, but my dad cleaned it all up. And it was waiting for me with a big “Happy Birthday!” sign on it when I got home.

I’d mentioned wanting one some time back because some of the happiest memories I have from childhood are all four of us riding our bikes around the trails when we lived in Wichita. We tried to ride bikes when we moved out to the country, but city bike tires weren’t designed for gravel roads. And then we just all got so busy.

So I hadn’t ridden a bike in 20+ years when I got back in the saddle. It was pretty embarrassing, I’m sad to say. I didn’t fall over, but I imagine I looked something like a newborn giraffe trying to figure out which way is up. But riding a bicycle really is–well, like riding a bicycle. You never really forget how.

I remembered how to sit, how to pedal, how to steer, but it had been so long since I’d exercised that particular set of muscles, let’s just say the ride didn’t last very long. I was really hurting by the time we were done. But you should expect that if you try to flex muscles you haven’t used in a long time. Maybe you know what you’re supposed to do, but you may not be physically able to do it until you’ve practiced.

my_bikeToday’s verses are James 1:2-4.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Have you ever thought of facing trials and challenges like body building? Maybe that’s too much of a stretch, but it makes sense to me. So much of how we respond to events in life is almost like muscle memory. We don’t necessarily think. We just react. But we react based on what our experience has been in past circumstances.

If you’ve never seen God do miracles, it’s very likely that the first time you run up against an impossible task, you’ll despair. If you’ve never seen God work out a situation with no possible answer, it’s very likely the first time you encounter an unsolvable problem, you’ll get upset.

But if you have seen God do the impossible, there’s not really much out there that can shake you. Sure, people may upset you. Circumstances may frustrate you. But you’ve seen things happen that should never have happened. You’ve seen the hand of God touching hearts, healing lives, mending the brokenness you never thought could be repaired. And once you’ve seen that, you can’t unsee it.

Our world is full of trouble. We can’t escape it. There used to be a time when we could ignore it, but it’s become so prevalent now, you can’t shut it out. It’s only a matter of time until you run into trouble that you can’t survive without God’s help.

If you haven’t encountered trouble like it before, just hold on. Because on the other side, you’ll be able to look back and see what God has done, not only in your life but in the lives of the people you love. Do what you’re supposed to do. Live how you’re supposed to live. And God will bless you and work it all out for your good and His glory.

And the next time trouble comes around (because there’s always a next time), you won’t blink. Because you will have experienced God’s goodness and His power already, and you’ll know what He can do.

Facing trials and troubles and challenges really is like riding a bicycle. The first time you get on, it’s hard work. It hurts. It’s a struggle. But the longer you ride, the more you practice, the better you get at it.

 

51 copies of my debut novel, Nameless, on the day they arrived at my door

Braving the right road

Life rarely works out the way we expect it to. Or is that just me? In my experience, the aspects of life I thought I had figured out were the ones I ended up knowing the least about. I haven’t lived a very long time, but I’ve lived long enough to understand that God’s plans are bigger than my imagination–and often beyond my understanding.

I’ve said it before. If I could have told the me of 10 years ago everything that was going to happen in my life, I would have been terrified. I wouldn’t have wanted anything to do with it. I would have given up before I even started because I wasn’t ready for it.

Why else do you think we face trials and frustrations on a daily basis? Or do you really think God has nothing better to do than to mess with you?

51 copies of my debut novel, Nameless, on the day they arrived at my door

51 copies of my debut novel, Nameless, on the day they arrived at my door

Today’s verses are James 1:2-4.

Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

On May 21, three heavy boxes were delivered to my front porch. My roomie had to carry them in for me because I was at work, but I knew what was in them. The moment I’d been waiting for had arrived, a moment more than 10 years in the making. Far more than that actually, if you want to be technical about it.

My first published novel.

I can’t even express the excitement I was feeling. Honestly, I think I was repressing it because I wouldn’t have been able to focus on anything else if I hadn’t. For 10 years, I’d worked on this manuscript. I’d written and rewritten and plotted and planned and scrapped and rewrote and edited and rewrote again. For 10 years. And then, in preparation for this official publishing venture, I edited it some more, with my awesome editor’s assistance, of course.

It felt like the beginning of a new era. I’d worked so hard to get this book to where it was, sacrificed time with family and friends, did whatever I could to make it happen because I believed it was what God was calling me to do.

So you can imagine what I felt when I opened that book up and spotted a typo.

And not just one. Two. On the very opening pages, no less. Two typos! They survived three rounds of harsh proofing. Irritating. Irritating beyond comprehension. But not the end of the world. Two typos. I could handle that.

And then, after I sold a couple, a dear friend told me so very kindly that she’d uncovered a handful more throughout the book.

Seriously. I could have bashed my head through a wall. Two typos on a usually ignored page I could deal with. Obvious, stupid typos scattered throughout? Not good.

And here’s the hard part. The physical copy of the book isn’t hard to change. It’s the electronic copies that are killers.

That’s right. Two versions of the book were already uploaded and waiting to be released for Kindle and Nook, and finding these typos meant I had to pull them down and edit them myself because I didn’t want to pay to have the files reformatted again.

And that’s how I came to a crossroad. It would be easy to leave the typos alone. I mean, after all, how many people really notice them? It’s really only the writers who pick up on that stuff, right?

Ha.

The decision to fix the typos came down to choosing between what is easy and what is right, and many times that’s the same choice we face in every other aspect of life. What’s right? What’s easy? They rarely coincide. It’s unusual to take the right path and find it’s easy going.

But in choosing the right path, in fighting through the daily struggles and the numerous frustrations, we learn things we wouldn’t have learned otherwise. We learn who God is. We learn who we are. We learn what it means to follow Christ.

For example? I learned how to edit .mobi and .epub files. And that’s valuable because Crosshair Press has two more books coming out after Nameless, and now I know how to fix them up properly. I wouldn’t have know that if I hadn’t made the decision to fix my stupid typos.

So what trouble is facing you today? What decision do you have to make today? Sure, taking the easy road might seem like the best option right now, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be the best option tomorrow. Maybe the right road looks tough and challenging and difficult, and you know what? It probably is. But instead of focusing on how hard it is, think instead about how much stronger you’ll be on the other side.

God has awesome things planned for all of us, and we won’t be ready for them if we chicken out and take the path of least resistance. Brave the right road and get stronger. It won’t be easy, but you won’t be sorry.

Rough road to San Miguel - Peten, Guatemala

The opportunity in a challenge

Life is full of challenges, and, in my experience, we like to tackle a challenge by throwing optimistic clichés at it. Nothing worth having was ever easy to get. It will be worth it in the end. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And so on and so forth.

But rather than regurgitating the same “power of positive thinking” messages over and over again every time something difficult appears in your path, wouldn’t it be more effective to alter your perspective entirely? After all, why does a challenge have to be challenging? What else is a challenge but an opportunity in disguise?

Rough road to San Miguel - Peten, Guatemala

Rough road to San Miguel – Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is James 1:2-4.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

At work yesterday, I found out that my office is going to be majorly restructured — again. My department was part of a major restructure about a year and a half ago. It was a big deal for many people, but my department escaped relatively unscathed. Not this time. And the result is that my boss (who I love) will be staying in one place while the rest of us move to another division.

At first, I tried to think positively. I really don’t like change. I try to like it. I try to accept it, but it’s difficult for me. So when change comes along and I am forced to comply with its wishes, I do my best to look on the bright side. But positive thinking can only get you so far. And that’s the wall I hit yesterday because no matter how positively I think, I can come up with a possible negative scenario for each positive option.

What if our new boss (who hasn’t been selected yet) is uptight and controlling? What if our new boss is a micro-manager and a OCD-ish bully? What if he or she is stingy about vacations and FlexTime? What if we aren’t allowed to take off an hour early for emergencies?

No matter how many positive spins you put on any of those, having a challenging boss could make my professional life very difficult. It could be a challenge. And I could treat it like a challenge. But if I treat it like a challenge, I’m going to be defensive. I’m going to spend all my time scrambling to hold whatever ground I think I already occupy. I’m going to clamp down hard to cling to my rights and my privileges and my this and my that.

But what if I change my mind about what defines a challenge? What if instead of focusing on how I react when it goes wrong, I focus on what opportunities I will have to make a difference? How will that change my attitude? How will that help me grow, not only as an employee but as a believer?

If I look at my professional life with a difficult boss and I treat the situation like an opportunity to make a difference instead of a challenge to be overcome, my entire attitude will change. There won’t be any defensiveness. There won’t be any arguments or scrambling to get out of the kill box. There won’t be a stampede or a rush to gain as much ground and hold on to as much as possible. There will just be meekness and agreeableness and pleasantness.

Isn’t that the way we’re supposed to be anyway?

Now please don’t misunderstand. If you’ve got a boss (or even a coworker) who’s deliberately taking advantage of you, you probably need to say something about it. Or it could be a sign that you’re supposed to move on. But more Christians that I have met are developing an entitlement mentality about their jobs. Yes, as employees we have a right to expect certain things, but I think we take it too far sometimes. A job is a job; your boss is your boss. If you don’t like it, don’t just sit and complain; either change your perspective or quit.

It’s better to change your perspective, honestly. Because if you can learn to change challenge to opportunity in your own mind, there’s not much that will be able to slow you down in every other area of your life. If you can tackle difficulty with true joy, what can Satan throw at you that will stop you? If you can look disappointment square in the eye and try again, knowing that God’s timing is perfect, what can keep you down?

Challenges are a part of life. We have to deal with that. But they don’t have to be challenging. Turn the challenge into an opportunity to grow. And you’ll not only succeed professionally but you’ll learn how to handle the things that really matter in life.