Right Where God Wants Me

I sometimes have an embarrassingly competitive nature. I say sometimes because the competitiveness really only comes out when I think I have some kind of a chance. For example, I’m not competitive when it comes to mini golf… at all. In fact, I’ll be your tee-side entertainment as you experience a whole new level of horrible golfing. On the other hand, get me started in a game of scrabble (or practically any board/card game) and you won’t know what hit you. I don’t really know where this trait came from. I mean, my family and two siblings aren’t and never have been super-competitive, even amongst each other. The only sport any of us have ever played on some sort of competitive team was basketball. It’s also not much of a stretch to say that we weren’t what you would consider the “star players.” But goodness, when I’m in that competitive mode, you can bet your bottom dollar my laser-like focus will be on coming out on top.

I can remember during those two months at Craig Hospital in 2013, my competitive side was certainly present. You see, spinal cord injuries are pretty male dominated. In practically every one of the group classes I was in (especially the physical ones) I was always the only lady in the crew. On those long pushes to the Safe Way grocery store a few blocks away in wheelchair skills class and some of the CrossFit style weightlifting, there was no way this 21-year old female was gonna be in the bottom of the pack.

Sam_PT.png

I think it’s natural to want to win. To succeed. To triumph. To overcome any and every obstacle. To be the first to the finish line that can be so easily envisioned in one’s mind. To want to push forward into the future, looking towards tomorrow, to the week after that, to the month after that, to the year after that.

Preparing for the future is awesome, but it causes me to forget that my present contains many of the moments I was once looking forward to. I’m one of those people who struggles with being content. It’s like I’m constantly seeking more; competing against myself and my situation to achieve even greater things.

I’m in a season of my life right now that I certainly hadn’t imagined. I’m living at home as a woman in my mid 20’s. I’m single after having been engaged and expecting to get married. I’m entering into the slow and arduous application cycle for medical school for the entering class of fall 2017. I’m in a season of transition and waiting. Transition is hard, waiting is even harder.

But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8

It’s really hard to let go, to surrender that fighting and competitive spirit and realize I’m right where God wants me to be. This season, this season of trial, pause, and singleness is an important part of His beautiful plan for my life. I know and need to trust that God is using this time to mold and shape me both as a person and in my faith. Now I will be the first to say that waving the white flag of surrender is anything less than a challenge. I don’t “give-up” easily and when I hear of surrendering, I assume that that is exactly what is going on. Yet, I don’t think that is really the case here.

Surrendering to this season, to these moments, and to this present, I’m able to see some pretty amazing things. When I was in the hospital, I looked forward to the day I could get out of bed without a nurse’s assistance. I dreamed of being able to dress myself without any kind of help. After being discharged, I just wanted to regain my independence as a driver. To be able to go and sit at a coffee shop by myself and not have to call someone for a ride back home.

You know, I’m there now. I’m there and even further beyond.

I’ve never been very good at art so I imagine my pottery skills would leave something to be desired. It sure doesn’t appear to be that way with God. Submitting to Him in any and all times, allowing Him to work His callused and practiced potter hands on this lowly lump of clay sure does yield some remarkable results.

Sometimes there is no need to compete.

Sometimes surrender is the best and most beautiful option.

Guilt or Gratitude?

I entered the McDonald's play land area with my four kids, simply grateful for the chance to catch my breath while enjoying the fact that I was not my girls' “sole entertainment” and that my boys would have new surroundings to explore. I was exhausted – it had been “a week” and things with my toddler twin boys were only getting more difficult. Which at that moment really meant one thing: my life was getting more difficult and my days at home were anything but a break. I scouted out a table as guilt waged war on my mind: guilt about the food I was going to feed my children, guilt over the way I felt about being a mom in that moment, guilt over the way I craved a break.

McD Fried Closeup

And that's when I saw her.

Beautiful, calm, strong. And she smiled in my direction. I smiled back.

I sat down in my brightly colored chair and began to unpack our less-than-nutritional-guilt-inducing lunch. Soon the smiling woman's son came over -- tousled hair, standing much taller and a bit older than most of the other kids present, but no less excited by the concept of time with mom and playing during lunch. It was quite clear that this boy was “different”, perhaps plagued by autism or Asperger's, severe ADD or some other struggle.

Regardless of the label, the boy's wonderment and joy intrigued me. And his mother captivated me. I couldn't deny the fact that I had spent the better part of the week throwing myself a pity party in response to my four active, healthy children. And here this woman was smiling. I couldn't help but feel she needed this “break” more than I did. And then came that oh-too-familiar feeling: guilt.

How could I feel so sorry for myself? How could I look at my children as demanding and exhausting tasks and not as the incredible blessings which they are?

Mel's McD Portrait

But as I began to ponder this situation, these two mothers side-by-side, both with the same goals on mind (their child's happiness and an easy lunch), the gratitude began to cover my guilt. The thankfulness that my struggles stemmed more from the sheer number of my children rather than physical, emotional or mental challenges that any one of them could have had. As a person who often questions and analyzes my own thoughts, I began to wonder: which feeling – the guilt or the gratitude – was right, more appropriate?

If this woman were in my head and knew my thoughts, would she want me to feel guilty or grateful when I looked at her son? Or was she sitting there watching me and silently thanking God that He had only given her one baby at a time? As I sat there eating my cheeseburger, I looked up only to discover an even bigger smile on the boy's face and one of my daughters following closely behind.

“She showed me how to get down the gigantic slide, Mom!” he exclaimed. And Delilah beamed.

McD Quote w Gabe Amantic

Captivating mom and I exchanged glances and smiled. When they walked passed our table to leave a little while later, we nodded at one another and she quietly wished me a good rest of that day. And that's when I realized: maybe it wasn't about feeling grateful or guilty. Maybe it didn't have to be a competition. Maybe it was just about having a comrade – someone next to you in her trench, feeling just as exhausted, overwhelmed and trying to take it a day at a time and trust that God had fully equipped us for the challenges set before us. After all, He had created us specifically for the task at hand.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. ~Ephesians 2:10

Motherhood was never intended to be a competition as to who has it hardest – it's one of life's most challenging experiences no matter how you slice it. But at least we're all in it together.

MelBioEdit

Are you thriving? Got contentment?

Fill in the blank from the following word bank:____________________________________________

new job         married            baby         new car          new phone

new outfit      fewer bills        vacation    promotion      new house ____________________________________________

“When I get (a) _____________, then I will be happy. I won’t need anything else for a while.” We’ve probably all said this…and probably more than once.

What happens? How come the thing we wanted so badly can’t seem to satisfy our needs for very long?

You and I were born to live in perfection; we were originally designed to live in paradise, in the Garden.

This side of heaven…this side of perfection, there will always be a gaping hole that we are longing to fill. Nothing is going to be quite right, no matter how blessed we are.

The only thing that can fill that hole and make us whole is keeping our eye on the ONE thing needful, our Redeemer.

Contentment Bench

Contentment Bench

He gives us the strength to do his work and to find contentment.

Apart from Jesus, there is no contentment.

Looking to “things” for contentment is not the only way we take our eyes off of the prize. Sometimes we spend too much time looking at ourselves and comparing ourselves to others.

“I wish I looked like ___________.” “I wish I could ________ like _________.” God has given us the gifts and abilities we would need for his work.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

Pastor Rick Warren, author of A Purpose Drive Life suggests that, “Some animals run, some hop, some swim, and some fly. Each has a particular role to play, based on the way they were shaped by God.”

Each of his creatures is well equipped for the work He has in mind, and that includes you and me!

What gifts do you have? What comes easy for you? This can be a clue to how you can best serve God by using your gifts and can also lead to being content with your gifts.

Remember when you were in speech class and you were told to act confident until you became confident? The same principle holds true here.

Each day, I encourage you to take time to reflect upon your life and say, "I am content."

Contentment is a primary characteristic of those who are not just surviving, but thriving!

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-12

Rhoda Signature

Rhoda Signature

Dr. Rhoda Wolle is an educational psychologist who serves as the Dean of Student Success and Associate Professor of Education at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, WI. She is an international speaker on the topic of student success and thriving. She also enjoys travel, music, sports, and walks with her dog, Kipper. Her life purpose is to celebrate Jesus and encourage others in using their God-given gifts!