Eyeball to Eyeball-Thanking God for a Collision

So, I learned how to drive in Chicago.

Cue horror movie music.

I like to think that this helps me better to be able to drive in a multitude of chaotic conditions (lets be real), however, I do at times get a bit careless. There was an instance a couple years back, however, where I could not attribute what happened to carelessness. I was backing out of my parking spot in the lot behind my apartment building at the time to meet a friend for coffee, and feel a thump. Oh boy. That never tends to be a good sound. As I looked behind me, there was an enormous black SUV-looking car (confession: I have zero car model knowledge) that had become slightly attached to my back bumper. What! As we both stepped out of our vehicles (thankfully unharmed, neither of us were going very fast), we quickly came to the realization of the “flukeiness” of the situation: we had both backed out of our parking spots at the same time (which were across from one another) without realizing it. We could easily place the blame on both of us, as this was such a random occurrence (seriously, you would have to TRY to do what we did).

Side note: I was actually surprised how calm I remained during the situation, and didn’t let anger overtake me. Typically, I tend to respond in a MUCH different, more intense manner. It did help that the damage was minimal to either one of us, and that no one was harmed. But what shook me more than the actual impact itself was the fact that I had never met this neighbor before this point of  literally “running into each other”.

At that time, I had lived in that complex for over 2 years, so I had typically come across many tenants of our large complex. But what stunned me was that it took my neighbor and I literally ramming our cars into each other to have a conversation.

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I feel like sometimes I get caught up very much in my own little world: what I have to do, what I don’t have enough of, what there isn’t enough time to do, and the list goes on and on and on. I tend to have a running monologue in my head of lists, obligations, and reminders (let’s all fess up to this, ladies). This sinful side of me creeps in far too often than I’d prefer it to. How easy it is to get encompassed in our own walk of life that we fail to look out at those walking this earthly life with us.

I’ve learned that at times, I am protective with my time to a fault, always claiming there is never enough of it. But if I’m living in a way where I didn’t even allow myself the time and opportunity to get to know those living literally within spitting distance of me, something’s gotta give. Maybe you find yourselves in similar situations, feeling as if there is absolutely NO time to even explore people around you that you don’t have to work with on a day-to-day basis. It took a minor accident for me to slow down and give a person God loves some of my time.

As I came home later that night a couple years back, the gentlemen who was my neighbor and his friend were in the lot that I was pulling into. When I got out of my car, they kindly came over to me and asked if everything with my car was okay. Instead of giving a short answer and scurrying inside to get into my comfy pants and finish the load of paperwork I had for the next day, something pulled me to again slow down and look eyeball to eyeball with another one of God’s invested creations. As the conversation shifted from what we do to the apartment complex ongoings, we learned about each other that we both love to worship and praise God. As we exchanged information about where we went to church, God nudged me into an important lesson that evening.

When we don’t take the time to look around and become “less of ourselves”, we miss out on the opportunities to build connections in Christ with others, and therefore, miss out on the opportunity to aid in building his kingdom here. This hit close to home for me, as a HUGE battle I have been fighting lately (an honestly, for quite some time) is the balance of sustainability and margin in my life. Pastor and speaker Andy Stanley (LOVE) gives a wonderful sermon series on “breathing room”, and creating healthy margin in various areas of life in order to keep at the center what matters the most. Andy states the importance of “ex-squeezing” yourself in order to allow for instances like impromptu conversations, intentional donations, and a prayerful relationship with God. When we don’t allow for “breathing room” to take in the world around us, and invest in the people around us, we are setting ourselves up for a very unfulfilling existence.

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My husband and I do not want to be living in a community where we don’t know the names of our neighbors. We have been challenging ourselves to make intentional neighbor connections in our community (having a dog always helps with this!), and are trying to make plans to follow up with a few individuals we have made connections with. Everyone wants to belong to something: give someone the blessing of “going second” through taking some initiative in that :).

How can you create a bit of “breathing room” this week in order to connect with the world around you?  It doesn’t necessarily take a car crash (bless), but it looks like I needed a bit of a wake-up call that day. It could mean stopping over to bring that new neighbor moving in a hot dish. It could mean skipping your favorite TV show in order to take a walk and smile at the passer-bys. It could mean making that phone call to say “thank you” to a loved one, just because.

 

Let’s look outside of ourselves today. Let’s keep each other accountable in this.

Stay tuned,

-AF

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What Will I Wear: Not Your Typical Clothing Post

Hello my adventure-seeking, coffee-drinking folk! (Haha, you knew that last part was going to wind up in here somehow!)

Sometimes I listen to podcasts. Sometimes I don’t. Simple as that. As I was leaving my Weight Watchers meeting this morning (holla!), I was thinking back to one of the podcasts that have stood out in my mind, and in which I’ve gotten constant reminders through lately. I had listened to one of Andy Stanley’s podcast series (LOVE. Download the app “Yourmove” and be amazed). The series I had engaged in at that time was entitled “Follow”-talking about being deliberate in your personal relationship with Christ. I was a little disappointed in the title of the episode in the series that I’m referencing: “Follow Wear”. Um, hello? Typo? Are we really going to talk about how to dress appropriately for the next 30 minutes? Sigh.

But then, once Andy had roped us in, he planted such a cool thought in my mind and heart that I simply just had to share with you.

When we think about wearing something, we think about it covering our body (hopefully most of it!) and truly embodying what we are wearing, almost to the point that it becomes part of us, and becomes what people may notice about us as we begin to approach them.

But have we ever thought about “wearing” or “putting on” a virtue?

Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people (can we just pause for a second and take that in? Chosen people! God chose you and me!), holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” –Col. 3:12-15

 Seriously guys, I was so inspired by this that I could go on about this all day, but I will try to keep it manageable to read.

“Putting on” or “clothing yourself” with these virtues is not simply being aware of what this looks like, but truly choosing and embodying these elements of loving others, ourselves, and Christ. I just wanna break this down for ya’ll (and for my own reflection!):

  • Compassion: giving off that you feel what the other person is feeling, engaging in empathy regardless of the fact that they didn’t make a good choice, didn’t listen to you the first 8 times, no matter.
  • Kindness: loaning your strength to someone else. WOAH! You extend of yourself to do something someone else needs. Doing something you didn’t have to do through loaning your capacity.
  • Humility: When in relationship to other people, seeing yourself as you really are in relationship to others and to God. Exuding that truth that God loves you truly as much as all his children, and that we are not above anyone.
  • Gentleness: the decision (decision!) to respond to someone in light of their strengths and weakness rather than coming to someone with your strength. Adjusting our approach in accordance to who we are trying to reach. Gentle people don’t maintain relationships in a position of “how great they are” or “what they’ve done”. They gear down to the level of the person in order to communicate that the relationship is more important than exuding your own capacity. This involves no leverage of our own or condescension, but rather truly valuing the other person’s abilities above our own.
  • Patience: deciding (again!) to go the speed of another person. Putting someone else’s pace ahead of your own.

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Paul states “ this is how I want you to be known”! And above all else, put on love as an umbrella that truly ties all these virtues together, the common denominator of all these approaches. We have to truly make a decision to put these on and embody these each and every day through the strength of Christ. Every day we have to remind ourselves to put these on, because Jesus wants people to identify us as his followers by the way we treat other people.

I think about all the times that God has put on these virtues for me: patience in the amount of times I have broken my promises to him, forgiveness when I truly didn’t deserve it, the list goes on and on. Paul is explaining that God desires us, when in relationship with others, to put on these virtues just as he has done or us. Now, that’s a tall order. But when I think about these virtues in this light and how Christ has done this again and again for me, it creates so much more urgency to extend in this same manner.

Same as I decide each morning what I will wear for the day (wouldn’t life be oh-so-awesome if we could just live in yoga pants?), I also need to deliberately and intentionally choose to put on these virtues each day. I already know in my heart I will fail so many times. But that’s when God’s grace steps in, where he covers me with love and abundance through the promise of his sanctification. As well as providing me with Christ-loving sisters to keep me in check 😉

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How have you put these virtues on today? I would love to hear and find inspiration in you all.

 

Stay tuned,

-AF