Monthly Archives: March 2014

Lobster Tails and Apologies

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The smell of sulfuric smoke hit my senses. I ran into the kitchen frantically and gasped. The top element coil in our oven was shooting flames all over the beautiful lobster tails I had just put in it to broil. My courageous husband rushed to the rescue and and retrieved the poor little crustaceans from their fiery doom. I became frustrated after gazing on the pathetic, charred tails and then started apologizing to my brave hero for ruining his main course of supper. He gently replied, “Honey, it’s not your fault. It’s ok. We can still work with this.” He then put the sad looking lobster tails into a sauté pan with some butter and within a couple minutes we were sitting down for supper after all.

I kept saying, “I’m sorry” the rest of the night. This is nothing new. I somehow picked up this strange quirk when I was younger. Whenever I would mess up in even the slightest way, I would quickly apologize to my parents or brother or whomever was around. Yes, I have even been caught saying, “I’m sorry” to inanimate objects. I realized this habit was getting quite out of hand when my brother caught me one day and exclaimed, “Victoria! Did you just apologize to the garbage can for running into it?!”

My father talked to me one afternoon in high school about my increasingly frequent apologies. I remember his wise words: “If you say something over and over, it loses the weight of its intended meaning. If you apologize all the time over little things, how will people be able to believe you when something substantial arises?” Ouch. Good point. I didn’t realize how detrimental two little words could become.

Why was I apologizing all the time? I didn’t really figure it out until the lobster tail incident a couple weeks ago. I finally realized I apologize frequently because I don’t want to disappoint anyone. There. I said it. In other words, I am a perfectionist who wants everyone to be happy. If I feel that I have jeopardized someone’s happiness, I immediately apologize. But this is just the beginning of the issue. What I also realized that fateful night while trying to cook those beautiful lobster tails is that I even feel the need to apologize for things that are completely out of my control. It wasn’t my fault that the oven element burst into flames. I couldn’t have foreseen that malfunction. So why on earth did I feel the need to say I was sorry over and over again?

I used to think I apologized frequently because I cared so much about others and their feelings. That is only part of the truth. The other piece to this puzzle I have finally put together is that I apologize frequently because I am a perfectionist. I have such high standards of myself that I don’t allow myself room to disappoint others. For pete’s sake-I don’t even allow myself room to bump into the garbage can! It’s so ridiculous. This is not ok. Having unachievable standards is detrimental-to me, those around me, and to my relationship with Jesus. It cripples me. I focus on the procedure, rather than the outcome. I hurt people by being more concerned about my performances than about them. I beat myself up again and again by building impossible tasks and goals to achieve. I forget that I am nothing without Christ.

Only Jesus is perfect. Anytime I try to be perfect without relying on His power, I automatically fail before even beginning. So should I stop trying to be holy as He is holy? No. Should I stop apologizing altogether? No. I should ask Jesus what his agenda for my day is before making my own plans. I should be ok with failing multiple times daily. I should apologize on the really important instances where I truly have wronged someone. I should put others first and my pride last.

Thanks, Perfect One, for being patient with me and for loving me despite my many imperfections. Help me to give grace to others and to myself as you have done.

“As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” (Psalm 18:30)

Treasured Feelings

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I just witnessed something beautiful while sitting in a coffee shop downtown. A little girl walked into the shop. Her eyes immediately were drawn to a neon pink Gerber daisy that was resting in a vase on one of the tables. While her mother was ordering, the curious girl quietly went over and gingerly plucked just one petal from the vibrant flower. She then placed the soft petal in her tiny coin purse and pressed the purse to her heart. It was as if she had found the greatest treasure in the world.

I found myself grinning. Why was this small gesture so touching to me today? I then realized the wonder and amazement that this little girl expressed were traits that I used to also feel when I read the Word. I used to jump out of bed in the wee hours of the morning, ready to dive into the Bible and learn. I used to carry that precious Book with me wherever I went. I used to memorize at least one verse a day. I used to.

I then found myself frowning. What happened to my wonder and yearning for Truth? My mind ran through various poor excuses like studying it too much in Bible school, feeling displaced being half-way across the country from my home church, being drained of all energy and motivation to get up early in the morning due to new motherhood, etc. Then I stopped myself. I realized the real heart of the issue wasn’t found in a particular circumstance, but rather, my deceiving feelings.

Feelings are tricky-they morph, flee, return. Feelings warble and cloud our thinking. A wise woman once told me that we need to be careful with putting too much energy and thought into interpreting our feelings because they come and go; they are not stable.

So maybe right now I do not possess the feelings of wonder and amazement that I once had when studying the Bible. It’s ok. They will come again. I don’t need to stress over trying to get those same warm, fuzzy feelings every single day. Those feelings are fun, but they should not be the end goal. Here’s what I can do: I can pray and ask God to give me spiritual yearning again. I can open up the Word and be ok if I don’t find some miraculous nugget of mind-blowing wisdom that day. I can obey.

Thank you, little girl in the coffee shop, for causing me to pause and remember what’s important to treasure.

“It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Going Straight to the Source

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My husband and I were driving home after a date in Portland and the wind on the highway felt like it was trying to tear off our Subaru doors. We looked up at the pine-covered cliffs along the road and saw a waterfall being whipped away into the swirling mist. We had never felt or “seen” such powerful wind before.

The image of that swept-away waterfall really struck me. I don’t know why but I even felt a little sad because the once gushing waters were forced off track and never reached their destination. It reminded me of life. So many outside forces try to divert or push us away from our goals. And often we can’t control circumstances.

So how do we avoid becoming like the swept-away waterfall? The only way for us to push through hardships to reach our God-given goals is to build up our source of strength. If that misty waterfall had a stronger, fuller source at its beginning it could have cascaded down the cliff much further and reached its destination. Sure, some of the water would still be blown off-course but the strength of the originating source would insure its successful arrival at its resting place. The same is true for us.

Maybe you feel like you’ve been completely bombarded by the world and it’s negative influences which have just whipped you off-course. Maybe you just keep pushing and pushing only to realize you still haven’t gotten any further to that peaceful resting place. Go straight to the source-Jesus. Build up your reservoirs over time with Scripture, prayer, encouraging people and words, quiet, rest. Then release the flood gates of your newly found strength in Christ and watch Him guide you past obstacles.

I’m going to start praying before I go to bed and then pray first thing in the morning when I get up so that I can start building up strength again. I’ve been pretty dry lately. So this is a little start, but I take heart in knowing that every small thing we do to build up our inner strength through Christ is another drop in the powerful reservoirs. What are some ways you are going to build up your spiritual strength this week?
~Victoria Taylor
“You bless all who depend on you for their strength. When they reach Dry Valley, springs start flowing, and the autumn rain fills it with pools of water. Your people grow stronger, and you, the God of gods, will be seen.”
(Psalm 84:5a, 6-7)

Freedom from Myself

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To my horror, it finally happened yesterday. The moment that I thought wouldn’t come for many more years. Yes, I found my first gray hair sprouting bold and proud on top of my unsuspecting head yesterday. My first reaction was to do a double-take in the bathroom mirror. I then found myself saying out loud “But, I’m only 26 years old!” I then yanked out the sneaky intruder and went about getting ready for work.

I tell you this embarrassing event to admit something that many of us try to hide-I’m stressed and worn out. I’m talking about the deep, feel-it-in-your-bones exhaustion that comes from repeated emotional, physical, and spiritual battles. In other words-life. I’m not writing this to complain, rather, I am writing this to encourage the rest of you out there who are feeling the exact same way.

It took me a long time to admit that I’m not “superwoman.” I’m not proud of that either. I thought I could work 5-6 days a week while taking care of my new baby boy at work, be a put-together and supportive wife, have a spotless and cozy home, cook every supper from scratch, and still have time to invest in friends and family. Ha! Now that I write it all out it seems hilarious that I ever thought I could do all of this! What was I thinking?

The thing that I am learning currently is that it’s the expectations that we place on our own selves that do the most damage to our spirits. Yes, the people around us and the culture we are a part of have expectations of what our lives should look like. But, in the end, the only expectations that we should be concerned about meeting are those of our Creator, Jesus Christ. I do not have the authority to place crazy unrealistic expectations on myself. My life is not my own; it is the King’s.

When I place heavy expectations on myself, I weigh myself down as if I’m lugging around a huge mountain climbing backpack all day and then I wonder why I feel so exhausted from simple tasks. I’m tired of defeating myself at the beginning of the day before I’ve even gotten out of bed. No more.

I’m writing this to you to stay accountable. From now on when I wake up in the morning I’m going to whisper to Jesus, “Please show me your agenda for today. Then please help me to listen and obey.” This is freedom. It is freedom to not miss out on the unexpected joys and opportunities that God has in store for us. It is freedom to not condemn ourselves when we have failed in our own minds. It is freedom to admit that we are human so that we can step back and watch how the Savior saves us from our worst critics-ourselves.

So from one perfectionist to another, may you and I strive not to live “perfectly” but to live “gracefully.”

“Come to me, all you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest!”
(Matthew 11:28)

“Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.”
(Psalm 51:12)

 

The First Step in the Process

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Wow. It’s really happening! I’m writing a blog! SQUEAL! I am so excited to begin this journey with you! Several people have encouraged me to start a blog and I’m finally diving into it. College, marriage, and motherhood most recently have kept me pretty occupied the last few years but my husband encouraged me to just start writing again. Writing gives me joy. I write because my heart’s desire is to encourage others. Encouragement is the action of giving others support and confidence. It inspires with courage and hope. May you and I be able to inspire each other in the coming days.

I chose the name “Progress by Process” because it encompasses my thinking that living is a steady, onward movement toward a destination by steps taken in order to achieve a particular goal. In other words, we should not grow weary while doing good because the process is just as important (often I think even more important) than the future progress we will see.

This may sound all warm and fuzzy, but you may be thinking: “Um…nobody likes painful processes.” It’s true. Growing and maturing often involve unpleasant feelings, but the progress we achieve toward becoming more and more like the Savior gives us permanent fulfillment that far outweighs temporary discomfort.

My hope is that you and I can encourage each other through Scripture, words, experiences, and prayer. I am so excited to learn alongside you! This is what I will be praying for you this week: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace In your faith, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your life and outlook may be radiant with hope.” (Romans 15:13)
~Victoria Taylor