Friday, May 29, 2009

Give. Pray. Fast.

Vale and worth. Value and worth. It's like I'm Yukon Sam (The dude in the Rudolph clay-mation movie)...I might as well sing it to the tune of "Silver and Gold" because it seems to be always on my mind...always up in my blogs. It's like cruel irony for someone whose name means "treasure" (that'd be me). Yup.

So, this one, I can't say this blog travels far from the well-beaten path...but perhaps a different perspective on a familiar theme. "Give. Pray. Fast." is the title of one of the chapters in the book I've been reading, "Starving Jesus". The book is about...living your faith, doing what you've been called to do. The chapter talked about giving, praying, and fasting as some starting points...to grow closer to God and to live out your call. It really got me thinking because...only a few days before I read this chapter, I had been really bemoaning my own seeming lack of value and worth...how I was superfluous because I wasn't DOING anything. At present, my days are generally filled with studying for the NCLEX, filling out job applications, doing a workout, drinking coffee, reading my news feeds, and writing emails. The end. It's really not exciting, and it makes me feel isolated and occasionally frustrated. I mean, I'm unfortunately still waiting to get notification from the state board of nursing that I am allowed to sign up for a testing date...you know, so I can actually take the boards that I'm studying for. And I get kind of down and kind of frustrated sometimes because of the number of rejection letters I've received regarding the RN positions I've applied for. I know it's the economy, but I can't help but feel like it's personal sometimes. It's hard to not know what's next in that sense...I just want to help people...After my last interview, I had a new sense of purpose and passion. I want to show people they have value, that they are important, cared for, and loved. That's what I want my nursing career to be all about. Sometimes, that passion wanes as I get bogged down by the fact that I don't have a job...no one has hired me to care for the people in their facility, yet. And until the other day, my workout had seemed to be doing nothing for my BMI. Needless to say, last week found me discouraged (and lonely, as I don't have much in the way of friends...or support here in Pella).

At first, I thought I was just stressed by the circumstances...then as I was venting to my boyfriend on the phone, it started to dawn on me that I was feeling worthless because I wasn't DOING anything. He replied that my value isn't in what I do, that my value is in how I am, how God made me to be. While I know that's true, I was still super frustrated because...it felt like the faith and works deal...you know, how works should flow out of your faith, your faith isn't supposed to be kept to yourself. I felt that way about my value/who I am...what's the point of it if I'm not doing anything with it. *sigh* That's when I read "Give. Pray. Fast." I really to thinking about all three of those words/actions. Do I do them? Give has always made a lot of sense to me. I mean, giving of money, time, possessions...I can do that, no problem...serving others? sure! Sharing what I got? Hard to do at times, but I totally get the importance and strive to actually do it most of the time. Pray has always been a bit harder. Like, there are days where I totally understand the importance of prayer and make it a point to make it a part of my day, days when I pray for my friends and my patients...but there are way more days that I honestly don't even think to pray, don't want to lift it up, don't think it's worth lifting up, selfishly keep the control of all of it to myself...While I have seen prayer do awesome things and have felt called to pray for a specific person at a specific time and responded...more often than not, I don't. I just don't. Now, fast, of course is a goat of a different color in my world. Self-discipline, I can do...I've given up candy for years at a time, pop for years at a time...I struggled with anorexia on and off for years. Self-denial, I have done to a sickening extreme. However, fasting, like denying oneself to draw closer to God, to better serve others in faith, because God called me to do so? Nope. Not once, really. I've done the Lenten disciplines, I've done 30 hour famines, but were they ever really fasts? No. The intent, the attitude, the mind-set were always wrong. It was always about doing it 'cause I knew I could, 'cause I'd look strong, 'cause I knew my friend couldn't, 'cause it'd make me more physically attractive, more pious...because I struggled with self-worth to such an extreme that I thought I had to do it to be loved and loveable...because I wanted to be in control of what I did and did not do...So, nope...not a fast. I don't think I'll be fasting anytime soon, either...Fasting from food has proven too scary for me up until this point. Skipping one meal seems to always cause me to feel a sense of power and a desire for more emptiness...it's a temptation to return to that anorexic way of living and all that entails. I was checking out an anorexia-recovery site for Christians one day that recommended to recovering anorexics that perhaps it would be best if they fasted from something other than food...and that they be aware of where they're at and what will be too much for them...I think my current stance is that I won't fast from anything until I feel called to do so and until I can do so with the correct mind-set.

Alright, so it seems like I'm babbling, right? I know, right. Point is...I felt challenged by the chapter and comforted at the same time. So, I've been frustrated 'cause I felt like I don't have a lot to give...with the lack of income, lack of job, lack of connections in town...The chapter made me feel challenged to give more when I'm able...and to give as much of myself, my love, my time to others as I can...I then thought about fasting and the intent and the attitude and feeling challenged to grow to a point where that can be possible. And ultimately, I felt called to grow in prayer. I want my life to be grounded in prayer. Mother Teresa said once, "We have to learn to pray the work. To do it with Jesus, for Jesus, to Jesus -- that makes us 24 hours with Him." I love that...the book talked about prayer being part of your life like breathing...granted that takes time to work up to, but...it's so beautiful to cultivate a relationship with God where you speak with Him throughout your day, lift everything up to Him, listen for Him...I want that...I want to grow in that. And if I grow with God, I will not only be able to serve better, but I will be able to grow in my understanding of who I am, who God is, and what that all means.

The book also mentioned something about living your life in such a way that it would be positive for a child to emulate your life (not that it's perfect, but that they would be able to see your love for God and his faithful love for you reflected in the way you live your life). I want that, too. It made me think of one of the youth pastors that shaped my life when I was in high school. Watching him and his wife together, I learned so much about relationships, love founded in Christ, supporting each other in ministry, etc. I dream of having that type of life...and that type of life with my husband. Such a life will take growth...and I feel like growing in faith and in daily prayer...is what God is calling me to do right now...in this time when I feel like I'm not DOING anything. A vision to match this call to be more intentional about prayer has begun to develop. You can trust that I'll share it when I understand it a bit better.