Today is the first day of the rest of my life…this, and after a day filled with  wonderful birthday wishes and compliments, I started to feel like I should be doing more to earn the love and respect of my friends and family.  Something about being told you are a good person makes you feel like you should try harder.  Or at least, that’s the impact it had on me.  Not that I don’t try already; but I know that I can always come up higher and there are so many areas in my life where I need to see improvement.  Of those, however; how many of them will serve to improve more than just me?  With that in mind, I have decided that every day for the next year I will attempt to post my intentions for living a God-centered life right here on the Leading the Follower blog.  Daily blogging is no easy task, but I feel that I need to journal my activities in this way to make a point.  God is not something we fit into our day.  We should be thankful for every minute that He is allowing us to seek Him.  We should look for every opportunity to glorify Him and lift Him up to others as the wonderful God that He is.  If we aren’t doing this, we should take a look at our lives and see just exactly who or what it is that we are lifting up to others.  Are we more proud of our own achievements, of our own children, spouses, significant others, possessions, etc. than we are of our relationship with our Creator? 

I had occasion yesterday to take a very long drive by myself.  These things usually make me quite anxious as I enjoy being around people as much as possible.  I guess I unnerve myself at times.  But as it turns out, I really needed this time to be alone with my God and to talk to Him, sing to Him, and just think about all of the ways that He has changed me.  Years ago, I drove the same route that I took yesterday and it was always very anxiety-provoking for me.  My driving time was spent worrying and thinking about all of the awful things that could happen while I was driving or things that could happen to others in my life while I was getting further and further away from them on my trip.  It was an awful time in my life and the main reason for that was because I had no connection with God.  I failed to put Him first, second, third, fifty-seventh, anywhere.  He just was not important to me and for that, I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed that I was not smart enough to see how clearly He was moving on my behalf.  I’m ashamed that it didn’t occur to me to stop and thank Him or even to acknowledge Him for all of the blessings I was experiencing in my life.  Instead, I focused on what I didn’t have or on what I feared would happen if I lost everything.  What would that say about me?  What would people think?

Oddly, He guided me through all of it and even showed me where I needed to lay things down and walk away from them.  To others, what I was doing didn’t make sense.  How do you walk away from a well-paying job and opt for poverty?  How do you turn away from having everything thing you want and call it a good thing?  How do you turn your back on years of commitment and say it’s best for everyone involved?  There is really no answer that makes sense unless you are following God’s leading.  What looks like a benefit to the world, is really a detriment to the Spirit.  Making money and amassing wealth just didn’t do it for me.  All it did was reinforce a deep-seated fear that if I ever decided to take care of myself, everything I thought I loved would disappear.  But the key word here is “thought.”  I only thought these things were important.  In reality, none of what I was doing really mattered because it had no center in God.  It had no purpose but to perpetuate its own agendas.  And round and round it went, serving itself and no other.  Not even me. 

For several years, I have effectively kept myself out of harm’s way by opting to work in a lower paying field and live a decidedly less extravagent lifestyle than what I was living.  Somewhere between poverty and material wealth, I found God.  He was waiting for me to see the difference.  What I once thought was wealth was poverty of the worst kind.  And what I once believed to be poverty, is actually a state of wealth that far exceeds any amount of money that I could hold in my hand or in my bank account.  It cannot be contained and once it fills you, even when you spill it out to others, your supply is not depleted.  You are always overflowing and it is more valuable than anything in this world.  God’s love requires no other investment than your belief, acknowledgement and faith in Him.  You need not put in a certain amount of hours to earn it.  You need not go to college to attain it.  You need not wear a suit to attract it.  All you have to do is ask for it.  

The drive ended up being a true testimony to the peace that He has brought back into my life.  Instead of wondering if I could reach my family in time should there be an emergency, I rested comfortably in the knowledge that He is in control.  I didn’t worry.  I didn’t think about how much I hated being alone.  I didn’t think about how much I hate driving in crazy traffic.  I did panic a little when I went over the big bridge on 71, but I think that’s just one of those things that I’ll be working on for a while.  It is a very high, very long bridge and I simply hate very high, very long bridges.  Instead of hating where I was, however; I enjoyed listening to a cd and talking to God about how different everything looked to me now that I had reconciled with Him.  It’s amazing just how bright the sky can be when you see His light. 

And so, for today, step one on this year-long journey is to reach out and make others aware of what God has changed in me.  He has taken what once was broken and ashamed and put the pieces back together to form something whole.  And although there may be a few cracks in the pot, it is still beautiful, useful, and worthy.  He has given me beauty for ashes and I am finally ready to be good to myself.  It has taken years for me to get to this place and though I still have some struggles, I know without a doubt that He is with me and that He will never leave me.  Now that I have shared this with you, what will I actually do with this knowledge?  God willing, I’ll tell you tomorrow.   

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