Presently minded

I’m so eager for a new chapter. For what’s next. For something fresh. I’m sick of the now. I’m tired of my every day. I’m eagerly desiring change. For years now, I’ve felt like I’m on the cusp of what’s next, but I can’t seem to break through to my next season. But what would it look like if I stopped trying to get to what’s next and just live in what’s now? I’m tired of my same old story, but it’s my story. It’s the only one I get. What would it look like if I were to lean into the now? What does it mean for me to celebrate my current season instead of trying to power through to the next season? Am I missing out on now by hoping for the future? What can I do to be present in my current chapter? Would it look a lot like gratitude? Would it look like being appreciative of the things I look around and see everyday? When I look up, what do I see? How can I choose to enjoy those things that are right in front of me? 

Would it look like making the most of each moment I have? Like making adventures out of the mundane? I used to be a lot better at that. Get lost? No biggie, it’s just the scenic route. Going somewhere boring? I was the queen of making adventures out of the mundane. And I hope someday I’ll get to teach that to my kids. But until I have kids, what would it look like to enjoy my current moment? To appreciate the sweet feeling of my dog sleeping on my feet? Or to enjoy the beautiful setting I drive through everyday?

 What would it look like if I stopped using “now” as a means for “next”? Would I appreciate things for what they are instead of hoping they could be a springboard for something else? Would it look like contentment? Would it look like rest? Would it look like joy? Maybe I would learn to actually be in each experience. Maybe I would develop a different kind of appreciation for the things I have and the moments I face. 

I clearly don’t have any of the answers. But I’m trying to lean into the present right now. Trying to live each moment for what it is, not what I wish it could be or what I think it may lead to. 

Autumn Chasers

I’m a summer baby. I was born in July, I live for summer. Beach days, pool parties, never ending sunshine, warm nights with bonfire in the air. This is what I live for. I hate the cold. I despise the rain. This love of summer is part of my identity.

But what happens when a summer baby starts to yearn for fall? What happens when the sunshine stops thrilling me and I actually crave the cold?

Autumn? Really? As much as Southern Californians love our pumpkin spice season, we are constantly disappointed by the days of Santa Ana winds bringing heat waves well into November. We don’t really get to experience the changing of the seasons here. So why do we get so excited for it? October 1st, Instagram feeds are filled with photos of leaves changing, coffee cups steaming, and the exhortation to “welcome fall”! But why are we so excited to see all the plants die? What is so mesmerizing about a cold wind coming through and knocking all the beautiful leaves off the trees as they start to dry up and die?

If you think about the metaphors of the season, summer is when things are at their liveliest, fall is when they start to lose luster, winter is dead, and spring brings the promise of new life. Even in the  metaphors, summer wins. No wonder I love the summer!! And spring is another hopeful season, bringing new life, things that were dead coming back to life. But autumn? That’s when things are starting to die. What is to celebrate about the beginning of the end?

I spent this past weekend up in Big Bear. It was a crisp 60 degrees and the trees were in various stages of demise. Gorgeous red, orange, and yellow leaves fluttered slowly to the ground and I have to admit, I was caught up in the magic. I spent quite some time driving up and down the streets, marveling at the colorful decay, dreaming about what life would be like to have these kinds of trees lining the street where I live. I was amazed by autumn. Astounded that God found it so fit to let thing change slowly, to allow us time to adjust. He doesn’t take us from the life and joy of summer immediately into the frozen tundra of winter. He gives us a beautiful transition.

The cover photo I found for this blog says “autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go”.  As I sit here trying to understand why fall has such a magical influence over us, I’m realizing that it must be because we all desire change. We love when things are wonderful and sunny, but we need to let go of things in order to allow for new life to come around. And as much as I want to fight it, nothing lasts forever. Everything has an expiration date, and with that I have to learn how to let go of things in order to allow new things into my life. Right now I CRAVE change. I DEEPLY LONG FOR change. I am so ready for the next chapter of my life. But for some reason, I’m feeling stuck. I’m feeling as though that next chapter is still pages away, even though this chapter’s story has gone stale. And as I pray and seek, as I’m asking and begging God to let me turn the pages faster, to let me start something new, I’m realizing that I need to let some things go. And they’re deeper issues than I realized. Lies that I’ve believed for years. Things I’ve allowed to influence my choices without even realizing it. So as much as I want to end this current chapter of my life to move on to the next, there’s still story to be told in this chapter. I have to let go of some things and relearn other things to set the stage for the next chapter. More than anything, I want the next chapter to be beautiful. To be successful. To be anointed. But you don’t get to just skip pages to get to the next chapter. You can miss the most important part of the story that way. So my prayer now is to set the stage. To let go in this season, to allow this transition into the harsh cold of winter to set the stage for the beauty and new life that’s surely to come in spring. (Okay, I hope you’re all catching that I’m speaking metaphorically about seasons now. I don’t expect my life changes to actually correspond with the changing of the seasons. Although that would be nice!) And I hope and pray that I can willingly allow God to set the stage for the next. Because Lord knows, I’m ready!

I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T do you know what that means?

Don’t lie. You just sang the next few lines of the song “She got her own house, she got her own car, two jobs, work hard, you a bad broad!” Single women everywhere throw their hands up and sing this anthem proudly whenever it comes on the radio (or in the clubs, back in the day). I can relate. This is my anthem. I’m a strong, independent woman! I can do it myself. In fact, I do just about everything myself. Proudly.

I’ve been thinking quite a lot lately about what it actually means to be this independent woman I’ve worked so hard to become. And I’m realizing, it’s not as great as I thought. Independent is defined as not requiring or relying on something else (by Merriam Webster). Urban Dictionary defines it as the only way to be these days. Basically, I do me. I don’t need anyone for anything, but rather, I am able to do all things on my own. This makes my ego scream “oh yea! I CAN do everything on my own! I DON’T need anyone for anything!!”. But my spirit is starting to whisper “Are you sure that’s what you want? Are you sure that’s the best way to be?”

Full disclosure. This past month has been hard. And when a strong, independent woman says things have been hard, you’d better believe that things are HARD. Because usually, I would never admit to not having everything under control. I would never admit to needing help. I would never be able to ask someone to help carry my burdens, because an independent person doesn’t rely on anyone else. But deep in my spirit, I’ve been hearing the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit starting to teach me something new. To realign my intention with the will of God. In the past 4 weeks, I hosted two baby showers, produced a 500 person corporate event, immediately followed by another corporate party the next night, then coordinated a wedding. All while working a full time job and desperately attempting to have a social life — because I know that as work picks up in the next few weeks, my free time will diminish even more. I started to feel like I was drowning, like I just couldn’t keep up with all the responsibility I had taken on. But the independence I pride myself on would not allow me to back out of anything, ask for help, or admit that it was too much for me. I have a tendency to over commit myself, because I can’t admit that I am not superwoman. I refuse to let anyone know that I get tired, and that sometimes, I need someone to help me. I found myself crying out to God, asking Him to be my strength because I didn’t have any strength left on my own.

That’s an interesting idea, huh? To have God be your strength. I had to really ask what that meant. Growing up in church, I knew it was the right thing to say… that it was the right thing to pray. But I had no clue what that meant in action. I had no idea HOW to let God be my strength. Here’s what I learned. I learned that in order for God to be my strength, I had to realize that I actually have no strength of my own. That my very being is sustained by the Almighty God. And the pride I’ve taken in my independence has only caused me to forget my complete dependence on God. And who am I? Did I breathe and give life to humankind? Did I speak and stars appear? No! I am but a lowly human, dependent on the Creator of the universe to put breath in my lungs and to cause my heart to keep beating. I finally understand that verse in Psalms 144:3 “Lord, what is man that you take knowledge of him?” In light of who He is, who am I? And how could I possible be so arrogant to think that “I do me”? As I started to realize my lowliness before the Almighty God, I noticed a change in my attitude. Although I still felt exceedingly overwhelmed, I found myself thanking God for keeping my heart beating, for giving me another day of life, for providing me opportunities to do what I love. I stopped feeling overwhelmed by my busyness and started realizing that the One who pumps the blood through my veins every second is right here next to me. He loves me so deeply that He is willing to walk next to me through the storms I’ve created myself. He helps me carry my burdens. Which is a really big deal for me. I am on the extreme end of independence. I would rather carry a heavy box and struggle than to allow someone to take it out of my hands to carry it for me. “I got it” is a very common phrase in my vocabulary. But I don’t “got it”. I’m struggling. I can’t do everything, as much as I want to let people believe that to be true. And God is the One who wants to help me through. How loving a Father He is! How gracious! He doesn’t tell me that I created my own disaster and now I should figure my way out of it. Instead, He takes the heavy box out of my hands. I just have to be willing to let go.

Sometimes, the storm isn’t one we’ve created ourselves. Sometimes, things just are hard. This life is hard. There are things that suck, things that make us feel like we’re drowning. But God, in His grace and mercy, steps in and walks with us through the storm. He reaches out to take our burdens. That’s the story of the cross. It’s Jesus reminding us of how deeply He loves us. He took the burden of sin and the weight of punishment off of us, and now walks with us through this tough life. And our response should be one of humility and gratitude. Always, at all times. It’s to take a posture of humility before the Almighty God and thank Him for every blessing He lavishes on us. Because let me tell you a secret. When we are focused on God and thanking Him for all that He’s given us, we start to forget about the storm. We lose sight of our problems when our eyes are on Him. Just like Peter in the boat. As long as his eyes were on Jesus, the storm wasn’t so scary. It wasn’t until he took his eyes off Jesus that he became overwhelmed by the storm. So, let’s keep our eyes on Jesus. Let’s remember that He’s the one who sustains us. He’s the one who carries our burdens. He is everything. And He loves us. Deeply, unconditionally, irrevocably, passionately! Can you imagine this love? A love worth taking on the punishment of sin for the entire world. A love beyond comprehension.

My lesson from this past month is that as independent as I think I am, I am completely and wholly dependent on God. Without Him,.I can do nothing. And I need to start asking for help. I am not weak by saying I’m overwhelmed. But rather, it redirects my focus from myself and my circumstances to Jesus and His majesty. Which is where my focus should be. Because I need Him in order to do me.

 

Cosmic Genie in a Bottle Syndrome

Lessons learned are never fun. Learning a lesson is often painful, heartbreaking, rough. It involves the shattering of your perceived paradigm and letting God rebuild it to match His perfect perspective. It means letting go of what you believe and accepting that there’s a better option. Most of the time, you’re asked to let go of what you have in your hand without knowing if something better is going to replace it. Learning a lesson is never fun.

Fortunately, I have the most patient, loving, gentle teacher there is. My Jesus. He lovingly holds my hand as he shows me that there are better ways than those I’ve chosen. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make it fun to have my worldview shattered.

This blog is for Christians, especially Christians who have been following Jesus for quite some time. If you don’t believe in God, if you think Christianity is dumb, please, keep your opinion to yourself. But if you know Jesus, read on and see if God has something to say to you.

Christians. Christ followers. Like Jesus. That’s what we’re supposed to be. And although we make mistakes, although we are far from perfect, we are to emulate Jesus in everything. EVERYTHING. Even in obeying and lending favor to the will of the Father. What exactly does that mean? Seems simple enough. We say “God, let your will be done”. We quote, “never the less, not my will, but Your’s be done”. We echo Jesus’ words in the garden, but do we actually mean them? I’ve found that most of the time, in my life, when I echo that phrase in my prayers, what I actually mean is “God, this is what I really want, and I’ll wait a little while longer until you’re ready to give me what I want”. I’m really good at consoling other Christians by perspective taking on their lives, seeing that God is at work, and reminding them that His will is so much better than our own. But when it comes to my own life, I find myself very disappointed when God doesn’t answer my prayers the way I expect Him to. Can you relate? I even think I can justify my requests, my prayers, by spinning my intentions into something I think that God would approve. Ie: God, I would love to get a raise, so that I can give more back to You // Jesus, please open up this opportunity so that I can do some kind of good for you. But in those requests, I’m telling God how I think it should be, giving Him MY will, not opening up my mind to be willing to move according to HIS will. Here’s my favorite one: God, I’m sacrificing something I want to do, so You’d better bless me for it! Like He’s some kind of cosmic genie that is only around to reward me for good behavior or grant my wishes. (Please tell me you know what I’m talking about!) And it’s not always for selfish reasons. Sometimes we really do have genuine intentions, but we still expect God to reward our good behavior. Example: You make the right choices, according to the rules God has given us. You’ve saved your sexuality for marriage. You’ve been honest, even when it’s cost you. You’ve given your time and money to those who are less fortunate than you. And you expect blessing. You expect God to give you an easier life, to replace what you’ve given away, to move you up the ranks quickly. But would you still love Him if he doesn’t? Would you still give, even if He never replaces what you give away? Would you still wait, even if there’s no promise that He’ll give you what you’re waiting for? Would you still be honest, even if it meant you lost everything?

That’s what it means to let  God’s will be done. It means that even if He doesn’t give you what you ask for, you’re still going to follow Him. Even if that promotion never comes, you’ll still honor God in your work. Even if the answer is no, you’re still going to trust that He’s got the whole story written. And trust that His way is better. This is the lesson I’m learning now. I’ve heard myself say things like “well, God BETTER bless me for this sacrifice!” But if we look at Jesus as our example, as we ought to, we see that He never said “Well God, I better have a really nice crown waiting for me in heaven after this whole crucifixion ordeal is over”. His words were “Never the less, not my will but Yours be done”. He was willing to endure all the pain, all the suffering, all the excommunication (which is a bigger deal than we give credit to) for the love of following the Father. Because He understood something we don’t — God’s will is not about us. It’s not about our wish list being fulfilled as we earn merit points by being a good Christian. It’s about God’s plan to save the world. It’s about God’s desire to redeem creation and to draw all back into relationship with Him. Following His will means that we care more about seeing God save the world than we do about God granting our wishes.

Yes, it’s okay to have desires. I desire to have a husband and a family. Those are good things. And to be completely honest, I’m having a very hard time right now understanding why I don’t have those things. Why I’m (nearly) the last of all my friends who is still single. Grappling with the notion that my role in God’s plan to save the world may not involve me having a partner in life or kids. It’s not easy. I catch myself crying out to God, asking why I have to give up on these dreams, yet so many of my friends never had to even entertain the idea of not being married, or being parents.

But it’s part of me learning to live for God’s will, not my own. It’s about remembering that it’s all about Jesus, not all about Stacy. That’s what it means to have Jesus at the center of everything. Words that are so easy to sing in a worship song with beautiful harmonies, but nearly impossible to live. It means letting my own plans go (if you know me, you know this is asking way too much of me) in order to open up my heart and mind enough for God to use me to accomplish His plans. This is a really tough lesson I’m learning. I know I have a lot to learn still, and I’m nowhere near having learned this lesson. But it’s all part of the journey. And hopefully, as I continue on this journey, I’ll be a willing vessel for God to use.

10 Year Plans — Where does the time (and my memory) go??

When I was 20 years old, I wrote up a 10 year plan. Things I wanted to be sure I did before I turned 30. I stopped aging at 24, so I still have 6 years to complete everything on this plan. 🙂 And as much as I’ve searched, I cannot find my list of things I wanted to accomplish before I turned the dreaded 3-0. Sigh. Technology has failed me. I’ve searched the Google, tried to access a deactivated MySpace account, searched through old email accounts, and even pulled up my old external hard drive. No luck.

Here is the list of things I can remember of my ambitious 20 year old plan:

  • buy a car
  • buy a house
  • have a kick-ass career
  • spend a few years living in NYC

Maybe those are the things I remember because those are the most important ones to me. Who knows. If you’ve known me for 10 years and remember more of the points on my 10 year plan, please kindly remind me! If you’ve known me for 10 years, you know my memory is no good.

Of that list, I’ve done most of them! Well, it’s a short list but I think I’ve remembered the most important ones right? I may not have bought a house, but I’m living in an awesome apartment that I love, and am currently (casually) looking around at houses, possibly to buy in the next year. I’ve bought a few cars in the past 10 years. My career is not what I thought it would be when I was a young 20 year old, but I’m far more successful than I ever thought I’d be, and I really love my job. And, I’m able to work on some other projects that are more of what I’d love to do on the side right now. I have worked hard to get where I’m at, and I’m grateful! Which brings me to NYC. Sigh. My heart literally yearns to live in the Big Apple. Every time I see a photo of the city, or hear of someone I know going to visit, something stirs in my soul. I’ve been lucky enough to visit about 4 times in the past two years, and each time I have to leave, I leave a little piece of my heart behind. I realize that my NYC is a vacation NYC, with no agenda, no hustle, no stress. But, sigh. I think I’m a New Yorker born in LA. One day, I will live there. Or I’ll just keep running away to NYC on vacation.

But since magically, 10 years have passed (even though I haven’t aged 10 years), I thought it was time to reassess and make a new 10 year plan. Why not give God something to work on for me, huh? 🙂 Here are a few things I’m going to work towards as this next decade flies by:

  • find my “ride or die” person / be someone’s ride or die (blog about the ride or die to come … got something in the works)
  • live in NYC for a few years (still on there! I’m not giving up on the dream!)
  • get married and start a family; and in doing so, keep my family from abandoning me to North Carolina
  • start a new tradition of annual reunions of my girlfriends; every 4 years is not nearly enough, ladies!
  • travel more – there are so many places I’ve yet to explore!

So there it is. Published to the internet forever. Hopefully I won’t have this same issue again when I’m 40, and decide it’s time to look at my accomplishments and set some new goals. Heaven help me! Who knows how much worse my memory will be 10 years from now??!! So there’s that. A new 10 year plan. Yeesh, I’m getting old.

Confessions of a Secret Grammar Nazi

I like words. It’s true. I probably should have been an English major.

There is always a better way to structure a sentence, to phrase a thought, or to pose a question. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t profess to have an authority on the English language, nor do I always make the right choices when speaking or writing. But goodness, I certainly judge everyone else by their spelling and grammar!!

grammarnazi

Confession. I hate scrolling through Facebook’s news feed because many people just do not know how to put together a sentence. Words are misspelled, grammar is forgotten, and the thoughts are either incomplete or running rampant. Here’s the confession: I silently correct your Facebook status updates. I’ve worked very hard to fight the urge to do the *correction comment. But don’t think that I just let it go by. Nope. I correct it, if only for my own peace of mine.

I also hate scrolling through Pinterest at times because even the MEMES are misspelled! How is that possible? Do people just ignore the little red line under their misspelled words? And ignore the little green line when a sentence just doesn’t make sense? Technology has made it so easy for those of you who are spelling, punctuation, and grammar challenged. Nearly every text application has an automatic spell-check. If you are arrogant enough to turn that off, then you ought not be writing!

Confession: I reserve special and harsher silent judgement to those who ought to know better AKA anyone with a degree in higher education. Particularly post graduate education. When I silently correct your grammar and spelling, there’s a sarcastic monologue under my breath. You ought to know better. You know this if I’ve ever corrected you when you’re speaking to me.

Confession: I hate made up words. Turnt is not a word. Neither is irregardless. Or texting. These are not real words. My brother and I got into quite a heated discussion last weekend when discussing words that people use in everyday conversation, but are not actually words. (Luke, when you read this, keep your commentary to yourself. We’ve agreed to disagree!) Just because you understand the meaning in context of the conversation does not mean that it is correct!! Kids these days (wow, I just aged myself) make up so many words — they sound ridiculous! I don’t know that I could carry a conversation with a teenager. I might just lose my mind.

Confession: I get excited when I expand my vocabulary. I also get excited when other make creative choices in their vocabulary. I audibly praised my general manager in a meeting a few weeks ago because he made the most impressive word choice. I didn’t mean to but I was so excited, it just tumbled out of my mouth. I’m such a nerd!

So the moral of the story is that I expect perfection from all of you in your verbosity. And when you don’t deliver, just know that I am silently judging and correcting you. But in love. Hehe!

identity crisis

Don’t lose who you are in the blur of the stars
Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing,
It’s okay not to be okay…
Sometimes it’s hard to follow your heart.
Tears don’t mean you’re losing, everybody’s bruising,
Just be true to who you are

But the question remains, who am I? What defines me? For many years, I sincerely thought that I was defined by what I accomplished. I think that most people would agree. I built a successful career, so I’m the boss. I’ve maintained friendships, so I’m an awesome friend. I am a graduate. I’m a dancer. I’m a musician. Then I thought that who I am can’t only be what I’ve accomplished, so I added in the adjectives required to make my accomplishments happen. Driven. Strong. Relentless. Independent. Busy.

Those are all admirable qualities. In fact, I respect all those qualities in myself and in others. I am proud to say I’ve done all those things. I have a great biography. But the problem with finding my identity in my accomplishments is that there is always something I HAVEN’T accomplished. I am not married, so I’m NOT a wife. I haven’t birthed any children, so I’m NOT a mom. I live in Long Beach, so I’m NOT a New Yorker. I have a kick ass apartment, so I’m NOT a homeowner. There are many things I lack, and if I am the sum of my accomplishments, then I’m never enough. I’ll always be found wanting.

When I was in high school, there was a worship band out of my church called “Jedidiah”, which I believe translates into “loved by God”. At least that’s what they said. 🙂 I loved this band, partly because I had a major crush on one (or more) of the members of the band. That, and they were really good musicians who brought you straight into the presence of God. I always loved that tagline, loved by God. I used to toy around with the idea of getting that as a tattoo, but in Spanish. (Because according to me, everything sounds better in Spanish) Loved by God. Amada por Dios.

That’s when I realized that while my accomplishments are worthy and good, they are not who I am. I, Stacy Joy (Ann) Kobzeff, am loved by God. That’s who I am. That’s how I am defined. That changes everything! If my identity is found in the one who loves me, then my identity will never change. I am chosen, called, desired, loved by the Creator of the universe, the One who holds it all together. So if I lose my job, it’s okay! I am not just an ambitious career woman! I am loved by the God who created everything! If I disappoint my friends, it’s not the end of me! Because God, who created us for relationship, loves me deeply enough to help repair what I’ve broken. When I make dumb choices that I should be smarter than, the Giver of Knowledge gently reminds me that He loves me so much that He’s already forgiven me by going to the cross.

He is the source of who I am. Which means when I feel like I’m not good enough, I remember that I AM LOVED. And not loved by a husband who will disappoint me, not by family and friends who will let me down. But by the only one who knows the deepest parts of my soul, and yet still calls me his own. That love, love worth dying for, in turn gives me confidence. Because if the only one who matters loves me, it doesn’t matter if I’m the prettiest girl in the room, or the best singer on the team, or the highest earner in the office. All my insecurities fade away when I realize the depth of love God pours out on me. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I’m unstoppable. I have the Lord God Almighty endorsing me, telling all creation that he chose me! That I’m the one he loves! How freeing this is!

If only we all could understand this. It would change the world. Friends, remember who you are. You are not what you’ve accomplished, or even what you are striving to accomplish. You are so much more than that. You are loved by God.