What Makes All the Difference


It's hard to explain how horrible and awesome this year has been for me. Mostly hard to explain because I'm confused about how I feel about this year in general. It started out terrible. Like, depressed and crying all the time terrible.

A few weeks after The Meltdown, I got fired from my job, which was horrible and awesome. Horrible because being fired is one of the worst feelings ever. You feel worthless and stupid and humiliated and stressed out as crap because yesterday you had income and today you do not. 

Getting fired was also awesome because that job was not a good fit for me, and I was better off being broke and unemployed than being depressed and angry all the time at a job where I did nothing but sit at my desk and count down the minutes until I could leave and go home. Mostly. I mean, I still worked and all, but in the back of my mind I was calculating minutes like a wizard.

So that was February.
Now it's October, nearly November. Eight months went shockingly fast, and to say I have enjoyed more free time than I've had maybe ever is an understatement. No schedule! Pajamas all the time! Trips to the grocery store when no one else is there!

The downside? Our budget took a hit like a cocaine addict, and our house savings fund was growing at the rate of a leaky faucet. (Who's got two thumbs and a thing for metaphors? This girl!)

In the midst of it all, over the past eight months I've learned some amazing lessons about what it really looks like to trust. To have faith. To truly believe that everything will work out in due time.

I was reading a blog the other day, a blog I read regularly and enjoy quite a bit. The author was talking about how scared she is to take a leap of faith into doing freelance work, which I can definitely relate to. 

Then she said this: "I know that everything will work out, and I just need to trust myself and the universe."

That made me pause.

My goal here is not to point fingers at anyone, but when I read that I knew it was a great opportunity for me to share with you something that's made all the difference in my life when it comes to how I view my future. And yes, I'll spoil the suspense right now and tell you it's Jesus, but if you're rolling your eyes at me, just wait.

You see, to me it seems so sad and empty to trust the universe with anything. The huge universe, full of pain and death and billions of people--and somehow the universe just works out? It just all comes back around? Randomly by chance?

It makes all the difference to believe in a creator, a loving God who is watching out for me, who cares about me. Who loves me enough to work it out for my good. To go back to the quote above, it works out different yes, and it's better because that's how he planned it

There isn't time or space here for me to answer all the questions people ask about God. 
-Why would a loving God allow something like the Sandy Hook shootings to happen? 
-Why are Christians such hypocrites? 
-How can you say there's only one way to heaven? 

The list goes on and on, and they're all good questions.
It does seem contradictory to talk about a loving God when there's so much evil in the world. And yes, Christians are hypocritical. I feel sad for those who no longer go to church because they had a bad experience with a particular church or with a group of people who called themselves Christians. I wish that didn't have to happen. I hate everything about it.

Still, I do want to be clear on one thing:

Going to church doesn't make you perfect. It doesn't mean you have all the answers. It doesn't make you better than anyone else or give you an excuse to act like a jerk or "holier than thou." It doesn't mean you can write a hateful slogan on a piece of cardboard or beat people over the head with your Bible. 

It just means you're a sinner saved by grace who has acknowledged that you want Jesus to take control of your life. It means you're working hard, every day, to be more Christlike. It means when you fall, God picks you back up, dusts you off, and forgives you. Seventy times seven.

And it means that through it all he's working it out to be different from what we pictured. Different but better. Call me naive or foolish, but I truly, honestly believe that with all my heart.

And let's just say--for argument's sake--that I'm wrong, that there is no God. Isn't it still more comforting to believe in a creator watching over me and working things out for good than putting my faith in the universe to do that for me?

I think it is. 
It's what makes all the difference.

*I'd love your thoughts on this post, as always. Just remember that the purpose of this was not to get into a theological debate or start name calling. I just wanted to share something I have been thinking about this week. That to say, I know some of you will have a different view on the subject, and you are more than welcome to share it.
Breenah A said...

Thumbs up, A+ post.

The Girl who Loved to Write said...

Words cannot describe how much I love this. You are amazing, friend.

Niken said...

i can totally relate!!!
this year...it's been hard and harsh, good and better for me. i can't quite sum up my feeling for this year in general, though i feel like i've been struggling for as far as i remember this year. i know that God has plan for me that i just can't figure out what yet.

Emily said...

I love this post! I just recently happened upon your blog, and it makes my heart sing to realize that you are a believer! This post was beautifully written, and oh-so-true. Since I gave my life to Christ, I have endured times and troubles that I never imagined I would, and I can't imagine having had to endure them without His assurance. Even in the valleys, I have to remember that His plan is perfect. Always. Even (especially) when I am sometimes inclined to act otherwise.

Jessica Elyse @ Memoirs of a Mommy said...

Amen! He does work it out. Maybe not how we expect, but in His way and it is so so much better. Love you girl!

Alicia | Jaybird: Home in Motion said...

Despite what sounds like a rough start to the year, you have an awesome perspective. As someone who was raised in a pretty liberal Christian church, I'd love to weigh in on the "trust in the universe" comment. I don't know my exact beliefs when it comes to God or Jesus, but I do believe that there is a universal connection among all of us here on earth. When I say that I'm going to trust in the universe, I mean that I trust that people are good, that putting hard work and love into the world will come back to me, and that I just believe in the human spirit. To me, it's easy to have an almost unshakeable faith in that concept, because I've learned time and time again that people are amazing and generous and kind.

Allison said...

I would really love to write a thoughtful and eloquent comment to this post, but I don't even know where to start. Basically, I just want to say, "yes!" And I'm so glad that you have had this comfort and hope throughout this rough year.

Amber Marie said...

I completely can relate to your rough year...this has probably been the roughest of all my 23 years on glthis earth and I'm always working to see the positive, or the lesson, or the strength gained...hence the whole point of my own blog. You have a strong point and I'm glad you are honest and brave to share. Plus your metaphors are absolutely amazing! :)

Saba said...

(every time I want to comment I want a cupcake. You are to blame.)

This is a difficult subject. I completely believe in God. And I also believe in the Universe. I think, for me, ultimately it's the action of trusting something bigger that we don't understand. (I just wrote something and then something clicked so I'm gonna write that instead). Sometimes I ask God one thing but I ask the universe for something else. What I mean is, if I really, really want something, like a job or a grade or something, I put it out to the Universe, I believe in it and attract it to myself, and then I just have faith that it'll all work out. Other times, say I want a new job or I want something for my family, then I ask God for it, and I pray to Him to make it easy to attain if it's right for me, but make it undesirable if it's not right for me. Does that make sense? I think I'm done messing up your comments!



Unknown said...

I have been laid off twice and looking back both of those experiences happened for a reason. At the time, I felt horrible and those were some of the toughest points in my life, but I stayed strong and ended up in the job I've had now for three years and couldn't be happier. You'll get there!!!

Raige Creations said...

It is so wonderful to find comfort in something, and if religion does that for you - then that is great.
Whatever helps you through.
This year has been tough for many I guess, because it was for me too.
I can't wait until it is done, hoping 2014 will finally be better.
I am looking for a job, well needing one, have to write my resume, which I haven't done in forever. It scares me, but we do what we have to.
I look to working hard and the support of my family, they help me through. If some higher power is helping that is great too. But I don't rely on that, I just rely on doing what feels right. Perhaps too simple, perhaps leads to more questions and uncertainty, but going with what feels right is what we all need to do, God or no God.
Here's to a wonderful end of 2013 and onto another year.

BooksandBoardies said...

I am struggling with my faith at the moment so this was an interesting post for me. I do believe that there is a God and I have given my life to Jesus but I struggle daily with trusting him with my life.
Thankyou for sharing your story and I am hoping things continue to improve for you :)

Tracy said...

We are talking about why God allows pain tomorrow at church. No easy answers.

Sarah Pete said...

I love love love love this post.
Really and truly, I do.
You present Truth so gently and earnestly.

I do agree with you--if "the Universe" was the only thing to comfort me in my hard times, I would feel so abandoned and futile. What's the point of the hard things--what on earth do I have to hold on to--if some vast, stellar void is the only thing throwing crap together? This year has been rough for us, as well (what is it with 2013 being so hard on people???), but, in the hardest, I had to hold to the simple, difficult truth that God loves me and has a plan. Even if His plan looks nothing like my own, it's better. Not easier or more fun, but, in the big picture, so much better.

I hope this next year brings you so many joys and new opportunities! Thank you again for honestly sharing your heart! <3

shelleystirs said...

Amanda, thank you for your honesty. I'm doing a Bible study by Priscilla Shirer (as you know), and some thoughts of hers have a lot do with what you've written here.
--"(Your) crisis is not powerful enough to place you out of the reach of God."
--"(Your) crisis does position you for your calling. Everything in your life is either God-arranged or God-allowed."
--"(Your) crisis does not dictate your calling."
I have always clung to Romans 8:28.

Claire@MyDevising said...

Totally agree. It's in the darkest moments when nobody, no amount of money, no thing, no medicine, no nothing could help. And when even the people who love you the most want to help, but can't - what happens then? THAT is when my faith took a turn - when I realized that the only thing I really have is God. He is my only Savior and no person or thing can save me from my circumstances or help me endure them like He can.

Megan said...

First of all, this line really made me giggle: "Who's got two thumbs and a thing for metaphors? This girl!" I love how personable your writing is even when you're addressing a serious topic.

Second, I think you made a lot of excellent points in this post about religion and faith (which I have to say, I don't believe are the same thing, and I think the more that was understood, the less problems people would have with "Christians" and "the church," and the easier it would be to love Jesus!). But I digress. I just wanted to say I agree so much with that last point you made. It reminds me of a quote I heard when I was very young: "It's better to have lived believing there were a God and die to find out there isn't, than to have lived as if there weren't a God and die to find out there is."

Deidre said...

While I don't share the same beliefs as you, I totally respect them and can relate. I too this year got fired in February and have been unemployed since then. It's been...fairly horrible frankly.

So from sharing a similar experience, I'm so glad that you have something that supports your through it. Because that's important.

Lauren said...

We are sinners saved by grace. That's the very simple (and oh so complicated too) truth. Thank you! It's hard for me to put this into words sometimes when faced with comments from people who have been burned in the past or just have strong, sometimes critical views. This is the humbling basis of Christianity.

Deanna Herrmann said...

Really lovely post Amanda. I think you eloquently addresses both sides of the different viewpoints on Christianity. I'm sorry your year has been rough. I truly believe everything happens for a reason and I could have never been able to overcome things in my life without Faith.

Sarah said...

You are amazing. What a great, real, post!

Anonymous said...

I have many more friends who accredit the universe when things go well for them. "Thanks universe!" Sometimes I will say that for me, that means God. Sometimes I don't say anything. Maybe it's my city or the people I've been lucky enough to meet (because of course, they're all super nice) but it seems to be the overwhelming majority. This post was refreshing and honest- I loved it. I have had quite the year, too, and I thank GOD every day for blessing me and for forgiving me! It's great that you could see the awesome in the midst of all the bad... (I'm about to be unemployed, too!) It'll be a wild ride...

Katie said...

Well done, sista! I don't normally call people that and I'm not sure why it came out now:) I loved this and love how you were able to write about Jesus without making non-believers angry. Way to speak the truth in love!

Betty said...

Absolutely beautiful post. This year has been rough for me as well, but I'm choosing to believe that there just has to be much better things in the future for us...thank you for the reminder that God does truly have a plan for us all. Happy weekend to you!

Susannah said...

This is beautiful! Such an amazing reminder of our savior who has everything truly in the palm of His hands. I hope life is going so much better for you now, dear girl!

kristyn said...

I completely agree. Even if we don't have all the answers. I'd much rather believe in someone watching over me.

Tara said...

My life is definitely not how I planned it out, but it truly is better and I wouldn't trade it for anything! God really does take care of us.

Also, your line about hypocrites made me remember this awesome quote from a couple weeks ago. It puts a new perspective on hypocrisy!
"Some might say, 'I know a member of your Church who is a hypocrite. I could never join a church that had someone like him as a member.'

If you define hypocrite as someone who fails to live up perfectly to what he or she believes, then we are all hypocrites. None of us is quite as Christlike as we know we should be. But we earnestly desire to overcome our faults and the tendency to sin. With our heart and soul we yearn to become better with the help of the Atonement of Jesus Christ." (Dieter F. Uchtdorf)

Thanks for sharing your faith and happy Sunday! :)

Anglican Mama said...

It's so amazing that many people don't merely agree with this, they testify to it because they have experienced it in their own life! I have! When I thought my own plans were perfect and it couldn't have worked out any other way--God steps in with a different plan that can seem harder, but it yields results that are millions of times better. :)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful, heartfelt post - the best possible kind.

We can plan and plan and plan, but at the end of the day, we can only make the best decisions we can make with the information available to us. The good, the bad, and the ugly - it's out of our control. Let go and let God.


Holly Olsen said...

Thank you for sharing! Agree agree agree! Jeremiah 29:11 - YES.

Veronica Lee Burns said...

OH SO GOOD! Thank you for writing this! Wonderfully written :)

Tamara said...

Wonderful post Amanda!

This past year I've made a conscious effort to get closer to God (it's actually one of my resolutions!) and that has made me more involved in my church (where the majority of the congregation are 20+ years older than me) and I've felt more peace with personal decisions, financial decisions, life decisoins, whatever this year than I ever had in the past.

I was one of those people who would often ask why does He allow bad things to happen and then just be bitter about it. But you know - one of the glorious things God gives to us is freewill. We have the option, the choices, to choose how we live our life and how we react to whatever is going on. And in those reactions is where we'll find ourselves, who we truly are and what type of people we want to be.

Again, another wonderful post! I've not written about my faith on the blog because it's such a hard topic to talk about without offending someone or getting a backlash but you seem to have done a really good job! I've enjoyed reading all the comments!

Beka @ Sunshine to the Square Inch said...

Thanks for sharing this. The more time goes on the more I realize how awesome Jesus is and how important it is to maintain that relationship. My husband always tells me 'with Christ the best is yet to come' =) Keep that in mind when rough times come.

The Lady Okie said...

Thanks so much for the encouragement! I'm so glad you love your job :)

The Lady Okie said...

Thanks, Melinda :) I guess I've said thanks to the universe too, but I say that more in a general way, not that I actually believe in it like I believe in God, you know?

The Lady Okie said...

Haha! Thanks for the comment, Katie!

The Lady Okie said...

Thanks for sharing, Jen. I love that so many can testify to this truth.

Allison said...

Amen sister! God always has a plan even when we can't see what is going on! He has the eternal perspective. :) Thanks for sharing your heart friend!

Holly said...

Oh my gosh. I love this post more than I can really say. I am in the process of being laid off/starting a new job, but let me tell you that this year was AWFUL. I had so many panic attacks, meltdowns, and I got more sick from stress than I ever have before. I also lost a TON of weight that...ok, maybe I *wanted* to lose it, but not that way....not by not eating every day or forgetting a meal here and there and staying up 24 hours every weekend in June (because that was literally my job). It was stressful. And then my former youth group director passed away. Less than a month later, my grandma passed away, too. It was a sucky sucky sucky year. I decided not to reapply for my job (since we were going through a transformation and we all had to reapply), so therefore I got let go. But there were more times than I can count where it literally hurt to come in to the office, I had to force myself to be nice to people and get work done. It just plain sucked.

But, you're right. God was there with me through it all, and I know He has a plan that I just don't know what it is! I prayed that something would happen, and although I wanted it to happen earlier than now, I'm just very thankful that something is happening at the right time. And I know He will be with me through the rest of my struggles, because Lord knows there *will* be other struggles. He is a mighty God and I love that.

I'm so glad I started following your blog, because of the running motivation, but now that I read this I realize there is SO much more about you that I don't know! I'm gonna be a mini stalker and look back on your posts because I really feel like we have a LOT more in common than just running :) Thank you for this post!!!!

Ali said...

I'm a new follower to your blog, and somehow I missed this post. I'm so glad I came back to read it! It's really encouraging to find a blog where you already have some shared interests, and find out there's even more commonalities than you know.

I have to agree with Megan Stroup in her post above about a difference between faith and religion. I don't have a whole lot of "religion" in my life right now, but definitely a lot of faith. I will say that this year has been pretty good to me, but last year was horrible, anxiety ridden, and just plain scary due to work related issues. I left a high-paying job for a lower paying, lower stress job trusting that God would work things out for myself and my family. The greatest thing about taking that leap of faith? He has worked it out! My current job isn't perfect by any means, but He has provided so much for my family in the past year that I have an abundance to be thankful for.

I also have my best conversations with God when I'm running. A lot of prayer is going on then. Sometimes it's about big issues, and sometime it's just praying for strength to get up this hill and finish my run. So, a bit of rambling here, but thank you for being an inspiring blogger, runner, and Christian!

The Lady Okie said...

Thanks so much for sharing, Holly! I am so sorry you had to go through all of that. You really just can never tell what people are going through, and that's why we need all be nice to everyone, you know? Anyway, I'm so glad you could see God's hand through it all. I don't write about God *too* much on the blog, but I never want someone to be confused about what I believe or where my joy ultimately comes from. I get nervous to post "Christian" stuff online because I don't know how people will react, but ultimately I shouldn't care about that, you know? Anyway, thanks for the comment and for sharing. I hope your new job is exactly what you were looking for!

The Lady Okie said...

Yay! Thanks for the comment. It's always fun to find out you have more in common with someone. I definitely know what you mean about convos with God while running. It's usually while I'm outside, being active that I get overwhelmed with thankfulness for the ability to run. It makes everything not seem quite so stressful :) Glad your job situation has worked out so far! That's awesome to hear.

Betsy said...

I'm super late to this post but I found it because I searched your blog for "meal plan" so I could respond to your comment on my post from yesterday! And even though I'm late I wanted to comment anyway:

Jon's grandmother was very Catholic - in an awesome Scottish whiskey-swigging way, from what I heard - and apparently she used to say that she had the "gift" of faith. She was incredibly lucky because she had it and so she always trusted and never doubted and her life was more comfortable because of that. She didn't proselytize or anything to people who didn't believe but she did feel sorry for them because they didn't have the gift of faith and so life was harder for them without trust and with doubt.

I believe in God but I don't always trust and I do often doubt - yet I absolutely love the way Peggy looked at faith as a gift.