Hi, my name is Whitney, and I’m a backseat driver.
I don’t really know when it happened. As a kid, I relished sitting in the front seat, serving as navigator to my mom or dad on long car rides. Back then I wasn’t concerned with how they were driving or the routes they wanted to take; after all, they were the adults and knew what they were doing, right? I was perfectly content to look out the window for mile markers and exit signs and compare what I saw outside with the atlas on my lap.
But anymore I almost can’t stand riding shotgun. Correction: I almost can’t stand myself riding shotgun. Nowadays it’s rare for me to be someone else’s passenger. I spend at least 10 hours a week in the driver’s seat going to and from work and running errands, and I am the one thinking about how I’m driving and deciding - sometimes last minute - which direction I’m going to go. So when it’s my turn to play passenger (typically to my husband), I can’t seem to fully relinquish control to the driver. My husband is likely too polite to say anything negative about my behavior; considering the number of gasps and *suggested* directions that pass from my lips, I find that quite impressive.
As I’ve been meditating on this, I realized this scenario is a metaphor for my relationship with God. God is of course the driver. In the driver’s seat of my life, he can look in the rearview mirror to see my past, check the side mirrors to see what’s happening in my present, and look forward through the windshield to see what’s up ahead. He’s like my parents were on road trips, handing me an atlas, helping me to notice the road signs placed along my path and setting parameters for my journey. As the front seat passenger, it’s my job to do what I can to assist him, the driver, which means listening to his instructions, trusting his judgement, and communicating with him frequently along the way. Just like I did when I was a kid. However, things start to go awry when I start acting like a backseat driver. I act as if I have the point of view of the driver, but from the passenger seat I can’t see all the he sees no matter how hard I try. Any decisions I make from this perspective are shortsighted. Busy focusing on critiquing, I’m oblivious to the signs he’s placed along the way, miss my exits, and land us on an unnecessary detour.
So I’ve decided to take a lesson from my younger self and sit back and enjoy the ride.
Written by Whitney
2016 has been a challenging year. In my family we experienced loss on both sides, first with the passing of my grandfather in March, and then with the sudden passing of my father-in-law in November.
I'm no stranger to death - I lost both my grandmothers while still in my teens, - but this year it was different. Now that I'm older, I feel each loss in new and varied ways. One positive difference is that I'm now a Christian and have hope that I will see my loved ones again one day.
I admit, though, it was hard to get in the spirit as Christmas grew closer; I can't remember a Christmas when my heart was so heavy. This past Wednesday I attended a service at First Methodist Katy specifically for people like me and my family who are grieving during the holidays. The service was a blessing in itself, but what resonated with me most was this verse from the Gospel of John:
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:5)
Though this year has been full of shadows, I'm still here, and I still see the light. Praise God, and merry Christmas!
Written by Whitney
This fridge broke me.
The past month has been a challenging one for my family. At the beginning of November I was involved in a car accident, and a week and a half later my father-in-law passed away suddenly. I like to think we've been weathering this stormy season relatively well, but then Friday night our refridgerator stopped working.
In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor inconvenience, I know, and as apartment dwellers, we get to let our apartment complex handle this, which is a blessing in itself. But as we were throwing out food that mere hours before had been perfectly good, the seed of frustration bloomed into anger. As I sit waiting for the repair men to come investigate and get us cool again, I can still feel the grey cloud hanging over my head. With everything that has been going on, this was just one thing too many for me to attempt to handle on my own, and it made so clear to me my desperate need for God.
So today I'm claiming David's prayer from Psalm 51 as my own:
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
Written by Whitney
Throughout September, our contributors are sharing their thoughts on the fruits of the Spirit.
I can’t remember ever not struggling with my weight.
Back in elementary school, I struggled with depression, though I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time. I overate and became overweight. That resulted in teasing, which led to more overeating. I’m sure you can guess the end result.
Throughout the years I’ve (mostly) gotten a handle on my eating habits. I prefer fresh fruit to sugary desserts and enjoy my daily salad, but it seems like every so often I find myself back at square one feeling just like I did as a child.
My fitbook is my accountability partner, and it’s only effective if I’m honest. In tracking my diet and exercise in my fitbook there have been some expected results: I’ve lost a couple of pounds, have more energy, and sleep more soundly. But what I didn’t expect was how this process has helped me spiritually.
I’ve come to a new understanding about the importance of self-discipline. It’s hard work, involving commitment, a lot of sacrifice, and the redefining of priorities - none of which excites a lot of people. Being self-seeking has to be better, right? I mean, you’re free to do what you want, when you want. But can you feel accomplished if you don’t set any goals for yourself? If you don’t hold yourself to any kind of standard? Now I’m starting to see why self-discipline is a fruit of the Spirit.
Written by Whitney
This post continues part 2 of our 3-part series based on Matthew 22:36-40:
I didn’t initially sign up to write a post about my best advice. I didn’t think I had much to say that hadn’t already been said on talk shows, published in women’s magazines, or plastered on a poster.
But then my grandpa died. Not exactly suddenly. Maybe not even all that unexpectedly. But he died. One day he was fussing, trying to get out of the hospital; the next he barely opened his eyes. He was my last grandparent, the one I’d spent the most time with and the one I felt a kind of soul kinship with. Visiting him while I was away at college, we’d pass time watching TV and dunking Oreos in peanut butter. They weren’t particularly eventful visits, but they were special nonetheless. There wasn’t a need for many words with us–we just seemed to get each other.
- Go to the Library Travel the world. Travel through time. Try on different careers. Look at the world through a different set of eyes. Laugh. Cry. Think.
- Take Walks Unchain yourself from those daily to-dos. Go outside and walk among God’s creation. Feel the warmth of the sunshine and the coolness of a gentle breeze. Listen to the birds sing and the insects whir. Explore new places. Experience familiar places in a new way. Turn off the mental chatter. Log off the social network. Talk to God.
- Plant a Garden Feel dirt between your fingers. Learn the names of plants. Develop a relationship with the earth. Grow something. Learn that growth is a process, and then apply that to your own life: don’t expect a seed to sprout overnight; remember there’s a lot going on you can’t see; give your attention to what needs it; and rejoice at signs of growth.
- Spend Time With Your Family Put down your smartphone. Give them your full attention. Notice how their faces change when they smile. Note when they twiddle their thumbs or twirl their hair. Appreciate them for who they are. Play. Laugh. Give hugs. Say “I love you.”
This is how my husband tends to introduce me to his friends and co-workers. I have to admit, it makes me smile every time, though I feel wholly unworthy of this distinction.
See, I knew even before I officially met him that my husband was a special guy. I remember seeing him - Sunday after Sunday - seated next to his grandmother in a front pew and being amazed. I mean, how many twentysomethings do you see at church, let alone at church with their grandmothers?
I’m all the more amazed that in the 3+ years since I first laid eyes on the back of this man’s head he’s continued to exemplify biblical love (1 Corinthians 13:4-13).
Biblical love is patient. I know I must at times be difficult to be around, especially when I allow a bad mood to hijack my personality. But rather than run or hide from this abrasive version of me, my husband draws close. "What’s wrong?" "Is there anything I can do?"
Biblical love is kind. When I get home from work, I kick my shoes off at the door, scatter the (literal and figurative) baggage of the day throughout the apartment - purse on the floor, coat on the couch, lunch bag on the kitchen counter - and, though I’m certain my doing so drives him crazy, my husband asks me about my day while putting my dirty lunch dishes in the sink and quietly returning my lunch bag to its home on the top of the fridge.
Biblical love is not self-seeking. Any opportunity he has - and you’d be amazed by how many each day offers - my husband defers to me and my preferences. "What do you want to watch on TV?" "Where would you like to eat?"
It is without a doubt a great blessing to be on the receiving end of such a love, but I am doubly blessed because in receiving such a love I desire to reciprocate and extend that love to others.
As I’ve gotten older, my wish list has changed from desired items to needed items and is now essentially non-existent. Working in retail during the holidays played a big role in this. Watching customers fight over things and argue with salespeople and other customers over things sure left a bad taste in my mouth. That’s not the Christmas I want to celebrate.
After becoming a Christian, I saw a new side to Christmas that I had previously missed. For me, it’s become more about responding to God’s Christmas gift to us - Jesus - by sharing that gift of love and hope with others. My favorite way to do this has been by packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.
First of all, I love the challenge! Initially packing a shoebox seems limiting - there are so many things I’d love to send but literally can’t because they won’t fit -, but once you start getting creative, it’s amazing to see how much can actually fit in a single box. The fellowship is another big draw for me. This year I asked family, friends, and co-workers to help me pack 20 boxes. With all of the donations and monetary contributions, a group of us ended up packing 25 boxes! The joy was contagious in my apartment that morning as we worked to get those shoeboxes ready. But what I love most of all is imagining the excitement these children will feel when they receive their shoebox. For many, it will be their first present, the first time they feel loved and like they matter. And what thing from a Christmas list could be better than that?
In the church, we call this time of year Advent. It’s a time where we anticipate something very different than deals and markdowns. We look forward to a brighter day and a greater future. We await a gift far better than anything Best Buy or Amazon can offer.
So what if during the season of Advent we stopped thinking about material gifts we want to receive and focused on using our God-given gifts to bless others? In this blog series, our contributors will explore just that. Stay tuned.
The 12:12 Project is sponsored by Katy First United Methodist Church.
Book Of Mark
Favorite Bible Verses
Fruits Of The Spirit
Gratitude & Generosity
Love In Action
Series On Matthew 22:36 40
Walking By Faith