Faith/Spirituality

Today. Today. Today.

Yesterday was July 4th and it was rough for me. Didn’t expect that. Actually, expectations were probably a big part of it. Instead of embracing life on life’s terms and for what it offered at that moment, I found my mind wandering into past neighborhoods where one should really not go alone. I also spent a good amount of energy managing fear and dread about the future; how sad will it be when my two youngest kids go off to college this fall? How sad will it be if they don’t?!?! In these pandemic times, our plans our subject to change on a daily basis.

Trying to predict the future and anticipate how I will feel about it is a taxing and fruitless activity. I am tempted to do it pretty much everyday. But, as our country celebrated (or at least tried, given the strict boundaries of a nation-wide pandemic), I think the bigger emotions I have are coming from a bit of sadness, grief, and longing to celebrate the 4th like I have in the past.

For many many years, our family took a vacation that seemed to fall during the 4th. We were all together by default at places like Disneyland and Williamsburg. The kids had no options other than to hang with their parents and each other. Even though they might have preferred it another way, we all enjoyed it I think and have some good memories because of the forced family time. When we were in town, we had a couple family friends who we would cook out with and then walk to nearby firework show that was down the street from their homes. Over time, kids grew and life brought about events that changed all that.

My expectations for the 4th are based on years of celebrating with friends and family. An all day event where where we bake cakes with red white and blue sprinkles and buy t-shirts from Old Navy that match for family photos (ok-we did that once…) and sit by a pool somewhere and eventually watch and light off fireworks in some parking lot so as not to burn down the neighborhood.

But kids are older and we are in a new life stage with different (but good) friends. I am not discontent about these things, but am just missing and feeling nostalgic about some of the old times. A little like how Christmas might feel to a teenager who remembers the enthusiasm and adrenaline of the season but can’t quite embrace it again, and probably won’t until they have kids of their own. Like there’s an outline of the holiday but it’s not colored-in anymore. Its’ just a faded shape, awaiting new and vibrant life to fill it.

I have been here many times; wishing for what was and worried about what will be. It’s a disease I have that is incurable but manageable if I turn it over to God. It’s better if I do it as soon as I feel it bubbling up inside me, but unfortunately, it usually takes a couple days of rolling around in the muck before I realize what’s happening or before I am willing to loosen my grip and give it to him.

I think it’s ok to be nostalgic and even hurt a little bit for the way things used to be. “That’s perfectly normal”, is what I would tell anyone else expressing these feelings. But the past is not a safe place to live. It robs today, the present, of what could be (as does living in the future, but that’s for a different blog).

Last night, my oldest was in California and my daughter was at a pool party and my son was hanging with some good friends he has knows for years. All good things. We spent time with my parents but as time rolled around for fireworks we were on our own, heading to a friends house to “crash” her party (which had been going on for a couple days!) and watch a fireworks show that their neighbor was putting on.

Ya know what? It was nice. Nice and new. And even though I still miss some of those celebrations of the past, I know God is doing a new thing in me and my family and has provided many new friends and potential future celebrations with people we may not have even met yet. I have said it before, but since we joined a new church and recovery groups, battled Leukemia and started new jobs, our circle of friends and acquaintances that have blessed our lives has grown by 100+. I am definitely not suffering nor do I have any right to claim loneliness unless I choose to.

I love this quote by Marianne Williamson:”The only meaning of anything in our past is that it got us here, and should be honored as such.” In other words, “Stop being a baby, Heather!”. Acknowledging the sweetness of the past is fine, but it’s not a good place to live.

God-Help me to embrace and be grateful for what is in my hand right now. Tomorrow is so uncertain, as we have seen first hand with this pandemic and how it changes our plans daily. Let my past be simply an album of memories-some tender and some terrible-that bring me to who I am and where I am today. Today. Today. Today. Amen.

Anxiety/Worry, Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality, fear, Serenity

My Mini Miracle

I hope I can tell this story-this actual event-with description that, in the end, takes your breath away. I doubt that’s possible, but hopefully God will overwrite my measly words and help you see with eyes that catch the miracle of it all.

But first, before the miracle, I want to confess that I was battling fear, doubt, and honestly, irritation at the circumstances in my life. I didn’t say it out loud, but in my head, I was blaming God for the majority of it. Questioning why things seemed to be piling up like we were being punished for something. There are some major life decisions that we are trying to navigate with finances and kid’s college decisions and timelines, sprinkled with a plethora of minor expenses and frustration to fill in any potential gaps of serenity; my daughter got her first speeding ticket which will require a court visit and supervision, both me and my son had rock chips in our windshields that needed to be addressed, and on top of a few other similar issues, my daughter called me to say that she had lost her car key (her 200 car key because of the fancy keys they make these days) on the bike path where she had just covered approx 2 miles.

This felt like proverbial straw that broke the camels back. She had already walked a bit of bike path but still hadn’t found it and had to go to work. So, since I was going to go for a bike ride later that day, I told her I would just go now and see if I can find the key. There was a pretty good chance it had been run over or knocked into the tall grass that lined both sides of the path.

Let me just give you a few bullet points so as not to bore you any further with the details leading up to the moment of impact, the moment God grabbed my face in His hands to make sure I heard Him.

-Drove home from work (20 minutes)

-Change into my biking attire (about 15 minutes)

-Fill my water bottle, locate my head phones, my helmet and head back in the house a few times to get gum, use the bathroom and break the news to my husband about the lost key (about 10 more minutes)

-Ride to the bike bath (7 minutes)

-Choose between 2 entrances to the bike path, figuring it would be the best one for retracing my daughter’s steps

-Ask God, even though I have been being sort of a brat to Him, to please show me where the key is. Please, Please, Please. Please don’t let me spend the rest of my afternoon pacing the path for a tiny key with not even a keychain on it to make it stand out. Help me find it and find it quickly. Amen.

As I came up out of the wooded path, I stopped to look both ways so as not to be plowed down by another biker. The next events happened in about 20 seconds.

I looked to my right and saw 2 women riding towards me. They were talking to each other so I knew they would hear me (usually I see single riders with headphones turned up so loud it would be a waste of words). As they passed me I yelled out, “Hey! If you see a key on the path let me know!”. I figured it was worth a shot to at least have someone else keeping their eye out for it. They both slammed on their brakes and came to a stop about 20 feet from where I stood. They said, “Yes! We did see a key when we rode by earlier.” Then they pointed to the ground, exactly where they stopped: “And there it is.”

We all shared a twilight zone, God Thing, goose-bumps up your spine moment together.
I mean, just think about how all of that had to line up. It blows my mind, the details of it. If I had come out of the woods even 5 seconds earlier or later, I’d probably still be wandering around out there with a flashlight and a metal detector.

What God was trying to say to me was not lost; “Heather. With my track record of taking care of you, do you really not trust that I see you and hear you? If I care enough to show you straight up where that tiny key is on a 2 mile stretch of road, within seconds of reaching the bike path, don’t you think I am taking care of the bigger, more important and life altering details of your life?”

I came home elated and overwhelmed with how He chose to express this to me. I sometimes need a wake up call. I need God to get my attention like a parent does to a frenzied out-of-control toddler who has had too much sugar but desperately needs a nap. Sometimes you just have to grab em’, hold em’ tight and force them to be still.

Fortunately, even though it’s embarrassing to admit my lack of trust in God’s plan for me and my family and those I love and even our city and state and world, I know that I am not the only one who struggles to remember that he sees and hears and knows what I need better than I ever will. How do I know this? Because Jesus talked about it while he was teaching us what God is like. When he gave instructions to his disciples, he said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31). And earlier he tells them, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or real or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a sing hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:26,27)

A few years ago, and this part of a whole spirit-ordained experience that I will tell you about another time, a waitress/angel at a hotel cafe sang “His eye is on the sparrow” to my husband after plopping herself down and hearing our “story”.

This old gospel song tells of of God’s tender attentiveness to us:

Why should I feel discouraged,/Why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart feel lonely/And long for Heav’n and home?

…Let not your heart be troubled/His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness/I lose my doubts and fears

…Whenever I am tempted,/Whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing,/When hope within me dies..

I sing because I’m happy. I sing because I’m free.
His eye is on the sparrow,/And I know he watches me.
He watches (over) me. He watches (over) you. He sees you. He sees your sadness, your struggle, your doubts, your joys, your longings, your fear, your broken heart. He knows your circumstances and your trials and the decisions you need to make. He feels the oppression and the discrimination and the injustice you have experienced. And he is beside you to lead and guide and comfort and heal. We do not have a God who is calloused or unfamiliar with what we need. We can trust Him to care for us just as he does that tiny sparrow-and much much more.

Anxiety/Worry, awareness, Change, Faith/Spirituality, grace, gratitude

“Go to your rooms!”

When the pandemic first arrived and our government gave us the “stay at home order” suggestion 🙃, my husband’s friend said something like “It’s sort of like God looked down at all of our meanness and fighting and hate and said, ‘That’s enough! Everyone…go to your rooms!”. I am not sure of the soundness of that theology, but it sure feels like it was an order given to not only keep us safe, but on a soul-level, give us time to reflect on what really matters. And some of us did that with a passion. Some people started blogs, businesses and served the heck out of there community. Some spent quality time with kids that they found out were pretty cool and interesting now that they slowed down long enough to notice. Some of us, often me, whined and complained and watched the clock, making plans for all we would do when we were sprung from our confinement. Some became more and more hostile, wound up, angry at the world and the unrest and restrictions. Some were overtaken by their addiction or violence toward those who they were supposed to be keeping safe by quarantining. Some grieved the loss of a senior year, a wedding date, or a graduation with people who had supported their college career. Some felt grateful to finally have a good excuse to take life down a notch and breathe.

I know there are many more reactions to this isolation, but today, we are facing the aftermath. One would think and hope that we would be so grateful to be back to “normal” that we would be skippy and respond kindly to everyone we see. But, as we have experienced, that has not been the case. Riots and raging have picked up practically the day we were “released”.

Things are not as they are supposed to be. In the world. In our state. In our city. In us.

And that is really the problem, isn’t it? We get so wound up about not being able to get our nails done and our hair colored that we perhaps, miss our FGO (friggin’ growth opportunity). I don’t stand here to judge. I drove 4 hours to Missouri to get my hair colored, for pete’s sake! I am just saying that what we learned during that time, what we could have learned, was a priceless gift, even though it stunk at the time.

I am reading (and by reading, I mean, I read the intro this morning) a book by Rob Bell. About a half a page into it I decided it wasn’t something I would keep reading tomorrow, until I got to the other half of the page. He gave what I am trying to say a Poignant Punch. Let me give you a bit of background so it might hit you the same way it hit me

He was summarizing the story of Cain and Abel. You have probably heard of them, the first brothers in the Bible who followed in their parent’s (Adam and Eve) sinful footsteps. Cain was jealous of his brother Abel and murdered him. Cain knew immediately that he would be busted, so he fled. As a result he “went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, East of Eden (I know, you’re thinking, “I too will stop reading this boring history lesson”, but-wait for it….).

Notice, Cain left and went East of Eden.

Rob Bell then points out, “There is a place called Eden, a paradise, a state of being in which everything is in its right place. A place where the favor and peace of God rest on everything.

And Cain is not there. He’s East of there.

It’s not just that he’s East of where the was created to live, but he’s actually settling there, building a city, putting down roots. The land of his wandering has become the location of his home. And then several chapters later, the Bible says that the whole world had one language and a common speech ‘as people moved eastward.’
The writer, or writers,  of Genesis keeps returning to this eastward metaphor, is insisting that something has gone terribly wrong with humanity, and that from the very beginning humans are moving in the wrong direction.”

Now, many of you know I am from California. So this idea of living “east” of where we are meant to live makes me smile (and feel desperate to return to my west coast roots). I grew up all along the west coast; born in Utah, lived in Washington, Montana, Oregon and California. I love my friends and life in Illinois, but I still don’t feel quite settled. Quite home in my skin and in my soul. I am living “east” of where I long to be.

The world is not the same as it was a few months ago. Before COVID. IT’s not the same as it was a few days ago, before the racism and riots. It’s not even the same as it was when I went to bed last night. As I slept, more has happened and more is coming.

What’s a girl to do? What’s any human soul to do?

I think there is really only one good option; Go West! The phrase “Go West young man!” Is a type of spurring. Almost a battle charge for adventure and newness and doing life with a new spirit of awe and wonder. Going West is a metaphor for getting back to your roots, the roots God established in you. The roots that ground you and anchor you and make you feel at home. That you are in the right place and you know it in your core.

This is not a new charge. I am just saying it in a different way than thousands before me have attempted to say it. We can’t change the world unless we ourselves are changed. The reality is that the we can’t just wish for a kinder world. We have to become more kind. We can’t just hope for a more inclusive and gracious community. We ourselves have to become more inclusive and gracious. We can’t just dream about a church/school/workplace that loves everyone always. We ourselves have to love everyone always.

You catch my drift. I have been living too far EAST of where I am supposed to be and where things were meant to be. It’s time to head WEST. It’s always best when we go these kinds of places together. Wanna come with?

Faith/Spirituality

“Well, there you are.”

The other day, In the midst of a pretty good funk, I received a tiny burst of affirmation from a stranger. I was walking at the park with my head phones up full throttle; ya know, the volume level you use when you are trying to pretend you are in a movie or somewhere else besides a park in Illinois surrounded by people wearing masks? A man ran by me and slowed down. He did a backward run and kept talking until I realized he was talking to me. I pulled my headphones out and he said, “Did you write a book?” I told him that yes I did and it was called Soul-Selfie and he could buy it on Amazon, because I just knew he needed all that extra information. 😏 He said, “ya, I thought I recognized you. I’ll check it out!”, and went on his way. I do have to wonder, though, how he saw me from behind and thought, “she looks like that girl who wrote that book I once saw”…maybe my behind looks like I do a lot of sitting and typing? (“That is an author’s butt if I ever saw one!”). Anyway….it was cool and it made my day.

The point was, he recognized me. This experience hit me hard because lately, I certainly I don’t. When I read my own book, I think, who is this girl? She seems to be making gallons, no, troughs, of lemonade with the lemons she has been given. And I have intel that the common reader doesn’t know of! I remember the pain, the heartache the betrayal, the cancer, the fear of the unknown future. The deep down dirt that I never share in blogs. These days, if I am honest, I’d rather use my lemons to make a margarita and pretend the world is happy and free and fun again. My attitude stinks and much of what I used to believe about suffering and God and choosing gratitude feels just out of reach. I really want to be a role model of faith and am embarrassed of my struggle and my lack of trust that, as the sign someone put in my yard says, “everything will be ok”. Everything is and will be different in so many ways that are “not OK” with me. I am having trouble accepting that.

I haven’t written in awhile because frankly, I don’t want anyone to know. Though some of you closer to me have experienced my rantings and expressions of anger and sadness and resentment at the current state of the city, the country and the world. Mostly about how it affects my family and my daughter who is missing all the milestones of her Sr. year in high school. Yes, she and we will recover and be stronger and all that-but these are times that are irretrievable and have been the oasis in the desert of 12 years of waiting. For Seniors, it’s like missing the Promised Land. It’s natural and also stupid and illogical, but God gets the brunt of my blame. Maybe because I feel powerless and I know he is the only one who can change things. Why won’t he just do what I want?

I guess, I know, that my solution is to find myself again if I am to have any peace or joy at all. In the not so distant past, I was in a place of terror and suffering and I chose to do something beautiful with it. I can do that again if I want to.  But how do I fix my “want to”? It’s sort of like eating right and exercising; I want to “be there” but am not that interested in the “getting there” part. It’s a lot of hard work and takes a long time and I am having trouble with the motivation piece.

A sweet story that comes to mind as I am writing this, helps me with at least one part of the solution. Listen for a minute…

A woman was at a crossroads: to continue drinking or get herself to an AA meeting and start the sobriety journey, again. She made a decision. She would stop. Today was the beginning of a new life of freedom from addiction. She was ready, until her phone rang. A friend asked her to go out for a drink and she declined, telling them that she had quit drinking, starting today. They cajoled her, “Ok, that’s great! You can just drink beer.” So she went. As she sat at the bar, being overtaken by and powerless against alcohol, she loudly proclaimed her strong feelings about the worthlessness of AA. Soon, the bearded, burley,  tattooed bartender/biker  (the only kind of angel that God could have sent to her and got her attention) made his way down the row of customers. He politely but intentionally slapped down his sobriety coin right in front of her and gently invited her to look into an AA meeting. The next day, as she lay on the floor feeling defeated and desperate, she heard a quiet voice, that she believes was God, saying, “Get up and go to a meeting. I am whispering this now. Don’t make me yell.” So she did. After the meeting, they circled up for the closing prayer. As she grabbed the hand of the man next to her, she looked up and met eyes with the bartender. And here is where I make my point: He looked down at her and said, “Well, there you are.” She knew this was indeed a new beginning. She responded, “Here I am.”

I love this image so much. We are all “in there somewhere”, but sometimes it’s easier than others to peel back all the outside stuff that keeps us from our center. For me, it’s almost always my circumstances, or not getting what I want when I want it, that prevents me from being content. My friend not only needed to show up internally, she had to show up externally. Some days, the most we can do is get out of bed. At all. But if I want to be more of the person I know I can be, even in challenging times, I have to suit up and show up, even when I don’t see results right away. I have to keep praying even when my prayers feel hollow and insincere, or even, dare I say, offensive and mean. I have to keep reading God’s word and serving God’s people even when I don’t feel like it. I have to trust his timeline even when I doubt his plan and what he allows to happen in this world.

I will continue to do these things not because they are fun or easy or even fulfilling, at first. I am simply willing to continue until the peace and joy comes back. Until I can recognize myself again. Until I can say to myself, “Well, there you are.”

Faith/Spirituality, forgiveness, Recovery, resentment

Resentment Release Day: April 21, 2020

The stubborn resistance in me is palpable. I know that I know that I know that I need to write this down, but my insides are squirming because, well, you’ll see.

I don’t think it has taken me this long to view this situation from this perspective because it wasn’t obvious before now. It took me this long because I was in no way willing to view it in any way that might cause me to release my resentment over what happened. God has been prying it out of my hands for 8 years now, and yesterday, as I sat quarantined on my couch staring at the snow, in April, my weak, clinging fingers gave up their grasp. I gave it up and became open to seeing it from God’s point of view. From a compassionate point of view. From a “we’re all in this together” point of view, like I say when I stamp my autograph and tag line on most any book I sign.

So-Here is the gist. Sorry ahead of time if it sounds like a poorly written 70’s Soap Opera. It will be hard to tell without specifics, but hopefully it is enough to help you see what took me almost a decade. I have mentioned before that there has been a good amount of drama/trauma in my life. It didn’t start with Leukemia. That was just the icing on the cake. And I mean that sincerely. The emotional turmoil that came as a result of my husband’s mental health struggles and prescription pill abuse, as well as the reaction to it by some in our lives, including friends and some in our church, was a type of cancer that almost killed my soul long before it Leukemia threatened to kill my body.The betrayal and loss was all-consuming. I had to work through mounds of hurt, sorrow, anger and even hate all day, everyday, for months. It gradually became less intense, but was still there, lingering, and could be triggered at the very sight of anyone from my “past” life. I lived in constant fear of seeing someone I felt had betrayed me or my family. When I walked in stores and restaurants I would scan the scene for “mean people” to determine if I might need to turn and run. I have, ashamedly, “ran” more times than I can count. If someone forced me to repeat one of those 2 eras, I would choose Leukemia in a heartbeat.

One particularly painful thing that happened was that, seemingly, some of my friends who did not previously seem to have relationship with each other, became close. based on shared anger. At least that’s how I have been choosing to view it. They were not friends, but now (at least this is how I imagined it in my head) they could get together talk trash about my family and bond. Who knows if that is actually the reason, but what I do know is that they stopped talking to me at all. I have been silently and not so silently furious and in softer words, sad and hurt about it ever since. I have clenched my fists and “set my heart like flint” as I squeezed the scrawny neck of this resentment with all the self-righteousness and unforgiveness I could muster. A couple of times my husband has made the mistake of suggesting that for my own mental health and sanity (and quite possibly, his ) I “let it go”…the nerve!

Like I said, God has been wrestling this away from me for years, and the other day, He finally won. I am not saying that I feel led to set up a play date with any of those people, but the revelation (and I am sure you are way ahead of me, but I can be pretty stubborn when I don’t want to do something) was this: Maybe their friendship was not based on a common thread of hate. Maybe, just maybe, it was based on a common thread of suffering.

And that is something I can understand. When I am hurt, I want to walk through it with others who hurt like me.

Maybe they didn’t like each other at all before (I don’t truly know). And maybe they were very different in many other ways. But, their common pain leveled the playing field. That is the entire premise of the “Recovery Community.” In a fellowship I belong to, our closing says, “though you may not like all of us, you’ll love us in a special way, the same way we already love you.” We say that because we are there for one purpose and one purpose only. All other identifiers go out the window at that point. Politics, religion, and personal preferences are set aside so we can help each other work through the same-suffering.

When I had cancer, I became friends with others who had the same kind of cancer. They knew exactly what I was going through. I didn’t have to explain anything to them, because they already knew. I still don’t know what their views are on much else. What I needed at the time was someone to walk through my pain and understand me in a way no one else could. We looked for the places we were the same instead of focusing on our differences.

This new perspective, and my willingness to extend it to people in my past, feels good and bad. I am glad to see it from a less angry and sometimes psycho perspective, but it also feels a little strange. It’s a monster I have been nurturing for a long time. I’ll have to remind myself not to feed it anymore.

I pray that if you are feeding such a creature, that today you can “let it go”, too. Let it out. Remind yourself that we are all wounded in some way, and sometimes we injure others while trying to process and manage our wounds. Let us not take things personal that have nothing to do with us. Maybe choose to extend grace and compassion to someone who you have felt hurt by. Remember that our brokenness binds us together in unique ways. Especially today, remember that.

Faith/Spirituality, Serenity

#alonealone

I think I figured out part of my problem. I have a lot of them, I realize, but something has been extra “off’ about me since the Covid-19 quarantine. At first I thought it was just that I didn’t have a good Quarantine Routine. I don’t like set schedules (because I am a free spirit and also don’t like anyone telling me what to do 😉) but I really need them to function properly. Give my “free spirit” a few days without a schedule and it’s complete mayhem. I can’t get anything done.

But I don’t think that’s it, entirely. We are all quarantined to our homes with our precious, dear, sweet family members. Please keep my love and admiration for them in mind as we enter this upcoming territory. I hear a lot of talk about the isolation of this disease, and I know many people are living alone, so that totally stinks. I am sad for you in a different way if you are experiencing that kind of loneliness. I don’t mean to make light of the other side of this coin. But, many of us are living with a few other Homo sapiens that are always.always.always home. There are other people in my living room where I used to sit and reflect and read and pray without distraction. And since I can’t seem to be still and quiet with someone in the room, I feel compelled to share my deep thoughts out loud with them and then they too are interrupted. I take on the stress of my husband’s job because I can hear him on the phone from anywhere in the house. I am hyper aware of my own work conversations because I know they can hear me too. I can only imagine the not alone-ness that those with small children who need constant attention must feel.

While looking up ambient music with beach background on U Tube ( it’s one way to pretend I am somewhere else than my house! ), the phrase #alonetogether kept scrolling across the screen. Well, that’s a nice thought and all, but at least for a little bit everyday, I need to be #alonealone #alonewithoutinterruption #alonewithgod #alonewithmythoughts. Even if you love having this blessed time to be home everyday all day with whoever those people are for you, we are not wired to never have solitude, a time to refresh, refocus and spend time hearing from God.

In the olden days, like 3 weeks ago, most of us had a tendency to rush from our workouts to work to soccer to church to bed. Our time alone with God and with our own spirits had to be carved out intentionally. That part hasn’t changed, it’s just that now we need to be more creative and open to new ways of doing that. I have been mostly irritated that I can’t do it the way I used to do it and thus have spent very little time spending the kind of time in reflection and prayer and reading necessary for me to be emotionally and mentally healthy, which is less than optimal during a pandemic where fear and uncertainty seem to be pressing in at all times. I need God’s perspective and peace now more than ever. I keep telling God we’ll “catch up soon” and then forget to text or call, like I would an old friend I ran in to at the grocery store.

I know we are not on vacation by any means, but we are on a hiatus from real life, which is kind of the same when it comes to the routine of solitude or study. When I go on vacation, after about a week of self indulgence and constant togetherness and group activities (eating every meal together, sleeping in the same room together, riding in the same car together ) I start getting a little ticky. I know I need to find a way to be alone and read, write, pray or just sit and stare in silence. If I don’t do this, thinks can get ugly. I need get out of my own head and hear from God or read spiritual insights so I can remind myself of how to act like a loving, mature momma and wife.

So, on this here forced Staycation, I am gonna have to figure out a new way of doing things. Luckily, it’s getting warm so outside is now an option. My car is starting to become my new best friend. It’s quiet and offers privacy without risking infection. I don’t love these alternatives, because I really love my little blue couch and coffee table for my feet and my picture window to look out during my usual morning time of solitude. But life is anything but typical right now and I still need that time-out from others to stay spiritually healthy.

Maybe you need it too. Maybe you have been reading this and there is a child wrapped around your leg or resting on your hip. Maybe your partner is sitting across from you so even though you want to cry out to God or just plain cry, you feel self-conscious or embarrassed to do so. Maybe the TV is on all day and your fears are growing by the hour. Maybe, like me, you are starting to blame the people in your home for your inner angst and restlessness when really your soul is starving and out of sorts.

My advice to you….RUN. Not forever. Not far. But for a small and imperative chunk of time. Run to God. Eventually things will go back to “normal”, but for the sake of your sanity and serenity that comes from spending time alone with God and with yourself, figure out how to carve out a time and space where you can be #alonealone. Your family might miss you for a bit, but my hunch is they will be grateful that you have rebooted and recalibrated your spirit, you can come back to them with a calmness and kindness that are just contagious as the Coronavirus.

Anxiety/Worry, Faith/Spirituality, fear, Trust, worry

Quarantined: Ain’t my first rodeo!

Covid-19 is giving me a little PTSD. Being quarantined; it ain’t my first rodeo. There were times while being treated for Leukemia when I was neutropenic (lacking ability to fight off threatening diseases that could kill an immunocompromised person) and couldn’t leave my house. Or, let anyone except my family come in my house. And lest you assume I was too sick to want to leave anyway, you would be wrong. I felt “fine”. I had to remind myself I was very sick and force myself to comply with isolation to avoid potential infection that could make me very not “fine” at all.

Basically, that’s what we are dealing with now, not from an individual disease, but one that threatens the entire world. We feel “fine”. We feel more than fine and can’t stand the limitations. We have to choose to believe what we hear about the chances of infection and act accordingly. I think it’s safe to say that most of us are over getting to work in our pajamas, skip school and are getting slightly concerned that most of the time we have no idea what day of the week it is. We have played every game we own, done the puzzles a few times and have been on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus Benders for days. My family doesn’t even own a puzzle (don’t judge), we had to borrow from a friend. We tried to buy one from Walmart and they were fresh out; my husband suggested that people might be using them for toilet paper😉. My point is, I think most of us thought we would be moving on by now. Our positive outlooks are waning and everyone seems to be bordering on the slightly cranky side.

So what? What do we? How do we not strangle each other (husbands, wives, children who are just so “there” all.the.time.)? Lucky for you, I have done a bit of this before (on a much smaller scale, mind you) so I will share my secret: you have to choose. So far, I haven’t been making the best choice. I have been resistant, angry, and in denial. I am going to sound like a brat, but I sort of told God that this wasn’t fair and that I had done this before and shouldn’t have to do it again. I already served my time.

Me writing this to you is sort of little apology to Him for stomping around. I don’t know how it all works, but I can “hear” Him saying, “I know kid. It’s not fair but at least you know how to do it. You know what it’s like to choose to be better rather than bitter.” He is right. I have made that choice before and I am so glad I did. It turned cancer into a catapult for launching every good change in me and around me. I am always saddened when I see others who have endured great pain and come out the other side mad at the world and everything in it. They made the choice to become a victim of their circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a tough choice to make. It takes supernatural power, in my opinion. You definitely have to be willing to be willing to let God redeem the hard stuff.

The other day I was listening to a Beth Moore session on being happy. I wasn’t listening very carefully, or maybe I was just hungry, because what I heard was that we have to address our “Cinnabon Belief”. I stopped the session and rewound it because I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. It turns out she said something more theologically sound like “sin of unbelief”. I laughed at myself but then thought, “That’s me! I do have Cinnabon Belief: everything needs to be sweet and satisfying for my faith to stay strong and unwavering. When circumstances threaten the delacacies of my life, I too often throw a fit like a child whose mama confiscated (or ate) her Halloween candy.

I am out of quarantine practice. So-I am going back to the basics. I used to get up everyday, sit on my couch, and read from 3 books. Each one had a daily-dated reading and I would read the entry from each. I would reflect and pray and “be” with God. Then I would write. Spoiler alert-I didn’t start writing a blog for you to read, I started it to keep myself sane in my isolation. You can do that too. Write (or type) to God. Write to yourself. Write to your friends or family. Choose to get better rather than bitter.

One big difference that my dear husband pointed out about a week ago while as I was lamenting this quarantine and how poorly I was handling it, was that the first time I was quarantined, everyone came to me. I got cards and calls and people pulled weeds in my yard and mowed my grass and sent me flowers. But now, we are ALL quarantined and maybe instead of just receiving, it was time for me to give back and serve others (big and bold and brave words to a woman you will be trapped in a house with for an undetermined length of time, don’t ya think?!) . After I argued and cried a little, I decided to admit that he might be right. So, I am trying to come up with ways to do that for others. That’s one way I can choose better over bitter.

Maybe you have a choice to make today. Maybe the bitterness has been growing and you are letting the virus win. Maybe you aren’t quite willing to give in and learn how to be a different kind of happy. Start where you are at and ask God to “come get you”  ( https://wordpress.com/post/heathercarterwrites.com/1909 )and that He help you “willing to be willing” to choose better over bitter.

Anxiety/Worry, Change, Faith/Spirituality, fear, worry

“Come get me”

I think I am finally able to write. Since the Coronavirus hit, I have not been able. Not out of any grand preparation for isolation, but for the simple fact that I just had nothing productive to say. I was actually afraid I might do more harm than good if I opened my mouth about how I was feeling. At first, I was in denial. Felt nothing. Then the anger came. The layers of disappointment ( and you can all fill in the many blanks that describe your personal areas of loss/disappointment/and important life events that have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely) were almost more than I could bear. I know they are rich people problems, but they are the ones we have nonetheless. I won’t bother to list mine, because I like to keep my blogs under 1,000 words 😬.
Next came the grief and sadness and feeling sorry for myself. I was crossing my arms stubbornly and ignoring God because who else could I blame? Yesterday, after processing and talking with friends and forcing myself to listen to teachers wiser and more grounded than me, I started to defrost. Now, everything makes me cry…but in a soft and ready to move forward kind of way.

Here are some of the inner conversations and revelations that helped me be able to type even one word. I hope something I say helps you wherever you are at today.

I started to be “willing to willing” to accept the reality of this virus and all it brought with it when I watched a Beth Moore lesson on “Breaking Free.” In a nutshell, she told a story about being in a third world country in a hotel lobby when the lights went out. She could hear chaos and yelling but not in English. Her husband was up in their room. She said she stood still, terrified, not knowing where to go and knew it would do no good to yell since no one could understand her. Then, she heard heavy feet coming down the cement staircase and walking towards her. She could tell it was a man, which scared her even more, and even though she knew no one would understand her, she said, “It’s me. I’m just standing here” (she had no idea what else to say!) . He responded, “Baby, this is your man. You just stand right there and I’ll be there soon.” She just stood there like a little child, held out her arms and wiggled her fingers in the direction of his voice and repeated, “Come get me. Come get me. Come get me.” She said, “And sure enough, he came and got me.” Her point was, that there will be some times in our lives that as much as we believe and after all the places you have been with God, that things will seem dark and you don’t know where He is. You are terrified to even move, the darkness is so all consuming and you can’t even see the hand in front of your face. But, even though you can’t see where He is, HE KNOWS WHERE YOU ARE.

I have been having a hard time getting to God because of my fear, my anger, my sadness. But luckily, God still knows how to get to me when I call for him. I just kept praying, “Come get me. Come get me. Come get me.” And sure enough, he came and got me. Just being willing to ask him to come was enough to melt my heart and let him Him in again. Finally, I am (mildly) open to listening to what he can do in me and through me during this time.

Ya know, I think that’s enough for today. I have several more things to share, but just for today, I think that is enough. Until I asked him to “Come get me”, nothing else could get through to my heart. I’ll give you a day or two to ask him to “Come get” you too. Then we can chat some more. 😘

Faith/Spirituality, fear, freedom

“Napping” Fear

I am not always aware of the fear “napping” in my soul. The other day I was reminded. Let me tell you a story about me that I’d rather not, but know I need to. It’s a “soul-selfie” in it’s most un-doctored form; the kind that makes you look like you just rolled out of bed.

I was having lunch with a friend the other day. Feeling pretty normal and unflustered about life. All was well. As I stood up to leave, a person who have felt very wounded by got in line. She didn’t see me. I had a moment where my stomach flipped over, but she didn’t see me so I wished her well in my head and headed to empty my tray. “That wasn’t so bad”, I thought. “Maybe I am getting better at this forgiveness thing”.  As I turned around, I caught a glimpse of someone joining her, whom was a part of the falling out. She wash heading for the exact area I needed to go to empty my tray. I paused, prayed, and proceeded to walk over, meet her at the door and say, “Hey there. Nice to see you. Hope you and your family are well. Have a great day!”.

Oh wait…that’s what I wish I. would have done. Or at least something in that vein. Instead, what I did do, was ran. I saw her coming and without any pausing or praying, I proceeded to shove my tray into my confused lunch-date’s hands and said, “Please throw this away for me, I gotta go!”, and I fled to my car and locked the doors (for extra protection). I was reacting out of a fearful spirit that I thought I had overcome.

Here are some of my thoughts on fear as I unpacked this event in my head a couple days later; Oh, the crystal clear benefits hindsight.

I have a visual of what fear looks like that helps me see it for what it is. Let’s call it a “he” for the sake of this blog. He is a little imp, devilish and devious, who behaves like a toddler having a tantrum. He is out of control, bigger and stronger than even a grown adult can handle most days, confounding to those around him, exhausting, raging with chaos, all-consuming, exasperating, bulldozing and bratty and mean. When he is like that, I do a lot of praying and meditating and reading and talking to counselors and mentors and friends to get him calmed down. I have been doing that consistently for the past several years. I actually thought I might have have finally given him the big heave-ho.

But then…then something happens and I realize that he wasn’t gone at all, he was just napping on my living room floor. I had been tip-toeing around him so as not to disturb him. Like we do when a child finally wears themselves out and falls asleep in their car seat. Side note-my parents often tell me the story of a time I was inconsolably crying and fussing ( when I was little, not like, yesterday, just to clarify) while traveling ( as I screamed and raged on blankets on the floor of the back seat because that was way before seat belts mattered) When I finally wore myself out enough to fall asleep, they didn’t dare risk waking me up by stopping to change drivers so they made the switch while in motion. Fear is kind of like that. He seems harmless and small while sleeping, but when he gets disrupted, run for the hills. I realized that though I thought he was gone, he was really just taking time out to recuperate. I forgot about Fear,  and when I wasn’t paying good attention, I tripped over him and woke a sleeping giant.

So-how do I deal with this Fear guy? Can I kill Him once and for all so I can stop scanning rooms for people I might need to flee from? Let me say that I have done hundreds of hours of work in an effort to rid myself of Fear, but so far, my best efforts have just lulled him to sleep. What I am finally realizing through much reading, prayer and open-mindedness, is that he is impervious to death but eviction is an strong possibility. As author Beth Moore puts it, I have been focusing more on the strength of my stronghold than the strength of my God. I have left a cushy place for Fear to rest instead of filling my “house” with more considerate and helpful guests like love, Joy, peace, patience, kindness, trust, bravery, forgiveness, compassion, grace, self-control, passion, faithfulness. When those inhabit my spaces, Fear gets squished out. There’s simply no room for him.

I have a few ideas about how to make this shift in my life. I’ll get back to you on those in a few days. For now, I will begin by NOT giving Fear more attention than he deserves. He’s already monopolized this entire blog. Enough of that already. I’ll be in touch soon.
For now:
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about THOSE things. (Philippians 4:8)

Brokenness, Comparision, Faith/Spirituality, freedom, Growth, identity

The comparison trap

I love it when a good blog topic comes together! I always know I am supposed to write about something when I get this kind of affirmation from God. Let me tell you what led up to me sitting on my couch talking out-loud about one of my hugest character defects: Comparison. If you ever struggle with feeling less-than or better-than, you are in good company and I hope you can learn a couple things that might alleviate some of the pain that comes from living with the emotionally detrimental effects of comparing yourself to others.

None of this is a new battle for me, I just have become excruciatingly aware of the damage it has on my serenity through some recent and serious comparison “opportunities”. As a result, while driving 3 hours to Missouri, I finally listened to some CDs a friend gave me about a year ago ( sorry, girl!). There were 6 CDs hammering home “The Power of Vulnerability” by Brene’ Brown, a Shame Researcher. Ya, I know, just some light travel entertainment. She said a lot of poignant junk that I could definitively benefit from, but one particular phrase that stood out was, “comparison kills vulnerability.” According to her, comparison is the number one blocker of real, authentic relationships with others and peace with oneself. I knew immediately this was an area of growth that was gonna involve some retraining and rewiring of my default setting: comparing myself to practically everyone.

This new information had been marinating in my mind for a few days when I had a revelation one morning while jogging on the treadmill next to some “real” runners. Well, that’s what myself told myself. I was running with all my might and felt a little like my heart was going to burst. I was about a stride away from just flying off the back of the treadmill into the people on the rowers-who I am pretty sure were staring at my backside and feeling sorry for me (“bless her heart…she thinks she is a runner:). The people on either side of me were clipping along at a much more rigorous pace and yet they were smiling, talking and hardly sweating or breathing hard. What gives? This is when the slogan I have often quoted to myself but not totally bought into, apparently, came to mind: “Don’t judge your insides by other people’s outsides”. This is exactly how it works; I feel something or know something inside me and determine I am a mess, a failure, a loser, because people around me (in my office, at the gym, at my church, and on the guru of all vulnerability killers, social media) SEEM to be just fine and dandy. They don’t seem to be “huffin’ and puffin’”. Their life looks glamorous, their kids and husband appear successful and kind and amazing. None of my internal reaction to what goes on in my dark, insecure, egocentric, judgmental, embarrassing insides makes me want to share anything with people who I perceive as having it all together based on what they portray on the outside.

The final “sign” to me that this is an area I could stand to do some work on, came when I sat down to write about it. I had piddled around so long that I ran out of time so I decided to just do my daily reading in my Recovery book and revisit this blog another time. I opened to the page for February 13th and just started crying. Here were some of the phrases:

-Comparing myself to others was a defect of character that plagued me all my life.
-I didn’t like myself because I wasn’t living up to what I believed to be true about others.
-I (now) know that my growth can’t be compared with anyone else’s…I have learned that I can’t judge my insides with other people’s outsides. We’re all doing the best we can.

Another reading earlier in February points out that when we live like we are are on a ladder, “everyone above me-to be feared or envied-or below me-to be pitied”, we kill vulnerability. We sacrifice our chance to have authentic, meaningful relationships with others and ourselves. We ante-up or work to protect our secrets and flaws. We can’t relax and just be our whole-hearted selves. We end up lonely and exhausted.

And by we, I mean me. Though I have a hunch I might not be alone in this Comparison trap. In order to get out if it, I plan to change my belief and expectations about who I wish I was and who I am meant to be. I have to own my own story and stand firm in the knowledge that I am exactly who and where God wants me to be today.  I am enough. And so are you.