Interference!

Bright and early this morning I dropped my daughter off at the airport after being home for a month. She goes to college in California (a mere 1,641 miles from her momma!) and is heading back to do a summer internship. I am most definitely not sitting on my couch trying not to cry. 🙂

I have several things I have been meaning to write about but, as I mentioned, my daughter has been home so I have been slightly distracted (the best kind of distracted!). But one mark of my writing, is that I try my best to write in the messy. Instead of waiting until I have struggled, taken steps to get “better” and then share, I make it a point to write about what I am going through as I am going through it. Hindsight is helpful but is something I have used in my past to prevent you from knowing what I am battling today.

So, today, I am just letting you know that A) I am super sad my daughter has left, and B) I am acutely aware that I struggle with being an interfering parent.

Come to think of it, being an interfering person in general has been something I have to repent of regularly. Let me explain.

When my kids were very little, I read a book called Getting Out of Your Kid’s Faces and Into Their Hearts, by Valerie Bell. The title is pretty self-explanatory and I remember giving this book to every parent who remotely expressed that they had questions about parenting. But there was a key theme to it that I could never quite wrap my head around at the time. She warned repeatedly about being what she calls an “interfering parent”. Of course I argued with her, “Isn’t most of my job as a parent to run interference? Aren’t I here to protect them and keep them from harming themselves or each other?”

It never really clicked with me until I got older and learned a few things the hard way.

I realized that even though yes, much of my “job” as a parent was to protect my kids, I often got in God’s way (translate: interfered) by inserting my plan for my kids over His plan for my kids.

And I still do it.

While my daughter was home, I had to refrain, and succeeded some of the time, from trying to fix, manage, control, sway, or steer my daughter in the direction I thought she should go. And just the other day, I managed to be “intrusively helpful” to my adult son in the same fashion. I can’t speak for what he was thinking about my helpfulness, but I can tell you that he did not utter the words, “thank you, dear sweet and wise mother, for your sound advice and insights.” I was involving myself and my opinions where I was not invited.

I am now more aware of how often, with my kids but occasionally with my friends, co-workers, husband, etc. I interfere. I forget to “live and let live” as a 12-Step slogan suggests. I try to do God’s job and forget that He has graciously given me permission to take the day off from trying to control, judge, manage or mind other people’s business.

When I fall into this behavior, it is usually disguised as love and concern, but can be a very subtle form of manipulation or wanting people to cooperate with my ideas for how they should live. Even though I see myself as just a concerned mom, friend, or wife, it often backfires and the person on the other side feels disrespected, unloved and unaccepted for who they are.

As parents, and as I have pointed out, as mere humans, we often “don’t know how to show affection or support without giving advice, seeking to sway another’s decisions, or trying to get those we love to do what we think will bring them happiness. We confuse caring with controlling because we don’t know how to allow others the dignity of being themselves.” I love that quote so much. I have it memorized actually. Doesn’t mean I always do it, but it is something I do my best to come back to when I feel the overwhelming urge to insert my unsolicited opinion.

If I forget the “live” part of “live and let live”, I am especially susceptible to relapse of my tendency to play God. And have you noticed that it is exhausting to try to be God when you’re not? My job is to live my life and let you live yours. Whether you are my friend or partner or child or parent or pastor or spouse.

I can’t let my sympathy for you get in the way of letting God take you to your “bottom” so He can pull you up and give you the life He has outlined just for you. I need to stop interfering with His plan and again, as I keep reminding myself, take a soul-selfie and focus on my own common plagues of the heart that I battle.

As much as I am sure God appreciates my valiant efforts to help you live your life, I am also pretty certain that I am still a full time job and don’t have a lot of extra time or energy leftover to manage your life when I can barely manage my own.

Today, as I blew kisses to my daughter through the glass doors at the airport terminal, I was reminded that God doesn’t have grandkids; He has kids. He can use me in my kid’s lives and the lives of others, but ultimately He doesn’t need me to get His work done. Sometimes, the best thing I can do is stay out of the way and do my job, which is to love God and love people. Everything else is up to Him.

How important is it?

One of my favorite things about my 12 Step Recovery group is that it gives me slogans to live by that can be recalled readily for any given situation. If you aren’t part of one, you should know that one probably exists to help you with whatever you are dealing with; struggles with being a slave to over-eating, over-drinking, hyper-controlling, compulsive shopping, sexual fixation, co-dependency, etc. The list is endless. And even though it is a program of “attraction rather than promotion”, I have to say that it takes great restraint to not tell all of you to get yourself to one STAT! (That’s hospital code for “emergency level reaction needed”)

Anyway, one of my favorite slogans from my favorite recovery group is, “How important is it?” Honestly, I thought I understood the general use for reminding myself of it, but after hearing a few others unpack it, I am embracing it even more. There are several nuances to it that my tiny viewpoint hadn’t considered until now. Feel free to borrow this slogan and its applications and apply and reapply as needed.

Ask “How important is it?” When you need perspective. Remember that above all, your serenity matters. Is it really worth handing over your serenity like you are passing the salt when things don’t go as planned or go your way?

My husband used to always say (and it made want to strangle him, on occasion), “what does it matter in the scheme of things?” Since he usually asked this when I was in a rage or a dither about something significant like burning banana bread or leaving the lights on in my car all night long, let’s just say I didn’t use it as a wake up call for reflection on my overreaction. But if I can train my brain to go there first and ask, “how important is it?” Before I freak out, I could save myself much distress.

I understand that in life, everything is relative. When I compare the fact that I just lost a client to a FSBO or got my purse stolen out of my car for the 4th time (true story) to people suffering from homelessness, addiction or war crimes, my frustrations or worries seem petty and irrelevant and downright bratty. However, this hand I have been dealt is the only hand I personally have to deal with and I have to accept it and give myself permission to feel the feelings that have been triggered by what is happening in my actual life.

We have to remember that we can feel the feelings without guilt, but then ask ourselves, “how important is it” in order to keep perspective.

The most powerful illustration of this was when my son, who was in 8th grade at the time, was part of a wonderful team that lost a championship basketball game on a Thursday night in February 2015. The boys were devastated and I was beside myself for them. I remember wondering how I was going to ever get past this massive loss and disappointment, both for me and for the boys.

The next day I was diagnosed with Leukemia. Problem solved, I guess you’d say.

I love the quote from a daily reader called Courage to Change:

“It is almost as important to know what is not serious as to know what is.” -John Kenneth Galbraith

Ask”How important is it” when you are over concerned with what others think about you. Oh boy. This is one that hadn’t occurred to me regarding this slogan. It was also timely because I have been obsessing about this for a week or two, having imaginary conversations with people and putting pretty mean thoughts in their mouths and minds about me.

I love the saying, “what you think of me is none of my business.” Easy to say, not so easy to believe. This is especially hard to do when I screw up or hurt someone I care about. But if I am being totally honest, it is also hard for me even when I don’t really care for the other person or am hurt by them. I have talked to enough people to know that I am not the only one who doesn’t like everyone but wants everyone to like them.

When I over-own what others say about me or assume I know what they think about me, I am in dangerous territory. There is no serenity to be had if my identity is dependent on the opinions others have about me, good or bad.

If I rely on you to make me feel ok, that leads me to a lifestyle of image management and people pleasing that will eventually do me in. And here’s a thought, when I am consumed about what others think about me, might I consider that maybe people aren’t thinking about me at all? Say Whaaaattt????

Again, love the words in Courage to Change regarding this:

“It occurs to me that my extreme sensitivity is a form of conceit—I think I am the focus of everyone’s actions. Am I so important that everything that goes on around me must have something to do with me? I suspect that attitude reflects my vanity instead of reality. “ p.320

and this…

“Other people are important to me, and sometimes their opinions matter, but I may be taking something personally that has nothing to do with me.” p.320

Ask “how important is it?” When wondering if it matters how you talk to yourself. Does that matter in the scheme of things?

How you talk to yourself is always the most important voice. That doesn’t mean you should always listen to yourself, because we can be downright cruel and vicious.

We must, I must, always consider the words we tell ourselves because even if they are lies from the pit of hell, sooner or later, if we keep saying them, they will ring true.

I am schooling myself on this one, because I just spent a weekend camping but forgot my camping chair and forgot to bring the clothes I needed to kayak for the whole day. I felt stupid, then thought about how stupid that was, then said it out loud to myself and eventually to my friends who eventually shut it down.

How we talk to ourselves is paramount. ALWAYS.

You have probably heard the Bible verse, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I once heard someone comment about that saying, “the problem is, most of us do.” In other words, we tend to treat others harshly and without compassion and love because we first treat ourselves that way.

Unless we begin with talking to ourselves with words of grace and kindness, we can’t fully embrace ourselves as we are or love others the same.

Personally, I put the highest stock in what God thinks of me. When I am spiritually fit, I remember that only the opinion of a Being that loved me enough to create me and treasures our relationship enough to send His son to die for me so He and I can be united in Spirit matters. This brings me the ultimate serenity.

Maybe you aren’t ready to believe that. That’s ok. Take what you like and leave the rest (for later).

“How important is it?”…can’t hurt to ask.

Start sharing

I have so much to write about it’s been hard to pick a topic today. I truly try to write about areas in which I am struggling or questioning or flare-ups of my character defects. Thus, quite an array of blog opportunities. But today, through a serious of unfortunate events, I now know exactly what I want to talk about, or should I say, expand on…

This idea of “story.” (Read previous post for frame of reference)

Let me give you a quick summary of how I came to this conclusion. Part of why I am back-blogged is that I have been sick for about two weeks and writing seemed like just a little much. Coughing, sniffling, napping and pretty much brain dead, I did only what was necessary to survive and not lose my job. The dead-brain part was especially frustrating and led to the following debacle/God-ordained accident.

When it finally dawned on me that Mother’s Day was only a few days away and that getting a gift to my mom in California on time would be pretty much impossible, I decided to order a book for her that a women’s group at my church is studying: In Want and Plenty by Meredith McDaniel. It would be there before the weekend. Phew. Crisis averted. And it did indeed arrive Two-Amazon-Prime-days later….to my house.

I sent it to myself. Sigh.

I quickly ordered another and decided I might as well keep it since I would be involved in this group over the summer. But, I confess, I had no idea what it was about other than what the title suggested. So I started reading. I was reading along, nodding and underlining some good stuff. For example, I underlined this whole paragraph:

“When all our efforts leave us wanting, we tend to grow depressed an anxious, and then we begin to unravel. We can’t hold it together anymore, and we become paralyzed. We disconnect from other and isolate. The last thing we tend to do is reach out for the support of our community or reveal how we feel.” (You are welcome for that…)

I was beginning to slightly suspect that I could learn a thing or two from this book. And then I read the next sentence, which seemed to come out of nowhere but solidified that me sending that book to myself was no accident:

“But what if we took some time to discover more and look deeper into our story?”

I was innocently reading a book that I thought I had bought for my mom as a gift, and now this author is highlighting the very message I wrote about last week?! The very message I am committed to conveying in a book I am co-authoring about cancer-thrivers?! The very message I model every-single-time I write a blog?!

The message is: our “story” matters. My story. Your story. It all matters to you and it matters to others who need to know that they are not the only one with a messy story and that there is hope woven throughout.

As humans, we tend to talk a lot about what we think and believe. On occasion, others disagree with us and we get into scuffles about who is wrong and who is right. But the beautiful thing about our story is that it’s inarguable. I suppose someone might challenge the facts of our stories, but however we interpret our story makes it feel like the truth to us. And we live accordingly.

The rest of Meredith’s book is designed to help us tell our own story and gain fresh perspective as we revisit some of the components of our past. We don’t want to look back in order to “admire” (as my friend Bruce Pulver always says) our failures or shortcomings or resentments. But we can’t move forward with faith and fervor until we acknowledge and work through the previous circumstances, disappointments, losses, and painful relationships that have brought us to where we have landed today.

When I was being interviewed a couple days ago about the book “Embracing the impact of cancer” that I am working on with a fellow cancer-kicker, the publisher asked us to give a bit of advice for those currently suffering with the disease. One of my answers was, “write it down.” Whatever that looks like for you. Talk it into your notes on your phone, video it, type it, journal it. Document it all because you think you will never forget this hard time, but you will. You think you don’t ever want to talk about this again, but you need to. We need you to.

Whatever your dis-ease is, keep track of what is happening, how you feel about it (good or bad) and how you see God and his people showing up for you and your family. How are you letting God redeem it? Your story is important not only for you, but for others. Who needs to hear your story?

As I always say, “we go through what we go through so we can help others get through what we went through.”

Today’s the day.

Start sharing.

Might As Well Be You

A couple weeks ago I spoke at a cancer support group in California. It’s called Anchor and is run by a fellow cancer-kicker named Kathy, who will probably kill me for drawing attention to her. She is kind and humble and surrendered to whatever God wants to do with her. And what He has been doing with her is giving hope and comfort to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people suffering from the effects of cancer for the last 10 years.

The week before I was scheduled to speak, she left me an excited voicemail about why sharing our story is so important. As a result, I integrated her thoughts into my talk and can’t stop thinking about that message 2 weeks later. So, here’s what I learned from Kathy and hope to make you “not stop thinking about it” either.

Part of what sparked Kathy’s message to me, was that she had seen the Passion Play at her church a couple days prior. This was the week before Easter. What struck her was a phrase that ran throughout the play. Whenever Jesus was doing important, loving, healing things, people would turn to Matthew (one of his disciples who wrote the book of Mathew in the Bible, mostly recounting these “Jesus stories”) and say, “make sure you write that down, Mathew!”

Kathy’s take-away was; Wonder if no one had written down all that Jesus did? How would we suffer as a result of not knowing these accounts of Jesus? How would our lives, our world, our calendar, be different? Wonder if no one told His story?

black and gray microphone
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

And naturally, my next question to you is, “How will this world be different if you don’t share your story?”

Just because you don’t have a cancer story or an addiction story or what you would consider an exciting story, doesn’t mean your story shouldn’t be told. It doesn’t mean what you have gone through or are going through may not be impactful, encouraging, inspiring or comforting to someone else. Everyone’s story matters.

I used to worry that when my cancer journey was over, my writing skills and content would be over also. But for better or for worse, I soon realized that I still suffer from these common plagues of the heart, as I call them. Plagues like worry, fear, resentment, comparison, control, etc. Because those diseases are chronic, it seems I will never run out of material.

I continue to tell my story, not because it is impressive or exhilarating, but because it’s real. It’s as honest as I am capable of being. It’s raw and #unfiltered, as my book title indicates.

Here’s the thing: Me telling my open and shameless story, my story about nothing and everything, gives you permission to tell yours. I have seen it over and over again. When I lead with vulnerability, when I go first, whoever I am talking with feels relaxed and is willing to “match me.” Just when they thought they were the only one who thinks that, does that, says that, or feels that, they hear me admit my shortcomings or character defects. They relax from the inside out. They know they are not alone and that gives them the tiniest glimpse of hope.

Your story can do the same. Someone has to go first...it might as well be you.

You can do it, if you are willing.

You go first.

Read another Blog about leading the way: You Go First

How’s hurried and harried Heather?

Since we connected last, I am proud to say that I have mastered the 4 areas (as outlined by John Mark Comer) required to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry” from my life. Granted, I was in Myrtle Beach when I wrote my last entry, came home for one day and flew out to Malibu, California to see my daughter and oldest son. They both work and she had school and homework much of the time, so I was forced to sit on the beach or poolside to kill time until I could see them. I worked really hard to finish the book I was reading about hurry and felt like I figured out the secret in just 2 short weeks, thank you very much.

At least that what I thought before I hit the ground running Monday.

OK, “Mastered” might be a strong word. But, I will say that I have been more aware of whether or not I am implementing any of these practices in my day to day life.

The book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer, outlines 4 easy-to-do-easy-not-to-do intentional practices to help aid ones’ attempt to ruthlessly eliminate hurry: Silence/Solitude, Slowing, Simplicity, and Sabbath.

Before we talk about those, I want to point out the definition of the word ruthless in order to give us a better picture of the manner in which this “hurry” must go. Webster’s defines it as “having no pity.” Some synonyms that I particularly resonate with are: ferocious, calloused, unsparing, cold-hearted, remorseless, barbaric, merciless, unrelenting. The idea here is that there’s no looking back. We know this busyness can kill us in the end so we have to be willing to go to any length to kick it out. Cut it off without regret or saving a bit of it to nurture secretly. All must go.

So, what does it look like for Heather to get out her sword and, with the power of God in me, slay this propensity to live in a frenzy? I want to say I have some good answers, but if I am honest, I have a few meager inklings that might get me started.

As I mentioned in my previous post (stop here and read that now if you haven’t so this one will make some sense), “hurry originates in the heart.”

What that means is you don’t have to panic or tune me out, because the goal is not to force yourself to just sit cross-legged and chant all day long, never engaging in a full day of activities or appointments. It’s about our inner state of being, which may or may not match our outer being.

Only you, or I, know how we are really existing in the inside.

photo of man sitting on camping chair during dawn
Photo by EYÜP BELEN on Pexels.com

I won’t try to recap the whole book. I strongly urge you to read that for yourself to get the full conviction of how hurry might be ravaging your life also. I just want to spend a few moments commenting on the areas he brought to my attention and confess and commit accordingly.

Silence and Solitude

Confession: I stink at this most of the time. I have a busy brain and I love being with people. Nothing wrong with that necessarily, but it makes it difficult to sit quietly with myself.

Commitment: Even though I still do what, in my church culture, is deemed a “quiet-time” each morning, I am going to be intentional about being more intimate with God and less distracted by texts, emails and doing what I did smack dab in the middle of said quiet-time this morning, check on-line for trendy colors to paint my kitchen. Clearly, I have some room for growth. 🙂

Simplicity

Confession: Even though I ruthlessly simplified by getting rid of almost half of my belongings a few years ago (when I downsized my home by half), I have slowly accrued more stuff and currently feel the weight of “too much”.

Commitment: Consider. Consider the real cost of something before I buy it. Will it add stress or steal time I don’t have to take care of it? Consider if I truly need it or if I am buying it to fill a void or to give me a hit when I feel blue or sad. Consider what I can give away and do without. Consider what might benefit others if I shared it. Consider if I can wait and be more thoughtful about my purchases. Apply the slogan “Pause. Pray. Proceed.” to anything I am tempted to bring in to my home. Do I really need 8 more candles from Bath and Body Works just because they are half price? Maybe….

Slowing

Confession: Really, the only time I am slow is in my thinking capacity or going for a run. Other than that I am fueled by productiveness. This leads to a pretty packed schedule even when I am home on my “day off.”

Commitment: There are a few super annoying practices he suggests to practice slowing down. Like getting in longer of the two lines and possibly behind a Buick instead of the sports car at a stop light, on purpose. Or choosing to stand in the line at the grocery store and not monitoring whether you would be done already if you would have gotten in one of the other lines.

Refuse to multi-task. Keep my head with my hands, as they say. If I am making tea, just make tea. If I am working out, just work out. If I am talking to a friend, just be present with what they are saying. Be present and engaged with whatever I am doing at the moment.

Be not-controlled by my phone. Set specific times for email and Facebook-checking and avoid getting sucked in to either of those when I am simply looking at it to find out what time it is. I have even considered a radical solution; get myself a watch!

Also, an observation I had while on my two week vacation: I get considerably less emails and texts from others when I am not sending them. I have complained in the past about the constant barrage of both, but when I checked out, so did the people and companies on the other end. I can’t tell you how many times I picked up my phone after an hour and had no notifications of anything. What that tells me is that I have more control than I thought about the constant chatter from my phone. It turns out, I was the one stirring the pot.

Sabbath

Confession: I purposely saved this one for last because I truly can’t figure out how to do it. Or, embarrassingly, if I am willing to do it. The word Sabbath comes to us from the Hebrew word Shabbat, and it literally means, “STOP.” It is one of the Ten Commandments that I have chosen to flat out ignore for about 30 years. Take one day a week to just STOP and rest. Stop worrying. Stop working. Stop wanting. Stop striving. Just stop.

Commitment: This one is the hardest of all for me. I actually feel a little like the “rich young ruler” in the Bible. The story is about a rich man who asks Jesus what he must do to be complete. He knew something was missing in his life. Jesus tells him to sell all he has and give it to the poor and then come follow him.(Matthew 19:21) The man went away sad because he had a lot of money and stuff and just couldn’t stand to give it up.

That’s a bit how I felt when I thought through what it would look like for me to take a Sabbath day. I felt sad because I didn’t know, and still don’t know, how that could look for me. How do I do that with my job and my schedule and my responsibilities and my job? The bigger question is, do I really trust God enough to take care of me financially and emotionally if I don’t answer that Zillow Call? That email? That opportunity for fun?

I love how Comer puts it from his personal experience with non-Sabbathing:

“We all come to Sabbath. Voluntarily or involuntarily. Eventually the grain of the universe caught up with me and I crashed, hard. My sabbatical was like playing catch-up on a decade of missed Sabbaths, come to collect with interest.

I’m guessing you have a story too. If not, you will. Sabbath is coming for you, whether as a delight or a discipline.” (p. 159)

I love and hate that. It’s poetic but oh, so true.

You may recall that I had a little run-in with Leukemia a few years ago. There are not many know causes for it, but one speculation is extreme stress. Potentially, how I was handling or not handling my life circumstance may have contributed to that. I did some counseling afterwards, and I can still hear my counselor saying, when I pushed back on his suggestions or exhibited resistance to digging deeper,

“Heather, you can either do this standing up or laying down. And you have already done it laying down in a hospital bed.” In other words, you can recover and heal willingly, or you can get sick to death and have no choice but to do the work to get healthy.

That’s how I see Sabbathing: we can do it willingly or we can ignore that practice until we end up in a hospital bed. Or addicted. Or Divorced. Or empty and lonely. Or mentally, emotionally and spiritually fried.

I mentioned that this is a tough one for me. But I am committed to come to a solution that will work for me so I can continue to do life “standing up.”

Hurried and Harried Heather

Call me simple. Or mystical. Or just naïve and superstitious. Call me what you want, but regardless, this is how it works. This is how I know what I am supposed to write about—dare I say-what I believe God wants me to write about.

I read a smorgasbord of books every day. Usually a page or two and often with dated entries. I started reading a book called “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” by John Mark Comer after a friend sat calmly across from me at lunch while I frantically checked my phone to make sure I wasn’t late for my next appointment (I had squeezed this lunch in between two other appointments with about 7 minutes to spare on each side for transit. Brilliant!). She told me she had been reading this book and it had changed the way she lived. I remember hearing of this phrase years earlier from a reflective spiritual writer named Dallas Willard. Clearly I hadn’t gotten much further than acknowledging it’s powerful evaluation of most of our lives—my life.

But I am getting ahead of myself. I had finished the first few pages and then decided to pick up one of my books with dated entries since I hadn’t read it in a few days. I never go backwards to catch up until after I read exactly what it has for me on the day I am actually living. I felt a zing in my chest as I read it.

For starters, in one small page the word “hurry” appeared four times. In a nutshell, it said things like:

*Go easy. You may have to push forward, but you don’t have to push so hard. Go in gentleness, go in peace.

*Do not be in so much of a hurry.

*Do not be in too much of a hurry to begin.

*Do not be in too much of a hurry to finish.

(From Melody Beattie’s “The Language of Letting Go” page 88)

Well then. I may be simple but I ain’t thick. I knew this was God highlighting that my picking up that book about “ruthlessly eliminating hurry” was not my idea. It was not a coincidence that I had lunch with my friend (and that I scheduled it with no margin left at all, just for extra effect) and that she mentioned this book. I have known her for years and I know she runs like me; full speed ahead in every area of her life. If this could work for her, I had an inkling it could work for me.

Let me be clear, this blog is about the diagnosis of hurry-sickness. The remedy is yet to come because I purposely closed my book this morning at the end of horrors of this plague and have not read a word of Part Two: The Solution.

In case you think you might want to buy this book and catch up with me, let me give you a little teaser. A few symptoms of hurry sickness:

1. Irritability-you get mad, frustrated, or just annoyed way too easily.

2. Hypersensitivity-Ordinary problems of life have a disproportionate effect on your emotions, well-being and relational grace ( in other words, you are grouchy, depressed, tired, anxious, nitpicky).

3. Restlessness-When you actually do try to slow down and rest, you can’t relax. You try to spend quiet time with God but can’t focus your mind.

4. Workaholism (or just nonstop activity)-You just don’t know when to stop. Or worse, you can’t stop. Your drugs of choice are accomplishment and accumulation.

5. Emotional Numbness-You just don’t have the capacity to feel another’s pain. Or your own pain for that matter.

6. Out-of-order priorities-You feel disconnected from your identity and calling.

7. Lack of care for your body-You don’t have time for the basics: eight hours of sleep, daily exercise, healthy eating. You feel tired, unrested, sick, harried.

8. Escapist behaviors-When we’re too tired to do what’s actually life giving for our souls, we each turn to our distraction of choice: overeating, overdrinking, bing-watching shows, browsing social media, etc.

9. Slippage of spiritual disciplines-When you get overbusy, the things that are truly life giving for your soul are the first to go rather than your first go-to (prayer, reflection, meditation, solitude).

10. Isolation-You feel disconnect from God, others and your own soul.

(Excerpt from John Mark Comer’s “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” page 48-51)

Any of this sound eerily familiar?

One thing became clear as I read the first 50 pages, and is something I have been trying to identify in me for awhile now:

HURRY ORIGINATES IN THE HEART.

Some days I can run on a tight schedule and still walk at the pace of love, and other times I can stay in one place and feel frantic and unsettled in my spirit.

While it’s still important to monitor and manage the amount of actual activity our bodies participate in, the bigger issue is my approach to all my activity.

Oops-I am doing what I usually do by the end of a blog; focusing on the solution. Today I want us to just sit with the problem for a bit. Ask yourself if you identify with my struggle to live in harmony in/with my soul. If you do, you are not alone and I invite you too explore some ways we can do it differently—together.

Stay tuned.

Striving to death

I tend to be a woman of extremes. I struggle with neutrality. Or maybe the word is contentment. If you are in my sphere, you have probably heard me utter phrases like, “I’m burning up!”, “I am freezing to death!”, “I am so full I may never eat again!”, “This always happens to me!”, “That will never happen to me!”, “Let’s eat, I am starving to death!” You get the picture. I do not have a mild mannered or mediocre personality or world view.

As of late, I have added a new lament to my repertoire : “I am striving to death!”

I am not saying that striving for something is always bad. But the “to death” part qualifies. I have had this phrase rolling around in my brain for the past week or so. I have postponed the blog because I was waiting on God to reveal some sort of enlightened answer to my problem. Something I, and hopefully at least one of you, could benefit from and stop the frenzy.

This morning, I reminded myself that the whole reason I started writing these posts in the first place was to reason things out with God, on paper.

I start out confounded, confused and controlling and end up with clarity and contentment.

While I write, my mind detangles itself and let’s God in. Or maybe it is God doing the untangling after I let him in. Either way, I have solution and relief when I am done.

Today, I need to detangle. Let’s get going.

The past few months have been a whirlwind of activity. Some of it has been beneficial and beautiful. I have connected with dozens of new friends as I do interviews, podcasts and simply connect with like-minded authors and speakers who are also trying to get their message out to any one who will listen. I have lost count of how many men and women I have encountered who have huge dreams and stories to share in order to impact the world with God’s love.

I am also a realtor in one of the most frenzied markets in history. Too many buyers for the the number of houses available lends itself to scrambling, bargaining and sacrificing (you want a membership to the country club, monthly massages, my first born?).

Both of these endeavors require intentionality and for me to be paying acute attention to one or the other at any given time. It can be overwhelming, to say the least. It can also be discouraging. I have been feeling discouraged these past few weeks because I have lost more offers (because there were 10 other offers) than I have secured. In “book” world, I have done countless interviews and podcasts and posts, only to feel like I am spinning my wheels on most days.

So what do I do about it? I worry. I fret. I tell myself I stink at both and should just go work at Starbucks already. I fear not that I will fail, but that I am failing. To be honest, I don’t even know what benchmark I could reach in either realm that would help me feel secure and satisfied. It’s nebulous and vague, but definitely out of my reach.

man climbing on gray concrete peak at daytime
Photo by Rodrigo on Pexels.com

As usual, before I write, I do several readings out of a variety of books. This morning I was reading from a book called, “A Return to Prayer” by Marianne Williamson. And, as usual, I found the answer I needed:

In You (God) I trust; nothing else is real.

In You I have faith; nothing else has power.

And so it is that I am where I belong, and I shall strive for nothing.

That’s it. That’s the golden ticket. “I am where I belong.” I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

My only responsibility is to do what is in my power to do today and leave the results and the timeline up to God. What did or didn’t happen yesterday is no longer my concern.

My job is to do the foot-work and heart-work at any given moment. This is the highest and most profound action I can take.

As I was prepping to write, I decided to look up the word strive. Because I am not a complete idiot, I realize there are some good types of striving and some bad types.

It struck me that there are some pretty extreme synonyms for striving (and since I am an extreme type of person, as I mentioned above, my extreme brain picked up on this immediately!). On one end of the spectrum you have casual synonyms like “have a go at” or “give it a whirl” and on the other there are some serious ones like “pull out all the stops”, “fight/battle/war/combat” or the best yet, “crusade!”.

In the end, I think it’s best for me to “strive” to stay somewhere in the middle with synonyms like “make every effort”, “do one’s utmost/best” or “venture/undertake/endeavor/seek/aspire/aim”.

But that’s till not the full picture. These words and phrases remind me words form a guy named Paul. He says: “Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for the Lord and not merely for people” (Colossians 3:23 ISV). I might add also, not to do it “merely for yourself.”

In other words, If I am doing my work (or even my play) for God’s glory and His alone, whether it’s Soul-Selfie activity or real estate, then I can relax and trust him with the outcome. If He is God, by His nature in charge and in control with complete wisdom and knowledge of what’s best for me and those I affect, then I can afford to relax. I can stop the incessant, extreme, wrong-end-of-the-continuum striving that threatens to pull me under and strangle the joy and serenity right out of my very soul.

Where I am in this very moment is exactly where I am supposed to be.

Your successes are not a threat to me.

Your path will not look anything like mine.

Your timeline is as unique to you as mine is to me.

It has been my experience that my ideas for living my best life are not always the same as God’s. For that, I am grateful, because in the end, He is able to do “immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 4:20 NIV)

Image-Dragons

I am going to try to make this short and sweet. By now you know that my attention span is limited during regular life, but right now I am on vacation, making me extra focus-challenged. But I can’t seem to stop thinking about an experience I had last week and want to share it with you before I am so far removed I can’t access the impact. So here we go….

My son Bennett and I rocked an Imagine Dragons concert in St. Louis last week. Thousands of people—lots of other moms and sons/daughters since they are clean and span generational music gaps—packed the Enterprise center for a long awaited maskless event. Even the band members were emotional as they expressed their gratitude for being back on tour and seeing all the beautiful supportive faces.

It was a soul-full and spiritual 3 hours of loud, wild and free singing and dancing. Bennett and I even made it onto the big screen for about 10 whole seconds! I am anticipating some sort of offer to be part of the band any day now. At one point, the lead singer told us he was going to sing his favorite song and invited us to join him. We assumed it would be one of his, but he broke into “Don’t worry, about a thing. Every little thing is gonna be alright.” How heavenly to hear thousands of people singing this song together after an isolating pandemic.

With such wonderful memories of phenomenal music and talent, you might be surprised to hear what is still rolling around in my head and heart. My biggest take away came from the lead singer tying his shoes during the performance…twice.

The first time, he simply bent down as the band played behind him. We probably wouldn’t have even noticed what he was doing, except that he stood up and told us. He said something like: “Sorry about that. Had to tie my shoe. I have to confess that while I was doing it, I thought about how I usually tie it. In kindergarten I learned to make two loops and tie them together. but in my head, that was always the little kid way to do it. As I got older I learned to wrap one lace around one loop and pull it through. The adult and mature and sophisticated way to do it. So, since I knew you all were watching me, I did the one loop version.”

We all laughed at how silly that was. But was impressed that he was humble enough to admit it!

This blog didn’t start forming, however, until he had to tie his shoe a second time later in the show. Again, he bent down for a few seconds after a song and when he stood, he confessed again: “I really need to start double-knotting these shoes! But I will tell you that this time I did the kindergarten version!” We all cheered!

That’s when I saw it for what it was: Imagine Dragons battles Image Dragons, just like the rest of us. I am fairly certain that no one would have noticed he was using the kindergarten shoe-tying strategy if he hadn’t told us. But even so, he was worried about how it it might appear to all of us.

What did he think? We would all throw down our drinks and run out in disgust once we found out he is a mere bunny-ear-shoe-tier? We all payed a good chunk of change and drove 2 hours in a blizzard to see them and that’s the deal breaker?!?!?!

I imagine (haha) that the reason this resonated so strongly with me is that my most violent and relentless dragons are image-management and control.

Actually, those are one in the same if you think about it. I want to be in control of the world around me and also in control of what the people in that world think about me. I want to manage your imagination so you will imagine I am perfect, or at least pretty close to it.

What I loved about how the lead singer handled it, is that he identified it and admitted it. He humbled himself in that moment. It reminded me of why I keep writing.

I Know I am not perfect and am usually embarrassed a bit about sharing my shortcomings (though most of you have probably already identified them long before they dawn on me). But as I have said over and over in the past few months as I share in interviews and podcasts about my newest book: I write in the messy. Bottom line, that’s why anyone is still reading.

If me sharing how I am a hot mess makes you feel less alone and have hope that together we can get better, I will keep writing.

God knows, and He knows it well, that I will never run dry on material.

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