Anxiety/Worry, Faith/Spirituality

“Who’s Depressed?”

While going through some books at my parents a few months ago, I came across an old book. The cover has a black and white picture of a little boy sitting in a wash basin and the title of the book read, “Who’s Depressed?”. This made me laugh. We were a few weeks into COVID and I felt like God had planted this book in my path because, yes, I was raising my hand on this one. I was depressed. Our whole country was on the verge of a new type of Great Depression. More like a Deep Depression. I looked through it and discovered that it was a book written by mom’s aunt Ann (whom I have spent time with as a little girl) recounting stories of humor and hope during the Great Depression. Her uncle Ed Christensen is the main character. She described him as a “bright and shining thread” and said “whatever our circumstances, we could depend on fun and laughter whenever he appeared. Ed frequently pulled practical jokes…Similar happenings were going on all across our broad land. Each of the anecdotes emphasizes those human characteristics inherent in us which enable us to make the best of things in difficult or unusual circumstances.”

I didn’t start reading this strange little book until a few days ago. My attitude about all things COVID related has really stunk and my heart and mind are getting more cynical and edgy by the day. Who’s Depressed? Well, seems like a good time to see who else might agree with me, so I dove in.

A couple of days ago I woke up, angry as usual about all the loss and chaos and craziness in the world right now. I drug myself into the living room and started reading my usual “inspirational” books that hadn’t been living up to their name lately. I was still complaining to God in my head when I came across a story in this book called “Helping Hands”. It was a story about how H.K. Williams, my great grandfather, had picked up two hitchhikers. They soon revealed that there were 5 others in their family and they had travelled from Minnesota looking for work. They had all lost jobs and were living in a park across town in Idaho Falls. He dropped off one boy at his home and then went with the other to the park and loaded the rest of them into his truck. They worked for and lived with him and his wife for the next few months until jobs became available. Side note-my great-grandparents had 11 children of their own. A couple were away at college so she only had to feed 15 people every meal.

Ann notes: “Because of the helping hands extended by H.K. And Margaret Williams, a deserving family was enabled to get back on its feet economically and survive the worst effects of the Great Depression.

Good timing. God timing. We are all struggling but certainly not like that. It’s a different, isolating Depression. I won’t really go into that right now because my lesson is not so much about how they had it way worse than I do and I should shape the heck up!

The lesson I heard when I read this story was that one important and powerful thing I can do during this pandemic is to serve. Serving others helps them and helps me.

The first few weeks of the pandemic I gave this a shot. I went through FACEBOOK and found out who had birthdays coming up and drove a card to their house. I think it really touched those people’s hearts. Then I quit because I let self pity and resentment at the state of the world consume me.

white black and red person carrying heart illustration in brown envelope
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

After I read this I made an effort to reach out to a few friends, clients and neighbors with a gift or card or encouraging text/call. am going to make a point to look around me and see if I can somehow be a “bright and shining thread” to even just one person a day. Maybe I can serve my way out of my gray, negative, helpless-hopeless-heaviness. Those attitudes are just not working for me anymore.

I don’t know a lot about my ancestors, but now I know this much. I am going to try to carry this attitude of serving with joy and kindness and resilience on to those that come after me. If you raised your hand when I asked, “Who’s Depressed?”, maybe you can join me.

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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.

two black and brass colored keys with fob
Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

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.

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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.

adult background ball shaped blur
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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?

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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.

pexels-jesse-yelin-3047470

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.

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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.

silhouette of woman
Photo by ThisIsEngineering on Pexels.com

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. 😘

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Anxiety/Worry, awareness, Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality

Junk drawers, closets and character defects

As I have mentioned before, I am a Realtor. I have shown hundreds of houses over the past 4 years. And should you ever decide to sell your house, spoiler alert, we will open your closets and junk drawer (or drawers). We try our best to give people a reasonable notice before a showing, but the reality is that sometimes we happen upon your house while looking at another and our clients want to see it; preferably right now or in the immediate future. Since we encourage our sellers to never turn down a showing, this leads to a fair amount of panic on the seller’s part and the quickest way to tidy up, is by shoving things in the nearest closet or drawer. And while it works for a one time showing, it’s a poor plan for a long term solution to organization. Eventually you have to remove that toy, laundry basket, backpack or item of clothing that doesn’t really belong there.

I think it’s safe to say that we all have a closet or a drawer that has accumulated random items over time and is threatening to overflow the next time the door is opened. One friend of mine said her junk drawer was so full that the contents were forced out the back of the drawer into the cabinet below. She discovered it when she found her toddler, who was playing with in the Tupperware cupboard was entertaining herself with random, not so child-friendly items from the junk drawer above! A sure sign that the time has come to exert some effort sorting out what belongs in there and removing what doesn’t.

pexels-karolina-grabowska-4219101

For me, this is a helpful visual for what happens when I don’t deal with my emotions or reactions to my circumstances in a healthy, head-on way. I get my little feelings hurt, my ego takes a shot to the head, a loved one is in pain, I fail at something that’s important to me, a friend betrays a trust, I hurt someone I care about, I act like a selfish brat, etc. I develop character defects. I often don’t take the time necessary to reflect and pray and give it to God. Instead, I toss it in the drawer/closet because I am too lazy-or terrified-to hold it in my hand, name it for what it is, and either discard or put it in it’s rightful place (in God’s hands is the best place I have found thus far). Because if I don’t, if I keep shoving it in, it’s only a matter of time before something big happens that tops off the drawers’ capacity for holding all the junk you thought was safely and soundly hidden away. Or someone else opens that door or drawer and all hell breaks loose; stuff (like anger, harsh words, craziness or crying) is spilling out on to innocent people that were just the proverbial straw that broke the camels back.

While it’s challenging to fully address every emotion or circumstance at it comes at us, it’s paramount that we don’t neglect it for long. I have a couple closets and a junk drawer that sing my name like a haunting siren’s song every time I walk past. I have been ignoring them for far too long and now they are causing me great anxiety, maybe greater anxiety than they should because instead of asking myself, “does this belong in here?”, I just throw it in and pray to God it will shut without issue.

I could learn a couple things about myself using this analogy.

One: Stashing the junk away without thought or consideration will eventually catch up with me. I can deal with  one hurt or confounding problem at a time, or I can deal with a plethora of them when they burst out on their own, often without fair warning, harming me or other innocent bystanders who were just looking for some scotch tape.

Two: When you get rid if the stuff you don’t need, it becomes easier to access the stuff you do. There have been many times that I have needed a small screwdriver or measuring tape, which I know for a fact are somewhere in my junk drawer, and after rummaging for several minutes have had to walk all the way to my basement (sigh) and get one from the tool box. The junk that shouldn’t be in there (i.e. Bars of soap, 7 pair of scissors, toilet bowl bleach pod, lotion, gum wrappers, and 47 pens) keeps me from finding the items I really need. The interesting thing is, when I sort my junk drawer, most of it actually goes back in. That’s the cool part. Once I take it out, I look at it and determine if it is worthlessness or dangerous and should be taken out of the drawer. If it is useful and necessary, I put it back in an organized fashion, easily available for when it’s purpose calls.

I love this summarized thought from a book called “Courage to Change (p.65)”:

“We don’t ask God to add anything, but rather to take away the things we do not need. I found that every single defect that was removed had been hiding an asset. I didn’t lose myself at all. Instead, as I let go of the things I didn’t need, I made room for my strengths, skills, and feelings to become more fully a part of my life. I take comfort in this, because it reminds me that everything I need is already present…God knows exactly what I need and has already given it to me. My job is to keep it simple and ask for God’s help in relieving me of the extra stuff-the shortcomings that keep me tied down.”

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Anxiety/Worry, awareness, Control, Faith/Spirituality, freedom, thinking

Swipe left…

Not that I have used them personally, but because I try my best to not bury my head in the technological sand just because I am 49 (…and happily married, I might add), I know a thing or two about dating sites. Bear with me…

The one thing I know is that at least one site allows you to swipe the picture on the screen to the right if you are interested and may revisit their profile later, or swipe left if you (by merely looking at someones face/body/body parts) give that person a thumbs down. You basically move them to your “trash”. It sounds insane when you say it like that, right? Well, before you get too worked up about it, let me assure you that I am just using this as a metaphor to help you have a visual for how to control your thoughts without letting them control you.

SwipeLeft

I mentioned awhile back that I was reading a book about how to Detox your brain. While I still have miles to go, I have tried to come up with ways to get this done, because my thoughts-my negative, destructive and degrading thoughts-often hijack my mind and create stress and anxiety and fear. For some reason, this idea popped in my head a couple days ago and I have been attempting to utilize it, sorting through my thoughts as they pop up. I am still in the process of tweaking it, but I’ll give you the gist.

When any thought pops in my head, I am trying to discipline myself to ask a couple questions about it. The first is: “Is it my thought or my business?” This question is easy to answer and can eliminate huge amounts of time and energy I might otherwise give it. Let’s say, for example, I am with a group friends and one of them brings up a subject that I know is a sensitive issue and might trigger anger in another friend. Typically, I would immediately feel some tension and perhaps try to figure out how I can smooth out or fix what has just happened. But, if I ask the question, “Is this my thought or my business?”, the answer is clearly NO. So I give it to God. I swipe left. I “trash” it and mind my own business, leaving me to enjoy my friends for exactly who they are and where they are at that moment. Or how about when I notice I am fretting about what some one else is or might be angry/frustrated/worried/stressed about? “Is this my thought?” Nope. It is a thought that belongs to them alone and I don’t have to give it any attention or let it affect my serenity. I give it to God. I swipe left. I trash it.

The next question I added after I had been practicing this for a couple days: “Can I control it?” This one is pretty cut and dry. You can’t? You know what to do with it!

The last and biggest question you will have to decide for yourself, as long as it falls into a similar vein as this: “Is it beneficial, kind and true?” If you have a relationship with God, you can simply ask, “Is this from God?”, because that will automatically alert you to all the good thoughts that God imparts and represents (His thoughts and ways are lovely, kind, nonjudgmental, gracious, forgiving, compassionate, empathetic, honest, uplifting, encouraging, gentle, etc.). I definitely need to ask this question so I can better relate to people in my world; my family, but also my clients, my friends, and people God puts in my path as I go through my day. But the main reason I started this practice was to eliminate repetitive thoughts I have about myself that are very much NOT “beneficial, kind or or true”.

When I have thoughts which are often subtle and sheepish but have razor sharp teeth, like “I’ll never get better at…”, or “I don’t think I will ever be able to…” or “I am always going to struggle with….”, I have to put them to the question test.

9/10 times my thoughts fail that test. But instead of continuing down the mental, emotional and physically draining path these thoughts try to take me on, or worse yet, beat myself up for having them in the first place, I now have a tool. If the answer to my question is “NO”, I give it to God. I swipe left. I trash it. I move on and replace those thoughts with the God’s instructions:

“Finally brothers and sisters, 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 such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Swipe left my friends…

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Anxiety/Worry, awareness, Faith/Spirituality, Trust

I’ve hit the wall! (…or is it hitting me?)

I am writing today because I need it. Badly. In Runner’s Speak, I have “hit the wall”. For a runner, that means they have been running for a lengthy period of time and have depleted their glycogen levels and feel like they are potentially going to keel over or “bonk out” (I learned that phrase just this morning while googling “hitting the wall”). In Heather terms, the phrases still apply. Don’t get excited, I haven’t been running again or anything (been there done that). But I feel like I started a few life “races” and was plugging away nicely until the past couple of weeks. I have lost my breath, my energy, and my sight for why I started the races in the first place.

In the beginning, I was excited and hopeful and experiencing just enough success to continue with a smile and a skip in my step, but this past week I started to feel a heaviness coming over me as a result of doing a lot of “footwork” with no results in sight. I am struggling to continue picking up my feet and continuing to do the “footwork” necessary to finish the marathon.

fit runner standing on racetrack in athletics arena
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Do you ever feel that way? Please tell me you do, and I’ll just go ahead and apologize now for wishing that on you. It’s just that I have also been convincing myself that no one else has this problem and that makes the discouragement feel that much deeper.

I was reminded the other day of a blog I wrote on “waiting”.  I used to wait on blood work and test results and the green light to go back in the hospital for Chemo. One would think that I would be a little more grateful and patient with anything else I have to wait for ever again. But alas, I have to operate in the “today”, and today I am waiting for other things. Luckily they are much less daunting than life or literal death, but I guess my mind has moved on from that possibility.

I am writing today to remind myself of what I already know. That’s usually how it works for me.

What I already know, is that life is not about the end results, it’s what happens in that space between that equal “living”.

The end result may or may not manifest itself, at least in the ways we predict or hope for. I may work like a boss at my job and never sell another house. I may meet with dozens of people to promote my book or secure a speaking engagement or draw people to my site with results I may never see or know about. I may pray numerous prayers for people I love and yet continue to live in that mysterious unknown about the answers one way or another. If I forget this and start living as if God or people owe me recompense for all my efforts, I end up where I am today; frustrated, tired, and frankly, mad. Mad that my equation isn’t working.

While I am in the space between, while I am doing the “footwork”, I have to ruthlessly remind myself to ask, “What am I learning? Who am I helping? How am I growing? Where can I be of service?”. The “footwork”, as I define it, is every activity and thought that contributes to reaching that goal.

And here’s the good and bad news: the most important component is not the goal, it’s the footwork.

Whether I like that news or not, it’s still true. I have no control over the outcome or the length of time it takes to get there. I can either complain and wait impatiently in anxious and frustrated expectation, or can accept life on life’s terms and as it comes; one moment at a time. The moments, as we know, are all we have to work with. Where I am is all I have to work with just now.

Dear God-I need your help to live in the moments. Help me get my “second wind” that comes after I have endured the daily, monotonous, seemingly unfruitful present, and pushed myself beyond what I feel is possible, wise or worthwhile. Help me to remember that you alone-and your purposes in the space between-are my continuous and consistent reward.

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Anxiety/Worry, awareness, Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality, freedom, grace

Who’s your inner critic?

You may have heard the saying, “hurt (adjective) people hurt (verb) people”. I recently read through some notes I took from a speaker that had the quote, “free (adjective) people free (verb) people”. Even though at my core I believe God’s grace received gives me the gift of being free at all times, I don’t always feel or live in that freedom. Sometimes I choose to sit in the jail cell even when the door to freedom is standing wide open. I guess the idea is that we often operate alongside and influence those we encounter based on what state we are currently living in. So, regarding my particular state, I would have to say I am a “wannabe”. And “wannabe free” people can often help other “wannabe free” people be, well, free. Or more acutely, I am a “wanna live free” person. Being free and living free are worlds apart. If you are one of those people, maybe you can join me in learning how to do this.

…I am laughing at myself, because at the end of that last sentence I started to type “better”. And therein lies the obstacle to why I don’t feel free in my head: I have terrible trouble accepting who I am and being ok with me. With letting myself be enough of (fill in the blank). I am constantly trying to be better than I am right now. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless you berate and frown upon the person you are presently. How I talk to myself is so subtly abusive that I don’t even notice it most of the time. But the words and the beliefs that those thoughts create in my brain – actual neuropathways – keep me from living light.

Maybe I am being too vague. Maybe it will help to have a visual. A few months ago I was privileged to do a book study with a group of women in leadership in Springfield. One of the weeks, our assignment was to characterize our “inner critic” and give him or her a name. Without thinking very long about it, I identified her as Mary Poppins. I am a pseudo-expert on her character, based on the fact that I have seen the original Disney flick approximately 79 times. When my 23 yr old son was about 4, he was obsessed with the “Step in Time” song/dance. You know, the one where Burt (Dick Van Dyke) dances on the rooftops with Chimney Sweeps? My son would place couch pillows on the floor (these were the chimney tops) and leap from pillow to pillow with a long duster (the kind you use to clean spider webs and such from the ceilings of your home), mimicking the choreography. I tell you that adorable story to validate my Mary Poppins expertise.

MARY POPPINS, Julie Andrews, 1964

Anyway…here’s the relation. I find Mary Poppins to be slightly intimidating, arrogant, judgmental and have exceedingly high expectations of others. She’s also a bit cray-cray if the truth be told. Several times in the movie she takes the kids on some wild adventure and when they try to tell their father about it she denies it ever happened saying something like “We did nothing of the sort!” (Or some other funky English phrase).

When the voice in my head tells me I am not enough (didn’t manage my time well enough to get the dishes/laundry/phone calls/appointments made, I am not working out often enough or eating well enough, that I should have given more attention to my kids and given them more responsibility and hugged them more, etc.), she sounds like Mary Poppins. She has a nice English accent, which we all know makes everything sound more romantic and pleasant even when it’s not. She doesn’t curse or accuse in a way that causes me to tell her to take a hike. She simply points out all the ways I don’t measure up. It’s a running monologue, background static that seeps into my subconscious until I eventually accept those ideas as truth. Once they are solidified, she moves on to other areas so there is never a moment of rest.

Maybe you are ready to call 911 and send them over to have me taken to the hospital for evaluation. Or maybe you could take a moment and ponder what your inner critic is saying to you. What’s his/her name? What kind of lies is he whispering, or shouting, to you throughout your day? What kind of truths can you cling to that can be used to combat that voice? How can you put her in her place — in a time-out, if you will — and replace her words of bondage and criticism with ones of freedom and acceptance.

My intention is to pay attention to my thoughts, evaluate if they are true and from God, who loves me and created me and accepts me exactly where I am today, or if they are from “Mary Poppins” who thinks she’s “got me”.

I intend to listen for the voice of truth and counter her lies by acknowledging that I am doing the best I can with what I have at any given time. And so is everyone else, for that matter. I get pretty worked up when I think of cruel or hurtful things other people have said to or about me.

To quote Marianne Williamson in A Return to Love, “Whatever abuse they gave us was often mild compared to the way we abuse ourselves today. It’s true that your mother might have said repeatedly, ‘You’ll never be able to do that, dear.’ But now you say to yourself, ‘You’re a jerk. You never do it right. You blew it. I hate you.’ They might have been mean, but we’re vicious.” This type of self-loathing is destructive and deadly. It is the root of all that is bad in us and in the world. She points out that all this emotional energy has to go somewhere. “So we sabotage.We drink. We do drugs. We control. We obsess. We codepend. We overeat. We hide. We attack. The form of dysfunction is irrelevant. We can find a lot of different ways to express how much we hate ourselves.”

Without being hard on myself and therefore responding counter-productively to this whole blog, I do want to say that I am going to do what it takes to silence Miss Mary Poppins.

I need a new voice in my head. I need to listen for God’s soft whisper and mix it with the kind and gentle part of my own spirit. The one that gives me a break for not being perfect and tells me to rest in who I am at this current moment. That tells me I am always enough. And so are you.

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Anxiety/Worry, Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality, Serenity

Boneless and Skinless

“In the same way a piece of bone-in, skin-on chicken will always be juicier and more flavorful than its boneless, skinless counterpart, fish benefits from keeping its protective skin and bones.”

Now that’a a good “hook” to kick off a blog, right? Hang with me…

Even though I generally buy my chicken boneless and skinless, we all know that it releases the most flavor and maintains moisture better when it is cooked together with the bone and skin. Seems to be sort of the opposite to bring out flavor in the fish. Whichever way you frame it, I think we can agree that having bones and skin involved=better.

On various occasions in my past, and even as recent as the past few weeks, I feel like I have been walking around without them. I am “boneless and skinless”. This is a phenomenon that happens from my inside out when especially emotional situations enter my life and don’t leave in a timely fashion. I cling to the book of Psalms during these periods because David, who wrote the majority of them, does a lot of pleading with God to come quickly to his rescue because he is “poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint” (Psalm 22). I love, or at least understand, that metaphor.

When my heart is wrecked and my mind orbits around a wound 24 hours a day without relief, I feel like my very structure is incapable of “doing the next right thing” that needs doing.

Laundry=too hard. Dinner=way too hard. Making a phone call=too much. And being “present” with people I am with?=not happening. It’s all just so much work. I physically can’t seem to put one foot in front of the other sometimes.

And what about skinless? That’s a painful one. In Psalm 73:26, another Psalmist talks about his “flesh/skin failing” as a result of his suffering.

Sometimes, and maybe you have had your own experience with this, I feel like I am literally walking around without my skin on. Everything and everyone that brushes against me during the day feels “extra”. Extra harsh, extra tender, extra soft, extra scathing.

“It’s not you, it’s me”, as the saying goes. I am raw and sinewy and exposed to outside elements in the most vulnerable and cringy way. I really hate being like this. It makes me feel not only emotional, but weak. Crying in front of people is something I hate to do but it seems to happen a lot in this kind of season. I don’t think people around me mind (What? She’s human??), but I certainly don’t like to let my guard down like this!

When I read the Psalms, I don’t always get the answers I want to hear (although, and I’m not proud to admit it, but sometimes I read and re-read the ones where God finally brings down justice on David’s enemies 😬). I do, however, observe a posture that David seems to circle back to over and over, and I hear a common refrain that keeps me from completely imploding (which is what happens when one tries to live life without proper bones and skin).

First–after David begs God to help him (and whines a bit about his unfair circumstances), he remembers his track record. Or should I say, God’s track record. He says things like:

  • For you have been my hope, O Sovereign God, my confidence since my youth.
  • Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again.
  • For you have delivered me from death, and my feet from stumbling.
  • If your word had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction
  • I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me.

Second, He gives us the solution: Trust in God.

  • *In you our fathers put their trust.; they trusted and you delivered them.They cried out to you (God) and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. (Ps. 22:4,5)
  • The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy (Ps 28:7)
  • Be still and know that I am God (Ps. 46:10)
  • When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? (Ps. 56:3,4)
  • Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you (Ps. 143:8)
  • But I trust you o lord. You are my God, my times are in your hands (Ps. 31:14,15)

Have you been doing life “boneless and skinless”? Me too. We are not chickens. It’s not healthier this way. Maybe we can do what David did; remember God’s track record and how he has shown up for us in the past. And maybe it will help us both if we read through some of the Psalms I listed above and then wait patiently for God to restore us to physical, emotional and spiritual health.

What have we got to lose?

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