Addiction, Faith/Spirituality, Growth, Recovery

Tips for Dodger fans from the book of James

Shhhh. I am going to have to sneak to write this because this subject has been strictly forbidden in our household. Even if you are not a baseball fan, or, more importantly, Dodger fan like my husband has been from the womb, you will no doubt feel the sting of this replay.

In the 9th inning of the 2020 World Series game 4 the Dodgers were beating the Rays 7-6 with 2 outs. Seemed like a slam-dunk (even thought that is more of a basketball-y word🙃) for the Dodgers. The batter was not one that Dodger fans were particularly concerned about. He was average and not too much of a threat. We were already celebrating in our little hearts.

What happened next caused me to awake the next morning wondering if I had dreamt the whole thing. It was like a clip from “The Bad News Bears” (Anyone remember that movie? Look it up!)  The hitter who no one was afraid of defied the odds and cracked one over the shortstops head. The right fielder fumbled the catch, wasting a couple of seconds. One runner had already scored to tie the game. And just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, it got far worse. The right fielder threw it home to the catcher who was poised, blocking the plate from the runner who was rounding 3rd. As the runner flew past 3rd, he tripped and literally fell to the ground. At that moment the ball reached the catcher who spun his glove around, causing the ball to shoot out of his glove and roll away. The runner, who thought he was done for, got a second chance. He jumped up and plowed toward home to win the game 8-6. This all happened in about 20 seconds. 

Getty Images

I was in the kitchen and heard, “You’ve got to be kidding me!!!!” Then, silence. A long, scary silence. 

We are still stunned 2 days later. How could something that seemed so right go so wrong so quickly?

I am studying the book of James (James was the brother of Jesus, in case you care) so naturally, my head went to one of the lessons I am trying to learn from his teaching. Here is the lesson from James 4:13-17: 

You are not God. It’s arrogant to think you know what will happen in the future. Make plans but hold them loosely because God’s plans for you may not match your small, human-minded plans. His are better. Always say, “if it’s God’s will I will do this or that” and then lean in to the miracles he puts in your path that would have never crossed your mind. Remember that sometimes unwanted circumstances thwart your plans, but God will not abandon you. He will walk through you in those times.

And never ever trick yourself into thinking that you know the ending. Never ever assume that the game is over until it’s over.

That goes for the good and the bad.

Just when you think it’s safe to assume you know what’s coming, you can be assured that you will be surprised — which sounds terrifying to me at first, until I realize it frees me up to live in the moment and cherish it for what it has to offer. I can trust God with the future and know he will walk me through whatever comes my way. I have had a bit of personal experience in this, in the small stuff as well as the biggies like cancer and the family disease of addiction. 

I have read the passage in James dozens of times over the years. Back in college, when my brain was sharper, I actually memorized the entire five-chapter book of James. I have decided to take this year to study and actually ask God to help me live out the principles of the very practical book — to make them a part of my daily walk, not just a script in my head. 

I mean, who better to learn from than from someone who actually grew up with Jesus in the same house! On a side note, think about that for a minute. No pressure or opportunity for resentment there! And you thought it was rough being compared to your siblings!

The book of James is where many of the 12 Steps from Recovery Groups originated. Simple and straightforward ways to live life on life’s terms. Simple, but not easy to implement, especially when our ego gets in the way. When we forget that we are not God and do not know the future. 

I have seen this principle played out in many areas of my life. The “just when you think” principle. …just when you think you will never change, get a job, find a mate, be free of addiction, rage, anxiety, depression. …just when you think your marriage is done for, your kids will never leave home or never come back. 

Just when you think God can’t be trusted and doesn’t see or hear you, he sends a sign: a new friend, a kind word, an encouraging text from an old friend, a bible verse, a rainbow, a feather or a bee (more on that later…). 

I always wondered about the last sentence of this set of verses. It doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the message: 

“So, you know the right thing that you ought to do. But if you know that and you do not do the right thing, then you have done a wrong thing.”

Huh? That seemed totally off in left field until today — no dig at that poor Dodger outfielder intended! I think James finished up with that last verse to point us back to the present and living out our walk with God.

The only opportunity we have to serve and love others is right now. So, if you know that but are too busy planning for the future or are always telling yourself that you will “do it tomorrow, next week or sometime in the future” but never actually do it (call that friend, serve the poor, share your story or your stuff, etc), you are sinning.

Which is quite an indictment when we usually think of “sinning” as the bad stuff we do. James tells us that if you know what you should do but don’t do it you are sinning. He strongly urges us to live knowing tomorrow may never come. Is your side of the street clean? Would you be ready if tomorrow doesn’t come? Feel free to make plans, but hold them loosely and make the most of today. God is God, and thank God almighty, you are not. 

Here’s a worthwhile mantra for today and maybe everyday:

Hold it all loosely

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awareness, Faith/Spirituality

Underlinable

I have been reading a book that was loaned to me by a friend.

Loaned. Not given.

As a general rule, when given a book on loan, one should protect that book, keeping the pages smooth (no dog-earing the corners) and barely opening it so as not to crack the spine. One should avoid using the book to set ones’ coffee cup on so it won’t spill on the couch. One should also refrain, no matter how poignant a word, sentence or phrase of said book, from underlining or highlighting anything.

Unless one just can’t refrain one page longer and wildly lets her pen fly.

I made it all the way to page 73.

That’s when I couldn’t take it anymore and began to underline insights that I needed to hear and wanted to revisit in the future.

I don’t read much that isn’t non-fiction/self-help/inspirational because I actually hate reading.

My brain considers reading work; not something you do for enjoyment. 

I have a pretty short attention span which is why I only read about a chapter at a time ( or less, if the chapter is really long!) before I can’t focus anymore.

I also seem to forget what I read…unless-I underline it.

It helps me really “hear” what is being said through the text.

Underlined

Sometimes I get a little crazy and try to listen to an Audio book. That’s sort of a disaster. I end up only understanding about half of the book because A, my mind wanders off and B, I can’t underline anything.

This morning, as I finished up this book, I decided to go back to the beginning and re-read the first 72 pages and underline anything that I didn’t learn the first time when I was reading “pen-free”. There was some pretty good stuff in there!

That’s when I had this thought about how my life can be divided up in to days that have moments or conversations or insights that are underlined and days that are just a run-on of activities and actions that are void and without intention and laden with duty.

Next to my sitting spot on my couch I have a basket of about 20 books that I have already read, at least once. Many of them I re-read every year and am delighted when I see that something I underlined the year before has actually been a growth area for me.

Other times I am surprised to pull a nugget of truth off of a page that was just plain naked. How could I have missed this last time I read it?!

By now, I have learned that I just wasn’t ready to receive that truth yet, or I was a different person or at a different place in my life then; I didn’t need to hear it until now. I couldn’t.

I want my life to be marked up — underlined (maybe, if I get a little wild, even highlighted or starred or circled!). I don’t want to go through several “pages” of my story where there is nothing worth underlining.

When I start to read a book that doesn’t compel me to underline anything, it goes back on the shelf or to Goodwill. I have no interest in finishing them.

Living a life with underlining doesn’t mean constant adventure or entertainment or morose, reflective thinking. For me, I think it means I look for ways to do the regular stuff with intentionality and awareness that there is something bigger going on that what is right in front of me.

It means that I look around for someone to serve and listen for God’s promptings to engage in my life in a way that has purpose outside of my tasks and chores and obligations.

Each day I am writing more of the story of my life. If I re-read it, would I come across anything that would make not underlining it unbearable?

Lord, help me live a life that is underlinable.

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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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awareness, Change, Faith/Spirituality, Serenity

I didn’t intend to post today…

Haven’t been writing as much. I feel so much better when I do. I feel connected to God more acutely when I write.  But even though it’s hard for me to admit, because I have a tendency to devalue myself and talk not so nicely about myself (out-loud and in my head), I connect better with Heather when I am writing than any other time. It helps me remember who I am and what I believe at my core. I see more clearly that I haven’t been living out what I know to be true for me, and every so often, that I totally am and can pause to celebrate that. There is always so much pulling at me that distracts me from writing. A lot of it is really good and necessary stuff, but when I don’t make it a priority to write, my cheese starts to slip off my cracker 😜. I get a little ticky and anxious and grouchy and unsettled in my innards. I usually can’t put my finger on what is causing me to be out of alignment until I write an new blog. The feeling of relief and satisfaction that I am doing what I think God has given me to do is one of the few times I feel a sense of fulfillment and peace. I have a knowing, centered pace/peace about life.

Today, while I was working out and reviewing the dozens of tasks I had to do for work and worrying if they would pan out and stressing about the fact that there is a crack in my Kayak I have to fix and where the heck is that duct tape? and wondering if my college age kids might not be going to college this fall because of COVID…I had an epiphany. Maybe I need to write everyday to keep my sanity. Even if I don’t publish it for anyone to read (which is exactly what I intended to do with this blog, but I just can’t help myself!).

person using typewriter
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Typing is therapeutic for me. On a side note, my dad worked for IBM when I was younger so we always had a typewriter at our home. When I was a sophomore I got the chicken pox and was, well, quarantined for a week or so. I decided to teach myself how to type. I really wanted to type without looking so I would type the poems plastered all over my bulletin board on the wall I stared at while at my type writer. Because, you know, sophomore girls love their deep, romantic poetry. I also typed, “now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country” about a 700 times as suggested in some manual I read about learning how to type. Between that week of practice and my time in the hospital using my new I Pad, my fingers are like lightning! Writing with a pen is not even an option for journaling-I am way too impatient for it. My thoughts come so fast, my pen could never keep up. I really hate it, actually.

Anyway-enough of that. I don’t know what I am telling you any of this, other than it helps keep me accountable when I say things out loud and to others.

I need to write. I need to write for myself. I need to write to you occasionally because I think a few people are encouraged and feel less alone when I do and that’s enough of a reason.

So I give you permission to ask me if I am doing what I said I am going to do: write it all down, get it out, see it on paper how I have compromised or grown. Maybe you could join me. It doesn’t matter if no one else reads it. Just get your thoughts, fears, failures, joys and embarrassing stories out of your head somehow.

See, now that wasn’t so hard, Heather. I feel so much better.

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Faith/Spirituality, Marriage, Recovery, Relationships

It’s not you, it’s me…

July 11th, 2020 was my 28th wedding anniversary. Our 28th wedding anniversary. By the grace of God. When we were preparing to get married we did some pre-marital counseling. I don’t remember much of it, but the biggest part I don’t remember is being told that the “worse” part of “for better or for worse” is far “worse” than you can imagine it can be at that point in your relationship. Most of our marriage was what people would define as good, but there were a few years that definitely put the “worse” part into practice. I would say that we both had ample opportunity to call it a day, call us incompatible and beyond repair. At times it felt to both of us that it might be easier to just start over with someone who really “got” us or just be on our own. Either of us could have made a good case that we were in the right and often there were people around us who even encouraged such an option. Leaving would have been understandable.

But after being separated emotionally and even physically for a period, here we are, trying to find an interesting way to celebrate this milestone during a pandemic. We settled on an afternoon at a local pool and dinner out. Occasionally, I have thought about what I would say if someone were to ask us to speak about how we made it out the other side of separation, addiction and leukemia (because, you know, the opportunities are just rolling in to do so! ) . Or, more realistically, how would I answer you if we were having coffee and the subject came up. What’s the key?

close up of wedding rings on floor
Photo by Megapixelstock on Pexels.com

Was it just us sticking to our guns and gritting our teeth in the name of God, ending up together but still miserable? There is nothing God honoring about that scenario. Just to be able to say “we didn’t quit” is not enough to keep us going strong as we move forward. It can be valid for a short stent, but it is not a long term solution to a solid marriage. It’s not about winning by digging our heels in to weather the storm, it’s about continuing to thrive and embrace each other as we invest in our marriage day after day. So, what would I say to someone who asked me how we reconciled and gave “us” another shot?

There is not just one answer, but I would say that the primary way we eventually found our way back to each other was by working on ourselves. This is the exact opposite strategy we had been using the rest of our marriage. We went to countless counseling sessions in order to “fix” our marriage, which was basically an attempt to fix the other person so we could be happy. If “he would just…. Or “she would just….” Then everything would be hunky dory! We created lists and assignments about how each of us would implement changes that would satisfy the needs of the other person (if you have been married for more than say, a week, you know the list of which I speak). This ended in failure and resentment every time.

When we finally each focused on ourselves, the primary goal of any recovery group. We made progress. Instead of looking to the other person to make us happy, content and whole, we took it upon ourselves to become the kind of person that could be content and happy, content and whole regardless of what other people did or said or how they behaved. In recovery terms, that is called “detachment with love”. Separating yourself spiritually and emotionally from other people so you can think and feel and act in ways that honor who God made you to be and what He is calling you to.

“The two shall become one” is a phrase used in many a wedding and sermon regarding a married couple. Over the years, though I believe it is true at some level, I realized that I had taken this principal to the extreme. Yes, we are one, but we are also an “I”. I am accountable before God for myself alone. I can’t blame or use my spouse as an excuse to not follow God’s lead on something. I am responsible to keep my side of the street clean even if theirs seems to be a wreck. I am the only one who can make me “OK”. That’s not my spouses job. Often we ourselves are not OK and we try with earnest manipulation to make it our spouses fault.

We also would do well to remember that being “one” does not require us to take on his/her foul mood or angst or depression or illness. I can be empathetic without allowing my day/week/life to hijacked so that we are both miserable in the end. It’s OK to be OK even when they are not OK. During our time apart, I learned I that to become “one” with someone I had to bring a whole-me to the table. He cannot complete me. To put someone in that position is to make them an idol. It puts them in the place where God alone needs to be, because while my husband is a fine husband, he makes a pretty shoddy god.

When we both got serious about focusing on our own emotional and spiritual health and becoming the type of caring, selfless, confident, serving, tender, gracious, understanding, tolerant, forgiving, encouraging, interesting, loving and whole-hearted person we could be, our marriage became, well, easy (er). Any time either of us falls out of alignment by expecting the other person to meet needs that only God or ourselves can meet, it becomes hard again. Then we evaluate and observe what we have been doing that smacks of anything that does not follow what we know to work: bringing our best self to the game. That’s something that only we can do as an individual.

It took times of struggling and learning and stretching to make it sound like a good idea to stay together. If you would have told either of us two years ago that we would be content and dare I say, happy, in our marriage, we would have had gigantic doubts and I, with dramatic flare, would have rolled my eyes and said, “we’ll see.”

But here we are. After 28 years we are giving a whole new meaning to, “It’s not you. It’s me.” I am 100% the only one with who I am “till death do us part”. I am a full time job. I owe it to myself to put the work in to become the kind of person that brings every bit of who she is to my husband and accept what he has to offer as well. If I am committed to staying, It is indeed me and me alone who who can activate the changes I want to see in my marriage. The rest is up to God.

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Faith/Spirituality

Today. Today. Today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

writings in a planner
Photo by Bach Tran on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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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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Faith/Spirituality

“Well, there you are.”

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

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

EverythingWillBeOK_RME_cropped

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Faith/Spirituality, forgiveness, Recovery, resentment

Resentment Release Day: April 21, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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