Addiction, Anxiety/Worry, Brokenness, Cancer, Control, Faith/Spirituality, fear, Relationships

EVERYTHING

The church I go to has a Word: Everyone. Everyone is invited. Everyone is welcome. Everyone matters to God and to the church. There are no exceptions (which, I guess the word Everyone implies…). I love that theme, that reminder. As I was thinking about this the other day, it occurred to me that my blog has a similar theme. If our churches theme is Everyone, my writing theme is Everything. In the past I wrote about how my blog was about “Nothing”, sort of like the sitcom Seinfeld. In reality, though, both my blog and Seinfeld are about both: Nothing and Everything simultaneously. They address and poke fun and bring to our attention the commonality amount humans. There are everyday events that often go unnoticed but when pointed out, are mutually hilarious and sometimes painful.

I write about Nothing (my insightful blog about “Squirrels” comes to mind) to highlight how, if we are paying attention, we can grow and learn from Everything. Nothing has to be wasted, even the crappy crap (repeated for emphasis), if we can embrace the bigger picture. If we maintain perspective when we are tempted to lose it.

This week I should have everything completed on my end for getting my book published. I have been working on this strenuously for the past few weeks, editing, re-wording, defining my audience, my keywords and my overall message. See if you relate to any of the key words I listed: cancer, leukemia, disease, anxiety, fear, control, spirituality, faith, addiction, recovery, shame. Maybe just a couple? But when it comes right down to it, there is one key word that is over-arching message that I want people to hear-HOPE. Amidst all the “yuck”, there is relief.

A personal, intimate connection with God is the relief and solution to all that is bent and broken in and around us. And let’s face it, if we aren’t broken yet, most of us are at least bent. The other day I heard the 90s song “Bent”  and sincerely could not stop feeling a deep sadness most of the day. The chorus is the cry of so many people: “Can you help me? I’m bent. I’m so scared that I’ll never get put back together.” A version of that plea is found in Psalm 22:11,14: “God, do not be far off, for trouble is near! I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me…my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.” On any given day, someone I know, often me, is uttering these desperate words.

I write to bring light to these dark places. I have been through  just a couple things that lend some credibility to this practice. This choice. And it’s a brave choice, should I choose to make it; to see God’s goodness in Everything. That doesn’t mean that everything that happens is good. It means that I can find the beauty in the bad. I can spot heroism in the horror. I can celebrate unity in spite of the ugliness. It isn’t easy and it isn’t natural. It takes a lot of work, at first. But eventually it becomes your default setting. You have to rewire how you think so it matches how God thinks.

And let me also say, though it might sound selfish at first, that I do this primarily for me. When I do it so that I can have peace and find rest in my deepest parts, it doesn’t matter how other people respond or react or behave. If I can learn from Everything, then those things are irrelevant. This frees me to react and respond and behave in a way I can live with and be proud of. I can live with the hope of healing, even when I am broken, disjointed and bent.

A “mantra’ is a “word or group of words believed by practitioners to have psychological and spiritual powers.” It is traditionally repeated in one’s mind to aid concentration on a particular belief one wishes to focus on. I would encourage you to use this verse as a mantra as you go about your daily trials/tasks/chores/responsibilities/decisions/relationships/celebrations/victories:

“In God we live and move and have our Being.”

Or,  say it more like a prayer to Him;
“In You I live and move and have my Being”.

Choose to see God, to find Hope, in Everything.

 

 

Anxiety/Worry, Cancer, Faith/Spirituality, fear

“Smells ring bells”

I just love the smell of a freshly lit cigarette in a hot car. Yes, really. It reminds me of when I was little and spent time with my grandma. I remember riding in her Cadillac in California while I jabbered and she smoked and listened. I actually have her piano in my house, which apparently she antiqued herself, most likely while smoking. On hot, muggy days in Illinois, I can sometimes smell hints of lingering smoke that must be mingled in with the paint. Neither of these are scents you would call pleasant or find as a featured fragrance at the Yankee Candle store, but for me, they trigger many emotions and happy memories of my grandma who has long since passed.

While I doing some research to give validation to my personal connectedness with certain sells, I came across an article called “Smells Ring Bells…” I was surprised to learn that “incoming smells are first processed by the olfactory bulb, which starts inside the nose and runs along the bottom of the brain…it has direct connection to two brain areas that are strongly implicated in emotion and memory, Interestingly, visual, auditory (sound), and tactile (touch) information do not pass through these brain areas.” So, apparently it wasn’t unusual or weird that when I took a tour of my new work facility a few years ago, I started crying when I got to the wood-working shop (though the guy giving me the tour might have thought otherwise). My grandfather was a cabinet maker and when I was young, I spent a lot of time running around his shop, stirring sawdust. Just getting a whiff of that scent took me back to those times and brought me to tears.

We have all them; the smells that ring our bells. But they are not always bells of celebration and joy. Sometimes, the bells they ring seem to be indicative of doom or mourning. I read of a War Vet who would have strong emotional and physical reactions to the smell of diesel prominent from his time of active service. Haunting memories of death and tragedy flooded in.  Often the smells make little sense to anyone but us. Maybe it’s the smell of a certain cologne that an abusive father, husband or boyfriend wore that makes you freeze up inside. Or the stench of alcohol that takes you back to that scared little boy or girl who couldn’t rouse their parent. Or the fresh smell of lilies that take you to the morning you stood beside your mother’s casket.

You know the smells that trigger you. The emotions and memories, whether good or bad, can feel as real as the day they happened. This is good news and bad news, depending on the smell. Is it a sweet aroma or a stench? The feelings are very real, even if the events happened years before. But it’s important to remind yourself, that feelings aren’t facts. Acknowledging the feelings that knock on the door of your awareness is crucial. Let them in. Feel them fully. Accept them. Then let them go.

If the feelings are negative, remind yourself that they don’t have power over you unless you dwell on them and let them tyrannize you. They are feelings not facts.

If the feelings are positive, remind yourself that those too are not facts. Enjoy the memories and special feelings but don’t live there or pine to go back in time to “better days”.

There are more scents on the horizon for you. Some will be lovely and some will stink like raw meat. Don’t ignore how they make you feel, but do remember to keep moving forward. Feel the feelings of the past but live in today. Be open to what God has for you in this present, real world.

Anxiety/Worry, Brokenness, Control, Faith/Spirituality, fear, Trust

The secret

Almost 2,000 years ago, a guy named Paul said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether in plenty or in want.” One might ask, how hard could his life have been in 62AD? The guy wasn’t married and didn’t have kids (need I say more?). He wasn’t slandered on social media or demeaned in the tabloids. However, a bit of history tells us he did endure a few minor inconveniences. During his short time of ministry, after God intervened and transformed him from a murderer to a missionary, he was flogged, imprisoned, beaten with rods, stoned and shipwrecked (most of them on more than one occasion). He was in danger from “rivers, bandits, his own countrymen and religious leaders.” He often went without food, sleep, water and clothing. Oh, and then there’s the anxiety from trying to spread the good news of God’s love to a people who he used to persecute and kill for believing that very thing. OK-I guess his trials and stressors might “win” over mine.

But somehow, Paul was able to find the secret to being content in all these circumstances. He credits two beliefs; 1) that he can do all things through Him, God, who give him strength and 2) he trusts that God will meet all his needs according to his glorious riches in Jesus. What amazing faith and assurance he had!

Still, I have to be honest with you about something. Even though I say I believe what Paul believes, those two “secrets” I mentioned above, I don’t alway live like I do. I don’t act as if I really believe those words for myself. In fact, here’s the reality of what I think much of the time:

I don’t want God to take care of me so I can be OK no matter what my circumstances,
I want him to make my circumstances OK so I can easily take care of myself.

That’s pretty embarrassing to say out loud. I really wish I was better than that. But my humanness and desire to be comfortable and happy and for everyone around me to behave and flourish, really gets in the way of trusting God no matter what. Being content no matter what. It’s scary when I realize that mostly I just want God to orchestrate my life so I don’t need Him so much. I mean, wouldn’t that be easier for Him anyway? He has a lot of people to help, after all. Would it be so hard to just set me on a comfortable cruising speed and let me manage things myself?

Trying to wrap this up seems a little redundant. It’s not like we haven’t figured out what must be done. There is no new information. Life is good. And sometimes it’s not. End of story. I can either complain about the times times that are “not” or turn to God for strength to get through them, trusting that He will meet all my needs according to his glorious riches. I can forget about Him when circumstances are good or I can acknowledge that every good and perfect gift comes from God. I can choose to live with a grateful heart.

Whether my circumstances are pleasant or pressing, depending on God and staying in tight communication with Him are the only solutions that help me tap in to Paul’s “secret” to contentment.

 

 

Anxiety/Worry, Brokenness, Control, Faith/Spirituality, fear, Trust

Surefire weight-loss plan

Let’s get straight to the point. Today, I feel heavy. But not nearly as heavy as I did yesterday. I am referring to excess weight, but not the fat kind; the heart kind. I was feeling overwhelmed with obsessive thoughts about everything and everyone in my life that I can’t control. Worry and fear and a healthy dose of self-pity were paralyzing me. I couldn’t muster one positive thought or tap into even a tiny a nugget of hope. I read and prayed furiously, looking for something, anything, that might give me some relief from the despair that was consuming me.

Like I said, I am a bit lighter today. After a morning of asking God for help, he showed me, or reminded me, of a song. This memory was triggered by an entry by Sarah Young in my daily reading:

God says to us “Hope in Me, and you will be protected from depression and self- pity. Hope is like a golden cord connecting you to heaven. The more you cling to this cord, the more I bear the weight of your burdens; thus, you are lightened. Heaviness is not of my kingdom. Cling to hope, and My rays of Light will reach you through the darkness.”

This message was sorely needed for me, but it’s a message I know in my head already. It wasn’t enough just to know the truth. I had to practice something different. And that “different” was revealed to me when I brought up the words to a song from my past: Garments of Praise.

The chorus begins:  Put on the garment of praise, for the spirit of heaviness.

As I began to explore what that might mean for me, what promise I could cling to so I could lighten up, I began the process of shedding the weight. I thought about writing it down as soon as it occurred to me what I needed to do. But then, I decided to actually do it so I could give some evidence of success (clearly, I still had my doubts about whether this simple plan would help at all). So what did I do? I stopped. I stopped praying for God to help or fix all the things/people that I wanted him to change/improve/empower, and I intentionally fixed my gaze on Him. I began by putting on the Garment of Praise song (Robin Marks) and sang with all my heart (the end of it has sort of an Irish jig feel, so you can even do a bit of River-dancing/clogging if you’re in decent shape!). The song has words that helped me express my desire to be comforted and refreshed and healed:

Make these broken weary bones
Rise to dance again
Wet this dry and thirsty land
With a river
Lord our eyes are fixed on you
We are waiting
For your garland of grace
As we praise your name

But it’s very hard to praise someone, namely God, when you are consumed with yourself. Throughout the Bible, praise is often is associated with sacrifice. If that seems weird to you, let me explain. Psalm 116:17 says “I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord” and Hebrews 13:15 says “…let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Many times, I don’t feel like praising God because the pain or sorrow or hurt is so intense. These feelings require me to make a sacrifice. Sacrifice means, as author Terry Law puts it, “doing something you don’t want to do or don’t feel like doing. It’s giving up your own desires for the benefit of someone else.” And in this case, when I give God my sacrifice of praise, I choose to focus on 2 things: 1) His attributes. His power, love, compassion, grace, guidance, etc. 2) His track record. His history of how he has been good and faithful and shown up for you in countless, priceless ways. I believe that even if you are still skeptical of or even angry with God, you will have some stories to recount if you think hard enough.

I sacrificed what I felt like doing (worrying, fretting, trying to fix manage and control) and instead, fixed my mind, and voice, on who He is and what he has already done for me. It’s the difference between listening to a sad breakup song about lost love vs a song expressing the power of love and the excitement and energy that comes from being in that relationship.

There are several ways to praise/worship God. I like to sing, so that’s the main way that I engage in it. God doesn’t really care if you can hold a pitch though, so even if you can’t, don’t let that stop you! I also like to read various Psalms and adopt those words to help direct my thoughts. If you aren’t much for reading or singing, try writing down a gratitude list about who he is: all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing, kind, gracious, radical, extravagant. He is our rescuer, our provider, our savior, our voice of truth. Or maybe make a list of all the ways he has shown up for you in the past. Review the successes and times where you chose to trust and turn things over to him. Note how much better they turned out than when you tried to depend on your own self-sufficiency.

I have been practicing a variety of all these since yesterday. Today is not perfect, but my heart is in better shape than it was yesterday. And for the record, nothing has changed in my circumstances. The adjustment has been where I am choosing to put my energy. Instead of wasting it on trying to control the uncontrollable (i.e. Trying to do God’s job for Him), I am making the sacrifice of praise in the ways laid out above.

In a society of chronic dieting, I think this might prove to be the best rapid “weight-loss” plan on the market. Care to trade a garment of praise for that spirit of heaviness? Could you stand to shed a few?

Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality, fear, grace, Trust

“Though the doors were locked…”

By now, some of you have read enough of my blogs to understand my unique daily reading plan. I could market said plan as “Rabbit Trail Reading Plan” or “ADD Reading Plan”, both catering to busy, scattered, impatient and focus-challenged individuals who are doing the best they can to grow up mentally, spiritually and emotionally. At any rate, here’s how it looks for me. I read approximately 4 different books each morning. Each one has a daily entry that is shorter than most of my blog posts I write. While I am reading I underline like crazy. I look up words I don’t understand or intrigue me. And I look up any references to bible verses that are highlighted. When I look those verses up, I truly love it if I have already underlined them in my bible (as if I were going to receive a prize or somthing).  I also read what comes before and after those verses  and occasionally end up reading a few chapters or other verses I have underlined around it. All that to segway into telling you about what I read the other day. And I couldn’t stop crying.

Just a brief description of what’s going on in John 20:26; You have probably heard the descriptor of someone who is skeptical or leary about something as being a “doubting Thomas”. This passage is where that phrase comes from. After Jesus was killed and came back from the dead, he appeared to a few of his disciples. Poor Thomas. He wasn’t there. So they told him about it and a paraphrase of what he said went something like “What-ever dudes. I’ll tell you what; I have heard these rumors already and seen the posts on Instagram. You know they can make anything look real with photoshop, right? But until I see him with my own eyes and touch the holes where they nailed him to that cross, I’m not buying it.” A week goes by and the disciples, including Thomas this time, are chillin’ in someone’s living room.

“And though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them.”

And though the doors were locked…”. That’s the part that made me stop. Made me sob, actually. Because that is the God I believe in. Too often we picture Jesus as standing at the door of our hearts and knocking patiently. Wondering if we are home, hating to bother us with his measly gift of, um, forgiveness of sin and eternal life. This image probably comes from frequently abused verse about “behold, I stand at the door and knock” that is often used to entice someone to turn their life over to the care of God. Spoiler alert, that verse was writtent to a church full of Christians that needed to get it’s act together. It wasn’t about the heart of an individual who hadn’t met up with the wonder of God yet.

The God I believe in and am abandoned to, is not like a door to door salesman or a person who walks and knocks on neighborhood doors getting signatures to support his political agenda. He isn’t politely tapping while I hide behind the curtain, peaking out the window, hoping he gives up soon and moves on.

He’s a God who pursues. He knows we are home and He isn’t leaving until we open the door. He knows what He offers is not only free (to us, not at all to Him) but the best gift we could ever receive. His grace and love and mercy are indeed priceless. Too often we are resistant to letting Him in. Sometimes it’s because we are afraid. Sometimes it’s because we are selfish and want to live by our own Will. Sometimes, I think much of the time, it’s because we think we are not worthy of the gift. That we have screwed up too often and in ways that seem irreparable.

The God I believe in, not to frighten you, is one who will find a way in even though the doors are locked. He will go through a window or jimmy the dead-bolt or come down the chimney. He is what the English poet Francis Thompson called “The Hound of Heaven”. “As the hound follows the hare, never ceasing in its running, ever drawing nearer in the chase, with unhurrying and imperturbed pace, so God follows the fleeing soul by His Divine grace.” And even though, for a plethora of reasons, we try to hide and run and lose this Hound, He follows after, “unwearyingly follows ever after, till the soul feels its pressure forcing it to turn to Him alone in that never ending pursuit.” (J.F.X. O’Conor)

You see, like a lover who knows without a doubt that you are destined to be together, God will passionately and fervently pursue you. You can run and hide and curse and reject, but those are hurdles He can handle. He is not hunting you down to punish or shame you. He is coming to bring the love, acceptance, peace and joy your have been looking for in other things or other people.

Dear friend-I hope you can feel my two hands on your cheeks as I hold your face close to mine and tell you with a tender and emphatic whisper-“though your doors are locked, He will find a way in. And that’s not a threat, it’s a beautiful promise.”

 

Anxiety/Worry, Faith/Spirituality, fear

Inside Out

I’ve heard it said that our outer world is often a reflection of our inner world. Which is to say that the symptoms of inner chaos and clutter and lack of focus can alert us to what is happening in our souls. I believe that and have found it to be true on more days than I care to admit. However, there is a big “but” attached to the solution to that…

And I almost fell for it last week. Outer chaos may very well be indication that there is something askew on the inside, the “but” of is that no amount of order, organization, updating or putting your house/office/bank account/room/desk/car/yard in order can substitute for addressing what’s festering in your soul. The unrest can only be settled from the inside out.

In the past couple of weeks I have been in the process of moving my college-age son out of his room in the basement and moving my 17 yr. old into it. This requires total upheaval and storing and sorting of two entire rooms and years of accumulated memorabilia. Once I competed that task we also rearranged and distributed furniture and electronics from the toy room and then painted and re-accumulated re-fabbed furniture (by me) to put in the newly painted (also by me) guest room that used to belong to my 17 year old. Near the end of the madness, I actually caught myself feeling hopeful because it was almost over, and thinking, “hang in there, Heather. Once you this all organized and completed everything is going to be OK”. The busy-ness and exhaustion and feelings of subtle anxiousness will melt away. Well, I am 99.9% done with this over-haul and guess what? I am not 99.9% better.

Here’s what I learned: If I don’t want to face certain situations or feelings, staying busy with projects and people and entertainment are excellent distractions. If I am afraid of looking at how I might need to change or adapt or what I might need to let go of, a good make-over ( on my body or my home) works wonders. But eventually, when it’s all said and done, I am left with me, myself and I to deal with.

I was thinking about this while running errands today. This problem manifests itself a couple of different ways in me. There are times when I over-schedule and allow very little margin so that I don’t have time to think about areas that are upsetting to me. It’s called avoidance. I go to coffee and the store and work later than I should and watch movies until I can’t keep my eyes open. I know there is something causing me to feel unsettled but don’t have the heart to handle it in a healthy way just yet. Then there are other times where I go a couple weeks in a frenzy of meetings and events and appointments before it occurs to me that maybe my unrest and lack of serenity might be coming from somewhere deep in my soul and is trying to flag me down. It’s flailing and floundering and needs attention; stat!

Even now, as I write and reflect, I can feel the pull of productivity and validation through maintaining a full schedule. Through getting stuff done. Sitting here on this couch, sharing and looking inward is simply unacceptable (is what my brain is telling me). But my spirit, God’s spirit whispering to me, tells me otherwise. That how I go through life is more important than the what. And I can’t do the what well if the how of my soul is running around like the Tasmanian Devil. I’m just sayin’.

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

God is repetitive

A couple weeks ago I was In Hawaii. Sigh….

As we drove to the beach on our last day there, my mom and I had a discussion about Hawaiian words. How I can’t pronounce any of them properly, for starters. I mean, how would you pronounce Kapaa or Poipu or Lihue? (However you said it, I can pretty much guarantee that’s not it). I might as well have been trying to speak French. Also, as we went through the spelling of the various cities and areas we visited, we noticed a few things. There are some letters they rarely if ever use ( s, t, and r for example) and some that they use repeatedly (k,w,p,m and lots and lots of vowels).

Fast forward about an hour as we were laying in the sun. We started talking about a study my mom was doing. It happened to be written by one of my favorite authors, Beth Moore. This led us to bring up Anne Lamott, another favorite author of mine. I told my mom that a couple people have told me that my writing reminds them of hers. My interpretation of that compliment is that it’s mostly because we are both pretty honest about our own messed up selves and tend to land on similar topics like grace and love and vulnerability. But there is a huge difference in that she is a real writer who uses smart words and creative and intentional descriptive sentences that are simply way out of my league. My blogs are like the Walmart version of her Ralph Lauren writing. And that’s when it hit me and made me laugh out loud; I am like the Hawaiian version of Anne Lamott! There are just some words and letters she uses that I will never, ever be able to use. And most of all, I am Hawaiian in that I repeat the same few words over and over and over. I use words like “like” and “thing” and “very” and “soooo much”. My descriptive repertoire (I had to look up how to spell that!) is sorely lacking and simplistic.

My vocabulary is not the only thing that is repetitive. The more I write, the more I see the pattern. My topics are also repetitious. Any given blog you read will address issues with worry, anxiety, trust, fear, control, grace and acceptance. And to be honest, while that used to cause me to feel dumb and narrow, I now feel like I am good company. Because you know who else is repetitive? God. And if this is one way I can be more like Him, I’ll take it. If you have ever read the Bible, or even if you haven’t, you should know that even though there are approximately 807,361 words used in the Bible, they tend to highlight certain themes over and over and over in different ways. The main two topics that run throughout the Bible are 1) love God and 2) love people. God also regularly address how we should handle worry, anxiety, fear, control and how to live a life of peace and contentment as we trust His will over our own. It’s rather repetitious when you get right down to it.

I repeat myself because I struggle with the same tendencies on a regular basis. The tendency to let worry and fear dominate, resulting in complete lack of trust in God’s plan for me and the world around me. The tendency to control; to force solutions so that life works out the way I want it to and the people around me live up to my expectations. The tendency to withhold unconditional love and grace and judge others as if I were the great “I AM”. From what I have heard from readers, I am not alone in these tendencies.

But God has gone ahead of us and given us His words of comfort and wisdom to help us navigate this repetitious life-cycle we are riding. He gives us the tools and promises to find relief from these areas, if we choose to use them. He knows its a life long battle for us, which is why He repeats Himself. He tells us the answers in a thousand different ways so He can get His main messages to us across in just the way we need to hear it.

I have a strong tendency to forget to keep the main things the main things. Thank God He is repetitive.

Addiction, Anxiety/Worry, Brokenness, Control, Faith/Spirituality, fear

My drug of choice

Just based on principle, I probably shouldn’t be writing right now. But I feel like the only way to clear my head is to reason things out on “paper” so I don’t go insane. Sauturdays are hard for me be cause there is no routine. No agenda. And my family seems to be fine with that. But I am not. I have a hard time relaxing and put expectations on myself, which often spill over and soak my family, to be productive.

Productivity is my drug of choice. I can be held captive by it and render myself immobilized if I don’t engage in it. Once I get a hit from it, I can feel the tension leave and the relief come. I am acutely aware of it on this cold, windy Saturday morning. I have no obligations and have ample time to read and write and relax with my coffee. And yet, on the way to my spot on the sofa, I felt the overwhelming pull to “get a few things done”. I did all the dishes while the coffee brewed (because God forbid I waste time simply waiting). Then I scurried from counter-top to counter-top, picking up stray objects and trying to figure out where they belong. After I got my coffee, I headed to the living room and decided I could quickly sort through the videos, DVDs and books stored in the TV stand. About an hour after I set out to read and pray I was finally situated. I sat there, books in lap, coffee in hand, feeling like I had earned the right to finally just “be”.

I don’t know when this mindset took over my thinking. I remember talking to one of my teachers when I was in high school about his summer plans. He said that he made it a point to do one productive thing each day of his summer break. At the time, that seemed very noble and wise. So apparently my productivity addiction had not kicked in yet. Now, I think, “ONE thing?!?! Really? If I am not feeling productive most of my day I feel like I am failing.” Even when I am relaxing, I don’t feel very relaxed. I was watching TV in bed last night. TV. Bed. Both relaxing by nature. But at one point I realized I was tense and my shoulders were raised up and tight. I just seem to have trouble letting myself do something “unproductive” and enjoy it. I am not bragging either. That’s not a good character trait to have. No one likes to be uptight. No one likes to be around people who are uptight.

I think a lot of this dependence I have on being productive stems from a false belief that I adopted somewhere along the way in my faith journey. I am still unlearning the notion that somehow my good behavior my accomplishments and my responsible choices are what God is looking for from me. While those things can’t be thrown out the window entirely, they are not the basis for being in right standing with God. He alone does that for me. I have spent many years learning how to think differently. Obviously, the transformation process is slow. One step forward, two steps back.

Today, I am determined to try to relax and be present when I have the opportunity to do so, rather than feel like I should be doing something different like clean or sort or work. I am getting ready to run errands with my teenage daughter (and what, I ask , could be more relaxing than that!? 😜). I have a lot to do around the house ( tasks I have made up to feel productive) but instead, I am going to ride with her and practice being present. Practice being grateful that she invited me. Practice being “unproductive” and being OK with it. I think it’s exactly what God wants from me.

Anxiety/Worry, Control, Faith/Spirituality, fear

Four winning-ways to worry

It feel so good to be back! Did you miss me? Remember when God and I and you all kicked Leukemia in the butt? Well, while I was unconscious and intubated in ICU, apparently my mom promised me that if I didn’t die, she would take my sister and I to Hawaii when I got better. Last week was that “better” and we spent 9 amazing days celebrating not dying! I thought of you often while I was in Hawaii. We’ll get back to that in a moment.

Awhile back, I signed up to receive a “word of the day” email since, as I write, I feel a yearning for better, smarter ways to express myself. Today my word was, nuncupative. Never heard of it? Me either. It means, “spoken rather than written: oral.” I thought, that’s what my blogs were like while I was in Hawaii; Noncupative! I was with my mom and sister and we had several conversations that would qualify as a blog entry.

So, for better or for worse, here is the first entry, post-Hawaii. I know you will be shocked to hear me write, again, on the topic of worry. But as it turns out, being 5 hours earlier than where I live and an ocean away, provides several new and improved modes of worry. I have experience with a couple of them, but it turns out they are heightened when you are 4,214 miles from home “as the crow flies” (that’s what Siri tells me).

The two basics types of worry are one, not getting what you want and two, losing what you have. In regards to not getting what I want, I realized I developed a way to worry that isnt just about fear of what might happen, but more specifically, about what might not happen. And by what might not happen I mean it involves my expectations. I expect my kids to graduate and get good jobs and not live at home forever and ever Amen. I expect my job to be successful and to move up and to the right. I expect my friends to call once in awhile and invite me out. I expect my body to look like a 21 year old, ok, how about 30 yr old, even though I am 47. I expect to be more mature and kind and generous and honest as I age and grow and learn. And I worry. I worry that those things might not actually happen, and God forbid, that they might happen but not in the way I have mapped out in my little head.

And let’s just graze the fear and worry that comes from losing what I already have. Even though my life isn’t perfect, it’s pretty good today. What if, in the blink of an eye it all changes. I have lost many things in the past few years that really side-swiped me. My health being up at the top of that list. As much as I fear not getting what I want in the future, it can also be terrifying to think of everything changing. Today, while it isnt perfect, is also not terrible. And I know how to deal with today because I am in it. What if any of it should go away?

So, those two are pretty common types of worry and ones I hear others talk about regularly. Lucky for you I have identified a couple more, less commonly addressed types of worry to add to your list.

You can worry about what might have happened in the past. While we were in Hawaii we went on a dinner cruise, which in reality was a roller coaster ride of 5 foot waves the majority of the time, up the Na Pali Coast. We had a wonder, and safe time. The next day my sister pointed out how crazy it is that boats can float. The physics of it all started freaking her out. And those waves? Oh my gosh, we could have died! How could a young captain and a marine biologist from the crew save 40 people? The thought of what could have happened started freaking us out! And to top it off, my sister had to leave a day early. After she had been in the air for 3 hours they captain announced that they would be back to their original location within the air. The plane was having mechanical trouble. They sweated bullets for the next hour and after they landed safely, they were towed in to the gate while fire trucks and ambulances stood by on the runway, “just in case.” Now, that there will give one pause to think about what might have happend.

And I just love this last one. I actually think I found a loop hole. God says to only worry about today. Meaning, what’s happening at this very moment. Well, about 8:00 in the morning, Hawaii time, I found myself worrying about a test one of my kids had later that day. When it hit me; it is later today in Illinois! I was free to worry to my heart’s content. It seemed like worrying about the future when it is actually the present has to be ok, right?

But, like I said about this blog, for better or for worse, God has the same answer for you regarding worry; Don’t do it. He says don’t worry 365 times in the Bible. Do the math. He says to be anxious for nothing, but in everything give praise.

The only way to keep our minds and hearts from being overwrought with worry of any variety, is to be grateful and trust Him. Be grateful for what we have and will have, even if it doesn’t fulfill our expectations. Be grateful for what we had and how long we had it, even if we lose it. And be grateful for and trust His sovereign (supreme, absolute, unlimited, boundless, ultimate, unconditional) will for our individual lives.

So, there you go. I have outlined a few ways you didn’t even know you could worry. I am sure you have a few of your own up your sleeve. Regardless of how many avenues you find to worry, remember: the solution is always the same.

 

Addiction, Anxiety/Worry, Brokenness, Cancer, Control, Faith/Spirituality, fear, Relationships

Timing is everything

“The waiting is hardest part.” -Tom Petty (1950-2017)

It feels like it’s been a long time since I wrote last. Which is interesteing to me since I have been reflecting on the concept of “time and timing” over the past few days. These thoughts on timing came to me in a very profound and illuminating way as I sat on my couch…admiring my fingernails. They are rockin’ right now! They are long and strong and borderline dangerous to myself and others. But, this hasn’t been the case for the past two years. I think it was the chemo that caused my nails to be flimsy and splitting. They hardly grew at all, but if they did, they would soon peel or break. The perplexing thing is, I haven’t even been doing anything to remedy that problem. And all of a sudden, they are back to normal. It’s like my body finally got rid of whatever was in me that was causing them to shatter. Nothing profound, it was simply “time”.

Since then, everything I read seems to point me to time and timing. The longer I live, the more aware I am that so much of life is all about timing. Which is unfortunate, because I want what I want and I usually want it right now. I want to work out and be in shape by tomorrow or at least by the weekend. I want to read a self-help book and be organized, efficient and succcessful by the time I finish chapter one. And those are the simple wants. I also want to pray for the people I am worried or stressed about and see results in a reasonable amount of time (I like to be fair and give God a few weeks). I try my best to understand why some people seem to get “better” quicker than others. Whether it’s from cancer or mental illness or addiction or any kind of stronghold. The big question for me seems to be “how long, Oh Lord?”.

There is a saying in Recovery Programs that has a good answer for those who lament not arriving in the Program sooner. Someone new thinks of all the years they suffered alone, without any tools or people who understood their pain. An old-timer will tell them,  “you got here right on time.” Because timing is everything. If you show up before your soul is reading and willing to hear and receive help, it will fall on deaf ears. I think it’s this way in all of life, really. The Bible uses a couple phrases that indicate that there is a time for everything (not only from the populace song from Ecclesiastes and John Lennon telling us there is a time be born, a time to die, a time to kill and a time to heal, etc.). One is “the fullness of time” and the other is “for such a time as this”. Both imply that there are certain events and attitudes that have to be established before something can happen. Until all the pieces are in place, the results won’t come.

We have such limited knowledge and access to what those pieces look like. They are an accumulation of interactions, relationships, behaviors and choices of thousands of people. We are interwoven with one another in ways we will never know, yet will still be effected by. The ripples run far and wide.

This is helpful for me to remember because, as I said, I like to see some progress. I hate waiting (check out a previous blog on how i am a terrible Waiter). I read something the other day (because, of course, God gave me about 4 different readings that all addressed “time”. He is funny like that!) where the author said, “How often I still find myself impatient with the pace of life.  But today, when things don’t happen according to my schedule, I can accept that there may be a reason…I can keep in mind that waiting time does have to mean wasted time. Even times of stillness have lessons to teach me…I can accept the pace of change today, knowing it will bring both times of active involvement and periods of quiet waiting.”

My need to be in control severely hinders me from being a better Waiter. I want to control how other people change, how my circumstances change, how I change and most importantly at what rate it all happens. My need for immediate gratification doesn’t help either. “Now” is one of my favorite words.

An expert from Streams in the Desert says it this way: “Waiting on him exercises your gift of grace and tests your faith. Therefore, continue to wait in hope, for though the promise may linger, it will never come too late”. When I try to rush results or manipulate circumstances to go my way or on my agenda, I show complete lack of trust in God’s plan and demonstrate and exaggerated view of my own. Today I will let God set the pace.

But I trust in you, O lord; I say “you are my God, my times are in your hands.”
Psalm 31:14,15