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

My Mini Miracle

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

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

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

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

-Drove home from work (20 minutes)

-Change into my biking attire (about 15 minutes)

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

-Ride to the bike bath (7 minutes)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quarantined: Ain’t my first rodeo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Come get me”

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

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

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

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

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

Faith/Spirituality, fear, freedom

“Napping” Fear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faith/Spirituality, fear, Trust

“Do it afraid”

The more I think about fear, the more I realize that there are many nuances to it and that it’s going to take a few blogs to make a dent in any of it. Today I want to process something out-loud regarding the kind of fear that makes the most obvious sense: fear of doing something scary. The circumstances that are “scary” differ from person to person, but we all have one or two items we could hang in this closet. Sometimes they are as superficial as fear of riding a roller coaster and sometimes they are as personal as fear of intimacy, vulnerability, self-reflection, etc.

And speaking of roller coasters, let me tell you a little story that has helped me get a better handle on my ability to address my fears. Since I was in college my husband (then boyfriend) have been going to Silver Dollar City almost every year. It’s an old fashioned them park in Branson Missouri, and I mostly go for the Carmel apples, fresh fried pork rinds and funnel cakes. They also have a few rides, including about 3 terrifying roller coasters. One is called the Powder Keg which blasts you off from 0-90 in about 3 seconds. I love-hate it.

Every time we go there we have the same discussion.

Before:
Me: I don’t think I am going to go on the roller coasters this time.
Husband: Yes you are.
Me: No. I am not. I am too old and too scared. My tummy hurts and my heart is pounding just looking at them.
Husband: You’re going.
Me: No I’m not.
Husband: You only have to go once.
Me: Fine. (Sweating/nauseous /terrified)

During:
Me: Holding my breath. Then screaming until my kids tell me to hush. Then cursing under my breath until the ride is over.

Afterwards:
Me: That. Was sooooo scary! (Nervously laughing)
Husband: What did I tell you!?
Me: Let’s go again right now!

By the end of the day I go back to these roller coasters when there is no line and while my family is in the gift shop, I ride them over and over and over by myself or with my daughter who sort of has the same love-hate relationship with roller coasters as I do.

Some of our fears have to be addressed with this same strategy. You have probably heard the saying, “Courage is fear that has said it’s prayers.” I have a note on my bulletin board at work that reminds that the first step in overcoming fear is to “move my muscles”. Sometimes, as a mentor of mine tells me, you have to just “do it afraid.” You are scared to go on a roller coaster? That’s understandable. Do it afraid. You are scared to make those phone calls at work? Totally legitimate. Do it afraid. You are hesitant to be real/authentic/tender with someone who you love? Pefectly reasonable. Do it afraid. Move your muscles. Say a prayer, invite God in and ask him to go ahead of you, and do it afraid.

What you might find is what I discovered after I forced myself to “do it afraid” when I went on those roller coasters. The more you do it, the easier it gets to do it again. And, that even though you are still a tiny bit apprehensive at first, you have a sense of exhilaration in the end, if nothing else but from feeling proud of yourself for not letting your fear get the best of you.
In order to live a life not dominated by fear, we need to understand that a little fear is normal, but we can overcome those fears by acknowledging how we feel, and “doing it afraid”. Eventually we will develop a track record of confidence and success and trust in the powerful process and results that come from not allowing fear to immobilize us.

(Just talking about fear-and roller coasters-is literally causing my heart to race right now. But here I am 😳)

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

“Terrification”

When my 22-year-old son, Berkeley, was about 2, he had an irrational (yet adorable) fear of “fuzzies”. Now that I think about it, maybe my house-keeping was lacking, because the “fuzzies” he was referring to were little balls of lint. If one made it’s way out from under the couch or was stuck to an item of clothing, he would panic and scream “Fuzzy! Fuzzy! Fuzzy!”. And while we’re on the fear-note, my kids and my husband all share a heightened fear of spiders. Spiders don’t just get stepped on or squished in our home, they get tortured, often with poisonous spray or a combo of fire and hairspray if time allows.

I am not particularly frightened of the usual suspects; snakes, spiders, public speaking, the dark, clowns, or fuzzies. But here is what I have come to realize about what I do fear: I am often afraid of pretty much everything else. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but let me tell you, it’s a lot. And most of the things I fear are about as rational as a fear of fuzzies.

Recently, quite by accident or divine direction, I came across some writings that helped me put some of my thoughts on fear into better words than I have been able to express on my own. See if some of them ring true for you:

*”The problem isn’t that we’re lost or apathetic, narcissistic or materialistic. The problem is we’re terrified…A lot of us know we have what it takes-the looks, the education, the talent, the credentials. But in certain areas we’re paralyzed. We’re not being stopped by something on the outside, but by something on the inside. Our oppression is internal…We’re just afraid, period. Our fear is free-floating. “

“Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking other people don’t have as much fear as we do, which only makes us more afraid. Maybe they know something we don’t know. Maybe we’re missing a chromosome.” 😂

“Fear is to love as darkness is to light. It’s a terrible absence of what we need in order to survive. It’s a place we go where all hell breaks loose.”

“God is not the author of fear. You are.”

On my way to work, almost every day for the past month or so, I tell Siri to “play ‘Fear, He is a Liar’ on U-Tube”. It ends about the time I pull into the office parking lot. I have to remind myself before I walk in the office and through-out my day, that “Fear, He is a liar”. I have to remind myself that the antithesis of fear is love and for me, Trusting that God knows better than I do how my day, my life, should play out. He knows that what I want is not always what I need. Even though I am not always 100% satisfied with the way my life is at that moment, I am still terrified that it will change or be taken away.  I believe that fear is at the root of most everything that is at unrest in my spirit (my anxieties and worries and hauntings) and the source of all my egomaniacal behaviors ( that’s the intellectual phrase for bragging, posturing, image-managing).

I don’t like having fear. It feels weak. It feels weak because it is weak. And even though it can be a powerful force that keeps me immobilized with insecurity, worry, hyper controlling and self-focused thinking, It is not all-powerful. There is a power greater than fear. I have found that power to be my God. He tells me that “perfect love casts out fear”. That’s definitely something worth unpacking because otherwise fear will get the better of me and hold me back from living in freedom, serenity, and unwavering trust.

Now that I have unearthed this idea that maybe we might all share a common struggle with terrification (a pseudo-intellectual word I made up meaning “a state of being terrified instead of terrific” ), I am going to sign off and think on this for a few days. Feel free to weigh in. More to come.

Anxiety/Worry, awareness, Faith/Spirituality, fear, Serenity, Special ed pre school

“Make Good Choices👍” (From the “Everything I need to know I learned in Special-Ed Preschool” series)

Some of my biggest life-lessons have come as a result of working for a few years with Special Ed pre-schoolers. As a 48 year old with a full-time job, a published author and a mother of 3 almost-grown children, that’s saying something. The “something” that is says is that at my core, I still need the simplicity of pre-school principles in order to address my emotional, relational and spiritual challenges. If I ever master the basics, I’ll be sure to let you know.

So, without further ado, I bring you another entry of “Everything I Need to know I Learned in Special-Ed Preschool”.

I tell you what, it’s been about 4 years since I worked at that school and I can still picture their adorable faces and hear their tiny voices in my head. One life-skill we worked very intentionally to teach them is the importance of making good choices. We regularly said to them, about a thousand times in a 2 hour time frame, “Make good choices” and accompanied that instruction with a smile and symbolic “thumbs up”. It occasionally made a difference, but it also took tattling to a whole different level. I distinctly remember a little boy finding me during play time and proudly informing me that so-and-so had made a “bad choice”, accompanied with a symbolic ‘thumbs down” gesture. Bless his precious pre-school heart…

This weekend, out of the blue (or maybe not so much, since I was thinking not-loving thoughts about and being extra critical of myself), I had a revolutionary thought. Remember the days (sadly, a fad that has waned a bit) when people wore WWJD? bracelets and put said stickers on their cars? It is an acronym for “What Would Jesus Do?”. And regardless of what you believe about him in a spiritual/salvation sense, I think most of us can agree that if we could indeed model our life and love patterns after Jesus, we would be pretty darn pleasant people. So, back to my revolutionary thought; Maybe it would be a better practice to ask myself WWJT?. “What Would Jesus Think?”. Because, my brain has a hard time deciding what exactly Jesus would do. Would he really work-out or tan or spend $5 on a coffee drink or kill time by wandering through Target? It’s a confusing question for me (like I said, I learn a lot from pre-schoolers so that should make perfect sense to you). But what I am fairly certain I can answer “yes” or “no” to is about what kind of thoughts I allow myself to entertain. It’s one thing for a thought to come through my mind, but whether I choose to let it in again or ruminate on it should depend on my answer to that question.

In other words, or in pre-school lingo, that means I have to “make good thought-choices”. Not that I am in the clear entirely about my not-so-nice thoughts about others, but I have found that my most destructive and anti-like-Jesus thinking is more about my thoughts about myself. In fact, even when my negative thoughts start off being about others, they usually circle back around to me (the EGO is a powerful monster). When I have jealous or covetous thoughts about another persons success at work or their material possessions, the root of those thoughts goes back to me feeling like somehow I have failed or don’t measure up. My thoughts quickly beat and batter myself over my perceived failure. I have a hundred more examples, but I think you get my point.

But most of all, it is worth posing the WWJT? Question to all the self-thoughts that cycle through my head minute by minute. I think part of the reason this idea was triggered in me this weekend was because I sang at church. I regularly doubt myself and my talents, comparing them to others who seem to be more confident and blessed with more natural vocal abilities. That’s when it occurred to me that these were not thoughts that I believe Jesus would have about himself. I can’t imagine that Jesus would tell himself that he stunk at what he was doing or that he wasn’t as good as that person so he might as well quit. I don’t believe he would complain about the body God had blessed him with or whine because his Father didn’t answer his prayers the way he expected him to or in the time slot he felt would work best for everyone. And here’s a good one, I don’t believe Jesus would worry in his mind about what his employer or co-workers think of him. He would do his best and forget the rest. What they thought of him ultimately had no bearing on his calling. I don’t even believe he would stress about what other people believe about him or if was who he said he was, knowing that they are in the hands of God himself who desires that each person should have an intimate relationship with Him. He just focused on loving God and loving people. He probably didn’t spend time obsessing about his problems, telling himself that things usually turn out bad for him so why bother expecting God to show up. Pretty sure he didn’t have thoughts like I often do: “I’m so stupid-lazy-forgetful-insensitive-worthless”. And this haunting thought that I am not enough (not spiritual enough, not thin enough, not smart enough, not tidy enough, not attentive enough, not serving enough, etc.) is not something I imagine he would entertain.

If I can learn to catch myself quickly, as all my thoughts creep in, and ask myself WWJT?, I just might be able to finally give myself a break. Maybe I can relax and trust God for my well-being, my affirmation and my identity. Maybe I can learn from Jesus’ way of thinking, how to think kinder, gentler thoughts about myself and my world.

What do ya think? Time for another kind of bracelet? WWJT? 🤔

Anxiety/Worry, Faith/Spirituality, fear, Trust

I’m OK. You’re (not) OK. That’s OK.

At first, I was struggling about what to say this morning. When I do my morning reading, I usually get a nudging or prompting from God about what to write about. More often than not, it is something I am personally working through, and it leans heavily toward ways my thinking has gone haywire. Today, just when I thought perhaps I had nothing to say, I connected the dots and in no time at all was snuggled on the couch with my IPad.

Let’s connect the dots together. Lately I have been having a hard time with being OK even when those around me are not OK (or at least not OK in the ways I want them to be OK). This way of living is disturbing to me. And that is an important and intentional way to say it: It is disturbing to me. Not to others. To me. When I allow what others do or say (or don’t do or say) to affect my peace of mind, I am allowing my own happiness and well-being to be determined by forces outside of myself. Depending on other people being OK for my OK-ness is dangerous, unsettling and exhausting.

I was reminded of this as I was lying in bed last night, not sleeping. I generally fall asleep pretty easily, but my son has had some issues getting to sleep so of course, like a responsible mother, I was laying in bed worrying about that on his behalf. Do you ever feel like that? That somehow fretting about those we care about is a requirement to prove ( To who? Not exactly sure.) that you really and truly care about them? This example is pretty minor. You can imagine what it can look like when people I know and love are in actual turmoil or battling a potentially terminal disease. It seems preposterous to consider that I could have a peaceful, happy and God forbid, fun, day or life when such circumstances are attached to people I care about.

I belong to a Recovery group that works the 12 Steps. The first step addresses this exact challenge (admitting you are powerless over ________ and that your life has become unmanageable) and I have read it out loud and studied it inside and out for about 6 years. And it’s still hard! You wanna know why? Because it is and always will be hard. Sometimes I act as if I will win if I just manage that thing, person or situation to death. But, because I am now aware of the solution, this mindset isn’t impossible to combat when I use the tools I have been introduced to. Here is a bit of that solution from some of the literature I draw from:

“…life is unmanageable whenever we lose perspective about what is and is not our responsibility. We take offense at actions that have nothing to do with us. Or we intervene where it is inappropriate and neglect our legitimate obligations to ourselves and others. Our misplaced concern for others becomes intrusive, meddling, resented, and doomed to failure. Instead of helping those we care about, we demonstrate a lack of respect for them or create discourse in our relationships.

When our preoccupation with others distracts us from our responsibilities to attend to our own physical, emotional, and spiritual health, we suffer. Our health and self-esteem decline. we become incapable of accepting reality, coping with change, or finding happiness.”

If you have been “preoccupied” in your mind with a loved one’s troubles or choices (whether they will make good ones or have already made ones you don’t agree with, which doesn’t always equal “bad”, by the way), neglecting your own health (forgetting to eat, over-eating, losing sleep, finding yourself immobilized or unable to have fun) or find yourself minding their business without invitation ( while forgetting to “mind” your own), it might be time to press “pause”. Pause in a quiet space and talk with God about what his will is for you. For you and only you. So much of the time I know I am missing it because my Being is consumed by the sayings and doings of others.

I have to learn to continually “let go and let God” take care of the people, places and things that are legitimately out of my control. I have a responsibility to live my one and only life with joy and passion and hope. I can be happy even when those I love are not. I can have a good day when those I care about are having a hard day. I can have peace in my soul even when others are at unrest and distressed.It’s called “detachment: separating myself emotionally and spiritually from other people”. It doesn’t mean I am irresponsible, indifferent, calloused or flippant about what others are experiencing. I can pray for them and extend kindness and love and appropriate help when it is welcomed. But ultimately, my serenity and contentment come from within me and can remain even when seas of anxiety and pain and stress swirl around me. It is indeed responsible, healthy, possible and desirable for me to be OK, even if you are not.

OK? OK.

Anxiety/Worry, Control, Faith/Spirituality, fear

“Back to the Future”

By now you know I live in the Midwest. Last week they (“they” being meteorologists who in my opinion have one of the worst jobs ever, being as most of what they forecast rarely happens as they predict, resulting in frustrated and disappointed people around the planet…or maybe that was just me) told us we should expect 5-8 inches of snow. Based on this prediction, Open Houses, conferences, sporting events, yoga classes, concerts and bridal showers were cancelled all over Springfield. My son works at a grocery store and he said that based on the crowd you would think people were preparing for the Apocalypse. Apparently people planned to survive on bread, milk and booze. Ya know, the staples of a well-rounded diet. My son was planning a trip out of town so he left a day early to avoid the “hazardous road conditions”. My husband and I and both sets of grandparents made him a bit crazy with all the tips and warnings about driving in the snow, how to contact AAA in case they slid into a ditch and made him pack blankets, gloves and a hat in his car because you just don’t know what might happen!

Well, let me tell you what did happen. Nothin’. Nada. Zilch. Not only did we not get 5-8 inches and 35 mph winds, what did drop pretty much blew away or melted immediately. So, enough weather talk, because I think you catch my drift 😂…when we predict the future and base our current behavior on what we assume the outcome will be, we are usually in for some disappointment. Not only that, lwe rob the present of it’s joy because our minds are occupied with planning our reactions to future events that may or may not happen.

As usual, when I start thinking about such topics, like I did the day we got zero snow, life provides me with an opportunity or two to learn a lesson. I have to tell you that I am not super happy about it. In fact, I got very little sleep last night because I was very busy formulating all the ways that I will respond to a variety of potential scenarios. I knew it wasn’t helpful or healthy but I just couldn’t seem to shut my mind off.  I tried to turn it over to God, but I just kept taking it back. I let fear and worry about all the obstacles that could arise in the next few days steal my serenity and my sanity. I obsessed about the various possible outcomes of the situation as if I had no other option.

I hope that I am unique in this behavior, but I have a feeling I am not. I smiled when a phrase, a classic movie title actually, came to me regarding this tendency to fret about events that don’t exist: “Back to the Future”. I need to train my mind and choose not to let it to go “Back to (worrying about and trying to predict) the Future”. I would say I made a teensy bit of progress last night and this morning. In the night I tried to focus on being grateful that certain tough circumstances are no longer a part of my life. Instead of a gratitude list for what “is”, sometimes it is more beneficial for me to make one for what “isn’t”. That helped keep my mind stay occupied and my heart be thankful. The other thing I did was look up some readings on Letting Go, Control, and Living in the Present in one of my Recovery books. Then, I looked up a song on U-Tube about Fear being a Liar. Not only did the lyrics give me some relief (Fear, he is a liar. He will take your breath, stop you in your steps. Fear, he is a liar. He will rob your rest, steal your happiness. Cast your fear in the fire, ‘cause fear, he is a liar. -Zach Williams), but the video of people in truly hopeless situations gave me perspective on my own and made me cry and cry. This softened my senses to what many others struggle with and took the focus off of myself and my problems.

I still don’t know how my situation will resolve, but I am choosing not to try to “figure it out” ahead of time. I have done my part and have no control over what other people do or say. One of the lines from a book I read this morning really helped ground me in the truth of the matter:

“Part of me gambles that by worrying in advance, bad news will be easier to face if it comes. But worrying will not protect me from the future. It will just keep me from living here and now…I needn’t explore how I’ll feel about something that might occur in the future. I don’t actually know how I’ll feel, and it may never happen. So when I feel myself leaving the present, I’ll remind myself that the future is not today’s problem.” (Courage to Change p15)

Today is all we have to work with. I don’t want to miss it by going “Back to the Future.”

Faith/Spirituality, fear, Patience/waiting, resentment

Waiting for Christmas (to be over?)

We are in the Advent season. In this case, Advent is a religious term meaning “expectant waiting”, in case you have heard that term your whole life and are embarrassed to admit that you don’t know what that actually means. Specifically, it refers to the days of December leading up to Christmas. I love how author Jan Richardson eloquently puts it; “Advent is a dance set to the rhythm of waiting.”

As I read about Advent last week, I was a taken aback by my reaction. It went something like “Oh I’m waiting alright. Waiting for Christmas to be over!”. Maybe it’s because I am the slightest bit tired of the work required to redecorate my entire house for a month’s enjoyment. And maybe it’s a tiny bit about the fact that my kids are teenagers now and doing the usual Christmas tradition activities are a chore to them ( Looking at lights with mom and dad? Boring. Going to Festival of trees? Yawn. Frosting sugar cookies? Laborious. Hanging Christmas ornaments? Tedious.) It’s also possible that the past few Christmas’s haven’t gone swimmingly and my expectations for this time of year aren’t necessarily as hopeful as I wish they were at Christmas. Sometimes I feel like I am just holding my breath, tying to “make it through” without incident or trauma (like Leukemia, for example…).

Maybe you have a similar something going on. When kids are little and excited it can be contagious. It definitely helps distract from what our hearts tend to reflect on during the holidays. The Christmas season, like no other season, definitely embodies the words of the famous Christmas carol, “the hopes and fears of all the years” that circle and weigh and even haunt us. Our expectations are either through the roof (I mean, after all, look around at all these happy people going to parties and spending extravagantly and baking cookies with and for their friends and family) or they are in the pit (Christmas means disappointment, poor behavior from relatives, relational strain, or painful memories of the year our parent lost a job or we lost a parent or our parents split up, or or or…) . Nothing ignites our fear (what if this Christmas isn’t like those of Christmas past? Or what if it is?) and confounds our hopes (should we dare to hope for joy, celebration, or the feelings of “Christmas spirit?) like the ringing in of the first Christmas song in the department store the day after Thanksgiving. It has begun. How much longer before it can be over?

Even though many of us or “waiting for Christmas to be over”, most of us don’t really want to live that way. We long to have that childlike anticipation about Santa coming or what’s inside that weird-shaped box under the tree. I don’t know if it’s really possibly for us to recapture that kind of enthusiasm, but I do believe that with a little, or large, tweak in our attitude and approach to Christmas, we can learn to enjoy it in a fresh way this year. And I am talking mostly to myself…

So here’s one thought…let’s take the words of “Oh little town of Bethlehem” one step further. “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.” It is my belief, though clearly I struggle keeping it at the forefront of my life, that God came in human flesh at Christmas to fulfill my hopes and squelch my fears. Because he came, I can dare to hope. Hope for a different future, hope for a softer spirit, hope for a fresh start, hope for new patterns of living that produce a life I can embrace and cherish. And I can give him my fear. He came to cast out our fear of the future and also our fears created by the failures and damage done by us or to us in our past.

This doesn’t have to be a season we merely endure so we can get on with the new year. This can be a season of healing and gratitude if we take the time to remember what the gift of Christmas truly is: God in flesh. Who fills everything in every way. Advent, the waiting, can be a time to suspend all that is ordinary and bleak, and hover over the truth of what we can expect with confidence this Christmas: that God didn’t just enter our world as a baby on that first Christmas, he stayed. God is with is. Immanuel. And he is in the business of making us whole and feel wholly loved. Giving us hope, and casting out fear.