Serenity, Trust

Kayaking to serenity

I am a kayaker. Before you become overly impressed with my grand sense of adventure, I’ll remind you that I live in the middle of Illinois. It’s not like there are white water rapids to tackle or anything.  I simply go out to our local, man-made lake, drag my kayak into the water and within 10 minutes, I am floating peacefully in the water.

 I have been out at 6:00 in the morning (to avoid boats and actually make it alive to the other side of the lake instead of tooling along the shore line or quiet coves) and 9:00 at night (hovering close to the dock and being yelled at by various lake-home owners that we are going to get run over by boats. So Helpful.) . 

I bought 2 kayaks and joined a lake club 2 years ago and it is undoubtedly some of the best money I have ever spent. Two times in the last month a friend and I have loaded up our kayaks and traveled a whole hour away to join complete strangers in a Central Illinois Kayaking Club. We are both 50 (ish) years old and feeling pretty proud of our adventures. Next time, we decided we will camp in a tent the night before, but now I am just bragging. 😉

About half of the time I kayak with friends, which is why I bought 2.  I love sharing this experience with people who I care about and who I know could use an hour or two of escape.

Often, though, I go alone, which my mom and mother in law don’t like very much for safety reasons. When I send them a pic and am out by myself, I remind them that I would have to stand up and rock back and forth aggressively in order to fall out and as far as I know, there haven’t been too many hostages taken off of kayaks in Lake Springfield lately.

I go alone for fun, but I also go alone when I am stressed, sad, overwhelmed, angry, flustered, or feeling crowded. Last time I went was immediately after I had left a funeral for a young friend’s mom and in the same hour found out my brother’s house had burned down in the California fires. 

After months of quarantining and no graduations or proms and college cancelled for my daughter and life postponed and interrupted in a thousand different ways for everyone I knew, these two events made something inside me snap. 

Going back to real life just didn’t seem appropriate. So, in my dress and heels, I headed for the lake to see if I could find the serenity and focus I needed to go on with my day. My life. 

As I pushed away from the shore into the quiet cove that is like a hallway leading to rougher waters, I heard it. The subtle, soothing sound of the paddle moving through the calm waters. It’s not unlike the sound of a gentle fountain or stream or even one of those zen-like, battery operated mini waterfalls you might find in a spa or have in your home for relaxation; a gentle ripple.

Each time I put my oar in and slowly drug it from side to side, the gentle ripple generated a  “quieting” in my spirit. 

I listened carefully to this and it soothed my soul. It took me a few minutes to get to the open water. I paddled out a bit and just sat and read and cried and called my sister, who always says what I need to hear.

As I headed back to real life, it occurred to me that when I am paddling in the rough waters, the sound of my oar pulling me through the water was not the same. 

When I moved quickly and rowed with high energy and hard work, the sound was not relaxing or peaceful. 

It sounded like effort.

Immediately, the verse “Be still and know that I am God” came into my mind. This was a perfect metaphor for me to understand the necessity for stillness.

When I sit with God, slow my spirit enough to listen for his prompting, his caress, his comforting presence, I find rest in my Being. Deep in my knowing. 

When I “suck it up”, “man up” and “give it some gusto”, I often create too much static to hear that still small voice of assurance that he loves me, he sees and hears me, and he is in control of it all — that He is indeed Lord.

It’s like rowing in rough water – I get where I am going, I suppose, but it’s a lot of work and effort, minus the sense of pleasure and peace that comes from paying attention to what God is saying and doing around me.

 I am simply rowing/going too fast to really hear his voice. 

Maybe you don’t have a kayak, and for that, you have my sympathy.  I love mine so much! But I highly recommend finding a way to be alone and still with God. Maybe it’s in nature or in a boat,  but most often you will need to carve out time and space to do it without that much rigamarole (is that a real word?).

 You might need to step away from your desk or your home or your friends/coworkers/ family and sit in your car, go for a walk or lock yourself in a closet for a few minutes. You may need to do this a few times a day to stay sane.

 As you get better at turning your will and your life over to the care of God and trusting him with the outcome, you will not wean yourself off of this method of finding peace…

…you will crave it.

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust will be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” Psalm 37:7

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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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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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Faith/Spirituality, Serenity

#alonealone

I think I figured out part of my problem. I have a lot of them, I realize, but something has been extra “off’ about me since the Covid-19 quarantine. At first I thought it was just that I didn’t have a good Quarantine Routine. I don’t like set schedules (because I am a free spirit and also don’t like anyone telling me what to do 😉) but I really need them to function properly. Give my “free spirit” a few days without a schedule and it’s complete mayhem. I can’t get anything done.

But I don’t think that’s it, entirely. We are all quarantined to our homes with our precious, dear, sweet family members. Please keep my love and admiration for them in mind as we enter this upcoming territory. I hear a lot of talk about the isolation of this disease, and I know many people are living alone, so that totally stinks. I am sad for you in a different way if you are experiencing that kind of loneliness. I don’t mean to make light of the other side of this coin. But, many of us are living with a few other Homo sapiens that are always.always.always home. There are other people in my living room where I used to sit and reflect and read and pray without distraction. And since I can’t seem to be still and quiet with someone in the room, I feel compelled to share my deep thoughts out loud with them and then they too are interrupted. I take on the stress of my husband’s job because I can hear him on the phone from anywhere in the house. I am hyper aware of my own work conversations because I know they can hear me too. I can only imagine the not alone-ness that those with small children who need constant attention must feel.

While looking up ambient music with beach background on U Tube ( it’s one way to pretend I am somewhere else than my house! ), the phrase #alonetogether kept scrolling across the screen. Well, that’s a nice thought and all, but at least for a little bit everyday, I need to be #alonealone #alonewithoutinterruption #alonewithgod #alonewithmythoughts. Even if you love having this blessed time to be home everyday all day with whoever those people are for you, we are not wired to never have solitude, a time to refresh, refocus and spend time hearing from God.

In the olden days, like 3 weeks ago, most of us had a tendency to rush from our workouts to work to soccer to church to bed. Our time alone with God and with our own spirits had to be carved out intentionally. That part hasn’t changed, it’s just that now we need to be more creative and open to new ways of doing that. I have been mostly irritated that I can’t do it the way I used to do it and thus have spent very little time spending the kind of time in reflection and prayer and reading necessary for me to be emotionally and mentally healthy, which is less than optimal during a pandemic where fear and uncertainty seem to be pressing in at all times. I need God’s perspective and peace now more than ever. I keep telling God we’ll “catch up soon” and then forget to text or call, like I would an old friend I ran in to at the grocery store.

white ceramic mug on table
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I know we are not on vacation by any means, but we are on a hiatus from real life, which is kind of the same when it comes to the routine of solitude or study. When I go on vacation, after about a week of self indulgence and constant togetherness and group activities (eating every meal together, sleeping in the same room together, riding in the same car together ) I start getting a little ticky. I know I need to find a way to be alone and read, write, pray or just sit and stare in silence. If I don’t do this, thinks can get ugly. I need get out of my own head and hear from God or read spiritual insights so I can remind myself of how to act like a loving, mature momma and wife.

So, on this here forced Staycation, I am gonna have to figure out a new way of doing things. Luckily, it’s getting warm so outside is now an option. My car is starting to become my new best friend. It’s quiet and offers privacy without risking infection. I don’t love these alternatives, because I really love my little blue couch and coffee table for my feet and my picture window to look out during my usual morning time of solitude. But life is anything but typical right now and I still need that time-out from others to stay spiritually healthy.

Maybe you need it too. Maybe you have been reading this and there is a child wrapped around your leg or resting on your hip. Maybe your partner is sitting across from you so even though you want to cry out to God or just plain cry, you feel self-conscious or embarrassed to do so. Maybe the TV is on all day and your fears are growing by the hour. Maybe, like me, you are starting to blame the people in your home for your inner angst and restlessness when really your soul is starving and out of sorts.

My advice to you….RUN. Not forever. Not far. But for a small and imperative chunk of time. Run to God. Eventually things will go back to “normal”, but for the sake of your sanity and serenity that comes from spending time alone with God and with yourself, figure out how to carve out a time and space where you can be #alonealone. Your family might miss you for a bit, but my hunch is they will be grateful that you have rebooted and recalibrated your spirit, you can come back to them with a calmness and kindness that are just contagious as the Coronavirus.

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awareness, Faith/Spirituality, gratitude, identity, Relationships, Serenity, Trust

49er (almost 50 but not quite!)

Tomorrow is my birthday. It’s not the big 5-0, but I will be turning the number only one year away from that. I can hardly stand to even talk about that right now. So let’s just look backwards instead. I remember when I turned 30 I was sorely disappointed because in my twenties I envisioned myself being a “wise woman of God” by the time I arrived at that mile marker. Needless to say, that was “no-go”. I remember my 40th birthday well. A group of ladies went out to dinner with me at Indigo restaurant. It was a special time. My husband and I also celebrated our 40th by going to Grand Cayman for a week! It was awesome, but, side note, as I opened the doors on the veranda of our hotel room at the Ritz Carlton…again, on my FORTIETH birthday….there was a supermodel doing a photo shoot right below us. In a swimsuit. Sprawling across a speedboat. Posing and working the camera with great fervor. She was there for some sort of supermodel convention that would begin in a couple days. Supermodels trickled in throughout the week. I remember laying on the beach as they literally carried said supermodel across the sand to her next shoot about 20 feet away from me. Perrrrfect.

I had sort of blocked out that part of my birthday history until just now….

So, back to my original reason for writing. It’s not to get you to tell me happy birthday tomorrow. It’s about what I have come to understand about life and birthdays: God’s plan is better than mine. It would be easy for me to get pretty sad if I think about the fact that 50% of those friends that celebrated me on my 40th birthday are no longer in my life. Or when I recollect that after my 40th birthday my life pretty much imploded (or exploded?) and has been a serious learning curve ever since. Up until that point of my life I don’t think I ever really knew the pangs of betrayal, heartbreak, terror, rage or despair. I guess I was lucky to not experience it until 40, and for that I am grateful.

But here I am, 9 years later, and I have new eyes to see with as a result of what God has brought me through. I am still not the “wise woman of God” I had wished to turn into when I was 30. But that’s ok. What I am, or in the process of becoming, is more joyful, more humble, more content, more relaxed, more vulnerable and authentic. I am also becoming less of a few things: less judgmental, less angry, less fearful, less insistent on my own way. I have come to realize that though I would not have chosen to go through the struggles I have faced in the past almost-decade, God used them to mold me into a person I finally like. I finally feel like I am leaning in to what He wants for me instead of trying to manipulate him into giving me what I think will make me happy.

I had to go through the fire to reap the benefits of the refinement that comes only through the intense heat of extreme circumstances. There is no other way but through if you want the serenity that comes from trusting God in every single event, challenge, opportunity, accident or heartache that comes your way. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly was not bravely challenging the storm to “bring it on!” most of the time. But I didn’t give up or curl up. I trudged away. I found new friends to celebrate with these past few years. Though I had to say goodbye to many relationships, I have added more than double what I lost. My life is richer now as a result. I would say that I know and interact with at least 100 more people that have blessed my world, all as a result of circumstances that seemed as if they would be the figurative and even literal death of me.

When I was reading Oswald Chambers this morning, I skipped ahead to the reading for my birthday. Here’s what I read and what I will do my best to remember until I turn 50 (at which point we can chat about whatever new revelations God has brought my way…):

“If a man or woman is called of God, it does not matter how untoward (read: horrific, undesirable, agonizing, disappointing, sucky, etc.) fcircumstances are, every force that has been at work will tell for God’s purpose in the end. If you agree with God’s purpose He will bring not only your conscious life, but all the deeper regions of your life which you cannot get at, into harmony.”

Thank you God. Happy Birthday to me.

Anxiety/Worry, Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality, Serenity

Boneless and Skinless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you been doing life “boneless and skinless”? Me too. We are not chickens. It’s not healthier this way.

Maybe we can do what David did; remember God’s track record and how he has shown up for us in the past. And maybe it will help us both if we read through some of the Psalms I listed above and then wait patiently for God to restore us to physical, emotional and spiritual health.

What have we got to lose?

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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 it 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”.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

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 person’s 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? 🤔

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Anxiety/Worry, awareness, Faith/Spirituality, Serenity

What’s on your index card?

As I have mentioned before, I do some yoga in the mornings. If I am coherent enough to remember, I lean an index card against the coffee table leg with a meditation to focus on and keep my mind from running ahead into the rest of my day.  The other day I fired up my laptop with the video, set up my card and my mat and lit a candle. As I prepared for my first position, my mind started to fret over a few things left undone and things I was afraid I would forget to do in the future. Luckily, I remembered, after a few minutes of worrying, to re-center my mind on my day’s mantra. I glanced over at the index card for the words I knew would give me perspective. It was upside down and backwards.

Well, that sounds about right. How much of my life is lived with me either forgetting about that card entirely, or operating with it upside down and backwards? I have several cards to choose from each morning. Each has some truth that reminds me of what I believe to be true, or want to be true in my life. Phrases like:

  • “Do not worry about the past or the future. Each moment is enough for now. BE PRESENT”
  • “I can’t. God can. I think I’ll let him”, or
  • “Me and the people I know and love are exactly where we are supposed to be right now. We are all ENOUGH.”

But doggonit if I don’t forget them as soon as I roll up my yoga mat.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Over the past several years I have had to gather some new beliefs and tools and practices to manage some extreme challenges in my own little world. I read and review and talk about these principles with friends and at recovery meetings. But it doesn’t take much to let my serenity slip subtly away. It doesn’t take a catastrophe to make me forget what I know is the best way to live and behave. It only takes a slight distraction. That distraction can be a too-busy schedule with no time set aside to reflect and pray. Or it can be a person I choose to focus on fixing rather than taking care of my own overall needs. And it can definitely be all the “cares of this world”, as Jesus put it, that vie for my attention and trick me into thinking that much of what I think matters simply doesn’t.

This week I picked up a book. It’s actually my book about my life written by me. I am fascinated! If only I could be like that girl, I’d be amazing! And to quote myself, “when you compare yourself with yourself and you’re still not good enough, you know you’re in trouble!” I would read an entry and think to myself, “Yes! I forgot that I believe that! I haven’t been living as if I do, that’s for dang sure.”

Here’s the deal; most of us know what we believe to be true and how we ought to live, love and act. If you don’t, start there. But if you do, you are probably also keenly aware, especially at the beginning of a new year, that you have a strong tendency, like I do, to forget to return to those beliefs and ways of living that you know will help you be your best and highest self, living in harmony and unity with yourself, God and others.

Yes, my index card, with a reminder of what I believe, was (and often is) upside down and backwards. But the goal is to keep referring back to those cards. First figure out what you need to put on your “cards” and harken back ( that’s fancy talk for “remember to look at it ya ding dong!) to it over and over as you go through your days. There will be times the words will be embedded on your heart and mind with unwavering clarity, while other times your card might be crumpled on the floor of your car or mixed in with a bunch of junk on your kitchen counter. But remember to look for it when you sense yourself getting out of step. Aimless. Grumpy. Discouraged. Heavy. Anxious. Fearful. Angry.

None of us can do this perfectly all the time. But my prayer for me and for you is that we will notice less and less space between the unrest and the solution when remember to return to our roots. To the core of what we know we believe.

Harken back to what’s on your “index card.”

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Faith/Spirituality, grace, Serenity

Jedi-Mind Treatment

The other day, after trying to talk both of us off the ledge of a particularly frustrating situation, my husband asked me, “why do you always see the bright side?” That’s when I had to confess that even though I just rattled off a bunch of “bright side” jargon, I actually woke up on the Dark Side that very morning. After a few decades, I have finally learned that when I am disturbed, short-tempered, or enraged at minor inconveniences, things that don’t go my way or say, heavy objects falling off the table directly on my big toe, it’s a pretty strong sign that there is something boiling inside me (and it’s probably been percolating for an unrecognized-while ).

What is even more disturbing, is how quickly my mood, my outlook on my circumstances can vacillate from one end of the continuum to the other. That morning, I was having a toddler-esque tantrum over some pretty lame stuff, which triggered me to go on a rant to God about how my life was a phat joke and nothing ever goes my way and why does everyone else seem to get what they want but I certainly never do!?!?!

I knew even as I was driving that I was setting myself up to feel stupid for my lack of perspective. You see, I was driving to a hearing for a young man who has been in jail–has not seen the literal light of day–for a year. The lesson I was about to be served hung out there, taunting me, but I still couldn’t manage to pull myself together. I just kept mouthing off, right up to the point where I put my two quarters into the parking meter for the guy parked behind me! Just one more bit of evidence that my life was indeed jinxed by God (thinking about this in hindsight is pretty comical, not to mention embarrassing).

And then God, who I frequently doubt and question about whether or not he gives a lick about my meager little life, showed up in lights. As I sat in that courtroom with 2 others, we silently begged God to do what was best for this young man, but let him know what we really wanted was freedom. We prayed that he fill this judge with mercy. And guess what? In spite of every single bit of evidence that made his lawyer’s request sound like a long shot (he had already told us as much) and completely impractical, absurd, unlikely and possibly even dangerous, she approved it. I can’t go into too much detail, but let’s just say that an hour later, he got his picture taken outside, with the brilliant fall sunshine beaming down on his pale skin.

I have never witnessed a miracle this directly. I felt like God did some sort of Jedi-Mind-Treatment on the courtroom that day. Ya know, like in Star Wars when the guards as Obi-Wan for Luke and his companions identification he says, “You don’t need to see their identification,” and the guards respond, “We don’t need to see their identification, move along!” That’s how the Jedi-Mind-Treatment works, and that’s how crazy it was that this dear boy walked out of that courtroom to a new type of freedom. Made no sense at all; God’s crazy like that.

And in the afterglow of experiencing this miracle, it only took me about 2 hours to swing back to the Dark Side over something of such little significance I won’t even bother to bring it up.

In all this, I guess my point is that, as I have mentioned before, we are all broken and jacked-up and human, and this is most likely going to happen again and again and again. I am not proud of how easily I lose perspective and how demanding and childish and ungrateful I can be. But maybe God understands us better than we think. He knows I love him madly, but occasionally behave badly. And He extends that same mercy to me that I witnessed Him extending through that Judge. And He extends it to you too.

“His mercies are new every morning…every day it’s true, He makes all his mercies new.”

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

Pull yourself together!

“Pour yourself a glass of wine, put on some lipstick and pull yourself together.”
-Elizabeth Taylor

Recently a friend gave me an adorable make-up pouch with this quote on it. I do whole-heartedly agree that lipstick is the cornerstone of all cosmetic collections, but that’s neither here nor there. There’s been some wildness going on in my head and heart lately, and today, as I admitted to God that I felt like I was going insane, He narrowed the tornado in my head down to the eye and in one word revealed the problem: control (or lack there-of).

You see, I have this chronic disease of trying to control; of trying to make people, places and things around me OK so I can be OK. This approach leaves very little time and energy to enjoy my own life and explore what God has designed me to be and keeps me focused on, and actually obsessed, with the behavior, choices, lifestyle, successes, failures, problems, disappointments, and fears of people around me. Usually the ones I love the most. The problem is two-fold, however. I am not the only one who suffers in this scenario. No one likes to feel that they are responsible for someone else’s well-being. And no one likes to be told – or as I like to say “encouraged” – to live their life according to someone else’s plan. As a result, they end up feeling resentful and disrespected and certainly not loved.

After I prayed (more like “cried out” or “vented”) about how I felt like I was going crazy and simple could not handle all the problems and challenges my loved ones are facing, God finally showed up. Or should I say, I finally hit my bottom and surrendered, admitting that my way wasn’t working and He could finally get a word in…ya, maybe that’s more like it. A few quotes from my Recovery reading for today that helped me see clearly why my peace of mind had blown clean away:

“Surrender does not mean submission – it means I’m willing to stop fighting reality, to stop trying to do God’s part, and to do my own.”

“The best way I’ve found to invite serenity is to recognize that the world is in good hands.”

“Today I can be grateful that the earth will continue to revolve without any help from me. I am free to live my own life, safe in the knowledge that a Higher Power is taking care of the world, my loved ones and myself.”

“There is only one person I am responsible for, and that is me. There is only one person who can make my life as full as possible-that too, is me…today I will keep hands off and keep my focus where it belongs, on me.”

After I went to the index and read every single reading on surrender and control (about 10 readings – apparently other people struggle with this same disease), I had clarity for the first time in a long time. At the bottom of the page for today’s reading I wrote, “it feels irresponsible to enjoy my life unless my loved ones are enjoying theirs.” This belief is one I need to kick out if I am ever to embrace and find joy in my one and only life.

I have to remember that God doesn’t have grandkids, He just has kids. And when I try to impose my Will on others, either directly by offering advice they didn’t ask for or indirectly (by praying to God that He do with them what I want done) then I am interfering with His perfect plan for them and missing out on His beautiful, exhilarating and personal plan for me.

It shouldn’t surprise me that when I went to my reading for today, Oswald Chambers entitled today’s entry, “Pull Yourself Together.” He wrote that in 1935, waaaaay before Elizabeth Taylor. His point was basically, “God is God and you are not.” And He’s “got this.”

I promise it will be worth the wait.

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