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 let 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-seque 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 hind sight 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 me 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 if 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 that 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 tow-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 elses’ 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 shoudn’t suprise 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.”

Anxiety/Worry, Faith/Spirituality, gratitude, Serenity, Trust

Grateful for air-conditioning

Maybe if I just start typing my brain will untangle itself about what I want to say today. God must be trying pretty hard to teach me about living in the moment, because my brain continues continue to circle back around to that lesson I have yet to learn, apparently. Or maybe he just knows that in most cases, I need lots of reminders.

This morning, while driving my kids to school I was chuckling to myself (since no students in my car are interested in hearing my insights before school or before 8:00am-go figure) about a conversation I had with my oldest son who is currently renting a room out in California. He doesn’t want to commit to an apartment until he decides where he is going to land once he finds a job that can help him along in his career path. Unfortunately, California is running at about 110 degrees lately and since he is only renting a room, he has no control over the thermostat. And even more unfortunately, the person who does have control is the one who pays the bills and they seem to feel that 85 or 90 degrees is a reasonable temperature to keep the house. I say all that to tell you about my (in my head) response to all that: “I bet he wishes he had been more grateful for that annoying dorm life last year!” For the air conditioning control privileges. If only he had known what was coming, he would have cranked it up to 72 and relished what he would one day long for as he lay dripping sweat in his bed (my poor baby!).

But isn’t that how it works? We don’t know what we’ve got til’ it’s gone? I have lost track of how many times I have kicked myself for not wearing a bikini when I was 20 and size 4! I just couldn’t enjoy my body because it wasn’t “enough” of where I wanted it to be. Now I think, I should have been grateful that I looked the way I did instead of wishing I had “that girls” body.

It gets more serious than fat vs. skinny, too. I remember wishing I had a bigger house or better car or job. And I am ashamed to admit that though I haven’t wished for different kids or a different spouse, I have wished for a kid who minded better (when they were toddlers) or talked sooner (when they were babies) or did more or less of what our society deems successful and well-rounded. I have wished my husband was as attentive or romantic as men in movies who are paid to act that way or as financially successful as so and so’s husband. I am not proud of these thoughts. Mostly because it shouts that I am living in the past or the future. Regretting that I didn’t embrace what I used to have or pining for what has not yet come.

Both of these states of mind keep me from being present. From being grateful for this day. this moment. This one and only precious life. If we can learn to say “thank you” to God, to ourselves and those around us for contributing to where we are at today, we can avoid living in the past or waiting for our lives to change so we can be happy. Today Is all we’ve got. It’s time to stop feeling sorry about what was or for what isn’t and start being grateful for what is.

Faith/Spirituality, Serenity

Yoga Life-tips for people who can’t touch their toes

This morning I did Yoga. And by “did yoga” i mean I used a yoga mat, wore the too-tight yoga attire and fumbled my way through a yoga video. I have to be honest and tell you that my main motive for choosing Yoga was to avoid P90X which would cause me to sweat profusely and require me put tennis shoes on and jump up and down. I decided that at 6 AM an activity that would allow me to take a sip of coffee after each downward dog might actually get me out of bed.

So while I was doing this Yoga thing, I was planning my day and asking God what he wanted me to write about this morning. Having mentioned that, I can feel the disdain from those of you who truly have a yoga “practice” as part of your lifestyle, because thinking, planning, and being somewhere other than present in said yoga practice, is the antithesis of what Yoga is all about. I know this, but I am a Yoga novice and can barely touch my toes, let alone clear my mind and focus only on what my body is doing, or not doing, at the moment.

But, while I was teetering in crescent pose and simultaneously planning out my day, God gave me a handy little visual of how doing yoga very often mimics my life. Two words that the instructor kept emphasizing were “engage” and “balance”. So much about yoga, and life, is about how to stay balanced. In yoga, balance poses can be held for literally minutes (unless you are like me and you fall over every 3 seconds). And apparently, the key to staying balanced, is to engage. Engage your core, your leg muscles as they ground you to the earth, and most importantly, your mind. Your thoughts. Yoga is about bringing every though captive to the current. If you are trying to stay balanced but your mind is worrying about how you were offended yesterday or is tootling off into the future, trying to figure out your day or your life in general, you will most likely tip over into the piano bench (withold judgment, please).

The other day I was sharing with a friend about the struggle I have with this practice of engagement. Being truly present in my circumstances is extremely hard for me. I have this weird guilt about enjoying where I am at, regardless of my past or potential future events. No matter what I am doing I feel like I should be somewhere else. When I am reading/studying I feel guilty that I am not working. When I am working I feel guilty because I am not hanging with my kids. When I hang with my kids I feel guilty that I am not cleaning my house…You get the idea. But in order to have balance in my life, which is something I think we all long for, I have to be engaged in my life in the moment. Not wishing I were somewhere else or feeling bad about being where I am.

So-today, i will do what I can to stay engaged in the moment. To live it as fully as I can, and be gentle with myself, because I am fairly certain it’s going to be a slow learning process. I have been doing it the other way for so long. But I am desperate for balance in my heart, mind, body and soul, so I am willing to try a new “pose”.

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift…that’s why they call it the present.”

-Master Oogway

( it seems that no one really knows who actually coined that quote, but of all the renditions, I chose the one by “Master” Oogway, because that just seemed to fit😏)

Namaste.

Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality, fear, identity, insecurity, resentment, Serenity, Trust

My “past-life”

In my “past-life”, August was always an exciting month. For many years our church was a part of being a host site for the annual Global Leadership Summit. A couple of those years I was able to travel and attend the live event in Chicago that was simulcast around the world. The energy of thousands of leaders in one place was electric and exhilarating! It was right up my motivational alley. Over the years, I have heard speakers like Rick Warren, John Maxwell, Seth Godin and even Bono! World changers and influencers of the highest caliber. When I wok up this morning, I felt a bit nostalgic, and then sad, and upon further reflection (with a few tears and extensive reading/meditation), grateful.

I haven’t been a part of these Summits or of the church world as I used to know it for about 6 years now. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest and author, in his book Falling Upward, takes the reader on a journey “to give us understanding of how the heartbreaks, disappointments, and first loves of life are actually the stepping stones to the spiritual joys that the second half of life has in store for us.” I believe this because I have lived this. Not just in the ways my “outer” world changed: losing a church family support system virtually over-night, waging war on addiction in our family system, down-sizing my home by half, and entering the work force full-time after 10 years of stay-at-home-mom employment. Oh, and at about the time I was able to accept and embrace this “new normal”, I was diagnosed with Leukemia. No need to expand on the ramifications of that

I am not telling you those things to try to get sympathy. I am telling you because as I have reflected on the “me” I was in the “first-half” of my life and the “me” I am now, I know without question that my soul is stronger, more peaceful, more aware of God’s plan in the world, more compassionate, and most definitely less judgmental, self-grandiose, ego driven and “works” oriented. I am learning to live content with where I am at, both physically ( my body, my house, my city, my job, etc.) and spiritually (my soul-level components that will forever need morphing and tweaking, for as long as I live). And I know that this way of living, a new and better way, has come to me through the “necessary sufferings” of failure, sin, disease, and great and heavy loss.

Even though I would never choose to re-live those circumstances and situations that rooted out the character defects and instilled in me a new and different valuation model for success, I also don’t wish them away or resent them. I know that I know that I know that they are the very tools used chip away all that I didn’t need to get to the shape and splendor of what was underneath. The real and true Me.

I haven’t “arrived”. Don’t get me wrong. And, lest you think I am bragging about this “transformation”, please refer to previous blogs where I confess to such insanities as resenting an entire town because someone who hurt me lives there and how I have had to refrain from running mean people down with my car. 😡😜 This change certainly didn’t happen over night. It has taken me years to make any noticeable progress. There is much more whittling that needs to be done. I haven’t payed my “disaster dues” so that it will now be smooth sailing from here on out. But like I said, the Me of my “past-life”, which is still a valuable me and was exactly where I was supposed to be at the time, looks very different than the Me of today, at least from the inside out. If you knew me before, you may or may not see the difference, depending on how close we were then and are now.

That Leadership Summit really takes me back to the days when I thrived on thriving. The more excitement and rubbing shoulders with important people and having connections with influential leaders the better. I wanted to be part of that world so badly. I desperately longed for and prayed for and expected God to do “big things” through me. My dreams and goals were huge and I carried a lot of unrest and fear and frenzy about whether those things would ever actually happen. How could I go on if they didn’t? I didn’t want to fail God by just being “average” or “ordinary”. That was for spiritual sissies!

Well, as luck, and fate, and Life would have it, my world flipped upside down and Hallelujah-I don’t have to live that way anymore. In the after-life of the after-math, I don’t worry about being enough for God or others. I know God accepts and loves me where I am and that gives me the perspective to care less about being enough for others. I prefer to serve special ed pre-schoolers or visit one-on-one with someone battling the diseases of addiction or cancer or plagues of the heart. I don’t care if my friends are influential or rich or in shape. I look for friends who are honest and authentic and full of faith but I also love to be available to extend God’s grace to those who are angry with God and people and can’t seem to get themselves together. Really, whoever God puts before me from day to day. Whether it’s a Soul-Selfie reading where people are complimentary and kind or with a client who is grouchy and difficult and rude. My only job is to keep my side of the street clean and serve whoever comes my way.

As a result of how God and I have worked through and walked through heartache, loss, betrayal, change (oh, so much change), trials, and a literal near-death experience, I can look back with fondness and gratitude for where I am today. For who I am today. Pain and sorrow can either make you bitter or better. With God’s help and grace, I chose, and choose, better.

My hope and prayer is that, today, you will choose better too.

Control, Serenity, Special ed pre school, Uncategorized

Sensory Break Part II (“Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Special-Ed Pre-School”)

It’s been awhile since I have posted an entry from my series on “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Special-Ed Pre-School”(If you are new to reading, please go through the archives and catch yourself up). This has been on my mind this morning because, after a week of Spring Break, a short vacation, my son returning from college, Easter, and just the basic stresses of life in general, I am feeling like I need a Sensory Break. A Sensory Break is a fancy word for taking a break from “seated learning activities or sedentary activities.” However, seated and sedentary are not words I would choose describe a pre-schooler. More often than not, The Sensory Break was used to calm and center a child when they became agitated and flustered from being OVER-stimulated by their environment. It might be a walk down the hall with a teachers-aid or a quick trip to the a room that had swings, balance beams and other toys that would bring them back in to focus. Quietness was also a helpful bonus. I have to admit that I am in this category. I certainly don’t need a break from being sedentary or seated. I need a break from all the rest.

A few years ago I read (most of) a book called “It’s All Too Much.” It was about organizing your home, but the premise was that the root of the problem was not lack of order as much as it was about the unnecessary, the overload of stuff, the striving for more. Some days I feel like that about life; “It’s all too much.” I don’t even know where to begin to sort it all out. So here is my body’s natural response: Numbness. A few years ago, the band U2 wrote a song called “Numb.” It was written using approximately 2 different notes, repeating a list of “Don’ts” (Don’t move, Don’t talk out of time/ don’t’ think/ don’t worry/ etc.) for 4.12 minutes…. One note…the whole time. It’s intent was to “recreate that feeling of sensory overload.” They were attempting to make you experience in a 4.12 minute song, what it feels like to be overwhelmed, overloaded, and shut down as a result.

I don’t need their help. I can do this all my little self. Numbness is a state I live in when I feel overwhelmed or out of control or over-stimulated by worrying too much about people or problems that have nothing to do with me. Or when I stay so busy rushing from one activity to the next that I don’t take the time to feel the joy, frustration or pain that regularly interrupts those activities.   As a full grown adult, I am realizing that I too need Sensory Breaks. As a rule, I am terrible at this. I used to use major events or life transitions as sporadic sensory Breaks. Ever try that one?: “If I can just make it until my vacation next month…If i can hold on until they go back to school this fall….If I can keep it together until I go out with the girls/guys after work on Thursday.” The problem with these types of breaks is that the in-between time is spent just trying to survive until the next one comes along. It’s not enough to really live on.

I have been prepping to write this all morning: I read up on Sensory Breaks and Mindfulness tactics and perused Wikipedia on U2’s “Numb” and read the Intro to “It’s All Too Much” on Amazon (because, apparently I have misplaced it…). I knew I needed to write but also felt like I had very little to offer in the way of solution. Actually, when I looked up ways to utilize tools of Mindfulness and remedy Sensory Overload, I was so overwhelmed I became more anxious than ever. Talk about “It’s All Too Much”!

Luckily, before I launched in to the insanity of sharing all these ramblings with you, I paused long enough to center my mind on some readings that tend to bring me to simplicity (The author uses scripture and interprets it as if God were talking directly to the reader). Not surprisingly, here is what the entry said for today-for this exact day of my crisis of chaos:
“I am training you in steadiness. Too many things interrupt your awareness of Me. I know that you live in a world of sight and sound, but you must not be a slave to those stimuli. Awareness of me can continue in all circumstances, no matter what happens. This is the steadiness I desire for you…As soon as something grabs your attention, talk with Me about it…I help you cope with whatever is before you…This is the way of Peace.”

This I can do. Or at least try to do. It’s simple but not easy. I can return my attention to Him throughout my day, taking Sensory Breaks to pray, meditate, sit in silence, listen, read, remind, trust, get perspective, and be grateful; these are tiny but profound adjustments I can integrate into my daily madness that just might allow me to live in the present with the “peace that passes understanding.” Dear God-Let it be so.

*in editing my blogs i realized I wrote on this topic In October of 2015! Progress not perfections, right! See part I in archives.