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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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.

pexels-jesse-yelin-3047470

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.

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Anxiety/Worry, awareness, Faith/Spirituality, Trust

I’ve hit the wall! (…or is it hitting me?)

I am writing today because I need it. Badly. In Runner’s Speak, I have “hit the wall”. For a runner, that means they have been running for a lengthy period of time and have depleted their glycogen levels and feel like they are potentially going to keel over or “bonk out” (I learned that phrase just this morning while googling “hitting the wall”). In Heather terms, the phrases still apply. Don’t get excited, I haven’t been running again or anything (been there done that). But I feel like I started a few life “races” and was plugging away nicely until the past couple of weeks. I have lost my breath, my energy, and my sight for why I started the races in the first place.

In the beginning, I was excited and hopeful and experiencing just enough success to continue with a smile and a skip in my step, but this past week I started to feel a heaviness coming over me as a result of doing a lot of “footwork” with no results in sight. I am struggling to continue picking up my feet and continuing to do the “footwork” necessary to finish the marathon.

fit runner standing on racetrack in athletics arena
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Do you ever feel that way? Please tell me you do, and I’ll just go ahead and apologize now for wishing that on you. It’s just that I have also been convincing myself that no one else has this problem and that makes the discouragement feel that much deeper.

I was reminded the other day of a blog I wrote on “waiting”.  I used to wait on blood work and test results and the green light to go back in the hospital for Chemo. One would think that I would be a little more grateful and patient with anything else I have to wait for ever again. But alas, I have to operate in the “today”, and today I am waiting for other things. Luckily they are much less daunting than life or literal death, but I guess my mind has moved on from that possibility.

I am writing today to remind myself of what I already know. That’s usually how it works for me.

What I already know, is that life is not about the end results, it’s what happens in that space between that equal “living”.

The end result may or may not manifest itself, at least in the ways we predict or hope for. I may work like a boss at my job and never sell another house. I may meet with dozens of people to promote my book or secure a speaking engagement or draw people to my site with results I may never see or know about. I may pray numerous prayers for people I love and yet continue to live in that mysterious unknown about the answers one way or another. If I forget this and start living as if God or people owe me recompense for all my efforts, I end up where I am today; frustrated, tired, and frankly, mad. Mad that my equation isn’t working.

While I am in the space between, while I am doing the “footwork”, I have to ruthlessly remind myself to ask, “What am I learning? Who am I helping? How am I growing? Where can I be of service?”. The “footwork”, as I define it, is every activity and thought that contributes to reaching that goal.

And here’s the good and bad news: the most important component is not the goal, it’s the footwork.

Whether I like that news or not, it’s still true. I have no control over the outcome or the length of time it takes to get there. I can either complain and wait impatiently in anxious and frustrated expectation, or can accept life on life’s terms and as it comes; one moment at a time. The moments, as we know, are all we have to work with. Where I am is all I have to work with just now.

Dear God-I need your help to live in the moments. Help me get my “second wind” that comes after I have endured the daily, monotonous, seemingly unfruitful present, and pushed myself beyond what I feel is possible, wise or worthwhile. Help me to remember that you alone-and your purposes in the space between-are my continuous and consistent reward.

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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.

awareness, Faith/Spirituality, Trust

“Putting the cart before the horse”

Maybe you are better than me, but sometimes, I forget things. Sometimes I forget where I put my sunglasses (which are on my head) and forget where I set my phone (frantically searching for it while talking on…my phone). Yesterday I ran off to show a house, forgetting to remind my son to take the chicken out of the oven (good thing it is spring now and we can open our windows!) and I can only remember to take my vitamins consistently for about 4 days in a row. After that, I have a tendency to forget that my general health care sort of needs a regular boost.

But what I find most disturbing are the soul-level things that can be forgotten even when I believe them in my deepest parts. It’s especially in-my-face when I read a little book I wrote and think, “Oh ya! I forgot I believe that! Maybe I should practice living as if I really do!”

This morning I was reading from a book called “Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True self” by Richard Rohr. He brought up an analogy that gave me a phrase that perfectly describes what it looks like when we forget. In this case, the forgetting involves what happens when I “put the cart before the horse.”– when I put the “cart” (my cart, with its load of trash and treasures and decorated like it’s going to be in a parade) before the “horsepower” itself. Rohr says that the “horsepower” is precisely our primal (elemental, vital, central) union with God. When I get ahead of God, it’s as pre-post-erous as expecting a cart (with essentially no power in and of itself) to pull the horse. You ain’t gettin’ nowhere like that.

I love that when I looked up the phrase “putting the cart before the horse”, wikipedia told me that “preposterous” was a one word description for just such an action. “Pre” means before or front and “post” means at the end or in the back. So when something that should be in front is in the back and vice verse, that is preposterous! In case you are sleepy today (or I am being as clear as mud):

this means that when I get out in front of God, not only in the wrong position but trying to do all the work, I demonstrate a lack of faith and trust and reliance on His power and His will.

My EGO (some say a good acrostic for that is “Edging God Out”) keeps me running and striving and exhausted, trying to provide my own horsepower for all of life’s experiences, good and bad. Sometimes I forget I am not that powerful.

Rohr reminds us that “the horse does all the work. Your work is of another kind; to stay calmly and happily on the road and not get back into the harness.” St. Teresa of Avila used a similar metaphor when she described how you can either keep digging the channel or find the actual spring and let it just flow toward you, in you, and from you. Her entire mystical theology is about finding that Inner Flow and not wasting time digging trenches.

Have you, too, forgotten? Forgotten that God is the ultimate Source, the horsepower that makes it possible for us live and move and have our Being? Forgotten that it’s not about works, but about grace and connection to God’s own heart first and foremost? Forgotten that he bids us to come to him because His burden is light and he will give us rest from the weariness of trying to pull our own cart?

If you tend to forget, like I so often do, may this be the day you remind yourself to remember all you have forgotten.

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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 theme park in Branson, Missouri, and I mostly go for the caramel 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.

Photo by Angie on Pexels.com

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 its 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? Perfectly 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 😳)

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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 its 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.

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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 whom? 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.

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Control, Faith/Spirituality, Trust

More on predicting the future (in case you have been arguing with me…)

This blog is for those of you who read my post last week and have been arguing in your head ever since. If you haven’t read it yet, take a minute to do that before you finish this or it might not make very much sense.

The previous blog was about how we have a human habit of getting ahead of ourselves and preparing for every possible (usually bad) outcome. We waste hours, perhaps days, of our lives occupying our minds with potential solutions to problems that may or may not ever come to pass. My answer for you was to stay out of the future. Be present and quit trying to plan how you might respond to events you have predicted with your limited knowledge and ability.

But some of you start questioning the irresponsibility of not thinking about the future. I mean, anyone knows that if you want to achieve a goal, you have to set one! You have to have a plan. You can’t just hope you will have enough money to go on vacation next summer or assume that the hotel you want will be available when you just show up expecting a room. Some forward thinking is necessary if we are to be functioning vs frustrating members of society. Even though it might sound like I am contradicting myself, hang with me for a few…

A few months ago I had lunch with a very motivated and successful business woman who gets more done in a day than I do in a week, and with a fresh happy attitude and mounds of energy. It was hard to have a consistent conversation because every other person that walked by knew her and wanted to stop and say hello. I was fascinated. She was meeting with me to help me figure out how to promote my book, shortly after it was published. As we talked about several topics I write about in my blogs, this particular one came up. She thought about it a minute and said that she understood we should give it all up to God and not try to live in the future, but asked, “How do we do that if we have meetings and events and conferences to plan? What does that look like?”

I sat there for a minute and I feel like God gave me an answer that might help her, but for sure helped me: “Hold it loosely”.

Hold it loosely.

James 4:13,14 says “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow…what you ought to say is, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ In other words, “Hold it loosely.”

It’s OK to plan. It’s probably necessary to plan most things. Sometimes even far in advance. Part of dreaming and hoping means pondering what the future might look like. But, what I have learned is that I don’t always know what I need or what is best for me. On multiple occasions I have not gotten what I wanted, been sore at God and the world about it, only to find that if I had gotten my way, it would have been disastrous! And there have also been many times that the results I did get, even though I had planned differently, turned out to be better than anything I could have concocted with my small scope of vision.

So relax. I am not advocating that we all live like hippies and give no thought to the future. But, as you plan, get God in there. That part is imperative.

Make plans along with God, asking for him to show you his way and his will instead of doing it your way and asking him to bless it after the fact. And once you have made said plans/goal/resolutions, hold them loosely. God may have something entirely different and most likely better than anything you could imagine.

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Anxiety/Worry, awareness, Brokenness, identity, insecurity, Trust

Post-Secret (or “what’s your secret?”)

I read a book in August, laying on the fake beach in downtown Chicago while my daughter and her friends went to Lollapalooza. This, for a 48 year old female who has almost fully raised three children and survived cancer, packs all the fun and excitement I need to thoroughly enjoy myself. Of course, it was some heavy content: Stephen Kings young adult book “Gwendy’s Button Box”. I read all 164 widely spaced pages in 2 days (don’t judge….I am a slow and simple reader). I have already talked about one of the books major themes in my blog on “English as a second Language” (https://heathercarterwrites.com/2018/09/13/english-as-a-second-language/). I have been saving up the second one for a time that felt just right…now is that time I guess.

Let me give you the sentence from the book that has been stuck in my mind since August:

“Secrets are a problem, maybe the biggest problem of all. They weigh on the mind and take up space in the world.”

Gwendy has this thought as she becomes aware of the tremendous pressure she lives with after being given a box covered with buttons that hold power to control her immediate surroundings and even on the other side of the world. She has to keep it safe from others who might find it and use it for evil, as well as keep it safe from her own whims, fancies or resentment fantasies. She has been given strict instructions by the giver not to let anyone know about the box. It becomes a veritable weight-a constant burden and distraction as she tires to go about her life, trying to look and act normal. She is ever mindful, even as she dates and succeeds in school and sports, of her box and it’s safety, always worrying someone might find it or telling tales to her loved ones about where she is going so they won’t know she is checking on the box. The secret consumes her every thought.

Take a moment, or several, to think your your “box”, your biggest, scariest and darkest secret.

Does it “weigh on your mind and take up space in the world”? It probably won’t take you long to identify it, because it’s just always right there. Even when you are fooling others, you are not fooling yourself. And it is slowly crushing you. Robbing you of your freedom and your joy. Causing you to be imprisoned by your fear that someone might figure our your hiding spot. You can’t let people too close because wonder if you slip up or let yourself be vulnerable and you give away it’s hiding place. You have imagined it over and over-the potential outcomes if this should happen: people might think you’re an ogre, a hypocrite, a monster, a victim, someone unlovable, disgusting, unredeemable, unforgivable, unworthy. They might reject and shame you. These possibilities keep your resolve to hide it in strong force. You protect it at all costs. And that cost is pretty high.

What reignited my thoughts on this topic, was an event my husband arranged for us to attend last month. I thought more people were aware of this New York Times best seller than there actually are. When I told people we were going to hear Frank Warren, the author of the “Post-Secret” book at the college, most had never heard of him or the book. We have had this book as a coffee table book for at least 10 years. And fun fact that I learned at the event: Frank Warren grew up in Springfield, Illinois (any of you Springfielders know him?). Here’s the premise: in 2004 he passed out post cards to strangers with his home address on it, inviting them to share a secret. The only rules were that “it had to be true and it had to be something they had never shared with anyone before.” It’s also anonymous. After the first week he posted a few of them online and had 1,000 views. After week two he posted a few more and had 10,000 views. After week three, there were 100,000 viewers. The rest is history. Look it up. Today he has millions of postcards, filling an entire room, stacked almost to the ceiling.

I attended this event the night before I was to do one of my first “talks” to a local group of about 50 women. It reinforced that what I say and why I write is not only necessary for me, but for countless others who have often thought, “I am the only one.” The despair that comes from feeling like we are alone in our brokenness, our pain, our secrets, is crushing. It causes physical and mental illness, loneliness and even death in our churches, our schools and our town every single day. When we have secrets and keep them we slowly deteriorate. In Recovery programs there is a saying, “we are only as sick as our secrets.” You cannot work the 12 steps successfully without passing through the steps that help you puke that junk out and let someone love you in spite of them. We have to reveal our secrets to God (which is redundant, since I believe He already knows), ourselves (which means we have to be alone with ourselves and reflect once in awhile) and to another person (the key to freedom and release).

Frank Warren continues to offer hope by giving people this same opportunity. He says, “secrets have stories; they can also offer truths. After seeing thousands of secrets, I understand that sometimes when we believe we are keeping a secret, that secret is actually keeping us.”

At the end of the event he opened up 2 microphones and invited people to share their Post-Secret live. There were lines curled around the corner and at one point he had to cut it off for sake of time. People were brave and cried and hugged perfect strangers, and some, their best friend who they had kept this secret from. That is the reality of our world. Even though some of us have what we consider a “best friend”, we are still in hiding and living in shame and fear, always trying to figure out the safest hiding place for our secret.

So, maybe today is the day of freedom for you. Or at least the beginning of it. Maybe you could start by sharing it anonymously with Frank (Post-Secret 13345 Copper Ridge Rd/ Germantown, Maryland 20874). But eventually, I think sharing it with a person with skin in who can look you in the eye and tell you “you’re not alone and you are still worthy of love”, will give you the most freedom. You have to be discerning about who that person is. Discretion is important, as well as the potential impact on the other person. Unloading the burden of your secret onto someone else who might be devastated by it, is not loving or wise. Pray about it. Seek counsel. Your goal must be for you to be free, but not at the expense of putting someone else into captivity.

I want to close this out by sharing a quote from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. I practically have it memorized, because I think it applies to anyone willing to expose the darkest places of their past in order to bring light and warmth to their present:

“We should be only too willing to bring former mistakes, no matter how grievous, out of their hiding places. Showing others who suffer how we were given help is the very thing which makes life seems worthwhile to us now. Cling to the thought that, in God’s hands, the dark past is the greatest possession we have-the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them” (and for ourselves, I might add).

(A portion of all Post-Secret proceeds having been going to Suicide Prevention since the first of 5 books published in 2005. Don’t let your secret bring you to such a place…)