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

EVERYTHING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality, Relationships

Myself! Myself! Myself!

I was talking with a friend a couple of days ago who has a story that rivals any memoir I have ever read about dysfunctional families. I told her she should write her own book. She basically told me, “No way! I don’t want to sit down and think about any of that on purpose!”. I get it. I know the feeling. There are some things that we would rather not reflect on intentionally. I bring this up, because although it’s minor compared to much of what I avoid thinking about, I have been avoiding writing about my follow-up story from last weeks blog entry on Hypocrisy. I am not 100% sure why, but I have been finding a lot of other, more pressing things to fill my time. I have an inkling that it is because it was exhausting and profound and difficult.

So, let’s get on with it (read the previous entry if you haven’t already, otherwise I might sound crazier than usual). Last weekend I wasn’t not planning to write. It was early morning and I was heading out of town to do some Homecoming dress shopping with my daughter and mom. I had a couple hours to get ready. I was doing my typical reading routine when the topic fell in my lap. Hypocrisy. Do I really live like I believe what I say I believe? I say God can take away my fears and worries but do I let those feelings consume me? Refer to that blog for more lovely examples of my duplicity. I mentioned, as a solution, that I can pray “God, I am feeling worried about __________, I am turning my __________ over to you.” That’s practical. I can try that. That would help me at the very least, turn my attention to Someone more powerful than me who can actually help. I made a promise to put this in to practice in the future.

The curious thing about the future, is that it starts immediately. And so it did. Almost as soon as I posted my entry, I checked my emails. I saw one that scared me to death. My mind went in to full “figure it out” mode and my brain started spinning information around and around. It was fear mixed with worry mixed with a terrible sense of being powerless and having no control. And the (potential) consequences were huge. Of course, my head went to the worst case scenario and I literally felt sick and distracted and panicked. I have never had such an intense physical reaction to “information.”

But then….I remembered what I say I believe. And what I had just written. I had no choice. I had to practice what I preached if I could look any of you in face ever again. I knew I had an entire day to spend with two of my favorite people doing something fun and significant. I didn’t want to let my fear and worry of what might happen in the future hijack my serenity for the whole day. I have most definitely done that before, with deep regret. So I reviewed the first 3 steps of Recovery in my head. I have heard them summed up like this:

Step One: I CAN’T
Step Two: GOD CAN
Step Three: I THINK I’LL LET HIM

This became my mantra for the day. I said it out-loud and in my head at least 1,000 times. It would be lovely if once would cut it, but my tendency is to turn it over and take it back, turn it over and take it back. I find it amusing, and telling, that about half of those 1,000 recitations came out backwards the first time around. I would attempt to say it and I would say, “I can.  Wait, no, I mean, I can’t.” I just so badly want to think I can. I Can fix it. I can control it. I can change it. I can solve it.

When my oldest son was about 2 we took a swim class together. It was torture, for both of us. He couldn’t swim-at all-but he developed his own little mantra that echoed in the kiddie pool area for the entire lesson: “My-self My-self My-self!” He wanted me to let him down even though he couldn’t swim or touch. I knew this but he was not believing any of it. He was convinced he would be safe. I was just holding him back from success in his two-year-old mind.

This is my typical reaction to God when things get stressful. “My-self! My-self! My-self!” It’s a dangerous and naive reaction. But I have to tell you, that last Saturday, when stress and anxiety threatened my serenity and ability to be fully present with people I loved, I tried doing the opposite. And it worked. I still felt fear sneaking up on me throughout the day, beckoning me to jump in with both feet, but I chose differently. I chose to trust Him. I repeated “I can’t. God can. I think I’ll let Him” until I climbed into bed that night and throughout the weekend. The situation was not and is not “fixed”, but my fears are diminished and I am not frozen with dread (does this happen to anyone else?).

I am determined to continue this practice of living as an Anti-Hypocrite. It’s much more palatable and will look much better on a T-shirt.