awareness, Change, Faith/Spirituality, Growth

“Vacation, all I ever wanted…”🎼🎤

I don’t know why I haven’t written for so long. Well, actually, yes I do. I think I allowed myself to believe a lie. I convinced myself, unintentionally of course, that if I didn’t have anything new and enlightening to talk about I shouldn’t bother. If God wasn’t shining a sunbeam down on me and writing a message on the wall, then why bore anyone with my drivel. Well lucky for you 😝 I’ve come to my senses. And how exactly did that happen, you ask? Let me explain.

Some of you know that this summer, my daughter Emma, spent time serving at a camp in Oregon. So it was just Bennett and Blake and I here. Made for a pretty quiet house with no girl for me to jabber with! On August 9th Bennett and Blake drove to Las Vegas where Bennett will live with family for the next year or so. I flew out Saturday and met them there. I spent the next Morning with an “escapee” from Springfield who moved there a few years ago. Then we hung with my in-laws (grandparents and Blake’s sister and fam) and headed to the strip for dinner that night. The next morning Blake and Bennett and I drove to LA, checked in to our hotel and I headed to the airport to pick up Emma who flew in from her summer in Oregon. We all spent 5 days there visiting our son Berkeley and were joined later in the week by his sweet girlfriend Kinze. After doing Disney (meeting up with some other “escapees” from Springfield), Laguna beach and Paramount Studios (where Berk works), Emma, Bennett, Blake and I headed to Napa, California to see my parents, my siblings and their children. Oh, and for the record, we drove 4 hours from Vegas to LA, spent about a jillion hours in LA traffic during the week (Lord, have mercy), and drove 6 hours to Napa before we flew back to St. Louis and then drove 2 hours home. The next day Emma started school and we headed back to catch up at our jobs. We had fun fun fun but does anyone else feel exhausted from just reviewing that schedule? It’s not even that it was exhausting, it’s that during times of extreme busyness and positive distractions, I tend forget some of the priorities that keep my soul on track.

So, when I think I have nothing new to say, I am right. But that is no reason to stop writing. Being on vacation for 10 days reminds me of a core truth about myself, and maybe some of you can relate: repetition/routine=reflection/remembering. You see, when I am on vacation, my daily routine goes out the window. Things aren’t normal, because “I’m on vacation.” My time clock is off and am out later than normal, I am sleeping with 4 people in the same hotel room and eating and drinking foods that are not on my regular diet and I have little to no time alone. I forget to take my vitamin that I have taken every other day of the year without even thinking about it and forget to take off my eye make up at night which, as a woman, should never ever happen🙃. Routine of working out is easily discarded and my morning reading regiment is postponed until I return back to “normal life”. It’s like I take a vacation from everything that’s good for me in order to “celebrate” being on vacation! Which of course, sounds insane now that I type it out.

Here’s the thing; I am painfully human and have an astounding capacity to forget. If I don’t have routine and set aside time to reflect on and review what I say I believe or want to change or improve on, those principles and goals become a vapor and disappear into thin air. when I regularly write and read what I write, I am reminded of what I believe. I remember that even though I say in every other blog that trying to manipulate God or other people to get them to do what I want is no good, it takes me about 2 days/hours to live out the opposite (just one of many recurring themes).

Though it’s not ideal to do vacation without all the good routine/reflection, it’s drastically more dangerous to get in to such a pattern of neglect, busyness, distraction, avoidance, ignorance, etc. at home. For me, it is imperative that I set aside time, intentionally and without waver, to do what I know is good for my body, mind and soul. What I repeat, I learn from, even if by accident. I form habits for healthy and positive and beautiful living through repetition, review and reflection.

I had a wonderful vacation. I am sad to be home in some ways because I am reminded that we are minus 2 boys that are on the other side of the country. And living in reality is much harder than the blissful denial that defines “vacation Heather”. And yet, I know that even though every-day-life is rarely glamorous, It’s here that I grow. I slow down a bit, I integrate routine and discipline back into my daily living. I remind myself that it’s ok to read and re-read books on the same dang topics. It’s ok to write and repeat myself. I am never so advanced that I will not need to be regularly reminded of what I believe and how I then should act. I can not afford to take a vacation from that.

Faith/Spirituality, gratitude, Trust

My cup runneth over (with what? Is the question)

I am trying to come up with a clever way to start this entry without leading with something like “In the 23rd Psalm it says…”. To some, bible verses feel antiquated and childish. But I don’t think I can do it. Just trust me that it will be relevant to your life and keep reading (pretty please).

So, in the 23rd Psalm, which most people have heard at least once in their lives ( you know, “the Lord is my Shepherd…”), the end of verse 5 says “my cup runneth over”. It’s interesting to note that whatever “it” is in the cup, isn’t just full to the brim, contained and controlled, it is spilling out and over flowing. And, who says that the stuff in the cup is liquid? Couldn’t it also be overcrowded, bursting, busting at the seams, bulging, and jam-packed? At any rate. That sucker is not big enough to hold all that is continuously being poured or packed into it.

I am not going to pretend to provide an exegesis (fancy word for a critical and smart explanation of scripture) of this phrase, I am simply going to tell you the state of mind, torked as it was, when I read “my cup runneth over” in a book about the 23rd Psalm. I was reading along and when I got to that verse, a voice in my spirit surprised me. The paraphrased version was: “Oh it runneth over alright! Overflowing with problems, frustrations, issues, questions, doubts and irritating situations!”

Nice attitude, right?

There were, and are, some areas of my life (read “areas of other people’s lives whom I love and feel compelled to fix, manage and control”) that are challenging and disappointing (read “not living up to my expectations or giving me warm fuzzy feelings”). I certainly felt that my cup “runneth over” beyond containment. My natural response was to complain to God about this and demand, as nicely as possible, an explanation.

The other night, my husband and I were discussing the Myth of Sisyphus (ya, know, just some light marital bonding conversation 😬). You know, the story about the futility of life? Roll a giant bolder up a big mountain, only to stumble near the top, lose control, and have it roll back down. Over and over and over for as long as you live. This is Albert Camus’ analogy about our lot in life. Very inspiring, right? My two-cents worth during our discussion was, yes, life is basically a lot of hard work and often very redundant, the only factor we really have control of is our choice in how we do it. Will we choose to whine and complain about the sweat and sore muscles, or will we whistle while we work?

I suppose my point in all this, in case you sometimes feel like your cup-o-crap is indeed running over (and over and over and over), you, like me, have a choice. Because there are also thousands upon thousands of reasons to see it with different eyes. A gratitude list is one of the best ways to stay and keep mindful of all the blessings (even when they are disguised as difficulties) in our lives, the lives of others and in the world at large. Some days your list may only consist of you being thankful you didn’t kill anyone that day. Hey, it’s a start! But soon, I think you will find that you have to cut yourself off from writing down all that is “good” in your life because you run out of time. Some days it might be the superficial stuff (coffee ice cream, Netflix, no humidity, Starbucks, a good parking space, a sale on those shoes you have been eyeing, etc.). Then there’s the basic things we should be grateful for but sometimes take for granted (sleep, air, nature, healthy food, drinkable water, friends, family, etc.). It’s that final level of gratitude that tells us where we are at with God and whether or not we trust his ways in the world (grateful for this or that problem/situation/difficulty that produces perseverance, tenderness, tolerance, compassion, empathy and brave and determined spirit in us).

This morning, a reading from Oswald Chambers made me weep. Mostly because I so often think such inaccurate and flat out wrong thoughts about God when I choose to believe that He has filled my cup with everything but the blessings. “There are times when God wil appear like an unkind friend, but HE IS NOT; He will appear like an unnatural Father, BUT HE IS NOT; He will appear like an unjust judge, BUT HE IS NOT. Keep the notion of the mind of God behind all things strong and growing…You can rest in perfect confidence in Him.”

My sweet friend-does your cup, like mine, feels like it’s overflowing with everything opposite of goodness and mercy? First of all, you are not alone. But it is vital for both of us to choose to trust God’s bigger plan. His desires for us are immeasurable more than all we could ask or even imagine. Start seeing with new eyes the layers upon layers of blessings that are there all the time if we choose to focus on them.

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

My drug of choice

Just based on principle, I probably shouldn’t be writing right now. But I feel like the only way to clear my head is to reason things out on “paper” so I don’t go insane. Sauturdays are hard for me be cause there is no routine. No agenda. And my family seems to be fine with that. But I am not. I have a hard time relaxing and put expectations on myself, which often spill over and soak my family, to be productive.

Productivity is my drug of choice. I can be held captive by it and render myself immobilized if I don’t engage in it. Once I get a hit from it, I can feel the tension leave and the relief come. I am acutely aware of it on this cold, windy Saturday morning. I have no obligations and have ample time to read and write and relax with my coffee. And yet, on the way to my spot on the sofa, I felt the overwhelming pull to “get a few things done”. I did all the dishes while the coffee brewed (because God forbid I waste time simply waiting). Then I scurried from counter-top to counter-top, picking up stray objects and trying to figure out where they belong. After I got my coffee, I headed to the living room and decided I could quickly sort through the videos, DVDs and books stored in the TV stand. About an hour after I set out to read and pray I was finally situated. I sat there, books in lap, coffee in hand, feeling like I had earned the right to finally just “be”.

I don’t know when this mindset took over my thinking. I remember talking to one of my teachers when I was in high school about his summer plans. He said that he made it a point to do one productive thing each day of his summer break. At the time, that seemed very noble and wise. So apparently my productivity addiction had not kicked in yet. Now, I think, “ONE thing?!?! Really? If I am not feeling productive most of my day I feel like I am failing.” Even when I am relaxing, I don’t feel very relaxed. I was watching TV in bed last night. TV. Bed. Both relaxing by nature. But at one point I realized I was tense and my shoulders were raised up and tight. I just seem to have trouble letting myself do something “unproductive” and enjoy it. I am not bragging either. That’s not a good character trait to have. No one likes to be uptight. No one likes to be around people who are uptight.

I think a lot of this dependence I have on being productive stems from a false belief that I adopted somewhere along the way in my faith journey. I am still unlearning the notion that somehow my good behavior my accomplishments and my responsible choices are what God is looking for from me. While those things can’t be thrown out the window entirely, they are not the basis for being in right standing with God. He alone does that for me. I have spent many years learning how to think differently. Obviously, the transformation process is slow. One step forward, two steps back.

Today, I am determined to try to relax and be present when I have the opportunity to do so, rather than feel like I should be doing something different like clean or sort or work. I am getting ready to run errands with my teenage daughter (and what, I ask , could be more relaxing than that!? 😜). I have a lot to do around the house ( tasks I have made up to feel productive) but instead, I am going to ride with her and practice being present. Practice being grateful that she invited me. Practice being “unproductive” and being OK with it. I think it’s exactly what God wants from me.

Uncategorized

God is Like…

Right now I am in Real Estate Overload mode. I am working on several deals that need special attention, so the terminology and nuances of buying and selling houses are whirling around in my head consistently. But writing helps clear my head and focus on the parts of my job and life that truly matter. So, since I can’t really block the Real Estate thoughts, I figured I might as well make good use of them. Sit for a few and join me in my maelstrom of thoughts on how God is like various Players in the Real Estate Game.

God is like a Home Inspector. But let me set it up for you. If you haven’t sold or tried to sell a house lately, here’s how it goes. You are given a list of 23 areas that you can mark as either a yes, a no or a Not Applicable. Your agent cannot help you with that at all. Only you can give an honest answer to the questions that are in this list. In the past few years, a new question has been added and you will be relieved to know that a seller is required to disclose whether or not there was ever a methamphetamine lab in the house. Phew! As a seller, you reveal any defects that you are aware of and then give an explanation for them. Then, after your house is under contract, the buyer will send in a Home Inspector who will spend several hours searching for everything that is wrong with your house that you didn’t even know about. It’s a nerve wracking thing for a seller and they are often surprised that there has been mold lurking in their basement and that their toilets flush backwards. In this way, as I said, God is like a Home Inspector. There are many defects we have that we are fully aware of. But then, He takes it to the next level. He searches the nooks and crannies of our hearts and souls and finds dry rot and hot electrical wires and gas leaks and termites and all kinds of things that threaten our “house”. Dangers we didn’t even know about. Defects like pride, image-management, dishonesty, greed, lust and jealousy. Defects that aren’t as obvious to the casual observer but can cause structural damage to our lives if left un-addressed.

God is also like a Buyer. A really easy buyer. One who sees the results of the home inspection report and the laundry list of flaws and imperfections, and buys it anyway. He buys it AS-IS. I just love those kind of buyers. They understand that every house has its issues and don’t expect a 100 year old house to present itself like new construction. He has bought us at a great price. Actually, I am fairly sure we would “under-appraise” for what he sacrificed to make us His own.

And, He is like a Seller. He has a list of Disclosures in His Word. He reveals everything about His House, which is to say, Himself. He shares it thoroughly, honestly, and freely. It is our job, our privilege, to do the Inspecting. There are many characteristics of God that are obvious. Anyone can tap into them if they give it just the tiniest bit of effort. His love and compassion and forgiveness are available to anyone who asks. But it’s when we take extra time to explore His House that we really find the beauty of what’s often hidden from plain sight. Luckily, we are always pleasantly surprised by our findings. When we pray and meditate and read and open up our Being to His will and wisdom, we experience His presence intimately. We begin to anticipate what we will find around the next corner of our relationship with Him.

Today I am grateful for what God can teach me about Him, even in the midst of circumstances that seemingly have nothing to do with spiritual things. I am reminded that this is how I stay in constant contact with a God who is not just interested in my spiritual life, He is interested in my life. All of it. And today He and I are gonna do some serious Real-Estating together.

What is it that you and God will be doing?