not perfect

I’m not perfect, but sometimes I try to be.  It’s not really a conscious decision; in fact, if you ask me, I will tell you that I have many faults. I know I am not perfect, yet when I make mistakes, which I am bound to do, I am pretty hard on myself.

For instance, I met a new student last Wednesday night.  I had made some assumptions about her ethnicity based on the name she used on her online profile.  I met her in person and began to talk about her language issues.  I asked, “Is English your first language?” “No.” “Chinese?” “No, Korean.” Ouch.  That’s the second time inside of a month that I had mistakenly assumed that a Korean student was Chinese.  Of course both times I apologized, but that didn’t release me from the guilt, judgment, and reprimands that I heaped upon myself for hours —  ok, days –afterward.

Shall we continue? My husband and I had been planning a trip to Cincinnati for Valentine’s Day.  We had offered to watch our granddaughter so that our kids could get away overnight.  He adjusted his schedule so that we could leave as soon as my class ended at 2pm.  I had a test scheduled for my class, so that should be no problem.  I would give them the test, then we would be on our way. Well, my test required a lot of writing.  The class is only fifty minutes long.  I spent the first five minutes discussing the next assignment.  Then, I passed out the test and gave instructions. As I sat there, I realized that my test was taking much longer than I had planned.  Only ten minutes remained in the class when the first speedy student turned his in.  At the end of the allotted time, I still had about ten students writing.  I probably should’ve cut them off.  Class time is class time.  However, I was doubting my ability to gauge how much time it should take to complete this test, so I let them continue.  Some students just needed an extra minute — no big deal.  However, a couple continued writing.  Against my better judgment, I allowed one student to continue writing long past the scheduled class time.

Then, when he finally turned it in, I felt so uneasy, that I stopped to ask a senior professor what he would have done.  With no thinking whatsoever he said he would’ve cut the student off.  The allotted time is the allotted time.  So then I felt awful.  I had forced some students to rush in order to get to their next class on time while this student had the luxury of writing and writing.  Add to that the fact that my husband was now waiting to leave on our trip — bags packed and loaded, coat on, car running — and I felt like I had made a pretty substantial goof.

But that’s not all, folks.  We started driving amid what looked like flurries.  Well, the flurries got pretty intense.  Visibility was limited.  Traffic was heavy. The first portion of the trip which usually takes about one hour, took an hour and forty-five minutes.  We decided to pull over and re-group.  As we approached the exit, we had a mere twenty yards of visibility.

Now some of you  may think, “Bummer.  Bad weather.”  That would be logical.  However, after we decided to turn back for safety’s sake and forfeit our weekend with our granddaughter, I did the shoulda, coulda, woulda game.  I shoulda cut that student off.  Why did I let him take that long?  We coulda left right at 2 like we planned and been ahead of the storm (although I don’t know that to be true.) If I woulda written a better test, we could be in Cincinnati right now.

Been there? Guilt inhibits logic.  Regret twists the facts. Self-condemnation clouds judgment. And then we wallow.  And, as an experienced wallower, let me just share that wallowing is not of God.

As it turns out, my ‘bad test’ was effectively handled by all of my students.  Not one of them failed it.  In fact, the majority made it out with As and Bs. Further, our kids got their weekend away after all when a sibling stepped in to care for the baby.  The husband and I got a much needed weekend at home with no obligations.  And, we got to worship together at the church that we are now calling home.

Making lemonade? Nope, just being beloved.

Let me explain.  I often find myself still on that treadmill of trying to do the right thing — of trying to be-perfect.  It’s silly.  I know. But I do it.  And when I fail, I beat myself up.  But when I listen, I hear the words of God.

I heard them this morning.  I sat down to work through my Bible study on Hosea and I read these words, “God has not called you to be the ‘be-perfect;’ He has called you to be the ‘beloved’!”

Did you hear it? We are not perfect; we aren’t expected to be.  We are beloved — this is evidenced by the fact that in the midst of my faults, the Lover of my soul turned us around, carried us home, gave us a weekend of rest, and most importantly whispered into my self-condemning thoughts, “You are my beloved.”

I’ll take that.

Jeremiah 31:3

…I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

 

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Low batt. p.3

I know, I know…I started this whole thing because I thought the “Spoon Theory” was not readily accessible to those outside the world of chronic illness.  I remarked that it was “a lot to read” and now I’m on my third day of posting about my alternative metaphor.  *sigh*

If you’re sick of it by now, just close this window and move on with your day, because I am going to go ahead and examine a feature that my iPhone recently started offering me.  I’ve mentioned that my phone is not holding a charge very well (nor am I for that matter), so I frequently get a prompt to switch to “low power mode”.  This function is quite handy.  I might be out tutoring in some nearby library, when I check my texts in between students, and I realize that my phone, which the last time I checked had 80% battery, is suddenly down to 37%.  A dialog box pops up on my screen offering me the option of switching to “low power mode”.  Knowing that I won’t be home for another couple of hours, I readily accept my phone’s offer.  “Why, yes, I will switch to lower power mode, dear iPhone, thank you for asking.”

In fact, I am kind of wondering why my smart phone isn’t always in “low power mode”.  I mean, isn’t it smart-enough by now that it is able to do everything I need it to do while remaining in “low power mode”?

That is, after all, what I have been learning to do.

I mean, my battery regularly plummets from 80% down to 37% with very little forewarning.  So, I have found ways to conserve energy — to utilize my “low power mode”.  For instance, when I am teaching, I may start standing in the front of the room, but it won’t be long before I sit right among my students and lead a discussion from “among the ranks”.  We could say it’s brilliant teaching strategy, or just call it what it is — “low power mode”.

My “low power mode” extends beyond the classroom.  I’ve found a variety of ways to conserve energy so that I have it for all the things that are important to me.

  • I cook in large quantities (when I cook, which isn’t often) so that we can freeze portions for days that I’m spending my energy on something else.
  • I fold laundry while sitting in front of the television, and I take breaks if my arms get tired.
  • I take smaller, more frequent shopping trips so that I don’t often have to put away a whole kitchen’s worth of groceries at one time.
  • I also clean in spurts — wipe down the bathroom before I jump in the shower, vacuum right before company comes, and change the sheets when my husband is around to help re-make the bed.
  • My Christmas shopping took me quite a while this past year because I purchased one or two items at a time, often online while sitting on my couch.

These strategies allow an extended battery life.  Because I run on “low power mode”  I can blog, teach, and join friends for dinner all in one day.  I still may need to pause mid-afternoon and plug in for an hour or two of re-charging, but ultimately I can participate in the things that are important to me.

I know this is the strategy that works best for me, and yet, from time to time, I keep all the apps open, the screen up to full brightness, and the wifi searching for a signal. Sometimes I do this out of forgetfulness; other times, I’m just willingly taking the risk. Either way, I end up shutting down in the middle of something, wishing that I’d slowed down or plugged in sooner.

And then I have another chance to learn my lesson — another chance to function at “lower power mode” from the start; my iPhone should go and do likewise.

2 Corinthians 12:9

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Low batt., pt. 2

What good is a metaphor if you don’t extend it?

Have you ever had a phone that just won’t hold a charge?  I have one right now and it’s like a symbol for my life.  It used to hold a charge for quite a while — even if I was using seventeen apps all at the same time!  I could quickly shift from email to Words with Friends to Facebook to texting to Twitter to Google without draining the battery.  Not now.  Recently my phone battery has been draining quite quickly.  I’m constantly closing apps, dimming my brightness, turning off the wifi, and trying to find a charger.

And that, in a nutshell, is my life, ladies and gentlemen. Not too long ago, my own internal battery was charged almost all the time to 90-100%  I could jump out of bed at 5:25 am, shower, dress, put dinner in the crock pot, start a load of laundry, drop the kids at school, teach all day, attend a sporting event or run 4-5 miles, then go home, serve dinner, clean up, finish laundry, grade papers, and maybe even complete a few other tasks around the house.  Sure, by Friday, my battery was down to about 30%, but an early bedtime, a cup of coffee, and I was out the door running on Saturday morning.  Right back at it.

Now, on a really good day, I start at 85%.  Three to five activities will take me right back to zero, so I’ve got to choose wisely.  I can either go to the gym or go grocery shopping — not both.  I can teach one class and meet with three students on Wednesdays, but I better be ready to sleep in on Thursday.  If I want to have enough energy to go out to dinner at night, I had better sit on the couch recharging for an hour or two in the afternoon.

Depending on how low my battery is running, I may have to shut down some apps in order to have enough energy for the task at hand.  For instance, if I have to drive a long distance, I can’t necessarily also have a discussion at the same time.  If I have been grading papers and you stop to say hi to me in the library, I might not be able to access your name right away.  Yesterday, I started some eggs boiling, but started blogging before setting a timer.  My ‘egg boiling’ app totally shut off so that I could use my blogging app.  When I heard whistling coming from the kitchen, it never dawned on me that I might have some control over it.  I had totally shut down that part of my brain. It took eggs exploding all over my kitchen to remind me that I had started the process in the first place.

It’s Wednesday.  Three days after my return from the whirlwind trip that drained my whole battery plus a supplementary external battery.  I spent one whole day plugged into the wall.  Another day at half-batt, with frequent trips to the charging station.  For two days now I have been functioning at about 70%.  I’m returning to my responsibilities and trying not to do too much.  It’ll be a quick trip back to 0% if I’m not careful.

It’s been three and a half years with this less than optimal battery.  I’m trying to learn how to function at this new capacity, but soldiers aren’t used to limits.  I keep trying to report in for new orders, but the orders remain the same.

“Be still. Rest. I’ve got you in the palm of my hand.”

Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Low batt.

In 2003, Christine Miserandino explained chronic illness to a friend in terms that are now widely referred to as The Spoon Theory, see it here.  Since that time, people like me, who have chronic illness, have been thankful to have a way to convey tangibly what it feels like to be totally depleted, or “out of spoons”.

We were away this past weekend at a basketball tournament in Chicago, and, having used all of my spoons, I shared the analogy with my husband.  I told the story, as best I could remember it, and he said, “Hm. I like the analogy.  I get how spoons can carry, or hold, energy.”  Yesterday I was talking with my daughter after almost two days of trying to replenish my store of spoons.  She was trying to understand how a whirlwind trip to Chicago took me out of commission for most of two days.  My husband prompted me to share the spoon theory with her.  I did.  She said, “so can you store up spoons in advance?” I replied, “No.  You can loan some out from the future, but you’ve got to pay them back.  That’s what I’m doing now.”

So, if you got this far  without clicking on the link above, you are probably scratching your head and trying to decide whether or not you are going to continue reading this cryptic post or if you are just going to close the window.  If you clicked and saw the page-long “spoon theory” you might have said, “Well, I’m not gonna read all that and this blog post.” I know.  That’s why in the past three or four years I have only shared the spoon theory a half a dozen times.  It’s an effective analogy, yes.  But it takes some explaining.

So, I was going through my motions this morning thinking to myself, “is there a more accessible way to convey how I am feeling?” I mean, people with chronic invisible illness find themselves in this position rather often.  People look at us and think, “She looks alright to me!” They don’t understand when we “can’t” stay to watch the second round of games in the tournament because we have to go sleep.  They don’t understand why we make plans always “tentatively” because we might feel like crap on that day. They wonder why we didn’t make it to Bible study in the morning, but we were able to teach a class in the afternoon.

Maybe we could think of it in terms of limited battery life. We all carry devices around with us wherever we go, don’t we?  They all rely on batteries.  To make sure that our devices are functional all day long, we plug them in every night at our bedside.  Some of us have chargers in our cars.  In many public places — airports, malls, libraries –we can now find charging stations.  We push our devices to their limits.  They get depleted; we have to plug them back in or they will be rendered useless.

Most people have internal “batteries” that can keep them running for twelve to fourteen hours with a minimal recharge sometime during the day.  They might be up and out the door before seven, sipping a cuppa joe on the way to work.  They might need a brief pause around 10 o’clock and some kind of a lunch break, but then they are good to go for the rest of the day.  They might even have enough battery life left to get dinner with friends or attend a play or a concert in the evening. In fact, they can keep up this pace day after day and even get away on the weekend occasionally without fully depleting their battery life.

Not me.  Not any of us with chronic illness.  Our batteries have been rendered less effective.  I might have up to eight hours of battery life per day.  If I start off at 7 am and don’t take a break, I will almost certainly be done and in my pajamas at 3 pm.  So, I don’t usually function that way.  I use 20% of my battery, then I sit down and try to ‘re-charge’.  I may get 5-10% back if I sit down, put my feet up, have a cup of tea, or close my eyes.  In that way, I s-t-r-e-t-c-h eight hours of battery life into twelve to fourteen hours of wakefulness, if not usefulness.

Occasionally, I throw all caution to the wind and decide that I am going to take a chance, push my battery to the limits, attend a basketball tournament out of state, and suffer the consequences.  That’s what I did this last weekend.  I had already had a pretty busy week — I had tutored twelve hours, taught the first two classes of the semester, arranged for doggy care, done laundry, tidied the house, purchased new jeans, and packed — before we woke at 5:30am to prepare for a journey to Chicago that would begin at 7am.  We arrived in Chicago around 11am CST, found the gym, got some lunch, then watched two basketball games.  Of course we “sat” at the top of the student section, so, because they stood for the whole two games, we stood for the whole two games.  All of this was a physical drain on my batteries.  And then there was the emotional drain.  All emotion drains battery life — positive and negative.  While at this tournament, I saw many former students and some former colleagues.  There was so much hugging and smiling!  I loved it, but it drained me.  By the time we headed back to the hotel at 5pm, I was done.  I put on my pajamas, crawled in bed, and began to read student papers.  (Yes, I realize that I said I was done and then I continued to do more — I’m telling you, I threw caution to the wind!) My husband and the others went out to get food.  When he got back, I had barely enough energy to chew.  I ate my dinner, then fell asleep before one episode of “Modern Family” could play out.

Then I slept for TWELVE HOURS.

We got up at 8:30am, grabbed a quick breakfast and headed back to the gym for more reunions, more hugging, more standing, more yelling, and more cheering — four games worth!  Then, at 9:30pm, we started the trek home. Since my husband was driving the van following two charter busses full of students, I wanted to stay awake to keep him awake and alert.  So, we drank caffeine at 10pm and chugged along.  It was like I had purchased an external battery pack. I was wide awake on purpose.  We blared music and sang.  We talked and laughed.  Finally, at 2:15am, we arrived home.  Of course I couldn’t go straight to sleep. I had to run out that external battery, which was, of course, disposable, not renewable.

I found that out halfway through my sleep, if you can call it that.  Having depleted all of my own battery, and the external battery, my body didn’t even have enough energy to sleep.  It started to scream from the inside out — a burning sensation filled my gut, my joints ached.  No position was comfortable.  I thought I would have to run to the bathroom to be sick.

Have you ever run your phone battery down so low that the phone actually shuts off? When you first plug it in, you get that image of a battery with a thin red line showing the depravity of life you have allowed your phone to deplete to? Guys, I had a screaming red line.

For all of Sunday I whimpered, whined, and convalesced while my husband, dear man that he is, carried my charge cord around and kept plugging it in — he brought me scrambled eggs and toast, which I at first couldn’t even eat; he ran me an epsom salt bath, which I gladly soaked in for an hour; he brought me tea, and water, and ice; he watched a movie with me; he endured an emotional meltdown; he encouraged me to go to bed at 7:30pm.

Then I slept for TWELVE HOURS. AGAIN.

It’s now Tuesday morning, and I’m pretty sure my battery is at about 70%.  I’m gonna go amble off to the gym, hobble onto the treadmill for a few minutes, then sit in the jacuzzi.  After that ‘workout’, I will meet with three students and prepare for tomorrow’s class.  I hope I still have 15-20% left at 7:30pm so that I can sit in on a board meeting conference call.

But if not, I’ll just have to crawl into bed and sleep some more.  That’s the price of throwing caution to the wind when you have limited battery life.

Isaiah 40:29

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Just add this to the pot

So, do you know what simmering does?  It cooks slowly and gently so as not to damage.

Yesterday, a lot of ingredients were tossed into my brain.  I was thinking about pain and illness.  I was wondering about healing. I encountered the idea of spiritual warfare.  I read about pride, identity,  and temptation.  All of these ingredients were sitting there in my brain, and I didn’t know what to do with them.

Often, the recipe is clear — knead, bake, slice, serve. But yesterday, I had no idea what I was ‘making’.  Probably because I wasn’t intended to ‘make’ anything at all.  I felt the nudge to put the pot on simmer and walk away.

Sometimes I do this in our house.  I have a lovely crock pot that I fill with a pale chunk of pork or chicken, a couple tablespoons of slimy olive oil, some sea salt and other dry pungent spices.  I turn the dial to ‘simmer’, and I walk away.  It’s lazy cooking, yes, but’s it’s pretty effective.  Those ingredients, which look less than appetizing at the start, start to simmer, and as they do, they give off a pleasing aroma that fills my house and greets my husband when he walks into the house after a long day.

So, yesterday, as I was taking in some thoughts that were less than pleasing — pain, illness, temptation, spiritual warfare, pride, sin — instead of tossing them all into the trash, I decided to allow them to simmer for a while.  I mean, it couldn’t hurt.

While they were simmering, I went to the gym and walked on the treadmill for a half an hour or so.  Then, I submersed myself in the warm bubbling waters of the jacuzzi.  I showered, dressed, then drove to meet with two students in a neighboring town.

I drove home, ate some dinner, watched some television, crocheted, read, and went to bed.  And the ideas were still simmering.  I didn’t open the pot to stir.  I didn’t turn the heat up or down.  I just let them cook slowly and gently.

This morning, the battalion met to continue in our study of Hosea. I think I was hoping that I would be able to open the crock pot and see that all the ingredients were ‘done’ simmering.  That didn’t happen.

Instead, as they continued to simmer, I observed this sisterhood that I have been plunked down into.  I watched as they cared for one another — observing a swollen toe, praying for an ailing husband, applauding successful surgeries, and joining in to sing together.

Today’s topic was the idea that we often wander from God because we don’t truly know Him — really know His character and appreciate His love for us.  We acknowledged together that we are “prone to leave the God we love,” and learned together that this is because we know of God, but we don’t fully know Him.

Yet, in spite of our wandering ways, God continuously pursues us.  He puts obstacles in our self-destructive paths so that we will turn around and wander back toward Him.  Sometimes when we are redirected in this way, we get close enough to see His face beaming with love for usHis beloved.  And if we can get our eyes off the distracting shiny objects long enough, we can look into His eyes and see ourselves reflected there.  And that, my friends, is when we get a glimpse at our identity.  Not our estimation of ourselves in relationship to our peers, but our true identity as children loved by God.

I think I’ll let that simmer a little longer.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;

therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”

Jeremiah 31: 3

Let it simmer

So today is a ‘let it simmer’ kind of day.  You know what I mean?

I rolled out of bed rather reluctantly, muttering under my breath something about, “I am so sick and tired of being sick and tired…” I made my smoothie and my tea.  I got in the car and drove to the physical therapist.  When she asked me how I was doing, I admitted that I was feeling frustrated, defeated, and maybe even hopeless.

In her gentle physical therapy whisperer way, she put her hands on me, played an audio recording that spoke directly to my need, and spoke directly to my body, soul, and spirit.

Her words, and the words on the recording, reminded me that I had just celebrated in this blog yesterday the fact that I have been blessed by this illness. Blessed to pause.  Blessed to process.  And, as I see in the first paragraph I wrote above, I have been blessed with a home,  a rather comfortable bed,  tea,  the luxury of a smoothie every morning,  a vehicle, and the privilege of going to physical therapy once a week.

And not just any physical therapy — a physical therapy session wherein my therapist speaks Biblical words of truth into my life.

And it’s not oppressive. Or preachy.  Or false.  It is true.

How do I know it’s true?  Because as I am lying on the table, feeling her hands on my head, hearing her utter simple words of truth, I feel tears — soft, quiet, tears — dripping down my face.

She’s known me for two months, yet God’s spirit inhabiting her could see the need in my spirit and speak directly to me.  I don’t even remember what she said to tell you the truth.  All I know is that in those moments on that table I was reminded that He loves me, He pursues me, and He will heal me.

Yeah, I’m just gonna let that simmer for a bit today.

Psalm 107:43

Let the one who is wise heed these things
    and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.

All the Feelings, Re-visit

This post, originally written in January 2016 and cleaned up in April 2019, speaks directly to some of my thoughts in “It’s About Time.”

The inclement weather has given me another day of virtual stillness and I am noticing that when I am still, I think about the words that others have said, and I have time to consider them fully.

I don’t always like considering the words of others, you know, fully,  because then I get, you know, feelings. And feelings make me, you know, feel things. 

As a child and adolescent I felt a lot of things. I was an emoter. Ok, ok, I know I still am, but back then, I felt things in ways that other people could feel. I remember being told that I laughed too loud and cried too much. I can picture my chubby-cheeked, blonde-headed self, being told that it was time to leave my grandparents’ house, protesting with angry face, stomping feet, and clenched fists. I can feel my throat tighten and tears spill down my cheeks as Frosty the Snow Man melted into a puddle. I remember stomping through the hallways at school or flinging myself onto my bed and wailing into my pillow when I felt wronged by a friend or a boyfriend. Yes, my whole being knew how to feel things.

Now, I learned, for the comfort of others, not to be quite so demonstrative. I mean, it’s not socially acceptable to have all the feelings. In fact, I remember my cooperating teacher, during my student teaching experience, telling me to ‘not wear my heart on my sleeve’. Well, where else was I going to wear it?

Over the years I have tried to peel my heart off my sleeve and shove it deep in an interior pocket. I have attempted to push feelings deep, deep down into my subconscious self. And while I may have quieted some of my outbursts and hidden some of my feelings from my own awareness, my face has often revealed what my guts are feeling, even when my mind hasn’t gotten the memo. People around me have seen my truth-telling face and have taken meaning from it. They have picked up that I am angry, apathetic, shocked, judgmental, or horrified, even when I haven’t realized those emotions myself.

In my younger days, when I was using the full-body method of emotional experience, I often lost blocks of time to tears, flailing, and, shall we say, “verbalizing”. It was loud. It was messy. It was not concerned with productivity. Perhaps one benefit to tucking hurts away and refusing to indulge them is the ability to get a bit more accomplished. And it just so happens that I like getting things done, so a way of life commenced. I often refer to this time in my life as ‘soldiering’.

I became too busy to attend to emotions. Soldiers don’t have time for feelings. They are kicking butts and taking names. They don’t feel sad about it. And, they don’t really care if you feel sad about it. They have a job to do, dammit. So, either help or get out of the way.

Yeah, that has been me for a very long time. I have pushed people aside without considering how they were feeling. I wasn’t intending to do that.  Really. I was just on a mission. I was focused.

Here’s the thing, though. The people who love you don’t really care if you are on a mission. They just need you to care. They need you to stop butt-kicking and name-taking for a minute so that you can see that they, too, are having some feelings. They might also be trying to shove their feelings into their subconscious, but if you stop moving, you might see that their faces are revealing what they aren’t even aware of. You might be able to pick up that they are hurt, shocked, angry, lonely, overlooked, or terrified.

And when you see that, you can sit down beside them and be still with them together. You don’t have to have an answer. You don’t have to solve the problem. You just need to sit in the stillness with them, which will give them the time and the permission to feel — to really feel.

And when we feel together, we are joined by bonds that are not soon separated.

Aren’t those bonds far more valuable than all the butt-kicking and name-taking in the world? Yes. The answer is yes. Learn from me, grasshopper.  Take time in the stillness to feel all the feelings.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for a friend.

John 15:13

Struggling Still

So, I’ve been sitting here with my laptop open for quite a while now.  I’ve finished my Bible study.  I’ve responded to several student emails.  I’ve looked at and managed my calendar for the week. But I’m not feeling inspired to write anything.

I have this problem.  I want to be authentic — to not sound cheesy, or preachy, or packaged in any way.  I want what comes out of my fingers to be a genuine reflection of where I’m at.  And, to be honest, ‘where I’m at’ is in my pajamas, sitting on a futon in my office, covered in warmed flaxseed pillows with my dog squished up next to me.  It’s a pretty good life, actually, but it’s not much to write about.

Yet, I’ve committed to writing more.  So, I’m going to write.  And then, for the most part, I’m going to spend my day being still.

I still struggle with this — with stillness, that is.  In my former life, I didn’t have very many times of stillness.  Days, weeks, months, and years, were full of activity — of doing, going, achieving, completing, accomplishing.  So, sitting here halfway through a Monday morning , still dressed in the same clothes I slept in with no intention of changing anytime soon, still seems odd.

I’m telling you, my Missouri friends would not recognize me.  I had a colleague who used to say, “I wish I understood how you get so much done.”  Me, too, friend, me, too.  I’ve said before on this blog how by this time of day in my former life I would’ve showered, put dinner in the crock pot, transported three or four kids to their various schools, tidied my classroom, reviewed my lesson plans, met with a family and their child to craft an educational contract, set up an appointment to observe a teacher, tracked down two delinquent students in the hallway, taught one section of composition, attended chapel, and managed any number of other administrative tasks.

Today? I’ve played my turn in about ten games of Words with Friends, started a load of laundry, finished last night’s dishes, drank some tea and a smoothie, heated some flaxseed pillows, sat down next to my dog, completed my Bible study, and sent some emails.

The rest of my day includes some lesson planning for the upcoming semester and editing a short paper for a student. Period. Ok, fine, I will try to do some Pilates. But seriously, I’m not doing anything else.  I’m not leaving the house.  At all.

And why am I struggling with this?  This is the new reality that was Hand-crafted for me.  This is the Next Chapter I’ve been blessed with.  It’s not boring. It’s not unsatisfying.  In fact, it is exactly what the Doctor ordered to put me back on the path to health.

Yet the do-er in my still sometimes feels like I should be accomplishing something, checking more off my list, making a difference, proving my worth. There it is. Something in me (and in you?) tells me that I don’t have worth unless I have accomplished something in my day. My value is in direct proportion to all the things I have managed to complete.  But ladies and gentlemen, that is a lie.  It’s a lie that I chose to believe for a long time.  And I believed it really well.  So well that I denied myself the opportunity to be still and recover from all the doing.  So, really, (wink, wink) I’m making up for lost time.

Do yourself a favor today.  Remind yourself that your worth is not based on what you do.  It is based on Whose you are. You have been purchased at a great price.  Your value is unfathomable.  Sit down for a minute and fathom that.  Drink it in for a moment while you are being still.

I Corinthians 6:19-20

 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price.Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Try Waiting in Silence

I don’t usually know what I am going to write about before I sit down.  Today’s no exception.  I find the time in my day and then sit down at my desk.  I read a devotion and then start moving my fingers over the keys.  Today, my devotional book, Beth Moore’s Whispers of Hope, which I am reading through for the second time, directed me to Psalm 62.  I read the Psalm and then turned to what Beth had written about it.  About half way through her page, she told me to go back to scripture and read aloud verses 1-2 and 5-8.  If you are so inclined, you could read them aloud right now:

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.  On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Since, as of yesterday, I am getting back to writing my blog, perhaps this verse is a fitting reminder of where I started eighteen months ago. I had just committed to taking six months to be still and wait.  I, a self-proclaimed butt-kicking, name-taking soldier, had agreed to put down my weapons for a season in order to recover from some battle wounds.

In fact, if you recall, my injuries had rendered me useless to the soldiering business.  I hadn’t surrendered willingly, but had been pulled from battle per executive order.  I would like to say I left kicking and screaming, but in reality, by the time that I was summoned from my position, I was too exhausted to utter much more than a whimper of acknowledgement.

I was plunked down in this little house by the river with a laptop, my Bible, and nothing but time. If you’ve been reading with me for the past eighteen months, you know that my journey to recovery has been slow and circuitous. I have made progress in fits and starts, proving, time and again, that I am no longer fit for battle.

Nor was I ever intended to be. I wasn’t called to fight or conquer or even defend.  I was called to wait in silence.  I was called to run to my refuge, seek my shelter, and find my salvation in the Rock.

Now, it might seem that seeking shelter means taking myself out of the war entirely.  Not true.  I can enjoy shelter in the midst of chaos, in the midst of trial, in the midst of downright warfare.  I won’t be oblivious to the turmoil that surrounds me, but I will be safe, secure, and held.

For a very long time, I thought it was my job to keep peace, to quiet cries, and to overcome the enemy.  And, boy did I try.  And fail.  In fact, I would say that my efforts to fight battles that were not mine actually caused more harm than good — to myself and others because the battles were not mine; the war is already won.

That’s why I have permission to wait in silence.   If I am busy soldiering on, I miss the action.  But if I watch and wait, I “see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13).  How do I know this? Because I’ve been seeing it.

I wonder if in your stillness you are seeing it to….

The overflow of the heart

“…on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak..”

Matthew 12:36

Well, didn’t that just stop me in my tracks this morning? I got up, brewed my tea, made my smoothie, and sat down to my Bible study thinking, “It sure would be nice to blog this morning…” I usually read my Bible study first, you know, so I don’t go off all half-cocked spouting nonsense as I have been wont to do.  I try to ground myself in Scripture before I let my fingers fly, hoping that they will be directed toward His purposes, at least a little bit.

But didn’t He just step into my process and say, “Well, you know, not many people can speak about careless words quite as authentically as you can, dear.” Oy.

Ok, ok, I admit it.  I have spoken a few careless words. Ok, fine.  I’ve spoken a few careless words every time I have opened my mouth. I just love to hear myself talk, apparently.  So things just fly out of me!  All kinds of things.  Careless things.  They fly out of my mouth so quickly I sometimes surprise myself.  When I say, “did I just say that out loud?” I really am asking out of disbelief.  I shock myself.

Sure, sure, over the years, through some very difficult ‘learning opportunities’ I have acquired an ability to filter.  Sometimes.  But often, a thought pops into my head and out of my mouth before I even know what happened.  I have tried and tried and tried to control my tongue.  But here’s the thing.  The problem isn’t with my tongue.  It’s with my heart.

Matthew asks, “How can you speak good, when you are evil?  For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Have you ever met someone who truly has a pure heart?  I actually have.  Perhaps you know someone like this.  They have something kind to say about everyone, in every situation.  And, guys, they aren’t being fake.  They really mean it!  They have compassion, understanding, patience, and true humility in their hearts. So, when they open their mouths, the words that come out are compassionate, kind, understanding, patient, and humble.

If you listen carefully to my words, you will occasionally hear kindness and sometimes compassion, but often what you will hear is judgment, cynicism, distrust, and impatience.  Our mouths reveal us for who we really are!  And, in my case, it can be downright embarrassing!  I really want to think the best of people.  I really want to be encouraging, but I look at a situation, toss it around with what is inside my heart, and out of my mouth comes what I am thinking.

So, what can I do? There is only one solution — a heart transplant.  Or at least reconstructive surgery.  God has been in the business of remodeling my heart for going on fifty years.  He’s done some miraculous work, actually.  That’s why I am, at times, able to open my mouth and offer encouraging, compassionate, and thankful words.  However, the full remodel won’t be done for quite some time, and occasionally I get trapped in one of the back rooms that haven’t been touched yet.  If you try to talk to me when I’m in there, I’m likely to spout frustration, anger, and even hate. It ain’t pretty.

I’ve got to learn not to walk into those areas alone.  When I go alone, all I can see are the problems — the holes in the wall, the stained carpets, the mold, and the broken windows.  But, when the Designer comes with me, He shows me all the work that He’s already done — He’s poured a new foundation, He’s demolished strongholds, He’s got a plan.  When He comes with me, all that frustration, anger, and hate melt away.  All I can see is His goodness and compassion — His ability to rebuild what was once deemed condemned.

At those moments, my heart is full of hope, love, and understanding; when I see the transformative power He has had in my life, I am able to humbly speak that transformative power into the lives of others.  However, when I wander off on my own, my heart gets full of fear, anger, and resentment.  And in those moments, if I’m careless enough to open my mouth, I’m likely to regret it.

Sounds like a simple problem to fix, doesn’t it?  Remind me of that later today when you hear me say something careless, will you?