Fake Busy

You know what I am tired of hearing myself talk about?  How busy I am.  Yes.  I do a bunch of stuff.  But yes- I have the same 24 hours in a day that everyone else has.  And, just like everyone else, I get to choose how I spend it!  So why do I get stuck in this cycle of complaining about how little time I have like my own schedule is something that is happening TO me?

I chose this!

Half the things I find myself racing around to do are things that my husband calls ‘fake busy’… burning items on my to do list that I just made up out of my head that I need to get done.  Since when is buying a new pack of athletic socks an emergency?  It sure seemed couponthat way to me last Thursday!  Just because I have $10 loyalty rewards and a 40% coupon at AC Moore does not mean that I am required to go to that store today.  Whether or not I have painted my fireplace is actually not a life and death situation.  And yet, that’s how I live my life!  80% of the things I feel stressed about are things that I made up for myself to do.

How about you?

How often are your days filled with ‘fake busy’ items on your to do list?

How much time to you spend in front of the TV?  On social media? Disengaged with your life?

How many hidden pockets of time are being lost in your day?

I have a lot.  And as I am reflecting this Lenten season, I wonder what would happen if I invested that time more wisely?  If I lived my life intentionally, prioritizing people over things?  If I spent the hours entrusted to me engaging with my kids, calling an out of town friend, or just savoring the sweetness of my life, instead of rushing headlong into the next project I created for myself?

    Remind me that my days are numbered—
    how fleeting my life is.
 You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.” Interlude
We are merely moving shadows,
   and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
-Psalm 39:4-6

We have a choice.  Even on the things we have to do.  Yes.  Humans need to eat, with shocking regularity.  But what if cooking a meal was an invitation into presence?  If we enjoy the scents, the smells, the colors of cooking our food, instead of rushing it onto plates?  What if time spent in the car was seen as an opportunity to pray blessings on the strangers we pass along the road?  Or to marvel at the beauty of a sunset, a tree branch, a backseat child’s laughter?

There is a difference between surviving and truly living.  We all have 24 hours.  How we spend them is an attitude of the mind.

 

Not Scary- FUN!

My two year old daughter is terrified of all things that make noise.   Anything can send her into hysterics- the garbage disposal, the bathroom fan, the ice machine on the fridge, half of the toys she owns…

In order to contain the terror, my husband and I have a phrase we keep repeating whenever she is screaming in terror… not scary- FUN!  She dutifully repeats this back to us- not scary… fun… This pattern has repeated itself over and over often enough that now, whenever she hears a loud noise, she comes sprinting towards us, hysterically half-laughing, half-crying, screaming NOT SCARY- FUN at the top of her lungs.  Other times, she buries her head in my shoulder, weeping, repeating not scary- fun.  Sometimes I wonder what kind of psychological damage we are inflicting upon her young mind.

Then I shrug, and turn back on the hair dryer.

not scary- fun

I may not be afraid of household appliances (with the exception to the vacuum cleaner) but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that send me into hysterical fits.  Things like walking into a room of people I only know marginally well, and being expected to socialize.  Buying airplane tickets.  Making decisions that will affect other people. Leaning in and engaging in conflict.  Adulting in general.

There is so much about living life as a human that feels terrifying and unpredictable.  The stakes can feel so high.  Decisions, even tiny ones, can have huge consequences.  If you allow yourself to feel truly alone in the midst of this, the weight can be crushing.

I cannot count the times in my life that I wanted to run and bury my head in someone’s shoulder, to be held and reassured.  But we are all trying too hard to seem confident and put together to allow ourselves to do this.

Today, I was reflecting on some of my life mottoes- quotes and phrases that stick with me. and I noticed a common theme:

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every situation where you really stop to look fear in the face.  You are able to say to yourself, I have lived through this horror.  I can take the next thing that comes along.  You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

Fake it ’til you make it.

Here is the World.
Beautiful and Terrible Things will Happen.
Don’t be Afraid.
-Fredrich Buechner

Yoga Pants.
Messy Bun.
Coffee’s Brewing.
Get it Done.

When I stop to think about it, all of these quotes lead towards the central truth in one of my favorite passages of scripture…

You have not been given a spirit of timidity and fear, but one of power, love, and self control.
2 Timothy 1:7

The spirit in you, it is created in the image of God.  We live our lives in full view of the loving eyes of our Savior.  Every day is written in his book.  Every tear is collected in his bottle.  There is nothing that can hide us, remove us, or exclude us from His love.

We feel timid, we feel fearful, but this is not who we are.  We are immortal souls, who have one shot at this life we have been given.  It’s a divine opportunity to do our best, to give our all.  To love big, fail big, and learn and to stretch our wings.  The Spirit that is in us is greater than the spirit that is in the world.

Who would you be, if you were freed from the spirit of fear that is holding you captive?  What would you do, if you were unleashed to be the person you truly are on the inside?  How would the world change if we gave ourselves permission to really try?  Perhaps then, the words would ring true…

Not scary- FUN!

Please Don’t Give Up Chocolate for Lent this Year…

vhovolsyr

Today is Ash Wednesday, the official start of Lent.  Which means that people all over the world will begin their Lenten fasts.  In my experience, however, these chosen fasts have more to do with crash dieting than with deepening one’s walk with Christ.

Having grown up in a tradition that didn’t talk that much about practicing Lent, I only had a vague idea of what Lent was as a high schooler.  If you were to ask 16 year old me what it meant to practice Lent, I probably would have told you that for 40 days before Easter you weren’t allowed to eat chocolate, soda, and you were supposed to go for a 3 mile run instead of watching TV every day.  In essence, Lent was a second shot at that failed New Year’s Resolution.  Other than the timing of the season, I didn’t know that Lent had all that much to do with God.

As an adult, I have come to understand what Lent means in the practice of the faith.  The season is meant to be a time of anticipation, a time of making room for Christ.  That is the purpose of a Lenten fast- to create a hunger for God, to create space in your life and your schedule to devote yourself to prayer and reflection.  In my thinking, the practice of Lent should draw you closer to God, creates a sense of fullness and satisfaction, not one of hunger or deprivation.  So let me ask you (humbly, gently); does giving up chocolate, caffeine, or fast food really create room and awareness of God in your life?

Is there another practice that could better accomplish that purpose?

I so often see people (and have been guilty myself) of choosing something for a fast that is really more of a diet plan.  In my mind I am thinking I am doing this for God, but if I also happen to lose a bit of weight in the process, that’s ok too.  As I reflect upon this, I realize that that is dancing a line very close to idolatry.  What am I really pursuing in this goal?  To draw closer to Christ, or to draw closer to my goal of the perfect body?

In the past few years I have decided that instead of giving something up for Lent, I will instead add something.  A daily (or if that’s too hard, regular) practice that serves to draw me closer to my savior.  To more deeply connect me with the author of life. To invite me into a time of personal worship.  This year, I am going to try and set some time each day to create.  As an act of worship.  Acknowledging that I am formed in the image of my Creator.  That practice speaks deeply into my soul as something I need right now.  Perhaps there is something your heart is whispering to you that would draw you closer to God…

Time each day to walk, outside, appreciating God’s marvelous creation.

A family meal each week, set aside to connect with each other on a deeper level.

Worship music in your car on your morning commute.

Reading the Christian book that has been sitting on your nightstand for weeks.

My challenge to you is to use Lent to enrich your relationship with Christ in a way that has no other outside benefits.  Let your pursuit of Him for the next 40 days be unspoiled by other secondary goals.

And may the Peace of Christ be with you.

 

Snowstorm Sabbath

2015-02-26 09.01.32

One of my favorite things about living in the South is our kooky reaction to winter weather.  As the first flakes of frozen precipitation begin to fall from above, we feel compelled to act as if the sky itself is falling.  School is cancelled.  There is a run on the grocery store.  Motorists on all major thoroughfares immediately smash into fellow  vehicles.  We stack up our firewood, pile on the blankets, and drink mug after mug of hot chocolate.  It’s amazing.

We have just weathered one of those storms, and, as we emerge from the blizzard of 2016, I find myself realizing what it is that I love so much about our winter panic- in the midst of the storm, everything stops.  We stay at home.  Engage with our families.  Cook luxurious meals and excuse ourselves from going to work, to the gym, to board meetings and the other obligations that fill our days.  We shelter in place.

In essence, we take a sabbath.

I cannot tell you how much the last few days have meant to me.  I have had real conversations with my family.  I have gotten down on the floor and played with my children. I took moments to pet my dog.  Wash my dishes by hand.  Talk to my neighbors.  I have marveled at the beauty of nature, and listened to good music.  In essence, I have taken time to stop and truly enjoy this beautiful life I am living.

In typical Southern fashion, the weather today is heading towards 50 degrees.  On the street outside of my office I see people in winter parkas walking next to others in t-shirts.  And I find myself a bit sad about the thaw.  Because although I appreciate the return to normal patterns and schedules, I know I will miss the freedom and space created by the snow.

For the record, no, I am am not wishing for an eternal winter. But I do find myself asking what it is about these snow days that are so meaningful.  What practices can I carry forward into the sunshine?

Here are some questions I have been asking myself in the discovery process… maybe they will resonate with you as well:

What do I cherish the most about snow days?

What elements of this time can I begin to incorporate into my own sabbath practices?

How can I hold myself accountable to engage deeply in relationships with those I love in the midst of my busy-ness?

Are there any new traditions I can put in place in my life to capture some of this whimsy and peace I love so dearly?

Selah

So.  I haven’t written for a while.

There are legitimate reasons why.  Work has been crazy.  Sleep has been short. I’ve been reading through 1 and 2 Chronicles (not exactly a get up a cheer part of the Bible). Emotionally, I have been in a funk.  When I drag myself (and my toddlers) through the door at night, often there is not much energy, passion, soul, left.

All those reasons sound valid.  But here is the real reason I haven’t been writing:  I have been neglecting the thing that this whole blog is supposed to be about.

Selah.

I have forgotten to Stop.  And I have forgotten to Listen.

How many days have I just plowed through without pausing even once to listen to what the Lord is trying to whisper?  How many gentle lessons have I raced through like yellow lights with my eyes fixed on the next thing?  How many joyless days have I lived recently without margin?

restI believe that the rhythms of God are like those of music.  The rests are an essential part of the melody.  The song feels incomplete without those beats of silence.  It seems fitting that the word Selah can also refer to a musical interlude… a moment to stop and reflect, an intentional break in the text.

The writers of the Psalms clearly understood that life has a pattern and a tempo.  That our days, much like our music, were meant to have stops and starts, periods of activity and periods of reflection.  This is not a concept that is given much value in today’s culture.  And yet, I get the feeling that something essential may be getting lost in the frenetic rush to the next thing.

When you are working on a project for your job- do you ever take a moment to intentionally disengage?  To step back and look at the big picture?  Or do you stare at the blue screen until the words stop making sense?  When you are with your family, do you take a moment to stop and breathe deeply and marvel- to truly see these human beings God has blessed you with?  Or do you find yourself instead trying to sneak moments to check your updates on your phone?  When you eat- do you even notice your food?  Savor the flavor, the texture of this wild and magical world?  Who else on the planet has their daily choice of global cuisine at their fingertips?  Yet I find myself spooning pad thai and queso fresco the same way I might eat oatmeal- mindlessly.

When was the last time I gave myself permission to take a beat during my day?  When is the last time I paused- to think, to pray, to marvel?  What would these stolen moments have cost me, truly?  And would it be worth the price to gain the feeling of mindfulness, to know that I am actually living my life?

Thinking of a concept like this, my proclivity is to rush to guilt.  To feel bad about the fact that I haven’t been nourishing my soul, and to resolve to add this to my ever-lengthening to do list for the next day.   But I have the feeling that the practice of selah may be one that refuses to allow me to remain in control.  That to learn how and when I need to pause and to reflect, I need to learn to listen to my life, listen to my soul.  That feels to me more like a building of awareness than a task to schedule.

It feels… intimidating.  inconvenient.  Yet also necessary.

The glorious thing is, we serve a God of new beginnings. One who wants us to succeed, and is constantly whispering encouragement and blessings over us.  I have a feeling if we take a step in faith, he will meet us more than halfway…

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.
Lamentations 3:22-23

Lean not on your own understanding.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
Proverbs 3:5

pathI love this verse.  The words to Proverbs 3:5-6 are the lyrics to the song that I sing both my children each night before bed.  My son came home from school last week and this was his ‘scripture’ for the week.  To hear his precious, 3 year old voice reciting these precious words meant the world to me.  Of the lessons I hope they learn from their mother, I hope these words rank high on the list.

So I was surprised to discover today that I have not been living as if I believe them.

I was watching this video today, as part of my Lenten devotionals.  The monk who is speaking tells of the lesson he learns from his dog- who greets each morning by springing out of bed with an exuberant yip.  This dog’s delight to face the day points to two things- first, an admirable lack of caffeine dependence, and second (and more importantly), an inherent trust in the faithfulness of God.  In order to take joy and delight in what our day holds, we must trust that the One crafting the day has our good in mind.  When we know this deep in our souls, we are able to engage our lives with a sense of lightness and whimsy.

How do you get out of bed in the morning?

I know I don’t spring out of bed.  When facing the day of late, my attitude has ranged from somber to resigned.  I look at the future with a sense of anxiousness, not adventure.  When did this happen to me?  I know the One who holds my future.  I believe his promise to work things for my good!  I delight in my work, my children, my friends… so why the sense of resignation?  When did my actions and attitudes begin to belie my belief?

And how to change it?

Resolution #1- Seek delight.
Daffodils.  Curly toddler hair.  trail mix.  thomas the train.   All wonderful, beautiful elements of my day so far.  Did I take the time to delight in them?  No.  I walked past, fixated on the next task in front of me.  Going forward, I hope to acknowledge these small gifts, allow them to bring to light the blessings and love in my life.

Resolution #2- View the future in light of the past.
I am amazingly blessed.  God has been so faithful to me.  Even when things logically should NOT work out- budgets shouldn’t balance, children should have been injured- I have been amazingly, miraculously blessed.  God is good.  All the time.  Why is this not my operating premise?  From here on out, or at least, starting today, starting right now, I am walking in trust.  God will provide.  God is good. He is the bringer of daily bread, and the one who directs my paths.

How are you neglecting to walk in trust? How are you leaning on  your own understanding?  In what ways is God calling you to walk in trust, to embrace delight, today?

That Time Yoga Pants Blew Up My Facebook…

**I want to say up front that I HATE conflict of any type, and I legitimately see ALL sides to this issue.  I am trying to tread a fine line here, while also acknowledging my feelings and beliefs.  So let me begin with the blanket assertion… if what I write seems offensive to you, I am sorry.  I didn’t mean it that way.  I promise**

A few weeks ago, I posted an article to my timeline that was reminiscent of some conversations I had with my roommates in college.  I thought we would have a chuckle and that would be that.  To my surprise, the link began filling up with comments almost immediately.  Clearly I had hit a nerve.

The article was on the debate about whether yoga pants and leggings are appropriate things for Christian women to wear.  The comments were so immediate and so passionate, that I realized there was much more to the issue than meets the eye.  And when I reflected upon it, my feelings ran deep too.  So here is my response.  To everyone.

Let me start by stating the obvious.

1) There are more important issues in Christendom.  People are dying.  Souls are at stake.  Yes.  Let’s dig wells and seek reconciliation and lift high the name of God.  But, with the level of emotion here, I think this may also be an issue that needs to be brought to the table.

2) Dressing modestly is important.  I do not wear string bikinis, crop tops, or short skirts.  I do think that it is part of our responsibility as Christian women to “dress modestly, with decency and propriety” (1 Timothy 2:9).  However, the issue here is not push up bras.  This conversation is about yoga pants.  First cousin to sweatpants.  Just to be clear.  I also realize that there are some black sheep yoga pants out there that were designed to entice.  However, I think it’s safe to say the people wearing these items are not reading this blog.  So stinging rhetoric in the blogosphere is not the most effective way to address this issue.  My assumption is that the women reading this blog own yoga pants paired with hooded sweatshirts, and leggings sold to be pants and not followed by ‘-yhose’.

OK.  That out of the way, here we go.  *deep breath*

The number one argument used against leggings/yoga pants/female clothing trend in debate is usually this…

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.  For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.  When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.
-1 Corinthians 8:9-13

Following this line of thought, men who view women in tight pants can stumble, by being caught up in lustful thoughts.  Valid.

However, I would like to bring up another side to this debate.  What if the person caused to stumble into sin by this current debate is me?

Here is the thing.  My body image has always been a stumbling block to me.  I struggled with eating disorders in high school.  I have never once felt comfortable in tight, or even correctly fitting… anything.  And, as I grow older, I realize how MUCH emphasis is put on women’s bodies by the media, by society’s norms, and by my fellow sisters in Christ.  Female actors are critiqued on the clothes that they wear instead of the words that come our of their mouth.  In a middle school girl’s argument, the worst thing you can say is “well you’re FAT.”  We as women are constantly under a microscope- it feels as if our body does not belong to us, but to the public domain.  Am I a person, or an object?  Each time a wardrobe debate comes up, and they come up often, the message is reinforced that there is something inherently wrong about my body.  That I have to change, to hide, to be ashamed of my physical self.

In the church we speak a lot about souls.  And there is this implicit thought that we as humans are souls trapped within bodies.  That this physical container is merely a temporary holding place, something we must deal with until we are set free by death.  At best, our body is labeled as a temple- but still the message is that we have to care for it, feed, water, and exercise  to make sure it is an acceptable holding place for the Spirit of God.

But what if, as humans, we are souls created WITH bodies?  That our body, just like out soul, is part of the way God created us?  That my physical self is just as much ME as my mind or my soul or my heart?  That instead of hating it, starving it, resenting it, or hiding it, it is part of my journey as me? That coming to love me, my body, it’s limitations, its daily embarrassments, is part of my journey of faith?  Let’s put it out there- we all fart.  Perhaps that is a means of teaching humility.  We all have parts of our bodies we would change if we could.  Maybe that reminds us that God’s plans are higher than our plans.

This is probably one of the few times you will hear me talk about my body, or my struggles with self image.  Why?  Because I don’t want that to become a defining storyline of my life.  I don’t want to pass along a legacy of shame about my body to my children.  Because I have decided that the way I look, the numbers on a scale, the jiggle in my yoga pants, isn’t what matters about me.  That may sound trite, but for me, this is a huge battle.  One I fight daily.  And it’s one fought by us all one one level or another.  So be gentle with each other.

Here is the thing I have noticed recently- the main people objecting to yoga pants these days?  Women.  Females judging other females.  Sisters, why are we tearing each other down?  Why are we so busy policing each other, instead of encouraging each other?  What logs in our own eyes are we ignoring as we focus on the splinters in others?

Perhaps you hate my yoga pants… but honestly, isn’t there something else more important to say to me?  Like- ANYTHING else?  Because the fact I am wearing yoga pants today probably says a lot about the kind of morning I had- wrestling two toddlers into clothes and on to school.  Or maybe it speaks to the fact that I spent some time on myself today and went for a run.  That’s something I am proud of, and had to sacrifice to do.  Let’s focus more on the why of the pants, instead of the what.  It leads to a better place.

yoga pants

Paraclete

I don’t know about you all, but I have a powerful need for encouragement.  Perhaps it’s because success at my job isn’t easily measurable.  Perhaps it’s because my love language is words of encouragement.  Perhaps its because I am simply human.  All I know is that I need to hear that I am loved, that I am valued, and that I am doing well on a regular basis.

Which is unfortunate.

Because this world isn’t exactly engineered to do that.  We live in a society of cynics.  People who employ sarcasm as a weapon.  These days, we are all critics.  Voicing our opinions on Facebook, on yelp reviews, in countless ways.  When I read my book, my default mode is to examine what I didn’t like about it, instead of what I did. The same goes for restaurants, TV shows, etc.  Will I notice when it begins to creep into the way I view my life?  My faith?  My children?

Here is the truth.  I do not know a single human being in my circle who is not in desperate need of affirmation.  Whether we realize it or not, our souls yearn to be blessed.  We all need to be told that we are seen.  That we are loved.  That we are important.  And it doesn’t take much to do that.  But here is the problem… in order to truly be able to bless others, we must know what it is to be blessed.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.
John 14:16-17

According to GotQuestions.org, “The Greek word translated “Comforter” or “Counselor” (as found in John 14:16, 26;15:26; and 16:7) is parakletos. This form of the word is unquestionably passive and properly means “one called to the side of another,” with the secondary notion of counseling or supporting him. This Counselor, or Paraclete, is God the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. He is a personal being who indwells every believer.”  In other words, we have a full time encourager, who lives with us and constantly is whispering words of truth and affirmation into our lives.

How do we attune our ears to hear the Holy Spirit?  I believe the easiest first step is learning what is NOT his voice…

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10

If you are hearing a message that makes you feel less:  less loved, less free, less beautiful or wonderful, I am willing to bet it is not the voice of God.  When we encounter God, we always want to be higher.  Even when we feel convicted, it is a conviction out of a need to be closer to God, not a feeling of condemnation or shame.

Who are you to God?  The Bible is full of answers.

You are:
Dearly Loved
Bought with a Price
Redeemed
Forgiven
Perfect
Whole
Created to be You on Purpose
There is a Plan for your life
It is a Good one
You are a Bride
You are Beautiful
You are Unique
You are Seen
You are Known
You are Not Alone
A Son or a Daughter
A Brother or a Sister
Restored
Important.

Take some time today and read over the list.  Reflect upon something that sticks out to you.  (Or add something to my list!) Realize that this is the TRUTH about you.  Hold it in your mind as you go about your day.

You.
Are.
Loved.