balance

Learning to Stop

Our idea of a ‘relaxing’ vacation is a 15 day road trip from Vancouver WA to New Orleans (and back again). We like adventures and cramming as much fun as we can into whatever time we have away from home. Yesterday as we left Vancouver, Washington we drove to see so many places that feed our soul in the beautiful Columbia Gorge

and then to the Oregon Coast.

It was a beautiful drive down the coast to so many of the places we love.

And then we arrived at our hotel.

The marine layer had set in so there was no beautiful sunset, and the air was humid and was starting to chill. The hotel was a little more dive-y than I remembered, but it’s a king sized bed with an ocean view and a fireplace and the man I love, and who can really complain about that?

We weren’t hungry, it was getting dark, and we didn’t really want to go anywhere, but

our restless souls found it hard to JUST BE.

This week my goal is to not try to fill every minute with busy-ness. Right now I’m purposely lying in bed writing this as opposed to rushing around to get ready. We have all day. The sound of the ocean outside my door, the waves crashing within my sight. I brought four books but I haven’t cracked one.

I want to be still, relax, read, write, take in the beauty of where I’m at, and allow my soul to refresh and recharge.

And my husband just said, “Are you getting up? Come on, let’s go!”

It’s a learning process for us both.

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Unsettled. And It’s a Good Thing

Please excuse this stream of consciousness – it’s the middle of the night and I am processing.

I am unsettled.

It’s 2:30 am and I am lying in bed in a hotel in Chicago. Having worked Tuesday night, I went home and slept two and a half hours, then hopped in my car and drove the long and boring five-hour drive from Louisville to Chicago. I was able to get to bed early in preparation for the conference tomorrow, but I woke up at 2am. My sleep is off, my brain won’t shut down, and my heart is unsettled. I am living another part of my dream – when we sold our house and moved to Louisville, I told my husband one of my dreams was to attend the Storyline conference again, this time from the perspective of a writer. So I signed up for the whole works – dinner with Don Miller, the full conference experience, and an extra day with a workshop on how to tell a better story.

Since the first time I attend this conference (almost two years ago), so much has changed. I’ve seen old dreams die, and new dreams come true. I started two blogs, I have started writing again, and we have moved across the country, far from our friends and family, and are slowly building a new community. In preparing my heart for this conference, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the past years, particularly since the last conference.

Before that conference nineteen months ago, there were seeds planted in my heart. The speakers I heard and the things I learned watered and nurtured those seeds and I saw them sprout and start to grow.  My dream of retiring and becoming part of a close neighborhood community was reborn into a dream of buying an old house in downtown Vancouver where people could come, gather around the table, or sit with a cup of coffee and talk about life in a safe place. That dream died, or at least changed. We left our family and friends and moved 2300 miles away. We now have the house and the table is waiting for guests, but we are tasked with bravely building a new community from scratch in a city where we knew no one. Those seeds were planted, and it has been amazing to see them grow and change.

This year, I feel I am getting ready to harvest some of those dreams. As with the last conference, seeds were planted long before I got here.

And as I am typing this, I feel the tension of a new dream being born. And that scares me, but it’s also thrilling. And scary. And even more scary.

I feel big changes coming. Haven’t I had enough big changes this year?

In getting my heart ready for this conference, I looked again at the “Creating a Life Plan” curriculum from Storyline. I love this exercise – I would like to take the whole world through it! After writing my positive and negative turns and plotting them on a timeline, the theme was so evident. Through childhood, restless youth, and  a broken and restored marriage. Through miscarriages and infertility, the loss and restoration of a prodigal son, and through the season of empty nest. As a wounded member of the church and the Church, and now with this move and huge life change – it is evident.

He rescues and restores us from a hopeless place.

That is so evident as the theme of my life in this season. And I know God is going to use our story, as he has in the past, to bring hope to those who feel hopeless. To bring light in the darkness of despair. To help those who are so blinded with the inconsistencies of what they see in the Christians who are so engaged in political and moral self-righteousness that they have forgotten the core of Christianity – Love one another – I want to help shine the light. And I know this is part of my story. But here I am. Unsettled again. Feeling the labor pains of a new dream being born.

The next part of Creating a Life Plan involved looking at the roles in your life, and defining them, then setting a goal or ambition for each role. This, along with identifying a theme of your life, is meant to help provide a focus and a filter. Aside from my role as a spiritual being, the five roles I identified were: Wife, Family member (broad, I know, but it includes mom, daughter, sister, daughter-in-law, and niece), Friend, Neighbor (includes my immediate physical neighborhood as well as work and extended family), and Creative (writer, etc). Narrowing these roles and identifying goals for each helped to confirm the message that has been poking at my heart.

I don’t remember when, but in the past year or so I read about the wife of a prominent worship leader and author who had been a popular Christian blogger and I believe a speaker as well. She had multitudes of followers on social media, but after some events in her life, decided to leave it all behind. She closed her popular blog and basically left social media to focus on her community. Not her community of followers, but her actual physical community – her family, her friends, her church. Something about this really appealed to me.

Then recently I was listening to author Shauna Niequist speak about something similar. She is a popular Christian author and speaker, but she felt that things had become unbalanced. She decided to reevaluate her time and energy, and to keep her family and her close community a priority, even if that meant disappointing her larger community (social media, and her agent). Basically she said – if I am not as loving and present with my people as I am on stage or with my social media community, what good is that? I am not explaining it clearly (thank you, sleep deprivation), but hearing her talk about her change in priorities only served to confirm what has been on my heart.

I want to love my people better.

And to do that, I am thinking I need to close my circle.

By that, I mean concentrating on my five roles, and my goals in each of those roles, and letting everything else go.

What will that look like? I don’t know, but I am getting some clues. I think it is going to mean a big change in social media. I love keeping in contact with friends, co-workers, and family from back home. But how much of my energy is going to maintaining a relationship with friends from high school or people I worked with ten years ago. I enjoy that, but in terms of a greater purpose, what does that mean. Not to mention the time I spend on social media. If I want to concentrate on my ‘small circle’ and really love them well, what will that mean? How will things change? Am I spending more time reading an ex-co-worker’s blog or being part of a Facebook group of 10,000 dreamers than I am loving my next door neighbor who had surgery yesterday, or practically loving my sons who are living in all corners or the world, or writing a card or letter to my brother on his anniversary, or finding time across the miles and time changes to talk to my best friend on the phone? Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not saying that my co-worker’s blog or Facebook group are not good things. But are they the BEST things at this time in my life? I do not want to sacrifice best things to good things.

With limited resources of time and energy, how can I best build and love my tribe, my people, my small circle?

And if I am looking to focus on my small circle, what does this mean for my dream to write?

I don’t know that answer. But I have a feeling I will get closer to the answer this weekend. Unsettled is a good thing.

 

 

THIS Can Stop Your Dream in Its Tracks

“Look for the signs that your life is out of balance. This can stop your dream in its tracks.”

Yesterday I had an “I hate everything” day. If you’re honest, you might admit that you have those days, too.

Feeling like that can be a signpost. It’s normal to feel down or discouraged once in a while. But these days can also mean that something is stopping us from living a meaningful story. It is sometimes a sign that life is out of balance, and that can stop our dream in its tracks. Especially if finding your dream and living a better story involves loving other people (and isn’t that the core of the best stories?). It’s hard to love others when we are not loving and caring for ourselves.

Life out of balance can look different for everyone, but here is what is looks like for me. I often see the negative results before I even realize that things have gotten out of balance.

  • I feel down
  • I sleep a lot
  • I swear in traffic
  • I have a short fuse and little patience
  • I feel that ‘something is not right’ in the pit of my stomach (could be anxiety, melancholy, guilt, loneliness)
  • I am not eating healthy, and I don’t care
  • I isolate myself from the world
  • I blame others
  • I eat a bunch of  crap (mostly sugar)
  • I snap at those closest to me

The signs that life is out of balance are different for everyone.

And not it’s time to take out that journal again.

Write down five signs that your observe when your life is out of balance.

The best thing I can do when I see these signs is STOP and PAY ATTENTION.

And then start with what I know. Am I practicing the habits that I know are healthy and beneficial and  bring balance to my life? Those habits can be different for everyone, but many are common to all. Here is my checklist:

  • Am I sleeping at least 7 hours each night?
  • Am I eating healthy foods, or am I eating a lot of sugar and carbs?
  • Am I exercising? Am I even getting out of the house?
  • Am I talking about my feelings, or am I ignoring them?
  • Am I practicing mindful breathing when I feel anxious?
  • If I am lonely, am I withdrawing or am I making a conscious effort to connect with my loved ones?
  • Is there something I feel I should be doing that I am avoiding?
  • Am I practicing self-care?
  • Am I spending time sharing my heart with my tribe, the people who ‘get’ me? (for me, this is one of the most crucial pieces)
  • And most importantly for me, am I journaling and/or spending time in prayer and meditation? Am I connecting with God or avoiding him?

Most of the time, just being aware can set our path straight again. Often looking at those healthy habits and being reminded that they are vital to living a meaningful life and moving toward any dream helps us get things in balance again.

However, sometimes we can do all those things and still feel out of balance. Or we are in such a dark place that we cannot do all of those things. In my life, that is a sign of greater imbalance – depression, chemical imbalance, physical imbalance such as an autoimmune flare or an illness. If that is the case, that is an important signpost on the road to a meaningful life that we might need some extra help to get things back on track. That may be a signal that we need to seek professional help from a doctor or a counselor. 

What are the signs that tell  you that your life is out of balance? What healthy habits are on your checklist?

WORD. What is Yours This Year?

In recent years many people have set aside the tradition of setting a New Year’s resolution. You know, commitments like lose weight, volunteer, quit smoking, go back to school, pay off debt – those well-intentioned ideas that are often abandoned by Valentine’s Day, if not earlier? A Forbes article last year stated that “just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s Resolutions”. Those odds aren’t great.

It’s not that we can’t change. It’s that true transformation doesn’t come from changing a certain behavior.

True and lasting change requires a change INSIDE – a refocusing, and change of heart from the inside out.

One way to refocus is to choose one word or phrase for the year, and allow that to be your focus, or life theme for the next 12 months. Here are some questions that can help you choose your focus:

  • What kind of person do I want to become?

  • In which area of my life do I want to grow?

  • What are some negative themes of the past year that I would like to change?

  • What are my dreams and goals for the upcoming year?

  • How are my personal relationships? Do I have deep friendships? How can I grow in this area?

After some self-evaluation, see if there is a common theme. The word or phrase you choose could be for yourself personally, or it could be a theme for your whole family. Think about how you can apply this theme to every area of your life – relationships, work, goals, family, priorities. It will take some self-reflection, but after a while you will find a word that feels right.

Let this one word or phrase be your focus for the coming year, a filter for making decisions, planning for growth and change, and building relationships.

Some examples Life Themes and how it might apply to different areas:

  • Giving: a theme of giving might inspire a purging of extra ‘stuff’ to give to those in need; giving of more time to friends and family; being consistent in giving to charities
  • Healing: this theme might include mending broken relationships; improved self-care and healthy habits; taking a class or seeing a counselor to heal past hurts; providing a safe home environment for broken people to heal
  • Dream: this might start by simply allowing yourself to dream; perhaps setting some ‘bucket list’ goals; writing that book that has always been inside you; pursuing your dream job

Of course, these are just a few examples. The possibilities are endless.

What is your word, and how do you see that shaping this coming year? Please SHARE your word and your thoughts here -you might inpire someone else!

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Here are a couple of sites to help you get started:

oneword365.c0m

myoneword.org

BABY STEPS

 

 

 

photo credit: Sean Drillinger Creative Commons

photo credit: Sean Drillinger Creative Commons

Apparently my search for balance is out of balance. (What a shocker, I know). So much has been processing in the back of my mind, sometimes I feel like I am paralyzed. On the outside, I just keep try to keep on going. I haven’t journaled in so many days that I can’t even find my journal under the pile of clean laundry overflowing at the end of my bed, the laundry that silently mocks as it wonders if it will ever find its way home to the closet again. The other day the mind swirling almost became an anxiety attack. My most effective processing seems to be a stream of consciousness, so here is where I am at, in no particular order.

I could go on and on about my search for balance. For instance, stopping all sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, and then stress/comfort eating when I was overwhelmed. (Tip: Weight Watchers desserts do not mean they are sugar-free. But red velvet ice cream sandwiches are damn good.) Deep breathing has been a great tool, and setting an alarm and deep breathing before I ever get out of bed has been helpful. There are good habits I have started, and other habits that I have held onto. But it all comes down to this:

Where am I heading? What is my goal?

In my quest to free myself from the all-or-nothing tendency, I have paved an unmarked path for myself.

I thought that if I only focused on the end goal, I would fall into that black-white thinking and not be able to focus on the baby steps needed to get there. But when  you have no clearly marked path, it is easier to get off track.

Have you ever been so foolish that you have forgotten the very basics? Like if you have no goal, you will certainly reach it. How can you run a race without a finish line in sight? DUH. I was reminded this week that I cannot keep my eye on the prize if I haven’t defined the prize.

So I’m processing this through differently. How can I look at things with BOTH important pieces in mind: the final goal, and the baby steps needed to get there?

So here I go (and truly, this is just me processing.You can come along for the ride if you like):

GOAL:  Eat healthy.

WHAT WILL THAT LOOK LIKE: Drinking 8-10 glasses of water each day, no soda or caffeine. Alcohol limited to no more than one drink each day on weekends only. Eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily (at least two of those vegetables), eating fish or seafood twice a week, vegetarian dishes twice a week, and red meat no more than once a week. Eliminate simple carbs (no white rice, white bread, white flour, etc) and eat complex carbs sparingly, focusing on whole grains. Eating snacks or small meals every 2-3 hours with one main meal each day (lunch or dinner, depending on the day). Do not after 7:30pm (or within three hours of bedtime.

BABY STEPS: Stop all sugar (baked good and sweets), caffeine, and alcohol (except as mentioned above). Increase water intake. Eat more fruits and particularly vegetables. It’s hard for me to think in any other baby steps, but having the goal set clearly above me helps me have a structure for my daily decisions.

GOAL: Get active.

(A couple of years ago, I had started ‘running’ (walk/jogging intervals, actually) and I really loved it. I mean REALLY. Until I injured my knee and was diagnosed with arthritis in that knee and was told I was not allowed to run ever again and would eventually need a knee replacement.)

WHAT THAT WILL LOOK LIKE: At least 30-45 minutes of structured activity at least 5 days each week.This can include fast walking, water running, hiking, yoga, cardio at the gym, walking on the treadmill, etc

BABY STEPS: Structure and reserve time in my day to commit to activity. I am still trying to figure this out. Ideally, I would like to do this in the morning, but I am NOT a morning person. If I wait until after work, I am more tired and less likely to commit. I need to start with 20 minutes each day and work up from there (starting with 15 minutes seems too lame). I have made an appointment to have gel injections in my knee to see if that decreases the pain. (I did have a meniscus repair surgery and some scarring removed, but it did not help as much as I had hoped). I also need to find a routine that works for me.

GOAL: Lose at least 6 pounds a month until I reach my weight loss goal of 80 pounds.

WHAT THIS WILL LOOK LIKE: I will be comfortable in my skin as a result of healthy eating and increased activity. I will have worked through the 12 steps (again) for my food addiction, and will not look to food for comfort in times of stress or pain. I will not be freaked out by not having my comfortable wall of weight around me.

BABY STEPS: To be truthful, losing the weight is not the issue. I have gained and lost this weight more times than I care to count. This issue is how I use food, and the emotional baggage that comes with being thin. This goes back to a history of physical and sexual abuse, and the unhealthy lesson I held onto of protecting myself by being heavy. So along with the eating and activity, I have some emotional work still to do.

GOAL: Daily structure

WHAT THIS WILL LOOK LIKE: Okay, this one is much harder. I am NOT a morning person. I have always been a night person, rarely ever going to bed before midnight. But in my mind’s eye I have a vision of what I want it to look like. I just don’t know if it’s practical, or even possible. It would basically mean changing my circadian rhythms, and is that going against how I was made? I don’t know, but I think I’m going to try. Here is my ideal: Get up at ____ o’clock and do a morning ritual: deep breathing, read my bible or something like Oswald Chambers, then journal my morning prayer. At the most this should take 30 minutes (5-7 deep breathing, 10 minutes reading, the rest journaling my prayers); then 30-45 minutes of physical activity (sometimes I also like to continue my contemplative prayer during this time). Then have breakfast and get ready for work or for the rest of the day, if not a work day.

BABY STEPS: I guess I can just try this schedule. The tough part will be training myself to go to bed early, or earlier. As the time change catches up with me, I’m sure it will be easier. I will just have to put my phone or computer down at night and turn off the television. And develop a more structured bedtime routine that should not include screen time, but reading and journaling. Which brings me to my next goal . . .

Tune in tomorrow for the rest of my goals on the path to balance, which may or may not include: decreasing distractions, getting my house in order, finding a spiritual tribe/community, becoming as a minimalist, and progressing as a writer (including monetizing my hospice blog)