God

Hope For the Hopelessly Undisciplined: We Are Seasonal People

I sat across from my counselor and I took a deep breath. My throat tightened, like a hand was reaching around my windpipe and slowly squeezing.

“I don’t know how to do life.”

“I can see where I am, and in my mind’s eye, I can see where I want to be, but I have no idea who to get there. It seems like I try and I try and nothing ever changes. I never change. I’m so tired of trying. I can’t do it any more.”

He stared at me for a while. (He is one of those people to whom discipline comes more easily. I am pretty sure at this point I am beyond hope, especially from someone who doesn’t seem to struggle with daily disciplines.)

Counselor: Do you really think that you have never changed? Are you the same person you were in your 20’s?

Me: (I turned 50 this year.) Oh, heck, no! Thank God I’m not the person I was in my 20’s! I learn a little with each cycle, but it just seems like I’m struggling with the same things over and over and over again.

Counselor: What is it you think you need to do?

Me: (sigh) Stop eating sugar. Eat healthy. Exercise. Drink water. Be organized. Manage my time.  The list is endless. I’ve been like this as long as I can remember, even as a little girl. I make lists, I make plans, I start out great – for a while. Then I slowly lose steam, and finally everything comes crashing down around me, only to remind me that I’ve failed at life once again. (and now my throat has a lump the size of a tennis ball and the tears are stinging my eyes).

photo credit: Kristin Meador

photo credit: Kristin Meador

It doesn’t help that I am married to a man who is the perfect example of discipline. He exercises and has his morning quiet time regularly – he rarely misses a day of either. He is the kind of person who exercises when they are sick. What is wrong with this guy? He exercises faithfully every day, while I will make a check list for myself with exercise and weight loss goals, and give myself gold stars when I make the smallest step towards those goals. He picks up his socks and puts his clothes away, while mine find themselves in piles at the end of the bed, and I am smelling them to see if I can wear them for one more day.

What kind of life is this? And why can’t I be more disciplined? I try, I really do. And I do well for days, weeks, sometimes even months. But then I get sidetracked, or bored, or something more shiny comes along . . .

Counselor: No – what is it that you REALLY NEED TO DO? None of the things you mentioned are moral issues.

When it comes down to the very core of your life, what is important? What do you need to do?

Me: Love God, and love people.

Counselor: And are you doing those things?

Me: Yes. I am. (I really am. Not perfectly, but I am loving God and people.)

But I feel like I should be doing all of these other things . . .

And therein lies the problem. That pressure of the ‘shoulds’. Those things we feel like we ‘should’ be doing. Who told us we should be doing those things? And why do we feel pressure, guilt, even shame if we don’t?

Counselor: What if you look at it another way? What if you set aside the should’s that are imposed on you, and look at how God made you unique.

You are like Old Faithful – you start with a dream or a goal, and you build up and up and then have this beautiful, creative explosion – for a while. Then the water subsides, and there is a time of quiet until it begins to build up again.

photo credit: Old Faithful by Greg Willis flickr

photo credit: Old Faithful by Greg Willis flickr

Me: Hmmmmm. That’s true. But I like the explosion part. It’s beautiful and wonderous, and people are watching and cheering. I don’t like the part when the water subsides, though. The ground is broken and cracked and the air smells like sulfur. And the people walk away.

photo credit: wikimedia commons, Chromatic Pool Matthew Kaibel

photo credit: wikimedia commons, Chromatic Pool Matthew Kaibel

Counselor: What if you reframe it?

What if you are a seasonal person? You have Spring when the buds begin to blossom, and Summer when you grow and thrive, then Autumn when the growth slows and you prepare for Winter,  your season of rest, so you can grow and blossom again.

Old Faithful would run out of steam (literally!) if it were going 100% of the time.”

I thought about that for a long time. It didn’t set well with me, not at first. I didn’t like it. I would much rather be slow and steady.

Or would I?

Actually, I think that might be rather boring. But then that internal argument started. I am so tired of starting strong and usually not finishing well. I have always been that way, and I have learned my limits. After a big project, I need down time. After a busy week at work, I need at least half a day just lounging around, recharging.

I told my counselor I thought he was right, but I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not.

The next day I had lunch with my friend who is wired very much like me. I told her what my counselor said about being a seasonal person. She said, “That is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard! Doesn’t that just give you a release, a sense of freedom, that it’s okay to just be who you are?”

I had to agree, and as I let it sink in that I am who I am, I began to appreciate that I am uniquely made. I am not saying that I should not strive to be more disciplined, more organized, more structured. But I am not going to beat myself up for not meeting a standard of performance that does just not fit me.

When I am focused, I am very focused, and can accomplish more in a week than many people will in one month. And that is why I need to time to rest and recharge, to get ready for the next burst. The next season. The next eruption. And I am learning to appreciate the winters. I am learning that they are not dark and barren, but they are peaceful and regenerating, and that without those times of rest I would not survive. It’s also very freeing to know that those down times are a necessary part of how I’m wired, and I don’t have to feel guilty, as long as I don’t wallow in them. And I’m going to treasure my seasons of focus and not waste a moment.

I am a seasonal person, and that’s not just okay – it’s beautiful.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14 (NASB)

Photo credit: Pixabay

 

 

 

 

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Why Church Breaks My Heart

October 5, 2014 by Kristin Meador
 
Day 5: For the month of October, I’ve joined over 1600 other writers in a 31 Day writing challenge. You can read more about it and see the participating blogs at write31days.com  Here is the starting page for 31 Days of My Search for Balance: Body, Mind, and Soul. From there you can find all of my October posts. 
 

Craig and I visited a church this morning, and we just couldn’t stay.

It breaks my heart, because I really want to find a church. Not a ‘church’ but a community of believers.

I am pondering what the ‘church’ is and how it has come to be the way it is. I am so uncomfortable with the programming aspect and business model of today’s American church, with the pedestal of one man leading the masses (we have seen recently how dangerous that can be and how many people can be damaged), and the ‘put on a show’ mentality. I can’t hear another 3 Steps to Improve Your Relationship With God (week after week after week). I am not saying that if this is what your church home is like that it’s wrong, I don’t know what is wrong in this picture, I just know that it’s not right for me.

It’s not that I don’t need words from wise teachers about how to grow as a follower of Christ. It just feels so formulated. It does not reach my heart. I know that church isn’t all about me and what I can gain from it. But I also believe that it should be a place that furthers your relationship with God? I love worship music and singing and even hymns, but why does every week have to be a concert? It so often feels like a showcase for musical talent rather than a group of people lifting their voices to worship God together. I would much rather go to Beer and Hymns at the pub. (I know many people who are feeling this way right now, and I hope we can find an answer. But I’d like to speak to those of you who are Christians and are reading this and cannot understand how I could feel this way. If you feel led to tell me about your wonderful church and how it’s different, or how I need to change my attitude because it’s not all about me, I ask you to have grace. Maybe before you give me advice or quote a scripture at me, please try to just listen to what I have to say, and maybe sit with it for a while.)

In my search for balance, one of the areas that troubles me the most is my longing for a spiritual community. The longing doesn’t trouble me, but the inability to find one is heartbreaking.

This has always been a challenge for my husband and me. But whenever we have moved to a new area, we have always seemed to find a place to land where we can grow and serve and learn and raise our kids. In last few years, that has all changed. I don’t know if it’s our station in life or just where our spiritual journey has taken us, but nothing seems to be a good fit. It took my husband a little longer to get to that realization than I did, because he is a very disciplined and routine type of man. But that is his story.

So I sat in this sweet little church, with lovely people, with talented musicians leading worship, and

I WANTED to want to be there. I wanted to find a safe place, a safe community. I tried to sit with my unsettled heart. Give it time. Don’t judge.

But I couldn’t stay. My eyes filled with tears, and my heart ached. I want a home, a safe place, a church family. And this was not it.  So we left and I sat in the car and cried all the way home.  The tears are streaming down my face as I write this. (The service started at 10, we left at 10:30, and I am just finishing this post at 11:30).

SO – what now? We’ve been asking ourselves this question for months, years. Here is the picture that makes my heart sing:

Maybe church looks like having a meal together around a large table, and breaking bread together. Maybe church looks like welcoming everyone to the table.

When I say everyone, I mean everyone (young, old, rich, poor, black, white, purple, straight, gay, transgender, religious or not religious). In my heart I see these people gathering together, sharing life, and talking about what God is doing in our lives. That might mean looking at the Bible, listening to a wise teacher, hearing from the couple whose marraige was broken but has been restored, or having the ten-year old who just learned how to not be a bully share her story.

It would look like a small community who meets regularly (whatever that means) looking at our community, our neighborhoods, our circles of influence, and helping where help is needed. Skin in the game, real helping. Not just talking, but doing. Feet on the ground, and hand dirty.

It would might looking beyond ourselves and being Jesus in our community.

Maybe it looks like buying groceries for the single mom, or taking her kids for the night so she can have a break. Or supporting families with foster kids. Or working at the soup kitchen, or homeless shelter, or volunteering with hospice to sit with dying patients. Or mowing your neighbors lawn. Or having a neighborhood breakfast in a low income neighborhood who may not get a hot breakfast unless it’s supplied by their school.

It might look like having Beer and Bible study with college kids. It might look like turning my home into a boarding house with a large community room and creating a safe place for people to land.

I really don’t know what it would look like. I’m just dreaming. I wish I knew what it should look like, and more than that, I wish I knew where to find it in my little community of Vancouver, Washington.

Until then, maybe I will head to Portland and try Beer and Hymns.

Disclaimer:  I have gone to church all my life, every Sunday (morning and evening) and midweek and weekend activities. I have been a Sunday school teacher, a youth group leader, a small group leader, and was a leader in women’s ministries for years. My husband was raised in the church. My kids were raised in the church. There is a lot I loved about those years, and they helped shape who I am today (good and bad). But my heart longs for something more, something different. I don’t even know what that means, and I don’t want to say that those still participating in church as it is are wrong. It’s just not the right fit for me. I have hesitated to write about this are because it makes me feel especially vulnerable, but I think today is the day.