Thankful Thursday – Every Breath I Take

The last few weeks have cycled through deep soul excavation, self-reflection, confession and forgiveness, and difficult, honest conversations. These weeks have been hard, tearful, and also so good, resulting in helpful new insights. Growth can be hard work.

One of the healthier ways I’ve managed all the feelings has been to get active. Moving my body has helped shut down my ruminating mind. But movement comes with its own risks. I went for a two-hour seaside walk in the wrong shoes and developed a blister on the ball of each foot the size of a 50-cent piece–ouch! And last weekend I took a wrong step during a run that strained something in my ankle and has had me limping since.

Last week I patted myself on the back–six out of six days I either practiced yoga or ran. This week not so much. This week I’m a lame stress ball, one that should bounce but instead lands with a thud.

My yogi friend suggested her chair class, which enables deeper stretches since you don’t also have to support your own weight. I rearranged activities to make it at noon today, grateful to have an opportunity to move safely without pain.

Little did I know how grateful I would be…

Confirmation #1: Written on the studio whiteboard: “Today’s Intention: Gratitude”
Confirmation #2: Yogi-friend said, “Everything happens for a purpose. If you weren’t injured, you might not be here right now…”
Confirmation #3: The only other class participant? Also a pastor’s wife, also dealing with an injury.

At that point, I just started laughing. Clearly, God put me where I needed to be!

Honestly, I would have preferred to move hard, to sweat, to get my blood pumping. I’m not good at stretching and, left to myself, I don’t take nearly enough time to do it properly. Still, it’s good, helpful, necessary.

For this near-private lesson, our yogi had created a routine and playlist just for us. She asked different questions, not “What is your foundation?” but “WHO is your foundation?” The music also took us beyond our bodies and focused our minds. Two gimpy pastors’ wives and our yogi-sister shared an hour of stretching, breathing, and praying. We shared yoga worship.

I breathe, but I need reminders to breathe deeply.
I move, but I benefit from reminders to move intentionally.
I pray, but I stretched differently into this hour of focused, physically-expressive prayer.

I entered the studio slump-shouldered. I exited with shoulders back, a smile on my face. I received this shared yoga experience as a gift, and I am indeed grateful!

Doesn’t yoga frog make you want to smile?

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Thankful Thursday – My Awesome Doghouse

No matter what you do, how hard you work, how much you invest, how great your love or commitment, you will disappoint people. The junior high and high school popular kids. Certain teachers or college professors. Friends and neighbors. Bosses and authority figures of all stripes and spots. Family members, community members, and church members. Strangers on Facebook. Whoever they may be, critics can crawl through walls like ants.

I said: “I feel like I’m in the doghouse.”
He said: “So make it one awesome doghouse.”

Great advice! I can only do my best and I can’t change the critics. Theirs is not the love I need most (read that with an Obi Wan Kenobi voice: “This is not the droid you’re looking for…” This is NOT the love I’m looking for).

I’m setting myself free to make my doghouse awesome!doghouse

I recently read Shauna Niequist’s new book, Present Over Perfect, in which she wrote:

“This is what I know for sure: along the way you will disappoint someone. You will not meet someone’s needs or expectations. You will not be able to fulfill their request. You will leave something undone or poorly done. Possibly, this person will be angry with you, or sad.

“What you need along the way: a sense of God’s deep, unconditional love, and a strong sense of your own purpose. Without those two, you’ll need from people what is only God’s to give, and you’ll give up on your larger purpose in order to fulfill smaller purposes or other people’s purposes.”

So what am I up to?
* Spending less time on social media and TV, and more time in books. I wandered the library shelves today and found a few to add to my stack.
* Reaching out to friends
* Counting my blessings in my gratitude journal
* Getting outside to walk daily with my sweet Guy or friends, always with dogs
* Drowning out the noise with silence
* Soaking in God’s love through the Bible, prayer, and greater attention to His presence
* Cooking simple, healthy food and drinking lots of water and herbal tea
* Enjoying my work and my play
* Saying yes and taking risks, and learning to say no
* I’ve hit refresh on my wind down ritual and my sleep has improved.

Last night after homework Tween and I played best-out-of-five games of Uno. Despite my strong start, he won. Along the way we laughed and talked. We might do it again tonight, or soon. We’re making what seems frivolous, important. Because it is.

I’m shaking off the dirt and falling in love all over again with my doghouse. Because it’s mine, I’m decorating it with people, activities, and things that fill me up with joy. And I’m grateful!

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Thankful Thursday – 2017 Gratitude Journal

gratitude-journal

Tween was diagnosed with ADHD this fall, which makes two-for-two of my kids with ADHD (one Hyperactive, the other Inattentive). For him, it was the missing piece of his health puzzle: ADHD spins his brain leading to insomnia, and enough accrued sleep debt leads to cyclic vomiting/migraines. He felt so relieved to have new information and help going forward.

They say ADHD is genetic, that if a kid has it, likely a parent does, too. So I took a short online assessment. My answers indicate that I may be borderline, tipping towards yes. One of the suggestions read: “Learn to make lists, and use them.” I mentioned that to a friend who immediately retrieved a small black book from his satchel. He flipped through, showing me the chaos of his brain scrawled across pages. It excited and repulsed me at the same time.

Guy gave me a journal for my birthday, one small enough to throw in a purse but big enough to be useful. I used to be a journaler but, except for travel, my journal has migrated to my computer (I type faster than I hand-write). I had a sense I needed this journal, but wasn’t sure how I would use it. How would I motivate myself to even begin to remember to use it for list-making, when I’m just not that organized (hello, the point)? I set it on a bedroom shelf where I would see it often and ponder its place in my life.

Meanwhile, I heard someone speak on happiness and he reminded me of something I already knew: grateful people are happy people. Specifically, noticing three unique things for which you can be grateful each day will lead to greater happiness. A HA! My journal began to hold new promise. And I’d begun regularly using the notes app on my iPhone to keep various lists–Grocery lists; To Cook lists; To Do lists… So my journal wouldn’t need to fulfill that purpose.

On January 1st, 2017, I christened my journal with the words of 2 Corinthians 5:17: “…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”, an entirely appropriate New Year’s verse but one to cling to all year. I tore out a page of quote cards from an issue of O Magazine and placed cards throughout to serve as inspirational bookmarks. My current bookmark says: “Every day you’re alive and someone loves you is a miracle” (Rita Mae Brown). Fitting for this miracle-seeker!

On the next few pages, I wrote out Scriptures important to me and that I intend to pray for each of my guys. Last year I read Fervent by Priscilla Shirer, one of the most practical books on prayer I’ve ever read. Her point is to motivate people to pray Scripture over people and situations. That hasn’t been my MO, but by putting those verses right in the beginning of my journal, I hope it will become a pattern.

Next I wrote the date, my three gratitudes, and, working my 2017 theme word, what I re:created–in this case, the beginning of my gratitude journal!

Over the next few days, I included Bible verses that stood out in my daily reading. I recorded the length of time I ran (I haven’t shelled out for a fitness tracker, but I think writing it down will help me see progress). I imagine I will eventually add reading quotes as well, and then, who knows what else? Rather than feeling like this is another necessary and dull to-do, I’m excited to be creating a record of this year in my life in all its fullness.

To be honest, even though it takes only minutes, I forgot to write in my journal the last two nights. So I wrote something about “yesterday” the next morning. I try hard not to “should” on myself; developing new patterns takes time, I will make mistakes, and there ought always to be grace. Every step in the right direction moves me toward health and happiness.

Which is something to be grateful for!

Be Still…

happy_birthday-8

“Stillness can be an adventure,” says Pico Iyer, and so on my birthday I gave myself the gift of stillness.

I left my phone on airplane mode and turned off my email. No news, no social media.
I went for a longer-than-usual run.
I gave myself a mani-pedi.
I lit a candle, sipped a cup of tea, and prayed.
I listened to calming music.
I read and wrote, my job but reframed today as my work-at-home retreat.
I smelled the roses and lifted my face to the warming sun.
I took deep breaths.

Of late the world has been particularly noisy. Beyond the normal seasonal work-and-life stress, global conflict and racial strife explode from gun barrels; politicians and their supporters shout in lieu of dialogue; and under our own roof, the extra of one kid applying to college while another struggles for health… One can only take in so much.

The antidote: stillness. And gratitude.

No year in a life can be perfect, even perfectly easy. This year had its trials, but in so many ways, this has been a good year in my life.

I initiated the Create Challenge on my blog, a source of encouragement and inspiration that has also connected me with people in new ways.
I started running, so unlikely it still makes me laugh.
I didn’t quit, despite set-backs.
I took on new work challenges with confidence.
I preached a summer Sunday sermon.
I have made good progress on a personal creative project.
I have friends and family who love me and a job that fulfills me.
Life is good, and stillness helps me to hear its goodness above the clamor.

I jotted down this quote from Kate Atkinson’s book, A God in Ruins, because it spoke to my need for stillness: “The last thing she wanted was people looking for her. No, that wasn’t true—the last thing she wanted was people finding her.”

I want to be looked for—I want people to need me and enjoy my company. And I want to be found. Tomorrow. Tomorrow we can have a party, a loud celebration. For today, I trust that those who love me will appreciate my self-gift of self-care. Thank you for your patience with me as I extend patience to myself.

Stillness has been both solace and struggle (how to still the hum of shattered nerves?). It took time and effort to stay put, to keep at it, to avoid easy distractions. I carefully guarded my daylight hours and, in so doing, I completed a major project in record time while also receiving a different measure of quiet rest. Like any discipline, any adventure worth having, it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. I might just do it again, sooner than later.worth-it

Thankful Thursday – Forced Detox

I’m back!

For the last few weeks my computer has either struggled to function or has been in the shop (don’t even get me started on the several internet technicians who spent hours at my house replacing brand-new modems with other brand-new modems or moving brand-new modems to different locations in my not-big-enough-for-this house; or the multiple techs sent by the manufacturer as my machine is still under warranty; or the fact that, once the company had the machine in their possession, their first pass was to repair the wrong part…).

As Communication Director, it becomes extremely difficult to get the job done when I’m traveling between computers with files on server, in the cloud, and on a thumb drive. Needless to say, and frustrating to deal with, a few balls dropped.

As a writer, I felt like a good portion of my brain had exited the building. I couldn’t think straight. And I didn’t want to write on another computer–almost like cheating–because I have enough files I need to retrieve and back-up again now that my machine has returned to me. I guess I could write on paper, but I didn’t.

Definitely not a vacation, no way a sabbatical, but in the “off work” hours, I had, for the most part, to be off work. I couldn’t check work email at home or do “a few quick tasks.” When I left the office, I had to be done.

Considering I work part-time, this shouldn’t have been so hard. Still, it was.

Being gentle to myself, it is hard to not have the equipment necessary to do your job efficiently. It is hard when your major creative outlet gets stunted. And as I’m trying my darnedest to also (mostly) stay off Facebook during this maddening political season, I had unanticipated time.

What did I do? I read. A lot. I walked or ran. I cooked. I helped Tween study for a test. I took pictures. I also watched more TV than normal, but TV that I recorded because I want to watch it, not just whatever’s on TV.

I made conscious choices throughout the moments and the days to be grateful. To remember that this is absolutely a first-world problem.

Meanwhile one of my work projects has been to compile and edit gift-in-kind donation items for local and global ministries to be available through our church Mission Market. For example, you can donate $7 to buy school books for kids in the Dominican Republic and then give your sister a card with a description of the group to which you donated in her name. Win-win, especially when most of us don’t need another Christmas sweater. Or anything, for that matter.

For example, Amor Ministries, the home building ministry we work with in Mexico, for which hundreds of high school students and adults through our church have built hundreds of homes over 25+ years, finally has the opportunity to purchase land for their camp that hosts all the volunteers… Amor can finally have a home! If we donate…

Thanks to another group (nameless at their request and for their protection), Syrian refugees can machine wash their laundry, rather than hand wash. While the clothes tumble, women can make a pretty craft to take to their temporary “home.” Their children can do crafts or receive help with handwriting and spelling. There’s also a corner with second-hand clothes free to the right fit.

Keeping things in perspective: I had a few weeks of significant inconvenience. Others told me they would be banging on doors and demanding a better, faster solution. That’s not my style. I complained a bit and did my best while also trying to make the best of the situation.

On the other hand, some people have not just inconveniences but hardships. Frankly, I am abashed to have complained at all when I think of their life situations.

I am grateful to have my computer back. I am grateful for easier and quicker access to the work given me to do. I am grateful for this blog, this creative outlet that connects me to others in (I hope!) meaningful ways. I am thankful for technology that organizes my life in oh-so-necessary ways. I am grateful for perspective. I am thankful.

Thankful Thursday – Poke-Cation GO!

We had a long family conversation before we left on our Southern Oregon vacation. The kids wanted to bring computers and games to play during down-time. The parents wanted everyone unplugged, but mostly we wanted peace. Kids got their way this time with the caveat that they had to instantly put it away when asked. They agreed and (mostly) complied.

We had no comparable conversation about their phones, however. Even though Tween’s “phone” is a donated iPhone 5 with no SIM card or data plan, both boys have phones firmly in their possession at most times. And both have, on said phones, the Pokemon GO game they have eagerly anticipated for the last year. So Guy downloaded it as well, and we played as a family.OR pokemon

Pokemon roam a wide habitat, and so we avoided arguments about any destination. Pokemon of many varieties, a Pokestop, a lure, or a gym could always be found–even on hiking trails and in National Parks. Spontaneous conversations bubbled up among strangers all searching for the same things, and so we shared laughter and camaraderie with people we’d never met. A comment by one stranger sent us to a darling nearby town we would have missed entirely except that it had more Pokestops than anywhere else we’ve seen. The dog got more exercise than ever in her life because Pokemon eggs incubate as you walk. The parents got an afternoon ‘off’ to wine taste in the Rogue Valley while Teen drove Tween around town hunting Pokemon. The kids didn’t fight but rather worked together…all week long!

Early on Tween declared, “This isn’t vacation. This is a Poke-Cation!” And I expect that our shared play time will make this trip memorable in more ways than one.

We also found Great Cats: http://www.greatcatsworldpark.com/

We also found Great Cats: http://www.greatcatsworldpark.com/

and Teen's favorite snake: http://thereptilezone.com/

and Teen’s favorite snake: http://thereptilezone.com/

OR corn flower OR dragonfly OR berries

Deschutes River, Bend

Deschutes River, Bend