float

I am a visual learner.  And I almost always have a mental image that represents my current emotional state. I've talked before about seeing myself in a dugout canoe, alone, paddling hopelessly for shore.

And the panic and thrashing that ensued when the canoe went down, ten years ago now.

In fact, that was one of the first posts I wrote when I started this blog a couple of years ago.

I shared this poem by Philip Booth, and it remains one of my favorite things.

First Lesson

Lie back, daughter, let your head

be tipped back in the cup of my hand.

Gently, and I will hold you.  Spread

your arms wide, lie out on the stream

and look high at the gulls.  A dead-

man's-float is face down.  You will dive

and swim soon enough where this tidewater

ebbs to the sea.  Daughter, believe

me, when you tire on the long thrash

to your island, lie up, and survive.

As you float now, where I held you

and let go, remember when fear

cramps your heart what I told you:

lie gently and wide to the light-year

stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.

It just seems to be that time of year, when a lot of us are on the long thrash.

It's like that for me, anyway.

I get distracted, I start to panic, and then I remember.

You've been here before.

You know how it works.

Lie back.

Float.

The sea will hold you.

 

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a little stress assessment

Stress will kill you.  Google it.  You'll see. And before it kills you, it will make you extremely miserable.

I think we can all handle short seasons (like a week) of high-octane go-go-go.  But we can't do it all day every day without doing serious damage to ourselves.  Even if we're doing things we LIKE, and we never get any rest, we're doing damage.

My own experience with stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout has motivated me to sort out how to live within the limits of my own human body, with the balance of work and play and rest that God designed me for.

Here's how I've learned to assess my own stress levels:

  • How am I sleeping?  If I'm waking up in the middle of the night, and having trouble going back to sleep, I'm overly stressed.  That's the most common type of insomnia.  Nightmares or repetitive thematic dreams are a tip-off, too.
  • How am I eating?  If I've lost my appetite, I'm buzzed up on adrenaline and stressed.
  • Am I getting regular exercise that makes me sweat?  Without it, I'm stressed.
  • How are my moods?  If I'm irritable and everybody else on the road is an idiot, I'm stressed.
  • Is there any white space in my calendar?  No?  I'm stressed.
  • Do I feel trapped and without choices?  I'm stressed.
  • Does my daily routine feel manageable?  If I can't make headway and I'm overwhelmed, I'm stressed.
  • Do I know what the next fun thing is?  And is it happening this week?  If not, I'm stressed.
  • Do I have close friends/family who know everything about me and support me?  If I'm hiding things emotionally, I'm stressed.

And here are the questions I ask to try to keep life in a reasonable place:

  • Do I want to do this?  For years, I couldn't answer this question honestly.  I thought I wanted to.  My sleep, eating, moods, etc., told a different story--one I didn't want to hear.
  • How many things on my schedule are "have-to's" as opposed to "want-to's"?
  • If I'm overwhelmed by "have-to's", why am I doing these things?
  • Why am I afraid to stop doing things I know are hurting me?
  • Do I believe that God won't love me if I quit?
  • Am I trying to make other people (parents, friends, colleagues) admire me?
  • Am I living beyond my means financially, so I have to keep running like a lunatic just to pay the bills?
  • What do my close friends honestly think about the pace I'm keeping?  Have I even asked for their help?

I'm going to link you up here with Tommy Nelson, pastor of Denton Bible Church, speaking at Dallas Theological Seminary about his own experience with stress and depression.  30 minutes that can change your life.  Here you go.

a-christian-looks-at-depression-tom-nelson

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monks don't give bridal showers

I figured it out yesterday.  Monks don't give bridal showers.  That's how they make time for all that praying. Just think about it.  No bridal showers, no weddings.  No weddings, no children.  No children, I rest my case.

So yesterday was Day 1 of the stress-less week.  I was aiming for Seven Sacred Pauses.

I got one!  A really nice one, at mid-morning.

Then the day happened.  Pauses, pfft.

Afterwards, I woke in what I thought was the middle of the night and immediately thought, "Night watch!"  Then it turned out to be 5 a.m., so I rolled it into NightWatchAwakening.

Clearly, I am not good monk-makings.

But I am totally OK with that.

Cuz I am a girl who loves her bridal showers and weddings and children and even the occasional bout of pure chaos.

I really enjoyed my one pause yesterday.  I really enjoyed the rest of it, too.  Every good and perfect gift.

And here are my little pauses-to-go, as promised:

  • Night Watch - Psalm 42 - "praying to the God who gives me life"
  • Dawn - Psalm 19 - "may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing"
  • Mid-morning - Psalm 121 - "the Lord Himself watches over you"
  • Noon - Psalm 34 - "taste and see that the Lord is good"
  • Mid-afternoon - Psalm 90 - "Lord, through all the generations you have been our home"
  • Evening - Psalm 139 - "tell me where to stop and rest"
  • Bedtime - Psalm 23 - "goodness and mercy, all the days of my life"
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In

Summer of 7: Stress less

Welcome to week 2 of the Summer of 7, where we're looking at 7 areas of excess, and ways to reduce the waste.  Week 1 was about food.  Week 2 is about stress. I am all about less stress, particularly this week.

So far I have sent #3 child off to Brazil for a month to stay with one of his friends.  Styled a wedding for one of my daughter's besties.  Yesterday, post-wedding coma.  Tonight, bridal shower for another little chickie close to my heart.  Tomorrow, #4 child is off to visit his cousins in Tennessee for two weeks.

If there's anybody who needs a some help with stress this week, it's yours truly.

Last week what I got from God is this:  "Receive with gratitude, give freely.  I am enough for you and everybody else.  Look in your pantry if you need a visual reminder of this."

So, receive with gratitude.  Give freely.  What does that mean for stress-less week?

Well, in order to give what needs to be given this week, I've got to do some serious receiving.

And wouldn't you know it, one of my favorite kiddos just showed up at my door, needing a place to hang for the day.  Crew for today!  I receive with gratitude!

What I actually planned for this week is to looooooooooooooosely follow the monastic tradition of 7 pauses for prayer and meditation each day.  I'm pulling from Jen Hatmaker's book, 7, and Macrina Wiederkehr's book, Seven Sacred Pauses.

Here are the traditional pauses, related themes, and one psalm I'll be using for each.

  • Midnight:  The Night Watch, Psalm 42 - receiving God's blessing for those who are waiting for Him to move
  • Dawn:  Awakening, Psalm 19 - receiving the gift of creation for the new day
  • Midmorning:  Blessing, Psalm 121 - receiving God's help for the work of the day
  • Noon:  Illumination, Psalm 34 - receiving the knowledge of God's power and presence
  • Midafternoon:  Wisdom, Psalm 90 - receiving the gift of surrender to God's purpose
  • Evening/Vespers:  Gratitude, Psalm 139 - receiving the blessing of rest, acknowledging God's goodness at day's end
  • Bedtime:  Silence, Psalm 23 - receiving God's shepherding care for the night

OK.  Caveat.  I am not getting up at midnight on purpose.  I need my sleep, peeps.

However, given increasing age and a bladder apparently the size of a pea, I often wake up in the night anyway.  When I wake in the night, I will observe the night watch.

The other thing I'm working on is a brief verse or word from each psalm that encapsulates the idea for that particular pause.  Because there are just times (like today, tomorrow, and every day this week) when my schedule is predetermined and I need something brief and in the moment that so I can receive on the run.  I'll share those later.

I'm not quitting life in order to do the stress-less week.  I think that's a good thing.  It's reality, anyway.  We'll see how it goes.

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too much, so what?

There's absolutely no doubt we've got way more food than we need in our house.  Sure, on Day 5 of the grocery store fast, the fridge is getting kind of empty, and the perishables are perishing.  But the pantry and freezer are still way full.  One of the kids said we should just keep going and see how long we can hold out.  So we have too much food.  So what?  Eat it up and get over it already!

And if I just stay here in my neighborhood, it's not a big deal.  There are plenty of people around here with way more than my way more. 

But if I drive up to church, it's another story.  Because we live in the 'burbs.  But we go to church in the inner city.  You can hardly get there from here, without driving past somebody standing by the road with a sign in their hand, asking for food.

We as a family have had to think about what we're going to do about this.  It seems bad to drive past these folks on the way to church.  That whole Good Samaritan thing bites.   We get the feeling we're supposed to do SOMETHING, if we don't want to end up on the wrong end of the story. 

The other day, I was in a conversation with somebody about selfishness.  Really trying to pick apart what makes us able to stop the selfishness train and disembark. 

And for me, anyway, part of the deep-down problem when I'm being selfish is a fear that there isn't going to be enough.  Not enough money, not enough time, not enough attention, not enough whatever.  So I can't let go of what I'm holding onto, because if I do--I won't have enough. 

But then, when I give, it often feels like it won't be enough for the other person.  My drop in the bucket feels useless against the tide of homelessness and abuse and addiction and pain.

The more I look at this, the more I think that my problem is that it's all about me.  I'm selfish so I'm guilty, or I'm giving so I'm self-satisfied.  For just a minute.  Until I start to feel guilty and worried again.  Am I still too selfish?  Did I do enough? 

I have been thinking about what the Apostle John said.  That we love because He loved us first.  It's not about me and what I do or don't do.  Whether I am enough or not.  It's about God and what He has done and will do.  He is enough.  It is finished. 

Rivers of living water.

Not just for the moment of salvation, but for the moment I make eye contact with the guy on the corner with the sign in his hand.

We used to keep all our spare change in baggies and hand it out the window.  Then I started volunteering with folks in that neighborhood and one of my friends told me about his panhandling days, the stories he'd tell, and the drug dealer he'd call when he got 10 bucks together.

So now we keep packaged peanut butter crackers in the car.  We like this because we can make eye contact, say hello, and give the person something from our hands, to say that we do care. 

Also, I can keep doing this.  It works for me.  It's sustainable.

Now, until I lived in Dallas and went to church in the 'hood, I wouldn't have had a clue where to find hungry people.  So if you live in the country or deep in the 'burbs, and you'd like to share with the hungry, here's my favorite place:  the Well Community

Please go visit and see what they're about.  I can double-dog guarantee you that these guys are solid gold and legit.

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the legal limit

Every machine has a duty cycle.  A number of hours it can work, and a number of hours it then needs to NOT work--so that it can keep working for a good long time.  Human beings are like that too.  We're supposed to work, and then we're supposed to stop it for a while--so that we can do it again when we need to.  (Archibald Hart says something like that in one of my favorite books, The Anxiety Cure.) When we work too much and don't rest enough, we wear out well before our time.

It's not a difficult concept, friends.  You don't have to be a rocket scientist.

But it sure seems difficult to implement.

What keeps us working and going and doing beyond our own legal limit?

Honestly.

What makes us do it?

And what would it take to make us stop?

What would be the consequences of keeping to our own legal limits?

What would be the rewards?

Happy holiday weekend!

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Spending time

Time is a limited commodity.  There are 24 hours in a day.  Seven days in a week.  365 days a year.  80 years in a life. And that's all we're going to get.

We have been given the gift of time to spend wisely and well.

One of the things we have been commanded to do with 1/7th of our days is to rest.  One day a week.  52 days a year.  4,160 days of life.  We're supposed to rest.

So how's that working out for you this week?  This year?  This lifetime so far?

Spend it wisely, spend it well, spend it resting when you should.

Happy Monday!

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If the oxygen masks should drop

"If the oxygen masks should drop from the ceiling, put your own mask on first before assisting others." When you fly, the flight crew always gives those instructions.

They're not telling you to be selfish.  They're telling you what works best for everybody.  If you start helping the people around you without your mask on, you're going to pass out and become a liability.

So they tell you to get your mask on first, then see what you can do for the people around you.

I bet you know where I'm going with this.  I bet you even know what your oxygen masks are:  those things that restore your soul, give you energy, and put you back on your feet to face another day.  Maybe even to dance through the day.

And I bet if we sat down to talk about this, you'd give me a whole boatload of excuses about why those masks just aren't a possibility right now--given this, that, and the other.

I bet these things because I've done that myself.  I've helped other people all the way into full-blown, passed-out craziness.

And there's really nothing like experiencing that kind of craziness to give you a life-long passion for your own sanity.

So let me be your flight crew for just a minute.  Stow the Hemmacher Schlemmacher catalog and listen up.

The oxygen masks are always in place for you.  Get yours on.  Breathe.  Breathe.  Breathe.

Then look around and see who needs help.

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Being sick makes you feel bad

Being sick makes you feel bad.  We're in the middle of flu season, so we all know this. But sometimes being sick makes you feel really, really bad.  Like clinically-depressed bad or panic-attack bad.

Here's a little problem.  Depression and anxiety symptoms that arise from medical problems feel exactly the same as depression and anxiety that come from psychological stress or trauma.  Sometimes we take such a psychological approach to anxiety and depression that we forget to look at possible medical problems.

Here's a list of medical issues that can make people feel anxious or depressed:

  • Adrenal disease
  • Anemia
  • Brain injury
  • Caffeine
  • Caffeine withdrawal
  • Cancer, especially pancreatic cancer
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Hearing loss, often associated with social isolation
  • Infections or post-infection states
  • Low blood sugar
  • Migraines
  • Mineral imbalances
  • Mitral Valve Prolapse
  • Thyroid disease
  • Vitamin deficiencies (especially thiamine, vitamin B-12, niacin)
  • Medications such as birth control pills, weight loss pills, blood pressure medications, Accutane

Source:  Healing Anxiety and Depression, Daniel G. Amen, M.D.

So there you go, a little bit of anxiety and depression info to file away.  I hope you never actually need it.

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Vacation for life

So many of the things we love are bad for us.  (Like all those things we just resolved not to eat or do any more in the New Year.)  Vacations, however, are incredibly good for us.  The Framingham Heart Study has actually shown that the more vacations people take, the longer they live. Hello!  This is the best prescription ever:  do something you like.  Do it a lot.  You'll live longer.

Also, I think, you will live happier.  There's something about vacation memories that just stick with you and keep the happiness going.  I'm still enjoying boating through the fjords of New Zealand.  Walking the beach in Australia.  Snorkeling in the Solomon Islands.  Hiking in the Smokey Mountains.  Camping in Oklahoma.

I know I've done some damage to myself over the years through stress, anxiety, and depression.  It's nice to find out I can balance that out, with a simple little thing like vacation.

Maybe next year, we'll discover that chocolate donuts have no calories.  But until then, I'm just going to enjoy lots of vacation.  I can have as much as I want.  Cuz it's good for me.

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