Thursday, November 27, 2014
Gratitude is more than just giving thanks, it is about finding joy in the things that make up our lives. It is about finding happiness in the simple things. It is about being present in all of the moments of our lives - good, bad, happy, sad, loving, angry, faithful, frustrated, etc.
I am grateful. I am joyous. I am present. I am happy. But most of all, I give thanks for my life, for my faith and vocation, for all of my family and friends, and for the moments that make me understand how blessed I am.
Saturday, May 31, 2014
Busy, busy, busy. It's our religion almost. We kneel at the altar of busyness. We pray to the calendar gods.
We sing the songs of schedule. We sit in the anxiety of too much to do and too little time to do it.
Because of this reality, there are so many things that get in the way of taking care of ourselves – work, spouse, family, house/home, TV watching, paying bills, social media, laziness, busyness, paperwork, denial, etc. With all of this to do -- we too often put our own needs in last place. We take care of others, we take care of our loved ones, we take care of our homes, we take care of our work, and we take care of our financial obligations – but we leave ourselves and our personal needs out of the equation.
It’s a problem for many in our culture today. We have placed the needs of everyone and everything else above our own.
It happens to people in every profession and life circumstance. It happens in the lives of clergy and religious leaders, a group I am part of and work with, way too often.
And it especially happens in the lives of women. We are expected by outside forces to always put others before ourselves. It affects us emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
I allowed it to happen to myself. Even though I teach about self-care – especially for women and clergy – I allowed my own life to spiral into one that did not focus on my own health, body, spirit, and emotions.
For decades I have dealt with a weight issue. I started putting on weight after high school. I had seriously injured my knee and my ability to be more active dried up. I went to college and put on the freshman 15 like almost everyone else.
Then I got into a bad cycle. My knee hurt so I did not exercise. I did not exercise so I put on weight. Putting on weight had an adverse effect on my knees. Because of the pain and inactivity I was in a negative spiral that I felt helpless to control or to change.
When I turned 50 I came to realize that I was over 100 pounds overweight, had two bad knees, was on several prescription meds, and was living a very inactive lifestyle. However, I was – by all accounts – a happy and highly productive person. I had a great job, fabulous friends, and an amazing family. If anyone asked if I was happy – my answer was emphatic, “Of course, I am. I have everything I need to give me joy.”
But deep down I now know that I was suffering. I got looks from others insinuating that I must be “fat because I’m lazy.” I endured the glances when I entered the aisle of a plane for travel that told me what they were thinking, “I hope she’s not sitting beside me.” And I heard the soft whispers when I went into stores that did not accommodate my size when I was purchasing a gift for someone else.
It was hard – but I pretended it wasn’t happening. I refused to hear the voices of others and the ones in my head telling me that this was not a good way to live. I ignored the cry of my body to be honorable to it. And I continued to claim that I was happy. I guess that I was convinced that I was "happy enough" and that was all I deserved.
Then I had an experience that brought me to my knees. I was too big to ride an amusement park ride with my son and I sat there weeping while he rode it without me. It was too much. I could not bear to miss another moment with my family due to my inactivity, weight, and lack of mobility. I deserved better.
So I asked for help. I went to my doctor, got a nutritionist, and hired a personal trainer. I created a team of encouragers, supporters, experts, and guides for the journey. And I changed my life. Over the past year I have lost 100+ pounds, I have changed how and what I eat, and I have embraced the reality that I deserve a fuller life. I have begun exercising regularly and I have done everything I can to turn my life around. I have utilized every avenue available for me to use to change my life.
And in the process I found me again.
I found the me that has energy to live life to the fullest. I found the me that wakes up excited about the day. I found the me that honors the gift of life God has blessed me with as a healthier, happier person. I found the me that could do things again and not be limited by my knees or my weight.
I had ignored the symptoms and the signs. I did not see it. But as I lost weight and began to live more fully – I discovered that part of me had actually gone missing as I put on the weight.
Miraculously and thankfully, I have found me again.
I find that my connection to my work is deeper and more fulfilling. I find that I am closer to my family and able to do more things with them. I find that I am more confident than ever before. I find that my faith is deeper as I live into a life that honors more faithfully who God calls me to be. And I have found a level of joy that makes me feel so blessed and happy.
So why am I telling you this? I'm not telling you this to make anyone feel badly about their own journey with weight or self-care or anything else. I’m not telling you this to judge your life or say that you need to do what I have done. I’m not telling you to in any way make you feel less than a precious child of God that you are.
I'm telling you this because it has been an amazing journey and I feel compelled to share it. I’m telling you this because I refuse to get into this place of denial again. I’m telling you because I want you to live into your best self – whatever that means for you. And I’m telling you this because I care about your journey as well.
My journey to fully find me and be all that God intends for me continues. But right now I can truly and absolutely say, with no reservations or denial, that I am really happy. And I can say that I am living a life that gives me abundant joy.
I celebrate with you if you have found this and are living a life of happiness and joy where you are right now.
And for those of you still struggling to find you or to find that happiness and joy - I pray for you to find it for today and always.
Friday, March 21, 2014
(I have taken a break from blogging for a while but several events lately led me to post this and get back into the task of blogging.)
I am not afraid to admit that I like control. I don’t like other people controlling me or telling me what to do. I never have liked it (just ask my Mom or Dad). Despite life requiring that I allow others to lead in many situations, I enjoy having elements of control over my own life. In the midst of chaos I like to exert as much control over the situation as I can - so that the chaos begins to ease as much as possible. I don’t think that I am alone in this. Most of us like control. It’s human to want things to be fixed and static but life often does not work that way.
Trying to exert control in times of discernment and reflection can be even harder. Following where God leads us in our lives can be a scary and intimidating process. Exerting control in those circumstances is often problematic. Giving up control to God is hard for many of us, but we feel like it should be done and should be easier. It’s often not.
I work with seminary students (folks preparing for pastoral ministry in some form) and often meet with them to talk about their ministry and life discernment process. I also have the opportunity to talk with quite a few prospective students who are still trying to determine what God is calling them to do and be in their lives and any potential ministry. I have come across a number of persons who denied their call for decades because they did not or could not give in to the discernment process and acknowledge their call into pastoral ministry or some other discernment issue in their lives. Giving up control and allowing God to lead is indeed hard – despite how faithful one is.
Recently, a guest lecturer was preaching in our chapel. She shared an ancient Celtic tradition of setting sail in a rudderless boat, relying on the wind of the Holy Spirit to guide you as you discerned who God was leading you to be and where God was sending you to share that state of being. As she explained the process, I came to understand that one who is discerning their life direction embarks on a journey to see where God is directing them by being set adrift to catch the winds of the Spirit – with no way to pilot the boat themselves.
|Canoe set Adrift by Poucher|
The image was both refreshing and terrifying at the same time. It was a refreshing image to contemplate. Being set adrift to go where God directs us is powerful. Giving into the will of God is a profound thing that can set a person free from the bonds that are keeping them from fully being who they are called to be. Giving into the breath of God and go where the wind takes you opens up potential ministry and life experiences that no one could ever imagine on their own. Being able to launch yourself on that kind of adventure would take a lot of fortitude and guts.
That’s where the scary part comes in – letting go of your own need for control and to actually stop trying to control the boat is important. The very fact that the boat is rudderless means there is no directing the boat on your own. Of course, left to my own devices, I could probably use my hands or feet to push/pull/navigate the boat. And I would likely want to do just that. But that’s not what we are called to do in discernment.
The task is to stop trying to control things. We are called to let the Spirit lead and to go where God directs us.
And that’s tricky. The easy thing is to say to ourselves or others, “Just have faith.” But the reality is that letting go is against our human nature. That means even having faith is not all that we need to get us to let go. We have to “own up” to our reluctance to give up control and allow God to blow us where God will. And we need to acknowledge that it is not the easiest thing for us to do. We should not beat ourselves up about this when we fail and try to steer some of the way.
Discernment is tough. So is living into the will of God. But we are called to live into this anyway – to find a way. Being honest and working through the discernment process patiently is paramount. Give yourself some grace when it’s not easy. And try paddling as little as possible when you are in that rudderless boat.
It’s ok. God loves us anyway – even when we fail. And the Spirit will continue to blow to guide us even when it is harder to let it guide us.
Let’s make this promise to each other and to God – we’ll keep our hands and feet inside the rudderless vehicle as much as we can and enjoy the ride.