I wrote a few weeks ago that when my head is a mess, I am compelled to order my environment. In practical application, this means three things: cleaning. purging. painting.
and I guess decorating. If you count framing stuff I’ve been meaning to frame for…ever. and putting new flooring in downstairs. and getting rid of useless decorative items that just take up space in my house.
Like a bowl of rocks.
at one point in my life, I PAID for a bowl of rocks and put them on a flat surface in my house. To hold candles. Candles that are – to this day – still wrapped in plastic.
purging. This particular purge isn’t so bad. The biggest purge I’ve done was after my hysterectomy in 2009. That was bad. My house and it’s contents suffered nearly two years of female neglect because of chronic anemia and limited activity, followed by another 6 months of recovery after the surgery.
This purge is deeper.
A stripping down to basics purge.
On May 31st, I said I wanted “I want every superfluous thing in my house gone. GONE.” I’m looking at EVERYTHING in my house as if I were moving. Would I want to pack it? or get rid of it?
I’ve thrown away and shredded so. much. paper. We’ve already made one trip to the dump. I’ve completely emptied every bathroom cabinet and only put back the things we need. I’ve gotten rid of pointless dust collecting decorations, including the bowl of rocks. I’ve even gotten rid of over 100 books.
I’ve been posting some of my progress on my public facebook page. You don’t even need to have a facebook account to see it.
Yesterday’s facebook post:
An entire pick-up truck load of furniture and multiple boxes of books, clothing, appliances, and pointless decorative dust collectors – all now in the FUMCO Whale of a Sale storage POD. I have zero dining room chairs and I do not care. I didn’t love them and they took up too much space, so they had to go. Based on that criteria, all members of my family will be staying. I suppose the cats can stay too. Tomorrow? The linen closet purge. I have to make room for the single tablecloth and the single set of placemats I’m keeping after giving away my buffet. #pruning #purging
Today’s facebook posts:
11:57am – Can’t decide what to do today. So I’m going to do everything. 5 minutes at a time. & fb/tweet my progress for accountability & motivation.
12:15pm – 1st micro-action of the day: Weeding the rose bed. Took 10 minutes. Love it when a huge bunch of weeds turns out to be a lot of runners.
12:23pm – How many fridge shelves can I clean in 5 minutes? Three. & I cooled off enough to go back outside. I’m gonna need shoes. #microactions
1:15pm – Prune long neglected roses-10 minutes, put roses in vase, download & learn photo editing app-15 min. #microactions (click any of the photos to enlarge)
3:06pm – An hour deep cleaning the kitchen, including the window, the front of the cabinets, the wall, the prints and my cobalt. More dust collecting decorations to get rid of. #microactions
3:13pm – This is going to be hideous. & hot. But tomorrow is yard waste day. Any guesses how long it will take? #microactions
4:06pm – If you do it fast enough, weeding is cardio. (posted “before” pic earlier) #microactions
4:56pm – 20 minutes to make this mess. But my view is much clearer. Gotta bind all this up after I pick PinkGirl up.#microactions
9:28pm – Got on a roll. FavoriteSon and I mowed and he whacked weeds while I bound up what seemed to equate to a small forest. I ran out of daylight. And I may have discovered a new smell. A cross between sunscreen, bug spray, gasoline and sweat. #pruning #purging
I took an antihistamine and an anti-inflammatory. Hopefully, I’ll be good to go tomorrow. I never did get to that linen closet today.
[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NIV)
another year, over. No do-overs. No take-backs. Only lessons to be learned and new choices to be made.
Lord, am I where you want me? Am I living the life you’ve given the me the way you know would be best?
I want to be a living sacrifice for You. But sometimes – much of the time – I know my choices are driven by my own idea of what that looks like.
What does it look like to You, God?
My fear is that my desires are selfish and much bigger than those you have for me.
Is it possible that the plans you have for me involve me sitting across the table from one person, listening, asking questions and sharing my faith one on one? That this book I’m writing is equipping me for those conversations, but will never actually be read? or even finished?
Is it possible that the plans you have for me mean that the primary reason I’m recording is for the witness that occurs during the recording sessions themselves and that these recordings will live forever on my computer in obscurity?
And those things are good. Very, very good.
But you know I want more. Is that from You?
The last thing I want to do is pursue a dream you haven’t given me. I’m desperate to saturate myself in your will and I want to have tunnel vision when it comes to following Your lead. Please don’t let me pursue anything that actually takes me away from You. Please show me what I could or should be doing to bring You glory.
I think of the story about You asking a man to push against a rock. Day after day, year after year, the man pushed, eventually becoming discouraged, saying, “God, I give up. I’ve pushed and pushed with all my strength and I haven’t moved this rock even one inch. What did I do wrong? Why did I fail?”
The story says that you replied by saying, “I didn’t ask you to move the rock. I only asked you to push against it. You say you’ve failed, but have you? Look how strong you’ve become. You’ve done exactly what I asked.
Now I will move the rock.”
I know you don’t need my help Lord. Please allow me to serve you anyway. Please use me anyway. Please guide me. Please equip me. Help me to be obedient. Please don’t ever let me give up.
Too often, we bide our time with the routine of a life that we hope
will one day take us across the chasm. Our days become stacked upon other days.
And as time moves forward, we think about the great abyss in our quieter moments.
We wonder if we should take the leap soon.
But the busyness of our days pulls us back from the edge and we perpetually postpone it.
Why? Because we are afraid we do not have the strength to make it.
Don’t let that happen. You’re stronger than you think.
Dr. Les Parrott
“If it was easy, everyone would do it” is one of my mantras.
I say it to my kids when they struggle with ANYthing and I see discouragement or frustration start to set in. I say it to my husband, friends, clients and sometimes, even strangers.
I say it to myself.
When I’m supposed to be writing and find myself staring at the screen, fingers atrophied over the keyboard.
When I spend two hours writing, proofread what I’ve written and immediately want to start over.
When I’m trying to curl a 15 pound dumbbell for the 12th time in my second set.
When I’m 2 minutes and 20 seconds into my 2 minute, 30 second forearm plank.
When I’m trying not to fly off the back of the treadmill during my HIIT walking program.
When I drag myself off the couch to pick up that stupid dumbbell or put on my walking shoes.
When I’m 3 seconds short of an 18 second note I’ve been trying to hold out. For the 100th time.
When my voice breaks on that high note I’m trying to hit in full voice. After two years of voice lessons.
When I’m vocalizing for the third time in a day in an attempt to get the “right” technique to become second nature.
Just a few weeks ago, during a break in a recording session, I mentioned something about needing to work on something with my voice teacher. The sound technician said, “YOU have a voice teacher!?” I responded with a big “Heck, YEAH!” He paused for a moment and then said, “It just seems more like you would teach voice lessons, not take them.” I quickly and firmly told him that I will never be too good for voice lessons.
But that exchange emphasized a very common misconception: The things people are good at just come naturally to them.
SO not true.
And the persistence of that mindset devalues the accomplishment, no matter what it is. The persistence of that mindset liberates other people from trying. It turns a potential mentor into someone to be resented and berated. Instead of being viewed as someone who met a goal as a result of hard work, they are instead viewed as “lucky.” Rather than inspiring someone else to take their own steps toward better and stronger, they become a discouragement to others. Because the perception is that whatever the goal, it’s not achievable by anyone but the lucky ones.
The book, Talent Is Overrated claimed, “One factor, and only one factor, predicted how musically accomplished the students were, and that was how much they practiced.”
The fact is that excellence isn’t easy. It doesn’t happen without work. Usually hard work. Developing a skill takes time. and repetition.
Experience is a teacher in and of itself.
What most people don’t realize is that mediocrity is only one short day of slackin away. Just because I do something well, doesn’t mean I’ve finished learning or practicing.
The fact that I was in a writing zone yesterday doesn’t insure against writer’s block tomorrow.
Being satisfied with today’s writing doesn’t mean I won’t be filled with doubt and repulsion about tomorrow’s.
The ability to lift a 15 pound dumbbell today doesn’t mean I won’t have to opt for 10 pounds tomorrow.
Making it through a 2 minute, 30 second plank today doesn’t mean I won’t collapse at 2 minutes the next day.
Finishing the 30 minute HIIT treadmill program today is no guarantee that I won’t wimp out the next time.
The fact that extracted myself from the couch today doesn’t mean won’t stay curled up on it tomorrow.
As I’ve discovered, holding a note for 18 seconds one time, does NOT mean I can now do it any time I want.
The same is true for that high note – once does not mean always.
Even after spending hundreds of hours practicing the “right” way to sing, I still drift into old habits . . .
For me, excellence isn’t a destination I’ll ever arrive at and rest comfortably. Because of my relentless determination to be a good steward of all that God has blessed me with, the striving for excellence is a lifetime journey.
To find out why I’m so obsessed with striving for excellence, check out this post: I. Want. More.
Fair is when hard won preparation and relentless dedication to excellence earns opportunity.
When I was in college, one of my friends, a member of the same singing group I was in, angrily told me it wasn’t fair that I got so many solos “just because I sang better than her.” She said she “couldn’t help it that she couldn’t sing as well as I did.” She said “God had just given me a better voice than her.” She had been shortchanged and she was disappointed. And ticked off. At me. And she let me know it. This particular time she said it out loud while looking glaring me in the eye, but most of the time the message was sent through her sulking body language and mopey facial expression every time I got assigned a solo or actually performed one.
Fast forward 20 years. I joined our church’s praise team and after a few months, all the vocalists were put on a rotation. The theory was that it would be easier for the musicians if they didn’t have to make a weekly commitment. Less burnout. I told the worship leader I didn’t want to be on a rotation. I wanted to sing every week. Why?
- I needed the accountability; preparing for a mid-week evening rehearsal and Sunday morning service forced me to sing EVERY day. If I didn’t work every day, I wouldn’t be as prepared as I wanted to be.
- I needed to build up my stamina, increase my vocal range and improve my breath control. Consistent daily work – on all three – was the only thing that was going to get the job done.
- I was being exposed to, and challenged by, a new style of music that I was instinctively gravitating toward.
- The mental challenge of memorizing a boatload of lyrics was exponentially increasing my memory skills. I was being forced to employ abandoned memory techniques I had learned years ago.
- The weekly exposure of being in front of a large group of people during the praise and worship service was slowly nicking away at the stage fright that had crept in during the 10 plus years I had taken off as a serious vocalist. I was once again becoming comfortable, more at home on stage.
- The worship leader’s easy dismissal of my screw-ups was leading to more self-confidence and as a result, I was taking more risks vocally and stylistically.
- I was experiencing emotion when I sang and I was gradually allowing myself to feel it. Rare for me to experience it. Unthinkable to actually allow it. Inconceivable that I didn’t feel compelled to retreat.
Every week I was gaining experience and growing stronger. I began asking for a DVD of every service and I watched the “game film” every week. That DVD is unedited; the vocals are unmixed. I heard what was going into the microphone, not what was coming out after I got a little help from the sound guys. I heard THE HARD TRUTH. Every week, I meticulously listened to the quality of my voice, my harmonies, and whether my phrasing and breathing matched the worship leader’s. I forced myself to evaluate my appearance and my stage presence. I relentlessly critiqued myself. I was determined to identify my weaknesses and work on eliminating them. I found a vocal coach and started working with her regularly. I was rehearsing 10 to 20 hours per week and I came to rehearsal as prepared as I possibly could. I had to make some hard choices to give up some good things in my life to fit in those 10 to 20 hours.
I was working my butt off.
And then another vocalist caught me off guard with a simple question: “Why are you so special?”
I was dumbfounded. “What?”
They said, “Why do you get to sing every week?”
I heard, “It’s not fair. You get to sing more than me.”
I was stunned. Since it wasn’t a real question, they didn’t really expect an answer. They just wanted me to know I was getting undeserved special treatment and they didn’t like it.
I learned a long time ago that when I’m faced with criticism, I really need to strip away all the emotion and acrimony and bravely look for a grain of truth. Special. Was I getting special treatment?
Yes. I sang every week. I was excluded from the rotation.
I found myself thinking about these two interchanges from my past multiple times today, and it led me to this video. Check it out. Only 1 minute and 2 seconds.
As soon as I watched that commercial on youtube I knew it was true. Both of these people from my past were making excuses. Both of them assumed that my voice was just a God-given gift and that I didn’t have to work for it. I was their scapegoat. Their guilt-free pass to rationalization and self-delusion. It was easier to blame me for hogging all their opportunities than to work hard for what they wanted.
Neither one of them came to rehearsals prepared, having learned their own individual parts ahead of time. Neither one expressed interest in voice lessons. To my knowledge, neither one recorded and listened to themselves. Neither one made adjustments to their commitments or schedules to allow extra time to work on their vocals. Neither one sought out and encouraged honest feedback about their vocals, instead depending on the polite comments of friends as justification that there was no room or need for improvement. Both of them garnered support through whispering campaigns, resulting in high tension and drama. I spent a LOT of time with my college friend and I never, ever heard her rehearse or vocalize outside of our weekly group rehearsal.
Each of those two people, because of their unwillingness to strive for continued improvement, prevented each group from rising above their lowest common denominator: Them.
Is it possible these two people might have put a tremendous amount of work and effort into becoming stronger vocalists only to discover they don’t have enough core talent? Possibly. But neither of them will ever know. They had dreams, but dreams without action are just wishes, not goals.
Wishin don’t make it so.
And fair isn’t when everybody gets a turn. Fair is when hard won preparation and relentless dedication to excellence earns opportunity.
But I learned a long time ago that life isn’t fair. And these two people from my past are by far not alone in their belief that fair is when everybody gets a turn. They are by far, not the only people who feel entitled to opportunities they don’t earn. And those opportunities are continuously provided to people who don’t work for them because it’s easier than having the difficult and honest conversation that will most likely hurt their feelings.
It’s not limited to music, it’s everything. Everywhere. So when an opportunity I continue to work so hard to earn is given to someone less qualified in the pursuit of fairness, I’m left with a choice.
Take my ball and go home because it isn’t fair? That fits me worse than pink clothing.
Be less because someone else can’t or won’t be more? Not gonna happen. I refuse to give God less than my best. I refuse to stifle the gifts He’s blessed me with.
I will be the best steward I can possibly be – of all He’s given me, even if that stewardship leads to resentfulness and jealousy and leaves me with significantly diminished opportunities.
My kids are paying attention to how I handle this. I’m not wavering from what I’ve been teaching them their entire lives: “sometimes, we have to do what’s required.“
Shoulder Devil: “It’s late. You did the HIIT training. Skip the rest.”
Shoulder Angel: “There’s still an hour and a half left in the day. Don’t listen to him. If it wasn’t for me, your body fat percentage would still be 51%”
Shoulder Devil:: “hhhhhh. okay, fine. then just do the plank. Skip the strength training. You’re tired. You can do strength training tomorrow.”
Shoulder Angel:: “He’s right.”
Shoulder Devil:: “I am?”
Shoulder Angel:: You should do strength training tomorrow. You should do tomorrow’s strength training tomorrow. Do today’s strength training today.”
Shoulder Devil:: “no, that’s not what I meant…”
Shoulder Devil:: “Don’t listen to him, he’s a fanatic. He’s talking about 10 Minutes. What’s the big deal about 10 lousy minutes?”
Shoulder Angel:: “EXACTLY my point.”
Shoulder Devil:: “NO! That’s not what I meant…”
Shoulder Angel:: “HEY! remember that FIRM 5 Day Ab workout from the 90s? Do that! Day one is only 6 minutes!”
And that’s how I ended up with this video in the DVD player tonight.
(and you’re welcome. this video clip is so blurry you can’t see that the shorts on the guys in this video are WAY too short. T. M. I. and ewww. and again. ewww. and who says “supine? My whole life I’ve never said the word “supine.”)
I’ve described my mother as a “defiant non-compliant diabetic.” She ate what she wanted, when she wanted, blood sugar be damned. After decades of neglect, her body began to deteriorate and finally shut down completely. I found a receipt in her wallet dated just days before her death. She had driven through Burger King on the way home from dialysis and ordered a BK Stacker (22 grams of fat, 700 mg of sodium.). She was suffering from congestive heart failure, taking 14 different medications and on dialysis 3 days a week, but she wanted a BK Stacker, so she got one. There were more fast food receipts in the pockets of her clothing and on her desk.
Time and time and time again she chose immediate personal gratification and a comfort zone, over long term goals, discomfort and inconvenience – and not just with food.
She bought what she wanted when she wanted it, even if she didn’t have the money.
She wanted a warm, inviting home, but she focused on the house and its contents more than the people who lived in it.
She wanted passionate relationships, but was controlling and plagued with pride.
She wanted to travel and experience new things. But instead, she booked the same vacation for years.
She loved to play the piano. But she didn’t make time for it.
She loved to sing. But she only sang in the house. And rarely.
She wanted to write. But she didn’t.
She wanted so much, but she settled for so little.
Her desire for the things she wanted made it challenging and sometimes impossible for her to recognize, much less appreciate, the blessings she had. Her inability to see that she had power to change her circumstances if she stayed true to her long-term goals kept her firmly rooted in mediocrity and the status quo.
I paid attention. And I learned quite a bit about what I want for my life by watching her choices.
I still pay attention. And I look for consequences – good and bad – so I can learn from other people’s choices. I learn a LOT about what I want as a result of my OWN choices and their consequences.
My mother had a stroke and blamed her doctors and her medication. She had a stroke and I got a personal trainer. Before and after her stroke, she relied on medications to make herself feel better and to lengthen her life. Before her stroke, I was following in her footsteps. After her stroke, I began relying on exercise and lifestyle changes to make myself feel better and to lengthen my life.
I had a choice. I could continue to go with the flow and eventually find myself at risk for a stroke or I could intentionally and consistently walk backwards against the current. If you know me, it shouldn’t surprise you that when I’m floating in a lazy river, I will at some point, become bored and walk backward against the current. It’s a metaphor for my life. I intentionally choose to view every experience God has allowed in my life – good AND bad – as a blessing. Together, these blessings fuel me with determination.
I’m a big believer in benchmarking. When I want to learn how to do something, I find people who do it well and I copy them. But I also learn what not to do by watching the things that people, myself included, do poorly. I pay attention to choices and consequences – good and bad. I call it opportunistic learning and it helps me discover what I want in my life.
I want more than immediate gratification and a well worn spot in my comfort zone.
I want MORE than the comfort of air conditioning, dry, pleasant smelling clothing, a good hair day, less laundry and an extra hour every day. I don’t consider a handicapped sticker on my car to be a well deserved ticket to a great parking space and the inability to walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded scares me more than a hurricane warning. The inability to walk up a flight of stairs at all scares me more than an actual hurricane.
I want a stronger body, even if it needs two showers in one day, generates smelly, wet laundry, “wastes” 30 minutes or more of my day and requires a longer walk from the parking lot. I want to get stronger as I get older, not weaker. I want to be a good steward of this body God has blessed me with. I’ve experienced the limitations of a body that won’t do what I want it to do and I hated it so much I NEVER want to experience it again. I’ll do anything I can to make sure that my body doesn’t deteriorate due to neglect.
I want MORE than a 6 inch high plate of nachos with a phenomenal cheese sauce or the most decadent, melt in your mouth chocolate lava cake in the world. I want MORE than the thousands of milligrams of sodium and double digit grams of fat in the restaurant food that saves me from cooking dinner when I don’t feel like it. I want MORE than a bedtime snack of ice cream or a Grand Slam breakfast from Denny’s. I want MORE than a BK Stacker.
I want unblocked arteries, normal blood pressure and stable blood sugar. I want my 7 day pill case to be filled with vitamins and supplements instead medications. I want to model good nutritional choices for my children, especially my daughter. I want to live a longer, healthier life than my mother did. I’m not swayed by spoonfuls being shoved in my face along with an exasperated voice telling me to “just taste it.” It’s not that I secretly want it and am just denying myself. I really don’t want it. I’ll never be convinced to abandon my long term nutrition goals just because someone belittles me for not eating something they want to eat. I’ll never belittle them while I watch them eat – but I also won’t sanction their choice or cave to middle school level peer pressure by picking up a fork and joining them.
I want MORE than a good marriage. I want MORE than candy and flowers and jewelry on Valentines Day and my birthday. I want MORE than a husband who handles car maintenance, toilet repair, heavy lifting, jar opening and high shelf reaching. I want MORE than a “good” sex life and a husband who does what I want in order to get it. I want MORE than a husband who agrees with me to avoid conflict and who spends time with me because he’s supposed to.
I want a GREAT marriage to a man I can’t go a day without talking to. I want to be the person who respects my husband more than anyone else in the world and I want him to know it beyond a shadow of a doubt. I want to come to the end of my day and be confident I didn’t say a bad word about him to ANYone. I want to be the kind of wife he wants to come home to and I want to be genuinely happy that he’s home when he walks in the door. I want a partner – a LIFE LONG partner – who tells me the truth in a gracious tone of voice, motivated by love. I want us to share EVERYthing without holding back: our thoughts, our ideas, our weaknesses, our fears, our passions and our bodies. I want to share household and parenting duties and I’m thankful that I figured out early in our marriage that different isn’t wrong. I want us to be able speak in idioms and always understand each other. I want us to be able to communicate with facial expressions and eye contact. I want to stay married to my best friend for the rest of my life and I’m thankful that we are both willing to run to a marriage counselor the minute our relationship can be described as “fine.”
I want MORE than compliant children who make good grades, keep their room clean and behave appropriately at all times. I want MORE than happy, safe children. I don’t want my children to do what they’re told because I say so.
I want to hear about everything that interests them, because I know that if I don’t listen with interest, they will stop telling me. I want to be challenged by their mind, fascinated by their discoveries, respectful of their ideas, convinced by their reasoning, inspired by their passion and exasperated by our differences. I want to always strive to respect them as individuals instead viewing them as extensions of myself. I want to be comfortable with their potential to embarrass me for the sake of their (and my) learning curve. I want my children to learn life lessons from remorse and disappointment as well as from pride and achievement. I want to equip them, not protect them. I want them to do the right thing because it’s the right thing, even when nobody is looking.
I want to be debt-free. I want to own my home, not hold a mortgage. I want my car to start every time I turn the key, and if it does, I don’t care how many miles are on it. I want to be a good steward of my financial blessings. I want to save and pay cash for the things I want. I don’t want to pay interest. I want to teach my children the value of a wise financial choice. I want to teach them that delayed gratification ultimately makes them happier and more secure than an impulse or convenient purchase. I want to give God MORE than 10% of what he entrusts to me and I want my kids to want to do the same.
I want MORE than to help lead a “good” praise set on Sunday morning. Lukewarm makes me restless. Holding back makes me unsettled. Trying to please everyone is deeply discouraging. Settling for fine wears me down. I don’t want to give God less than my very best. No one is drawn to mediocrity.
I want to work my butt off to prepare and when Sunday morning comes, I want to block out all the logistics and make myself open and available for God to equip me for service. I want to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, not the body language of someone in the congregation who is missing His presence because they are preoccupied with what someone else thinks. I want to allow myself to be saturated with the Holy Spirit, so much so that Satan doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in Hell of distracting me from my goal of bringing as many people with me as I possibly can while I abandon myself to authentic, consuming praise. I want to go all out and see what God will do with my all.
I want to use everything God has given me – the good and the bad – to serve Him. When I write, I have no idea if the result is a cathartic purge or if someone will identify with something I say and be encouraged or changed by it. It’s just as possible that what I’ve written will alienate or discourage someone. I have no idea if God will use it to reach someone, but I pray He will. I don’t want the words I write to be in a vacuum.
I. want. MORE.
Do I always get it right? Not by a long shot. I do not find all this to be intuitive. These are determined choices I make, over and over and over again. And when I screw up, I start over, even if I have to start over multiple times a day. But I’m not going to stop striving. And I’m willing to wait for whatever God hasn’t entrusted me with yet. I’m willing work for it.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness,knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 5-8
“Never neglect what you’ve seen God do in your life. Take a careful look at these things from God’s perspective, all the way from your birth to where you stand right now. They’re all significant.”
Experiencing the Spirit
Henry and Melvin Blackaby
In a previous post, entitled “I’m not your ‘fun’ friend.” I said I didn’t have a lot of patience for “surface” conversation because I have issues and that you either get used to me or you avoid me. (CLICK HERE to read that post.)
It set me thinking about why I’m so intense about life and so overly aware of lost opportunity.
I came up with four reasons:
I’m skipping over #2 because I’ve been thinking a lot about #3 lately.
Death. What do I mean by that? Let me tell you a story.
On Tuesday, January 12, 1988, Lee, an attorney, went to a meeting at a doctor’s office with Roger, a potential client. Roger wanted Lee to represent him in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The case had been tried before, but Roger had lost. The consult with the doctor that afternoon was intended to help Lee determine if Roger’s claims of medical malpractice were valid. Based on the doctor’s review and opinion of Roger’s medical records, Lee would make a decision to take Roger’s case or decline.
He decided not to take the case.
The meeting concluded and the doctor later recalled hearing Lee say ”Let’s go home and see our children.” Just moments later, as Lee still sat in his chair, putting papers into his briefcase, Roger calmly and quietly pulled out a .25-caliber handgun, put it to Lee’s right temple and pulled the trigger.
Two more shots were fired before the doctor managed to wrench the gun out of Roger’s hand and when Roger tried to run away, the doctor, his body coursing with adrenaline, chased him down and tackled him, pinning him until police arrived. Roger was arrested and just a few weeks later, he tried to end his life by shoving a 6 inch ball point pen 5 inches into his chest and 3.5 inches into his heart. When they found him, he apologized for failing to kill himself.
I didn’t know Roger. I knew Lee.
I was 23 when he was murdered. He had taken a risk hiring a 21 year old college dropout with no legal experience to work as his secretary. I spent 18 months working for him before I quit to go back to school. At that time, he was a sole practitioner, so most of those 18 months, it was just the two of us working alone in a small office. He used to walk around the office in sock feet while the shoeshine guy in the lobby shined his shoes, he would forget to turn off his tape recorder after he finished dictating in the car and would accidently record himself singing to the radio and he’s the only person I ever met who actually did break a tooth by chewing ice. I washed his coffee mug every day, picked up his lunch orders, and accidently saw him in his skivvies when he walked into his garage not knowing I was in there talking to his wife. I was his house sitter, his dog sitter and his baby sitter.
For nearly 18 months, I spent five days a week working in an office alone with that man and I never, not once, shared my faith with him.
To this day, when thoughts of Lee enter my mind, they are immediately followed by this one: If that man is in Hell, I had something to do with it.
In those 18 months, I had multiple opportunities to initiate a discussion about faith. It’s not that I wasn’t aware of them. I let each and every one pass.
Because I was 22. I was undereducated compared to him. He was important and he was professional and he was intelligent. And I was intimidated. So I stayed safely silent.
When Lee left his house that Tuesday morning in 1988, it never even crossed his mind that he would be shot in the head at point-blank range by a bitter, 72 year old man. When the doctor greeted his visitors that afternoon, he had no idea that less than an hour later, he would save his own life by wrestling a gun out of someone’s hand. When the paralegal left her routine office job that afternoon to attend a simple meeting, she had no idea she would see her boss murdered right before her eyes. When Lee said goodbye to his wife that morning, she had no idea it would be the last time she ever saw him alive. When he hugged and kissed his two little girls goodnight on Monday, they had no idea it was be the last time they felt their daddy’s arms around them.
When I left that job, I had no idea that my lack of courage would later leave me filled with regret; that my choice to stay within the boundaries of my comfort zone would result in such serious or long lasting discomfort; that I would forever wish that I had said something about my faith in Jesus Christ.
But wishing don’t make it so.
Is it possible that Lee was a Christian and I just never knew it? Sure. But that’s not the point. The point is that I didn’t know. How is that possible? This wasn’t a strained, formal or awkward relationship. I was comfortable talking to him from the moment I met him. My job interview took place in his car while he made an emergency trip to the mall to rescue his wife and baby daughter after she locked her keys inside her car.
It’s just wrong that I knew he wore tighty whities but didn’t know if he knew Jesus Christ. And yes. I do know how weird that sounds, but stay with me people, I’m making a point here.
Time’s a wastin.
We all have opportunities to talk to people about how are lives are different as a result of our relationship with Christ. Every single one of us. Every. single. day. Without exception. But if we aren’t intentional about our choices, those opportunities expire.
Sometimes, we don’t get a second chance.
Life is too short to waste it. People are dying every day. People will wake up in the morning and have no idea that it will be their last day on earth – or a loved one’s last day on earth. And too many of us spend this precious gift of time focused on things that fade away. Too many of us slink away from the difficult conversations because it’s easier to talk about “surface” stuff. Too many of us are afraid to look someone directly, maybe even uncomfortably, in the eye and ask, “How are you, really?”
God gives me opportunities to serve Him EVERY day. Every day, multiple times, I choose to ignore Him or obey Him. My prayer is that I choose the latter much, much more often than the former. Because, in the end, after I’ve spent my last day on earth, I’m desperate for God to say “Well done.“
. . . when you realize you have nothing to contribute. When you realize everything that can be said has already been said, that there are literally countless people who can do what you’re trying to learn to do – and they are already phenomenally better at it, and that you should give up this fantasy you’re chasing and get back to real life . . .
. . . and then you come to your senses and say, “Get thee behind me Satan! I am so unbelievably sick of you and your lies.”
This is why I struggle when I write. The words I use will make all the difference. This book I’m writing can’t be cathartic purging or just a transfer of information. My goal is to inspire CHANGE – and not the kind people threw at this man’s feet.
As I write and re-write, I’m praying that my FIRST editor is God. It’s His message. He knows the words I should use.
In my previous post, entitled “I’m not your “fun” friend.” I said the reason I prefer “real” conversation over “surface” conversation is because I have “issues” and that you either get used to me or you avoid me.
(CLICK HERE to read that post – it’s short.)
I’ve been thinking about why I’m so intense about everything. Why do I prefer the deeper conversations? Why am I addicted to learning? What is this freakish obsession I have with setting and moving toward goals? Why does the word “can’t” challenge me to defy it? Why is good enough NOT good enough? Why am I so competitive, even with myself? Why am I so passionate about encouraging other people figure out what they want and GO AFTER IT? Why am I so relentless about being actively engaged in an intimate relationship with God – and inspiring others to do the same?
Why am I so intense about LIFE?
I’ve always been overly aware of the passing of time. Of missed opportunity. Lost opportunity.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about why and I immediately came up with four reasons:
1. Saturday mornings
2. TV Overdose
4. Preparation meets opportunity
Saturday mornings were the first thing to come to mind.
I grew up with a mom who loved to sleep.
When I was little, every Saturday was the same. I would wake up early, because, well, I was a little kid. I would crack open my bedroom door and slowly, as quietly as I possibly could, sneak into the kitchen for some cereal. It was slow progress, because the goal was to be completely, totally silent.
The goal was to NOT wake up my mother.
My dad usually worked on Saturday, and he was out of the house early. My mom’s bedroom door was between my room and the kitchen. The kitchen and her bedroom were connected by a wall. Another bedroom wall – the wall with her bedroom door on it – connected to the living room. Where the TV was.
All I wanted to do was get some cereal and watch Saturday morning cartoons. Simple. Kid simple.
Sometimes, I pulled it off. Slowly and silently opening the normally squeaky metal bifold door of the pantry, getting the cereal box down, silently opening the cabinet for a bowl. Silently opening the fridge for the milk by prying the rubber seal open with my fingers instead of pulling the door handle which would have resulted in the sound of the vacuum being broken. Pouring the cereal was the tough part. There’s nothing silent about Lucky Charms hitting melmac. Sometimes, that would be my undoing. Other days, I got lucky and made it through.
Then came the most difficult part. I’d take my cereal bowl into the living room and sit crisscross applesauce, arm’s length from the TV. Volume controls were manual dials back then, so I could turn the volume all the way down before I even turned on the TV. Then came another tense moment. Pulling the TV power knob on made a click noise. Then the electronic hum that followed as the TV warmed up. Sometimes that was as far as I got.
Other days, I made it through. Then came the channel. The good news was that there were only three to choose from: 2, 6 and 9, so I stood a 33% chance that the channel was already tuned to the show I wanted to watch. Other days, I was paralyzed by the dilemma. Do I watch something I didn’t want to or risk turning the knob? Eventually, I got very good at stealth channel changing: a tight, full-handed grip with a s-l-o-w turn. The worst days were when the channel was on 2. Channel 6 to 9 and 9 to 6 were a breeze. But switch between channels 2 and 9? I’d just watch Heckle and Jeckle.
Once I made it to the channel I wanted, there was no sense of relief. The volume was still all the way down.
This part was something I couldn’t really control, but I still tried. I would sit, still arm’s length from the TV, and slowly turn up the volume until I could hear it. Watching a show required constant monitoring. Turn the volume up for dialog, down for music and effects. When I did get caught, it was music and effects that got me every time.
Sometimes, I got lucky. There was only a voice, calling my name. I would turn the volume all the way down and wait. Silently. Other times, I would turn the TV off and slink to the kitchen with my cereal bowl and silently – always silently – put it in the sink. Or even better, slip back into my bedroom with the bowl and shut the door. That way, if she actually got up and opened her bedroom door to look in the living room, there would be no evidence I was ever there. Unless she walked over and touched the top of the TV. If it was warm, I was discovered. More often than not, she would just look out and then go back to bed. I would wait for a while and start again.
For as many times as I made it, there were just as many times as I got caught. The consequences? Get into my mom’s bed with her and stay there until she woke up. Which – on Saturdays, never ever happened before noon.
The sun would be streaming through the window and my mom would be asleep next to me. Notice I didn’t say “sound” asleep. The slightest movement on my part would be immediately met with “be still.” In an effort to keep me safe and protected while she slept, she would reach one arm over and gently place her hand on my arm or my leg. The slightest movement on my part would wake her. I literally watched minutes tick by on a clock. Way, way, way too many minutes.
How has this manifested itself in me?
I hate sleep.
Literally. I just don’t like it. When I sleep, I feel like I’m missing stuff. Opportunities. Experiences. Life. Sometimes, I think that the only reason I can sleep at night is because there’s nothing else to do. Everybody else is sleeping, so I might as well get it over with. I don’t often nap. I have to be non-functionally exhausted or sick to intentionally take a nap.
I think this sense of missing out on life is one reason I’m so focused on “real” conversation with people. Why I can’t take too much “surface” talk before I start asking people questions about themselves. Why I crave conversations that make me think, that open my mind to perspectives other than my own.
It’s why I don’t “do nothing” well. I’ve done enough “nothing” to last me the rest of my life.
treadmill. 5% incline. 3.5mph.
Shoulder Coach: “really? that’s all you got?”
Me: “6% incline. are you happy?”
Shoulder Coach: “for now.”
Me: “you’re gonna give me shin splints.”
Shoulder Coach: “your shins hurt?”
Me: “no. not yet.”
Shoulder Coach: “Then quitcherbellyachin”
I met with my writing mentor a just a few months after I began writing my book. She took a few minutes to go over my outline and her first comment was:
“I see more than one book here.”
She said I was trying to stuff everything I wanted to say in one book and it was just too much.
So I spent a few weeks restructuring my single existing book outline into four new outlines – and a few months moving content from my one existing word processing document into an appropriate location within four new documents. At that point, I had the beginnings of four books:
A book on Christian living,
a book on spiritual growth,
a book on Christian relationships
a book on Christian parenting.
(a few months ago, also I outlined a book on Christian conflict resolution)
Sounds so impressive, huh?
More like overwhelming. daunting.
So, I spent the next year or so (off and on – life gets intrusive) writing the book on Christian living. A few months into the process, I got bogged down in the content, took a giant step back and started a new document, making massive changes to the organization. I began copying the content from the old document into the new, with a totally new approach.
I felt like I was starting over.
I continued writing and worked on the Christian living book for months and at this point, I’m more than halfway finished with it.
But in December, I hit a wall.
(And it was early December, nearly a month before my mother’s death, so I didn’t see a connection – maybe God was preparing me, but at that time, I didn’t see it)
Everything I wrote, I either deleted or set aside in a supplemental document named “notes.” More often than not, I didn’t write anything at all, but instead, sat with my fingers hovering over the home keys, staring blankly at the computer screen. After a few frustrating weeks of unproductive effort, I stopped writing altogether.
No idea was good. I was paralyzed. stuck. the dreaded writer’s block.
Then, last week, saturated in the awareness of impending life changes on multiple fronts, I spent some time staring blankly out the window instead of at the computer screen. I prayed a little and listened a LOT, begging God to direct me.
Let me just say right now: “Be careful what you pray for.”
fer cyrin out loud. no wonder.
I’ve been writing the wrong book.
I need to be working on the spiritual growth book first. By writing the book on Christian living, I was putting the cart before the horse. Without a reason for Christian living, what’s the point? There was no foundation. No motivation.
“Christian living” is empty and meaningless on its own.
So I’ve put the Christian living book away. Haven’t opened it in weeks. Yesterday, I finished the draft of the introduction to the spiritual growth book.
I feel like I’m starting over.
fer cryin out loud.
That’s what FavoriteSon is calling it.
I’m trying to consume more calories on a daily basis. Sounds crazy. I know.
But the truth is, left on my own, I forget to eat. (CLICK HERE to read why.)
Case in point? I downloaded the “myfitnesspal” app and have been tracking my calorie intake since Wednesday, February 8th. On that day, my net intake was 820 calories.
820 calories?! I know. NOT good. I had no idea.
I say “net” intake because myfitnesspal calculates the calories expended and factors them in. Since my knee is better, I’m back to exercising every day. (My treadmill readouts actually indicate I’m burning more calories than myfitnesspal says I am, but I’m sticking with myfitnesspal or these numbers would be even worse.)
How did I even discover this? I walked 30 miles in 6 days and didn’t lose an OUNCE. Not ONE ounce.
myfitnesspal described it like this:
“Based on your total calories consumed for today, you are eating too few calories. Not only is it difficult to receive adequate nutrition at these calories levels, but you could also be putting your body into starvation mode. Starvation mode lowers your metabolism and makes weight loss more difficult. We suggest increasing your calorie consumption to 1200 calories per day minimum.”
After I injured my knee on December 2nd, I had to cut back on my exercise and I gained a few pounds. By the end of January, my knee was feeling much better so I set a challenging fitness goal for myself. I wanted to walk an average of a mile a day for the month of January. Problem is, since I didn’t set the goal until January 26th, that meant I had to walk 30 miles in 6 days.
When I didn’t lose even an OUNCE, I knew what my problem was. My brother-in-law,
a fitness trainer had already explained it to me. I just hadn’t been motivated to do anything about it.
Until I had to dig out my fat pants. I couldn’t fit comfortably in my clothes anymore and I had to move up a size in order to breathe when I sat down.
I set that freakish 30 mile goal to jumpstart a little weight loss.
THIRTY MILES and NOTHING? That just ticked me off.
So I downloaded myfitnesspal . . . and a new reminder app. I set multiple alarms on my phone and android tablet to remind me to eat. I already had an app, but its capabilities were too limited.
Here’s how my week played out:
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1351
Exercise: -531 [Walked 3.5 (4.5% incline) miles]
Net Calories: 820
Thursday, I did better:
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1397
Exercise: -289 [Walked 2 (4.5% incline) miles]
Net Calories: 1108
And yes, I did notice that the reason I did better is because I exercised less. That’s not going to be my long term solution to this problem. I need to eat more.
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1588
Exercise: -651 [1 Hour Yoga, Walked 3 (4.5% incline) miles]
Net Calories: 937
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1085
Exercise: -437 [Walked 3 incline miles (2 @ 4.5% incline 1 @ 5% incline]
Net Calories: 648
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1152
Exercise: -367 [Walked 2.5 (4.5% incline) miles]
Net Calories: 785
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1439
Exercise: -123 [1 Hour Yoga]
Net Calories: 1316
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1784
Exercise: -286 [Walked 2 (4.5% incline) miles]
Net Calories: 1498
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1425
Exercise: -593 [1 Hour Yoga, Walked 3 (5% incline) miles]
Net Calories: 832
So how’s it working out? I started a week ago today and I’ve lost 3 pounds.
I realize my days have been pretty inconsistent, but I’m much more aware of my nutrition, so that’s progress! And although I HATE counting calories, myfitnesspal makes it pretty easy. FirstHusband joined too, so we’re tracking together. And the phone alarms are really helping. Hopefully, this new routine will develop into a habit and I won’t have to pay so much attention to all this.
I’m DETERMINED to be a good steward of this body God has blessed me with!
10am alarm just went off. I’m supposed to eat a snack now. bleh. I’ll do it, but bleh.
Yesterday, I went back to yoga for the first time since tearing my MCL on December 2nd. My knee has been feeling pretty good, so I intentionally put on yoga shorts that morning. As the time to leave the house got closer, I debated. I was on a writing roll. If I stopped, I would lose momentum. and the coffee was so good. (Joffrey’s Jamaican Me Crazy)
LazyMe: “I don’t wanna go. I’m comfortable.”
AnnoyingMe: “Come on. After class is over, you’ll be glad you did it.”
AnnoyingMe: “What is it you always say? That you’re ‘striving to be a good steward of the body God has blessed you with?’”
LazyMe: ” It’s early. I’ve got all day. I can be a good steward later.”
AnnoyingMe: “Did you shave your legs for nothing?”
LazyMe: (sigh) “alright. I’m goin.”
Last night, I was really feeling the after-effects of this pose (below).
My whole body hurt – from holding it perfectly still for a total of just a few minutes.
Tonight, I’m feeling it even more.
There’s only one thing to do. Go back tomorrow.
When I published part of my testimony in my last blog post, “I never knew that what I was missing even existed.” I was concerned that some might take it to be a negative “review” of church. I feel like I need to clarify a little bit.
Although it may sound like my experiences in church were stumbling blocks in my spiritual growth, I believe everything I experienced in the churches I attended as I grew up were stepping stones which led me to the place and person I was when abandoned my fear and compartmentalized life in exchange for an intimate relationship with Christ that tends to evidence itself in my life in a transparent, and sometimes vulnerable way.
In 2007, when I read “The Taste of New Wine” by Keith Miller, I believe I was ready to receive the messages in that book. Around that time, I also read The Practice of the Presence of God (free on Amazon & B&N).
(If you’ve been around Compendium before, you know those weren’t the only two books I was reading at the time. When I’m learning something, I collect a stack of books on the subject and saturate myself with information from as many different perspectives as I can find. I take the information that resonates with me, that I can identify with, and it becomes part of me. I discard the rest, sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently.)
When FirstHusband and I began attending a Methodist church 12 years ago, we already had a firm theological foundation and truth be told, we still say we are Baptist when asked, because our beliefs are more in line with Baptist doctrine. We were just trying to learn more about Methodist doctrine when we first began attending. We also believe the Methodist church has Biblical and theological foundation, it was just challenging to follow the bread crumbs. Now we know where to look (Book of Discipline).
When it comes right down to it, we wish the Methodist church were more evangelical. (see? there’s that Baptist showing again.)
But even if we had continued to attend Baptist churches, I think the active, prevalent faith I live out today is something I had to find on my own. I’m so thankful for Keith Miller’s book (and Brother Lawrence’s Practice the Presence) for opening my eyes, mind and heart to the idea that a relationship with Christ could be such an integral part of my life.
My goal now is to try and let others know how an intimate relationship with Christ can become an integral part of their lives, no matter what church they attend – or don’t.
When people asked me if I went to church, I said yes.
As a child, I believed all the Bible stories and I knew where to put every single felt Bible character on the flannel board. I knew all the words to “Now I lay me down to sleep” and “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our fud.” I even knew the sign language to the song “The B-I-B-L-E.” When I did go to Sunday School and we took turns reading aloud from the Bible, I knew to secretly skip ahead to “my” verse and rehearse it in my head so that when it was my turn I wouldn’t sound stupid. My family watched “The Ten Commandments” every Easter season and we never put the baby Jesus in our nativity set until Christmas Eve. I could recite the Lord’s Prayer by heart, could sing the doxology on cue and I even knew how to sing the first verse of Silent Night in German.
This is how I defined being a Christian.
When I was fifteen, I made a commitment to Christ. Looking back, I’m confident my decision was authentic, but I didn’t know how to disciple myself, so spiritual growth was inconsistent and confusing.
As a teenager and young adult trying to learn how to live out my new faith in my every day life, I found myself actively involved in fundamental Baptist churches, believing without question, everything I was told by well meaning teachers and volunteers. There was a lot of emphasis on rules. I began compiling an internal list of things “good” Christians should always do and an even longer list of things “good” Christians should never do.
Questioning religious authority was one of those “never do” things. Unacceptable. Expressed doubt equated to a lack of faith, or worse yet, evidence of sin. You might as well have sewn a big “H” on my forehead for “heretic.” I dared not ask too many questions for fear of landing on someone’s prayer list.
On the “What good Christians always do” list? All good Christians had quiet times and quiet time included Bible reading, note taking and prayer. Prayer was formulaic: the five finger method, the ACTS method. . . praying on our own was never encouraged – we might leave something out or our prayers might be too selfish. And quiet times were supposed to be first thing in the morning, preferably before sunrise.
I was consistently not a “good” Christian.
After over a decade of serving in and faithfully attending Baptist churches, my husband I walked away from the fundamental legalism – and ran from the unaccountable theocracy so prevalent in its leadership. After searching for a church for nearly 8 months, we found ourselves attending a Methodist church whose “Open minds, Open hearts, Open doors” motto meant that the answer to every theological question began with the precursor “It’s a matter of interpretation…” We found that for nearly every “set in stone” doctrinal stand the Baptist church had taken, there was a parallel “set in sand” interpretation by the Methodist church. The emphasis was on service. service. and more service. acceptance. tolerance. and more service.
Sure, I prayed. I read my Bible. I even had a prayer journal that I wrote in occasionally. I thanked God for His blessings nearly every day, asked Him for help when I needed something and engaged in the Christian “WHYne” when something bad happened in my life. I taught my kids a full CD of Bible songs, bought them Veggie Tale movies and prayed with them at the dinner table and every night as we tucked them in bed. We had family devotional books and we actually used them at bedtime and on the Sundays we skipped church. Sometimes. I was a moral person, a “good” person. When I didn’t get charged for an item at a store, I would go back inside to pay for it. Even in Christmas season when that meant waiting in line a second time. I was honest, I did good deeds, I sang solos in church and even had occasional stints attending Sunday School and Wednesday night services. I thanked God for good parking spaces and I laid fleeces for “big” decisions, not realizing that a fleece was really a big dice I was tossing in a desperate lack of faith.
But as a young married woman,
trying to learn how to relate to this guy I promised to love and live with for the rest of my life,
trying to raise responsible, happy kids who knew and loved God
trying to build a business while waiting for that moment when everyone figured out I had no idea what I was doing,
trying to fit in at church by appearing to be the person other people expected me to be,
I had compartmentalized my life, my time and even my thoughts. It was almost as if I were different people: a wife, a mother, a home manager, an entrepreneur, and church member. Not that each of those personas in my life were so vastly different from each other, it’s just that they didn’t overlap. I take that back. My home and work life overlapped. My home and church life overlapped. But my work and church life? NEVER. Church was religion and religion had no place in my work life. At least no comfortable place.
And notice I didn’t include “Christian” in that list. I said “church member.”
To make a 25 year story short, in October of 2007, I ended up with a worn copy of a book written in 1965 entitled “The Taste of New Wine” by Keith Miller and I discovered what I had been missing since the moment I accepted Christ.
I never knew that what I was missing even existed.
I realized it was possible to have an intimate, personal relationship with a living God. The kind of relationship that saturates my life, my days and my moments, regardless of where I am or who I’m with. A presence of God I’m so acutely aware of that I feel like I’m never alone. The kind of faith I can live out every day and not compromise in some cowardly attempt to make other people more comfortable. The kind of faith that leads me to intuitively consider people and situations from a bigger perspective than from my own skewed and limited vantage point. The kind of faith that has planted in me a desire to do everything I do “as unto the Lord” even when it’s as boring as loading the dishwasher or as unpleasant as interacting with a passive aggressive person. This authentic relationship doesn’t have much to do with church or religion. It’s much more intimate.
I was surprised to discover that when I began living out my faith, without condemnation of others who think and believe differently, they weren’t offended by my honesty. When they realized our differences didn’t freak me out or compel me to immediately and aggressively try and change their mind, it opened dialogs I never thought possible. I’ve been honored by the trust people have placed in me as they talk about their lives, their struggles and their faith – or lack of it. I don’t betray that trust. More and more, I find myself risking being rejected or ostracized by just being myself. I’m tearing down the walls of my compartmentalized personas and rebuilding on a foundational commitment to God that remains constant and crosses over into all areas of my life.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that Keith Miller’s book, The Taste of New Wine, was the impetus for this life changing shift in my thoughts and actions. Through his authentic and vulnerable account of how God worked in his life to bring him to an authentic and bold faith, Keith taught me what living out my faith could look like in my own life. I learned it was possible to extend unconditional grace and never compromise my beliefs to make myself or others more comfortable. I learned that I could serve God every day as a missionary in my vocation and in the secular world, not just in the safety and comfort of my home and in the church where talk of God is accepted and expected.
The Taste of New Wine was one of those books that I couldn’t put down until I was finished. It’s one of those books that I can’t stop living until I’m finished.
Finished living, that is.
Keith Miller died of cancer on January 22, 2012 at the age of 84.
I always did.
Monday was the mother of all starting lines. THE day to begin.
Everybody knows it’s better to start a new fitness plan on a Monday.
Even experts agree:
“We think of Monday as the January of the week. It’s a call to action built into every calendar, giving you 52 chances for success.” says Sid Lerner, founder and chairman of The Monday Campaigns, a nonprofit initiative in association with Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Syracuse Universities.
I know what I always told myself on Friday nights:
“It was a long, hard week and I deserve to take the night (and day, and night again) off.”
“It’s too hard to start on a weekend, too many other (presumably fun) things to do.”
“We’re going out and it’s too hard to eat right when we eat out.”
“I deserve this glass (or three) of wine.”
“I deserve this plate of nachos.”
“I deserve to chill out at watch TV.”
“I deserve to …
What a load of hooey. Yes, I said “hooey.”
I did NOT deserve to weigh 210 pounds. I did NOT deserve to get winded trying to play with my kids. Well. Actually, the way I was eating and taking care of my body, I did deserve it.
Because those are the lousy excuses and rationalizations I used when I had the mentality that says fitness is a goal to be achieved. Something I did for a period of time until I got to a certain weight or size. When I was finished, I could go back to my “normal” life of thoughtless eating and neglecting my body.
But if I’m striving to be a good steward of the body God has blessed me with, THERE IS NO FINISH LINE.
I’ve gone through different stages since I began incorporating fitness into daily life. Sometimes I focus on strength training – I’ve gone to a gym, I’ve gone to local fitness trails and now I work out at home. For a few years I worked with a personal trainer two to three times per week. Before I tore my MCL and strained my ACL in December, I was doing yoga and I loved it so much I know I’m going back. But my constant -through injury and weather and lapses in motivation – has always been walking, sometimes outside, sometimes on a treadmill with an incline.
How do YOU incorporate fitness into your everyday life? If you currently don’t, here’s the thing. You don’t need to buy a gym membership. You don’t have to buy the PX90 or Shred DVDs and spend every minute “hating it” as I read on another blog last week. You don’t need to buy a BowFlex or turn your extra bedroom or garage into a home gym.
Before you spend a lot of money on the accoutrements needed to accommodate your latest exercise plan, I’ll give you the same advice I gave my sister: “Find out if you are ready for the commitment. Tests have shown it takes 21 days to make a habit. Do 10 pushups a day for 21 days. You don’t have to do them all in a row, break them up if you can’t get through the full 10. Do modified pushups on your knees if you’re a beginner. IF, after three weeks, you’ve discovered that you made it, THEN think about throwing money at this problem.
In the meantime, consider this: The SINGLE BEST thing we can do for our health only requires one thing: a good pair of shoes. I’m amazed at the measured significant improvement seen in SO many areas of our health!! Check out the statistics in this video! Short, but PACKED with info!
Here’s the deal. I don’t have to exercise every day for the rest of my life. I need to do it TODAY.
And tomorrow, I’m going to tell myself the same thing.
One day at a time. One step at a time.
I’m sure I walked more than a mile during the first few weeks of January, but since I didn’t log any fitness, it wasn’t fair to count more than I could be sure of. Then, despite my goal to log 30 miles by walking 5 miles a day in the last 6 days of the month to “average” a mile a day for the month, I found everything to do yesterday except get on the treadmill.
Today, I put off the treadmill all. day.
And let me tell you, I did NOT want to put on my walking shoes. I did NOT want to get on this treadmill. I would rather be sitting in the sauna RIGHT NOW. But I made a commitment to God to be a good steward of the body He has blessed me with. I would rather walk outside at leisurely pace on the flat ground than 3mph at a 4% incline, but I made commitment to myself to average at least a mile a day and if I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna increase my heart rate and SWEAT. I put my goal out there on the internet because accountability makes me stronger.
So I’m faced with a decision. How many miles am I going to walk today, tomorrow and Tuesday?
We’ll find out in three days, but I’ll tell you this, the decision is NOT going to be influenced by how tired I am. I’m still on the treadmill as I type this and so far, I’ve walked 4.25 miles. I’m tired, but I’m not hurting, so I’m not quitting.
The day’s not over.