The anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete*

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability-and that it may take a very long time. 

And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually-let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow. 

Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you. And accept *the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Here are words for the season where you know God is doing something, you are just not sure what.

Words for the season where you feel like you only hear “no” and “not yet.”

Words for the season where you may not be able to see the hand of God working. Where the pain and “the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete” feel overwhelming.

Words for the season where there seem to be so many possibilities, great possibilities to life, you are overwhelmed with them.

Words for the season where you feel like you are doing nothing but growing.

Words to trust in. To trust the often slow work of God. To trust in the hope that our masterpiece is constantly being created, we are not a work that is done yet. To know that even though the world is a broken place, God can work, redeem and bless in the middle of the pain caused by the brokenness.

Here are words for the season where you just have to take the next right step. Where you have to be faithful to be open, grow and take opportunities as they come with a lot of waiting in between the steps.

 

WAL Weekly – October 26, 2017

“There are the saints of every day, the ‘hidden’ saints, a sort of ‘middle class of holiness’….to which we all belong.”

– A little All Saints Day inspiration with a quote attributed to Pope Frances

Planning for Replenishment: A Guide to Creating Your Own Self-Care Strategy

This one will cost you a little (7.50) but it is a twenty-four page self help guide to creating a self-care strategy for yourself.

Top 10 Gifts I Want in the Hospital 

Despite the renovated hallways and determinedly cheerful lobby pianist playing “Wind Beneath My Wings,” the hospital is not always the place I want to be. The best way to comfort someone in the hospital is (spoiler alert) not a teddy bear from the gift shop with HUGS embroidered on its fuzzy abdomen.

Spending days in a hospital bed can be uncomfortable and downright miserable. Little gestures that make me feel more human and connected to the outside world go a long way to making the experience a little easier.

Want to be an Awesome Hospital VisitorFriend™? Sneak one of these ten things through security.

Almost Everyone Needs a Public Portfolio

Even if you’re not a freelancer or a “creative,” you’ll probably benefit from a page that lays out your accomplishments, and not just your work history. If you ever want to give a talk, get quoted in an article, work a side hustle, start your own business, or just get a job offer, then you need a public portfolio.

Address the Bare Minimum

Try this experiment. Ask a friend to do a quick Google search for your greatest work accomplishments, and your contact info, from scratch. If they can’t find both in thirty seconds, you have a problem to fix.

4 Times TV Got Church Right (2 Times it Got it Wrong)

In the golden age of TV we’re currently in, no topic is too taboo to tackle and to dramatize.

That includes religion.

Here’s a look at four different times television shows offered thoughtful commentary about the church and the state of Christian—and two times they completely missed the mark.

Overwhelming Puzzles, Sincere Pumpkin Patches and Grieving Pasts

Yesterday I preached at a church where I served twenty-two years ago as their summer youth worker. It was through a program called Youth Corps that paired college students with small, usually rural churches for a summer of service. The church gave the worker housing and half of the small salary and the state convention paid the other half. If you talk to folks in Baptist churches in North Carolina, ministers and lay people, it is overwhelming how many of them served in Youth Corps!

I showed up as an eighteen year old (turning nineteen a couple weeks later) with no idea what I was doing with the confidence only an eighteen year old can have. I worked with the children, youth and senior adults in the church. The people and families of this church hold a special place in my heart and yesterday, I preached their homecoming service.

Returning to this home from my past led me to do a lot of reflection. I could not help but think back to that eighteen year old and the way she thought her life would unfold. Here’s a hint, it did not resemble much of the life I am now living. And while the truth is, I would not have it any other way, grief bubbles up for the lives I thought would be mine.

In college and into my early twenties, I thought of my future like a jigsaw puzzle. One of those really big ones with lots of little pieces. I felt like I had to sit down at the puzzle and figure out which one went where. There were extra pieces. There were pieces that might be able to fit if I pushed hard enough and made it work but it was my responsibility to figure out which ones God intended to go together to create the perfect picture. (I now just get exhausted reading that last sentence) The perfect future, because there was just one perfect future for me at that time. I did not know what it looked like, though I had some strong ideas, but I was terribly afraid of getting it wrong. I was told that you had to guard yourself against wanting “less than God’s best.”

great-pumpkin-linus

Remember in It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, Linus is looking for the most sincere pumpkin patch around. The Great Pumpkin will visit the most sincere pumpkin patch and he is sitting there waiting for the visit. I have learned that God’s plan or God’s will does not unfold as I struggle to figure out which puzzle piece fits perfectly to create one perfect picture. Instead, God shows up in lots of small ways when I have a sincere heart. Like the sincere pumpkin patch, when I am still, when I am sincere in my desire for God’s will in my life, God reveals the next right thing to do. I’ve also learned that I do not believe in one complete picture that when I get one piece out of place, the whole thing falls apart. I think that would make God pretty cruel and I’ve learned to see that God has more grace that I gave God credit for earlier on.

My life has not turned out the way I would have imagined but I would not have wanted it any other way. I really cannot look back over my life, at the major decisions I have made, and find something I would change. Some seasons have been hard but God has used each one, has redeemed them for a purpose. However, it does not mean that I do not find myself grieving those other lives. Those other lives that included marrying young, having a family young, taking other jobs, moving to other locations, getting a different education. Sometimes I grieve the lives that I did not choose or the circumstances that did not choose me.

Does any of that sound familiar to you? We have to give ourselves space to grieve what could have been. It is done with a knowledge that those lives would not have been perfect either. It can be done even knowing you would not go back and change a thing but their is still somehow grief. And with a grief, there is a letting go. It gives space for a release that allows us to move forward.

I just got an email with a profound quote. It was trying to sell me something but it is still powerful, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” That may be a little over-stated but when you visit that grief, are their pieces of those other lives that fit where you are now.? Are their children that could be adopted or loved like they were your own? Is their a degree or training? Is their a change in your career path? Is there some place you always wanted to travel? Something you’ve always wanted to learn how to do?

We do just get one shot at this life. My advice would be to get up from the table that has that huge, confusing puzzle in front of you. Go sit in a pumpkin patch with a sincere heart and listen. And if you find yourself down the path of life a little more, ask yourself what was on those other paths that you could still add to the one you are on? Lean into the grief. Feel it….and then let it go and keep doing the next right thing.

W.A.L. Weekly October 19, 2017

Co-working and co-living spaces are a new trend. As more people do not choose a traditional path for their life and work, new opportunities for working and living with others have been created. Check out Roam Coliving to learn more about how they are connecting people around the world. I know nothing about this company other than finding them on the internet and being fascinated by their concept. I think this could provide some creative ideas for people of faith looking to create community in different ways or for those of you who want to live out your calling in this world literally moving around the world.

Not so long ago, nobody met a partner online. Then, in the 1990s, came the first dating websites.

Match.com went live in 1995. A new wave of dating websites, such as OKCupid, emerged in the early 2000s. And the 2012 arrival of Tinder changed dating even further. Today, more than one-third of marriages start online.

Clearly, these sites have had a huge impact on dating behavior. But now the first evidence is emerging that their effect is much more profound.

A surprisingly poetic description of social-anxiety disorder can be found in the DSM — that is, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, sometimes referred to as psychiatry’s “bible”: It’s an “illness of lost opportunities.” Much has been said about the trendiness of boasting online about your reclusive tendencies — about your relief over canceled plans, or your belief that “staying in is the new going out.” Everyone needs to retreat from the world from time to time, but for some, a tendency to avoid social situations can become debilitating.

Shortly before our wedding, someone gave me and my husband this advice: “Marriage is good. It’s hard—and sometimes you’ll want out, but it’s worth it.” I remember thinking that was an odd thing to say to a couple about to get married. It seemed like such a bleak view of marriage.

Since then, I’ve heard plenty of other people say similar things to engaged and newlywed couples. I’ve heard pastors say it during weddings. I’ve heard parents say it at receptions. I’ve heard couples say it within a year of their own weddings. I’ve seen marriage books, blog posts, magazine articles and anniversary posts on social media say it: Marriage is hard.

Introversion, thanks largely to Susan Cain’s 2012 best seller Quiet, is having something of a cultural moment. Once a mostly misunderstood personality trait — and often considered a behavioral defect when it was considered at all — it’s now the subject of countless other books and online listicles (and, more recently, parodies of listicles). And as more regular, non-scientist types started to talk about introversion, psychologist Jonathan Cheek began to notice something: The way many introverts defined the trait was different from the way he and most of his academic colleagues did.

“Paint Your Ox”*

“i notice everything i do not have

and decide it is beautiful”
– rupi kaur

 

The words of this poem have been haunting me all week. Their truth has pierced me as I’ve found myself, for no good reason, being extremely unkind to myself lately. I sat on a different bicycle in my cycle class this week that had a different view from what I normally see of myself. Instead of seeing the strong body that has lost 39.5 pounds since mid May, I saw all the parts of me that were moving around that I wanted to be gone!

Why is it that I do not attribute beauty to so many of my own qualities?

And this is not just a beauty problem. It runs pervasive in our culture. We are so used to seeing the world through our unique perspective, offering our gifts and strengths into the world, that we no longer see them as strengths. They seem common to us. The really good qualities, the strong qualities, the intelligent qualities are those possessed by others.

I work with people using personality assessments to write their resumes. Over and over again people spend more of their energy trying to hide what they see as negative. I’m not a detail oriented person and so that must be what they want and so I spend lots of energy proving that I am a detail oriented person. This only gets you a job that is not a good fit for you.

Just because you possess a trait, have a certain quality, possess a certain perspective does not immediately mean that it is common. We have to stop spending more time working to improve the things we do not see as valuable, the things we see as a deficit, and spend more time improving, growing and embracing what we do have to offer the world.

In her book, Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert tells the following story:

“I once encountered a man in India who owned nothing of value but an ox. The ox had two handsome horns. In order to celebrate his ox, the man had painted one of the horns hot pink and the other turquoise blue. He then glued little bells to the tips of each horn, so that when the ox shook its head, its flash pink and blue horns made a cheerful tinkling sound. 

This hardworking and financially stressed man had only one valuable possession, but he had embellished it to the max, using whatever materials he could get his hands on-a bit of house paint, a touch of glue, and some bells. As a result of his creativity, he now possessed the most interesting looking ox in town. For what? Just because. Because a decorated ox is better than a non-decorated ox, obviously!” (p. 157 *which is also where the title for this post was taken)

We all have an ox, we just have to figure out what it is and know how to paint it. We have to stop naming traits beautiful, intelligent, important just because we do not possess them.

  • Find someone who can speak honestly about your strengths. Take a personality assessment, ask for a job evaluation, etc. Name your ox.
  • Find out how to best paint it. Work with a coach to develop your strengths, to name and claim what it is you have to offer and what you value in the world. Seek out leadership development opportunities and experiences to develop your strengths. Clearly name what kind of work, what kind of opportunities, what kind of relationships are the best fit and work to make those the reality in your life.

Now, stop being so critical at the image in the mirror, in the negative comments of others and get busy painting that ox.

W.A.L. Weekly October 12, 2017

“There is a famous question that shows up, it seems, in every single self-help book every written: What would you do if you knew that you could not fail?

But I’ve always seen it differently. I think the fiercest question of all is this one: What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?

What do you love doing so much that the words failure and success essentially become irrelevant?

What do you love even more than you love your own ego?

How fierce is your trust in that love?” – Elizabeth Gilbert,  Big Magic

  1. Up First
    I have come to rely on this quick news source almost every month. This podcast, produced by NPR, gives you the headlines from around the world in about fifteen minutes. Perfect dog walking time. I have found it to be global, not just focusing on the United States, and to include quick interviews with reporters from around the world who are experiencing things first hand.

2. The New Midlife Crisis

 The complaints of well-educated, middle- and upper-middle class women are easy to dismiss as temporary, or not really a crisis, or #FirstWorldProblems. America, in the grand scheme of things, is still a rich, relatively safe country. (Syrian refugees do not have the luxury of waking up in the middle of the night worried about credit card bills.) Although many women are trying to make it on minimum-wage, split-shift jobs (and arguably don’t have so much a midlife crisis as an ongoing crisis), women overall are closing the wage gap. Men do more at home. We deal with less sexism than our mothers and grandmothers, and have far more opportunities. Insert your Reason Why We Don’t Deserve to Feel Lousy here.

Fine. Let’s agree that this particular slice of Generation X women shouldn’t feel bad. And yet, many do: Nearly 60 percent of Gen Xers describe themselves as stressed out. A 2009 analysis of General Social Survey data showed that women’s happiness “declined both absolutely and relative to men” from the early ’70s to the mid-2000s. More than one in five women are on antidepressants. An awful lot of middle-aged women are furious and overwhelmed. What we don’t talk about enough is how the deck is stacked against them feeling any other way.

3. A Simple Way to Take Your Relationships Up a Notch

Five to one: According to one of the most prominent social scientists in the field of romantic relationships, John Gottman, that’s the ratio of positive to negative interactions in stable relationships. Couples were significantly less likely to get a divorce when they had about five positive interactions for every negative interaction they had.

How does that ratio compare with your own relationships, romantic and otherwise? More specifically, how often do you put conscious effort into fostering positive interactions? How often do you tell people when you’re enjoying something they’re doing, or when they’ve made you happy, or when you’re feeling appreciative of them? It’s easy to save up all your gratitude and positive feedback for their next birthday card or for Thanksgiving, but you have so many more opportunities than that to get closer to someone, and all it takes is sharing your positive feelings about them in real time.

4. Massive New Study Shows White Christians in Sharp Decline in the U.S.

In what’s being heralded as the “largest survey of American religious and denominational identity” ever conducted, PRRI found that historic shifts have taken place in the nation’s religious identity over the past few years, and suggests that the coming years are going to look very different for its religious landscape.

White Christians, who comprised 80 percent of the country just four decades ago, now make up just 43 percent of the U.S. In 2006, white Protestants accounted for nearly a full quarter of the American population. Today, they make up just 17 percent. Black protestants, in the meantime, make up abut 8 percent of the country, and have generally been holding at a much steadier rate than white Christians have.

 

What Is Most Important?

I have a chalkboard in the front hallway of my house and on it I write little sayings, inspirations, words, questions, mantras that I need to focus on and remember. Right now, it still has the words I wrote this summer as I began working to lose weight and eating healthier, “This is not apple fritter season.” On my birthday in June I discovered a local bakery that made gluten free doughnuts and apple fritter pastries. I haven’t had an apple fritter with their fried, crunchy edges in seven years since going gluten free and it was heaven. As I fought to make healthy decisions, I could almost taste the crunchy goodness and I had to fight myself from giving in to paying them a visit. I just said to myself one day, right out loud because you know I talk to myself at home, “This is not apple fritter season.” My health was the most important thing at that moment and I knew I had to be singularly focused on that as I began this journey. That was most important.

We make decisions everyday about what is most important whether we do so intentionally or not.

–  Is saving or enjoying a vacation most important?
– Is spending time with family and friends most important?
– Is exercise and eating healthy even when things get stressful most important?
– Is advancing my career or staying in the same city most important?

Daily Decide What Is Most Important

Each morning, or perhaps at the beginning of the week use the “What Is Most Important?” question to frame your day. Use it to guide your schedule making, guide your meal planning, guide your spending plan. When you make a conscious decision about what is most important it is easier to keep your priorities when life happens.

With each yes you make, there will have to be a no. With everything you choose, you have to let something go. These may be priorities, something on your to do list, even a value that you still honor but decide something else has greater value now. My sister sent me a meme once that said, “You can’t be who you are going to be and who you used to be at the same time.”

It may be that today being able to go with the flow, have enough energy to make it through the day, start new work, spend time with friends, etc is more important than making it to that exercise class, eating 1000 calories or going for a run.

It may be that today you look at your to do list and decide that something is going to have to take a back seat. One work project is just more important that another.

Whatever it is, once you have set your intention, you can do your best to build your life, day, schedule around it to make it happen.

Seasonally Decide What Is Most Important

When you spend energy to decide every day what is most important, you are able to occasionally take a thirty thousand foot view of your choices. Sometimes the decisions we make in the moment when we feel like we are just trying to dog paddle through life, are not the decisions we need to make for a sustaining future.

Things have gone unsaid, conflicts have been avoided because we decided it was most important to keep the peace for that day.

We have spent too much and realize that we have to save for the future.

We have closed others out in order to have control of our lives and realize in the bigger picture, we need relationships.

We have avoided making career changes, tough decisions about work or avoided more education because it seemed too complicated at the time.

When you’ve made a conscious decision about what is most important on a smaller size, you are able to make an intentional decision that best serves what is most important for your future. You can change course at any time because you are clear about the course you are on now.

Practical Steps

  1. Look at your next week, look at tomorrow and decide for yourself what is most important? What has to happen? What do you need to say no to? What will be your priority? What will it take to make that happen? Write it in your calendar, or your bathroom mirror, or on a post-it you can place somewhere as a reminder. Do everything in your power to honor your priorities.
  2. Ask yourself what is most important for the next month? What is most important for the next six months? The next year? Write it in your calendar, or your bathroom mirror, or on a post-it you can place somewhere as a reminder.
  3. Set a time on your calendar, write a reminder, to take a long view back at the end of the next month about what is most important at that point? How did you do with your priorities? Have your priorities been skewed in an unhealthy manner? Is there something you can do to create change at this moment? To change your direction? Are you honoring what you say is most important? As you look at your six months, one year and beyond goals, do they need to shift?

 

Here’s to knowing there will be seasons for apple fritters, but being clear about what is most important right now.