Monday Encouragement: Move Forward

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Happy Monday!!

 

How are you?!? As this Monday rolls around I’m on a very short, but MUCH NEEDED spot of holiday, so I’m remarkably well for a Monday!

I mentioned a while ago a splendid little book by Brene Brown called The Gifts of Imperfection.

In it I found the most delightful quote, by artist Terri St. Cloud:

“She could never go back and make some of the details pretty. All she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful.” 

What a splendid perspective!!

I don’t have a lot of regrets, and they don’t plague me all the time thank God, but neither am I completely lacking in them.

And I have my moments of heartbreak over some of the messy ‘details’ that I can never replace with better decisions …  different choices… kinder words… more positive outcomes.

What a fabulous reminder this quote is that the whole is something far beyond its parts! A stained glass window is certainly a far cry from the shards that form it.

If I, you, any of us, continue to move forward, the whole can be a tapestry of true beauty, even with the occasional worn, bent, or even shattered part woven into it.

Sounds good to ME! 

 

Be well. 

 

More of Terri St. Cloud’s work and intriguing thoughts can be found at http://www.bonesigharts.com 

 

 

I will if you will update

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Since I didn’t get much response on my offer to create an online campaign that would let folks track the number of people committed to voting for their preferred third party candidate, since Bernie Sanders refuses to be an option, and since online campaigning is DEFINITELY not my strong suit, I’ll put that aside as not the right investment of my time.

Not that I’m not still dedicated to changing the society I live in, especially the political system that has become a corporate version of our worst big-autocratic-government fears.

It’s just that I have to choose my battles, and I know my capacities pretty well. And a massive online campaign, while something I COULD do, if necessary and with adequate support, is not my ideal environment.

Which still leaves me with the election year question of Where do I go from here?

I certainly will not vote for Donald Trump.

And I don’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton.

I understand the fears of many, including my main man Bernie, that to vote outside The Two Party is risky.

And I certainly won’t just sit this one out and refuse to vote; that is far too precious a right to waste, even in this rigged system. (I did find this article nicely thought provoking. Not the right choice for ME at this time, but it’s a viable choice and I certainly agree that there are times when it may be the only way to vote one’s conscience.)

While I agree with Bernie that we need to focus far more attention on the NON presidential elections, and I’ll be doing a much better job of that henceforth, that is a big job, and I have only a limited capacity to do it, since I only live in one state, county, and municipality at a time, and have only so much cash with which to support campaigns.

So where DO I go from here? 

I happened into a very helpful article at just about this point in the quandary.

I tend to get all uptight about the election and think of it in terms of the fate of the world for the rest of eternity. And, yes, there ARE important, long term considerations at stake here, so it’s not that I shouldn’t be concerned.

But Ms. Funes’ article reminds me to have perspective, and not just the long-range-end-of-the-world perspective. Sometimes the smaller picture makes things more clear.

Yes, this election will have significant consequences. However, we’ll probably survive even the worst of the consequences of this election. And one bad president will not change the whole country. Nor one good one, for that matter.

Does that mean I’ll vote my conscience instead of taking the ‘safe’ choice?

I’m still not sure yet.

But it does mean I’ll calm the heck down a bit as I consider it.

And it means that whether I vote for the lesser of evils or not, I’ll do so with an eye toward my responsibilities AFTER that vote:

  • If Ms. Clinton wins, I am obligated to hold her to account for the public statements she has been coerced into by Bernie Sanders and his supporters.
  • If Mr. Trump wins, I am obligated to express my views as a voter  and work with the WHOLE of the US government structure to encourage him to support what I feel is right, and discourage him from making costly errors.
  • As a Christian, of course, I’m obligated to pray for either of them, AND for the work of Congress. I’m obligated to remember that God still has it all in hand. And I’m obligated to God’s commands on citizenship.

And as Bernie has reminded me, I’m responsible to look both beyond the Presidency, and beyond this, and any other election.

My government is a complex organism, and only by viewing it as a whole, and focusing on that whole, can I collaborate with the other citizens of my country to reform and restore it.

Monday Encouragement: Stars

Happy Monday!!!

How is everyone?!?

I’m pretty well. All weeks are a little surreal these days, but at least this last one ended with less chaos it started with.

In the midst of the oddness, my beloved Skillet has once again written an album perfect for my life. I am loving the whole thing, but this week I find Stars especially encouraging.

And perfect for facing Monday!

 

One of the, er, special blessings… of having most of my world shift at once has been the sort of ‘put up or shut up’ testing of my recently rebuilt faith.

I’m not saying I’ve quite enjoyed it, but it honestly IS a blessing, because I need to know whether my faith is truly recovered, whether I really will be able to withstand, if things get really bad.

And so far, I feel pretty confident. Every day is a bit of a roller coaster, but more often than not I find I can return my mind, my trust to the One I need to be centred on.

That you,  Skillet, for a timely reminder!

 

Be well. 

 

Yes. … And No.

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I have a colleague, Doug, who frequently replies to pleas for his agreement with “Well, yes…. And no.”

Often this is greeted by a chorus of groans. Especially when the agreement he’s being asked for is one side or the other’s proposed solution to an argument we’ve been having for far too long in our sleep-deprived and jet-lagged state.

But I find it delightful!

Doug is a scholar. A thinker. He doesn’t talk a lot in meetings, but usually what he has to say is powerful, so when he does speak the room tends to go kind of quiet with everybody listening.

After the groans subside Doug carefully outlines the ‘Yes’, fielding questions, and sounding out any new information.

Then he carefully outlines the ‘No’ in the same way.

And I always benefit from the reminder that there is very seldom a 100% yes or 100% no answer to a complex problem.

Doug’s approach reminds me to look at the argument in 360 degrees to see it more clearly.

It reminds me that those 360 degrees are the only way to see it clearly.

Take for example, reducing abortion in the United States: If I oppose abortion, I should only vote for staunch conservatives, right?

Well, yes. …. and no.

Yes, if I vote for conservatives they are probably going to verbally agree with my views on abortion, and those liberals certainly are not. They may also appoint Supreme Court Justices who are more likely to oppose abortion, and will also probably oppose pro-abortion legislation.

On the other hand though, they will probably vote to cut funding for education, health care, and parental leave, and will focus more attention on the rights of the rich than the wages and benefits of the average worker.

Yet access to education and healthcare, escaping poverty, and parents being able to devote adequate time and energy to raising and attending to their children are all protective against abortion.

So the ‘yes’ doesn’t necessarily have ‘yes’ results, and the ‘no’ sometimes does!

In this season of ten thousand pressing decisions – finding a new job, maybe a new career, voting  for a new president, finding a new place to live – I’m trying to keep focused on the biggest picture.

So I’m grateful for the yes, AND the no, because together they hold far more truth than my narrow first impression.

Monday Encouragement … say no

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My favourite encouragement this week was one of TobyMac’s delightful SpeakLife posts:

You can be a good person with a kind heart and still say no. 

If you are anything like me, this is completely obvious, but I’ve learned there are many, many, MANY people who are NOT like me! And they run themselves ragged trying to be good, kind hearted people without ever benefitting from the invaluable blessing of NO.

In my case, NO is the only hope I have of being good or kind with any regularity.

Chronic exhaustion and overwhelm lead, inevitably, to resentment and eventually to breakdown. Healthy boundaries, on the other hand, allow for recharge, regeneration, of all the things that keep us healthy, stable, and loving.

NO is the single most important key I’ve found to healthy boundaries. Therefore NO is a thing of beauty in my eyes.

I may not always love it when your NO happens to compete with my whim, but you know what? I’d rather have your heartfelt NO than either your slow building resentment, or a false YES that is going to leave me in the lurch later on.

I’d also rather have your heartfelt NO protecting your soul from too much wear. From spending yourself on trivia rather than investing yourself in what matters most.

And I while I tend to value the fact that NO protects the giver from too much responsibility, it also protects the receiver from too little responsibility. Both protections are gifts. Both are necessary.

NO is the only way to ensure there will be time, energy, money, sanity enough left over to embrace the important YES around the next corner.

 

BE WELL. 

Pray more than you worry

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“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Phil 4:6 The Message

I don’t know about you, but when I come upon this verse I usually think “YEAH!! Of course!” 

Then I come upon a crisis

and think

“How do I fix this?”

“How will I manage this AND that other?”

“And why is this my problem anyway???”

“Why can’t they ever…. ?”

“Must they always…?”

“And on my LAST nerve, too!”

Alas.

But one subtle blessing of crisis is it presents those … refreshing … occasions of ‘I have no choice, I’ve tried everything else.

On my best days (too frequently arriving days or weeks into my response to the crisis) this causes me to slow down and evaluate things more carefully.

And when I slow down, first, I remember. Then, I am reminded.

I remember: If God IS, and is all he says he is, he probably knows what he’s talking about. If he’s the designer, he knows how I function, and he knows how this situation functions, best. Being TRUTH, he’s also unlikely to give me meaningless platitudes to make me feel better, you know?

And I remember: all the research showing that worry is a toxic chemical spill that saps our health, our strength, and even our capacity for clear, creative, sensible thought.  All the research showing that prayer, mindfulness, meditation –  the things encompassed in this verse – provide healing, focus … that they reduce stress, increase creativity, create space for sound judgement to enter in.

Apparently God DOES know what he’s talking about!

And I’m reminded: Of the times when I HAVE done this right. Of how much better those occasions have gone. Of how often I’ve received direction and even blessing in response to bringing a crisis to God instead of to Panic. Of the simple fact that I seldom DO think at my absolute best when I’m freaking out!

And of peace.

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray… 

This passage doesn’t say not to have things to worry about, not to have troubles.

It also isn’t the kind-but-meaningless admonition I am prone to reduce it to. I’ve come to suspect it’s a simple statement of correct function: DON’T do that thing; DO this thing.

And since worry and prayer require the exact same investment of energy, and time, how bad an idea can it be to try the one that is Manufacturer recommended, versus the one I know, from long experience, won’t help?

Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns… 

I’ve got the ‘petitions’ piece pretty well nailed. Not as a first resort, perhaps, but I eventually get around to ‘Please, please, please! Fix this! Stop this! Change this! PLEASE?!?!?’

God is well versed in my concerns.

It took me quite some time, though, to SEE that other bit: praises.

Oh. Yeah. God is still worthy of praise even when I don’t like my ‘now’.

And God inhabits the praise of his people. Now, I don’t fully understand that choice, but it’s his, so wouldn’t it make sense to obey the command that brings him nearest my trial?

Over and over again in scripture, God’s power is released through praise. Not my business why, but it makes some sense to be praising him when I most need some power.

Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down… 

And of course, this is the part I don’t REALLY believe, isn’t it?

If I REALLY expected a sense of wholeness, comprehension of everything coming together for good … if I really expected ANYTHING to come and settle me down, the clear path God lays out here would be my first resort wouldn’t it? Every time!

But I forget. I try 30 things that don’t work before giving in to The Manufacturer’s recommended maintenance. Why?

Why don’t I believe that he’s got this covered? Why do I think he can’t swing THIS ONE for good? It’s too big, to scary, too crushing, too awful?

For God ?!?

Clearly I haven’t mastered this one. I have NO IDEA why.

What I can say is when I have followed this guidance, it’s proved true.  And having just begun following it again, I’m finding it proved true again.

I suspect I shall always find it so.

It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life…

And isn’t this the point? What I’m focusing all my attention on is going to determine the direction I travel.  A mountain biker in my church gives this instruction: Don’t look where you don’t want to go. 

It’s no different in traveling through crisis. I know FOR SURE where I don’t want to be! I DO NOT want to be right here.  But if that is all I am looking at where am I going to go? That is what worry yields.

But if better understanding God, and following his simple, reasonable instructions: “Pray. Praise. TRUST.” and plain and simply CHRIST, are where I’m looking, I end up in a very different place.

It’s worth testing, anyway! 🙂

BE WELL.

 

 

Monday Motivation: At the center

Don’t fret or worry.

Instead of worrying, pray.

Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.

Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.

It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Philippians  4:6-7 The Message

Easy? Intuitive? Perhaps not. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.

And it doesn’t mean it won’t make all the difference.

Go ahead, give it a shot!

 

BE WELL. 

 

 

Resources / Further Reading: The Gifts of Imperfection

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I first encountered Brene Brown three or four years ago, in her TED talk, and thought ‘That chick is cool, I’ve got to read her book’.

So I put it on my towering list of Books To Get To.

And it stayed there. For ages.

By the time I finally got to it, after discovering that her books are so wildly popular that even the older ones have a several month wait time at my library, I just ordered everything of hers that my library had, figuring I’d read them as they came in.

I’m not through all of them yet, but so far my conclusion is: you can’t go wrong reading Brene Brown.

I love her funny, matter of fact style; her books are like my favourite conversations with good intelligent friends. She’s also a talented and dedicated researcher whose work is my favourite kind: practical and useful for direct improvement of lives. And she writes about freedom, and living abundantly, some of my favourite topics.

She calls it Wholehearted Living.

The book I really fell in love with is a fairly small thing called The Gifts of Imperfection, which deals with the main things that free people to live abundantly.

The necessary ingredients she found, across all walks of life and situations, were courage, compassion, and connection.

Now, if those sound too out there to make a real difference, or too unattainable to make any difference for you, never fear: she discusses that in the book. I won’t detail it here, but I’ll mention she’s convincing.

The Gifts of Imperfection is organised into tiny chapters most of which are the Guideposts. The first few chapters explain how she came to the conclusions she has about how to live wholeheartedly and the things that get in the way …  essentially why each of the Guideposts she’s going to talk about are irrelevant to the process of living Whole.

And she has a section in the back about the deep dark research process just in case you happen to be really hipped on qualitative research and need to know for sure where she got her facts.

The Guideposts are:

  1. Cultivating Authenticity:  letting go of what people think.
  2. Cultivating Self-Compassion: letting go of perfection.
  3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: letting go of numbing and powerlessness.
  4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark.
  5. Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: letting go of the need for certainty.
  6. Cultivating Creativity: letting go of comparison.
  7. Cultivating Play and Rest: letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.
  8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness: letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle.
  9. Cultivating Meaningful Work: letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”.
  10. Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance: letting go of being cool and “always in control”.

If those things sound exciting, or just ‘right’  and logical to you, you’ll love this book.

And even if those things strike terror into your heart you might still like the book. She’s really good about recognising that this stuff doesn’t always come naturally. She uses a lot of examples from her own life and from her work to show how you can get past the terror and actually succeed.

In fact, when she first came to the conclusions detailed in this book, rather than setting out to transform her life, she abandonded the work and went into a tailspin.

This is one of those areas of her being very real that I just adore.  I love the way she writes about her little personal life crisis: “the 2008 Breakdown Spiritual Awakening”That isn’t a correction, or a formatting error, that’s how she writes it throughout the whole book!

Gives me some hope that one day I’ll look back on the Lifewreck of 2014 and see strikethrough and breakthrough instead of chaos! 🙂

And she eventually got back on course and wrote this book, so it all worked out.

Each Guidepost also has a little DIGging deeper section at the end that provides practical activities for testing out the concept.

Dr. Brown has written a great deal about her struggles with worthiness, and that is a big part of this book too.

By the grace of God and some splendid parents I haven’t struggled a lot with the problem of worthiness, so I wondered whether this would be at all useful for me. I feared yet another ‘stop hating yourself’ book.

But no. Wholehearted living, not surprisingly, is holistic. So while the shame threads run clearly throughout the book, there are many, many, threads involved in a life of courage, compassion, and connection, and I found more than enough useful lessons to cover my own interests, concerns, and struggles too!

 

BE WELL. 

 

 

You can find out about ALL of Brene Brown’s work at http://brenebrown.com 

Just Monday…

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Happy Monday!

Honestly, as I write this, it’s been a rough week, and I’m in the midst of a rougher weekend, if you can believe it! How did THAT happen? So I’m all out of encouragement. But, that doesn’t mean it can’t be a good Monday, with a good week ahead.

I’ve been reminded a LOT lately to think of the many, many blessings I have, even in this fairly tough time.

And it is definitely the right thing to do. I’m not saying it smooths all the paths and turns every stress into a delight, but it DOES improve ME at least, in that moment.

So may I encourage you to take a few moments today to notice, and really enjoy the blessings surrounding you?

Even if they are tiny! Though, sometimes the tiny blessings are the best anyway.

Blessings I am especially grateful for today:

True friends. Man, if this season has shown me nothing else it’s shown me how blessed I am in really GOOD friends.

Revelation. I’m SO struggling with the promises of God in this season, but the more I understand them the more hope I have!

Inspiration. With so much bad news, I still manage to see wonderful people doing lovely things on a pretty regular basis. Whether it’s Bernie and Jane Sanders being who they are, strangers helping strangers, communities sticking up for those who need support, or my closer-to-home loved ones helping me make it through … it gives me hope, and lightens my days.

Spring Rolls. When nothing else can conquer the summer heat AND the chronic stress induced lack of appetite, I can count on rice paper and peanut sauce wrapped around yummy fillings to save the day.

 

Be well.