Guest Post-Gratitude Handed Me a Shovel

Y’all I’m so stoked to share this guest post from my dear friend Heidi. A few weeks ago I had asked the question on Facebook: “What do you need to take a break from?” And quite a few people mentioned Social Media. And I get that. OH DO I GET THAT. But in my heart, I knew it wasn’t Social Media that we need a break from-it was what it does to our hearts. But I didn’t know what to say.

So when Heidi asked me to edit this post for another blog- I read it and was like, “This is it!” She totally nails the battle that’s raging in my soul when I tell myself I need a Social Media break. What I really need is some gratitude and a shovel.

Without further ado: Ms. Heidi Fields on the Mic. Check one. Check two.

I walked the store aisles in January looking for a new journal and a calendar. The bulletin boards, decorative pictures and notebooks seemed to shout at me, “Dream it, plan it, live it! Crawl, walk, run! Make it happen!”

The jury is still out on whether I was attending my own personal pep rally or being sarcastically mocked by the home and office decor. Based on the facial expressions of others nearby, they too were trying to determine if we were surrounded by friends or foes. Except for one woman wearing red glasses and denim capris. She was definitely feeling the love from the peppy action verbs and happy fonts. It was like the items were waving pompoms, jumping up and down excitedly and calling her name. She may have even fist bumped a sequined file organizer that said “Ready, Set, GO-AL!” as she plucked it off the shelf and put it in her shopping cart.

too legit pic

At the start of each year emotions and mindsets range from enthusiastic and hopeful to defeated and discouraged. And then there’s the realistic optimist who shoots for the stars nearest the earth’s orbit with one foot firmly on the ground. This person seems to effectively split their gaze between the sky, which we all know is the limit, and the ground-level challenges that exist.

A close friend of mine has a very practical outlook on self-reflection and yearly goal setting. She reasons that even if she’s waving a white flag of surrender by the end of April, she’s still had four months of moving forward instead of backward. She doesn’t let the uncertainty of whether the course can be perfectly stayed through all four seasons keep her from going after good things. This approach invites progress, even if intermittent, and appears to keep the all-or-nothing paralysis at bay.

The all-or-nothing approach can be the carrot that pushes us to surpass all expectations or the stick that tempts us to create our own Pit of Despair as endured by Buttercup’s sweet Wesley.

All-or-nothing goal setting (and keeping) doesn’t work for me. It seems to cause anguish during the goal setting process and require sackcloth and ashes when progress is not made as planned. Plateaus and missteps usually don’t serve as places of evaluation and more runway to take off again toward the goal. Instead, they serve as goal obituaries and determined, all-or-nothing types gladly play the role of funeral director, mortician and all eight pallbearers. And we can do this all by ourselves, thank you very much. We’ll wear black for the rest of the year, even if the sounds of Auld Lang Syne have barely faded.

When setting personal goals for 2018, I wondered if it was acceptable to resurrect ones from past years and simply change the date. Because I have a graveyard of goals to choose from, a new notebook with a shiny cover that says “I’ve got this,” and, most importantly, Gloria Estefan’s Get on Your Feet added to my new Pandora playlist.

What is it that keeps us from try, try, trying again if at first we don’t succeed? A paragraph in a goal planning workbook caught me by surprise this year because it described a beast I thought had been tamed. A wild thing that often keeps me from trying again.

“Comparison isn’t just the thief of joy, it’s the thief of everything. Keep your eyes on your purposeful path. Celebrate others. Celebrate progress, not perfection. Cultivate gratitude over comparison.”                                     Lara Casey, Cultivate What Matters

Comparison growls softly at first and often goes unnoticed when we scroll through social media feeds, talk to neighbors, coworkers or fellow church goers. It bares its teeth a little and arches its spine when news spreads of promotions, houses, raises, book deals, relationships, weddings, baby bumps or whatever it is that isn’t ours. It circles and waits to see if we’re what’s for dinner. Will we put aside the sting of what we lack and choose to celebrate progress even if it’s not ours? Will we choose gratitude?

As I tried to set goals for the year, it was clear I was putting myself on the dinner menu. There were tears of self-pity, jealousy and defeat. I may as well have poured Emeril’s homemade steak sauce all over my head and curled up on a large white plate. After the tears eventually subsided there was another decision to be made. Gratitude was still an option. It’s always an option because we can rest in the love of God which David tells us endures forever (Psalm 136). And that love is available even on the days when we’ve chosen comparison over gratitude. That love is unconditional and soothes the wounds of comparison. In fact, when we step into God’s love, it is sure to produce gratitude in us.

Gratitude is a secure place from which to dream and set goals. Gratitude brings freedom from keeping up with the Joneses, the Smiths or whoever it is that seems to have it all or be able to do it all. Gratitude slays the beast of comparison and hands me a shovel to raise long buried pursuits from the dead and try again.

Gratitude tempers all-or-nothing and finds joy and purpose in the midst of plateaus. Gratitude celebrates progress and lets go of perfection. Gratitude celebrates others and builds camaraderie where there might have been rivalry.

Thank God for gratitude.

The perfect choice for home office décor this year might be a wall of bulletin boards dedicated to gratitude, a shovel hanging above my desk, and an empty bottle of Emeril’s homemade steak sauce. Because dinner is no longer being served.

Read more from Heidi Fields: Losing the Floaties by 40 

I Am That Girl

When I was a little girl….and well into college, I used to pray that my life would not be normal. From an early age I wanted to serve God in a grand way.

Of course, I assumed that would include marriage and a family. Duh.

Growing up, there were always a handful of “older” single women in my life. I remember them as fun and dynamic. They were involved in ministry and poured into my life in some form or fashion. That’s why I knew them. And loved them.  But as much as I admired them, I did not want to be one of them.

I always thought marriage and a family was a given in life. Until it was not.

The other day I was in Target, walking down the aisles.

Thinking.

Daydreaming.

About life. God’s plans. My plans.

And in a moment of clarity, I realized I AM THAT GIRL!!!

I am the “older” single woman.

Who is fun and dynamic. Involved in ministry. Who still dreams of marriage but has accepted that it might not be in the cards. At least at this point in life. Who is going for it. Regardless. Living life to the full. No matter the season.

And the truth is… I really like being that girl. Her life is pretty great. 

What I judged in my youth, is actually a gift.

Getting ready this morning, I had a bit of a hangover. A vulnerability one. Because when I wrote about my year without romance, I opened up my heart a bit too much. I feel like I showed my guts to the world. And they spilled out a little.

Because I’m 38 years old. A grown woman.

Friends my age are navigating life with teenagers. Mortgages. College funds and daycare. Parents who are sick. Possibly dying.

And my deepest struggled is still boys??? Are you kidding me???

But it is. I could lie and pretend it isn’t. But then I would be keeping a secret. And living from a lie. And lies destroy us. And then we eat our feelings. Or worse.

And I don’t think I am alone in this.

When I think about the people I care about,  I think there are plenty like me.

Who are living lives they never imagined. Or judged in their youth.

Maybe you are one of us. Maybe you are the mom where your life and family look like a crazy hot mess busy. And you always swore your kids would not act like that in a grocery store. Until they did. All the time. And maybe you realized life isn’t about being the perfect mom. It’s about being available. And messy. And it’s beautiful.

Or maybe you are that career gal. Sex in the City style. Or suburbs. Who is working her way up the ranks. You’re a leader. Shaping the future. Of a company. Of a planet. Of a generation. Getting to invest in people. Earning enough to give in ways you never imagined. You own your own home. You travel when you want. You do what you want. God is allowing you to use your gifts and talents and you are a person of influence. And while it wasn’t the life you dreamed of, it’s actually pretty great.

Or maybe you are that married lady. (Or single woman) Who is amazing. Whose life is blessed and beautiful. Whose relationships are fulfilling and job is awesome.

But.

You long for babies. And it creates an ache deep inside that won’t be silenced. That cries out to God. Over and Over. And over again. You have done everything you can. To make the dream come true. And then later, silence the cries. But it won’t work. The longing won’t fade. And so you live your life. Full and amazing. To the best of your ability. Trusting God is writing your story. All the while, hoping and praying. That maybe one day. You’ll get to see a flutter of a heartbeat grow to maturity. And you have learned to live with the pain, Maybe it has actually become a place of ministry. Of healing. Of hope for others. And even though you would you trade it all in tomorrow, you see God’s hand. And know that He is with you on the journey.

I think in some way, we are all “that girl.” The one living someone else’s life. Dreaming of a different one.

I just finished a book called “Looking for Lovely” by Annie Downs. It’s all about how she looks for God in everyday moments. To see and acknowledge His hand. In her life. If there are any chubby girls in the house-this book could be our manifesto. If you want to see your inner most thoughts on paper, she spills her guts in the first few chapters. To set up the story.

Brene Brown calls it Daring Greatly. A life of gratitude. Leads to wholehearted living.

Ann Voskamp wrote 1000 Gifts. Same idea. Finding joy by being thankful.Seeing the gifts amidst the pain.

If you are reading this and think you might be “that girl.” The one you loved but didn’t want to be. Or judged and prayed you never would become.

Embrace her. 

Take a moment and find the lovely.  The beauty. Be thankful for the good. Find the joy. 

It’s there.

Because our God is good. He writes beautiful stories. With plot twists. Climax. And denouement.

You might just be in the middle of a really powerful tale of God’s love and redemption. That seems to be His favorite theme.

 

Love, Love, Love,

The Girl Who Lives In My Head

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How to Not Eat Your Feelings | Hope for addiction | Learning to journal your feelings

How to not eat your feelings.

 

It’s Friday afternoon, I’m sitting at my desk and my insides are churning. Boiling. Overflowing. A student openly defied a rule and flagrantly walked away when he was held accountable. The phrase “hotter than a two dollar pistol” would be an apt description of my emotional state.

I can seriously feel myself unraveling!!! The ping pong ball is gathering steam. And if I don’t deal with it now, my poor 7th period is going to bear the consequences.

The moment I said I was going to write a post about how to not eat your feelings, I have had opportunity after opportunity to put my money where my mouth is. My journal is filled with “I feel___ because____” statements and prayers to the Lord about what to do with those feelings.

The truth is, it is not easy to settle your heart when your emotions are running wild.

I’m all like journaling out your feelings is easy. It makes everything better.

And it is.

And it does.

But when you are amped beyond measure. Charged. About to blow a gasket. That is when it is the hardest. And most necessary. Otherwise, those feeling come out sideways. And there will be shrapnel.

So when I get all straightened out, I’ll come back and finish this post…

Much better now.

My journey towards healing started with Celebrate Recovery. I didn’t have any deep dark struggle that I needed to work out. I just needed a safe place to land in order to heal. I was numb. And completely out of touch with my heart and my emotions. My biggest takeaway from my time in the anonymous world was the importance of processing out your feelings. We are only as sick as our secrets and I have found that clarity comes when I take the time to process out my emotions (and secrets) before the Lord.

In my inner world, thoughts and feelings can be very dangerous when left unchecked.

  • Usually someone will say something or an event will occur that triggers a negative reaction in my mind. (My student)
  • I picture a ping pong ball of emotion being released.
  • The longer that negative emotion is allowed to build, the faster the ping pong ball zips and dings around in my mind until finally it is whirling dervish that will escape.
  • Usually coming out sideways and often in a less than ideal manner.
  • And I end up kicking the cat. (Period 7)Kick the Cat | How to Not Eat Your Feelings | The Girl Who Lives In My Head

 

What has helped me tremendously in my journey towards healing and keeps things from coming out sideways is journaling out my feelings. I have found a process that works wonders for me and I’m sharing it with the hope it might help you.

How to Journal Your Feelings

Step One

Identify all the emotions you are feeling in this moment. Every single one. Good and Bad. I use this amazing Feelings Chart that takes feelings like happy, sad, tired etc and expounds upon all the nuances that go with each emotion.

 

This is especially helpful if you are at a point in life where you are so numb that tapping into your actual feelings seems impossible. Don’t worry. I was once there too. I lived three years of my life so numb that I would spend my time counting in order to avoid feeling anything because my reality was so painful that my mind kept itself busy to avoid any semblance of emotion. It takes work but there is such freedom in knowing what you feel.

 

Step Two

Connect a situation to each of those feelings.

I feel ___________ because

I feel ___________ because

I feel ___________ because

I feel ___________ because

 

What took me by surprise as I was learning this process is that you can be feeling pleasant and unpleasant feelings at the same time. I think that is why so many of us feel guilty. We have a negative reaction to something and think, “This shouldn’t be bothering me so much. Things are really good.” And they are good. In some areas. But you might have some really yucky things going on in another area. And you need to be honest about both the good and the bad in order to heal. To be whole.

The key is to identify what feeling goes with what situation.

 

Step Three

Take each of the situations and see if there is any lie that you might be believing. If so, write out the truth. Or, work through the worst case scenario.

_______________ is not true. It may feel true but the reality is…..

 

If ___________ happens, then…. (run out the worst case scenario to the very end)

 

Step Four

Take each of those feelings, situations and lies and journal it out to the Lord. If you know the truth, ask Him to help you believe it. If you don’t know the truth ask the Lord to reveal it you. Be super honest and humble when you cry out. Ask him for help and be prepared to be amazed. Often I will look back in three months and be blown away by the transformation that has taken place in that area.

He is such a great Father.

And he loves us so much. He gives his children such sweet gifts. It’s not always what you hope for but it always what you need most.

I pray that you find this helpful. I know this is very different from my usual posts but this method really has been the key to my healing. And hopefully yours.

Love, Love, Love,

The Girl Who Lives In My Head

 

Here is a copy of the Feelings Chart for you to print and use as a guide.

 

The Gift of Going Second

I used to work at a charming little bookshop called “by the Book”.  It was right after I quit full-time ministry and before I became a teacher. I loved it. I have always been a reader. As a child I spent my money on two things. Candy and books. Books were and still are some of my best friends.

As much as I loved working at the bookstore, there was one season I loathed. Returns. Every quarter, a bookstore is allowed to pull all the books that have not sold within a certain time frame and send them back. Small bookstores need this in order to keep their shelves fresh and doors open. It really is a nice perk.

If you are the employee, however, this requires lots of boxing and schlepping and details. Three things that I don’t especially enjoy. It was like a really long tedious scavenger hunt. Searching for books that had been miscategorized or improperly shelved. My boss would hand me a 40 page list with the doomed titles circled in red and the hunt was on.

Later when I managed my own shop, I was amazed that certain employees thrived on returns. The challenge. The sense of accomplishment as they surveyed the stacks and stack of books that had been found. The list conquered.

I was not this employee. It was an exhausting chore. Sadly, I would gather all the books that would never go home with a loving fan. No one would dog ear their pages, scribble in the margins  or hand them off to a friend because, “You just have to read this.” No. These books were the unchosen. Unloved. Soon to be forgotten.

And inevitably, I would get distracted by one of the titles or the cover. It would pique my interest and I would sit down cross-legged and begin to read. 20 minutes would pass and I would think to myself, Maybe if we put this in Women, it would sell or If people could just see the cover then  someone would buy it. So I would rescue the ill-fated book, take it to the Women’s Section and give it reprieve for a few more months. Needless to say, follows directions is not one of my strengths.

It was on one of these days that I found a beautiful book that gave voice to an idea that had been brewing in my heart since my return to Maui. I can still remember the feeling of discovery as I sat on the carpet, my forehead pressed into my fists with the book open on my lap. It was called “Permission to Speak Freely”, by Anne Jackson. What blew me away was what the author called the “gift of going second”. She explains that when we are brave and share our story with someone-not just the pretty parts that can be pinned on Pinterest for the world to emulate. But when we confess the hard stuff, the dark stuff, the nitty-gritty honest struggles of the day-to-day, we give people the opportunity to open up as well. Or as the author calls it, the gift of going second.

Something in my soul started tingling. I call it the Holy Spirit hot flashes. When God puts his finger on my heart and whispers “Pay attention.” Sitting there in that bookstore years ago, I had no idea that He would be calling me to a lifetime of going first.

Sharing what the Lord is doing/has done in my life is easy for me (now). I am so amazed by his love, blown away by his grace and overwhelmed by his affection that it’s hard to keep my mouth shut. He rescued me so dramatically and thoroughly from a life of despair that it is impossible not to tell my story. It just flows freely from my lips, making it’s way into everyday conversations.

It has not always been this way. I had an incident in junior high that taught me to never be myself. To keep the real me untouchable so that no one could ever wound my soul like that again. So I learned how to blend. Vowing that I would never let someone know all of me. When I was dating and engaged, I began to let my walls down. But soon after we were married, I faced the greatest rejection I could imagine. When the person who says I do, changes their mind. But it would be years before I left. So I did what I had always done. Put on a brave face and blended into the background. Dying a slow death. Longing to be known.

It was when I moved back to Maui six years ago that I knew something in my life had to change. What I was doing was not working. In recovery they say, “We are only as sick as our secrets,” so I decided I would choose one person to reveal all of me to. My thinking was, I got myself in a mess by trying to do it on my own. I do not want to ever do that again. So this time around, whatever was going on in my life, one person would know it all.

Enter the Blond Bombshell. Gorgeous. Inside and out. I had known her before I got married. She actually threw my bridal shower. Coming out of a broken marriage, my biggest fear (besides ever being rejected like that again) was becoming bitter, hollow and angry. To me, the Blond Bombshell was everything I wanted to become. Kind. Warm. Inviting. Loving. Fun. Gracious. Charming. Generous. Thoughtful. Compassionate. Besides all that, she is a wonderful wife and incredible mom to two grown kids. But the main reason I chose her to help me navigate my way out of the darkness was because her life has not been easy. She was born with spinal bifida and has had to learn to walk four times in her life. Three times while raising children. And there is not a seed of bitterness, anger or pity in her. She has made peace with all of it before the Cross. That is why I choose her to be my secret keeper.

And I’ve told her some doozies. And she has walked me through some heart wrenching seasons. But she was also there when my heart, which had been frozen in fear, started beating again. And she was there when my dreams began to blossom. And she has been there, cheering me on, when I began to fly.

I write all of this because in my dream scenario, this blog would help others find freedom. That by going first on some hard issues, others might have the gift of going second. A lot of what I write might feel raw but the reality is I have been working on these issues for a while now. With the Blond Bombshell and the other amazing women God has brought into my life. My hope is that by being honest, vulnerable and transparent, we can get some conversations going and in the words of Goodwill Hunting, let the healing begin.

Love, Love, Love

The Girl Who Lives in My Head

 

Here is the actual excerpt from Permission to Speak Freely by Anne Jackson.

“Sometime later I was at a concert with a youth group I was working with. I noticed a girl sitting by herself and really felt God pressing on me to talk to her about porn. What an awkward conversation to start! But I did and after I was done sharing she broke down in tears. It turns out she had been trapped in porn since she was 10 years old. She never felt like she could tell anyone, and she thought she was the only one, so when I told her about my story, she realized she wasn’t alone. She was able to start confessing and start healing. Fast forward to today. This girl got counseling and eventually got licensed in counseling herself. Now she has a ministry to help women who are trapped in sexual addictions. I gave her the gift of going second and now she’s giving that same gift to thousands of girls.”