I have always been one to push myself to the limits. I went back to college as a full-time student when my twins were four to obtain a degree in Music Business. One semester I pulled two consecutive all-nighters. In my early twenties, I trained horses and enjoyed role-playing scenario paintball events.
Now my life is usually chaotic because of after school activities with my teenagers, while simultaneously my elementary age kids are shouting, “mommy, mommy mommy!” I am teaching my teens to drive a car while teaching my little ones to ride their bikes without training wheels. The school needs volunteers, the church needs volunteers, the house needs to be cleaned, and healthy meals have to be made. My husband is busy working during the day and finishing up his MBA program in the evenings.
I was trying so hard to do it all and to do it all perfectly. Gradually, more and more things keep getting added to my to-do list– not just one time projects, but another extra-cirricular dance class, another after school club, the band has an extra rehearsal, youth group is meetings, another MBA class for the next few weeks. I was juggling all these plates, and I have just been waiting for them to start crashing down.
A couple of mornings ago I went out and the peach tree beside our driveway had a branch drooping to the ground. This is our second spring in our new house. Last year, we had a harsh, late frost that bit all the pink buds right as they were beginning to bloom. This year we were so excited to see the tree blossom and begin to make fruit.
Each tree branch is full of fruit, but to its own detriment. The fruit has become too much, too heavy and it is weighing the branches down until they are touching the ground. It is only late spring, and the fruit still has much maturing to do before it has fulfilled its growth cycle. The branches are not going to be able to withstand the weight of the fruit that it is trying to bear.
Too much and too heavy, the branches start buckling under its own weight.
My husband and I tried to prop it up to help support the weight, but it was no use. The branch began to crack and break.
All those plates I am juggling; I feel exactly like this peach tree branch. I have too much fruit I am trying to bear. There are too many things to do. I don’t have the emotional strength nor enough hours in the day.
Like the branch, I am getting very close to breaking. The beauty is that I realize this, and while I am still whole, I can trim some things from my life to make time for a less exhausted wife and mommy. I can take some time and remain whole. I can give myself grace for not being everything to everybody. Why do I think I have to say ‘yes’ to everything anyway?
I need to take some time for self-care. It is a simple concept, really. It is preventive maintenance. Maybe it is just me, but I have a really hard time taking care of myself before the needs of others. But I have to look down the road and decide where those choices are going to lead me. That makes the choice of taking care of myself a bit more justifiable. Learn to Breathe. Learn to give yourself Grace. Learn to do the things you enjoy for the simple pleasures of enjoyment. Learn to Rest. This is going to be a hard struggle for me.
I have often heard the wise words of “Be happy where you are.” The meaning of these words can be stretched out into a whole sermon series if one is creative and long winded enough. However, the basic sentiment is not to wait until you reach a goal in order to be happy. I will be happy when I get out of debt, when I retire, when I have a family or any other variety of when I __________. Although I usually think of myself content with my station in life, I also know that my life feels chaotic and hectic. During the day I feel stressed because I feel pulled in too many directions. We were out at a restaurant the other night. We had already ordered our selection and were waiting on our food to arrive. Youngest child was chattering away about who knows what. Middle child was urging me to play a game of tic-tac-toe on the children’s menu with her. One of my oldest was trying to ask me a question and then I suddenly became aware that my husband had just repeated my name about three times. I was overwhelmed with all the demands being placed upon me simultaneously. I looked everyone over very quickly and in a louder than usual restaurant voice said, “Everyone hush!” The whole family just looked at me. Then one at a time I tried to address their needs. I think my husband thought it was funny to see me frazzled. But this is a normal part of my life, not an isolated event. Because it is part of our family status quo, I stay frazzled more than I stay serine. I would choose serine. My happy goal is not one of I will be happy when I reach X goal. Instead, I think I will be happy when things are calm, everyone is quiet, and the chores are complete. Which is usually the five minutes between my head hitting the pillow and falling asleep. Then I will be happy.
A few evenings ago I was experiencing our normal chaotic life. I was trying to get my youngest kids ready for bed. I was trying to get them to brush their teeth, put on their pajamas, go to the potty and get ready for me to tuck them in bed. They were fighting over who was in the bathroom first, who could use the potty first, who could brush teeth first and calling “Mom, mom, mom almost more than I could tolerate with any amount of patience. I sent middle child to my bathroom to use the toilet when I heard her scream my name one more time. “Mom!”
What? I replied with a good amount of irritation.
“Look at the sunset!”
I love that they see amazing things in the everyday, truly I do, but the constant, “look at this, look at this” drains me after a while. So I was not expecting much. To my surprise, the sunset was absolutely STUNNING. I wanted to tuck them in bed and go enjoy it. I knew that sunsets only last about five minutes at peak. I had a choice: to go ahead with my routine, or be happy in the moment. I chose to be happy and live in the moment. I grabbed my camera and went outside.
This is what I captured:
I chose to be happy in the moment. I needed that reminder. Now only if I can keep it with me.
I struggle with feeling like God can use me for his Glory or to minister to others. I feel that I am too imperfect, I am deeply flawed. Not just broken, but I’ve been shattered. I take solace in knowing that some of the most prominent Bible characters were deeply stained. David, had an affair with Bethsheba. Tamar pretended to be a prostitute. Moses murdered a man, and Paul had many Christians murdered during the early church before his conversion.
In the last couple of blogs, I spoke of my fear of rejection. It is often that fear that keeps me from speaking up. I am going to share with you a couple of things that I need to take to heart:
I am reading The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning. Love his books. He has an excerpt from the book Toxic Faith:
Many fail to receive the blessings that come from ministering to others because of the belief that God uses only the perfect or the near perfect. . . .In my life as well as in Scripture I have seen nothing but the opposite to be true. God often uses those who have major flaws or who have been through a great deal of pain to accomplish many vital tasks for his kingdom. . . . No one is too messed up for God to use.
Just remember, God does not call the equipped, He equips the called.
Over the weekend I went to a Women’s retreat at my church. Overall, it was a positive experience. Usually retreats are a time to replenish your soul. I, however, did good just to sit through it and not bolt out of the door.
Everyone was seated at round tables. A couple of women were leading us in praise and worship. They promised the room we were in was a “safe place.” I wasn’t sure if I bought that. I sat there staring at the vibrant yellow paper that had been taped over the top as a make-shift tablecloth. There were words of encouragement written across it. A bucket of chocolate sat in the middle. The truth is I felt very unsafe. I felt very unsure of who I was, my place in the church, and if I would be accepted by my peers. I wanted to go home to my own bed where I knew I would be safe and not judged, where I knew I would not have to wonder, “what is wrong with me?” It was overwhelming social anxiety. These feeling came from a mixture of places. Because of my extreme anxiety, I was not able to enjoy worshiping. I kept looking at the door. I would look down at my purse and mentally plan my escape route.
As I sat there making my escape plan, I also sat there thinking about being a servant to everyone there. I know intellectually that everyone struggles with the very emotions I was struggling with. –Not being accepted and fear of rejection. I decided it was my mission to quit focusing on myself and to make others feel as welcome and wanted as I possibly could, considering my own level of insecurity.
I began to take notes and doodle my thoughts out on a note pad that was provided to us. At some point I doodled out,
“Let it go and begin the rest of your story.”
To begin again is a refreshing thought. Just start trying. As the retreat came to a close I doodled out, “Let Go and let God take Control.” But I still wanted to fix things.
I was still focusing on the things I had written down the previous couple of days during church on Sunday. Then we sang, “I Surrender All.” That was all I needed. It was the reminder I needed. In the A.A. program you are taught to surrender as part of the first three steps. Peace swept over me. I did not have to worry about this! If God wants me involved in something, it will happen. Wheels will turn. I don’t have to make things happen. Once again, I am reminded of what a control freak I am. I have a great deal of growing to do and learning to speak up. I don’t have to be in control of making things happen, I just have to relinquish myself to allow them to happen. In the meantime, I just need to work on my own growth.
Sweet Surrender; Blessed Peace.
Fear. We all experience it. A few nights ago my husband and I were out on our deck chatting. It was late, almost bedtime. We were looking at the stars and chatting about our day. The lights were on in the kitchen and I could clearly see one of my eldest daughters doing something at the sink. Suddenly, I ran up to the glass door and slammed my hands and face against it. As expected, my daughter jumped out of her skin. Then she did something I didn’t expect. She slinked down behind the countertop and disappeared. After I stopped laughing, I go in to find her. She was nowhere to be found. Somehow, without being seen, she managed to run up the steps to her bedroom and retreat to her own safe haven.
Recently, I have come to realize how fearful I am. I am scared stiff, paralyzed with it. I hate it, and yet, I allow it to be my best friend. I allow it to stay close to me because it keeps me safe. There are worries about life, money and what will happen tomorrow. That is not where my fear resides. I think God will take care of me in those areas. My fear is in personal rejection. I am so scared that if someone discovers who I really am, they will turn away and reject me. In order to keep me safe, I don’t allow anyone close. If you are close to me, then you have won a hard battle. I am scared to offer myself to help with anything, for fear that I will not be wanted.
Last weekend a member of our church admitted she was an alcoholic. Having shared a similar path, every instinct in me wanted to go embrace her and whisper words of encouragement to her. But fear kept me safe. I stood with my feet firmly rooted, because what if my words weren’t welcomed? How could I be the one over hundreds of other people to be encouraging or even helpful. For about an hour I stayed safe. Then I finally went to her. I stumbled over my words and told her not to feel alone.
This weekend there is a women’s retreat at our church. I had not planned on going. Why? Because I am afraid of being rejected and alone among a large group of women. So I wanted to stay safe, inside my own home, not giving anyone the option to reject or accept me. With my husbands encouragement, I nervously have decided to attend.
I don’t want to give people to opportunity to reject me, so I let fear keep my back. I let fear keep me safe.
I know that everyone struggles with feeling accepted. If I want to truly minister, I cannot do it from the safety of my own bedroom (except for this blog). I have to truly reach out, take the risk and ask, “How are you today?” I have to (gasp) let people get emotionally close to me.
I want to know what it would look like if I was not afraid. What kind of Kingdom work would I be able to accomplish? I know that fear is a snowball in itself. When I was a vocal student at Trevecca, I hated recitals where I had to solo. I hated them because I did awful at them. I did awful at them because I was afraid. It is not that I can’t sing, it is that I was scared of being judged on how I sing. Because I felt judged, my voice would wobble and get off-key and I would sound horrible. But it was because I was afraid that fear led to the very thing I was afraid of. So I have to ask myself, am I producing the very results I am afraid of?
What are you afraid of?
What holds you back?
Dream about what it would be like to be fearless.
It has been a long year without blogging. We moved last December. Nothing like trying to find your Christmas stuff and your kitchen all at the same time. I love our new house. We have a flat yard and a quiet street where our kids can play and ride bikes. It has seemed very surreal until recently. I felt like I was visiting a nice vacation condo and that tomorrow I would have to pack up and go back home. The transition, although it went smoothly, was very time consuming with all the packing and unpacking. We are now settled, so hopefully my blogging will pick back up. I didn’t realize how much I had missed it until the last couple of days. I have missed taking the time to articulate the insights and my growth. Mostly, I have missed writing, and through such, ministering. So stay tuned!
As an artist, you are taught to use contrasting colors to define your positive and negative space within a work. Normally, you want to highlight the focus of the piece and shade the non-focal areas. You want to draw attention to the positive. I realize artwork is not always positive in the way of subject matter. That is not exactly what I am talking about. I am talking about the area to which your eye is drawn. In the picture to the left, there are two images, one in negative space in one in the positive. Do you naturally see one before the other? Usually it is the positive space. But the same is not true when I think of myself.
My husband and I were having a conversation while sitting on the couch yesterday morning. I mentioned some things I was struggling with emotionally. It seems I have had many struggles lately. Nothing overwhelming, just many small things that make my mind whirl. Specifically, I was talking about a hearing test I had recently that revealed I have low-frequency hearing loss. I guess my husband had had enough of my whining because he said, “Holly, I want you to think about something. You are letting all these negative things define you–whether it is your bipolar disorder or hearing loss or whatever else is wrong. I want you to think of the good things about yourself and let them define you.”
I was suddenly fighting back tears. The sad truth: I couldn’t think of anything positive about myself that defined me. I feel like I fall short on everything. I feel like I am failing my children because I don’t spend enough constructive time with them. I feel like I fail as a housekeeper because there is usually enough dust on my ceiling fans to plant corn. I fail as an artist because I have no time to invest. The same goes for being a writer. Other than knowing I am God’s Child, Redeemed, I can think of nothing.
This is something I desperately need to work on. I don’t have a resolution or a happy how-to ending for this blog post. Rather, I want to ask you, “What positive things define you?”
I haven’t blogged in a long while. But on this early morning, I am troubled. I am troubled because I am someone who cares about others. The troubling part is telling the difference between helping someone and rescuing someone. You see, if you help someone, then they should learn to do for themselves. But when you rescue someone, they do not always understand the gravity of the rescue or how to change the behavior which landed them in trouble in the first place. I am thinking in particular about a friend I have. She is so emotionally broken right now and therefore not functioning very well in society. I think back to the time when I was so very broken, and wanted someone to rescue me. In the end, there were some things I had to learn and believe in. It was an excruciating process. I don’t think anyone could have sped that up for me.
Let me be more specific. One of my friends is homeless. She has off and on for the past 6 years. As Christians, or just someone who cares about humanity, we think, “Give her a place to live, get her back on her feet, some sort of job with an income and her life will start falling into place.” I have learned that problems go so much deeper than the physical problems of homelessness. The problem is being broken–downright shattered. The problem is believing that you are not worthy of a home, love, or the happiness that this world offers. How do you fix that?
I am not sure that you can fix that. Learning to accept love is a process that you must learn to believe on your own. No one can gift you “learned to accept love.” No one can make you accept love or make you believe you are worthy of love. That is a journey one has to make by themselves. They may even know intellectually that they should receive what life has to offer, but emotionally they just can not. This is the position my friend finds herself– believing she is worthy of nothing. That could not be farther than the truth.
We can clothe her, give her food and shelter, but that does not fix the problem. People have stepped up and really tried to mentor her and meet her needs. And it looks good on paper for a few weeks. But the cycle repeats itself because she has not learned to accept love. Her emotional needs are more than I can fix. It will take the Great Physician’s touch before she learns to accept love.
So then, how do I help her and others like her? For now, I can only meet a few of her needs: a few physical items and to walk along side of her whispering words of encouragement, truth and love. She does not know it, but she has already touched so many lives with her story. If she were to disappear (which I don’t want her to do), her legacy would live on because she has left a fingerprint on society–she is that important that God uses her, and by using her, is trying to get her to see He loves her. Oh, sweet one, do you not realize you are radically loved or believe in the words of Jer. 29? God whispers love to you, yes you.
I often forget. I need a heavy piece of furniture moved, or have a question about a new rattle in my car. And then I remember. I can’t ask him. He is no longer with us. My father passed four years ago today after a long, hard battle with lung cancer. Fresh tears flow as I begin this blog. It is not the entry that I thought would be next, but when I got up early and grabbed the coffee cup with the nature scene with of a deer etched on the outside that was once his, I knew it was time to write about it. It perplexes me how four years can go by and yet his presence seems just a phone call away, except, I can’t.
I would probably label myself a daddy’s girl. I grew up with him toting me across fields and pitching me across the creeks as he took me along on his hunting trip. We never caught much on those trips. Mainly because I was too noisy and had too many questions. We would often be in the forrest early. The sun would rise over the Harpeth river and bring in an early morning fog as the sun’s rays hit the water.
We shared a love of fishing and he taught me how to watch the swirl of the water for where the best chances of catching something were. He taught me how to look at the dirt for signs of worms. My job as a child was to break open the big clods of dirt and find the worms as he would chunk up big clods with one swing from a grubbing hoe.
For a birthday one year, he bought me a .22 rifle. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I was still playing with “My Little Ponies” so I must have been around 11 or so. He taught me to aim, hold my breath and pull the trigger. I practiced on a thick cedar fence post until the post fell over. At that point, he thought I was ready to hunt. I am probably only one of a handful of women who can field-dress and butcher a deer. I don’t, but I know how if I had to.
When Gillian and Katherine were little he ingrained in them a respect for the circle of life by accidentally having ducks at the same time he was hatching out salamander eggs. Those were some well fed ducks.
Although I weep for time with him I no longer have, I am grateful for the love of nature I am now hopefully passing on to my own children.
A few weeks ago my husband and I were sitting in couples’ therapy when I confessed how hard it is for me to ask for help. “Why is it that you can’t ask for help? What do you think would happen?” our therapist inquired of me.
She was hitting a deeply sensitive spot and my face twisted up. I felt my face getting hot as I fought back the response, “Because if I have to ask for help, then I am failing,” the response tumbled out.
The truth is I hate asking for help. I am a mom of four with a pile of Mt. Saint Laundry that actually has its own altitude and climate changes. I often feel like I suffer from the “Little Red Hen” syndrome, except, unlike the little red hen, I never ask. I just brood over the fact that everything seems to get placed on my plate to take care of. Dishes are in the sink and I am angry that no one has taken the initiative to load them into the dishwasher, there is actually dust in the grooves of the kitchen cabinets that no one seems to see except me and let’s not talk about the pile of crumbs under the table that my preschooler leaves behind. But if I can’t ask, then I really don’t have justification for being upset over something no one knew would even bother me in the first place. I have to learn to ask. I have to give myself permission to ask with the understanding that it does not mean I am failing because I can’t handle everything.
I have thought frequently over the last couple of weeks regarding the conversation with the therapist. And I have thought about my prayer life and my relationship to God. The truth is, I don’t lean on God the way I should. Like everything else, I feel as if everything is my responsibility and I only ask for Him to intercede after I am beyond desperate. In fact, I may just harbor a bit of secret pride in the fact that my prayer life does not read like a Christmas wish list of wants and desires. (Something else I need to work on).
Matt. 7:7 (NLT) says, “Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened.”
My daughters have taught me this concept more than anyone else in my life. It is watching and hearing the tiniest of prayers–praying for the bees, for safety in the storm and thanking God for “my pink blankey.” They know they are not self-reliant, so they have no problem asking for their needs to be met. It is only through the wounds of humanity that we stop asking. I forget that God is not like the rest of humanity. It is the nature of being human that we eventually emotionally hurt someone. God, however, will not let me down. He is constant and He is omni-everything. Only He can fulfill my deepest desires that I am unable to even whisper. But I need to ask.