A Quiet Miracle (one I almost talked through)

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“A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak.” Ecclesiastes 3:7 #WhileLovingthePeopleInIt

Although I wouldn’t call this a typical Thanksgiving post, today, I’m grateful.

For a few weeks now, our family’s been going through growing pains, which makes me feel crazy because, even when I don’t know what to do, I believe God needs my help.

I can’t get out of the way. I can’t shut up.

When I say, “I can’t,” it’s not that I won’t. I mean I can’t. I’ve made up my mind and tried dozens of times before. Too many frightening images pop up like the time I got out of the way and shut up with Mom and Dad, and we spoke to each other only three or four more times before Dad died.

I can’t shut up.

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I’m terrified of quiet. I mean, I’m an introvert, so I love it when I’m alone and peaceful and there is no noise. But if there’s something that needs fixing, I can’t keep quiet about it.

Last week, while I sat in the wrong parking lot that I accidentally pulled into, I talked to my daughter about feeling crazy, which is even more scary for me right before the holidays. We’ll all be together and I’ll talk, especially in the middle of growing pains.

“I don’t know why I’m telling you this story, but what you’re going through right now reminds me of what you and I went through after Claire was born. It wasn’t until you got quiet that I recognized my part,” she said.

Wait. What? When I got quiet?

Kelly and I hit a rough spot after our first grandchild arrived three and a half years ago. She and my son-in-law asked me to move in for a week to help. I changed diapers, rocked Claire, stayed up late into the nights, cooked meals, made beds, washed clothes, and cleaned, but I couldn’t do anything quite right. Kelly’s conversations with me were edgy and unpredictable. The atmosphere was tense, and it got worse when I talked with her about it.

I told you, I can’t shut up.

I finally said to my husband John, “I’d rather never see Claire again than set an example for her by allowing this kind of disrespect.”

I meant it. Disregard for women, really, people in general, runs rampant in both of our families. I set out, I think from birth, to put an end to our unhealthy generational patterns, even though clueless about how to do it. In fact, many times I did the opposite of what was right, but I did something. My resolve was never stronger than the first time I held Claire.  

Detaching from Kelly and her family ranks among the hardest choices I’ve ever made. I stepped away for about three months from grandparenting. Kelly and I talked seldom and I saw Claire even less.

Our break ended with Kelly apologizing. It didn’t happen overnight, but it still seemed she grew up right in front of me. On the phone and crying, and still in the wrong parking lot, I said, “I wondered what I said that helped you recognize your bad attitude and your resentments.”

Nothing.

I took a deep breath on the phone. I’m taking another one now. I cried then. I’m crying now while writing this.

It wasn’t anything I said. It was all the things I stopped saying.

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and she tells me the thing that worked was being quiet.

I couldn’t hear “be quiet” until this moment because of my fear of losing the people I’ve loved most. I still know there are plenty of times I need to speak up, but there have been many more times I’ve needed to shut up, but I could not. I’d shake until I talked.

This week’s been different. I’ve been quiet, which is called a miracle. It’s my Thanksgiving miracle, and I believe God will extend the Grace of it onto my family while I quietly watch.

If you’re in the middle of a mess, please believe with me that a miracle is on its way. God loves surprising us when we least expect it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I love y’all dearly.

In This Together,
Kim

Here’s a funny side note about when I told Claire, aka Amelia Bedelia, “I love you dearly.” She said, “Mammy, who’s dearly?”

Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com. Wow, I’m even feeling more grateful for your site today. ‘Tis the season for gratefulness …

 

Create Something Besides Chaos

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“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.” Thessalonians 4:11

I took my own advice about being quiet, voting, and being creative until I let people I care about (on and off of Facebook) overturn my week. I meant to watch the results of the election on Tuesday and onward move. Instead, I spent from Sunday until today either in bed or online trying to make sense of how others were acting – not about me, not anything I could control, nothing that was my business.

This is a lifelong habit of some of us humans. Actually, it’s probably original sin at its most obvious. I want to understand (the reason Adam and Eve – let’s blame them – ate the apple from the Tree of Knowledge in the first place), so I can decide whether you need acceptance or straightening out, and whether my feelings should be hurt. I need to understand why you’re being unkind, or at least make you understand why you need to be sorry. If nothing else, certainly we all understand I’m justified in judging you for judging me first.

It’s all beyond our limited understanding, even when we’re worldly, and kindness, humility, and acceptance are challenges when we don’t understand each other. They have their reasons. So do we, and they’re trying to figure it out too. I read an article that actually speculated I voted the way I did because I haven’t traveled more than 200 miles from home this year. Really? I need another apple.

“Martha, Martha, there you go again, letting their lives distract you from your own,” from “Choose Well (a distracted Martha in a world that admires merry Mary).” #GettingYourOwnLife

I heard Jesus’ voice this morning like he spoke this out loud, but I went ahead and reasoned how easy it’s been to get sucked into other people’s junk. I justified it because I’m sensitive. I explained it on Facebook – I’ve been kind while hurting for a long time, so why can’t you?

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Thankfully, I have a friend who listens when I complain (using the polite word here). She listens, but she also redirects when she can. Sometimes I’m like a derailed train and I’ll send her six long messages riddled with pronouns (after all, it’s your fault), negativity, and not-so-nice words because the problem is out there. However, her steady compassion, spirituality, and humor remind me I’m sitting with the problem, staring at the problem, being the problem.

It’s difficult to recognize, though, and challenging to admit because I’m so sure it’s you, not me, especially after the way you acted about election results.

By now, it’s Thursday. I’m discouraged and exhausted, but probably not as much as rioters using their energy to destroy instead of create things. Although, looking around, I haven’t created anything except chaos this week either, which is usually when I either nosedive or decide to pull out and do something different.

I’ve been here and “rioting,” like so many times before, when I’ve had no idea what to do with myself. I’ve felt hurt to the point of shaking and lashing out, frustrated enough to physically not be able to sit still, eat, or sleep, and so scared, alone, and misunderstood, I didn’t want to live. I was most afraid of the hole I’d fall into if the darkness kept on, and lots of times, it did. A friend reminded me, “It’s a tunnel, not a hole. Walk through it.” I trusted her, but, too often, it turned into a hole anyway.

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But that hasn’t happened this week because I’ve had more practice walking through dark places and, like my friend who redirects me said this morning, instead of a dark hole, I’m finding my “holy hill” – a place to go where I’m safe and guided and close to God. For me, this place is Creativity.

If you’d like to read another of my blog posts, here is the link to “Holey (holes and tunnels and holiness).”

When I think of being saved by Creativity (and my Creator), I think about what a friend told me when she found out I majored in psychology. She said, “Psychology is fascinating. My mom worked as a counselor for the Radar Institute.” In her next breath, she said, “I used art to navigate my way through my insane family dynamics. Art is an awesome way of communicating.”

“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.” Marc Chagall

My friend’s quote, coupled with Marc Chagall’s, helps me understand myself even when no one else does and even when psychology and well-meaning friends with advice and church fall far short. It shows me the way to my Holy Hill. Get out of my head, into my heart, and Create.

Write it. Paint it. Take a photo of it. Sing it. Sell it. Record it. Dance to it. Build it. Bake it. Organize it. Travel to it. Draw it. Calculate it. Meditate on it. Decorate it. Collect it. Clean it. Teach it. Decoupage it. I used to decoupage everything except my waffle at breakfast.

Create something.

This is big. When we create, we biggie-size our breaths. We make what we do larger than our problems, bigger than what we dwell on, greater than what bothers us. Creativity is healing. It’s living a quiet life, minding my own business, and working with my hands. Sometimes writing, my version of living out loud, seems contradictory to living a quiet life, but it’s not when I stick with heart work instead of messing with the “Tree of Knowledge,” trying to figure it out, and overthinking. When I do it right and leave the apples alone, timely things happen like my art instructor sending a message just now, “I hope you’re playing in the paint every once in a while during our hiatus from class.”

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I’m reminded of Elizabeth Layton, also known as Grandma Layton. The 68-year-old spent much of her life suffering from feelings and coping with depression and bipolar disorder until she signed up for an art class at a local university. It saved her life. Grandma Layton overcame her difficulties when she began drawing contour art in 1977, which the Washington Post said “is good.”

Like God created us, we’re called to create because we were made in his image. When I do, I get caught up in a space far from needing to understand and a long way from judgment. I get caught up in creating, and time stands still and life feels magnetic and restorative and energizing.

Creativity is my Holy Hill. My guess is, it’s everyone’s holy hill. May we find that spot and live there often.

And heal … God, help us heal. 

In This Together,
Kim

The Images:

Rebecca Zdybel, thank you for your painting, your instruction and encouragement, and the image you created that goes along with this blog post.

Joel, I knew I had to use at least one of your photos. You’re photography not only seems like your holy hill, but it provides that same kind of space for others.

Grandma Layton’s family, I appreciate you reaching out when I wrote about depression the first time and offering her artwork for use on my blog. The piece I shared here is called Garden of Eden – November 1977. For more about her, check her out @ Grandma Layton. She describes Garden of Eden like this, “Women have had the blame all through the ages for everything. You know that’s not right. Now a woman would not listen to a snake, she’d run, wouldn’t she? This is Adam, he’s got a Band-Aid where his rib came out. This was my first E.R.A. picture. I was just objecting to being blamed for all of the sin of the world.”

The Quotes:

Jenine, there aren’t enough grateful words to describe and thank you for our friendship, your support, and for all things funny and good and sacred we talk about like belts and space and holy hills.

Maria, I appreciate our friendship more and more. It’s been fun getting to know you.

Betty, you’re gone and I miss you terribly, but nothing you ever told me has been forgotten. I remember when I need it most.

 

 

It’s Not About Being Grateful

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“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward

In a book study years ago, a group leader chose a topic each week for us to discuss. Gratitude came up often, especially around Thanksgiving. Everyone gushed gratitude until my turn when I’d say, “I’m grateful I don’t have to be grateful for anything.”

So, when the story came up in church about the lepers (Luke 17:11-19), the one about 10 of them being healed, but only one coming back to thank Jesus, I thought, I’m good with this now. I’ve had a change of heart and I’m all about gratitude. 

That was, until Rev. Stu Boehmig said, “The story’s not about being grateful.”

Huh? Then what is it about?

It never occurred to me the nine men who were healed from leprosy were, of course, grateful. After all, their healing meant being spared isolation. They were allowed to again worship in the synagogue, allowed to hug spouses and children who they couldn’t touch prior to their recovery, and given a second chance at life instead of physically deteriorating.

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However, only one made the effort to come back. Only one chased down Jesus and thanked him. Only one lived out his gratitude. Here’s what Biblegateway.com has to say about Ten Lepers and a Samaritan’s Faith when only the foreigner returns to give thanks, “Now what Jesus praises here is the Samaritan’s initiative.”

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy

The story’s about action.

And it reminds me of a funny tale about our daughter’s former friend. He didn’t do much, but I’d come to his defense anyway and say, “He has potential.” It turned into a witticism when my father-in-law asked, “Potential to do what? It’s not helping him much.” From then on, we’d say about anyone who wasted their time and talent, “But they have potential … ”

Since the sermon, I’ve thought about my own healing from “leprosy” – a couple of years of isolation and deteriorating mental health due to depression – and how grateful I ought to be. Some people aren’t given a second chance when they suffer a debilitating mental illness. They disappear into alcohol or a pill bottle, an institution, or a grave.

I’ve also thought about turning my potential for gratitude into a practice of gratitude. I am grateful, just like the nine lepers were grateful, but it’s the tenth one who put his potential into practice. He took action.

Intentional. Deliberate. Purposeful.

And here’s the enlightening (and Twilight Zone-y) part of all of this for me. I glanced through the church bulletin to fact check this post when I noticed, after years of reading it, the name of the final prayer the congregation prays together – Prayer of Thanksgiving. No wonder I get choked up every time I say out loud, “And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you … ”

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie

My heart’s known for a while I’ve needed to do “thank you” instead of mouth it. And you know I’m going to tie this into getting our own lives, right? Gratitude is our way forward.

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com.

Timing. Wait For It.

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“Practice the pause.” Lori Deschene

Even though I had no idea how to get started, I made a list of writing goals and included ghostwriting. On this day five years ago, one of my writing mentors needed to complete a manuscript within 30 days, so she asked if I’d take over her ghostwriting assignments from an international speaker for a month.

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That’s right, she sent me an email about ghostwriting on Halloween Day. That struck me as funny, and every October 31st since then, I’ve thought about timing.

Around this same time three years ago, my daughter and son-in-law made offers on at least five houses in Upstate South Carolina, only to have every single one fall through. When they slowed their search and he submitted a work application in another town, my son-in-law had the job he wanted within a month and they had a house in an area our daughter had always wanted to live.

A similar thing happened to my son and daughter-in-law. They negotiated for months on a price and a repair list for a house they thought they wanted to buy. After giving up on working with the unreasonable seller, a house came available within walking distance of the college where our daughter-in-law is working on her master’s degree. They now live in a downtown area and just blocks from popular restaurants and quaint shops.

My husband and I have our beach house for sale. During July 4th weekend, we received an offer and accepted it. We were disappointed the buyers never showed back up because we had our eye on a more spacious house with a backyard big enough for a pool. We questioned whether to lower our price so we could sell faster and go ahead with our plan. Since then, we’ve had downpours and a hurricane skirt the coast, which left the backyard of our would-be house with at least two inches of sitting water where we planned to add the pool.

This week, we are looking at a different house (out of the flood zone) that’s more space for less money. It has the pool we hoped to add and a garage that my husband wanted, but almost gave up on. In fact, it has every single thing we want down to a screened in porch and a fireplace.

If any of us could have convinced ourselves that our timing was better than God’s, we would have been all about fast forwarding our plans. We all said the same thing, though, “Something doesn’t feel quite right. “ In hindsight, we figured out it’s not wise to rush #GettingYourOwnLife when all the signs say “no.” We’ve all learned a thing or two about practicing the pause.

What’s been worth “the pause” even when you weren’t sure you were supposed to be waiting?

In This Together,
Kim

Loving People Through the Election (we can do it)

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“We all have inside of us a Mother Teresa and a Hitler.” Unknown

Almost daily I wonder if our country, my family and friendships, and I are going to make it until Election Day. These final four weeks are bringing out the worst in a lot of us. It’s telling when I’m relieved to read about Hurricane Matthew instead of politics. Even though I unfollowed most of my big political posters (people who post on Facebook), my newsfeed is filling up again with politics as the election nears.

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There are diehards who know they’re right, and those of us struggling not to be wrong when we don’t agree with them. And when I do hang out with friends who agree, I want to be respectful instead of rebellious towards those who don’t, but that’s not easy sometimes if they’re rebellious first. #WhileLovingthePeopleinIt

I typically stay far from political discussions even though I have near-to-my-heart opinions about politics, and that’s what I’ve figured out is the “problem.” Since working on my manuscript about getting in touch with my feelings, I no longer can stay solely in my head like I used to. However, sojourning to my heart is scary, especially now. It feels safer, in a sick sort of way, to practice judgment and anger rather than understanding and compassion.

It came to a head the other night when I unfriended a friend because I couldn’t stay away from her page, even though I never commented when I was there. I unfollowed her a while back, but I’d still check in every few days even though I promised myself I wouldn’t … just like she promised to stop posting about politics. It seemed she couldn’t help herself anymore than I could.

She and I only know each other through mutual friends, so this isn’t a lifelong and special bond I’m breaking. She never comments on my page either. We’re distant, so I wondered if my unfriending was even worth blogging about until it dawned on me the struggle isn’t about our relationship with each other. It’s about our relationship with ourselves.

This is about getting my own life while loving the people in it.

I visited her page hoping she’d stop posting about politics because she said she would, and I wanted her to. I wanted us both to stop letting ourselves down, and I wanted her to go first.

I wanted her to stop reacting to friends with arrogance and show some LOVE like her cover photo says. That way, I could show some love also.

I wanted to like her again like I did before this election season got ugly and she did too. She’s not my only friend who’s gone off the deep end about politics, but she’s the most verbal and vicious. That is, unless you come behind my closed doors. I’ve said some pretty ugly things about her to my husband.

He reminded me that she’s afraid just like I am. He also clarified that I’ll never understand how she’s handling her fear because it’s not how I handle mine. She is confrontational. I run. She knows she’s right. I doubt myself. She is unapologetic. I say “I’m sorry” before I figure out if I actually am.

Going to her page triggered all sorts of uncomfortable emotions and unpleasant thoughts. I’d read her comments and make up ones in my head to put her in her place. I wanted to straighten out her thinking with the same kind of sarcasm she was writing to others. I unfriended her the night I felt unambiguously (which means really, really, really) justified in meeting her unkind comments with some of my own. I didn’t write them, but I wanted to.

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That’s when I thought, I am her.

I believe we all have some of her in us. And just like the quote at the beginning said about Mother Teresa and Hitler, we all have inside of us some Trump and some Hillary. I can hear it already, “There’s no way I’m like him/her.” Grumble, deny, grumble, grumble, deny. Yeah, we are. In fact, I’ve watched friends act just like the candidate they’re criticizing.

Unpleasant news, I know, because if we’re hating one of the candidates, we’re likely hating ourselves. We “sort of” know how much we’re alike whether we accept it or not … whether we accept our immorality, our crudeness, our dishonesty, our scorn, our bratty fits, and on and on. We say, “I would never … ,” but we do.

Author Carla Laureano posted similar ideas on Facebook. She said, “The reason why we are so horrified by the candidates and the way they’ve been running their campaigns is because they represent us perfectly as a nation, down to every last hidden sin and evil thought: greed, lust, hatred, fear, pride … There is no longer a veneer of civility behind which we as a country can hide and pretend any sort of respectability or character. In order to deserve better, we need to BE better.”

We’re all capable of mudslinging madness, and we’re also capable of Love that overcomes it. My unfriended friend’s page is a jumble of conflicting emotions that aren’t usually so visual, but it’s right there on her page and in writing, which is why she and her page are so bothersome. On there, the clash of love and hate is palpable and problematic and politically incorrect … and it’s you and me. It’s all of us.

It’s like the story I doubt is true since I can’t find a reputable source, but I appreciate it anyway. Mother Teresa was asked when she began her ministry and she answered, “On the day I discovered I had a Hitler inside me.” Fact or not, I’m buying it because it makes her human and relatable, and it makes me feel better that she’s flawed too.

I was still a little crazy about my friend’s page until I read what another friend suggested about our days leading up to the election. He said something like this, “Shut up and vote, and find something creative to do besides obsess about November 8th.”

Thanks, Jason. I think I’ll do just that. #GettingYourOwnLife

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And to think, I almost canceled three days of art classes beginning next Thursday, and I suspect it was because I only have time to be crazy, not creative. Maybe that’s why last night I ran into a fellow painter. Seeing her reminded me to stay out of my head and lean heartward.

What about you? Obsess about politics or pursue a real passion during the next four weeks? Let’s encourage each other in ways that are creative, not crazy.

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks for the first three pix, Pixabay.com.

Lighten Up, Literally (a post about emotional eating)

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“There’s a huge emotional component to weight loss.” Carnie Wilson

This last decade, I’ve gained an average of two pounds a year – this was the least painful way to express it. The weight added up so gradually, I’m not sure if the gain started in 2005 after Dad’s death or when we moved to the beach about three years later. I used to walk daily, a practice I started when I was 25 and pregnant with my firstborn. People in town would ask, “Aren’t you the lady that walks all the time?”

When we moved 700 feet from the ocean and near an almost constant breeze, I stopped walking. Crazy, right?

I didn’t know how crazy (I was) until I looked back at my declining mental health, the downward spiral of our finances and marriage, and my lack of purpose because my kids didn’t need me anymore. I needed something to numb the pain and fill my soul’s hole. I also needed protection because I felt emotionally unsafe. I could have turned to God. Instead, I turned him into an enemy because he wasn’t intervening like I thought he should, and I turned to an old habit since childhood, emotional eating. My mom kept a candy drawer stocked with PowerHouse candy bars, Baby Ruths, and Little Debbie snacks. She baked Toll House chocolate chip cookies. Making s’mores for her and snacking on the dessert together is my fondest memory with her.

For a long time, I was okay with my weight gain. I’m sensitive, so the more I padded my body, the more I protected my emotions, or so it seemed.

Even though I felt safer from the world, I suspected I was letting myself down like I wrote about in my last blog post. Overweight wasn’t something I wanted to be and when, in a workshop about healthy eating, the speaker compared our fat to carrying around several five-pound bags of sugar, I couldn’t shake how heavy and tired I felt. I’ve never had good posture, but I starting slumping. For comfort and because of the weight gain, I wore sports bras instead of regular ones. I walked with a drag instead of a bounce in my step. To top it off, try trying on a pair of pants or dress you thought looked good on you, and imagine shoving bags of sugar in the outfit with you. It got tight in there.

I’ve had my moments of exercise and weight loss the last 10 years, like before our daughter’s and son’s weddings, but mostly my routine back to a healthier and lighter lifestyle has been start, stop, start, stop, start, stop, stop, stop.

It’s interesting that we never know when enough is enough. We don’t know when we’ll get sick of ourselves and make a change. Sadly, we can’t manufacture the mood, but when it happens, we know it.

My husband, John, and I ate a perfect meal at our favorite mountain restaurant. We walked down the street to an open-air market with freezers full of fresh made food labeled with directions for reheating. He said, “What are we doing about dinner?”

Something snapped. I could almost physically feel it. I felt irritable and anxious and really heavy. We left there and bought four cupcakes at a dessert place. They’re big and with a lot of icing, so after dinner, we ate all of them. After that, we talked.

“We have to figure out fun things to do besides eat,” I said.

“I know,” said John, almost like it was his fault.

It wasn’t. We both had gotten lazy, gained weight, and given into a boring routine. I thought back about a video shown to alcoholics in rehab when I was working at The Commission for Alcohol and Drug Abuse. The speaker in the video said God gave us two natural pleasures, eating and sex, but not to abuse. To enjoy. This is stressed with addicts in recovery because they can seldom answer, “What do you do for fun?” That is, unless they’re honest and say they drink or drug.

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Looking at our empty cupcake box, I related a little too much to the addicts in rehab. Life wasn’t as fun now that I substituted eating for other enjoyable things like evening walks, hiking, and walking for miles in downtowns when we’d take daytrips. We swapped all that for driving around to find the closest parking space to restaurants and bakeries.

I was irritable the next few days because I was coming down from a sugar high and having to face why I gained weight in the first place. I wanted to change several habits, but, at first, I hated doing the work and the workouts.

However, like I said, something snapped. Since then, I’ve made a few adjustments to detox from junk food and junk living. And, no, I didn’t give up all white foods made with sugar and flour because I’ll never stick to that kind of diet.

I committed to reasonable things I would actually follow through on like …

  • Going to the gym, walking outside, or both at least five days a week.
  • Walking with John at least one evening a week.
  • Aiming for an average of 15,000 Fitbit steps daily.
  • Tapering off chocolate.
  • Eating one brown sugar cinnamon pop tart for a midnight snack instead of more calorie-intense sweets. (Don’t even think about suggesting fruit or yogurt.)
  • Cutting down on bread since it’s not a favorite food anyway.
  • Drinking even more water than what I already consume.
  • Making a list of fun things to do besides eat. #GettingYourOwnLife
  • Speaking up when I need to, so I’m letting go of junk instead of eating it.

Mostly, I’m overriding a thought I’ve let discourage me for years, “What’s the use?” Since pounds don’t drop off as quickly as they used to, I’ve given up easily the last few years. This time around, my new and improved saying is, “I’m not responsible for the result, only the effort, so keep moving and making healthy choices.” Also, I’m dealing with my emotional stuff, and you can read all about that in past posts if you haven’t already.

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After all this heavy talk, I’ll leave you with a funny story about a bathroom scale and my three-year-old granddaughter, Claire. I took her to a friend’s bathroom and when she spotted the scale, she wanted to stand on it. It registered 28 pounds.

“Aw, Mammy. It’s broke,” said Claire. “I one, two, three years old.”

When I stood on it, she said, “Wow, Mammy. You’re old.”

That’s when I explained that scales measure your weight, not your age. While washing my hands, she got on and off of it enough that it showed an E for Error, which she thought was a 3.

“Oh, good, it’s working. I three years old,” she said.

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That kid and Erma Bombeck (her quote’s below) can even lighten up coming face-to-face with my bathroom scale. And I need to lighten up figuratively and literally. It makes getting your own life so much easier.

“In two decades I’ve lost a total of 789 pounds. I should be hanging from a charm bracelet.”

 

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks for the pix, Pixabay.

 

What’s Wrong with Me?

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“Don’t let yourself bring you down.” Unknown

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

I say this too often. I repeat it again and again when, truth be told, I do know what’s wrong with me. And I know how to fix it, but I don’t do it. And that’s what’s wrong – I let myself down.

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Instead of admitting I’m avoiding the top priority on my to-do list, I’ll blame my husband, my kids, the dog, and even someone on Facebook where I’m spending too much time. I’ll blame my mental state, my age, my weight, and my mother. If you show up at my house unexpected, I’ll blame you.

By now, I should recognize the warning signs in the form of destructive habits, but usually I don’t until I get to the final stage of “I let myself down.”

My bad habits include having trouble settling down for bed, a restless night’s sleep, and hitting the snooze button a dozen times the next morning. Napping for two hours instead of 30 minutes. Feeling frustrated and acting on it. Eating chocolate late at night and pacing around during the day without accomplishing much. Scrolling Facebook for hours. Yeah, it’s a long list. Skipping the gym and most anything else that’s good for me, so I can focus on how to fix what’s wrong. Makes sense, huh? It’s not until I’m feeling anxious, insecure, and near tears (the final stage of “I let myself down”) that I’ll admit I’m letting myself down.

My choices narrow to either confessing and fixing it by doing what I’m supposed to be doing or melting down over and over.

I get more afraid by the minute when I’m in the middle of the cycle. It happened last week when I didn’t write a post for my blog. Instead of writing, which is my important thing, I did everything else on my list and then some, all the while dragging my anxiety about not writing through the weekend and into the beginning of this week.

If I’d keep track of my fearful episodes, I’d likely notice they flare up during my “I let myself down” times more so than during the times when I’m getting my own life, even if the latter is scary stuff like writing on a personal topic that makes me uncomfortable or making a video to post online.

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A simple example that’s helping me change how I align my days is to follow how I reach my daily Fitbit goal, which is 10,000 steps. When I’m up by 8 and accomplish my steps by noon, it’s easy to get 15,000 or even 20,000 steps by bedtime, and I sleep better. However, on the days I only accumulate 5,000 steps by mid-afternoon, getting that same amount again before the day’s end feels nearly impossible. I give up after dinner and fall asleep on the couch.

I’m guessing there’s a universal law out there that makes this all make sense. The same law that helps create a productive and “feel good” day also has the potential to make my next 24 hours miserable when I don’t do what I’m supposed to do. Unless I figure out a way to sidestep it, I’m left with the same solution I wrote in a blog post six years ago.

Brian Tracy, in his book Eat That Frog!, offers 21 ways to stop procrastinating and accomplish more in less time. He suggests planning each day in advance. He says stop doing so much and do what’s important. And get this, Tracy recommends following the 80/20 Rule, similar to my Fitbit phenomenon. He says there are typically two items on a list of 10 that will account for 80 percent of the day’s results. Tackle those two things first and the rest of our list will either be accomplished easily and quickly or show up for what it really is, insignificant.

I sometimes pretend I don’t know what my important thing is, or that if I accomplish the other eight or nine things on my list, I’ll be more settled, prepared, and focused to undertake the important thing. Instead, I’m tired and put it off until tomorrow or next week, like this blog post.

Another game I play is tricking myself into thinking something else is more important than the important thing. In my case, it’s hard to overlook, though, since I only have one important thing on my to-do list. It is writing.

Today, I did my important thing and wrote this post. I can’t adequately describe how relieved I feel as I wind down this day and this story, so I’ll put out a call to action in case someone else wants to experience it for themselves.

If you’re wrangled up in life and struggling with your emotions, and most likely letting yourself down, put all of that to one side and do the one or two important things on your list. Take a chance on it working for you like it did for me this afternoon. I hope you’ll share it with us when it does. #GettingYourOwnLife

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks for the first two images, Pixabay.
Thanks for the motivation, Fitbit.

One Foot On a Banana Peel, the Other at Kentucky Fried Chicken (a post about answering our calling at the age we are)

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“The days you work are the best days.” Georgia O’Keeffe

Four blog posts ago, I wrote “Choose Well” about sitting still so as not to miss the magic. This week’s post is about working, and for the same reason … so we don’t miss the magic.

A phone conversation gave me the idea for this post when a friend almost half my age said, “I’m afraid I’m going to be in my 40s, look back, and realize I haven’t accomplished my goals.”

I wanted to interrupt, but I didn’t, and say, “And your problem is? You’re not even mid-thirties.”

They finished, “I’ll end up feeling like a failure.”

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Before I gave into lecturing about accomplishments and age and having time on their side, my thoughts jumped to fried chicken. You know, the fowl that was fried up by Harland Sanders, the colonel of chicken and founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken at age 62 (after he retired and drew his first social security check). He may have something to say about purposely planning not to work and being without purpose at any age.

I wanted to lecture because, like my friend on the phone, I’m afraid of getting too old to accomplish what I want. If I’d started on my spiel, I would have been talking to myself. I’m happy Colonel Sanders stopped me, and even happier he’s a reminder we’re never too old to dream and live it. We’re never too old for magic. 

In the meantime and because I’ve been back and forth on this topic for several years, I met with my financial advisor to review our retirement plan and several options for moving forward with retirement faster. Even though friends who recently retired from teaching said they’d absolutely find something to do besides sit around, I figured my husband and I needed a plan in place for full retirement. I secretly held onto the idea of wanting a lot of time off until I wrote last week’s blog post, “Called to What?,” about finding work we love and working it to the end. We can’t be irresponsible about getting older, but it’ll undoubtedly make our “retirement” plan easier to save for if we don’t plan to retire.

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All that said … 

We’re rethinking everything. We want one week off a month for the rest of our lives, and, once in a while, two so we can travel. We want something to do, and we want to love it daily. We want purpose. We want to spend time with kids and grandkids, but not end up poster parents for codependency. We want to tap into creativity and maybe tap dance. Wait, I meant line dance. We want to continue most of what we’re doing now. I want to write. John wants to work on our houses.

A friend’s comment on last week’s blog post confirmed what we’d already envisioned for our lives (minus having a baby), but we started changing it up the more often clerks gave us senior discounts and the more often we thought about retirement looming. Sybil wrote, “The Bible does not use the word retire. Moses was 80 going strong. Sarah was 100, giving birth. Watch out world, there is a generation of great people wanting to fill their passions.”

Her comment reminded me of one of the quotes I shared last week. It’s by Howard Thurman, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

The world needs us to come alive before we retire and die. Once we’ve come alive, there’ll be no time to retire. 

Writer Richard Feloni put together an article about “People Who Became Successful After Age 40.” I thought it’d be fun and inspiring to share some of the personalities he wrote about.

Fun & Inspiring 

Jack Weil founded a popular cowboy brand, Rockmount Ranch Wear, and stayed its CEO until he died at age 107.

Rodney Dangerfield’s break as a comedian didn’t happen until he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show at age 46.

Julia Child wrote her first cookbook that launched her career as a celebrity chef when she was 50.

Ray Kroc was a milkshake device salesman before buying McDonald’s at age 52 and making it into the world’s biggest fast-food franchise.

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Vera Wang didn’t get started as a designer until she was 40. Gary Heavin was the same age when he opened the first Curves fitness center. Henry Ford was 45 when he created the Model T. My two favorites on the list are Laura Ingalls Wilder who published the first of her Little House books at age 65 and Grandma Moses who started her painting career at 78. Who is your favorite?

#GettingYourOwnLife can happen at any age, and it doesn’t have to be a fancy career like Vera Wang’s or a moneymaker like McDonald’s. It just needs to be work that gives us purpose. We can’t afford to get tired and retire before we figure it out, before we find our magic.

Where are you headed besides retirement?

In This Together,
Kim

I’m not sure it’s accurate about Colonel Sanders receiving his social security check, but I included it just in case it is since it makes a great story.

Thanks for the pics, Pixabay.com.

Called to What?

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Today’s writing is more a blog list than a post. With every click, another piece of inspiration showed up that I wanted to share. I couldn’t narrow “our calling” down to a story, so I decided to include it all –  quotes, links, and insights, especially since working our calling is the essence of what I blog about. It’s our way of getting our own lives. (#GettingYourOwnLife)

Compelling Quotes about Our Calling

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman

“Live bravely enough to follow the calling in your heart.” Melanie Moushigian Koulouris

“If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose.” Bishop T. D. Jakes

“God often uses our deepest pain as the launching pad of our greatest calling.” Unknown

“The things you are passionate about are not random. They are your calling.” Fabienne Fredrickson

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Work Put Into Perspective

Here’s what Michael Hyatt says about saying “no” to retirement in his blog post, “Why Retirement Is A Dirty Word.”

“In fact, the more I think about the purpose and meaning of work, the more I’m convinced that nothing destroys our sense of purpose and health more than the modern notion of retirement. It’s detrimental to us individually and collectively,” said Hyatt.

In the same blog post and under his subtitle “How To Murder Your Heart,” Hyatt wrote, “The effect (of retirement) is that we’ve now raised a few generations to look for fulfillment in the pasture, not their work. Satisfaction is a future thing, not a present possibility. Joy is for later. Meaning and significance comes from checking out down the road.”

He winds down the article with a story about Duke Ellington. When Ellington was asked why he didn’t retire since he was obviously financially secure, Ellington said, “Retire to what?”

Hyatt said about Ellington’s answer, “It wasn’t that home was so empty. It was that his work was so full. He lived his art. Retiring would have been like turning off his own soul.”

“If you’re doing meaningful work you enjoy, why would you ever want to quit?” said Hyatt.

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The Significance of Our Calling

 No surprise that Sunday’s sermon was on the topic of our calling since I’ve been inundated with it. The message was delivered by Dr. Allen C. Hughes who said, “We were wired from the beginning to do meaningful work whether it’s preaching, construction, or landscaping, and we will never be content until we get clarity on what that is and do it.”

He said when people tell him what they plan to do later on or during retirement, things that include working their passion, he asks, “Why not do it now?”

His talk reminded me of Marsha Sinetar’s book, Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow: Discovering Your Right Livelihood. It was published in 1989, which is around the time I read it, only to return to my unfulfilling job. However, I couldn’t unread her words, hence the search for my calling began a long, long, long time ago.

“Our Call to Work,” an article that appeared on the site of U.S. News & World Report, opened with this quote, “Producing and innovating is doing God’s work.”

The writer, Nicholas Leone, stated statistics from a recent Gallup poll that showed 55 percent of Americans derive identity from their work, yet 70 percent of them are disconnected from that same work. Amy Wrzesniewski, professor at Yale University School of Management, believes work orientation has something to do with it. “According to her research, job orientated individuals view their work as a means to an end. Career oriented individuals focus on success. Individuals with a calling view their work as part of their identity and are happier,” said Leone.

Another interesting point from the article, “The word for work in the scriptures is translated as both work and worship. Our work and worship are one and the same.”

Distraction From Our Calling

Also from Sunday’s sermon, Dr. Hughes listed three things that distract us from working our calling.

  1. Believing work is a bad thing, therefore we try to get out of it in lieu of doing what we were put here to do. We end up lazy and miserable instead of productive and gratified.
  2. Doing the wrong work. We decide we’ll seek out our right livelihood later, after we’ve made enough money, worked a job with benefits, or sacrificed enough to possibly retire early.
  3. Busying ourselves with too much work in an attempt to be important, successful, or fulfilled. The truth is, “right work” is the only thing that satisfies.

How to Search For or Stumble Onto Our Calling

Forbes.com published an article titled “20 Ways to Find Your Calling.” The writer’s advice is spot on when it comes to finding the work we love or having it find us, like my writing found me. My personal favorites from her list include spend time before money and find a problem to solve. My problem’s been #GettingYourOwnLife #WhileLovingthePeopleInIt.

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I would add …

  • Dedicate attention and time to what you love. If you want to turn your passion into a career, figure out how to make money doing it. I believe there’s always a way.
  • Listen to people, to music, to quotes, to movies, to life. You never know what may point you towards your calling.
  • Listen to God and to yourself. His guidance and your heart are key places to go for direction.
  • Ask questions like …

What are people saying I’m good at?
What job would I work for free?
What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?

Stay tuned next week for more about our calling unless I’m on overload and running away from mine. Please add your two cents. It’s worth a million dollars to me and our readers.

In This Together,
Kim

Family is Not My Calling

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“Sometimes we have to figure out what our calling is not in order to find out what it is.” s. kim henson

No doubt there are moms and dads called to full-time parenting, grandparents called to full-time grandparenting, and wives, daughters, and sisters called to helping their families around the clock, but I’m not one them. Not now, anyway. It was a weird day when I thought, Maybe family’s not my calling.

Even though I’ve been restless for a while about getting my own life, I wasn’t comfortable with the message. After all, family’s been my life even as a child. I remember being compliant when mom walked me to school even though the other kids on the Air Force base walked alone. As a teen, I accommodated my parents instead of friends. When I was a young adult and with a family of my own, I continued to cater to what I thought my parents wanted. I carried on this same sense of care and responsibility into marriage and parenting, and maybe a little too far as my children grew up.

While journaling one day, I wrote several pages about my calling not being family, “God, could this be your way of prompting me to focus more on my purpose and less on what I think they expect?”

“They” included my husband, my two grown children, and their growing families. I answered my own question. God wants more attention, of course, even though I can’t imagine he’s displeased with the attention I’ve given my family. For more than four decades, my parents, my husband, and my two children have been the reasons I’ve gotten out of bed every morning. My daughter and I got excited about the idea I came up with not long ago, “What if, instead of writing, being a grandmother is my calling?”

We laughed because we both knew this wasn’t the case, even if I’d prefer it. After all, I’m good at being Mammy.

I’ve had to come to terms with why letting go of my family’s been hard, and I’m not the only one who’s figuring it out. While researching parenting as a calling, I stumbled on a book I added to my reading list. It’s by Christian author and mom of six grown children, Lesley Leyland Fields. The title is “Parenting Is Your Highest Calling” and 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt.

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My guess is, there are a lot of women like me who feel a pull to do something in life besides family, but family is a strong force to contend with. There are also women who don’t want to move on past family, but it’s good for us and for them when we get our own lives. They need us to let go and move on so they can too.

Mostly it’s hard to let go of family because my husband and children are where my devotion lies. There’s nothing I’ve wanted more than to be a wife and mother. To this day, I can’t think of anything more fulfilling, although I have dreams gaining momentum.

On a lazier and less loving note, family is an easier choice than my dreams. I’ve kept my life intermingled with theirs because my role as mom is a familiar one. I know how to do it and I pretty much know the results it will reap.

And, like Lesley mentions in her book title, there’s the worry and guilt that make it hard to let go. I get afraid sometimes when I see them go through tough times and I think I can do more than I can to help. I haven’t shaken the “shoulds.”

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Getting my own life, which to me means answering God’s calling, also means I’m venturing into unknown territory and, to tell you the truth, I’m not all that adventuresome. I say this, but something stirs inside of me when I hear the word “adventure,” and when I step into that adventure by making videos, contemplating public speaking, and dabbling in watercolor.

Writing all of this is strange for me because I’m sure I’ll be misunderstood. It sounds like I’m jumping ship on my family or saying they don’t matter or even that they’re not as important as all the things I want to do, but that’s not it. Writing this is more about trying to convince myself and other women that it’s time to reprioritize our motivation (why we get out of bed), our mission, and our minutes, and I think God’s all for it. After all, I would have never thought this up on my own, Maybe family’s not my calling.

I believe by living our lives, we help our families to better live theirs.

Next week, I’ll write more about our callings. For now, I’m getting comfortable with what my calling is not. I’d love to hear from you about family and your calling or anything you’d like to share.

In This Together,
Kim