Category Archives: letting go

Letting Go … what it looks like

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“Let go or be dragged.” Zen Proverb

In my last blog post, “Arguing and Bargaining with God … again,” I wrote about fighting with God about our son’s diagnosis and surgery versus doing what God asked, which was to let go.

A friend commented on my post, “I think I struggle most with the practical. I don’t know what ‘letting go’ looks like whereas I know what doing something, bargaining, worrying, etc. look like.”

I wondered if the reason I wrangled with letting go was the same as hers – I don’t know what letting go looks like. Busyness, bargaining, and worry had taken on lives of their own, but not letting go … even though I was genuine about wanting to do it.

Busying myself looked like starting laundry at noon, finishing at 4, and having little recollection of what I had done for four hours. I did, however, recollect a lot of pacing and very little writing because I wouldn’t sit still.

Bargaining looked like eating Reese’s Cups while telling myself, “No more chocolate.” I figured until God stepped up and gave me what I wanted, I’d binge on sugar instead of doing what he asked.

Worrying looked like scrolling Facebook for three hours to distract myself and, just to worry myself more, clicking on sites that updated unsettling news.

After this list, I have to admit I wanted “letting go” to look like a magic wand. In reality, though, it didn’t look like anything. I hadn’t practiced it enough to be able to picture it, not for stuff as emotional as this anyway.

As timing would have it, I had a month between our son’s diagnosis and his surgery, which meant I had to figure out how to handle 30 days of my life while not knowing how his life was going to turn out. Even though there’s always uncertainty, things like health scares heighten our senses.

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When my friend mentioned not knowing what letting go looked like, I knew I needed to find out and practice it. Here are the intentional actions I came up with that to me looked like letting go

  • I sat still. I wrote, read books, and talked to God.
  • I exercised and cleaned, in place of obsessing and talking non-stop, to release nervous energy that in turn helped release a little bit of the thing I wanted to let go. My husband knows I “rage clean” and to stay out of the way while I’m vacuuming like my life depends on it. Sometimes it does.
  • I asked myself, “If I take fear out of the equation, what would I do?” I journaled about what I’d let go of if I subtracted fear and what I’d put in its place if I wasn’t so afraid.
  • I lived my life. I looked around to see if there were things I put off because I was focusing on someone else. I tend to justify, “Of course I can’t focus on my own life. Who wouldn’t be distracted during a time like this?” Living my life – writing a blog post, taking a daytrip, and signing up for a watercolor class – is the solution.
  • I intentionally put space between the thing I was trying to let go of and me. I pictured our son’s surgery and its outcome with God. I stopped talking about it. Stopped trying to figure it out. Stopped making phone calls and lists about it. Stopped researching it. Instead of acting frantic, I took walks and baths.

My description of letting go sounds near perfect, doesn’t it? Be glad you weren’t here for the fall out. There were tears and ugly words and phone calls anyway and too much talking even though I said I stopped. I tore out the page from my journal and shredded it. I jumped up every five minutes even though I called it sitting still.

Although I have a ways to go, I’m happy to have a “face” for letting go. Writing down what I practiced helps put action to the adage. I hope it helps you too.

In This Together,
Kim

P.S. To everyone praying for our son and the rest of our family, there aren’t enough grateful words to express how we feel right now. He’s come through surgery and he and his wife are staying overnight at the hospital. We’re headed to their home tomorrow. Thank you! xoxox

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Arguing and Bargaining with God … again

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“When you argue against Him, you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Two weeks ago, I heard the word “cancer.” I wouldn’t be anymore wound up about it than if I had set out to find a cure singlehandedly. The diagnosis is not mine, but belongs to someone I care about a lot.

#whilelovingthepeopleinit

Ever since then, I’ve woken up more tired than I go to bed, and I go to bed exhausted. I ache all over. I’m either irritable or on the verge of tears. So, when I heard from God, “Let go,” I gave him a list of things I expected to happen first. You know, before I let go, you do X, Y, and Z.

This round with God brought to mind my final year of teaching, and I have to tell you, I didn’t handle quitting well, which doesn’t look good for letting go …

Except there was a happy ending.

Near the end of my career, teaching felt suffocating. I’d feel sick on Sunday nights and shake on Monday mornings when I’d try to put the key in the doorknob to unlock my classroom. I dreaded every faculty meeting and felt overwhelmed by every extra duty. I knew my resignation was overdue, but I wouldn’t quit.

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“Give me another job and I’ll quit teaching,” I prayed every single night.

“Quit teaching and I’ll give you another job,” said God every single time I prayed.

When I say I heard from God, I didn’t audibly hear His voice although I guess that could happen. I’m not hallucinating. I’m not making up this stuff. He talks to me (and to you) in all sorts of ways like through people and quotes and movies and an emotion, to name a few.

I didn’t hear God’s voice, but the night I sat in a spiritual meeting and heard a woman share about fighting with God and bargaining over quitting her job, I knew she was talking to me and I believed it was a message from Him. She argued with God for a year before she did it His way.

While I was convinced her lesson was mine too, instead of following what God suggested, which was to quit, I waited just like the woman waited. I didn’t quit my job for an entire year even though I was miserable and wanted to bolt.

A couple of months after I finally left teaching, God did what He promised. He presented me with an extraordinary opportunity – a position I hadn’t applied for and at a place to which I’d never turned in an application. Plus, the job fit me to a T with work in the field instead of being stuck in one place and a flexible schedule. I supervised interns who were practice teaching. Other than writing, supervising for the university has been my longest running and most fulfilling labor of love.

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So, when I heard “let go,” which sounds akin to “quit,” I researched the diagnosis and bargained with God for the kind of healing I wanted to happen.

I made a list of things I needed to discuss with my loved one, the patient, and argued with God about why He wasn’t making communication easier.

I spent hours overthinking and analyzing and trying to be a fortune teller. At least, I think that’s what I was bargaining for since I seem to think God should let me in on the future.

How’s that for letting go? I tell you, I’m not good at this stuff.

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A friend (who has no idea what’s happening here) sent a quote that is now written on a card and sitting on my desk. She wrote, “Stop chasing the healing. Much happens in the fallow moment.”

I’m not sure, but I think it means “let go.” I needed it to mean let go.

Later in the evening, I heard from God, “Read September 25th.” The page is from an inspirational book I haven’t opened in a year. Here’s its essence:

Today’s reminder: Is there an area of my life that I treat as though it were too important to turn over to God? Are my efforts to control it making my life better and more manageable? Are they doing any good at all? I can hold on to my will until the situation becomes so painful that I am forced to submit, or I can put my energy where it can do me some good right now, and surrender to God’s care.

“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.” Martin Luther

The anonymous writer who wrote this excerpt is telling my story, and God’s trying to help me rewrite it. And me? I’m still bargaining. I’m arguing with God about whether I should let go now or wait until my demands are met, or, the more likely scenario, until I have to give up to tiredness.

The problem with arguing and bargaining is the only one held hostage by not quitting and by not letting go is me.

What about you? What’s too important to turn over? Dear Jesus, help us quit. Help us let go. It turns out easier and best when we do.

In This Together,
Kim

Change Only Me

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“If we had God’s power, we would change everything. If we had God’s wisdom, we’d change nothing.” Scott Richardson

If you’re a parent, especially a mother, you likely know the feeling when family gathers all together after not seeing each other for a while. Sometimes our hearts are full because of conversation and laughter, meals at favorite restaurants, and activities that keep everyone entertained and happy. These visits end with either my husband John or I saying, “I’m grateful and so proud of each one of them.”

Other times, togetherness worries a mom. When we’re up close, we notice if things don’t seem quite right like tense moments and edgy remarks, frustration, and comments about problems at work and home. I’m no less grateful and proud, I’m just no longer focused on those things. I’m fixated on what needs fixing and changing. It’s a mom thing even if not a God thing.

When our family recently gathered, John and I looked for things to do since we’re better when we’re busy, but hotel checkout and flight times, a get-together with friends, mealtimes, and naps conflicted with almost every idea. The grandkids were waterlogged and worn out after a week’s vacation in pools and beachside before arriving at our house. All six adults sat on looming deadlines whether it was my writing, our daughter getting her daughter ready to start school, or her husband beginning a business startup.

Nothing seemed particularly wrong, but neither did our time together feel right. I tried to justify it with all these reasons.

I preoccupied myself the evening they left with vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, and washing sheets, so I held off the emotional hangover until the next morning when I skipped my shower, the gym, and writing. That afternoon, I skipped lunch because John and I argued instead of eating, and not because of anything that happened between the two of us during the weekend.

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“Get your own life” (the topic I blog about most often) came to mind two or three times, but it was easier to give into louder voices in my head that said things like, “What if something’s wrong and you don’t help fix or change it?” “What if you discuss your concerns and make things worse?” “What if you don’t converse and drift apart?”

This kind of thinking convinced me I needed to write and talk to others, so I started blogging again in January. I figured I wasn’t the only wife, mom, daughter, sister, and friend who needed to be talked off the ledge for caretaking, enabling, and people pleasing and surely I wasn’t a loner when it came to being overly responsible for others. All this doing for others feeds our attitude of “fix and change everything” when the real difference (the real fix and change) happens when we get our own lives.

This doesn’t mean we have no obligations to our families because we do. I doubt it means we’ll ever completely stop worrying about them either. It does, however, explain why the quote at the beginning of this blog post is significant. Life changing, really.

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Hearing I didn’t have to change anything because God wouldn’t change anything freed me to stop replaying the weekend. I could get back to my own life and my routine.

Hearing I didn’t have to change anything because God wouldn’t change it either staved off feelings of having to do something. It reminded me to accept what is and to acknowledge things happen as they should.

Hearing I didn’t have to change anything because I didn’t know what to change anyway freed me to have family conversations last week – conversations with real people instead of conversations in my head. By the end of each one, I figured out I had nothing to change except myself. Imagine that.

“Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” Max Ehrmann (writer of Desiderata)

I used to sign off my blog posts “write where I’m supposed to be,” so we may as well make where we’re supposed to be gratifying by getting our own lives. What do you think?

#GettingYourOwnLife #ChangeOnlyMe

In This Together,
Kim

Photo credit to Pixabay.com.
Thanks for passing along the quote, Iain Boyd.

I Wish I Were Dead

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“Do you feel like you’re dying? You’re really being born.” Jackie Doubles (Artwork by Kelly Rae Roberts)

“Do you feel like you’re dying? You’re really being born.” Jackie Doubles (Artwork by Kelly Rae Roberts)

After reading Dave Hamlin’s blog post Wanted: Dead and Alive, I think I got it.

Dave describes better than I ever could what God’s been up to for the last, oh, I don’t know, 55 or so years of my life. The last eight have been especially significant, as well as especially painful. I felt abandoned by him, but knew better. Still, I couldn’t pinpoint the lesson while battling self-doubt and depression.

There was my broken knee that kept me stuck for months in a leg cast, a broken nose that gave way to recognizing how much self-hatred I still harbored, my broken spirit that suffered through dark periods I hope are gone forever, and broken relationships that I thought would mend with time, but didn’t.

God’s been using all this brokenness to make me more whole than ever, but not until he killed me dead, like Dave says in his post (you have to read it).

Here it is in his words:

“After this event (Dave receiving a message from God through an inscription by writer Elisabeth Elliot), Jesus gave me about three decades to embrace His message, but I never really got around to dying. So Jesus began killing me.”

That’s it. Jesus wanted me dead to what others think and how much stuff I have and how many Facebook friends like me and how many publications print my writing, all so I can live his way.

The better way.

The freer way.

Since I don’t relinquish control easily, mine’s been a slow death.

I have, however, felt more alive this past month than in a decade. Apparently, nothing does as much for the body and soul as a good killing.

What in your life needs to be killed off so you can live the life God has planned for you?

“I've broken open many times. But I am not broken. I'm just alive.” quote and artwork by Kelly Rae Roberts

“I’ve broken open many times. But I am not broken. I’m just alive.” quote and artwork by Kelly Rae Roberts

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – I’m willing to keep being broken open, to keep dying until I’m fully alive. Are you with me?

On the side: Thanks to Beth Vogt and her daughter, Katie Beth, for introducing me to Dave’s blog. Thanks to Dave for time and again writing relatable posts full of truth and light.

Visit Dave’s blog @ http://drawingfromexperienceblog.wordpress.com and artist Kelly Rae Roberts’ website @ http://kellyraeroberts.com.

Grief and the Fantasy, grieving what never was

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“Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.” Jack Welch (Photo by S. Kim Henson)

After her 20-year marriage ended, my sister-in-law talked about what her counselor shared to help with the grief. “You’re not grieving over what you had. You’re grieving over what you wish you had,” she said.

Grief doesn’t distinguish between losing something real and losing a fantasy.

Sadness is sad. Pain is pain. Loss is loss.

Still, the counselor’s explanation offered clarity.  Many times I’ve wondered why I was so distraught to be rid of something that plainly wasn’t good for me or that obviously ended before I let it go. Or that I never had in the first place.

I saw this played out the night before my dad’s funeral, when our son was bewildered by his sister’s sobbing. Even though our son maintained a close relationship with his grandfather, he wasn’t outwardly emotional over his death and didn’t understand why his sister was, especially since she and my dad didn’t share much of a bond.

Our son didn’t understand she was grieving the relationship with my dad that she wanted, but never had.

It explains my downheartedness when a long-time friend walked away rather than talking through our differences. Prior to our breakup, we were on the phone two to three times a week. We gossiped, criticized others to build up ourselves, and justified our unhappy lots in life. Our time together wasn’t good for either of us.

Still, when our relationship ended, I grieved the healthy friendship I wished we had, but didn’t.

Knowing what we’re grieving, even when it’s loss of an illusion instead of reality, may not lessen our pain, but it does introduce soundness during an emotional time. It also may keep us from going backwards, trying over and over to make a wish come true.

Are we honest with ourselves about grief? Are we letting go of what we had or what we wished for?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Even though an explanation doesn’t make it all better, it does allow us to make better choices.

Just In Case, a backup plan in case God fails

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“Every time you let go of something limiting, you create space for something better.” Stephen C. Paul (Photo by Sally Taylor)

I was born a Girl Scout.

It’s been second nature to live by the organization’s motto “Be prepared.”

I have a Plan B and C and D, as well as an emergency plan. I’ve made responsible decisions as far back as I can remember.

That’s why I ignored recurring thoughts about canceling my certification as a Zumba Fitness Instructor. Why? You got it. It’s my financial backup plan, just in case.

Just like in the past when I turned in job applications to places I didn’t want to work, just in case I didn’t get the job I did want.

And I stored furniture and kept clothing I wanted to give away, just in case I couldn’t afford to buy new.

I can list example after example of times I was too afraid to let go, but labeled it being responsible.

When the place I taught Zumba Fitness closed its doors, I knew I didn’t want to teach any longer. Instead of regarding that, I spent hours and days inquiring about the half a dozen Zumba Fitness opportunities in my inbox. I sent emails, dropped off applications, and interviewed at a couple of fitness centers.

I was afraid to admit I only wanted one plan, to write full time.

It took a while, but eight months ago I stopped turning in job applications other than ones for writing. I gave away all the furniture in storage. For the first time ever, the only clothes in my closet are ones I wear.

That leaves cancelling my certification, which I’m doing this week.

I’m tired of saying, “Just in case God isn’t trustworthy, just in case I need to do it on my own, just in case the dream He gave me doesn’t work out …”

Are your backup plans grounded, or simply a reaction to fear?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Long ago, when I started on this writing path, I asked an artist friend for the best advice she could give. She said, “Don’t compromise and give into the belief that writing may not work out. Work at it like it’s all you’ve got, like it has to work, and it will.”

On the side: A big thanks to friend, fellow Troop 84 member, and photographer Sally Taylor of Charleston, S.C. Sally was gracious in granting permission to use her photo of badges from our days in Girl Scouts.

Coffee Shop Moments, staying open to possibilities

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“The most beautiful things cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt within the heart.” Helen Keller

My husband John and I ran to the overhang, holding the same umbrella. Both of us wet from our knees down when we got inside, I pulled off my shoes and sat cross-legged on the overstuffed corduroy sofa.

Our son Rusty met us there and asked if his sister was coming.

We were settled at a local coffee shop that smelled of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and coffee brewing behind the counter.

Fifteen minutes passed before Kelly’s broken umbrella caught the doorframe while she pulled at the sleeve of her raincoat to take it off.

She volunteered to take pictures for Rusty’s lawn care website, the one he was making plans for while he drank a mug of hot chocolate. His dad and I said she had to include a photo of him balancing a rake upside down in the palm of his hand, like when he was kid and avoiding work.

All the while, water splashed off the windows.

“I didn’t mean to eavesdrop but I’m tempted to join in. I’ve never heard so much laughter,” said a woman walking toward the door.

Until she spoke, our conversation was surreal.

Kelly headed to work. Rusty had plans with friends. Goodbyes left John and me reflecting on the afternoon, the one I initially thought was ruined by the downpour.

In the place of my plans, our family talked for hours in a cozy coffee shop on a rainy afternoon. Perhaps Kelly put it best, “Time just stood still, didn’t it?”

I’d love to hear about your coffee shop moment.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – That magical day taught me to show up, even sopping wet, and stay open to possibilities.

QTIP: Quit Taking it Personally

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QTIP: Quit Taking It Personally.

Quit taking it personally.

Even popular blogger Seth Godin says “this is tough advice.”

He follows up with, “Here’s the thing: it’s never personal. It’s never about you.”

His reasoning goes like this: no one really knows us, they only know themselves. Therefore, their reactions are about them.

I’m pretty cool with that information when I’m the one having an allergic reaction to someone. After I glare at him or her for a few days, I typically ease my way back to the source of both the problem and solution, me.

However, when I think someone is reacting to me and they’re backing away, or I’m not included when I think I should be, or I’m confronted with a misunderstanding …

It’s personal and I’m taking it that way.

When that happens, I’m no longer looking inside myself for anything, and I don’t care what Seth says.

About three weeks, though, I got some relief while riding in the car with my husband. He acted shocked listening to me talk about my hurt feelings. It was about a situation he overlooked with friends. A situation that happened two years ago. He said, “I had no idea you felt that way.”

I figured if he sincerely didn’t know what was going on with me after we’ve been married 33 years, and I’ve talked about what happened on and off for more than 100 weeks – why, why, why would someone I met this year, anyone I’ve known for a whole month, someone I see a couple of times weekly for an hour or so … why would they know me?

And if they don’t know me, why would their reactions have anything to do with me? Are you with me?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – I’m fairly logical. An equation that reads [them + their reactions = them + their reactions] helps me more easily accept I’m not part of that problem. Thanks to my husband and Seth, maybe I can get a grip on QTIP.

People Pleaser on the Loose

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“Yes.” “Yes.” “Yes.”
The Dog

Church seemed an unlikely place over which to have a breakdown, but nonetheless, that’s the place that prompted it.

My church friends also helped end my severe bout with run-on yeses.

Our family participated in three, four, sometimes more events each week. In fact, every single church-related activity I was asked to join, attend and lead, I did.

I said “yes” to every single one.

Eventually, I got up the courage to stop overdoing.

So, when a woman from church approached me about helping with our youth group on Wednesday evenings, I told her I couldn’t fit another thing into my hectic schedule. I explained the dilemma of trying to squeeze youth group responsibilities in between teaching kindergarten, mothering our two young children, planning and instructing four-year-old Sunday School classes, and attending circle meetings twice monthly.

Did I mention homework, supper and baths?

“It’s a good thing everyone doesn’t feel the way you do, or we wouldn’t have a youth program,” she said. 

“If everyone feels like me, we shouldn’t have a youth program,” was all I could think to say. 

My response was sincere, but still, by the time I walked through the front door of our house that evening, I reeled, cried and carried on like I killed one of the youth, instead of simply saying I wasn’t available to teach them. I pitched a fit about the woman’s  expectation, her accusation, and my need to please her. My need to please everyone.

Seems it was that full-blown hissy fit that put saying “no” into perspective and made it okay, although I still want everyone to like my answer. 

What’s your no factor? Is it easy to say “no” or does it seem more like a four letter word?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – God, help me to to more easily say “no” to others when that’s the right answer, even if they don’t like it, so I have time for me and you.

On the side: Proverbs 31 Ministries blog post, People Pleasing by Lisa TerKeurst.

Dirty Little Fingers … analyze that!

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What'd you say?

What’d you say? (Photo from iStock)

I’m not talking about a child’s handprints like you might surmise from the title, but my own dirty fingers – the ones that typed on the wrong keys and, oh, my …

I wouldn’t think of repeating the word that ended up smack dab in the middle of my laptop screen and center-stage the sweetest story about cupcakes.

I must have spent five minutes trying to figure out what I meant to type, what word would have mistakenly ended up spelling that word. I never did track down the accomplice.

While I was tracking, I was also replaying my Psychology 101 days. I did a quick review of analyzing by Sigmund Freud. who said our subconscious breaks through at unexpected times to give hints to what is going on deep inside us.

You’ve probably heard of Freudian slips, like saying “Sorry you had to stay” instead of “Sorry you have to go.” According to Freud, the slip came about because the visitor overstayed his welcome. Freud would theorize the first response as the true one.

I thought about my dirty little fingers. Was the first word I typed the true one? If so, what did it mean? 

Maybe I hate cupcakes? No, that couldn’t be.

I hate my new keyboard? I hate writing? I hate my life?

Then it came to me, maybe I think too much. Maybe I made a mistake when I was typing because, like I said, my fingers were on the wrong keys.

Do you overanalyze when life would be simpler if you didn’t?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Lighten up, will you?