Day 5

Day 5 of 100 intentional, reflective steps.

Things that others may take for granted are not constants for me.  Take parents for instance. Most people have a single set of parents, like ’em or not. Not me. I had birth parents. Then I had adoptive parents. Then adoptive parents. (Yes. Another set.) Then step parents. Then  guardianparentsfosterparentsguardianparents. Then I had parents in law. Yup that’s 6+ sets.

However ever since the third set of parents took charge there has been one constant in my life.  I have been in church every week of the last forty-ish years, except in cases of long illness or travel.  It has been a place of comfort, familiarity, tradition, relationship, fun, laughter, tears, work, play, and learning.

I love the church so much I became part of leading it because I thought, with proper leadership, it had the power to change the world! To date I have worked at seven church, three of which I helped start from scratch, plus countless other churches as a guest speaker or consultant. Perhaps this is is my non-spandex/capewearing/superhero way of being a part of changing the world? I love it and it has been a steady pillar in my crazy life.  

Until last year.
Last August, at the direction of loving, astute supervisors and with very little warning, I walked out of a church I birthed and never returned.  I had to walk away to save myself. For months I cried deep, wrenching sobs every sunday. I was white hot angry at pastors who whined about their jobs and was booger green jealous at those churches that seemed to thrive even under weak, careless or (what was that Pence word?) oh, “feckless” leadership. I still tear up when I think of those people and duck around corners when I see them because I don’t feel I can talk without tearing up and making us all feel uncomfortable.
But it isn’t just my church I got cut off on. It seems to be every church. When I try and visit church I shake, break into cold sweats, am over the top anxious and due to naseau feel ready to toss my communion wafers and grape juice. I have tried arriving late so I don’t have to interact, earplugs and several other calming techniques, to no avail. “Why does this happen?”, people ask me. I don’t fecking (pence word) know, anymore than I know how to fix it. I hate it and feel like I am being unjustly kept from oxygen. 
Without the life raft and ritual of church I am still adrift but finding patience to wait for my health to catch up with my hope. I have had to remind myself that going to church doesn’t equal faith; that’s just ritual. It has re-prioritized my relationship with God to be what it always should have been, focused on Christ not on the gathering of people. I can now focus on what I have and not what I’ve lost, the beautiful collective expression of faith.   
So, relax people. My not going to church doesn’t mean I’m going straight to hell, just to starbucks. Judge that coffee snobs, not my faith.

Day 4

Day 4 of 100 intentional, reflective steps.

Today as I was standing on my head trying to re-distribute my weight, i.e. thin out my calves so they would fit into sexy black boots, I had a thought.  I’m fat. This was quickly followed by the thought that not everything I do has to be a blog or sermon illustration or GOD FORBID, a visual. Sometimes we are just fat.

My fear in publishing a blog is that I will become an oversharing (too late), over zealous (WOW!!!!),  millennial (too old) who thinks my every thought is brilliant. Thats not what this blog is about. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and looks like a duck . . . Its time for supper and roast duck! The goal here are observations and trends that guide me forward. This observation is guiding me to the gym. See, its working.

Dressed for yoga and then decided to fight with my husband instead.  Raised my heart rate though. That’s got to count for something.

Day 3

“What one does is what counts. Not what one 
had the intention  of doing.” Pablo Picasso 

Day 3 of 100 intentional, reflective steps.

I love intentionality. I consult business about it, I write and preach about it. But the fact is, this blog is a result of my need for intentionality in my day to day life.

All day, everyday, depression lays like a heavy, inviting, itchy, smelly blanket. You may want to leave that smelly cocoon but it is too damn heavy to move by yourself. At the same time, you want to stay in your blanket cave . You are fully aware that its a cold world out there and so shedding the blanket sounds stupid. Plus what if someone stole your familiar away? What if you were never able to find it again?! This is depression.

Everyday, all day, I think about what I need to do. Controlling my food, exercising, praying, reading to keep up with business, education, marketing and spiritual trends, calling friends, visiting family, cleaning my house, cooking meals, loving neighbors etc. All those obligations and things that keep us interacting with the world. Isn’t that the expectation? Show up? Shed the blanket? “Do I,t” they say. “It’ll be fun,” they say. “Do it today.”

Today? Really? See, that “starting today” thing is always the rake I step on. Every project, thought and decision of my life seems stuck in the starting blocks. I guess if I want things to stay as they are, that will work. But I don’t. So today it is.

My first decision was to blog every day. It represents my decision to go from hobbyist to writer.  Serious pen to paper, or in this case, broken nail bed to portable cheap keyboard. I have finally decided that this is one of the gifts God has given me and it’s time to polish it and see if it shines.So far, three days.

Day 2

Day 2 of 100 intentional, reflective steps.

In the 99 days/15 weeks left of my 100 days, if I were to lose 4.5 lbs a week I could get to my “goal weight” of 150 lbs.! Woohoo!!! Sigh. Yes, I know that isn’t possible in a healthy way. But the truth is I am deeply unhappy with my body. I can joke about it or tell riveting stories about my weight challenges. I can tell how I wear spandex all the time because pants with a real waistband are uncomfortable and  how my large spandex are now starting to roll down below my belly leaving me feeling like a hippity hop stuffed into tea cup. But the truth is my thoughts about my body take up an inordinate amount of my brain space.  I hate every picture of myself and I even find myself avoiding people I haven’t seen in a long time.

In all fairness my meds do cause water retention (resulting in added weight) and cravings. Also depression affects my motivation but . . .
  • I belong to Weight Watchers.
  • I have a gym membership.
  • I have enough money to continue a weight loss program that I have quit twice already.
  • I have a flexible schedule so I can fit in time to work out and to cook healthy.

It feels inexcusable that I can’t lose weight. Maybe shooting for my ideal weight is not even the right  target! Nothing external, like hair, body type or clothing, should define the essence of my significance as a person. While I don’t really believe those words, something about it rings true.

Here’s my question. What IS a greater measure of my worth than pounds? What if I took a risk for the next 99 days and act as if I believed that the number on the scale isn’t a signifier of my personal value? 

Ok. I feel the judgment. I’m a pastor. I “should” know better than this. In light of the eternal hope I have in Christ I should feel gratitude, joy and contentment at being a beloved child. Reality, y’all.  It is because of our biting, carnal, basest self loathing that freely offered love and grace is so beautiful. Embracing the truth of how preoccupied I am with things that don’t have real meaning makes accepting grace so much more appealing.

I suspect until I figure this out I know no matter how much weight I lose I will not have the joy and peace I crave.

Day 1

Day 1 of 100 intentional, reflective steps

One year ago today I was in a psychiatric hospital after a major breakdown. Don’t be too quick to judge; it felt like one minute my world was in order and the next doctors were asking if I felt i had any special powers or heard voices.  

They took my shoelaces, string from my running shorts, leg razor, privacy and dignity.  For months doctors evaluated my mental health. Multiple “methodologies” were used to help me get in touch with my inner child; Equine therapy with ancient horses, a ropes courses, art therapy, yoga, tai chi, meditation, brain wave analysis, light therapy, spiritual reflection and countless hours of talk therapy. While the institution is paid good money to help its clients find a more beautiful life, they do that by shedding light on the ugly parts of ourselves. It was tortuous. What more could I expect from a $10,000 a week “hotel” that refused us caffeine past 8 a.m. and no sugar? Ever. (Sugar and caffeine are drugs kids. Might as well be shooting up or smoking crack.) 

We were cut off from the outside world except through an occasional call made through circa 1970’s phones and the United States Postal Service. There was no music, save the shitty Zen pan flute whining from a sad little sound box hiding behind ancient magazines and crusty modeling clay in the art room. It was surreal and I felt like I was drowning. Every day. Diagnosis were made, medication prescribed and after two long months I was set free to bless the world with my newly enlightened self.

Now I can barely remember my former life. After a long year back at home of therapy and treatment I can finally go into public again but only under the following conditions. The crowds must be small, nobody should touch me uninvited and there should be no startling noises like fireworks, sneezing or birds chirping.  Also, I must have earplugs and quick access to total batman cave stillness and silence. I am still sad, my relationships feel hollow, I spend most of my time by myself and my personhood has been stripped of all the trappings that used to make it seem festive; accomplishments, jobs, accolades, crowds, influence, etc. Therapy has taught me to pay attention to my own needs and feelings. So now I live with anxiety and depression that rolls in and out like the ocean in high tide.

My emotions are held together by pharmaceuticals, 2-4 appointments a week with doctors and therapists, spilled coffee, stubbornness and prayer. To make this a more weighty matter, pun intended, the drugs have contributed to a fifty pound gain, mostly in my ass. I am basically a yellow, round, sad faced emoji In yoga pants. I’m lost.

So, I’ve decided to voluntarily prioritize myself. To come to a place where you are forced to focus on yourself is a tragedy. To chose to is a gift. 

In the next 100 days there are many momentous occasions; A trip to Chicago for work and some play, my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, my oldest child’s wedding, the second anniversary of my sister’s death, and New Years Day. Each event, each day gives me opportunity to ignore my inner dialogue, my prayerful conversations and my basic needs or to wallow in my pain and loss. More importantly, it gives me opportunity to see how God will reveal himself  and sustain me as I fight not to regain what I have lost but rather explore the future.

One day/one step at a time for one hundred days.