Season of Stillness

I was raised in a religious environment that led me to believe if I wasn’t striving in my faith I was moving backwards. Stillness meant spiritual death. Not “working out my faith” meant was condemning it the fiery depths. Every time, I “stalled out”, I begged for forgiveness from a God who I thought measured my worth by my works. I served God as if  some spiritual sundial was sundowning on my efforts and I would come up empty handed.

As I have entered a new season of self care I have begun to wonder where in that praxis is there room for self care and peace?  If we are always chasing something how can we rest and meditate on the things of the Lord? How can we enter the  peace and rest of a shepherd that longs only for our presence? Where does ‘abiding’ just being in the presence of something bigger than ourselves fit in?

I would offer this. If one is always chasing a sense of success in their worship of the almighty, their focus is misdirected as to what the roles of God and humankind are. Faith exists as an avenue for worship with firm resolve that our worship is a gift that benefits the giver. Faith is a journey, not a destination.

I have learned to find peace in the stillness because I know God is there. It is in the blackness, the quiet and the silence that I am secure because it is where I feel the most held. There is no distraction of myself and my own feeble attempts to win the grace of One who gives it freely.

This has been a season of stillness. I have not been working at my faith but thankfully it is is working on me.

Sax Gratitude

I wanted to play the saxophone. I imagined myself a hip, cool, wild and free saxophonist, muppet Zoot and Janice style. Sadly, I was a disgruntled pianist who, in addition to playing sax, wanted to be a brave, soaring solo vocalist. I tried. I remember singing in a trio in high school but when I went off key, from the audience my mother put her finger up to her lips to shush me. I was mortified and swore off spotlight singing from then on.

I was just a boring pianist. Sure, I successfully played for 13 years. Yes, I won competitions. Yes, the neighbors said they opened their windows when i was practicing so they could hear me play. Yes, I had my own piano students when I was 13 years old. But still, it wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want to play that big, unwieldy formal instrument. I was Zoot in spirit.

I also always wanted blond hair like Nellie Olson, not the thick heavy asian hair that I was gifted.  So often we want what we cannot have and envy those who do.

I fell asleep the other night crying. The last thing I remember sobbing was “but I don’t want to be a writer!”  It isn’t that I don’t love writing or appreciate the impact of well placed words on lives. It is just that I never imagined my life would be so solitary and quiet at this point. “I’m a teacher. A pastor. A preacher. A leader. I’m supposed to be at the microphone not sequestered to my desk, writing word pictures in anonymity that may never be read.”  

If this sounds like a temper tantrum, it is. If it sounds like ingratitude, its because it is.

Twenty years ago when I moved into this small town a dear friend, retired pastor and brilliant writer used to say to me EVERY TIME I visited their house, “Jill! You need to write. You can reach so many more people if you write. Start writing. You can do it!” He had no idea that inside my heart there were many books already started and so many stories ‘banked” for just the right moment. He sensed something that God was already speaking. The truth is, I may never have taken the time to discover whether writing “fit” me or not if I weren’t forced to be still, be silent and be alone. But I have and I truly love it.  “I’m listening Brother Brandt. Thank you.”

Today I thank God for the things I am, without diminishing myself or the gifts I have by wanting something else.  So with gratitude in one hand and my pen in the other the only thing I can say now is . . . how am I supposed to hold my coffee?!

Losing my Bananas

If you have ever been tempted to tell me I am full of hot air here is your chance.   I am overweight by 70 pounds, the weight of a full helium tank.   A whole tank.  Or, you could tell me I’m bananas because I am 187 bananas overweight. I am overweight by the weight of an average sheet of drywall and an entire bushel of corn.

I have always been conscious of my body and overly conscious of my weight, even when I weighed too little. Four years ago when my journey with psychotropic medications began I never imagined it would affect this part of my life.  70 pounds later and its a daily battle not only to be emotionally balanced but also not to lose my mind over the fact that I am considered obese for my height.

Peace with my body weight and shape eludes me.  Even though I work out 3-5 times a week, hard, at the gym and am in the best physical shape of my adult life I cannot be satisfied with the way I look. I’m frustrated that I’m working so hard and its making such little result in my appearance. 

The funny thing is I remember when I was underweight, because of a borderline eating disorder, and I thought then that I was still over weight.

This body image thing is a bigger issue than our scales and our mirrors.  Its something deeper, internal that drives our perceptions of who we think our best self is.

I take better care of my body, soul, spirit and mind than I ever have.  My artistic and spiritual life are rich and growing.  So why can’t I be satisfied? I think it is because I measure myself by the wrong mirror.  The current image of what it is to be successful does not include being overweight. Advertisers struggle to portrait what a “real” woman looks like and yet we so often compare ourselves to movie stars and fashion models who’s job it is to be in shape.

Being a size 5 and in shape is not my job. My job is to be healthy and being healthy includes my mind.  So I need a makeover for my mind. The makeover is really an attitude adjustment. An accurate mirror would tell me that I am healthy, I am strong, I am creative, beautiful and talented.  I will work hard to tell myself that I am not my body weight. I am so much more than that. 

Will I continue on my quest to lose some bananas? Absolutely, but I will also try really hard not hate myself in the process.