They are gathering for Saturday breakfast in the back area of Panera Bread. This group of 10 or so are dressed in their church clothes; men wearing ties and most of the women are in dresses.
I tell myself it will wait. To linger a bit longer here where there is no office and the sunshine streams bright through the windows. The piped-in music is soft enough and generic enough to accompany and not conflict. A quiet tumble of voices nearby are speaking life and activity. Some are hurrying through and others lingering like me. I wonder what they are avoiding by the extra moments spent sipping their coffee. Or maybe they are, also like me, enjoying the presence of others while pretending to be invisible.
It took years before I could sit alone in a cafe. Before I wanted to be in this space alone. Saturdays I share the space and it’s good in the right ways just as good as this time in personal quiet is good. So different but so good.
The songs playing now are instrumental versions of pop songs. I may have to leave now. I’m not liking that my mind is putting words to this and I want to change the playlist (control freak that I am).
I have nothing to offer today. No metaphor, no spiritual lesson or truth for you. Just a knowing that I can give myself grace to put aside the laundry and errands and phone messages and emails and Sunday preparation to linger a bit longer in this place that is coming more to life. To know there is room for the lingering. To rest my soul in its quiet and say it is good.
My father-in-law knew all the idioms that have become American Proverbs.
The squeaky wheel gets oil.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Don’t cry over spilt milk.
You have to know when to which.
I didn’t always understand them or how they fit but he seemed to pull one out for every situation. Do you remember the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Remember how he used Windex for everything? Yeah, sort of like that.
Unlike the Windex (I think) some of those idioms fit. Maybe all the door joints need oil to keep them performing at optimum capacity but it’s only when one squeaks that you notice it.
For me, it’s plants. They need water regularly. And, apparently, plant food. I water them when I see them start to droop. When they are starting to literally die from thirst, I realize, oh, guess I should water them.
There are times our soul is dying of thirst but no ones knows until we collapse from depression. Our heart is broken but until the anxiety squeaks loudly we hide it well.
Do we want to get well or do we just want to get better?
I was at urgent care recently. I knew the problem but the over the counter stuff wasn’t the cure. The Dr. asked the usual questions and when I told her what I was taking, she said “that only treats the symptoms, it won’t get rid of the infection.”
Isn’t that what we often do? The drinking is only treating the symptoms of our fear of flying, our lack of self-esteem, our unknowing of who we are.
Over using prescription drugs treat the symptoms of an overcommitted life: too many yeses without room to breathe. Our need to please everyone while ignoring self-care.
It’s just so hard to say ouch. I’ve worn the mask that looks like a permanent smile. You put it on to make others feel good but you’re the one who needs to be healed of the hurts you’ve carried too long.
Getting well means letting people know what’s really wrong.
The doctor at urgent care performed the usual procedures. She looked in my ears, nose and throat. She listened to my lungs and heart. She also needed to know my symptoms.
Since I was sitting in urgent care it was obvious something was wrong. Now wasn’t the time to lie or try to mask the problems.
It’s easy to hide the emotional ills like worry and anxiety. We can explain them away as concern. We strive to get better rather than get well.
We get up and show up. We lead a group or are the hospitality queen of the neighborhood. We’re killing ourselves with our drive for Instagram perfection.
Getting well means going deeper than the surface. It means full honesty with ourselves and those who care for us. It means being brave to let others hear our squeaky hearts. It means allowing Jesus to break the cycle of fear or striving.
Do you want to get well or just get better?
Tell me the story simply,
As to a little child,
For I am weak and weary,
And helpless and defiled.
It isn’t the body that is weak but the spirit. Tired and weary as the old hymn says. Made weak from the news, real and fake, weak from uncertainty, and even weak from caring.
But I take heart in the strength of Jesus. He puts others in my life to speak words of encouragement or an unexpected bouquet of flowers.
He brightens my day with a phone call with my daughter, a funny photo of our son celebrating his dogs 3rd birthday. All of my life is filtered through the lens of faith and God’s presence in our most ordinary times.
I recognize the need for self care more and more. The need for balance and the recognition this may not happen on a daily basis.
A couple of weeks ago I thought I’d caught a cold from Henry. It turned into laryngitis and persisted to the point I knew I needed to go to the doctor. A quick look confirmed it wasn’t a cold but a sinus infection. Two prescriptions (and one for rest) had me on the mend. I just wonder why we aren’t as quick to take our spiritual and emotional fatigue to a doctor?
The chorus of that old hymn above says ‘Tell me the old, old story of Jesus and his love’. His love that takes many forms in bringing strength to my weakness, and soothes my soul.
The Crayola box of 64 colors was my favorite. Suddenly, our choices weren’t limited to 8 or 16 or 24. A new box meant fresh crayons with no torn paper and sharp new points. They were in neat rows, all the same height in four sections of rainbows. There was even a sharpener on the back of the box. Bonus! Some of my crayons never lost their point because I didn’t use them. I favored the blues and yellows, a couple of the greens, browns and, quite sparingly, red. But raw umber? Not likely. Ochre? No thanks. Definitely not Salmon. And you can bet I worked hard at coloring inside the lines.
Adult coloring books are a thing now giving us grownups an excuse to color without pretending we’re doing it for our kids or grandkids. I have a coloring app on my iPad. Amazon has even created a page for their most popular adult coloring books. My app has a variety of patterns and with a tap of my finger I color in the sections on the design I’ve chosen. With far more than 64 colors to choose from, I’ve determined to use more than the blues, yellows and earth tones.
Digital coloring helps me take the risk of trying something new. If the color isn’t what I want, click, and another color appears. I try new combinations and learn which shades compliment and which ones are flat out ugly. Art is subjective, of course.
Coloring is one way I practice self-care. It’s a simple grace I give myself. It is always grace we need to mend the bruises of our soul. Grace that reminds us to breathe when the world is moving too fast. Grace that holds us when we’re tired of holding everyone else.
While my coloring is neat and deliberate and always inside the lines, grace has ignored every line in my life. It is messy and beautiful at the same time. It’s like a Picasso or Pollack, both styles I don’t like for their helter-skelter approach. Yet, what I need is messy grace that isn’t about trying to get it right. I need the scribble of colors, the splash of paint spilling over ignoring the lines I’ve drawn around my life.
Grace paints the evening sky where clouds are wisps of orange bleeding over the indigo of the sky. Grace is irregular in its designs and speaks of creation. It is disorder painted across the order with which God created the world.
It’s hard to understand this grace. It’s hard to let go the urge to even try to understand it because it’s not made for knowing other than to know we are loved. I am loved. My irregular lines, the crooked smile and left foot that is slightly bigger than the right. My messy life of fighting anxiety and depression, of negative self-talk. The harsh words I yell from behind my steering wheel. Yes, grace says I’m loved even when those dark shades seem to paint my life.
The drive from Irving to Waco gave us plenty of time to talk. We talk in circles, usually, starting at one point and ending far from where we began.
She and I are both firstborns and our conversation about life had me commenting that the only models for firstborns are adults. We take our cues from them. Our parents, grandparents… they are the ones who imprint our lives. They are our patterns.
I like patterns. Shapes, numbers, word art, quilt blocks and puzzle pieces. I like the bold statements and clean lines of a fat number printed on tile or wood or just about anything. I’m drawn to the order, eager to restore order to what has fallen in disarray.
Elective classes is what excited me about Junior High. From somewhere in the middle of grade school, I knew I wanted to take typing and Home Economics. I wanted to peck out words faster than anyone not forgetting accuracy. And I wanted to learn to sew.
Typing proved easier. My fingers took to the keys of the electric typewriter in our 7th grade classroom. With paper clipped to a holder, I typed as fast as I read the words with few errors. When it came to sewing, correcting mistakes was more tedious.
When I had Home Ec in high school, the project was more advanced than the apron we made in Jr. High and one that we could work on at home. Mama’s sewing machine and skills were helpful in making my brown pantsuit (the 70’s).
As an adult, I took a quilting class with a friend. We both loved the art of quilting and enjoyed our classes. Quilting was even more exact than sewing clothes. Some designs had points and while our instructor showed us all the tricks, mine were hit and miss as to their pointedness. I folded and ironed and pinned in the right spots but, not every point was exact.
When our babies came along, my sewing interest was renewed. I was never seamstress level. I just sewed. Well enough for my daughter to wear her pretty frocks and to make a couple of matching outfits for our toddler and pre-schooler. But I would never call myself a seamstress. I’d see the work of seamstresses and mine wasn’t it.
The same when I drew or painted…I needed a pattern. The designs weren’t in my head or the few times they were I couldn’t reproduce what my minds eye saw.
I can’t sing on key without music. I can’t draw a cow without looking at a photo of one. I need a pattern to follow.
But then the real problem emerged: I wanted what I did to be exactly like the pattern. Oh, a little difference was okay. I wasn’t an artist after all. But it needed to be enough for people to notice how alike the model it was.
That, my friends, is stifling.
As a Christian, following is good. Following the ways Jesus calls us is always for our best. But he wants us to enjoy freedom within his community. Freedom to use the gifts he’s given us. Freedom to explore our talents.
When I only allow myself to duplicate another work, I’m measuring myself against them. The comparison voice, the loud one that is a liar, that voice shouts out how far off the mark I am. How limited my talents are and that I’m not a seamstress, artist, writer, musician, good parent, spouse, friend.
The comparisons are there for everything. I don’t read enough books, or the right books. I don’t drink enough water or exercise enough. I don’t read my bible as much as she does nor do I know all those verses. What is that voice inside you shouting?
How can I be so….not enough?
I’m slowly trying to work my way to finding my way. I’m not throwing away the patterns. Not the pattern of Jesus.
I’m trying to explore the patterns grace. The ragged, unpredictable, outside the lines grace. Grace given to myself is the pattern I want to use.
How about you? Will you give yourself some grace today?
How do you tell them you’re tired? That your smiles aren’t as real as they use to be? That, most days, you have to make yourself show up.
This isn’t suppose to happen. Not to us, not to people who are the ones who hug you when you’ve come back after your last relapse. Not to people who are grace-givers and hope-peddlers.
This isn’t suppose to happen.
But it does. It has and I don’t know what to do with my tired heart and pretend smile.
In the early days I held a little distance between us, between me and the residents of our facility, aka: addicts. I watched and listened and let God soften my heart. I walked carefully into this new ministry, this foreign world on home soil.
I walked through the first few years a bit dazed by it all and unsure of where to make my place. Some of the men called me mom, adding to my unsettled feelings. I wasn’t out to be their mom, but I smiled politely because I was learning.
Time passed and I let the tears fall when one didn’t return home because now I was happy to be called ‘mom’. I wanted to make this place a home where they can know love and grace and mercy and that love and mercy don’t exclude rules for communal living.
God was using this community of residents and staff to show me the real ‘amazing grace’. This was compassion and mercy and love and they will steal your heart and leave you empty and tired with no more tears to cry for the next one.
We pull away, we take vacation, we have creative endeavors, we do all of the things that should keep us healthy and our souls fit for caring one more day. But now, my tears are from feeling numb to it all.
Caring too much can hurt. When caregivers focus on others without practicing self-care, destructive behaviors can surface. Apathy, isolation, bottled up emotions and substance abuse head a long list of symptoms associated with the secondary traumatic stress disorder now labeled: Compassion Fatigue
Where is the renewal of my soul?
One of the perks about our ministry is the competent counselors on staff. What could be better than a licensed mental health counselor, just down the hall from my office? I told her I’d lost it. I’d lost the passion and energy and that I had to make myself show up.
She looks me in the eye, listening to my words as well as my heart. Her voice softens and she asks me, again, ‘What about you? You’re a nurturer but are you taking care of you? What are you doing that’s for you?’ You know I am, Marian. You know I’m taking a photography class and that I write. You know I do those things for me.
She pressed on, ‘ But who are your friends? Your girlfriends? The ones you do things with, not your husband, your friends?
Ah, yes. The ones who live in other states. Those friends? The story gets complicated and our talk grows quiet as she knows I’ll walk out her door and nothing will change.
We are wired to tend to the needs of others while ignoring the weakening pulse in our heart. The bible is full of verses about putting others first and serving the least and how the last will be first in the Kingdom. These verses of works walk hand in hand with the faith on which they are built. One without the other is dead so we carry on until we slowly die on the inside.
There is that one verse. The one I like reading in the Message, the one that makes me think of music and the ocean and the graceful rhythms of both.
It’s as if Eugene Peterson was reading my mind when he wrote this paraphrase:
“Are you tired? Worn out ? Burned out on religion?”
Well, yes… yes, I am.
“Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Sometimes keeping company with Jesus looks like a phone call with a friend, a heart to heart with my sister or laughing at an 8-year old’s jokes. These are life breaths to suck in deeply, slowly, and hold, ……..then the release, exhaling slower still . The renewal comes in the release. Always in the release.
It’s been tossing back and forth in my mind for 2 months. I was going to be prepared this year. Ha! I thought the same thing last year but now, my third year, I would nail it. I’ve learned more and was taking advantage of the tools.
But life started pressing in and the realization that I have a job. You know, the real kind that isn’t writing. The world most of us live in was getting full as it often does when summer turns to autumn.
Then there was the lack of words. The kind needed to spill out 31 days IN A ROW.
I like to be part of things. I like to take part, to show up, to join in, to be in the club. I suffer from a little bit of FOMO – the Fear of Missing Out. Recognizing your problem is the first step, right?
The reality is, I can’t. Not today. Today I don’t have words to take this challenge. I could probably manufacture some but they wouldn’t be real. Today isn’t the day to fake it until you make it.
So I’m giving myself grace. Grace to not be part of this challenge, this group of writers who will have more to say than I. I’m practicing positive self-talk instead of chastising myself for not be more.
It’s like walking that 4″ width of wood. Whether it’s 3 inches or 3 feet off the ground we have to balance to stay on the beam. We hold out our arms, eyes focused on our feet as we step carefully one foot in front of the other. Some folks seem to have inner ballast helping them navigate with ease. Then there’s my tribe: even with arms flung out like airplane wings, we teeter this way and that holding our sway to stay balanced.
A friend recently told me that I’m the most balanced person she knows. I wonder if the first step is in recognizing when things are out of balance. That feeling of falling, even from a short distance. Some people seem to think life can only be lived teetering on the edge. There are times that’s true. The unexpected happens knocking our feet off their solid ground.
In my youth, hanging on was sometimes a way of life. Age can be a good teacher and I’m trying to learn. To learn when to push and when to say no. When to allow myself the grace in knowing I can’t. Not forever, but now.
“This will be the last time. I need it once more and then I’ll be OK. I know it costs too much, I know what it’s doing to me but I can’t take it…I have to have it today.”
Did you think I was talking about drugs? Sex? No, sadly this daily conversation happens in my head on the way to the adorable coffee shop next to my work. I’ve created a deep neural pathway in my brain that says, “If you don’t get your medium latte and chocolate chip cookie each morning then….” Then what? I’ll die? I won’t be able to function? There is no answer to what would happen because even after white knuckling it at my desk for hours, I always end up back there.
Did I mention the chocolate chip cookie is made with dark chocolate, has a sprinkle of sea salt, and is the perfect balance of crispy to chewy consistency?
Yeah, I have an eating disorder. I wish I could say it was a cool one that ends in an ‘a’. The kind where people feel pity for you and support you in your quest to get healthy. No, I have EDNOS; Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Basically you have to meet specific criteria to be diagnosed with Anorexia, Bulimia or Binge Eating Disorder, and I don’t quite fall into any of these categories. The pain is the same.
I was in group one time and a severely anorexic woman told a story about being in inpatient treatment, where a rude nurse noticed how thin she was and compared her to her obese roommate who struggled with binge eating disorder. She said, “Wow! You two must have nothing in common!” The woman replied, “What are you talking about? We’re twins! We’re both obsessed with food!” Powerful.
Though I’ve had the clinical diagnosis over 10 years, my relationship with food was bad from an early age. One of my first diary entries at 6 was about needing to go on a diet. My first memory of bingeing was around 8; slice after slice of Roman Meal bread. I liked to squish it into a tiny cube and nibble at it. And I couldn’t stop. Overeating – Restriction – Stuffing – Starvation – New Diet – Failure. This has gone on for decades.
Food is always accessible. Food is used for celebration and for grief. Food is given as a reward. Food is delicious. Food gets me high. In Overeaters Anonymous (I stopped going because their name gave me too much shame.) they talk about how different it is for someone struggling with food compared to drugs or alcohol. With drugs and alcohol you know when you’ve maintained sobriety by not using anything. We “have to get in the cage with the tiger 3+ times a day”.
My relationship with food feels like dating a narcissist boyfriend. I love him even when he’s bad for me. He knows how to lure me back and can be good sometimes. He hurts me and I feel the shame from it. I don’t know how to quit him. It doesn’t take a therapist to realize that our twisted connections with food really aren’t because we happen to love eating so much. It gives us what we aren’t getting in life. It comforts us in ways nothing else can. It’s something we have control over, even when out of control, as we get to make the decisions.
So for today, I make the next right decision. For today, I breathe through hard moments. For today, I reach out for help. For today, I take my life back.
Kimberly is a 46 year old woman from Minneapolis who despises the cold, married 20 years, has a 17 year old son, an executive assistant by day and yoga teacher at night, blogger, heretic/Jesus lover/skeptic/tired. Images in this post courtesy of Unsplash.
Our dwelling places have been designed with a bunch of rooms and each set of four walls serves a specific purpose. Kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom.
Yeah, we know that.
Yet every home is filled with unexpected nooks and crannies, too.
And, most likely, one of those little corners has become your very own sweet haven. It may not have dawned on you ’til right now. But if you stop to reflect for just a second, you might have an ‘aha’ moment and realize …
‘Well, YES! There IS that little nook that draws me like a magnet!’
It’s unpretentious, isn’t it, that corner where you automatically head when you’re weary and need a bit of consolation. This is the cozy alcove that invites you to relax, put your feet up, and breathe deep. A tad weary? Need to chill? Yearn for solitude? More than a bit frazzled?
This is the niche you find yourself drawn to when you just have to escape life’s craziness even if just for a few minutes. As you nestle into your little sweet spot, you find a deep sustenance there. You show yourself grace and compassion by making that choice to rest … and feel God whispering His love to you as you tuck yourself into your tiny nest.
Chances are your private little domain is not the home’s showpiece. You might never know why this little corner of your world became your go-to locale. It’s probably a bit shabby, maybe quite well worn. But this matters not because its sheer imperfect-ness somehow lends itself perfectly to those serendipitous moments that still the weary soul. It’s an unexpected gift you give yourself.
A haven it’s become. And you wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s the far corner of a 22 year old red and green plaid sofa, right near the window upstairs in the loft. The old springs are slowly but surely giving way and those colors, that plaid, in no way resonates with my current decor of choice.
A candle often burns bright, a hot cup of tea could be cooling on the faded little blue stool. A library book or perhaps a stack of newspapers might patiently be sitting, just begging to be tended to. Or I might indulge in far too much gametime on my tablet … or stay up late into the night absorbed in a book I just can’t put aside.
My husband and I retreat there after dinner most nights. I sprawl all over the sofa and he holds court in the faded blue spring-less glider with the stuffing emerging from a widening hole in the right armrest. We watch the news and debate politics’ insanity … or quietly consider what’s happening in the family.
There might be foot rubs or hot chocolate or an ice cream sundae on the agenda. Maybe there’ll be a movie to watch … or we’ll simply head over to HGTV to find more inspiration for our house re-do.
And yes, on a cloudy afternoon, if you need me and I’m not writing at my desk or doing some laundry, this is probably where you’ll find me … with an old quilt and a soft pillow, burrowed down and napping in complete peace. Or maybe simply gazing out the window at the trees … and watching them wave their branches, smiling their assurance that yes, the sunshine will soon come to call once again.
Last month we looked at the theme of home. Cara Meredith, Annie Rim and Linda Stoll contributed guest posts but before I had a chance to feature Linda’s post, my mom died and I needed to step away. There was a lot churning but focusing on the familiar, writing, helps with so many things, grief included. So….here is the long overdue contribution from Linda, a dear soul who has an inspiring blog. Do drop over and visit her as she has been working through a major home redo. Funny how often the external mirrors the internal.
Thank you, Linda, for sharing your home with us.