My Awakening, The Happiness Trap

Get out of your Head and into your Life!

It’s been a little while since I posted something new here.  The past couple weeks have been full and fun.  Sienna’s school year ended and then Gaga came to visit.  We got to hear all about Gaga’s amazing European adventure, Dennis and I had a wonderful date night, and we took the kids to the pool a couple times.  We had a laidback, relaxing transition into summer.

During this time, I have embraced being present and as a result, I learned something new along my journey of awakening…

When I first realized that I had an issue with needing to control my feelings through planning and spending an excessive amount of time thinking, analyzing, (i.e. “in my head”), I had to learn to be comfortable in the moment.  As I practiced defusion, expansion, and connection – I still had a tendency to hold on to specific thoughts that made me feel better.  The thoughts were perhaps healthier and more helpful, but still it was an intellectual or mental exercise.

However, I did have times where I embraced the moment and felt surprising feelings that were genuine, inspiring, and poignant.  I liked feeling things deeply again.  I felt more alive.  True, I’d also sometimes feel down, but then the joyful moments felt more special and real.

I realize now that when I said I was “happy all the time” what I actually felt was a sense of control over my thoughts and feelings.  Control made me feel okay.  But, it didn’t truly make me feel happy.

cropped-sunset.jpgThoughts and feelings are not the same thing.  In order to feel, you actually have to stop thinking.  Contemplating something means you’ve retreated into your mind; you can’t pay attention to both your thoughts and the sensations in your body, at the same time.

I’ve noticed this with sunsets.  We have a great view of the sunset from our backyard, so I’ve had many different experiences with them.  Sometimes my mind is constantly going, telling my how beautiful it is, how peaceful this ought to make me feel, how lucky we are to have this view, etc.  Other times, I just look.  I breathe.  I notice the palm trees in the distance, the different layers of colors, the fog rolling in from the coast, the sound of the birds in the trees.  I experience the sunset and do not have any preconceived ideas on how it should make me feel.

So, that’s the next revelation for me.  In order to be in touch with my feelings, I have to be present and connected to the moment.  Thoughts come and go all the time, of course.  It’s not about controlling my thoughts, it’s about not giving my thoughts so much attention.

Life is to be experienced; to be felt.  My loved ones are to be seen, heard, and held.  Listening to Sienna’s stories or entering Teo’s game is how I can really be their mom and show I care, rather than simply thinking about how much I love my children. Taking Holy Communion and participating in the divine liturgy are how I connect with Christ, much more than in my moments of contemplation about God.  Going to the funeral of someone we never met in support of our church family is deeply fulfilling and allowed us to teach Sienna about death in a way that no intellectual conversation ever could.

A line from The Happiness Trap says: “Get out of your head and into your life!”  I’ve had that line pop into my mind like a little mantra lately.  When I’m distracted by my thoughts and pulled out of the moment, sometimes reciting that is all it takes for me to let go and reconnect.

Home and Family

“Sometimes Even Good Moms Make Mistakes”

This was the last week of first grade for Sienna!

It was a busy week – early morning meetings and rushing out the door to get to school on time – meant that I couldn’t park and walk Sienna into her classroom on Monday and Tuesday.  She’d recently warmed to the idea of being dropped off at the front of the school, after claiming it was “Too scary!” for most of the year.

Sienna car

When I had to drop her off on Tuesday morning, because we were running late, I promised Sienna that I’d park and walk her in the next day.

Wednesday morning we were making our way down the hill to school when I noticed a lot of cars parked on the side streets.  “Do the Kindergartner’s have a performance today?” I wondered aloud.  When we pulled into the parking lot, we learned what was going on: Fifth Grade Promotion, in the Multipurpose Room.  Oh man, there was no way I’d find a parking spot.

“Lovie, I’m not going to be able to park.  Fifth grade promotion is right now and everything is full,” I told Sienna.

“But, you promised to walk me in,” she replied.

“I know I did.  But, I didn’t know that the promotion was this morning.  I’m sorry, Babe.  Sometimes things happen that I can’t control.”

A brief moment of silence and then Sienna said…

“It’s okay. Sometimes even good moms make mistakes.”

A lump immediately formed in my throat.

“Yes, that’s true.  And when we do we need our children to forgive us,” I told her, looking at her in the rearview mirror.

“I forgive you.”

Life is sometimes so poignant and real, it hurts.  This moment was so precious because I saw that Sienna is starting to understand grace and forgiveness.  Dennis and I are trying to model our parenting after the relationship between God and us.  We offer one another forgiveness, without guilt or retribution, because that’s how God forgives us through Christ.

Being forgiven for accidently breaking a promise to my child reminded me that sometimes the problems in life provide opportunities for connection, love, and joy.

Thank you Lord for this moment of grace.


Our Corner of the Kingdom

At the communion rail this past Sunday, I felt a deep appreciation for being a part of our church family.  Pastor John distributed the body of Christ to the couple next to me, calling them each by name, before coming to me and pronouncing, “The body of Christ, given for you, Kelsey” as he placed the host in my mouth.  Then Daryl, one of our Elders, approached. “Kels, the blood of Christ,” he said as he offered me the chalice.  Being called by name, as Holy Communion is given on behalf of Jesus, provides a sense of intimacy that Christ’s sacrifice was specifically for you, and me.  There’s also a wonderful familiarity when members of your church family know you and therefore are in a position to speak your name during the distribution of the Eucharist.

This moment made me feel connected to Christ and to the citizens of his Kingdom that also call Grace Lutheran Church home.  As I returned to my pew, I reflected on the past week of blessings I enjoyed by being a part of this church family.

On Thursday, we had a delightful lunch with our preschool Director and several moms from our church and preschool to plan the annual summer Vacation Bible School. Sharing ideas and working collaboratively, we engaged in our common goal to provide a Christ-centered, fun, educational program for the kids.  Coming away from that gathering, I felt blessed by the fellowship of like-minded women and inspired to be joyfully serving beside them.

Teo being turned into a mummy at our church Oktoberfest last fall

The previous evening I spoke with Pastor John about a dilemma our family faced, to which he provided loving counsel.  During that conversation Pastor recounted a story about our son Mateo, from the preschool chapel lesson that day.  Pastor was teaching the kids about the Ancient Jewish atonement customs involving the tabernacle.  As they acted out the scene through a makeshift tabernacle, he explained that the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies, “God’s house”, once a year on Yom Kippur.  He would speak the name of God—Yahweh—and make blood atonement for the sins of the people.  No other men, women, or children were allowed in this special space.  Pastor then explained that we now have a high priest that made blood atonement for all of the men, women, and children who are now always welcome in God’s house.  Mateo piped up, “Jesus, it’s Jesus!”  Isn’t it amazing to know that the lessons we’re trying to instill are getting through?  Hearing the words of faith coming from children so young is very rewarding.  Praise the Lord that our preschool is faithfully serving its mission to spread the gospel by teaching kids that Jesus is their savior and King.

Then, of course, the highlight was Pastor Gleason’s ordination the Sunday before (31 May, Holy Trinity).  What a joyful celebration for our church!  I loved seeing Gleason, who I respect, appreciate, and enjoy so much; take the vows of ordination to serve our congregation as a Pastor.  I was moved when Deaconess presented the communion hosts to her husband, the newly ordained Pastor.  It was a very cool moment that left me misty-eyed.  The next part of the service involved Pastor John placing the pastoral vestment over Pastor Gleason before the consecration of the Eucharist.  Watching that was very poignant and I teared up again.  I had to pull myself together when Sienna looked at me and asked, “Why are you crying, Mom?” as only a precocious seven-year-old can do.

Sienna's First Holy Communion
Sienna’s First Holy Communion

Living life as citizens in God’s Kingdom by belonging to a church community is the foundation of our family life.  We actually call it our “church family” instead of community, since that word tends to be overused and applied to any group with some commonality.  A recent Modern Reformation article quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s observation on this topic: “The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.”  A church family is much more meaningful than simply a community because the thing we have in common is Christ.  We love one another because Christ first loved us.  It means that we all search the campus passionately when one of the kids is missing, or rally around an individual dealing with illness or personal tragedy.  It requires sacrifice and service to make it all work, but there’s such joy in giving, serving, and caring for one another.

Over the past couple years I have come to identify deeply with being a part of this church family.  Dennis and I love raising our kids within this family of faith.  My heart overflows when Sienna receives communion and Mateo receives a personal blessing, as Pastor calls them each by name.  By these little moments, they will come to identify as members of Christ’s Kingdom and the Grace Lutheran family.  Nothing could bring me greater joy.

My Awakening

This Week…

Life is full of ups and downs, isn’t it?

After writing the post last weekend about being “in my head” too much, I consciously practiced being present, accepting my thoughts and feelings, and generally surrendering to God’s perfect will.

imagesAs it happens, Monday was an awesome day!  We got a wonderfully fun surprise gift on Monday morning (more about that later, as it’s still a surprise for the kids!  Shh…) and I was very productive at work, which always makes me feel energized.  How quickly our feelings can change if we just accept them.  They do move on, much like storm clouds that break up to reveal a beautiful day.

Trusting in the Lord to provide strength for each day is such an incredible gift.  I cherish that our family lives with Christ as our King. Unfortunately, we’re starting to encounter more conflicts with living in a society that doesn’t honor the world’s rightful King.  Right now, we’re debating whether to keep Sienna in Girl Scouts after learning that they have a policy to “accept all girls regardless of their biological gender.”  Yes, that’s right.  transgender boys who are living as girls can now join the Girl Scouts. As a family that believes God has authority over who is born a girl or a boy (and he doesn’t make mistakes), we simply can’t reconcile this policy with how we want the mind of our daughter to be shaped.

In the secular world, anything that a person claims to feel or think must be validated as good, right, and their personal truth. Christians are accused of being judgmental (or worse) for not validating the feelings, thoughts, and actions of everyone.  As my pastor noted this week, what happened to discernment?  Forcing everyone to conclude that the only loving thing is total acceptance of whatever one claims they need for personal happiness is very foolish.

As Christians we can absolutely believe that God loves everyone and we, in turn, love all of God’s people, and at the same time discern that certain actions are not good or holy.  It’s not being judgmental (we’re all sinners, after all), but rather reflects the respect we have for God’s Law.

So, ups and downs abound.  It’s been a full week, yet I’ve had a real peace that God is guiding our family to discern his will for us.