Guided steps

In anticipation of a hike we’re leading in a couple weeks for Sienna and her classmates, our family took a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day hike up Black Mountain.  This mountain is right near our home and the school, but we’ve never hiked it!  Monday was the day.  The teachers recommended we take the Nighthawk Trail up to the summit, which is about 2 miles each day.  Easy peasy, we thought.  We brought Claira along and she was excited to get out of the house and stretch her legs!

Well, this route turned out to be steep and rocky!  The first pitch of the trail was particularly steep and the kids expressed their dismay.   Claira bounded up the path like a little Billy goat!  She provided some comic relief and joy as the day grew hotter and the rocky trail grew tedious.  Sienna wanted to turn around after less than a mile.  “Come on, you can do it!” I encouraged, “Think how proud you’ll be when you reach the top!”  We talked about perseverance as a virtue and value. 

At one point, she tried to call my bluff and retreated down the hill as the rest of us kept climbing.  Teo was torn and started to slow down.  “Mom, she’s really not turning around!” he called to me.  Fortunately, a sweet golden retriever named Ninja and his owner stopped to allow Claira and Ninja to greet one another.  Dennis petted Ninja (dogs and babies love this guy!) for several minutes, giving Sienna and Mateo the opportunity to slowly catch up to us. 

What a great reminder not to worry and try to micro-manage a family outing!  Everything works out when you let people have their authentic experience and express themselves.

We made it to the top and the attitudes of our family of hikers improved tremendously!  We took pictures and enjoyed the amazing view on a beautiful January day.  As we retraced our steps down the mountain, we stopped at another lookout spot where Claira stood on a rock and surveyed the landscape.  We laughed as we noted that she looked like Simba on Pride Rock and roared, like in the closing scenes of The Lion King.  So silly!

Going downhill in steep, rocky terrain actually requires more concentration than going uphill.  Especially if, like Sienna and me, you opt to wear Keds and worn running shoes, respectfully.  The guys were much more surefooted with their hiking boots.  We all slid a few times, which gives you such a burst of adrenaline!  I focused on keeping my balance and making confident steps and prayed: Holy Spirit, please guide my steps.  I knew there was a Bible verse about the Lord directing our steps, but didn’t know the specific reference. 

During my run yesterday afternoon, it was incredibly windy!  A few times I had to go off the paved pathway to go around other pedestrians and there was debris blowing in my face.  The same prayer popped into my mind: Holy Spirit, please guide my steps.  This simple mantra brought peace to my heart and calmed my mind. 

Today I opened a daily devotional book and turned to January 20th.  The Bible verse quoted was from Psalm 37, verse 23: The steps of a man are directed and established of the Lord, when he delights in his way… So, now I know.

Allowing God to guide my steps is such a reassuring place to live, both in the moments of potential danger and in the everyday moments of life.


When the empty isn’t empty

Lying in bed last night, I could feel my mind turning on as I turned out the light.  Fortunately, I’d been practicing all my acceptance skills during the day and felt at peace.  A few hours ago, my mind tried to hook me with stories about whether or not I’d sleep well that night.  I lovingly replied (yes, out loud) “Thanks, Mind.  That’s an interesting story that you’ve told me repeatedly.  I don’t need to hear it again.”

Acceptance doesn’t stop the unrelenting mind, but it does put it in its proper place. 

Last night, I prayed and rested in God’s embrace. When anxious thoughts popped up, I let them be and refocused on breathing.  Repeatedly running “your grace is sufficient for me” through my mind also helped quiet my body and spirit. 

At one point, Dennis’s breathing sounded really loud.  Initially, this was annoying and I elbowed him once to turn over.  Then, a calming and accepting idea occurred to me and I prayed: “Thank you, God that Dennis is here breathing beside me.” 

It didn’t stop the noise, but it sure changed my experience of it.

Reflecting back, I see how frequently I’ve used the idea of “acceptance” in a flippant way, as a means to regain my sense of control over my feelings.  True acceptance is literally “taking what is given”. Sometimes feelings are enjoyable and sometimes they’re not.  Accepting means I don’t have to spend time and energy striving to fix or alter my thoughts and feelings. 

This morning, I was reminded of a quote from Tish Harrison Warren that I’ve found so meaningful over the years: “The vulnerable places where I find fear are the very places that Jesus is willing to enter and fill until there is only room for love. The stillness I am seeking leaves space in me to be filled by Jesus. The empty isn’t empty if God enters it.”

Previously, the part about stillness leaving space to be filled by Jesus caught my attention most poignantly.  Today though, my heart responded to: The empty isn’t empty if God enters it. 

God entered my heart and mind during moments of anxiety last night.  He filled the space where fear wanted to reside.  These parts of our lives that feel most vulnerable and scary are the very ones that the triune God uses to pull us closer to him. 


Just Be Held.

This week! Goodness gracious.

Getting back into work and school on Monday, which was also Mateo’s 10th Birthday started off the week on a high. We’d had a wonderful couple weeks of celebration for Christmas and New Years, so we kept the party going to start the week. But, what comes up must come down, right?

Since then, my thoughts and feelings have been up and down. I’ve felt joy and exhilaration and accomplishment and boredom and anxiety and exhaustion, to name a few. The irony of having just posted about acceptance, and then having my struggle switch flip as I fought to regain a sense of contentment, is not lost on me.

Oh, but God is good. He has been lovingly holding me in his embrace as I struggle and try to take control, give it back, take it again, give it back…

Music has a way of sidestepping my analytical mind and touching my heart. Many of the tender moments of surrender I’ve experienced over the years were triggered by just the right song when I needed it most. Several months ago I really connected with a Casting Crowns song on the radio: Just Be Held. These lyrics touched me most deeply:

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

It is so comforting to remind myself to rest in the embrace of God and let him hold me. Control is something I struggle with, obviously. Surrender is the opposite and it’s the path to freedom and true rest. Henri Nouwen wrote, “The Spirit of love says: Don’t be afraid to let go of your need to control your own life. Let me fulfill the true desire of your heart.” Here and Now, pg. 67.

This photo of Sienna has been on my computer screensaver all week. I love gazing at it. Her big brown eyes and sweet hands around her face capture vulnerability and trust. Her childlike dependence is what I’m leaning into as I rest in my utter dependence on Christ.

Lord, please help stop striving to control my thoughts and feelings and just be held.


Not at all what I expected…

Going into the biopsy appointment this morning, I felt peace. Prayers had been poured out on me by family and friends all week. My sweet Pastor prayed for me over the phone yesterday afternoon. I trusted God with the process and the outcome of the test. Like in so many things in life, I knew that I couldn’t truly prepare for the procedure ahead of time or know what exactly to expect. I’d breathe deeply and pray my way through the experience. Or so I thought…

Unfortunately, my anxiety started to build as they got me situated in the mammogram machine and I waited for the first numbing injection. Breathing deeply was made more difficult by the mask I was wearing. I tolerated the first injection fine, but when the doctor told me, “These next two injections are going to go much deeper into the breast tissue,” I started to panic. I could feel the next injection deeply.

“I feel like I’m going to faint,” I said. The next thing I know (a minute or two later?) I was out of the mammogram machine, lying down and feeling all those terrible fainting feelings: sweaty, shaky, panicked breathing. I started saying, “I’m sorry” over and over again to the doctor, technician and assistant.

As I started to feel relatively better, but still not ready to sit up, the doctor and I talked through the options. She suggested we could just complete the left-side biopsy and put off the right-side for later. That sounded good to me! She said I’d have to be able to sit up through the procedure. I asked, “How long does it take?” to which she replied, “Twenty minutes”.

“No way! I won’t be able to do that,” I told her bluntly.

My history of fainting goes pretty far back. I fainted twice when I was 12-year-olds: during my immunizations and also when I got my ears pierced. Laying on the floor behind the cash registers at the Bayshore Mall Claire’s is still one of my most humiliating moments! For many years I asked to lay down for blood draws for diabetes related tests. I overcame that particular issue when I was pregnant and had SO MANY blood draws.

I’ve either fainted or vomited during most all IVs I’ve experienced. Just a couple months ago, I had an eye exam that involved an IV and I did fine! Perhaps that gave me a false sense of confidence going into today’s procedure.

It didn’t even occur to me that I might pass out during the biopsies. I’m not sure why: maybe just my optimistic nature or because it’s been over a decade since I’ve fainted. If I’d been cognizant of this possibility, I would not have felt such peace all week. As I posted on FB yesterday: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matthew 6:31-34). I didn’t know the awful feelings that awaited me today, until it happened. Ultimately, God protected me by limiting the scope of my imagination ahead of time.

There’s a peace in acknowledging that my body’s response of fainting during invasive medical procedures is beyond my control. If I could tolerate this type of thing, I would gladly do it! I feel empowered to at least be armed with this knowledge so I can talk to my doctors about how to proceed with monitoring or performing future tests for breast cancer. Thankfully, the doctor told me today that she expects the results would be benign and advised I could follow-up in six months. The lack of urgency is comforting.

Thank you ALL for the care and concern you’ve shown me. Your prayers for peace and a good result were answered! I felt peace and I’m not spending the next few days worrying about a test result.

Today didn’t go at all as I expected, but I trust that God has a plan. Last night, Teo referred to the poem he memorized for Speech Meet in second grade when he prayed, “Whatever is, is best, God”. Such true and comforting words.


Childlike Prayers

Over the past several weeks, Mateo and I have been praying together nightly. It started out as a routine on the nights when it was my turn to read with him. Then, one night after Dennis left his room, Teo called for me asking, “Can we pray?” Our sporadic prayer practice had finally become a deeper need and routine.

I always start out the prayer by thanking God for blessings that come to mind and for Jesus our Savior. Then, I’ll add some prayers of petition before Teo contributes what’s on his heart and mind. He sometimes echoes prayers that I said, but more and more his prayers are uniquely his own. A couple weeks ago he said, “I pray for all the people who are sick or injured or need to know you, God. Also, for all the things you know about God, that we don’t know.” Wow. I was stunned by the depth of that simple prayer.

Learning to live in the moment and be fully present has been a huge focus in my life for nearly eight years! I’m just starting to realize how much prayer helps in this pursuit. In Here and Now, Henri Nouwen writes, “Prayer is the discipline of the moment. When we pray, we enter into the presence of God whose name is God-with-us. To pray is to listen attentively to the One who addresses us here and now.” So true! Prayer has the power to still our hearts and minds to wait on God for a response in His time.

Living in the moment is all well and good, but ultimately it’s directed at the goal of trusting in God. I can relinquish my drive for control because I know that almighty God is in charge and he loves me. The next sentence after the one quoted above is: “When we dare to trust that we are never alone but that God is always with us, always cares for us, and always speaks to us, then we can gradually detach ourselves from the voices that make us guilty or anxious and thus allow ourselves to dwell in the present moment,” (pg. 22). Wow, amazing.

On Thursday night, as I was still processing the mammogram results, Teo and I started to pray. I prayed for many things and ended with one for myself: “God, please let the biopsy results be benign. Please help me to be strong through the procedure and the days of waiting afterwards.” I paused and then encouraged Teo to contribute his petitions.

He spoke his usual universal prayers for all people and all that God knows about, including those dealing with illness. Then he said, “… and most of all…”

Oh, I thought with a sigh, he’s going to pray for his mom now.

“Most of all, please let the Dolphins beat the Chiefs this Sunday,” he finished with feeling.

I burst out laughing and tears sprang into my eyes. Teo look startled and I teased, “Yes, MOST of all, the Dolphins game is very important!” He started laughing too.

Children are the best! I love witnessing their ability to be present and ultimately trust that God and their parents are taking care of everything. Nouwen writes: “Joy and laughter are the gifts of living in the presence of God and trusting that tomorrow is not worth worrying about,” (pg. 37).


Sorrow and Joy

A few weeks ago I had my first mammogram. The pandemic delayed my appointment by several months, but at last it was time to face this middle aged rite of passage. The exam wasn’t nearly as bad as I anticipated and I didn’t dwell on the results at all. That is, until I received a notice later that week indicating that additional imaging was needed. As I talked to many wise women in my life, I mostly felt assured that this was standard practice to establish a baseline and calcifications are quite normal.

As my scary sounding “diagnostic mammogram” approached this week, I sometimes let my thoughts wander as I prayed. I’m not often a worst case scenario thinker and oddly I didn’t feel much fear. It was more like asking God, “Is this what you have planned for me? Will breast cancer be part of my life journey? I know you will work all things for good, God. Will this experience deepen my faith and trust in you?”

Last Tuesday during a morning run, I really went there and imagined the worst while listening to Christmas music. As I ran the last lap around the park, after the album I chose finished, the app automatically started playing similar music. In this case is was a song called “Be Still” by Shannon Wexelberg and the lyrics reached right into my soul and quieted it with peace:

To ride on Your shoulders
And not fear tomorrow
Embrace with abandon
The places we’ll go
To listen for whispers straight into my heart
certain I’m never alone

To simply be still and know

To know You are God and to bask in Your peace
to dance in Your grace like the rain
to know You are God and you’re fighting for me
nothing will stand in Your way

So I am laying down
Questions that haunt me now
Answers I’ll just never know
Just for the chance to meet You here again
And all for the joy just to know
The God of the heavens
You formed me and made me
You water the depths of my soul
Would You keep calling me back to the shore

Oh love that will not let me go
To simply be still
To simply be still and know

As the appointment day neared (on my mom’s birthday, unfortunately!), I prayed a lot. In hindsight, it feels like the Holy Spirit guided my thoughts and feelings during those days, as I started to reason through what was likely to happen. Instead of either getting an all clear or a cancer diagnosis, they could very well decide that more testing was needed. Dennis and I debated having him go with me, but thanks to Covid-19 he’d have to sit in the car, so I opted to go alone. This exam was more painful as they had specific areas they needed to image extensively.

The kind technician brought the pathologist in to talk to me just moments after concluding the mammogram. She explained that the clusters of calcifications are suspicious looking enough that they want to do biopsies on both breasts. Taking a deep breath and feeling a slight panic flood over me, I was able to ask a few questions about the biopsy process. It felt a lot like being the 5-year-old in the pediatricians office asking questions about the injection I was about to receive!

The women were all so nurturing and quickly brought me tissues as I started to cry. They ushered me to another kind woman who called over to schedule the biopsy and walk me through the next steps. I prayed and breathed deeply as we scheduled the procedure for exactly a week later and discussed logistics. When explaining that I shouldn’t lift anything heavy for a few days, the assistant asked me if I had kids. I said, “Yes, but they’re too big to pick up now.” Then, she asked me, “How old are your kids?” The emotion I was holding in overflowed as I burst into tears.

My ultimate fear of dying is not for myself. I know that I’ll be with Jesus and in perfect peace. But, my kids need me. In my heart the response to this question was “Too young to lose their mother.”

As I prayed and processed yesterday, I realized that I’ll likely get the biopsy results just a few days before Christmas. On one hand this seems like poor timing, but then I reflected on an idea I’d come across years ago in the beautiful writing of Tish Harrison Warren. She wrote: Mourning and thanksgiving are not only not opposed to each other but often grow together, so intricately entwined that we can’t stifle one without killing the other.

I’ve had a taste of this over the past week. The fear I’ve been feeling has intensified my ability to be present and thankful for life. Likely (percentage-wise), the results of the biopsy will be benign. But, should the results indicate further treatment is needed, I’ll be surrounded by my family and filled with love, hope, and peace as we celebrate Christ’s birth. The tender moments will be that much more tender.

This morning I started reading Henri J. M. Nouwen’s Here and Now and experienced another moment of consolation from the Holy Spirit as I came to a section on joy. Nouwen wrote: “Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing – sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death – can take that love away.” Then, he goes on to say: “We are inclined to think that when we are sad we cannot be glad, but in the life of a God-centered person, sorrow and joy can exist together,” (pg. 30).

The next couple weeks will be a mix of anticipation, fear, peace, and joy. I’ll be resting in prayer and then wrestling with my thoughts, over and over again. I’d love your prayers for a benign result and a holiday season filled with thankfulness and joy.


Silliness Saved our Morning

Just as Sienna emerged from her room, I gathered her up for a big hug this morning. She fits so perfectly in my embrace these days, as she’s just a few inches shorter than me! We hugged for a minute and then made our way to the living room. I noticed the copy of her Speech Meet poem on the table. “Is this the one you need to turn in or an extra?” I asked.

“It’s the one,” she sleepily replied. “The ONE?!” I joked in a silly voice. “The ONE!” she repeated in a little babyish voice as she put her face right up to mine. We giggled as we stepped into the kitchen where Dennis was making eggs.

“I love mornings like this; when mom is silly and dad is making breakfast,” Sienna said.

As the morning routine continued, I did a quick workout in the garage, took a shower and got ready for work as the kids ate breakfast. Dennis and Teo started a couple games of air hockey in the garage since they had time to kill! At 7:30 am, I went to pack up my lunch when I saw the kids unpacked lunch boxes sitting on the counter.

“Oh, I completely forgot to pack lunches!” I exclaimed as I quickly calculated that I had ten minutes before Dennis and the kids needed to leave for school. Sienna came over and asked, “Do you need help?”

“Yes, grab out the little containers for your cookie dough dip please.” (It’s a delicious treat as part of our bean protocol – check out the recipe in the link!)

We worked together and got the lunches packed up quickly. As we worked, I thought about my reaction to this slight misstep in our morning. I’d given myself grace and reacted with compassion, rather than frustration! When I’m in my unhealthy perfectionist mindset, this kind of mistake would cause me to be cranky with my family and angry with myself. Being lighthearted and modeling for my children that mistakes are normal and okay is what I want to do, though it’s easier said than done.

Dennis came into the kitchen as we were hustling to finish the lunches. I remembered Sienna’s comment about my silliness and quipped, “You know what I could have said when I remembered the lunches? ‘You kids want to eat AGAIN today?! Do you need to eat EVERY DAY?!'” Sienna and Dennis laughed with me.

The everyday routine of kids, school, work, chores, and all the rest can be draining and repetitive. At the same time, these are the moments of connection with the ones we love most, and thankfully a little silliness can sometimes save your morning.

Home and Family, My Awakening, Uncategorized

The One About Sewing a Dress

Our church planned an event recently, where ladies would gather to sew dresses in support of Lutheran Border Concerns Ministry. Sienna and I wanted to go, but it conflicted with a hike we’d organized for the Cambridge sixth graders and then, due to Covid-19 restrictions, the event was cancelled anyway. Instead, the coordinator Pamela put together little fabric, elastic and bias tape kits for the women who planned to participate.

When Pamela showed Sienna and me the kit, we asked when the dress needed to be done by and were relieved to learn we had until December 1st to complete it! Since we planned to visit family in Humboldt for Thanksgiving, I figure my mom (and sewing extraordinaire!) could help us make the dress. I haven’t sewed much in my life and we only have Sienna’s little starter sewing machine at home, so we definitely needed the help!

As luck would have it, we decided not to go up north for Thanksgiving after all. We really needed a restful week at home and didn’t feel up to the 30 hours of driving! But, that meant we lost our sewing instructor! I decided not to pressure ourselves to complete the dress over this restful week. If we had time and got it done, great! If not, we’d apologize and contribute warm clothes for the donation drive instead.

All week I’d been truly living in the moment and not striving to control my feelings. Oh, the freedom of surrendering and trusting God feels amazing! Friday afternoon ended up being completely open and I decided to try sewing the dress. I said a few little prayers in anticipation of starting on the project: “Lord, please give me patience and peace so I can overcome the challenges I know will come. I want to be able to contribute this dress to the ministry. If it’s your will, please help me. Amen.”

Getting the sewing machine set up involved internet searches to remember how to load the bobbin and thread the machine! I read the detailed instructions in the kit and felt like it was in a foreign language! YouTube videos were incredibly helpful as I watched tutorials on how to thread our particular machine and how to sew a French seam. I also didn’t realize the straps (included in the kit) were made from bias tape until I searched for “bias tape” online!

About three and a half hours later, I was done! There were several moments of frustration as I struggled to get the elastic casing closed. I about lost it when the needle on the machine broke off as I tried to backstitch over a pin! Rookie moves. Fortunately, with a quick call to my mom, I discovered one extra needle in the side tray of the machine. Felt like an answer to a prayer!

I kept making frustrated noises and at one point Dennis asked me, “Wouldn’t it be easier to just buy a dress to donate?” I sighed and said, “That’s not the point!” But, it was pretty funny because of course it’s true: it would be easier but not nearly as satisfying as investing the time to create something.

As I started this project, I thought of how great it would feel to actually finish the dress. Boy, it was exhilarating! Not because the dress turned out perfectly (don’t look too carefully at the seams!) but because I pushed through the uncertainty and relied on God to overcome my frustration and sit in the discomfort of not knowing what I was doing.

Sewing a dress had become symbolic for me of something I avoided doing when perfectionism reigned in my heart and mind. A couple years ago, I couldn’t fathom sewing four dresses with Sienna for her play, because I didn’t know how to do it well. This little dress meant so much to me because I didn’t let fear of failure keep me from trying something new. I accepted the feelings of frustration and ignorance but kept going.

That evening at bedtime, I was still marveling at the completed dress as Teo and I read and prayed. He said, “I didn’t think you were going to do it,” with childlike honesty. What a teachable moment! Teo also struggles with perfectionism and doesn’t like trying things he doesn’t know how to do. I replied: “Right?! It was hard and I was frustrated. But, it was like the growth mindset we talk about. I didn’t know how to sew the dress, but I could keep trying and learn something new. Also, I prayed for strength and peace, a lot.” He nodded and patted my arm.

This little dress brought such fulfillment, peace and hope into my week. Thank you, Lord!


It won’t be like this for long

At the end of my run yesterday, the Darius Rucker song “It Won’t Be like This for Long” came on.  It’s such a poignant song about parents dealing with the stages of childhood and recognizing how fast and fleeting they are.  The verse about the preschooler being dropped off at school and crying for their parent reminded me of how intense that season of life was for Sienna and me.

When she moved from the baby room to the toddler room at Grace Lutheran Preschool, one of the teachers started greeting me at the door and taking Sienna from me.  This became our routine. From the time Sienna was 18 months to 2 ½ years old, I’d hand her directly to Ms. Laurie and we avoided any tears or separation anxiety.  All was well until Sienna moved up to the next class.  The amazing and lovely Ms. Laura gently explained to me one day that Sienna needed to walk onto the playground and join the group, just like all the other kids.  I don’t recall it being that traumatic for Sienna, but it sure was for me!  Of course the teacher was right and Sienna was ready to make this developmental step, but it felt like the end of an era.  She wasn’t a baby anymore.

Pondering these memories, I went into Sienna’s room as she was waking up.  Glancing around the room, I suddenly thought: “Each stage is so fleeting.  Soak in where she is right now.” As I sat down to stretch, Sienna’s dolls brushed against my leg.  She had them all setup in a classroom setting, as she’s been teaching her dolls history, grammar, and math.  They looked so cute with their full sized books propped up in front of them! 

Sienna will be 13 in less than 2 months!  She’s in a season of transition, which is glaringly obvious when she rolls her eyes and gives one word answers to my questions.  But, she’s still my delightfully fun and silly girl much of the time.  I love that she and her friends are still into their dolls – mostly the American Girl types – but it’s quite obvious that this stage will come to an end soon.  She’s now taking more time to get ready in the morning as she selects her jewelry and fixes her hair.  The days of dolls and playing school won’t last forever.

I think most parents can relate to thinking that the current challenge, stage or season in life is never going to change.  It’s why we worry about habits like thumb sucking and obsess about getting babies to sleep through the night.  Later, when a particular childhood friendship is an issue or nighttime fear causes kids to run into your bed, the situations feel so consuming. But, these phases and stages pass quickly.  It’s easy to start wishing your child was onto the next stage, especially when the current one is difficult.

When we’re struggling with the challenges of parenthood, it is comforting to remember that “it won’t be like this for long”.  But, in that moment, it’s also heart wrenching to remember that a childhood passes quickly.   In that light, knowing that “it won’t be like this for long” helps us to stop and appreciate the stages and phases right now.

I love how song lyrics pull at your heart strings and capture a feeling so beautifully:   

But right now she’s up and crying
And the truth is that he don’t mind
As he kisses her good night
And she says her prayers
He lays down there beside her
Till her eyes are finally closed
And just watching her it breaks his heart
Cause he already knows
It won’t be like this for long
One day soon that little girl is gonna be
All grown up and gone
Yeah this phase is gonna fly by
He’s trying to hold on
It won’t be like this for long


What my Inner Critic Does Best

It’s a little embarrassing to admit the connection I just made about my struggle with perfectionism and being hard on myself.  I’ve been praying the past few days for God to help me understand why I struggle to embrace self-compassion. I asked him these questions: How does self-compassion relate to trying to do the right thing?  Why does striving to be good often result in being stuck in my head, counting my accomplishments? Why does being hard on myself cause me to be disconnected from my emotions?

It finally occurred to me that it’s my harsh inner critic that doesn’t allow me to express compassion and grace to myself. 

My harsh inner critic is sneaky and relentless in its quest to push me beyond reasonable limits.  When I’m able to step back and rest in God’s grace, I then see where I’ve arbitrarily bought into the idea that I have to accomplish certain things to… ( I don’t even know what!) – Earn love? Be good? Prove myself?

Last Thursday, I got up ungodly early to fit in a long run before it got too hot.  I tried to be present and prayerful on the run, but I was physically exhausted after seven miles.  A still, small voice encouraged me to listen to my body and stop running.  Probably the Holy Spirit looking out for me.  Did I listen?  Nope.  I pushed myself to run/walk the next three miles because I’d decided somewhere along the way that 10 miles was the minimum for a “long run” and I’d only get up at 4:30 a.m. for a long run. 

My harsh inner critic is also a very good rule maker.

The next day was our 16th wedding anniversary!  Dennis and I headed out to Los Peñasquitos Canyon for a hike to the waterfall.  As I processed this need to push myself to exhaustion and how hard I can be on myself, Dennis wisely commented: “Yeah, like the need to get 10,000 steps in per day.”  I sighed and agreed, as I glanced at my watch to see that we’d nearly hit 10,000 steps already, which made 49 days in a row.  This streak had been making demands on my time and my family for the past few weeks.  Why had I allowed this focus on accomplishment to dictate my behavior? 

My harsh inner critic is good at controlling my thoughts and actions. 

A cozy, rainy Saturday followed our anniversary.  I’d been praying about these insights and decided not to track anything that day.  No getting in steps, no tracking my water intake on my watch, none of it.  Activities that I enjoy, for their own sake, like running and walking, suddenly become tasks I have to check off my list or things to accomplish in order to feel “good” for the day.  Much like posting my long runs on a weekly basis (or even thinking I need to fit in a long run every week!), I miss out on the feeling the experience directly, once I track and quantify my activities. 

My harsh inner critic loves to track and measure things.

Through The Happiness Trap, learning the process of defusion was utterly transformative for me.  Defusion simply means that you see thoughts as just words in your mind, but not as directives that you have to follow.  I’ve been prayerfully practicing defusion the past few days.  It’s the only thing that quiets the inner critic because it allows me to see its demands and accusations as something separate from myself.  It allows me to get out of my head, because I’m no longer listening to the inner critic’s monologue of shoulds and coulds and ought tos.  

My inner critic is good at lots of things, most of which cause me to rely more and more on myself and less and less on Christ.  This is the spiritual struggle that Paul refers to in Romans when he says:  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

The renewal of our minds is the process of aligning our minds to God’s will, rather than our own.  Quieting my inner critic at least gives me a fighting chance at discerning the will of God.