Posted in Rambles

Coming to Terms with Social Anxiety

A few years ago, in a small group at my church, I was sharing prayer requests with two other ladies. I told them about my feelings of loneliness, and that I was often too afraid to approach people, which was a necessary step if I was going to make any friends.  One woman’s eyes got wide, and she said emphatically, “I know exactly what you mean!  I feel the same way.”  The other woman looked puzzled and asked us quite genuinely, “Why?  What are you afraid of?”

I learned two things from this exchange.  First, I wasn’t the only one – there were others who had the same problem.  And second, there were people who did not fear social situations at all, and in fact, found it difficult to understand why we would.

The second woman’s question was difficult for us to answer.  What were we afraid of?  Everything.  Nothing.  I don’t know.  Maybe it was, what others would think of us.  Or whether we would offend them.  Or that we didn’t know how to make conversation, or what to do if the situation got awkward.  All we knew for sure was: it was terrifying.  And debilitating.

Early Experiences

My first memory of being intensely socially anxious occurred in Grade 5.  On a beautiful spring day, it had been postulated that our class “may” go outside at some point and join an older grade for a game of football.  In my mind, there were several problems with this idea.  I was smaller than the other kids, and feared getting pummeled.  I had never played football before, didn’t know the rules, and would surely end up looking like a fool.  Being around older kids, especially in a competitive, sometimes aggressive situation like team sports, struck fear into every part of me.  And finally, I would surely be the last one picked for teams. Even if the picking were randomized, I was fairly certain no one would want me on theirs.  I would feel like the biggest loser in the world.

Thankfully, the proposed game of football never occurred, but its very possibility had ruined my entire day.  I remember sitting on my plastic school chair, heart pounding.  Slightly faint.  Slightly nauseous.  Willing the day to be over, and praying with all my might that we would just stay inside.

I could share other examples similar to these of the fears that I experienced during my school days.  Unstructured recess times when I didn’t know what to do or whom to hang out with. Confrontations with other children when I felt intimidated and afraid.  Now, as an adult, I believe there could have been some proactive measures taken to create a more positive social environment at my school.  My stress may not have been eliminated, but it could have been helped.

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Naming the Struggle

Although I do not claim my anxiety to be at the level of a disorder, I believe that there is value in naming the struggle for what it is.

Social anxiety.  I have social anxiety.

It has become cliche, but is true about so many things, that admitting you have a problem is the first step in becoming able to deal with it.  For many years, I didn’t recognize what I was experiencing.  Usually, I have had at least one or two friends.  I am a functioning member of society.  I have completed schooling, gotten jobs, and worked with some success as an entrepreneur.  Growing up, I often played piano in front of rooms full of people.  I can public speak – I’ve delivered several verbal presentations and even taught a class of university students.

However, there are many commonplace things that cause me undue fear:

  • Talking to salespeople about products that I am unfamiliar with (for me, these would be things like machinery, vehicles, soil and gravel, etc.).
  • Placing restaurant orders over the phone.
  • Eating meals with co-workers.
  • Asking clients for payment.
  • Approaching superiors at work.
  • Attending large parties or social events, especially where I have to dress up.
  • Visiting my husband’s places of work.
  • Trying to understand people with very strong accents.
  • Singing in front of others (a particularly challenging one, for someone who has chosen music therapy as a career!).
  • Having groups of people come into my home.

Again, there are other examples I could share.  But the simple act of admitting to myself that these situations make me anxious, has increased my ability to deal with them.  In doing so, I am acknowledging and validating my own feelings.  It is the difference between telling myself, “I feel fear, and that is ok,” versus “What is wrong with me??  I suck.”  (A pretty big difference, right?)

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Strategies to Cope

Yes, I’m socially anxious.  And if I own up to it, I can make a plan of how to survive the situation.  I can take a deep breath and say, “It’s ok.  I’m ok.”  I can develop thought patterns that prepare me to interact in a more relaxed way.  For example, I have come to think of other people as my “brothers and sisters.”  Not only is this biblically accurate, but it postures me to converse in a comfortable, familiar, and kind way, because I’m thinking of them as my siblings!

Other strategies that I have used include thinking ahead about things to say, or questions to ask a person, in case a conversation grows stagnant.  Allowing myself to become curious about another person is a great way to think of discussion topics.

When a get-together is planned at my house, I prepare as much food as I can in advance, and my husband helps with cooking on the day of, so I have less to think about while entertaining guests.

And perhaps, the most powerful step that I have taken to deal with my social anxiety, is striving to accept myself for who I am.  There are entire books that could be written on this topic (and probably have been), but for myself I will simply affirm: I am who I am, and who I am is perfectly fine.  One of the first times that I felt the Holy Spirit speak clearly to me, do you know what He said?

He said, “It’s ok to be you.”

Obviously, this was (and is) something that I needed to get into my bones.  Because my fears do not stem from disdain for others, or for being with them.  To the contrary!  I, like any other human being, long for genuine connections with others.  My fears are based in a (faulty, nagging, festering) belief that I will fall short.  That I will be found, sorely, lacking.

And whatever coping strategies I may learn, or use – it is only a restorative work of God, in the deepest part of my soul, that will ultimately bring me healing.

What kind of social situations, if any, cause you anxiety?  What’s your earliest memory of this?  Do you have pointers to share on how to cope?  I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

Floods of Gratitude

Early in our marriage, my husband and I invested in an older camper trailer.  Although we thought we had inspected it well before we bought it, inexperience and oversight got the best of us when we forgot to peek beneath the welcome mat that was laid over the vinyl floor at the entrance.  When we got the camper home and happened to move the mat, we saw that the floor underneath it was black.  As it turns out, water had come in through a hole that had been made to attach an awning to the outside of the camper, and caused extensive damage.  Thankfully, my husband is very handy, but what ensued was a fairly involved process of dismantling and replacing the majority of the camper’s floor.

I remember being stressed about finances at that time.  Not only had we borrowed money to buy the camper, but our computer had recently broken down, and we needed to buy a new one.  My twenty-something year old brain swam with numbers, struggling to make sense of whether we could pay for it all.  I didn’t have a good sense of what things cost, or the value of money.  (Was that $1,000 – or, $10,000?)  Sure, I had done well in high school math classes, but real-life numbers were harder to comprehend.

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We lived in a century-old home, that we had purchased for cheap, in a rough neighborhood.  The roof leaked, and so did the basement.  When it rained, we ran for buckets, and towels, and wondered what kind of damage lurked behind the plaster and lath walls.

The bathroom of that home stank of urine, no matter how much I cleaned it.  I think it had permeated the walls, and the floors, somehow.  As I tried to scrub it clean, I wondered what the previous inhabitants had done in there for it to get so bad.  (Although I’m sure I would never actually want to know.)  And Joyce Meyer’s words would ring through my head.  She said to be grateful for the house you had, and clean it with joy – rather than complaining about everything you didn’t have.  To be thankful that you had a toilet to sit on every morning.

I learned to be thankful for that bathroom, but I also prayed for a better one.  A few years later, we would tear it down to the studs and have professionals come in to rebuild it from scratch.  We got right into the guts of that house, and in some ways it got right inside of us too.  I still have dreams about it.  In the end, the bathroom, and the entire home, was beautiful.  And although I don’t live there anymore, I’ve had very nice bathrooms ever since.  When I clean them, I’m always thankful that they smell good afterwards, and that they don’t forever smell of urine.

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This is not my bathroom – just a Pixabay photo.  But the slant in the roof reminds me of the bathroom in what used to be our century-old home.

Besides Joyce Meyer’s teachings, which just resonated with me during that season of life, I practiced a few other mantras to keep myself sane.  When our bicycles were stolen, I tried to think of it as a “community donation.”  When unexpected fees, tickets, and expenses drained our meager bank account, I reminded myself: “It’s all God’s money.”  His resources were unlimited, and our situation could turn on a dime at any moment.  We were where He wanted us.  We were learning.

And sure enough, as the years passed, we eventually moved into a time of plenty.  We bought land in the country.  We built a lovely home.  Generosity came easily, because we had a lot to spare.  I didn’t worry about the grocery budget, either.  Though I’ve never been a frivolous spender, I was able to go out and buy whatever we needed or wanted that month, and the money was there.

Nonetheless, as our monetary accounts grew, our spiritual and relational tanks were running dry.  Unexpectedly, change came again.  It was time to take care of what was most important.  The pendulum had swung from one extreme, almost all the way to the other – and now, was settling somewhere in the middle.

That is precisely where I find myself today.  Although we didn’t expect to leave our country home, after working so hard to get there, I would not go back to that life if I were given the option.

A couple of weeks ago, we bought a camper, for the second time in our lives.  This one is cheaper – a pop-up tent trailer.  I endeavored to be very wise about looking for water damage.  I searched every inch of that floor, felt the wood, opened every cupboard, inspected the plumbing, looked under every mattress, and had my sniffer on full duty to detect the smells of dampness.  But although I try, I’m just not very smart about these things.  Turns out, in pop-ups, it’s common for the roof to become water damaged.  (Why did I not think to check the roof?)  So this evening, as my husband was redoing some of the seals, he noticed that the boards at the front and back are water-logged, soft, and one of them is even growing mushrooms.  How gross is that?!

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Someone else’s water damaged camper roof.  Ours looks similar.  (But with more mushrooms.)

As I laid in my bath tonight, pondering the situation, the following verses came to my mind:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:19-21

Isn’t it funny how quickly, a person can forget such a hard-won realization?  The memories of the early days came flooding back.  (No pun intended.)  The water-logged camper floor, the leaking roof and basement, the urine-soaked walls and floor.  My treasure isn’t here.  My heart isn’t here.  My heart is held by the Savior of my soul, who keeps my real treasures secure.

I didn’t know a leaky, damaged camper roof could become such a precious reminder.  Do I call the previous owners, complain, and ask them to help fund the repair, or do I call and thank them for the timely object lesson?

Realistically, I will not be calling them at all.  But I will be thanking God for the life that I have.  The toilet to sit on.  The leaky camper roof.  And, more importantly: my long-suffering, indelibly handy, husband.

Posted in Momming Hard

Springtime Greetings, and a Recipe for “Beer Stein Milk Tea”

I’m happy to say that beautiful weather has finally arrived in Manitoba!  My tulips are blooming:

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Nearly every day, my sons bring me fresh dandelions for my windowsill:

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The sprinklers and kiddie pool have been in full operation:

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And we blew bubbles on the deck for the first time this year – always a momentous occasion:

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I went to the garden centre and purchased some annuals for my flower beds (can you believe these colors??):

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At times like these I love to have a cool, sweet drink to sip on while I’m outside.  Today’s recipe, like last year’s Easy, Breezy Iced Coffee is inspired by my husband, who is great at concocting yummy drinks at home.  It’s also inspired by bubble tea…which some people love, and some people hate.  I fall into the first category.  I even love the chewy tapioca, although my at-home version does not include it.  Like most of my recipes, this one is fast, imprecise, and un-fussy.  But it satisfies my craving for a treat-in-a-cup at those times when I can’t just go out and buy one.

So, join me for a cup of tea, will you?  Begin by brewing strong tea (I use orange pekoe) by placing one tea bag in a large mug or beer stein, and pouring about one cup of hot water over it, or enough to fill the mug just less than half way:

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Steep for 5 minutes.

Remove the tea bag, and add 3 teaspoons of sugar (adjust to taste), a few ice cubes to cool it off, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla (again, adjust to taste).  Stir.

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Pour a splash of 35% cream into the tea – enough to lighten the color and make it appear a little thicker.  You won’t need very much, if you use heavy cream.  (Yum!)

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Finally, top up the mug/stein with your choice of milk.  I use lactose-free, but regular milk or almond milk would also be good.

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I use a beer stein because it’s just the right size for me, and I don’t like beer – so hey, what else am I going to do with it?  But any large mug or even a glass would do.

If you make this, I hope you enjoy it.  And as you sip away, let me know in the comments what you have been up to lately.  Happy spring!

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Poems

Warmth of May

Press pause

Let’s stay

Where we are safe

Warmth of May’s breath surrounds

My children, in their beds.

 

Full bellies, a game, and someone to share with

Small things are large

And large things are small.

Could this be, perhaps,

The better time?

Will I long, some day, to be back here again?

 

Press pause, let’s stay.

I want what I have.

Behind us, a trail:

Idyllic, then torn

By chaos and strife;

I tremble to place

My two feet forward

Fear, incited

By terrors now stilled.

 

In the night, in the warmth,

In the sweetness of May

I smell your Spirit

Hanging here

I’ll shield my eyes

And cling to you

For You, I know,

When I know nothing else.

 

Press pause,

Let’s stay

Where we are safe

The scent of your Spirit

Hanging here

I want what I have

In warmth of May

Posted in Rambles

Forced to Look

I got a haircut last week, for the first time in about 9 months.  Usually, I wear my hair long and wavy.  Or, more precisely, tied back in some version of a classic housewife-style ponytail or bun.

This time, I was up for a change.  Here is the picture I showed my stylist:

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The model’s waves, I thought, are similar to mine, so maybe this style would work for me.

The hairdresser gave it a quick look and proceeded with the cut.  She decided to straighten my hair prior to cutting it, to make sure she got it even on both sides.  And she cut it a little shorter in the front than in the picture I had showed her.  So, although I got a nice cut, rather than looking like the model above, I left the salon looking more like the aged Mandy Moore on “This is Us.”

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The next morning, after seeing the new ‘do for the first time, my nine year-old told me I looked “kind of like Grandma.”

Now, I believe that my mother has beautiful features, but that’s not exactly what I was going for.

It all reminded me of what a seasoned hairdresser once told me.  She said that she had often endured being sworn at or abused by customers.  I was shocked, and asked her why.

“People are so broken,” she explained, “they hate themselves so much, and have so much pain, and they want me to fix them.  To make them feel better about themselves.  But I can’t.  Only God can do that.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten a haircut and felt a little disappointed that I didn’t come out looking more like the model in the picture.  And if you’ve experienced this too – (be honest…I think many of us women have) – you will know that the pain it uncovers is extremely real.  It’s more than just shallow vanity.  This is a deep-cutting, heart-rending kind of pain, that has less to do with our hair than it does with something that runs far, far deeper.

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James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote in what became a part of our Bible (James 1:22-24) about a person who looks at himself in a mirror, goes away, and then immediately forgets what he looks like.  He is using this metaphor to describe a person who reads the law, but doesn’t remember it or follow it.  I think I get what he’s saying.  If you are one to study the Bible, you will understand that it can be like a mirror – revealing who you truly are.  And that, truthfully, can be uncomfortable, just like coming to terms with your reflection in a physical mirror.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

Hebrews 4:12‭-‬13 NIV

How many times have you looked in the mirror, but not really looked?  I don’t always want to see that latest pimple (yes, I still get them), crease, or grey hair.  I don’t want to accept that my skin has loosened and softened after the birth of my children, or that I have a few more inches sticking to me here or there.

It’s easier to take a quick glance, just long enough to sweep my hair back, give my face a quick wash, and then go on my way.  Maybe, in my mind, I look like Jessica Alba.  Or Charlize Theron.

But the truth is, I don’t.  I’m not a model, or an actress.  And in the process of fixating on what I’m not, I may walk away from the mirror and forget all of the things that I am.  

I am: a wife and mother, who often messes up, but is working hard to do what’s right.  I am: no longer a youth; no longer a woman in her 20’s.  I am: a woman in her mid-30s who has learned a few things, and also has a lot left to learn.  I am: able to make sacrifices and put the needs and wants of others ahead of my own.  I am: endowed with a limited measure of intelligence, creativity, and abilities, that I can use to improve the lives of those around me.  I am: looking more like my older sister and my mother as I age.  I am: dependant on Jesus for strength, guidance, acceptance, and forgiveness, every single day.

I am who I am, and no, I don’t need to look in the mirror only to look quickly away, because my reflection doesn’t comply with some fleeting combination of features and qualities that I wish I had.

And so, although I dislike posting pictures of myself online, here I am with my new haircut.  (For the record, I never said make-up and soft-focus lenses were out of bounds!) 😉

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I don’t look like the model I showed the stylist, or the aged Mandy Moore, or Jessica or Charlize or even the lizard I used as the featured image for this post.  I look like me.  No hairstylist, however talented, will ever be able to change that.  And that is actually ok.

Do you need a haircut?  How do you like to wear your hair?  Do you have any “I am” statements to make?  I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Meditations

Praying the Psalms – Psalm 2: The World

The Psalms is a book of prayers.  It covers a wide range of human emotions and can be a catalyst for when you don’t know what to say to God!  Join me as I pray through the Psalms.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

A prayer inspired by Psalm 2:

Lord, we look to our leaders, our rulers, our politicians – as if they are in control.  You have anointed them, but I know that you are the only one who can truly help us.  Please guide them and give them strength and wisdom, to do their jobs well.

Thank you for your direction, laws, and wisdom, which you have provided in order to protect us.  Help us to value and trust in your words.

We look forward to your return to Earth – something that is difficult for us to imagine right now.  However, the Bible says, and our Christian faith hinges on this belief: you are the risen Lord.  One day, you will return, and put an end to the tyranny, evil, and pain that we constantly see all over the news.  Lord, we rely on this hope, and ask that you would hasten your return, and strengthen our faith.  (“Lord, I believe – help my unbelief!”)

I pray for our leaders and decision makers.  I thank you for them.  Please keep their intentions pure, and their focus clear.  Give them the ideas, resources, and abilities they need to help the people of the world.  Take care of them, Lord.  Help them to know you, and understand your character and heart; your intentions for the nations.  May they be humble, and honest in their dealings.

Lord, we take our refuge in you, and assert in faith: you are the only one who can truly help us.  May you bless us, and forgive us for the countless sins and travesties that have been committed over the years.  Only you can renew our world.  Amen.

Posted in Momming Hard

5 Little Pick-me-ups for Tired, Introvert Moms

(Yawn.)  “I’m tired!”

I say it so much, I’m tired of hearing myself say it.  And everyone around me probably is too!

Being tired is often just the normal state of being a parent.  If you’re also an introvert, parenthood can be particularly exhausting.  You need quiet, alone time to recharge your batteries.  But your children (especially the younger ones) may need to be around you basically from sun-up until sun-down.

In the past few weeks, I’ve really enjoyed the slower pace of not having to rush to the bus stop and preschool in the mornings.  I’ve enjoyed lazy mornings around the breakfast table with my boys, and countless walks and bike rides.  However, I have missed the few hours of alone time I would usually get during the week when school and preschool are in session.  Nonetheless, there are some simple strategies that I have been using to keep myself going as best as I can.

Sleep

Umm…duh, right?  But hang on there, just a second.  Like me, you may feel guilty for grabbing a cat nap in the middle of the day if your kids are sleeping or away at school.  But, does that nap leave you feeling replenished and in a better mood?  Are you still able to sleep the following night?  If you let yourself, could you fall asleep right now?

If your answer was yes to these questions, and you are an otherwise healthy person, could it be that you are functioning in a state of sleep deprivation?

I was shocked, when I became a mom, at how much sleep I had to sacrifice.  And not only for the first three months, as I was led to believe.  For years after children are sleeping through the night, parents are awoken for a plethora of reasons such as bad dreams, potty breaks, bed wetting, sicknesses, and random bumps in the night that snap you awake and into “parent mode” for no good reason at all.

Eventually, it takes its toll.  There’s a lot of catching up to do.

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given regarding motherhood was: “If you can take a break, then do.” You can’t take a break, nearly always.  Your kids need you, and you want to be there for them.  But when the house miraculously falls silent, and there is a pause in the constant demands on you, by all means – take it.

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Rest

This point may seem redundant, but it flows from my previous one.  Sleep is great when you have that luxury, but for some kids the napping stage does not last long.  Which means that your napping opportunities are cut short as well.  And even if you have one child who naps, chances are, you have another one who doesn’t or who naps at a different time.

Even if you cannot sleep, there may be a chance for you to sit down during the day and close your eyes for a moment or two.  I use screen time very deliberately with my kids.  Most weekdays, I will turn on the TV for them after lunch for about an hour (which is the time of day that I find myself hitting a wall).  After finding a safe show for them to watch, I’ll sit down somewhere and close my eyes.  Closing your eyes is key here – put away the devices, reading material, and whatever else you may want to occupy yourself with, and close your eyes.  You don’t have to sleep, but chances are you may drift into a slight doze.  I find that even 15 or 20 minutes of this will leave me feeling more refreshed than I was before.

If you don’t want to place your children in front of screens, you can be opportunistic about those moments during the day when they become preoccupied with something for a while, and take a breather then.  If my children are playing nicely in the other room, I may lie down on the couch for a while.  Or if they’ve gone outside to the backyard, I’ll sit down with a cup of tea.  It’s easy for a mom’s day to stretch to the length of 12 hours or more, in addition to being wakened at night, with no days off in between.  Don’t feel like you need to spend the entirety of those hours on your feet.

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Exercise

Ok, I don’t think there’s a better way to get a tired person want to kick you in the teeth, than to tell them they should exercise more.  At least, that’s how I feel when someone tells me so!  However, as difficult as it may be to get going on this one, there is truth to it – as long as, like I mentioned before, you are otherwise a healthy person.  It’s like a little magic bullet.  Add fresh air to the mix for bonus points.  And take your kids with you, to wear them out as well!

Since doing school at home with my son these past few weeks, I have joined in on his Phys-Ed workouts when I can.  From him I’ve learned  how to do a “burpee” and a “squat.”  I’ve braved the wild world of a push-up, and realized how much easier it was to jump rope when I was 9 than it is now.  I’ve cycled against the wind.  I’ve repeatedly chased my 3 year old around our bay on his balance bike.  Each time, it has been a lovely jolt to my system, like some kind of wonderful drug.  “Just do it,” as Nike would have you believe.  And in my unqualified opinion – the more vigorous the exercise, the better the payout.  If you try it, let me know if you agree.

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Get Creative

A writer I follow named Deanne Welsh dropped a thought into my inbox last week that caught my eye.  Its heading was: “Is creativity sustaining you?”  And I would even ask, is creativity nurturing you?  For those who love to be creative (you know who you are), it can be incredibly life-giving to have some kind of free-flowing project on the go.  However, I would caution that if you impose burdens and restrictions on yourself for the outcome of said project, you can rob yourself of the joy it would have otherwise brought.

For example, my main creative outlet is this blog.  However, if I start to worry about all the problems or weaknesses in my blog – not adhering to a consistent schedule, drifting from niche to niche, low stats, etc. – I feel discouraged and my blog becomes a burden, instead of a joy.  Now, those things can be important for bloggers who want to grow their following.  However, what I am encouraging is to not let the outcome of your endeavors (even if they flop) steal the positive effects of creativity on your mental health.  As a music therapist, I am a firm believer in “process over product.”  That is, the experience of creating something can be just as important (if not more so) than the end product itself.

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Pray

My days begin with prayer; my days end with prayer; and I sandwich it in between whenever I can.  No, I’m not on some kind of strict, religious schedule.  Prayer gives me life.  It is my connection to the One who cares for me more than anybody else.  The only One who fully knows and understands who I am and what makes me tick.

I think prayer would be awfully boring if it were a one way street – talking to someone who never speaks back.  Thankfully, that is not the case.

“…his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” John 10:4b‭-‬5 NIV

The thoughts, feelings, pictures, memories, and impressions that the Lord gives to me as I pray or read my Bible are sometimes the only things keeping me calm and behaving as a halfway decent human being.  And even if I don’t really hear Him respond, I know that He is always listening.  Intently.

I have become convinced that God has a soft spot for moms.  This topic could probably comprise a blog post all by itself, but for now, I will leave you with one of my favorite verses.  It reminds me that I am not alone in parenting my kids!

“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones.  For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my father in heaven.”  Matthew 18:10 NIV

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So, there they are – sleep, rest, exercise, creativity, and prayer – 5 things helping me survive (and sometimes even thrive) as an introvert mom.

Are you an introvert mom?  Do you have tricks or ideas to share?  Let me know in the comments section below!

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Meditations

Praying the Psalms – Psalm 1: Thought Life

The Psalms is a book of prayers.  It covers a wide range of human emotions and can be a catalyst for when you don’t know what to say to God!  Join me as I pray through the Psalms.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

A prayer inspired by Psalm 1:

Lord, please focus my thoughts.  Direct my steps towards the ways that please you.  Please provide friendships for me that will bear good fruit and draw me nearer to you.  Help me to be open to those friendships.  Help me, Lord, to not dwell on negative things.  This can be such a struggle, some days!

Write your words on my heart, Lord.  Fill my head with your thoughts.  Please help the Bible to be meaningful to me; give me understanding and insight.

Help me, Lord, to thrive – could you be my water?  Help me to be healthy in every way: mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually.  Help me to do good work that will be effective in the right ways.

I know that your ways are best.  May I not get sidetracked by the things of this world: selfish ambition, wealth – the things that pass away.

Have mercy on me, Lord.  I know that your eyes are always on me, and I thank you for that.

Posted in Rambles

Lessons Learned from Failure

It wasn’t the first time that I failed, but it was one of the first times that I thought it was time to give up.  I was old enough to be treated like an adult; past the age of being offered undue kindness or encouragement.  If musical abilities were to have been nurtured, it should have happened long ago, and by now, my prime had been reached.  Truly, there were many people ahead of me, more talented, more experienced, and clamoring to serve in the area of worship music.  It is, arguably, one of the most rewarding things to do in a church.  People will gladly do it for free, and not only that – they will consider it an honor and privilege to stand on that stage, and sing.  Dangerously, it fuels a person’s self-worth, to the point of what could become a consuming pride.

So perhaps, I should be thankful that the opportunity was ripped from my hands, along with the microphone – which I had taken up like a scared little girl, though I was in my early twenties at the time.  I would have been more comfortable on the piano bench, but that seat was also taken by someone with more talent.  (And ten more in behind to fill her place.)  This church was sure different from the ones I grew up in, where something as simple as being able to read music placed you in a distinguished category.

My musical training had been quality, but limited in scope.  I learned a rather narrow version of classical piano – nothing more, nothing less.  Music moved me deeply, but I lacked the ability to teach myself or learn other styles by ear, they way that some people can do.  There was no music in my school, and few opportunities to sing or play together with others.  What I was taught by my piano teacher, however, I learned well.  I gained the admiration of my family and peers, who just so happened to know less about music than I.

Anyway – back to that stage, and the microphone that was taken from my hands.  Really, it wasn’t his fault.  There are only so many mics, or plug-ins, or whatever.  I was the least valuable member of the band.  He didn’t know that I had spent the past 15 or so years of my life studying music, slaving for hours upon hours at a piano bench.  He didn’t see me practicing long into the night, striving to master Beethoven, or Bach, or Rachmaninoff.  He wasn’t aware of the dreams and longings I held in my heart – all to do with music – all, painfully, unfulfilled.  All he knew, was that I couldn’t sing pop harmony.  In fact, I could hardly sing at all.  So, I was out.

It’s been more than 10 years, and this memory still brings me to tears.  The man, though I have long forgotten his name, lives on in my mind, in an undeservedly villainous kind of way.  My dream died that day, and he was the one who held the bloody knife.

Since then, I have never again had the opportunity to serve in the area of church music.  I realize now that too much of my identity and value were wrapped up in talent.  The haves, and have-nots, the are’s, and the are-nots.  Had I been given the chance to serve, I’d like to think I would have done it for the right reasons.  But, who knows.

I have also come to understand, that when God “gifts” someone with amazing talent, He is giving it to the church, to bless and edify them – not to the person with the ability.  Sometimes I’ve misinterpreted this, possibly by hearing the following kinds of statements: “You are so gifted”; “You have a tremendous gifting”; “God has given you a gift,” etc.  Does God love the people with the “gifts,” more than the rest of us?  Or did He give them those gifts to serve US, whom He loves just as much?

To this day, I probably listen to music less than any music lover in history.  It’s just too painful.  It doesn’t seem fair, that others have the abilities to make those sounds, while I cannot, though the desire boils within me until I could quite possibly burst.  On the other hand, who will value and enjoy an excellent singer, musician, writer, artist, or whatever – more than a mediocre one, who has failed as many times as she has tried?

There was a prophetic word spoken to me recently – a single word: “Share.”  The woman who spoke it did not know me, nor does she likely realize the impact that this word has had on my psyche.  Share – it implies, having.  Having something, of value, that can be given away to others, for their benefit.

And if this word is true, God sees a value within me that I do not.  To Him, I’m a “have,” not a “have not.”  This, quite possibly, could give me the courage to step out, and reach out, in whatever small ways that I can.

What lessons have you learned from failure?  I would love to hear them.  Please comment below if anything comes to mind.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Meditations

Ones Such as Her

I never really knew.  I guess I just never really knew.  (I probably still don’t.)

What it would have been like to be her – her darkest, most secret sins laid bare for the world to see.  They may as well have stripped her clothes, or splayed her ribs open.

sad-woman

“They made her stand before the group…”

John 8:3b

“ ‘In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.’ ”

John 8:5a

Whatever would happen, it couldn’t be worse than this heaviness.  As if her heart had turned to lead.  The nausea.  Unable to raise her head, she stares at the dirt.

“End it now.  Just end it.”

The hateful voices asserting their disgust swell to a roar, deafening her ears, until they meld to a muffle of noise.  As she stands there, she embraces a numbness that distances herself from them.  She continues to stare into the grains of dirt.  She will be one with the ground.  Soon.

rocks-in-dirt

Startling her daze, a finger crosses her line of vision.  Someone is before her, writing in the dirt.  She shifts her gaze up and sideways, just enough to view Him.  Her eyebrows twitch, and her head does a small shake, before dropping again.

“Come on.  Let’s get this over with al-”

“Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.”  Interrupting her thought and cutting the din in her ears, His voice is suddenly booming.  He is standing now, in front of her.  Looking up quickly, she sees His straightened back.  His feet are planted, His arms set apart slightly from His sides.  He appears immovable.  The demands and taunts of the crowd grow quieter, like a fading wind.

Her breath catches.  Her heart beats heavily upon her chest.  Her eyes are still on His back, and the sounds of her accusers have dissipated.

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Matthew 6:14-15

Releasing them from His piercing gaze, He stoops to the earth again.  It doesn’t look like He plans to leave.

The crowd, however, shifts uneasily on their feet.  They glance around at each other.  A few of them walk off, slowly.  Some shake their heads, or frown.  One looks at her and remembers something.  His eyes become windows, for a moment.  Exhaling, he turns and slumps away, looking down.

As she watches in shock, the weakened crowd retreats, one by one.  With the exit of each person, her incredulity grows.  The Man is still writing with His finger in the dirt that she had expected to, by now, be soaked with her blood.  She pants heavily, and notices a smile playing quietly upon the corners of His mouth.  Without moving His head, He eyes the bystanders who are left.  Disarmed, they slink reluctantly away, glancing back over their shoulders, as if searching for a way to regain their footing.

It is silent for a moment as Jesus stops writing and leans back on His heels, watching them depart.  When He stands and turns to face her, His smile is fully grown.  Softly, now, He speaks to her:

“Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”  Liquid gathers in his lower eyelids.

Her heart still pounding, she glances beyond His shoulder.  Seeing only a smattering of dents in the ground where they had once stood, she stutters hurriedly,

“N-n-no-one, sir.”  Her voice is hoarse, but within her, the exhilaration of hope rises.  Like a point of light, expanding, and overtaking.

Unexpectedly and gruffly, a laugh bursts from her mouth.  When she draws her breath in again, it becomes a sob.

“Then neither do I condemn you.”  Still smiling, He drops His eyes to her feet and lays a hand on the back of her arm.  Stepping to her closely, she feels His breath on her ear.

“Go now.  And leave your life of sin.”

(Adapted from John 8:1-11)

 

This post was first published on April 18, 2019, at my first blog – Little Moment Meditations

Happy Easter everyone!

Lisa