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 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 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 Rambles

Songs for Broken Believers

Well, it’s springtime in Manitoba – time for our characteristic April snow storm!  Here is the view from my back door today:

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The snow began early yesterday, and then just kept on comin’.  It’s petering out now.  Since we haven’t had as much snow as usual this year, this almost feels like more than we’ve had all winter.

In the midst of the snow storm yesterday, I found myself paying visits to the doctor’s office and then to the hospital for an x-ray.  No, I don’t have COVID-19, but a flu that was something very similar ran through our household earlier this month.  Now, several weeks later, I am experiencing some odd pains in my ribs and being checked for infection.  It was a little bit unsettling to expose myself to doctor’s offices and hospitals with COVID going around while I may already have a lung infection.  Here I am, in masked and sanitized glory, awaiting my x-ray:

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Later on I paid a trip to the grocery store.  One advantage for me in all of this is being able (even required) to shop alone, without my children tagging along.  I love being with them, but those trips are simpler when I don’t have to keep a handle on two energetic boys while gathering the groceries.  It’s an odd world out there, as we all know.  It’s quiet, and people keep their distance, but I’m finding that many who I encounter are welcoming of a friendly smile.  The staff at the grocery store seem a little stressed, but from what I’ve seen, their attitudes are admirable – joking with each other, laughing, and smiling to lighten the mood.  (In between their repetitive wiping of conveyer belts.)

In the midst of all of this, I’ve read more news than I probably have in two years.  But as one of my favorite bloggers, Lisa Howeler, reminded me in this post, we cannot find what we need in the news or in the media.  My devotions have been lacking in frequency for several weeks.  An excuse could be, “Well, my kids are home full time,” but it’s not a very good one.  If it’s possible for me to read news story after news story while they’re home, and then worry needlessly about all the possible implications of what is happening in the world, it should be possible for me to read a chapter of the Bible and scrawl a prayer in my journal to my ever-listening and caring Father.

A song was playing on the radio yesterday as I pulled up to the medical clinic, and its lyrics caught my ear:  “Hallelujah, I am broken, I’m broken wide open.  Hallelujah, I am emptied out.  Hallelujah, I am nothing, thank you, for being my everything.  I’m ready now, to lay it down.”  If there ever were a time for us to let go, it would be now.  To realize, we are not on the throne, even though we sometimes trick ourselves into believing that.  Hallelujah…there is blessing in being brought low before God.

I signed up for e-devotionals through my church.  This morning, the reading was John 13, the chapter where Jesus washes His disciples’ feet.  I found my heart softening as I read it.  When I am anxious or scared, I am tempted to care only for myself.  However, in the moments preceding what would be some of Jesus’ darkest hours, his demonstration was servanthood, and love, for others.  I have much to learn from this example.

I hope that you will have some time to spend today with the Spirit of this Man Jesus, who longs to minister to your soul.  Here are some of my favorite songs to help with that.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

This Shame Problem

I’ve recently begun to identify a problem on the fringes of my awareness.  Someone suggested it to me, a long time ago, saying they had received a little ‘nudge’ from God in their spirit while praying for me.  I didn’t believe them.  They had heard wrong, I thought.  My problem was anxiety, not shame.

But when I pray, and come face to face with God and show Him my pain, I am beginning to see that I do carry around a vast amount of shame.  It’s not even necessarily to do with things that I’ve done wrong, as we would normally define it.  It is so deeply rooted, that, as I mentioned, I didn’t believe it was there.  Woven into my fabric.  A part of myself.  Like a long, long thread that – if it were to be pulled out – perhaps I would fall completely apart.

It occurs to me that, in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve suddenly developed the ability to feel shame, they did not only hide their sin.  They made garments, and covered their bodies.  What is sinful about the body?  Nothing.  The body itself is not sinful.  Yet, they were inclined to cover it.  They were inclined to hide from God when He came looking for them.

I don’t think they were only ashamed of their sins.  They were ashamed of their very selves.

Like me.  I’m not only ashamed of my sins.  I’m ashamed of my very self.

I pursue something in life, trying to do some good.  I lead a music therapy session, or write a blog post, and then look back on it and feel ashamed.  In doing these things, which are so near and dear to my heart, and, I believe, true to what God has designed me to do, I am exposed.  My voice, my words, my very best efforts, are on display for others to see.

And it is mortifying.

I fear that what I have done will not be enough.  I will be laughed at, frowned upon, or mocked.  My motives will be revealed as tainted.  (Be honest – how often are our motives 100% pure and unselfish?)

And if this deeply woven thread were to be pulled out, what would remain?  Would I fall apart, as I fear?  Why do I believe that feeling ashamed somehow qualifies me to continue working?  (Sure, I suck, but at least I feel bad about it.)  Why do I think that the shame holds me together, when in reality it only causes me to hide?

Today I re-read an article that said to not compare yourself to the faster runners, or the slower runners, but to just run your own race.  I’ve been taught by the wise teachers in my life to “leave the results up to God.”  I’m not sure why he would create, in me, such a flawed vessel.  But He did.

And after Adam and Eve sinned, He still went looking for them.

He said to them, “Who told you that you were naked?”

He knew what He had made, before they felt it necessary to hide it.  And in fact, He had said that it was “good.”

He could have made me differently, or done away with me altogether, a long time ago.  He could prevent me from ever leading another session or writing another post.

But He doesn’t.

Maybe that, in itself, is saying something.

Does any of this resonate with you?  Am I making sense, or no?  I would love to hear your wisdom and ideas in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

An Imposed Simplicity

As COVID-19 has reached my home province of Manitoba, there have been some dramatic changes.  Organizations and lifestyles are being whittled down to their most essential parts.  I’ve been hearing the reactions to what is happening, and many are mourning the loss of events and socialization opportunities.  People are worried about mental health – depression and anxiety, for example.

I feel like a bit of an oddball in all of this.  I do worry about the normal things – health risks, the economic toll, poverty, etc.  But as far as things being cancelled?  I feel like my mental health is better than it was before.  I’m sure the feeling of loss will kick in eventually…but, it hasn’t yet.

Before the pandemic, my children and I were committed to a variety of activities through school, preschool, church, and family.  Admittedly, I often involved us in these things out of a sense of duty.  We should participate in community.  We should volunteer and serve.  We should fellowship in groups.  My children should spend lots of time around other kids.  We should be physically active.  We should work hard.  We should always be learning – academically, and otherwise.  We should go on family vacations.  

We should, we should, we should.

I would write it all on my calendar, and then feel like crawling into a hole.  I would wake up in the morning, and want nothing more than to rest, because I am always tired.  I would drag myself from place to place.  These events were not feeding me, they were draining me.

I suppose, I’ve been putting too much pressure on myself, and on my family.

Do we really need so many programs, events, and commitments?

Perhaps this is a stretch, but it’s gotten me thinking about the tower of Babel.  Building, and building, trying to reach Heaven.  Striving for that ideal lifestyle.  Covering the bases.  Doing it all.

Look at this building.  Look at this program.  Look at our creativity!  Our ingenuity!  Our abilities!  Our wealth!  Just watch as we go, go, go!

It doesn’t take much to scramble us all up, does it?  A few days, a few weeks, and we’re ground to a halt, forced to re-examine our priorities.

In my life I’ve felt a great deal of stress about things like: finding the ideal job, having a certain kind of home, or getting my kids involved in the right extra-curricular activities.

I bet people who are recently laid off would be happy for nearly any job – not just the one that ticks all the boxes on their wish list.  People struggling to pay their mortgage or rent would be pleased to have a roof over their head that they can afford, even if it isn’t a dream home.  And as a parent maybe I need to realize that “extra-curricular” means just that – EXTRA, as in, non-essential.  And perhaps, at times, unnecessary.

I’m not saying that fellowship, education, and organized activities are bad things.  To the contrary.  They are privileges, and I am grateful for them.  However, I am noticing – in my life, anyway – there is relief in trimming away some of the excess.

Has your life become simpler lately, or more complicated?  Are you experiencing stress, relief, or both?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

INFP, and other things

Oh, it’s been too long since I’ve written.  I feel as though I’ve gone from one kind of busy to another.  It used to be that we’d get ourselves packed up, dressed, and ready to go nearly every morning, and rush off to school, work, preschool, church, or whatever we had planned for the day.  Now, I stay home with my two boys, make sure my eldest does his school work, and try to prevent the two of them from fighting too much.  I focus on keeping them meaningfully engaged throughout the day and squeeze in as much housework or cooking as I can.  Honestly, I prefer this type of ‘busy’ to the former.  Being a recluse comes easily to me.  It has actually gotten me thinking about how I could change my lifestyle when this is (God willing) all over.  The irony, for me, was that when the pandemic cleared my schedule, I found myself breathing great sighs of relief.  (Perhaps I have been over-committing?)  I think it’s silly that it took a pandemic for me to realize that.

Many people are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality test.  I am INFP, leaning very heavily toward the introverted end of the spectrum (above the ninetieth percentile).  “Notoriously difficult to get to know,” according to one description of INFP that I read.  Although I enjoy people and can always see good in them, being with others (and especially in groups) is exhausting for me.  Sometimes I feel that the rest of the world moves too fast.  They talk fast, they walk fast, they do everything so darn fast.  Social media, especially Facebook, move at the speed of light.  I feel barraged by information, words, and images, constantly, without the time to process or think deeply about everything, the way that I would like to.  This is why, at the end of each day, I shut myself into the bathroom and run a hot bath.  Did you see that episode of “Stranger Things,” where they used a bathtub as a sensory deprivation tank?  That’s what it is like for me.

Once, at a group I attend at my church, we were sharing around the table, as we often do.  A couple of very deep questions were asked by the pastor, and we were supposed to take turns answering them.  A lump formed in my throat immediately and my head swirled with thoughts.  Did I have answers for those questions?  Well, how long have you got?  I could write a book on each one.  I glanced at the clock, and looked around the table.  A handful more people to share after me.  Only about 15 minutes of sharing time left.  That would leave me with 2, maybe 3 minutes, to say my piece.  I thought about the other ladies.  They barely knew me.  Even the ones who have known me for years…how could I make them understand?  I blinked back my tears, and drew a breath.  “I think I’ll pass,” I said, “those are very big questions.”  Yup…notoriously difficult, to get to know.

Having this personality comes with its baggage.  It’s not that we don’t want to be known.  We do.  And, we see the easy closeness that other people share, and we envy them.  We feel the pain of exclusion when not invited…but, we understand.  It’s not their fault, it’s not ours.  It just is.

Having this personality also comes with its delights.  The tiny things of life bring great joy.  The sunrise, or the sunset.  A cup of tea.  The laughter of children.  A piece of art.  The sun on my face.  The world is rich, beyond belief.

And here, on my blog, I can share thoughts as slowly as I want.  Those who want to, will read them, while those who move at a faster pace, can breeze on by.

I’m sorry for my unexplained absence.  I’ve missed reading your posts too, especially those with whom I used to interact with regularly.  I think I have brain space to blog again, but my posts may not look like they used to.  I may give up on sticking to a schedule, or a particular type of content.  My posts won’t be edited or curated as carefully anymore, I don’t think.  It’s too much of a burden right now.  These days I need to write as my children talk to me almost constantly, and I need to stop every minute or two to tend to something.  So, the blog will be whatever it will be.

But, I need my blog!  I need my pen pals!

I will try to visit your blogs in the near future too.  Please feel free to comment below; how is everyone doing these days?  I would love to hear from you!

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

Groundhog Day

It was Groundhog Day, six years ago, when she died.  A woman of 35, the same age that I am right now.  As we drove the 14 hours that it was to her funeral, over wind-whipped plains, I thought about midwinter.  The white drifts that seemed to go on forever.  The hard, encrusted snow.  The bitter cold.

And in her life, the illness.  The grief.  Her trials and tragedies, and her past, which had never released her.

Through my tears, I remembered her husband: the man now left a widower.  And the irony of that movie, “Groundhog Day.”  Of all the days to relive endlessly, ruthlessly – is that what would now happen to him, in his mind?

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I don’t know this kind of grief.  But I have had winters.  Proverbs 13:12 says that “hope deferred makes the heart sick.”  “Hope deferred?”  Oh yes.  “Heart sick?”  The weak, fluttery feeling in your chest; the weight in your stomach; the heaviness that follows you, slowing your every move and thought…yes.

“Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.” Proverbs 14:10

Groundhog Day may seem like a silly tradition to some.  To me, it makes sense.  At this lowest, deepest point of cold on the calendar, we’ll cling to any shred of hope that winter will not last forever.  “Early spring,” “6 more weeks of winter” – either one is a blessed reminder:  Spring is coming!  Hallelujah!  Just hang on, a little longer!

And as for our emotional winters?  One scripture that has encouraged me is a prophetic word, given to an ancient people that lived in biblical times.  However, as prophetic words often go, its core truth is applicable across culture, time, and space:

“An oracle concerning Dumah: Someone calls to me from Seir, ‘Watchman, what is left of the night?  Watchman, what is left of the night?’

The watchman replies, ‘Morning is coming, but also the night.  If you would ask, then ask; and come back yet again.'” Isaiah 21:11-12

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God created a world where suffering was possible, and He doesn’t stop all of it.  He brings all things together for good (Romans 8:28), and there is purpose in what He allows to happen.  But He made the night, as well as the day.  The winter, as well as the summer.

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Genesis 8:22

Yet He reminds us, through the coldest days of winter, and the darkest hours of night: “Morning will come.  Inquire again later – don’t stop asking.”

In the meantime, we may need to fast – from having our hopes realized, or our pains taken away.  When we fast from food, each pain of hunger is a reminder to pray.  So it is when we suffer.  Let the pain incite you to pray.  In your weakness, press in to God, that He may strengthen you.  Do not forget, that He cares for you.  And the morning will come.  The snow will melt; spring will arrive.  It may take longer than we like, but the winter will not last forever.

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Jesus, have mercy on us in our seasons of suffering.  Be near, comfort us, limit our pains and times of trial.  Help us, Lord, to not lose hope.  You said the morning will come.  May we have the strength to wait patiently for it!

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

Posted in Rambles

Fasting for Spiritual Reasons, Part 2: My Blogging Fast

Two Fridays ago, I shared about my first fast, which had nothing to do with food.  Click here to read about it.

I also made two main points:

  1. Fasting is a personal thing, and may take many different forms.
  2. Fasting can be a way to wean ourselves from things we rely on too heavily, and focus on God instead.

Another type of fast that has become quite popular (and often, necessary) is to fast from social media.  Experience has taught me, as yours probably has too, that the perils of this medium are many.  Facebook was particularly bad for me – so bad, in fact, that I’m fasting from it…well, permanently.  (That’s another story, for, perhaps, another time.)  Today, however, I would like to focus on blogging.

Many of my current readers may not be aware of my blogging history, up until this point.  I am a fairly new blogger, as you may have guessed, but this is not my first blog.  I began in 2017 with a blog entitled Little Moment Meditations.  I couldn’t believe my luck, when I started blogging – not because my blog was all that successful, but because I enjoyed it SO much!  Finally, I had found a creative outlet that was not only extremely satisfying, but also allowed me to connect and dialogue with other writers.

However, after a few months, things had gotten a little out of balance.  The amount of time and energy I was spending on my blog left me with too little of either to spend on my husband and kids.  I also noticed that I was reacting emotionally to the likes or dislikes of others concerning my writing.  Views on my stats, likes or shares on my posts, and even the exhilaration of receiving inspirations to write became ‘highs’ that I was chasing.  Behaving like an addict, my feelings spiked or plummeted sharply depending on how people were reacting to my writing, and on whether I had my next idea or not.  I knew this wasn’t healthy.  And confusing the issue, for me, was the fact that I partly viewed my blog as a ministry.  But was I actually doing it for God?  Or was I doing it for myself?

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It was the book “Secrets of the Secret Place” by Bob Sorge that enlightened this question for me.  In chapter 45, entitled “The Secret of Intimacy First,” he explains that even ministry can be like ‘wine’ when the pleasures of serving God become more important to us than our relationship with Him.  Serving God should happen as a natural response to His love.  It isn’t supposed to be about chasing the intoxication of His anointing, the accolades of people, or a ‘fix’ to help us feel worthy and valuable.  God loves us just as we are, before we’ve done anything for Him.  That’s the funny thing about God; the thing we don’t tend to expect.  He’s more interested in us, in ourselves, and in relating to us, than He is in our efforts and our work.  I am so thankful for that!

In order to let this truth soak into my bones, and to wean myself from the “highs” of blogging, I took an extended break.  About 7 months passed before I published another post.  By then I wanted a fresh start, with a slightly different feel to my blog, and “The Manitoba Mom Blog” was born.  I often visit the topics of God and spirituality, because that’s just a part of who I am.  But I’m not doing it to earn favour with God.  (I already have that…praise Him!)  And because I do have that, the opinions of my readers no longer make or break me.  (Although I appreciate all of your support, of course!)

Since most of my readers are also bloggers, I would love to hear your perspective on this topic.  Have you ever taken an intentional break from blogging?  And why?

And if you would like a more thorough explanation of the Biblical basis for fasting than what I provide here, and some of the reasons/purposes behind it, a pastor at my church has been teaching an excellent series of sermons on the topic.  Here is the link to listen to them:

https://mysouthland.com/messages#Prayer_and_Fasting/Prayer_and_Fasting

Warm wishes,

Lisa