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Simmer Down, Missy!

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Simmer Down, Missy!

I am a master of catastrophizing. That’s a word, I assure you. I learned it in parent classes I took for my niece when she was in DBT, or dialectical behavioral training, for her mental health struggles. It was actually, um, disconcerting how much helpful information I learned for myself from those classes.

Catastrophizing is the tendency to see everything in black and white, to immediately assume the worst possible outcome and spend precious time and energy spinning out instead of SIMMERING DOWN,  and proceeding with reasonable caution and cautious optimism. Isn’t it amazing how quickly we can assume the worst, and spiral into a vortex of impending disaster and doom?

It’s extra “special” that I am so good at catastrophizing, since I’m a Christian who professes to believe that God has good things planned for me, that He is working even the bad things out for His good, and that He walks alongside me in the hard times. I say I believe He is more interested in who I am and who I am becoming, and not in what I achieve.

That’s what I say, but I still spend far too much time panicking and freaking out, careening wildly between frantically trying to fix everything myself and anticipating the worst.

I was doing just that yesterday. We are in the final days of preparation for a church event for which I am nominally responsible (nominally because, you know, it’s really God’s bidness) that is shaping up to be, shall we say, more intimate than we had hoped for. More intimate to a degree that is possibly not, um, self-sustaining.

The more prudent approach that would protect your perception of how awesome I am would be to tell you all about it in a few weeks, after we make it work and we’ve learned lessons and I can tie a pretty bow on it. That would be prudent. But after an exhausting self-centered day yesterday of worrying about what people will think OF ME, I awoke this morning with a clear understanding that once again, IT AIN’T ABOUT ME. (Apparently a lesson I need to have repeated frequently.)

So I’m confessing my crappy attitude now, publicly, to do absolutely everything I can to get myself out of my own way before I even know how He’s going to work it out, because this is where the rubber hits the road.

(Anybody counting cheesy cliches in this post? I hope not.)

This event isn’t about me, and it isn’t about attendance numbers. It’s about what the Lord has planned for the women who He knows are coming. It isn’t about my leadership or reputation, it’s about the message we’ll hear and the stories we’ll share. If worst comes to worst, it won’t be about me being embarrassed but it will be about me being faithful, following His leading, and doing the best I can AFTER centering myself in prayer, in His Word, and in the counsel of others. It will be about me trying to follow as much of Him as I understand with as much of myself as I can.

You know what I get out of that approach?

A clear head for decisions.

A calm mind for creative problem-solving.

An open heart, ready to perceive the best way forward.

You know what I got out of yesterday’s approach?

A headache.

A self-indulgent pity party, party favors not included.

Shoulder muscles so tight you could bounce a quarter off of them, and a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

You know what my family got out of yesterday?

Cranky mom.

Cranky wife.

Cranky daughter.

They deserved better.

 

Today is better. I am not the center of the universe. You know what? Neither are you. Thank goodness!

So simmer down with me, huh? He’s got this.

 

How about you, been spinning out lately? What helped? If you’re a Christian, what verse from Scripture helps you remember Who’s in charge?

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Barley Love and Life in Maliva

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Is it weird to be a fan of barley? Is it more weird to post about barley and unintelligible song lyrics at the same time?

This is not and never will be a food blog, but holy cow! I have to tell y’all about this salad, Hearty Barley and Cauliflower Salad, a recipe from Real Simple magazine. I made it last night and polished it off this afternoon for an early Friday dinner after sending two of the menfolk off on a weekend Scout camping trip. (On a side note, when you finish dinner at 4:45 Friday afternoon, the evening stretches out in front of you like a glorious mini-weekend in itself. The old folks in line at Denny’s might just be on to something.)

Anyhoo, this salad is SO GOOD. The inclusion of salami raised its family sample rate, and it was surprisingly well-received across the board. I used the fancy manchego cheese, substituted spinach instead of radicchio so I didn’t have to make an extra trip to the store, and added pine nuts – brilliant. But for me, it’s all about the barley. So chewy and substantial and yummy. I am a new and enthusiastic fan of barley.

Hearty Barley and Cauliflower Salad With Manchego and Salami

credit to Real Simple magazine, Hearty Barley and Cauliflower Salad With Manchego and Salami

Wait, too much barley excitement for you? I can slow down……

OK,  just one more thing before I leave you overwhelmed with the PARTY that is me on a Friday night. You know those songs that contain lyrics you just cannot understand, so you are left to make up your own? Well, my kids and I love to listen to this song by the Christian band Unspoken, called “Lift My Life Up.” Beautiful song, cool vocals, great lyrics, respect.* 

HOWEVER, even though we KNOW the lyrics are in part “I lift my life up, my life up…” it totally sounds like “I live my life in Maliva.” Makes us laugh every time. Every. Time.

I live my life in Maliva. Ha!

Wonder if they like barley in Maliva?

What about you? Any fabulous new dinner finds, or hysterically misunderstood song lyrics you’d like to share with the class?

*(Hey, hey you! Don’t you go running off or rolling your eyes just because I referenced Christian music. The genre is WAY better than it used to be, and is now often nearly indistinguishable in quality and style from other pop and alternative music forms. Don’t believe me? Check out groups like alt-folk-rock-ish Rend Collective or the pop-y Francesca Battistelli. Even if you aren’t a Christian, misunderstood lyrics are cross-faith funny!)

Guess Who Came to My House This Week?

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You ever have one (or many) of those moments where you are so bonedowndeeptired, so overwhelmed, so completely buried under the big problems, the little problems, and the minutia that you just stand in your kitchen, slowly spinning around, wondering at what point it officially crosses the line between trying to catch your breath and hyperventilating with anxiety? No? Yeah, me neither.

Right………

The last couple of weeks have been a wee bit stressful, what with leading a women’s retreat, doing a couple of stand-up shows, and ushering both of my parents into and out of the hospital (one planned, one not planned, both home and better now, thank goodness!). Not to mention garden variety ongoing extended family mental health crises. Week before last, I was gone seven nights in a row, leaving my sweet husband to do dinner and bedtime for the munchkins on his own. FOR SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROW.

By Monday of this week, I was in exhausted, directionless spinning mode, unable to perform the tiniest task because it all seemed SO COMPLICATED AND HARD AND EXHAUSTING. Putting my socks on? TOO MUCH. Clipping a hangnail? FORGET ABOUT IT.

The house looked like a bomb had gone off, and no one had even bothered to dust the debris. (Cause the hubby is amazing, but he doesn’t really, um, pick up. Anything. Minor detail, really. Cause SEVEN NIGHTS, people.)

But then guess what happened? Jesus came over. Yep. He came to my house this week, and mopped my floors. Folded my laundry. Folded more laundry. Told me He still loved me, even though I was a dreadful housekeeper, and made me dinner.

Of course, I’m not sure y’all would have recognized him without the beard and the white toga outfit, but it was definitely Jesus. Not Sunday School Jesus in the paintings, and not Angry Jesus you might read about in the paper, you know, the one who disapproves of people, and criticizes folks through thin pursed lips.

No, this was The Real Deal Jesus. The One who meets me where I am weak and vulnerable, who meets me right where I am with open arms and tells me it’s ok, I AM enough and with Him I can do whatever is in front of me.

Like I said, He didn’t look like Sunday School Jesus at all. He actually looked exactly like five beautiful women from my small group, sisters who had read through my pitiful email updates about how I was fine, just tired, just discouraged about you know…. everything.  One of them called and said “We’re coming Tuesday, how’s 9:30?” Note she didn’t ask what they could do, or tell me to let me know if they could do anything.

She simply said they. Were. Coming. When I protested, she ignored me. Gently. When I said the house was too dirty for them to come clean, she ignored me. Gently. When I said I had an appointment at that time and I couldn’t be there, she said that was fine, probably for the best, I just needed to let them in and maybe give them a list of the most important things to be done to save my sanity.

She said they couldn’t fix the Big Stuff, but they could fold my laundry. They could mop the floor. They could (Lord, have mercy on my bad housekeeper self) clean the bathrooms. They could leave me a dinner to nourish my people, and leave me some clean spots in the rubble I could gaze on to nourish my soul.

Oh, how it nourished my soul. Once I got over my embarrassment, my shame at my dirty floorboards, and my vulnerability at having others do such intimate tasks for me, they got to be Jesus. (Crazy how often we can get in the way of other people being Jesus.) Hands folded, hands scrubbed, and they were His hands. Hands chopped and cooked, and they were His hands.

Those same women and a few other dear sisters have prayed me and my family through every hard thing in the last few years, every dark turn, every moment that seemed too much to bear. Their prayers have held me up when I couldn’t pray, when I couldn’t think, when I couldn’t hope.

They have brought meals, watched kids, and taken me to get a pedicure. (Sometimes that is EXACTLY what a girl needs.)

You know what I call that? Sacred work. Sacred work that loved me, filled me, and held me up.

So if you don’t have friends like that, you need to get you some. Seriously. Because since Tuesday, I’ve breathed deeper, and felt stronger, and loved a little more patiently, and my kitchen floor is clean and sometimes that will just get you to the next moment. (And if you’re still stuck on Angry Jesus, or Sunday School Jesus, or Judgmental Jesus or Distant Jesus, you really need to meet this other Guy.)

Yup. That’s Real Deal Jesus, and He came to my house this week.

Squirrel Murder Was Just the Beginning

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Hey, long time no see. Read. Share. Whatever. Hey Blog Readers! Thanks for joining me, I know it’s been a long time, but I’m back. Again. Honestly, you may want to grab a cup of tea, this is kind of a long one, but so glad you’re here!

So, how was your day?

Mine? Not great, honestly. Empty gas tank, squirrel murder, gas station faux pas, nervous travelers, and Angry Dude, the gas station manager. That was my morning. Well, that, and the Whisper that changed it all around.

The plan was to drive some old and dear family friends back to the airport this morning after they’d had a visit with my folks.  I arrived on time. (Well, really, thirty minutes earlier than necessary because my mother, who claims she didn’t, accidentally told me to be there thirty minutes earlier than necessary because she does not trust my timeliness. Apparently my teen years were very hard on her. I like to be exactly on time, she likes to be ridiculously early. A lifetime of tension ensues. Timeliness – key plot point to remember…..) Anyhow, I arrived to pick them up in plenty of time, and after some brief chitchat it was time for hugs and hitting the road, and we loaded up.

We set off, but just as I pulled onto the highway, I happened to glance down at the gas gauge, and was HORRIFIED to see it below empty, light just blinking away. I didn’t drive at all yesterday, what happened? Crud. Oh, well, we’ve got time, no problem. And so it began……..

I efficiently pulled off the highway and up the ramp, calculating in my head where the gas station might be and how long this little detour might take (timeliness on my mind, not wanting to have THAT conversation with Mom……).

You know how it’s so funny to say “Squirrel!” and feign distraction as if you are the dog from the movie Up?

Yeah, that’s not how I said it when I saw the pair of furry frolicking love-squirrels skittering directly ahead of me, a vehicle to my right, a steep hill to my left. And after the undeniable jolt we felt, I made the mistake of looking back, only to see the twitching, seizing body of the squirrel lover I had just summarily squashed. I didn’t see but can only imagine his little squirrel amour, safely across, watching his little body draw its last breath, struggling to understand how her spring romp had gone badly so quickly.

"Frankie! Frankie, what's wrong? I wanted to have your squirrel babies......"

“Frankie! Frankie, what’s wrong? I wanted to have your squirrel babies……”

Still shaking, I pulled into the overpriced highway ramp gas station. Angry Dude, the manager, approached my van, and took my credit card. I was only getting $20 of gas, so when he returned in a few moments, I was not surprised.

(Back in MY DAY, $20 worth of gas would get you a full tank and a free car wash, yessiree. Today, not even a quarter of my minivan’s tank. Grumble, grumble, I walked to school barefoot in the snow uphill both ways……..Sorry.)

He handed my credit card back to me with a hearty “There you go!”. I assumed we were done, as did my passengers, and I began to pull away. Unfortunately, Angry Dude had just been enthusiastically returning my credit card, and had barely begun to pump the gas. When I drove away with the nozzle still in my tank, it ripped loose and loudly clattered to the ground. I realized immediately what had happened, and stopped, the apology ready on my lips as I opened the door.

No matter, he had no interest in my apology. “What the f***?” he yelled at me, as I tried to tell him I wasn’t trying to steal the gas, but just had misunderstood him. He demanded I return to the pump, continuing to berate me the entire time for how stupid I was, how I needed to pay attention, how the pump was probably broken(it wasn’t) and I would be paying the $1000 to fix it.

I am quite sure that the very proper retired 4th grade teacher in my van has NEVER been yelled at in such a manner, nor has she had the f-bomb even hurled in her general direction before her delightful time with me this morning. Poor thing. I’m sure the 6 hours of flying she had ahead of her were relaxing in comparison.

As we finally pulled away, headed once again toward the airport, I began to angrily compose my letter to the gas station’s corporate CEO in my mind, filling it with my unbridled anger at being mistreated over a simple mistake. I gleefully pictured returning to the station, demanding Angry Dude’s name to include in my brilliantly written epistle of anger.

Believe me, I come by my capacity for ferocious righteous indignation honestly, from a long line of ladies who are and were more than capable of standing up for ourselves and others, for writing blistering letters to the editor or the complaint department that left ash and singe marks in their wake.

By the time we go to the airport, though, I had calmed down a wee bit, and from out of Nowhere into my soul came a different plan.

“Go back,” said the Whisper to my heart, “Go back, forgive him, apologize for not paying attention, and acknowledge the likely source of HIS anger.” It was clear to me as I went over the details of our encounter that others must have pulled away on purpose, stiffing him for the gas and the broken pump, and his response to me was clearly that of owner or manager, worried and responsible for the whole station.

But no, I thought, he DESERVES my wrath, he yelled at me! Plus that would be weird, he’s probably forgotten about it, I’ll just make him feel more awkward, and that would be overreacting. “It’s good to be weird,” persisted the Whisper, “especially when it makes people think about why you’re doing it. In fact, bring him a gift.”

A gift. Great. That won’t be weird at all. Sigh.

I am not historically one of those apparently blessed types who constantly hear The Voice of The Lord, who can tell you what The Lord told them to have for breakfast or what to wear for dinner at Red Robin, or even which job to take or house to buy. Usually, God and I have a more informal communication pattern, one in which I probably miss about 75% or more of what He tells me, and in which I’m sure He gently laughs and rolls His eyes at what I tell Him.

But there are times in life when an idea or thought is so clearly not of me, so clearly inspired by His Whisper, that I know to ignore it is just Not. An. Option.

So after safely depositing my travelers at the airport (only ten minutes late, thank you Lord!), I drove to a nearby Target. My mindset changed from how to verbally eviscerate Angry Dude in my letter to his boss, to what kind of snacks or treats Angry Dude might like, and if a sample size of “Goo Be Gone” would be thoughtful or would imply I thought he was dirty. (I decided to stick with manly, edible snacks, just in case.) I tucked some mini Oreos, a tiny sample of fancy coffee, some beef jerky and some little bags of almonds into a little metal bucket, and I even bought a little ribbon for the handle.

If you’re going to be weird and go overboard, it might as well color-coordinate.

I drove directly back to the gas station to deliver it, nervous all the way.

Now, as I share with you the underwhelming end to my story, let me make a couple of points:

I knew this was about me, about my heart, and that I had to forgive him and present my gift with NO expectations of his response. That wasn’t the Whisper’s goal. My heart was the one that needed change, the one I could change or allow to be changed.

Good thing, because his response when I arrived and walked up to him with my cute little tin of treats ran the gamut –  suspicion, dismissal, refusal of my gift, and a rehash of how I should pay more attention and how dangerous it had been.

It wasn’t about telling Angry Dude why I was doing it, that I was realizing I had been forgiven long ago for so much more than a rude outburst, that the least I could do was live my life in this world in a way that stood out a little, that made people wonder.  It was about the tenor of my response, a Word He had planted in me just a few days ago through the musings of a dear friend at Bible study.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… 1 Peter 3:15

Good thing, because I choked out something lame like “no, really, we’ve both had a crappy morning, and I just wanted to say I knew I should have paid more attention. Please, take it, I just want you to have a better day.” I was gentle and respectful, but also nervous, awkward, and probably weird.

Angry Dude finally did take my gift, and said something like, “Well, I’m sorry I yelled at you BUT you should be more careful.” Ahhhh…..the qualified apology. Good thing this wasn’t about manipulating a satisfying response………..

And I confess I did spend some time afterwards, thinking of all the things I could have said differently or better, and kicking myself for not including a note with some key Scriptures in it that would point him to the Source of my weird actions. But not for long. Because I heard another Whisper, winding in-between my self-recriminations.

“It was enough. Shhhhhh…….Accept that it was enough.”

So I am.

Still feel awful about the squirrel though, may he rest in peace.

God is My Soccer Coach. Poor God.

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This epiphany came to me last week as I watched my fourth grader’s soccer game. It isn’t unusual that my brain was free to have brilliant epiphanies, as I really don’t understand much about soccer except scoring goals. Soccer wasn’t a “thing” for me back in the olden days, growing up in Alaska. I had dance lessons, band, and competitive reading (wait, no, I was just a nerd), nice warm indoor activities. Soccer, not so much. The first soccer game I ever saw was my oldest son’s first game in kindergarten.

Also, full disclosure up front, I never played any team sports growing up, except for one misguided 4th grade season in youth basketball in which I scored one basket. For the other team. I clearly have much to learn about both soccer and team sports.

So I’m watching this soccer game, and my son, who spends much his time on the field watching. When he decides to get in the game, he plays just fine, but perhaps because he hasn’t played soccer for the last two years, he is fairly hesitant. I watch him watch the other boys play soccer, and think about how at that moment, his soccer coach is also just observing and hoping for the best. I realize that really, God is like my soccer coach, just watching me execute the plays. Or not.

He’s set me up with all of the equipment I need. Just like a good pair of cleats or shin guards, I’ve got access to a protective shield of faith, belt of truth, shoes of peace, the full gear set-up. (And yes, I know, we’re walking a fine line here between an insightful epiphany and a really cheesy Vacation Bible School curriculum.) Not to mention the written Word, game plays and instruction. Whether I actually use any of that gear? Totally up to me to strap it on or suffer the consequences.

He schedules in lots of practice time. I know He looks down the road to future challenges, and then allows practice “opportunities” in my life so I’ll be ready for the big plays. I’ve got constant drills and exercises in humility, discipline, dependence, walking in faith, and even teamwork. I just have to show up for every practice and work the drills, knowing I’ll be more skillful and the right moves will be more automatic the next time.

He’s rooting for me, no matter how I play. This was where it really came home to me, watching the boys run, or not run, confidently attempt goals, clumsily miss kicks and passes, and try to practice skills that seem straightforward until they actually have to use them in a game against opponents that may be bigger, faster and more experienced. In those moments, the coach puts the game in the hands (or feet) of the players, and it’s up to them. All he does is watch, advise, cringe when things go badly, and celebrate when they go well.

The dark side to my analogy was painfully clear, because the opposing team had a loud, mean, aggressive coach who easily pigeonholed himself into my diverting little mental construct: if God is my soccer coach, then that guy was the coach for the Other Team. (Boo, hiss.) He sure fit the part beautifully. As our coach quietly instructed the boys, giving them each opportunity to play and encouraging them from sidelines, this guy screamed at his small players, calling them out by name and urging them in specific directions. Of course, by the time their 9-year-old brains could comprehend his distracting commands while also directing their bodies in the game, it was too late to follow the commands, at which point he would vent his frustration loudly. Not only that, but he spent a lot of time screaming mysterious and confusing things at them, like “remember the triangle! remember the triangle!”

Seemed like a weird time to be reviewing geometric shapes with the boys. Anyhoo, his angry screams succeeded in distracting not only his own team, but also our boys. Worse, when he got frustrated with his players, he would physically take hold of them and move them to where he wanted them, humiliating and anti-coaching them all at the same time. Lots of us go through life that way, at times following a coach who is angry, confusing, and definitely not into player development.

I don’t want to imply too much with my analogy, because in reality that guy is human and flawed, just like me. And maybe he just was having a bad day, or someone ate his favorite breakfast cereal that morning and left him with plain corn flakes, I don’t know.

What I do know is that after watching a few particularly tough misses, when a boy just totally screwed up, and knowing how our coach must be feeling, I really had to feel for my Coach.

How many times in a day does He watch me look the other way to avoid an easy pass? Or cringe when I get impatient and cranky with my family, hurting everyone’s game? Or make a bold, confident move in the absolute wrong direction? I am not an easy player to coach by any stretch of the imagination, frequently convinced I already have the skills and the moves down, and then surprised when my arrogance causes me to mess up a goal kick. Or I stride out on the field to battle my opponent without having made appropriate preparations, and I get knocked on my butt. Poor Coach. Good thing he’ll never cut me from the team, no matter how awfully I play.

Now I’m off to write perky and uplifting lyrics for my new VBS curriculum, “Get in the Game”. Theme verse Ephesians 6:9-19, crafts include bejeweling your own inflatable soccer ball, macraméing a cross-shaped zipper pull for your soccer bag, and tracing, painting and glittering life-size cutouts of yourself playing soccer while wearing the breastplate of righteousness and wielding the sword of truth.

I’m sure I’ve missed all kinds of awesome soccer game/life analogies. What have you got?

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