Back in the day I loved to walk around bookstores. A bookstore was my happy place. I loved flipping through books, feeling the pages in between my fingers, discovering new authors and paperbacks filled with wisdom. Oh it was like a little slice of heaven here on earth!
But those days are gone, so now I scroll through Amazon. I scroll and scroll and excitedly click on the books that say “Look Inside.”
Several months ago, I was on a tangent of scrolling because I kept clicking on the books in the “Customers who bought this book also bought…” section, and I came upon a book by Geneen Roth. Geneen Roth is a psychologist and author who specializes in writing on women, food, and body image issues. (Her books are excellent if you are interested in those topics.) Anyway, I stumbled upon a book of hers I’d never heard of called When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair. I thought that was a funny little title so, of course, I clicked on it, and lucky for me, it had a “Look Inside” button- score!
I scrolled through the book and began reading the introduction where Roth relayed a story from one of her workshops. She wrote that a woman at a recent workshop gave this honest admission:
“If I woke up tomorrow and this whole issue with food was gone, I wouldn’t know how to measure myself. Right now, being thin is how I know I’m good. Feeling fat is how I know I’m bad. If I didn’t have this system of fat and thin, I would feel terribly lost.”
I wouldn’t know how to measure myself.
Right now, being thin is how I know I’m good.
If I didn’t have this system…I would feel lost.
How do you measure yourself? What is your system? What is the thing you hang your worth on that determines if you are good, good enough each day, each hour? What is your prerequisite for feeling worthy?
Maybe it is food and weight- I’m good when I’m thin, when I don’t eat that but do eat this.
Maybe it is how much you do- I’m good when I get a lot done.
Maybe it is exercise- I’m good when I workout X number of minutes each day.
Maybe it is when your house is clean and all the laundry is put away and everything is in order for the next day- I’m good when I’ve got it all together.
Maybe it’s when you’re doing well at your job- I’m good when my numbers are the highest in the office.
Maybe it’s when your children are doing well- I’m good when Johnny is doing well in school and Sally makes the cheerleading squad and Sarah is the first to learn to read of her friends.
So many of us hang our worth on something. We let our to do lists or our relationships or our successes and mistakes determine our worth and how we feel about ourselves. It is so natural that we don’t even realize we are doing it half the time.
And maybe you’re wondering, what’s the danger in feeling better about yourself when you’re eating right or doing well at work or hitting homeruns in the parenting department?
Those things by themselves are great; they’re fabulous. Thumbs up to you if you’re doing those things. But when we allow the externals in our lives to determine how we feel about ourselves, then we are allowing those things to determine how we FEEL in general, how we interact with people, and what we do. It’s not a coincidence that you find everything annoying after you put on a pair of jeans that fit perfectly two weeks ago but now feel too tight.
When we hang our worth on external things, we easily fall into a spiral of feeling less than and not good enough. We allow these things- the scale, the bank account, the invitation to the party, your child’s performance- to put a stamp of “Enough” “Never Enough” on our lives, and we are left feeling anxious, frustrated, and defeated. We end up on an emotional roller coaster because how we feel about ourselves and our lives changes with every number on the scale, interaction with a colleague, and check on our to do list.
If we want off this roller coaster, WE MUST STOP OUTSOURCING OUR WORTH. Meaning, our worth is not determined by what we do, what we’ve done, what we look like, what type of house we live, where we went to school, how much money is in the bank, or how much debt is on the credit card.
Our worth is separate from all of that. Our worth does not hang on anything. It stands alone. It is internal, not external
The thought isn’t Being thin is how I know I’m good. The thought isn’t I’m good when _____.
The thought is…
There are no disclaimers or qualifiers to our worth. Our worth is unshakable, unchangeable. It is the same today as it was the day we were born before life had a chance to tell us otherwise. It is the same at the end of a chaotic day where we binged on chocolate, got nothing done, and snapped at a loved as it is at the end of the day where we crossed every T and dotted every i.
The truth is our worth is unaffected by our actions, our failures because our worth is a grace-infused worth breathed into us in the beginning. We must protect and shelter our worth from those external factors the world likes to tell us will make us better, more likable, more lovable.
What are you hanging your worth on? What is the thing, or things, in your life that you give the power to determine how you feel about yourself? There is true freedom that comes with separating our worth and how we feel about ourselves from what we do and what others think. Give yourself permission today to let go and let your worth stand in the undeniable, irrefutable, beautiful truth that you are enough, you are lovable, and you are loved.
Ahh the wisdom of children’s books… One of the gifts of motherhood has been rediscovering children’s books. Reading them as an adult, I have discovered a treasure trove of poignant wisdom.
My son, like most children, enjoys reading the same story over and over and over and over and… well, you get the picture. The latest book du jour is Harold and the Purple Crayon. Somehow I missed this book growing up but am thoroughly enjoying it as an adult. Oh what a lovely story! If you’ve never read it, you really should go to the bookstore or library and read through it.
As I have been reading this story for several nights now, I’ve had some time to reflect, shall we say, on Harold’s adventure. Harold and the Purple Crayon is about a little boy named Harold who creates an entire world with his purple crayon. Harold goes on a mighty adventure filled with apple trees, dragons, oceans, ships, picnics with pies as far as the eye can see, mountains, and tall buildings until finally he decides it time to find home and go to sleep. I know, I know, it sounds too simple to be profound, but it is such a beautiful commentary on the power that lies within us to bring our dreams to life.
This evening, the beginning of the book really struck me…
One evening, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight.
There wasn’t any moon, and Harold needed a moon for a walk in the moonlight.
And he needed something to walk on.
He made a long straight path so he wouldn’t get lost.
And he set off on his walk, taking his big purple crayon with him.
But he didn’t seem to be getting anywhere on the long straight path.
So he left the path…
But he didn’t seem to be getting anywhere on the long straight path. So he left the path…
Sometimes we need the long straight path to guide us so we don’t get lost, to give us security and direction when we are just starting out. The long straight path is indeed helpful. Necessary.
But sometimes we discover that we don’t seem to be getting anywhere on the long straight path. So we leave the path. We have to leave the path for the unknown adventure.
We need the long straight path and we need to leave the long straight path. If we stay on the straight path forever, we lose the opportunity to stretch ourselves and experience the glorious uncertainty of adventure. However, if we are always leaving the straight path for the unknown, then we never establish roots or plant seeds that will one day bear fruit. Our lives need to be a mixture of both… following the straight path when we need security and creating a new one when we realize we are not going anywhere.
What is your heart longing to do? What does your journey look like right now? Do you need the long straight path to keep you from getting lost or do you need to leave the path and set off on a new adventure? Wherever you are on your journey, remember you can choose the path… and don’t forget your purple crayon. 😉
I think throughout our lives we wrestle with two overarching spiritual questions:
Is there a God?
Where is God in times of difficulty?
Our faith starts by first questioning if there is a God at all. Is there a power greater? Is there a bigger plan? Is there order in the chaos? For some, these questions need concrete irrefutable answers. For others, they look around their world and they feel there is substantial evidence there is a God.
Then I think we move into the stage of wondering if God cares and where He is in the midst of our struggle. Does He see me? Can He hear the cries?
After surviving a hardship, we resolve those questions. Yes, there is a God, and yes, He does see and care.
Inevitably heartache strikes again. But this time it’s different. This time we know God exists, we know there is a plan. This time we lean into the knowledge that we have not been abandoned in our pain. We learned all of that the last time.
This time is different because we see the goodness, the provision in the midst of the struggle. As difficult as things are, we see… We see the manna.
Manna. Translated literally it means “what is it.” The what is it nourished the nation of Israel for 40 years as they wondered in the wilderness after being set free from 400 years of slavery. They were instructed to gather what they needed each morning but not to gather more than that for it would rot. Manna nourished body and soul. It fed belly and faith.
But it was 40 long years of manna.
Like the Israelites in the desert, we see and are being nourished by the manna that is coming down from heaven. We know and see all of this but… but our hearts are still breaking. Our stomachs are still sick. We are still aching with sadness and worry. The goodness and provision may be helping our external world, but our internal worlds are still in upheaval.
What do we do when we can see the provision, but we are weary with the journey?
Have you had this experience before? You can see the manna on the ground and have even started to really believe it will be there each morning so you’ve stopped gathering more than you need. You see the manna and it is truly amazing and you’re grateful.
But I think we can reach the point, like the Israelites in the desert, where we are tired of the manna and we just want to get to the end of the journey. We like to judge the Israelites for their lack of faith and ingratitude. I mean, God was providing a cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night, and manna to eat and fill them each day. How could they have been so weak of faith and ungrateful? It is easy to point the finger from the cheap seats.
It is so easy.
It is so easy until you have been journeying for 40 years. It is so easy until you realize the bittersweetness of manna. I don’t know if everyone gets to this point in their journey, but for those of us that do, we know the beauty of grace. We know the breathtaking, awe-inspiring experience of seeing the grace in the wilderness… of seeing how we are being taken care of in ways that far surpass what we expect.
But we also know that there are some days when the manna tastes bitter. And we find ourselves in the confusion of painful gratitude… desperately trying to remind ourselves there will be an end. Desperately trying to fix our eyes on the grace around us.
But I don’t know that grace is always meant to be a painkiller. Grace is what helps us keep getting up every morning. It is the oxygen we receive when we think we can’t take another breath. Sometimes, though, we have to sit in that confusing space where we feel every ounce of discomfort despite the presence of amazing grace. It is such a truly difficult place.
I think that is the tough part about faith and hope. We can’t keep going without faith and hope, but they aren’t exit ramps from the journey.
It’s like if I break my arm. I know that it will heal, that the doctor will put a cast on it, and eventually it will be good as new. However, that knowledge does not stop the throbbing pain of a bone split in two. My arm still hurts.
Our hearts are the same. We get to the point in our faith journey where we have traveled long enough in the wilderness that we know we’re not alone, but we’re tired and our feet hurt and our hearts hurt. That is the place of hard faith. That isn’t the Sunday School felt board faith. It is the tears streaming down your face, falling to your knees type of faith. You can’t get through the trial without faith, but faith doesn’t anesthetize our pain.
Still feeling angry, sad, hurt, wanting it to be over doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t grateful or you don’t have faith. It means you are human. It means the Israelites were human. It means we understand that God and Life coexist. God is God and Life is unfair.
What do you do when you’re not questioning if God exists or if He is there? What do you do if you are struggling to find comfort in the provision around you? How do you learn to rest in the green pastures of goodness while still honestly addressing the struggles in your life?
We can be grateful and wonder when this season is going to be over all at the same time. We can be grateful and have a broken heart all at the same time. If we are going to make it through the wilderness, we have to learn to hold those two opposing realities in the palm of our hand. We have to allow our souls to grieve and wail and our hearts to hope and heal.
What is the manna in your wilderness currently? How are you holding the two opposing realities of being grateful for the manna but tired of the journey?
Happy New Year! Can you believe it is 2016?? 2015 was quite a year! Over the past twelve months, I’ve enjoyed good times with family and friends, I got see Disney World (my favorite place!) through the wonder-filled eyes of my four year old son, there were some beautiful moments at work that made me so grateful for the privilege to do what I do, and I survived an incredibly hot and steamy Atlanta summer being nine months pregnant. But by far, the highlight of the year was welcoming our second son, Sam, into the world. He is such a little bright light for us. And that smile! I know I am biased, but I’m tellin’ ya… it is pretty cute.
The past couple of weeks I’ve been thinking about the upcoming year. I knew that 2015 was going to be a crossroads year for me. Twelve months ago there were a handful of unknowns and wait-and-sees. But now that the year has concluded, I am ready to dive into 2016 and soak up all I can from the next 366 days (it being a leap year and all… which btw means Summer Olympics!!! My favorite!).
What a gift each new year is! A new year means new possibilities to live out your purpose, fresh opportunities to heal the past while you embrace hope for the future, and additional chances to have the relationships and be the person you were created to be. Yes, each new year is a true gift.
If you’re like me, making resolutions can feel like an intimidating and overwhelming process. It is so wide open- where do I start?? And then there is the perfectionist inside of me that fears writing down a goal, not reaching it, and then feeling all guilty about it. Ugh that is just the worst, but that is baggage for another discussion. I have found, though, that if I have some sort of guideline for planning my upcoming year it feels more doable and motivating. Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to organize my thoughts so that I can enter this next chapter with some focus and direction. I’ve been thinking about what I want more and less of in 2016, what I want to do differently, what I want from this year, etc. Here are the five thoughts I’ve been mulling over as I plan for 2016.
- I WANT TO WORK ON HAVING MORE_____________________________ IN 2016.
(This could be anything you want it to be. More patience, more friends, more books read, more quality time with your spouse, etc.)
- I WANT TO WORK ON HAVING LESS _______________________________ IN 2016.
(Again, anything you want… e.g. stress, worry, conflict with a certain person in your life, etc.)
- I WANT TO LET GO OF _______________________________ IN 2016.
(This could be a negative habit, a resentment, a nagging concern that is out of your control, etc.)
- ONE WAY I WANT TO STEP OUTSIDE OF MY COMFORT ZONE THIS YEAR IS _______________.
(What is something new or different you can do, learn, or try in 2016?)
- I WANT MY THEME FOR 2016 TO BE _____________________________.
(What do you want your life to be about in 2016? What do you want to focus on personally? Professionally?)
I hope these sentences help you create a vision for your 2016. I know I’ve enjoyed thinking about them and they have already made me conscious of some of my decisions and choices. Feel free to print this out, fill in your blanks, and check in with yourself throughout the year. But remember, your check ins are not meant to be evaluations on what you are accomplishing, but more like touching base with a friend to see how she’s doing.
I hope your 2016 is filled with love, hope, and joy. If you are entering this year with a heavy heart, may you find peace and comfort for your soul. If you’re struggling with a decision, may you find clarity for your mind. If you’re looking for a fresh start, may you find rebirth and redemption in your next chapter. I look forward to hearing from you and connecting with you over the next 366!
Do you ever fall into this trap? You start your week and you think This is going to be the week that I start exercising, that I start eating healthy. This is going to be the week I finally muster the courage to call the doctor, the counselor, the friend I’ve been avoiding. This week I will finally start having a quiet time, meditating in the morning, spending less time on Facebook. Do you ever fall into the trap of planning for and then delaying change in your life?
What keeps us from changing? What keeps us from following through with the things we want to do or we know we need to do for our own health and wellbeing? Why is change SO difficult and staying stuck so easy?
Here is the dilemma that I think a lot of us live in- we want change, we want health, but we aren’t always sure if we want to do what it takes to get to that end. Or rather we don’t believe we can do what it takes to move us to that end. So we stay stuck.
I’ve found that the key to change is not necessarily doing something, but often it is not doing something. Change often involves giving something up, and I think that is why change is so difficult. Letting go of the ragged security blanket, stopping a habit, surrendering… that is tough business.
We have to ask ourselves- do I want to be well? Do I really want to be well? Because to be well- to be emotionally, mentally, relationally, physically well- we have to pay the cost of being well. We have to give up what we know for wellness.
To change the marriage, we have to give up always trying to keep the peace or always simmering in anger. To change our discontent with the direction of our lives, we have to give up the need for certainty and we finally have to make a decision and take a leap. To change the loneliness we feel, we have to give up some of the heart clutter that keeps us from being truly known and seen in our relationships.
Being well is hard work. It is hard work because it requires faith, trust, surrender, and a long, hard look in the mirror. Being well means we have to get honest with ourselves. How do you answer when life presents you with the question Do you want to be well?
Honestly, how do you answer?
Most of us don’t give a yes or no answer. Most of us give the reason we are not well already. We live in the yes, but…
Yes, of course, I want to be well, but this is such a stressful season that I can’t deal with making those changes right now.
Yes, I want to be healthier emotionally and physically but I don’t have time to do the work right now.
Yes, I want to go to counseling and start healing from this old baggage, but I can’t find a counselor.
Yes, I want to make some changes, but I don’t have anyone to help me.
Yes, but I don’t know where to start.
Yes, but I have tried everything and nothing has worked
Yes, but you don’t understand how bad my pain is… nothing can help me.
The yes… but is a powerful tool. It creates a weird safety net that keeps us imprisons us from positive change. And I think if we are really, really honest with ourselves, for a lot of us it’s not so much that we want to get well; I think it’s more we want to stop being in pain. We want the pain to stop. That’s what we want to change. We want the pain to go away.
We want the insomnia to go away. We want the stomach aches to go away. We want the headaches to go away, the racing thoughts, the sadness, the depression. We want the symptoms of our mental and heart stress to go away, but we’re not entirely sure we want to be well.
Wanting the pain to stop and wanting to be well are two different things. To be well means we have to get to the root of what keeps us up at night at, what makes our stomach hurt, and our heart race. To be well means we have to dig, and most of us prefer to stay above ground.
We will never be well if we’re just treating symptoms and not actually addressing the root issues. To get at those roots, it means we’re going to have to do things that are uncomfortable and that we really do not want to do. We are going to have to talk about things we don’t want to talk about, to be honest and assertive rather than silent and passive. It means we’re going to have to surrender how we’re living, the schedule we’re keeping, the people we’re trying to please, the shame based beliefs we’re bowing down to.
No wonder we stay stuck. It is a lot easier.
One of my mentors used to say you have two choices: Pain and Pain. You can choose the pain you know or you can choose the pain you don’t know. The pain you know will get you what you’ve always gotten, but the pain you don’t know just might get you freedom. There is going to be pain, but you can choose productive pain that moves you toward wellness or you can choose unproductive pain that keeps you exactly where you are.
So it’s a really legitimate question- Do you want to be well? If your answer is yes, go one step further- what are you doing to move yourself toward wellness? If you hear yourself giving a yes… but answer or if the way you are living indicates a yes… but answer, then start from there. Be honest with yourself about what is keeping you stuck when you say you want one thing but your actions and choices are pursuing a different direction.
Be well, friends! It’s hard work, but it’s a whole lot better than staying stuck!