Thursday, May 22, 2014
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Monday, May 19, 2014
What is your brain saying to you right now? Are you overcome with negative thoughts? Are you being self defeating? Is your heart racing? Are you flushed? Angry? Confused? Anxious?
"An Anxious heart weighs a man down." Proverbs 12:25
Do you feel the hair standing on your head? Does the slightest thing set you off? Do you find that no matter what you do, or what others do, you find a way to criticize it or complain about it? Do you find that your head is pounding? Perhaps you want to give up on whatever it is that you are doing?
Stop what you are doing. You need to take stock. Are you in physical, mental or spiritual danger? IF so: GET HELP NOW. If you are not in physical danger, you need to take stock about what is going on. If necessary write down how you are feeling. Categorize what you are feeling and experiencing. Describe how your body feels. Identify the symptoms. Become mindful of your negative thoughts. While "I" may have made you mad, I did not put those thoughts in your head and YOU are the only one that can change those thoughts and feelings.
Be honest with yourself and recognize everything you are thinking, feeling and experiencing, but STOP those thoughts and thought processes. One negative thought leads to another and soon you'll be drowning in a whirlpool of negativity.
When you are in a negative moment, you tend to stop looking around you. You stop looking at others. You are so focused on yourself that you have no clue what is going on around you. You cannot put yourself in someone else's shoes if you are stuck in the whirlpool of negativity. If you STOP! And then LOOK! You'll start to see things around you that can halt your negative thought processes. Look at yourself in the mirror. Is your negativity plastered on your face? Is it pretty? Do you really want people to see you this way? Does this breed love? Look at the trees. Look at the sun. Search for flowers and birds and animals with your eyes. Is there something blooming through the cracks in the ground? Is there a picture of a loved one on your desk? Is there a card from a friend? Maybe a smile from a coworker, or caretaker, or random stranger? If you do not seek light and goodness around you, you will never find it. It starts with YOU looking for the positive around you.
Can you hear your heartbeat? Thinking about it slowing down. Can you hear your breath? Practice slowing the cadence of your breath. Breathe in on a slow count of five and break out on a slow count of five. As you slow your heart and breath, listen for things around you. Can you hear the birds singing? Can you hear the wind? Leaves rustling? A clock ticking? The children laughing? Someone else crying? Have you looked outside the sounds in your own mind to what is around you? Do you hear music? Can you hear God over the noise of your own negativity? Are you so busy reciting everything that is wrong that you are failing to hear what is right? Are failing to hear what God needs you to do?
Sometimes when you spiral into the whirlpool of negativity, you need to STOP. LOOK! and LISTEN!
So where did this come from? I found myself in quite a Manic Monday. My anxiety level was high. I was worrying needlessly. I started out for a run to offset this, and I found myself criticizing myself on every step I took. I was soooooooo focused on ME, ME, ME that I started to perpetuate my own stress. Sometimes, we make a bad situation only worse by feeding the negativity with more negativity. When you are in a foul mood or upset, sometimes you spiral DOWN the whirlpool, when your feelings really were just floating on the outside. We often make bad situations worse when we top one criticism with another and another and another.
I said to myself, "Anna. Just Stop." And I stopped. And then I categorized everything I was feeling and how it was impacting my run and I how I was breathing and the thoughts in my head. And then I began to look around me. I wasn't noticing the gorgeous day, the flowers in bloom or the trees around me. I didn't see the butterflies or the birds or the bugs! I didn't hear the wind, or my music, or the cadence of my feet on the pavement, because I was feeding my own personal whirlpool of negativity.
When I STOPPED! LOOKED! And LISTENED! I could hear God. And it ended up being a very good run after all. And I got a blog post out of it. And I never would have had that if I had not stopped, looked and listened.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
I have been dreading this blog post. Avoiding it. Ignoring it. Walking away from it. This post is about how I finished but still felt like I had failed.
As most of you all know, I have been training for my third half marathon. As a reluctant runner, I have been proud of my progress. As a practitioner of faith + fitness, I have had some major illuminating runs that just kept me going. I have been at one with God on several of my runs. I had some mountain-top type runs. The Holy Spirit was STRONG in my running shoes. I had some Solomon running through my veins. I was feeling pretty fierce.
Maybe this would be the run that I conquered a PR. Maybe this would be the race where I flew. Maybe this would be the race that I didn't get sick. Maybe, just maybe, I would finally feel like a runner after this one.
None of the above happened.
I ran. I finished.
I also walked. I almost threw up. The dry heaves started around mile eight. The sun was relentless. There was no shade. There was either no breeze, or it was blowing straight in our faces. Our "flat" course was one rolling hill after another with no respite in sight. My knee went around mile ten. My quad started cramping around mike 11. I was simply unprepared even after all my training. Everyone in my group commented on the physical and psychological difficulties with this race.
My pacing watch was about a half mile faster than the course markers which kept throwing me off. For the first time, as my mileage goals slipped by slower and slower, I had a real fear that this might be the race I didn't finished. I actively looked for the medics on the road. I cried. I whimpered.
This was an awful run. Not even the thought of a cold beer post race lifted my spirits. I just wanted to be done. There was no joy and smiles. There was just the need to be done. DONE.
At one point, I groaned so loud that a fellow runner asked me if I was ok. She then proceeded to cheer me on and offer a litany of encouragement that led me to put one foot in front of the other. She was my angel on that course. I have no idea who she was. But she called me to run. I was sooooooo close at this point. There was no goal to finish, It was just a moment of just do it. I swore off running. I swore off ever training for another half. I might have sworn off running all together at one point. It was THAT bad.
You see, some people might have called it grit and determination. The truth is that I was afraid to fail. I'm a fitness and health professional for God's sake. I encourage people to do this as a part of my calling. I am a great motivator. I Am a great connector. I am not afraid. I walk the talk.
Well. You know. Even in the best of us: sometimes we walk the talk while we blubber. There's probably tears and snot and pain and fear and sadness involved, but we continue on this journey. That's not much different from being a Christian. God didn't necessarily say the Journey would be easy. In fact, I'm pretty sure he told us that it would be hard. Unforgiving. Unrelenting and very difficult.
I've come to realize that running will never be easy for me. I'm pretty sure I will never be a natural runner. I'm pretty sure that being a Christian will never be easy either. I may cross myself. Call my angels. Call my patron saints. Pray without ceasing and have bounds of faith. But it doesn't necessarily make it easier. This is the road I have chosen. Whether with running shoes or walking shoes I plan to tread it.
PS: what you don't see in this picture is that despite our smiles, one of us is nursing a calf sprain, one of us has a foot injury, and one of us can't put weight on her knee. But by God, we did it.
Check out "Clergy Confidential". Father Tim, of the dynamic #lentmadness duo, included Christ Walk in a list of faith blogs to follow. I'm honored to be included in such awesome company.
This will definitely result in some awesomeness-blogging. Hopefully in the next twenty four hours. In the mean time, check out Fr. Tim's blog on finding God in chaos.
Friday, May 9, 2014
The first time I was ever asked, or ever gave a sermon, it was for Mother's Day. This is what I wrote and was incorporated into my book "Christ Walk." I wouldn't be walking on my journey today without my mother. This one is for her. I love you.
Rather than talk about myself as a mom, I would like to tell you about my own mother and the other mothers in my own life that have taught me a little something about being a mom. These moms have shown me through their actions how to Christ Walk as a mom.
First, there was my grandmother, Neenie. She died about 6 weeks after I married my husband. She was not your traditional grandmother who baked cookies and sent lavish presents. Rather, my grandmother taught me how to plant a garden (although I have a brown thumb). She taught me how to cook the most amazing roast you will ever eat and make the best squash pie (even my own mother cannot make Neenie’s squash pie—sorry, Mom). Above all, Neenie taught me how important the gift of time is to my children. She taught me about the fruits of the earth and the comfort of food.
My other grandmother, Deeda, was very involved in politics in South Carolina. And as a woman of the 1950’s, she was very vocal and active in her community. Being a female active in politics at that time was not always the social norm. She was opinionated and vocal about her beliefs and was not afraid to share it. I come by being opinionated naturally. But whether you call it being overly opinionated or standing up for what you believe in, my grandmother Deeda taught me that it is important to have beliefs and share them. Passing on a belief set helps to identify what you value. Belief sets develop lifelong passions and skill sets that go with you wherever you may be. Our beliefs and how we share them will shape the world for the future. The courage to “be the change you want to see in the world” is such a valuable lesson to share to generations to come. The world will not change if we sit back and do nothing.
Then, there is my mother-in-law, Sandra. When I hear friends complain about their mothers-in-laws, I count my blessings. My mother-in-law is a wonderful role model. Not only can she cook, but she can organize and plan and take care of any disaster. Sandra left little bitty Bowman, South Carolina, to go to big, bad Washington DC to be the personal secretary for Senator Strom Thurmond when she was in her twenties. She applied for the job at the urging of her own mother, who thought it would be cool to have a rejection letter from Senator Thurmond. This woman is fierce. She is a determined woman both personally and professionally. I cannot begin to tell you the strength of will and love for her family that this woman has. I am convinced that my mother-in-law has a pipeline to God. Because when she prays about something, God sits up and listens. She has shown me how important family is not only to her, but also to me. Wherever we go in the world, I know that we have a welcome in her home in South Carolina that will always be ours to share. This gift of family is something for me to pass on to my kids. Her amazing discipline for prayer is one I strive for each day.
My girlfriends: Who else could I call when I was nursing my babies in the middle of the night and was sure they were going to die because I had no idea how much food they were getting? Who else was I to call in tears when my son and I fought for the first time? Who else do you call when you aren’t sure that you are doing something right, but desperately need to hear that the best job you are doing is a great job? My girlfriends are the gift of friends that I want to pass on to my children.
I would also like to mention that I would not be a mom without my husband. He makes me a better mom by his support and love and encouragement. I sometimes think he is the better parent! If only he could cook! He gives me the time to write Christ Walk and to run and we work together to make our house a Christ-centered home to raise our children. Without my husband, I would stumble in our call to be parents.
Finally, there is my own mother. She is an amazing woman. While I have always grown up within a church and while my dad taught us about churches—it was my mom that taught me about faith. While I was losing my hearing and my father was ill, my mother was there. If there was a backbone that kept my family together in the midst of this turmoil, it was my mother. She had to juggle my health, my dad’s health, my brother leaving for school, my father’s discharge from the Navy, and our family’s move from Rhode Island to South Carolina. This period of my life is one I will always remember as the most turbulent. It is a bond that I share with my mother like no other. She drove me through a snow storm—a blizzard that stretched from Rhode Island to Ohio (where we were headed) to try to get me to a specialist to stop my hearing loss. She prayed a lot. A LOT! And I remember years later talking about this time with my mom and asking her how she continued to go to church through all this, and she said it was her faith in God that would get her through this time. And it did. My mom’s quiet, serene faith (she would laugh if she heard that), is something that I hold on to every day. This is the faith that I want to pass on to my children. The gift of faith is the most precious gift of them all.
If there was any gift I could give to moms, I would have to tell them it is important to take a little time for yourself. It is important to be healthy for you and your family; mind, body, and spirit. I used to agonize that I never seemed to have time for elaborate meditation or complex prayers of intercession, praise, and thanksgiving, but what I have learned is that in the busy times of your life, God loves the small prayers too. So I remind myself to say, “Praise God” and “Lord, I’m not sure what to pray for, but I know I need help” and “Thanks, God.” Because I know that He knows the deepest petitions of my heart, the most heartfelt prayers can be simple and vague and He will still understand. And that brings me peace.
Central to a life of Christ Walk is love. Central to any happy family is Love. 1 John 4:7-21 teaches us to love one another. Christ Walking as a mom is to teach love. St. John writes “Since God loves us so much, we also ought to love one another.” This is the essential prerequisite in supporting Christian family well-being. Christ Walk moms build a house of faith for their families by being moms. “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” 1Timothy 5:4. So, today, I pray that all of us mothers will indeed have God’s help and God’s love in us, so that we are able to promote an environment of love in our families.
If you are not yet a mother, or will not be a mother, the beliefs you hold and how you present yourself can also be shared with younger generations. We all have children that look up to us, no matter our role in their lives. Share the values and beliefs you received from your mother, or your female role models with the children around you. They will only be lifted up by your care.
For all the women in my life, I give thanks to God. For all the women who are taking the Christ Walk journey for health for them and their families, I pray for perseverance. And for all the mothers who are living the life of faith for their children, I give Praise. Amen.
Thoughts to ponder:
1) Do you see your role as mother as a calling from God?
2) How do you feel about balancing what you need to do for your health with the health of your family and their needs?
3) What helps you find this balance?
4) If you are not a mother, do you see a role for yourself in leading the little children?
Thursday, May 1, 2014
There is a younger version of myself out there. She is driven, enthusiastic, dedicated, maybe a little competitive, and extremely desirous to do something in the world. This younger version may take herself very seriously. There may be people who were turned off by her because the drive was not tempered by engaging enthusiasm. This woman has had a career, supported her husband and had children. There are days she wonders if it's worth it. There are days she wonders where her identity went. There are days she tries to make the home life like her corporate life and fails. This younger version of myself is a dreamer. There are things she wants to accomplish and goals she seeks to conquer. Somewhere in all that, she's trying to figure out how to raise perfect children so they are a part of this dream as well. There were days where this version of myself thought I had to teach my two year old everything he needed to know in the first two years of life instead of looking at the expanse of educational opportunities over the course of 18 years together.
This younger version of myself was So. Afraid. To. Screw. Up.
This younger version of myself was So. Afraid. To. Screw. Up.
There is a younger version of myself out there that is wondering where God is in the midst of this crazy life. She questions whether God really had a call and a purpose for her. Surely there is a mountain top with my name on it. She is constantly seeking it. With joy. With hunger. With faith. This version of myself is a yo-yo between steadfast devotion and questioning faith. She gets "God" but some of the other trappings of faith leave her questioning church versus the world, the difference between faith and belief and where her place is the spaghetti of Christianity.
There is a younger version of myself that is trying so hard. (Well, this hasn't changed. I am still trying very hard.)
There are so many things I wish I could have said to myself. I'm pretty sure my mother said some of them to me, I am sure there will be someone ahead of me that has things to say and sees in myself now that she recognizes in her own self. I am pretty sure that in ten years, I will have a new list of things I wish I had known.
Because there is one great lesson I have learned (yeah! Fist Pump! Lightbulb moment!) and there is one lesson when I see the younger version of myself that I wish I could say out loud: Time passes. The events of your life that seem so significant, that seem like they will never end, and you will never get through, do pass. These moments that fill you with anguish, anxiety, bitterness, frustration, sleeplessness, misgivings, and anger--they will pass. There will be other significant events. You have not had every significant thing happen to you already. Significance happens over the course of a lifetime and if we are focusing on what we don't have, then we might miss some really significant moments. The things you wish for with such fervor at one point in your life will still be there if they are really that important, and if they are not, you will have something new to focus your time.
You DON'T have to be perfect. You DON'T have to create perfect little kids in the first two years of their life. They will grow, they will learn and they will begin to absorb your lessons if you love them, are consistent with them and give them the opportunity to learn them and use them. Unbend a little on the expectations of your children, family, and self a little. Now is not forever.
I wish I had told myself that I didn't have to try so hard. Perfection is a self-defeating principle. Just imagine if you attained perfection? What then? You think you will be satisfied? No, you wouldn't have anything to work towards. Everything would be done, because it would be perfect then right? Perfect is not forever either.
Just being and enjoying the moment has great value. What I may not have time for today, does not mean that we will not have time for it in the future. If we live every day as though it were our last, we fail sometimes to enjoy the moment of what we have because we are thinking of everything we don’t' have RIGHT NOW. RIGHT NOW is not forever. RIGHT NOW passes. It goes, it's gone. RIGHT NOW life might suck. But that does not mean it will suck forever. Embrace the suck, learn from it and it will pass eventually. If you calculate percentages of your life, those moments that you think will never end, and you will never get through pass like a very small percentage of the overall denominator of your life.
I thought potty training would never end. I thought I would have pee and poo all over my house FOREVER. Folks, in the grand scope of things, my children will not go to college in diapers. Potty training is not forever. Sleeping (or not) sleeping through the night is not forever. Breastfeeding is not forever. The terrible twos, threes, fours and fives are not forever. I assume the teenage years will not be forever.
I look at this other woman, who is so much like me, and I want to say you know, the drive, the enthusiasm, the career, the desires and dreams don't go away. They may change and be altered by events, you may have to be creative in how you satisfy your inner identity, but you can still do it. You aren't screwing up because the path you have taken is different from the one in your head. The road to the mountain top is different for everyone.
My younger self seems to understand that the mountain top experience of God is awesome. But if we hang out on the mountain top, we don't get the opportunity to share the mountain top with others. Where there is a hill up to the mountain, there will always be a downhill path that we must take to go back to our life. The older me yearns for that mountain top experience. It is unlike anything else. But having tasted the mountain top, I will always look for opportunities to nurture it and shape it and bring it into everyday life. God will be a part of my everyday experience whether I intensely FEEL it or not.
To this woman, I want to say, success comes in many shapes. Don't discount successful moments because they don't come with a plaque and a gold coin.
To this woman, I want to say, "Chill out! Relax! Enjoy the moment! They pass. Don't try so hard! Don't overwhelm others with your anxieties and fears and drive. Just be yourself."
Having had this moment of looking back and wincing and wishing I HAD KNOWN. I now look forward to those that have pass through the moments I am in and I am now eager to hear those messages they want to share. Life is a bunch of stages. I am sure that I will look back on what I have written now and in several years, have new things to say. I will have no regrets though, because now, I am comfortable in knowing that each day, I am just trying my best and this is good enough.
#christwalk #TBT #moms