Mar 18, 2019 - Devotional    2 Comments

*Not Pictured

What is pictured on my Facebook wall? Or Instagram feed? Or blog? These locations often present the highlight reels of my life. The best and most fun moments. I love my hashtag: #DoctoralStudentPlayTime and I’ve used it liberally! In the midst of a very full season in life, I’ve sought to make room for play time. And for that I have been thankful. I believe adding playtime to my already bursting schedule has kept me more sane!

However, this hashtag alone does not define the last three years. There have been many down moments. Many listless nights. Many fears about the future. Here’s a small summary of what is not pictured. The behind the scenes, gag reel, and goofs of my life instead of the highlight reel.

*Not Pictured #1

The pile of tissues I used while fighting a monster of a cold, lying awake at night and calculating the exact time I can take another cough suppressant just to try to get to sleep.

*Not Pictured #2

The three foot high pile of research papers all binder clipped together that now constitute a side table at my desk. I’ve read every one, highlighted what I thought helpful. And piled them up in hopes that I’d be able to find the right one when I needed it to complete my paper.

*Not Pictured #3

The dusty corners and hairballs that blow like tumbleweeds in need continual wrangling. Yet, because of the ever-present paper deadline, these tumbleweeds are allowed to roam freely, quietly mocking my once clean room.

*Not Pictured #4

Digestive Distress. And its after effects. Enough said.

*Not Pictured #5

Self medicating with chocolate and chips when life was demanding. I’ve had more candy in the past year than I can count. I went trick or treating at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party… and ate all of it.

*Not Pictured #6

Sleepless nights. Anxiety. And time spent wondering what my future holds. How I will survive this degree. And how I will fill my time after graduation. Or wondering if the money, time, and effort will all be worth it.

This is just a small sampling of the real life that seemingly has no outlet. No one wants to see or “like” a picture of my pile of used tissues. Gross! And yet, what we don’t picture is just as real as what we do. I long to be honest about my life and to give a balanced picture. Yes, I have lots of playtime. I got to the theater and Disney and on vacation. And I sit at home. A lot. And type pages and pages on my computer. And lie awake at night unable to sleep. And have lots of questions that just don’t have answers yet. I refuse to only show my highlight reel online. These scenes might be on the cutting room floor, but they happened. They shaped me. The influenced my future performance. My *Not Pictured vignettes are just as important and a part of my life as what is pictured. And I’m choosing to be brave to share the less-than-instagrammable-moments.

Feb 23, 2019 - Devotional    2 Comments

Full, But Organized

Those words are perhaps among the best to describe my life.

It is full. Amazingly full. I have taken my well-honed Tetris skills and applied to them to all areas of life. My walls are decorated with a number of words, images, and items that hold incredible nostalgia in my heart. My family often just reads my walls for a time when they come visit! Likewise, my room is packed. Every nook has a shelf, a bin, a basket, or a drawer to hold more items. It is full, there is no space for another book or pillow or pair of super fun sneakers. It is full, but not messy. There are no piles of junk! It is organized. Everything has a home. I know exactly where everything is. It is full, but organized.

The same Tetris skills apply to my schedule. I know what must be done and have many of my days mapped out until graduation. I bill by the minute at work and I think this has warped my sense of time. I want to be productive. I have to maximize my time. So I schedule myself mentally for every segment of time to ensure I’m wringing the most out of every day. So, if you want to get coffee with me, we might have to wait until April, but then I’d be happy to carve out six units of time just for you. 🙂

My thoughts are just as full. I am constantly thinking, wondering, pondering, analyzing, solving, and committing to memory. My planner and journal catch the overflow of my thoughts like Dumbledore’s Pensive. I have to concentrate on turning off my brain, going to sleep, and staying in the moment.

I am a maximizer at heart. Maximizing has many benefits. I get more done than the average person. I can keep plates spinning between work, school, exercise, life, and church even in a Cat Five hurricane. The number of people who have said, “I don’t know how you do it” to me is shocking. There is great positive reinforcement to maximize. However, Full, But Organized also has significant drawbacks.

I have no room for spontaneity. I have no space for the unexpected. I have no wiggle. Every block of time or space in the Tetris game of my life is touching another surface, wedged in, unable to move. I long for an empty shelf, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Full, but Organized is also restricting. I miss things that come up last minute. I am often unavailable to others in need because my Tetris blocks in life have no wiggle room, no give. Maximizing can make me selfish. If I only focus on my goals, my tasks, my time, my energy, what do I have to offer others?

I long to give my life more margins. More give. More white space. More room. More stillness. More rest. More Sabbath. In this instance, perhaps the old adage is really true, less is in fact more.

Feb 17, 2019 - My Story, Uncategorized    2 Comments

Word(s) of the Year 2019

I am a word addict.

I spend an immense amount of time thinking about words. I choose a word or phrase each new year to tie my hopes to. I spend a large amount of time around New Year’s reflecting on the previous year and set hopes and goals for the future. Grit and grace defined 2018. They became my mantra. There were a myriad of situations that required me to demonstrate both grit and grace. They were well chosen words. And they remain on my wall as a reminder of the goodness, the striving, and the struggles that are always a part of the story!

I loved my words for 2018, and wanted 2019 to live up to the same awesomeness. I made a list of over fifty options and began to prioritize. I though one word had a good sound; it was fun to say. Another option had a secondary connotation that was lovely. A third would be easy to find on a t shirt (as I buy a reminder of my year, this actually was part of the decision!)

But I still couldn’t decide. There were just so many good options. So I decided to break the rules… and choose two.

Words of the Year 2019 (drumroll please)

Gumption

and Defiant Joy

Gumption is defined as the ability to decide what is the best thing to do in a particular situation, and to do it with energy and determination. 

I loved the idea of doing something with energy, vigor, perseverance and determination. There is a light at the end of my doctoral school tunnel, but it will take gumption to get through it. Gumption means working with integrity, doing what is right, and doing it whether you get recognition or praise for your work or not. I want to be a lady with gumption.

Defiant Joy has been a meaningful phrase for some time. There are an immense variety of irritants in life. We cannot escape from them, but we can choose what to do when they inevitably arise. I want to make pearls. I want to be an oyster. And when sand gets into the tender spaces between my shells, I want to spit on it and make a pearl! I hope to take all the irritants that come by way, smooth them out and make something beautiful. I chose defiant joy, because “the year of oyster mucus” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. I bought myself a pearl necklace to commemorate this hope for myself. I pray for defiant joy in 2019. Defiant joy is not dictated by situations, it rises above, eye on the prize. Defiant Joy has gumption 🙂

2019, here we go!

Jan 8, 2019 - My Story    1 Comment

Hurricane Season 2018

My apologies for being MIA on the blog. I was busy surviving a five month long cyclone. I survived hurricane season 2018! Both the literal hurricane season and the figurative one that defined my life last fall.

Between August and December 2018 I worked full time, pursued a doctorate degree, completed residency hours, studied for a certification exam, trained an intern…. oh yeah, and taught a class for graduate students! Even when I list out such things now, my shoulders hike up!

When people would ask me how I was over the past six months, I would just respond what category of hurricane I was living through that day. I lived in Cat 3, but also hit Cat 5 a few times over the course of the semester.

Every time I became overwhelmed by my tasks, I had to remember that I did this to myself. No one forced me to go back to school, or teach, or take on extra tasks or skills. I chose this life. I chose this hurricane… so let’s do it! Let’s face the wind with grit and grace. Let’s know when to hunker down for safety. Let’s know when to share my supplies and rations and when to seek help from my neighbors for a metaphorical downed tree.

And , man, did I have lovely neighbors this semester. My students were encouraging, kind, motivated, and delightful. My intern kept me sane and did so much more to help me straddle professoring and therapying than she was required to. My friends checked on me regularly and reminded me often that my words of the year for 2018, Grit and Grace, were well chosen and would lead me through. My family celebrated every small victory and every step completed with me and reminded me that it was worth the struggle.

I still think the hurricane analogy was apt because I spent a ton of time inside (weather wasn’t inviting), ate weird pre-packed foods (since I didn’t have time to cook!), slept poorly (since I had too much to do), and needed a hearty clean up effort when the wind settled. But it was also such an encouraging “storm.” I was stretched and challenged. I was windblown, yes, but also thrilled! I even chose a hurricane as my ornament to summarize 2018.

Now my tree is complete!

As I look back on hurricane season, with just a bit of time and perspective between me and it now, I remind myself of the collateral beauty of doing something scary. I celebrate success and the thrill of surviving and thriving in new ways. I am stronger for having been through the storm. And I remind myself not to do it again! 🙂

Sep 30, 2018 - Devotional, Doctorate, Health    1 Comment

Procrastination vs. Self Care

Avoidance. Taking a break. Filling my cup. Delaying the inevitable.

All of life is a balancing act. I believe most people have more goals, tasks, or demands than they could possibly accomplish in a single day. Whether it is children who need attention, job or school tasks that demand completion, or relationships that require tenderness and time, we are all pushed to our limits.

I am in a season of incredible demands on my time. I am currently working full-time, nearing completion of a doctorate degree, and teaching a class at a local university. I’ve begun jokingly referring to my life and stress level as a category of hurricane. For instance, “Guys, there are seven toddlers coming to class today… what could go wrong? My life is like a category 5 hurricane.” It’s a good day lately when the category or hurricane was deemed to be three or less. I long for the days when I deal with the winds and demands of just a tropical storm level life!

The winds, rains, and hurricane categories will not abate any time soon. And yet in all of it, I cannot maintain the same pace of life; I need breaks. Real, guilt-free, purposeful breaks. My brain, heart, body, and soul cannot run this fast and deal with constant hurricane-force winds without real and serious repercussions. I’ve tried to be mindful of such strains on my body over the past several months. Those fingers that go numb because I slept wrong or the headache that hangs on longer than normal or the stress-filled dreams are all indicators of a need to care for myself. Caring for my body is crucial, but I am trying to be just as attentive to strains on my soul.

Whenever I have control of my schedule, I schedule weekly breaks. Real, intentional, purposeful, life-giving breaks. During these times, I don’t do school work. I don’t check emails. I don’t write dissertations. Instead, I create margins in my life. I watch movies, and take naps, I go to theme parks, have lunch with friends, I make crafts and do all the many, many items that get pushed off the edge of my plate on a daily basis during Cat-5 hurricane days!

There was a long period of time where I felt selfish for these actions. Like I was filling my world with too much “me-time” or feeling guilty for taking a break. I have been thinking a lot about the difference between procrastination and self-care. The difference to me is that procrastination is focused on task avoidance. I procrastinate when I don’t want to do something, when it feels overwhelming, when it isn’t fun. Procrastination is, at its core, saying “no.”

Self-care, on the other hand, is choosing to say a deep and resounding, “yes!” to something better. It isn’t primarily saying no to an undesirable task, but saying yes to something even more important. Self-care is saying yes to rest, to life-giving experiences, to reminding myself of my limits and my worth. My sanity and health are more important than any paper than could be written, any grade that could be assigned, any project that could be completed, or any course that could be taught. Self-care is not selfish. It is pulling away in order to re-engage at our best. This realization has let me take breaks without guilt. The tasks will never fully quiet. Even when I graduate and the semester is done, the pulls for my time and attention will continue. I am training myself to distinguish between procrastination and self-care, and to choose the best yes. Sometimes the best thing I can choose is to take a break.

 

How do you practice self-care?

May 19, 2018 - My Story    No Comments

High School Reunions

I was reminded of how much I’ve aged this week. I attended a Justin Timberlake concert with my high school buddies. This group of girls were gaga for *Nsync back in the day. We each had a favorite guy in the group and knew all the songs and statistics about our singing beaus.

Our high school career culminated with a trip to see *Nsync live in concert in the magical land of Orlando. We saved money, chose outfits, and begged our parents for a lift to Orlando to sing the night away. We were beyond excited. We cranked up the tunes and sang all the way there and back. We brought our own noise makers, dressed the part, and cheered incessantly. It was as if we’d been in training for this moment for months.

These were the girls who rode the tides of high school and college alongside me. We have been friends for the majority of our lives now! So when we learned that Justin Timberlake was coming to Orlando on tour nearly twenty years after our original experience, we HAD to go.

But my, how we’ve aged!

This time the preparation for the concert was a bit different. Two of us stopped to buy ear plugs. Two others made plans for toddlers for the evening. When we got in the car together (sitting in between carseats), instead of a boy band, a CD of nursery rhymes pumped through the speakers. All of us calculated how much sleep we were giving up by staying out past our bed times. Oh my, how we’ve aged.

At this concert, we watched as the young ones shimmied and danced, while we sat in our seats, still very much enjoying the show, just less rowdy than the last time! But the point wasn’t the concert. It wasn’t how close we got to Justin or whether he sang our favorite songs or not. This concert was more about celebrating us. We have kept up our friendship the decades and still remain friends and companions in this wild ride of life. Life is a journey. I reminded myself as I felt old this week that wrinkles, fatigue, and aging are not the enemy. I am proud to give up sleep and spend my time with these fine ladies. Plus, JT puts on a mighty fine concert!

Stay AAAIY! 🙂

Apr 5, 2018 - Doctorate    1 Comment

Worshipful Mediocrity

When I started seminary in 2007, my professor shocked me. He started the first day of the first class with this warning: “Some of you will not get an A in this class, and that will be a sin because it will mean that you didn’t take the class material seriously or work heartily as for the Lord. For those of you who will fall into this category, be warned.” I am an excellent straight-A student and I scoffed at this warning. This would not be my lot.

Yet, my professor continued, “Some of you will get an A in this class and that too will be a sin because it will mean that you neglected something more worthy in order to give time to this class.”

*Stab of poignant truth! * *gasp* (Imagine my heart doing a Shakespearean level death speech)

That was me.

I would almost always choose school and neglect worship, personal quiet times, community, service, or caring for others. I value my studiousness and it outranked so everything else for much of my life.

But since I am an eternal graduate student (going on year eight…), I am hoping to change my priorities and sometimes I practice worshipful mediocrity. This does not mean that I worship the Lord in a mediocre fashion! That would not be holy, honoring, or appropriately awe-inducing. He is worthy of all my worship. Rather, I perform other tasks with a level of mediocrity to allow space for worship.

I practiced this new balance this week as I turned in an assignment for class. It was good, but not my best. I estimate I will get a B+ on this assignment. I could have easily put more research into it. Found three more sources. Re-read my paper and honed a few sentences. And basically spent two more hours on this assignment to change my B+ to an A+. But I made the decision that I could spend these two hours differently. I could talk to my roommate, go for a walk, read scripture, pray, prepare for Sunday School, or just rest and remind myself that the world does not depend on my efforts continually. I also could have “saved” two hours from my school assignment just to squander them with mindless phone scrolling or frustration when I received my grade. The mediocre work wasn’t the win, what I did with my newly found time was what made it worshipful.

My time and energy are finite. It takes immense wisdom to choose the best yes for my limited resources. My professor’s first day speech has stuck with me more than a decade later. School is important. I want to complete it well, and still dedicate oodles and oodles of time toward it. But sometimes, mediocre work is the right choice. Intentional mediocrity reminds me that I am worthy no matter my grades and that I should spend my time and energy on the most important things, which isn’t always my discussion board post!

Where do you choose mediocrity and what do you put your energy toward instead?

Jan 6, 2018 - Book Review, My Story, Writing    3 Comments

Writers Write… And Publish!

I am a writer.

I have been for decades. I chronicled the triumphs and pitfalls of our family vacations as a teen. I am verbose and never have trouble meeting my word counts for assignments. Words are my friends and  a large part of my story. Because I am a writer. I truly do think best on paper. I must have an outlet for my thoughts, ponderings, curiosity, and insights.

Some of the best advice I ever received came from one of my favorite authors, Leigh McLeroy, who commiserated on the difficulty in writing and publishing, and the fact that those are two very different capacities. She said, “Writers write. Publishers publish. Don’t confuse the two.” So I write, honestly, faithfully, and frequently, and left the publishing dream for later.

But I have always longed to be published! To share my thoughts with others on a larger scale. In fact, I made a bet with my dad twenty years ago to see who could get published first. I am happy to announce that I won the bet with my dad. 

The talented and creative team of John, Abby, Margaret, and myself beautified, formatted, edited, and perfected my Bible study on the book of Jonah! I am a published author! You can find my work on Amazon.com! These are all dreams of mine. I teared up when I held the book that I wrote. That Abby and I labored over for months. That had to be formatted three separate times. The vulnerable stories I shared were labored over to made sure they say what I wanted them to. It was a labor of love, determination, and prayer from many, many sources. And, like a proud parent, I am happy to share it with you now. (Drumroll, please!)

 

Jonah: Salvation Belongs to the LORD

I remember it well: a bearded man in robes stuck on the flannel board next to a rotund, jovial-looking whale. Jonah. We’re dangerously familiar with it. But Jonah is far more than a fish tale. It is the story of a man, a servant of the Lord, called to go to his enemies. Jonah—though he is a prophet—is far from perfect, and it is perhaps more his failures than his successes that resonate with our everyday foibles and deep-rooted struggles. Although Jonah is the focus of our study, every book in the Bible is ultimately about God, His character, His glory, and His grand narrative that arches over all of our micro-narratives. We will trace this reality throughout Jonah in three major themes: God’s sovereignty, true obedience and repentance, and God’s love for the nations.

What you’ll find inside:

*11-week study formatted for discussion groups

*leader guide with schedule and format suggestions

*10 weeks of participant homework, divided into 3 days a week

*footnoted resources with scholars’ interpretations of complex questions

*optional culminating craft to reinforce the major themes of the book

Together we will seek to understand the God who works in and through imperfect people and to learn what it means to proclaim, “Salvation belongs to the Lord!” If you are looking to start the new year off right, consider doing this Bible study! Purchase at the link above, leave me a review, enjoy my foibles, and reinforce in your heart that Salvation Belongs to the Lord!

Dec 31, 2017 - My Story, Quotes    3 Comments

Grit with Grace

Rhythms in life feel familiar and welcomed. Newness awaits. 2017 was the year of Wonder(Full). It was intended to be full of wonder, full of busyness, and wonderful. And it lived up to its name.


 

In 2017, I ran a marathon, got published, taught a course, completed a year of doctoral work, survived a hurricane, made new friends, saw many theater productions, laughed a lot, and served faithfully at work. It was a year of Wonder. I could share only my best moments, the highlights of 2017, and while they are wonderful, they wouldn’t be the whole story.

In 2017 I also had my heart broken, felt lonely, dealt with disappointments, and injustices. I cried a lot and worked through more than one midlife crisis.  I frequently wished for more wonder and less busyness in my life. I believe that all stages of life always contain both emotions: joy and sorrow. Triumph and disappointment. Progress and stagnancy.

As I choose sat down this weekend to look back on the year, timeline my life, and think of options for 2018, I wanted to capture that balance. I made a huge list of words — deep powerful, beautiful words. Some connoted fierceness and determination, others rest and peace and rest. I’ve decided on a phrase that attempts to capture both:

2018 – The Year of Grit with Grace

Grit means perseverance for long-term goals. Connotations include: endurance, fierceness, defiant optimism, courage, and strength of character. Grit captures all the hustle that this year will no doubt hold. I will be experiencing schedule changes at work, choosing and attacking doctoral projects, and balancing these and other obligations in all of life. It will take grit.

But it will also take grace. Grace with myself and grace with others. In the Christian tradition, grace means unmerited favor. It connotes elegance, attractiveness, favor, forgiveness, belonging, prayer, and blessing. I long for 2018 to contain grace as well as grit. To know that the tasks will be rapid and steep, but that there is purpose in the sanctification and refinement. I believe 2018 will be a year of refinement, defiant joy, and purpose. I have chosen I Peter 2:6-9 as the verse to support the Year of Grit with Grace. It reads:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Running with endurance is grit. Walking when you need a respite is grace. Hustle, yes, but also be kind to yourself. Expect to succeed, and deal redemptively with failures when they inevitably come.

Happy New Year! Here’s to a balance of stick-to-it-iveness and self-care. That’s Grit with Grace.

Dec 2, 2017 - Writing    1 Comment

Winner!

November is over. December is here!

While most people’s focus is turned toward Christmas, mine is captured reflecting on the accomplishments of November.

I completed the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) — admittedly with some modifications. Instead of writing 50,000 words of a novel in November, I kept track of all the words I wrote for work, school, and life for a month. This 207 page document is admitted disjointed and a strange read, but it chronicles the efforts that took up my time for a month of life. Filled with deep occupational therapy theory, short journaling snippets, and Bible study insights, this “novel” is absolutely unpublishable, but delightful nonetheless.

With a grand total of 50,041 words, I am a NaNoWriMo Winner!

www.nanowrimo.org

It helped that my school papers were due December 1 so those lengthy term papers pushed me over the edge (word count wise, and sanity wise!). I typically move right onto the next thing in life, but today I’m taking time to reflect, be thankful, and stand in wonder of the work that is now finished.

Here’s to November! And writing! And reflecting on what I’ve accomplished with perseverance and grit, even while I look forward to what is to come.

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