Life – Drain – Learn: April-June 2019

Hi friends!

I started a new reflection practice a few months ago after listening to an episode from one of my favorite podcasts, The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman. I thought I’d share a portion of my reflections with you today.

The structure of the reflection that I adopted is to note aspects of your life that a) give you life, b) drain your energy, and c) teach you something new. While you could schedule time for reflection, I tend to be a pretty reflective person in my day-to-day thinking so I chose to just jot things down as they came to mind in my planner/journal.

I structured my thoughts under three headings and I’ll share just a few notes under each below.


Life —

  • Traveling to Montana in early May cleared my mind and gave me fresh perspective
  • Consolidating all of my learning from graduate school in preparation for qualifying exams made me excited about how far I’ve come in graduate school and hopeful for a career where I can apply what I’ve learned

Drain —

  • The act of completing my qualifying exams (i.e., writing for 4 hours straight for each of 3 days) totally took my mental energy away
  • *When close friends or family didn’t reach out to acknowledge things going on in my life I found myself feeling drained

Learn —

  • *Need to speak up (or more clearly) when I want something from other people and not assume they can read my mind
  • Stay curious about others – ask questions!

I think this structure for reflecting was a profound way to discover new things about myself. The notes marked with an asterisk are reflections I really didn’t expect to uncover through this exercise, or felt very surprised about when I considered which heading the thought I was having fit under. I will also say, not all of my personal reflections fit in one of these areas or sometimes they fit under multiple (e.g., Drain & Learn often overlapped for me), and I think that’s OK too!

I hope to continue this type of journaling over the next three months to document and possibly share additional discoveries. Do you engage in reflection or journaling? What works for you?

– SET

Advertisements

Phone note #4

A phone note from November 2018:

Truths

Let go of your expectations of yourself.

It is not a race.

You are not competing.

There is no prize for you to win.

He has given you all you need.

No points to be earned. No validation

needed. No standard to meet.

This is not how you were raised.

It’s how you were made.

Complete. In Him. By faith.

SET

After 3 years of grad school

It is difficult for me to even write here anymore. What used to be a life-giving practice has been numbed by other things.

The thing about full-time graduate school (or probably part-time too, let’s be real) is that life becomes so complex. It’s a mighty balance of the internal forces (e.g., “this is my passion, I will grow from this) and external (e.g., “here’s your deadline, why can’t you come to family game night?”). Let alone God’s command against idols and to seek Him first (Ex. 20:3, Matt. 6:33).

Dang. If you’re anything like me, you feel stuck in the in-between. I have The. Hardest. Time keeping my priorities in order. Attending to what really matters. Life has been complicated by all the things our culture (really: my self influenced by my largely chosen context) tells us, gives us, takes from us.

As I’m preparing to defend my EdS thesis next week, and to take my doctoral qualifying exams in June, I am looking for a way. The Way. While the external forces – the major hurdles that lead to a degree that gives me the tremendous privilege to do work I’m passionate about – are pressing in deep, I need to be pressing in deeper to the One who put the passion in me first.

To bring my heart back to Jesus. This is simplifying. This is healing.

In Acts 19, and throughout this book, many people in many cities were confused about the Way:

But when some were stubborn and disbelieved, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, Paul withdrew from them and took the disciples and argued daily in the hall of Tyrannus. (Acts 19:9)

About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. (Acts 19:21)

Apollos began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. (Acts 18:26)

I’ll admit. I’m pretty confused, baffled, amazed, questioning about the Way as well. Jesus said he IS “the Way” (and the Truth, and the Life; John 14:6) to God and to salvation. But he also said the way was narrow and hard to find (Matt. 7:13-14).

And I know if you’ve been a follower of Christ for any length of time, you’ve probably already heard these verses and were encouraged and/or threatened by them because let’s be honest: with 7.something billion people currently on the planet, how the heck can I be sure I found the narrow way?! Or that Jesus actually picked me to be on that path?

Not sure. Don’t have answers here.

But what I do have is a sense that I’ve been off the path. There are so many loud voices right now encouraging us to simplify, declutter, detox, go minimalist, granola, eco-small business-organic-homemade-friendly. And none of these are bad. And none of them guarantee to focus on Jesus. Oops.

So after I become busy choosing to put myself in places that make me feel pressure (grad school, Instagram & Facebook, health and socially conscious friend groups), I’m not focusing on Christ. And my heart is more than hurting: it’s numb.

And while this isn’t really a post about the last 3 years of graduate school, it is about how my heart and faith have faded and numbed since leaving a deeply rooted college community that combined both faith and scholarship. It is to say that I became distracted and that God isn’t exactly, scientifically clear (to me anyway) about how to tangibly put him first in everything I do. And this is to say that I think it’s OK when we have insecurities about God and how we follow the Way.

If you’re in a place of uncertainty right now, I’m with you. If you’re on fire, pursue relationship with Christ and not just knowledge of Him. If you’re comfortable, ask God for something to shake things up a bit. Keep moving. The apostles Acted. They moved. Keep moving.

SET

Phone note #3

Phone note from October 2018:

Freedom from Fear.

For my whole life I’ve lived in fear of medical procedures. I felt such shame when conversation or tv shows about medical procedures made me anxious and physically nauseous, and felt even greater shame when annual checkups caused tears, verbal opposition, and fainting.

Today I got my annual flu shot WITHOUT TEARS (or fainting or a chaperone to hold me to it- thanks mom & college roommates) for the second time EVER!

After I started learning about my fear & relationship with it, sharing my journey with others, and laying down the shame, I knew the battle for freedom was already won. I started seeing changes in my life. Though the scientist in me would like a few more data points, my heart is confident this is what redemption looks like. I’ve seen God move mountains in this area of my life and I believe he does this in all our lives every day. He doesn’t fail us.

What I loved about my nurse visit today is that while I fulfilled my precautionary 15 minute waiting period (I’ve walked out of the office & fainted 10 min later in the past…) we just talked about how NORMAL it is to experience the neurologically-based vasovagal response that can include all of our “crazy” (read: sweating, feeling extreme temperature changes, reduced vision, ears ringing, feeling lightheaded, fainting) reactions to medical situations. And this happens to 6 foot 4 football stars as well as 4 foot 9 school psychs.😉

Moral of the story: Don’t let lies deceive you. The source of your fear, hurt, or shame is probably more common among people than you think. Which also means healing from these things IS possible. The redemption may not be on your timeline and it will likely be a daily battle in this life (my mom would probably agree almost 24 years of McDonalds milkshake & iced coffee bribes is not the most desirable timeline). And yet God keeps his promises to the end.

SET

A Love Letter to Money

In this post I’m taking a different approach by responding to a writing prompt I saw from an author on instagram:

Write a love letter to money.


Whaaat? Here goes…

Dear Money,

I’m not sure whether you deserve to be capitalized. You aren’t a proper noun, yet you have so much control in the world. In my life, too.

Something I think about often is your relationship with the Church. And the church. While Scripture never says that money, in and of itself, is evil, the love of money is (1 Timothy 6:10).

Love for you, money, leads me to put you before God. While you are a vehicle by which I can gain access to all sorts of things, you are not the giver of all things. You are what the world requires to increase in status, to access consistent or luxurious living conditions, and to purchase food, clothing, and clean water, and a heated home. You are not what gives me life.

Money, I’ve given you too much reign in my life. I’ve allowed you to captivate my thoughts:

“If I buy these shoes, I shouldn’t buy this dress.”

“If I go out for an açaí bowl, I shouldn’t get Starbucks this week.”

“I need to analyze how much I’m spending. Don’t splurge. Save save save. You’re on a grad student budget. You need to be more financially independent.”

And the thoughts roll on, like a record player that just keeps on spinning. But I don’t want you in my thoughts. Sure, its good to be conscientious about my spending and saving, but I should not be talking to you more than talking with God.

If my thoughts are focused on the Most High, my actions will be aligned with His.

Money, thanks for being there to help me have a safe, warm, consistent place to live and nourishing food on my table. Thank you for giving me access to earthly things that bring me joy, like an occasional iced coffee from Starbucks and gas and a car to get where I want to go.


God, I pray that my internal conversations would focus more on you than on the tangible things of this world. I thank you for the treasures you’ve given to me and humbly ask you to make me a wise steward of these things. Further, let me find greater value in the things of heaven, in each soul I encounter throughout each day. I pray that my thoughts and actions would be directed toward your vision and mission for your people: to love You, love others, and advance your Kingdom. Amen.

-SET

Phone note #2

A phone note from May 2018:

Image of redemption.

The last few months have been TOUGH. In January & February I was dealing with a resurgence of chronic pain that trapped me in a constant discomfort- sleeping, sitting, standing. I did PT for the first time. In March we had concerns about gramps’s health & we lost him at the beginning of April. All the while I’ve been maintaining responsibilities at school, a full courseload, and trying to balance a million other REALLY GOOD THINGS. However, I’ve also been in a spiritual battle of nothingness throughout this whole season. I’ve tried, as I have done infinitely many times before, to be self sufficient and independent.

This week I found myself with a day off, engaging in constant negative self talk. ON MY DAY OFF. Instead of muddling through the day alone as I would have any other day I texted a friend, just labeling my present state as it was.

She replied with this: it’s a sin to insult anything that God made. Hmmm?

And followed up with: no guilt.

I say all of this to rejoice. REJOICE because God healed my physical body even when I didn’t lean in to the Healer. God gave me peace and comfort at gramps’ passing even when I didn’t lean in to the Prince of Peace and Comforter. God gave me stamina and focus and wisdom to excel every day in my work, even when I rejected the Word. Went my own way. Remained the fool.

God never left me in any of those times, even when I said I didn’t need Him to get the job done. Yet God used what seemed like insignificant timing, for I had no foreseeable obstacles on my day off, to REDEEM me and REVEAL to me his great love. God loves you and desires relationship with you and wants you to know how GOOD you are despite anything you have done, all because HE CREATED YOU. And we are NOT to have an ounce of guilt remain in us because Jesus took all guilt and shame with him in his death on the cross. There is no room for guilt in God’s love for you. It is matchless and boundless. There is nothing superior to God’s love for his children. As I came off this kickball field tonight it was made clear to me how FAITHFUL our God is. Three months ago I could not sit or stand, let alone run. Healing happens friends.

SET

After physical pain

I’m a chronic pain survivor. Ever since I can remember, I’ve had thoughts recognizing many types of back pain — dull, achy, sharp, pinching. I’ve been to hundreds of medical appointments where doctors ask me to rate my pain from 0 to 10, from crying to smiling face.

Outside of my post-operative recovery, I can only remember twice when I have experienced pain that has been truly debilitating. Excruciating. Where the pain, not just my physical limitations, resulted in intentionally removing myself from my regular activities. This past week has been one of those two.

While I could talk at length about my experiences with pain, what I am curious about is if you’re a reader who also manages chronic pain, migraines, or some other prolonged illness, (how) do you keep your spirits up in the midst of pain?

I noticed this time — as soon as the pain hit — I became moody and irritable. My normal “realistic optimist” worldview became cloudy and jaded. I cried. I scoffed at things others said that I would have brushed off on any other day.

I felt like my physical pain was not only crushing me, but also hurting those around me.

I suspect that this experience is highly relatable, and rather than pretending everything is fine or that I was able to perfectly manage my body’s rejection of itself, I want to create a space to talk about it.

How do you give yourself permission to not be okay?

When do you communicate your pain to others? Let loved ones know you’re hurting?

What is an appropriate, biblical response to pain?

These are just some of the questions I’m asking. I want to be a better steward of the body and mind designed and gifted to me by God. If you have any insight, I’m all ears and praying that we might all better understand Love through all we experience.

SET