Monday, January 30, 2012

Why Does Something Feel "Off'?

I was recently asked the question below on another blog. Several other women commented to say they could relate to her and wanted to know my response as well. I'm glad she gave voice to her feelings and asked - as it clearly resonated. It's so important to know we aren't alone in our struggles. While I don't personally know her and I am not a counselor, I promised I would pray for discernment and respond this week in some posts here.

Here's what she asked:

"What if you “think” you are content with where you are in life …but something still feels “off”? I have an adoring husband, 3 awesome boys that keep me very busy, I am an RN with a very good job…(no longer work the floor as it was too much with such a busy family!), we sold our large home last year and downsized to have a lower mortgage, and now 2 of my 3 kids can walk to school….such a huge blessing for my sanity!!…and now….things have calmed down, “all is well” and I just feel off….I have been gaining weight, feel tired most of the time, enjoy being at home…not running all the time to activities…(which at times I admit makes me feels guilty)…I am struggling with motivation to exercise etc. I feel as if I am on a “Merry-Go-Round”…laundry, dishes, figuring out what’s for dinner, kids homework…I feel like I am present in my life, but not enjoying my life right now…not sure if that makes any sense! I just wanted to see what your thoughts might be…"

Any number of things could be driving this "something is off" feeling. It could be biochemical - like hormone fluctuations, or thyroid issues. Could be diet-related. I find the quality of the nutrition I'm consuming greatly impacts my emotional life. (Sometimes a good "Stress B-Complex with C" vitamin picks my mood up right off the floor!)

She mentioned backing off on exercise - that will certainly contribute to feelings of lethargy. And to weight gain.

It could be *unresolved issues from the past coming to the forefront again now that so many of her previous distractions (a demanding job, a bigger house to clean and pay for, lots of carpooling to run) have been eliminated. Busyness has a way of hiding our true issues and feelings from us.

(*Those could be childhood issues with her parents or siblings. Or body-issues. Could be a lack of desire or intimacy in the bedroom. Lots of possible things here.)

Or maybe boredom is simply settling in now that those tasks are off her plate. She may be relieved to have those daily pressures gone, yet at the same time feel a lack of "purpose" now. Maybe she just needs to take up sewing or gardening. Take on a community project or a 5K run. Start writing a blog or a novel. Sign up for a Bible study or a Zumba class. Or find a cause to champion in Christ.

Then again, the problem is very likely to be Perfect on Paper Syndrome. I will blog about that tomorrow. But in the meantime, can you too relate?

Have you had seasons when something just felt vaguely but unmistakably off? Got any advice to offer on dealing with that? Chime in the comments if you want to talk about it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Finding a New Kind of Resolution

I've always loved New Year's Day, the annual fresh start. Followed by January - the month of potential.

I recall sitting down one January years ago with a yellow legal pad, pencil in hand, ready to determine my New Year's resolutions.

I thought through each major area of my life: my career, relationships, finances and faith. I wrote down all the things I wanted to stop doing, and all the things I wanted to start doing.  I looked over my list. And immediately felt overwhelmed.

I clearly had much to work on. Much to do. Much to fix. Much to establish. And much to kick.

I was going to need more coffee.

It was that same familiar urge rising up that I talked about in my devotion published today with P31: to try to make myself both more and less of me. Am I the only girl repeatedly plagued by such thoughts?

I assumed tackling all these flaws and developing all these good practices would make my life great - and that's a hard belief to shake.

Then I cracked open my Bible, with its message of grace and of Spirit-fueled transformation. Looking through the lens of the Gospels, I saw a different story than the one scribbled on my notepad. And I got a much needed injection of direction.
"Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me."  ~ Jesus in John 15:4 

I realized that life in Christ is not intended to be an exercise in willpower for behavior modification. It’s intended to be an exercise in yielding for heart transformation.

Once again Jesus shushed my endless listing of all the things I want to change or improve about myself. Once again He afforded me humble contentment with who I am and who I'm made to be, along with the promise of coming fruit. Really, what could be better?

I do New Year's resolutions quite differently now, but you can read about that in my previous post.

Welcome if you are new here - take a second to say "hello."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My One Word for 2012

cre∙ate: cause to come into being, as something unique that would not naturally evolve or that is not made by ordinary processes.

This is my one word for 2012.

Each year for the last six years I've ditched the idea of New Year's resolutions in favor of prayerfully choosing just one word to be my focus for the year. One word that represents what I most hope God will do in and through me over the months to come.

I spend the month of January choosing the word carefully. And often my word doesn't make a lot of sense to others. At least not as much sense as it makes to me. For example, last year my one word was PERPEITY. (See, I told you.) The year before that it was SLOW.

This year I've chosen the verb CREATE. It's the first verb to appear in the Bible. Chapter one, verse one.  In fact, it's our first recorded act of God. Not that I'm planning to hover over dark waters and create some earth this year ... unless maybe I paint landscapes on the beach at midnight. Or I get time to write a novel - that could count as creating a world.


Actually I chose CREATE because in the last few years my heart has developed a singular mission: to create a life that is pleasing to God. My drive is to fulfill the purpose for which I was created -- for God's great pleasure. (see Revelation 4:11)

I want to create work that proclaims His fame. I want to create a home and relationships that honor Him. I want to produce faith that pleases Him. And I want to realize afresh that I came "into being as something unique that would not naturally evolve or result from ordinary processes" - that I've been made holy and set apart in Christ.


Throughout 2012 I'll be doing My One Word posts here. I'll be posting on the word CREATE and how it influences anything I'm doing.  I'll look at what the Bible says about it. (I love that the dictionary definition hints that there is something supernatural about the process of creating.) I'll teach on verses I'm studying in my quiet time on it. I'll also share others' insights on creating and the creative process.

And I'll reveal any struggles I encounter with my word.

I'll talk about creativity - I'm a writer after all. Yes, creativity and productivity. But also about learning to rest and be the created.  Worshipping the Creator. This is ultimately about spiritual formation, which is the process of growing into the new heart Salvation creates within us. 

And I'll keep you abreast of my personal creative projects. Do you promise not to laugh if I do paint on the beach at midnight and post a photo of my sloppy masterpiece?

My current creative project is a book I'm co-authoring with my pastor Mike Ashcraft on this My One Word movement.  It will release December 18 with Zondervan, provided I finish creating the manuscript by March. (Now would be a really good time to pause and pray for me if you would be so kind!)

So stay tuned for more to come. And if you aren't familiar with the My One Word movement click on the image above to visit our website and learn more. Consider prayerfully choosing one word for 2012 and if you've already chosen a word, go post it on the site - I can't wait to read it!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fundamental Attribution Error

Ever notice that we have a tendency to attribute other people’s behavior to their disposition or character, but to link our own behavior to our environment or circumstances?

I can’t help it – it’s my upbringing, my situation, my biology, my____.

Psychologists call this the fundamental attribution error.

For example, if we see a stranger trip, they must be clumsy or absentminded. But if we trip, well there must be something on the floor, or stuck to our shoe. We automatically look back at the ground with a wrinkled brow.

(Photo: sandman_kk / CC)

Even if there is nothing there, we'll sometimes pretend there was!

When we ignore the speed limit, it’s because we seriously need to get somewhere quick – like to work on time or we’ll be in trouble. We’re not really “speeders,” it’s just that our circumstances necessitate it today (and every time we’re running late).

But when another car speeds past us, weaving through traffic, it’s because they are irresponsible - and we hope they get pulled over.

I'm not really a speeder, I'm not really a liar, I'm not really lazy, I'm not really a cheater, it's just that ...
It’s always totally “their bad” but it’s never quite  fully “our bad.” It doesn’t take much pondering to figure out why this is – we want to excuse our behavior. To not have to examine it, change it or feel bad about it.

Yet we do feel bad about it.  Every so often – maybe when a romantic partner leaves us, or at New Year’s, or when convicted by God’s Spirit – we take an honest look at ourselves, and we want to change.

Once we decide to change, we attack our problematic behavior with all the will power we can summons. Because, we assume, that is what it takes to change.

I wonder if this isn't another kind of fundamental attribution error. 

Biblically speaking, is it our willpower that changes us? Christ said He can do nothing apart from the Father. And, Christ said, we can do nothing apart from Him. ( see John 15:5)

So, where does our strength come from? Regret-fulled willpower, or Spirit-fueled transformation?  Which one do you tend to rely on?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Holidays are for ...

Congrats, Kari. As commenter #18 you've won a copy of It's No Secret.  Shoot me over your address so I can get it in the mail to you.

French pressed decaf coffee - check.

Tangerine Lemongrass candle lit - check.

Quiet time done - check.

Music for Productivity - check.

Now I'm beginning my writing session for the day. To be followed by the gym, some straightening in the master suite, and a movie with the kids.

What's on your agenda this Martin Luther King day?  Hope it's a good one.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Problem of Perfectionism

Do you feel not quite good enough much of the time?

Avoid starting projects for worry you’ll fail? 

Miss deadlines because you’re still working to get it just right

Fear others seeing less than your best? 

Is "average" an ugly word?

If so, it's likely you are plagued by perfectionism. I talked about this some in my devotion today published with Proverbs 31.

PERFECTIONISM = a set of self-defeating thoughts and behaviors driving you to set, and to expect to reach, excessively high or unrealistic goals.

As I pointed out in the devotion, it usually causes us to hyper-focus on our appearance and performance rather than our motives and character. Plus, it often adds emotional instability to our lives.

Sometimes it only manifests in one area of our life like our job, our craft or the cleanliness of our home.

Other times it runs rampant, causing us to be super-controlling. Or, on the flip side, to slack off and procrastinate because if we don't think we can do it perfectly, we don't want to try.

And when perfectionism comes to church, it sets us on a misguided path of achieving righteousness with our works, or earning God's favor.  Talk about setting excessively high goals!

Our perfectionistic striving often leaves us feeling like we come up short. Like we just don't fully have what it takes. So 2 Peter 1:3 has some good news for us:

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." (NIV) 

That's the Bible telling you that you have what it truly takes. You are fully capable - in Christ you have access to everything you need - to live the life that God creates for you.

Maybe not to live the life you want to create for yourself, but for the life He wants to create for you. Which, trust me on this, that is the life you really want.

Leave a comment telling me how perfectionism usually raises its ugly head in your life, and I'll pray for you in this. You can pray for me as well to focus on my character over my performance.

And if you want more on this topic, I elaborate further and give a short Bible study on it in chapter 7 of my book It's No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know. I'll pick a random winner from today's comments to receive a copy.

Have a terrific day - without sweating the small stuff. (wink)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Writing like Mad (Men)

Do you ever go to costume parties?  Last fall I was invited by some friends from the university - no, not students - to attend a "Man Men" themed party. Everyone was to dress up like a character from the show (or at least that general era).

I was familiar with the award-winning TV show about advertising execs in 1960's but hadn't watched as much as a full episode, so I decided to tune in for one. The show is a little randy, to use their vernacular. And I had a hard time getting use to all the smoking and drinking they do at work. But it's also smartly written, and their style is fabulous.

See what I mean? This was a great excuse to buy a retro-chic southern-looking dress.

So maybe that's why I loved this post on writing by Jonathan Morrow at Copyblogger called "The Mad Men Guide to Changing the World With Your Words." You have to admit, that's a creative angle for a post.

If you're a writer, check it out and see if you agree with Jonathan and the fictional Don Draper. By the way, the show's writers are mostly females in their 20's to 50's.

Now I'm off to do some more of what looks like nothing in hopes of uncovering the next great idea and changing the world. Then I'll put on a fabulous dress and write like mad. 

You watch this show? If you decide to tune in now, just know that I warned you, it's randy!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Gift that is January

It seems fitting that each year concludes with reveling. With time off from work and routine to celebrate family and blessings - and the One we have to thank for both.  

With Christmas, New Year's Eve, and both my children's birthdays in a two week period of time, I did plenty of celebrating. I also did quite a bit of indulging in the process.

I was staying up later than usual, followed by sleeping in later than usual. I kept the downstairs clean but let my office and bedroom get cluttered. My girlfriend Kati brought me a tin of cookies, and I ate as many as I wanted. Plus Chex Mix.

I did a pretty good job of exercising up until Christmas, but after that notsomuch - unless you count shopping as exercise, or playing drums with the band on New Year's Eve.

Letting things slide while I indulge a little is fun. It feels good, decadent and worth it. And I think at the time I could sooo live this way every day -  I'd never tire of it!

But then I do. And I begin craving structure, order, growth and discipline.

I start wanting the feeling of accomplishment more than the feeling of indulgence.

So it seems fitting that the end of the year with all it's revelry is followed by New Year's with all it's emphasis on renewal and self-improvement.

And that is the great gift of the cold, quiet month of January.

It's a time for reordering. For reestablishing. For recommitting. In the slow pace of winter.

"Indolence is a delightful but distressing state: we must be doing something to be happy."

~ William Hazlitt

There is purpose in the rhythms and seasons of life. There is a need to break routine and to reestablish it throughout the year. I very much go with the flow that way. How about you, are you ready for the purposeful push of January or are you still hanging on to the indulgent mindset of December?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Clean Start

Fresh Possibility.

A Finish Line, followed by a Start Line.

A season of revelry, followed by a season of renewed focus and discipline.

A Clean Slate.

This is what appeals to us about a new year.

Today I have an uber healthy, cleansing soup in the crock pot. I'm making my to-read list for the next three months. I'm changing all the sheets on the beds, airing out the duvets and straightening up my closet.

I'm praying over my next MY ONE WORD. I think I know what it will be. One came to me two weeks ago, but I always take several weeks to let it fully arise. More on that later.

Today I'm working on my inspiration notebooks. In the last chapter of It's No Secret I talked about keeping notebooks - full of images, articles, hand-written notes, quotes and verses - that remind me what is important to me, what my priorities are.  I look through them regularly to motivate me to keep my priorities a priority.

Because we often forget our priorities, don't we? Or at least we fail to keep to them.

That's why we like a new year - it's a fresh chance to realign and begin again. It's a time pregnant with possibility. It's a call to renew our vows to God and self.

So here's to 2012. What are you doing in this first day of the year?

Happy New Year!