On Control

imageThe other night Michael and I arrived home from dinner to a door we could not open. Our glass front door was stuck shut. Each trying the handle, jiggling and tugging, we realized quickly it was in vain. Thankfully we have another door to the house so I was able to get inside and tried to open the door from there. We discovered, each on opposite sides of the door, that the handle was stuck in the locked position.

An hour and a half, and a new door handle later, we were grateful to be done with this surprise project. And grateful that we worked on the project together without argument.

As far back as I can remember, I looked around and made mental note of any potential stressors. If I could anticipate the problem, I thought, I could control the outcome. I was vigilant with preparedness, sure that being in control was the best way to manage life. Trouble was that managing life isn’t very fun. And it is exhausting.

Several years ago, coming home to the door stuck shut would have left me furious. Its unpredictability would have been a monumental stressor. I would have taken it out on Michael. Most likely I would not have helped him with the project, and would have been steaming mad until it was fixed.

A few years ago, I made a conscious decision to stop trying to control the unexpected, to stop taking inventory of each possible stressor. I kind of think (and I’m not a lunatic or being dramatic about this) that God let me have a heart attack and subsequent health crises to show me who is in charge. I am not in charge, and I needed to loosen up. I needed go easier on myself, to realize that the beauty in my life would come from how I handled the stressors.

So much of life is not in the forecast. I believe learning this is one of life’s great lessons. Although taking things as they come does not come naturally to me, I enjoy choosing to operate this way. I hope that you can’t related at all to what I am talking about, that you never need to be the person who works at going with the flow. But if do struggle with the vigilance of anticipating stress, I encourage you to give it a shot.

Make it a good week!

 

Pause in Pursuit

I am reading a book called, “How To Be Rich” by Andy Stanley. The premise is that we, in the United States, or in Western culture more broadly, are generally rich. If you earn $37,000 or more annually, you are in the top 4% of wage earners in the world. If you earn $48,000 or more annually, you are in the top 1%. But most of us aren’t very good at being rich. Stanley’s goal is to show how we can be good at it.

Very few of us feel rich or believe we are rich. Rather, according to Stanley, we define rich as someone who makes roughly twice as much money as we do. It is always a moving target.

Stanley makes an interesting comparison with anorexia. People with anorexia are absorbed in the effort to get thin, so they do not recognize when they are thin. In the same way, the pursuit to earn more money in order to buy more neat stuff, and then spending most of what we earn, stops us from feeling rich. It is hard to notice what we have when we are always pursuing more.

I have written about the pursuit of excellence before and am very drawn to the concept of pursuit. I like to be motivated, to move forward in life, and to pursue new things. I want to learn more, write more, exercise more, and eat better. Sometimes the lack of progress toward something better is really disappointing. In all these efforts to become something more, I lose sight of who and what I actually am.

Sometimes it is important in the pursuit to stop and just be. The pursuit, even of positive things, can be a huge distraction from the beauty of where we actually are. I am rich, and by looking around and realizing that, I can be so much more satisfied.

Make it a good week!

What Consumes Your Mind?

I am reading a memoir called “Un Moving Four Ward” by Bob Bell. It begins with the story of how he suffered an accident as a freshman in college. He became paralyzed, a quadriplegic after a classmate broke his neck in a wrestling move. Bob’s life was altered completely in a dorm room hallway by someone he knew, but was by no means friends with, in a wrestling move.

He describes the move and the scene as all happening very quickly. After Bob fell to the ground, his body completely out of his control, he lay on the floor knowing certainly that something was very wrong with his body. He looked up at the young man, this guy he did not consider a friend, and said, “I forgive you.”

Reading these words and imagining the situation, I cried. I could not imagine a 19-year-old kid, first year in college, looking up at a guy he really didn’t like, a guy who made fun of him and aggravated him, and saying, “I forgive you” without even knowing with certainty what was wrong.

It got me to thinking about the freedom Bob created for himself by uttering that statement. He seems in the memoir to truly feel that way. Bob was freed up evermore from the burden his soul would bear if be blamed the young man. By looking at his quadriplegic state as an accident, his energies could be dedicated to healing and improving as much as possible.

What consumes our mind controls our life.

Because of that forgiveness in Moment One, Bob did not allow hate, anger, or revenge to consume his mind or control his life. I dare say many of us, if not most of us, would not forgive in Moment One. And, therefore, we may be consumed in our life with the negativity of hate, anger, or revenge.

Since my heart attack and diagnosis of a chronic vascular disease (FMD) five years ago, I have tried to consume my mind with gratitude. Living with a chronic medical condition and gradually becoming accustomed to new, lower levels of “normal” is challenging. But as soon as I start to feel sorry for myself I learn of someone else in a tough situation. And the other person’s situation is always worse than mine.

My goal is to allow my mind to be consumed with positivity, with gratitude, and with joy in experiencing the moments of the day. These are the attitudes I want to control my life.

Fear, anxiety, and anger have consumed me from time to time. But I refuse to be controlled by them. And I am thankful to Bob Bell for the reminder.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends and family. May we all give special thanks this season. Make it a good week!

 

 

 

The Big Picture

competitionI came across this quote a few weeks ago, knowing with surety it was food for a blog post. But, as is often the case, I was unsure of specifically what to say about it at that time, so let it roll around in the back of my mind for days. This message speaks to me powerfully in three ways:

We are all connected. The old adage “I am my brother’s keeper” is fitting. When we consider ourselves responsible for others, our attitude is impacted. We act differently toward those we are connected to versus those we don’t know. If we looked at others, those we bump into each day and those we just hear about, as connected to us, how would the world be impacted?

There is enough for everyone. There are resources in limited supply and specific basic needs such as water and food that are dangerously sparse in many places. But generally, when we consider our western culture, its resources, money, love, jobs, space, recognition, and possessions, there is enough for everyone. Fear and insecurity may feed our competitive ways.

Encourage others with grace. I may not yet have mine. But if you have yours, I want to be happy for you, to encourage and support you. And if I have shown a generous spirit to others, been an encourager rather than a discourager or a sabotager, the same grace of encouragement will come back to support me. Encouraging others with whom we are connected feels good.

If we considered ourselves to be part of something much bigger, and if our focus shifted to what we have in common, away from what makes us different, how differently would our culture thrive?

I really do hope we all make it. Whatever “it” is, I encourage you to continue; you’ll get there.

Make it a good week!

 

 

To Thrive

I really like words. Reading, writing, learning, and considering the use of various words — I dig it.

In the song called Thrive by Casting Crowns, the lyrics say:

We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives. It’s time for us to more than just survive. We were made to thrive.

These impactful words paint a dichotomous picture. We were made for more than ordinary lives, for more than just surviving. To survive is to remain alive, to subsist, to make it through. But we were made to thrive, to flourish, to grow, and prosper. Thriving is full of excitement, life, and growth.

I notice a difference in my life, in how I feel about my life and activities, in times of survival versus times of thriving. Heck, sometimes survival is excellent, the very best option. There are definitely times where I have been incredibly grateful for survival.

But during regular days, not the life versus death kind of days, sometimes it feels like all we can do is to survive from one day to another, rushing from place to place, never enough time in the day to get everything done. Never enough time to meet everyone’s needs. We look forward to the weekend, or days off, to get off the treadmill of weekday life and to have more time to ourselves.

But to thrive is an entirely different experience. I think of times when I feel like I’m growing, I’m excited, doing something that makes an impact. I feel like I thrive when I am creating a healthy meal, when I am having dinner with an old friend, unaware of the time as it passes. I thrive in new environments, in being part of a group that is moving forward on something. I thrive on the idea that the way I relate to others makes a positive difference to them.

What makes you thrive? Do you make efforts to use your time in ways that make you thrive?

Make it a good week!