Always There

When I found out I was pregnant again, I was ecstatic.  Well, actually, I didn’t believe it at first.  I used one of those pregnancy tests with the two lines, and drove around the corner to the  Rite-Aid to purchase on with words, just to be sure.  It came up with the exact same result, so then I got uber-excited!  We’re having a baby!!!

My excitement lasted for quite a while, but there were moments when it turned into something else:  a combination of nervousness, doubt and worry.  When it was time for our ultrascreen, I was nervous for the results.  After all, it was 5 years ago, during that test, that we found out we were at high risk for Trisomy 13 or 18.  It wasn’t lost on me that this baby was due the day after Caleb’s due date, so I was going through everything at the same time I went through it with Caleb.  Great (not really).

When we got the results back that everything looked great, I was relieved.  And I really enjoyed my pregnancy, for about 2 more months.  As I approached the 20 week appointment, I began to get nervous again.  It wasn’t your normal “butterflies in your stomach” nervousness.  It was more of a nervous fear, a what if, gut-wrenching nervousness where all I could say was, “Lord, please don’t let this have the same outcome as the last time.”  After all, it was at the 20 week appointment that we learned our baby boy had passed.  I knew I couldn’t handle it again.

Then, out of the blue, I got a text message from a friend from my church.  She was just encouraging me and praying for me, and she had no idea the turmoil I was enduring from my inner monologue.  Her text was right on time, reminding me that God is in control, always looking out for His children.  In that moment of reading that text, I felt a tremendous peace come over me, and I was no longer worried about the appointment (which turned out to be fantastic, and we learned we were having a baby girl).

Here’s what I know:  I know that I serve a loving, living God, who looks out for His children.  I know that He cares for the things that concern us, even when it feels like we are alone, He is always there.  And I know that He ordained this baby girl for such a time as this.  Sometimes it feels like we are on our own, and we wonder where God is in the midst of our pain and struggles.  The reality is that God is always there, and has the most awesome ways of reminding you of that.  For me, it was that text message.  For you, it could be a phone call, an email, an unexpected visitor.  Whatever it is, remember that God is always speaking, you just have to be open to hearing.

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Taking the First Step

Yesterday I tweeted this quote: “‎The first step to somewhere new is deciding you’re not going to stay where you are.” ~JP Morgan

Surprisingly enough, I came across the quote while cleaning out my desk at work.  No, I haven’t switched jobs or anything like that.  At my job, it is common to move buildings or offices, and this is one of those times.  Our floor is being reconfigured and my team is moving to a new location (across the floor) next week.  But, I digress.

The quote was on a stack of cards I found at my desk, and it really resonated with me.  I’ve been feeling overwhelmed (AGAIN).  I mean really, who keeps repeating this experience?  I’m over it.  Like my Pastor reminds us often, “To get what you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.”  Well, it’s not that I’ve never had a calm, underwhelming life.  I just sometimes get in over my head and don’t do a good job of managing things.  So, this weekend, I tried some things that I hadn’t done before.

First, I deactivated my FaceBook account.  Not impressed?   I am.  I have over 750 fb friends, and yes, I do actually know all of them.  In fact, I periodically did a purge of my friend list.  Don’t be impressed by the numbers, I’m not.  FB friends are mostly acquaintances and family members.  My real friends, like those closest to me, can be counted on two hands, and that’s intentional.  In any event, I felt like FB was becoming a time suck, and I needed to do something about it.  So. Saturday morning, I posted a status warning my fb friends that I would be deactivating the account by the end of the weekend.  Here’s what’s crazy:  an hour later, I wanted to pull the trigger.  But, I waited.  I waited a whole 8 hours.  Then I pulled the trigger and hit deactivate.

It’ took me a couple of days to get used to not having a Facebook account.  It has now become very freeing.  Like REALLY freeing.  Which also tells me I spent waaay too much time on fb.

Second, I cooked Sunday for the whole week. This doesn’t sound eventful to most of you, I’m sure, but I am, by no stretch of the imagination, the woman who works all day and wants to cook dinner for her family when she comes home.  The thought alone wears me out.  And yet, I have a responsibility to do something. So I opted to find a balance.  Sunday afternoon, I invested about 3 hours of my time into either fully cooking or prepping meals for the week.  Some meals were frozen, others put into the refrigerator.  Granted, the week is only halfway through, but there is still food in there and I’m feeling really good about the lack of stress I feel in the evenings.  I don’t have to do anything but take out what was prepped and cook it (which takes SO much less time), or my husband can start dinner (or warm it up) before I get home.  Do you have any idea what a stress relief that is??

Lastly, I’ve cut back significantly on the television watching.  Why?  Another time suck.  Granted, today I’ve been posted in front of the tv because of the earthquake here in Richmond (can you believe we had an earthquake???).  But I’m committed to this very limited television thing.  I’ve already seen an improvement in my productivity, and that makes me happy.

I think I’m on my way to moving out of the zone of overwhelm.  What’s funny is it has only taken a few tweaks.  That’s it.  A little advanced planning, a little discipline, and voila, less stress!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, or just need to make some changes, I encourage you to take an assessment and then take some basic steps to make changes.  After all, the first step is deciding you’re not going to stay where you are, right????

Smile

As you can tell from last week’s post, I’ve got a few things going on right now.  Work is busy, life is busy, and it is a little overwhelming. Tuesday night was the first time in 2 weeks that I actually rested, meaning, I wasn’t just sleep.  I got to close my eyes and rest, without random thoughts and dreams popping into my head.  I’ve taken a few days off from work this week, and was excited that my night of rest was a sign of better things to come.  I got up Wednesday morning, got in a great workout at the park, and thought, “Oh, yes, I’ve got endorphins, life is good.”  I even began to invoke my inner Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon’s character in “Legally Blonde”) and found myself saying, “Exercise gives you endorphins.  Endorphins make people happy.  Happy people [aren’t mean, they just aren’t].”  Sidenote:  the quote actually ends, “Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”  I always change it to suit my situation.

Unfortunately, Tuesday night’s restful sleep was not night a sign of more restful nights to follow.  Correction:  it wasn’t followed by a restful sleep on Wednesday night.  Admittedly, this is my own fault.  While I am off work for a few days, there are a number of things going on, and I can’t let the ball drop on them.  Yes, this is where my workaholic tendency comes in.  I’ve been . . . monitoring . . . my BlackBerry.  Responding to the items I deem as urgent that no one else is in a position to answer, and skipping the rest.  I really should be putting the Blackberry away completely; I’m working on it.  It’s quite draining to plan a memorial service, and, frankly, my few days off are more about needing to focus on that than they are about needing time off from work (but I am in need of a vacation, honestly).

Now, I’m not here to whine or complain.  In the midst of my not so restful sleep Wednesday night, I had an interesting revelation.  Sometimes, in the midst of everything going on, you just have to smile.  You know, like the Kirk Franklin song says, “You look so much better when you smile, so smile.”    So I’m smiling. And one of my favorite things that makes me smile popped into my dreams Wednesday night:

Yes, sometimes I dream in YouTube.  Don’t judge me.  But my YouTube dreaming made me smile last night.  Not just in my dream, but I woke up with a smile on my face (before I fell back asleep).  The video is cute, you know you laughed and probably watched it more than once, but it isn’t just about being cute.  It is a reminder that you have to take time out and just enjoy the special moments in life, the ones that make you smile.

My week isn’t all about sadness and stress.  Yes, it’s hard to know that my grandmother is gone, and even harder for me, who has spent my 33 years of life blessed with 4 living grandparents yet, in just 9 short months, I’ve lost 2 of them.  Work can be stressful, but I do enjoy what I do (most days, we all have “those days.”).  But I’ve laughed a lot the past couple weeks, I had a BLAST hanging out with my mom yesterday while we ran errands in preparation for the memorial service.  In other words, I’ve found the moments to make me smile in the midst of what can be a trying time.

What are you going through today that makes you feel down?  Don’t let it get you down.  Find your favorite thing, and make sure you Smile.  “You look so much better when you smile, so smile.”

Spring Cleaning

I like to think I’m a fairly self-aware person.  My desire is to be aware of my feelings, my surroundings and my life balance.  Over the years, I’ve really gotten the hang of this self-awareness thing.  When I’m out of whack, it usually reflects in my daily life:  eating habits, my house (how clean it is reflects what’s going on inside of me), and my attitude towards others.  When I start getting snippy and lack patience, eating greasy junk food constantly and my house looks like it hasn’t seen a broom or vacuum in a while, it’s time for some re-evaluation.

Re-evaluation for me comes in the form of “spring” (or summer, winter or fall) cleaning.  It’s a very simple assessment for me.  I make a list of the things I think I’m supposed to be focusing my attention on.  I try to be very prayerful about it, and genuinely seek God on the items on the list.  It changes every time I do this exercise, because my focus this year may not be where I need to put my attention next.  I then make a list of everything that I am currently doing that takes my attention.  (It can get long.)  Then the real work begins.  I look at the list of everything I’m doing against the list of priorities, and scratch off anything on the “what I’m doing” list that doesn’t help me reach one of the priorities.

That usually means I have to step down or away from an organization or activity I’m involved in.  And, 9 times out of 10, it’s something that I enjoy, which makes it a very difficult exercise.  The decision to make the change is easy, it’s a matter of scratching things off my list.  But the execution; well, that’s the hard part, because I don’t like to disappoint people and, unfortunately, I still do some things because of others’ expectations of me, and not because of my own or, more importantly, what I believe are God’s expectations for me.

I’m in the middle of spring cleaning.  My list has been made, items have been crossed off, and now it’s time for execution.  Admittedly, I’m a little nervous about the execution.  There are some people who will be disappointed.  But, ultimately, I know it is the right thing to do.  Every time I’ve done this exercise it has opened up doors that would not have been available if I hadn’t been obedient.  So I understand the greater purpose, but it doesn’t make the process any easier.  Just necessary.

I believe we all need to “spring clean” our lives.  Maybe it’s our list of friends and associates (Facebook is a great start), or the activities we are involved with.  Or perhaps it’s simply habits that you have.  Take some time to re-prioritize and take inventory.  You may be surprised with not only what you find, but also what space you create for the next chapter in your life when you do this one simple exercise.

Happy Cleaning!

Choices

We all make choices in life.  We choose what time to wake up in the morning; we choose what to wear every day.  We choose what to eat (or what not to eat).  In this day of social media, we choose who to friend on Facebook, and who to follow on Twitter.  So often, we do these things without thinking through the impact of our decisions. Yet, the choices we make have long lasting effects.

For several years, and particularly the past couple years, I’ve had quite a struggle with my weight.  Nobody would look at me and think I weigh what I do.  In fact, a couple weeks ago, I went to a new primary care physician.  After going through my medical history, she looked at my chart and said, “This can’t be right.  Is this you?”  She didn’t believe the weight that was written on the chart, and then said, “You carry it well.”  Of course I did the obligatory, “thank you,” and her statement didn’t offend me. But at the end of the day, her comment reminded me that I have a long journey ahead.

I don’t really know how I got to this point.  Well, I sort of know.  I was the one that was always moving, going.  Not necessarily working out, but moving too fast to stop and eat, which usually ended with me getting sick at some point.  In law school, I don’t think I weighed myself even one time.  In the summer after I graduated, I worked out 5 days a week, cooked and ate very balanced meals, not because I was trying to lose weight, but because I was trying to make sure I was in top mental shape for the bar exam, and that included physical and spiritual health, not just mental health and capacity.  Imagine my surprise when I returned to Ann Arbor 9 months after graduation and was told, “Wow, you look great!  What have you been doing?”  I remember wondering, “Did I look that bad when I was here?”

When I returned home, I got on a scale and was completely shocked at what I saw.  I had gained 30-40 pounds over a 3-year period, and somehow, didn’t even notice it.  Even more, I knew that the scale reflected a number that was probably lower than it had been the year before.

You would think that I made a choice, at that point, to get all of the weight off.  To keep doing what I had been doing.  But that wasn’t the case.  I chose not to do anything.  Not consciously, but in hindsight, that’s exactly what I chose.  And the results of that choice, I am still dealing with.

Fast-forward 6 years, after the loss of my son.  I distinctly remember eating whatever I drove past:  Popeye’s, McDonalds, Wendy’s, the list goes on.  And then, it was conscious.  I don’t feel like cooking, I don’t feel like doing anything, I’ll deal with this later.  Later kept coming and going, and before I knew it, I was 210 pounds.  How in the world did that happen?  That spiraled me into lack of self-confidence, discouragement, and all around disappointment.  Shucks, that’s a blog in and of itself.

Here I am today, still pushing, still fighting, still trying to find, not the right diet, but the right lifestyle change.  I joined a boot camp 6 weeks ago, and LOVE it!  It’s an intense workout, but it is well worth it.  I push daily.  I literally make choices when I eat, and I am more cognizant of it.   If I eat this salad, what does that say I am choosing versus eating the Chick-Fil-A nuggets?  Do I believe I deserve the best?  If so, then I need to give myself the best.  And, more importantly, as I seek to fulfill the purpose God has given me on this earth, I must give Him my best.  After all, He gave me His best (John 3:16), so why wouldn’t I give Him my best?

We all have struggles and challenges, and we all make choices.  My struggle is weight.  That may not be your issue.  Even so, there is something you face that you must address, that you must deal with and stop hiding from.  Take a moment today to step back and think about the choices you make daily, often without thinking “too deeply” about them.  Don’t go through life just being, and just doing.  Choose to live intentionally.

“Give You My Best” is included with permission from the artist, TWyse.