The Edge of Overwhelming

Weddings are bitter sweet for me these days. While I am happy to see my friends celebrate their love with a lifelong commitment to each other, it’s a very real reminder for me that life right now isn’t where I thought it would be. 

On Saturday I attended the wedding of friends. An outdoor wedding… in Illinois… in November. Dear friend, whatever you are picturing in your head right now, is probably pretty close to reality. Drizzly rain- snow mixture and cold kept the guests in their cars until the last minute as they emerged in full winter weather attire with umbrellas in tow. To the minister who performed the ceremony, thank you for doing your best to include their special moments, while saving the bride from frostbite, by keeping it shorter than originally planned. “Attend an outdoor wedding in the freezing rain” is officially checked off my bucket list. 

After the wedding, I got back in my car and cranked up the heat, as one by one the guests began driving towards the reception. I followed one car down the lane and as I pulled to the stop sign I decided to turn the opposite direction. The thought of going to the reception alone was just too much. 

And I missed getting to celebrate with the happy couple and those who would have been at my table. I missed spending time with dear friends from church (who are more like family) and catching up with another friend I hadn’t seen in years. All because the thought of going by myself was just “too much”. I didn’t want to be the only single person at the table. I didn’t want my friends to ask me about how my love life, or lack thereof, was going. It sounded uncomfortable. And so I didn’t go. 

But you know what? It’s usually when I’m just a bit uncomfortable that the best things in life happen. Just outside of the ordinary and predictable, the most memorable moments occur. Outside of my comfort zone is where life is really lived. And to be honest, most of the time the moments I think will be “just too much” are rarely as much as I imagine them to be. 

I’m done letting fear and disappointment dictate my days. 

So if you see me and I look at little bit out of my element, a little nervous or awkward in conversations, just know that I’m living life as it was meant to be, just outside of predictable and ordinary, and on the edge of overwhelming, where amazing things come to be.  

Advertisements

Empty Cup

“You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

I’ve heard that statement dozens of times. I’ve even said it to a few people. And yet, I continue to try and do just that, pour from an empty cup. I schedule my days until they are overflowing, and then try to add even more to my plate. Sometimes I think I’ll just add another plate, but if I did I would end up like the plate spinner you see at the circus. Pretty soon I would have six or seven plates spinning at once and in a split second they could all come crashing down on me.

So why do I keep trying to pour from an empty cup?

What is it that makes us think we can continue at this fast pace, piling more things onto our calendars without stopping to rest?

This weekend I attended a conference for women in small business. Whether dreaming, starting or building businesses, the conference was created to help women get paid for doing what they love.

As you can guess, a significant amount of the content from the weekend was on time management. And while I know we ALL need help with time management, what I’m finding, especially in my own life, is that we don’t need help managing our time so much as we do taking care of ourselves.

This can also be translated as learning how to say no – and extending grace to the people who say no to you.

I’m not very good at this, but I’m learning. And some of the things I’ve started to learn this weekend, I thought I’d share here.

  1. STOP POURING FROM AN EMPTY CUP!!!!
    • If you have nothing in you to give, then when you try to give to someone, it’s not going to be good. And even if it is good, after a while you are going to begin resenting the person and the situation because it’s taking everything out of you and then some. STOP POURING FROM AN EMPTY CUP!!
  2. Just because you can do something for someone doesn’t obligate you.
    • I’ve heard this put other ways too, the most familiar being, you are allowed to say no. Just because you can volunteer for that fundraiser, doesn’t mean you should. Just because you CAN help your friend move, doesn’t automatically mean you should. (But keep that in mind for the next time YOU need help moving – this one might almost be the exception to the rule!) Just because you can take on one more thing and fit it into your schedule doesn’t mean you should.
  3. When your yes is secure, your no comes easy.
    • Set your priorities and stick to them. When you know what your priorities are, it helps you know what you can say no to. For me, this is knowing that I am working towards opening a floral shop. And right now the things I need to say yes to are the things that will help me learn all I can about opening and running a business.
  4. Give people permission to say no.
    • If someone says no to you, don’t make them feel guilty for doing so. Even if you follow it up with an “I’m just kidding”, there’s usually a bit of truth in whatever you said when you were ‘just kidding’. When you allow people the freedom to say no, the freedom to step back and take care of themselves, you will have a healthier environment, whether it be a workplace, a friendship or a volunteer organization. Extend grace.
  5. Take a nap.
    • Admit it, you smiled, maybe even laughed out loud when you read that one, didn’t you? But seriously – take a nap. Put it on your calendar if you have to. Take time for yourself. It’s not selfish. It’s healthy. You have to take time to rest and refresh.

You can only pour from an empty cup for so long…

I Don’t Believe You…

This is probably the hardest post I’ve written in a while. And there’s a mixture of fear and shame as I begin. I’ve written about this topic dozens of times, but I don’t believe I’ve ever pulled back the curtain far enough to see this deep.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope!” Jeremiah 29:11

It isn’t hard for me to believe that God has a plan for my life. In fact, I’ve seen Him laying pieces of it out before me lately as He opens up door after door for Random Acts of Hope, the ministry/business that I know He has called me to. I believe this verse so much that it is printed on the cards that go out with each floral arrangement of the ministry. I could tell you DOZENS of stories about how God has provided for the ministry and stories of hope from people who have received flowers and the impact they made. I KNOW I was created for this. I KNOW this is part of the plans for a ‘future and a hope’ the verse talks about. There is ABSOLUTELY no doubt in my mind.

The hard part comes when I think of my picture of the “future” I thought God had for me. And even typing it out feels selfish. I get to be a part of this amazing ministry of hope and flowers – and here I am like a child stomping her feet because even though she got a really great birthday gift, it wasn’t everything she asked for, so she’s waiting for her daddy to bring out the rest of her presents… and the longer she waits the more she realizes there may not be anything else.

I wanted my future to include me getting married and having a family.

I’m still waiting for that to happen.

And the waiting has been long…

There’s a line in the song, Reason to Sing by All Sons and Daughters that says, “…if the waiting lasts forever, I’m afraid I might let go…”

I’m right there. Only, I feel like the waiting has lasted too long and I’ve already let go.

And when I look back at that verse in Jeremiah where God is speaking about the future and hope He has for me, my eyes fill with tears and all that comes out is a whisper that says, “But God, I don’t believe you.” And I can’t believe I’m even saying the words. I mean, everyone else seems to believe that God has someone for me. Everyone has been telling me for months, even years now, “God is still writing your love story… He’s preparing your husband for you… He’s got someone amazing picked out for you, just wait and see!” If everyone around me believes it, then why can’t I? And is my unbelief the very reason why it hasn’t happened?

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!

There’s a story in the Bible of a man who came to Jesus asking Him to heal his son. And he says to Jesus, “Have mercy on us and help us if you can”  The scriptures go on to say that Jesus responded by saying, “What do you mean, ‘If I can’? Anything is possible to him who believes.” The boy’s father replied, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24)

God, I believe You can do this – but I’m not sure I believe that You will.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!

 

 

 

 

 

Anchors, Hope and an Aching Heart

“And we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…”  Hebrews 6:19

I’ve seen this verse printed over and over again on anything from a piece of jewelry and a journal cover, to a coffee mug (my favorite). And while I love that scripture is used to decorate the beautiful things in my life, I’ve seen it used so much that I often forget what “hope as an anchor” really means.

And so, tonight as I pulled up that verse again, I thought about how a real life anchor would work. And I immediately thought of “dropping anchor” when a boat is in dock. At least that’s what I’ve always seen on television when they talk about an anchor. (They, meaning the very knowledgeable actors saying lines). But when I think of the verse in Hebrews I always see that particular anchor in a storm.

Since I really have very little knowledge about anchors or boats or anything nautical, I did what any inquiring mind would do and I turned to Google, where I found an article listing steps to anchoring in a storm. And as I read through, I saw how many of the steps to set a physical anchor could also be applied to the “hope as an anchor” that Hebrews refers to.

  1. Analyze your surroundings. Make sure there aren’t any other boats too close to you, so that when the waves come, your boat doesn’t get damaged by hitting the things around it.
    • When it comes to hope being your anchor – who are you surrounding yourself with? When the storms come, are the people around you going to damage your hope, causing you to fall? Or are they going to hold you up and support you through the waves?
  2. Dive on your anchor.  Make sure you know what your anchor is set in. Don’t anchor in grass or mud, because it’s not secure – and may even prevent you from being able to re-set your anchor.
    • For Hope to truly be an anchor, we have to have our hope anchored in God, not in ourselves, our job, our spouse or anything else. God is the ONLY “firm and secure” place for our anchor.
  3. Check that your anchor alarm is set.  This one is pretty self explanatory. They have alarm systems that tell you when and if your anchor becomes insecure. There is a radius that is set and when the boat moves outside of that boundary, an alarm goes off letting you know the anchor may have lost it’s hold.
    • While we may not be able to have an actual alarm that goes off when our hope loses anchor, we can set boundaries for ourselves. And we know when we go beyond those boundaries, we’ve lost our anchor in one way or another. For me, I know my hope has lost anchor when I walk through the grocery store, buying all kinds of foods that comfort my soul, but do absolutely nothing (but bad things) for my health. My anchor, my hope is not in God in that moment, it’s in the disappointment or heart ache I’m walking through at the time.
  4. Reduce the amount of windage on your boat. Before the storm hits, remove anything that will catch the wind and increase the load on your anchor.
    • While your hope can definitely encourage someone else, it cannot be their anchor. If you are trying to be an anchor for other people, you’re going to end up being pulled under by the waves.
  5. Have anchor faith. “To reduce fear and be able to sleep at night, you want to know that you have an anchor that will keep you safe.”
    • If Hope is truly my anchor and my hope is anchored in God – I KNOW that He will keep me secure.

Storms will come. And sometimes it feels like the waves will take you under. The ache in your heart, so overwhelming you think you may not survive.

Set your anchor.

Winds will blow – but your hope – set securely in God – will hold you firm and secure.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.   -Psalm 43:5

The Real Thing

We’ve gotten really good at perfecting the “poker-face” these days. We’ve learned how to make the fake smile look like the real thing.

“Don’t let them in, don’t let them see…” famous line from Frozen, has become the motto of nearly everyone you meet.

Social media and all of it’s updates and advancements, the thing meant to connect us and provide community, has ironically become one of the very reasons we feel so isolated from one other.

We compare highlight reels from Facebook and only post the really good stuff, for fear of being judged by someone on our friend’s list.

We see all of the filtered photos showing the best things, coffee and flowers, sunsets and perfectly portioned plates of food, while the sink full of dishes and the teary-eyed child who fought sleep harder than ever before tonight, never quite make the news feed.

Gotta keep it together.

And then, in the same breath, we wonder why we feel so alone when we encounter a rough season.

Where are the people who were supposed to be in our corner during the difficult times? We wait for someone to reach out to us. And the longer we wait, the deeper the pain of rejection.

Only, the people around us have no idea, because all we show them are the pretty, Facebook-worthy posts.

We can’t have it both ways, my friend. We can’t expect people to be there when we are walking through a tough time and offer to help when we only show them the picture-perfect parts of life.

We were created for relationship. We need each other.  And I know, being real is scary. But it’s what relationship is all about…and it’s worth it.

The strongest person you know may be aching for someone to know them, to really know them and the pain they are walking through.

Perhaps all they need is for someone who is willing to be real.

 

 

Tennis Shoes and Silver Hoops

I’m a runner in training.

That’s not something I ever thought I would say. And the fact that I even have the desire to run is a miracle in itself.

But here I am.

I’ve been walking a mile at least five days a week, sometimes more days and sometimes more miles. And as I have been walking I have posted updates about time and distance on Facebook, partly to keep record for myself and partly to encourage whoever might be reading.

In one of my posts last week I shared about walking two miles and needing new running shoes. I honestly didn’t share it as a plea for running shoes, I simply thought it was funny that I was even thinking about running shoes.

Running shoes.

Me, the girl who just a few months ago would rather be eaten by a bear than run a mile, has decided she needs running shoes. Oh the irony on so many levels.

From that post I received lots of advice about running and where to get good shoes. And from what I’m learning, running shoes are nowhere close to the ones I’ve been getting from Payless for years. Add that to being an adult and juggling expenses and priorities, and expensive running shoes just weren’t in the cards this week.

Cheap tennis shoes, for now, it will be.

Tuesday morning I felt like I was supposed to send money to a friend. I had just gotten paid that day so it wasn’t a huge thing, or a huge amount of money. But when you are planning a 1000 flower giveaway in a few weeks, you tend to be a little tighter with your dollars.

Money being tight or not, I KNEW I was supposed to give. And so I did.

Later that day I got new tennis shoes, not just one pair, but two.

Only, I didn’t buy them.

Someone stopped by the church that afternoon and simply said, “This is bless Catherine day!”, and proceeded to unbox two brand new pairs of shoes – each pair twice what I would have paid for the one cheap pair I was planning for.

I realized later that what I had planned to spend on tennis shoes was the same amount I had sent to my friend that morning.

I gave.

And God provided.

But that’s not all. Somewhere in the course of my week I had misplaced my silver, hoop earrings. They aren’t fancy. In fact, I think I paid about four dollars for them at Walmart a few years ago. And lately they had been my go to piece of jewelry nearly every day. I had lost them. It’s not a huge deal, more annoying that anything, and I could have easily bought another pair.

Much to my surprise, as I stood there already overwhelmed by the gift of new tennis shoes, I watched her pull out a brand new pair of silver, hoop earrings.

I almost cried.

God provided for my need of new tennis shoes, but He also cared about the little things like the earrings I had misplaced.

God sees.

He knows.

It matters.

 

“Give and it will be given to you…” Like 6:38

God In A Box

It matters.

The thing that has been weighing on your heart today…

It matters.

Time after time I have listened to different people asking for prayer about something overwhelming that they are facing, something difficult they are walking through.  And often I can tell by the sound of their voice and the tears they are trying to hold back, just how big it feels.

And yet more times than not they will end by saying how their story, their issue, their whatever, isn’t as big as someone else’s. They will compare their thing to someone else’s they’ve seen on Facebook, someone’s family member passed away, someone is facing a horrible illness, etc., and downplay their own overwhelming thing because it seems like someone else’s mountain is bigger. And that surely means their own is insignificant.

It’s as if with that statement “But at least I’m not going through something like…. ” wraps up their own stories, neatly with a bow, so not burden anyone with their “little” prayer request.

Can I just offer a little piece of advice, if you’ve ever said or been tempted to say, “I know it’s not as big as….” or “I know it seems silly to even ask for prayer for this….”

STOP IT

Just because someone else is walking through something that from the outside seems way bigger than your thing, doesn’t mean what you are going through doesn’t matter.

It matters.

If it matters to you then it matters, end of story.

I’ve been there, in the middle of my own trial, facing my own mountain. I’ve been so overwhelmed by a situation, facing a mountain, believing for God to answer a prayer that I’ve been praying for years, and then I start to compare my own to someone else’s seemingly bigger need. And whether I would like to admit it or not, the moment I begin to compare mine to theirs is the moment I start to put God in a box.

I know we often think of the phrase “putting God in a box” to mean that we limit God by thinking something is too big for Him to handle. But what if thinking that our need, our prayer request is less than someone else’s does the same? Whether we say it out loud or not, the moment we begin to compare our needs with others, thinking that ours is silly or insignificant compared to another, we put a limit on God saying that there are some things in our lives that simply don’t matter to Him because they are too small.

Nothing is too big OR too small for God.

Whatever it is – it matters.