Overwhelmed with Yesses? Just Say No

This post is part of Lysa TerKeurst’s “The Best Yes” Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with many other inspiring bloggers.  To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE. (http://goo.gl/bQVJW0)

“When a woman lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule, she’ll ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.”  (Taken from The Best Yes Chapter 3: “Overwhelmed Schedule, Underwhelmed Soul” by Lysa TerKeurst)

Between Lysa’s The Best Yes and Dr. Henry Cloud’s Necessary Endings, (which could easily be called The Best No) I’ve recently been brought face to face with the fact that I still experience fallout from my past.

My first marriage experienced nuclear meltdown more than seven years ago. I still fall into some of the old unhealthy behaviors I adopted as coping mechanisms during the decade or so before the disintegration of that relationship. Why, Lord, is this still my default when those days are far behind me?

Here’s how it used to be: If I knew that he was on a binge again, I dreaded going home to play the waiting game. (If you’ve ever loved a chemically dependent binge-er, you can identify.) The ache of wanting him to come safely home so I could kill him myself (or at least wring his wiry little neck) always seemed worse when there was nothing to do but sit there and wait.

That all-night, all-the-next-day waiting was the worst, creating a toxic concoction of hope and dread that birthed stomach ulcers that bled and burned for days. Should I make dinner? Call the police? Stay here waiting, or go looking for him? NIGHTMARE.

I hated every minute of that desperate waiting, so I created a coping mechanism. Work. After work, I worked – staying in my classroom until long after everyone else had gone home, made dinner and watched American Idol. I made lesson plans for weeks in advance. Sharpened pencils. Alphabetized scented markers. Rearranged desks; anything to keep my hands busy and my mind semi-occupied until enough hours passed that I could go home too exhausted to lay awake and wait.

Work worked for a while. Years even. Eventually my underwhelmed soul created such an overwhelmed schedule that I became a workaholic. Even during those “clean” months between his rehabs, I continued my addiction to work. More evenings than I can count, when he was home, sitting on the sofa with the TV remote in hand, I was still at school. His sickness had infected me, infected our marriage, our lives. No, I didn’t binge on cocaine. But I did numb the drug’s side effects with busyness.

It was hard to decide what to leave undone. Difficult to have chaos anywhere in my physical world because my emotional world was out of control. I was aching for normalcy, so I created it where I could. I stayed in that groove for a long time. And grooves were formed in my brain. Pathways and patterns and habits that have not broken easily.

Lord, I have to do something differently. I cannot continue to live like this.

I prayed that prayer just before Valentine’s Day as I came out of the valley of indecision and made a decision to stay with a friend when he didn’t come come and wouldn’t answer my calls. Again.

Lysa says, “Not making a decision is actually a decision. It’s the decision to stay the same.” She’s right. For all of those years, when I couldn’t decide what to do, I was making a decision to allow the pattern to continue. I was choosing insanity – continuing to do the same thing, expecting different results. Maybe this time, he won’t use. Maybe this time he’ll stay clean. Maybe…

overwhelmedscheduleSo, what about now? Now, when I’m happily married to a loving, emotionally attentive husband. Now when I no longer have the pressures of a full-time teaching job? Now when I have a flexible schedule and the ability to sleep until ten on a Monday morning? (I don’t.)

I still work. Still say, “Yes” to time consuming projects that don’t fit my long-term goals. I still over organize and over analyze and over do. If tendrils of painful emotions need to be numbed – I work. If I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring, I overwork tonight. I’m a binge-worker. My overwhelmed schedule is often created by none other than moi, me, myself!

So, thanks to Lysa, I’m prayerfully looking for my “best yes.” Thanks to Dr. Henry, I’m deciding what areas of my life need “necessary endings.” I’m positive workaholism is one. I certainly don’t need the “underwhelmed soul” that comes from overdoing it. Been there. Done that.

I have a feeling I’m not the only one who struggles with repeating patterns from the past that need to be broken in Jesus’ name. What’s going on with you? Do you need to say “no” to a few things? Do you need to say “yes” to a new way of thinking? A new way of doing?

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 NIV)

May I invite you to pray this prayer with me?

Father, I believe You deserve my best yes. You know the plans You have for me. Please direct my path, moment by moment. If I am numbing with busyness, show me where the hurt is and help me to trust You to heal it. If I am hiding in work or accomplishments, let me hide in You. If I need to end a harmful habit or a relationship, please give me the courage to let it go. I trust You. You invite me to rest, not to strive. I choose to rest in You. Amen.

New York Times Bestselling author Lysa TerKeurst has written a new book about finding your Best Yes. Many call this book “inspiring” and “fabulous.”  I call it a game-changer.  You can grab a copy at http://goo.gl/ZFUZbD

Lysa TerkeurstP.S. You are cordially invited to FOLLOW my blog. It’s a Win/Win deal: You’ll receive an email each time I make a post. I’ll receive one more awesome person to support me and pray for my journey toward publication.

 

She Was Kind. She Was Smart. She Was Important.

John 13,35We are gathered here today to remember our dear friend, Eula…” My husband stands before a crowded congregation in his best black suit. A Kleenex box makes its way down the aisle behind me as reality strikes a somber chord with another family member.

An hour later, I am not the only one smiling through tears as Eula’s positive impact on our loosely knit community is realized. One after another, folks stand up to share fond memories of the thin woman with the longest, strongest hugs. Bear hugs. Sneak-up-behind-and-scare-you hugs. Neck hugs. Squeeze-the-daylights-out-of-you hugs. Messy hugs that mussed our hair and rearranged our breakfasts.

“I thought I was the only one she hugged like that.”

“I thought it was only me she quizzed when I missed a week of church.”

“She was my friend.”

Over and over, we hear similar words from people of all ages and walks of life. She was no respecter of persons. Her hugs were freely given to all, with no expectation of anything in return.

“She will be missed.”

“I’m going to miss her.”

“Church won’t be the same without her.”

“I’m gonna miss those hugs.”

Eula was a simple woman. A childhood fall from a tree house affected her for life. That didn’t stop her love or lesson her impact. What she could do, she did with all her might. She could smile. She could hug. She could remember who was absent from church for a week or two and make it a point to ask them about it and let them know they were missed.

“I’m guilty,” I said, standing before the gathering at her memorial service. “I’m often guilty of being task-oriented rather than people-oriented. I’m usually on some kind of mission, too busy to take the time to hug everyone I see. Eula didn’t have that problem. We were her mission.”

My Honey and I limped home after that service, our toes smarting from being stepped on by a woman who took her last step (and her last breath) last Monday.

“Now I know who the real pastor of this church was. It hasn’t been me. It’s been Eula.” He smiled as he spoke those words. “She has been busy loving the people, while I’ve been tending to all the tasks that hit me as soon as I walk onto our campus.”

What if we were all a little more like Eula, taking time to notice one another? Taking time to hug a person, to miss someone when they aren’t around, and to let them know that we missed them?

Each of us leaves a footprint on this planet. We leave footprints on the lives around us. Are we stomping through life with cleats on, leaving scars on the turf of someone’s purple Heelsspirit? Are we zipping around so fast in our running shoes that we don’t have time to pause for the people around us? Are we high-heeling our way through our days, walking too tall to stoop into someone else’s valley?

Eula was a penny loafer Christian – sturdy, practical, dependable. She made each one feel as if we were the only one. She was never too busy, too preoccupied, too self-absorbed or too needy to notice someone else. You could find her anywhere. Or she would find you. And hug you. And miss you. And let you know you were important.

That reminds me of my favorite lines from Tate Taylor’s 2011 film The Help, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” Yes, that’s how Eula made us all feel. I have a hunch that’s what she will hear her heavenly Father say, right along with “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Well done.”

I’m going to miss Eula. But I know that I will see her again. I will hug her in heaven. If I’m not there, she will wonder why. She will miss me. Jesus, let it not be because I was too busy to love.

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:35 (KJV)

Crosses & Changes

Yesterday would have been my twentieth wedding anniversary. Yeah, if I had stayed married to the first man I vowed to love, honor and cherish until death. I sat on the front pew of our church and thought about that as my husband of four years preached his guts out.

I’m an avid note taker. Usually I can be found with composition book and pen during any sermon or lecture. Yesterday was no exception. I flipped the page and wrote the date just as my Honey started preaching. “August 9, 2014.” My brain did a double take. August nine? Wow! Has it really been twenty years?

Memory carried me to another time and place, causing me to miss the sermon’s opening lines. “Twenty years ago today,” I wrote in purple ink, “I stood on a sunny beach in Costa Rica making promises I could not keep…”

“And whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:22 NKJV) The words came loud and clear through our church’s sound system, pulling me back to the sermon. For several minutes my thoughts hopscotched between present and past.

  • Lord, I did bear the cross for a long, long time: willow tree couple polaroid
  • I bore the cross of confusion when my innocent dreams were shattered.
  • I bore the cross of shame when I thought ours was the only family in church suffering the effects of drug addiction.
  • I bore the cross of guilt when I enabled and rescued my spouse.
  • I bore the cross of sorrow when he chose a different kind of life with a different kind of wife.

“How many of us have, as our primary focus, the desire to live in the spiritual world? – To dwell in the secret place of the Most High? To abide under the shadow of the Almighty?” My handsome Honey asked the congregation. Asked me. (He and I have been speaking about that a lot lately. How do we live Psalm 91 when the world around us is falling apart?)

We’re expecting supernatural results from physical investments,” he continued.

It’s true, Lord. We often are. I used to think if I loved harder, my addicted husband would change. I thought that counseling, Narcotics Anonymous, and church would heal him. Nothing worked. Moving to a new city didn’t work. Controlling every penny failed. Screaming never solved anything. Neither did threatening, crying or cajoling.

Two days ago I posted this on my Facebook page: “…the best predictor of the future is the past. What he has done in the past will be what he does in the future, unless there has been some big change. You can bet on it… Promises by someone who has a history of letting you down in a relationship mean nothing certain in terms of the future.” Dr. Henry Cloud in Necessary Endings, Chp 6.                                     (https://www.facebook.com/SameDressDifferentDay)

A reader named Emily responded with a question. “…unless there has been some big change…” like being born again?” She continued, “The Holy Spirit is amazing! But I agree with this quote; I have seen its sad truth in my own life and others’. We must pray for each other…and sometimes set more boundaries until those prayers are answered in a way that means it’s safe to open the gate in those areas.”

Spot on Emily! The key words are “born again.” I needed to be born again. Again and again. Still do. Every single day, I needed to follow the insight I’ve discovered under Vincent’s Word Studies on Bible Hub:                                                                            Luke 14:27 http://biblehub.com/commentaries/vws/luke/14.htm                                   “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

His cross

More correctly, his own. An important charge. All must bear the cross, but not all the same cross: each one his own.”

 That cross-bearing is the secret to dwelling in the secret place of the Most High. See, I was all the time busy trying to bear someone else’s cross. I wanted so badly to fix my ex I was even standing in the way of God sometimes.

He also needed to be born again. Again and again. I could not do that for him. Only Jesus could.

All these years later, those tendencies still tend to crop up in my life. My sinful default? I want to fix, help, do, rather than bring a person before the throne of grace in prayer, rather than battle for them on my knees in the spiritual realm. I talk too much. I pray too little.

So, going back to Dr. Henry Cloud’s premise that the best predictor of the future is the past, I want to say this; if I had taken time to thoroughly review the past of the person I married twenty years ago, I may not have taken those vows.

Yes, people can do better than their pasts. Yes, God redeems, restores and heals. Yes, there is hope for brighter futures.

“But the key is this:” Dr. Cloud says on p. 95, “There had better be a good reason to believe that someone is going to do better. Without any new information or actions, though, the past is the best predictor of the future. You can bet on it.”

Observing my preacher man on the platform yesterday, I thought about our history together. I’ve known my husband for six years. I really, really know him. I trust him. Before I married him, I did my homework. He had a pretty rotten past, with a long, long history of broken hearts in his wake. I should have been terrified. But I wasn’t. Know why? He had experienced the big change. The Holy Spirit, born again change. There was evidence of that in his life. I trusted that evidence. I’ve never looked back. God redeems the things we thought were lost.

So, Dr. Cloud leaves us with this: “…here are the first questions to ask yourself about the anatomy of hope, no matter whether you are assessing a person or some aspect of business:

  • What has the performance been so far?
  • Is it good enough?
  • Is there anything in place that would make it different?
  • If not, am I willing to sign up for more of the same?

Those four questions may get you to see reality clearly and, if answered truthfully, could keep you from going down a road of certain failure – the failure of the past.” (ibid. p. 96)

I don’t know where you are today, but I wonder:

  • Are you that young woman about to make some big promises without having done your homework?
  • Are you feeling stuck in a relationship that keeps giving you more of the wrong kind of same?
  • Are you on the other side of failed vows, trying to figure out what went wrong and promising not to make the same mistakes again?

Wherever you are, may I pray for you?

Father in heaven, thank You for redeeming the things I thought were lost in my life. Thank You for giving me hope that I can share with others.

I pray for the readers of this post. They are here for a reason. Please send Your Spirit to reveal to them how to take the next step of life in a way that doesn’t bring them more of the same pain. Reveal the truth of their past and heal their present situation.

Show them how to bear their cross with humility and a teachable spirit. May they learn to dwell in the secret place of the Most High, to abide under the shadow of the Almighty, and to say of You Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2)

Thank You for truth that we can trust. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Jesus & Jon (Bon Jovi)

Sometimes I sing along. I can’t help myself. When an ‘80s hair band blares over my YMCA’s loudspeakers, my elliptical machine’s heart rate monitor notes an increase. My aching legs climb those fake hills a little faster.

This morning I happened to hit senior citizen hour at the Y. No one else appeared to mouth the lyrics as Pandora took us back in time. They obviously were not high schoolers in 1986, when our days began with Bon Jovi and Aqua Net hairspray.

“You give love a bad name. Bad name.”

The phrase repeated over and over as my legs pumped faster. Faster, faster faster!

Do we, Lord? Do we give LOVE a bad name? Do I?

colosseum2I came across two guys talking about love today. John and Jon. The first John writes these words: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8 NKJV)

The second Jon sings:                                                                                                        “I play my part
And you play your game
You give love a bad name (bad name)…”

What does one have to do with the other? Perhaps nothing, except for being part of the stew that is my brain. But, I’m asking you to s-t-r-e-t-c-h with me at the end of my workout to make this connection:

John the apostle tells me if I don’t love, I don’t know God.

Jon the ’80s hair band singer says it’s possible for a person to give love a bad name.

Jesus our Savior says “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  (John 13:34 NKJV)

If I am a follower of Jesus Christ, I am commanded to love.

  • If I am unloving (to my spouse, my kids, my neighbor, my church member, myself), something is wrong.
  • If I’m just playing a game, somebody’s gonna see through my facade.
  • If I’m the one giving LOVE a bad name, it’s time to connect to the Vine.

Love is the litmus test. Let’s not give it a bad rap.

“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus (John 13:35 NKJV)