I know it's impossible to add more hours into a day, but I really thought I'd figured out a way to beat the system earlier this week.
In fact, it seemed so simple I felt embarrassed for not having thought of it sooner. My no-fail solution?
Get up earlier. Like, way earlier.
I'm currently experiencing a season of unusual busyness. Crazy busyness. So busy that my mother has told me she will not be visiting me in the mental hospital because I've done this to myself. She's right, of course. But I know that if I can make it through May, I'll be okay. And I was up for the task. I'm more disciplined, focused and productive than I've ever been and many of the tasks I'm engaged in are life-giving. The ones that aren't I get done early in the day and I've added more time for exercise, prayer and Sabbath to help me survive.
And then my carefully crafted Jenga pile collapsed. On Tuesday we received a notice to vacate our rental property by the end of May. Nothing we did, its just that the Catholic Church needs it back so a priest can move in. It's their house. They can do what they want with it. But that little letter put me over the edge.
That's the thing with seasons of high activity and low margin--it doesn't take much to throw you over the edge.
I was in shock for the first couple of hours, reminding myself that God was in control and I would be okay. I had lots of very spiritual thoughts and believed I was handling it quite nicely.
Until night came. What is it about evening that makes everything seem worse?
It took me a while to get to sleep. My mind was racing. And then I was up at 4:30 a.m. The worst time of morning. I knew it would take me at least 30 minutes to get back to sleep and then I'd have under an hour before I had to get up for the day.
And then it hit me...I should just get up now. In fact--this will be my new start time for the day. Brilliant! I add an hour and a half to my day. That's nearly eight hours in my week! I'll use it to look for houses and pack and organize stuff. See. I'm a problem solver.
I was so productive in that pre-dawn period that I had a hard time reigning it in when it was time to get started with my actual day. By 7:30 a.m. I was out the door with Madison and already three hours into my work day. After dropping her off, I headed to a breakfast meeting--fueled with caffeine--and then off to Oakland for another meeting. Also fueled with caffeine. By this time it was lunch and I'd been up for eight hours. I usually fast on Wednesdays, but today I needed food. I inhaled a quesadilla from Chipotle and stopped at Starbucks for another shot. My brother was in San Francisco for business so I headed across the bridge to see him for a few minutes. I noticed I was feeling shaky and tired and emotionally exhausted.
After spending a few minutes with my brother I headed back home via Highway 1. This section of Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most beautiful and it takes me almost directly to my front door. And, in spite of this awe-inspiring scenery and gorgeous weather my mood continued to plummet. By the time I got home I was in the tank. Tired, nauseous and weepy.
I was beginning to think this new wake-up time would not be sustainable.
I tried doing some homework but it was no use. I headed to bed and immediately fell asleep for 2 hours. So much for the hours I added to my day. And when I awoke I was even more depressed. And hungry. I ate junk and became more and more irritable. My family gave me a wide berth. It was really ugly.
The world seemed to be collapsing. Maybe not today, but I could feel it coming. I wasn't sure how long I'd be able to keep up this pace. And to stop now would be to drop a lot of very fragile plates. Loud and messy.
I did get on the elliptical machine in our garage for a quick workout and that helped keep me from sinking further, but after stretching I went directly back to bed. Beside myself with panic but a little wiser about what I truly needed.
And, it isn't more hours in the day. It is continuing to trust God as I keep moving forward. One day at a time. One foot in front of the other. One breath prayer at a time.
I may still get up a bit earlier in the coming weeks. But in the end, I don't want to be more productive--I want to be more God-honoring. More loving. More responsive to God's movement in my life and a more vibrant part of the community of faith.
So, I will faithfully walk and wait on God. Of course, it may involve dropping a plate or two. But it's not really about me. Its about the God who loves me and whom I desire to honor with my life.
Katy Perry's song Roar hit the airwaves en force last month. Since then it has become an anthem for discouraged, seemingly-defeated-but-resilient people everywhere. Just yesterday Richard showed me a YouTube video with kids in a children's hospital lip-syncing to this song. There's no way around it--I'm inspired.
Given my 'no love' stance toward Taylor Swift, you might assume Katy Perry was on my 'do not listen' list as well. But you'd be wrong. If I were interviewing nannies, I would go with Taylor, but otherwise--Katy's my girl. I can't help it. She has talent and soul. And, every once in a while I see remnants of holy in her.
With the release of her new album, Prism, this week she's been widely interviewed about the inspiration for her songs. It doesn't take a degree in poetry to gather that she's writing about a time of difficulty in her life. In her interviews she confirms that she went through a period that took a toll on her self esteem. But it was out of that darkness that Roar was birthed. (Apparently hyper-sexuality was also part of the healing process, but I'll leave that alone for now.)
As a woman who has a daughter and who works with women leaders to help them find their voice, Roar should be my theme song. You can't hold me down! I'm a fighter! You hear my voice...like thunder, gonna shake the ground! I'm a champion! Roar!
But I tell you...
There's only one problem. God isn't asking me to roar. I'm not saying that having some fight isn't often what's called for, I'm simply observing that the way of Jesus is, more often than not, a much quieter path.
Today I wanted to roar. I'm physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted. As I meditated and prayed this morning I secretly hoped I would emerge from this time feeling energetic and ready to take on the world. After all, isn't that how the agreement works? I plug into the power source of the Holy Spirit and, just like my iPhone in the morning, I leave fully charged and ready for another day of productive activity?
I'm currently taking a class on the Disciplines of the Spirit and one of our textbooks is a favorite of mine...The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun. This week we completed a brief assessment designed to surface where God might desire to shape us. I faithfully completed the assessment and moved on to the reflection questions. What I hoped would come out in my reflection was a sense of deep rest and encouragement. I found myself drawn to the disciplines of Sabbath and listening to God.
Inwardly I crouched, waiting for my time to roar.
And then, he spoke.
"Kelli, ask a friend to show you your blind spots."
"Kelli, you've wounded another friend. Ask for forgiveness."
So, let me clarify. I feel tired and vulnerable and God wants me to invite someone to point out areas of weakness of which I'm blissfully unaware. And then he wants me to admit to another that I've neglected our friendship.
Just what I was hoping for.
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
After accepting his invitation I am more amazed at God's faithfulness and grace. But I do not feel like roaring. On the contrary, I feel more dependent, quieter, still tender.
I love Katy Perry, but, for now, she'll have to roar without me.
I've got to learn to be more specific when I pray. This morning I asked God to direct me to the road I must travel (from Psalm 143). I should have also asked him to help me pace myself. Perhaps then I wouldn't have received my first speeding ticket in thirty years of driving.
Rushing to Rest
Ironically I was traveling to Saratoga to meet with a spiritual director. I was rushing to a time of stillness and quiet and discernment. Inspiring, isn't it? Google maps told me it would take me forty-five minutes, but I knew I could make it in forty. And I could have, too, if it hadn't been for that stupid Ford Fiesta!
Coming out of Santa Cruz on Highway 17, I ended up behind a slow car in the fast lane. This bothers me when I'm in a hurry (which is quite often). Its an etiquette thing. As an introvert I live concerned with how others perceive me so I'm naturally conscious of times I might be impeding the progress of others. In my opinion, this car was not as concerned as he should have been about how he might be holding me back. But after what seemed an eternity, he pulled over and let me pass. Here's where it all went wrong.
I could have simply passed him at a normal pace. But its possible I had been a little close up on his bumper for an extended amount of time and now that I was past him I felt a little ashamed. So I sped up so I could put some distance between us. I didn't want to be driving next to him for the rest of the twenty minute journey. Yes, I processed all of this. Its' what I do when I'm in the car. I analyze lanes, drivers and traffic patterns. I have a problem.
Do you know why I pulled you over?
I saw the police car as I sped past it. It was too late, but I pressed on the brake out of instinct. There were cars behind me so I peered in the rear view mirror hoping he stayed parked on the shoulder and praying for mercy. Sure enough, he pulled out. I did have a brief thought that I might have time to lose him, but then I remembered I wasn't in a movie.
He positioned himself behind my car and I waited for the inevitable flashing lights. Sure enough, he was pulling me over--just as the very slow Ford Fiesta was cruising on past.
Strangely, I didn't feel any anxiety or anger or the sinking feeling in my gut I was dreading. As I lowered the passenger window and he approached I felt a sense of calm. It was almost eerie.
"Do you know why I pulled you over?"
"I was speeding?"
"Do you know how fast you were going"?
"No, but it was well over the limit I'm afraid."
He asked for my license and registration and returned to his car to write up my ticket. I called my spiritual director to tell her I was going to be late. I was getting a ticket. It didn't escape my awareness that had I been willing to make that call earlier, I wouldn't have felt the need to speed in the first place. Note to self.
When he returned to hand me the record of my offense he asked an interesting question.
"Did you know I was going to pull you over when I came up behind you?"
"Yes I did. I knew I deserved to get a ticket."
He smiled. "I've got to say, ma'am, you've got a great attitude and I appreciate it. Most people don't see it that way." I felt old when he called me ma'am.
Owning Up, Slowing Down
I'm quite surprised by my emotional response. No matter what, I would have been polite, but there was something about my internal state that kind of freaked me out. I was guilty and I didn't feel a need to defend myself or beat myself up.
I thought about the time my mentor got a ticket in a school zone and she wasn't frustrated at all. She told me it was God reminding her to slow down. Maybe that's what I heard in the quiet today.
"Kelli, slow down. You don't have to rush. What I have for you to accomplish doesn't require racing from thing to thing."
I'm headed back home now. I've learned some valuable lessons today. Sadly, punctuality isn't one of them. I'm definitely going to be late to pick Madison up from school.
When I'm running, "all downhill" is a sweet phrase. But in this post, I mean it in the "I've arrived at the peak and now I'm on the way down" sense.
At the Summit
Or the "it can only get worse" sense. Not because I'm a pessimist, but because there is nothing in my history to indicate that I'm capable of sustaining this for any length of time.
I'm only telling you this because I want people to remember me as I was at the peak when they find me mumbling and drooling while I feed my family Costco pot pies for the third week in a row.
On most every personality indicator I've completed I am told I have an ability to adapt to different environments. I am able to quickly assess what is required to thrive in a situation and perform accordingly. (It doesn't take much brain power to figure out how those powers could be used for evil as well as good.)
Over the years, Richard has affectionately named my adaptations. They are all genuinely 'me', but I do act in predictable ways in many settings. Kind of like Malibu Barbie and Townhouse Barbie--they're the same doll in a different wardrobe.
So here are a few of my favorites:
Vacation Kelli: This Kelli is nonstop fun. She doesn't take naps because she doesn't want to miss a thing. She doesn't worry about money because 'she's on vacation!' and will probably never get to do this again. She stays up late, gets up early, and can't soak up enough of the sites. She begins dreading her return to real life as soon as she arrives and may mourn for as long as a week upon returning home.
Upfront Kelli: This Kelli is full of energy and passion. She talks fast, sings loud and generally expresses a full range of emotions. In spite of years of practice, she still usually regrets about half the things she says in this mode.
Celebration Kelli: This Kelli freaks out at every birthday celebration, major holiday or special event that involves a formal or informal gathering. Afraid her efforts won't adequately portray her affection for the honored guest or her creative skill, she spends way too much money on things like streamers and glitter.
Burnout Kelli: This Kelli can be found playing games on her phone, checking her facebook and laying in her bed reading. Anywhere, really where there are no people. If forced to be in a social situation she is distracted irritable and impatient. A real charmer, this one!
Domestic Kelli: Ha! Just kidding. There's no domestic Kelli.
Introducing....Getting It Done Kelli!
This week I discovered another possible adaptation--Getting it Done Kelli. This Kelli lists her roles at the beginning of the week, then considers the primary tasks she must accomplish in each of those roles. She crafts a to-do list for the week, including exercise, social interactions, and spiritual desires. She creates a menu on Monday, along with a shopping list. Each day she revises her to-do list to reflect what she has already accomplished. She actually does the things on her to-do list (this may be the key!). She spends quality time with her family, she leads a small group, and sends encouraging texts to her niece and son--with Bible verses, no less! She does laundry, exercises every day, and spends time with God each morning and evening. She writes three pages of ideas each morning as part of her 'morning pages' ritual and actually returns emails and phone calls in a reasonable amount of time. She prepares the budget for the next month and completes all the coursework for her online class. She makes dinner two nights in a row! She writes even when she doesn't feel like it and finishes projects. She reads for fun!
How much do you hate this women? A lot! And I was her for five fantastic days!
And now for a dose of reality...
Its not that there aren't some really good things that came out of this refreshing experience, its just that all the stars had to align for this to happen. It is nice to know that, if I were able to control everything, I really might function more effectively in the world. But the reality is...life happens. Kids get sick. They need the car. They damage the car. We run out of money. I get sick. I get depressed. I lose a job. I never make it to the grocery store and we're eating cereal again. I write and write and write and its all crap. You know how life works.
Not to mention that, at this pace, one little hiccup and "Getting it Done Kelli" quickly becomes "I'm Freaking Done! Kelli"
So boys and girls, what have we learned today?
I'm actually not trying to be a downer. In my own sick way, I'm celebrating! I had a really good week. I'm going to remind myself about this week many times in the next few months. But I've also learned to hold experiences like this loosely. To soak up the gift without demanding a new standard. I trust I'll have some more weeks (or hopefully, at least hours) like this in the future, but I'm growing in my acceptance of my imperfection and weakness and inconsistency. And in my ability to recognize the grace that was afforded to me this week by God. All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you!
On a perfect sunny day last month, our eldest son walked across the stage and accepted his high school diploma. Of course, this is the best possible ending to his previous twelve years of education but it still left me with a gaping hole in my heart.
I have yet to cry, but sometimes I feel like I can't quite get a breath.
When you unleash a man like Caleb into the world, you're bound to get asked what you did right.
I wish I knew. To me, Caleb is a beautiful picture of redemption and grace and the sovereignty of God.
This isn't false humility. We did do some things right. For starters, we weren't drug dealers and we stayed out of jail. This is a very low bar, but you have to start somewhere. (Frankly, even that may have nothing to do with us. I'm too lazy to do the research, but I know I've read about people who've overcome great domestic difficulty to become outstanding citizens.)
I'm not saying parenting is a crap shoot (although it has that feel on many days), but I am saying there are no guarantees. I just know I want my son to be better than me. And in a great kindness, God has given me that gift. This selfish, broken, insecure mother happened to be entrusted with an exemplary child.
I was not too far into this whole parenting thing when I began to recognize my own neurosis in my children. Parts of me I thought I'd conquered or hidden or simply hadn't discovered yet began appearing in my children in the most distressing ways. Very early on my kids could tell you that at an intersection "red means stop. Yellow means slow. Green means go, go go!!!" People pleasing, creative responses to incriminating questions (a.k.a. lying), a deep need to be perceived as 'good', etc. all reflected my personal demons.
The reality of how my own imperfection, sin and unhealthiness affected my offspring was sometimes more than I could bear. But it was also motivation to keep moving toward Christlikeness. To submit myself to more pain and healing and feedback and scrutiny so I could model authenticity in the journey.
I made so many mistakes. Big ones and little ones. I have so many regrets. I wish I'd held Caleb more as an infant, but I was so committed to "doing it right" and the prevailing wisdom of the day was to help them gain a sense of self-reliance. I wish I would have sent more encouraging notes in his lunch box. But I rarely even made his lunch. I wish I'd have been more nurturing in painful situations, but mercy often escaped me when it was most required. And prayer? So anemic during the early years. And the middle years. I did try to make up for it in the last couple of years, but I'm not sure it really works that way.
And yet, like the pain of childbirth, these faux pas seem quickly forgotten by my son. I do expect some of this to come back during future counseling sessions (if only for the redemption my parents need for enduring my seasons of therapy), but for the time being, my mistakes seem to have been covered by a grace I don't deserve.
As a former Calvinette (if you don't know, don't ask...you probably wouldn't believe it anyway), I had to get in a reference to the theology of Sovereignty. I'm not going to provide a definition (feel free to Google it...there's plenty out there), but I will describe how it has played out in my parenting. Essentially it boils down to this: God is in control. He decides who he will use in what way. While all of our efforts and excuses as parents are noticed by God, he is not limited by our wisdom, idiocy, triumphs or failures. My acts of faith are counted as righteousness for me and my effort matters for eternity but it is not a formula for positive outcomes this side of Heaven. Bottom line--I am not in control.
And now for my next illusion...
People (at least 3 of them, anyway) have told me I should write a book about parenting. That's funny to me. The reality is God used motherhood to expose so much of my crap and I spent most of my energy digging out of depression, selfishness and fear. I read three books on parenting and about two hundred on personal growth and spiritual transformation. I don't think that's a great formula worth repeating, it just happened to be the unique journey God had for me. So, please, don't try this at home.
What I would invite you to do is celebrate with me the gift God has given to Richard and I in Caleb. How God has redeemed our personal and parenting inadequacies, given grace beyond measure and has blessed Caleb with a heart that seeks after Him, a desire to know Christ more intimately and live out the Gospel more fully. I have no illusions...this is not our accomplishment, but in God's design, we are recipients of a most wonderful gift in our son.
But let's be honest...I don't deserve this kid!
Reality hits in waves as I age.
At 20, my eyes were opened to all I could be and I embarked on realizing my greatest potential. This wasn't about vocation or notoriety. I simply wanted to fix my unhealthiness. To work through all of my issues and get my "healthy" stamp. I showed myself to be a hard worker emotionally and the future looked bright.
There were moments when I admitted the impossibility of my goal. I would never be perfect. But couldn't I be a really, really good version of myself?
But today, I'm aware again that I'm more than a tweak away from "dealing with my issues." Admitting this has seemed unspiritual to me. Isn't God able to redeem my unhealthy patterns of relating? Isnt that just a cop out? An excuse for bad behavior?
I don't think so. In fact, to deny this reality is to live inauthentically. Hopelessly dependent on my own strength or ability.
I've got intimacy issues. I often prefer to be alone. Yes. Some of it is introversion. But some of it is just plain fear and the result of past wounds.
And, my humanness.
I'm making progress, but in the end the chasm is too vast. Ultimately, there will be no closure on my self-improvement project and much of the good that comes from my life will be in spite of who I am, not because of who I am. That doesn't mean these imperfections and idiosyncrasies can be redeemed. It just means they don't result in my perfection, but in the perfection of God's purposes.
Of all the things I've never wanted to be, an angry woman is at the top of the list. An astute observer of cultures, I realized early on that angry women were not welcome in the church. Quite frankly, they weren't welcomed anywhere, but the church had an arsenal of spiritual weapons to use against them and I did not want to be on the receiving end of this kind of criticism.
I would rather be marginalized, objectified and silenced than be labeled an angry woman.
And so it has been.
I've flirted with 'angry' in the past. In my twenties I was forced to address the underlying anger because I was literally vomiting it out of me in the form of an eating disorder.
In my thirties another layer surfaced and I went through a 'swearing' phase. I'm told it was hilarious. Cute, even.
And now it's back. I'm angry. Still hesitant to embrace it, it leaks out slowly. Often surfacing at the most inopportune times. An offhand comment has a little too much bite. What sounds like an affectionate jab in my head comes out as a punch in the gut.
Earlier this week I sat down with an unsuspecting group of pastors and they invited me to share about my experience as a woman in the church. I would not have told the truth to everyone, but to these brave men I chose to entrust just a bit of my story. The raw emotion that curled up from deep inside took me off guard, but these good shepherds seemed unfazed by my messiness.
Infinitely more surprising than the rage, was the compassion I experienced on the other side. In the wake of my anger, I discovered the tenderness I'd been searching for.
I recognize the bread crumbs God is laying out for me. His invitation to walk through this dark forest of frustration. Not alone and for a purpose. Trusting there is no other path to the open spaces on the other side of this blackness.
Because now I know that the only way to avoid becoming an angry woman is to get angry.
I've picked up some helpful nuggets in all my years of therapy. And I don't mean the obvious analysis or guidance with all my neurosis and obvious character defects. Along the way my therapists have sometimes blown my mind with passing statements. Like this one...
"Some things are worth doing poorly."
She said it like it was an obvious truth. A basic life skill. This axiom was thrown out on the way to a bigger problem solved but I wasn't going to let that one slide in under the radar. This was exactly the opposite of everything I learned in my Midwestern Ethics workbook. (Okay, that book doesn't exist, but you know what I mean).
"Like what?" I asked.
She went on to explain that sometimes things were worth doing even if we couldn't do them at the highest level of our ability.
"Like what?" I inquired again.
"Well, like bringing store bought sweets to your child's kindergarten Valentine's Day party."
Still not getting it.
But over the years I have perfected this art of doing worthwhile things poorly.
Photo Cred: fauxpress
Practice makes imperfection easier.
This simple philosophy has helped me experience numerous joys that I would have otherwise avoided because I could not undertake them with perfection. Take last weekend, for instance. Madison invited 17 girls over for a Murder Mystery Dinner at our house and I had exactly two days to prepare. In fairness, she did have a distracted discussion with me earlier about this which I vaguely remember, but the reality hit me two days prior to the event after a two day business trip to Dallas.
What I wanted to do was go all out. There were two games with two different themes and I could instantly picture the Hollywood room and the British Manor room. I envisioned gold statues at each place setting in one room and real china with cut flowers and biscuits in the next. But I had two days and I was working on both them and I had no budget.
As I saw it, I had three viable options...
1. Cancel the event.
Not fair to Madison since I'd already agreed
2. Stay up all night preparing.
Nope, that was not going happen. I'm too old.
3. Go ahead with the evening with less than perfect ambiance.
Because they are in middle school, they've never been to a murder mystery dinner and I have nothing to prove.
You guessed it...I went with option 3 (if, for no other reason than to be a good steward of the thousands of dollars I've spent in therapy). And, I'm so glad I did.
Yes, they ate Costco food on paper plates. There were no themed decorations, I had no costume, the food was average at best and there was no prepared playlist filling each room with sound.
And...it was awesome. The girls laughed and ate and laughed some more. They accused each other of murder, lied about their alibis and filled the house with shrieks and giggles. They emoted and cried crocodile tears. And when it was all over there were white boa feathers scattered throughout the house and plastic cups in every room.
I have to admit that I had moments of loss prior to guests arriving. I so wanted them to be 'wowed' by the event...by my creativity and work. But on this night it was relationships that stole the show. And my beautiful daughter who has an amazing ability to bring people together and make them feel good about themselves.
Perhaps next time there will be glitter and streamers and fine china. But perhaps not. Either way, this event was worth doing poorly.
Kelli is a writer, speaker and consultant equipping leaders for a deepening intimacy with Christ, greater impact in ministry and more effective intentionality in all of life.
Book Kelli for your next event or retreat.
Find Out More >>