Tomorrow will be different

In Richmond, we say if you do not like the weather, wait a day because it will surely change. This is good soul care advice too. I suspect we all find greater equanimity and peace when we realize that our highs and lows and in-betweens shift and morph and change. The mountain top experiences are lovely but temporary; as are the deep valleys of despair.

Whether I find myself up high or way down low, I remember this:

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.

Psalm 30:11, 12 NIV

My own view of life is shifting. It helps me, and I hope it is helpful for you too, to know that there is ALWAYS the possibility that God will gift us with singing hearts and joy. When I ran away from home that Spring Break oh so many years ago, I finished my quiet time and strapped on my boots. I went for a long hike. I RESOLVED to choose to believe that my wailing was valid but not permanent. I went looking for joy; I’ve practiced the discipline of joy for so long now that most days I find her.

As I write this, I am at NSC and we are readying ourselves for our Saturday night service. I’m a voyeur as the band practices their set list. I listen as they discuss and choose and wrangle over chord progressions. I am reminded how hard they work to sing and play for us and in this I recognize the joy. They practice; they prepare. Tonight, the music will pour out. It will be a sacrificial offering. And I am lucky enough to know what that costs them and the joy they receive from the offering. Joy is a beautiful contagious lover of God and his people.

One final thought on joy; I cannot find her in isolation. All my joy stories revolve around others. I do not know what this means, only that it is true for me. Where do you find joy? Are you looking for her like a jealous lover?

Hope and despair

Once, many years ago, I was in a despair the likes of which I could not shake. Scott was at Va. Tech in school; Meredith was far away working; Pete was out of town. Michael was in high school and on Spring Break. I needed hope so desperately and my skin, my being, could not stay at home and go to work one more day in such a state of hopelessness.

I asked Michael if he would agree to a road trip, and he was kind enough to oblige. We threw some stuff in a bag and headed west. I dropped Michael off at Scott’s apartment in Blacksburg for a guys’ night, and I went to a local hotel. It was nothing special but this is what you get in Blacksburg with no notice.

That night I was in bed as soon as I got to the room; I woke early the next morning, went out to get coffee and a breakfast sandwich and returned to the solitude of the rented room. I transferred the steaming coffee into my favorite mug and retrieved my quiet time materials. Then I sat. I just sat. I reminded myself that I sit because there is a God and I am not him. I sit to honor his presence, without expecting to hear his voice. It is enough to sit. I sat until I could bear to listen. Then I opened my tattered copy of “Rooted In God’s Love” and turned to the next entry, finding this prayer from Dale and Juanita Ryan:

Lord of joy,

Lord of celebration,

open my heart to the possibility of joy today.

Help me to tolerate the confusion

that comes when sorrow and joy live side by side in my heart.

Give me the courage to

joyfully celebrate life.

Amen

Without a lot of fanfare, my mind opened to a new way of seeing - unbidden and undeserved - hope showed up in the nick of time. I saw how my day-to-day activities often created the illusion that life was more sorrow than joy. As my vision “corrected,” I grabbed my journal and out flowed the joy. The moment I turned and looked at my boys the previous evening, so glad to be together with game controllers in hand. The beauty of the coming Spring evident in the Virginia mountains that I so deeply love. On and on my joy poured out on the pages of my notebook. None of this was news to me, but it had ALL been forgotten. I was bogged down in confusion and sorrow, missing the joy that lived side by side in my heart.

So my friend, as we work to “get it right” - which is a good thing, we must find time to connect to our joy. We sit and wait on the Lord to give us the gift of hope - a gift that comes with no strings. But we also “get it right” as we take time to rightly remember. Look for the joy. Sorrow is a needy beast always yapping at our heels for our attention. Joy is far kinder and more polite. She waits for us to notice her, sitting patiently, eager to connect with us. Friends - find the joy! Then spread it around all willy nilly!

Hope and the future

Yesterday I mentioned a friend who is extremely resilient and provided an example of how is resilience shows up for him and the rest of us. He is, I suspect, temperamentally well-suited for resilience. This is not to discredit his resiliency in any way, because resiliency isn’t a temperament trait, it is a skill set. But knowing this man, I think it is a skill set he took to like a duck to water.

However, I am NOT temperamentally suited for resilience. But by dingy I practice it. It is not natural, nor am I as skilled as my friend, but I personally believe that as faithful people, we are called to resilience.

Whether or not we are working on new resolutions in this fresh, new year, resilience is a crucial life skill. It is the difference between thriving and wasting away. Too often we believe our circumstances drive our thriving - that’s not true. It is resilience.

Notice that I particularly called on faithful people to practice resilience. I’m not talking pie-in-the-sky, God blesses me because he loves me, and every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before thinking. That is not resilience. It’s a kind of spiritual languaging that some find comforting, and if you do - awesome. But I do not. It doesn’t fit the facts of my life. I believe that the facts and our faith align.

Does God bless his people? Yes. Do God’s people suffer? Yes. Resilient people can believe both those things at the same time without poking their eye out with a pencil, because resilient people do not NEED everything to go well for them in order to feel loved by God.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NIV

Hope is a gift not a guarantee. Whether or not we fulfill our resolutions in 2019, our hope does not rest in getting what we want. My friends the Ryans wrote this on page 242 of “Rooted In God’s Love” - “We need to remind ourselves daily that we do not serve the god-of-relentless-cheerfulness, or the god-of-naivete, or the god-of-blind-optimism. We serve the God of Hope. God is hope-full and loves to share hope-full-ness with us. We can come to God with our fear, doubt and despair and God will give good gifts to us. When all other reasons for hope fail us, we can return to the God for Hope because God is greater than our disappointment, greater than our failure, greater than the problems and conflicts in our hearts and our homes and our communities and our world.”

Resilient people can teach us

Resilient people have shared characteristics - so say the experts in these matters. One of those shared capacities is confidence that no matter what is happening in the present, tomorrow will be different.

This morning I had an early meeting with a group of folks, one of whom had just received terrible news about his business. It COULD be potentially very bad for his bottom line. Here is what he did about it:

1. He showed up for his obligation even though we all would have understood if he bailed. But he didn’t bail. He showed up because this is what resilient people do. They show up.

2. He named the problem. He analyzed it. He questioned the issues and was curious about the findings. It was clear that he would look into this issue further. He will not just assume that the bad news is the truth.

3. He ended his conversation by saying, “Either way, we will figure it out.”

Resilient people have an innate sense that things will work out. They understand that bad news isn’t the only news, and that a bad day is one day. It doesn’t translate into a bad life or even a bad week.

Can you find that capacity in yourself? If not, how could you acquire that skill?

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31 NIV

Remembering

My friend Linda and I have been talking about Christmas memories today. She’s in a funk and so we were talking about some memories and how she feels about them. I gave her some different ways of thinking about the same events, and she is such a good sport that she readily agreed that there were several legitimate interpretations to some of her Christmas memories.

Remembering.

This is a wonderful skill set for all occasions, especially during the holidays.

I consider it a spiritual discipline.

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.

Psalm 77:11-12 NIV

IF we are going to make changes, it will be helpful to remember. I have found more compassion and empathy for past resentments and griefs once I was able to remember.

What is remembering? It is the capacity, like Linda, to consider that the stories we tell ourselves may have different interpretations.

Have you noticed that when we tell a story from the past, particularly an emotional one, that over time our recitations of the story become rote? It’s like someone pushes our play button and we retell the story with the exact same words we have always used?

What stories do you need to remember? Who could you talk to and perhaps get a fresh interpretation of the same old story?

Growing up

The traits that we associate with success may not be helpful in achieving our New Year’s resolutions. In a world where we believe that resources are scarce, we compete to win the prize. Like food. Or firewood. Or a promotion. Evidently we live in a world that believes that resources are scarce. How else can we explain the rush of December 2018 when the Cheesecake Factory gave away a free piece of cheesecake to customers as a way of celebrating their anniversary? There were traffic jams and fights and even arrests for disorderly conduct. For cheesecake. I’m obsessed with this story. I’m confused by it and disappointed that this is what we are willing to go to any lengths to acquire - a free piece of cheesecake.

There is another way of living. We choose to stop looking for the world to reward us. Instead, we turn around and notice those around us who need a reward and we give them one. This requires attentiveness and a commitment to believe that the world is an abundant place, with plenty to go around if we all share. No matter our status or job title, we can be people who offer rewards. Today I was grabbing a coffee and the baker slipped me a tiny piece of her peppermint bar dessert to taste. No charge. Delicious. She was rewarding me. I paid it forward. When I ordered my coffee, I also paid for the person behind me. I rewarded him.

After grabbing my coffee, eating that yummy treat and paying it forward, I hopped in my car and drove off. Because I was so filled with the joy of giving and receiving, I stopped to let a guy walking his two dogs cross the street. I could have just blown by. I had to wait for him to arrive at the crosswalk, but I didn’t want to do that. I wanted him to know that I saw him and that he mattered and I would wait for him on this bitterly cold day so that he did not need to slow his pace for me to drive by. One kind pepperminty act inspired more acts of kindness.

My son just graduated college. We rewarded him. He tells us that our generosity and support during his college adventure is reward enough and not to get him a gift. He is rewarding us with such kind words. We will reward him even if he tells us not to because his accomplishment is worth rewarding. I imagine he will pay that forward.

What if we all believed that there was enough, and that we have more than enough to share? Maybe we cannot always share in a way that is monetary, but kindness is priceless and noticing someone’s presence is like winning the lottery. We all have the capacity to reward.

Having the attentiveness to notice and the willingness to reward others on a regular basis is an indicator that whatever our resolutions are, we are more likely to achieve them. This is an essential way of living life satisfied and joy-filled.

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. Isaiah 30:15 NIV

Over-working does not equal commitment

Our worth is totally unrelated to our productivity. This is a well-kept secret. There is plenty of research out in the world that teaches us that workaholics are less productive and creative than their counterparts - people who have boundaries. In spite of the fact that we know that lack of sleep impacts our physical health, increases the likelihood of accidents, etc., it is still considered a bit of a status symbol to complain about how busy we are.

Our temptation when setting goals and desiring change is to work harder. But oftentimes we are doing the wrong work!! What we need is time to play!

Need more creativity to solve serious problems at work? Go play.

Desire more joy in your life? Go outside and play.

Wish you had better interpersonal skills and more healthy relationships? Go play.

It turns out that playtime does all sorts of amazing things to the brain. It also helps it calm down and recover after periods of stress. Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play has been quoted as saying, “The opposite of play is not work - the opposite of play is depression.”

If you are resolved to change something, make sure you book in playtime. Whatever your goal, taking breaks by playing will help you achieve them.

Walking a mile in someone else's shoes

Everyone has power. Not everyone is wise. But we can become more wise!

My barista has power to bless or curse me even if she is at the bottom of the power chain. Last week she accidentally doubled down on the turmeric in my mocha turmeric latte. Broke my heart. It was undrinkable. The temptation is to judge the barista’s competence. And perhaps that is valid if this is a regular event. But this particular barista also asked about my day, was kind in the face of rudeness from another customer, and was the only person working the register and filling the orders. Oh, and school was out. The place was packed with children running wild in an enclosed environment that felt safe enough for their parents to ignore them. My barista has the power to bless or curse everyone who enters the coffee shop.

But there was a problem with my latte. How do we deal with THAT? First, wisdom demands that we identify the correct problem. Is the problem that needs to be addressed the double shot of turmeric? Or might it be…

* Too little staff expected to handle too big a load

* A weather event that changed the normal workload in this shop

* Other employees unable to get into work because their cars were stuck in snowbanks

* It was the end of a long shift and the employee was completely frazzled.

We get focused on a particular failure when we are more interested in policing people and demanding that they not make mistakes then we are on taking a longer view. This is especially true when SOMEBODY else made the mistake. My husband could criticize me for any number of household snafus. I could criticize him for a few too. But what works better for us is seeing mistakes as opportunities to take a longer view.

My husband and I are practicing the discipline of not blaming. It’s hard not to complain when we believe someone else made a mistake whose consequence we live with, but the damage done by criticizing and blaming is harder.

How can we make it easier for people to admit mistakes and “get it right” as they learn? Taking time to identify the root problem requires strength, stamina and patience. What spiritual practices are you using to strengthen yourself?

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.

Isaiah 30:15 NIV

Productivity and rest

One temptation for assessing one’s value is to cheat. We cheat ourselves and others when we decide that value equals productivity. I am a big fan of productivity, but I have learned that the most productive among us are those who learn how to relax. It turns out that boredom enhances creativity.

When we cheat our evaluations of self and others by limiting our perspective on what is valuable, we are not living within the flow of rest that God encourages us to enter.

The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

Mark 2:27 NIV

A day of rest is intended to be….restful. How can you find restful spots in your day?

Sharing weakness, sharing strength

Ken Blanchard wrote a bestseller in 1982, The One Minute Manager, which Brene` quotes on page 98 of Dare to Lead. “Catch people doing things right.” Embrace what we discover and plan accordingly. This includes the ways both us and others are “getting it right.”

As we are able, lead with our strengths and remain humbly aware of our perennial weaknesses. Help others do the same. This encourages transformation. The New Year’s resolutions we made in early January might need tweaking. They may be more focused on a perceived weakness than a strength. This is one reason resolutions are often so unproductive. Far better for us if we work within our strengths and find support for our weaknesses.

I am terrible with details. My life is managed by a few people who are GREAT with details. I can go on and on about my limitations, try to fake it, blame others for my mistakes, etc. OR I could own the limitations.

My work does not require me to be good with details so long as someone is paying attention to the details that are part of my work and home life. I need to acknowledge what I do that is a strength that others cannot do quite as effectively. Our strengths are often taken for granted by us as we practice them. They seem so natural to us that if we aren’t careful we will minimize them, thinking that EVERYBODY can do THAT. Well guess what? Everybody cannot. And SOMEBODY is not going to work on what is our work to do. Know your value and find support for that which gets in the way of you exercising your strengths effectively! This is perhaps one of the most liberating and exciting part of the transformation process.

What words of affirmation have you received that can help you figure out strengths that you may be minimizing? Who are you? How do you roll? Who can help you shore up your weak spots? Whose weak spots can you help shore up using your strengths? Together, we can become a bigger, healthier, happier and more effective family!

Responding to Criticism

Criticism is a reality whether we like it or not. We can work to become more of a contributor to the solution by decreasing our own criticizing ways - but you and I know that many people are not interested in changing their ways.

So what do we do when someone levels criticism at us?

My first instinct is to give up, defend myself or lash out. This is why first instincts are often so destructive. Here are some other options:

First and foremost, get curious about the source of the criticism. Some critics are not worth your engagement. Critics on social media do not know us and we do not know them. People who we know only tangentially, or who have taught us that they are unreliable narrators, or dare I say it? People you already do not trust? These folks are not going to be helpful to engage with - even if their criticism may have validity. It is ok to tell the truth and admit that sometimes there are people we simply cannot accept feedback from. It’s ok to know this and act on it. Don’t take the bait!! Save your conversations for folks who have invested in your life and have earned your trust.

Is the criticism of an anonymous or random critic valid? Maybe. File it away or take it to trusted individuals for processing. But without a trusting relationship, the exchange of information will be less than helpful. Particularly when there are witnesses to the criticism, and if the witnesses are reliable sources, we can ask them for feedback. We can pause to prepare and consider the criticism.

When the deliverer of the criticism does a super bad job, is an unreliable narrator, or a stranger - we can redeem the exchange for good, even if we feel as if the criticism was unfair. Many times I have learned from criticism and applied it in future relationships, even if the delivery system was faulty. I may do my due diligence and discover that their criticism was not supported by others who know me well AND discover legitimate issues that need to be addressed.

Criticism is hard to take - that’s for sure. But we can grow into a more secure, comfortable way of living with criticism as we find acceptance of our own humanity and reduce our need for perfection or approval.

How do you handle criticism? What can you change that will help you in situations when you are criticized?

Receiving Criticism

I am so old. Over the years, probably less times than many people I know, I have received criticism via social media or in a group or during a one-on-one session. I am learning how to tell the difference between criticism and contribution. A person who wants to contribute responds from a place of empathy. They are not reacting. They learn how to discuss what they perceive needs changing with constructive tips and suggestions for change. Criticism usually involves name calling. It lacks curiosity or clarifying. It is rigid and refuses to consider other options. My professional and personal growth is always enriched by the contribution of others. But criticism is often more about the person who is complaining than the person being criticized.

If we want to help someone change in a situation, we are wasting our breath and perhaps doing more harm than good until we learn how to be a contributor rather than a criticizer. What can you do to become a bigger contributor?

Resisting power plays

Editor’s note: The editor (Scott) forgot his computer on his recent trip to California and got behind on posting devotionals. My apologies to you loyal readers!

Although I enjoyed the dinner discussion on power dynamics in a system, I prefer focusing on the power we have that no one can touch. Each of us can mature into the belief that no matter the storms that brew around us, we can develop an awareness of our own self-worth, increase our capacity for self-awareness, and translate those powerful tools into treating others with respect. This gives us the wisdom we need to speak into situations where we may feel we have no power or feel the burden of responsibility as a person with authority within a system. We find ways to effect change without violating our own core values. Sometimes the only person that changes is us.

Whatever position we are in, we need to be rested in order to be well. Are you getting enough rest so that wisdom can emerge?

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest...let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:9-11, 16 NIV

We live in tumultuous times. One of the most wonderful things we can do is show up to any and every situation with a bit of wisdom, and a huge dose of mercy and grace.

Turning into what you despise

One night over dinner we had an interesting discussion about power dynamics. My youngest, who is working as a barista, was lamenting the many ways he has seen customers treat baristas and other service providers over the years. He also expressed some feelings about how managers or owners of the small shops where he has worked either create a environment of safety or not, based on their capacity to lead.

Our daughter, who is a bit further up the food chain in her job, shared her perspective as it related to being a manager. Oftentimes a manager has to implement a decision that they vehemently disagreed with behind closed doors with others in higher authority. A decent manager, in her opinion, throws herself in front of the slings and arrows of the outrageous misfortune of having to present an unpopular idea to a team. She believes you protect your superiors, which means that sometimes team members blame their supervisor for decisions the supervisor doesn’t agree with. She says she learned this from her best bosses over the years. Ahhhh, perspective.

Whether we are the boss or the employee, we all have an instinct about power dynamics. It’s human nature. The less power we perceive we have, the more likely we are to distrust authority. Our son, who perceives he has no power, wants the people with power to learn how to do better. Our daughter, with a teeny tiny bit more authority, ALSO feels sympathy for the authority figures who have tough calls to make.

This led to a discussion about what that looks like. I pushed my son, asking what he would do differently if he were the owner or boss. To which he said, “You know, the thing that concerns me is that I am worried I might turn into my worst boss rather than live up to the quality of my best ones. It just seems to me that power can be very corrosive; sometimes we become the person we once judged.”

Wow. Yes. As we grow and have more responsibility, maybe even a bit more authority, we might want to consider how we have automatically adopted some of the practices we hated when we had no power. Or, we can use our authority to be the boss we wanted, not necessarily the boss we were given over the years. This can be applied to parenting, in a marriage, or of course, at work.

Who are you imitating? How can you live out the way you want to be treated rather than repeat the mistakes that you criticize in others?

Exhaustion breeds criticism

Ever notice how tensed up we get when we are tired and cranky? It happens. In recovery, we talk about HALT - do not get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired - for that is a slippery slope.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

~ Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

Jesus is not a fan of exhaustion. He is not looking for an army of codependent Christians who do not practice self-care.

Jesus said - rest.

How can you add rest to your day? Remember - this is not exhausted slumber or power naps. This is rest for the soul. How might you find a way to rest?

________________

#17 - Contribute!

It’s not enough to squash our tendency to criticize - if we want to grow and change. We need to learn how to be a helper. Here is what a helper can do:

* Effective helpers do not criticize.

* Effective helpers learn how to offer feedback, when asked, with clarity, kindness and support.

* Effective helpers are those who do not talk about a problem without being willing to labor over a possible solution.

* Effective helpers are careful; they do not assume that their position is correct. They are curious, asking tons of questions before diving in and pointing out a problem. Oftentimes, when we hear another’s perspective, we realize that the problem is more complicated than our imagined solution can handle or maybe the solution is better than we realized.

* Effective helpers do not try to solve problems that aren’t theirs to solve. They save their helping energy for issues that they have earned the right to speak into, they have sweat equity in the solution, and they have earned the seal of trustworthiness.

Are you as effective as you’d like to be? If not, what do you need to find support and skills to help change and grow?

Hope is not warm and fuzzy

I once thought hope was a perky disposition and that I was constitutionally incapable of feeling it. I was, yet again, wrong. Our cynical, sarcastic family is excellent at foreboding joy! But when I heard that research had proven my suspicions about the meaning of hope unfounded, I was comforted to know that I too could be a person of hope.

Here’s what C. R. Snyder, as explained by Brene Brown learned about hope. Snyder says hope is a three part process:

1. The capacity to identify a realistic goal. This aligns nicely with resiliency training, where we have learned that the ability to set and strive for a goal is a skill set resilient people practice and master. Maybe it isn’t realistic to say that you are going to go on a diet and only it sprouts and cauliflower. That’s not realistic (or healthy). Maybe our resolutions have failed because we have not practiced setting a realistic goal! (Good news, we can learn from this!)

2. Set a course to achieve the goal. The path may be winding, which requires flexibility, but it is important to be intentional about walking the path. If the path isn’t working, we get help to adjust our course.

3. Finally, the magic ingredient is this: have enough belief in ourselves that we can stay on the path until we have reached our realistic goal. When I am working out, my trainer believes that I can do things that I would never think were possible for an old lady. But since I am choosing to get it right rather than be right, I acquiesce to her way of seeing me and by dingy - I try. She’s right more than she’s wrong!!

Which part hope do you need some support and encouragement with? Hope may not be warm and fuzzy, but it is an essential element if we are going to stay the course.

Patience and process

When we focus more on “getting it right” than “being right”, it is easier to align ourselves with our core values as people of faith. We can know, for example, that God is a big fan of patience and process.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

~ 1 John 3:2-3 NIV

Because we expect transformation without requiring it as a prerequisite for God to love us - we can work on “getting it right” without performance anxiety. We are not trying to win God’s approval, we are acknowledging his love and eagerly cooperating with his transformational work.

How can you shift from “being right” to “getting it right”? What would change if this was your perspective?

Change requires practice

Shifting our focus from always having to be right toward a commitment to “get it right” is one of my favorite concepts that Brene Brown hammers home in her book Dare to Lead. This compulsion to know all the answers and be right all the time is a heavy burden. Lay it down!

Getting it right is a whole different ball game. When we work to “get it right” it makes us curious - we can ask, how can I improve? It creates an atmosphere of humility. We can assume that we have more to learn. We can think of ourselves as scientists running our own customized experiments. “Getting it right” implies process. It promises improvement without demanding perfection. It provides direction when we’ve lost our way without the need to blame or defend ourselves for the confusion.

After a terrible six month stretch of sickness I found a trainer to help me get strong because I was feeling so very weak. (The bear in the woods example came to my mind often in those days.) My trainer knows more about how to customize fitness to my particular brand of weakness than I could have ever imagined. Over a year into the process, I see progress. My “get up” form is decent. I can press a 20 pound Kettlebell with each arm for multiple reps. I can hold the plank position for longer than I thought possible. I practice my deadlifts several times a week and am making decent progress with my weight progression. I am getting stronger.

But in each of the above exercises, every single week, my trainer finds something to correct and improve in terms of my form or my degree of weight difficulty. Just today we worked extensively on repositioning my arm just a few little inches during a particular exercise. Without her, I would not be this particular. But without her, I would also not be making progress.

What do you need to change? Who can help you practice changing? Today I receive comfort and joy as I surrender to the process of being a willing student and active participant in my own recovery. I could not do it without a great coach. What kind of coaching might you benefit from?

Rest battles fantasy living

Once a year Pete and I try to get away for a week or two. It’s not a vacation so much as it is a retreat. We go to the same place every year. The environment is beautiful and predictable. We rent a friend’s house and there is little access to our traditional numbing distractions. We cannot work; we cannot eat food for convenience sake (i.e. fast food that is not as healthy as other choices); we cannot get distracted with the news or sporting events or lifetime movies.

We bring nutritious foods and eat in. Exercising on paddle boards and kayaks, hiking up and down the mountain to the lake’s dock and setting up a portable gym in the basement - it’s so much fun AND offers comfort and joy that is pure gold. We read. We rest. We play games. Pete says that watching the clouds float across the sky is as close to pure peace as he ever gets. I agree.

Because of what we learned at the lake, we have begun to institute comfort and joy rituals at home too. We play board games at night after dinner. We go for a walk together. We read. We find pockets of time to rest - something we rarely gave ourselves permission for in the past. Our old way of thinking about change did not include dollops of comfort and joy. Perhaps that is why we were so frustrated by our lack of meaningful change!!

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

~ Psalm 91:1-2 NIV

Comfort and Joy

We misidentify comfort and joy. That’s a problem. This is easy enough to understand when we think about a kid who has an opioid problem and is laying on a gurney in the ER. Shouldn’t this problem be obvious? I’ve been in more than one ER with someone revived by Naloxone whose first words are a complaint: “Hey, who ripped my favorite jeans? Don’t you dare call my parents! Is my friend here? I gotta get out of here!!”

“Whaaat? You almost died dude!” I say this because I think the using is the problem. This person, knocked into sudden withdrawal by a life-saving dose of Naloxone identifies a different problem: he thinks he needs more drugs to feel normal.

Let me step on toes a bit. Booze to take the edge off; food; binge-watching TV; scrolling through facebook - these are also a form of opioid. Although they will not kill us quickly like an opioid OD will, they do diminish our experience of living. The behaviors are not the problem; the problem is what we are hoping the behavior will accomplish. Dependencies do not offer genuine comfort and joy. They distract and numb. But we THINK they are comforting us, maybe even bringing us joy. Or else we wouldn’t choose those behaviors to depend on.

Want to change? Start by paying attention. What are your false comforts and adrenalin-laced joys?