#6 – Write a Blog, #74 – Plank For One Minute

When I was young, I enjoyed being alone.  I wandered around my backyard creating little stories of adventure.  But I wasn’t really alone.  I had a lovely imaginary friend (wait for it) – Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Oh yes, that one.  

She was constantly in awe of our modern world: motorized buggies, zippers, neon scrunchies.  She was especially floored by inflation. 

 How could a piece of candy cost more than a penny?!  This Fun Dip is $0.50!  Also, what’s a Fun Dip?

Boy, she had a lot to learn.

Whenever Laura returned home to do chores or other such 19th century things, I found myself wondering what to do with all this time saved from not having to collect water at the creek or do sums on a torturously small chalkboard.

So, I began creating lists of tasks.  Just stuff to do.  Simple things like make bed or do 50 jumping jacks.  It probably took more time creating the list than completing it.

But, the first item of every list was the same:  

1.  Write a list.

Please say someone else does this. It’s a thing, right?  Something immediately completed.  Something to get off the blocks and running in the productivity race.  If I’ve finished one task, I can do ANYTHING!  

Cross it off.  Pat self on the back.  Keep plugging away.

Such is the case with #6 – Write a blog.

In fact, I’m patting myself on the back again for attempting a SECOND post.  It’s possible to start something and keep at it!  Laura would be proud.

The other important thing to put on a list is something you’re absolutely positive you can complete.  #74 – Planking for one minute is one of those things.  Although not as fit as I’d like to be, my abs will reluctantly survive one minute in the plank position.  

My family enjoyed participating in this little task. 

Time keeper.  Co-participant.  Runner-around-and-dive-bomb-on-said-participant.

So, two easy items crossed off the list.  It feels good.  But this is where the rubber meets the road.  Gotta press on.  I may need support to keep going.  

Laura!!  

Try Everything

Once upon a time, my family lived in Switzerland. We called it The Year of Chocolate and made it our personal mission to find and consume the country’s best. Spoiler alert – impossible goal…but also, maybe Lindt.

As I reflect over 2016, I realize I didn’t stick to a yearly goal which resulted in missed opportunities. Small moments filled with Netflix binges that could have been used to…well, do something.  Anything. 

But to be honest, adventure is not my middle name.  

I find one great item on a menu and order it every time.  Half of my wardrobe is black.  A wild night is getting a movie from Redbox. 

But when I force myself from my comfort zone, I inevitably find unexpected thrills, new beauty, and broadened perspectives. 

Thus was born this year’s theme: Try Everything!  

We may have been inspired by a certain movie:

http://screenrant.com/zootopia-box-office-record-original-movie/

I began with 100 items to try this year. Some are totally new. Some I haven’t done in awhile. Some are wild. Many aren’t. Some are created by and will be done with my husband and kids.  

This is just a launching point; hopefully the list will grow. I want to try them, reflect on them (because that’s how Spindles roll) and come up with more things to keep me fresh.  

Watch out 2017, I’m ready for you!*  

*Haha, no I’m not. But let’s go with it.

Try Everything 2017

  1. Make dumplings
  2. Hike St Helens
  3. New camping location
  4. Snow shoe
  5. Try a new coffee shop
  6. Write a blog
  7. Run a race
  8. Go to a happy hour
  9. Try a new restaurant
  10. Learn a new song on piano
  11. Learn a new song on guitar
  12. Write a song
  13. Karaoke
  14. Take an overnight for anniversary
  15. See Grandma Jetton
  16. Get cello lessons for Carter
  17. Get a pedicure
  18. Go to a movie
  19. Play flute with a group (concert or worship)
  20. Go to country music concert
  21. Go to classical music concert
  22. Get a tattoo
  23. Make a four-course meal with friends
  24. Go to art gallery
  25. See Rogue One with Carter
  26. Take an exercise class with Julie Luey
  27. Go dancing
  28. Knit something
  29. Sew an oversized T
  30. Start composting
  31. Go on a run and then journal
  32. Have a tea party with Anna
  33. Go on a mom/son date with Carter
  34. Stay in a cabin
  35. Hike part of the PCT
  36. Visit an animal sanctuary
  37. Volunteer at Veg Fest
  38. Give blood
  39. Go to a pro baseball game
  40. Go to the Hops
  41. Go to Timbers match
  42. Try insects as food
  43. Visit Yosemite
  44. Attend a tea ceremony
  45. See the Northern Lights
  46. Ride a hot air balloon
  47. Go kayaking
  48. See Broadway (type) play
  49. Go to a parade
  50. Ride a roller coaster
  51. Be an extra in a show
  52. Take a cooking class
  53. Go to Oktoberfest
  54. Play a video game with Carter
  55. See a show at the Crystal Ballroom
  56. Visit World’s Smallest Park (SW Naito Parkway & SW Taylor)
  57. Run/walk Waterfront Loop
  58. Visit Crater Lake
  59. Visit Witch’s House in Forest Park in October
  60. Try a new food truck
  61. Read a book & attend book club
  62. Fly a kite
  63. Get a picture with the unipiper
  64. Make a cake for a birthday
  65. Master a new cookie recipe
  66. Complete an art project
  67. Try NEW Beanboozled
  68. Research a tree from Arboretum
  69. Find a four leaf clover
  70. Learn how to crack an egg with one hand
  71. Learn how to double dutch
  72. Watch a sunrise
  73. Watch a sunset
  74. Plank for a minute
  75. Solve a Rubik’s cube
  76. Learn to juggle
  77. Go to a Trailblazer’s game
  78. Ride a segway
  79. Go Geocaching
  80. Participate in Hug a Tree World Record
  81. Go stargazing
  82. Go Fly Fishing
  83. Hike a mountain
  84. Go to a jazz club
  85. Build a blanket fort
  86. Pick berries
  87. Go on a road trip
  88. Run a half marathon
  89. Take a photo walk
  90. Look for Holiday lights in the neighborhood
  91. Go ice skating
  92. Watch the best and worst movies of 2016
  93. Read a biography
  94. Solve a jigsaw puzzle
  95. Watch an opera (live or at the theater)
  96. Climb a tree
  97. Research and blog about a current event
  98. Listen to someone’s life story
  99. Anonymous act of kindness
  100. Go rappelling

Cloud

*I wrote this journal entry about six months ago. Lent seems an appropriate time to share darkness as well as light.

Hell on Earth

Hell used to mean a fiery chasm of violence; the scariest nightmares laced with maniacal cruelty and unending pain. I don’t think that anymore.

It’s more like this:

imageStaring at an unspecified point on the wall. Sitting so still. Incomplete thoughts. Negativity replaced by nothingness.

My daughter squawks in her crib. I remain unmoved.
People are walking their dogs outside and laughing. I hear them, but I don’t.
The sun is out. I sense, but don’t feel it.
I’m aware, but not alert.

Emptiness. No light in the distance. No horizon. No water below. Just – floating in nothing.

It’s very inhuman. Everyone has moments of happiness, success, jealousy, frustration, impatience, and peace. We are created to experience all emotions. So what happens when those feelings are just gone?

It’s like I become a zombie. Walking, talking, expressing emotions with my face and words, but feeling nothing. I don’t think humans are built to live without emotions. Even the tough ones.

Here’s what I think: Emotion pushes you forward. You cannot stay the same. You are forced to fight or flee. If you face it and fight, chances are you will find support and eventually disarm the opposition.

If you flee, if you allow it all to remain buried within…you may descend into hell on earth.

The Moment

imageI’ve perfected the art of faking it. Saying just the right amount of superficial blather to get through the social moments of life. Creating a facade to distract those around me from seeing what’s really going on inside.

And what’s going on inside? Weakness. Insecurity. Uncertainty. Fear. If those parts were to be revealed, surely I would implode.

Such was the case a few Sunday nights ago. I walked into church dreading the next few hours. Especially that casual question, “So, how are you?”

Oh you know, depressed. Tired of dealing with my kids. Not sure what to do with my life. Frustrated that I’m feeling frustrated. Feeling selfish and consumed with negativity. Wishing I was curled up in bed and not looking you in the face.

“I’m good. Jason’s probably leaving this week for his grandfather’s funeral. It’s been so hard for him. Oops, I hear Anna.”

See what I did there? Redirect? Hopefully steer you away from me to anything else.

My eyes were most likely darting around. I probably had a sugary smile on my face that didn’t match my words. And if anyone took a second to really look at me, it would have given it all away.

So why did I come to church when I felt this way? Why run the risk of exposure?

Spoiler alert – not because my husband is the pastor. I mean he is the pastor, but that’s not my reason. I don’t do things just out of obligation when it comes to church. We had that talk long ago and it won’t be part of my repertoire. If I really wanted to hide, I could have.

But I was there. And I didn’t consciously realize why this would be important until we gathered.

I specifically remember standing quietly, while the instruments began to play and voices surrounded me in song. I stood with my hands behind my back, no movement, silent.

But soon after, I heard it. I heard them. My mind and heart stopped their barrage for a split second and there was glorious clarity. Voices singing. Children belting out at their loudest. Men and women harmonizing. Deep bass and soaring sopranos.

And my heart beat.

My church was my voice.

imageIn the moment I had nothing to give, others gave.
In the depth of my doubt and emptiness, others had faith.
In my time of separation and seclusion, others connected.
In my attempt to fake it, others genuinely loved.

In all honesty, the moment passed. I opened my eyes and wiped away the tears. I became aware of myself. My walls of anxiety and fear went right back into place.

I filed that moment away to process later.

But at some point, I hope to look back on that with thanksgiving and joy.
I hope to worship my God openly and sincerely.
I hope to BE that community of support for others silently in need.

imageUntil then, may I be reminded that this dark cloud of hell surrounding me is ALSO filled with love and support – from people far and near.

A cloud of witnesses, proclaiming Christ’s love for all.

Whether they feel it or not.

Encountering Jesus

imageIt’s been four years since I was a full time teacher.

And when I reflect, my first thoughts aren’t of mountainous paperwork, ever-changing standardized tests, or the ghastly grade cards.

It was the excitement I felt as the kids walked through the door in the mornings. It was those smelly little rascals after a recess in the blazing, September sun. The stories they told from their weekends. The hugs before break. Their shock when I actually played four-square with them in my heels.

I adored my students. They were a mini flock, entrusted to my care for 9 months. I was protective and curious and longed for them to succeed in every area of life.

But I quickly learned that teaching a group of diverse students wasn’t easy.

imageAt some point, I learned about different intelligences. It changed the way I approached my flock. I realized that some students needed to sing, others needed movement, and still others needed to just interact with their peers to best engage learning.

In other words, they were not the same! Their personality, birth order, family situation, and life choices were factors in how they interacted with information.

Jesus, The Teacher

This idea of adaptive teaching, differentiation, seems to appear in the story of Jesus. He told parables, drew in the sand, talked to people carefully based on their situation in life, and sometimes answered questions with more questions!

He was an engaging teacher. Even those who don’t claim Christianity observe his effectiveness in transforming people by even just one interaction.

Jesus differentiated his approach to each person or group he encountered, but the core content remained the same.

So let’s flip this puppy around. Jesus is MY teacher. What does he see? How does he approach me?

Lent Challenge

Step one: Identify my core desires, especially for this Lenten season.

I want my faith to increase.
I want to experience God and His love the for the world.
I want my norms and preconceived ideals to be challenged.
I want roots of faith to go deeper, but branches of love to reach wider.

Yay! Now, how? Two teacher-y ways, of course.

Depth and Dimension

I want to explore Jesus’ encounters with people and see where it leads.

imageThink Bloom’s Taxonomy. This pyramid suggests that to truly retain information, it needs to be interacted with at a higher level than merely repetition and simple recall. In other words – ideas, scriptures, themes, need to be dealt with in a variety of ways. Analyze, consult reputable scholars, use in new forms, rewrite, etc.

I also want to interact with the themes of people who have an interaction with Jesus through the multiple intelligences. Even though I’m a fairly linguistic learner, what can be gained by exploring nature, movement, and songs?

Perhaps a new dimension of experiential learning will unfold that’s out of my comfort zone. Perhaps it will increase my awareness, understanding, and tolerance of the world around me.

In essence, my hope is to encounter Jesus, just as the people in the stories, in deep and multi-dimensional ways.

In Conclusion
Maybe…

Maybe God exists in ways I have yet to understand or words to describe.

Maybe there are ways to seek, experience, and understand God and his love in dimensions that are just untapped. By me. As a church. As a world.

AND MAYBE I will reach out, see, hear, feel, and sense God in incredible new ways!

And so, I challenge Solomon to say there ARE new things under the sun. There are cultural, personal, and developmental nuances that have the potential to enlighten the vision of truth and goodness. There are new ways to experience the same old thing.

Let’s do this.

Good

imageI’m back.

*cracks knuckles and shakes out fingers*

And ready to write…er, kind of.

Status Update
My brain is currently cluttered with bits of nothingness. Fragments of frivolity. Benign bits of babble and blunder.

Why the mess? I will give you two reasons.

Firstly, and I’m fairly certain this is scientifically proven, carrying and delivering a human being eliminates brain cells. Or at least limits coherent thoughts to these two options: Aw geez, that’s a tiny lego in her mouth, and Is it naptime yet?

Second sign of slush, two words: Net. Flix.

This digital devil is gloriously intoxicating. Hundreds of movies and endless episodes of shows at my fingertips, many of which I’ve already seen.

Side note and life lesson: If you spend a large amount of time watching TV, its difficult to have an original thought. Part of your brain goes to sleep. When it comes time to activate those synapses, there’s a delay. (It’s really bad when your thoughts can best be expressed through a catch phrase from favorite movies.)

Right now, my grey matter would rather settle in for a long winter’s nap rather than seek out new life and new civilizations.

But I will resist! It’s time for a jolt. Paddles out. Voltage at high. CLEAR!

image*dust settles*

What’s left? *looks around, as if Bilbo seeking the Arkenstone*

Ah! A potentially coherent personal observation leading hopefully to a challenge for further reflection.

Proclivity to Negativity
Confession, I see the bummer in most situations.

It’s raining – Can’t got out.
It’s sunny – Skin cancer.
It’s 60 degrees, partly cloudy, and no wind – Le sigh, is it Christmas yet?

Some say I have high expectations for myself and project those expectations on others. You know who those people are? Optimists.

Using Instagram filters, I would say that I initially perceive any situation as Inkwell, shades of blue and grey. With time, it may warm into Hudson but not necessarily. So I’m left with this question, Do I HAVE to live this way? Is it possible for a naturally negative person to live an honestly joyous life?

Which leads me to number 2.

*juvenile giggle*

Pursuit of Pleasure
What’s with all this emphasis on being happy? I mean don’t get me wrong, I love the song. I’ve clapped along to Steve Carell on the school bus with the dancing youths. But I react against the pursuit of happiness.

Just do what makes you happy. Find a job that will make you happy. Buy this item. Go to a resort. Get a facial. Whatever it takes to make YOU happy. Perhaps the word pleasure would be more accurate in these circumstances. Immediate personal gratification.

And our children. Create an atmosphere of ease. Whenever they encounter a challenge or roadblock, remove it. If they are frustrated or upset, it’s your job to fix it. Whatever it takes to make sure they are happy in the moment.

I’m not lobbying against smiles and laughter. Even my Scrooge-ish-Grinch-like-Eeyore demeanor craves happiness.

But, isn’t happiness the result of something else? I eat chocolate, therefore I am momentarily happy. I watch Three Amigos, I laugh, I am happy.

So to pursue happiness or pleasure alone is fruitless. It leads nowhere. It ends in a flash. It isn’t fulfilling.

IF this is true, what then does one pursue? How do we make decisions, if not based on what makes US happy?

jandcGood and Right

Is there a difference in doing something that makes you happy compared with something that is good or right?  (Definition: Good – not just better than ok. Good as the opposite of evil.)

Things that bring fulfillment. Not just a smile on my face. Not just a good laugh. Deep, rich fulfillment.

Like a main course, not just dessert.

So here is the challenge: Look. Observe. Seek goodness and “right”ness. Where the broken is being made right. Understanding, of course, that my natural inclination will be to see the negative clouding the surface. But what lies just beneath? What is seated right nearby?

Are we a hedonistic, self-centered, isolated world on a fast track to destruction? Or, just maybe, are there springs of hope, pinpricks of light, places and times and people where things are being made right.

And what would happen if those ideas and moments are brought to the forefront? Let’s find out.

Both

ImageOne year ago, life was hues of grey and despair.  Advent arrived: frustration, grief, lack of fulfillment.

One year ago, I felt lost.  Like floating in the sea, not sure which direction to turn.  Not knowing who I was.

And yet, that’s not totally true.  I had a loving husband, wonderful son, beautiful city, and all of life’s basic necessities.  I had extended and church family surrounding me with love and support.  I had friends, near and far.

But it wasn’t enough.  I needed more.  I wanted something beyond that to feel worthwhile.  Valuable.

I grieved the fact that we couldn’t get pregnant.  The idea of Advent – preparing for Christ’s birth – was too much.  If only I could have a baby.  Or if that door was closed, then I desperately hoped for a job in my field of expertise.  An occupation to give life meaning.

Something.  Anything I could use when introducing myself:

Hello, I’m Regan.  I have this job that gives me worth.  Hello, I’m Regan.  In nine months, I’ll have another baby.  Being a mom of two makes me worthwhile.

ImageIt was a time of confusion.  Days went by.  I didn’t know what choice to make.  Fertility treatment?  Adoption?  Put those choices aside and pursue a career?  I would have much preferred someone else to make the decision.

Didn’t happen.  So, we chose fertility.  Met with a doctor for an assessment.  Went home to consider our options.  Felt assured of our direction.  Soon after…learned we were pregnant.

Happy ending, right? This should conclude my story. Hope fulfilled.  Direction given.  Worth found.

And it was.  At first.

Slowly thoughts crept in my mind, overshadowing my thankful heart.

Ok, so we’re having another child.  But what am I going to DO with my life?  How will I truly find meaning if I don’t have a job?

Just like that, I’m unfulfilled.  Dissatisfied.  Worth and value squashed again.

Which led me to the question – In what am I expecting to find worth?    I keep wanting things, getting them, and wanting more.   Will this unseen gaping hole ever be truly filled?

And I am struck with a response.  Yes.  And no.

japaneseYes, I can find fulfillment.  But it’s not from me.  It’s not from my husband or family.  It’s not friends.  It’s not even my job or title.  It’s not my church.

It’s a gift.  A gift of love given by the Creator of all things.  A gift given so strangely as a child to a young couple traveling far from home.  Unexpected.

I find connection to the Creator God and created world through this gift.   Love.  Joy.  Peace.  Hope.  Such small, simple words with such extravagantly rich meanings.  They cut to the very core of my desires and longings.

And yet in this life, will I ever truly be fulfilled?   No.

I can embrace and accept the love of God and still feel longings.  Still feel incomplete and unfulfilled.  I am still human.

But it’s not always about how one feels, is it?  It’s how one responds.  What direction one turns when doubt clouds judgment.  When the grey descends on a perfectly delightful moment, there is still choice.

So can one recognize and engage feelings of loss, unfulfilled dreams, and grief, whilst choosing to live love, hope, and joy? Can these coexist?

Perhaps the truth lies in a misconception that love and joy are merely feelings.  Hope is only a wish.

bothThere is greater power in these words.  They go beyond one-dimensional thoughts and emotions.  They penetrate and connect people, groups, systems – all created things!  Therefore, I can feel longing and still engage in love.  I can experience peace in the midst of grief.  I can find joy and hope in the grey.  Both/and.

So here I am, once again.  Fulfilled and longing.  Thankful and wishing.  A dichotomy of reality.  Embracing both/and.

Enough

We live in an addicted culture.

Conditioned to want more.

Will we ever be satisfied? Will we ever say, enough?

– Jason Veach

IMG_0048

I grew up in a stable, loving home. I was encouraged, disciplined, grounded in faith, exposed to all sorts of culture and travel, and challenged to take risks. I had amazing friends, a strong church community, was a good student, and was involved in many extra curricular activities.

So why wasn’t that enough?

I’ve traced it back to freshman science class. We were dissecting chicks when I made a revelation. Under the skin there was a layer of yellow fat. Repulsive. I remember thinking: Ick, I don’t want anyone to dissect me and see that.

I wasn’t a gangly child, to say the least. I had seen a lot of picture of models and actresses who seemed to exude bodily perfection. Just crazy thin. I wondered if I should look like that. Funny what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it.

It’s not that I wanted attention from a particular boy or group of people at school. I just wanted to be liked because of my appearance. So, I began to make changes.

The Plan

First, cut out fat. All fat. Anything that would add to the yellow layer under my skin. As a child of the 90s, I was inundated with the fat free campaign. Remember Snack Wells Devil’s Food Cakes? Fat free became my goal.

bball regan

I needed to burn calories. Played basketball a few years, but lacked athleticism and drive. Then, I discovered running would burn crazy amounts of calories quickly. So I became a runner.

I remember waking up before school and running, like Jess Aarons from Bridge to Terabithia. I remember running after school. I would get frustrated if I couldn’t work out everyday.

As time went on, it began to work. I was losing weight. I could see my ribs and pelvic bone. That was a huge victory. I was lighter as a junior in high school that sixth grade. I had arrived.

But it still wasn’t enough. How far could I take it? How many more pounds could I lose?

Obsession

My poor parents were unsuccessful in rational conversations with me. Everything they said went through a skewed filter. You need to eat more entered my head as, Wow, you’re so skinny and that’s beautiful. My German teacher, who had me for three years, stopped me in the hall and asked if I was feeling well. I smiled thinking, She noticed! She can tell I’ve lost weight.

Then, total obsession. I counted every calorie. I counted every burnt calorie after a run. I counted every hour before I allowed myself to eat again. I was cold all the time. I was tired. I was sick.

I remember eating Power Bars for lunch at school. Weird, I know. I would go into the library alone, because I didn’t want anyone noticing how I ate. I would pinch off a tiny bit and watch the clock to try and make it last a long time. I controlled every bite.

Why did this happen? Why did I become this obsessive?

More importantly, why wasn’t I enough?

Screeching Halt

My whole world revolved around me. I closed myself off from everyone else. If anyone tried to talk to me about it, I shut down. Until one day. At a friend’s house. Through an intervention (before it was a cool TV show).

A group of five or six friends sat with some old photos reminiscing. Someone said, Regan, you look so different now. (Skewed compliment.) But they continued to talk about being so worried about me. I assured them that everything was under control. I had every excuse. Just a growth spurt. I’m fine. Just being healthy.

They wouldn’t let me leave. Not until they’d all spoken and prayed over me. I felt exposed. Humiliated that they needed to pray over me. I wanted to get out of there.

But something happened during the prayer. They had their hands on me and I had nowhere to run.

Honestly, I was done running. Done hiding. Tired of controlling every second of my life. Ready to let go.

Healed with Scars

IMG_0380It took years. Time to retrain thoughts and habits. Time to learn how to love and be loved.

Today, I would describe myself as healed from obsessive eating, but with scars. Tendencies. The old thoughts and habits remain – temptations in the back of my head.

But one major difference exists. Immeasurable grace and peace. Coming from something greater than myself. Through Christ’s sacrifice, I am enough. My average height, size, and appearance is enough. I am enough.

I no longer need to listen to those lingering thoughts saying, If only…If only you could wear this size or be this shape. Those no longer singularly define who I am.

I wish I could tell my 16-year-old self that there is so much color and beauty and joy in all shapes and sizes. I would tell myself that there is so much more to life than a body. Seek trusted counsel when having controlling thoughts. Don’t worry about what they’ll think. Don’t do life alone.

Reality

I can’t escape the culture of addiction. It’s where I am.

I like to tell myself that my healthy eating habits are the positive outcome of my past, but I know it could easily become an addiction. I like to comfort myself in saying that running was a good thing I’ve kept up, but I know it too could become obsessive.

But I can trust. Trust new habits. Trust the accountability of family and friends. Trust the God who has and will continue to heal.

The choice remains, do I pursue self? Or am I enough?