Five Minute Friday: Motivate

Motivate

Gentle Reader,

Sheets of ice and snow have been sliding off the roof all day. The dogs don’t like it. They think someone is attempting to break into their cozy little cocoon filled with warm blankets, delicious treats and belly rubs. The crack and the crash moves them to frantic barking, but they don’t know where to direct it, so they just run in circles while I am by turns amused and annoyed by their noise.

It’s a brand-new year and a brand-new word. Kate says: motivate.

Go.

I’ve got to be honest: I adore junk food, I hate exercise and getting up early makes me angry. While I don’t mind eating a nice salad or black bean burger and I don’t dislike the way I feel after a good workout session, sweat dripping and endorphins flying (there’s nothing good to say about getting up before the sun), I am gluttonous and lazy.

Despite the lifestyle changes I’ve been forced into over the last few years, fundamentally, in the core of myself, I want to eat greasy pizza and binge-watch Netflix all day.

We assume that, in a magical moment of transformation, accompanied by an epic score written by John Williams, we’ll come to love the things that we have to do in order to take care of the bodies that God gave us. Perhaps that’s true for some, but it certainly hasn’t been true for me. I don’t believe that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. I don’t care about the number on the tag inside my jeans. I have been known to mutter impolite words while doing triceps push-ups.

Sometimes the thing that motivates is more primal, more simple. For me, it’s this: I do what I do because I want to stave off cancer and organ transplant for as long as possible.

Maybe fitness isn’t your issue. Maybe you’re one of those people who bounds out of bed in the morning, fresh-faced and ready for a 5-mile run or some weightlifting. (Are you human)? Instead, your struggle is in studying Scripture consistently. Or quitting smoking. Or reckless spending. Or lying. There are as many hurdles as there are humans.

Four days into the new year, now is the time to really think about why you want to fight the battle, why you want to change the thing. What are you pursuing? What’s the goal? Don’t assume that what works for someone else is going to work for you. Don’t think that if you do all the steps that some successful self-help seller is peddling that everything will be rainbows and unicorns.

Find your own motivation.

Stop.

Taking a page out of Andrew’s book tonight and sharing this beautiful song that I have loved since I was a teenager. I feel like I could take on an army every time I listen to it.

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In 2018

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Not going to lie: 2017 can leave. Get out. I’m done. #dumpsterfire

There were good things. I’m two-and-a-half days away from reaching my goal of no surgeries this year. (For real. I had surgery in 2014, 2015 and 2016). Ate my first mug brownie last night. Returned to a regular writing schedule after four months of silence. Deep cleaned my house. Began pecking away at a novel. Went to the Oregon coast for my anniversary. Dabbled in graphic design. Saw Star Wars: the Last Jedi.

There were a lot of hard things. The small group I led for two years disbanded. Quit my job of 17 years. My time as a chaplain at the women’s shelter ended. Church stuff was chaotic. Three rounds of blood work (possibly four, I can’t remember). Long stretches of bad liver pain and and nausea. An awful ultrasound. Increased headaches. Friends and family members battled cancer. The circus that is American politics.

The good and the bad, the ups and the downs.

Life.

Perhaps I would deal better with the twists and turns if I was not such an intense and sensitive person. There are days when I wish that that the “poker face” my therapist tells me I have reflected what’s really going on inside. I don’t know how you emotionally expressive and explosive people do it. I hate having the feels.

There’s a reason I go to therapy and take medication.

Over the next few days, the bloggers you love will publish lists and tell you what they learned in 2017. I haven’t got a list for you. It’s not that clear-cut and organized for me, which I loathe. Things should be neat and tidy. And perhaps that is my lesson. Neat and tidy are categories that can be applied to housework, not emotions, experiences and relationships. It’s all messy.

Because we’re all messy.

And yet – God remains. Steady, true and good.

I look at the calendar, ready for the page to change. There’s nothing magical about January 1. What was on December 31 will still be when the next day dawns. And yet, something about the first day of a brand-new year invites a deep breath. A little thing we call hope tingles in the back of our minds.

The Holy Spirit is in that tingle, beckoning us to renewal and refreshment.

To change.

2018 marks a decade in the blogging world (more on that Monday). An author at 33 is far different than she was at 23. I look back, amazed at how God has so kindly continued to save me and how He has graciously given me this platform. I look forward, wondering what the next 10 years will bring.

So, a few changes around here. Some new things. What you can expect:

  1. Beginning January 9, my regular posting schedule will shift to Tuesday and Thursday.
  2. The Wednesday Writers will start sharing their words on January 10. (More on that next week).
  3. I am launching a weekly(ish) newsletter, Rest Stops Along the Way. (Click the title to subscribe). Ponderings and puppy videos delivered to your inbox on Saturdays, starting January 6.

Lord, as we close out what has been a difficult year for many of us, we ask for the grace to see the good. We ask for faith to step into a new year, confident that You are already in each and every day. Remind us that we are never alone. Teach us that there is nothing we can do apart from you. Help us to rest in Your grace and truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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The Final Countdown

You are loved.You are cherished.You are worth it.

Gentle Reader,

Thanks to the band Europe for the post title. (If you don’t know the song, head to YouTube immediately).

Twenty-four inches worth of snow covers my area, with more falling as I type this. Long, fat icicles hang off of the rain gutters. Paths snake this way and that through the drifts in the backyard, blazed by doggy paws. The roads are covered with a thick layer of ice, turning a simple trip to the grocery store into a death-defying event. I am inclined to stay home, curled up under a blanket.

I sense the Spirit stirring within, drawing me to something different. I’m not usually one to make New Year’s resolutions, but I know He’s guiding me to make certain changes. For example: Buy an alarm clock and leave the phone in the living room. (He’s quite specific).

Everything within me responded with, “Oh, yes.”

I’m tired of busy. I’m tired of being constantly connected. I’m tired of not being able to turn off my mind. I appreciate technology (obviously) but I want some space. I want some quiet. Because who cares if I miss a Facebook message? I can answer it tomorrow. What does it matter if I don’t keep up with the Twitter feed? Or see the Instagram post? Or get the text immediately?

For two nights I’ve read a book in bed instead of scrolling through a social media feed. And it’s fantastic.

I need to unplug.

Another thing I know I need to sort out has to do with building up a skin barrier thick enough that a certain person isn’t able to get under it. (No, I’m not referencing my husband). My temper is the long-fused, slow-burning sort. It takes a lot for me to get genuinely angry. In this situation, with this person, the flame is dangerously close to the powder keg.

We’ve all got someone like that in our lives. Someone who just knows how to press all the right buttons. It’s awful. I’m tempted to set aside my pacifism and just get in one good punch. (I’d probably break my hand).

I need mental distance.

In the last twelve months I’ve done more writing than at almost any other point in my adult life. Between this space, guest posts, The Book Project of Which We do Not Speak and my private journal, the words pour out. And I know that I am being gently, painstakingly led to say “no” to some stuff, some good stuff, in order to devote more time to the words.

I need courage.

All of this is wrapped up in a single word: Rest. My life looks nothing like that of those around me  – and it’s perfectly fine. In fact, it’s even designed by the One who spoke the universe into being. When I lose sight of that, when I stray into the swamp of keeping up with others or into the desert of comparison, discontentment drops like a hammer.

It’s time to step away. Get quiet. Listen.

So, dear reader, as we mark out the last days of 2015 and step into a fresh year (with no mistakes in it, as Anne Shirley would say), my encouragement to you is this: Rest. If you need a nap, take one. If you need to go to bed earlier, crawl under those covers. If you need to say “no,” do it with firmness and don’t look back. If you need to get out of a toxic relationship, go. Turn off the computer, ignore the phone, catch that episode another time. Remember:

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

– Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)

Don’t pick up what He has not asked you to pick up. Lay down the heavy loads, the worries that keep you up at night. Be you, the you He has made and called you to be (Ephesians 2:10). Most importantly, get your focus off of yourself. Look up. Look around. See what there is to see. Find where He might use you. Because somehow, in doing the work we were designed to do, in letting go of the other, the greatest rest is found.

Let’s leave the old struggles behind. Let’s make the choices we know we can make in His grace and power.

You and me together, walking the road of faith.

Following close behind the Lord.

My journey to faith. (15)

What I’ve Learned

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Gentle Reader,

Sitting here in my sick chair, surrounded by pillows with a dog sitting on my feet, I’m thinking about 2014. I’m trying not to think too deeply about it because thinking deeply while laid up only results in being sucked into a dark vortex of, “Why am I here?” and “What is my purpose?”

Not good.

I do have good stuff to think about. I’ve learned some things this year. In no particular order:

God

This year has tested my faith – but day after day, God has come through for me. Every time I swallowed the nausea, felt pain as the tumor grew, woke up in an anxious sweat or wiped the tears away, He was there. Every day He found new and special ways to reveal Himself to me.

He is real. I have no doubt.

Writing

Twelve months ago I jumped on the “one word” bandwagon – and never thought about it after that post. Throughout the year I flirted with planners and outlines – I printed out several cool-looking calendars and schedules but they sat unused in a folder. I thought about hosting a giveaway of some sort – but money runs tighter around here. I tried to remember that I have a Facebook page just for this blog – and failed.

I’ve learned that I am not a typical blogger. There’s nothing wrong with choosing a word for the year or planning out posts weeks in advance. I just don’t operate that way. I post twice a week, whatever’s on my mind. It works.

After a few false starts and rolling an idea around in the back of my mind for two years, I started writing a novel. It may never get anywhere, but it’s a creative outlet. That’s the most important thing about writing, anyway.

Relationships

I really believe in the truth of James 1:5 –

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (NKJV)

I’m not as smart as I like to think I am sometimes, and so a constant prayer of mine is that God will grant me wisdom, insight and discernment. I learned this year that He truly does grant those things to His children with extreme generosity and often pours them into our souls before we even know to ask.

As a naturally cynical and pessimistic person, I do have to battle myself when it comes to relationships. I have to be careful not to write others off without a second thought. But I also need to pay attention to warning signals. They come from the Spirit.

Family

It’s not perfect. Never will be. But it’s worth the occasional battle. It’s worth working through misunderstandings and personality conflicts. God plopped me into this family for a reason. I’ll stick by them forever.

Work

I love being a library clerk. Seriously. I think that libraries are an important, essential community service. Despite my largely Libertarian political slant, I truly believe that one of the best things that government can do is fund libraries. Nowhere else can you go to find books on any topic imaginable (and if it’s not there, we’ll order it for you), free access to the internet, discussion clubs where you can connect with new people, programs about everything from genealogical research to essential oils.

Libraries are so much more than silent halls full of dusty books. They are community centers. I watch my coworkers pour their hearts into storytime hours for the littles, collecting books for nursing home residents, keeping up with the latest technology. My bosses listen to complaints (sometimes ridiculous ones) and do their best to respond positively.

We work hard. For you.

Marriage

This has been a hard year for Chris and I. We’ve spent months dealing with my health issues. The stupid, broken-down truck that I will hate forever has eaten up huge amounts of money. Chris lost his grandmother unexpectedly. During a men’s retreat he wrecked a four-wheeler and came close to serious injury or worse.

Yet here we are. Tonight we’ll celebrate the 10 years we’ve been together with Chinese food eaten straight out of the cartons because it makes us feel cool and we’ll drink sparkling cider from fancy glasses. He’s my best friend, plain and simple.

I’m not sad to see this year go, but neither do I look back on it with nothing but dismay. And in that, I think, is the biggest thing I’ve learned: Whatever happens, there is plenty to be thankful for. Joy can be found even in the thickest clouds.

My journey to faith. (15)