When We Aren’t at “Our Best”

Sometimes, my mind goes to the most random places.

Like on my commute to work this morning, for example. I can’t even truly explain what the exact string of words and images were that got me on this thought, but there it was, bare and exposed in my mind:

  • “What if something happens to my husband on his drive to his meetings?”
  • “What if I don’t find out about it until hours later because I’m at work?”
  • “What if he gets hurt and they can’t identify who he is, and then I don’t find out for hours and HOURS later?”
  • “I can’t even remember what he was wearing this morning….And what if that’s what they ask me to identify him by when he is found hurt?”

oh my good GOODNESS!! What an absolutely turbulent and horrible place my mind decided to go to this morning as I was making my way down the highway to get to my ever-familiar place we dub “the office”.

That’s one of the ways my anxiety likes to spike within me: getting me on a train to rumination-station, allowing my mind to explore areas that have no reasonable grounding and get me all up in a tizzy.

Leading me to worry

Leading me to doubt.

Leading me to feel desperate.

However, what stuck out to me about this (even more than the “my mind is tail-spinning in a million directions and there is absolutely no reason to be thinking this way”) was the fact that I identified with not being able to recount what my husband was wearing this morning as he walked out the door for work.

Look at me, two posts ago writing about how important it is to be “eyeball to eyeball” with someone, and here I am unable to describe what my husband was wearing this morning.

This blog humbles me. I pray it humbles you, too.

What an absolute BLESSING of a man my spouse is. It pains me to say that I don’t think he has had me at “my best” the first few months of our marriage: tired, run down, sick a few times (why does this happen in summer?!), all that jazz.

Why do we feel the need to constantly apologize for not being at our “best”?

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I mean, isn’t that a natural part of life? Isn’t that one of the absolute realities of relationships and marriage, is that we can’t always be at our best, even for those we love the most? 

Instead of faulting ourselves for constantly not being “at our best”, can we embrace the unconditional nature of the love we are given by those who can see us at our worst and love us as if we are at our best?

For example, me not looking up at my husband for an entire morning to know what he is wearing because I’m running back and forth to the bathroom being sick, trying to get ready for work, and have the dog barking her head off at absolutely nothing?

(This is nowhere near my worst, by the way. Oh hunnies, stay tuned.)

What I’m trying to say is, yes we can recognize our shortcomings, yes we can aim to improve upon those, but do we constantly have to berate ourselves for not being “our best”?

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There is something truly healing about embracing our brokenness rather than feeling shamed by it. It truly can give someone the privilege of “going second” (words of wisdom), meaning, allowing them to be vulnerable as well through paving the path with your example that we, too, are encouraged to embrace the authenticity of brokenness.

Because we are human.

Because we can’t always be at our best. We won’t.

And thank God that we don’t have to be.

 

Stay tuned,

-AF

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Why I Gave Myself Permission to Turn Down a Promotion

Yup. You heard that right. I made a choice to walk away from an opportunity to “move forward and succeed”.

For those that maybe have gotten to know me a bit more on the WWW, this is not necessarily something that screams “Of course, that’s SO you!” In fact, it almost sounds like the complete opposite. No, someone else did not take over my body. No, it was not a dream.

It was actually me.

I work in a profession where we are paid by the “billable” hour, meaning time spent face-to-face with clients (let alone all the extra coordination, paperwork, and research that go into this job, which we are unfortunately NOT reimbursed for). Recently, I was given a promotional opportunity to enter into more of a supervisory role, meaning a financially stable salary-based position rather than what most of our employees at our agency have. This position would also have me be more involved with a special growing sector of our company, and take a bit more of a leadership role at my stationed site.

Sounds great right? Then why did I find myself saying “No“?

I feel like my “old habits” would have chastised me, saying “Why would you turn down an opportunity to become more financially sound when this is one of the largest things that causes you great anxiety?! Why wouldn’t you want to continue moving up the ladder in your career in order to be more esteemed and successful? Why would you say no to an agency you are loyal to, because what if they won’t think as highly of you if you don’t take this?! Why would you ever say no when you can in fact say yes?!

Gah. Aren’t those voices annoying?

Let me redeem myself here: I COULD have said yes. I certainly could have performed well in this role, as I do in fact have the experience, credentials, and qualities of one that would do well in a position such as this. It had nothing to do with not feeling equipped, or being fearful or insecure about how things would play out in that regard.

But here are the things I would have lost through this, (which I have realized have now become more important that the things I would have gained):

  • The flexibility my current work schedule provides, which is serving us greatly during this season of life
  • The freedom to work with a wide variety of individuals, as well as work specifically with the area of expertise that I am so passionate about
  • The sustainable workload that I have been working so hard at keeping myself accountable in
  • The freedom to make my own hours vs. have to work around other’s availability
  • My margin (OOOOOOH. Sincerely one of my favorite words). Meaning, the buffer that keeps us from getting too close to our ‘breaking point’. 

And when I look back on all this, what it came down to was truly this summation: I’m content. 

I’m content with where I’m at in my occupation at this time (well, aside from the ever-stressful financial aspect that comes along with this gig), but I truly at this time have no desire to do anything besides what I’m already doing at the agency. A promotion didn’t mean MORE to me, it meant LESS. I don’t have a burning urge to “do more, take on more, BE MORE!” like I had in the past. I saw what that did to me, and I DON’T want to go back there (if you’re scratching your head on what this means, read my explanation of that journey here.)

Sometimes, we have to empower ourselves to say no to even the “good” things to say yes to the “best” things. 

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I also have to remember that I am not everyone’s solution. What’s best for me might not match someone else’s desires for me. But that does not mean that I am not making a healthy choice for myself. It simply means we have different priorities at the time, and no one is going to look out for your priorities for you. That is within my responsibility.

I feel good about this. I feel relief through this. I feel freedom through this.

This is one of the largest aspects of self I am trying to nurture this season-giving myself the freedom to exercise “no” to even the good things. Keep ya posted 🙂

What types of “good things” have you had to say no to in order to say yes to the “best things” for yourself? I’d love to connect through this.

Stay tuned,

-AF

The First Things to Go (Ironically)

Yesterday evening, I was sitting in the pews getting ready to lead worship with the worship band that I sing for. One of our pastors (who is such a down to earth, wonderful man) sits behind me and casually states, “Hey! Haven’t seen you in a couple weeks. Give me the update: what’s new?”

It was a completely unassuming question, but I felt so convicted by it.

It was true, our pastor had not seen us in a few weeks, which was odd because my husband and I are very musically active in our church (I previously held a musical leadership position at our congregation before stepping into my new career role 2 years back). But at this point in time, everything seemed to be so inconsistent:

  • Getting married-a wonderful blessing, but still completely uncharted territory affecting living together, learning each other’s rhythms and routines, and trying to run a household together
  • Adopting a rescue dog-which we’ve been having some behavioral challenges with. She’s such a loving and giving animal, but I’d lying if I said this hasn’t turned our lives upside down a bit
  • Navigating a new pace at work-coming from a season of “way TOO much” to trying to find which balance is right at this time
  • Financial whirlwinds-combining money, trying to come to a balanced place on budgeting now for 2, being from 2 different worlds financially, unforseen expenses and the like.
  • Finally being more at peace with my anxiety, but noticing that the changes in life have in small ways led it to rear it’s head in instances that I don’t feel it warrants
  • Running on very little sleep due to some of these changes-which is something I have learned that I merely cannot become lax on.

Why is it that the most essential things are the first things to go in times of overwhelm or inconsistency?

I’m talking even baseline functions-or at least that’s how it is for me. The first things that tend to suffer (or even completely go) in times of overwhelm or topsy-turvey-ness (???) for me are:

  • Eating patterns
  • Sleep or relaxation/self-care patterns
  • Intentional time with my Savior
  • Investing in loved ones

Which is almost comical to me, as these are the building blocks for all other needs in my life. But when I’m overwhelmed (and overwhelmed isn’t even the more accurate term right now, but off-kilter“), they are the first things to slip.

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It is at times like these that “getting back to the basics” is essential. And quite honestly, very empowering to invest in, because they fuel so many other elements of life.

I feel like I have recognized this and have tried to take some meaningful steps toward that in this season in small ways. For example, meal planning and making a list before going to the grocery store so I can make sure my body is nourished with what it needs vs. what might be most convenient or thrown together, as well as devoting Saturday to having eyeball to eyeball quality time with individuals that my husband and I truly value. But there are still basics that need more attention at this time-and part of this post was (selfishly!) for my own recognition in this. Maybe you can relate, however!

It’s important to be aware of what are the first things that tend to “slip” for us when we are in a season of overwhelm, and this might look differently depending on who you are. But without this recognition, how can we recognize that we are “off-kilter” and in need of re-focus? Even more importantly, how can we recognize what we need to fuel us through this season of inconsistency?

Maybe you’re looking for more input and guidance on how to refocus when you find yourself falling into this pattern, and I promise that will come at a later post. This is merely to raise the awareness that has been slipping from my gaze for the past couple weeks, and to own to myself the need to “get back to basics”.

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What tend to be the first things to “slip” in your life when life throws curveballs your way? I’d love to hear your experiences and share in that with you-as well as include some of these in a follow-up post that will hopefully provide some light on how to get back on track in the essentials. As always, we all struggle in this more than we might realize ;). But that means there’s community, support, and hopefulness.

Stay tuned,

-AF

 

Not Your Ordinary Vocabulary Lesson: The Impact of our Words in our Minds

Does this sound familiar?

“I only exercised twice this week.”

“I cleaned only half of the apartment.”

“I didn’t do the other section of that report.”

“I’m just a stay-at-home mom.”

You may be wondering what all of these statements have in common. While on the surface level, these statements don’t seem particularly harmful. In fact, they may be coming from a place of truth and rationality. But if we dig a little deeper into the language and themes used in these statements, we find some common denominators:

Only
Didn’t do
Just
A sense of “not enough”

These are common words/phrases that we regularly use in everyday speech. These words are far from profanity, but can unexpectedly have some strong (and even negative) effects depending on how and why we use them in our speech (and especially to how they translate in our minds!).

Choice of language, while times overlooked and habitual (I mean, how many times a day do we think about this really?), can be a strong indicator of how we view the world and, even more crucially, how we view ourselves. Simple words such as just and only seem very harmless. In fact, these words are so common that it is likely many of us are unaware just how many times (and in what context) we use them. Word choice and the way in which we construct our language have the ability to set either a positive or negative tone for how we interpret situations, and even how we identify ourselves and our worth.

Why am I writing about this? Because this is a huge trap that I fall into without recognizing it!

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Take for example the woman on a mission to improve her overall health (who might tis be?!) . I step on the scale for my weekly weigh-in, and say to myself, “I only lost .5 pounds this week.” Notice how the word only is being used in this statement. What does this language structure lead me to think, believe, or do? Any of the following might be possible with the choice and use of the word only:

  • I may believe that it is not a weight loss to be celebrated, since it is “only” .5 pounds.
  • I  may then think I am  not doing “well” enough, leading me to feel discouraged and disheartened.
  • I may lose motivation to continue my health regimen, based on the feeling of not doing “well enough” in my health goals for the previous week.
  • I may further lose my sense of self-worth and self-esteem (which would be the ultimate loss that I’m not willing to lead myself back into).

While some of these may seem like drastic responses, the language that we use has a profound effect on our thoughts, feelings, and therefore, actions.

What happens when someone employs a simple word switch, changing “I only lost .5 pounds this week” to “I was able to lose .5 pounds this week!” While the situation itself has not changed, the way in which the situation is viewed can be drastically altered with a simple change of language. Now, instead of the responses we saw previously, we might see any of the following:

  • I celebrate the .5-pound weight loss, even if it is smaller than I anticipated.
  • I feel proud of my accomplishment for the week.
  • I am motivated to keep up with my health regimen and even improve into next week.
  • I share this with others while than allow potential shame to keep me in silence

Language is a powerful tool that influences our thoughts, feelings, and reactions, as well as our lifestyle Language even reflects how we frame our self-identity. Without meaning to, we have the power to belittle ourselves and our efforts based upon the language that we use. But we thankfully also have the capability to empower and acknowledge our God-given gifts and accomplishments by how we choose to structure our speech. This speech can include both verbal communication and our own thoughts. We have more power to influence ourselves than we think!

A couple years back, a contestant on the Miss America Pageant composed a personal monologue for the talent portion of the competition. She entered the stage in her nursing scrubs, which seemed a bit unconventional to the audience. The contestant then proceeded to perform the monologue based upon her experience as a nurse. The monologue centered on her experience with a particular patient that changed her entire view of her career and, in turn, her personal identity. Numerous times, the patient would ask for changes in his medication and in his treatment plan, and the contestant would reply, “I’m sorry; I’m only a nurse.” While the contestant was merely trying to explain why she could not perform the tasks for the patient, the statement “I’m only a nurse” began to stick with her and became part of her habitual language.

One day, after the contestant stated again, “I’m sorry; I’m only a nurse,” the patient replied: “You’re not only a nurse: You’re MY nurse, and a nurse that cared for me when it was probably most difficult to care. I appreciate you, and all that you do.” The contestant noted that that was a turning point in her career and in her identity. “Only” was holding her back. Her language inhibited her from reaching a sense of full appreciation for what she was able to do each day, seeing the value in her work, and ultimately, in herself.

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My challenge for you (AND for myself) is to be mindful of the language you use this week. Be aware of what message you are sending to others, and yourself, by the way in which you structure your speech to communicate your views of yourself and others. Utilize language to empower and encourage yourself, as this can have a profound and lasting effect. As God created his people and our mission on earth as “one body with many parts” (1 Corinthians 12:12), let us too take pride in the role we play in this life through our accomplishments, characteristics, and strength we find in Him!

Because let’s be real: life is far more fulfilling when we are not the ones placing ourselves in chains that we do not need.

Stay tuned,

-AF

What Will I Wear: Not Your Typical Clothing Post

Hello my adventure-seeking, coffee-drinking folk! (Haha, you knew that last part was going to wind up in here somehow!)

Sometimes I listen to podcasts. Sometimes I don’t. Simple as that. As I was leaving my Weight Watchers meeting this morning (holla!), I was thinking back to one of the podcasts that have stood out in my mind, and in which I’ve gotten constant reminders through lately. I had listened to one of Andy Stanley’s podcast series (LOVE. Download the app “Yourmove” and be amazed). The series I had engaged in at that time was entitled “Follow”-talking about being deliberate in your personal relationship with Christ. I was a little disappointed in the title of the episode in the series that I’m referencing: “Follow Wear”. Um, hello? Typo? Are we really going to talk about how to dress appropriately for the next 30 minutes? Sigh.

But then, once Andy had roped us in, he planted such a cool thought in my mind and heart that I simply just had to share with you.

When we think about wearing something, we think about it covering our body (hopefully most of it!) and truly embodying what we are wearing, almost to the point that it becomes part of us, and becomes what people may notice about us as we begin to approach them.

But have we ever thought about “wearing” or “putting on” a virtue?

Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people (can we just pause for a second and take that in? Chosen people! God chose you and me!), holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” –Col. 3:12-15

 Seriously guys, I was so inspired by this that I could go on about this all day, but I will try to keep it manageable to read.

“Putting on” or “clothing yourself” with these virtues is not simply being aware of what this looks like, but truly choosing and embodying these elements of loving others, ourselves, and Christ. I just wanna break this down for ya’ll (and for my own reflection!):

  • Compassion: giving off that you feel what the other person is feeling, engaging in empathy regardless of the fact that they didn’t make a good choice, didn’t listen to you the first 8 times, no matter.
  • Kindness: loaning your strength to someone else. WOAH! You extend of yourself to do something someone else needs. Doing something you didn’t have to do through loaning your capacity.
  • Humility: When in relationship to other people, seeing yourself as you really are in relationship to others and to God. Exuding that truth that God loves you truly as much as all his children, and that we are not above anyone.
  • Gentleness: the decision (decision!) to respond to someone in light of their strengths and weakness rather than coming to someone with your strength. Adjusting our approach in accordance to who we are trying to reach. Gentle people don’t maintain relationships in a position of “how great they are” or “what they’ve done”. They gear down to the level of the person in order to communicate that the relationship is more important than exuding your own capacity. This involves no leverage of our own or condescension, but rather truly valuing the other person’s abilities above our own.
  • Patience: deciding (again!) to go the speed of another person. Putting someone else’s pace ahead of your own.

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Paul states “ this is how I want you to be known”! And above all else, put on love as an umbrella that truly ties all these virtues together, the common denominator of all these approaches. We have to truly make a decision to put these on and embody these each and every day through the strength of Christ. Every day we have to remind ourselves to put these on, because Jesus wants people to identify us as his followers by the way we treat other people.

I think about all the times that God has put on these virtues for me: patience in the amount of times I have broken my promises to him, forgiveness when I truly didn’t deserve it, the list goes on and on. Paul is explaining that God desires us, when in relationship with others, to put on these virtues just as he has done or us. Now, that’s a tall order. But when I think about these virtues in this light and how Christ has done this again and again for me, it creates so much more urgency to extend in this same manner.

Same as I decide each morning what I will wear for the day (wouldn’t life be oh-so-awesome if we could just live in yoga pants?), I also need to deliberately and intentionally choose to put on these virtues each day. I already know in my heart I will fail so many times. But that’s when God’s grace steps in, where he covers me with love and abundance through the promise of his sanctification. As well as providing me with Christ-loving sisters to keep me in check 😉

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How have you put these virtues on today? I would love to hear and find inspiration in you all.

 

Stay tuned,

-AF