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Making the path for the light at the end of the tunnel

OMG. Holy Moly. I don’t know about you, but it has been a rough past few weeks for me! However, I can see the LIGHT at the end of the tunnel and I’m in a much better place. What happened and how did I get to the light?

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Ephesians 6:12 NIV

I believe wholeheartedly I’ve been under spiritual attack. Six weeks ago, my husband, Bryan, and I joined a Lifegroup through our church, LifeAustin, and we’ve been studying the “Detours” series. I wrote about this new experience for us in a previous post, which you can read about here.

This experience has been beautiful and uncomfortable as we’ve been sharing with fellow believers in our church (whom we didn’t know previously) the detours that have surfaced in our lives. We’ve been learning the purpose, patterns, and promotion of detours according to God’s word.

I’ve come to look forward to my Tuesday evenings. Our hosts welcomed us into their beautiful home each week, prepared a delicious meal, played the video that accompanied the week’s lesson, and led us into discussions about detours. It’s a great experience because I enjoy sharing my perspective, learning from the Bible scriptures, learning from others, especially Bryan, and bonding with new people.

In the midst of our Detours Lifegroup, I was feeling increasingly burned out at work and home. I’m a giver. I’m an overachiever. My hormones were out of whack (all over the place). I was not getting enough sleep. I was in the process of interviewing and hiring for one of my vacant positions. Deadlines I’ve been juggling for years began to feel impossible. My team was noticing I seemed different. My boss was noticing. Bryan needed an urgent heart procedure to determine if he needed a more invasive surgery. I was feeling overwhelmed…too overwhelmed to write a blog post last week.

My internal thoughts were attacking me, but I can only take so much. Despite how positive I am and how much I preach about self-care, I’m susceptible to setbacks like most people. We’re also susceptible to spiritual attacks. I must be doing something good and right because I felt the weight of the attacks on my spirit, mind, and body. Then, this week, the weight was lifted.

The path that led me to the light was this:

  1. Awareness – I knew I was off kilter.
  2. Vulnerability- I shared how I was feeling with others – my Lifegroup family, my husband, my sister, and a friend.
  3. Prayer – My husband prayed over me, our Lifegroup family prayed with and for us, and I prayed.
  4. The Word – On my commutes to and from work, I listened to sermons that encouraged me.

In the meantime, I also surrounded myself with people and the furry animals who love me.

Beignet and Cannoli. LPC

I got out and enjoyed the glorious weather when we had it.

Trip to an asian market. LPC

Lucrece and Bryan at the Capitol. LPC

I entertained my sister in law visiting from Illinois.

Sadie, Bryan, and me. LPC

I’ve continued to do my favorite form of exercise…DANCE!💃🏾

A little sweat session in the garage Thursday morning. LPC

I’ve been catching up on my zzzzz’s. Thank you time change. I’ve been going to bed earlier because of it.

I love this sleep mask. LPC

By the end of this week, I could appreciate my accomplishments and most importantly what God is doing in my life. We completed our 6 week Lifegroup, I hired an excellent candidate for my team, I continue to use my position at work to mentor and uplift others, my daughter got all A’s in her second semester as a freshman in high school, my son registered for his community college classes, I have a game plan for the dance I’m coordinating for our office holiday party, my spiritual and mental energy has been restored, and Bryan doesn’t need an invasive heart surgery.

My final thoughts are: Life is GOOD. Hang in there. Appreciate what you have. Pray incessantly. Have FAITH. Keep moving forward.

What encourages you during difficult times?

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New Day

I woke up this morning with a smile on my face and a sense of gratitude for this life I get to live. I didn’t get much sleep Sunday night, so I struggled to stay focused and awake all of Monday. It’s a new day and I’m a testament that you can be in the midst of uncertainty and anxiety and still be grateful. As I do daily, I woke up this morning and prayed. I’m sharing the morning prayer that I love the most.

Sometimes my prayers are super short. Sometimes my prayers are for specific people. Sometimes my prayers are of thankfulness. Sometimes I ask God for specific things. Sometimes I cite and meditate on prayers from a specific book of prayers my husband bought me many years ago, while we were dating. I knew he was special when he brought me this gift.

Lately, I’ve been immensely worried about my son, Caleb. I know all the logical and spiritual reasons why worry isn’t helpful, but I haven’t gotten to a place yet where I don’t do it. I’m human. I hate that I worry. However, I’ve been making peace with the thought that if things don’t turn out my way, they’ll still be ok. God has a way of letting you know He will take care of things. You’ve got to listen.

At the end of the day, I have a good kid who has some work to do with finding himself. He’s a late bloomer. I will guide him as best as I can, but when I worked in direct practice at an outpatient mental health clinic, I’ve told many clients in the past that I can’t do more than them. Now that Caleb is 18 years old, I’m working on adopting this same philosophy. Of course, you do everything for your babies, toddlers, and children, but as they get older, the parenting dynamic changes. Parents need to adjust. I need to move into a coach and consultant role.

I’m so grateful that it’s a new day…a new day for me to not be so hard on myself like I was yesterday. A new day for me to make a positive impact on somebody’s life. A new day for me to nurture my kids. A new day for me to be a loving wife. A new day for me to be a fair boss. A new day for me to share my gifts. A new day for me to be better than before. A new day for God’s light to shine through me.

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You can change the atmosphere

Last month, I went on my first business trip in months – a sign that my work life is back to normal. I welcomed the trip because I was in a work “slump”. My attitude had not been the greatest due to some recent decisions made that were out of my control. Those decisions impacted a project I had been working on for 3 years. I often use the travel time to reflect and regroup, and boy, did I have some epiphanies!

I know I have the power to change the atmosphere (environment I’m in) with a positive attitude, but it takes work. Sometimes, it feels more comfortable to mope around, but it doesn’t provide any long term benefits. Here’s a personal example from my business trip of changing the atmosphere.

This incident occurred at the airport on my way to my destination. Yes (eye roll)…I hadn’t even left Austin, Texas yet and I was faced with a lesson. I’ve noticed over the years, I tend to get tagged for extra screenings at TSA. This day was no different. I was so annoyed because I got called to the side even after they practically made me strip down to the basics – shirt and bottom.

I was told by security the following areas on my body were of concern: my left wrist, my waist, my groin area, my left breast, my knee, my right hand, my right kidney, my second toe on the right foot, my lungs and my thyroid gland (not really on the last three, but you get my drift). Really??? This day was just ridiculous. It seemed like it was taking forever. I partially kept my gaze on my belongings in the bins. I didn’t want anyone to walk off with my stuff. I was impatient and annoyed with the questions and frisking.

By the time it was over, I was outdone with irritation. I went to grab my belongings, reached for my shoes, and the security guard asked, just as I managed to put one shoe on, “are those your shoes?” I looked at him and said, “Yes.” There was a slight delay in my mind registering what he had actually asked, so I came back with an, “I hope so since I’m putting them on MY feet.”

We exchanged a laugh. He said he was trying to cheer me up since I looked so serious, but he could see I didn’t get it at first. He said he was only joking and knows people only reach for their own shoes. I attempted to explain I was annoyed by the frisking process. Saying it out loud made me realize I was making a bigger deal about it than needed. We exchanged a few more words, then we parted ways.

The security guard changed the atmosphere in my mind. I was on my way to a full on melt down, but he stopped me. I walked away asking myself why I had been so annoyed. I know this is routine. I arrived at the airport early to account for the process. Hearing him tell me that I “looked so serious” reminded me that was the opposite of how I want to carry myself. This is especially true having recovered from a chronic, life altering health condition like breast cancer.

I strive to be lighter in mind, spirit and body. Even the use of the word “light” in my blog site title provides a clue of how I want to be. The experience at the airport did ENLIGHTEN me to my attitude. I’m not immune from reverting back to old ways. I also believe my oral medication for breast cancer treatment affects my mood. I’ve been more conscious of it and make adjustments as needed. For example, I’m more reserved at times by staying to myself at work and/or home to avoid spewing my agitation on some unsuspecting soul.

With humor, the security guard said something that sparked a change in the atmosphere of my mind. He changed the trajectory of my attitude and I loved it. That’s how I want to be for others. You have to believe you have this power. It doesn’t take much and can be accomplished through simple acts of connecting with others. These can be brief moments. You can also do it for yourself by engaging in positive self-talk. Out of habit, you may be feeding your mind negative messages (like I do) and not realize it. However, when I catch myself, I change my self-talk to that of encouragement, or whatever is useful in the moment.

I’m grateful the security guard gave me a reminder. I need to channel more of my humor, especially when I’m stressed, and share it with others. How do you go about changing the atmosphere?

Thrive-al mode: we create our own words…uh worlds

When I was in graduate school completing my coursework in social work, I had to make some adjustments in my life to accomadate my relentless schedule. If you’ve been following my previous posts, you’ll know that I refer to myself as a recovering perfectionist. Well, when you’re a full time employee, mommy to 2 children, wife, and graduate student (no particular order), you learn to reprioritize the priorities. One thing that I decided to let go was my perfectionistic, and borderline obsessive compulsive process of cleaning. It was obsessive compulsive because if I saw even the slightest spec of dirt or crumb, uninvited visions of that spec or crumb would play in my mind over and over again until I did something about it that day…and sometimes in that moment. That level of detail can be too much when your plate is full. I developed a strategy that so impressed my therapist (I did 6 months of counseling to help me cope with life in my last semester of graduate school) that she asked if she could borrow it.  I tend to be gracious at times, so of course, I said it was okay. In fact, I was flattered.

My main trigger is to “see” the madness. Once I see, I can’t “unsee” it. Therefore, in attempt to control my cleaning tirades, I avoided the trigger spaces (i.e., my kids’ bathroom) or if I had to go in that said bathroom, I would go in with the lights off and turn my head, blindly grasping for whatever item I needed. That strategy didn’t work for every space. My husband often says thay I come home looking for stuff out of place. I maintain that is not the case. Just the other day, I walked in from work greeted by shoes facing every which way in the walkway…one of my all time pet peeve’s considering that we have shoe cubbies. I can’t “unsee” that. Let’s just say for 2.5 years, the house was dimly lit & my husband was tasked with the chore of cleaning their bathroom. I think that was a successful compromise for all parties. 

It’s been over 5 years since graduate school and I realized recently that some areas of the house are still dimly lit. I use the excuse that my optic neuritis makes my eyes sensitive and that is true to a point. There’s this one blinding, halogen, overhead light in the kitchen that when turned on, allows you to see every spec of unidentifiable thingamajig in any crevice. I hate that light. I cringe when it’s on and stop whatever I’m doing at the moment to admonish the poor soul that flipped the switch. The light bulb went out in the other, less intrusive light, so we had to use the blaring one until we bought another light bulb. I was struck by how dirty the sink was and the obsessive compulsive thoughts crept right back in. So what did I do? I turned off the light and instantly felt better. In that moment, I had an epiphany. We really do see what we want to see. If we can control it, we will…at least I will.  Even my daughter pointed out that I have been keeping the lights dim so that I wouldn’t see the dirt. If she knew better, she would keep her mouth shut because this has implications for how busy she’ll be for the remainder of winter break. We still have this weekend and I’m in organization mode.

I will regroup right now to determine the appropriate takeaways from this epiphany. No, I’m not “saying” (I am aware that I’m writing not talking, but you know what I mean) that our home is dirty (definitely don’t want to send that message to my audience) because we clean weekly and the kids have their chores. I will say that the level of cleaning that I used to do has waned over the years. Sure, there are some spring cleaning type “projects” that need to be done. I’m also not saying that I have a clinical diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder, although, I’ve worked with clients who’ve had this condition. I’m also not saying that I blatantly avoid areas of my life that I don’t want to deal with. What I am saying is that I decided a few years ago that the world I wanted to create for myself included spending more time doing things that I enjoyed and being with the people that matter rather than the contrary. I want to enjoy my family most of the time, not spend most of the time yelling or picking at them for not doing things to my level of satisfaction.

By dimming the lights, I made a compromise, and I created a world where I saw what I wanted to see so that I could cross some things off my list and to simply feel better. I’m willing to bet that others dim the lights in ways whether it concerns relationships, politics, unsatisfactory jobs, goals, world events, etc. We create the world we need to so that we can survive. However, I do think it’s time to turn the lights back on full blast because I’m not in survival mode anymore…I’m in “thrive-al” mode (YES, I just created a word!)  I’ve gotten a little comfortable with overlooking other things like finances and long term goals that involve money and spreading my wings. This blog is about self-care and wellness and there are many aspects to self-care. It’s okay to create a world you can manage, but it’s also beneficial to reevaluate those parameters. The only constant in life is change and what served you in one season of life may lose its efficacy and/or revelance in another. And this is a poignant time to reevaluate as we embark on a new year. Happy New Year to you!