Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Slow Down, Speedracer

A beautiful sunset from Balboa Island, where I took a speed walk with
 a friend. Luckily, we slowed down to appreciate this little gem.

I like to go fast.  

I walk fast. I eat fast. But I especially like to drive fast. (Leadfoot is my middle name.  I mean, it’s not, but I have like 34 middle names so it might as well be). 

On Sunday, I was driving with a friend to lunch, complaining that lately, I seemed to have been blessed to find myself driving behind the slowest people on earth.  As if on cue, a wonderfully grand minivan pulled out in front of me.  Apparently unable to locate her accelerator, she brilliantly stalled the line of cars departing from the parking lot. 

My eyes rolling and my voice getting a bit too excited, I turn to my friend: 

SEE?!?!  What did I just say?! So freaking annoying! 

So let’s pause a moment.  Because I may have forgotten to mention that I was driving out of a church parking lot.  

Yup.  I was about to lose it over a mom driving her kids home from church.  

And if you thought that was bad, just wait! There’s more….

About 10 minutes later, a little green Nissan Leaf  (at least it wasn’t a Prius- don’t even get me started on freaking Priuses) cuts me off, the driver completely oblivious to life as we know it, and goes so impossibly slow, I turn to my friend again with my best are you freaking kidding me face (I’m pretty expressive and make all kinds of fun faces, but “freak out” is one of my favorites).  That’s when I looked at my speedometer and I realize that Mr. Leaf is going—you guessed it—the speed limit.  

Not only did I get mad at mommy driving her kids home from church, I then got downright pissed at an environmentally friendly vehicle going the speed limit.  

There was nothing left to do but burst into laughter.  Two signs, one message. 

Slow down. 

This lesson makes sense, because my life has been a bit in limbo lately—a little slower than I’d like. I have a lot up in the air with my career, school, relationships.  And let me tell you, it sucks.

But I’ve realized that this uncertainty, it’s part of the plan, too.  That God has me in this season for a reason.

And I’ve figured out one of the reasons.  

Get ready for a truly deep insight: The biggest lesson I’ve learned…(drumroll)…is that I’m learning lots of lessons. 


I know what you’re thinking: Gee, thanks Einstein.  But this is good stuff so bear with me. 

I know lessons have been thrown at me my whole life.  And I’m sure busy-and-important me caught one here or there.  

But now that I’m slowing down and being more present to them, I’m realizing there are incredible lessons being hurled at me all the time.  Lately, I’ve been almost overwhelmed by them.  

And these lessons, they’re game changers.  Little treasures have stretched me far out of my comfort zone, and have made me stronger, braver, wiser.  And the most painful experiences?  They’ve been my biggest teachers. 

Being in this place is interesting because on the one hand: WOW! To think that I almost missed these awesome lessons!  And on the other hand: CRAP! What have I been missing?

So I’m learning to be grateful for this time.  Keeping in mind that if I go too fast, I might miss what God is trying to show me.  Remembering that I need to slow down, be patient (ugh one of my least favorite words), and let him lead me. 

My morning devotional* reminded me: 

I am leading you, step by step, through your life.  Hold my hand in trusting dependence, letting me guide you through this day.  Your future looks uncertain and feels flimsy- even precarious…Whenever you find yourself worrying about the future, repent and return to me.

Maybe going fast isn’t always best.  Maybe I’ll even try driving the speed limit. Maybe. 

*From Jesus Calling, my favorite devotional of all time forever and ever, Amen. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

MVP of Busyness

This is how my dog feels about me being so busy.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty addicted to my iPhone.

As I sat down to write, a new email popped up (Squirrel!), I received a Facebook notification (Squirrel!) and I received a phone call from my dad and a random number in Arizona (Squirrel! Squirrel!).

And the craziness doesn’t stop with my phone.  Right now I’m juggling two loads of laundry, I just started the dishwasher, I was just reminded that my car is due for service, and I just ran out of dog food.  I have a presentation due today at 12 noon which I somehow need to work on between studying for nutrition school, getting to the gym to train for the half marathon I just committed to, and meeting a friend for coffee.  My schedule is so ridiculous that when a friend asked if I had time to talk yesterday, I told him I could squeeze him in roughly between 5:00-5:15, before getting heading to a dinner.   

If Busyness was a sport, I’d be MVP, 18-time Pro Bowl selected Champion of the World. (Yes, I’m still having off-season football withdrawals.  I think I need to pick up a new sport.  A friend told me I should get into something called “baseball”).

It’s so easy to be busy, isn’t it?  And the funny thing is, being this busy hasn’t made me better at multi-tasking, it’s actually made me worse. 

Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t all bad things.  In fact, I’m grateful that I have so many fun things and people in my life. 

But.  Sometimes, being this busy is just downright distracting.  Especially when it pulls me away from God.

It’s sad to me how I find it sooooo difficult to just be still. 

I was reminded twice yesterday of how important this is. 

My friend that I was able to chat with between 5:00-5:15, is in the middle of making a big decision.   After seeking advice from 80 friends, reading countless devotionals, and going to church, we came to the conclusion that maybe he should, you know, pray about it. 

This lesson tied in well with my devotional yesterday*.  

Thank me for the conditions that are requiring you to be still.  Do not spoil these quiet hours by wishing them away, waiting impatiently to be active again.  Quietness and trust enhance your awareness of My Presence with you.  

I took these lessons to heart. While I’m committed every morning to spending time reading a devotional (ok sometimes 3), and praying, I’ve realized that I’m really good at having one-way conversations with God:

Good Morning God! I pray for this and that!  Thank you very much, Goodbye.

I’m not very good and stopping and listening.  At being still.

So this morning I incorporated a new ritual.  I set my stopwatch for 5 minutes (I know, kinda lame).  And I sat there.  I’m not gonna lie, my mind wandered a lot.  I thought about what a friend taught me once: breathe out Let Go, breathe in Let God.  That worked for roughly 27 seconds.

But I did it.  And I know with time, I’ll get better.  But right now, if you’ll excuse me, apparently I have a new email from Bank of America…

* I have read Jesus Calling every morning for 4 years.   It’s hands down my favorite devotional of all time.  I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read the day’s devotional and it’s applied to exactly what’s going on in my life at that moment.  Pretty freaking awesome.  

Friday, February 14, 2014

How I Truly Feel About Valentine's Day

I almost posted a picture I took at Ralphs of Valentine's crap
exploding everywhere.  It made my eyes hurt. Instead, I decided
to share this little gem that I took on my walk this morning.
Isn't this silly beautiful?  
On this oh most holy Day of Love, I wanted so badly to write something so passionate, so powerful, so enlightening, you’d be moved to hug a complete stranger.  I thought about it, prayed about it, I even went on a long walk to clear my head and prepare myself for this incredibly important task.

You know what I came up with?  A whole lotta nothin’.

Maybe I put too much pressure on myself (shocker).  My expectations were, of course, outrageously high: to write something so profound, it would change the way you looked at love forever.   (I just re-read this, and snorted out loud--just another super attractive quirk of mine.  Sometimes, not until I actually put my thoughts on paper do I realize how ridiculous I can be).

In the end, I decided to just be real.   So here it is:

How I Truly Feel About Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day has always been my least favorite holiday. 

I remember my senior year of high school when my friends with boyfriends were sent beautiful red roses, giant teddy bears and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates during class (which by the way was totally non-disruptive and in no way made the single people feel like complete s#*%).  My few remaining single friends and I decided to be super mature and boycott the holiday by wearing head-to-toe black (a truly terrible idea in freaking hot Hawaii) and eat homemade Reeses-peanut-butter-chip-stuffed-fudge-brownies all day long (I try to throw peanut butter into everything I possibly can).  

Things got a little better in college.  After weeks of gentle prodding, my boyfriend got me a card and took me to a nice dinner. (HEY! MAYBE YOU SHOULD GET ME A CARD AND TAKE ME TO A NICE DINNER!!!)

I had an ex that would get downright angry at the mere mention of the “V” word.  To him, Valentine’s Day was a fake holiday created by those demons at Hallmark, designed with the sole intention of making men suffer by forcing them to spend outrageous amounts of money on senseless crap that was sure to be thrown out the next day. 

He’d argue for weeks: This is stupid!  All these stupid restaurants are just jacking up their stupid prices because it’s stupid Valentine’s Day!  Why can’t we just go to stupid dinner on another stupid day?

I’d fire back with: I don’t care!  I just want to go to freaking dinner!  What’s the big deal? 

One year, he asked me if he could take his recently single friend to a Lakers game on Valentine’s Day to cheer him up.  Wanting to be a cool girlfriend, I said Sure! and promptly booked myself at a spa. I spent Valentines evening with a masseuse named Helga.  And let me tell you, that was one of my favorite Valentine’s Days ever.

I don’t share this so you feel sorry for me (though, I mean, if you feel really bad, I do love hot pink peonies).  

I share this because it now strikes me as just a little silly that every Valentine’s Day, I’d work myself into a frenzy over two things:
  1. If I had a guy in my life (and if not…LOSER)
  2. If this guy bought me flowers and chocolates and took me to an overpriced fancy dinner, that meant he loved me 

I focused so much on the love of one person versus all the other love in my life.   

Like my wonderful family. My amazing friends. My incredible dog (only pet people will understand this).  

My unconditionally loving, generous, forgiving, full-of-grace God.

So. Much. Love.

I forget about all this love sometimes.  All this love that puts a smile on my face, warms my heart, and makes me feel so gosh darn grateful that hey, maybe I will hug a complete stranger.

So this Valentine’s Day, I’m shifting my focus.  To loving God with all of my being, and to loving everyone around me*.  To remembering just how loved I am.  

Like Hugh Grant says in my favorite movie of all time: If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around.

Happy Love Day, my friends.  

* I paraphrased Mark 12:30-31 a tiny bit here.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Thinking Good Thoughts

Hey, do you think I took enough notes? 

I felt pretty disgusting last week.

I usually work out every day, and I’ve been trying to eat as healthily as possible.  Normally this means a healthy breakfast (green smoothie!), healthy lunch (big salad!), and a somewhat healthy dinner (roasted veggies and fish and ok maybe a cookie!)

But being out of town always throws me off.  Due to an all-day meeting, I was forced to skip working out.  And being ridiculously busy, I didn’t pre-plan my meals.  Combine this with my Olympic-winning excuse-making powers, and I made some pretty funky choices.

Breakfast: Peanut Butter Cookie Lara Bar
Lunch: Nutter Butter Snack Pack
Snack on My Way Home When I Really Should Have Just Eaten Dinner for Goodness Sakes: Half a Jar of Creamy Jif Peanut Butter  

(You may have noticed that I have a Peanut Butter Problem.  I mean, I don’t even pretend to grab carrot sticks anymore.  I eat this stuff straight up out of the jar).

Allow me to explain.  I was in LA for an all-day meeting.  After an unsatisfying lunch, I thought it would be a great idea to grab a snack before I hit the road for what was going to be a long drive home.  It should have only taken me an hour, however on that particular day, it was raining.  And in Southern California, rain = Armageddon Panic Time.  Not only was it raining, I was driving on the 405, aka Hell’s Freeway, which plays host to some of the worst traffic in the country.  I knew it would take me a while, so clearly I deserved a snack in the form of a jar of peanut butter (see above regarding gold-medal-award-winning excuse-making).

The next day I woke up, totally disgusted.  My jeans felt a little tighter.  And my face seemed a little fatter.

I looked at myself in the mirror and all kinds of horrific thoughts excitedly popped into my head. 

Well you’re looking pretty fat today. 

I can’t believe you did that, you idiot!   

You’re completely disgusting.

My thoughts can spin out of control so quickly.  And if I let them, they could go on forever.   

That’s when I need to do a Double-Check.  (Side note: isn’t Aaron Rodgers the cutest?  I mean no one will surpass Peyton in Athlete that Makes the Best Commercials Ever, but Aaron’s got potential.  Yes, Aaron, Peyton and I are on a first name basis.  Yes, I’m going through football withdrawal).

Our thoughts are so powerful.  And good or bad, true or not, I believe them. 

I was reminded in an inspirational sermon by Rick Warren yesterday that it’s important to manage my mind because

My Thoughts Control My Life.

BOOM. This is seriously one of the most convicting statements I’ve ever heard.

It’s a constant struggle, because we're constantly bombarded.  Especially when my jeans are too tight, I don’t have time for a workout, or I just mess up.  

But instead of letting these dangerous thoughts continue, I need to feed my mind with truth, free my mind from destructive thoughts, and focus my mind on the right things.

Be careful how you think.  Your life is shaped by your thoughts. Proverbs 4:23

I know I won't change overnight.  But remembering that I can choose to focus on the good thoughts- that’s a game-changer.