Friday, February 19, 2016

Catching Up . . . A Little

I have not been posting my thoughts on the 40 Things To Give Up For Lent as they have come to my inbox.  I have been reading them and ruminating on them, though. 

Right now is a very busy time for me.  Just about everything that I've said "yes" to is culminating in an event NEXT WEEK.  No, not just one event - three events in successive days.  Busy may be an understatement.  I'm having a good time, learning a lot, and (hopefully) making a difference, so I do not begrudge the time I'm spending.  I just wish that I had had all the dates in front of me when I said yes!

The events are on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  Sunday will find me in my pajamas on the couch watching the Oscars.  A perfect end for a busy and arts-filled weekend!

So the aspects of the list that I was presented with the past few days are:

People Pleasing - I'm better at giving this up than I used to be.  With age maturity comes at least SOME perks!  I'm blessed to have a family that is pretty happy and easy going so this is not an issue on the personal front.  It's been more of a challenge in the professional front.  I think the key thing I learned here is to fulfill my obligations.  If I do what I need to do with integrity and with a good attitude, I have done what I need to do.  A supervisor (or even a student) still might not be a happy person, but my job is done.  I have done what was expected (sometimes more) and that's all I need to do.  I have more to say about this because I have run into this during a school year, but I can't spend that kind of time on a post right now.  But oh, yes, I have a lot to say.

Comparison - This can be difficult in the performing arts.  Every time I go for an audition, I have to compare myself to the others in the room.  I pick apart their abilities, their looks, the way they walk . . . everything!  And I do the same to myself.  I try to convince myself that I am what the director wants for that role.  I list all the ways that I can bring that role to life.  And then, as the dice rolls, when I don't get the role . . . well, again, age maturity has its perks. 

Yes, I am still disappointed when I don't get a particular role.  But I have been around long enough now - and been on both sides of the casting process - to know that it's (almost) never personal.  There are things at work that are seriously beyond my control - height, age, vocal range, etc.  And the roles that I've lost in the last couple of years since I've been back in the game . . . well, they weren't for me anyway.  The person who got the role did a much better job than I could have.  I fulfilled my obligation in the role in which I was cast and had an utter blast doing it!  I would not have had it any other way. 

Again, I have more to say about comparison in relation to parenting, but I can't spend that kind of time on a post right now.  But oh, yes, I have a lot to say.

Blame - A lot of times blame is my go-to.  Well, I could have had this done if "x" hadn't happened.  Or I wouldn't have been late if "y" had gone well.  It's SO hard to take ownership of my own shortcomings.  As one of Negan's henchmen said last week on The Walking Dead "Bite, chew, swallow, repeat."  Yep.

I have more to say about blame in relation to parenting, but I can't spend that kind of time on a post right now.  But oh, yes, I have a lot to say.

Guilt - I'll just leave you with this: "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."  2 Corinthians 5:17  That's what sustains me when that condemning voice starts in my head.  I messed up in the past.  A LOT.  I mess up every day.  A LOT.  But I keep coming back to Christ.  His forgiveness and grace is big enough for my old and new mistakes.  And they are big enough for everything that I will do in the future. 

So . . . those are my quick responses to the past few days.

I notice in the list that tomorrow's aspect is Giving Up Overcommitment.  Hmmm.  Timely.  Well played, Lord.  Well played.     

Monday, February 15, 2016

Days 4 and 5 - Giving Up Impatience and Retirement

Saturday's aspect to give up was impatience.  So I resisted the temptation to fire off a quick post and decided to ruminate on it.  (See what I did there?  Sometimes I crack myself up.) 

God is always working on my patience.  Always.  I have kids.  I have a spouse.  I encounter people.  I need patience!  (For the record, I HATE lessons in patience.  I don't know anyone who does. It means that you are called upon to exercise patience.  It's maddening.  It's painful.  And it's just not fun.) 

I feel that I have made great strides in my education in the field of patience.  Being on this side of the lesson in several areas of my life, I can see how He worked even when I felt that He was being silent and idle.  I see where He was working and guiding me and I can see how I was fighting tooth and nail, not listening and . . . well, generally being a brat.

We own our own business.  We started that business in November of 2006.  Yep, just about a year shy of the Great Recession.  I will spare you the gory details, but it has not been the best ten years for us financially.  My prayer journal is FULL of prayers asking for relief.  But you know what, MY idea of relief is not God's idea.  My idea came with abundance in the checking and savings account.  It came with shopping for pleasure, pedicures and weekly dates nights.  God's idea of "relief" was that we never missed any payments on anything and we always had something to eat, something to wear, transportation and a beautiful house in which to celebrate our wonderful marriage and raise our healthy children.  God's provision was to strip us down to the basics - and continue to provide those basics in abundance - and have us (me!) rejoice in those provisions.   

A couple of years ago I finally started learning this lesson.  I finally started to loosen my white knuckle grip over the financial things I have no control of anyway.  Ten years into this journey, I now have ten years of hindsight.  And in ten years we've had some close calls, but God has been faithful and our business has thrived. 

Yes, we have debt, but we did not take on any debt that we felt we could not pay.  We prayed over any debt that we chose to take and we ran the numbers to make sure that we could fulfill those obligations.  Again, God is faithful and we are now in a position where we have been able to continually make payments toward that debt for a long time now. 

I'm not saying that I have arrived.  I'm not saying that I have completely let go of impatience and, woo hoo, I'm free!  Nope.  It's just that God has been so faithful in the big, huge picture these past ten years that it's MUCH easier to let go (well, at least to loosen my grip a little) now.

Today's aspect - retirement - I don't think we have to worry about that.  First of all, we're YEARS away from even thinking about that.  Secondly, read this post again about owning our own business.  I'm praying that we can save enough to someday retire, but I am certainly not sure about that.  And, thirdly, neither my husband nor I are idlers.  We can't NOT do something.  We'll be meddling about in something until we can no longer meddle in anything, I can assure you of that!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Day 3 - Giving Up Your Feeling of Unworthiness

Today's message was not a difficult one for me.  I am very confident in my identity in Christ - that He died for me not because of any action of my own, but because of the Father's love for me.  For some reason, that isn't difficult for me to accept.   I know that there's nothing that I can do to earn that love.  I know that I will never be perfect and that I can only do what I can do and do it with the right heart. 

I think that one of the reasons that it's easy for me, is that I had a lot of affirmation from my parents as I grew up.  Approval and love were not conditional in my house.  When I screwed up, I got consequences, but I never doubted my parents' love for me.  They accepted me and they continually made me a part of their lives.  If Mom or Dad had a rehearsal or a meeting or something to go to, it was always an option for me and/or my brother to go along.  We knew we had to behave and that we had to occupy ourselves and not ask for attention or cause a distraction.  But we knew that our company was always welcome. 

So today is an easy one! 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Day 2 - Giving Up Your Comfort Zones

Have you ever had a friend or family member who continually complained about something, yet when a solution was offered, they rejected it?  They found all the reasons that the solution wouldn't work - and maybe they made up some reasons along the way.  They could just be difficult people.  But they could also be afraid.  Afraid of failure (see yesterday's post), but also afraid of change.  Afraid to get out of their comfort zone and find a new path.

Sometimes our comfort zone is uncomfortable and we're so comfortable with that, we resist the change.  I'm guilty of this sometimes.  Even if an outcome is painful or uncomfortable or annoying or whatever, I KNOW what that outcome is going to be.  I can prepare for it.  I can see it coming.  I know what to expect and how to deal with it.

BUT . . . if I choose a different course, take a different path, change one little thing . . . the outcome is not assured.  I won't know what's coming and I won't have time to prepare. 

The website today asks if there is anything in my life that I want to change and what is keeping me from making that change.

I want to write more.  I compose blog entries all the time in my head, but when I sit down . . . nuttin.  I find other things to do - some legit like making dinner and doing laundry, but some not legit like playing a game on my phone or feeling that I'm wasting my time.

I want to read more.  But sitting down to read for pleasure makes me feel guilty for not doing something "legit".  (See above paragraph.)

I want to see more art - more stage, more films, more installations.  But don't I have other things to do?  (See above.)

My comfort zone is normalcy - taking care of what needs to be done, keeping up with friends on Facebook, filling the interim time with texts and getting to a new level on Paint Monsters.  I know how to do that.  And when asked (IF asked) why I don't read/write/view more, it's because I have so many other obligations.  I don't have time.  And pick up the foot and move it forward . . .    

Two years ago I took a step out of my comfort zone.  I auditioned for a production of Fiddler on the Roof.  That step has led to more steps.  I've now done three productions with Austin Jewish Repertory Theatre (the company that produced Fiddler) and I serve on their executive committee.  The invitation to serve there nudged me to apply to the Board of Directors for the kidsActing Foundation.  They accepted my application and I've been on the board for over a year.  I now have ties with several theatre companies in Austin and go to see at least one play a month.

I have a history of success with stepping out of my comfort zone.  Well, with one comfort zone.  I know I have others.  I need to be prayerful and look to see which ones are in the crosshairs now.

Day 1 - Fear of Failure

Today I've got a two-fer because I signed up so late yesterday for "40 Things To Give Up For Lent"

Yesterday - Day 1 - was Fear of Failure

So why do I say that I'm "making myself" blog (or at least journal) about each of these aspects I'm challenged to give up?  Because I haven't blogged or journaled consistently for at least three years.  And it's not necessarily fear of failure (but that is some of it), but it's just fear of what will come. 

THIS POST still kind of stands as my norm.  But boiling it all down, I think that my lack of writing is rooted in fear.  Fear of what I will uncover - pain, anger, numbness, anxiety, truth, lies.  Also there is a fear that if I put myself out there in a blog . . . will anyone care?  Will my experience, my words, my point of view about anything resonate with anyone or am I . . . insignificant? 

Artists constantly struggle with this fear.  Will people want to hear/see/experience what I have to share?  Will it be worth the time for someone to invest in my words/music/painting/whatever?  And then there is the fear of trolls.  (Not that I have enough readership of my little blogs to attract trolls!  But . . . what if I did?) 

The verse associated with today's aspect is Joshua 1:9 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

God is walking with me all the time - not just when I'm doing things that I feel are safe.  Psalm 23:4 confirms that:   
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. "

So I shouldn't be afraid.  But I still am.  But I'm ignoring the fear and walking on ahead.  Soon, I will click on "Publish" and then . . . one step at a time.

What About Lent?

I'm not Catholic.  Growing up I had a brush with Catholicism because my mom converted when I was about 5 or 6.  My dad and brother and I continued in the Presbyterian church while Mom went to mass.

I never learned much about what being Catholic means.  I remember Mom making the sign of the cross after we'd bless our dinner.  She volunteered at the soup kitchen at the church some holidays when we were in town.  One Thanksgiving she had to get stitches because she cut her finger while slicing turkey! 

One time we went to a huge church with a beautiful garden to drop something off (a meal?).   I was running around the garden smelling all the roses and I saw one of those huge "locust killer" wasps flying around.  I was terrified of those things and reacted as such.  The young priest who greeted us reassured me that it would leave me alone and that I had nothing to worry about and he kind of waved it away.  This was a Man Of God with a White Collar and Priest Stuff . . . he was in the KNOW about things like that.  I had a feeling of peace and protection and after that day I was only mildly concerned when one would fly near me.

One day a year my mom would come home with a big black smudge on her forehead and that meant that until Easter all Catholics ate fish on Fridays.  That's all I really knew of Lent.  I think I had an idea that she gave something up, but I'm not sure.

Since then I've obviously become more informed about what the season of Lent means to Catholics and how it ties in with Protestant Christianity as well.

For the past few years I've made a conscious choice to observe the "fasting" that Lent encourages.  I have given up something that I enjoy as a small token of worship to the One who gave up everything for me.  In the past it's been things like chocolate (probably in the top 5 of what people give up), Diet Coke (the three day headache was a sacrifice!), chips, etc.  Small things, but things that I enjoyed on a daily basis to remind me of for Whom I am living my life.

This year I contemplated what to give up.  Chocolate?  Chips?   Chocolate chips?  I don't drink diet sodas any more so that's out.  Coffee?  I even toyed with weird things like giving up mascara or driving (that would actually kind of be a blessing . . . "Nope, Mom can't take you to yet another practice/get together/game/etc.  I gave up driving for Lent").  Should I give up something intangible like time or something that would seriously impact my life like giving up the internet?  It just all seemed empty or ridiculous or, worse yet, stretching.  I prayed about what God wanted me to gain from fasting.  What is it that would make Him happy and bring me closer to Him? 

Yesterday - Ash Wednesday, the start of the season - a friend posted a link on Facebook "40 Things to Give up For Lent".  I think that's my answer.  I read the list and it contained things like "negativity" and "distractions" and "over-commitment".  Now THIS is something that I can get behind.  This list is something that I think God has been working on in me for a while.

I subscribed to the emails.  Each day I'm going to get an aspect of myself to give up.  And I'm going to make myself blog about it - or at least journal about it.  I say "make myself" . . . and that ties in to the aspect from yesterday:

Fear of Failure