The story running through my head over the last week or two is one that, if i believe it, could ruin my entire life.

It has the power to render me frozen in my steps.

It lurks around every corner like an angry dog in a dark alley, messing with my head to believe that nothing is safe.

It is insidious, allowing me to gain a few steps, then attacking and causing me to drop back three.

It’s the story of I Can’t.

I have been on a journey to discover what my body needs, and more recently, how God views my body and what He wants me to do to it and with it. I began in earnest in January 2010, weighing in and starting a public blog about my journey. I grew discouraged in January 2011 when the scale tried to trick me and tell me how little progress I had made. And, in January 2012 I found myself somewhere in between optimism and pessimism, that in-between place, wondering if I even cared anymore.

Well, I DO care, and have always cared even when my behavior says otherwise. But, strangely with all my belief system telling me that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me His strength,” I found myself saying or almost saying “I just can’t.”

Dangerous words, those. Uttering them creates a shift in my thinking, if unbeknownst to me, that limiting/adjusting my food intake is just too hard. My body seems to be against me, fighting my latest efforts, and I sit here and think that if my body had a mind of its own it would be sitting back with a smirk on its face, saying “I told you so. I told you this was too hard. Your doctor even said it. Bwa ha ha ha.”

The truth is that my body is beautifully and intricately made. It is fighting FOR me, surviving the best it can with the tools I am giving it. So today, for what feels like the millionth time but is really the first of its kind, I surrendered. I said to God, “teach me what my body needs. what is YOUR food plan for me? even if it doesn’t include all the things I love, I will follow it, I will move towards it, I will embrace it. If the foods I love have a negative effect on my body, I will leave that lover, knowing he is simply going to hurt me.”

Through my tears, He came to me quietly. He didn’t say anything, but I knew He was there. And I felt peace. Funny how God’s peace so often comes despite having no firm answers. Makes me wonder if its really answers I am after or if it’s just God’s loving presence right next to me, walking with me, being a companion, offering His empowering hand. Makes me know all over again that seeking Him is the main thing. The rest? Just the details. Details he knows about, cares about and is handling. My job is to seek Him.

The ‘I Can’t’ story can’t stand up to the presence of Jesus. Jesus’s presence isn’t rude, yelling and threatening the ‘I can’t’, it just comes in, permeates the room and anything that is not compatible is crowded out.

Hide or Go Seek

Posted: October 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

For a couple of days now I’ve been walking around with a bit of angst in my heart. It’s that uncomfortable feeling that rises from the center of our being, a gnawing of the soul, a signal that something isn’t quite right or sometime big is about to happen. It’s the kind of feeling that most of us don’t welcome with open arms because, well, it’s messy and time consuming and we aren’t in control.

I’ve tried escaping this feeling, played the running and hiding game before, and despite how resolute I am, I can only run for so long. The comfort food, the extra glass of wine, the insane schedule, the mindless television…all the ways I distract myself eventually catch up to me. I’ve done it all before, but NOT this time.

This time I’m sitting with it, kind of staring it down I guess. It’s uncomfortable, it feels scary but I’m not giving up despite my occasional squirms and recurring thoughts about bolting for the door. The good news is that I think I might be getting somewhere. Answers are coming. Slowly. But, they are coming. And, it feels better, like I’m climbing over the mountain instead of going around it.

Avoidance behavior is interesting to me. I think it’s one of those human doings that we don’t have to learn, it just comes natural to us. But, I think we CAN learn to change, to not avoid the things that don’t make sense to us, that trouble us, the unresolved-ness of that certain something in our heart. But, we gotta slow down to hear. We gotta stop running and hiding.

I’m almost excited to walk this path of angst that is set before me right now. Not that I’d choose it if I could choose, but I’m definitely curious . . . I think something significant might very well happen.

Art Class

Posted: October 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

It’s Art Class, and I am in the 5th grade. The teacher places the still form in the center of the classroom. Students are seated in a circle, facing it, sketchpads opened. Eyes are quickly moving back and forth between the two with what looks like perfect hand-eye coordination. Some with great intensity.

I watch them, wondering what on earth they see that I don’t. I must’ve went through at least half of my sketchpad that day, and with each torn out and crumpled page, I grew increasingly aware that drawing wasn’t my forte.

And, I remember the day well that I came home with a “D” in Art. Bad grades weren’t the end of the world in our home, my parents were wise, I think, in this area. They would simply encourage me and my two sisters to do our very best, and if our very best was a C or even a D, well, it just wasn’t that big of a deal.

But, this was different because it was about Art. My dad was an artist by trade, and I was worried that my performance would be a great disappointment to him . . . that I would be a great disappointment to him. For a long time after that I allowed this “D” to define me as one of the uncreative souls of the world.

It has been said that we shouldn’t worry about skills we don’t have, that it’s best not to covet strengths that others do have. Instead, just extract our own uniqueness. Thanks Mr. Max Lucado, that’s beautiful. I think that’s what mom and dad were saying to me, too. Even more beautiful.

Because, really, there is no such thing as an uncreative soul.

Why I Love Stories

Posted: October 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

Have a listen to this simple, yet profound song by the talented Sara Groves. This is why I love stories . . . my story, your story, the stories of people I haven’t even met yet.

Hope this lifts you up and reaffirms how important your own story is.

Cheryl

Daggers Don’t Cut It

Posted: September 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

For a long time, I didn’t write anything. I left the gift of verbal gab unopened on the shelf, safe and sound where no one could see or touch it. Or criticize it. When I think about that now I think I was pretty selfish. What would that feel like to me if I gave someone a gift and they never even opened it?

Anyway, I got to feeling really uncomfortable with just looking at it, and decided I should open it up and use it for something good. So, I applied for a job at a non-profit organization to write letters to their constituents who call or send in questions. I didn’t get the job, but the desire to do that kind of thing kept working on me.

Since, I’ve written letters to store clerks who do a particularly good job under less than ideal circumstances.  And to restaurant workers who provide amazing service at the end of their shift.  And to my pastor when he shares his heart in a particularly vulnerable way.

I’ve sent emails to people who have helped me tremendously over the years, detailing the difference they’ve made in my life.

In my last corporate job, a couple of weeks before Christmas I picked one coworker a day, and before the work day started, I wrote them a short personal note, wishing them a wonderful Christmas season.

I’ve written my boss and my former bosses to thank them for the opportunities they gave me and tell them the part they played in my growth.

Little things. You get the idea.

I’m not really sure who gets blessed more from this kind of thing, me or them. It feels so good to express kindness and positive thoughts, especially in such a negative world. When I’ve been depressed or frustrated, it’s some of the best medicine there is.

I will also admit that I have been tempted to use this gift to express less than feel-good thoughts, like letters to the editor, or to my favorite politician (an oxymoron for sure), or to speak the truth in a situation that I perceived desperately needed some light, or to stand up for my rights. You know, soap box type stuff. Clever turns of phrase. Verbal daggers.

What I’ve learned is that the simplest gesture expressed with kindness and gentleness is better and can really, REALLY have an impact. I’ve decided that it’s really not my job to point out someone else’s shortcomings, but to simply love them, warts and all.

Here’s the thing. You don’t have to be a writer to do this. Sending a short message such as, ‘Thanks so much, you really helped me’ or ‘I’m so sorry” or “I prayed for you this morning, hope the clouds are parting” or “happy 8th day of the month!’ Nothing complicated and nothing that takes very much time at all. Just a little something to let them know that you care. Seriously, this stuff makes a difference. I’ve got stories to prove it.

And, we all feel good when we get stuff like that. The world has gone crazy it seems, the economy is choking on itself, and so many people are out of work and out of hope with what feels like nothing to look forward to. We all know people who are struggling. So, how about it? How about we participate in a revolution of kindness? Other people are doing it, why not us?

It would be a really good thing. To just say it or write it or text it in the moment before the thought or feeling is gone or we forget. And, then wait . . . and watch what happens.

Cheryl

Drawers Full

Posted: September 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

I have drawers full of writing that you will never see. Little pieces of work, things like poetry or prose, a couple of song lyric collections, a bunch of journal entries, maybe a short story or two, even the beginnings of a novel. All tucked away.

I’m not sure why I save this stuff because, honestly, it’s pretty painful to go back and read. Some that I deemed to be true masterpieces at the time, now are proven to be just awful, awful writing. It can make me smile, even giggle to read if I’m in a good mood, but if I’m feeling insecure, I just want to put it back in the drawer and never ever open it again.

I guess I keep it, despite all that, because it’s a part of me. My history.  And, everyone knows you can never get rid of history. Even if I were to burn those pages, I can’t touch what was on them or somehow make them into a better, more palatable story. Do they serve any purpose, then, those pages in my drawers?

As a budding writer I was taught that I must write one million words before I can be published.  The first time I heard that I thought I’d never write that many, but now that I am well on my way to that, maybe have even exceeded it, I’ve decided that all that awful, awful stuff, so self indulgent and narrow, counts toward my million.

I don’t know if the million words is a hard and fast rule, but the point is I think that it takes that long for a writer to discover their voice, to understand the process of GOOD writing, and of course to have something of value to say. But, once that mark has been reached, the good stuff comes.

The stuff a writer writes about is markedly different now. It’s helpful. It’s useful. It’s beautiful. It’s wise. It’s personal without being self-indulgent. What is so funny to me is that back when the awful first million words were being written, I had SO much to say!! And, now….sometimes the blank page haunts me as if I now have NOTHING to say, now that I’m qualified to say something!

But that’s it exactly.  It’s not really about me at all. The primary purpose of the first million words is to get me out of the way, so that the Divine can speak. Now that the vessel has been emptied, it is now ready to dispense clean water.

So, what do you think, should I keep the awful stuff, even just for posterity sake? Weigh in by leaving a comment below.

Thanks for stopping by!

~ Cheryl

No Status Quo In Paris

Posted: July 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

Questions without answers, especially clumps of them, are hard. Not impossible hard or give-up hard, just the kind of thing that interrupts our routines. Stops us. Slows us down. Hubz and I have a couple of clumps right now. We’re sorting. Supporting each other. Opening our mind and heart to unexplored territories. And not taking it all too terribly serious, yet knowing full well the completely serious implications.

I’ve been reading The Paris Wife over the last few days, a book about Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley…how they met, fell in love, moved to Paris and all the sacrifices made to launch and support a writer’s life. It all happens in the era of the lost generation of the 20’s, a world different than today, and yet what similarities!  Some things are true no matter who you are or whether you lived in 1920′s or today, approaching 2020:  A simple life, when it is laser focused, makes dreams come true.

Life presents us with lots of questions, often in clumps . . . like when we lose a job. Or lose our credit cards in bankruptcy. Or have unrelenting pain or get alarming news from the doctor that forces lifestyle changes. Or . . .  you fill in the blank. The kind of life events that leave you with the question, what now?

These things may mean the end of life as we know it today, but really, they are more opportunities than tragedies.

And ending the status quo? Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe we shouldn’t hold on to things so tightly. Maybe there’s a whole ‘nother world out there just waiting. A world we wouldn’t see if we still had that job, that money or that undisturbed health. Are we guilty of focusing so much time and energy on maintaining the status quo (that may or may not be moving us closer to our dreams) that there isn’t any time or energy to consider another world?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve missed enough opportunities in my life to know that I don’t want to miss any more.  If I continue to do what I’ve always done, guess what I get? Yeah…. So, these are times for thinking new thoughts, for doing something different. Maybe something bold. Embracing the future, not cowering under it, even though its uncertainty is a little scary.  Eleanor Roosevelt has some good advice for us:

“Do something every day that scares you.”

In other words, don’t always play it safe. Take a chance. Don’t worry so much about what other people think. Dream a little. Or dream a lot! What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Clumps and all.

Feeling kind of pensive today, wrapped up in thoughts and words and writer sorts of things. I think I could walk around an art gallery all day long, jotting down metaphors, protagonist traits, themes and schemes for later exposition, simply letting time be unimportant.  One day soon I’ll have to schedule that I think.

This morning began like most Friday’s do, early morning coffee with my good friend, Heidi. This little ritual all started one day back about 4 years ago when we were both working at the magnet company. We (it was her idea first) thought it might be fun to meet before work one day a week….maybe for accountability, maybe for conversations that couldn’t/shouldn’t happen while on the clock, maybe just a breather way to start the last day of the work week. Maybe just two girls spending time.

GOOD decision. I mean, REALLY good.

We have read books together, talked about personal challenges, prayed together, laughed and cried and we’ve drank lots and lots and LOTS of Dunn Brothers coffee. :)  When I was laid off that job in the summer of 2009, we re-upped….RE-decided to keep doing it.

Let me tell you a little about Heidi.

Heidi is one of those people that just make you smile. She is easy to be around, never demanding, always interested in what you have to say, and tends to look at the world as mostly sunny instead of partly cloudy. She’s a woman of faith and honesty and authenticity, and has a heart stuffed with compassion and sensibility. Great combination, isn’t it?
She has an easy laugh, and is just so darn sweet without being syrupy-so, know what I mean?

Yes, the decision to sacrifice a few hours of sleep one day a week was, and continue to be more than good…it is wise. Epically so.

I remember snarky little girls in grade school that made a lot of people feel like they needed to be more or different or something they weren’t. I remember beautiful girls in high school who knew they were beautiful and worked hard to make others feel less than.  Some people just have that knack, you know?! You probably know some people like that too.

Adopting a gun shy response to getting close to others can be the result of spending time with people like that, people that really don’t accept others just for who they are.

I’m glad that I have friends like Heidi. Because she just sort of restores my faith in humanity that there really are good and gracious people in this world. I think there are actually probably a lot of really good people, and I am just tickled to my toes to know some of them. Even though every human being possesses unsurpassable worth, it’s just easier to see it in some people.

I won’t be giving up my Friday morning coffee date anytime soon. My fellow coffee-loving, creative writer girlfriend, Ms. Heidi makes it more than worth my while. She’s a peach, a gem, and a tall glass of cool, iced tea on a hot day.

And I love her to pieces.

Some Decisions Are Just BS

Posted: July 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

Decisions, decisions.

Every day we are faced with probably a million choices. Most of them are automatic, like going to bed at night and going to the bathroom, but I think there are lots of choices that are automatic that if we gave them a little thoughtful consideration, our lives might really change dramatically.

Like what?

Well, this morning the paving guys showed up with all their macho equipment to patch pave the parking lot here in the lovely Black Forest. Normally, automatically, that would be a fine reason to spend the day away, like at IKEA or Barnes & Noble or Target even. Then lunch would be automatic, eaten out of course because, well I’m not at home, right? Getting my exercise in, well, that’ll just have to wait til tomorrow since I’m clearly not able to walk the neighborhood streets where I live because I am, once again, not at home.

The schedule for the day would be out. the. window. In a flash.

Most anybody can look at those “decisions” and see them for the excuse-making, BS that they are. But, I’m telling you that if I had not made a commitment yesterday to write every day, to work on my home business 3-4 hours a day and move my body, it would’ve been super easy to be walking the stimulating aisles of IKEA right now instead of here in my chair writing. ESPECIALLY since I have a new place to decorate. I mean, what’s the harm, right, it’s only one day.

But, one single day so easily turns into another and the pair becomes a pair of pairs, and at the end of another week I don’t even want to think about looking at my to-do list. And you know what happens after that.

I’m reminded of a Bob Newhart skit where he plays the part of a counselor. His rates are super cheap at $5/session  (paid in advance), and he guarantees his clients that he’ll give them the solution to their problems in just 5 short minutes or less. $1 a minute. And, if he fails to do that, their session is free.

So, a woman comes in, pays her five bucks, and spends the next 3 ½ minutes sharing how she can’t stop shopping. It has gotten to the point where all of her credit cards are maxed out, her husband is totally frustrated that she brings new stuff home every day which they have no room for anymore, and she has been fired from her last 3 jobs because she went shopping on the clock.

And, she says to the counselor, “What should I do?” And, he says:

“STOP THAT!”

That is what you call a $5 answer. :)

Truth is, us humans are super good at making very simple answers complicated. And seriously, sometimes it’s as straight forward as . . . STOP THAT. Do something else. Live intentional instead of on auto-pilot.

Wanna know what I did?

Well, I DID go to the mall where I got my walk in until the stores opened. Then I got a free glass of ice water at the Borders café while I found some great new veggie recipes that are exciting and fit into my plan. Then I went home (notice I didn’t hang out at Borders reading for hours even tho it was tempting), parked on the street and walked a short distance to my humble abode. And, now I’m writing.

I am no saint or strong person for doing this, it’s just that I really like feeling good instead of guilty, I like feeling like I got something done instead of wasting time, I like feeling like I’m honoring my commitment. Not complicated at all.

Who says you can’t live by your feelings? ;)

Avoidance Behavior Solved

Posted: July 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

I am convicted.

Not of a crime in the eyes of the state, but of a disservice I am performing, or umm, not performing. I believe in my heart that God has called me to a writing vocation. I do not know if that vocation will provide any amount of income, I only know that He has placed a gift within me to use to build His kingdom and time after time I have run away from fulfilling this mission.

I don’t really know why I’ve done that.  I’ve never been surer of anything in my life. And that alone (reticence and confidence) tells me that there is some very important work to be done that the enemies of my soul are pretty nervous about.

A couple of weeks ago, our new landlady stopped by (did I tell you that the hubz and I are becoming landlords ourselves while we move into a larger rental?! Yep, pretty exciting stuff!) to have us sign the rental paperwork for the unit we will take possession of on September 1. As we were talking, I shared that I am a writer (I really am not sure I should call myself that when it is clear that I hardly ever do what writers do….write…but I did. Convicted.), and her eyes got all aglow and she said:

“that is very important work.”

{Stab.”Start writing Cheryl,” I whispered to myself.}

Her off-hand comment, so pure and kind was refreshing. Most people think of writers as folks who live by their whims, wait for their muse and really don’t have a lot to show for their lives. And, it can be true that we can spend enormous amounts of time getting ready to write. But, what is happening unbeknownst to the average onlooker is that living is taking place, thoughts are bouncing, ideas are formulating regardless of where our muse happens to be. This is all a part of the process. It’s why a person who has never written a book can write a best-seller at the age of 50, it just took that long.

That’s not to say there are no lazy writers who never really get around to the writing part. It’s true, it happens and it has happened to me. But, then I get convicted about it. I can’t really call myself a writer if I’m not writing. And, I’d rather start writing than stop calling myself that.

Make sense?

So, here I am with my other obligations being held at bay for this moment, in order to map out how exactly I plan to get to the page every day…at least every weekday. Hang with me a bit, there is a story.

My first idea is to start again with Morning Pages as invented and taught by none other than the lovely Ms. Julia Cameron. I think Ms. Julia and I have some different philosophies, but overall she’s actually a very inspiring woman. And, the idea of writing three pages of longhand every morning about anything or nothing is both a discipline I want to nurture and an outlet I desperately need.

I process my thoughts internally. So, when there is a lot going on as there is right now in my life, the thoughts end up playing bumper cars; big smiles with all the excitement of ideas swirling but only until I am jarred, rammed into by another competing thought. And, we go in these whip-lash inducing circles for, sometimes, days on end.

Not good.

But, morning pages helps. Taking one thought at a time and writing it down, expanding as my mind roams about the interior of my consciousness looking for clues on what to do with it. It all gets down on paper. And, in doing this, its as though the thoughts start magically lining up to express themselves, like little preschoolers, a little bit squirmy but patiently waiting their turn in the lunch line…and under unspeakable control.

Then there is that distractability thing that I have become very adept at excusing as part of the true creative’s life.  But, really, it’s just another way of saying lack of focus, discipline and consistency. These lacks will get us in trouble on so many levels, they will make us fat, sickly, short sighted, unproductive, poor, sloppy, stupid, etc. etc. I don’t think I need to convince anyone of the importance of discipline and consistency and focus. They are the bedrock of success.

So, becoming a morning pages person again is the first strategy I will use in order to again become what I call myself and have been….a writer.

Then, from these making-sense-of-my-world morning pages I will construct blog posts. Dare I say daily (weekdays, yes?)? Yes, that will be the goal. Week-daily blog posts on this here blog. I expect to discover nuggets that speak to stories we tell ourselves that end up, as frustrating as it is, controlling our daily decisions.

And, that’s not all.

Next, I will carry a notebook, a small one, with me at all times in which I will jot down random thoughts, characters, metaphors that occur to me, well, randomly. I will stop what I am doing, wipe the real or proverbial sleep from my eyes and record these things to be expounded upon later.  In other words, I will wake up to my own life. I will show up. This notebook will be the beginning of my swap file.

A swap file. A file of ideas, stories, photos, quotes that inspire me for the uninspired times that every writer experiences and that make some of us just quit.

So, what’s the story in all this, you ask? As a kid I was never encouraged to think for myself, and now, even still now some decades later even though I’ve got the thinking part down, it feels a little bit foreign to me to do anything significant with what sometimes is all kinds of unique brilliance. Writing is just that…doing something with the thoughts we think, finding the angle that turn an organized randomness into something that holds universal application and actually make a difference in someone’s life.

After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?