A Lenten Goal

When I started using Hay’s book, “A Lenten Hobo Honeymoon” as a reflection book for Lent, in it was a piece of paper with my “Lenten Hobo map” from a previous year. Hays suggest one keep a list of goals for the season. Many of the suggested categories, such as “Fasting & Penances” and “Almsgiving”, were Catholic orientated but I still was able to select some goals.

As I looked at that map I was reminded how I seem to pick the same goals every year. For example I always want to work with my prayer life. I ask myself, “Here I am again trying to grow in the same area as last year. Won’t I ever learn?” However, I realize I’m always on a journey and probably will want to grow in similar areas each year and this is okay.

One of my areas for growth this year (and last year as well) is my tendency to worry about what people think of me. “So-and-so thinks I’m not very smart,” or “She thinks my singing vibrato is too wide.” A big one for me is, “He thinks I need to be working.” A therapist once asked me why it matters. They don’t live in my body and haven’t had my experiences so if they really have a concern, they can ask. Plus, they’re probably not even thinking about me at all!

Y poolYesterday while swimming at the Y, I had the opportunity to work on this goal. I had the entire lane to myself which isn’t always the case. Often I swim on one side while someone else swims on the other. If I have a lane completely alone, I try to do the kick I use for the breast stroke since it is pretty easy to use more than half a lane for it and I don’t like accidently kicking someone.

However yesterday I didn’t do this. Since I cannot use my right hand to swim right now because I’m still strengthening it from my December hand surgery, I am working only on my kicks. Another member asked if she could join me in my lane but she didn’t want to swim by the wall. I realized trying to do the frog kick by the wall would be impossible without slamming my leg into it so I hesitated before saying, “Do you think you could use another lane right now?” I could tell she was mad at me and she muttered something under her breath before walking to another lane.

I felt TERRIBLE. I know how hard it is to ask someone to join their lane and I hate doing it but I’ve learned that part of swimming laps at the Y means sharing the lane. In fact someone once told me “no” and I was a little perturbed. So of course I spent swimming my remaining laps worrying about what she thought of me.

When I got out of the pool, I had an opportunity to talk with her. She’s someone I see and talk to regularly at the Y so it was important to me. It turns out; she was having a horrible day. Her car broke down that week so she was borrowing one. Plus, her mother had fallen and was in the hospital. Apparently the mother had always taken care of her father which made her inability to do so, a real issue. She was stressed out, hadn’t been to the pool in days, and the first person she asked about sharing a lane didn’t want to share. She even told me she had said, “f*** you” under her breath which of course I hadn’t heard.

I’m so glad I spoke to her. It’s true. People usually do have too much on their mind to even think about me. Hopefully, as Lent continues I’ll realize this BEFORE I begin my worrying.

Advent

Michael and I bought a Christmas tree yesterday from a lot close to our house.  After seeing the picture on the left, I realize I need to trim some of its branches.  On second thought, I’ll probably leave it as is to work on my perfectionism a bit!

I’ve always hated the Christmas season.  This year a couple of local stores opened on Thanksgiving night so that folks could begin there Christmas shopping! I hate shopping for anything and Christmas is the worst.  This year I’ve decided to get all the adults presents from an Alternative Gift market at my church.  I haven’t decided exactly what I’m going to get yet but I’m going to choose from Homeward Bound of Asheville, Veteran’s Restoration Quarters, Mark Hare, PCUSA Missionary as well as several others.

I have worried about my bare tree as well.  My husband, Michael, is really really swamped at work now so decorating it falls on me.  However as I was doing my Advent devotional this morning, I thought about waiting for a bit and leaving it bear.  After all, Advent is all about waiting. 

The devotional I’m using this year is Preparing for Christmas by Richard Rohr. He writes in his introduction, “Jesus identified his own message with what he called the coming of the ‘reign of God’ or the ‘kingdom of God,’ whereas we had often settled for the sweet coming of a baby who asked little of us in terms of surrender, encounter, mutuality or any studying of the Scriptures or the actual teaching of Jesus.  Sentimentality, defined as trumped-up emotions, can be an avoiding of and substitute for an actual relationship, as we see in our human relationships, too.”

Yesterday when we went to the Christmas tree lot, I saw the shining eyes of two little children as they took in the surprising and wonderful sights around them.  This is what Advent and Christmas is about.  As Mark Ramsey said in his sermon yesterday, “Advent is a yearly reminder that God is able to surprise us.  Perhaps we ought to think of church as training in the skills required for following this living, surprising, interrupting God!”

So with Richard Rohr’s devotional in hand, I look forward to being surprised this Advent season.

Holy Week

Mark and Kristy lead a class on the Resurrection stories and art at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church (GCPC). In the first session, they laid out 15 paintings depicting the Resurrection in art.  We were asked to look through them selecting the ones that drew us in.  I saw glorious images of Jesus ascending into heaven but none of them really struck me until I saw one by Michael Ciry, pictured on the left.  Someone commented that this Jesus looked like he just came out of concentration camp.  I think I was the only one drawn to that painting.  I could relate to that Jesus because that Jesus knows exactly how I feel.

I’ve taken on too many things again this week.  They’re not stressful but my perfectionism makes them more difficult then they need to be.  I worry about them which uses up too many of the neurons in my brain. This in turn stresses me out and I’m miserable.  I try and spread commitments out but it didn’t work this time.

It doesn’t have to be this way which is one reason I agreed to do everything.  I want to practice dealing with the stress.  When I led worship all the time, I was a perfectionist.  Every word had to be just the right one and I was careful not to forget a word or trip as I walked to the pulpit.  I didn’t have the challenges of too much stimulation which is now part of everything I do.  Worrying only adds to the stimulation.

As a TBI survivor, I cannot be a perfectionist and I can’t worry about what people think.  For instance tomorrow I’m going to lead communion at Circle of Mercy (COM).  When I lead, it is simple and certainly not nearly as “preachy” as others who lead.  But this is how I do it.  Some people might like it, others won’t but that’s okay.

I’ve said the words of institution hundreds of times but due to my brain injury, my memory can’t be trusted and sometimes I forget simple things.  I worry this will happen but you know what?  The sacrament doesn’t depend on me so if I mess it up, it doesn’t matter!  I need to say this to myself a million times.  (Since the Alliance of Baptists , one of COM’s two denominations, does not view communion as a sacrament, I’ve had to think more carefully about what communion means to me.)

On Good Friday at GCPC, nine different leaders are leading 20 minutes on the Last Words of Christ.  Again, my perfectionism is getting in the way.  I’m a good speaker but I worry about forgetting the words. I also compare myself to others.  I printed the words out in very large print double spaced to help me with this.  In all the times I’ve spoken since my TBI, I haven’t lost my place or fumbled on my words. My eye contact isn’t great now because I have to look at my words more but this is the way I now am.   I think my words will help folks reflect on the day plus they are fun to preach.  I’m trying to remember that some people may relate and others may not.  

So this Holy Week, I’m going to try not to be such a protectionist!  I’ll see how this works.