Your Plate

You are about to fill your plate at the party or potluck dinner. You tell yourself, like you always do, that you will not over do it. Little by little, with only a bit of this and that, it happens. The empty plate you started with is soon over-filled with small amounts of good things. If you really didn’t plan ahead you may require a whole other plate for salad and dessert. Worst case scenario, it is a paper plate that does not stand up to all your good choices.

We are entering the back to school and fall season of lots of good choices. Summer is winding down and families and individuals are gearing up for the fun and activity of fall. What’s on your plate?

I’m in a season of too much right now. I did it to myself. I said yes to some great things a long time ago and they are now all on my plate at once. That happens sometimes. What do you do when it does?

Here are some coping mechanisms in a season of too much. I’m implementing these myself right now. I’m sharing just in case you also are walking through life with a too full plate.

  1. Remember it is okay to subtract something. Just scrape it right off the plate. You do not have to explain why to anyone. I’m unable to do that will work just fine. Our family once just said no to all select baseball, for example. We just scraped it away and guess what? We have all been just fine without it. One time my middle child asked if he could join a very good organization. I said, No, you can’t. He later thanked me for that.
  2. Your plate has to have white space. White space is margin; space between activities; unscheduled time for breathing, resting, regrouping. You need white space every day.
  3. When evaluating the fullness of your plate, count everything. You need sleep on your plate. You need meal time. You need exercise time. You need time to do the basics like laundry and taking out the trash. The most dangerous time for mental health begins when people start sacrificing these basic tasks in order to get other things done. If your home is filled with trash you don’t have time to take out, you are in trouble. If you don’t have time to wash your hair, body or clothes, you are in trouble.
  4. You also need to count those things you wish weren’t on your plate like grief, chronic problems or new challenges you are facing. These all take time and emotional energy too. You have to be able to be honest with yourself and admit you are in a season of dealing with extra items on your plate before you ever arrived at the potluck.
  5. If your plate is full, turn down some other noise. In my seasons of stress, I end up with a loud tv on or too many podcasts in my ear, when what I need is some silence or soothing faith music instead while I’m carrying around the full plate.
  6. Lean on your spiritual resources. Martin Luther once famously said, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer. I think he is maybe overdoing it on the time allotted there, but I now understand the point. When I have a full day, I get up earlier to pray, journal and read scripture. I do not skip it. We’ve been commanded to honor a weekly sabbath, to see our bodies as God’s temple and to guard the gift of life that we’ve been given. I wonder why we ignore all that and instead worship our busyness? I have had to learn to stop leaning on my own understanding and my own capabilities and instead depend on God for prioritizing and giving me the energy for all the good things in my life. My inability to manage my plate has kept me dependent on God and I am grateful for that.
  7. Practice gratitude. When juggling too much, it is hard to be grateful. With less, it seems easier. Simplify in order to enhance your gratitude. Create white space and quiet so you can see what you have and hear God’s whispers of guidance.

Personally, as families and even as spiritual beings our life depends on good plate management skills. It is a balancing act for sure. What’s on your plate?

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace and breast cancer survivor. 

Advertisements

The Pleasant Surprise

One of the best parts of life and sometimes one of the hardest parts is that we never know what will happen next. You can try to predict the future. You can try to control it. You can worry full-time about it. But, truthfully and probably blissfully we do not know what will happen next.

One of the fun things about being alive awhile is that you begin to see things come full circle. You get to witness how stories end or what the next chapters are. You can see your life as having a narrative arc with themes and twists and ironies woven in.

As a child and teen I was painfully shy. I never spoke to adults if I could avoid it. I melted if someone called on me in class. This lasted all the way through seminary. Imagine my surprise that I would become a preacher. Even when I first perceived God calling me into ministry I quietly said, “Okay but I’m never going to say anything out loud or in public.” Surprise! If God smirks, I bet God was smirking.

I love seeing the surprises of life. I’m the one laughing now as the first teens I had in my youth group are parents of teens. I truly didn’t see that coming. The ones that gave me the most trouble are leading youth Bible studies now. I also did not predict that one.

One of my favorite Bible stories is recorded in Acts Chapter 3. Peter and John, disciples of Jesus, are going to the temple for a prayer meeting. There is a man there begging at the gates. He has been crippled from birth. Peter and John heal him and he starts walking, then dancing and praising God. Everyone who sees it is freaked out. Peter can’t help himself, he starts preaching with this opening line, “Why are you all surprised? This is God at work, right before your eyes.”

I love the pleasant surprise. I love picturing a smiling, even funny and ironic God at work in big things, like healings and transformations and the littlest things too.

God always surprises me with sunrises and sunsets and their glory and timing.

I believe God places signs and surprises in all our lives if we are awake, aware and in touch with spiritual possibilities.

I have a controversial grandma name, Mimosa. It was chosen for me before I had grandsons and I have embraced it because of its sparkling festive uniqueness. It seems people older than me hate the grandma name Mimosa and they always tell me. They’ve been telling me my grandson would never be able to say it. They have been right about that. We’ve been coaching him now for two years to say any version of Mimosa, like Mo or MoMo or Mosa. He has refused. However, just this week he started calling me something. It has been one of those delightful funny life surprises. He calls me Mocha. Mocha. No one saw that coming. How, I wondered, did he go ahead and pick a different tasty drink to call me? It makes me smile whenever I hear it or think about it, such a pleasant funny surprise. A gift. The name will evolve more, of course. We do not know yet what it will be. Today though, I’m Mocha.

I like pleasant surprises so much I try to give them to others as well as a way of sharing God’s surprising grace-filled nature. Our college age son is supposed to mow our yard each week to earn back to school money. Sometimes my husband and I will do the yard for him. I pay him anyway. My husband thinks that is outrageous. I think it is instead the gift of a pleasant surprise.

I wonder what would happen if we watched our lives for pleasant surprises, endings and chapters we didn’t see coming as well as other twists and turns and gifts? What would happen if we started being the authors of pleasant surprises for others?

Healings, miracles and grace gifts happen every day. Sometimes they are laced with humor and fun. Sometimes we are overwhelmed and just call it a coincidence. Still, Peter’s words echo through the years, “Why are you surprised? This is God we are talking about.”

Dr. Cindy is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa/Mocha to Pace and Keller, breast cancer survivor and transformed shy person.     

The Golden Thread

In ministry and life I’ve seen a some hard things. Some have been difficult things for me personally so many others have been the excruciating things other people have had to endure.

I could name them all from work to relationships to financial troubles to church woes, or our mental and physical health issues, but you know what I’m talking about. You’ve experienced the same or watched others do it.

Loss and illness happen to everyone but it is so much harder when death and sickness come calling personally on your family and friends.

I’m wading through something now with someone that has been unfolding for over a decade. It is a thing that is not only tough but it is filled with all kinds of messy emotions, overflow and backwash. I’m sure you have something similar. It will never go away. It is a chronic painful messy situation. It hurts.

Once again, the words of Sarah Young surprised and comforted me this week. In Jesus Always she writes these words as if Jesus was speaking, Ask Me to take this dark, ugly thing and transform it into something lovely. I can weave bright, gold strands of Glory into the most heart-wrenching situation.

When I read this, I physically took an extra breath. It hit me suddenly that I needed to look for bright gold strands of Glory in the tough places in life.

I even wrote down a few dark situations I have been through and started identifying the golden threads. Sometimes it is easier to see the thread shine after the fact than it is when we are slogging through something.

Consistently, faithfully the gold thread was there. Moments of comfort. Rock bottom times with new life on the other side. Grief, unbearably smothering that found a way to keep breathing. Joy, laughter, grace, in spite of troubles and worries. Lessons learned. Lives changed.

Everyone is going through something. Take a moment today and find a shiny bit of golden thread glinting in God’s Light, and give thanks.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor.  

  

 

School Goals

I am the little girl climbing the pole. I was in kindergarten. I remember that pole being a whole lot taller. Also, this was the peak of my athletic career. Who knew I would bloom athletically so early?

I look at that little girl and see her face filled with fear, pride and determination all at the same time. I was trying to reach a goal for the first time I guess. I wouldn’t have been climbing that pole except that it was a school thing. School inspired me to do all kinds of things I would not have done on my own…from climbing that pole to receiving a doctorate degree lots of years later from TCU.

When I close my eyes, I can still remember starting school and my mom and I buying my school supplies. If I breathe deeply I can smell manila paper and freshly sharpened pencils. I remember the joy of a new bottle of glue and a fresh box of crayons. I was the one with the green handled left-handed scissors which never helped me cut anything. I always had something new to wear on the first day of school and felt ready to learn.

I didn’t know it then, but I was a lucky little girl. Not everyone gets to begin school so prepared. Some students show up with no supplies on the first day of school.

For the last seven years in the Grapevine Colleyville ISD, our entire community has come together to insure that all students have a chance to start the school year prepared. With one in four students here falling in the Economically Disadvantaged category, our numbers have forced us to think big and to utilize all resources in order for all students to be ready to learn.

I wish you could see the faces of the students when they arrive at our GCISD Connect Back to School Fair. Their smiles are broad as they see their teachers, principals, counselors and school administrators greeting them. None of the school staff gets paid to be at this Saturday morning fair. Then, there are hundreds of community volunteers from service organizations, businesses, faith groups, fire and police departments providing resources and one-on-one guidance as the children and the families walk through the fair.

The parents, who seem worried and overwhelmed at first, begin to relax as they experience the warm greetings and see their children’s faces light up. The first stop is the backpack table where everyone picks a new backpack to fill. GRACE http://www.gracegrapevine.org brings packs of clothes for every size of child. Those in need of clothing receive school clothes right there. Families wind through the vendors receiving snacks, information and resources. They sign up for school transportation and have eye screenings.  The last stop is the school supply table where the Grapevine Chamber Women’s Division http://www.grapevinechamber.org members hand each child a full grade appropriate pack of supplies. Joy, relief and pride in learning seem to be the words of the day.

It takes all of us to make such a big miracle happen every year. This year 1400 students are pre-registered to attend. We need you too. If you can volunteer the morning of the fair Saturday August 11 from 8:30-noon at Grapevine High School, sign up here: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f0b4eaeac23a5f49-7thannual. We will train you the morning of the fair to be comfortable in your role. You can donate new backpacks for all ages until August 9 by dropping them off at GCISD Central Office at 3051 Ira E. Woods Avenue, Grapevine, TX 76051, Monday-Thursdays. You can donate money at Grapevine Colleyville Education Foundation, PO Box 292, Grapevine TX 76099 (mark your donation Connect) or donate at Grapevine-Colleyville Education at Facebook.com.

I always started school ready. A quality education made a huge difference in my life. I’m so grateful our community wants that same gift for all children.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor and pole climber.    

Soften Something

I learn something every time I practice yoga. All of it applies to life. I’ve said before if I could only figure out how to take notes while doing yoga, I would have it made. Because my hands are usually trying to hold me up, I’m left to apply only what I remember.

Over and over our teacher instructs us to soften. Maybe we are bending over, bent in half and she will say “soften.” She means stop trying so hard, stop being so tense. She means relax, allow the stretch to unfold, allow your body to release.

Sometimes she tells us to soften our face or our shoulders. Sometimes it is a tinier body part, “soften your mouth, your eyes, your forehead.”

I’m always amazed that no matter how relaxed I believe I am, there’s always more softening I can allow. Always.

Now I’m learning to apply softening to the rest of my life. These days politics cause me to do the opposite of soften. Recently someone asked my opinion on something political and I actually said, “If we talk about that I know I will scream loudly or cry hysterically so let’s not.” This is not an example of one who is softening.

With some people, I’ve had to actually say to myself, “Cindy, soften.” Stop being so angry, judgmental, tense and guarded. Soften, forgive, give grace.

With certain situations, I’ve had to do the same, let go, relax, soften, trust God.

Do you have any of those life situations that you can’t control but they seem to be making you rigid, tense, harsh? Practice the art of softening.

Dr. Will Cole is a physician I follow on Instagram. He posts often about all kinds of health and wellness. Recently he shared this, Stick with the people who pull the magic out of you and not the madness. I took a screenshot of this great quote. My life is filled with both kinds of people. I treasure the ones who pull magic out of me. With the others, I’m going to practice the art of softening. I’m going to be kinder, gentler and less guarded.

Truth comes in many forms…yoga, Instagram and even in scripture. The Bible has been talking about softening all along. We are cautioned against having a hardened heart. One of my favorite verses is Ezekiel 36:26, And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. God specializes in helping us have softened hearts.

Politics? People? Difficult situations? Body parts? Soften something. It will feel like grace.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor and yoga enthusiast. 

Gaze or Glance?

Problems are part of life. We have them in our families, jobs, country and world. We have health problems-mental, physical and spiritual. We have neighborhood problems and church problems. The problem list is long.

I have a tendency to glare at the problems that come my way, usually angry, frustrated and dismayed that they are happening. I over analyze them. I then bring my best resources to the eliminating of those problems. I’m a good fixer.

Just this morning as I walked, I mulled over the Problems of the day. I played out different scenarios and solutions. I pictured myself addressing and repairing what seems broken. All this a familiar and comfortable pattern for me. I was in my element.

The only difficulty in what happened today was that I had just read a devotional from Jesus Calling Evening by Sarah Young. Yes, I read the evening entry in the morning. I’m a 100% morning person.

Sarah Young’s writing always cuts to the core of my very real issues of the day, surprising and sometimes convicting me. Today’s words: Gaze at Me; Glance at problems-this is the secret of victorious living. I have called you to live supernaturally, and I have empowered you to do so. Ask My Spirit to help you fix your gaze on Me. p. 395  And this, 1 Corinthians 4:18 We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.

As I walked, I kept thinking about the Problems. And then I refocused. I kept having to repeat the mantra and asking myself, “Are you going to gaze or glance? What are you going to focus on?”

I found myself complaining internally because this gazing verses glancing directive was hard. Then, I realized that’s why it requires God’s supernatural assistance.

Gaze at God? Glance at Problems? or will you Gaze at Problems? Just Glance at God?

Problems are a part of life. Where we focus is the secret to everything.

My prayer today: God, I need your help. I cannot, on my own, keep my eyes off my problems and on you. Help me to refocus so my gaze is on you. Amen    

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor and part-time problem solver.

.   

 

A Voice, Crying Out

People ask me sometimes how I write. Where do your ideas come from? Is it hard? Does it take a long time?

Every day, when I journal, read scripture and devotional materials, ideas usually flow freely. I jot in the back of my journal different blog ideas. Ideas also come to me when I walk each day. Or, I might set out on a walk with a tiny idea and along the way it blossoms. I consider this to be divine inspiration. Then, when I sit down to write out a fully blossomed idea, often it morphs into something quite different which always surprises me, pleasantly.

I try to just yield to the whole strange, uncomfortable process. I’m always paying attention to current events and news items that touch me and others.

Sometimes, I hit an empty patch where no ideas come.  I just let that be and pause, sometime skipping a weekly blog entry. Sometimes I just need to let something simmer and not try to express it.

This week something unusual happened. Words usually come very freely to me when I sit down to write. I wrote a bit and then got very stuck. I left it. It stayed stuck. I prayed…still stuck. I walked…stuck.

So today, I’m sharing with you something very sputtering and partially formed. I think the problem is I cannot find my voice. I cannot put into words all I feel.

Politics aside, really, here goes:

Years ago, we had the privilege of flying on airline passes due to a relative working for the airlines. We took a short vacation within the state with our almost three-year old daughter. She had to have a real ticket, so she boarded with some friends who also had tickets but were flying on to another state. We were to get on the plane closer to departure time. Something happened having to do with the airline’s commitment to a ‘very on time departure’. While we waited, boarding passes in hand, the doors suddenly shut and the plane took off, with our two and half-year old on board, without us.

I had not anticipated in any way that this would happen. I cannot tell you the terror I felt. I had not explained to her this possibility. All she knew was we were not with her. I had no control over this, none. She was going to land in Dallas. Our friends had a connecting flight. I was shaking, crying, pleading with the airline personnel. Nothing helped.

This scenario worked out. I had parents in the area who left their jobs, rescued our daughter, fed her SpaghettiOs, let her swim and take a nap until we got there.

It was my only taste of my child being torn from me. I’m marked by it still.

Can you even imagine your child torn from you?

This is happening right now, in our country while we accuse each other of lying; while we try to justify who broke what law and who can fix it. People are citing scripture as to why this is good, proper and business as usual. Christians I know are on social media essentially asking what is the big deal, aren’t criminals deprived of their children all the time?

Breast fed babies are being pulled from their moms and their only known source of sustenance. Children are plaintively crying “momma, papa” while we debate whether these children are being incarcerated in prisons, interment camps, cages or simple fenced in enclosures. I’ve heard people say, don’t worry, the children are being fed and shown videos. Now we are being told there are whole facilities for babies. Really?

Statements are being issued by so many while so many others are strangely quiet. All living first ladies (where are their husbands?) and whole Christian denominations are making statements. Corporations are vowing to be a part of constructive change. And yet, this continues.

What is wrong with us?

I have scripture to share too. These two keep ringing in my head. God saying though the prophet Isaiah, Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the child of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Isaiah 49:15 God’s deeply entrenched love and connection to us being likened to a nursing mom’s physical, emotional and spiritual attachment to her nursing child.

And this, A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more. Matthew 3:18, quoting the prophet Jeremiah.

I’ve used this scripture at the funerals of children just to put it out there that there are some losses that nothing can help. Children being ripped from their parents is one of them. There is no consolation for that. There is no law, no wall, no political stance, no reparation or making it right.

My words do not flow today. I can’t find my voice. My mom’s heart, my pastor’s heart, my American heart is breaking. What is wrong with us, collectively, politically, spiritually?

There is no consolation for this.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and nursing baby Pace. She is a breast cancer survivor.