Tag Archives: rest

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. 

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RR

I married an RR. Our boys have those initials too. When we talk about our someday in the future, we like to dream about a place with some land that has an RR on the gate.

R & R is also a military term meaning Relaxation and Recuperation. It is often assigned to soldiers, especially after they’ve been through something rough. I believe it is often mandatory.

The 10 Commandments lists R&R right up there as a “Thou Shalt” which is just as important as say, not killing someone. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Exodus 20:8-11. Interestingly this commandment uses more ink than any other with several verses describing to us what this means. It means: take R&R, stop doing everything you do, every week.

Why are we so bad at it?

A friend just went through a pretty big surgery. Afterward she told me her biggest challenge would be to make herself rest. And, I totally understood. I’m the same way. Or, I used to be, finding it challenging to rest.

I used to burn the candle at both ends. I pushed through fatigue. I let over-responsibility and perfectionism run my life.  A therapist told me that everyone, especially clergy, should take 3 hours off for every intense, emotionally charged hour with someone. I remember not even being able to digest her words because it seemed so ludicrous. So many days, every hour was filled with something difficult, intense and emotionally charged. I went through cancer treatment working full-time with that kind of stress and never thought once about it.

Now I’m better at R&R. I understand how important it is. I understand why it is a commandment. We were created to rest. It is not optional. My yoga teacher says the hardest yoga position for many people is shavasana, the corpse pose, where you literally lay on the floor and do nothing. Is it telling about us that doing nothing is harder for us any other yoga pose?

Matthew Walker is Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and Founder and Director of the Center for Human Sleep Science.  Our middle son, a football coach, coaxed me into listening to a podcast about this because “it changed my life.” To summarize what I learned: sleep is everything. We need 8 hours of it nightly. We cannot make it up. It is wonderful for us mentally, physically, spiritually. It is the mechanism by which our bodies reboot each night, clean out toxins, memorize important things and even the way we can enhance just about any performance. Check out Matthew Walker’s book, Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams to read more. Stunningly, the average American is existing on about 6 hours of sleep or less a night. We are walking around fully unrested.

A recent entry in Jesus Calling had Jesus speaking these words: Many of my precious children have fallen prey to burnout. A better description of their condition might be “drainout” Countless interactions with needy people have drained them, without their conscious awareness. You are among these weary ones, who are like wounded soldiers needing R&R. p.139.

Is it hard for you to rest? When neuroscientists, yoga teachers, the military, God and Jesus all agree, I try to listen, because that doesn’t happen very often.

Recently, I was digging through mementos at my parents’ home and found an award  from my younger brother’s kindergarten files. It was a construction paper medal that said Russell: Best Rester.  I love it. Now I have a new life goal.

Dr Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor and is currently competing for the highly coveted Best Rester award.

 

Learning to Linger

In my previous life, I didn’t know how to linger. I remember once getting so angry with my son’s baseball coach because he wouldn’t tell me when baseball practice ended. I had two other kids, one was a baby and a full-time job. He said, Practice ends when it ends. I’d end up waiting in the car with that baby 45 minutes to an hour for the coach to be moved to end practice.

What is wrong with him? I fumed. Does he have any idea what I could get done in 45 minutes to an hour? I’m actually still kind of mad about that. You know how I can tell? The baby is 19 years old and I’m still writing about it. Whatever. The beauty of your own blog? You can vent as long as you need to.

Now, I am better at lingering. Subtracting a few big things certainly helps but it seems in any stage of life that lingering is better. In her book, Soulful Simplicity, Courtney Carver learned some lessons after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It’s amazing how a diagnosis can cause us to do what we should have been doing all along. Courtney radically changed her life. Among other things, she learned to linger.

She writes, You can infuse clarity and softness into your everyday life by reclaiming the lost art of lingering….incorporating vacation moments into your every day life is the better choice. This will take practice, intention, and a commitment to reprioritize, but what happens if you are successful is that you enjoy life more, and as a side effect become more loving, creative and productive.

There’s a mysterious Hebrew word in our Bibles, Selah. You will see it often in the book of Psalms and also in Habakkuk. It is used 74 times. The best anyone can figure out it means stop and listen or maybe even stop and praise God or some believe it is a musical directive, like pause here singers and musicians, take a breath. It may even mean stop and get ready for what is next.

I like it because it seems like we are being instructed to linger. Linger in the moment. Linger in God’s Word. Stop. Breathe.

I used to think it was funny when older people were depicted as sitting on park benches feeding pigeons all day. Except now, I get it.

Just today, on my morning walk, I paused a lot. I sat on a park bench. Selah. I noticed how green everything looked and then how the green was dotted with lots of red. Selah. The red was cardinals. More than I’ve ever seen on my walk. Selah. I found a patch of bluebonnets growing in the sun and let my dog linger there for pictures. Selah.

Selah. Lingering in grace.

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

The Counter Pose

I’ve now been practicing yoga for one year. This new year I even added another class each week. I’m hooked. I pictured that one year out, I would have a really lean, healthy yoga body but as these things go, I still have my same body which can now do yoga.

I’ve mentioned before that one thing I love in addition to the stretching, balancing, core strengthening and deep relaxing are the teachings. Every time I practice yoga,I learn something that applies to life.

I’ve discovered the art of the counter pose.  Yoga is about balance, alignment and focus. Our teacher leads us through a pose and then a counter pose, the opposite of what we’ve just done. Picture bending forward arms down, rounding the back, then leaning back with arms extended, arching the back-that is a counter pose.

I’m learning to honor the counter pose. I spent a majority of my life not doing this. A busy, overfilled day was followed by an equally full night and then another overfilled day and on and on. When vacation time came, I was running on fumes, never really winding down. You know how it goes.

We were created to counter pose. The wisdom literature of scripture reminds us in Ecclesiastes 3, There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens. The text even spells out activities and counter poses, “A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot….” Fourteen different poses and counter poses are listed for us. The writer of Ecclesiastes knew we needed it spelled out I guess.

It seems so simple like pure common sense. Thirst, then quenching thirst. Work, then rest. Winter, then spring. Feasting, then fasting. Lent, then Easter. Pose, counter pose.

We just don’t seem to be that good at honoring the counter pose. We push. We ignore our season. We seldom stop to ask ourselves what do I need for balance? Is it time to stretch the other direction now?

Jesus had the counter pose perfected. He worked, then rested. He took naps. He ate. He drank. He immersed himself in crowds and then intentionally pulled away. He saw people’s pain and heard their cries and then separated from it. In one particularly stressful time, he withdrew only a little bit (a stone’s throw way) to gather his thoughts, counter pose and pray. Luke 22:41-44.

Where are you right now? Which way have you been bending and stretching lately? What counter pose do you need in order to honor your body, your life or your season? There is a time for everything….

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller, a breast cancer survivor and yoga novice. She especially enjoys wearing yoga clothes when not wearing yoga.

Your Battery

A friend asked me this morning if I had quit blogging since I hadn’t written here since before Christmas. That’s the problem with working for yourself, sometimes you forget to work.

The truth is I’ve been focused on finishing the holidays, writing for some upcoming speaking events and getting my nest re-emptied again. It seemed like it took a while to clear all that out and get back on track with healthy living and such.

As 2018 begins, I’ve noticed how obsessed we all are with our phones. Actually I noticed that way before 2018 but now I’m paying attention to how we act about our phone batteries. Have you noticed?

We keep a close watch on our phone battery levels. At my house, we fight over chargers and we make sure every vehicle has one. I’ve noticed airports and other cool places now have charging stations everywhere so we can always plug our phones in on the run.

One of the most reassuring Christmas gifts I got was an inflatable solar phone charger so in case of a power outage, natural disaster or nuclear war, I can use my own breath and the sun to charge my phone and still play Words with Friends and check Twitter to see if the world has ended. Thank you Russell and Albert!

So, at the risk of pointing out something obvious, I would like to invite each of us in 2018 to care as much about our own personal batteries as we do about our phone’s charge.

When was the last time you told yourself, “I’m running low here, need to go plug in, unplug or take it easy?”  When was the last time you checked yourself in such a way multiple times a day?  When was the last time you deleted anything to save your own personal energy or power source?  Anybody out there taking specific personal actions to “clear out some memory” to make room for what is really essential?

I’m headed this weekend to speak at a Women’s Retreat from Friday-Sunday. I already think it is a miracle because a group of busy women managed to clear their weekend in order to re-fill and charge their own batteries.  We’ve already won. I probably don’t even need to say a word.

In a few weeks, I’m speaking at another event which is also by design, a time for women to re-charge. If you live near the Dallas/Fort Worth area, join us:  http://www.fumcg.org/cindyryan.

In the meantime, I’m going to consider that my need to re-fill is just as vital as my phone’s need for a full battery. And, that I need re-charging just as often. My phone and I are pretty much one entity anyway, we might as well fuel up together too.

Emotionally Able

Sometimes there are just seasons of emotional ups and downs. Sometimes you and I just get into times of being stretched, challenged or pushed just a little too far. One unfortunate thing about being in such a season is that the high emotions make it difficult to realize we are in a time like no other and we simply need to be gentle with ourselves.

No one will argue with me that our country is today in a time like no other.  Emotions are beyond high and roller coaster like. I watched a news piece last night where they brought together a group of widely diverse American strangers in a focus group, about 15 of them, to talk about the election and how they are feeling. In minutes, they were yelling and crying and were just sort of beside themselves. Strangely, it made me feel better about my own ups and downs. I kept telling my husband as we watched, “See, look at them.  They are taking this whole thing pretty hard too.”  Thank you, out -of-control focus group, for making me look somewhat normal as we head to whatever happens tomorrow.

We are now on day 29 of work happening in our home. Some things are done so there is light at the end of the tunnel. Other parts are just sadly hilarious. The floors and ceiling work, led to wall and trim work. This led to taking down every set of blinds and all window treatments. The painter suggested gently and tactfully we might want to clean all that window stuff. Cleaning curtains and blinds is not that easy, especially when they disintegrate when doing so. My husband and I are learning all over again that WE ARE TWO VERY DIFFERENT PEOPLE. He is thorough and painstaking in his approach to home projects. For example, he likes to find studs in the walls before hanging things. I am fast-paced and streamlined in my approach to getting things done. We each think our way is best. Our two styles create a bit of emotional clash from time to time.

Last week, I went for my every six month mammogram. When you’ve had breast cancer this is a BIG EMOTIONAL DEAL. Making the appointment is hard. Waiting for it is hard. Going to it is hard. This time when I arrived, I was told I had scheduled the wrong kind of mammogram and would have to leave and reschedule. I said, “No.” As they looked at me, puzzled, my voice got sort of preacher loud for the whole waiting room to hear. I explained the part about mammograms post breast cancer being a BIG DEAL and not without a lot of angst. As all the other waiting women listened, I found myself saying, “I cannot leave and reschedule. I’m just not emotionally able to do that right now.” They worked me in. My mammogram was (whew) all clear.

Here’s what I’m learning in this season. It is okay to admit that we are in a season of high emotion. It’s okay to be election-stressed, home-stressed and mammogram-stressed. It is okay to not be emotionally able to do what others want you to do.

It is okay to say to relatives or others, “I cannot have this conversation right now.” It is okay to trim back your schedule or to do things you know will nurture your soul or level you out. For me that is getting lots of rest, exercising, writing and making banana pudding.

I’m bringing all this up in case it helps you; in case you are in a season too. Feel free to say to whoever is demanding something of you, “I’m just not emotionally able to do that right now.”  Take good care of your self. All will be well.

Stilled

Being still as a spiritual concept always sounded good to me. With all our busyness, most of us are drawn to and crave that one verse Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”  I had that verse on a cute pink magnet hanging on my computer back when I had an office. I used to look longingly at it and wish I could be still.

Three weeks ago yesterday, I fell in a hole taking a picture of a most gorgeous sunset (I still think there’s something sad, strange and ironic about how it happened.) The next day, at the ER, the doctor delivered the news, “fractured ankle, stay off of it until you can see a specialist.” Do you know how incredibly difficult it is to “stay off your foot?” I will not go into the difficulties of those days but all was made worse in that I was 5 hours from home; awaiting the birth of my first grandson where I had planned to be super helpful and mobile.

Back home, the specialist told me I could have a boot, bear weight on my foot and even shower like a normal person so I loved him and cried tears of joy and relief in his office to the point that his assistant had to go find tissues. The sweet baby came 9 days after I fell in the hole. I made it back to Houston in time. I was super functional. I cooked. I did laundry. I changed diapers and outfits and loved on him fully. My boot and I were one.

Home again for my follow-up foot appointment, I was told it was healing well. Then the words coming out of the doctor’s mouth got fuzzier because he was saying things I didn’t want to hear. Him: “This is going to take 9-12 weeks to heal.” “You need to wear the boot anytime you walk.”Me: “12 weeks? That will be autumn when I become boot free!” “I can drive, right?  Him: “No, that would be catastrophic.”

I quit talking but in my mind I was still arguing. Why did he have to use a big scary word like “catastrophic” in relation to my driving?  At home, still in denial, I wondered if I could drive with my left foot. My teenager forbid it, “Mom, you aren’t even a good driver with your right foot. No. Just no.” Suddenly, I have the one wise, sensible teenager on the planet?

Be still. Heal. Rest. I can hear the quiet voice of God whispering. For whatever reason, I’m in this season where I let go of my job to embrace family and then fell in a hole. For whatever reason, I’ve been stilled. When I turned in my church keys, all I had left was a car key. Now, I don’t even have that.

Stilled. Humbled. Downsized. Key-less. Broken. Healing. Grateful. Peaceful.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10  I still really like that verse.