Tag Archives: trust

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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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. 

FaithWaiting

I enjoy making up words. I loved word play with my children. We now have several words only our family knows. Today I made up this one: FaithWaiting.

FaithWaiting is different from regular waiting.

All waiting is pretty excruciating. Waiting for admission to that certain college. Waiting to turn 16. Waiting for the wedding day. Waiting in traffic. Waiting for the biopsy results…or really, almost any results. Waiting to hear if you got that job. All kinds of hospital waiting is agonizing.

In our family we are waiting on a baby to arrive.  Pregnancy is so long! There are so many unknowns. My daughter is now down to the baby-could-come-at-any-time part of pregnancy. She and I are planners and we are having trouble with our plan making because we DO NOT KNOW WHEN THIS WILL HAPPEN. She is going to the doctor weekly now. Last time I asked her if the doctor said when this will happen and she reminded me rather sternly that they do not tell you WHEN.

I am planning to be there when this impossible-to-know thing happens but I live 5 hours away so how do I plan? How do I wait? How do they wait? How does anyone FaithWait verses plain old anxious waiting?

A few tips for FaithWaiting:

Do what you can. In my case that includes keeping gas in my car, suitcase mostly packed, making lots of casseroles to fill my daughter’s freezer when I get there, keeping my phone nearby.

Remember what you know. God is faithful. All will be well. You are not and never were in control. You are in God’s hands. Waiting is a gift, a discipline and an exercise in faith.

Trust. Today’s entry in Jesus Calling reminds us of God’s word to us, Waiting on Me means directing your attention to Me in hopeful anticipation of what I will do. It entails trusting Me with every fiber of your being, instead of trying to figure things out yourself. Waiting on Me is the way I designed you to live: all day, every day. 

Pray. Pray for peace as you wait.

Keep your routines and rituals. Sometimes keeping a schedule is an act of grace that calms us down and reminds us of God’s presence in the daily routine acts of life. Eat, exercise, work, rest, repeat.

I’ve preached and written before about how hard it must have been for the followers of Jesus on that day of waiting between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. How did they bear it? Can you imagine the sorrow, angst, worry, uncertainty and pain they must have felt? The Bible says very little about that Saturday but I believe it is one of the most important times in the whole Bible because it was a whole day of not knowing when all they could do was FaithWait. I imagine time just painfully crawling that day, oozing with despair.

Waiting is what the Christian life is all about. We do not know the plan. We do not know what the future holds. Most of the time we barely know what God wants us to do.

The difference is we wait as those who have hope. That is FaithWaiting at its finest. Psalm 33:20-22 offers this prayer: We wait in hope for the Lord; God is our help and our shield. In God our hearts rejoice, for we trust in God’s holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you. 

Casserole by casserole, I FaithWait.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor, Mimosa to Keller and his soon to arrive baby brother and one who waits with hope.

One Little Word: Hope

On MLK day 2017, I feel nudged to write. The problem is I have so few words today.

I’m finding myself in a season of disappointment around some extended family things; some things in our country and the even Cowboys losing a heart breaker last night. Strangely, everything seems connected/heightened and intensified  by social media. I even found myself this week tweeting a member of congress a word of encouragement. I’ve never done that before but it seemed like the right thing to do.

So in these days of confusion, anxiety and disappointment what is the good word?

I found it today delivered to me, once again in a devotional: Psalm 33:22, which reminded me that hope comes from God. Hope doesn’t come from tweets or any one leader. It doesn’t come from what my relatives are doing with their lives. Hope doesn’t come from what I can control or do or say. It comes from God.

When I find myself disappointed, it is usually because I misplaced hope. I put my trust in the wrong place, the wrong people, the wrong outcome.

MLK himself also delivered me a word today, “We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.”

There will always be finite disappointment as long as there are people around I suppose.. Today, for me, there are also deep breaths and a little reminder that changes everything: to trust just in God, our infinite hope.

MLK, thank you for your vision, your leadership and courage….and this Word.    .

Broken Courage

I was shopping at a cute store in a small town during one of my recent travels. The bracelets I was looking at were unique, a piece of curved  pottery with a word on each. If you purchased a bracelet, a portion of your purchase would go toward helping someone in need. I like that kind of thinking so I was checking them out. Something happened though and a bracelet fell on the floor and broke. I was horrified so I told the young woman I would pay for it.

When she rang up my purchases I told her, “I better see what word I broke.” It was courage. I broke courage.

As I finished my drive home, I thought about the broken courage. It’s actually the only courage I’ve known. I went to seminary at a time when not all that many women had been pastors. Only one of the  four churches I  served had ever had a female pastor before me. It took courage to break ground like that but I did it, one relationship at a time, sermon by sermon, wedding by wedding, funeral by funeral.

I’ve been a hospital chaplain along the way.  I’ve walked into some awful situations to try to represent God to people. I’ve seen some things you would never want to see. I guess it took courage. I just did it one pager call at a time.

My hospice work was the same.  I didn’t know how to help people die well before I just started entering into the lives of terminal patients, one by one. I just tried to trust God and listen to people and it worked.

Being a wife and a mom of three and a grandmother now takes courage.  It takes courage just to love people but also to let them grow, mature, change and disagree with you. It takes courage to realize how much you love them and how incredibly vulnerable you are to whatever happens to them.

Cancer made me call up my courage. Many an appointment or scan, I’ve had to conquer my fear just to show up. Taking a little white pill daily these past five years has stretched my courage because of all the side effects it presents me with.

It has taken courage to endure what’s happening in my home (we are on the third week now of living out of our garage due to a remodel that we orchestrated.)  Americans are having to be quite courageous to make it past November 8, 2016. Do you think we will? I’ve had to try very hard not to either burst into tears or punch people I care about over it.

I’m about to try something totally new that makes me have butterflies in my tummy because I am 100% out of my element. I’m doing it anyway which is the broken and courageous part, I guess.

I’ve pretty much only every had  broken courage  but it works, especially when combined with a dose of faith, prayer and trust.

I’ve got a new treasure I keep in my purse to remind me how it is. It’s a small broken  courage bracelet. And strangely, it is enough.

Leaning

When I was a little girl the church we attended had a children’s church. It was not at all like children’s ministry today with colorful murals, indoor playgrounds, kid-friendly music and cool video based Bible lessons. It was called “Little Church” and it was literally a tiny child-sized sanctuary with little pews, a little pulpit and little hymnals. I remember attending Little Church when my legs were too short to allow my feet to touch the floor. I was too little to find the hymn number before the song was over so I just had to remember the words. I doubt I could even read yet. We sang songs like “Come to the Church in the Wildwood” and “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” We didn’t do the leaning motion during that song in Little Church. We were a little too formal for that. I learned that later at church camp. As we sang, we’d actually lean…as far as we could lean without falling.

All my life I’ve been practicing leaning: leaning on friends and family for help sometimes; leaning into tough challenges; leaning into school and study; leaning into marriage and parenting. I talk a lot about leaning into seasons because it took me so long to figure out how to not fight a season rather to lean into it. I’m not talking about actual seasons of the year but those are fun to embrace too. I’m talking about realizing the season you are in and leaning into it. Maybe it is a season of grief or a season of parenting.  Maybe it is a season of illness or a time of healing. Maybe you are in season of caring for a loved one or a tiny baby. Maybe it is a season of intense work or major projects. Don’t fight it.  Lean into it. Declare to yourself “this is a season of ….” and lean.

I once heard a therapist say “We must lean into that which is difficult.”  That’s a new idea, isn’t it? Instead of running from that which is hard for us, lean into it. Have that tough conversation. Bring up the subject no one talks about. Lean into facing what is hard to face. Do that thing that terrifies you. Lean into it.

This morning, my favorite devotional book, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young had a line that jumped out at me. “Go gently through this day, leaning on Me and enjoying My presence.”  I guess we had it right way back at Little Church, our little voices singing about leaning.

 

Five Years

Five years ago today I found a lump in my breast. I was 49 years old and completely unprepared for the journey that would follow. For some reason, I never dreamed that cancer could happen to me at that point in my life.

In some ways I had it easy, only a lumpectomy, only one lymph node removed. It had not spread anywhere. No chemo, only radiation after the surgery and then a daily pill, Tamoxifen, since then. Mammograms, blood work and oncologist visits every six months. Some people go through so much more. I had it easy.

On the other hand, it completely rocked my world, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I realized early on that I would be fighting an emotional and spiritual battle along with the physical one. I had to deal with fear and facing my limitations. I had to call on God’s help. I had to depend on others.

I still deal with the side effects of the medication (weight gain, fatigue, joint pain, hot flashes, foot pain)  and I will not be getting it off of it anytime soon. My doctor says to count on several more years. I try not to glare at her when she tells me this because I know she’s on my team.

Despite my continuing treatment, five years is still a milestone for me and for cancer patients in general. It’s not a magic number but it is a marker that doctors use to breathe a sigh of relief. I wondered this morning if I’m allowed to count my five years from the day the journey started or maybe you are supposed to start counting it after surgery was over or radiation. Either way, I’m close.

I’ve heard some people say they are grateful for their cancer. I’m not there. But I am grateful for other things. I’m grateful that it helped me have a crystal clear perspective that life is short, fragile and that we only have right now. I’m grateful that I learned that I’m not invincible and that I need to take care of myself. I savor and celebrate more now.

In the last five years, our son graduated from college and got a big boy job. Our daughter got married, received her masters degree and gave birth to a beautiful boy. Our youngest son went from being a sweet 13-year-old boy to an amazing 18-year-old man. We’ve had holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, vacations and ordinary daily struggles. I count it all as gift.

My daughter has told me all along that she and I should get some kind of matching tattoos to commemorate the breast cancer battle and the victory. I told her I already have tattoos.  I have two scars and a whole set of black dot tattoos that marked me for radiation. I have a tumor marker implanted in my breast at the site of the lump. I am marked. I will not be forgetting this journey. No further tattoos needed here!

The devotional book, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young sustained me daily these last five years. The entry for today, August 20, the beginning of my journey, has taken my breath away every single time I’ve read it because it is so spot on. “I am a God who heals. I heal broken bodies, broken minds, broken hearts, broken lives and broken relationships. My very Presence has immense healing powers….Your part is to trust Me fully and to thank Me for the restoration that has begun.”

Five years. Healing. New Life. Gratitude. Perspective. Trust. Thanks be to God!.