Of Tea & Prayer

Since I stopped drinking alcohol – my husband was struggling with overconsumption, so it’s no longer in our lives – I find myself craving something more than just water when I’m relaxing in the evenings. With watching my weight now, as I’ve gained 12 pounds in the month of December alone, I’ve decided to go back to an old friend: tea.

As with everything else in my world, life is in a time crunch. Working 2 jobs, managing a household, trying to find time to exercise – so much of my day is about maximizing my time. With this in mind, I put my tea water in the microwave for 2 minutes.

The tea tasted like dishwater. Flavorless, flat, and just plain bleh.

I couldn’t even finish the cup, even with a little local honey in it. Tea has the best flavor when the water is at a high temperature; the microwave heats the water unevenly. All the while, my tea kettle sat alone on the stove. It takes too long to heat up the water when it’s just a cup for me. But after my microwave debacle, I decided to go back to the tea kettle.

For a single cup of tea, it takes 6 minutes and 45 seconds for it to sing (I have to keep it on medium heat or else it will melt onto my ceramic top stove). It’s nearly 3x as long as the microwave. The water from the kettle is not only pipping hot, but brings out the flavor in the tea as it’s suppose to be tasted. Even though it is faster in the microwave, it’s not effective and the end result is less than stellar.

This same analogy can be applied to my prayer life: as a contemplative, spending time silent before God in prayer takes time. It’s not that quick popcorn prayer at the end of a Bible study or a cry for help when something goes wrong at work. Like the tea kettle, the prayer is the real deal; time consuming, but completely worth it.

I found myself drifting back into microwave prayer time. There are a few people in my life who are in desperate need of prayer – which I do pray for – but in recent months I have not sought the deep quietness that comes to me during contemplative prayer. I’m starting to miss it. The microwaved prayers are not cutting it anymore for me.

January has always been a quiet month in my life: the Christmas rush is over, and growing up, there was snow on the ground while nature sleeps. I need to carve out time in the coming weeks to spend some real quality time basking in the Lord. I need to dig deeper into the emotional part of my soul I’m so good at silencing. Using the Examine App is suppose to help, but I never feel motivated.

So here’s to 2018, a year filled with quality tea and quality time with the Lord.

December: Be Tuned to the Holy Spirit

I’m ending 2017 on a note to tap into my intuition – which sometimes gets caught up in the web of anxiety in my brain and I don’t always know which is what.

We so often pray for the voice of the Lord to guide us in our lives. But how often do we listen? I will admit I sometimes feel an inkling, a gentle push from the Holy Spirit and I ignore it because I’m too busy doing other things. Or it’s horribly inconvenient. Or I decide in the moment that it wouldn’t work, wouldn’t be wanted, wouldn’t be appreciated. With the Christmas season in full swing, I thought this was the best way to focus my energy.

What will this look like? I hope to obey the small, sometimes inconsequential voice in my head, urging me to go in a certain direction. I pray my eyes will be open to someone needing help, that I will offer what I can, regardless of the outcome.

I want to leave room to let the Lord lead this month.

November in Review

I did not do as well as I set out to this month. I had every intention of journaling through my Examine App – which I did – twice. With my husband’s crazy work schedule, my mornings and evenings are cut short. I know it’s an excuse that I’m blaming current life rhythms for my lack of self reflection with emotions before the Lord, but that’s what happened.

I did have one rather interesting breakthrough that I did not see coming.

In arguments or when my husband randomly turns into an ornery 12 year old, my default setting is to stand down, shut down, and wait until emotions and situations return to normal before addressing them – if they are addressed at all.

This month, I decided to try a different tactic. It’s not often I fight back or call someone out in the moment. So I did. When my husband got into one of his moods, I spoke in my deeper-toned business voice – the one I used to use backstage to rally the troops – and called his bluff. Oh, I’m out of line? Enlighten me. It was not an emotional, but a logical response. And it worked. The situation defused and I didn’t have to run for cover.

I have to remind myself to be confident and take control of the situation. It’s not a habit yet, but I hope to make it one in 2018.

It’s an interesting end of a month dedicated to embracing emotions. I hope I can maintain the confidence level.

Birthdays of 2018

November has officially arrived in my world and brought the chilly air with it. A mere few days ago, I was sweating on my lunch walk, basking in the warm sunlight, thankful for the last sweet days of summer. It’s a reminder that winter is near and a new year will begin soon.

I spent 2017 being introspective with my project of picking a theme each month to focus on, and with the roller coaster ride that was my year, it gave me an anchor for my restless soul. By keeping my focus on the Lord, I was insulated by the current and sparks 2017 created: I am still standing.

With 2018 not far away, I wanted to do something else as a year long project, but with less focus on myself. I wanted to take the lessons, trials, and encouragement from this crazy year and apply it to others. I also wanted to focus more on my writing to benefit others. How could I accomplish that?

The idea had been rolling around in my head for awhile, but in 2018, I am going to put pen to paper and make it happen. I will send a birthday card, snail mail, to those in my world. The card will be a blank cardstock with a personalized message to the receiver. Store bought birthday cards are super expensive, blandly impersonal, and are usually thrown away. I hate those. The ones I buy are from Hobby Lobby, 48 for $10, which comes out to 21¢ a card. In some cases, I also plan to send a postcard – another perk of living at the beach. If it’s thrown away, so be it. If it’s kept, I hope it will bring a smile, a comfort, and a tangible reminder that someone was thinking of them on their special day.

I have this knack for remembering dates, I love writing, and this may be a great way to reach out to others. It also keeps me on a deadline.

I’m excited to do this, and if all goes well, I may make this an every year thing.

November: Embrace Emotions

I saved the hardest towards the end. I thought maybe the focuses of the previous months would be a good foundation with this one. It is time to test that theory.

I am going to embrace emotions in November.

Back when I was in counseling, my therapist made the observation that my “emotional crayon box” only held about 8 colors, like those small cheap boxes from the dollar store. With my age and experience, my box should closely reflect the big 64 color crayon box with the sharpener in the back. Instead of just green, I should also have jade, mint, emerald, and chartreuse. To help, she gave me this list of emotional responses:

scannd

When talking about things, I referenced the sheet to better gage my experience. For a writer, it was a great tool. For me personally, as an introvert who struggles with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and a non-confrontation mindset (I’m an INFJ, Ennegram 9), it was a bit daunting. It’s time to start looking at this sheet again as I go through November.

My husband has seen me cry about 4 times in the 10+ years we’ve been together, and all those times involved heavy situations of infertility, a family emergency, and one major fight. There’s no one, except when I’m alone in the presence of Jesus, with whom I feel I can cry. And even that is stunted. I hate crying as much as I hate throwing up: I will hold it in until my body overrides my brain. I’m so good at not crying that it’s nearly automatic suppression.

I’m pretty even as my character goes. I’ve never been in a screaming match. I’m really good about letting people – like my husband – gad about on things that upset me. I like the situation to pass and then bring it up when I have had time to process it and have ample evidence to prove my point.

I know that cannot bode well for my emotional health, but like the morbidly obese person who constantly eats fast food and doesn’t exercise, I too am in my own little prison of my own doing.

Things, for the moment, are good with my husband and I. As always, I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

How will I embrace this? No freaking clue. Outside of going back to counseling, which is not in the plan – mine nor insurance, I’m hoping the Lord moves me into this awkward embrace that I strive to keep at arm’s length.

My only plan is to end each day with the Examine app. I take stock of my day, describing the physical, emotional, and metaphysical parts – and how God fits into that narrative. The last part is writing a prayer to the Lord based on all this information.

If nothing else, simply paying attention to my emotional health should make an improvement.

October: Give of Time & Talents

In the few free moments I have, I started watching Highway to Heaven on Netflix. It’s the story of an angel and a human in the mid 1980’s who go to various places God sends them to right the wrongs and bring comfort to those suffering. This inspired me to spend October by giving of time and talents.

As an introvert, I am perfectly content to stay home and be alone in my own little world. Life as a Christ follower calls us to be in community with those around us, helping wherever and however we can.

Goals for this month include showing up to my small group, participating in our church’s monthly mission outing, and other yet unknown projects the Lord leads me to serve Him and others.

August in Review

My goal in August was to exercise everyday and get back to being physically healthy.
Because of life, I was unable to exercise everyday. One weekend I needed a break from the rat race of life. Another weekend was in the midst of a 14 day stretch of work with a double shift in the middle of it. My body revolted after that with waves of sheer exhaustion that forced me into bed at 5pm on Day #8. For the first time, I’m realizing I’m not 23 anymore. It’s rather sobering at 35.

I did manage to get to the yoga studio and I felt like a new person after that workout, with my unlocked hip flexors. I made a point to run more through the neighborhood for cardio: I made it a priority instead of an option. I’m still slow and lumbering; sometimes I walk more than I run. I can’t seem to get in the groove with my playlist. I think it is just where I am in life.

I’m also realizing that despite cooking at home, we eat a lot of meat. I need to find some more vegetarian recipes to add to my repertoire. More fruits, veggies, and grains I’m sure would make a world of difference as well.

August made me focus on my physical health, and while it wasn’t perfect, it was needed in my world.

Michigan Musings: Port Austin

The morning ride to Port Austin always started before dawn in the western suburbs of Detroit when I was a kid.

My younger sister and I would pile into the car with my dad; my mom would drive up at a more respectable time with my grandparents. I was always enchanted by the sunrise. This time of day was foreign to me and it only added to the adventure. We’d barrel through the city’s interstates before taking the exit for M53, or as my ancestors called it, Van Dyke; this artery would take us to our final destination. As the road retreated back into suburban Detroit, the further we drove, the more country it became. The next thing I know, I’m surrounded by fields, microscopic one stop light towns, and signs reminding us to share the road with Amish buggies.

2 hours later, we’d come upon the largest city in the thumb – Bad Axe. Van Dyke turns here, so you have to follow the signs, otherwise you’ll be lost among an endless cornfield heading in the wrong direction, as we did one year. We’d stop here for food, now that our bodies were fully awake, as was the sun. As one who hated breakfast food, my dad managed to get me hooked on McDonald’s breakfast burritos on one of these trips.

A half hour and more fields later, we’d arrive at our destination: Port Austin, Michigan. Population: 800. Van Dyke ended at a T stop for the simple fact that Lake Huron and the city marina were directly across from this main intersection. You could see the lighthouse, which warned ships of the shallow waters since the 1800’s. We always turned left.  My heartbeat would quicken the moment I saw the lake.

I rolled into this town for the first time in summer of 1989. I had never seen the ocean, but to me, this was the ocean. This was amazing. I belonged here.

July in Review

July highlighted my brown thumb tendencies, as well as the noxious weeds that seemed to pop up in my marriage.

Plant wise, I did well. I kept my ajuga transplants watered and so far they’re still green. I transplanted an upset, poorly placed gardinia, but it hasn’t quite decided to live or die yet. Nonetheless it has been given ample amounts of water and soil.

Having a smaller house with less to manage has improved life in other areas, namely the garden. I’m more inclined to walk outside to check on things than my old house. There was so much surface area to clean, walk through, and maintain. My next feat is to get the yard landscaped. But first, gutters!

As for the marriage bit, things got better as the month progressed. At first, even after a good day, we were arguing. Sometimes I think he just likes to pick fights. His love language is words of affirmation, perhaps more acutely so, which probably exacerbated an already flammable situation. Every time I think the worst is over, we hit another rough patch. It’s almost like clockwork. I really hope we have turned a corner; I think the vacation helped. We never used to be so ugly to each other. I must learn to respond by standing up for myself and not defaulting to complacency when he’s in my face telling me to go….well….you can fill in the blank.

As with growing plants and marriage, time tells all.

And fertilize/mulch as required.

My Writing Routine

As a writer, unless I have a pressing deadline or project – or become spontaneously inspired – I don't have much of a routine. I know. I'm working on changing that.

I read this book that revolutionized my writing approach. Free writing and pomodoro timing was a brand new concept to me that I quickly worked into my writing habits. Free writing made the first chapter of my book possible, as I had all these stories and research to sort through – I was able to organize and write simultaneously.

Pomodoro time was essential to my technical writing course with all the reading and essays to write. It gave me a sharper focus, running against the clock knowing I could take a break soon. Without these skills, I would be struggling.

My sitting room is where my iMac lives and all of my writing takes place there. It's decorated in minimalistic Ikea furniture and stays uncluttered. The walls are cyan, my favorite color, and it has a calming effect on me. Pictures of my ancestors are everywhere you look.

For blogs, I write in a WordPress window. My book, and other large projects such as proposals, are conceived in the best word processing program of all time, Scrivener. While I feel that I have barely scratched the surface of all its bells and whistles, it continues to amaze me at what can do. The composition mode is my favorite: a beautiful background of a field in Germany with my writing overlayed on a page – nothing else to distract from the words at hand. It gives such clarity and focus. I'm not sure what I would do without it.

As for the routine, I simply need to write more and on a regular basis, not allowing weeks to slip by with no words on a page. My new job has helped to give me space to explore this, luckily, as time is at a premium in this season of life.