Take the Mulligan – Three Things Thursday

Because I am not a golfer (despite my putt-putt grandstanding) I looked up the word “mulligan” to be sure I was spelling it correctly and not misusing the term.  I discovered on Dictionary.com (Mulligan Definition) that mulligan refers to a stew made up of whatever happens to be lying around as well as the more common – at least in my orbit – do-over term from the world of golf.  The mulligan has a fun backstory if you love etymology like I do, and possibly refers to two different golfers named Mulligan who for different reasons requested to take another shot at the first hole (Mulligan Origin Story).

Apparently, there are some occasions in the PGA official rules that require a mulligan, and one player this year has been penalized for not taking his mulligan shot (Pro Golfer Penalized for NOT Taking a Mulligan).  If you have read my blog for a while and are suddenly worried that I’m turning to sports writing, never fear: the mulligan references are just the perfect illustration for how I’ve been feeling about my writing and my life in general lately.

Photo from Pexels.com

#1 – As both Misters Mulligan could attest, there’s no harm or shame in asking for another shot.

I’ve started and stopped this blog so many times that it will be a minor miracle if anyone comes back to read since I’ve been rambling for such a long time.  I feel like I haven’t had a good grip on what I should be writing, and I haven’t made time to do any real writing for several months.  I feel no lack of guilt and shame about that since the one consistent gift God has given me and put me in a place to use is my writing.

Here’s what I need to remember about that shame: it’s not from God.  It’s a wretched emotion that blocks me from writing and sharing again here on Mabbat, and it does nothing productive in my life.  What is from God?  The guilt of conviction that asks me to start again, to pick up where I left off and turn away from whatever was holding me back from his purposes – that’s from God.  He gives each of us new mercies every morning to start the day fresh with him (Lamentations 3:23).

Every day is a mulligan.  We get new mercies every day.  Whatever you are facing that seems insurmountable, tell it the truth that God is starting every day new with you, and all that old baggage need not ride along for your mulligan today.

Photo from Pexels.com

#2 – As Jesper Parnevik discovered, sometimes you HAVE to take a mulligan.  It’s in the rules.

Do you ever feel like you’re fighting the same battles over and over again?  I do.  I am always making the same to-do list for days on end because I don’t accurately plan for the time each task will take in the real world.  (I am much more efficient in Anne-land without any interruptions or people or…)  I feel like I will always be cycling in and out of depression, and every loop back into it knocks me off track and requires another run at rebuilding good habits (because maybe this time I will be so well established in my routines that depression brain can’t knock me on my duff – it’s a brave thought, at least).  I have been on and off again so many times with diet and exercise that there’s not a diet plan out there I haven’t read about and at least briefly considered.

All that guilt and shame I described about neglecting writing?  It’s equally applicable to my habits, my depression brain, my healthy weight management, and any other aspect of my life that feels like it runs on repeat mode.  And the shame is equally destructive to all those things, too.  But guess what?  New mercies apply here, too.

Not only that, but there are very real obstacles we run into that require us to take a mulligan.  Like depression.  And loss.  Or life changes like job transfers, budget shortfalls, aging, and a million other things we’ll encounter as long as we’re alive on this earth.

We can try to play through, but ignoring the need to take another shot will end up penalizing us somewhere down the road.  Lining up a new shot with fresh perspective doesn’t make you a failure, but failing to restart and floundering where you are could.

Take the mulligan, get a read on the new shot, and get moving.  You only fail if you give up.

Photo from Pexels.com

#3 – We are all a mulligan stew of our lived experiences and the lessons we’ve learned from them.

I could list a lot of things I regret saying or doing.  I imagine we all can.  But I don’t think we should spend much time on the regret.  Everything I’ve lived through has made me who I am today, and if I could go back and change the things I regret, I wouldn’t, because they’re all a part of me now.  Who would I be if I hadn’t learned the lessons those regrets taught me?  Who would I be now without walking through all those years of loss?  It’s taken a long time to get here, to feel this free and this strong.  I’m not going back.

It’s not the regrets that built who I am today, though; it’s what I learned from living through them.  Remembering that I was cruel to someone who didn’t deserve it in middle school still pushes me to encourage and build up others instead of gossiping.  Living through the worst of my depression brain taught me to ask for help when I’m struggling and to offer a lifeline to anyone I can.  I have never been nor will ever be perfect.

I’m a hodgepodge stew of lessons learned, hopes, dreams, failed good intentions, faith in the God of new mercies, and so much coffee.  What makes my particular stew tasty rather than bitter is the salt and light of faith that has given me fresh starts and God’s big-picture perspectives when I’ve needed them.

Here are three things for you to ponder this Thursday:

What kind of mulligan stew are you?

Where do you need to take a mulligan today?

How does the knowledge that God provides new mercies for everyone every day change your opinion of taking a mulligan?

Progress Is Progress – Mindset Monday

Progress is progress. Keep moving and never give up.

Do you ever feel like you’re stuck on a hamster wheel and never really getting anywhere with any of the things you want to accomplish in your life?  Me, neither.  Ha!

I think we all feel like this at some point whether we admit to it publicly or not.  Today’s Mindset Monday comes from my planner on a day when nothing had gone right for at least a week.  At least that’s what I thought until I sat down and reviewed my daily evaluations in my planner.

I felt like I had done nothing to speak of because I had nothing to mark off my goal checklist.  What I saw when I spent some time reviewing what I had accomplished that wasn’t written on my goal work list was not as insignificant as it felt when I was feeling mopey about it.  I had taken care of my household, worked, done some writing, and mostly stuck to my food and exercise plan.  That was plenty!

It may have felt like nothing was happening when I looked at what I had done on my book writing, but I was still making progress there, too.  It just wasn’t the lightening pace I had set for myself when I planned out my goals.

The Little Engine That Could book cover print
This print was a gift from a college professor who always pushed us to try new things because you’ll never grow if you don’t. It’s hung in my home by my desk ever since.

I’ve been taking a new approach to goal setting and achievement for this season of my life.  I’m not setting deadline dates as often.  If there’s no outside reason for a deadline, I’m leaving it open ended rather than pacing it out on a calendar.

Think of goals as a roadmap rather than a timeline.

I’m still going to get to the end destination, but my pace won’t always be the same or predictable.  Some days I can speed down the highway at 90 miles an hour, while others I’m on a leisurely stroll.  Both are getting me closer to the goal result, and I need to be happy that I’m moving towards it, even when it feels like a snail could outrun me.

With parenting and work and volunteering at church, I’m just not in a space in my life right now to narrowly focus on much else.  Whether I like it or not, that means writing more than my daily journal pages will be the thing that slides down the list of important things to do.  That’s okay, because it won’t always be like that.

In fact, here’s a story of a woman who published her first novel at the age of 95.

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/ohio/articles/2019-03-16/after-years-of-writing-woman-publishes-1st-novel-at-95

She never quit.  It took her 63 years to write her novel, and she did it.  She is my hero and a brilliant example that you’re too old or too late until you’re dead.  Whatever it is you’ve been avoiding because you think you don’t have time or will never be able to finish it, just start.  Start with something small and then just chip away at it little at a time until you’ve achieved your goal.

You can’t accomplish anything if you never start.  It may be slow and feel all kinds of ugly, but slow and ugly progress is still progress.  You only fail if you give up.

Discipline FTW – Mindset Monday

Discipline is most important if you’re going to accomplish big goals.

I find that I repeat this in various wordings and journal entries and motivational memes for my vision board.  I tell myself some version of this statement several times a day.

I wish that meant that I was good at being disciplined about writing and exercising and eating well and housekeeping and…

I have some very big goals, and I have some even bigger dreams.  And I struggle to stay on top of my daily chores list to keep my life and my family running more or less smoothly, much less knock off items on my goals list.  I fight with the knowledge that if I sit down to write or paint, then I am not doing something else worthy of doing on my to-do list.  I have to make space to write, and that space will always come from the space of something else I could be doing.

It’s always a dance of time management.  I think I have two left feet when it comes to this dance.  I am always scrambling to keep up with parenting and housework and work work and goal work.  It’s not really possible to do it all well all the time.  I know that, but I still think I should be able to do it all.

Enter discipline.

Superman working out
*This is not me – just to be clear. This guy is awesome, and this photo and more can be found on pexels.com

Discipline does not mean I will do it all well all the time.  Discipline will allow me to work in each space for a focused amount of time while maintaining an acceptable level of slack in the other areas – when I’m good at it, anyway.

Without applied discipline, I have too much slack everywhere, not enough focus on anything, and everything slides to hades in a handbasket.  What I aim for is to keep doing small chunks of maintenance work every day.  I want to spend less time more frequently doing things like cleaning my house or doing laundry so that I can keep larger amounts of time every day open for goal work.

If I spend 45 minutes per day on laundry and housework, I won’t spend 5 hours on the weekend doing it, which is when I usually get to do the most writing and crafting.  (I say this like I’m an exceptional weekly house cleaner – I’m not.)  If I do smaller weekly tasks every day, even if I skip something one week, I will probably get it the next, and maybe it won’t snowball into horrendously ignored levels.

Also, if I manage to stay disciplined on the small things like completing a daily housekeeping chore, I feel less guilt about what’s undone when I sit down to create.  I need to create, but I’m also responsible for a lot of other things.  It’s hard to escape that pressure to get everything else right before I spend time making something, but if I’m disciplined enough to keep things in good enough shape, I can sit down and work on the things that make me happiest without the nagging feeling that I should be washing dishes.

Mostly, I need to practice discipline to actually get the work done on my big goals.  I’ll never get my book published if I don’t do the steps to get there.  I’ll never finish a painting if I don’t sit down and do the sketching and brush work.  It’s great to have goals; it’s better to make them happen.

A Psalmist’s Guide to Grief

A Psalmist’s Guide to Grief by Anne Weil

I’ve been procrastinating this step for months. I’d like to say something like, “I’ve been so busy with other things that I just couldn’t get this together until now,” but the truth is, I’ve been avoiding this part of the book publishing process. Like a good INFJ, I know that if I never put my book out into the world, I won’t be disappointed or hurt if it “fails.”

My definition of failure is all wrong, though. If I only want commercial success, I may indeed fail. If I want to fulfill my mission and share my story, then the only failure is to never publish. So…..

I am ready to write book proposals, and I would love some beta readers. If you’re interested in being a test subject, I need to hear from you. First, sign up for the e-mail list. You can do that here:

https://mabbat.blog/join-the-mabbat-mailing-list/

I’ll draw 5 subscriber names at random to send the beta copy to. Then, I need to hear from you again after you read the book. I’ll send a few questions to gather feedback, and you can add any additional comments that you think will strengthen the book.

When you subscribe to the mailing list, you’ll receive a free copy of a Colossians creative Bible study workbook. If you’ve already signed up, you’re already in the drawing. (You may also be wondering why you bothered to sign up since you haven’t been getting anything from me. I promise I have material scheduled to go out the rest of the month, so thanks for your patience!) You’ll also recieve two e-mails a week from me – one with creative Bible study material, and one with prompts to practice your art skills. Of course, you can unsubscribe at any time.

I’d really love your feedback and support. Thanks for walking with me through this journey so far!

I Am, So I Will

I AM

In my planner every day, I fill in the answer to, “If I were a life coach, I would tell myself…”  Sometimes these sage bits of advice to myself are as simple as, “Don’t suck,” and sometimes they are slightly more nuanced.  As I was thinking about what I should be sharing on the blog and in the Mabbat FB group, I decided maybe some of my “life coach” advice could be helpful to someone else.  So, I decided to run with a theme for the start of the week: Mindset Monday.

This week’s mindset is a statement I wrote as my own life coach, and I have used it every day since as motivation.  I’ve actually written it as encouragement to answer the “If I get stuck, I will keep going by…” question every single day for several months.

I am a writer, so I will write.

I don’t have to publish a book to call myself a writer.  I write a lot, and I love to write, so I am a writer.  Writers write.  It’s what they do.  I am a writer, so I will write.  When I get stuck, when in doubt, when nothing feels like it’s working… write.  It can be that simple.

So you’re not a writer, and you think at this moment I’ve lost my mind, and this has nothing to do with mindset.  But consider that all of the things we want to do are just about that simple.  You want to run a 5k race?  You will have to train, but the simplest form of that is to think, “I am a runner, so I will run.”  Of course, you may want to work through a training plan, but at the most basic level, to be the thing, you have to do the thing.  If you run, you are by definition a runner.

Hello I am Getting Things Done

I am a painter.  I am a writer.  I am a poet.  I am a teacher.  I am an athlete.

I do none of those things as my day job, but those are all things that I claim to be because of what I do.  All except that last one.  I have been an athlete, but I am currently out of shape.  I need to lose weight and exercise to be healthier and to be the best version of me I can be for my family.  I have created some training goals and plans, so I am training myself to say, “I am an athlete, so I will workout and feed my body well.”  I can’t really claim to be an athlete as an out of shape blob, so once I say it, I need to follow my motivational statement with action.  As soon as I start working through my training plan, I will be an athlete.  I will be someone who is working out to complete a goal race.

My “I am” statements are simple visualization exercises.  It’s a great way to motivate yourself and see yourself and think of yourself as the thing you want to be.  I am an athlete the second I put on my running shoes and hit the street in the morning.  I won’t be an elite athlete, nor will I look graceful or fit as I begin the journey.  But I’ll be some version of an athlete.

This year I will be an athlete.

How many dreams do we hold back on working for because we think we won’t be good enough to lay claim to the title?  At what point can you claim a title?

I hesitated for years to call myself a writer and feel comfortable saying it out loud to other people.  I felt like maybe I should whisper it, or maybe they would ask how many books I’d published and then I’d be banished and ridiculed for pretending to be a writer.  I wish I could tell myself then what I know now.  I am a writer.  I have always been a writer.  I don’t have to justify that to anyone except God who gave me the gift of stringing words together into sentences.

You don’t have to justify yourself either.  There are things in life we can claim because we have the formal training or certification cards to prove it.  For example, I am a scuba diver.  I have multiple certifications to prove it.  Soon, I’ll be a certified Hazardous Materials Technician, and I’ll have a piece of paper to prove it.  (It’s related to my day job, and it’s been so much fun to learn.)  Here’s the thing about the HazMat Tech certification: I may have a paper that says it, but I’m extremely unlikely to be out in a suit and SCBA working.  I will not be claiming HazMat Tech on my resume, even at work.

I’m not a writer because there is some licensing agency that official certifies writers; I’m a writer because that’s how God wired my brain.  I’m an athlete because I’m naturally competitive, and I’m training to run a race.  I’m a painter because I paint.  None of those things are invalidated by my skill level.  I’m a good writer; I’m an average painter; I’m a lousy athlete.

I’ll never improve if I don’t practice.  I’ll never practice if I think the things I want to be are unattainable.  If my dreams are never to be reached, what’s the point in trying?  That’s how my brain works without, “I am _____, so I will _____.”

I challenge you to think through the goals and dreams you’ve let slide.  Is there one you want to pick up and run with?  What will it take for you to make it happen?  What’s the main thing you’ll need to do or to practice?  What’s your “I am” statement?  I’d love to encourage you on your journey if you want to share it.  You can comment here, and you can join the Mabbat FB group for a more private setting and regular encouragement.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/773975689656609/

I am a dogicorn, so I will be magical.

To Live Is…

20190429 To Live Is Christ

A cycle I repeat in my life is to be disciplined for a time, to make progress, and then to implode spectacularly and digress.  Self-sabotage isn’t unavoidable, but I sure act like it is when it happens, as though it were an inevitable, long-awaited invader that I am helpless to repel.  I see it now as a cycle of depression and fear, so I’ve been working to uncover the roots of it whenever I see myself running headlong into a tub of ice cream or completely avoiding writing.

I wish it were a simple fix, but I find that my self-sabotage roots are different for each problem.  When I skip writing for long periods of time, it’s generally because I’m afraid to fail.  No one will read what I work on, and that will prove I’m not a good writer, so if I just don’t do it, no one will need to know how bad I am.  (I don’t really believe this to be truth, but it is a very real fear that threatens my focus every day if I let it.)

I’m working on improving my health and losing weight, and that is consistently the worst area of self-sabotage for me in the last ten years.  My tendency is to eat my feelings.  My current weight is proof of that bad mental habit.  I’ve worked really hard to stop the stress eating, and I’ve mostly curbed it with better coping tools.  Once in a while I’ll turn to chocolate for comfort, but it’s a rare thing now.  What’s less rare is just randomly eating a metric ton of crap or eating nothing but sweets for days at a time.  I have no reason or desire to eat the junk, but I struggle to stop it.

The more I dig up the roots of this particular self-sabotage issue, the more I uncover grief pain that still lurks under the surface.

All those years of dealing with miscarriage after miscarriage without the healthiest coping tools led me to put on a lot of extra weight.  That mental weight is very physically visible in my body weight.  Every time I’ve worked to lose weight, I end up putting it right back on, even when I’m mentally healthy.

It finally hit me that I’ve carried the weight like a badge of honor and a memorial of all that loss instead finding a better way to memorialize the pain.  The truth is, it hurts to deal with the enormity of my grief, still, years later and so many miles down the road from the intensity of surviving the immediate experience of it.  Honestly, it hurts even more to admit it here because it’s embarrassing to say out loud.  I haven’t been able to maintain weight loss because I might forget by angel babies.  It sounds a little ridiculous, but it’s the biggest root I keep stumbling over when I look at the problem closely.

I love that the way I hear from God most often is to hear echoes of what I’m hearing in my personal Bible study and prayer everywhere.  It seems like whatever message I’m picking up is suddenly the sermon topic, the theme of every book I read or podcast I listen to, the eventual topic of conversations with family and friends…  I just know now that when I hear the same thought from multiple directions, that’s what God needs me to hear.

As I dug and dug to figure out why I kept eating junk despite my best plans to eat well and exercise, God kept putting Philippians 1:21 in front of me.  When I finally saw what my stumbling block was, I realized that I am completely willing to die for Christ.  No questions, no doubts, only joy at the thought of seeing my angel babies and having all my tears wiped away.  But Philippians 1:21 says, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

If living is Christ, then I can have at least some of my tears wiped away here on earth.  If living is Christ, then I can live in that joy now without waiting for heaven.  If living is Christ, then I must be a better example of the discipline he demands of me to be my best and offer my best to serve him well.

In short, I have to focus on life because death is not my calling.

We are called to abundant life, and I haven’t been living every area of my life as though to live is Christ.  I have to change my thinking every day and fill in the blank, “to live is ___.”  My previous answer obviously hasn’t been Christ when it comes to diet and exercise because I’ve been living in the past instead of in the grace and life of Christ.

It’s not going to be an easy emotional hurdle to clear, but at least now I’m working on the right problem.  I can lose weight and not feel guilt or shame about my pregnancy losses.  I can eat like a regular person rather than hiding the pain with bad food choices.  I can live in Christ in this space, too, and I can continue to heal without fear of forgetting my grief.  I just need to focus on new and healthy ways to acknowledge it.

April 1 – Baruch

If my first child had been born on his due date, he would be ten years old today.  He would have dark hair and light eyes – blue like Steven’s, or hazel like mine.  He would be ten – full of boyish charm and sweat and dirt and ten – almost a teenager, almost a middle schooler (my favorite awkward age to teach), almost…  What kind of big brother would he have been?  I’m sure he would have been tall like my husband, with the same magical, mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

It seems wrong not to acknowledge his loss today, but I am at a loss to appropriately mark his passing.  There was no body to bury, no headstone to lay flowers on, no record of his life at all except for in my medical history, as the first of many “recurrent spontaneous abortions.”  My body is the only place he lived.  And died.  Am I a walking graveyard?  Somedays it feels that way.

Today, my body is weary of marking the passage of these lost children; my soul dark and void and chaotic in the face of their memory.

I named him Baruch, Hebrew for “blessing,” because I intended to wrestle like Jacob until God blessed me in spite of this horrific loss.  I wrestled through loss after loss after loss, and I have been blessed, though in none of the ways I intended in the early days after Baruch’s death.

I wonder what God’s name for my child is.  I wonder what his name for me is.  Is it a name I’ve grown into, the way a tiny child saddled with an enormous name or a chain of forefathers will?  Is it a name earned by what I’ve endured?  A name reflective of the magnitude of grace and love that allowed me to endure?  Some days I’m ready to trade in my earth-name for my God-given heaven-name.  I long to know as I am known, to see God’s face, to see the faces I’ve lost.

But I still have work to do here – to love as I am loved, to know God and to make him known, to carry the memories of children I never met, to endure and thrive and encourage as many people as I can to run with me across the finish line.  That is how I will mark the passing of my Baruch.  My blessing.