#1. I haven’t been very active here on the blog for several months, but I was getting the final editing and design touches completed on “A Psalmist’s Guide to Grief.” So I may not have been very productive at writing much else, but I’m ALL DONE WITH THE BOOOOOOOOOOOK!!!!!
#2. I think the most constant childhood dream job I ever had, whether I admitted it to anyone or not, was that I wanted to be an author. I feel like I’ve been able to call myself a writer for quite some time because I write a lot even though most of what I write will never see the light of day. But the title of “author” felt reserved for special people who actually publish books. Well, today is a special day for me because the print edition is now live on Amazon. (A few days early!)
I am officially an author, which is such an incredible feeling, though I’m arguably no more or less special than I was before. (Some of you who know me well can attest to the fact that I often act like a special kind of goober, and that is unchanged – now I’m just a goober author.) As an official author, I have an official author page now on Amazon, too, which you are welcome to check out here. “A Psalmist’s Guide to Grief” should be linked on that page, or you can click through the title, too. Right now it’s only on Amazon’s platform, but I will be looking further out now that the heavy lifting is done.
#3. I have one giant favor to ask. If you do read the book, I would be extremely grateful if you would leave a review. It will help the book’s rank in searches. To be completely transparent, it would hopefully help sales, but the bigger picture is it would widen the field of people who might actually see it on Amazon (and eventually beyond) who might need to hear the same things I needed to hear from God. I honestly don’t care much about the sales, but I do hope to help as many people as possible walk through grief with better coping tools than I had.
There’s still a lot of work to do to keep promoting and finding good local places to sell and all those things that go along with actually selling a book once it’s written, but today is a day to CELEBRATE! Since real parties are not exactly happening right now, let’s party virtually – share your favorite happy dance/party/anything fun GIF in the comments.
Thank you, friends, for all your support to get to this point! These extra exclamation points are for you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Today’s profile is a woman who started out as a coworker, became a friend, and is always a force of nature. I admire Emily Johnson for her drive, her commitment to faith, and her brilliant smile that can light up a room.
Most recently, Emily launched WordPaint Cosmetics where she blends (See what I did there?) a fabulous line of cosmetics with her faith in one of the most creative concepts I’ve ever seen. I am very much in love with her web site, and you will be, too. While you’re there, definitely shop the Armory, and be sure to read the other pages. It’s so good and so fun and so smart. (There’s your three things, in case you were wondering.)
I’m always amazed by the creative works of people when I can see they are doing exactly what God designed them to do. Knowing Emily and working with her for years, I love seeing her shine with purpose. It’s beautiful.
The three things you need to know this Thursday are (okay, if I’m brutally honest, no one needs to know any of this, but you may appreciate knowing that, however you are coping with quarantine, you’re probably doing it with more grace than me based on these three things):
I prefer listening to the tiny human make ungodly noises with the recorder to her whistling, so I broke out the value pack of recorders and set the tiny human up with her choice of color. She then assigned her father and I our own colors and insisted he play. (We still haven’t tried the bagpipes, but I’ll be sure to share that joy when we do. You’re welcome.)
The tiny human needed to learn to use her newfound recorder powers for good, so I began internet searching for easy music and simple fingering charts for her to learn from. Then I realized color coding it to match her color coded rollup piano keyboard would be pretty smart, and then I realized that color coding the actual sheet music would be simple enough, and then….
Behold, a book!
I think it’s safe to say I have a problem. But in my defense, the finger chart is very nice, and my color coded music is fun to look at (and play – I’ve been practicing, too!) The dedication and copyright page are also moderately unhinged, so there’s that bit of fun, too.
Here’s the book if know of anyone in need of a new hobby.
If you have children or work with them, you’ve probably said, “Use your words, not your hands.” But today, we are throwing caution to the wind and assuming you’re mature enough to use your hands AND your words.
Today, my home state decided the wisest course of action to slow the pandemic spread is to cancel in-person classes at school for the rest of the semester. My tiny human was a little nuts the first week that school was paused for three weeks. Now that we know we’ll continue the semester with assignments from home, she was a lot nuts trying to go to bed tonight.
To be honest, so was I. Everything in our schedule is upside down. I’m a naturally empathetic person, and I can’t even peek at social media right now where everyone’s dogs and cats and family updates usually perk me up – right now it’s full of people experiencing the same loss I’m experiencing, and I can feel too deeply the lost senior year antics, the teachers missing their students and working like crazy to figure out how to make the next two months happen virtually, the students who miss their teachers and classrooms and friends and routines, all the people out of work, and all the people working through incredibly stressful conditions at essential jobs. It’s a lot, and it’s hard for everyone right now, no matter what your situation.
If you have been feeling a little too much of the worry of the moment (or had a mild panic attack like I did tonight), here are three things you need to know right now:
It’s okay to feel the feelings. It’s okay to mourn for the loss of your daily routine and to freak out a little bit at all the things that are different right now, including the inexplicable hoarding of toilet paper and ground beef.
Once you feel the feelings, tell them the truth. Let the crazy thoughts and emotions and anxiety parade by, but don’t get out there and march with them. Wave as they pass by. And as they march down the parade route, imagine yourself as the cheesy news anchor announcing the float, telling you bizarre facts like how many coffee beans were used in the construction of the float, and then sending it off with a great one-liner like, “But I know no matter how many coffee beans they used to make that float, it’s still not running the show.” That’s a silly example, but a real thought exercise might sound like this in your head: “Here comes stress. Stress likes to show off with flashy things like anger and overstimulation, but stress is going to keep walking right on by. I’m going to wave goodbye to stress because it needs to finish the parade route, and I can control my actions.” You aren’t your feelings. You aren’t your thoughts, though that’s a tempting line of thought, given Descartes’s catchy, “I think, therefore I am,” philosophy. You are a created child of God, which leads to…
Philippians 4:6-7: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
Slow down, breathe for a moment, and get some perspective. I don’t care what this pandemic or anything else going on in your life holds for you, God will hold you together through it. These verses are a blueprint for how to survive.
So I just listed three things that obviously had nothing to do with the introduction. That was a bonus list. The three things I started out to write for today is a set of mental health exercises to use if you’re feeling the stress a little too much right now, and they all use your hand as a cue.
First, trace your hand on a piece of paper. I’ll wait. No, I’m not kidding. Any paper will do. I only had fluorescent green handy (see what I did there…), so that’s what I’m using (as well as subpar phone photography).
Our first exercise is just breathing. Breathe in through your nose while you count to five, hold it for a count of five, and breathe out through your mouth while you count to five. Use the hand print as a visual to focus your thoughts onto just your breathing. If you want more meditative visualization, remember that we are God-breathed creations, the Bible is described as God-breathed, and every breath is life. We are breathing in God’s provision, savoring it for a moment, and then letting go of everything that’s past. Try this for a few breaths, or a few minutes, until you feel your heart rate settle and the stray thoughts that run in like saboteurs slow down their attacks.
Now, using your hand as a counting reference, list five things that you’re thankful for right now. If you like the physicality of ticking them off with your fingers, go for it. Whenever you feel like anxiety is trying to take over, list five things you’re grateful for or five things that bring you joy. It’s not going to change the circumstances, but it’s going to change your perspective of the circumstances by reminding you of good things in your life.
And the third exercise is one of my favorites (and the reason you need an actual tracing of your hand on paper). In the space outside your hand, write down all the things you can’t control that are taking up space in your thoughts. In the space inside your hand, write down things you can control. What’s the difference in the things in your grasp and the things you can’t hold on to? If you can’t control the things outside your hand, how much mental energy should you devote to them?
We tend to think of worry as something that just happens to us because our circumstances are big and scary. But… Worry is a choice. While we can’t control every thought that pops into our heads, we can control how much we let them run around unchecked. The second we let all the things we can’t control run the narrative in our thought patterns, worry is running the show. We used the parade imagery in the first list, and even though it was a parade of negative thinking, there was order and we were telling the floats what to do, right? Now imagine for a second what that parade would look like without a chaos coordinator. Think Barney ’97. Total disaster.
Let’s use Philippians 4:6-7 as our thought process model. Don’t worry; let the thoughts pass by without letting them run the show. Pray about everything; that’s certainly something you can control, so if it’s not already in your handprint, maybe you should add it. Tell God what you need; he already knows, but you still need to express it as a need for him. Thank God for what you have. Feel that anxiety turn towards peace. That’s what putting your life in God’s hands will do.
Alright, I now have two lists of three things, and since I have moderate perfectionist tendencies, I feel the need to end on another list of three so we have three three things because two three things will not do. So… here are three things that bring me extra stress relief:
Bee Badminton. Tis the season for carpenter bees. I hate them making swiss cheese out of my porch, so I whack them with badminton rackets. Bonus fun – now the dogs like to help by catching the ones I hit and eating them. It’s now a team sport.
Potato Pelting. One of my dogs has a barking problem. At night I can stop her by shining a flashlight on her, but, alas, my superpower beam is useless in the day. I usually stash some tennis balls in the kitchen that I can chunk at her to redirect her attention, but, alas, all the balls are in the yard. Today I discovered some tiny potatoes that hid in a dark corner of the kitchen until I forgot about them. They’ve all sprouted and are useless for eating, but they’re the perfect size to chunk at the loudmouth dog – heavy enough to be able to throw accurately for decent distance but light enough not to injure the dog. And I’m composting (badly, I admit, but it’s composting nonetheless, and you won’t convince me otherwise).
Writing. I was tempted to chuck it all, even the potatoes, tonight and distract myself with television and solitaire until I got sleepy. I feel much better now for having done some mental work to settle down and praying for a while. Now that I’ve dumped my brain out on a page, I feel like I’m me again.
One final hand photo to prove I may write like I have my crap together, but I can’t even trace my hand without getting Sharpie ink all over myself. This is one of at least five similar ink spots. I can barely be trusted with scissors, so I promise if I can make it through life, you can, too.
This Three Things Thursday, let’s think about that “New Year, New You” mindset. Most of us love the fresh start of a new year – new calendars, new goals, new resolutions, new you… But can we really just do a hard reset January 1 and be brand new people?
Thing 1: We can be made new in Christ, and God promises us new mercies every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). We don’t need a yearly restart; we can start new every day.
Thing 2: Old you is no slouch. Old you has made it this far, so don’t discount your past and what it can teach you.
Thing 3: Do you really want to be all new, or do you want to steadily improve? I look at my life and see a gazillion things I’d like to improve, but I can’t do any of them instantly. Even if I could, it probably wouldn’t help me long-term because I would have skipped over the work of building the habits that make those changes successful.
I quit making New Year’s Resolutions long ago. Instead, I make goals throughout the year and work on building habits that will get me closer to those goals. To that end, I love a good planner, and I created my own last year that’s worked brilliantly for me. So, if you’re a creative type who needs a little structure to keep your spiritual health, mental health, and meal planning running more or less smoothly, maybe it will work for you. Here’s a link to download the planner for free (no strings, no e-mail subscription, just a free pdf):
What are your biggest and smallest goals for 2020? My biggest goal is to get my book published. My smallest is to get the Christmas decorations down sometime this month. On second thought, getting the book published may be easier for me…
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.
#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.
#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
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
Take the mulligan, get a read on the new shot, and get
moving. You only fail if you give up.
#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
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?