#40×40 Manifesto

Last year, I spent most of my – precious little – reflection time working on a Sanity Manifesto to identify key aspects of my life that need attention and focus. (I recently used Wordle.net to create a lovely visual collage of it.  Incidently, if anyone knows how to get a downloadable digital copy of these lovely word clouds, please share your wisdom in the comments below. Suggestions for other fun apps or websites that will create such things are also most welcome.)

As part of my #40×40 project, I’m adding 10 more statements of intention to the 30 I previously crafted to create my #40×40 Manifesto.  Here are the next 9 to bring me to a grand total of 39.

I’m saving #40 to see how the Spirit moves in the next year.

1. No guilt in life no fear in death.  The truth is, I live under the weight of false guilt and irrational fear far too much of the time. I’m learning that God has a different plan for how I ought to live as His beloved child:  forgiven and free of fear. This is the power of Christ in me.

2. For such a time as this. This is Queen Esther’s version of “bloom where you are planted”.  Sometimes I forget that the positions and roles I have are at the centre of divinely ordained spheres of influence.   Sometimes – though God doesn’t need me to accomplish His purposes – He gives me the privilege of bringing His voice into the conversation and the opportunity to be a part of his Divine Conspiracy.

3. Take it off the table.  I have been exploring the importance of abstinence disciplines (fasting, solitude, silence, simplicity, frugality) as they are often neglected in the Christian life.  For the sake of growth and margin, I am learning that it is liberating to take things off the table, to abstain from certain things – even if it is just for a time – to jolt me from my complacency.  For example, for Lent this year, I am fasting from bread and wine and, recently, I have been contemplating what I can do – or NOT do – to break the hold that consumerism has on me. More on that in subsequent posts, I suspect.

4. Opt out to buy in. I’m learning that releasing some things I am holding onto too tightly will allow me to open my arms again to embrace the things that really matter. Instead of being worried about missing out, I’m opting out of lesser things to buy into joy.  #jomo

5. There are no perfect decisions. Lisa Terkeurst’s, The Best Yes, has offered some timely wisdom in my life of analysis paralysis and people-pleasing. I am learning to make “wise decisions in the midst of endless demands”, as her subtitle encourages. I’m learning that sometimes I just need to choose and not be worried about it being the perfect choice because “not making a decision is actually a decision.  It is the decision to stay the same.”

6. Live like an overcomer.  I often live defeated, as if I have no choice about my behaviour.  I don’t feel much like a new creation.   However, when I succumb to this temptation, I am believing a lie.  We have been promised that old things have passed away and that the power of the Holy Spirit is within us to give us hope.    So I do NOT need to live as a slave to my weaknesses, I’m more than a conqueror.  Lord, give me strength to live the overcomer life.

7.  Work the slight edge. I believe I have dangerously underestimated the impact of small steps in the wrong direction. Though it may seem like those little choices don’t add up in the short-term, in the long-term small increments add up to large outcomes in the direction of your choices.  As my friend Bob Wiley would say, “if you’re baby-stepping, you’re doing the work!” The slight edge offers encouragement to those of us who might be afraid we are incapable of making big changes because the big decisions seem overwhelming.

8.  Be thrifty. There are many good reasons to shop at second-hand or consignment stores, not the least of which involve the stewardship of environmental and financial resources and the lessening of one’s slavery footprint.  (I am saddened by the estimate of how many slaves work to support my lifestyle and I want this to change.  Determine your own footprint by answering the survey here.)  Most of my house is furnished and decorated with free or thrifted hand-me-downs (or salvaged items on their way to the dump).  With very few exceptions, my living room is decorated with someone else’s cast off items and I find it quite warm and inviting, don’t you? The truth is,  I don’t have to spend what I often think I have to spend and I want to remember that new is overrated.    

9.  65, stay alive. At Queen’s, we had this slogan to remind us to keep our priorities in check and not let school work steal our lives away; as long as we maintained a 65% average, we could stay in our programs and on track, academically.  Giving 110% is basic over-spending in the energy department and it is not a sustainable plan if I want my relationships to have priority.  Andy Stanley’s small but mighty book, Choosing to Cheat: Who Wins When Family and Work Collide?, offers important wisdom to those of us who need to learn to cheat properly. Work is not the place to spend myself.  65% is reasonable.  65% is good.  65% is enough.

So, those are the updates as I head into my 40th year.

Can you relate? Any suggestions for my 40th intention?  What are some of the statements that you would include on your manifesto?  

#40×40

On March 1, 1976, Kiss released their single Shout it out Loud while The Four Seasons topped the billboard charts with their catchy tune, What a Night.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Clearly both hits were proclaiming my arrival to the planet.

Readers, this bit of trivia means that I turn 39 and enter my 40th year of this blessed life, tomorrow.  I realize that this shocking news to most of you since I don’t look a day over 38 but, it’s true: the big 4-0 is only 12 short months away.

In order to approach this milestone birthday with the right a better frame of mind, I’m deciding to go with “personal project” rather than “pity party”. I think that embracing this looming date as the impetus for some needed changes sets a tone of anticipation rather than dread.   I’m preparing to enter the second half of my life with increased strength, clarity and focus and am setting some goals to help move me in that direction.  (As an aside, for inspiration about living #clearbraveandstrong follow Cathie’s blog here.)

My #40×40 goals:

1. #Publish40: Publish 40 blog posts by my 40th birthday.  I find that I begin many posts and then get distracted and never quite get around to hitting that daunting “publish” button.  This is my year to go public and form a better habit for my writing by floating at least 40 ideas into cyberspace.

2. #Lose40: Lose 40 pounds by my 40th birthday.  I have always struggled with over-indulgence and have written about it before.  I have set goals and failed (207 is still a sad reality) but I’m choosing to set a new goal and not give up.  Hitting 40 as a healthier and stronger person is a POSSIBLE and hopeful prospect.

3. #Thank40: Offer specific and personal thanks to 40 people by my 40th birthday. There are certainly more than 40, but I feel the need to acknowledge at least 40 who have significantly impacted me on my journey so far with a sincere word or token of appreciation.

4. #Read40: Identify the titles on my Essential 40 Bookshelf by my 40th birthday.  I have read many books – far more than 40 – but reflecting and narrowing the list down to the 40 that have changed me profoundly over my lifetime is an inspiring endeavour for a book nerd like me.

5. #Live40: Add 10 points to my 30 for Sanity Manifesto to create my #40×40 Manifesto. I have realized the motivational power of setting a vision for my life and I want to continue to live according to my 40 intentions.  Because, as Annie Dillard explains, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

So, there you have it, folks:  5 goals to motivate me in my 40th year.

Do I have any teammates for this #40×40 plan?  Cheerleaders?

Comment below with your advice or experience related to turning 40.  How did/will you approach this milestone birthday? 

Just for fun, a few trivia highlights from 1976:   Apple Computer was formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak,  Happy Days was the most popular TV show, Rocky took home the Oscar for best film, and the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup.

30 for Sanity Manifesto

I recently challenged my “moms monthly” group to develop a personal manifesto to capture their intentions for living, particularly because, as moms, it is so easy to lose sight of our hopes and dreams amidst the chaos of a busy life that struggles to find work-life balance.  I have used manifestos in a variety of ways as a classroom teacher (and often do workshops in my classes to help in the creative process) but I rarely take the time to reflect and package my own thoughts in this way, though I believe very strongly in their value.  Having a visible reminder in your home that summarizes your thoughts about how you wish to live can help to orient you to carry out your intentions in day-to-day living.

Although my blog version does not look like the lovely side panel of a Lululemon bag, AnnVoskamp’s 25 for Sanity Manifesto is the inspiration for my decision to revisit this concept.  That woman is so wise and, well, inspirational!

 

Perhaps, I can get some sort of creative designer to make my manifesto look like this:

but, until then, we’ll all have to settle for this lesser words-only version:

My 30 for Sanity Manifesto (in no particular order):

 

  1. Fashion a home sanctuary.  I’m not the greatest at caring about physical spaces as I live mostly in my head (scary, I know); however, space does impact well-being and I have come to understand that an organized, simplified and tidy home can help to bring calm to the mind.  The peace may be an illusion but external chaos certainly doesn’t help internal chaos.  Keeping my space clear helps to clear my head space.  #WWAVD? (What would Ann Voskamp do?)
  2. The interruption is the opportunity. I’m notoriously bad for becoming irritated by interruptions to my best laid plans.  Choosing to see the change of plan as a divine appointment is something I am mindfully working on at work and home.
  3. Take it bird by bird. Anne Lamott’s brilliant book  reminds writers – and all people, really – to take life in manageable steps.  Whenever I begin to muse about anything beyond the next step I instantly feel overwhelmed.  Wisdom: Do the next right thing. Repeat.
  4. Embrace freedom.  Though I am ashamed to admit it, many of my choices and decisions are a result of fear.  It seriously needs to stop as it is a defeated and deflated way of living. Daily, I’m going to claim the promise that perfect Love drives out all fear.
  5. Share.  When our family accepted a sermon challenge to develop a “family mission statement” we agreed on this simple but meaningful word.  We are committed to share all that we have been given – hospitality, resources, insight – because that is what it means to be a Covey.
  6. Let it go.  (Don’t worry this is NOT an allusion to Frozen; please stay with me.) “Hello, my name is Sarah Covey and  I am a control-freak and a security junkie.” If I could join a 12-step program to recover from either of these addictions, I would.  Because it would provide a PLAN. I’m obsessed with plans.  Have you ever noticed, though, that plans often change?  I need to let go of my compulsion to have everything fall into place as I had orchestrated or expected and hold my plans loosely.  Letting my agenda go for the sake of something better seems much more fulfilling.  See #2.
  7. Give presence as a present.  I am easily distracted and struggle to focus on one thing at a time but I have learned that multitasking sabotages relationships by undermining the authentic connection that can come from active listening and attentiveness in the moment.  This undivided attention may be one of the best gifts I can offer my loved ones.
  8. Pray first, think later. I tend to make my requests known to every other person in my life before praying.  Better to pause and start with the Big Guy so that my thoughts are formed in the context of spiritual strength and wisdom instead of human weakness and stupidity.
  9. Book daily stillness appointments.  For some time, I have been committed to Sabbath-keeping but it is not enough to only rest once a week if every other day is a flurry of activity.  There have to be moments in each day where I can pause, be quiet, and catch my breath.  Thinking a gentle reminder on my cell phone for some adaptation of the Seven Sacred Pauses is going to help promote this daily discipline.
  10. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.  This classic hymn lyric has been a daily mantra, reminding me to trust in the One whose joy IS my strength.
  11. Nourish with the right bread.  I’m a stress eater and I need to be a stress reader.  I desire to be the person who goes to the Word to be nourished by the Bread of Life instead of trying – always unsuccessfully – to satisfy my hunger with Lays Potato Chips.
  12. Seek ways to touch a soul through the touch of a hand. When you don’t know what to say or do, resort to snuggle therapy. Physical touch has healing power.  I know this to be true.  Sometimes a loving touch can transcend words and render them unnecessary.
  13. Let nature nurture. Being surrounded my nature instantly calms my anxious heart and allows me to return to a life-giving rhythm.  A long walk on the beach, a quiet moment on a park bench, or a cup of tea beside a glassy lake does restore my soul.
  14. Play music. Making a joyful noise helps to lift my spirits and channel my emotions.  Listening to music can set – or change – the tone of a room with very little effort.  Impromptu dance parties are always a good idea – and they tend to work better with a soundtrack.
  15. Cultivate creativity. Find ways to express myself creatively – through music, art, crafts, writing, decorating etc.  I really think that” it is not how creative I am but how I am creative” (to adapt a common phrase), given that I am a child of the Creator.  I need to make space for that aspect of God’s image in my life.
  16. Match time and energy to priorities.  I’m pretty adept at managing my time but I’m not so great at managing my energy.  I need to pace myself so that I retain some of my get-up-and-go for my family.  Though they are my priority, they tend to have their time with me at the end of a long work day when I am depleted and weary.  Saving some energy and/or sharing high-energy times with them when I can is a way to communicate how important they are to me.
  17. Moisturizing matters. This may seem like a rather trivial intention but I am the worst person for letting my very sensitive skin become parched.  A little ritual of moisturizing with a rich cream is a mini-luxury that I really can’t afford to forgo.  Baby steps, though.  My facial care regimen needs a total overhaul but that is an adventure I’m not ready to face (pun intended).
  18. Let restlessness give way to rest. When I find myself striving and itching to do, sometimes the best thing is to stop and release the struggle and the full mind to the rest of God.  This can be extremely liberating for my Type-A compulsive tendencies. Slowly, I am learning to let go of the need to accomplish something and to embrace the art of being.  Unplugging from the noise in my mind and in the world can be a soul-enriching experience, right?
  19. Consider the value.  It is not uncommon for me to spend money without thinking and this poor stewardship is disheartening.  If I simply pause to consider whether a particular purchase is truly worth it I would avoid a lot of impulsive spending in the name of retail therapy.
  20. Let words and The Word sink into the soul. Clearly, I am a lover of language but, like many things in life, less is often more.  Rather than skimming words, I want to savour them, to let them sink deep into my soul and change me.  I want the words to become a part of who I am.
  21. Leave work at work. I have been able to set better boundaries over the years in terms of physically carrying work home but I’m always in a battle for my head space.  Choosing to disengage from my professional life and to reengage with my personal life is essential to the healthy balance I am trying to achieve.
  22. Choose gratitude to frame the day. It is easy to recall my day in light of complaints and problems but I’m convinced that the antidote is noticing the good and giving thanks.  This orientation to daily blessings diffuses the power that a negative outlook can have over our souls.  (Again, it’s what Ann Voskamp would do!)
  23. Speak and spread kindness. Actions can speak louder than words but what I say matters, too.  Random acts and words of kindness can go a long way in a world that can be cruel and inconsiderate.  I try to model kindness because it is possibly the most important character trait that I wish my kids to emulate.
  24. Always kiss each other goodnight. This saying is on a plaque in my bedroom and it reminds me to make my marriage a priority. I am blessed to have each day end in the arms of my best friend and I never want to take that love for granted.
  25. Make best intentions a reality. I have these little instincts and inklings that I can’t explain that compel me to be in touch with a friend or to reach out to someone in need in some way.  I have never regretted following through with those promptings but I have felt that  ignoring or putting off responding to that inner voice has resulted in a missed opportunity to make a significant difference in someone’s day.  I resolve to put my love into action.
  26. Meet perceived needs. All of us are needy but we may not be aware of deeper soul-needs because we are blocked by the tangible needs in our lives.  Someone may ultimately need a restored relationship with Jesus but s/he may only be able to see the need to resolve conflict in a personal relationship.  If I can help meet the need on the radar of the person in my sphere of influence, meeting that need will provide the opportunity to continue to speak about deeper truths.  Like the saying (attributed to St. Francis of Assisi) goes, “preach the gospel and, if necessary, use words”.
  27. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.  Another clever Covey suggested that this is one of the habits of highly successful people.  I think about it in these terms:  when you enter a room do your words and actions communicate, “here I am” or “there you are”?  I want to be a “there you are” person who considers others first.
  28. Eat less, move more. My first formal manifesto was created as a result of my intention to live a healthier life.  The specifics are here and they still hold true.  This expression makes it feel manageable though, so I cling to it’s simplicity.
  29. Eat a frog before breakfast.  This principle has been popularized in the business world but is solid advice for managing daily tasks and avoiding procrastination:  get the thing that you are most dreading out of the way first thing and your day can only get better!
  30. Blog it. Maybe I won’t always want to post my entries for the masses but processing my joys and challenges “on paper” is cathartic, creative, and clarifying.  Reflecting and writing is time well spent.

 

So, what intentions might make your top thirty?  Have you ever considered creating a manifesto?  If so, what prevents you from following through?  Leave your comments below – I love to hear from you!

Can I be enough?

I’ve been struggling lately with a bit of a spiritual funk.  I feel as though I am weary from all the striving and trying to live up to unrealistic expectations (most of which are self-imposed).  The demands, or at least perceived demands, on the average person these days is enough to put anyone over the edge.  We are overworked and over-scheduled and we live overwhelmed and overdone.  It’s a vicious cycle that people cannot thrive in so they settle for survival.  But I don’t just want to survive.  Do you?

It seems like just trying to live day-to-day has become a challenge tantamount to climbing Mount Everest.  If that is the case, I’d rather actually climb Everest and have something to show for all the effort rather than the lack of satisfaction that comes from a mundane, sleepwalking existence that may, in fact, be equally draining.

When everybody wants a piece of me, I am pulled in so many directions that I often feel  there isn’t enough to go around.  This living fragmented is tough.  Really, it’s broken.  It’s certainly not the way to wholeness.

I’m trying to get back to the basics, to weed through all the extra stuff and make sure that my focus is where it ought to be. I know it is distracted and distorted and I want to get back on track but I feel like the usual paths are not getting me there.  Sometimes even the doing of the right things just adds more to a to-do list that is already a mile long.  The things that I have done in the past to reconnect are not working.

Perhaps the secret is to stop doing.  To become undone, so to speak.

Jan Johnson, in her excellent book, Abundant Simplicity, writes of the abstinence disciplines such as fasting, solitude, silence, and simplicity as “breathing out”.  The modern church seems to be focused on all the engagement disciplines (study, prayer, worship, fellowship and service) which are the “breathing in” and has, by in large, excluded the rest.

The trouble is you need both to have a complete breath.  The constant inhale will not work.  Much has to be exhaled to keep things in balance.  This is wisdom that we are largely missing as Christians in the North American Church, if my experience is any indicator.

I need this undoing.  I need fewer pieces and more peace.  I need to breathe fully the breath of God and experience that divine restoration because the expectations I have for myself will never be satisfied and I will continue to deplete without His strength.

Johnson also quotes Paula Hudson on the subject of living with a singular focus:  “interior chaos subsides; the psychic battlefield goes calm and silent.  People can experience themselves as whole and at peace instead of fragmented.”  SO. WANT. THAT. A holy fixation that realizes that I’m not enough but He is and that is okay.  That is enough.

What Lies Beneath

So, I bought my first pair of Spanx last week to wear under my dress for my brother-in-law’s wedding.  (Well, not actually Spanx another – I’m sure much lesser – brand from The Hudson’s Bay Company but you get the idea.)

I don’t think I fully understood what I was getting myself into.

I mean, these gitch are the envy of every granny-panty ever made.  A single pair is about $50 – one pair of underwear, essentially – and mine are the cheap knock-offs!

However, I need them to wear under fancy dresses and the like to smooth out what I will call my “life lines”: the extra bits of me that have grown from experiences like birthing too many children and eating too many Lays Dill Pickle Chips.  Yep, that’s right. I paid good money to strategically stuff pieces of me into the largest pair of undies you’ve ever seen.   A pretty picture?  Maybe.

Yes, I could just sport a lovely muumuu to the family wedding but if it is a choice between grandma’s outerwear and grandma’s underwear I’d rather hide this necessary evil and pretend my weight issues away.  The muumuu is a dead giveaway that I have been eating like a cow. (I realize this blog is too, but so few people read it.)

So, the big day arrives.  I’m prepping for my debut as a 10-pound-lighter-looking goddess in the bathroom of the Holiday Inn because I know there will be no end of photography on this occasion.  I’m showered, shaved, newly coiffed, and ready to go out into the world until I try on my undergarments. And they suck.

Ladies, it is no small feat to get into these things, let me tell you.  It is no spa treatment.  I could pay the same cash for a lovely pedi and be much less aware of my shortcomings.  Because, after squeezing my parts into the proper places with several grunts of dismay, I stood in front of the mirror and realized one simple thing.

I am NOT 10 pounds lighter.

I am merely bound by the modern equivalent of the corset and my lack of self-discipline.

Spanx are a merely a Band-Aid solution.  Sure, they work wonders to conceal my flaws for a few hours but nothing has really changed.  It’s all a façade.

As many of you know, I have struggled for sometime to maintain a healthy lifestyle  but it is so much easier to stuff it than to actually make changes.  I am weak and my resolutions fail and I continue to find myself in front of the mirror, confronting the truth.

And the fact that Spanx  (and wannabe Spanx) fly off the shelves indicates to me that I may not be alone in this battle against the bulge.  C’mon friends, surely I’m not the only muffin-topper out there that needs some encouragement!

How can we come together to create a prettier picture that embraces health and wellness in all its forms – including our bodies? How can we get beyond the lies we tell ourselves and really find some freedom?

Maybe if we all rally together we can help each other confront the truths about this deeply spiritual issue. Is it possible?

Is it time for a support group instead of support panties?  I’d like to think so.  Let me know if you are in.

Check out this group resource: http://madetocrave.org/

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Confessions of a Selfish Mom

“I wanna do what I wanna do.”

This is my 2-year-old’s newest chant.  My heart chimes in with an amen, I hear ya, little man every time it is uttered.  And I wonder if that makes me a selfish mom.

Like many moms, I know I need to look after myself but so much of my time and energy is poured out into my husband, my kids, my home, and my work that I don’t know how to juggle it all. I often struggle with the guilt associated with taking “me-time” and making decisions to meet my personal needs.  I often feel that I am not fulfilling my motherly duties if I take time away from the kids so I tend to neglect myself under the guise of caring for others.

I’m convinced that there is a spectrum that lies between

selflessness ______________________&___________________selfishness

and I’m really not sure how to pin point the golden mean.  In this case, Aristotle’s virtue between the two extremes is a little vague for my liking.

I know that we must take care of ourselves as moms in order to be able to take care of our families but the litany of items that “ought” to be addressed in my life under “self-care” constitute a full-time job and I already have at least one of those.  How can I stay spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically healthy and have time for anyone else?

Every mom knows that the job is draining; everyone wants a piece of you but there are not enough pieces to go around. So we can’t keep running on empty and expect to carry on without deficiencies in one area or another.  I know that taking time to care for myself is necessary in order to be any good to those who depend on me but trying to discern the practical parameters of my self-care is really tricky.  Perhaps, I am lacking wisdom and should ask for it…so, wise ones out there in cyberspace, what say you?

Currently, I try to take one night of the week and break from my motherly duties.  I try to be as consistent as possible to keep our family routine intact so that the kids can expect it. This seems reasonable enough but it is the daily disciplines that seem to be so elusive.  I have trouble finding moments throughout my day to refresh.  And even if I should miraculously find a spare 10 minutes, I don’t always use these precious few breaths well.

So, I guess what I am really asking is, at what point does self-care descend into selfishness? I know we invest so much of ourselves in this holy calling known as motherhood but is it okay that sometimes I just wanna do what I wanna do?

I Can’t Do It and Neither Can You

So that resolve thing?  Yeah, it’s not working.

I keep trying to do things on my own and my resolve lacks results.

So, here’s what I am learning.  No amount of doing on my part is going to help.  This is a difficult realization for me to admit.  You see, I’m a doer and a doer that can’t do anything is a force to be reckoned with.  Just ask my husband.  I don’t like to wait;  I want to take action.  I want to develop a plan and implement it.  But manipulation of the externals rarely succeeds in bringing about internal change.  And therein lies the problem.

This frustration is at the heart of Christian experience, right? The Apostle Paul got it.  It has to be God doing the work because we’ve got nothing.  No amount of wishful thinking or good intentions is going to accomplish the work He has started.  Only He can do that.  And so we wait on Him.  Argh.

I’m just trying to figure out how to live in that holy dependency.  Seriously, how do we practically depend on God for strength?  (And don’t comment in Christianese; “let go and let God” just doesn’t deal with this very real struggle honestly enough for me.)  I know that trying to “figure out” the mysterious movement of God is a bit of a fool’s errand.  But I’ve got to do something!

Often, I feel like there is little point in trying at all:  what I want to do I don’t do; but, what I don’t want to do, I do. Yeah, I get that, Paul.  For all those areas that need discipline in my life, I am at His mercy. Somewhere between grace and application a balance can be found – not that I’ve found it, I just choose to believe in that hope.

But how do we allow God to work in us to break us free of these chains?  I have to believe it is possible and that I’m just a work in progress with a long way to go to completion.

I suppose I should feel it is freeing to know that this work is not up to me.  Somehow, that’s not where I’m at and I want to be able to accept that I can’t do it.  And I want that to be okay.

Looking for some wisdom?  Can you supply it?