The Olympics

The Olympics and I have a long history.  In high school our sports teams were called the Olympians, which by virtue of my attending the school, made me an official Olympian. No running, jumping, sweating required.  If you went to Leuzinger High School you could honestly claim that you had been an Olympian.  If nothing else, it was a great conversation starter.

The year I got married, my father-in-law attended the Olympics in Munich while my husband of 15 days and I watched the Opening Ceremonies in our sparsely furnished apartment  in Portland, OR.  For two weeks we I took turns adjusting the antenna on our tiny 12 inch  black and white TV, cheering on the world’s greatest athletes from our living room floor. We didn’t care that we didn’t have a couch yet, or that the TV was so small the athletes looked more like ants than people.  We were married and that was all that mattered.  Our life in that moment was very good. 

In 1984 RPM and I had the joy of attending the Opening Ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in  Los Angeles.  Those Olympics came seven weeks after I had surgery.  I had gone into the hospital in order to have a fibroid tumor removed in the hopes of having another child.  Instead they discovered that I was experiencing my second ruptured tubal pregnancy in six years. 

Getting healthy enough to watch the Olympic flag be raised, the torch lit, and team USA enter the stadium became my recovery goal.  Something positive in the dark days of loss.  Being in the LA Coliseum with thousands of cheering fans as people danced and sang and athletes entered in colorful uniforms provided a brief break from the reality of loss and day to day life.  RPM attended a track event where Carl Lewis got one of his four gold medals.  We watched a lot of the games with our kids on a 30 inch color TV.  We had so much more than we‘d had during the first games we‘d watched together: two beautiful children, a lovely home, a church that loved us.  But we’d also experienced loss and sorrow.  The 1984 games we a mixed bag for me.  Excitement at being a part of it all, live and in person.  Sorrow that life hadn’t worked out the way I wanted.

Over the years I’ve lost some of my enthusiasm for the games.  For one thing, you can now record about 18 hours a day of Olympics.  There are pre-game, wrap up , and preview shows as well as actual events.  Sports are shown from every angle with replays and comments on everything from what the athlete ate that day to what songs are on their iPods.  For me it’s become a bit much.

The other thing that has kind of turned me off on the Olympics is the expectations placed on the athletes. Certain people are selected to be highlighted because of their potential to win.  The higher the potential, the more times we will hear and see their face. No pressure, Team USA.  The happiness of your fellow Americans depends on how you do, but really, no pressure.  

I only watched a little of the Opening Ceremonies for the Sochi games, but I did watch the part where the athletes entered the arena.   As I did it hit me that 80 percent (or more) of the athletes who participated in the winter games walked away without any kind of medal. In some cases they were crushed by their failure to make the podium.  But for many of them they really didn’t care.  They knew walking in that they didn’t stand a chance of leaving with a medal.  So instead of kicking themselves and claming they were no good, they set their own realistic goals.

Some of them, like the lone athlete from Nepal, were content just making it to the games. Others just wanted a PR (personal record).  Some wanted to be in the top ten.  Some saw these games as a warm up for the next Winter Olympics.  Different people.  Different levels.  Different goals.

I know a lot of people, myself included, who have at times, set unrealistic goals for themselves.  People who think that if they just try hard enough they can do it all.  That life will work out the way we planned.  But we can’t.  We live in a broken and fallen world.  A world where bad things happen to good people.  A place where it’s not always possible to win. 

There will come a day when every tribe, tongue and nation will gather for a celebration even greater than the Olympics.  There will be gold, not on medals but on the streets.  There will be victory, not over another country or athlete, but over sin.  Where life will forever be great and happy and perfect. 

Until that time I’ll just have to keep pressing on towards the prize and settle for having been an “Olympian” in high school.

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Valentine’s Day Thoughts

The first Valentine’s card that had great significance in my life came from a boy named Donald Deathridge.  The card asked me if I wanted to go steady.  Since we were in 5th grade at the time and not old enough to date, the going steady part didn’t have much meaning.  What the card did mean was that the “all boys have cooties” stage of my life was done.  A boy liked me.  I liked him back.  My world would never be the same.

Over the years I’ve come to think of Valentine’s Day in less favorable terms than I did the year Donald and I were an item.  Like Christmas, Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays with over the top expectations.  Husbands, boyfriends, and significant others are expected to dole out big bucks for  roses, chocolates, bling, and dinner out.  The happy couple is suppose to looking longingly into the eyes of their loved one, while feeding each other chocolate dipped strawberries and sipping champagne (or sparking cider).  Never mind that you have 3 kids, no money and your husband is getting ready to leave on his third business trip in four weeks, which means you’re on your own with the kids again.  It’s February 14th.  A time for love.  So get busy loving!!

After 42 Valentines Days with the love of my life, here’s what I’ve learned about true love.  Love is a choice, not a feeling.  Staying in love is hard work, but well worth the effort.  Prayer is better than bling. Romance is great, but flowers die and chocolate has to be worked off at the gym.  So enjoy those special moments but don’t build your entire marriage on “warm fuzzy” feelings  alone. 

Most importantly I’ve learned that the only one who can love us perfectly is God.  Everyone else will, at some point, prove they are human by not loving you in the way you thought they should.  You in turn, being human, will at some point fail them.   But God’s love will never fail. 

So, for those of you who have a special someone in your life and those of you who don’t, may God’s love abound in you more and more this Valentine’s Day.  And may someone, somewhere, give you a hug or words of love to remind you that you are indeed greatly loved by the great I AM. 

As for Donald, our great love story lasted for almost a year, but he was a little immature so I moved on.  Eventually I ended up with RPM (Retired Pastor Man) and may I say he was well worth the wait. 

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Why the Seahawks Need to Win

As I sit writing this, our entire state is obsessed with what they perceive to be a great need.  The need is simple.  The Seattle Seahawks NEED to win the Super Bowl.

To understand why this is so important, you must realize that while Seattle has many fine qualities, having winning teams has not one been one of them.   Because of this unfortunate flaw, a July 2013, Forbes article declared Seattle the Worst Sports City in America.  Oh the shame!!!  But now is our chance.  We need revenge. We need hope.  We need a win.

Needs are strange things.  We all have them, but we don’t always express them.  That was most certainly true for me.  The strange thing was I didn’t even realize I had a problem in that area.  Yes, I struggled to say no.  Yes, I felt responsible for the world.  But no, I didn’t have trouble expressing my own wants and desires.  Or did I?

As I continued  working on getting emotionally healthy a pattern began to form.  I would read a book (or two or three), pray, study God’s word and try and sort out what had led me to my false values and depression.  When I would get stuck or confused I’d call and arrange a session with my therapist or sometimes just a long talk with one of my sisters.

The whole “needs” situation came up when I went in for what I refer to as mental tune up.  I had been doing well and was definitely getting stronger and less depressed.  But there was something that kept popping up that I just couldn’t quite put my finger on.  I would suddenly find myself angry or frustrated with no idea why.  Where was that coming from?

When I went in to try and figure it out, I explained a situation that had caused that sudden feeling of anger.  I wanted something and the other person involved had basically brushed aside what I had asked for.  My therapist pointed out that the problem wasn’t the response.  The problem was I hadn’t really expressed what I needed.  Rather than saying, “I would like,” I had instead asked “Would you like…..?”.   I wasn’t telling the person what I wanted, I was asking them what they wanted. 

Unlike the other areas I had been trying to work through, this one was easy to check.  For the next several weeks I tried to really listen to how I expressed what I wanted.  Sure enough, the therapist had been right.  Time after time I would ask rather than tell.  

I realized  I had been so worried about sinning by appearing pushy and overbearing, or not being submissive and loving enough, that I had become reluctant to express what I really wanted.  Instead I asked, hoping that the person I was asking would see how much it meant to me and respond accordingly.

Another false value revealed.  No, I shouldn’t go around telling everyone what to do.  That would indeed be a sin.  But learning how to express what I wanted and needed in a loving way was not only something I should do, it was something I had to do in order to be emotionally healthy.  Another  piece of the picture was coming together. 

So, in an effort to make my needs clear, I want to state that  I need the Seattle Seahawks to win the Super Bowl.  If they don’t it will definitely have an effect on my mental health.   GO HAWKS!!!!!

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What I Learned From The Biggest Loser

It’s rare that a person can truthfully say that a TV show changed their life.  But, in my case it’s true. 

Seven years ago I made a huge life change, in large part due to the NBC show The Biggest Loser.  To say that I admire the men and women who have participated in the show would be an understatement.  In my opinion, any woman willing to wear spandex and a sports bra while showing people her real weight, belongs in the Courage Hall of Fame. 

As I  began, I told myself that I was not going on a diet.  Instead, I was going to make slow sustainable changes and I was going to do it without telling anyone. 

The first week I worked on just two things.  I tried to drink more water and watch my portion sizes.  That was it.  No major change in what I was eating.  No exercise.  Just those two simple things.  Drink more, eat less.  At the end of the week I’d lost two pounds.  The next week I decided to add a little bit of exercise three times a week.  The next week I began to count calories.  At the end of the first month I was ten pounds lighter. 

As time went on I tweaked what I was eating and began to exercise more.  I used the Biggest Loser DVD’s and worked out 5 days a week.  Three days of cardio and two days of strength.  The next month I lost another ten and the month after that another ten.  People started noticing.  Now my motto was: “Eat less, move more, drink more water.”

Nine months later I had lost seventy pounds.  While I’m pleased with the weight loss I am even more pleased that seven years after starting my weight loss journey, and six years after reaching my goal, I’ve kept most of the weight off.  I still work out 5 days a week, I still try and watch what I eat, and I’m still drinking my water.

One of the things they talk about a lot on the Biggest Loser is what got the contestants there in the first place.  I think it was Bob Harper, one of the shows trainers, that first brought up the idea of people using food as their “drug of choice.”  I’d never looked at it that way.  But the truth was, I had indeed drugged myself with food. 

Like a lot of overweight people, I was a stress eater.  But I also ate when I was angry or bored.  Learning to ask myself, “Am I feeling hunger or something else?” was a big step in my losing and keeping the weight off. 

So, when depression set in I saw no reason to delve into the “what are you really feeling?” thing.  What I discovered was, I had barely touched the surface.

I was at lunch with a friend one day when she mentioned a book she wanted to read called;  How We Love: Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage, by Milan and Kay Yerkovich.  Since it was on marriage, and that wasn’t an area I thought I needed help with, I made note of the title and that was it.  However, the Lord kept bringing that conversation back to my mind and eventually I added How We Love to my growing books-to-read list.

When I finally got around to reading it, one of the things that hit me about my particular style was the fact that “Pleasers” can usually tell you what the other person is feeling, but rarely can they tell you what they are feeling.  Was that really me? 

The book had a list of “soul words” that the reader was encouraged to explore.  The first time I used it, I struggled with what my exact feeling was.  Was I really angry or was I feeling manipulated?  Was I depressed or just sad? I felt overwhelmed at times as I struggled to pin-point where I was emotionally.  But, just like I had done when losing weight, I didn’t give up. 

Along the way I learned that God gave us emotions for a reason.   That they are good.  I also learned that many of us (me included) often use our emotions to make decisions, and that’s bad.  ( How many times had I emotionally thought that chocolate cake was indeed the answer to all of life’s problems!)  I also learned that I had a right to feel and a right to try and express those feelings in a healthy way rather than literally stuffing them into my mouth.

For me, getting in touch with how I feel is still a struggle at times.  But I do know that it is possible.  When people ask me how I lost the weight and how I’ve kept it off, I’ve often said: “In the past, when I felt like I needed to exercise I’d lay down until the feeling passed.  Now I get up and exercise anyway because I know I’ll feel better if I do.”  It worked for me.  I know it can work for you. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the gym. 

 

 

 

 

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Playing God

I don’t know where it came from.  Maybe it started when dad had surgery, or when mom became seriously ill with pneumonia.  I’m sure dad’s death, which came less than a month after my tenth birthday, played into it.  My mom being taken to the hospital in an ambulance shortly before I turned 15, and my sisters and I walking into her hospital room to see her having a seizure didn’t help.  Neither did  my older sister being in her second car accident in three years just about the time mom came home from the hospital.  I’m sure, the fact that I am both a nurturer and a leader contributed to it.  Being a pastor’s wife and needing to be there for people in their darkest hours, definite yes on that one. 

No matter what the cause, for years I felt responsible for the world, or at least the people in my world.  Because of that heavy burden of false responsibility,  I found myself taking on things that weren’t mine to take on.  Believing that somehow what was happening was being caused by something I had or hadn’t done.  That if I had worked harder or done more I could have somehow prevented the pain being experienced by the person that I so deeply loved.  This went beyond just not being able to say no to hosting a dinner.  This was me feeling  that if someone was unhappy, hurting, or discouraged, it was because somehow I had failed to do what I was supposed to do.  My expectation was that I could perfectly meet the needs of others.  Basically what it boiled down to was, I thought I could be God. Talk about a false value.

As I continued looking for answers to my depression, I read somewhere that I didn’t need to be God because the job had already been filled.  I put that statement up on my wall to remind me that I was not responsible for everyone else’s well being.  That was up to them and God.  But once again I wasn’t sure what that meant.  How did I support people in need without feeling responsible for the outcome?

The answer to that question came in the form of a  woman with  a childhood that broke my heart.  A woman who had more baggage than a 747.  She came into my life at a time when my own love tank was running on empty.  We both attended the same Bible Study and when that one ended,  she joined the Bible Study I had decided to lead.  About a year into our relationship she asked me what my first impression of her had been.  I told her that I liked her and was glad she was a part of the group.  She wasn’t so sure. 

As I thought about her question and my response, I realized that we were both right.  I did like her, but I had been leery of getting to know her better.  Why?  

After much prayer and soul searching, I told her that what I felt when I first met her was fear.  Fear that I would see her neediness and be sucked into feeling that it was my job to help her erase all of her pain and problems.  I explained that God was teaching me that He was the one in control and only He could heal her past pain.  What I could offer her was a listening ear and prayer.  I could offer her a book that had been helpful to me.  I could also offer her my love.  A love that had grown beyond anything I had expected.

As I said those words I felt as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.  There was the value shift.  Do what I can and let God be God.  I just needed to be there, pray, and love.  That, I could do.

Growth was happening.  I was changing.  My values were getting more in line with God’s Word.

While saying no and feeling responsible for the world were things that I knew were problems, the next issue was one I thought I had already worked through.  But apparently I had more to learn. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Just Say No

It didn’t take a book or a therapist or even a lot of soul searching to figure out that one of the first things I needed to tackle as I began digging my way out of depression was my inability to say no.

Somewhere along the way I had been taught that it was my job as a good wife, mother, employee, volunteer, pastor’s wife, sister, friend, and Christian to “be there” for people when they needed help.   So, when people asked, I said yes.

Rarely did I stop to think about whether it was something I wanted to do.  And it most certainly never crossed my mind that maybe it was something I shouldn’t do.  If I had the ability to do it, and they were standing there telling me they needed me to do it, then I should do it. 

As I struggled with when to say yes and when to say no, I ran across a statement that said taking care of people who need to be taken care of is good.  Taking care of people who don’t need to be taken care of is bad.  While that sounded reasonable, I couldn’t always tell the difference between someone who truly needed help and someone who just wanted help.  The other thing was, if they really did need help, how was I to know if I was the one who was suppose to do the helping?

My other dilemma was that rather than just coming out and saying, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t take on anything else right now, so my answer is no,”  I’d hem and haw my way around the issue.  I’d tell them that I was busy, or tired, or that I really didn’t think it was a good fit, or that while I wished I could, I had company coming etc., etc., etc.   The problem was that they often had a come back for my reason for not doing what they’d asked me to do.  And so I caved.  Over and over and over again I found myself saying “yes” when everything inside of me was yelling “ no.”

Finally, I had someone who told me that I needed to do two things when I was asked to lend a hand.  One was to pray and see if it was indeed something the Lord wanted me to do.  The second was to ask myself if it was something I could do with a willing and cheerful heart. 

There was the value shift.  I no longer had to say yes to everything in order to be a “good” person or to be loved.  I got to trust my heart and God’s leading.   So, this year as I rewire my brain I am working at short circuiting the automatic “yes” and grabbing hold of the “Can I get back to you on that?” wire.  

Here are some other things I’m trying to get into my brain. Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.  That saying no to the good may be necessary in order to be available for the best.  And, from Grace for the Good Girl, by Emily P Freeman, “Need meeting isn’t always love.”

My next step on my journey out of depression was to work on learning that I am not responsible for helping and saving the entire world.  But that’s next week’s blog.  Hope to see you then.

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My New Year’s Resolution

I decided a long time ago that I’m not much of a New Year’s Resolution person. I’m also not much for setting goals. What I am is a person who is open to change. A person who is constantly trying to be a better me. Maybe. Sometimes.

A little over four years ago RPM and I took a couple of classes on how to be a Life Coach. In our first class, during our first practice session, our teacher said something that ended up having a major impact on my life. I was the one being coached and the person who was coaching me got stuck on what she should say next. The teacher, who happened to be standing close by at the time calmly said: “It sounds like maybe Glenda has some values that need to be examined.”

Those words went straight from her lips to the very core of my being. I knew she was right. I knew that I had things in my life that I needed to change. Thoughts that needed to be challenged. But I also knew that making those changes and challenging those thoughts would be messy, painful work. So I did nothing.

I thought if I just ignored the situation it would go away. The harder I worked at trying to bury my thoughts and feelings, the more depressed I became. Finally almost two years after that first class, I reached my breaking point. I was in the car driving home from a trip I’d taken with my sisters. I’d just dropped my older sister off at the airport and was headed towards the freeway when the tears began. Three and a half hours later I was still crying. Not soft gentle tears, but heart breaking sobs that caused me to, at one point, pull off the freeway and sit in a parking lot until I could get myself under control.

I loved my family. I loved my house. I had good friends. I was retired and had more free time than I’d ever had. For the first time in our lives we were in a pretty good place financially. And yet the thought of going back home and doing life the way I had done it for years seemed to overwhelm my soul. I wish I could say that in a moment of great insight and clarity I immediately sought out help. But it would take me three more months of tears and emptiness before I would reach out for the support that I so desperately needed.

Eventually I would end up seeing a therapist, going to Grief Share, and reading over 20 books during my road to recovery. Along the way I would end up tearing apart and rebuilding my value system and it would indeed be hard and painful work. But the depression is gone (at least most of the time). And I am happier and healthier than I’ve been in a long time.

Which leads me to my resolution/goal for the year. This year I want to continue on my road to self discovery by learning how to “hold every thought captive”. Another way of saying that is, “I want to learn how to rewire my brain.” I want to identify the lies that bound me to works rather than grace. I want to see myself as a unique and wonderfully made creation of a God who loved me enough to send His own Son to die for me, not as someone who has to perform to the standards of others. I want to be able to express my feelings and needs in a healthy way rather than trying to pretend that they don’t exist.

Over the course of the next few weeks I will be sharing with you more of my journey out of depression. It’s a scary, vulnerable thing to do. But somewhere I read that “God never wastes a hurt.” I pray that as I share my past pain, God will use it to help you break free of whatever is holding you back from becoming all He wants you to be. And that God will use that new found freedom to make 2014 one of your best years ever.

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