Willow Creek has Done it Again

28 12 2010

I left work at the counseling center early to be there, and as the lights dimmed, the music began, and images of Mary and Joseph flashed on the screen, I was glad I did.  The drama unfolded and I was transported into a dark world of anxiety, worry, pain, and fear that matched where I was emotionally at the time.

I felt something in my gut, I was being stirred, and I could tell a storm was brewing.  Tears were a few moments away, and through shortened breaths I sat back and held on tight for the onslaught of emotion.  Mary and the Angel were acting out Luke chapter 1 and fighting back and forth through disbelief, fear, anxiety, worry, and anger.  Mary finally reaches a place of acceptance and submission and saying, “I am the lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).

The theme of the Christmas service at Willow Creek Church this year was Do Not Be Afraid -Yeah Right!

Given where I am right now, how could I not be afraid!  I am in a place of taking a huge step of faith and doing things I would not normally do on the belief that I am being prompted by God to do them, and in addition I am supposed to be fearless about it?!?

Through my reactivity, I found myself drawn more and more to Mary, feeling a deep sense of connection with her fear, anxiety, disbelief, and obedience to all that was happening around her. I came to appreciate in a new way the divine orchestration involved in the story of Jesus’ birth:

  • The Wiseman hearing the call and showing up, rallying around Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus showing their respect, admiration, and support.
  • The Angel of the Lord guiding and directing the people to be in the right places at the right time.
  • The raw courage and strength of Mary and Joseph to believe the impossible and act out of obedience and faith rather than out of their own will.

Through my tears I was asking:

  • Would do that in my life?
  • I am that important to God?
  • In what ways is he doing this already?
  • What is going on behind the scenes that I don’t know about?
  • In what areas of my life do I need to choose trust over fear?

After asking those questions and fully feeling my fear, anxiety and worry, a strange thing happened, I felt:

  • Relief– as the angel suggested; I could chose to not be afraid.
  • Joy– being reminded of the complexity of how God works, and how it’s not for me to understand what’s going on, rather for me to be obedient and simply do what I am being asked to do.
  • Peace– I was connected to the story and myself in ways that I had not yet experienced.

Their fear mirrored my own, their experience of being asked to believe and do the unthinkable mirrored my own, and their obedience in the face of great odds mirrored my own.  I was comforted because just as they were ok in the story, so was I.  I had the overwhelming sense that no matter what happens in my life that I have been given or will be given the tools, the resources, and the support around me to grow, thrive, and flourish under any circumstances.  I was fully alive in my fear and knew that the next step in my personal growth is to give and receive love more freely; I felt loved by God after that experience.

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Avoiding Burnout

14 12 2010

I’m stressed, my internal two-year old is throwing a fit.  Not only can I not seem to find the energy or motivation to get done what I need to get done, I just plain don’t want to.  Being grown up, responsible, and ready to take on the world is the farthest thing from my mind.

I am in the midst of a mental hijack and am feeling the effects of burnout- apathy, listlessness, and fatigue have all set in.  And now that I’m in this place, I’m stressing about being unproductive.  This stress I’m adding to the mix is really only keeping me stuck- I’m making my own problem worse.  I can feel the toxic slide beginning and I know that I can’t afford to indulge this mood.

I pull away from my desk, close my eyes, and take a deep breath.  For an instant I regain normal adult brain functioning.  My years of counseling training have paid off- I can think again! As this brief moment of clarity sets in I’m off to the races.  I know enough about myself to know that this mood won’t subside on its own, and as I sit at my office in Northbrook and look out on the parking lot, I know I need to act and act quickly before the next tantrum begins.

I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths, and a little boy of about 3 years old floated into my consciousness.  This may sound weird, but we had a conversation.  I imagined what he needed.  He looked really sad and really scared, and I knew that as a responsible parent and adult, it was my duty to comfort this boy.  He was the one throwing the tantrum and refusing to get any work done, and he was the part of me in need of attention the most.

Though I was reassuring this young part of myself, adult Andrew was getting some care and comfort as well.  My self-soothing words seemed like cold water on a hot day and I felt the rest of my body relax.  The knots in my back loosened ever so slightly and the tension in my head eased.  I breathed a deep breath and sigh of relief.

I was once again in touch with myself, my inner child and with my power and purpose in life.  I felt more ready and able to go about my day and get done the work I needed to do.  I was in the same moment, my internal parent and internal child giving counsel and compassion as well as a firm call to action.

Once I opened my eyes and regained my focus, the feeling of dread, fear, deadness, and anxiety had all but subsided.  I was back, my brain and body nourished and no longer hijacked were ready to once again be the productive and responsive tools that I needed them to be.





Battling Loneliness- The Fight for Intimacy Part II

2 12 2010

Continued from Tuesday read more of my thoughts on fighting loneliness-

Especially for singles during this holiday season, feeling loneliness and shame are common and avoidable.  I would suggest a couple of simple things that I have found helpful in my own life and that were suggested to me by Rich Blue of the Center for Christian Life Enrichment:

First- change what you beleive about yourself and the world.  Believe that you are a person worth being in relationship with, that you have a lot to offer and that you are capable of creating the type of fun and connection you are hungry for.  It sounds simple and is yet often overlooked.  If you have the vision for and the definition of what you want it is much easier to actually get that.

Second- Do one thing each day to connect in a way you would not normally do.  Maybe it is calling a friend you have lost touch with, sending out a card, or writing a meaningful email.  It could be as simple as talking to the doorman in your building or the receptionist at your office, striking up a conversation on the bus, or simply looking people in the eye as you walk by them on the street.  The important thing is to be pro-active and assume that other people will be happy to hear from you.

Waiting for others to connect with you can be painful, and is normally a setup that perpetuates feeling stuck, in shame, and alone.

Doing these little things with the mindset that you are valuable and worth knowing will go a long way to filling your intimacy tank- they have and still do for me!  Creating intimacy does not have to be a fight; it can be a manageable, measurable, step-by-step process of getting what you want out of life.  Taking these daily steps does require an increasing level of consciousness as well as the willingness to engage with vulnerability and truth.  The payoff though is living an abundant life full of depth, intimacy, and meaning!





Battling Loneliness- The Fight for Intimacy Part I

30 11 2010

How do you fight loneliness? My best friend and I were talking about it the other day. People don’t realize how much time you spend alone; especially if you’re single and/or live by yourself.

 

The above question came from a good friend of mine and in the spirit of the site, AskMerce, I’ll take a crack at it.

Erik Erikson was right when he mapped out the stages of human development.  He labeled the twenties and early thirties as the time where people struggle the most finding love, oscillating between intimacy and isolation.  The successful completion of this stage is built upon the previous stage of identity formation and successfully finding a strong enough sense of self such that you are able to be in a relationship and still be an individual.

Emotional pain and anxiety triggered by feeling isolated and lonely are common to people during this time.  I know personally that I have spent most of my young adult life attempting to avoid or solve the problem of feeling lonely without ever really addressing the feeling head on.  Oftentimes I feel trapped and scared, stuck between a rock and a hard place.  Do I put myself out there and risk rejection in dating, with friends, and by meeting new people?  Or do I remain at home and continue to live a small and isolated life, not really investing in many people and not allowing them to invest in me?

I complain that I want to feel more connected and have more friends, a bigger social network, and to also find that special someone, yet I don’t live my life that way.  I am oftentimes too scared and sometimes overwhelmed to be the type of person I envision myself to be.  I see my best self as engaged, energetic, lively and attractive. When I am living in that space and get the connection and intimacy I am looking for, I set myself up to feel the love that I want to feel in my life.  Sometimes though, that’s the problem, I get what I want.

I don’t always believe I deserve to get what I want.  I act in ways that devalue my hungers so that it doesn’t seem to matter quite as much if I am getting them met.  In reality though, I’m messing with myself. Instead of living through and experiencing that hurt, I am avoiding the pain that not getting what I want stirs.  I end up living unsatisfied and ok with that because it has become strangely comfortable and familiar to be that way.

It hurts knowing I am capable of creating intimate relationships and knowing that I choose not to out of fear, scarcity and hostility.  I get in my own way and blame others for what I have created.  What I am learning though is that not only is this a natural process that people go through, going through it with an increased level of consciousness is helping me to find more satisfaction in my personal life.  I am allowing myself more grace and compassion- I am not as hard on myself as I once was.  I am beginning to see that in order to be more fully intimate with another person, I need to be more fully intimate with myself.  Through self-discovery and knowing more of what makes me tick, I have more of myself to consciously and authentically offer in relationship with another person.  Almost paradoxically, spending time doing my own personal work empowers me to be more fully present with another person, and taking the learns I get from my own growth work back to my personal relationships enriches and nourishes the bond between the two of us.

Check back on Thursday to hear some more thoughts on specific step you can take to avoid loneliness and maintain a deeper sense of connection and intimacy, especially during the holiday season!





Questions Wanted!

26 10 2010

This blog is intended to be interactive- meaning I want to hear from you! Post any questions you have relating to personal growth, transformation, or just life in general, and I will try my best to answer them or get in touch with those who can!  I’ll get the conversations started with new entries and I want you the reader to interact as well and really make this a dynamic online community and resource for those wanting to live great lives!