Monday, October 10, 2016

Killing Anxiety Before it Kills You (Part 2).

"Unpredictability produces high levels of anxiety."
 - Mark Batterson from "Chase The Lion"

When I saw the subtitle of Mark Batterson's book,"If Your Dream Doesn't Scare You, It's Too Small",  I had a rather strong reaction.  It came at the height of anxiety and I didn't feel in the mood to "dream big". Well if that's the criteria for judging the size of a dream, then my dream is plenty big enough, I mumbled.

I love to underline key thoughts when I'm reading a book and since I've underlined most of Batterson's book, I guess you could say I'm finding it helpful in spite of my initial reaction. I agree with him - unpredictability does produce high levels of anxiety. 

For instance, last year around this time, my husband and I knew we were facing several costly medical procedures. Like many self-employed Americans, our medical insurance has been anything but affordable and since we had just signed up for another plan suggested by our insurance agent to keep in line with the government requirements, we found our anxiety levels increased because we weren't absolutely positive that our insurance would cover all that we needed to have done. What if we'd end up paying the whole thing ourselves? 

Looking back to this time last year, I can see that we made it through ok. So many fears are unfounded, yet they feel so real.

That leads me to my next tip for killing anxiety. 

"Take life one moment at a time."

Others tell me they are inspired by watching me go after my dream. It makes them want to try and work at their dream. I usually sarcastically tell them to go and work at Walmart. It would be much easier to just punch a clock, work for someone else, and go home. I'm learning to take this one moment at a time.

I'm glad someone else is inspired because there are many "uninspiring moments" about this dream and they are usually the unpredictable ones that cause the most anxiety. Remember, he said that unpredictability produces high levels of anxiety?

Here are just some of the unpredictable elements of the dream:
  • Ticket sales 
  • Attendance
  • Weather
  • Health 
Ticket Sales:

Since the concert is a very big expense, ticket sales are important! Marketing, musicians, sheet music, lighting and sound are just a few of the expenses. But I won't know until the night of December 10, exactly how many tickets I've sold (unless it sells out ahead of time) so why worry about it in this moment? 

In 2014, I was afraid no one would come. 400 people came.

In 2015 I was afraid people wouldn't come back. But people came back and brought friends and we had over 730 people.

Guess what tries to make me afraid this year? Yep - same old thing. It's just part of chasing the lion.


Even if people buy tickets, I don't know what things may come up in their lives to prevent them from actually coming. No one can control circumstances, so why do I worry about how many will be able to come? It's out of my control completely. I won't change it by worrying about it.

In fact, just in the past few months, three people I care about have passed away rather suddenly. One of them attended my past two concerts. I am sure she didn't know when she came last year that it would be her last year. That's how unpredictable life is. For that matter, this could be MY last concert.


The weather? Well, yeah, that's a real deal breaker! But I can't control the weather either, so why do I worry about it in this moment? It's taking up energy and brain space that could be put to better use.


What if I get sick? Lose my voice? I could borrow Ironman's suit and be completely protected from all germs, but it's hard to practice the piano with iron hands. 

You probably think I'm getting a little detailed - but that's how detailed our fears can be and now you know some of my secret fears. It helps to name them.

It's tempting to wait until I do something really successful and amazing and THEN tell you what I was afraid of, but somehow it seems more powerful if you know it as it's all happening - whether it succeeds or not. You get to see the struggle as well as the joy.

I close with some challenging words from Jesus: 

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today."

Does this mean I don't prepare for the concert, or work hard from morning until evening practicing, praying, promoting? NO! 

I work hard in case tomorrow comes 
and I worry none in case it doesn't. 

So these days my prayer moments go kind of like this:

"Father, thank you that in this moment, I have everything I need. I have bills coming up that need paid, but they aren't due today, therefore, why give them any thought. I am alive and well in this moment and that's all I am really guaranteed....this moment. Yesterday is history and tomorrow may never come for me. I am at peace now in this moment. You said not to worry about tomorrow, so I choose not to. 

You also said "don't let your heart be troubled", so I'm choosing peace in this moment. Hey little heart of mine, it's going to be ok - don't be troubled!"

If I do that each moment, next thing I know, the day is over and I've made it through and peace is reigning in my heart. Tomorrow, if I wake up, I'll do it all over again, until this battle is done. Will you join me?

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Killing Anxiety Before it Kills You! (Part 1)

It seems like the only thing I can write about passionately right now is anxiety. 

Honestly, I had no idea what stepping out and creating an evening of "Portraits of White" would do to my life. I didn't know I would battle such insecurities and frailty of soul. This year's concert brings all the regular battles PLUS an added battle of anxiety that seems to be unleashed in a fierce way. Someone has turned up the heat.

One of the rules of successful blogging is to do it with consistency. I did pretty well until August. The reason for my failure to be consistent? I spent so much time and energy working on songwriting for my new CD project that I was completely "wordless" and void of any bandwidth for expressing anymore thoughts.

Now, as I head into final preparations for the big dream concert, I still feel like I don't have bandwidth for writing anything because I'm pouring myself into making the night of December 10 as amazing as I possibly can, in hopes that people will walk away inspired, encouraged and full of hope.

However, I miss the benefits of blogging. Writing about my inner thoughts and struggles is so helpful in bringing clarity to my life. So in keeping with my original plan when I first began blogging, I will write, whether anyone is reading or not and even though I may have lost readers because I broke the rule of consistency. If you are still with me, great.

So with that set up, I've decided to focus my next season of blogging around dealing with anxiety. It seems to be a by-product of stepping out and responding to the whisper of the dream when the sun was shining and anxiety was far from you. Now, you say to yourself "what was I thinking?".

I'm not a medical doctor and I am not a psychologist! But I am familiar with anxiety and what it can do to our bodies.

This image says it all. Anxiety will paralyze you.

You won't be able to see or think straight, let alone breathe.

I am convinced that at the root of anxiety
is the misconception that we can control our lives. 

Though I believe that we can make choices and try to stay on track, ultimately, we are not in control. I was reminded of that when I spent the night at Chicago's O'hare airport back in July. It didn't matter what I planned, preferred or listed as my goal, my plane was not going anywhere because of a bad storm. It was a situation beyond my control, and at first, it made me anxious.

So here's what I know from experience about anxiety in my life, so far:

1) It feels like churning and knots in my stomach
2) It has the potential to paralyze me if allowed to turn into full-blown fear
3) It often strikes in the middle of the night
4) It disillusions me into thinking I would feel better if I could control everything

As I explore this topic throughout the next few weeks, I'll share a tip for how I am currently learning to kill it before it kills me.

Pray. Pray. Pray.

"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." 
Philippians 4:6-7.

This simple verse is changing my life. I have it written out and taped about my stove in the kitchen. I read it often and I say it out loud to myself throughout the day. I use the symptoms of anxiety as a signal to remind me to pray instead of THINK or DO my way out of anything. Sometimes, I even get down on my knees and pray out loud right then and there about whatever is making me afraid and anxious.

Feeling anxious? 

Pray. Be very specific about what it is that is making you anxious. Name it out loud and express yourself. 

Know that you are not alone, but we'll get through this together.

Monday, August 1, 2016

When Life Re-writes Your Song.

"Sorry folks, we missed the gap and will have to take you back to the terminal."  It's not what any weary traveler wants to hear - especially when you've already been sitting in the airplane for 3 hours waiting to take off.

I ended up spending the night in the O'Hare airport in Chicago. I found a booth in Chili's restaurant and used my purse for a pillow and spent my first night sleeping in a terminal. I was awakened by a woman yelling at all of us at 4:00 a.m. to get up and get our laptops out for security check. WHAT? What happened to "Good morning sunshine - time to rise. Sorry you had to spend the night here"?

My intended song lyric for the trip home had been "What a Delight, I Caught My Flight". Now a bad thunderstorm was re-writing my lyric to say "No Flight, it's a Chili Night."

So what do you do when life changes your lyrics?

I woke up to find others who had joined me at Chili's!
All summer, I've been crafting the lyrics for my new music project, "Brand New Me". I've even started with one title and ended up with something completely different on a song or two. For instance, "Help Me God" has turned into "Just Like Me".

Writing the lyrics, hard as it may be, is not as hard as living the lyric. "Brand New Me" comes from my escapades while learning to figure skate. Somehow, taking the risk of learning something so challenging in my 40's started a new work on the inside of me and this new album will reflect the growth.

In some ways, the lyrics of my life are being re-written. Sometimes it's been wonderful and sometimes it's been extremely difficult. I've even wondered if that's a good title because sometimes I still feel like "Same Old Me".

I've been thinking that as unpleasant as it is to have someone critique your writing and make you sit down and write to a higher standard, it has been one of the most rewarding experiences. Even as I lock myself away in my writing room to find the best words to express my thoughts and even though sometimes I want to throw the rhyming dictionary across the room, I always seem to come out with something better than what I originally started with.

It crossed my mind the other day, as I was weeding my flower beds (yes, it's amazing when and where new blog ideas strike me) that this process isn't much different than life. I think we all have a certain script or lyric that we want our lives to say or we don't really want to change and we are quite happy with status quo most of the time. But trials come, pressures increase and we start to have to change our tune, our attitude and sometimes, even the title.

Maybe it's not such a bad idea to not only re-write my songs, but to re-write my thoughts, my behaviors and my attitudes. After all, re-writing usually leads to something much better than when I first started.

I didn't like the new title I was receiving at the O'Hare airport that night, but by morning, I decided to embrace the experience and meet some new people and try to have some fun. I met a family of four who had spent two weeks in Rome and had a great time but were happy to get back to Texas where "they have laws" - those were their exact words! That led to a very interesting conversation.

I got to hear the opinions of three youngsters about Instagram, medicinal drugs and listen to some of their music. I flew home in white puffy clouds - a much better view than we would have had going home the night before with bolts of lightening surrounding us.

My window view on the flight home from Chicago.
If your life was made into an album (that's what some of us still call it in the studio) what would the project title be?

Don't just settle for status quo, pick up your pen and start writing the lyric of who you want to be. In fact, do it while you have control of the pen. Sometimes, life picks up the pen and starts writing for you. If so, embracing the new script with a good attitude could lead you to a better song.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Can God Really Change Me?

Do you wish that you could make some changes in your life? Would you like to see some transformation? Less anger, less anxiety, more discipline, more joy?

Last week I posted song lyrics suggesting that you can try to clean yourself up on the outside, but it's really an "Inside Job". God has to do the work, starting with your heart.

But can He really change us?

If so, how?
"All you need is confidence 
He can make adjustments"

How do you go about letting God make adjustments?

I can't explain how it happens, but I do know from past experience that the best way to let God change you from the inside out is to sit still for long periods of time, in silence.

I don't understand how it works. It seems counterproductive but it comes from the law of sowing and reaping. Somehow, when we sow seeds of listening through quietness and waiting, we reap a crop of hearing which leads to change.

You would think that the best way to change your behavior is to set goals, rid yourself of bad habits, replace them with good habits and put your whole being into changing! Now don't get me wrong, I do believe in setting goals, replacing bad habits with good ones, etc., but long-lasting, true life change is still an "inside job". It must start in your soul and God has to do the work.

So how do you go about practicing silence and being still in God's presence?

If you'd like to incorporate this practice into your life, here are some tips that I find useful.

1.) Set a timer.

I know this seems odd, but it works for me. Choose one that makes noise. If you use an hour glass, you'll become distracted by looking to see if time is up. 

If I don't set a timer, my mind begins to wander and I start thinking about how long it's been since I started, when I'll be done and next thing you know I'm wishing that I had copied down a recipe from the Facebook post someone shared yesterday...and on it goes. If I set a timer, my brain seems to know that it must behave for the next 15 minutes. (I think 15 minutes is a good place to start.) It sets my heart free to concentrate on being quiet. After doing this for a season, I find I don't need the timer.

2.) Be quiet!

Truly, just sit and be still. No talking, writing, selfies, tweeting or posting of any kind!

3.) No pets.

Can you tell I'm an animal lover? My cat becomes extremely affectionate when I'm trying to practice a spiritual discipline of some kind. I know they are adorable, but even pets can be a distraction. Choose somewhere that's free of people and pets.

4.) Do it frequently.

I have found that it's like gardening. It can take a long time before you see results, so it's not enough to just try it one day and then give up. Consistency and frequency are key!

"When you're waiting, you're not doing nothing. 
You're doing the most important something there is. 
You're allowing your soul to grow up. 
If you can't be still and wait, 
you can't become what God created you to be." 

From "When The Heart Waits"
Sue Monk Kidd

So if you're feeling the need for change in your life, I encourage you to embrace the discipline of being quiet. Yes, God CAN really change you. Though you may not hear anything during this time of silence, there is a work that is being done. Taking time to be quiet is a way of nodding in assent to God and the power with which He transforms us.

Friday, July 15, 2016

It's an Inside Job

"It's an Inside Job"

You can clean yourself with soap
and scrub until you shine
it's all a downward slope
'cause here's the bottom line
it's an inside job
it's an inside job

It can't be you
yeah, it has to be God
the changing of your heart
I know it sounds odd
it's an inside job
it's an inside job

All you need is confidence
He will make adjustments
He will start
inside your heart
then you'll see the outside
looking like the inside
oh, oh, oh
it's an inside job

Want to hear the tune for this little song devotional? 

Click here or watch the video above.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Go Ahead - Eat That Pie!

"Some people dig a fork into the pie 
but are too lazy to raise it to their mouth."  

Proverbs 19:24 (The Message)

I consider myself a pretty good pie maker. But it's taken me years to figure out what makes a good pie. There were times I wanted to throw the rolling pin across the room and give up. My husband loves pie and I was determined to figure it all out. I can't imagine going to all the work of making a pie and then being too lazy to finally sit down and eat it like the Proverb suggests.

In my early twenties, I learned my first important lesson about making pies when I spent my first Thanksgiving away from home. I was living in Oklahoma at the time and offered to make Thanksgiving dinner for my friends since I couldn't go home for the holiday. I had no idea what I was getting into.

I couldn't believe there would be that much difference between home-made pumpkin pie and the filling in a can. So in my laziness (and stupidity) I bought pumpkin pie in a can. It tasted terrible.

My Mother was THE best pie maker in the world and there is a reason she didn't use store-bought filling.  I think that was the day I decided that I would never make a pie with store-bought filling again. Why hadn't I paid more attention to what my Mother did?

Once I've made a pie, my husband finds all kinds of creative ways to hurry up the process of cooling it. Snow banks, freezer, van, whatever he can find that is cold enough! (If you cut into a pie before it cools completely, the filling is a runny mess.) A runny mess is ok if you want a delicious topping for your scoop of ice cream and don't mind the flakey pie crust as part of your ice cream, but my husband is a purist and wants his pie without anything else on it. I, on the other hand, try to find that perfect temperature when it's cool enough that it won't run, but it's still warm enough that it comforts your digestive tract all the way to your stomach.

So when I read this Proverb recently, I started pondered the meaning of it and Tom and I have had some interesting discussion as we reflect on our upbringing and our love of pie-consumption. How could anyone not eat the pie they made?

Take for instance my concord grape pie - my personal favorite. Years ago we planted our own concord grape vine so that I could harvest the grapes and make fresh grape pie. There's nothing else like it! It takes a lot of work to grow them yourself. If I'm going to go to the work of planting, growing, pruning and maintaining the grape vine, why on earth would I dig my fork into the final masterpiece and then NOT put it into my mouth?

Tom and I were not raised to be lazy. But we both realize that there are days we could choose to be lazy. In fact, just last weekend, I told him I just wanted to lay in bed and eat a big bag of peanut M&M's. I laughed when he responded, "Come on now, you're a motivational speaker, now motivate yourself."

All that is to say, I have times when I am too tired to keep going. I juggle a lot of things, just like you. Sometimes, if one of those things drops or goes awry, I can feel like giving up on everything.

So whether you struggle with laziness all the time or just once in a while, we concluded that laziness can overtake anyone for various reasons. I've chosen two that seem to be my biggest culprits.

1.) Discouragement.

For myself, I find that laziness can set in when I am discouraged. Once I've worked through the root of my discouragement, I am on my way to becoming productive again.

2.) Resistance.

Resistance can come at you from the outside or it can come from within your own soul. Either way, it's amazing how you can be so close to the final step of your dream and then encounter one last big battle of resistance.
  • The night before your wedding, you suddenly panic and fear you're making a mistake. 
  • You tear up your resignation letter and decide to keep your old job because it's more comfortable than looking for something more suited to your skills and personality.
Up until the final moments before I walked on to the stage for my first Portraits of White concert, I encountered resistance. In fact, I was in my hotel room with diarrhea about an hour before I had to head over to the venue. I was terrified. I wanted to hide from everyone. I questioned my own sanity in planning such an event. I had overcome many obstacles to get that far, but the biggest resistance now came from my own deep dark pit of self-doubt. Fortunately, I pressed through and the moment I stepped on stage, I experienced amazing confidence.

Like they say,

"Don't doubt in the dark what you heard in the light."

So if you find yourself digging into the pie, but unable to follow through to the last bite, take heart. Ask yourself what is really bothering you? 

If I would have not followed through on my Portraits of White concert, it would have most likely been because I was afraid I would fail. So for me, it's often rooted in fear.

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” - Steven Pressfield, "The War of Art"

Or perhaps you are simply encountering resistance.

“To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be.” - Steven Pressfield, "The War of Art"

Once you've identified the root of your trouble, stick your fork in the pie and then go ahead - eat it!

It's the 4th of July
go ahead and eat your pie!