Becoming Real

In November of 2011 I had a cancer scare. While getting my annual physical my doctor found a lump on my thyroid gland. Both my parents had a cancer diagnosis already, and four out of five of my Dad’s siblings had faced cancer. I didn’t expect a good diagnosis, and I was sure my tumor was cancer. After an ultrasound and biopsy, the tumor was highly suspicious of cancer and I had to undergo surgery to have it removed.

 

The surgeon informed me that the procedure would involve an incision made in the front of my neck about where it meets the collarbone, and that he would remove half of my thyroid for sure. While I was on the table, they would biopsy the tumour, and if any cancer was found in it, they would then remove the other half of the thyroid as well.  I woke up with half a thyroid remaining, for which I was thankful.

For me, the worst part of the process, was looking in the mirror for the first time when the bandages came off. My husband had to stand with me and remove the bandages as I was too afraid of what I would see. The truth hurt when I looked in the mirror. I told Dave “I look like Frankenstein!” And there was a definite similarity. The scar looked bad, and the skin around it was very puckered and swollen. My husband told me I was still beautiful to him, and he assured me the scar would continue to heal nicely.

 

The second worst part of the process was the side effects of living with half a thyroid for the next three months, without medication to regulate it. In majority of patients, half the thyroid will do the job of a whole thyroid. Doctors failed to tell me though, that while the body is trying to find its new normal, a patient can experience racing heart, anxiety, depression and mood swings. Twice during this three-month time, I thought I was having a heart attack. After the three months my thyroid was weak, and I will be on medication the rest of my life.

My husband was right, my scar did heal nicely. After nine months or so I hardly even noticed it anymore. I quit trying to hide my scar because I accepted it as part of my story, and I thought other women facing the same surgery may ask me about it, and I could warn them about possible post surgery side affects.

 

The following year brought many changes to our lives. Our middle daughter graduated high school and left for a year at bible school in Texas, our son got married and moved to Texas for university, we moved to another city, my husband got a new job, and I got a new job working at our church. It was a lot of change in a short time. Prior to this, I thought I was a person who enjoyed change, but this was different. Most of these changes triggered big emotions in me. Especially two of the children moving away. Texas is a four-hour plane ride from our city.

My role at the church was Executive Assistant, which is a job I could practically do in my sleep. I am just wired that way. A year into the job, an opportunity arose to be involved in women’s ministry. My prior women’s ministry involvement included starting and running a charity called Mentoring of Mother’s Society (MOMS). I was the Board Chair and Program Director the duration of the ministry. These ten years were exciting times. I wrote curriculum for women and kids, I did speaking to MOMS groups. We were responsible for helping start seven chapters in seven cities. We ran events and conferences for hundreds of people. But after ten years in operation, the Board agreed we needed to fold the ministry because it was not financially sustainable. When God called me to lay this ministry down, it felt like I was giving up a piece of myself. I grieved for a long time. I wondered if I would ever be involved in ministry again.

 

Three years after I laid MOMS down, I became Pastor of Women’s Ministry at our church. My role as Pastor was a lot different than Program Director or Board Chair of MOMS. My Pastor role required that I get out from behind my computer and meet women for coffee and talk face to face. As an introvert, getting face to face with people for conversation was stretching. I felt God calling me to be authentic with women, to take off masks I was used to wearing, to lower my walls of self-protection and not only listen to women’s stories, but to offer my own stories as well. I was shocked by the outcome. As my heart began to become more real, emotions I held back for years, started breaking through the walls of my heart and spilling out my eyes. I could be in the middle of a staff meeting thinking about nothing, and tears would start to pour out of my eyes. I would say “Oh, it’s just my thyroid”.  I figured this sounded better than “It’s just hormones, or PMS, or our kids just up and moved away.” My thought was that while people may have preconceived ideas of PMS or hormones, no one knows what to say about thyroid issues. Most likely they’ve never heard that excuse used before and are not likely to even know what a thyroid does.

Becoming real is difficult when like me, you’ve built walls around you heart because life’s circumstances and hurts have been too much to bear. I felt like a turtle who had spent life hiding inside my shell, beginning to poke my head out every once and a while. It felt risky and I was often nervous.

 

God began a work in me that continues today. He massaged my heart of stone and transformed it into a heart of flesh. Jesus is such a gentle potter. He calls us deeper into His love, He smooths off our rough edges, He calls us to know Him personally, He calls us to allow Him to walk right beside us. God has given me more emotion healing than I thought possible this side of heaven.

There are still days when the tears roll and my emotions flare, and I blame it on my thyroid, but the truth is that when God does a work in our hearts, it’s going to be good, and well worth any inner struggle it takes to get there.

I’m a Recovering Perfectionist

I was born with a personality that loves order. I like things done a certain way. I love having all my ducks in a row. I love routine. I feel most at peace when my house is clean, tidy and free of clutter. I’m constantly moving things around which drives my husband batty, but it is cheaper than buying new stuff.

 

My husband is very tidy but he could live just fine with mess. In fact, my husband Dave is one of the most laid back humans I’ve ever met. Dave doesn’t understand the ducks in a row thing. He thinks ducks are for playing with in the bathtub or for throwing around. He loves fun and anything in his sight that looks like a toy could be used for fun.

My perfectionism became a problem when our kids were teens, because teens make messes. For example, our teens were known to just show up at 10:00 pm, make pizza and leave the dishes everywhere. Teens tend to  leave a trail everywhere they go.

 

Family gatherings were the worst for me when I was in the height of my perfectionism. I would have the meal planned weeks in advance. I would have the table set with the matching place cards and everything looked great, Martha Steward and Pinterest had nothing on me! But after I had finished cleaning the house and the table was set I often discovered a new mess or something  out of order. My blood pressure would begin to rise, and I would start washing walls, and cupboards, and attempting spring cleaning projects not yet done. I’d being to yell at everyone to “clean up”!!! Dave was no help. About the time I would start washing walls, he’d say to the kids” We need something from the store, who’s coming with me?” and they’d all leave me, washing walls, alone! Worse yet, there was nothing needed from the store. My family were all just trying  to get a break from me and my out of control state! Afte

 

 

My daughter’s comments caused me to rethink my whole perfectionist tendency. Perhaps all my frenzy could be avoided. Perhaps I could do my best and then just let it go? You see the cost to my own well-being was huge, and by the time guests arrived I was already emotionally spent.

 

It took some time, but I’ve come to learn that I can lay perfectionism aside. I can choose to leave some mess. Sometimes I leave a bit of mess on purpose just to prove to myself that I can. I’ve learned to walk away from the kitchen, even when its not all cleaned up. I’ve learned that I can give myself permission to be less than perfect. I still want people to feel comfortable in our home, but I don’t want to be so worked up, that I’m no fun to be with when they arrive.

Dave and I have developed a system. It only took 24 years to find this solution. When it comes to entertaining, Dave cooks the main course, I make dessert and set the table. He likes to cook. I don’t. I make sure I’ve cleaned the house a few days prior to company coming, and just touch things up the day of. I don’t let myself wash walls or have a meltdown. In fact, of late, while Dave is cooking, I’m not allowed in the kitchen at all, so I read a book or do a crossword. I relax, so when the doorbell rings I’m ready to have fun with the people, who are really coming to see us, not a perfect house.

To all my fellow perfectionists out there, meltdowns or not, without us there would be no beautiful smiles (most dentists are perfectionists), beautiful architecture (most architects are perfectionist), perfect railroads …  The key is to find balance between perfection and reasonable standards. We need to give ourselves permission to let loose every once and a while, and let things be less than perfect.

If you can’t relate because you are laid back, hug a perfectionist today!

Confessions of a Loner

I’ve found my 40’s a season of great contemplation. Life has slowed down enough that I have time to reflect and analyze.

One of the things I’ve realized is that I tend to be a loner. Don’t get me wrong, I have friends, but even my best friend and I only talk once a week. I’ve just never been the kind of person who checked in with my Mom or a friend on a constant basis.

 

I remember my counselor challenging me during a session about 6 years ago. “Kelly you could die a very lonely woman”. My first thought was “How dare you say something so rude. I paid good money for this session, only to be insulted.” I didn’t  have the self awareness at the time to see that what he was saying was true. At the time, I thought my lack of meaningful relationships was an issue because others in my life didn’t want deeper relationship with me. But when I look back today, I see that the counselor was spot on. I was living a life surrounded by people but I had built up big walls of protection that stopped people from getting close to me. I was holding people at arms length and then blaming them for not being closer.

We all have reasons for our dysfunctions or growth areas, and of course and I’m no exception. So I thought sharing my thoughts on being a loner may help you understand yourself, or someone you know a bit better.

Confessions of a Loner

I’ve always been above my years…

I’ve been a serious, adult like person since the age of 10. I was often much more comfortable talking to adults than kids my age. I was interested in politics and world issues even as a pre-teen and I loved debating relevant issues with my parent’s friends. In fact I liked debating so much I thought I might become a lawyer.

In high school I was usually the designated driver for my friends and I lectured them as a parent would on some of their choices. Yep I was a lot of fun. To top it of I sabotaged my social status by carrying a briefcase around in grade 11. Like who does that? I acted more like a teacher than a student. Oh how I hated high school. I just didn’t fit. Before you think I’m a total geek, I did date the hot football captain for a while, but that’s another story.

I’m not good at small talk

If it comes to choosing a deep emotional conversation or talking about shoes, I’ll choose deep every time. I’m definitely a girly girl and I like clothes and putting together outfits, and I like shoes ( I don’t have as many as most of you probably), but talking about shoes is just pointless to me. I’d much rather talk about heart issues. I’m a deep feeler, and relating on an emotional level or intellectual level is my sweet spot.

I’m comfortable talking to men. You may think that contradicts my earlier statement about talking on an emotional level, but it’s the intellectual level I like. I like talking business, and policy, and forward type entrepreneurial thinking. I grew up in a family business family, my Dad was the CEO. so talking business is interesting to me.

I’ve been burned in relationships

Get burned enough times touching the hot stove and you loose interest in cooking. I once had a mentor and friend tell me she couldn’t be my friend anymore because we would be attending another church and she only had time for women in her own church. Ouch!!! That one really hurt just a couple years later 2 friendships I invested in ended abruptly for different reasons. One because of a difference in ministry opinion and the other because she said she was moving in a different direction and didn’t have time for our friendship.

When you are a sensitive person and people burn you it takes some time and courage to put yourself out there again in friendships.

Being alone feels safe

When you keep people at bay, they can’t hurt you, is what us loners tell ourselves. But the fact is, this isn’t true. I spent many years holding others at an arms length and then feeling rejected because they didn’t make effort to get together with me. I know, I’m my own worst enemy. Being alone isn’t safe though, when you fall down, you need others to help you up. For those of us who battle depression, too much time alone with our thoughts can lead us to some dark places that aren’t safe at all.

I like it when people invite me to do things

I think people assume that I’m an independent person and that I can make my own fun.  Sometimes I do need  alone time to refuel. But there are countless times I wish another woman would invite me to coffee or movie.

 

I spent the last 5.5 years as Pastor of Women’s Ministry. My job pushed me to meet with women on a regular a basis. At first this scared me to death. You see I know I’m kind of a misfit. I wondered if I’d have to talk about shoes! But over these years I’ve been blown away at what God has been doing in me through meeting with women. I’m discovering that I have things to relate to, that I’m a great listener, and every once and a while I have something great to say.

But what’s surprised me the most lately, is that I’m not enjoying my alone time like I used to. Often now when I’m alone I feel lonely! I am craving the company of others more than ever before, and I’m amazed by what God is doing in me.

The counselor was right. I could have died a lonely old woman, but I’m no longer okay with that. This journey I’m on is one of healing and joy and God is using beautiful women  to bring me the healing I need.

I’m so thankful Jesus doesn’t let us stay the same. He is constantly inviting us deeper into His love and healing and to trust Him more deeply because as our gentle shepherd, He knows what’s best.

Use What You Love to Do for God’s Glory

Use What You Love for God’s Glory

I heard a great story yesterday I thought I should share. My husband Dave and I love pickleball. A great sport with a stupid name. Took me a whole year of him pestering me to join because I couldn’t get past the name. He finally wore me down and now I’m hooked. Simply it is a little like tennis, table tennis and badminton only played with a wiffle ball and raquet a little bigger than a table tennis racquet. You should try it!

While playing pickleball yesterday in Chilliwack,  a fellow player told me about the resort he recently stayed at in Puerto Vallarta, where another Canadian rents the courts for 6 months for daily pickleball play. Everyone puts in 50 pesos per day of play. This is a reasonable amount but that’s not the point. The gentleman who organizes this pays the 6 month court rental, and then donates all the remaining funds to help hungry kids in Puerto Vallarta through Salvation Army there. Last year the equivalent of over $1000.00 CAN was donated to the Salvation Army in the form of Costco gift cards so they could buy food for hungry children.

In the Gifted for Purpose Workshop I talk about “What’s in Your Hand”. This principle asks simply “what is readily available to you that God could use to bless another?” This generosity can be carried out in countless ways. The possibilities are endless.

For those who love to play pickleball on holidays in Puerto Vallarta it is a win/win. The players get to do what they love and the kids win with free food.

What is in your hand that you might use to bless another?