Why Safety is the Answer to Exhaustion and Overwhelm {Also? A fun announcement.}

bright office

When one of my kids wants to tell me about a dream they had, I inwardly roll my eyes and brace myself for the most tedious story ever. This is why I will never take home the Mother of the Year trophy.

So on a Friday morning at the end of a long week — well, actually it was the end of a series of long weeks, I felt especially averse to conversations that start with, “I have to tell you about the dream I had.”

Just the day before I had said truthful but ugly things that a mature and godly grown-up should not say. And then I slammed the door for added punctuation. I sped off to two different schools and then to an event for work.

I was out of gas in every way but faked that I wasn’t, telling myself that all sorts of people live very busy lives and I needed to get over it already. When I returned home early afternoon, I ate lunch on the sofa and turned on the television. It was on the Home Shopping Network and I tuned in for 30 minutes like it was my job, fully convinced that I needed the $30 heart-shaped blush baked on real Italian tiles for two days.

Exhaustion and depletion make us vulnerable like that. We convince ourselves that we deserve certain rewards because of what’s missing in our lives.

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Even though this season of my life is bursting at the seams in a way I’ve never experienced, even though there’s precious little space to reflect and process, grief still manages to chisel itself into the tiny cracks.

Busy-ness is only a temporary deterrent from unattended ache.

latte

Last week I took a few minutes to list the things I miss. It felt like a small but necessary step toward living more honestly with myself.

  • I miss writing so badly that I cry just typing this sentence.
  • I miss having the physical energy that enabled me to get up extra early just a year ago.
  • I miss having more time together as a family.
  • I miss my kids when they were little and the stakes didn’t feel as high.
  • I miss the dreams for my creative work that feel forever on hold.
  • I miss putting our younger kids to bed early and having time in the evening with my husband to watch TV.
  • I miss the seasons when my sanity felt slightly more intact and I didn’t live with a constant, low-grade anxiety / anger combo that I can’t quite figure out.
  • I miss relationships.
  • I miss the days when the family calendar had more margin.

 

In the whole scheme of things, this list of losses is not so important. They are a collection of small griefs.

But the sum of them all feels terribly heavy in my heart.

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On that weary Friday morning, I had also missed two weeks of Bible study and most of the lessons in between. I felt like I was languishing in every way — physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. I felt like a failure and a fraud. I needed nourishment and encouragement but was too tired to seek it.

As my youngest son crunched his cereal and I made my daughter’s lunch, he persisted about the dream.

I suppressed my silent scream of “Noooooo” and said, “Tell me about it.”

Well there were all of these lions everywhere. They were at the park and on our street and in all the yards. But they were in our yard more than anyone else’s yard and they were always trying to get in our house.

At this point, a thought entered my head: Marian, maybe you should pay attention.

large tree

So there were all of these lions in our yard but there was this one really big lion. You know, the kind that has all the hair around its face? This lion stood in our yard in front of the house. 

Me: Well, was it a good lion? Were the other lions bad?

Yeah, the other lions were bad and wanted to hurt us but this lion was protecting us from all of the bad lions. And he was our friend. Like, we could ride on him and stuff.

By this point I had stopped making the lunch and turned away because my eyes stung with tears and I had goose bumps.

In the midst of bread crumbs and Lucky Charms and lukewarm coffee, I felt the palpable presence of God.

I know that plenty of people, even spiritual folks, don’t believe that God shows up in our dreams like that. Especially in the dreams of a child. But for all of my natural inclinations toward skepticism and cynicism and all things rational, God has often bypassed reason and apologetics to get my attention.

I don’t presume that most dreams have spiritual significance but I do know that we’re at our most vulnerable when we’re asleep. And just as I have been attacked by fear and evil in my sleep, I have also been ambushed by truth and beauty.

Perhaps we see truth most clearly when our eyes are closed.

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When I finally walked into Bible study that same morning, utterly worn out and tardy, having forgotten to bring change for the parking meters, I realized I’d done the wrong lesson. Of course.

Instead of Jesus’ trial, we read through Jesus’ prayers for the spiritual safekeeping of believers while we are still in the world.

Things could not have been more clear. “Dear God, message received.”

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Why am I always surprised when He breaks through the universe into my own insignificant corner of the world to show me that life isn’t up to me to get right? It is not like a quest to find the Holy Grail.

Human striving has no place in the kingdom. We live and move and have our being from a totally different source. 

My schedule, my spiritual disciplines, my energy level, my work / life management, my family — all of these things are kept by a loving God who meets me in weakness and cluelessness and utter lack.

It’s not ultimately about my resolve. It’s not ultimately about my abilities or faithfulness.

He’s got us. Period.

And this is grace.

I’m tempted to add all sorts of disclaimers right now.

Now that doesn’t mean we don’t do anything or have certain responsibilities, blah, blah, blah…

See? I’m already doing it.

That’s our tendency with grace, to qualify it, to tame it.

But doing that dismantles grace entirely.

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This is a strange post that feels utterly disconnected and hasn’t seemed fit to publish.

Here’s what I’m trying to say:

For those who are languishing in one way or all the ways —

For those who are too tired to try and get it together —

For those who just bought another life-improvement book (for the record I’ve bought 3 in the last month) —

For those who are being bullied by the busy-ness of this season of life —

For those who are holding a collection of small griefs but to acknowledge the heaviness seems silly —

For those who are trying to get their spiritual act together but keep failing —

God has you.

That means you’re safe.

tab and nomi

Safe to fall apart. Safe to weep. Safe to grieve. Safe to rest. Safe to ask for help. Safe to confess. Safe to have more questions than answers.

Safe to find Jesus in the dream of a child.

He walks to and fro, before you and behind you, fending off invisible enemies you may never know this side of eternity.

Your less-than state is no match for the Lion who is Jesus Himself, the One who intercedes in literal prayer and power for you and for your family.

It doesn’t mean we won’t have trouble here. We know all too well that trouble is alive and well. But it does mean we have a fierce and good Rescuer who has ultimately overcome the worst trouble.

May the awareness of his presence, the surety of his protection, and the encouragement of his intercession be your strength when you are too weary to muster your own.

 

Truth that might encourage you today:

Matthew 11:28-30

John 6:28-29

Acts 17:24-28

Romans 8:25-27

 

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give thanks real life chair

You’re still here? Good. I was afraid this post about dreams and lions scared everyone away.

Here’s an extreme twist in subject matter:

For those of you who have been hanging around for a couple of years or more, you may remember The Real Pretty Shop. I had such fun opening those virtual doors for several sales. But then I got a real job. We moved. I have three kids in three different schools. And you get the picture — life has been fuller than full ever since.

But that hasn’t stopped me from tucking away little treasures in hopes that the shop might open up again. Sometimes I say to myself, “I might have a teensy bit of a problem.” And then I realize that I don’t have a problem, I have an unofficial shop. That just happens to be in a spare closet of my home.

I’ve been working here and there in the cracks of time and…

I’m opening the shop for another sale!

rps flor logo

YAY!!! And also, WHY AM I SO NERVOUS???

This sale will be a bit different than last time. I’m opening the doors on Instagram instead of on the blog. The shop will open at 7 am on Thursday, March 30th. Be sure to follow me on Instagram @marianvischer. I’ll do a post that morning telling you where to go and what to do.

I have twenty-something handpicked ensembles this time, all of them perfect for spring!

Want a sneak peak?

rps sneak peek

Full disclosure: I have a disproportionate amount of size smalls. : (  Don’t hate me.

This is partially because I get excited and buy cute things for myself, but end up wearing the same jeans and boots and denim shirt 90% of the time. #Iannoymyself

If I open the shop again in the future, I promise to have a more representative selection of sizes like I had in previous sales.

So hop on over to Instagram, follow me, and if you haven’t updated to the latest version, you may want to do that because I have multiple pics of each ensemble. The latest version Instagram lets you post multiple pics in one post. {Bad when someone just took a vacation and wants to show 10 different angles of their poolside mojito. Good when Marian opens the shop and wants you to see all the fun details of the outfit you’re buying.}

Hope to see you at the shop on Thursday!

Love, Marian

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Instagram @marianvischer

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How to Embrace Your Right-Now Work Even if It’s Not Your Hoped-For Work

right now work header

I long to be a full-time writer. I used to keep that a secret because our dreams are vulnerable things to release to a watching world. What if it never happens? What if everyone then knows I’m a “failure” by my own standards? And maybe by their standards too?

The great thing about being in my 40s is that I’m a tad more brave. I’m less afraid to tell you what I truly desire and what I really think. This year, I resolved to write brave. Less sugarcoating. Fewer disclaimers. More real.

So there you go. I’ve said it. Writing is my dream job. Not because it sounds easy or lucrative but because my DNA has the helix of a writer.

{And that last sentence is precisely why I will never be a scientist.}

Perhaps your dream job is teaching middle school kids or coaching young runners or being able to quit your full-time job so you can be at home with your children.

Right now my real life means I don’t get to be the purveyor of words as I’d like to be. There are other priorities that trump writing.

Roles like wife and mom and domestic engineer coexist with my part-time paid job. {A part-time paid job that involves writing so yay for that.} And jobs that give you money are critical because they pay for necessities like groceries and kids’ braces and my orthodontist’s flat screen televisions.

I’m profoundly grateful for my work — the work that pays me and the work that doesn’t. Sometimes God gives me glimpses of my unique purpose in a particular task, why I’m just the person for it. That insider’s look is a rare privilege we don’t often get.

But much of life doesn’t feel affirming like that, does it? Like you, I live in the tension between the real and the ideal. Whether it’s vocation, marriage, motherhood, or keeping house, I confess that plenty of my right-now work isn’t my hoped-for work.

[Read more…]

Why Compassion is the Answer to a Messy Christmas

compassion christmas

How I talk to others is usually a barometer for how I’m talking to myself. And by others, I mean those living in my own house. I am highly skilled at being polite and kind to friends and acquaintances. But the filters come off when I’m in the comfort of my own home.

I’ve been measuring my worth by external markers again. Which means I’ve been measuring others by external markers too.

My house is chaos. Therefore I am chaos.

It’s December 14th and a tree isn’t up for the second year in a row. Therefore I am bad at making Christmas happen. 

Relationships under my own roof are hard right now and I’m to blame for plenty of it. Therefore I am a hypocrite and a terrible person.

This child cannot get his / her act together…and perhaps never will. Therefore I am a terrible parent and he / she is a terrible child. 

 

You get the gist. I look around at all that is unwell and blame myself. While also, somehow, blaming everyone else. Christmas is a time of generosity and there is just an abundance of blame to pass around!

It has not been the most wonderful time of the year. And while I write this, I am under the quilt because I have the flu.

{Raise your hand if you’re inspired yet by this heartwarming Yuletide post.}

I’m hardly the first one to say it but there is enormous pressure to get the Christmas season right. Even though Pinterest is not the boss of me, I subscribe to some sort of invisible magazine of expectations and I am the editor. Even though I am all about grace and receiving your own life, Christmas can turn me into a crazy person. I’m my own worst enemy.

Between the Advent readings and the baking and the shopping and the buying and the events and the decorating and all the memories we’re supposed to be making, I can’t do it all {on top of real life} and stay well.

I actually get giddy over Christmas. I love traditions. I love presents. I want to create a special season for those I love. But it’s a LOT to squeeze into four short weeks. It’s probably why I’ve wanted to skip Christmas, this most beloved holiday of mine, the last two years.

I want to skip Christmas because I’m tired and when I look at this season, it doesn’t look like Jesus. It looks like striving.

When I consider Jesus coming as a baby in the dead of night, hustle and overspending and overscheduling and killing myself isn’t what comes to mind.

Jesus is rest. He is peace. He is fulness. He is compassion.

And compassion always begins with kindness toward myself. If you tell me that’s selfish, I may have to punch you in the face. Because if I can’t personally receive the lavishness of God’s love and grace, I am hard on others like I’m hard on myself. And that has been terribly true lately.

As Charles Spurgeon wrote long ago, “It is no use for you to attempt to sow out of an empty basket, for that would be sowing nothing but wind.”

There has been no compassion in my basket. I’ve gone about my days, sowing out of sheer effort and grit. And it shows up most in my demeanor and in my relationships.

Getting the flu has been a blessing in disguise. I’ve been able to read and reflect, to meditate and sort of rest, as much as a mom is actually allowed to rest. And in this time of stillness, God whispers this message to my weary, walled-off heart:

Calm down. Be compassionate. First to yourself. Then to others. Quit being so hard on yourself and measuring your worth by all the wrong things. And then quit being so hard on those you love and measuring their worth by all the wrong things. I did not come to condemn you, but to love you. And when you begin to believe that I love you just as you are and not as you want to be, loving others just as they are gets a little bit easier.

 

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Each year, I’m in a different set of circumstances during Advent but the theme tends to remain the same — Christmas is not what I expect it to be. I expect it to be a little more worthy of admiration than it typically is. I struggle to receive my own life, even at Christmas. Especially at Christmas.

I know this because I’m a writer and the words of Christmases past tell me so. And I am both comforted and disappointed by the fact that I’ve never quite gotten it “right” by my own expectations.

In the midst of a house that’s still unsettled with unpacked boxes and unpainted walls —

In the middle of Advent and still no Christmas tree —

In the middle of growing-up kids who often bring out the worst in me instead of the best —

I long to speak with compassionate language toward myself and others.

These words by Father Gregory Boyle have given me much to ponder because indeed, the Lord does often come disguised as myself. And it’s always when I come to the end of myself that I see Him clearly for who He really is, a God of boundless compassion toward all who are needy and long to receive the life and love he brings.

Out of the wreck of our disfigured, misshapen selves, so darkened by shame and disgrace, indeed the Lord comes to us disguised as ourselves. And we don’t grow into this — we just learn to pay better attention. The “no matter whatness” of God dissolves the toxicity of shame and fills us with tender mercy.

Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle

This Christmas season, maybe you’re feeling pretty good about yourself and your efforts.

Or maybe you’re like me. And you feel a little bit like a disaster. May your own flawed and failed humanity be the unlikeliest portal to find Christ Himself, who loves you in whatever condition you may find yourself. May the “no matter whatness” of God be still your spirit in this hurried season. And may his lavish love spill over and run like a stream into the lives of those around you who are thirsting for it.

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