Why Being Still Makes Us So Uncomfortable

Why Being Still Makes Me So Uncomfortable copyI hate being sick. I know everybody hates being sick, but I feel like I have a particularly hard time with it. I’ve had a cold since Friday, and I noticed that with this cold I was doing more than usual to try and make it go away as soon as possible.

I took a ginger and cayenne shot at a juice bar. I purchased whiskey from the liquor store—something I never buy—to make a hot toddy. I Googled “home remedies for colds” and discovered that oregano tea can help, so I made some, and it was pretty bad. I netti-potted, pill-popped, and liquid-consumed for days.

Despite my efforts, all the lemon and honey and whiskey and cayenne and oregano—I must smell like a drunken herb garden by now—my cold persists. So I have surrendered. This cold, like every other cold I have ever had in my entire life, will just have to run its course.

And in my surrender, I understand why I have been so frantic to make myself well over the last few days.

I don’t hate being sick because being sick makes me feel bad; I hate being sick because being sick limits me. I can’t do the things I normally can. I can’t work out or spend time with people. I’m not productive with my work because my attention span is the amount of time between this sneeze and the next.

I have to cancel things: a coffee date, a dentist appointment, a chiropractor appointment, a dinner I was supposed to host, a phone call. Because getting dressed, driving, having an intelligent conversation—those things take energy I don’t have when all of my body’s energy is focused on fighting a virus.

When you’re sick, you are forced into a place of rest and nothingness. You cannot produce and do. All you can do is sit and be. And that’s what I hate about being sick.

Rest has been this recurring theme in my life this year. I’ve written about it a few times. It keeps coming up in conversations. Rest in the sense of being ok with not doing for a little while.

I’m not necessarily getting better at resting. In fact, I type this in a cold-induced fog. Really, I am squinting at my screen through watery eyes, knowing I will need to return to this later for a heavy edit with a clearer head.

I’m writing, though, out of this sense that I need to do something. Accomplish something. Anything. Even though I don’t have the energy. Even though, in reality, I am ahead of a few self-imposed writing deadlines, so I don’t need to work right now.

But even when I have time to rest, I don’t.

It is hard to not do because when we don’t do, we begin to question our contribution to society, our family, our work, our world. We believe we are worth the effort we put in. And on days when you are sick and simply unable to put in the effort, you are forced to sit uncomfortably in, what feels like, your worthlessness

You don’t need to read another message about rest and Sabbath. I know. But that’s not really what this is. Right now, I just want to ask you a few questions. Do you get uncomfortable when you’re not doing? And if so, why?

Does a day of sitting still make you squirm? Do you, like me, fight illness with every remedy and pill available just so you don’t have sit in your own nothingness?

When was the last time you sat still on your couch—not reading, not listening to music, not watching anything, not looking at your phone—and sat there for a good long time? Does even the thought of that put a little pit in your stomach?

I’m reading it loud and clear. The message this cold is sending me. If I am only worth the effort I put in, I will never be worth enough because I will never put in enough effort. It’s a cycle that gets you nowhere.

It has to come from somewhere else, the worthiness. It has to come from a deep and strong place over which I have no power. It has to be something I had nothing to do with and have nothing to do with and will have nothing to do with.

The longer I write, the more inescapable writing about grace becomes. It just keeps popping up everywhere, in all things. When I’m listening to a song, when I miss a work out, when I’m sitting in church.

And now here it is, as I’m struggling through my inefficient week of sickness. The reminder, yet again, that I am not how much I do nor what I do. That as long as my things and productivity are the core of who I am, I will never be enough in this place. And, therefore, I will never feel like I deserve to be here.

In a way, that’s true. But in a bigger way, the opposite is true.

“The gospel is this:” as Tim Keller says just so eloquently, “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

The gospel can whisper into every single tiny and big thing in our lives if we let it. We either breathe it in and out, or we are breathing out something else, something that we ourselves have built, medicated and treated in an effort to earn our place here.

Rest is not found at the end of our human-made paths. The path grace has built is the only one that leads to true, lasting, real and forever rest. The kind that won’t make us squirm or wonder if we should be doing something else, something better, but the kind that will allow us to take a long, deep, restful and grace-filled breath.

When You Realize You’re the Pharisee

When You Realize You're the Pharisee

Often when I read stories in the Bible about Jesus, I consider myself one of his disciples in the story, and I consider the Pharisees my enemies. But in reading a story in Matthew recently, I realized the reverse was true.

Matthew 12 begins with Jesus and the disciples walking through some cornfields on the Sabbath. While they were walking, they picked some corn to eat because they were hungry. Some Pharisees saw this and accused them of breaking the Sabbath. Jesus stepped in and reminded them that even King David broke into the priests’ pantry and ate “sacred” bread because his soldiers were hungry.

Point being, the Sabbath allows for acts of necessity and acts of mercy, so if you’re hungry and find yourself in a cornfield, just eat the corn.

When Jesus came to earth, he revealed the flaws in the way his people were practicing the law. They would get so bogged down in the details, they were unable to extend mercy or fill a basic need, like hunger. They would miss the overall purpose of the law—to love and worship God— and obsess over how to follow it correctly.

I love rules. If I had lived during Jesus’ time, I probably would’ve studied the law like it was my job. I would have been a Pharisee for sure because rules are comforting for me. If this is always right, and this is always wrong, my world is nice and neat and black and white. I have made up a certain list of rules for my life and for others’ lives and when someone breaks one, I judge them, and when I break one, I beat myself up about it.

These aren’t even all moral rules I’m talking about. They have to do with a general idea of how life should be done, how success should be accomplished—an expectation of the way a Christian life should go. I could write a book of rules that would stress out Emily Post.

But I wonder, if while flipping through my rules book, I miss opportunities to look up and extend mercy, to look up and see a basic need that needs to be met, to see a chance to give grace rather than a subtle look of disapproval.

The freedom Jesus offered the Pharisees in the cornfield is convicting and scary. It tells us that our rules and regulations glorify ourselves rather than God. It tells us that our rules don’t save us, and only he can. It tells us life is much less about us and our behavior, and much more about him, about his forgiveness, and about his grace.

The Journey Was His Idea

The Journey Was His Idea

We all know the story about Jesus calming the wind and the waves, right? (Mark 4:35-41) Jesus was on a boat with his disciples and then a storm came. The disciples freaked out because they were afraid the boat would capsize, and they would drown. They woke up Jesus because, yes, he had been sleeping, and Jesus told the wind and the waves to stop. “And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.”

Seriously, that story never gets old for me. But the other day, I was reading it and noticed the beginning for the first time. I should know better. The beginnings of stories are so important! But, I had never noticed the first verse of this one. Mark 4:35 says that after preaching by the sea of Tiberius, Jesus told his followers, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Of the sea, that is. And by boat, of course.

So, let’s get this straight. Whose idea was it to cross the sea? The sea that would, in a few hours, be hit by a storm that made the disciples fear for their lives? It was Jesus’. The journey was his idea.

I think we all know what a “storm” feels like to us. Maybe you’re in one right now. Life feels out of control as usual, but in the storm, you are more acutely aware of your inability to control it. That’s what storms are for me–challenging times when none of my efforts to fix, work, perfect, smile, try harder, master, get over it or get through it are working. I’m just here, in a boat, shaking Jesus to wake up and help me.

But if it was Jesus’ idea to cross the lake, he made the decision knowing there would be a storm. It’s not like Jesus said, “Ok, guys, let’s go!” and then a few hours later he was like, “Oh, whoa, sorry guys. I’m God in flesh, but I had no idea this storm was coming.” No. Just like he knew it was time for us to cross the sea; he knew a storm would meet us somewhere in the middle, and he planned on being there in it. Not disappearing for a moment and then coming back when things calmed down, but sticking around during the most scary part and eventually (it doesn’t always happen right away) calming everyone and every wave down.

He is in it. With you. The journey was his idea, so we can be confident that we didn’t do something wrong to deserve the storm, and we can be confident that this storm will not be the one that finally, officially does us in for good. If God said go, and we went, He is with us. The storm will subside, and his presence will sustain us.

A Christmas Reminder for Perfectionists

image for Christmas 2014 post

This weekend I attended The Gift of Christmas–a night of spoken-word poetry and music with Ann Voskamp, Amena Brown and Ellie Holcomb. I expected the Christmas songs and the candles and for the word “advent” to be thrown around a few times, but I didn’t expect to be so moved by it all.

I like Christmas, but I’m not a fanatic. I don’t want to get all excited about something that will last only one day. I think it’s a self-preservation thing. Anyways, that’s why I didn’t expect much more from this event than to listen to one of my favorite writers talk. But instead of the night being about her, or the music or the holiday season, the night spoke directly to the woman’s heart. More specifically, it spoke directly to the achieving, never-feels-good-enough, perfectionist woman’s heart. That was the part I didn’t expect from a Christmas service.

Maybe one of those adjectives—achieving, never-feels-good-enough, perfectionist—resonates with you. Or maybe you’re lucky like me, and all three apply at any given moment. Either way, the message that night would have moved you, too.

“Immanuel,” they kept saying. “I know,” I thought. “It means ‘God with us,’ and I could stand up there and talk all about that for several minutes because I’ve gone to Christmas things like this every year for my entire life.” What I haven’t been doing my entire life, I realized that night, was applying Immanuel to this need to be enough. I don’t think about God as Immanuel in the midst of all of my striving and hustle.

Ann Voskamp explained the connection. She talked about how in all the other religions of the world, the goal is to do enough, be good enough, check enough things off the list in order to “arrive.” The problem with that, she said, is that not one heart is good enough, pure enough or faithful enough to deserve one ounce of anything good. We are all doomed.

Enter, Jesus.

His birth means we don’t have to be any certain thing, act any certain way, perform any certain acts. What makes us enough is him.

Between songs and poems, musician Ellie Holcomb told her story. One that sounded strikingly similar to mine, and maybe yours too. It was about discovering grace for the first time after being raised in a grace-filled home and a grace-filled church. It’s amazing, and scary, how we can almost miss it. The whole point.

And it’s amazing how that message of the manger has escaped me. The message that we are enough because of this little baby, and that nothing I’ve done in my life thus far has brought me any closer to this child, and nothing I’ve done in my life thus far has taken me any farther from him. That’s what it means for God to be with us. Immanuel. Christmas means we have not strayed too far this year, yet we have not earned brownie points this year either. We’re not getting farther away from him and we’re not getting closer to him because he is with us and has been with us all along. It’s like trying to get closer to your own lungs or trying to distance yourself from them. You can’t. Your lungs will always be in the same place, and they will always be a part of you.

Immanuel is the greatest promise, but it’s also kind of a bummer. This weekend I was reminded, yet again, that all the good stuff I do isn’t actually getting me anywhere or counting for anything. This is hard for the perfectionist and achieving types to hear sometimes. Eventually though, like what is happening to me now, the idea of Immanuel grows more appealing than my list of prizes and achievements, and the holiday season becomes a reminder that I can sit down and I can rest, really rest, in the way I was made to.

When Women Are Jealous

Girls being jealous of girls was the spontaneous topic of conversation for me a few times this week. And by girls, I guess I mean women because the friends I talked to were in their twenties and we weren’t speaking in past tense. Sure, when we were in middle school we huddled with our friends and talked bad about the girls we secretly felt were prettier than we were even though we said they weren’t and who we secretly knew were better athletes than we or smarter or, what it most often came down to, we didn’t like because the boys gave her more attention than they gave us. And I’m saying “us” and “we,” but I was jealous all by myself a lot too.

A few days ago as I was driving down the freeway talking to one of my best friends. We began to confess how we still get jealous of other girls and it is still often for the same reasons. All bad reasons of course, but that’s where jealousy is bred—in unreasonable arguments clouded and confused by insecurity.

Have you ever done this: Facebook stalked the girl who is dating your ex or dating the guy you wish you were dating and come up with all kinds of reasons you are better than she is? By stalking you dig for evidence that you are indeed prettier, funnier, lower maintenance, more adventurous, better educated, more highly organized, creative and that you love Jesus more than she does. Yes, you have found evidence of being holier than the girls you don’t like. You have felt the toxicity of jealousy inside of you and have allowed it to bubble out your pores. That sounds gross, but jealousy is really gross so I don’t know how else to describe it.

There is something about women and jealousy. It comes naturally for us and sticks around for a long time. It reeks heavily in our conversations with other women but we are so accustomed to the smell, we don’t even notice it. Not within ourselves at least, but we sniff it out when it’s coming at us from someone else.

As I drove and chatted with my friend, we discussed the women we’ve felt jealous of recently. They weren’t people we knew well. We basically had to make things up about them to have something to feel jealous about. We were ashamed. How old are we? We asked. But you don’t grow out of jealousy. And you certainly don’t grow out of insecurity. They are ageless, old friends.

We noticed as we were speaking how destructive jealousy is, not only for our hearts and confidence but for our gender as a whole. How can we support each other and be for each other if we just want to be better than each other? If we are all panicky about equal rights and being seen as strong and capable, why are we ripping each other apart? How is this helping us, or anything?

I have long thought about the gender plight. It’s a war my generation didn’t start but was born into and then ordered to take up the cause. Jealousy has always been obvious in this war to me. The jealousy of women toward men. I have felt it and seen its danger, but I don’t know that jealousy of men is as dangerous to women as jealousy of other women is. I don’t know that this is a war with two sides anymore. Or that it ever was. And now more than ever, I feel it’s my job to focus on one side, my own side and learn to love it well. And in order to do this, jealousy must be the first conquer.

Our Jobs, Our Calling, The Fall

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I just came off a weekend with some wonderful people: my little sister, Sara, and her fiancé (my future brother-in-law!), Jeff. We talked about many things and of course at some point the conversation turned to our callings in work, as it often does when you are a group of twenty somethings.

I think the years in your twenties can be multiplied by 7, like dog years. You experience life so quickly and furiously in that post-college time. You are forced to absorb and learn at a highly concentrated level. From 22 to 27, so much can change, and with it, your perspective on most things. I realized this as I noticed so much growth in my little sister. Who was this 24-year-old person on my sofa? And I felt this about myself too. My perspective at 24 was so different from what it is now, at 27. Especially in the area of work and our calling.

When I was 24, I was in a job that was not a great fit for me. Not terrible, but not great. But the “not great” part was all I focused on. I was very anxious about my job and very restless for the next thing. I wanted to find out exactly what my calling was and do only that. I thought if I found the job that was my calling, I would love it and jump out of bed every morning, even on Mondays.

I’ve felt this way for most of my twenties. Even when I got a new job that was a much better fit for me and that gave me more joy, I have prayed that God would show me exactly what he wants me to do and give me the courage to do it.

A few months ago I began reading a book called The Call by Os Guinness. I loved the title and decided by the time I finished it, I would have a clear picture of God’s will for my life. This was going to be great. Then, I read this paragraph and it’s basically all I’m thinking about right now:

“…it is easy to become spoiled if we concentrate on the core of our giftedness—as if the universe existed only to fulfill our gifts….We live in a fallen world and the core of our gifts may not be fulfilled in our lives on earth. If there had been no Fall, all our work would have naturally and fully expressed who we are and exercised the gifts we have been given. But after the Fall, that is not so.”

When I first read that part of the book, I fought it. No, I thought, I will “arrive” one day. I will discover my perfect calling. It’s here, and I’m going to find it.

But what if it’s not? What if things fell and now they are broken? How quickly I forget that. How quickly I get discouraged and wonder why I don’t feel content or why work is so hard sometimes. Maybe it’s because it’s supposed to be. Maybe it’s to remind us that things are broken here.

norway for blog

I am, shockingly, beginning to find comfort in this thought. It carries over into all areas of our lives. We scramble for perfection, peace, clarity and happiness, but are they here? Sometimes, yes, but also sometimes no. And they’re not meant to be. Eternity is in our hearts, so we long for it everywhere. But when we don’t find the wholeness here on earth, we are forced to look forward and upward. The brokenness is a promise for the whole that is coming and when I see it that way, it doesn’t lessen the longing, but it does sink in the hope.

Beauty: The Race We’re All Losing

andrealucado.wordpress.com woman-looking-in-mirrorIf beauty is fleeting, why do we chase it?

I was fortunate to be told by loving parents again and again that I was beautiful. Their compliments came naturally, but I took them for granted. Sometimes, I didn’t believe them and many times they even got on my nerves. Great, my dad thinks I’m beautiful, but no one at school does. And the guy in my algebra class was the real opinion that mattered. I wish I could say not believing in my own beauty ended in high school, but scrolling through old Facebook pictures recently made me realize it hasn’t.

Have you ever done that? Accidentally clicked the arrow the wrong way and suddenly you’re staring at a photo of yourself from eight years ago? I continued to click through the pictures of my years in college. All the way through. There were so many. I had done so many things I had forgotten about. Activities, entire sports teams I have vague memories of being a part of. I hope I’m not the only one whose eyes go directly to herself when looking at a group shot. I did this each time and even though these pictures were so old, I had myself under a magnifying glass thinking thoughts like, “I must have been a size 12 in that picture…size six in that one…why did I wear that same t-shirt so much…what’s happening to my hair….seriously, how did I have friends?… I realize why boyfriends have been few and far between.”

I was 27 getting angry at my 20-year-old self for not being more beautiful, for not measuring up to the compliments from my parents and others over the years.

I hate to admit that as a Christian, independent-type woman, I have allowed external beauty to rule, but I have. If I feel ok about the way I look, I feel ok about me. If I’m receiving less compliments or not getting asked out, I assume it is because I don’t look attractive, and I begin to wonder what I need to do to gain back my attractiveness. I don’t know who I am without beauty, or at least the chase of it.

What would we do without this comparison game that consumes our thoughts? It’s my favorite game. I compare my arms to hers, and my ratty hair to her perfect bun, and I think about all of the things I need to do and be doing now and do later that would allow me to achieve all of the things others have that I want.

Of course it’s crazy when I really think about it. If I achieved this, I would have four different types of hair on my head, one long and skinny arm and one muscular one. A big butt cheek and a small one. Short legs and a long torso and different colored and shaped eyes. To look the we “want,” would be to look like an ugly Picasso painting.

And after years of this tiring and endless game, I think I’m starting, starting, to see my mind shift a bit. Like the other day when I was running on the treadmill at the gym and staring at every woman who came into view. I’m sure I looked creepy, but I didn’t care; I was having a minor breakthrough. I studied so many different bodies during my time on the machine. I could tell some of the women were healthy and allowing their body’s shape to be what it was. And some I could tell had worked hard to form a different shape. It’s like we are potters trying to turn clay into a glass table. We have been given certain materials, but we want to create them into things they can never be. No wonder we are exhausted. No wonder we don’t feel beautiful. We have the wrong goal. Our clay will never turn into the beautiful clear glass we are wanting because it is meant to be clay.

Can we change this? I hope we can. I think we can. But first we have to stop the chase altogether. If beauty is fleeting, it will be gone the moment we attain it, so let’s stop trying. Give up the chase altogether. That’s when we will begin to desire the clay, to work with the clay, and eventually one day, we will love the clay.

The Houses We Build

My balcony
my new balcony

I moved again, into a place that this time is mine. I own it. The whole thing. Both bedrooms, the kitchen, the balcony, all of it. The fridge and washer and dryer and everything else in the laundry closet and the cabinets. That is a lot of stuff to fall under my possession so suddenly.

Since I’ve moved in, I’ve become a little, or maybe a lot, obsessed with making it look good. Exactly the way I want it. I care about it all. The colors on the wall, the brass hardware (gross), at which position this lamp should be on this table and how the chair in the corner is angled. Now that I own something, I want it to reflect me accurately. And I especially want the giant mural over the fireplace in tribute to the great state of Tennessee gone asap, as well as the faux-painted marble columns in the dining room. No, I’m not making either of those things up.

A few days ago, I spent all day working on my balcony. Several hours spent working on about 20 square feet of space. I got pretty carried away and looked at the clock just in time to get ready for my friend’s birthday party.

Why am I doing it? Pouring myself into project after project, corner after corner of each room– why do we care so much about our houses? I say “we” when I may be in the minority, but I know there are others of you out there: you nesters, decorators, shoppers, ottoman-scavengers, just like me. It makes me wonder what we’re decorating and arranging and re-arranging, what we’re actually making look nice.

I’m no psychologist but I did take one semester of psychology my freshman year of college so you should probably write this down: I think when we rustle about in our homes, setting them up just so, we are wishing we could do that with ourselves and maybe even believing we are doing that with ourselves. We wish that inside of our souls, in the dark parts, we looked as nice as our freshly painted kitchens with the silent-shut drawers. If we cannot create perfection within our confused and sinful selves, we strive for it within the houses we build.

I’ve seen it in my condo obsession and I’ve seen it in my interactions with others. I like to know the right things to say to whom and when. The things that will make me look good and, above all, make that person like me. If I don’t know the right thing to say then I try really hard to figure it out, and if I can’t, I’m lost until I can. The work is tiring and endless. The work of perfectionism.

When I looked at the time after working so hard on brainstorming what type of hanging plants to purchase for my balcony, I had to tell myself, “Just quit. The work could always keep going. You have places to be. Take a break.” I was speaking truth to myself. The work of perfection is never-ending; there is always more to do, and I wonder what places it is preventing us from being.

It’s OK to Give Up

I hold onto some things very tightly. Like white-knuckles-gritted-teeth-if-I-let-go-I-die kind of tightly. It’s actually amazing I have the energy to do anything else. Anything but hold onto these things. I don’t believe I am alone in this. I think the majority of us are probably walking down the street, teeth gritted, knuckles white, nails digging into our palms, holding on so painfully tight to things that were never ours to being with.

Why do we do it? If it hurts us so badly and causes so much neck tension and money spent at the chiropractor, why do we ball up and bear it like it’s our lot? Do you know the things I’m talking about? Everyone has different ones. I become aware of new ones all the time. After college, I finally took a breath and looked up from my text books to realize I had spent four years fiercely determined to make perfect grades. Bs were not allowed. Not into my realm of control.

For many of us, there is that relationship or one certain person we didn’t realize we were clinging onto for dear life until it was over or that person was gone and by a miracle, we were still alive. And for me these days it is often success and succeeding and success and succeeding. The idea of failure is so terrifying, we would rather keep clenching those fists and straining our hand muscles than loosen them and find out what would happen.

What would happen? If we lost the tension? If we, dare I say it, gave up? Because sometimes I am tired. And all of time, I’m not actually controlling what’s happening around me.

Maybe, just maybe, the pain of holding onto things is painful because those things are not meant to be held. And maybe if those things are not meant to be held, they are meant to be released and we are–yes, I dare say it–meant to give up. If we allow history to teach us, giving up is inevitable anyways. And if we don’t willingly do it right now, today, something will force us to eventually. Might as well see the pain and striving for what it is and what it is not. Might as well give up. I’m starting to suspect that it really is ok.