I’m going to take a quick step away from mindfulness to make a confession:  I use my introversion as a cop-out.

It’s not completely intentional (which is bad when you’re trying to live a more mindful life).  It’s not like I wake up in the morning and think, “Today I’m going to see how many times I can get away with getting out of something because I’m an introvert.”  I don’t think that… but it still happens.

There are times when being conscious of my introversion is a good thing.   I don’t schedule three marathons and a triathlon on the same week (I don’t even schedule four races in the same year, but that’s a whole different post).  In the same way, I have learned not to schedule more than a couple of social events in the same week.  Not only is it exhausting, but it is also stressful.  I may spend weeks recovering from UC symptoms due to overscheduling.

Lately, though, I think I’ve been using it as an excuse.  “I have something going on this weekend, so I should avoid all stressful social situations this week.”  When did I become such a coward?

Once upon a time, I had a life where I was comfortable being social.  My job required greeting people (by name) every morning and interacting regularly with students and their parents.  I saw people other than my kids every single day of the week; I was active at church.  I hugged people as a part of my daily life.

Now?  Now I can spend the entire weekend without any real interaction, especially if I skip church because someone might talk to me.  I may go two weeks between any physical contact with another person.  I’m a touch-oriented person– that’s my primary love language.  My secondary love language?  Quality time.  How can I possibly keep from cutting myself from people when I shut down my primary ways of showing love?

I’ve considered kidnapping someone just so I have an outlet for my love languages, but decided that would be a bit extreme– and that jail might put a bit of a damper on my personal growth.  But, joking aside, something needs to be done.

Maybe this is the first step: admitting I have a problem in the first place.  I don’t want to grow up to be a lonely cat lady.  I don’t even want to be the stereotypical writer, shut away from the rest of the world pounding out story after story.  My best stories come from immersing myself in life, not from running away from it.

This means, of course, being aware of what I’m doing and taking steps to counteract it.  It means not letting my fear of saying goodbye overcome my fear of saying hello.

It means not being a chicken.

Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You.
In God (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not fear.
What can flesh do to me?

Psalm 56:3-4

Maybe it means no longer focusing on the things I’m afraid of… so maybe it has to do with mindfulness after all.

Time to face my fears.

Last time I published a post on garbage in, garbage out, and it’s been bothering me ever since.  Most of what I used as examples weren’t true garbage.  If you walk around eating Pop-Tarts and bacon all day (yes, I’m waiting for the haters) or reading Playboy and watching Showtime, yep, that’s garbage.

We usually just settle for marshmallow fluff.

I have a Bible app on my phone that lets me select a devotional I can read each day.  It’s uber-easy and uber-fluffy most of the time; I usually read 1-3 actual verses in the Bible, get a little pat on the head/back from a known teacher, and go on my merry way.  While I may feel a little challenged, a little convicted, or a little happier after reading, I rarely have actually had much to reflect on for the day and I rarely make any changes.

Sometimes I read Christian novels by authors like Beverly Lewis, Karen Kingbury, Ted Dekker, or Tosca Lee.  These are all great authors and I enjoy their writing.  However, as much as these books are better than some of what I read, they’re still– generally– fluff.

I fill my life with fluff because fluff is easier.  Go to the store.  Marshmallow fluff is relatively inexpensive.  It tastes good (to some people).  It can give you a certain amount of energy.  For roughly the same price as a can of marshmallow fluff, I can buy a carton of eggs.  Same price.  Tastes good (to some people).  Gives you more energy, as well as fun little things like choline and protein.

If I can be smart enough to buy eggs over marshmallow fluff, why am I not smart enough to choose meaningful activities to fill my time over the fluffy ones?

I work 80+ hours a week and deserve a little downtime.”  (Little side note: if you’re working 80 hours a week, how are you possibly serving God with the best of your time?  Bigger side note: I’m not doing this either, so I’m nudging myself as much as I’m nudging you.)

“I really like xxxxxx (TV show, book series, author, web-zine) and I don’t want to give it up.”  (Am I asking you to give anything up?  I might be asking me to give some things up.  I’m just asking you to think about what you’re doing.)

“Without a little marshmallow fluff, you can’t make Rice Krispy Treats.”  (Fair point.  I didn’t say to give up Rice Krispy Treats or marshmallow fluff… wait, maybe I did.  Let me complete the actual thought I was getting at.)

There’s nothing wrong with an occasional treat or break.  God provides for those in the Bible.  But when the whole purpose and/or goal becomes to get that treat/break, then you’ve let your priorities get skewed.  When that happens, you end up with Cain and Abel:

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.  (Genesis 4:3-5)

Cain got upset because he was giving his offering for favor.  He wasn’t doing it as a sign of gratitude; he was doing it because he wanted God to look down and give him a deitific gold star.  Surprise!  God saw through that and gave the gold star to Abel.

So, here’s what I’m looking at:

  • I need to figure out my priorities before I can do anything else
  • I need to actually prioritize those priorities before I try to fit in anything else
  • I need to keep the “anything else” limited to things that aren’t going to mess with the priorities I just figured out

I’m a big Buffalo Bills football fan. (Cue the comments about four failed Superbowls here.)  The Bills are an east-coast team and I live on the west coast, so the games usually start around 10 a.m. local time.  This means I’m generally at church for the first half of the game.  Is it tempting to miss church for a game now and then?  Yes, it really is.  But it’s a matter of priorities.  It’s far better for me to spend my time in church, being fed and fellowshipping with other Christians, than it is to root on my team.

An occasional Rice Krispy Treat isn’t going to hurt me.  An occasional lapse in mindfulness also won’t hurt me.  However, overall, I need to be focusing on what’s best over what’s okay.

Time to get those priorities figured out… and to apply this principle to all areas of my life.

 

First,  an apology.  I stopped blogging for a while as other priorities became more important.  The good news is that the time away from the internet has definitely helped my happiness quotient.  The bad news is my poor blog was left to languish in solitude yet again.  But, enough of that.  Onward and upward.

My Bible reading this morning included a favorite verse from Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

This got me to musing over the whole concept of garbage in, garbage out.  I sent it to someone by text and he sent back to me a reference to the Petra song “Think on These Things” from the album No Doubt.  Between the verse and the song, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what I think on.

That whole saying “garbage in, garbage out” is true for just about anything.  What you eat affects your health.  What you read/watch/dwell on affects your spiritual health.  Let me see if I can extend the analogy better.

The basic paradigm of a diet is that you restrict calories in order to lose weight/get healthier.  (Yes, it gets more complicated than that.  Work with me.)  If you have a 2000-calorie-a-day limit, you have to limit what you’re eating.  You could choose to eat 2000 calories in just ice cream and cookies.  You would probably lose weight (in theory), but you’d be hungry, diabetic, and extremely malnourished very soon.

If, on the other hand, you choose to nourish your body with a variety of lean proteins, colorful fruits and vegetables, and other foods that provide all your daily nutrients, and if you drink plenty of water, then you will lose weight, not be hungry all the time, and be healthier.

The same works for your mind/heart/soul.

We get 24 hours each day to spend.  That’s the equivalent of your 2000 calorie diet.  We can, in theory, spend that time however we want.  We work or go to school, which takes a big chunk of the hours.  Hopefully we sleep, which takes another chunk.  How we spend the rest– that’s our mental diet.

I can go the ice cream and cookies route:  get home from work, pop in a TV dinner, sit in front of the computer or television being entertained by mindless sitcoms, stay up too late checking Facebook and go to bed late.  Then wake up after hitting snooze nine times, barrel through a coffee place for an extra-large dose of sugar/caffeine, and auto-pilot through the day, too tired to do anything else.

Or I can plan my day mindfully.  Get up a little early to do a workout and feel so energized that I don’t need caffeine to get the day started.  Come home from work and go play with the kids outside, go for a walk, or go to the gym to workout.  Either spend the evening playing games with friends and family, reading a book, or doing a Bible study, before I go to bed, tired but not exhausted from a profitable day.

There’s nothing wrong with an occasional treat, but basing my life around ice cream and cookies (or sitcoms and snooze buttons) isn’t going to produce anything but garbage.  This may require me to give up a show I enjoy because I’m already watching TV three nights a week.  It might mean I have to plan my time better.  It might mean actually sleeping semi-normal hours.  If it produces something other than garbage in my life, though, I think it’s worth it.

Time to be mindful.