Stop Talking So Much!

“If mess ups were pushups, I’d be ripped.”  Bob Goff

Good grief, I love Bob Goff.  No one says it more accessibly than he does.  This quote is a recently discovered gem.

Less is more, it turns out, and it’s likely a path I should explore.  I recently met a friend I’ve been worried about out at McAllisters for a bowl of chili.  Those stolen moments are precious, and instead of being a good listener, I was a self-absorbed fool talking silly nonsense about the stove not working (again) and the basement being a mess from a burst pipe.  Honestly, WHO CARES?  I truly wanted to find out about the mental health of my friend, but I had diarrhea of the mouth that day.  Sigh.  I have fouled up many encounters which could have been lovely simply because I stubbornly refuse to practice what I know, which is that I should NOT say every stupid thing I think as it scrolls through my mind.  I want kind, caring, supportive relationships.  I want to know how my people are doing.  This requires a decision to be other focused.  Stop talking so much, Shelly!

This is just one example.  I think it’s possible I might be having a little midlife crisis, and God is in the middle of showing me how God He is.  God is over here doing God things.  How do I know?  Well, because lately I feel like all I do is screw up.  It probably started with all the menopause symptoms.  Nothing proves how much God is in control like out of whack hormones.  Candidly, I didn’t know that’s what was going on, I just knew that I had a growing list of unexplainable and suddenly chronic “ailments”.  Like most things, I am absolutely NAILING the menopause game.  In a brief conversation with a nurse practitioner, I expressed my concern.  She asked me to describe the symptoms, and I spoke for about 5 minutes.  She then said, “Well, Shelly, menopause has 34 key symptoms and most women suffer from about 6-10 of them.  You just named 29 of the 34 without a prompt.”  Yeah, me?  I’m crushing it.

The bad news here is that I haven’t figured a way through this particular maze yet that doesn’t involve extreme amounts of Excedrin and propping my eyelids open.  The flip side, though, is that as we age, the Lord gives us many unexpected gifts.  Right now, the one I’m hearing loudest is, “Shell.  I’m not messing around.  It’s time.”  What is the fundamental purpose of my life?  What does the Lord want me to do?  I’d better get busy with it, because time is ticking, my friends.  It makes me giggle that by putting me to sleep, God’s waking me up.  He’s full of irony and creativity.

Life is scary.  It’s full of madness, frustrations, danger, and so much desire to feel worthy of love and belonging.  The world needs hope.  People need to experience true care and an example of joyfulness.  They need light in their darkness.

Not so coincidentally, the most-used phrase in the bible is “Be Not Afraid”.  It’s purported to be in there 365 times—once for every darn day of the year.  I’m no rocket scientist, but I’m fairly confident that was a signal you and I were meant to live and love fearlessly.  I mess up. Every. Single. Day.  Do you know what I thought I was supposed to feel about those failures (for years)?  Shame.  Self-doubt.  We are at our weakest when we are fearful and shame filled.  That’s when the devil does his thing.  My fear of getting things wrong has kept me from some important work over the years.  My guess is that some of you have at least had similar moments where that little voice said, “keep quiet, don’t do it, you’ll make a fool of yourself”…and so on.

Here’s what 51-year-old me wants to share today.  It’s very possible I’m just typing this for myself, as a reminder on a day that I have less clarity, but I’m going to post it all the same.  The Holy Spirit is turning my thoughts inside out and what I think on this day is that the kind of shame I am talking about is a self-absorbed, inward focused demon.  God can’t fill me with Him when I am full of myself, concerned mainly about my own feelings and angst.  My BIG feelings, turned outward, are an invitation from the Lord of the universe to spread some of that overflowing love, courage, and hope to the others in my path. What a freaking awesome invitation!

I can’t live my life worried about what other people think, full of fear about getting hurt.  You can’t either.  We can’t let a bad day make us believe we have a bad life.  God wants us to speak life and love.  The world has never needed us more.

Faith in Christ is the only thing to save you from despair.”  -CS Lewis

I see Christ every day.  I really do.  He blows my mind with His love.  I spot Him in the Walgreens cashier who always says hello in a genuinely friendly way, and in the orange leaves outside my window.  I met Him at a talk in the parish hall in the face of a truly sunny Nashville Dominican named Sr. Peter Marie who shared the reason for joy and the brightest smile.

Over my recent fall break, I was making myself a very mediocre cup of coffee when my friend Renee very excitedly showed me how to froth my milk in such a way that I could make a “fake latte” with a piece of kitchen equipment I already owned but had never used.  It struck me that what gave her the most joy was doing something simple and kind for me, her friend.  How graced am I to have such a person in my life? 

When I got home from my trip, we celebrated the first “memorial” birthday for my father-in-law, Tom, who died in May.  I went over to SLDM to an evening mass that was said for his soul, and my friend Julie showed up to pray alongside.  The next morning, I was back in the same pew for another mass, also thoughtfully offered for him on his birthday.  There she was again, not 12 hrs later, right next to me.  Julie’s not a bystander.  Neither is Renee.  They love large in simple ways.  That kind of life is contagious, and it sprinkles Christ around like a handful of glitter. I’m crazy about them both, and grateful for their reminder that I am deeply loved—and so are you!  It doesn’t matter that I’ve got a headache, my hair is falling out and I am constantly tired.  As my husband reminds me, “You can sleep when you’re dead.”  You and I are still here, and we have a job to do.  We need to get busy! 

Don’t tell someone who’s struggling, “hey let me know what I can do to help.”  If a person’s wounded or hurting, they don’t know what they need.  Just do something.  Drop off Chick-Fil-A, take them for coffee,  sneak in the back door and empty the dishwasher, send a card, say a rosary.  It doesn’t matter.  Just be the face of Jesus.  Be love.

Yes, the world is a broken place.  It’s full of chaos.  Truth is in short supply and the news is full of despair.  We don’t have to take on the energy of the room, folks.  For most things, “this too shall pass” is a good thought to have in one’s back pocket. If we are to obtain true joy and happiness, we need to discover (or re-discover) what will truly complete and fulfill us. 

Today, on All Saint’s Day, I yield to the great St. Augustine for the answer to that one.  “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”  That “you” is the Lord, of course, the ultimate source of all love and all that is good. 

Peace Out, friends.