D.L. Mayfield

living in the upside-down kingdom

Filtering by Category: Stress

party crasher

I have a long history of stumbling into crazy experiences (i.e., miracles). I have had people give me laptops (Apple laptops!), buy me tickets to the Justice Conference, furnish and decorate my baby's nursery when we were in the hospital trying to survive. After I wrote this post for Deeper Story, I was feeling a little frustrated. We truly DO NOT KNOW what is going on in our lives. And it feels horrible, this here-but-not-here, the endless waiting, the mourning and rejoicing for things that aren't for certain. So I did an old-school evangelical move and got my Bible and sprawled out on the floor with my face in the carpet. I let out all my frustration, detailed everything I felt like God had told me about our future and I didn't understand why things weren't lining up. I want bells and whistles, God! I am making tiny steps towards following you! Tell me what is going on!

Well, then I got bored.

So I went and checked my e-mail. There, I found a free code for Donald Miller's Storyline Conference. I shrugged my shoulders, got a ticket, and continued about my day. It turns out that code was only meant for certain pastors at a certain Blue-Like-Jazz famous church, but when all the dust settled the organizers were cool and said I could come for free. Cue me singing the Amy Grant "Providence" song. Over and over and over again.

Based off the promotional literature, I was skeptical of Storyline. No offense, D Miller, but it all sorta sounds like corporate mumbo-jumbo (vision casting, living a good story). Also, I have been disappointed by enough of my young adult obsessions to know that Mr. Miller isn't God, nor is he even the same person he was when he wrote Blue Like Jazz. He is human, he is flawed, he might have turned into a salesman.

So I went with a mixture of excitement and cynicism (you know, the usual). And I was blown away.

 

I don't know how much I can write about the conference without it sounding weird or corporate or like white-people-having-an-existential-crisis. But basically, the conference asks you to assess your life and come up with concrete ways to live a better story. You do this by evaluating your past (good and negative turns, and finding redemption in the bad) and narrowing your focus on what roles/ambitions you want. The key here is that your ambitions must be greater than yourself; God is in the business of saving many lives--not making you happy.

 

What I loved most was the emphasis on how consumerism and the American dream create really boring stories. Nobody cares about these stories. Nobody is saved by these stories. But this is what we are inundated with, all the time. Great stories involve risk and failure and actual concrete adventures. People who are living out these stories are not shopping at Target or watching TV or reading escapist literature. They are out there, writing their own grand adventures.

 

It was interesting for me to attend this conference a few weeks after I quit my job. It gave me insight into my future and I am still reeling at how practical it all was. I walked away with a spring in my step, firm in my resolve to create some change (and move forward some important plot points) in my own story. I also felt extremely encouraged, and validated on a very deep level for many of the choices I have already made. And I will be changing things in the future, some of which I will write more about in the near future. But if anyone, anyone has found themselves in a situation like I am in, I would encourage them to pursue something like Storyline.

 

Ah, providence. The past two days have been eye-opening for me. The conference itself is a catalyst for change, for those that are willing to risk it. It is a recipe for failure, in many ways. It is also an outline for kingdom living, for entering into a story that is all about saving many lives.

And this, my friends, is what I want my story to be.

 

The Great Lent Experiment Wrap Up

So the Mutiny Against Excess is over . . . or is it?

Me and Haley came up with this idea for Lent, and it got a little bigger than I had thought. I have talked to lots of people who let the ideas of doing without and downward mobility influence their lent. It was exciting to even be talking about these issues with so many people.

It really didn't feel like 40 days, did it? Now that the Easter celebrations are over I can start to process what this Lent Experiment meant to me.

The Easy Parts:

Limiting shopping for food and eating from my pantry/freezer was pretty easy, mostly because we only did this a week at a time. I did get . . . creative at some points. Hamburger helper (sans hamburger) with frozen vegetables and yogurt? Well, a certain little toddler ate it, and so did my husband. I really enjoyed the push to get out and walk to the farmers market every Wednesday at the local co-op. I do feel the roots of the importance of food and how we think about it taking shape in my life. And I'm glad.

Not buying new clothes also got a little easier  . . . It has now been several months since I stopped thrift storing for funsies. I did go to Goodwill one time for my birthday and got a killer dress and a killer pair of shorts. So. There you have it.

Not spending ANY money besides gas/groceries was actually pretty fun too. At first I was terrified, because spring weather in Portland is so so so bad and my baby can barely walk. So, when in doubt we go to a coffee shop and hang out. Since this was not a possibility for 2 of the weeks of Lent, we found other avenues:

1. New Seasons: they have amazing samples and free water! Plus everybody smiles at you and their hand sanitizer smells like lavender. We went here several times.

2. Petco. Or, as I like to call it "the free, tiny zoo". The baby loved it.

3. The library. Which we already frequented, but during Lent we went there on average 3-4 times a week. I even got the courage to do my first mommy/baby story time activity, and we didn't die! The baby is fixated on reading books about being "black and unique", which makes me feel super weird as I read them out loud to her. Ah well.

The Difficult parts:

The no-media week was hard, because I seem to have few de-stressors that don't involve 20 minutes of TV. Also, you know that feeling when you read TOO many good books and you feel like you might explode? Yeah, that happened. I am still assessing my dependence on media, and I know this is an issue I still need work on.

The Exciting parts:

The no-stress week was difficult (I am unused to the rhythms of contemplative life), but ultimately it turned out to be amazing, and I have continued to use Common Prayer every morning. To really engage in the Scriptures and the prayers for others does take a lot of work, but it feels like such important work. Even though I am easing into it slowly, creating a life where prayer is my first thought and not my last is high on my list of priorities. On good Friday my church opened their doors for a 24 hour prayer session and I actually went! You guys, I want to pray all the time now! And I am not just making this up to sound spiritual. It feels like a real, pressing need. I don't know where this is coming from, but I am so grateful.

In summary, I am so glad I embarked on this journey. I want my life to flow by these rhythms: prayer, creative free time, doing without, purging possessions, finding joy in the simple.

Did you learn anything from Lent this year? Were you inspired to create new patterns?

If so, I want to know!

tunnel vision

I am sure I will wrap up my thoughts on the Great Lent Experiment next week, but here is what I have to say about the no-stress week: it was stressful. So it was a great one to practice prayer and rest and meditation.

I was really glad to be on spring break--the hubs and I haven't had more than one night a week together in ages--but the baby is like in one constant meltdown when she is awake (teething? or she got really used to drinking juice and watching elmo all day while sick and can't handle the return to normal life) and the weather is so so so horrible there is no place for us to go. I literally did not leave my apartment the last two days. Oh wait, I did go to Safeway once. The baby charmed everybody with her fake crying (sarcasm).

I do like reading on this blog the little tidbits I write about the baby now and again because it reminds me: nothing lasts forever. Sure, she woke up at 4:30am yesterday and never went back to sleep. That doesn't mean she will do that the rest of her life.

Sure, next week I go back to work and our horrid alternating-nights schedule starts back up--but the hubs is graduating in June and who knows what the summer (and beyond!) hold.

Sure, I accidentally dyed my hair late 1990s magenta (all I need is a pair of olive green Doc Martins and a chain necklace and it is like I am 15 again). But it will wash out (here's to counting the 28 washes).

That's why I like to write so much, I think. Because I forget about the long game, all the time. But the baby won't always be upset with the world, we won't always be busy every night, my hair won't always look atrocious. Things will go back to normal, or as normal as they ever were in our case.

eye twitch

First things: my new column is up. Extremely inspired by the Mike Daisy/Invisible Children debate, I decided to go ahead and look my own savior complex square in the eye. I am learning lots of things over here. God never ceases to surprise me. This is the week of giving up stress, no? So I went to a cabin in the woods with two girlfriends over the weekend. It was very cabin-y. We warmed ourselves with a wood stove. It rained. We drank coffee and watched a large, muddy brown river roll by. We took some slow jogs. We ate a lot of food. We watched Mad Men. We, all three of us, read the Hunger Games (Team Peeta 4 Life!). We had feisty and interesting conversations.

While all of the above does not necessarily sound spiritual, it was all very restful. I am unused to cabin vacations. I am used to planning tons of adventures into what little time you have off and it isn't a successful trip unless you come home exhausted from all the fun. Cabin time is different. You don't actually do anything.

I liked it. It was perfect for some times of quiet, relaxation, prayer, and reflection.

But, of course, it wasn't perfect. I am doomed, doomed I tell you when it comes to vacays. When I left on Saturday night, the baby was fine. That night, she got really sick. The next two days were filled with phone calls from the husband telling me the latest temperatures (104!) and me getting very very anxious. Like, developing-an-eye-twitch anxious.

It really was ridiculous. There was nothing I could do. The baby was surrounded by people who were watching her and taking care of her. I tried to relax but the anxiety was always there. The horrible thoughts ranged from what if the fever gets higher to my baby only wants me when she is sick to ohmygosh what if she dies in the middle of the night. Crazy thoughts, right? I think all moms get them, and it really sucks when they do.

Me and the girls stayed up late talking and then I went to bed. But I couldn't sleep, because of the aforementioned thoughts. So I got out the Common Prayer book and read the Compline prayer. I am hardly ever up late enough to warrant it, but there I was. And it was lovely. It was the perfect prayer for those who are up in the middle of the night, due to fear or anxiety or sadness. And I started to really get why liturgical prayer can be so important. Sometimes, you don't know what to say. You don't even know what you need  at 12 o clock at night, when your baby is really sick and you are so far away. But saints have been praying for many years before, and they will be praying after you as well. I joined in the prayers, and they comforted me.

I came home last night and the baby woke up feeling much better and happy to see me.

 

These rhythms and streams of the contemplative life don't come easy. But the more your life revolves around following God, the more it seems you are going to need a lot of prayer. So I am happy to be trying in my little way to be in a place where it natural and normal to live and breathe in the language of common prayers.

 

 

spring sabbath

ah, spring break. it started for me today, after i sent in my column, made an edit for another magazine, and turned in all of my grades (don't i sound fancy and grown-up?). tonight, the baby went to bed very very early. she is teething, and i do believe i witnessed my first real tantrum. but in good news, she finally has become attached to a stuffed animal (in this case a panda bear that my parents got for her when she was a garden gnome very small). When she is done with the nighttime routine (reading 3 books, singing "twinkle, twinkle" 3x, praying to Jesus), she now points to her crib, lays down, and clutches her panda tight. it is these little picturesque moments that make me so happy i could die.

so i am going to celebrate. in a couple of days me and some girls are going to a cabin on the coast (no husband or baby for 2 days--which has never been done!). i like that this is happening during the no-stress lent week. i think i will have plenty of solitude and time to pray. a nice, long sabbath.

and tonight, i celebrate in my own way. a Y/A novel by l'engle. a sip of bourbon. some chocolate. and asleep in bed by 9pm, if all goes well.

spring break! i get so crazy, right?

 

 

ps. my cousin amy just posted this picture to fb and it made my entire night:

The Great Lent Experiment: Week 5--Stress

The no spending week was a little difficult. A lack of options can be frustrating, and like a bad diet can make you want to go out and binge. In all honesty, I did cheat several times this week. One: we bought scones and cinnamon rolls and coffee after my 15k. Because come on! I deserved it (see my American thinking here?). Also my mom gave me money for H&M for my birthday and I bought a pair of pants and a shirt.

But other than that, it was time to get creative with our free time. We went to the library a lot. Used our passes at the children's museum. Went for walks, made coffee for lots of people over here. It was a busy week, and not really having any excuse to go out and buy anything actually fit in rather well.

This is an area of my life I want to continually scrutinize and give up control over. I think doing a week like this periodically would be very, very good for me.

And now, on to this week: Stress!

Ok, no joke: I am excited about this week. Just last night I finished my last class and so I am heading into Spring Break mode. The anxieties in my life right now are all over the map, some being very small (I need to shampoo my carpets!) to very big (we have no idea what we will be doing in 5 months!). I am having a hard time sleeping. I am having a hard time being a pleasant conversationalist. I am a little stressed.

But how do you give up stress? You focus on something else. Specifically, Jesus.

I have always been terrible at praying, with my thoughts often turning to the random and mundane instead of the spiritual and uplifting. But I am excited for this week to be centered around structured prayer. The hubs and I bought Common Prayer and we are going to be doing morning prayers (also know as daily), midday prayers, and evening prayers. Not too overwhelming, but a nice bit of structure for this evangelical.

[note: you don't have to buy the Common Prayer (a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals) to participate. They have a great website with the prayers for every day listed, along with scripture readings. Go here to check it out].

This week really is going to be perfect, as we have some big decisions to make and need a ton of prayer. Plus, I will be going to the coast for a couple of days (without the hubs or baby--eek!) and am excited for the chance to pray more (case in point: while trying to do the daily prayer together this morning, the hubs and I were interrupted by a screeching baby clinging to our legs, one who was very tired due to waking up at 11pm and 5:30am--may He protect us through the storm of toddlerhood indeed).

So here is the recap for the next week:

Week five: Stress Use this week as a chance to get rid of stress, and to identify those areas of your life where you are holding on to anxiety. The most crucial element of this week is to find a time to spend in prayer for significant portions of the day. As we learn to relinquish control and let God be in charge, we will no longer let our lives be ruled by stress.

Practical Fasts: Commit to picking a space for every day where you commit to spend time in prayer. Pick one day to be a Sabbath for you and your family and find your rest in Him. (Variations on the Sabbath abound–we would encourage a time for prayer and joy and rest and solitude, whatever that might look like for your family).

Prayer: Use resources like the book of Common Prayer for ideas on when and what to pray.

How was no spending week? Do you have any resources for times of structured prayer? I would love to hear them!

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