faith, God, Jesus, parenting, Tourettes, writing

When Life Happens For You, Everything Changes

Yes ss.jpg

Today at church Pastor Craig spoke about shame and pain. I honestly don’t remember the passage he read from in Romans, but in a nutshell, he spoke about how hard times don’t have to define us. Instead, these hard times can be used for good when we are transformed and then reach down to help someone else.

I found him in the cake and coffee line and I told him I had an edit to his sermon. At this point an elderly lady in the congregation took her leave (“Oh, Lord, it’s going to get sassy now!”) but Pastor Craig just stood there smiling. It’s what I love about him most. He’s comfortable enough with God, and himself, that he can listen… truly listen…. to other’s viewpoints without being offended. At our progressive church, it’s actually welcomed. (Both the listening and the questioning. It’s like my 12 step minus the drunk-a-logs!)

Me: “I like what you said about shame transforming, but I feel what could have been added is a piece on acceptance.”

Craig: “Go on,” he said.

Me: “I feel that people suffer a lot because they don’t admit that what is going on in the first place is not working… or that they are out of options… or have just hit bottom. If they could just accept it, then they could grieve it, give it to God, and then the beautiful work of healing could begin.”

He just smiled and nodded his head. “I couldn’t agree more,” he said.

A few years ago the idea of questioning a passage of scripture would have made me feel like a heathen. Now it feels the more I question the more welcome I am. It’s kind of like my 12 step group. If someone says, “I drank a few glasses of wine and now I’m here” people smile and offer them a cup of coffee. But if someone says, “I drank two six packs a night, had four DUIs and danced naked at my daughter’s quinceanera” raucous laughter peals out. The worse the story the better the welcome.

The deeper the death of ego the higher the resurrection of the better self.

Such radical honesty is a refreshing way to heal… to just be oneself and know one is welcome anyway. No right or wrong. Just honest truth about where one finds oneself.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like feeling transparent and raw. I don’t like admitting that I don’t know everything. That sometimes my husband and I still fight about the stupidest stuff. That my son’s tics sometimes hit my ear drums and I just want silence. Blessed quiet. That I worry about my kids going to college or that I’m almost 50 and see yet another wrinkle creeping in. Oh my God! I can’t stop time! I can’t stop inherited conditions! Why am I not over it  yet?! Suffering suffering angst and grrrr!!!!

And yet, when I just surrender that I don’t have to have it all figured out…. That I’m not perfect, nor is my husband… that my son is doing just fine with his little noises and my kids are perfectly content with their lot in life…. that it’s just me with my ego and my hopes and my not yet fulfilled dreams not trusting God… I can then do what I should have done from the very beginning. I can tell God I am scared and sad. And when I do, the funny thing is, I feel relief. And then, like Pastor Craig talked about, I can let God in to fill the places that no one ever could in the first place. Not my husband or a non-ticking kid or script being sold or a full scholarship for my kids to Harvard.

Happiness is not when things are better.

Happiness is right now in the mess and the chaos and the unanswered questions and just knowing that I don’t need to have all the answers because God does.

When I remember that hard things life doesn’t happen to me but they happen for me to let go and let God transform my pea sized mind from negativity to absolute acceptance, life is so incredibly beautiful I could just die.

Or, at least at this very moment, go to bed. Fathers Day kicked my ass this year.

What Do You Need to Surrender to Be Happy? I’d Love to Know Leave a Comment

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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Coaching and Wellness, faith, God, Jesus, meditation, self improvement, Uncategorized

What Other People Think of My Boundaries is None of My Business (And other truths I’m learning)

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Having been someone who used to gossip in the past, I’m really uncomfortable with that kind of behavior today. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, I did it to make myself feel better about my own insecurities. Sadly, the behavior was so ingrained in me, and these insecurities so subconscious, I didn’t even know I was doing it.

But when you know better, you do better.

Sadly, when I became aware of the insidious Gossip Weed… when I truly began plucking it… big weeds of People Pleasing started sprouting up to take their place. Walmart bucket sized gallons of Emotional Roundup later, I began making big headway.

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I can handle one greenery or the other, but when both nasty flowers pop up at once, often thanks to someone else for planting an unwanted seed in my soil, it’s like pouring Miracle Growth on both defects. My spiritual garden goes from nicely pruned geraniums to large blossoms of “Screw You” and “You’re a Crappy Person” blossoms.

“Stay quiet, Andrea,” People Pleasing whispers in desperation. “It’s not worth it!”

But these days my conscience is more important than my comfort. When said resistance comes, I water my fears with a line I learned from my sponsor. “I’m not comfortable with what is being said and will not continue the conversation.” If I am still being bombarded with unwanted gossip, I take out the big watering hose: “You don’t have my permission to keep speaking like this.”

A few beats of awkward silence later, the person who has thrown the seeds then has 3 choices:

  1. Respect my boundaries.
  2. Use the opportunity to reflect and see if I have a point.
  3. Ask questions.

Almost all the time Sometimes none of the above points happen. Instead I might get anger, frustration, finger pointing and more defensive walls being built than on Trump’s architect’s plans. It’s then that I can choose to feel hurt, or instead feel compassion for the person who is reacting so poorly. I can’t lie, I feel a little sad (Not people pleasing is new muscle flexing for me!) but mostly I feel empathy.

Because that is what pain looks like.

And that’s not something I can fix.

But God can.

And for now, at this point of my life, I’m gonna have go with, “Amen.” (And start a new garden. I can’t make anyone else grow, but I can grow myself.)

Anyone else working on not gossiping or people pleasing? Leave a Comment!

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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faith, God, Jesus, Uncategorized

Take the Actions and Leave the Results to God. (And Other Things I’ve Learned On My Faith Journey.)

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The sign in the foyer at my church. I had just added a faux brick wall to my office.

Odd or God? I say the second.

It’s Pride month, and being part of an open and progressive church, it didn’t surprise me that Pastor Craig swapped out his traditional stole for a beautifully stitched patchwork design with a cornucopia of rainbow colors.

That said, I was completely taken off guard by the hand bell choir who strutted on stage with feather boas and primary colored hats, accompanied by the hand bell director replete with a top hat and skinny tea shirt. (The star studded crucifix gave it some added bling.)

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The hand bell choir is comprised mostly of traditional matrons who deflected from more conservative houses of worship, plus one male who is married to the hand bell director.

Side note:  At the end of coffee hour, the lone hand bell male rushed into the parking lot with the words, “Gotta run! I’m not gay, but my husband is!”

Going back to the performance, what struck me about this scene was something I might not have anticipated when I was still knee deep in the quagmire of “Should I leave my conservative church or not?” I admit that I had lots of feelings of worry and guilt. But mostly (and I hate to admit this) I had some prejudice.

By “prejudice,” to be fair, I never had a problem with gay people – hence my guilt for ‘hiding’ in an 3000 person evangelical congregation. I was guilty big time, however, of an expression I often use with my teenagers that hails from my 12-step group. That guilt? Contempt prior to investigation.

I had subconsciously decided, long before I stepped foot into this amazing faith community, that anything other than what I had learned in my tight knit Bible study groups was wrong. I could question… I could doubt… but there was always one answer and one answer alone… one that I never felt in alignment with. That feeling of… what’s the word… freedom that I longed for… that desire that tickled my soul? It was something to be pushed away. Why? It was outside the mold of “true” Christianity.

And yet with enough quiet with God… enough prayer… enough peacocks and enough spiritual experiences, I was driven to put aside my preconceived notions. I was driven to take actions and leave the results up to God. It was in just moving forward that I found, little by little, the treasure I had searched for along. It was there the whole time – in the church of my youth.

In the same church that gave me my love of musical theater.

In the same church that allowed me to dance in the sanctuary and use my voice as a young girl.

In the same church that was quick to allow my school friends to also join the choir.

In the same church that was kind to my father when he was struggling with personal illness.

Bottom line: Some of the best experiences are counter intuitive in that more thinking does not change our minds, but action does.

Today, watching this hand bell choir create music and dance, I was struck that this kind of joy simply cannot be wrong. There was such laughter and applause and happiness… such God given/Holy Spirit approved holy abandon… I could have stayed there forever.

But doughnuts and coffee were being served. So, well, that ended that.

For those of you who are struggling with your belief structure, I urge you to take time and pray to the God of your understanding. Read your holy books, but ask God to show you in a way that you can understand where he would have you be. And, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll land at a joint where there’s a rainbow feathered hand bell choir ready to rock your world.

  • Acclaimed faith writer, Sarah Bessey, has a lovely article on her journey from a conservative to a liberal Christian belief structure. Like me, she was surprised that such a transformation did not unhinge her. Instead, she was pinned with the reckless love of Jesus more strongly than she had ever been before.

Any of you out there loving your house of worship? Why? Leave a Comment!

Happily Ticked Off Tip #57: Consider trying the motto “No contempt prior to investigation.” You might be shocked that what you thought was the dark side is actually the light of a new way of thinking that God just might approve of more than you know.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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Coaching and Wellness, education, faith, God, Jesus, reading, self improvement, spirituality, Uncategorized

What Is Your Brand?

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LA at Waking Up on the Wrong Side of 50 wrote a post the other day that caught my attention. It was called “What’s Your Brand?” Like a lot of LA’s posts, she got me thinking about this. And, because I had already been thinking about it which makes me quite the narcissist I took it as a nudge from God that it’s something I need to pay attention to.

And, so, I did.

I had a good conversation with myself. Some might call this being psychotic. I call it having a rational conversation with my brain and my soul.

Brain: Andrea, why are you writing this blog?

Soul: It makes me happy. It helps me figure stuff out.

Brain: No one wants to hear your whining. Use a journal for that. (My brain can be a real bitch. If you’ve read my book, I once referred to her as Rhonda – named for a blacktop bully from my Catholic grade school days.)

Soul: People can connect with my dysfunction wisdom.

Brain: But what is your brand? Are you a book writer? A script writer? A poem collection writer? An influencer? A faith writer? A “whatever you feel like writing/how many cups of coffee did you drink to influence your manic thought process” type of writer?

Soul: I am all of those things. How can I pick?

The conversation in my noggin took a different turn when I realized that LA was not really talking about her brand for writing so much as her life. (Or at least that’s the idea I took away.)

Brain: Pay attention more!

Soul: Shut the beeexxxp up. Nice observation! I will! But right now, I don’t want to talk about fitting into perfect molds.

LesleyKluchin, a blogger I found through LA, wrote a pretty decent response to LA’s branding question. She basically said it’s IMPOSSIBLE to choose just a few things about  oneself. We are all many things at once. This made sense to me on a personal level so I decided to play along.

Who Am I?

I am:

  • A lover of books
  • An avid thrift store shopper
  • A lover of coffee1.jpg (I took myself to lunch at a beautiful restaurant Friday called LadyFace. sssThis coffee, along with the veggie burger, fries and beautiful breeze with a view of the canyon almost made working as a substitute teacher worth it. Okay, it did. I’m grateful to this small act of self care which started me off on a great weekend.sss                             It also leads me to my next branding point. I am…)
  • Someone who demands to live in gratitude
  • A lover of faith (Oh my God, my new church. I just love it. Today someone gave me an outfit just because she thought I’d look nice in it. sss-5.jpgI am getting involved in a Mom’s Against Gun Violence group there. There are all sorts of people from all walks of life who are open, kind and willing to share their stories. It’s like AA for Jesus. I’m beyond grateful for the ability to lean into God like a pair of comfy shoes – in my own way, with ease and gentleness.)
  • Someone who digs a good conversation about, well, pretty much anything (“Oh, you’re a lesbian wood cutter in Germany? I love women, I love trees and I’m learning German on DuoLingo. Hooray for the fraus!”)
  • A fan of snacks at Costco and samples of coffee at Trader Joes
  • Obsessed with musicals (Yes, I did take my kids to see Les Miserables on Saturday. And no, it was not life changing for them. But I don’t care. Yes, I did “Hear the People Sing” and I was overjoyed, even though 80% of the cast was dead by the end of Act 2.)
  • A giddy Christmas caroler/tree trimmer/cookie making have everyone over and celebrate kind of person
  • A lover of Taco Tuesday
  • Someone who writes every day because it makes my heart happy
  • An overthinker avid thinker
  • A good friend
  • A lover of animals with very good boundaries. Ahem.4
  • A huge believer in education
  • A fan of creativity, poems and the obscure
  • Someone who is writing a musical about camels
  • Passionate about transforming from one way of living to another by staying humble, open to change and willing to lay down my guns – such as my marriage to this guy
  • 1
  • Earnest
  • Hard working
  • Honest
  • Someone who loves progress over perfection – like this office! Look how pretty it looks!6.jpg
  • …and someone who can rap off the top of my head to pretty much any subject

My Blog

While all those things above are true, I did use LA’s branding question to think about my blog here. I thought about how I was writing every day for a while, and that served me to get my writing started, but it became clear that the time spent on this site could be spent finishing up my pilot. So, for the past two weeks, that’s what I did and… it’s done! I turned in! And I’m so proud of the way it turned out! (Lots of exclamations! If you’re a praying type, please pray that the producer thinks so, also, and can sell it.)

And that last bit – the tv writing and my dream to get back into that field – it was just one more reason to think about what direction I want to take with this blog. I’ve read enough of Cristian Mihai to know that what we focus on we grow. Why shouldn’t that be my true passion? I mean, what am I waiting for?

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So this gentle nudging, along with Saint Anne Lamott, forced me to dig a bit deeper and think about “Do I want to make a living writing or do I not?” And since the answer is an emphatic “I Do” (yup, I’m committed for life) then I need to make a commitment. Like a marriage, it works out better when you date, and so here’s my game plan for summer.

Summer Plans

  • Write this blog 2 days/week (Sundays will be like this one – more open ended and whimsical –  and Wednesdays will be guest posts)
  • 5 days/week: Tweet/Facebook my blog in case I decide to write a book. You know, be smart! Get an audience! (God, that sounds so clinical and premeditated. Not very organic. But it’s a good business move and unless I want to substitute teach forever, it’s just smart. I’m worth it and so is any writer who wants to sell a book.)
  • 5 days/week: Read other people’s blogs and get new perspectives on life! Keep reading books.
  • Summer: Finish my writing portfolio site http://www.andreafrazerwrites.com. I have written over 3000 articles in my past. Why not start freelance writing again while I wait for my scripts to sell? (Unless I want to substitute teach forever which, as said before, I DO NOT)
  • 5 days/week: Take one hour and pitch article ideas to magazines
  • 5 days/week: Take one hour and finish up new writing projects
  • Take one whole day each month to work on your camel musical (more to come on this. I’m not normal.)

The above disciplines will take me about 3 hours/day. This is perfect work in between hauling both kids back and forth to their respective summer schools. It will take follow through and discipline, but anything work having does. But worse than that is wishing I could have written and did not.

This Time Next Year

If nothing, and I mean nothing, goes my way writing (and I think that will be impossible if I do as I say) then I will get my Masters and teach, writing books during the summer.

So that’s my plan.

What is your plan? What scares you the most but is something you want so bad you can spit? Are you willing to set aside time to make it happen? And what’s your brand – personally and with your blogs?

Let me know in a comment! 

(Meanwhile, I can’t wait to catch up on your blogs. Talk at ya Wednesday!)

Happily Ticked Off Tip #54:  Decide what your brand is for your life and your blog and make a promise to yourself that you will get ‘er done. (No one will do it for you. Which is a good thing. You know, that whole pride of ownership thing. Think about how proud you will be of yourself in one year when you DID IT!)

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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faith, God, Jesus, parenting, spirituality, Uncategorized, writing

When You Know Someone’s Story Things Change

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In December I switched from an Evangelical church to an open and affirming congregation that allows me to address doubts and concerns I’ve had for many many years.

It wasn’t an easy transition for me. I came from a background where everything I was supposed to believe was rolled out like a red carpet for me. I only needed to dance.

I’m an awkward dancer. I’m six foot tall and my husband isn’t a party guy. I’d often find myself alone on the carpet trying to figure out the beat of the songs. When the kids came along, we’d ring-around-the-rosy every Sunday and be appeased with doughnuts and life groups, but in the end, I felt exhausted from my shimmying to something that I thought I was supposed to get but just didn’t.

When I started opening my mouth about my questions, I was shocked to find many people on the carpet had the same ones as I did, but they chose to accept what worked and moved on. I have zero disrespect for these people, it’s just not me. I am not one to go with the flow if I’m not comfortable. I had to, in the end, quietly leave. Much to my inner narcissist’s surprise, there was no banner shouting “Andrea has left the building!” Nope, not even a phone call or an email. I was either that much of a disappointment or not important enough. Either way, it was an immense relief. (If not a bit terrifying. Now what?)

My New Building

No one was more shocked than I was to find that at my new tiny church God showed up even more strongly than he had before. I felt a sense of peace and belonging I had not felt in years. It’s a place where, in true Rachel Held Evan’s style, we all are called to the communion table. We don’t have an agenda to push. We have only God’s love and grace to receive.

rachel

This kind of message seems radical and hippy dippy to many more conservative folk. But to me, it reminds me of Jesus: a rebellious conviction to love everyone. (Unfortunately this kind of acceptance got him killed. But I get it. He was no longer able to live with the hypocrites. And that goes for me being able to live with my dual personality of wanting to fit a mold I just wasn’t cut out for.)

Getting clean with who I was felt so refreshing. But I had been warned about this kind of serenity before from my more conservative church: “It’s the devil.” And yet, having done an immense amount of spiritual work through 12 step, I knew this simply wasn’t true. In my 12 step, it is crystal clear that to not live a life of honesty and integrity is to drink, and to drink for many is to die. I was not willing to die in body or spirit. Instead, I chose surrender.

The Power of Surrender

I could go on and on about the power of surrender and what that means to an over-thinker like myself, but in a nutshell it means: I am not God, neither are you, how about we just lay down or guns and admit we don’t know everything? How about we let go and trust that each person has a God of their understanding to guide them to make decisions for themselves?

For me that is Jesus. But until he shows up at my door with a cappuccino and a doughnut, I’m not willing to tell all my other friends of faith that they are 100% wrong in who their higher power is and aren’t going to heaven “until they know the truth.” The path to destruction might be wide, and the road to salvation might be narrow, but that simply cannot be true of our hearts. Hell is happening NOW, with our minds too narrow and our compassion not wide enough. People are dying. People aren’t getting the healthcare they need. People are being sent to prison for making heart wrenching decisions for their children.

Surrender also means listening. In joining a new church, I asked question after question of my gay pastor. “How do you reconcile your sexuality with the Bible? How do you keep from creating a God of your own understanding?” These open questions and resulting communication was both scary and transforming. But in the mystery, like driving through fog, light came at the other side. In being patient in the dark, I felt more of God’s all encompassing love than I ever felt listening to straight up theology.

It also meant asking my friends about their feelings on abortion. I heard story after story about why they did, or did not, choose to terminate a pregnancy. Instead of feeling judgment or elation, I was led right back to surrender. And in doing so, I was overwhelmed again and again with the idea of dignity: That a woman must decide for herself what she can or cannot live with. That her life, and others’ lives, are as valuable as the one in their womb. And as painful as that is for me to admit to my inner evangelical, it’s what I believe now to be true. No one – especially a rich white man – gets to decide this.

I am not writing this to convince you on what you should or should not do with your life and your votes, especially if you disagree with me. But I am writing to you to consider asking yourself the very tough questions that I began asking myself a few years ago:

  • If your child came to you and told you he or she was gay, would you pound them with theology and Bible verses or would you wrap them in your arms and tell them you love them?
  • Do you really believe that everything written in that Bible is 100% without error? Because if you do, you have a lot of explaining to do. And if that explaining makes sense to you only from a place where, in our society today, straight white people win, would you consider that maybe, just maybe, it’s possible you are wanting to interpret something that best fits your view of the world versus real people with real struggles and needs?
  • Do you truly think that God stopped talking 2000 years ago when the Bible was shut and that we can’t possibly see God in people and situations outside the book of Revelation?
  • If your 16-year-old daughter comes to you pregnant, are you willing to tell her that she must have this child or face prison time?

None of these questions are comfortable, but they are real. Is our God big enough to handle them and have us talk to others with dignity and respect? Mine is. And for that I’m so grateful.

Conversations

I am being clear with you all because, like my decision to leave a conservative church, I can’t live with pretending to be someone I’m not. While on one hand I can’t stand what the internet has done to our culture (the polarization, the vamping, the lurking) I also am in acceptance of the fact that it’s not going away anytime soon. And so, with that in mind, I felt it important to be have my virtual life match up with my human life. Unlike the Andrea of old, who might have done this out of defense or wanting to fit in, the Andrea of now is doing it from a place of transparency and truth. Right or wrong, this is who I am. Maybe you are in a place I was and need to know that someone else is out there.

Consider this your virtual red carpet to dance in the unknown. To rub shoulders with other people and ask about their stories. To make decisions based on real human beings with hearts, not just theology, and begin to trust your journey.

Services at my new church start at 10. Perhaps you’ll join me at the table.

The Table reminds us that, as brothers and sisters adopted into God’s family and invited to God’s banquet, we’re stuck with each other; we’re family. We might as well make peace. The Table teaches us that, ultimately, faith isn’t about being right or good or in agreement. Faith is about feeding and being fed. – Rachel Held Evans

Happily Ticked Off Tip #53:  When you get to know someone’s story, your heart transforms your head and not the other way around. Every time.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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faith, God, Jesus, meditation, parenting, self improvement, spirituality, Uncategorized

10 Things I Do Every Day That Make My Life Not Suck

Just when I thought I might have every last bit of energy sucked out of me subbing for Middle Schoolers, the dawning of a new and glorious day is rising for this tired writer. In three words, it is SUBBING. IN. HIGHSCHOOL.

These kids sit still. They don’t talk over me. They don’t take selfies of their butts (at least not in front of me) and they actually leave the floor looking like a floor instead of a paper airplane meets Tajin powder factory.

In having a quieter classroom, I’ve had time to feel something that I haven’t felt in over a few months. What is that strange feeling you might ask? Oh, it’s serenity! Quiet, calm dear Jesus I can breathe serenity.

In breathing in the glorious flow of the past few days, I had to admit that while things have been dicey the past few months, I have not been in the bowels of self-pity and despair that non-sober thinking Andrea might have been. Instead, I’ve dealt with what has happened. I’ve cried, I’ve had a few pissed off moments, but in general, I’ve not only handled my business but been of service to my fellow workers, friends and family in the process.

Here are the 10 items that have saved my booty. I hope they resonate with you, too! (So many quotes are by my favorite writer, Anne Lamott. Anne, if you’re reading this, feel free to come for tacos on Tuesday. We start promptly at 630)

  1. Prayer: Every morning for 5 minutes I pray. (On the days I forgot, my life wasn’t as calm.)

anne lamott prayer

2) Meditation: Every morning for 5 minute I sit still and listen. (They say prayer is talking to God and Meditation is listening. I add in coffee because in Andrea language it is also helpful to be awake!)

anne med

3) Reading for a Spiritual Boost: I read something spiritual every day. Sometimes it’s my Bible, sometimes a devotional, or sometimes something from a favorite writer like Anne Lamott. (Just reading these quotes from her reminds me that someone out there feels just like I do. That to me is God in action.)

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4) Reading for Fun 

Even if it’s only for 10 minutes, I try and read a book that is just for entertainment. I’m currently reading Fablehaven. It’s my son’s recommendation. I don’t love it. But I love that he’s 16 and wants me part of his world. It also keeps me out of the fables I tend to create in my own head if my brain is too unoccupied.

reding anne

5) Gratitude Lists: My husband and I send five things we are grateful for each day to a set of friends. I also do this with a friend from my If You Don’t Drink You Don’t Get Drunk Program Great Spiritual Practice. What started out feeling so awkward and cheesy has 100% changed my life. My brain automatically now goes to what is working instead of what isn’t. (Note: If I waited for life to get better to get grateful, I’d still be waiting. The great miracle of gratitude lists is that in doing so your life does get better, because your thinking improves. And perspective is, indeed, everything!)

quotes-gratitude-enough

6) Showing Up Early/Staying Late: I am almost always on time now for work. I don’t do it just to look good. I do it because I’m it keeps me from rushing. In not rushing, there’s more time for error. There’s more time for casual conversation with the school secretary or the student who wants to know, for the fourteen thousanth time, when his vocab quiz is going to be. Extra time means less stress which means there’s more room for God to operate in the magical space between the chaos.

7) Asking People About THEM: As much as I enjoy my favorite three subjects, Me Myself and I, I can’t tell you what joy I get from hearing other people’s stories. Not only is it fun to see people light up (or vent) but I’m selfish: It keeps me from thinking about me me me. It keeps me humble and, to say it again, in gratitude.

8) Journaling: This is something I just began again. It’s absolutely so calming. Just the act of printing on the page slows down my ADHD fast racing brain. I used to do it for the first 20 minutes in the morning per Julia Cameron’s Artist Way directive, but that time is now left to God. Instead, I plug it in during a slow class or on a break.

9) Laughter: When I remember that I’m not so important, but God is, I can let go and just laugh. This often means reminding myself before I pick up my kids to not have to win every single argument. It means turning on Grace and Frankie instead of cleaning the bathroom. And when people don’t behave, which they often do not, I just pretend I’m living in a Neil Simon play and watch the wacky stories of my life unfold around me.

10) Writing: Every day I try to write. It gives me a sense of purpose and connection. My blog isn’t as fancy as I’d like it. I don’t podcast or market as much as I’d like. But instead of focusing on what isn’t working, I focus on what is. I cut myself a break.

There’s so much more I could add, but doing these 10 things allows me to build the framework for these other items. Without them, I couldn’t battle my perfectionism. I couldn’t exercise or have the stamina to clean the house or set expectations for my kids. These 10 things were not natural things for me. I incorporated them slowly.

And don’t get me wrong – they were incredibly inconvenient. But so are newborns and puppies.  You don’t get the cuteness and lifelong companions if you’re not willing to be selfless and clean up the poo – even at 2am. My serenity is always in direct proportion to how willing I am to be inconvenienced.

Leave a Comment!

What about you? What are some things you do every day that keep you sane? (Or what are you willing to start doing?)

Until next time,

Happily Ticked Off Tip #45:  Your serenity level will always be in direct proportion to how willing you are to be inconvenienced.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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education, God, Jesus, meditation, parenting, spirituality, Uncategorized

This Too Shall Pass

A few years ago if someone told me bad months would pass, I’d have wanted to punch them in the throat.

Then for the past two months I had the sub job from hell, my father-in-law died, another one of my family members began to lose their marbles, one of our sinks hit the skids, the dog now has a lump on her back, one kid got rejected from a club they had really wanted to join, I dealt with church moving grief and we continue to have dish wars that often end in me feeling like I am either too hard, too soft but most of all… not eating on clean flatware.

But I can honestly say that through it all, I have held on. Because I knew that this, too, shall pass.

And whatever you are going through, if you can hold on to that for tonight, I can promise tomorrow will get better.

Until next time,

Happily Ticked Off Tip #44:  All that stuff you’re worried about? Stop and breathe. This too shall pass.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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God, Jesus, meditation, spirituality, Uncategorized

Coming Home… Literally (A Resurrection Spiritual Experience)

As many of you know, I’ve struggled for years to find my higher power. I have wrestled with the guilt of not fitting into an evangelical mold that I thought was going to save me. But I had misplaced religion with faith. I had misplaced fear of not being good enough with an impossible Biblical task list.

I have many friends who promise me that Jesus is the answer to feeling good enough. I adore them and their strong foundation for living. But for me, it took letting go of a Biblical model, and a good dose of 12 step, to get serenity. I don’t apologize for this. I’m just being honest.

I have solidly landed in the place of Anne Lamott meets Lin Manuel Miranda when it comes to my faith and, well, I couldn’t be more grateful. That said, the Evangelical devil still sometimes shouts at me. It comes in the form of angry shame poking at me:

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Acck! Run! Shut down your brain and just believe! Because, no, cults aren’t started like that, right?

Scary as that shame can feel, I can’t do the “Must Do’s” anymore to fit into some Christian design for living that only one group of people adhere to. There’s other interpretations. I’m not such a pile of poo for leaning toward those. That said, I’m not ready to give up Jesus. He still calls me. In fact, when I pray to him, and I comb the scriptures and his messages, I see nothing about hard core “Must Do’s.” I do, however, see a hell of a lot of love and acceptance. Yeah, filling up on that feels amazing. (It’s either that or a tube of Trader Joe’s Ho Ho’s. Jesus is better for my figure.)

 

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“This concept of yours? That’s not love, that’s wishful thinking to create a God based on your human understanding,” many of my church friends have told me. “That’s you wanting to play God.”

Comments like that had me second guessing myself, but I trudged ahead with my new found peace anyway. My serenity must have irritated a friend of mine, because when I told her about my new found contentment she remarked, “Of course you feel relaxed. That’s exactly where the devil wants you.”

Side Note: When someone is struggling with something spiritual, telling them that they are falling into the clutches of Satan’s evil grip is not particularly helpful.

Last week felt particularly stressful. Between burying my husband’s father, some work shake ups, and being alone with my thoughts for an entire week while on vacation (oh yeah, this over-thinker sure knows how to do Spring Break!) I was pretty uncomfortable. That’s when I had a life changing conversation with my sponsor, Rosa. She reminded me to stop thinking and start praying. Specifically, “Pray that God shows you in a way you can understand.”

This was on Wednesday.

I started praying… really praying... every day. When I’d feel guilt or shame for bucking the system, I’d pray, “God please show me in a way I can understand.”

And then something incredible happened.

On Sunday I brought my friend Annie my new church. She brought a friend, Tina. Both had never attended services there.

As a reminder, this is a church I had attended as a little girl. I have had dreams about it for years. I could literally smell the pepper trees and feel the calming presence of God from the old school chapel. In those times of quiet, and in my dreams, I could almost hear the words, “Go home… go home…” so I finally did. For the past 3 months, despite feeling like a rebel without a clue, I kept going home. I felt safe there. It felt right. And on Easter I knew why.

When Tina asked me why I drove to this church instead of staying closer to home, I told her the above story.

Tina: “Where did you live as a little girl?”

Me: “Woodland Park.”

Tina: “I live in Woodland Park. What street did you live on?”

Me: “Martinez.”

Tina: “I live on Martinez.”

In my gut I knew before she even asked the last question.

Tina: “What house #?”

Me: “21309”

Tina: “That’s MY house!”

It was then, truly then, that I knew I had heard from the God of my understanding. All those peacocks… all those many eyes of God… I had finally listened. I found home. Literally. And for that amazing experience, on Easter Sunday no less, I am so grateful and humbled.

What Length Are You Willing to Go to Find Your Resurrection Story?

Happily Ticked Off Tip #43:  Careful about asking God to show you in a way you can understand. He just might… and it’s unbelievable! Be ready!

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

books

meditation, spirituality, Uncategorized, writing

Why I’m a Christian. Worries. And Toilets.

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I have decided, encouraged by this post by Fractured Faith, and a week of contemplation thanks to glorious… oh so glorious… vacation… that I’m giving up worry.

It really makes sense. I mean, why did I get sober, or why do I believe that this God of mine died and rose from the dead if he wasn’t going to take care of me and all my concerns that really, in the end, I can’t control anyway?

Yup, it’s time to tell my negative thinking to take a hike. I mean, if you looked at me, with all my gazillion friends (I’m blessed) and happy go lucky attitude, you might think I had it all together. And on many fronts I do. But inside there is always a bit of restless discontent or anxiety. If I were a doctor, I’d call it a bit of OCD mixed with a bit of ADHD and a sprinkle of good old fashioned neurotic wiring.

But I’m not a doctor. But I do know this: When I sleep, eat, laugh and connect with my friends, family and God, sometimes my little anxious friend goes away. Hey, I have an idea: Why don’t I just do that! Connect and laugh every day!

Not taking myself so seriously means quite a few things for my ego, though. Poor little ego. This shame thriller doesn’t get to invade my present with its insistence on dwelling on the past or the future. It means:

  • I’m not going to overthink if I’m a good enough Christian for not believing everything I read hook line and sinker in the Bible. (Yup, I worry about that.)
  • I’m not going to worry that I like meditating more than I like doing memorized prayers from my childhood. (Yup, I worry about that.)
  • I’m not going to worry that I’m 20 pounds over the bobble head Los Angeles model range. (Yup I worry about that. Well, no I don’t. The emaciated pre-menopausal crone is so 1996.)
  • I’m not going to worry that my house isn’t perfectly clean or that I have formica countertops with a burn mark circa Carol Brady 1968. (Yup, I sometimes worry about that.)

What Gives Me the Audacity to Kill Worry You Might Ask?

Because if I can show up to Good Friday services at a church located in a perfectly respectable tree lined suburb where someone found it 100% respectable to put their toilet on the curb next to my car, then I don’t have to be so buttoned up either.

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It means I can give myself permission to enjoy pancakes with 3/4 of my family while the other 1/4 sleeps in. (Hey, newsflash: I don’t have to control everything! That even includes using plastic striped plates with an old table cloth and a crusty Maple Syrup container!)

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It means just giving in and letting the dog get up on the fainting couch while I book some camping sites with my husband. My very cute husband who, might I add, loves it when I’m not quite so serious also.

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It might mean dancing whackily in the kitchen to Maroon 5’s Sugar, eating M and M’s for breakfast on occasion and not getting as much done on my pilot this week as I’d hoped.

But given the incredible outpouring of love, friendship and family I had this vacation, I know that everything is happening exactly as it’s supposed to. A little discipline… a little letting go… and a lot of trusting that this God of mine rose above some oh too serious Pharisees in his day. I can rise above my worry, too, then. I can throw my head back, and laugh.

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At the very least I can eat pancakes and, worse case, I don’t feel well? I know of a free toilet not too far away in an emergency.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #42:  Give up worrying if you can by just not taking yourself so damn seriously.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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education, meditation, self improvement, writing

I’m Glad To Be Here! (Oh, Wait… I’m Not!) okay fine i am…

Yesterday I was determined to have a fun fantastic fleepinglishious day of subbing. To ensure this I:

  • Slept for 8 hours
  • Prayed
  • Meditated
  • Walked
  • Ate a healthy breakfast
  • Took my vitamins

Most importantly, I took a deep breath.

I stood in front of 40 kids in Period 1 and declared what I promised I’d declare in front of every single class thereafter. “I am so glad to be here! I hear you’re amazing. Let’s do big things!”

And then the unruly mob rambunctious class moved seats, flipped on their phones, threw paper airplanes, ran around the classroom, chewed gum, threw taffy at each other and ditched. (Minus a few kids who snuck in from other classes just to socialize.)

Okay, so I couldn’t change the kids. Even the other teacher who was with me was no help. Lucky for me I could change myself! Yay! Luckily I could put this in practice right away as I had remembered to buy a gift card for the unknown stranger whose lunch I had eaten at 3PM on Friday. It was an honest mistake. A friend of mine had bought one for me and I gratefully munched it down.

Except the unknown stranger turned out to be a very well known uppity up at the school I was subbing at. And such stranger did not take my gift card with grace. Instead it was returned with a note reminding me, in no uncertain terms, to never take things out the fridge that don’t belong to me. (Glad it was clarified because, you know, I totally ingest other people’s nutrition on purpose just to irritate them.)

The cherry on the top of this “I can’t do anything right EVER” pie was one of my children who took the opportunity to remind me of something they had been keeping in their hearts for 2 years. Something I did which apparently earned the title of “The Worst Day of Their Lives.”

I won’t lie. I went dark. Feelings I haven’t felt in a very very VERY long time pounded me.

“Screw all your mantras. Screw all your prayer. You’re a SUBSTITUTE TEACHER. YOU FAILED!

My nightly walk with my husband did not consist of asking about him or admiring the flowers. It consisted of quiet rumination and feelings of shame that I am working a gig I’m just not cut out for. What could have been a reset opportunity for me became a Compare and Despair fight in my brain about what I could be doing… what other people are doing… while I’m living out Plan B. Oh, and all that crap about how I stayed home with my kids during the early years and helped mold them into good humans… the silver lining that subbing works with my kids schedule and I’m getting insurance for my family? FUCK THAT.

I finally had the good sense to call Tuskany who reminded me that Queen Elizabeth is 92 and still taking all her appointments. She impressed upon me that by age 50 only half her leadership role was over. “You still have time to rewrite your life, Andrea. So do I.”

Okay, that sounded pretty good.

Later that night my husband whispered in my ear, “Andrea, you’re not just a loser sub. You’re figuring a LOT out. You’re not where you want to be, but you’re not where you were before. You’re in the hallway.”

It’s words like that which encouraged me to get up and start today over. Guess what day it is, folks???I ook

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Hump Day is not only the holiest and most beautiful day of the week, but it’s a chance to take the same mantra I give to students and listen to the words myself:

“I am so glad to be here! I hear you’re amazing. Let’s do big things!”

Okay, if you insist.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #41:  When life feels overwhelming, remind yourself “I am glad to be here!” The lie: it all has the be perfect to be okay. The truth: we’re all in the hallway and figuring it out as we go. That’s okay.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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