Surviving Your Spouse’s Alcoholism: Don’t Give Up 5 Minutes Before the Miracle!

Surviving your spouse's alcoholism: don't give up 5 minutes before the miracle!The last thing you want to hear when you’re struggling with an alcoholic spouse is that it takes time for changes to happen. I remember feeling frustrated when A.A. friends told me, “Don’t give up 5 minutes before the miracle!”

Five minutes?? Are you kidding? It’s been more than two decades. I’ve waited long enough!

How long, Lord? I agonized. I’ve been praying and waiting so long. Nothing seems to change. Have you ever felt that way? You feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall. Well-meaning family members and friends encourage you to give up. It’s hopeless, they say.

Giving God time to work in our lives can be the hardest thing…especially when you’ve been hurt, betrayed, or treated unjustly by your spouse. In fact, just the idea that God would ask you to obey Him in something, when it’s your partner who is so out of line in your mind, can seem outrageous.

At one point, all I wanted to do was give up. I would’ve been justified. I’d waited and prayed. I’d gone to counseling and Al-Anon. Randy could not overcome alcoholism. Then a friend had the audacity to encourage me to wait even longer. What??

I want to say that each person’s situation is unique. We all have to make our own choices. Sometimes we have to leave our marriage or file for a separation or even divorce. If you’re being abused and your safety is in question, then you must get help. I never want to judge another person for their decisions.

Yet something powerful happens when we surrender. OK, God, I’m going to trust you with my marriage. It looks impossible to me, but I’m willing to wait longer to see how You’re going to work all this out. By letting go, we give God permission and room to do miracles in us and in our marriages.

What if I had given up? I would’ve missed the miracle of Randy’s recovery from alcoholism and the amazing transformation of our marriage nearly 20 years ago. Even though I made many difficult choices along the way–setting boundaries and even separating from Randy for a while, I’m grateful I gave God and Randy more time. I don’t blame people who advised me to give up. Our marriage looked beyond hope. I almost believed Randy would never be able to stop drinking.

We often make those judgments without considering God’s part in the equation. He is able to do far more than we could imagine. It took more time for trust to be rebuilt, for our relationship to grow and change with sobriety. Praise God, the miracle happened! We still don’t have a “perfect” marriage. News flash: two imperfect people coming together equals something less than perfect. But it’s good , so good doing life together with this man God has given to me.

Marriage is a way for two spiritual friends to help each other on their journey to become the persons God designed them to be…a new and deeper kind of happiness is found on the far side of holiness. Marriage is glorious but hard. It’s a burning joy and strength, and yet it is blood, sweat, and tears, humbling defeats and exhausting victories. -Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

Yes, marriage is all of these. But the rewards of coming out on the other side are priceless. We enjoyed our son’s wedding as an intact family and we’ve welcomed two precious grandchildren. Now I have the joy of watching them interact with their “Pappy.” I almost missed these moments. I’m thankful I didn’t give up.

So how do you keep going when you want to quit?

  • Be willing to wait on the Lord. His ways are not our ways!

Our thinking is limited. God’s resources are infinite.

We think the answer is “A” or “B” and God says, “Oranges!” –Bill Myers

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

  • Ask God to change you.

God uses marriage to change us, to help us become more like Him—if we’re willing. We have to consistently check our attitudes. Am I being selfish? Am I only thinking of “me” instead of “we?”

God uses adversity to refine us and shape us into His image.

When you start thinking of your spouse’s weaknesses, then start asking God to help you with yours…learning to love, appreciate, and be thankful for that imperfect spouse is one of the most soul-transforming things you can do. -Gary Thomas

  • Wait with Expectancy

God usually does the unexpected–and sometimes it’s more than we ever imagined.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

-Ephesians 3: 20 (MSG)

No matter where you are in your marriage, remember, the miracle might only be 5 minutes away!

Other posts in the “Surviving Your Spouse’s Alcoholism” series:

Surviving Your Spouse’s Alcoholism: Life at the End of the Bottle

Surviving Your Spouse’s Alcoholism: Boot Camp Basics

Surviving Your Spouse’s Alcoholism: Finding Courage to Be Yourself

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving Home: New Amazing Awaits!

Starting a new chapter in my life has always been difficult. About twenty-three years aLeaving home is never easy, but a new amazing chapter awaitsgo, we put our house on the market in Auburn, Washington where we’d lived for more than a decade. I remember the ache I felt when I saw the “for sale” sign in our front yard. Two little boys had grown into high school graduates there, I’d pulled off a surprise 40th birthday party for my husband Randy, and we said good-bye to our Okinawan kitty who had adopted us for 16 years. So many memories! How could any other place feel like home? It wasn’t the first time I’d asked that question.

When I was 13, our family moved from Iowa to Pennsylvania. My familiar world ended. My dad, ever an optimist, felt certain I’d love it there. It took a while. By the time I left for college, I felt homesick for the Pennsylvania home where I’d been transplanted.

Home is where you hang your heart

Through the years, I’ve discovered every time we’ve packed up all our belongings and moved, home is the place where you hang your heart. Whether it was Iowa, Pennsylvania, or Okinawa, Japan, I’ve always found “home” in every place we’ve lived.

I’m reminding myself of this (not always successfully) as there’s another “for sale” sign in our front yard. Within two days we had an offer on our house.

“The buyers love your home,” our realtor told us. We love it, too, and that’s what makes leaving so difficult.

The Methow Valley where we relocated 22 years ago, promised an amazing adventure. And yes, it is our home. It’s hard to say good-bye. Once again, I wonder how any other place will ever be home. My head tells me another adventure awaits. As always, my heart is slow to catch on.

Home interprets heaven. Home is heaven for beginners. –Charles Parkhurst

If you’re facing a similar change in your life, here’s a little of what I’ve learned–and need to continue reminding myself!

  • I comfort myself with scriptures that remind me of God’s faithfulness. A few of my favorites:

Jeremiah 29:11– “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Proverbs 3:5-6Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.

Deuteronomy 31:8The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Isaiah 41:10So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

  • There’s something to be said for the perspective that comes with age. I still get a little shaky when facing the unknown, but being this age, and not 13, gives me a huge advantage in believing all will work out for the best. My dad would be proud of the progress I’ve made!
  • You are never alone. Years of experience have taught me God is in every detail. He prepares the way for every step I take.
  • It’s OK to feel sad and accept that part of change involves some feelings of loss. Shedding a few tears is healing.
  • Allow yourself to anticipate something new and amazing!

The day our house went on the market, I posted this real estate picture on Facebook. A friend commented, “New amazing awaits!” I can hardly wait to see.

 

 

 

 

 

Surviving Your Spouse’s Alcoholism: Finding Courage to Be Yourself

What seems like a lifetime ago, I started attending Al-Anon because I was struggling to cope with my husband RaHaving Courage to Be Yourselfndy’s excessive drinking. I didn’t know where to turn. Finally, I realized I needed help. At Al-Anon, I met a compassionate young woman who encouraged me to call her anytime if I needed to talk. One night I did just that. I poured out my heart to her. Then I called back later to apologize for being real. I minimized what I was going through. Things weren’t as bad as I had made it sound. My friend just listened.

Later, she wrote me a letter. She said she felt honored that I had trusted her enough to share my real self with her. She knew that took a lot of courage. She also gently told me she felt sad because I had called back, facade firmly in place, and apologized for being real. She said it was wonderful to see the real Deb getting some air. She told me her letter might make me mad. That was OK. Go ahead and yell at her! But she felt she needed to be honest with me.

Speaking the Truth with Love

I’m grateful for my friend’s honesty. She cared enough to tell me the truth with love. It would be a long time before I had enough courage to let the real me get some breathing space, though. It’s embarrassing to admit you’re weak and not strong, that you have huge problems in your life. Sometimes if you really speak the reality of what you’re feeling, you might be afraid you’ll start crying and never be able to stop. That’s how I felt…

Why are we so afraid to be our authentic selves? We’re part of a culture that seeks validation. With the rise of social media over the past few years, there’s a tendency to measure a person’s value by the number of Facebook friends or “likes” they have, or the number of Instagram or Twitter followers. I’ve noticed some young women post new “profile/selfie” pictures frequently, looking for validation from their “friends.”

We’ve been programmed to appear to have it “all together.” Our culture rewards those people who seem strong and self-reliant, the ones who pull themselves up by their bootstraps no matter what is happening around them. Sometimes we label as inferior and weak or lacking in character those who are willing to be vulnerable. It’s risky to say this really hurts or I don’t know how I can make it with this pain or I need help. It seems like we don’t have enough faith; that we’re not strong enough when we compare ourselves to others who seem brave and put together.

I’m fine…really I’m fine

It’s like a badge of honor to not weep when you’ve lost a loved one…or you’re experiencing some type of pain in your life. Or when you’re struggling with the pain of a spouse’s addiction. I’m all right, you say as you suck in your breath to hide your brokenness. God will give me everything I need.

Yes, that’s true, God will give you everything you need. But He created us to feel, to have emotions, and to have the ability to express them. He created us to need connection with each other. Real connection–not the shallow kind we often find through social media platforms.

Dr. Brene Brown writes in her book, Daring Greatly, about being vulnerable and real:

Connection gives purpose and meaning to our lives. Shame breaks that connection when we mistakenly believe that if people really knew me, they wouldn’t want to connect with me. In her research, she found that the one difference between “wholehearted” people and those who feel like they have to protect themselves is a belief that you are worthy of love and belonging.

That’s it! Believing you are worthy of love and belonging. Believing you are enough–just as you are. I’m thankful we don’t have to manufacture our own sense of being worthy. When you believe that God created you in His image, you belong to a greater story. One that gives you plenty of reasons to risk being real.

 

You might be interested in reading some of my other articles about alcoholism:

http://debkalmbach.com/friends-help-you…ouses-alcoholism/

http://debkalmbach.com/how-to-survive-y…ouses-alcoholism/

http://debkalmbach.com/surviving-your-spouses-alcoholism/

 

 

 

 

The Rescue: Seven People, Seven Amazing Stories… (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017)

The Rescue: Seven people, seven amazing storiesIf you’ve ever wondered if God is at work in individual lives, then you must read The Rescue. This book tells the stories of seven people impacted by the abuse or poor decisions of others– or by their own destructive choices. God’s intervention in their lives is nothing short of miraculous. An invitation to church, the “chance” hearing of a radio or TV sermon, or a flight attendant’s conversation with a passenger reading his Bible all changed the trajectory of their lives.

Once I started reading each story, I couldn’t put the book down. The author has done an excellent job of drawing you in to seven uniquely different and challenging life experiences. Each person faced extreme circumstances. Yet these powerful testimonies of Jesus’ redemption and healing offer hope and encouragement. More than likely, we may know someone who suffers from similar problems: drug addiction, sexual abuse, homelessness, and the negative impact for children growing up in dysfunctional, broken families.

When much of what we hear each day is bad news, The Rescue provides a ray of sunshine and hope. This book is a good choice for anyone who feels hopeless. Anyone who needs a boost of encouragement and the hope of having their life transformed will find good news here.

Thank you, Billy Graham: I’m One of the Lives You Touched

Billy Graham's life and ministry touched countelss lives“We all have a Billy Graham story,” one of his daughters said at his funeral last Friday. It’s true. The Reverend Billy Graham touched countless lives during his decades of ministry, including mine.

In 1979, I attended the Billy Graham Crusade on Okinawa, Japan. My husband Randy was stationed at Kadena Air Base, and we had just completed our first of three years living overseas. For months, the Christian community buzzed with excitement preparing for the crusade.

As a new Christian, I was curious about what the big deal was…but I soon found out. A crowd packed the stadium that night. Since Randy was away on temporary duty, our two young sons and I tagged along with some friends. We had seats up high in the stadium and no big screens to see close-up shots of the stage. But Rev. Graham’s message rang out loud and clear.

He presented the gospel simply and directly with his easy drawl. “Ya’ll come,” he said at the conclusion of his sermon. “Come just as you are.” Suddenly throngs of people streamed toward the field. Billy Graham encouraged people to keep coming. The hymn, “Just As I Am” accompanied the long lines of people going forward to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Let the Little Children Come

“Mommy, I have to go forward,” 5-year old Jeremy tugged at my hand.

“Oh, honey, ” I said to my young son, ” it’s wonderful that you want to go forward, but we can pray right here.” Making our way through the crowds and down onto the field seemed daunting.

Yet Jeremy insisted. “No, I need to go forward!”

I looked at my friends. How could we discourage this little guy? We all agreed. We inched our way down the stairs and onto the field. It was a moment I won’t ever forget. Hundreds of counselors waited for each person who came.  Now I understood why this event required months of preparation. It wasn’t just about hearing an inspiring message. Making a decision to follow Jesus meant taking action and having a follow-up plan. Both of our sons became Christians that night. They each received a small red New Testament Bible, as Jeremy recently reminded me. That night on Okinawa, our faith grew wings. Two little boys, now grown men, have memories of the night when they gave their lives to Jesus Christ.

At his father’s service, Ned Graham, described his father as being F.A.T. –Faithful, Available, and Teachable. I’m thankful he was all three. Because Billy Graham came to a remote island many years ago, our lives were changed.

 

Surviving Your Spouse’s Alcoholism: Friends for the Journey

You cannot survive your spouse's alcoholism without supportive friends

Photo by Hannah Rodrigo on Unsplash

God still sends angels: ones with skin, hair and belly laughs. Angels like our friend, Jim. I met him at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting where I was the speaker for Al-Anon. I remember feeling at a loss for encouraging words. My situation with Randy and his alcoholism seemed impossible. What could I say to offer any hope? Jim came up to me after the meeting and introduced himself. He told me how much he appreciated what I had to say.

“You know, Randy’s story is like mine.” He pulled a business card out of his pocket. “If I can ever help you or Randy, please call me.”

And I did. So began a friendship only God could have orchestrated. Jim lived an hour from us, a ferry ride across Puget Sound from our Seattle suburb. He was always a phone call away, always ready to listen to Randy or me, always ready to offer support, and even some humor.

One night I called Jim in a panic. I had invited some friends over for a basket party…perfect, I thought. I’m the one who’s a basket case! I told Jim that Randy had come home drunk and had fallen asleep on the bedroom floor. What should I do?

Jim asked, “Is Randy causing any problems at the moment?”

“Uh, no,” I answered.

“Can you just cover him with a blanket, close the bedroom door, and go on with the evening?”

I hadn’t even considered that. I’d been frantically thinking of ways to contact everyone, cancel the event, and then seethe with resentment.

“I know you can do it,” Jim calmly advised.

And I did. My friends arrived, not having a clue that Randy was passed out on the bedroom floor. We had a good time and I managed to forget about our problems for a little while.

Jim kept reminding me. “Randy is a child of God. He needs your love and support.”

I wasn’t so sure. After all that had happened, I wondered how I could ever love Randy again. I wasn’t even sure if I liked him.

Have you ever felt like that? Your spouse has broken all the rules, caused so much pain, financial hardship, and even embarrassment that you can’t ever imagine feeling any different.

And then God has the audacity to send an angel, someone like Jim. He sends someone who speaks truth to you, who tells you about love, the kind of love described in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient, love is kind. Love doesn’t boast…You’ve heard it at weddings and you don’t want to hear it now. It’s impossible, you think. Well, think again.

Real Love

Through people like Jim, I had to reevaluate my definition of love. Even though I hated what had happened because of Randy’s alcoholism, Jim was right. Randy deserved to be treated with dignity—and mercy. That didn’t mean I accepted everything he did with a smile. Not at all. But I learned to take a step back emotionally and not react in the same way. I learned to love my husband with God’s kind of love. I covered him with a blanket of mercy and compassion–just as I had done the night of the basket party.

People like Jim are more than friends…angels, perhaps? His compassion had helped to penetrate the coldness of my heart, my inability to love. Only God could come up with such a plan, just the right person at the right time to help us.

Many years have passed since I took Jim up on his offer to help us. Just last week, Randy and I visited Jim who is in a nursing home. Even though he has dementia and didn’t remember who we are, his eyes still sparkled when we walked into his room.

Randy and I both choked up with emotion. “Jim, it’s because of you, we’re here today. You saved Randy’s life.”

“I did?” Jim blinked, hardly able to believe what we were saying.

I noticed the Christmas photo card I had sent on top of a stack of books next to Jim’s chair.

“See? This is our family. Our sons, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren.” I pointed to the pictures.

Jim might not have understood why we were there or what we were talking about, but we did. We couldn’t have made it without him.

Hope begins when you realize you are not alone. Don’t forget to watch for God’s angels!

Interested in reading more about this topic? Check out these posts:

Surviving Your Spouse’s Alcoholism: Life at the End of the Bottle

Surviving Your Spouse’s Alcoholism: Boot Camp Basics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faithful Finance: 10 Secrets to Move From Fearful Insecurity to Confident Control (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2018)

Faithful Finance: 10 Secrets to Move From Fearful Insecurity to Confident ControlEmily G. Stroud’s warm “across-the-table” style makes Faithful Finance more than an excellent “nuts” and bolts” finance book. With more than twenty years of professional experience, Emily has packed  this book with the gamut of financial information. Topics include choosing a financial adviser, budgeting, investing, buying a home, saving for college, planning for retirement, estate planning, and much more. It’s an easy, interesting read that offers practical, but simple life-changing advice.

Even though I’ve taken Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course, I found Faithful Finance to be a helpful review and reference. Each chapter focuses on one of ten principles that help you manage your money more wisely.

I especially appreciated the author’s Christian perspective on giving:

You may be surprised to hear this, but God does not need your money. He is God. However, what he wants is a relationship with you and your heart. He wants you to be content with what you have and to give without compulsion. God wants you to be committed to giving generously , even if it’s not popular, easy, or financially profitable for you. Typically, people who give generously to their church and to those in need, grow both spiritually and emotionally…

I highly recommend this book whether you’ve just launched out on your own or if you’re seeing your retirement days approaching. There’s something for everyone in this practical financial guide.

I received this book from Handlebar Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Surviving Your Spouse’s Alcoholism: Boot Camp Basics

Prayer is the number 1 way to combat alcoholism. Photo by Ben WhiteIn my previous article about surviving your spouse’s alcoholism, I compared the struggle with alcoholism to an intense battle. It certainly is a battle on multiple levels: spiritual, physical, emotional. At first, I didn’t have a clue how to “fight” this battle. I needed basic training. I had to admit there was a problem before I could reach out for help. That’s a huge first step!

When I discovered Al-Anon, a support group for family members and friends of alcoholics, I felt elated. Now I could  find out how to fix my husband’s drinking problem. I looked at the people sitting around the table in the church fellowship hall. I knew they had the answers. When I poured out my pain, everyone listened with compassion. Then one older woman said, “I used to think if my husband stopped drinking, if only he would change, then our lives would be great. What I’ve learned is I can’t do anything about my husband. The only person I can help is myself!”

What? You’ve got to be kidding. You mean there’s nothing I can do to change Randy? And you can’t be serious that it’s partly my problem. My problem is him! If only he’d stop drinking, then our lives could be normal. I wanted to  blame Randy for everything that was wrong in our world. At that first Al-Anon meeting, I had no idea I had embarked on a boot camp of personal growth and discovery that ultimately changed my life.

Have you ever felt that way? You see your husband or wife as the problem. If only she would stop drinking, then you could be happy. It takes a lot of courage to evaluate our own behavior, the ways we’ve contributed to our problems. When we stop trying to control our spouse and stop playing into negative behaviors (such as arguing with someone who’s drunk and irrational), then the familiar, unhealthy cycle is interrupted. A counselor once told me alcoholism is like gears moving in sync with predictable behaviors. When the non-alcoholic spouse stops doing what is familiar, then the gears don’t move so well and may eventually come to a halt.

If any of this were easy, we’d figure it out quickly and then go on happily about our lives. Healing is a process and unlearning years of learned behaviors takes time and more time. But it’s so worth it! And sometimes, changing our behaviors can motivate our loved ones to want to change, also. There are no guarantees, but the good news is that we will change. We will be different if we go through the “recovery” boot camp.

I used to lament to a friend that I felt stuck. Nothing seemed to be changing in my life. I was worried that I’d be in the same place several years in the future. My wise friend said, “No, you won’t. As long as you’re taking steps toward growth and change, there’s no way you’ll be in the same place because you’re moving forward!”

Moving Forward

So how do we start the process?

  • Tell yourself the truth.  I found it impossibly difficult to finally say the words, “My husband is an alcoholic. Our marriage is in shambles. My life is a mess. And the most important words…I need help!”
  • Stop pretending. Yes, there’s an “elephant” in our homes wreaking havoc and destruction. We have to acknowledge that truth. I remember keeping a smile plastered on my face and telling people I was fine—when in reality, I felt broken. I barely kept myself afloat emotionally, physically and spiritually. It’s okay not to be fine.
  • Find supportive people. We have to be willing to take off our masks and trust a friend, a counselor, or a support group with our truth. Not everyone will understand, so it’s important to find people who are trustworthy of helping you carry your pain.
  • Believe in a Power greater than yourself. I came into Al-Anon believing in a Higher Power, Jesus Christ. The challenge for me was to deepen my faith. I admitted I couldn’t handle Randy’s alcoholism. I surrendered.

Surrender

In a battle, surrender is seen as a position of weakness. You call it quits, wave the white flag, and put yourself in the enemy’s hands. When we surrender in the battle that is alcoholism, we take a position of strength. We admit I can’t do it. But there is One who can. I will let Him. I have been relieved of trying to do it all, to make someone change, believing it’s my responsibility when it isn’t. Only God can change a person’s heart.

Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. -John 8:32.

Truth gives us the ability to walk into the light instead of staying forever hidden in the darkness. Truth brings freedom and relief. Some days it will feel like boot camp. I didn’t sign up for this. How come I have to do all this recovery stuff when he isn’t doing anything? That’s how I felt at times. The hope is that we are growing into the men and women God created us to be. We’re not stuck any longer.

How do we learn to respond differently? Prayer, practice and time. Three steps forward, two steps back. But always moving forward. Being open and teachable. Recognizing what we’re doing that isn’t working or helping us or our spouse get well.

Hope begins when I tell myself the truth.

 

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done (New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2017)

FinishI admit it. I’m a procrastinator. From as far back as I can remember, I’ve struggled with getting things done–not to mention actually finishing them. I was the student pulling the “all-nighters,” trying to get reports and term papers finished on time. Now why didn’t I start this weeks ago instead of waiting until the last minute? I routinely asked myself.

I’ve been learning a lot about my procrastinator tendencies and why it’s so hard to finish  projects with the help of Jon Acuff’s excellent book  Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done. 

This book is especially timely with the beginning of a New Year. Did you know 92% of New Year’s resolutions fail?  In fact, Jon Acuff says you have a better chance of getting into Julliard as a ballerina than you do at finishing your goals. I guess I’m in good company–not that I’ve ever attempted to get into Julliard. It didn’t take long for me to realize the limitations of my ballerina aspirations!

Not only is this book chock full of great information, but it is laugh-out-loud funny. I love that about Jon Acuff’s writing! Even though we may struggle to finish what we begin, at least we can laugh at ourselves as we learn new ways of accomplishing our goals.

For years, I thought my problem was that I didn’t try hard enough. So I started getting up earlier. I drank enough energy drinks to kill a horse. I hired a life coach and ate more superfoods. Nothing worked, although I did develop a pretty nice eyelid tremor from all the caffeine. It was like my eye was waving at you, very very quickly.  -Jon Acuff

How many of us can relate? We tend to think, “I must be lazy or I’m not trying hard enough.” Acuff talks about the real culprit being perfectionism. Maybe a lot of us don’t even begin because it’s too hard and we know we’ll never be perfect. He says Day 1 is not the most important day of a goal. Instead, it’s the “day after perfect.” We have to power past this “day after perfect.” We’ll feel uncomfortable in the process, but we’ll be able to make progress. We don’t have to be perfect. The goal is finished, not perfect. That’s a relief!

When setting goals, as many of us are inspired to do in January, we need to be realistic. Acuff recommends cutting our goals in half because we tend to set goals that are foolishly optimistic. Also, many of us believe we can do it all. According to Acuff, “You can’t do it all. I’m here to tell you that you can’t.”

He also recommends goals that have an element of fun woven into them. We tend to think that working toward any worthy goal has to make us miserable. Not so! In fact, we’re more likely to get it done if it’s fun.

So if you’re anything like me, always procrastinating and never quite finishing, you will find Jon Acuff’s book a breath of fresh air–and an inspiration to make this year the one you finally give yourself the “gift of done!”

 

 

 

 

The Remarkable Ordinary: How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017)

The Remarkable Ordinary by Frederick BuechnerI have long been an admirer of Frederick Buechner’s wisdom. This book is no exception. It is based on a series of mostly unpublished lectures. The author encourages us to take a moment to see what’s really around us. With life’s hectic pace, we often don’t see what is remarkable. He talks about art (writing, painting, music) as a medium for helping us see what is meaningful. Buechner says to take time to stop, look, and listen–and we will be amazed at what we find!

“So, art is saying Stop. It helps us to stop by putting a frame around something and makes us see it in a way we would never have seen it under the normal circumstances of living, as so many of us do, on sort of automatic pilot, going through the world without really seeing much of anything…So, stop and see. Become more sensitive, more aware, more alive to our own humanness, to the humanness of each other.”

Frederick Buechner’s writing style is easy to read, conversational–like talking with a good friend. He points out that we need to pay attention–really notice what’s going on around us. As a theologian, he ties these ideas with his biblical faith. Paying attention to being alive is important. Paying attention to each other and to God, to how he’s moving and speaking or where he’s trying to take you.

Listen for God, stop and watch and wait for him. To love God means to pay attention, be mindful, be open to the possibility that God is with you in ways, that unless you have your eyes open, you may never glimpse. He speaks words that, unless you have your ears open, you may never hear. Draw near to him as best you can.

I love the story he tells about a Christmas Eve in Vermont. He had told his neighbors he would take care of their sheep while they were away. He nearly forgot that evening with all of the holiday activities, but then remembered. As late as it was, he and his brother trudged through snow to the neighbor’s barn. It struck him that there he was in a barn with sheep and a manger on Christmas Eve. With all the busyness of the Christmas season, we sometimes forget to notice what it’s really about.

Buechner encourages us to love others. He notes we would be overwhelmed if we stopped to look and listen to every person who passes by. But he says, “We can surely do more than we do!”

The Remarkable Ordinary has helped me look for God’s extraordinary work in life’s seemingly unimportant routines. What a gift!

* I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.