Advice to self: Lighten up

In spite of all the wise and witty words about making mistakes, no one I know schedules mistake-making into the daily calendar. Most of us try to succeed in our endeavors. Well, I do. Whether it’s making a proposal to a potential client or applying polyurethane to a desk top (both recent activities), I want to get things right.

I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to look good. Even if I know I’m not completely confident or capable, I want other people to see me as such. Hmmm…a little pride getting in the way? Yup. Meet one of my character defects.

Last Sunday I made a mistake witnessed by the 210 parishioners at my church. I was substitute pianist for the worship service. Earlier in the week I had previewed the order of service, identified the hymns and service music, noted page numbers, and practiced. I had prepared. Everything was in order, and I would do this job well. Or so, I thought.

When it came time for the music that precedes the Gospel reading, I launched the “Alleluia” refrain of the appointed hymn. The congregation stood, as is customary, but remained silent. No one sang. I repeated the line to polite but awkward silence. Fr. Jason turned around, stepped to the piano and whispered, “The other one.”

“The other one?” I thought. “Oh no! There’s another tune for this hymn! Panic! Mistake! Uh-oh! And in front of everyone!” My prefrontal cortex shut down. My amygdala screamed, “Help! Problem!” I shuffled through pages and rifled the index to find the other tune.

Calm and unabashed, Fr. Jason declared, “We’ll sing a capella.” He began the “Alleluia” with resonance, and the congregation immediately joined in.

By the second verse, I located the correct tune, slipped into the hymn, and accompanied the last four verses and final “Alleluia.” The remainder of the worship service unfolded according to plan. I survived. No one got hurt.

Today, as I write this, Fr. Jason and I are probably the only people who remember my blunder. And I’m the only one who cares.

“Lighten up,” I remind myself. I wish I could make easy jokes and see the humor in the mundane muddling of daily life. Instead, I dive into feelings, self-doubt, and the serious side. “How does this look? What will they think? Did I do the right thing? Could I have done better?”

Notice where the emphasis is? On self. On ego. Nothing to be proud of. Al Anon taught me that ego is an acronym for edging God out.

God, in God’s infinite mercy, breathes into the spaces where I have tried to edge God out. God fills my life with people who recognize the humor and laugh wholeheartedly. They remind me to lighten up: my kids, my granddaughter (although she doesn’t yet know she helps), my sister, nephews, nieces, and friends.

Daughters who keep me honest

God slips humorous scenes into the day: chickens waddling up the hill, their fluffy butts wagging side to side; frog eyes peeping out of the pond; the cow that gazes through my window with a “And just who are you?” look in her eyes; Jack, the farm dog and JJ the farm cat whose body language says, “Naps are the best!”

Avoiding eye contact

Just for today, a little lightening up (and maybe a nap?). Thanks be to God.

Just being honest

This website is supposed to be a place of encouragement, a moment of grace, and place of peace. To be honest, I haven’t felt peaceful lately. My basket of grace is empty. I’m stuck in muddy doubt and fear. I’m renting space in my head to Scarcity Mentality.

It may all be timely. This is Holy Week and we’re reminded to empty ourselves and admit our brokenness. We walk towards Friday’s darkness.

Or it just may be that I’ve turned my sights in on myself.

To be honest, that’s probably it.

I’ve been here before–confused, worried, afraid, convinced that my best efforts will fail to meet my needs. I can taste the fear. It’s rancid vinegar. Doubt, like the smoke from burning refuse, clings to me.

One piece of wisdom guides me through these self-absorbed times: Pray.

Al Anon taught me that the best place to start praying during these times is to admit that I’m powerless. Al Anon also taught me to remake the daily decision to “turn my life over to the care of God” as I understand God.

The Episcopal church gave me an anchoring prayer for these times.

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord.


BCP, Collect for Grace, Morning Prayer II

Today is a new day. God is the one with the power to preserve and sustain. I don’t have that power. In fact no other human being has that power. That’s a good thing!

When I pray that God keeps me from “falling into sin,” I think about the slithery sins of fear, doubt, jealousy, judgment, and envy–my character defects. The adversity that I face is generally of my own making–worry, fear, a scarcity mentality. When the roots of adversity sink into dark places beyond my control, I still need God’s protection.

May the Collect for Grace speak to you.

This new day

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