Simply Sather · Soul Care

when your soul gets off track

I think this is why I read my Bible before opening any app or reading any messages from others…

This morning, I woke up knowing I had a long list of things to do. I’d sent out a pretty significant email last night and wanted to check and see how “it had done”. You know, I basically wanted to check the approval rating.

So, I went to my phone to check and respond to hubby’s morning text (he sends one every day that he commutes to Dallas for work) and then opened my email. There was another response and it wasn’t bad per se, but it wasn’t really complimentary either. Or rather, I didn’t take it that way. My feelings, on the way down into my soul where the truth lies, immediately begin to prickle and the temptation to remain in envy and hurt and negative thinking (hoping something good didn’t actually work out for someone else) hit me like a huge wave.

Now before you roll your eyes and think, “Again? This woman is always writing about stuff that is vulnerable, tempting or hard,” please try to hear me. Not because I want you to feel sorry for me, but so that you can see if there is anything here for you.

This other woman – busy entrepreneur, making an impact in the world – is taking her path and kicking tail. She is different than me, perhaps further along the road than I am and she lives by a different set of principles than I do. But she works hard and is successful and she offered her help to me.

My ego was is bruised. You see, I automatically judged, blamed and criticized her because I’m stuck in old stories,  overwhelmed by old ways of thinking. I’ve bought the junk pile of accusation, taking sides and the definition of “better” from the status quo in our society and even as a regular church attending, daily Bible reading, worshipping Jesus lover child of God. I still have to make the effort to work through these things.

I’ve found that I’m most successful when I address things like this quickly. It basically helps keep the impending train wreck (happening within my soul) to a minimum.

I’m better than I was, but…there was still a bit of damage. Before, I would have responded to her email right away with a “fake it til you make it” message. Not authentic, steeped with resentment, criticism or something ungodly. I didn’t do that, so yay for a small victory.

But I did go to her Facebook page and scoff when reading some of the more recent posts (totally appropriate and hard-earned successes) I saw there.

Then I crashed myself into shame.

In “Soul Keeping: Caring For The Most Important Part of You”, author John Ortberg, talks about the self versus the soul.

“Ironically, the more obsessed we are with our selves, the more we neglect our souls. 

All of our language reflects this. If you’re empty, you need to fulfill yourself. If you’re stressed, learn how to take care of yourself. If you’re on a job interview, you have to believe in yourself. If you’re at the tattoo parlor, you must learn to express yourself. If you someone dares to criticize you, you have to love yourself. If you’re not getting your own way, you have to stand up for yourself. What should you do on a date? You ought to be yourself

What if your life is a train wreck? What do you do then? 

Self is a stand-alone, do-it-yourself unit, while the soul reminds us we are not made for ourselves.”

A train wreck doesn’t usually take over an entire train track, but wherever it occurs, it causes enough damage to be tragic. No matter the wreck, the impact and destruction will need to be cleaned up and the accident evaluated so that it can be addressed and hopefully never occur again.

This is why I shared my less than stellar moment from that morning. It needs to be addressed – not harshly or with self-flagellation – but with God’s grace, His word and in prayer.

There are some stories I’m telling myself. On repeat. And most of them are not good. Like the story that just because someone is seemingly doing more or doing better does not mean that I’m doing less or doing worse. I can easily find many scriptures about “comparing yourself to others“. I read them and understand them on a head level and even perhaps on a heart level, but where I’m hoping to really let them sink in and change me is on a soul level.

“Innately we know that the self is not the soul, even as we do everything we can to preserve it.”

I am on this soul tending journey.  Baring pieces of my soul to encourage others to do the same. Hear my heart. I know that you struggle with something in the depths of who you are. At some point, in some instance, you have asked after your soul in some way.  You’ve attempted to understand you better, why you responded the way you did or didn’t speak honestly about what you truly believed. On your pursuit to better know your soul, you’ve had some wrecks, gotten cleaned up and gleaned some answers, but you may still struggle to overcome the things that sent you off the tracks in the first place.

This is my encouragement to you today.

Sit on that email. Set your phone down and let that text bubble go away. Reschedule that coffee date. Postpone that conversation. And before you plow through that thing eating at you from deep within, take some time.

Get in your Bible, spend some time in prayer until you receive peace, seek wise counsel from someone who will hear you and guide you back onto the track safely with understanding and grace; headed back into the loving arms of Jesus who knows you’re a train wreck in need of His perfect love.

Soul Care

part one: what even, is the soul?

Yes. I am the blogger who spent almost 1100 words explaining a simple solution for your potential dishwasher woes.

I was going to erase it when I logged in to write this morning but stopped myself.

Why? It kept coming up. This question that oftentimes frustrates, but will not leave me be. I ask it a lot of times in almost every situation where I believe I can gain clarity from asking the question. I ask to learn from past mistakes, better understand how I’m built and quite honestly sometimes to avoid pain. Sometimes asking “why” stirs up more trouble than I wanted but it is also a question that pushes me into deep reflection and helps me offer godly, free grace to others.

My soul often wrestles with all of this.

How I’m built. Why I often feel so “extra” when thinking about and processing things. What it is in me that is good and valuable enough to be shared with and make an impact on others.

And because my soul is reaching more clarity in my late 40s, I’m not as certain or confident as I would like to be. And that is extremely frustrating to me.

Every year from 2013 – 2017 – I read the book, Soul Keeping by John Ortberg. I don’t know why I put it down last year, but when I picked it up this month to clarify what the soul even actually is and why I persist in soul care work, I felt a weight.

Not eager to open and dig into with the excitement of previous years, I noticed that I felt it would be work or that I might read something I was not ready to reckon with. It could be my wrestling with menopause and what it means I will need to learn and work through or maybe it’s the feeling that I’ve done this whole thing wrong.

That I did “it” out of order, did it without all of the togetherness required these days to make a meaningful splash in the big Internet world or that I heard God incorrectly and this isn’t at all what I’m supposed to be doing at all.

Posts about the dishwasher, dating your spouse or even our amazing travel adventures don’t seem to land exactly as I want them to. It’s not the foundational stuff that goes toward tending to my soul and helping you tend to yours. Posts about how being snappish with a mother in my library book club or our shutdown story series; those resonate.

The vulnerable. The transparent. The less than put together.

Those posts move women to message me privately and share that they can relate, that they understand, some even share ideas about how I might improve my latest conundrum.

This is what speaks to my soul and apparently to some of you and yours.

And here’s why I think it does…

“What is running your life at any given moment is your soul. Not external circumstances, not your thoughts, not your intentions, not even your feelings, but your soul. The soul is that aspect of your whole being that correlates, integrates, and enlivens everything going on in the various dimensions of the self. The soul is the life center of human beings.”  Dallas Willard

I have had a difficult time showing up in this space (almost every space actually) with consistency and impact because I’m still learning what this means in the practical everyday living. And when I get stuck on what my soul is and what I’m supposed to be doing (a part of my “broken thinking” about the soul) I stack up a bunch of activities, responsibilities, and tasks and begin hustling to force an authentic connection between the outside work with the inside “work”.

I see this in my parenting, relationships, how I showed up in the roles I’ve worked and served in and especially why there was so much conflict from and within me as result of not understanding the significance of my soul. This is why I want to learn, share and help others because the soul is the most important part of you (and me) yet it gets so little attention.

My thinking is that it’s difficult to tend to my soul (really anything for that matter) when I really don’t understand what it actually is.

WHAT THE SOUL IS

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing more about my understanding of the soul and how I’m attempting to tend to my soul daily as a result of what I’m re-learning and understanding more fully.

From time to time it may look like more posts about the dishwasher or the dentist (pray for me, I have an appointment on Tuesday morning). When that happens you’ll know (and I will too!) that I’m struggling with hustling on the outside rather than claiming the real, authentic, transformative work that is done on the inside in relationship with God.

What about you? How do you define the soul?

Simply Sather

ARE THE DISHES CLEAN OR DIRTY?

This may seem like a totally nit-picky thing to some people, but finding a simple way to answer this question has helped decrease anxiety in our home.

Dishwashers are not a given in every single home in America. But for most of you who read this post, it’s become an appliance you’ve come to count on to help make the upkeep of your home a bit easier.

It’s funny to me though.

Sometimes, the very things that are developed to make our lives more efficient and easy, do not always make life simple (especially when they break or don’t work properly). Over the years since I learned to wash the dishes as a young girl – by hand, even with a working dishwasher in the kitchen – until now in our lovely rental, I’ve probably been asked the same question at least three hundred times…

Are the dishes in the dishwasher dirty or clean?iwujxzfVTEqiIuehZdpJ2w

I’m not busting out all of the people I’ve lived with over the years, because I’m sure there are moments on record of me asking the same question. It is a small stressor really, right? In the grand scheme of things happening in the world and even in our own personal circumstances, the question about dirty or clean dishes in the dishwasher is small; tiny.

Well, until it isn’t.

Oftentimes, the littlest things can trigger negative responses which can spiral into something unintended. And because we look at the trigger and not what is under the surface, stirring + festering in our souls, the trigger (or behavior) can be used to ruin an entire evening or week in some homes. It has in mine.

Something so simple – in this case whether the dishes are clean or dirty – can become a detractor from more important things. Maybe it’s just me. The only one on the planet who has rolled their eyeballs and muttered under their breath about such an easy task being overlooked or being communicated poorly, if at all.

My mind and soul often having so many things bubbling up and inside at different times throughout every single day, the little things can throw me off. It’s a part of how I’m wired. (Intellection is my top strength – it means I enjoy thinking a lot. So when little things like this question interrupt that thinking, I can find myself behaving less like a believer and more like a spoiled child.)

I really don’t mind emptying or filling the dishwasher. It gives me the opportunity to think without having to focus too deeply on what’s in front of me and still have victory in accomplishing a task and doing it correctly.

Having a simple code, a form of communication that is easy for the whole team (read: people who sleep here) helps alleviate the need to waste any moments on communicating about whether the dishes are clean or dirty and instead moves me into other things worth my mental, emotional energy.

I know. I know. There are some of you that may not even be able to believe that this is something I’ve given energy to. There are others who know exactly what I’m talking about and how this question, on repeat, can spark a small fury inside you.

Instead of continuing to be frustrated, consider this question as an opportunity to create a solution that works for you and your people; a solution that brings peace to your space and is something that everyone can do, access and help with.

This was stealing some of the peace in my home, or rather I was allowing it to.

I would mutter under my breath and build up resentment within myself that I seemed to be the only person capable of filling or emptying the dishwasher. That I was the only one who knew when and how to keep the cycle going for the benefit of the whole family. (To be transparent, I’m speaking mostly to my single motherhood days living with a perfectly able-bodied teenager.) It was when I remembered that I had not really expected him to help me and that I didn’t have a low frustration way to solve the problem that included his efforts, that I knew I needed to do something differently.

This solution (below) is the one that we use and that works for us most of the time.

I’m aware that there are cutesy signs on Etsy and Amazon, but because our solution needed to be even more urgent than Prime could get things to me, I took two white magnets that had been on the side of the fridge for years, added two different color washi tapes (green//clean//empty, red//dirty//fill,) with the letters “C” for clean and “D” for dirty.

Dishwasher Magnets

You can see they’re a bit worn, but they have been effective the past two-ish years!

With this low-cost solution, we’ve minimized the stress that comes with expending energy on words that don’t matter as much as what’s happening in our hearts, lives or days. It’s not been perfect, because you have to remember to switch the magnets – which is a habit Mister is much better at than me. But, that’s grace. And an opportunity to practice humility…often.

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Keeping the unnecessary magnet as close to the dishwasher as possible helps to increase the chances that we will remember to switch them. We keep ours on the side of the fridge facing the dishwasher, so it’s essentially just a pivot to make the switch.

You just read a whole post about dishwasher magnets, but I hope that you see it as more. Finding new ways to simplify your life in this busy world, can help make margin for you to tend to what’s happening within your soul, beneath the tasks and routine. I find that this simple solution has made space for me to go into the ordinary task with a mind on prayer and reflection. Seriously y’all, during this task and in the shower is where I often do some of my most clear processing.

I just know so many women can feel overwhelmed in all there is to do at home, no matter the season or stage of life you’re experiencing. I hope you will consider this simple tool to help bring more calm into your home like it has in ours.

I’m curious, how does your family answer this question? And how do your people help?