She just finished telling me how successful her last weight loss strategy was and was now contemplating her next, “What do you think about Weight Watchers Jen?” And once again I launch into my verbal dissertation on how we are so desperate to quantify something that should be qualified.
Life, I mean isn’t that what food was made to sustain? Life, I’m quite certain was never meant to be so calculated. We count the days, the pounds. We are either lifted up or drug into the pit according to the number on a scale or a bank account. We set up parameters for ourselves around doing everything as if every act is meant to be a competition or challenge.
Where is the flow. Where is the FREEDOM?
“It is for Freedom that Christ has set us free.” So important that Paul uses the word twice in one sentence. Or maybe he knew we wouldn’t hear it if he only said it once. Maybe he knew we’d spend every hour of every day trying to hand back that freedom, choosing instead the bondage of our own counting and qualifying.
We count calories and assign numbers to food from early enough in life and consistently enough through life to the point where as adults to look at food and not see a number, shame, a “no-no,” staring back at us on EVERY plate is nearly impossible. I have clients who awaken every day to a cyclical anxiety about what and how much they will eat that day.
This blog is not a diet blog. In fact, if words were burnable I’d burn that word. This is a path. Or maybe a light on a new path.
Imagine you’re hiking in a thick, beautiful forest. One of my family’s favorite things to do is hike in the hills of Tennessee. We are so fortunate that there are hundreds of miles of trails here for us. It’s safe because the trail has been forged already. It’s easy because the brush has been moved, the work has been done.
With this blog, I am going to go off the path.
We are going to take a new path with food. And don’t freak out but this path has no numbers. This path has no scales. This path will test you but here is the beauty of the new path…The view is amazing.
My friend Shawn is the one who told me about our new favorite place to hike. Shawn is a fire fighter, avid hiker and all-round adrenaline junkie, like most fire fighters. So, Shawn tries new paths all the time. Being and entrepreneur I can relate.
Recently we tried a new trail that Shawn recommended. When we returned from our hike I was telling him how much we had enjoyed it. He immediately launched into how he had noticed another path the last time he was out there. He was certain that it had not been open to the public yet, but he went anyway. He took it anyway! He was so excited telling us about it. He went on about the view on that path and how beautiful it was at the summit.
I was so close when I was there but I was on the beaten path. I was going with the flow and I didn’t see half of what he saw because he saw a new path and took it.
Listen, you’re on the beaten path. But the thing is, you are the thing that is getting beaten on this path. I know, I sit with women every day and here is what I want you to know…we are all so much more alike than you realize. Yes, we all have our issues and obstacles and inner junk.
A new path! Doesn’t that sounds refreshing? It usually does to the people like Shawn, but to most it sounds terrifying. It sounds impossible.
We’ve grown comfortable on our path even when after 40 years of trying that path never leads to freedom. We never get to the top of the mountain and get to see the view. We never get to what feels like a stopping point. We never get to breathe and take it all in. We never get THERE.
Well I have news for you.
You are THERE.
If I could tell you every moment that led to this point I would. But you don't have that kind of time and I don't have that kind of memory. There have been moments that were so huge in huge ways they are seared in my memory forever. And then there have been moments that have been huge in teeny-tiny, seemingly minuscule, sort of ways. Like today.
Today at a group I am part of the speaker asked us to write 3 things on a post-it-note that we're burdening us.
I started with the obvious. I am feeling burdened for my sister, her kids and their move. I am excited beyond words to have them coming to live near us and yet I know my sister has so much on her mind and heart…that burdens me.
Second…finances. I mean how many of us can't write that one?
Then came the kicker. See, this office space for Zone Conditioning, even if temporarily, has fallen in our laps. I mean really, out of the blue clear sky, as only God could have managed. And it's a gift…a beautiful gift. But as I wrote my burdens on that little yellow post-it note I found my pen writing, "My fear of success." WHAT!? Did I really just write that? Did I really come this far to fear the thing I've wanted. I've read about this fear, but I had never experienced it. Or had I?
In a moment, a rush of clarity and emotion told me that I had been fearing it all along. I fear being successful at many things not because I actually fear the success but because I fear losing them. Whatever that "it" is at the time. I fear joy because I fear losing that joy. I fear people because they will go away. I fear happiness…real happiness, because it doesn't last. Right?
Then the speaker asked me to take the trash can, crumble up my burdens and toss them into the can, which I did. I then had the great honor of taking the can around the room and receiving the burdens of every women in the room into the can I was holding. It was beautiful. It was overwhelming. It was a Kairos moment! I collected burdens.
I sat the can back in the center of the room and returned to my seat and fought back tears.
Here's the thing.
No, happiness does not last forever. Yes, there are going to be circumstances, people, and things that come to steal my joy. And yes, success can be lost. But today. Today, I have them all; happiness, joy, success, and today I have them all to the fullest! Just today! I don't need to worry about tomorrows joy, that just steals today's joy. The thief of today's joy is tomorrows worries.
So I am practicing awareness. I'm practicing presence. I'm practicing to be where I am. Just there…here. No where else. (All of that repetitive crap was for me, not you…have to keep telling myself.) And it's not something you do with your head only. You have to bring your body. And you have to have awareness in your spirit. That is living fully in today.
Lately I've been pondering the words, The Kingdom of Heaven.
I've been using this awareness, this presence of mind, body and soul to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. To me.
Every time I am able to bring awareness and presence to a moment and fully find myself there, I think, I have brought the kingdom of heaven to my day…to my life…today. Living fully.
Here is where I sit today:
"As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give."
Friends, the kingdom of heaven is near. It lives and breathes in each of us every moment of every day. The only requirement to find it, to access it, is awareness that it is there and acceptance that it is real with each breath, because there is no fear of success in the kingdom of heaven…there is no fear of tomorrow in the kingdom of heaven...in fact, there is no fear at all.
Find joy today. The kingdom of heaven is waiting for you.
Life has a funny way of bringing things full circle. I wrote the following blog post in June of 2013, just 5 months before I would open Zone Conditioning. What a ride it's been...and the purpose lives on.
Have you ever developed your own personal mission statement?
A few years ago I started noticing that many books and leaders that I read and follow were urging you have a personal mission statement. I figure if it's guided them to such great success I may as well give it a try, so I composed my first personal mission statement.
Over the last few years my mission statement has been buffed and polished and I'm happy with where it's landed (for now, I expect it to evolve):
To encourage others to have strong bodies, healthy minds and soaring spirits.
I just want to be an encouragement to those around me. I live to encourage. That's the consistent thing in my life.
But what's the point of having a mission statement if it feels like you never really find that purpose or place to use it? What good is a mission statement without a mission? And that is where I've felt for a long time. I still feel like that one thing I was meant to do is still lingering out there in the future somewhere. But it so often feels like as I move toward it, it moves away from me, even farther in the future. Anyone relate? It's like there is an invisible wall between me and my purpose.
And this is the kind of person I am - I'm an inward changer. I don't look for the world to change to make me happy, I know if a change is needed it's in me. So I wonder to myself how I am sabotaging my way out of my purpose? How am I screwing this up? What am I not doing? These are the questions my inner voice asks. (That inner voice always pointing her finger at me).
Then last night I had a mini breakthrough. And the encourager in me wonders if this would be helpful for you so here I sit typing my breakthrough to you…this is an important one.
I am reading a book from one of my favorite bloggers, Jon Acuff. Jon has written several best selling books now, but if you know Jon it may still be from his blog 'Stuff Christians Like'. If you're an uptight Christian (or surrounded by them - because I'm sure you're not one) you'll get a good dose of comedic relief at Jon's blog. Not just because the stuff he say's is funny but because it's true. Maybe not True. Maybe we don't need to go capitalizing it because then that would indicate a measure of God in his truth and then I would be hounded by theologians far and wide because then maybe I'd be saying that Jon's blog truth is equal to Biblical Truth, because we all know a Capital Letter Changes Everything... (See what I did there, if you thought that was amusing you'd probably like Jon's blog…it's a bunch of stuff like that but better…much better).
Anyway, I'm reading Jon's new book Start. I've already read his book Quitter and loved it. I guess Jon realized he left us all hanging…we had quit and when you quit you need something to start. So glad he came to the rescue. All joking aside, I'm about 35% into the book and it's already been worth it even if I didn't read another word, but I will.
So Jon has helped me make this tiny shift in thinking. It's kind of like my post from a few days ago where I suggested shifting from seeking balance to using balance as a tool to get to your destination.
Here it is…
Stop looking for purpose and live with purpose.
In fact he say's forget it…
"Forget finding purpose. It's a never-ending story that will leave you empty. Live with purpose instead."
As a self-professed encourager one would think I already had this one down. And on some level I do…but I had forgot. And that is what we do when we set our eyes on the 'purpose wall.' Not to mention, it's been a few years but you think I would have solidified this one back when I read Purpose Driven Life…don't remember the details but seems like this was, or should have been, covered in that book.
He goes on…
"How will you know when you're living with purpose instead of trying to find purpose? When you stop worrying about the great wall of purpose."
Ok, this is huge. I don't know about you but this is setting me free in so many ways. I have to wrap my brain around this….I have to learn this one once and for all. Because when I believe this and let it sink in it helps me to silence that inner voice that tells me all of my past trials at my 'one things' have been failures. No ma'am! They were missions!
I beat myself up so much because I've tried so many things…like 10 in the last 5 years at least. I joke that I feel like I keep sliding my resume across the desk to God and He keeps sliding it back to me and saying, "Thank you for your consideration and time but you're just not qualified." And each left me feeling like I had failed. With each one I felt I had found my purpose. Then gone.
So I thought about my mission statement again…
To encourage others to have strong bodies, healthy minds and soaring spirits.
And I held each of those "failures" up to my mission statement and suddenly I could see it. I have been living with purpose. I have been succeeding. Every singe one of those "failures" stood up to my mission statement. It's never up to me how long any one thing lives. It's never up to me to change hearts of other people, just mine. It's never up to me to decide when and where I will take that purpose next. Instead of looking now for that one thing, I can seek the next thing with confidence and excitement.
I think maybe that's by design. That's the way I was made. Maybe some of us are made to fulfill one great purpose. I read about those people all the time. I'm currently reading about Nelson Mandela, his book 'Conversations with Myself' (I had to read a book titled Conversations with Myself. I was just so thrilled that someone else like Mandela has conversations with himself…I saw the title and thought ME TOO…I MUST READ THIS!) Maybe some of us (probably most of us) are not made to save an entire nation but instead we are made to encourage one mom, one child, one stranger…and maybe that mission lasts a day, a week or several years. Is that up to us to decide how long God wants us in the life of someone? I'm guessing God made me this way because people can only take so much Jen. Who knows? But I'm not going to question anymore and when that inner voice wants to point her ugly finger at me, I am going to hold up my mission statement and say…TODAY I helped someone have a stronger body, or a healthier mind, or I was the one person today that reminded a desperate mom that her spirit was made to soar.
Do you have a mission statement? How does it change things for you to think of living each day with purpose instead of living each day searching for your purpose?
I feel like I've taken my mission statement and nailed it to the Great Wall of Purpose and at the first strike of the nail the wall cracked in two and I walked through. If you read this and you even take one mini-step through your wall my mission is accomplished for yet one more day. Success!
Jen Mulford is an entrepreneur, speaker, author and champion for personal freedom.