(Becky, the Mama)
Least you think that because I’ve co-authored a book on the subject of self-care that I somehow “have it all together” — let me hasten to assure you (before others start volunteering to do so on my behalf) that this is SO not the case. First, a visual: a couple of snapshots my daughter (and co-author Rachel) put together of my actual dishwasher after I loaded it (“drunk monkey style”) and one of Rachel’s dishwasher, the way she loads it (like “a lab scientist”).
Next, here is a little excerpt from Nourished, where I share a couple of my other potentially lethal flaws.
I’ve always found a measure of comfort in having lots of stuff around me, even when I sleep, like a pack rat’s nest.
I could list dozens of areas where I fight the tide of disorganization, but few have been as daunting as keeping pills, vitamins, and supplements in their bottles, something that unnerves both Rachel and Greg. We have several spots in the house where miscellaneous pills and supplements have spilled then mingled together, like jelly bean assortments. I always plan on sorting them out, one day, looking up the embedded numbers on the internet to figure out if a mystery pill is an Aspirin or Gingko or rogue cyanide. The other night Greg asked if I had a Tylenol in my bedside table. I opened the drawer and took a dubious look at the pharmaceutical collage rolling about and asked, “Are you feelin’ lucky?”
“Never mind,” he said. “I’m not brave enough for Vitamin Roulette tonight.”
He always double checks even when I give him a pill from a bottle, since the night I accidentally gave him a No Dose instead of a sleep aid—a night he recalls every moment of in vivid detail. My purse is another interesting place where pills and vitamins like to gather and do odd things. Rachel and Jackson were recently here visiting, and the adjustment to the altitude gave her a nasty migraine. “Do you have an Excedrin, Mom?” she asked as she rubbed her head.
“Just a minute,” I said, digging in my purse. “Ah ha! I do! Here you go.”
She took the pill, and a puzzled look crossed her face. “Mom, that’s a red M&M.”
“No, honey. See the E on the front? It’s ‘Excedrin.’”
“Mom, put on your reading glasses. See, you’ve got ‘the pill’ rotated the wrong way. Give it a quarter turn. See? It’s an M, and there’s a little chocolate showing where the red candy has melted in your purse, and is now melting in my hands.”
“My goodness, I’ve kept those three M&Ms in the zipper pocket of my purse for two months, sure they were pain killers. Whaddaya know?”
Besides learning that an “M” looks like an “E” when laid on its side, I have also discovered that if you put a few Tylenol PMs into a Ziploc bag and then the bag falls into a hotel sink , and then you accidentally turn on the faucet in the dark of night (and do not close said bag very well), in the morning you will have a blue Play-Doh-like substance that can also put you to sleep and cure a headache.
You might also ask me how I know that a fish oil capsule, warmed in the sun in the lining of a purse will leave it smelling like three day old tuna for weeks.
All this preamble to say, though I am much improved from my days as a teen and young mom—I still struggle. Organization is as sticky a subject as the console of my car.
If you are curious as to whether or not I ever found my Inner Organizer, you might enjoy grabbing a copy of Nourished and read “the rest of the story.”
“In the scope of a happy life, a messy desk or an overstuffed coat closet is a trivial thing, yet I find – and I hear from other people that they agree – that getting rid of clutter gives a disproportionate boost to happiness.“ Gretchen Rubin
During the writing of the book Nourished, with my daughter, Rachel, I experienced a long season of multiple crises and burn-out from chronic over-giving and over-doing. (Note to self: be careful what you write about or God will take you much deeper into the subject than you want to go!) But of course, it was in this very valley that I eventually grew stronger and a little wiser and learned something about compassion and joy no matter what. I shared with our readers all that I gleaned about how to nourish a “brain in pain” in that chapter — but I am still an eager student, curious as to why suffering (given some time) turns some folks heroic, yet makes other perpetual victims.
After watching the fascinating Ken Burns series on The Roosevelts this Fall, I began to read everything I could find on the lives of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. (I came to it late, but thanks to my husband’s lifelong interest in WW2 era, I have now caught the history bug in earnest.) Reading a good biography about flawed, complex, great men and women can be more inspiring than essays or devotionals. It is the difference between reading C.S. Lewis describe the four kinds of love versus reading A Grief Observed – the poignant, personal story of falling in love with, then losing, his beloved wife. One tells, one shows. One hits our brain, the other our heart. Opinions are observed, stories are felt.
Before polio struck FDR – at the very beginnings of his political career – he was wealthy, handsome, proud, narcissistic and aloof, even haughty. Spoiled by a doting mother. And in fact, if his pride had been left unchecked, his mother might have been the only person who could love him. However, after being struck down at the prime of his life, his athletic frame crippled over night, he changed. And thank goodness for our nation, he changed for the better. His compassion for other polio sufferers became legendary; his newfound empathy led to personal action. He befriended, helped and encouraged hundreds of fellow polio victims at the rehab-resort in Warm Springs, Georgia, and did not forget them once he was in the White House.
After Hitler began his first unspeakable extermination… burning houses, killing Jews and sending them to concentration camps, FDR was the ONLY world leader to publicly condemn this first wave of horrific crimes against humanity. I can’t help but wonder if his own personal understanding, from his experience with polio and the fight against prejudice of the physically-challenged, played a part in his courage to speak up for those who could not. His famous line, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” wasn’t just political rhetoric; it burst from his heart, echoing his personal hard-won victory over defeat and despair. The courage he gleaned from his very personal challenges, would inspired an entire nation with bravery in critical days.
We may never understand the reasons for suffering. But when seen from a broad view of history, I can see that those who allowed suffering to change them, for the better, instead of for the bitter…. became wiser, more compassionate, courageous. It clarified their spiritual purpose. People who allow themselves to be refined in the fire of suffering, eventually discover within themselves the stuff of which heroes are made.
And so what does this mean to us? To you and me, today? It means that when suffering is allowed to have its way in our lives, when we choose to let it soften and strengthen and expand us, instead of harden and weaken and shrink us…. something heroic happens within. In short, suffering can be the very thing that prepares us for, and increases our capacity for our greatest calling. What seems so random and crippling today, in the long view of your life, maybe the very experience you needed to fulfill your greatest purpose for being put on this earth.
”Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
James 1:2-4 The Message
I want to dedicate this blog to my dear friend, Michele Cushatt today, whose courage and spirit while battling cancer inspires me daily. She’s my hero of the hour!
A bit about our friendship is written in Nourished, and you will love Michele’s upcoming book (to be released in early March), also with Zondervan, titled Undone: A Story of Making Peace With An Unexpected Life)
We are guest-posting at the lovely Ann Voskamp’s blog today. A story from one of my oldest and dearest friends, Shawn, who had every right to be bitter after losing two beloved husbands, both named Ron, in the span of five years. One day Shawn emailed me about an image God had given to her that was profoundly beautiful and comforting. I’ve turned to it time and again in my own dark hours, and shared it with many others as well. It is always soothing to the soul.
I hope it might bless you as well today. Simply click on Ann’s picture above or the link below to read more.
In the last chapter of our book, Nourished, we talk about the foundation of a nourishing relationship with God, the way we view Him, and closer to the heart of the topic: how we believe God sees and feels about us.
(from “He Calls Me Darlin'” , an excerpt from Nourished)
(Becky, the Mama)
I recently came to realize, with some measure of gladness and satisfaction, that each of my grown children had assumed that they were my “favorite child”—which is exactly as it should be. It let me know that I had done at least a few things right as a mother. And they are absolutely correct: each and every one of them is my favorite child.
In the book The Shack, the God “figure” is played by an African American woman and she has an endearing way of talking about each of her “children” and adding, “I’m especially fond of that one.” The main character, Mack, begins to notice this trend, and asks her at one point, “Are there any you are not especially fond of?’
She answers, “Nope, I haven’t been able to find any. Guess that’s jes’ the way I is.”
Could it be that God is “especially fond” of each of us and that we are, every one individually, his most favorite child?
I find it interesting that the apostle John referred to himself, over five times, as “the disciple Jesus loved” or “the beloved disciple.” His identity, his name, after so many years with Christ, was simply, “The one Jesus loves.” I cannot help but wonder if the other disciples might each have believed they were Christ’s favorite, too, that he was “especially fond” of them as well. Or perhaps John was so focused on the great love of God, he wanted to make a point by replacing his own name with a description of his belongingness. When you abide, which means to “settle down to make yourself at home” in God’s love, your whole identity changes. Your central role in life is no longer Becky, or Rachel, or “mom,” or “wife,” or “writer,” but the older you get and more you allow God’s love to seep in to your very pores, the more your identity becomes, “The beloved daughter of God.”
Try tacking on this “beloved” identity to your own name, just for fun. Here, I’ll go first. “Hello, I am Becky, The Woman Jesus Loves. But for short, some people just called me Becky the Beloved.” Now you try it, with your name. Let it soak in. And just for today, simply let God love you. Nothing more.
(“Dumbo and Me” — an excerpt from our newly released book, Nourished: A Search for Health, Happiness and a Full NIght’s Sleep)
Lasting change requires two things: a plan and the motivation to tackle it. In the fascinating book Switch, Chip and Dan Heath refer to these two parts of our decision-making brain as The Rider and The Elephant. The Rider is the planner, the logical part of us that researches, makes lists, and follows steps into change. The Elephant is that big, emotive part of ourselves that has to be reached and motivated in order to make a change, even a small one. An Elephant without a Rider is all feeling and impulse, lumbering and stampeding with heartfelt, unbridled, and directionless emotion. Still, The Elephant has its own kind of intuitive wisdom, and needs to be heard and acknowledged.
The Rider without The Elephant, on the other hand, is like a woman standing on a path in the jungle, a well-thumbed guidebook in hand―but without the gumption needed to move off center and actually go anywhere. How many of us have embarked on a new diet or exercise plan, or determined to “get this house organized”―only to find our Inner Dumbo has decided to sit down and roll over our best intentions? Perhaps dousing us with a spray of pond water for good measure? What happened? In short, we did not take the time needed to hear, get to know, and motivate our Inner Elephant.
Think back to a time in your life when you made a real change that lasted. You’ll recognize that your inner Elephant and your Rider were in sync, working together to get you down a new path that took your life’s happiness quota up a few notches. Though I am naturally a messy person, I fell deeply in love with a good man who needs at least a modicum of order to feel balanced and happy. Motivated by love for my husband and desire to see him functioning at his best (engaging The Elephant of feeling and motivation), I made a plan and put into action the steps of cleaning up the kitchen and living room every evening (The Rider) until they became natural habits. Our lives are happier for this relatively minor adjustment that eventually turned into a habit that I’ve kept up for almost a decade now.
One of the simple reasons that Rachel’s extreme schedule makeover didn’t work out (besides factors like illness and drop-in-crazy people) was that, frankly, she didn’t give her Inner Elephant that much-desired cup of coffee. And that Elephant wasn’t going to budge without caffeine, no matter how much her logical Inner Rider argued against it.
If you want to follow a lasting and nourishing way to change, you’ve got to make friends with your inner Rider AND Elephant.
(To read more about ways to make lasting, positive changes that stick & stay, order or download a copy of Nourished today! )
Here’s what Dr. Daniel Amen, brain research pioneer, had to say about Nourished:
“Those familiar with our work at the Amen Clinic know we believe that when you nourish your brain, you nourish your life. The converse is also true: when you nourish your life with one healthy change after another, you also nourish your brain. Becky and Rachel are, at turns, funny and informative, light-hearted and deeply inspiring. I found their book, Nourished, to be delightful, practical brain tonic for women dealing with every day stresses. “
Dr. Daniel Amen, MD, New York Times bestselling author ( Change Your Brain, Change Your Life; Unleash the Power of the Female Brain; Use Your Brain to Change Your Age) and co-author of the #1 NYT bestseller, The Daniel Plan (along with Rick Warren and Dr. Mark Hymen). He is also producer and host of 9 public television specials and founder and director of The Amen Clinics.
(Nourishing Smiles, by Becky Johnson)
Sometimes words just get in the way, especially when pictures tell their own story so well. Here is a series of snapshots that my daughter (and co-author), Rachel, took one morning as we sat visiting and clowning around the dining room table where our big blended family had played a rousing game of poker on New Year’s Eve, the night before. To set the scene: I had been drinking coffee in the kitchen, when Rachel’s three-and-a-half year old son Jackson hollered, “Hey Nonny, there are cup holders in here!” (Meaning, “Come put your coffee in one of the cup holders around the table and play with me.”How could I resist?)
Rach happened to have her camera handy and here is what happened next.
Victor Borge once said, “The closest distance between two people is a laugh.” I have discovered this to be unfailingly true. Not just with friends, but also with my kids and grandkids. In the excerpt below, from our newly released book,Nourished: A Search for Health, Happiness and a Full Night’s Sleep, I expound a little on the blessing of laughter to both grease the skids and brighten the joy of parenting and grandparenting.
(Excerpt from Nourished…)
I’ve discovered that a kid will follow you to the ends of the earth if you make them laugh. And I will follow any child who makes me laugh to the ends of the earth as well. There’s something irresistibly contagious and fun about parents and kids who enjoy comedic repartee.
I read that comedian Billy Crystal used to wash and blow dry his two little daughters’ hair. Using the voice of Jose Eber he invented a flamboyant personality he called Mr. Phyllis. He would style their wet their hair into funny forms. Twisting it into a horn for example, he’d say, “This is a good look for you. I call it the unicorn.”
Let’s face it: there is no better audience in the world for adult silliness than children. As tiring as little children are, they give us regular endorphin boosts with their smiles, giggles, and funny antics. When my kids were young I scribbled the cute, funny things they did in a blank book. Over time, I began to look at everything my children did through the eyes of Erma Bombeck or Dave Barry (the 80’s & 90’s version of today’s Jim Gaffigan), imagining how the latest maddening or messy event might be funny if I wrote about it later.
So the day I found my two-year-old pouring the contents of a large box of powdered milk on the head of his seven-month-old little brother, who sat on the floor blinking like a bewildered snow baby, I grabbed my journal and jotted notes about what I was seeing, before stepping in to clean up the mess. Those few seconds bought me time to think, and often to chuckle, before reacting. Over time, searching for the “funny” in the frustrating became a habit and not only helped me find more fun in mothering, but eventually led to a career in writing humor.
These days I try to “catch and keep” the cute things my grandchildren say and do on Facebook, knowing I have a treasury of their “adorable funnies” to re-read, enjoy and share. One of my favorite funny grandkid quips was when my oldest grandson, Nate, was young and asked me, very seriously, if I knew that TV could “rot your brain.”
“Oh, dear,” I said. “Should I turn it off then?”
He answered, “Yes.” Then, wrinkling his brow he appeared to be studying me with concern. Finally shaking his head slowly, he added, “I just hope it’s not too late.”
For awhile, our grandson Georgie lived with us and it like having a short, bright, happy Forrest Gump in the house. He never tried to be funny, his innocence was complete and sincere. Which made him endearingly hilarious. Even this day-dreamy six year old was impressed by how many things his grown-up grandmother could lose or forget in one day. So he was always on his toes with me. The first week I drove him to Kindergarten, I missed the entrance and had to loop back a couple of times. By the second week, he was sitting up in a state of alert as we neared the school. “Nonny! We’re almost at the turn-in place to my school! Stop! LAND HO!”
I cracked up, remembering he’d been watching a lot of Jake and the Neverland Pirates. “Georgie,” I said pulling over into the drop off zone, “I am sorry Nonny is so bad about forgetting things.”
Always looking for a way to encourage me he cheerfully said, “Actually, Nonny. You are really GOOD at forgetting. You are a GREAT forgetter!”
A good laugh is sunshine in the house. William Makepeace Thackeray
Read more about our book, Nourished, and find ordering information by clicking the link on the picture below:
Fun news for the New Year! I had the honor of writing a post about a more “nourishing approach” to New Year’s Resolutions for Fox News this week.
Here’s the link to the article below (and a re-print of the blogpost as well), which echoes one of the themes throughout our new book, Nourished, which releases in just 5 more days!
Forget New Year’s Resolutions, Try Nourishing Compromises Instead!
By Becky Johnson
It is that time of year. Having fudged or forgotten our New Year’s Resolutions from the previous year, we open up our spiffy new planners and list the same idealistic goals all over again.
It’s amazing how we Americans spend our lives making new goals each January (with the enthusiasm of a child in a Superman cape), but tend to lose interest in actually keeping those goals by somewhere around Groundhog Day.
In our new book, “Nourished: A Search for Health, Happiness and a Full-Night’s Sleep,” my daughter Rachel and I spent a year contemplating, researching and trying to live more nourished lives.
What I love most about Nourishing Compromises vs. New Year Resolutions is that once you get the hang of it, you never have to put happiness on hold until some future goal is accomplished.
We began by looking at the top 10 everyday stressors that put a kink in our joy and a drag in our step. To our surprise, the real challenge was not figuring out what changes we needed to make to live happier, healthier lives. The problem was how to motivate ourselves to actually implement those changes and make them stick.
Enter something we came to call Nourishing Compromises.
Rachel and I found that some of the most instantly freeing changes we made had nothing to do with a physical plan of action. Instead, they were decisions to simply shift our perspective, reframe a frustrating situation, or mentally minimize the impact some toxic person had on our life.
It involved nothing more than transforming our thoughts.
In fact, once we got our heads in a better place, we often discovered that nothing more was needed.
Maybe you don’t need a new job, but a fresh attitude.
Maybe you don’t need to lose 20 pounds, you just need to love the body you are in and see it as sexy and gorgeous AS IS.
It wasn’t long before we realized we emphasized our Outer Bucket List—the ones that eat away at time we don’t have—over our Inner Bucket List much too often. A miracle shift in perspective can often bring instant inner peace without changing another thing.
Most of the time, however, nourishing change involves a compromise of both: a little shift in perspective and a little action. A change of attitude can keep you happy at your current job while still searching for a career that is a better, more enjoyable fit.
Love and embrace your body as is, see it as womanly and beautiful, curvy or voluptuous. Then treat it with healthy food and enjoyable exercise and maybe lose three or four pounds—and that could be all you need to feel happy in your own skin.
Rather than getting up an hour early to pray, perhaps you could turn your commute into time to commune with God.
Imagine two good friends, one named Loving Acceptance and one named Take Action, walking toward each other, meeting half way between their two homes for a friendly cup of coffee and conversation.
This middle place is where most of the magic takes place. Where we cut ourselves a little mental slack, even as we work toward a doable goal. We meet ourselves in the middle, adjusting our attitude some, making some realistic tweaks.
What I love most about Nourishing Compromises vs. New Year Resolutions is that once you get the hang of it, you never have to put happiness on hold until some future goal is accomplished.
It’s time to rethink resolutions. Why not make a list of Nourishing Compromises this year instead? Not only do they lead to a more nourished life, but you’ll be much happier with yourself—both within and without—come January 2015.
Becky Johnson and Rachel Randolph are co-authors of the new book, “Nourished: A Search for Health, Happiness and a Full Night’s Sleep.” (Zondervan, January 6, 2015). They blog, respectively, at www.laughcrycook.com and www.thenourishedmama.com.