Want Balance? Learn to “Complete the Moment”

leftoversImagine that I’ve invited you over for dinner. You walk in the door, and smell delicious aromas simmering on the stove. Eagerly you take your place at the table, and then you realize something is a little strange. While you can clearly see fresh food being prepared, in front of you sits leftovers from another day’s meal. Tupperware containers containing a little macaroni here, a few bites of chicken there…

Now imagine me telling you that you have to eat those leftovers before I can serve you the new, fresh food. Bummer, right?

This scenario sounds crazy, yet it’s a picture of how many of us live our lives each day, dragging around “leftovers” from previous moments instead of being able to fully immerse ourselves in the moment we’re in.

I’ll share an example from my own often chaotic life. Until recently, I had a very loose attitude about cleanup after meals, especially meals during the day when I am working from home. I’d eat breakfast and lunch, leaving a small mess each time, which I told myself I would clean up later when my work day was done. The driving force here was guilt about taking time away from more “productive” endeavors of my work, but it set me up to fail later in the day.

Come dinner time, which is generally busy with kids and homework and a challenge to be faithful about in the first place, I now had to clean up my leftover mess from the day, which bumped back my prep time (I won’t cook in a dirty space), which bumped back dinner time, which meant kids were cranky due to low blood sugar, which meant stress at the table, and so on.

The “leftover” mess happened because of a sincere desire to be productive in my work day. In the end, however, it mainly produced stress in my heart and in my home. And whatever work I did get done in the 5 or 10 minutes it would have taken me to clean the mess earlier, was probably not really that impressive anyway.

Dragging leftovers from one moment of your day inhibits your ability to be fully present in the next. And when we’re not fully present, we don’t feel fulfilled or at peace.

And it’s more than just dishes or other household tasks to consider. It’s those conversations you leave unfinished because something more important comes up. The not-quite-finished bits of “to-do’s” that get dragged to the next day for months because they don’t seem important enough on their own for your full attention. Or the funk you keep inside because you don’t think you have time to work on your issues…

As Annie Dillard says, “How we live our days is how we live our lives.” Completing each moment as we’re in it is the best way to live the balanced, complete lives we long for.

Even if the next moment has to wait…

 

This will change your view of being “unproductive”

Until today I have believed a lie. Not a vicious, damning lie but an untruth nonetheless, and one that has served as the foundation for a lifetime of working too hard, resting too little, and being one of those people who always says “crazy busy” when asked how I’m doing.

I hate hearing those words come off my tongue…

So it was like a light bulb went off in my mind when I realized that one of the biggest driving forces of all this crazy-busy-ness is actually a misconception.

Are you ready? Here’s the lie:

“Being productive requires doing something that other people can see and/or will pat you on the back for.”

This thought popped into my head as I was standing in front of the mirror applying makeup and doing my hair. I don’t usually take time to do this during the week because there are other more worthy – productive – things that require my attention. Like responding to a million emails, checking off items on my task list, or strategizing for the future.

But today is a self-instituted personal day for me – a new weekly initiative borne out of my deep desire – conviction, even – to begin living a life of balance. And so as I’ve been taking it “slower” today, I’ve also been monitoring my thoughts, and recognizing just how very hard it is for me to give myself permission to chill a little.

By the time I stood there applying makeup I had already been away from my desk for over an hour and frankly the luxury was truly feeling excessive. Wrong, even.

And then I realized…

In that hour I had a) taken a shower, b) cleaned my bathroom counter of toys and rollers and various other stuff, c) noticed some filthy clothes of my son’s that needed soaking and put them in the washer, d) challenged myself to “wear something different” even though it required I shave my legs (another time-suck) and e) been quiet and mindful as I did all of this.

Which was really quite productive, if you think about it, because I am clean, I smell good, I will enjoy seeing my bathroom clean when I brush my teeth at the end of the day today, and my son will be grateful for clean clothes. OK, he probably won’t even notice, but I will, because they won’t turn into a smelly mess in an overly-full hamper.

The truth is, we are never NOT producing. As long as we are alive we are producing something. Every day, every hour – even those that we “waste” doing “unproductive” things like sleeping, reading, or hanging out with a friend – we’re still producing. Something…

So the question should really shift from “was I productive today?” to “what did I produce?”

As I considered this today, my mind went to the fruit of the spirit – Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. My hour of “non-work” actually produced several of these things in me which I will now carry into the rest of my day.

Sometimes the most important things we can do are those that no one sees or gives us an award for. But they make us into the love-well people God has called us to be.

You’re Worth More Than You Think

Yesterday I was talking with my board treasurer at FINDINGbalance (my day job). We were having a conversation about salaries for some new hires, and as we tossed around numbers, I shared what I thought those applying for the positions might need financially. With passion in her voice, Bev stopped me in my tracks.

“We need to establish what the job itself is worth. Not what the applicant needs to make,” she said. “It’s this kind of thinking that had led to men making so much more money than women in the workplace. People assume the guy needs more to support his family.”

And the women are afraid to say what they really need, I thought to myself. Because we don’t feel like we should need, at least not if what we need will in any way burden someone else.

No, thank you, we think. We’ll just take whatever you can spare. We may resent you on the inside later, but don’t worry, we’re pretty good at turning the resentment back to ourselves in the end. Because the truth is that we are bad, we don’t deserve anything more than we have, and living with unmet needs is just our lot in life.

Hogwash.

I am worth more than my low estimation of myself, and so are you. As former Superchick front-woman T R I C I A sings on her new album Radiate, “Jesus died for who you are, not who you want to be.”

My fellow women, we must awaken from the fog we’ve been living in, so buried in our fear of not being good enough that we mindlessly shift through life doing less, having less, and being less than who we were created to be.

You were created to reflect God’s beauty. You don’t have to create your own based on changing media standards.

God created food and your body for your pleasure and his glory. Not as something to be at war with.

You are called to share God’s love with those who are downcast. You can’t do this if you assume the same posture.

He values you above rubies.

He loves you regardless of your clothing size.

He’s not waiting for you to get it right. But each time you do, he will celebrate, knowing that shame is losing its grip.

We can do this, my fellow warrior-chicks! It’s time to rise up. To be who we were created to be. To take the world by storm, for the only Man worth serving – our Lord (and friend) Jesus Christ.

Can I hear an amen?

Love is all that matters. Really…

So much has been happening since I last posted and I’ve thought several times about blogging to update you on trivial things like getting my nose pierced (yes, it hurt) and cutting all my hair off (it was time). But other, much more important stuff has been going on…

Yesterday I returned from a trip to see a longtime friend who has battled anorexia for more than thirty years. Two days ago she decided she wanted to go to heaven. We said our tearful goodbyes, and the doctors responded to her wishes to stop keeping her alive. It was heart wrenching to watch this all take place, and to hear her stating her final wishes, including that she wanted to be buried in her wedding dress. But we recognized that God is the sole giver and sustainer of life, and so we released her and told her she was free to go.

But Junie didn’t die…

My job this past weekend – as I understood it from God – was to love Junie and pray for her, with no expectation of what the result would be. And I know without question that love is a big part of why Junie somehow pulled through. While Junie’s journey toward freedom is in many ways just beginning, and there is no guaranteed result, it has been a powerful reminder to me of the role all of us are called to play in loving others well.

I talk about this in today’s blog at the FINDINGbalance website. Check it out…

Tale of a Once-Silenced Singer

Last night I sat in a room full of lovely voices. It was choir practice for this Sunday’s Easter service at my church, and my first time as a member of the choir. As a young person I always loved to sing. As as a grown-up, however, I’ve been very compartmentalized in this area.

Showcasing Shame

I suppose the splitting began back in 1993 with a horribly humiliating showcase here in Nashville. It was supposed to be my crowning achievement – my chance to prove my talent to the Christian music industry and secure the recording contract that I was sure I deserved. But it was not to be.

Over the course of three months I had spent thousands to hire all the right players, produce a new demo tape (remember, this was 1993!), secure a cool venue, and ensure my attendees had good food to munch on during the show.

The event was well promoted, and thirty minutes before I was to hit the stage there was a line out the door and down the street. Industry executives and artists alike filled the room.

I was so thrilled to appear in this mag! Little did I know what was coming…

CCM Magazine – the holy grail for any aspiring artist at the time – had even featured me, WITH A PHOTO!, just before the event. Everything was in place to ensure that my dreams of Christian stardom were well within my reach.

How unfortunate that I came onto that stage two measures too late. How naive I was to have told the sound guy that I wouldn’t need monitors. How terrifying to realize I couldn’t hear my own voice inside my own head. How humiliating to fail so perfectly, so completely, and in front of so many people. And how ashamed I felt when no one would return calls the next morning.

The 41-year-old me weeps today for that 22-year-old girl with stars in her eyes who didn’t have anyone to sit with her in the pain of defeat, to tell her she was more than this horrible failure she had just experienced, and to remind her that God is bigger than our mistakes.

Instead, she stopped singing for ten years. When people asked her if she was “that girl from the showcase”, she lied and said “no.” Instead, she got a job in the music business, helped others chase their dreams, and decided it was safer to deny her love of music than to feel the pain of having lost it.

I didn’t realize what I was doing when I chose to “split” off that part of myself. I only knew that sending her into exile seemed the only way to survive the pain.

Struggling for Redemption

During the last ten years God has been breathing life back into this area for me. Through the support of friends and a great vocal coach, I was shocked (and pleased) to discover I still had some vocal ability.

God’s promises were made new to me when I got to be part of this!

Slowly but surely, I began to coax “her” – the exiled part of me who loves music – back out of hiding. I wrote some new songs. I recorded a little five-song EP. I was honored to record one of my songs, “To Be Free”, as part of “Tell Me What You See” – a recording by Music For the Soul to help those struggling with eating disorders.

Today, I often get to sing at my speaking engagements, and most recently, I have felt incredibly fulfilled by the release of my first music video, “More Than a Number.”

But there are still some places where she’s not been allowed to venture out.

While I’ve gotten very comfortable being bold about music again in the context of the ministry I do, for example, I’ve hung back from simple things like joining the choir at church.

It’s almost like the “onstage” Constance is ok with singing, because in that context it makes sense. People who book me already know I can sing so I feel safe boldly doing that in such settings. But the “offstage” Constance is just this mom who has three kids and doesn’t want to seem like she thinks she’s all that. That’s what got her into trouble in the first place. It feels unsafe, in some post-traumatic way, so I’ve kept myself compartmentalized.

Until now.

Let the merging begin…

Sitting in that room last night was part of an intentional effort I am making to be more “merged” as a person. There is no GOD reason why I should proclaim my love of music in one part of my life only to hide it in another. This is Satan’s trick, to keep me bound up with lies about the gift, its validity, and its purpose.

As with all gifts, my love for music is for one purpose alone: to know God and to make him known. It is a gift that is appropriate to use at ALL times when it is called for, whether in front of thousands of people or in a small choir at church or just in my living room praising him at the piano.

I am a musician, ALWAYS, not just when the situation deems it “safe”. It’s who God created me to be, and I am no longer willing to split “her” off from the rest of me.

Last night, as voices joined in beautiful harmonies all around me, I sang my heart out, and my spirit swelled with joy. I am home, I realized. This is who I am, these are my people, and I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

Can’t wait for Sunday…

 

God Loves Your Butt

This past Saturday I was in Birmingham for the Girls of Grace tour and a really cool thing happened. It had to do with a five-year-old’s squishy bottom, and a girl in an orange shirt…

During my “More Than a Number” talk at GOG, I share about my past eating disorder, how my eating issues were triggered by feeling like a “zero”, and how I’ve learned that no external number can resolve my internal desire to know that I matter. It’s a struggle most of us face – a deep, unmet (and often unspoken) need to know we have value beyond cultural measures.

Near the end of my talk, I share the fun picture of my daughter Sophia you see here. As you can probably tell, this sassy little thing is completely comfortable in her body. I can’t take full credit for that, of course, but I have been pretty intentional over the years about helping build a positive body image in her.

For starters, Sophia has the most deliciously squishy booty which I love to squeeze. “I luuuuuuv your bottom!” I tell her enthusiastically, pretty much every day. Next, I’ll rub her soft, round belly. “One day you’re gonna have a baby in there!” Then I’ll squeeze her legs and tell her “God gave you strong legs to walk and run.” Playing this little game always makes Sophia smile. “I love that you smile with all your teeth!” I tell her, and she smiles even bigger.

After we “celebrate” her body, I always ask her this question: “Sophia, do you know why I love you?” She used to say, “because of my bottom…?” since she knows I take such delight in squeezing it all the time.

“No,” I tell her. “As much as I love all the parts of your body, what I love most is that there is only one you. If something were to happen to you, no amount of money in the whole wide world would ever make it possible to replace you. There is only one you, and that is what makes you special.”

So what does a girl in a purple bathing suit have to do with a girl in an orange shirt?

When I share this part of the story at Girls of Grace, I always turn to the audience, picking out a girl or two and saying directly to them, “There is only one you. That is what makes you special.” I don’t plan ahead for who I’ll say it to – it’s just whoever my eye happens to land on.

This time my eye went to a girl in a peach/orange colored shirt. As I said the words to her, she looked around to see who I was talking to. “I’m talking to you, girl in the peach/orange shirt,” I told her from the stage. Finally, she nodded to indicate she understood SHE was the target of my words.

Afterward, a mom excitedly pulled me aside. “The girl in the orange shirt is my daughter,” she said. “Just this morning she was complaining about the size of her butt. Then you told that story and called her out to tell her she was special!”

I got chills as she said it. It was another “proof of God” moment. That girl, that morning, needed a word just from God to her, and he used me, completely unaware of his plan, to give it.

“God loves your butt,” I told the girl at the end of the day. We both smiled and laughed a little at the potential sacrilege of such a statement. But then we agreed it had to be true. He created it, after all.

Me on stage at Girls of Grace Birmingham – where I met the girl in the orange shirt. The next one is in Dallas on 4/20/13. Come see me!

More Than a Number Video is LIVE!!!

Twenty-two years ago God gave me a vision to help those with eating and body image issues. It was birthed during a season when my own eating was so out of control that I sometimes wanted to curl up and die.

As a young girl I had watched my mother struggle with diets, anorexia and bulimia, and there I was, at nineteen, wrestling the same demons.

Some of you know my story, so you know that ten years after the vision was birthed, I resigned from my job at EMI Christian Music Group and founded the non-profit FINDINGbalance. Today we serve thousands of people each month through our video on demand website. I’ve gotten to publish books and curriculum to help other women break free, and I get to speak to thousands more through tours like Girls of Grace, Sex and Skinny, and dates I do with Compassion International.

It sounds big – and the work IS big – but I still run FINDINGbalance nearly by myself. It has truly been a labor of love in the midst of raising three kiddos and trying to operate on a shoestring budget. But on those (many) days when I’ve felt burned out and ready to quit, it’s been the vision that has kept me going. And the creative aspects…

You see, my guilty pleasure is – and has always been – music.

I moved to Nashville about twenty years ago to try and make it as a Christian artist. I thought that would be how God would use me to reach people for this issue. My journey has of course led me down different paths, but God is good and he loves music too and today I am so very proud and humbled to share with you a song I wrote which I hope further fuels my efforts to help women, girls (and guys) escape the dead-end life of disordered eating and dieting, so they can be freer to change our world.

For those of you who think your dreams can’t come true, I’m living proof that it’s never too late. I shot my first music video in KENYA at the age of 41! Anything is possible.

And so, without further ado, here it is. If you like it, share it. Let’s start something really big…

Credits…

Special thanks go to Jonathan Dimmel and Geoff Hunker from Satellites and Sirens, who directed; Lindsey Labadie, who performed beautifully as the American woman in the video, “Nashipi” – our precious girl in Kenya, and Mike Varel, Ryan O’Quinn and the others on the team with Compassion International who made it possible for me to shoot this as legit as possible. We shot on location at Jackie M.’s place downtown Nashville. Makeup by Paige Omartian. Many generous contributions made this work possible and I am so very grateful to all of you.

More Than a Number – Video Shoot #3

Hi friends. Just wanted to show you some of these cool behind-the-scenes pics from filming the FINAL installment of the More Than a Number video today.

This was the most nerve-wracking part of the filming for me, since it was the “performance” piece, i.e. I was the one being filmed, instead of someone else. We shot here in my home which made it really comfortable and natural for me.

I was also so grateful for my friend, Paige Omartian, who helped me do my makeup. I’m bummed that I didn’t take a pic with her, too. We worked together last year on a project called the True Sisterhood, and she truly was a sister to me that day.

These pics are proof that it’s never too late to do something you love. I moved to Nashville when I was 22 to pursue a recording career. God had other plans, but here I am nearly 20 years later getting to do my first music video. Anything is possible and age is just another number, right friends?

Me with my directors, Jonathan Dimmel (left) and Geoff Hunker of Satellites and Sirens. I met these guys on the Girls of Grace tour in 2011 and they have been awesome throughout this process!

Johnny shooting. Note the belts laid over the couch (right corner). We didn’t realize they were there but you see their reflection in the video if you look hard enough. If anyone can find the time marker where they appear, I’ll give you a free necklace. How’s that for a little scavenger hunt? Watch the video here: http://youtu.be/lTDwGK5T0PQ

Shooting in my living room was super comfortable. We purchased this piano ten years ago with the advance for my “Life Inside the Thin Cage” book. Cool that it ends up in a video to help those with eating disorders.

 

More Than a Number – Video Shoot #2

Today was shoot #2 for the More Than a Number music video – the segment when we show the “story” of the American young woman who needs to know she is more than what she weighs. A couple cool things about this shoot…

First, Lindsey Labadie is the AMAZING girl you’ll see here. Not only did she bring amazing emotion and authenticity to this project, she also has a personal testimony about being freed from exercise obsession in her own life. It was really important to me that every element of this video be “legit”, so when I heard Lindsey’s story, I knew she was the one for this. Only later did I learn that she is a pretty amazing actor, and even appears as Carey Mulligan’s body double in the upcoming film The Great Gatsby. When I heard about the millions of dollars worth of jewelry she got to wear in that filming, and considered the incredibly little expense she required in filming this video, I knew once again that God had done his thing.

The other way God showed up was in the location. When Johnny, Geoff and I originally talked about where we wanted to shoot this segment, we knew we wanted a cool, stylish, loft-type apartment that overlooked downtown Nashville. My budget was tight, and so I just started asking around, hoping we could find a good place for not too much money. I was at a movie with a friend that night and mentioned my dilemma to her, and she said, “my friend Jackie has a cool place downtown.” Turns out that I knew her friend, we just hadn’t connected in a while, so I hadn’t seen her cool digs. Not only was her apartment perfect, but it also had a workout room in the basement, so we were able to shoot everything without any location expense. God is cool! (So is Jackie…)

 

More Than a Number – Video Shoot #1

Yesterday I landed in Nashville, after an 8 day trip with Compassion International to Kenya. It was an UNREAL trip – maybe the best trip I’ve ever taken, for a variety of reasons. I’m groggy and sleep-deprived, but wanted to post some pics from the trip.

As many of you know, the primary purpose of the trip was to shoot a music video for More Than a Number – the campaign I’m working on to help shift dollars from diets to feeding hungry children. We will shoot two new segments in the next few weeks and hope to have it all done by National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (end of February).

The GOD part of this shoot… we had no idea WHO we would have to “star” in our video, or WHERE we would shoot it. Kinda important details, huh? Well, God had it all worked out. The young girl we ended up with (Nashipi) was absolutely perfect, and we were given an entire Masai village to shoot wherever we wanted. God was unquestionably in control of the whole thing, and I couldn’t be more excited about seeing it completed.

In the meantime, enjoy these photos from the trip…