With the drastic shift of the landscape at the end of 2017, I had no idea what 2018 was going to bring. New people, new responsibilities, deeper friendships, and struggles.
I was definitely going to be out of my comfort zone without one of my trusted advisers. A new era was beginning. We were rebuilding Deaf Church almost from scratch.
To get through the year, I began praying more. It was my One Big Thing to work on this year. This undertaking would need God at work in it. I pulled from a lot of what Jaime taught me at this time till it was a habit.
I was made a co-teacher in the Deaf Connections class. The first class had 10 people come. There was a learning curve, still is in fact. I had only been a substitute for Jaime once before this.
I began my new spiritual disciplines, which mostly consisted of a lot more prayer. I also set aside a day for personal development, which I later dropped. At least in that format.
I also took a page from Pastor Rod’s habits. He prays over each individual seat in the sanctuary. I prayed over every table in the class before it started.
Knowing my tendency to take on too much, I had to do some rebalancing. Whatever I could do to keep from flaming out and failing through the changes that were coming. Maintaining my balance while pushing outside my comfort zone.
Trouble On The Horizon
Unfortunately, health issues arose. Casey was getting sick. I wasn’t taking the best care of myself. The battle of the bulge was beginning. My fitness was something I had always prided myself in. Now gravity was an enemy.
By February I was getting a little burned out. Snapping at my wife and more worried about working for God than being with God. I took a week off and immersed myself in the Bible. No class prep, no writing. Just me and God. I also began to look at a marriage conference that was coming. Weekend To Remember. I was looking to recruit some more couples.
So was the church. Deaf couples were being sponsored so Sheri, my co-teacher, and I started reaching out with various pamphlets.
By March I was focusing on three things. One being the best leader I could be–which may be one of the harder things I have done. Two, working on being a better friend. Thirdly was immersing myself into a Biblical worldview.
One week I had to work on my firmness with people, with a person that worked for me and another that I helped. Quite a few that worked under me. I was feeling bad until I read an article that said if 10% of the people aren’t mad at you then you’re not doing enough.
I felt better.
April was focused on marriage. We went to the Weekend To Remember marriage conference. From it, a series of posts were written. It was a big help to our marriage, too.
I understood Casey more. Learned not to treat her like a kid. Think partner rather than a parent. Lastly, to continue to pursue and court her.
Where the marriage was improving, our attempts at having kids weren’t. It was at this time we were referred to an infertility specialist. Insurance didn’t pay for anything more than testing. The treatment was out of pocket and starting at $1,200.
This would become a source of tension throughout the year. Negative pregnancy tests and disappointment were wearing me down. I was getting angry and tired of this fight.
Boundaries? What’s That?
Boundary setting was another issue I spent a lot of time on. I was helping one guy out, going above and beyond, and he took advantage of my help in his lawn care business.
I paid him to take care of my lawn, and let him borrow my mower to cut other yards from time to time. Until one week my mower kept disappearing from my shed.
He was coming to use it without even asking.
In anger, I chewed him out and fired him. I was going to have to be careful not to lose my cool again. It was a rough month, and I was a bit more thin-skinned.
Galatians 6:9 says don’t become weary in well-doing. I was struggling with where to draw a line. Do I even draw a line?
Wouldn’t that be unloving?
I was getting a little weary in well-doing. I spoke to a few people about it. Friends, pastors, ministry leaders.
Pastor Gary said every person is a different experience. The key is to set guidelines from the start.
I continued working on my lack of boundaries. Mostly with crazy over-compensating in the other direction with a blunt “no’s” and Googling articles online.
One article had a quote so good I copied it in my journal.
“A person with healthy boundaries takes responsibility for his own life and allows others to live theirs. The goal of limits is to make sacrifices for people when appropriate, but never in a destructive manner. We should be available for people in a crisis, but unavailable to indulgent demands.
Being gracious is not a blank check for others to continually drain our emotional account. Saying “yes” out of fear of rejection is really a selfish motive for being kind. Being kind to gain someone’s favor smacks of hypocrisy and shows a real need for boundaries. Fear of man’s disapproval can lead to codependency, the unhealthy alternative to interdependency.”
As part of our refocusing after Weekend to Remember, Casey and I went to Eureka Springs on an overnight trip. It had been close to a decade since we last went.
We also learned just how far we could push the mileage on our Toyota. The trip computer said we had 19 miles left when we rolled into the gas station by the interstate. It wasn’t my wisest move to leave Eureka Springs without filling the tank.
I’m not sure where the people in that area got gas. We didn’t see a station for over a hundred miles.
In June I took a month off from writing. My usual three posts a week writing schedule was getting overwhelming. I needed to recharge and reevaluate. The time off refreshed my mind, and I went to a two post a week schedule so I can stay ahead easier.
The month was “well spent” wrestling with my identity and boundary-setting. Who I am versus what I do. Why it’s okay or not okay to set boundaries. Fighting burnout, as always.
I have to reconnect more with God. One way of doing that came when our friends Russ and Kee invited me to Soul Cafe. It’s a class at church that goes through scripture line by line. I was nervous, but game. It felt good to be learning again instead of just teaching or learning to teach later.
We finally got away for a week. A time to rest…sorta. Cedar Point’s amusement park doesn’t lend itself to much rest. I have learned how to capitalize on quiet moments to restore myself as much as I could. Especially watching Lake Erie’s waves and later at Niagara Falls. By the time we got back, I was firing on all cylinders again mentally.
The Problems Didn’t Go Away
A few months later, we really focused on fighting infertility. Two procedures, one of them a surgery. We were hopeful that it would work.
It didn’t take long for life to catch up to me again. Work. Ministry. Medical issues. Grief. I was burning out still. Stress was climbing, and energy was dropping. I was concerned it would be a health issue if I didn’t fix it soon.
I discovered the Welltory app at the time. It used heart-rate variability to measure productivity, stress, and energy. I was definitely failing in those metrics.
It also let me experiment with my lifestyle.
I began trying different things to see what gave me a boost and what bummed me out. At one point, I was so drained I was making stupid mistakes like forgetting how to use my debit card. I was also losing my patience.
I knew it was bad when someone said I was “turning into an ass.”
Time To Fight Back
During this time, Pastor Rod preached on rest, honoring the Sabbath. I had seen the verse, “come all who are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest” several times that week. This was going to turn into a bit of a soul search as I put it into practice.
I tried to find a 24 hour period where I could have my Sabbath rest. Thing is, I love everything I do so I didn’t want to stop. I have a hard time resting because I feel obligated and like everything depends on me. That was my mental struggle.
Physically, I did cut down my coffee intake. Even switching to decaf despite saying death before decaf in the past. Started taking Vitamin B complex because I heard it helps. Whatever it took to get my stress down.
Apparently, the only magic bullets I could find is Sabbath rest and work/ministry/life balance.
One thing I did find that helped is a book titled The Emotionally Healthy Leader. It had information I already knew and inconveniently forgot. It also had stuff that made me dig deeper, like facing my shadow side, family history, dealing with emotions.
Bottling them up is a bad thing I’m told. Weird. I learned that the hard way weeks later when I erupted. It wasn’t even directed at Casey. It was venting at her question.
If she perceives it as directed at her, then it is. I had to wait till she cooled off to explain all I felt and that it had been simmering inside. It wasn’t directed at her.
She wisely told me to not bottle things up. That’s how we did things in my family. I hate confrontation.
It was definitely going to come up during our marriage checkup.
One thing that hasn’t helped is the day we realized we can’t continue infertility treatments. It had become expensive. It broke her heart, and I was angry.
I yelled at God. I vented in a post that I’ll never publish. I was tired of it all. Sick of doctors, time that felt like it was wasted.
It also caused me to have to look at this entitlement attitude I was developing with God. That led to several days of thought.
In October I read several books by Michael Heiser on the spirit world. It’s hard to look at the world from an ancient Near East perspective. Western culture is a smorgasbord of philosophies from the Enlightenment, Modernism, and Post-Modernism. It has opened up my Bible reading now with this new lens to view Scripture with.
Time To Quit
When we did do our marriage checkup, it was different. We’re used to Jaime, so we knew it would be different with Pastor Gary. We went over some questions he had. Had some gentle confrontation.
What really got me was being told we were in too many ministries. It’s not leaving us time to rest or spend time together. If we succeed in having kids, it would exponentially increase the burden.
He suggested we drop a few.
It took a while to work through that thought process. We did though. We’re staying with the ones that best fit our personalities and experience. One we’re backing down from 3-4 times a month every Saturday to just one. The big surprise was when we began the process to step down from the ministry that “started our career” in the church.
Leaving Sparkle and Shine was the hardest decision to make. We’d invested years into it and the team. It’s a great team that we love dearly.
Beginning that process and having those conversations with the team was hard.
A big plus of the year was closer friendships and new relationships. The Werdehausens, often mentioned, have become like family. It’s odd how the puzzle pieces of their personalities fit with ours. No one is left out in a conversation.
Through them and the Soul Cafe class, I was invited to a Bible Study. Two actually. One I can go to consistently. These people, though…they’re like spiritual heavyweights.
I enjoy being in groups where I feel dumb or outclassed. The first Bible study following the Live Dead Joy devotional they suggested a 21 day fast.
I almost died.
Starting small so I don’t die, one day a week, Wednesdays. I can do that. An interesting side effect of the religious fast is that my measurements are better. I’m still using Welltory to measure my productivity, stress, and energy levels. It hasn’t mattered what that day throws at me, my measurements are superb.
It’s like a mid-week recharge.
I needed that recharge. Feels like I’m in a dry period or one of those “dark night of the souls” I’ve read about. I wondered if I had forgotten my brokenness and hunger. It led to reflecting on the parable of the four soils Jesus told. Was my good soil getting choked by the weeds of life?
I was getting frustrated easier. Especially when I’m emotionally tapped out, and people approached wanting something done for them. Even my Christmas spirit was lacking compared to previous years. Retreating from it all on my Sabbaths was keeping me sane.
Until it wasn’t. I found the end of me. It was very humbling.
I had to acknowledge that I cannot give what I don’t have. I started out strong because my tank was full. It wasn’t being pulled from as much as it is now.
Emotionally Healthy Leadership says you need to have a deep inner life so you can give from that. It’s time to build that up again. Rebalance and prepare for what 2019 brings.