Surprise! Surprise! Four months ago I blogged about how I get caught up in shrinky-dinking myself down to living a small life. Not on purpose, of course, but out of intimidation. I didn’t intend for such a delay between my part 1 & 2 truth-telling posts. I’m laughing now, for what I was going to share in this second part has crept up behind me, and I’m on the brink of living out the message in a matter of days: 37 to be exact.
As a counselor, I’m pretty good at “therapizing” myself most of the time. While stuck in my small thinking, I walked myself through my own session and was reminded that change first requires awareness (which I spewed in part one). But for awareness to be turned into motion, I need to build momentum. In order for me to counter my intimidating thoughts, I have to start moving in a new direction. To get from point “A” to point “B” requires traveling. A mental road trip. If I don’t move my thoughts along, I sit in them, like a toddler strapped down in a car seat at a forever-red light. Stuck. Stale. Stagnant. Four months ago I was in desperate need of momentum.
Catch the word within the word “momentum.” See it? Momentum. How do you build momentum? Moment by moment. Little by little most the time. Sometimes in a big, sweeping way, but usually it’s bit by bit, like saving loose change. (I do this, by the way, every year. It gets cashed in on our Anniversary, surprisingly enough to cover a nice dinner out- paid for little by little, over 365 days of coin collecting.) Each moment builds upon the previous. 1+1+1+1 forever will eventually add up to infinity. Moments create movement. Movement toward change.
I underestimate the value and significance of little moments. I tend to think that unless it’s grand or well-seen or even obnoxious, it doesn’t count. It won’t make a difference. Why bother? A 15 minute workout is useless. A five minute conversation with so-and-so isn’t long enough to be worthwhile. Holding back a handful of calories every day won’t add up enough to matter. Not true!
Any bit of anything that moves me toward right thinking, right living, is “countable.”
If I create enough little moments, not only do I naturally build momentum, I prepare myself for big moments. If I can restrain from temptation in small little ways, like putting the cookie back, that moment of self-control gets logged and when I need some major self-control, like holding my tongue, I’ll have a better chance of doing so. Each moment matters.
Guess what? A big moment is coming for me. On August 14th, I’m heading to Indonesia to speak and counsel and coach at a missionary wive’s retreat. Who would have ever thought?
Twenty years ago Joey and I said “yes” to facilitating a small group for married couples. Ten years ago I said “yes” to speaking at a local MOP’s group. For the last five years I’ve said “yes” to teaching Bible study to over 200 women. I’ve led small in-home workshops as well as for corporate inservices, yet all within a 100 mile radius of my pillow. Each “yes” was a moment I stepped into. Each moment has led me to the next.
How crazy to think that just four months ago, I was stuck in my thinking, frozen out of moment-making. Yet all my past moments were not lost. Just dormant for a bit. And now I find myself googling “Nabire” (one of the villages we’ll be staying in), updating my shot record, and praying for women literally halfway around the world in the opposite hemisphere, knowing that in a few weeks, we’ll be having tea together.
Thirsty for change? First, call out the obvious. Where are you stuck? Second, start building momentum, moment by moment. Big or small, every moment counts.
P.S. Here’s a taste of the area where I’ll be going and the missionary women I get to serve: NABIRE (2 minute video)
Remember shrinky-dinks? This is my daughter’s actual, official shrinky-dink oven. I grew up using my mom’s oven. I’d color those sheets of plastic exactly the way I wanted and cut them into the shape that best suited my custom design. I’d put on a mitt and stick my masterpiece into the heat. I’d turn on the oven light and watch the magic of shrinking happen right before my eyes. I never thought the compressed version looked as good as my original, with its curled up edges, but it didn’t matter. It was oddly cool-looking. Glossy. Hardened. And at least ten times smaller than the original design. That’s what’s been happening to my thoughts in my head these days.
Here’s the truth. I’ve been feeling extremely intimidated by someone in my life. I’ve worked myself up into such a fit that I’ve been scaring myself out of doing things I’m capable of. What’s even more embarrassing is, that If I’m honest, I’ve been feeling threatened by her for years now, especially this past one. I can’t believe how little and lame and incompetent I feel when I’m around her. It’s like I become a shrinky-dink in an oven of intimidation and before you know it, my thoughts about myself become completely wimpy and warped.
A few times, and for short seasons, I’ve been able to rise above this madness. Surprisingly, each time I have, I actually felt invigorated, confident, more me. But the effort to get to that place was like navigating a trip across the country blindfolded with a ten-ton pack on my back, dredging through mud. Totally exhausting.
Guess what? I’m going to go out on a limb and actually tell you who this woman is, who intimidates me the most. I know this is risky, but I believe it will be a powerful means to free me from this torment because God knows, it’s not helping anybody living this way. The person who intimidates me the most is: myself.
I got to thinking about this the last week or so. I can’t remember how the thought popped in my head but I remember asking: “Who am I most intimidated by?”. I ran through a dozen or so options and then, out of no where, I realized it’s me. It’s an invisible thing going on in my head of course, but the manifestations of this truth confirms it. For example, I have a to-do list. It’s not your typical “clean the bathrooms, go to the bank” kind. It’s more like a “if you want to be everything you know you’re created to be, this is what you need to do” list. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve crossed something off this list?
It’s not that the goals I’ve set are too big or too much. It’s that I see myself as too small, too “not enough,” too shrinky-dinky.
I feel like I’ve been baking in intimidating thoughts for so long and at such a high temp in my mental oven that I have reduced myself to the size and intellect of a minion.
A few months ago, I was listening to talk radio. The topic was on comparison. Specifically, how we women have this temptation to brutally compare ourselves with others. You know who the show expert said women compare not only themselves to, but their girlfriends to, and even their husbands to? The image of the perfect woman. Did you get that? THE IMAGE OF THE PERFECT WOMAN. No need for you to wonder. I’m not comparing myself to you. I’m torturing myself by comparing me to the elusive perfect woman in my head.
It makes sense. I have a mental picture of how perfect Robyn should look, behave, think, and feel and I stack myself up against this image. For crying-out-loud! I teach a four-week workshop on self and body image. I help women get unstuck from unhealthy thoughts and toxic comparing campaigns and here I am, living threatened by my own self. Lovely.
It’s true though, isn’t it? We are our worst critic. We can silence our selves in a split second. We can talk ourselves out of anything in nothing flat if we think we’ll look foolish or fail at it. How sad, really. Because in those very moments, we are the closest to living fully us, fully alive, if we just went for it and did the thing.
I’m good at making me feel lacking and incapable. I’m great at intimidating myself. I can talk myself down from tackling something on my goal list before I ever open my eyes in the morning. I can freak myself out into utter paralysis by 9:00 a.m.. I’m tired of stepping down from the very things I know God has called me to do and be. So what if it’s not perfectly executed. So what if this post needed another round of editing. So what. At least I’ve taken on the giant in my head and spoke back to it.
Tim Clinton, the president of the American Association of Christian Counselors, called out this truth: “We have an uncanny ability to lie to ourselves. And this effects the trajectory of our lives, every day.” I don’t like the trajectory I’m heading in. I’m done with lying to myself about the need, the requirement, to live up to the perfect woman in my head. It takes too much mental and emotional energy to live this way.
I don’t want to live a shrinky-dink life. I want to live a not-so-perfect, unglossy but grand life, full of success and mistake and love and grace.
Let’s just get on with it already, I tell myself. Anyone else on board?
The last time Joey and I boarded a plane and went away for a few days, our trip exploded into a mind-blowing, “what just happened” experience. (If you missed out on hearing how our nine month delayed 20th anniversary getaway found us randomly sitting in Bob Goff’s backyard, read here and you’ll be up to speed.) Five months later, I still get goose bumps telling that story; how God so boldly orchestrated events that shouted to us “I see you.” Yesterday, it happened again.
We are on a two-part, whirlwind trip. Yesterday we flew into Burbank, CA and drove an hour north to Westlake where we held our annual 10|10 board meeting. We had about an hour drive to get us from our current location to Ontario airport, where we flew out of earlier this morning for the second leg of our trip. It was 4:50 p.m. Enough time to grab a quick bite, take a much-needed break from the intense mental and physical pace we’ve been running at by catching a movie, and still get to bed at a decent hour. We grossly underestimated one thing. Traffic. Traffic on a Saturday afternoon, no less.
We started out quite optimistic, googling movie times within a 10-mile radius, gauging our travel time with show times at approaching theaters. Each time we neared our exit, we were ten to 20 minutes late. After literally being parked on the 101 and recalculating our plan four times, a certain mood in the car descended. It was a concoction of claustrophobia, frustration, exhaustion, and panic, as we saw our long overdue, spontaneous date night ticking away. It wasn’t pretty.
Maybe we should just call it a night. But even at this rate (2 hours into the drive), turning in for an early night wasn’t looking so hopeful either as we still had another 30 miles ahead of us.
Something came over me. For the last and umpteenth time, I found us a 7:20 show, just six miles away and 25 minutes until it started. We might just make this one, so I blurted: “Maybe we’re just not supposed to see a movie tonight. Or, maybe God’s going to turn this waste of time sitting in traffic into something crazy and we’ll find ourselves sitting with Mark and Julie in the movies. We’ll throw popcorn at Mark’s head and have a great story to tell.” (Mark and Julie are dear friends from our old small group that we left nine years ago when we moved to Prescott).
And with that, we came to a slow stop again in another wake of traffic and questioned if we’d make this fifth attempt.
We pulled in, got tickets, bought $35 worth of food (hadn’t had anything to eat for almost eight hours), found seats midway up, center, and took a deep breath as the previews started. We made it. And out the corner of my eye, I see her.
Julie. Walking down our row. No joke.
I leaned forward, motioned Joey to look. Speechless and laughing yet again at God’s audacious ways, I casually said, “Hi Julie, want to sit with us?” She about fell over in utter shock, considering we live 350 miles apart. We hid our faces, until Mark came in with their concessions and sat down, and then threw popcorn at his head while trying to wrap our own heads around what was unfolding. All four of us could hardly concentrate on the movie as we kept glancing at each other whispering and giggling, “What are you doing here? How is this happening?” It was too much.
Afterwards, we walked over to Chili’s for a quick drink while we scurried to catch up on each other’s lives and soak in what just occurred. Priceless.
Here’s what makes this ridiculous.
- We had about five other ideas of how to spend our mostly anonymous evening (as only our Board knew we were going to be in California), and we chose to check out and chill out over a movie rather then pursue the other ambitious options.
- When things don’t go well (e.g. stuck in traffic for almost three hours), I’m the one that, how do you say it, alters the mood in the moment, in not quite a positive way. Yet, it was me spinning our disintegrating night into a “Hey, it’s all good, Let’s look for the surprise in the night” attitude. (That right there is practically a supernatural act from God.)
- Mark and Julie weren’t supposed to be at the movies that night. According to them, they were supposed to go to a matinee earlier that day but it kept getting postponed into the night.
- What are the chances that I pick to say their names over any other of our friends who live in So Cal when I blurted my Pollyanna take on the night in the car; that we picked the same theater to go to, that we picked the same movie to see at the same time; that we sat down first which allowed me to catch Julie walking down our row out of the corner of my eye; that Julie picked our row to walk down; and that we made it on time before the lights went completely down so I could see her in the first place? Wrap your mind around that.
Maybe we were meant to have a date night after all, a double date with lifelong friends no less.
Looks like God wanted to tell us in an undeniable way, “I see you” yet again.
I love Him.
We moved to Prescott in 2005. I started my counseling and coaching business, Once Upon Your Life. I found a quaint little office a couple blocks from our historic town square, complete with a balcony overlooking a hundred year old tree that drapes heavy under snow after a winter storm and bursts in vibrant greens in spring. I raised my babies through preschool and the elementary school years without one broken bone. I hung onto lifelines like MOPS and Bible study, grew deep roots in friendships and savored family getaways in-between the dailies.
Today, my kids are in their middle school years. I still jump at the opportunity to adventure with my family. Dear friends are more like family. And now, as I speaker, I find myself spending more time on the other side of the microphone at those lifeline venues.
But, as 2015 approaches, I realize it’s been just about a decade since I’ve taken time to refurbish me, what I do, and how I do it. Needless to say, it’s overdue. I’m overdue. It’s time for change and challenge. So, last month I let go of my familiar office and upgraded, in size, style, location, and purpose. (My husband and I have officially launched our non-profit and needed more space to make it happen, 1010ministries.org.) I crossed over a big chasm of intimidation and, as you are reading, have started a blog…on my newly launched website. I’ve dropped the business name that I’ve been known for and have simplified everything down to simply my name, robyncoffman.com
New office. New website. New logo. New business cards. New address. New wardrobe (also a decade old). And most important, new alignment as to what I’m here to do for this next season. It’s not that different from before, it’s just more.
More speaking. More counseling. More coaching. More passion to teach worthy, hard, deep, good things to more women.
While on this whirlwind of refurbishing, it hit me. In awe I remembered the verse I claimed for this year: “Enlarge the site of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs” Isaiah 54:2.
At the time, I personalized this verse as a challenge to deal with my chronic struggle with disappointments, limited capacities of patience, conditional love, and at times, forced faith. My journal entry on January 3, 2014, reads:
“Enlarge your tent of disappointment, Robyn, stretch out your curtains of capacity, spare not waiting; lengthen your cords of love and strengthen your pegs of faith.”
It’s been an intentional and providential year of addressing each of these. So much work to be done to become who I want to be. But I also think this applies to me on a whole other level too. A simple, practical, visionary one. This year is about me upgrading my insides and my outsides. And I’m loving it.
Sometimes you don’t realize how worn down and outdated things are until 1) someone points it out to you (which is even harder to hear when you’re expecting a compliment), 2) you start to question why everything seems so sluggish and blah, or 3) something happens that turns the lights back on and inspiration, motivation, and action collide at the perfect time and the ball gets rolling in a renewed direction. For me, it took all three. But I’m on a roll now.
Enlarge, stretch, spare not, lengthen, strengthen…it’s time.