Diagnosis: A Busy Heart

11 10 2012

I wrote this post for the Barnabas Center Blog Redemption’s Road.  The Barnabas Center is a nonprofit, nondenominational, Christ-centered counseling, training and teaching ministry dedicated to encouraging people by coming alongside them, entering into their daily struggles and walking with them toward freedom.

“The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well.”

I fell down such a hole after the birth of my first son. Being over-committed with both work and relationships was routine for me, but the addition of a dependent little human being threw a wrench in the gears of the machine that was my life. Even though labor began almost ten days late, the timing with Bradley still felt inconvenient.  It began just days before a major work deadline. I had been putting off the project as I raced against the clock trying to tie all the other loose ends, knowing I needed Bradley to stay put for at least another two months in order to complete them all.  During my first week home from the hospital, I pulled three all-nighters, trying to continue life at a pace that was, quite frankly, insane. Pulling all-nighters to accomplish as much as seemed humanly possible suddenly became not humanly possible. I was scattered, confused and scared. Unable to function as efficiently as I used to, my productivity idol wasn’t serving me as well as it had in the past. I was falling fast.  I had turned from capable and confident to needy and insecure overnight.  It took me about 10 months to finally realize my situation was not improving and I wasn’t going to be able to climb out of this rabbit hole alone. Life felt unmanageable. Life was unmanageable.

Reluctantly I sought help at The Barnabas Center.  Many of my friends were already there. Now it was my turn. Filling out the New Client Packet felt like a joke.  I moved through the checklist of more than 70 issues enumerated under “Present Concerns” (40 of which I would check today) but none seemed to fit, so I crafted the most straightforward sentence I could in order to explain my issues: “I have a re-occurring sin-pattern of busyness and, in addition to that, having a baby has ruined the way my life used to work.”

I was hoping for a simple solution or at least a clear plan of action, but as you can imagine, there hasn’t been anything simple or clear about my journey. Fast forward through six years, the birth of two more children, countless cycles of trying to manage the busyness that continued to hijack my life and I found myself at square one again. How? I had learned to say no, I had practiced seasons of ‘task-abstinence’.  I had been seduced by the twin temptations of ‘balance and order’.  I trusted them to help me cope. They worked for a while, but eventually their true identities of ‘control and dependence on self’ were exposed.  The weight of my circumstances started to drown my soul.  I thought I believed the Gospel and that God was good, but I was confused and ready to admit that “the problem” was bigger, deeper, and more complicated than I had believed.

Now, with a different perspective about what I was facing, I began to seek God for a new way to treat this chronic condition. I knew that prayer was key, but even praying had become confusing. One morning after returning to finish a book I had started earlier that year, “A Praying Life” by Paul Miller, I sat in my living room, exhausted from a particularly busy week and pleading with God to help my children sleep past 6:15. As I read, my eyes fell on these words: “Learning to pray doesn’t offer us a less busy life; it offers us a less busy heart.” The words fell like lead on my soul. It was like accidentally stumbling across a diagnosis after having given up the search.  Oh the relief, but oh, the weight. Who wants to be diagnosed with a busy heart?


I had worked for so long trying to fix my busy life, when all along I had been treating the symptoms of a systemic disease of the heart. The heaviness of my reality quickly lifted when I realized I could be healed, but it wasn’t going to look at all like anything I had expected.  I was weary from years of self-absorbed introspection and so tired of thinking about myself. It felt counter-intuitive to the Gospel that gave me life.  How could I be an involved mother of three, wife, friend and part of an active community without being busy? How could I love people the way Jesus called me to, without offering parts of myself? I couldn’t, but the question should have been, what is the source of what I’m offering? That was the problem. I had been working and giving out of dried up cisterns. As I moved toward surrender and allowed God to work in me, He began to fill those dry cisterns and turn my focus from surviving to living. He was also growing within me a life-giving inner stillness that would increase my capacity to love, to give and to be present with Him and those around me in the midst of the busy.

To be honest, I’ve l not learned to apply this same Gospel to every part of my life, but I’m content to be patient with myself. What I’m learning is that dealing with a busy heart is  much more complicated than just changing the pace. Interrupting the cycle of a busy heart requires a fiercely intentional act that is not willful but soulful.  Slowing down on the outside is more of a discipline –  but being still on the inside is a practice that offers rest to our souls in spite of outer pressures.  Knowing the finished work of Christ for me allows an inner calm – a resting heart.


another story

12 07 2012

A prayer for today:

Understanding Father, I thank you for your never ending patience with me.  Here I am again feeling overwhelmed with my first world “problems” and feeling trapped by myopic vision. Bigger storms have been brewing in my heart than the ones that have taken out great oaks in our neighborhood this week.  Really I think it’s just been the perfect storm to strike my perspective. I  missed my big boy so much during his 12 day trip to visit family in Seattle but I got him back just to be reminded that the chaos of three boys is still my everyday reality. Being a mom never seams to get easier. Also, Joe’s late evenings at work feel even later when I’m surrounded by families happily playing together with both mommy and daddy present, and the real storms outside press on the walls of our house causing an implosion of stir crazy madness. I don’t think you meant for children to be indoors this much. To add to the frustration, I’ve been told that Joe’s office will be moved to a satellite location for the DNC in September….in St. Louis. St. Louis? A satellite for a Charlotte office?  Oh the petty things I complain about.  Lord, I’m grateful that my husband has a job that provides for us but in light of our story, my heart’s not ready for him to travel for a week and over a holiday. I guess we’ll all be making a road trip.

I’m not ready to throw in the towel, but I’m tempted to get in the line where you sign up for another story.  Today I don’t like the one I’m living. I’m sorry for groaning, but I feel like running away.  I’m so glad you’re the only place I know where to go when I run.

In my weariness, I so wish life was easier, but if in my weariness, my weakness and my pain, your beauty is revealed, then I surrender. Jesus, I thank you that the gospel is bigger than all of this and I pray that today you’ll whisper words of hope to my doubting heart and remind me of the sufficiency of your grace. And once again, thank you for being patient with me. I need your tenderness when I feel like this.


In jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

made to fly

30 06 2012

It feels like an eternity since I last blogged. Really it’s only been since January, but the past 16 months have been such a time of transformation for me that it’s been nearly impossible to still my heart and mind long enough to lasso a specific thought or emotion. I’ll likely never be able to chronicle the devastating and glorious events or the miraculous works that have taken place in the last chapter but they, along with the ongoing story I’m living, will surely inspire, inform and shape my creative endeavors from here on.

Some days it feels as if God is playing a cruel joke on me but I know it’s not true, and even on those days I am confident of His never-stopping pursuit of me, Sarah Pay, former caged butterfly, daughter of the Most High. As I’ve taken a step back, bowing less frequently to the idols of balance and order, perspective has rescued me from despair and I have the occasional glimpse of future glory…but, oh, how it makes me long for heaven.

Even though I’m more proficient at shaping materials than words, I have a passion for beautifully crafted language, but I have to rely on the poets and wordsmiths when I feel lost to help articulate my groanings. So…I have always viewed life as a story and I can’t help but to order it into chapters. There are far too many ironies, allusions, themes, characters and sub-plots for me to ever get my head around the big picture but I feel delight when I’m gifted with “getting” something that points me back to the greater whole. What an amazing author I have writing my story.

So if you’ll allow me to continue with the literary analogy, something has happened in the story.  I believe it’s a turning point…I don’t know for sure, but I hope. You see, for some time I have struggled with a lack of continuity in life, that has turned into a lack of connectedness with others and myself. There have been so many separate subjects to process from marriage, to creativity, sexuality, community and parenting that I feel crazy. From time to time I come to a hope kindling intersection but generally I feel as if I deal with one issue as another falls by the wayside. It doesn’t seem right. For years I have sensed that there is a place of holistic awareness that will cause my wings to spread and give my heart the courage to fly but I never stumble upon “that place”. As one who often feels caged, I’ve always been deeply curious about freedom and I’m beginning to believe that everything I write, create or even breathe comes from this insatiable desire to be free. I know that I’ll only experience that freedom in the person of Jesus Christ but finally I’m realizing that I’ll never be as free as I’m going to be, and that in itself allows me to fly a little further away from the mason jar I once called home.

So as I fly above with a bit more of a holistic perspective on life I present to myself a challange…a challenge to connect the themes that I face today. There are three: the journey to redemption in the story of my sexuality, my frustration in my role as a mother and the awareness that my soul suffers when I don’t create. I have no idea what this endeavor will look like but I’m eager to begin the journey.  Hold me Jesus.

happy NEW year

1 01 2012

Wreath obsessed.

18 11 2011

My friend Kim has started a new business making wreaths and hair accessories. I am totally obsessed with her wreaths (and would be the hair bows if I had girls).  You;ll see one on my front door as soon as I have time to pick out the colors. Check out her etsy shop and buy something fun.  Her prices are so low that I sort of feel like I’m stealing from her but I think she really enjoys doing it.

If you do order from the site, make sure to enter the code 0SHIPPING (that’s the number zero) at checkout and you can either pick it up at her house or she can bring it to you.  That will be a standing coupon code for Charlotte friends so use it any time and share it with any friends in Charlotte you might refer.

Also, you can use the coupon code 1STTIMER for a 15% discount on your entire purchase from the site now through Cyber Monday.  If you order something that is custom-made, remember that she’ll need a little extra time to make it.  Anything ordered by Cyber Monday will certainly be ready well before Christmas though.

Kale and white bean soup.

14 11 2011

Sorry it has taken me forever to post this recipe. I can never remember how I make it so I’m writing as I cook.
1. Dice one whole onion

2. Chop one or two slices of bacon

3. Saute bacon and onions

4. add two cans of navy, cannellini or great northern beans

5. add 32 ounces of chicken broth

6. chop one whole bunch of kale and add to the soup (you can add this to onions and bacon at first if you prefer)

7. let everything simmer for a bit then add about a half cup of fresh grated parmesan cheese (or more if you like)

8. add salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and some garlic salt or powder to taste.

9. Serve hot with a little extra parmesan cheese and fresh crusty bread.

I think that’s it. If I remember anything else I’ll edit the post.  It’s so yummy and good for you too.  If your kids don’t like the texture of the kale, blend a serving in the food processor and add a dollop of sour cream…they should eat it then.

Also, go for lacinato kale if you can find it. It’s really great in the fall.

Oh…and add some shredded chicken if you like. It’s so much easier to leave it out but men seem to prefer pieces of meat in their soup.

It’s your chance.

3 11 2011

I could go on all day about the value of owning original art and while I don’t feel any need to persuade you to agree with me, I do want to invite you to a show and sale hosted by my client and friend Judith Voglesonger. Judith brings emerging artists to market and at the same time offers new and existing collectors an opportunity to purchase high quality, original art at affordable prices. She shares my passion for bringing art into the homes of people who never thought they’d be able to own an original.

I know the majority of us don’t have funds to spend on “extras” right now, but i would challenge you to consider the riches that owning and enjoying real art offers.  It’s a recession proof investment I promise.

Here are the details:

Fall Art & Jewelry Show

Original Art, Limited Edition Fine Art Photographs and Vintage & Repurposed Jewelry

Cash & Check only

Wednesday, November 9th 10-2 pm

Thursday, November 10th 10-2 pm

Friday, November 11th 10-2 pm

Saturday, November 9th 10-Noon

3330 Cambria Road, Mountainbrook, Charlotte NC



See more inventory on facebook at ‘JWV Artists’

“The unspoken language of fine art evokes a spiritual and emotional connection with the viewer that represents a truly valuable accomplishment for the  artist.”  – Kristen Thies  Wisdom and the Dreamer

I’ll also be selling jewelry at the show from my new venture REPURPOSED so I’d love for you to stop by and say hello.  I’ll have a good size inventory with lots of variety at very reasonable prices so grab a few gifts for Christmas.  JWV has a great selection of photographs as well, that would make great gifts.