Friday, November 18, 2011


I was pleasantly surprised today when I looked at the date of my first post on this blog and realized it was exactly four years ago.  Thinking back, my heart is full of gratitude.  God has indeed brought me a far ways from where I was back then.

Today, I can confidently say that I have walked through the valley to the other side.  One of the clear indications that I have recovered from burnout is that my heart feels like it is ever expanding these days.  I meet people, hear about friends' situations or read the news, and find that each story finds a place in my heart - that I want to pray for these people and wrap the love of Jesus around them.  Four years ago, my heart felt shriveled up and hard like a rock.  I could not see anything beyond myself.

I have been asked what components played a part in my recovery.  Similar to the causes of burnout, the recovery process also consisted of a mixture of factors.  A major one was having supportive family and friends around me.  My parents graciously took me back into their home for over a half a year when I was in the most acute distress.  They made sure I ate well, slept lots and had minimal social engagements.  They also drove me to see my counselor, who was another major factor in my recovery.  For a number of months, one of my best friends and I would meet regularly and we went through the "Be Transformed" workbook by Scope Ministries.  This study, along with her companionship, helped to establish biblical and truthful views of myself.  Many of the books I read were also helpful in giving me ways of understanding myself and teaching me the value of rest.

Taking a year of stress leave from work was key.  It released me from the daily demands of work and allowed me to focus on getting back on my feet.  Attending a church where I was unknown gave me a safe place to interact with God without feeling obligated to update people on how my ministry went or even engage in small talk that was draining for me.

It was also a huge help to me that my boyfriend/fiance (now husband) was extremely supportive and patient with me.  And that those who knew my situation prayed for me.

Above all though, I think what was most healing in my recovery process was the element of time.  It was not easy to wait for things to get better.  And I still cannot say I'm back to the same energy levels as I had pre-burnout.  But time has given me new perspective.  As I have lived this new "normal," I have come to realize that I can accept my limits better now and that God can still use me even if I don't live up to what I think I need to be.

So thank God with me, will you?  For His faithfulness, gentleness and persistence; for His redemptive work and mysterious ways.  For four long and full years on the road towards wholeness, maturity and Life!

Saturday, November 5, 2011


I've often been asked what I think was the cause of my burnout.  My answer:  it's complex.  There were many factors that came into play and I can't give you a simple "It was this" kind of an answer.  But I can trace a few threads that interwove to get me to the point of burning out.

At the deepest level, I think a foundational cause of my burnout was the disbelief that God truly loved me unconditionally.  Something in me thought that I needed to do a certain thing or be a certain way before God could love me.  And so I had a difficult time resting or simply being (I'm still learning and growing in this area).  I would look for the approval of others to affirm that I really was loved.

Another factor that contributed to burnout was a long history of over-involvement and extreme busyness.  By the time I identified that I was burnt out, I had a track record of about 14 years of high-paced living.  Late nights, early mornings, school, church, campus groups, ballet, piano...  I demanded excellence of myself in all these areas.  And I equated productivity with a life well lived.

On top of these factors, in the three years immediately preceding my final breakdown, I was involved in work that was completely incongruent with who I was wired to be.  This was due to a combination of a lack of knowledge of myself and an inability to accept certain aspects of myself.  The job I was working required me to take a lot of initiative with people, constantly be around people, and be part of a team that included several extreme extroverts.  I had trouble accepting that I was an extreme introvert, that I needed more quietness than the average person and that solitude and contemplation were lifelines for me.  I also did not have ample opportunity to develop my creative side or express myself through the arts, which resulted in a piece of my soul withering up over time.  I ended up moving "homes" a lot during that period as well, which was not helpful for someone who needed stability to flourish.

There are probably more factors that led to my burnout, but these are a few of the major ones I have been able to identify so far.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


A couple weeks ago, I was on a red-eye flight from Honolulu to Bellingham and I sat beside a lady who was travelling with three young children (ages 2, 4 and 6).  As the plane was getting ready to take off, she took out a large bag of chips and three smaller sandwich bags.  She then proceeded to divide the chips among the three bags - one for each of her children - their in-flight entertainment, so to speak.

As the plane took off, she looked over her kids happily munching away and said to them, "Eat the chips slowly now.  That's all you're getting for the next while so be sure to enjoy them and savour them."

I think it was the first time I'd ever heard a parent tell her children to savour something.  I was deeply inspired.

I'm "in limbo" in several areas of my life these days and being in the midst of all the unknowns and uncertainties has propelled me to a place of simply living as each day comes.  I think it's actually a good thing that I cannot live in the future (or the past, really) because I can approach each day with openness and savour each day.

I picture God handing me a baggie full of chips and encouraging me, "Eat them slowly now.  Remember to savour each chip!"

Saturday, July 9, 2011


I was recently introduced to this song written by my favourite musician/singer.  It speaks to a deep part of me.  I wanted to pass it on and bless you with it as well.  It's particularly meaningful for women, but I suspect the message would still speak to men in some way.

Monday, July 4, 2011


I've heard it said before that the path to Christian maturity is really about one thing.  What that thing is is different for each person, but we all have something that comes up again and again; something that mutates and reappears in forms that are at first unrecognizable perhaps but upon further investigation prove to be "that thing" we thought we'd dealt with already.  I don't know if I just have one thing, but I do know I have at least a couple things that come up with alarming regularity.

One of those "things" for me is the attachment of my value to my perceived productivity.  What do I mean?  Well here's a recent example.  A few weeks ago over dinner, my husband bravely asked me if I was afraid about how tired I would feel after the baby is born.  As soon as I heard his question, tears sprang up into my eyes (and it wasn't just because of pregnancy hormones).  I knew his question had touched on something deep that I was reluctant to look at.  I told him that yes, I was afraid of becoming super tired again.  He wisely suggested that I might do well to process through why I had this fear and to address it before the baby arrived.  I didn't know how to go about facing this so before bed that night, I simply offered the question up to God and told him He'd have to help me work through it.

Surprisingly, I had a dream that very night that spoke to my request.  In my dream, a friend of mine was driving me to an appointment.  She was driving very carefully and slowly and I kept telling her to hurry up.  She also didn't know the area so I was giving her directions.  All of a sudden, she decided to take a right turn even though I hadn't told her to.  That turn took us on a detour through a construction site that required her to drive even more slowly and carefully.  My impatience and frustration were at excruciating levels but because she was my friend, I didn't yell at her.  I don't remember the end of my dream but I think I eventually made it to my destination.

As I sat with the dream and asked Jesus to help me make sense of it the next day, I saw that when I feel tired, the same emotions of impatience and frustration rise up in me.  It's like someone else has control of the vehicle and everything slows down.  I saw too that behind those emotions was a desire to control my life - to make sure things were done my way or done, period.  Tracing down to the root of all this, I arrived at the shocking conclusion that the reason I wanted things done or done my way was because if things weren't done or done "correctly," I felt less valuable!  So here I had this fear of tiredness that was really a masquerade for a false belief that my worth was attached to my performance.

As I've continued this journey to the other side of burnout, I'm learning that some of the root beliefs that affect my behaviour are deeper than I realize.  And I pray that in His grace, God would continue to expose these rotting roots and help me establish healthy ones in their place.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


I started reading "Seven Sacred Pauses" by Macrina Wiederkehr this past week.  Its subtitle is "Living Mindfully Through the Hours of the Day."  I've been pleasantly surprised by it.

From what I gather, Macrina lives the monastic life, but her writing is such that it makes the Benedictine concepts of pausing for prayer seven times a day very accessible to the average working person.  She explains the tradition of praying at each of the times: in the middle of the night, at daybreak, at mid-morning, at noon, in the mid-afternoon, in the evening and at bedtime and highlights the themes from each of the "hours."  She also includes prayer suggestions and thoughts to meditate on.

What I love most about this book is that her idea of pausing in the midst of work - to remember who I am; to remember Whose I am - instills a real sense of sacredness and dignity to my everyday comings and goings.  The practice of pausing, if even for a moment, has a way of bringing me back to being and it reminds me of God's accompaniment with me throughout the day.

My favourite quote from the book so far is this.  I'll leave it with you to ponder:
"Work is love made visible"
- Khalil Gibran (quoted by Macrina Wiederkehr)

Thursday, May 26, 2011


A good friend and I had a conversation recently about how sometimes we feel like we need others to give us permission to take care of ourselves.  I know that before I burned out, this was more often than not the case.  Somehow, I felt like unless someone else told me I could have some time off or time alone, I couldn't justify doing it. 

Within our conversation, the phrase, "Inner Authority" came to my mind.  I realized that in order to be fully mature and healthy, I needed to have an appropriate sense of inner authority.  As I thought about Jesus, I saw that that was what he most definitely had.  Because he knew who he was and whose he was, he was able to act rightly in every situation.  He was free to eat with whomever he wanted to, free to sleep on the boat in the middle of a storm, free to turn over the tables at the temple, and ultimately, free to be betrayed and crucified.

As I grow in my knowledge and union with Christ, I want more of his inner authority.  This is my prayer for myself as well as for all those who struggle with looking to others for permission to live fully.