Faith/Spirituality, forgiveness, Recovery, resentment

Resentment Release Day: April 21, 2020

The stubborn resistance in me is palpable. I know that I know that I know that I need to write this down, but my insides are squirming because, well, you’ll see.

I don’t think it has taken me this long to view this situation from this perspective because it wasn’t obvious before now. It took me this long because I was in no way willing to view it in any way that might cause me to release my resentment over what happened. God has been prying it out of my hands for 8 years now, and yesterday, as I sat quarantined on my couch staring at the snow, in April, my weak, clinging fingers gave up their grasp. I gave it up and became open to seeing it from God’s point of view. From a compassionate point of view. From a “we’re all in this together” point of view, like I say when I stamp my autograph and tag line on most any book I sign.

So-Here is the gist. Sorry ahead of time if it sounds like a poorly written 70’s Soap Opera. It will be hard to tell without specifics, but hopefully it is enough to help you see what took me almost a decade. I have mentioned before that there has been a good amount of drama/trauma in my life. It didn’t start with Leukemia. That was just the icing on the cake. And I mean that sincerely. The emotional turmoil that came as a result of my husband’s mental health struggles and prescription pill abuse, as well as the reaction to it by some in our lives, including friends and some in our church, was a type of cancer that almost killed my soul long before it Leukemia threatened to kill my body.The betrayal and loss was all-consuming. I had to work through mounds of hurt, sorrow, anger and even hate all day, everyday, for months. It gradually became less intense, but was still there, lingering, and could be triggered at the very sight of anyone from my “past” life. I lived in constant fear of seeing someone I felt had betrayed me or my family. When I walked in stores and restaurants I would scan the scene for “mean people” to determine if I might need to turn and run. I have, ashamedly, “ran” more times than I can count. If someone forced me to repeat one of those 2 eras, I would choose Leukemia in a heartbeat.

One particularly painful thing that happened was that, seemingly, some of my friends who did not previously seem to have relationship with each other, became close. based on shared anger. At least that’s how I have been choosing to view it. They were not friends, but now (at least this is how I imagined it in my head) they could get together talk trash about my family and bond. Who knows if that is actually the reason, but what I do know is that they stopped talking to me at all. I have been silently and not so silently furious and in softer words, sad and hurt about it ever since. I have clenched my fists and “set my heart like flint” as I squeezed the scrawny neck of this resentment with all the self-righteousness and unforgiveness I could muster. A couple of times my husband has made the mistake of suggesting that for my own mental health and sanity (and quite possibly, his ) I “let it go”…the nerve!

Like I said, God has been wrestling this away from me for years, and the other day, He finally won. I am not saying that I feel led to set up a play date with any of those people, but the revelation (and I am sure you are way ahead of me, but I can be pretty stubborn when I don’t want to do something) was this: Maybe their friendship was not based on a common thread of hate. Maybe, just maybe, it was based on a common thread of suffering.

And that is something I can understand. When I am hurt, I want to walk through it with others who hurt like me.

Maybe they didn’t like each other at all before (I don’t truly know). And maybe they were very different in many other ways. But, their common pain leveled the playing field. That is the entire premise of the “Recovery Community.” In a fellowship I belong to, our closing says, “though you may not like all of us, you’ll love us in a special way, the same way we already love you.” We say that because we are there for one purpose and one purpose only. All other identifiers go out the window at that point. Politics, religion, and personal preferences are set aside so we can help each other work through the same-suffering.

When I had cancer, I became friends with others who had the same kind of cancer. They knew exactly what I was going through. I didn’t have to explain anything to them, because they already knew. I still don’t know what their views are on much else. What I needed at the time was someone to walk through my pain and understand me in a way no one else could. We looked for the places we were the same instead of focusing on our differences.

This new perspective, and my willingness to extend it to people in my past, feels good and bad. I am glad to see it from a less angry and sometimes psycho perspective, but it also feels a little strange. It’s a monster I have been nurturing for a long time. I’ll have to remind myself not to feed it anymore.

I pray that if you are feeding such a creature, that today you can “let it go”, too. Let it out. Remind yourself that we are all wounded in some way, and sometimes we injure others while trying to process and manage our wounds. Let us not take things personal that have nothing to do with us. Maybe choose to extend grace and compassion to someone who you have felt hurt by. Remember that our brokenness binds us together in unique ways. Especially today, remember that.

Faith/Spirituality, Serenity

#alonealone

I think I figured out part of my problem. I have a lot of them, I realize, but something has been extra “off’ about me since the Covid-19 quarantine. At first I thought it was just that I didn’t have a good Quarantine Routine. I don’t like set schedules (because I am a free spirit and also don’t like anyone telling me what to do 😉) but I really need them to function properly. Give my “free spirit” a few days without a schedule and it’s complete mayhem. I can’t get anything done.

But I don’t think that’s it, entirely. We are all quarantined to our homes with our precious, dear, sweet family members. Please keep my love and admiration for them in mind as we enter this upcoming territory. I hear a lot of talk about the isolation of this disease, and I know many people are living alone, so that totally stinks. I am sad for you in a different way if you are experiencing that kind of loneliness. I don’t mean to make light of the other side of this coin. But, many of us are living with a few other Homo sapiens that are always.always.always home. There are other people in my living room where I used to sit and reflect and read and pray without distraction. And since I can’t seem to be still and quiet with someone in the room, I feel compelled to share my deep thoughts out loud with them and then they too are interrupted. I take on the stress of my husband’s job because I can hear him on the phone from anywhere in the house. I am hyper aware of my own work conversations because I know they can hear me too. I can only imagine the not alone-ness that those with small children who need constant attention must feel.

While looking up ambient music with beach background on U Tube ( it’s one way to pretend I am somewhere else than my house! ), the phrase #alonetogether kept scrolling across the screen. Well, that’s a nice thought and all, but at least for a little bit everyday, I need to be #alonealone #alonewithoutinterruption #alonewithgod #alonewithmythoughts. Even if you love having this blessed time to be home everyday all day with whoever those people are for you, we are not wired to never have solitude, a time to refresh, refocus and spend time hearing from God.

In the olden days, like 3 weeks ago, most of us had a tendency to rush from our workouts to work to soccer to church to bed. Our time alone with God and with our own spirits had to be carved out intentionally. That part hasn’t changed, it’s just that now we need to be more creative and open to new ways of doing that. I have been mostly irritated that I can’t do it the way I used to do it and thus have spent very little time spending the kind of time in reflection and prayer and reading necessary for me to be emotionally and mentally healthy, which is less than optimal during a pandemic where fear and uncertainty seem to be pressing in at all times. I need God’s perspective and peace now more than ever. I keep telling God we’ll “catch up soon” and then forget to text or call, like I would an old friend I ran in to at the grocery store.

white ceramic mug on table
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I know we are not on vacation by any means, but we are on a hiatus from real life, which is kind of the same when it comes to the routine of solitude or study. When I go on vacation, after about a week of self indulgence and constant togetherness and group activities (eating every meal together, sleeping in the same room together, riding in the same car together ) I start getting a little ticky. I know I need to find a way to be alone and read, write, pray or just sit and stare in silence. If I don’t do this, thinks can get ugly. I need get out of my own head and hear from God or read spiritual insights so I can remind myself of how to act like a loving, mature momma and wife.

So, on this here forced Staycation, I am gonna have to figure out a new way of doing things. Luckily, it’s getting warm so outside is now an option. My car is starting to become my new best friend. It’s quiet and offers privacy without risking infection. I don’t love these alternatives, because I really love my little blue couch and coffee table for my feet and my picture window to look out during my usual morning time of solitude. But life is anything but typical right now and I still need that time-out from others to stay spiritually healthy.

Maybe you need it too. Maybe you have been reading this and there is a child wrapped around your leg or resting on your hip. Maybe your partner is sitting across from you so even though you want to cry out to God or just plain cry, you feel self-conscious or embarrassed to do so. Maybe the TV is on all day and your fears are growing by the hour. Maybe, like me, you are starting to blame the people in your home for your inner angst and restlessness when really your soul is starving and out of sorts.

My advice to you….RUN. Not forever. Not far. But for a small and imperative chunk of time. Run to God. Eventually things will go back to “normal”, but for the sake of your sanity and serenity that comes from spending time alone with God and with yourself, figure out how to carve out a time and space where you can be #alonealone. Your family might miss you for a bit, but my hunch is they will be grateful that you have rebooted and recalibrated your spirit, you can come back to them with a calmness and kindness that are just contagious as the Coronavirus.

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Anxiety/Worry, Faith/Spirituality, fear, Trust, worry

Quarantined: Ain’t my first rodeo!

Covid-19 is giving me a little PTSD. Being quarantined; it ain’t my first rodeo. There were times while being treated for Leukemia when I was neutropenic (lacking ability to fight off threatening diseases that could kill an immunocompromised person) and couldn’t leave my house. Or, let anyone except my family come in my house. And lest you assume I was too sick to want to leave anyway, you would be wrong. I felt “fine”. I had to remind myself I was very sick and force myself to comply with isolation to avoid potential infection that could make me very not “fine” at all.

Basically, that’s what we are dealing with now, not from an individual disease, but one that threatens the entire world. We feel “fine”. We feel more than fine and can’t stand the limitations. We have to choose to believe what we hear about the chances of infection and act accordingly. I think it’s safe to say that most of us are over getting to work in our pajamas, skip school and are getting slightly concerned that most of the time we have no idea what day of the week it is. We have played every game we own, done the puzzles a few times and have been on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus Benders for days. My family doesn’t even own a puzzle (don’t judge), we had to borrow from a friend. We tried to buy one from Walmart and they were fresh out; my husband suggested that people might be using them for toilet paper😉. My point is, I think most of us thought we would be moving on by now. Our positive outlooks are waning and everyone seems to be bordering on the slightly cranky side.

So what? What do we? How do we not strangle each other (husbands, wives, children who are just so “there” all.the.time.)? Lucky for you, I have done a bit of this before (on a much smaller scale, mind you) so I will share my secret: you have to choose. So far, I haven’t been making the best choice. I have been resistant, angry, and in denial. I am going to sound like a brat, but I sort of told God that this wasn’t fair and that I had done this before and shouldn’t have to do it again. I already served my time.

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Me writing this to you is sort of little apology to Him for stomping around. I don’t know how it all works, but I can “hear” Him saying, “I know kid. It’s not fair but at least you know how to do it. You know what it’s like to choose to be better rather than bitter.” He is right. I have made that choice before and I am so glad I did. It turned cancer into a catapult for launching every good change in me and around me. I am always saddened when I see others who have endured great pain and come out the other side mad at the world and everything in it. They made the choice to become a victim of their circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a tough choice to make. It takes supernatural power, in my opinion. You definitely have to be willing to be willing to let God redeem the hard stuff.

The other day I was listening to a Beth Moore session on being happy. I wasn’t listening very carefully, or maybe I was just hungry, because what I heard was that we have to address our “Cinnabon Belief”. I stopped the session and rewound it because I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. It turns out she said something more theologically sound like “sin of unbelief”. I laughed at myself but then thought, “That’s me! I do have Cinnabon Belief: everything needs to be sweet and satisfying for my faith to stay strong and unwavering. When circumstances threaten the delacacies of my life, I too often throw a fit like a child whose mama confiscated (or ate) her Halloween candy.

I am out of quarantine practice. So-I am going back to the basics. I used to get up everyday, sit on my couch, and read from 3 books. Each one had a daily-dated reading and I would read the entry from each. I would reflect and pray and “be” with God. Then I would write. Spoiler alert-I didn’t start writing a blog for you to read, I started it to keep myself sane in my isolation. You can do that too. Write (or type) to God. Write to yourself. Write to your friends or family. Choose to get better rather than bitter.

One big difference that my dear husband pointed out about a week ago while as I was lamenting this quarantine and how poorly I was handling it, was that the first time I was quarantined, everyone came to me. I got cards and calls and people pulled weeds in my yard and mowed my grass and sent me flowers. But now, we are ALL quarantined and maybe instead of just receiving, it was time for me to give back and serve others (big and bold and brave words to a woman you will be trapped in a house with for an undetermined length of time, don’t ya think?!) . After I argued and cried a little, I decided to admit that he might be right. So, I am trying to come up with ways to do that for others. That’s one way I can choose better over bitter.

Maybe you have a choice to make today. Maybe the bitterness has been growing and you are letting the virus win. Maybe you aren’t quite willing to give in and learn how to be a different kind of happy. Start where you are at and ask God to “come get you”  ( https://wordpress.com/post/heathercarterwrites.com/1909 )and that He help you “willing to be willing” to choose better over bitter.

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Anxiety/Worry, Change, Faith/Spirituality, fear, worry

“Come get me”

I think I am finally able to write. Since the Coronavirus hit, I have not been able. Not out of any grand preparation for isolation, but for the simple fact that I just had nothing productive to say. I was actually afraid I might do more harm than good if I opened my mouth about how I was feeling. At first, I was in denial. Felt nothing. Then the anger came. The layers of disappointment (and you can all fill in the many blanks that describe your personal areas of loss/disappointment/and important life events that have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely) were almost more than I could bear. I know they are rich people problems, but they are the ones we have nonetheless. I won’t bother to list mine, because I like to keep my blogs under 1,000 words 😬.
Next came the grief and sadness and feeling sorry for myself. I was crossing my arms stubbornly and ignoring God because who else could I blame? Yesterday, after processing and talking with friends and forcing myself to listen to teachers wiser and more grounded than me, I started to defrost. Now, everything makes me cry…but in a soft and ready to move forward kind of way.

Here are some of the inner conversations and revelations that helped me be able to type even one word. I hope something I say helps you wherever you are at today.

I started to be “willing to willing” to accept the reality of this virus and all it brought with it when I watched a Beth Moore lesson on “Breaking Free.” In a nutshell, she told a story about being in a third world country in a hotel lobby when the lights went out. She could hear chaos and yelling but not in English. Her husband was up in their room. She said she stood still, terrified, not knowing where to go and knew it would do no good to yell since no one could understand her. Then, she heard heavy feet coming down the cement staircase and walking towards her. She could tell it was a man, which scared her even more, and even though she knew no one would understand her, she said, “It’s me. I’m just standing here” (she had no idea what else to say!). He responded, “Baby, this is your man. You just stand right there and I’ll be there soon.” She just stood there like a little child, held out her arms and wiggled her fingers in the direction of his voice and repeated, “Come get me. Come get me. Come get me.” She said, “And sure enough, he came and got me.” Her point was, that there will be some times in our lives that as much as we believe and after all the places you have been with God, that things will seem dark and you don’t know where He is. You are terrified to even move, the darkness is so all consuming and you can’t even see the hand in front of your face. But, even though you can’t see where He is, HE KNOWS WHERE YOU ARE.

silhouette of woman
Photo by ThisIsEngineering on Pexels.com

I have been having a hard time getting to God because of my fear, my anger, my sadness. But luckily, God still knows how to get to me when I call for him. I just kept praying, “Come get me. Come get me. Come get me.” And sure enough, he came and got me. Just being willing to ask him to come was enough to melt my heart and let him Him in again. Finally, I am (mildly) open to listening to what he can do in me and through me during this time.

Ya know, I think that’s enough for today. I have several more things to share, but just for today, I think that is enough. Until I asked him to “Come get me”, nothing else could get through to my heart. I’ll give you a day or two to ask him to “Come get” you too. Then we can chat some more. 😘

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Faith/Spirituality, fear, freedom

“Napping” Fear

I am not always aware of the fear “napping” in my soul. The other day I was reminded. Let me tell you a story about me that I’d rather not, but know I need to. It’s a “soul-selfie” in it’s most un-doctored form; the kind that makes you look like you just rolled out of bed.

I was having lunch with a friend the other day. Feeling pretty normal and unflustered about life. All was well. As I stood up to leave, a person who I have felt very wounded by got in line. She didn’t see me. I had a moment where my stomach flipped over, but she didn’t see me so I wished her well in my head and headed to empty my tray. “That wasn’t so bad”, I thought. “Maybe I am getting better at this forgiveness thing”.  As I turned around, I caught a glimpse of someone joining her, who was a part of the falling out. She was heading for the exact area I needed to go to empty my tray. I paused, prayed, and proceeded to walk over, meet her at the door and say, “Hey there. Nice to see you. Hope you and your family are well. Have a great day!”.

Oh wait…that’s what I wish I. would have done. Or at least something in that vein. Instead, what I did do, was ran. I saw her coming and without any pausing or praying, I proceeded to shove my tray into my confused lunch-date’s hands and said, “Please throw this away for me, I gotta go!”, and I fled to my car and locked the doors (for extra protection). I was reacting out of a fearful spirit that I thought I had overcome.

Here are some of my thoughts on fear as I unpacked this event in my head a couple days later; Oh, the crystal clear benefits of hindsight.

I have a visual of what fear looks like that helps me see it for what it is. Let’s call it a “he” for the sake of this blog. He is a little imp, devilish and devious, who behaves like a toddler having a tantrum. He is out of control, bigger and stronger than even a grown adult can handle most days, confounding to those around him, exhausting, raging with chaos, all-consuming, exasperating, bulldozing and bratty and mean. When he is like that, I do a lot of praying and meditating and reading and talking to counselors and mentors and friends to get him calmed down. I have been doing that consistently for the past several years. I actually thought I might have have finally given him the big heave-ho.

But then…then something happens and I realize that he wasn’t gone at all, he was just napping on my living room floor. I had been tip-toeing around him so as not to disturb him. Like we do when a child finally wears themselves out and falls asleep in their car seat. Side note — my parents often tell me the story of a time I was inconsolably crying and fussing (when I was little, not like, yesterday, just to clarify) while traveling (as I screamed and raged on blankets on the floor of the back seat because that was way before seat belts mattered) When I finally wore myself out enough to fall asleep, they didn’t dare risk waking me up by stopping to change drivers so they made the switch while in motion. Fear is kind of like that. He seems harmless and small while sleeping, but when he gets disrupted, run for the hills. I realized that though I thought he was gone, he was really just taking time out to recuperate. I forgot about Fear, and when I wasn’t paying good attention, I tripped over him and woke a sleeping giant.

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So–how do I deal with this Fear guy? Can I kill Him once and for all so I can stop scanning rooms for people I might need to flee from? Let me say that I have done hundreds of hours of work in an effort to rid myself of Fear, but so far, my best efforts have just lulled him to sleep. What I am finally realizing through much reading, prayer and open-mindedness, is that he is impervious to death but eviction is a strong possibility. As author Beth Moore puts it, I have been focusing more on the strength of my stronghold than the strength of my God.

I have left a cushy place for Fear to rest instead of filling my “house” with more considerate and helpful guests like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, trust, bravery, forgiveness, compassion, grace, self-control, passion, faithfulness. When those inhabit my spaces, Fear gets squished out. There’s simply no room for him.

I have a few ideas about how to make this shift in my life. I’ll get back to you on those in a few days. For now, I will begin by NOT giving Fear more attention than he deserves. He’s already monopolized this entire blog. Enough of that already. I’ll be in touch soon.

For now:
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about THOSE things. (Philippians 4:8)

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Brokenness, Comparision, Faith/Spirituality, freedom, Growth, identity

The comparison trap

I love it when a good blog topic comes together! I always know I am supposed to write about something when I get this kind of affirmation from God. Let me tell you what led up to me sitting on my couch talking out-loud about one of my hugest character defects: Comparison. If you ever struggle with feeling less-than or better-than, you are in good company and I hope you can learn a couple things that might alleviate some of the pain that comes from living with the emotionally detrimental effects of comparing yourself to others.

None of this is a new battle for me, I just have become excruciatingly aware of the damage it has on my serenity through some recent and serious comparison “opportunities”. As a result, while driving 3 hours to Missouri, I finally listened to some CDs a friend gave me about a year ago ( sorry, girl!). There were 6 CDs hammering home “The Power of Vulnerability” by Brene’ Brown, a Shame Researcher. Ya, I know, just some light travel entertainment. She said a lot of poignant junk that I could definitively benefit from, but one particular phrase that stood out was, “comparison kills vulnerability.” According to her, comparison is the number one blocker of real, authentic relationships with others and peace with oneself. I knew immediately this was an area of growth that was gonna involve some retraining and rewiring of my default setting: comparing myself to practically everyone.

This new information had been marinating in my mind for a few days when I had a revelation one morning while jogging on the treadmill next to some “real” runners. Well, that’s what myself told myself. I was running with all my might and felt a little like my heart was going to burst. I was about a stride away from just flying off the back of the treadmill into the people on the rowers-who I am pretty sure were staring at my backside and feeling sorry for me (“bless her heart…she thinks she is a runner:). The people on either side of me were clipping along at a much more rigorous pace and yet they were smiling, talking and hardly sweating or breathing hard. What gives? This is when the slogan I have often quoted to myself but not totally bought into, apparently, came to mind: “Don’t judge your insides by other people’s outsides”. This is exactly how it works; I feel something or know something inside me and determine I am a mess, a failure, a loser, because people around me (in my office, at the gym, at my church, and on the guru of all vulnerability killers, social media) SEEM to be just fine and dandy. They don’t seem to be “huffin’ and puffin’”. Their life looks glamorous, their kids and husband appear successful and kind and amazing. None of my internal reaction to what goes on in my dark, insecure, egocentric, judgmental, embarrassing insides makes me want to share anything with people who I perceive as having it all together based on what they portray on the outside.

The final “sign” to me that this is an area I could stand to do some work on, came when I sat down to write about it. I had piddled around so long that I ran out of time so I decided to just do my daily reading in my Recovery book and revisit this blog another time. I opened to the page for February 13th and just started crying. Here were some of the phrases:

-Comparing myself to others was a defect of character that plagued me all my life.
-I didn’t like myself because I wasn’t living up to what I believed to be true about others.
-I (now) know that my growth can’t be compared with anyone else’s…I have learned that I can’t judge my insides with other people’s outsides. We’re all doing the best we can.

Another reading earlier in February points out that when we live like we are are on a ladder, “everyone above me-to be feared or envied-or below me-to be pitied”, we kill vulnerability. We sacrifice our chance to have authentic, meaningful relationships with others and ourselves. We ante-up or work to protect our secrets and flaws. We can’t relax and just be our whole-hearted selves. We end up lonely and exhausted.

photo of woman climbing on ladder
Photo by Samantha Garrote on Pexels.com

And by we, I mean me. Though I have a hunch I might not be alone in this Comparison trap. In order to get out if it, I plan to change my belief and expectations about who I wish I was and who I am meant to be. I have to own my own story and stand firm in the knowledge that I am exactly who and where God wants me to be today.  I am enough. And so are you.

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Anxiety/Worry, awareness, Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality

Junk drawers, closets and character defects

As I have mentioned before, I am a Realtor. I have shown hundreds of houses over the past 4 years. And should you ever decide to sell your house, spoiler alert, we will open your closets and junk drawer (or drawers). We try our best to give people a reasonable notice before a showing, but the reality is that sometimes we happen upon your house while looking at another and our clients want to see it; preferably right now or in the immediate future. Since we encourage our sellers to never turn down a showing, this leads to a fair amount of panic on the seller’s part and the quickest way to tidy up, is by shoving things in the nearest closet or drawer. And while it works for a one time showing, it’s a poor plan for a long term solution to organization. Eventually you have to remove that toy, laundry basket, backpack or item of clothing that doesn’t really belong there.

I think it’s safe to say that we all have a closet or a drawer that has accumulated random items over time and is threatening to overflow the next time the door is opened. One friend of mine said her junk drawer was so full that the contents were forced out the back of the drawer into the cabinet below. She discovered it when she found her toddler, who was playing with in the Tupperware cupboard was entertaining herself with random, not so child-friendly items from the junk drawer above! A sure sign that the time has come to exert some effort sorting out what belongs in there and removing what doesn’t.

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For me, this is a helpful visual for what happens when I don’t deal with my emotions or reactions to my circumstances in a healthy, head-on way. I get my little feelings hurt, my ego takes a shot to the head, a loved one is in pain, I fail at something that’s important to me, a friend betrays a trust, I hurt someone I care about, I act like a selfish brat, etc. I develop character defects. I often don’t take the time necessary to reflect and pray and give it to God. Instead, I toss it in the drawer/closet because I am too lazy-or terrified-to hold it in my hand, name it for what it is, and either discard or put it in it’s rightful place (in God’s hands is the best place I have found thus far). Because if I don’t, if I keep shoving it in, it’s only a matter of time before something big happens that tops off the drawers’ capacity for holding all the junk you thought was safely and soundly hidden away. Or someone else opens that door or drawer and all hell breaks loose; stuff (like anger, harsh words, craziness or crying) is spilling out on to innocent people that were just the proverbial straw that broke the camels back.

While it’s challenging to fully address every emotion or circumstance at it comes at us, it’s paramount that we don’t neglect it for long. I have a couple closets and a junk drawer that sing my name like a haunting siren’s song every time I walk past. I have been ignoring them for far too long and now they are causing me great anxiety, maybe greater anxiety than they should because instead of asking myself, “does this belong in here?”, I just throw it in and pray to God it will shut without issue.

I could learn a couple things about myself using this analogy.

One: Stashing the junk away without thought or consideration will eventually catch up with me. I can deal with  one hurt or confounding problem at a time, or I can deal with a plethora of them when they burst out on their own, often without fair warning, harming me or other innocent bystanders who were just looking for some scotch tape.

Two: When you get rid if the stuff you don’t need, it becomes easier to access the stuff you do. There have been many times that I have needed a small screwdriver or measuring tape, which I know for a fact are somewhere in my junk drawer, and after rummaging for several minutes have had to walk all the way to my basement (sigh) and get one from the tool box. The junk that shouldn’t be in there (i.e. Bars of soap, 7 pair of scissors, toilet bowl bleach pod, lotion, gum wrappers, and 47 pens) keeps me from finding the items I really need. The interesting thing is, when I sort my junk drawer, most of it actually goes back in. That’s the cool part. Once I take it out, I look at it and determine if it is worthlessness or dangerous and should be taken out of the drawer. If it is useful and necessary, I put it back in an organized fashion, easily available for when it’s purpose calls.

I love this summarized thought from a book called “Courage to Change (p.65)”:

“We don’t ask God to add anything, but rather to take away the things we do not need. I found that every single defect that was removed had been hiding an asset. I didn’t lose myself at all. Instead, as I let go of the things I didn’t need, I made room for my strengths, skills, and feelings to become more fully a part of my life. I take comfort in this, because it reminds me that everything I need is already present…God knows exactly what I need and has already given it to me. My job is to keep it simple and ask for God’s help in relieving me of the extra stuff-the shortcomings that keep me tied down.”

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Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality, Relationships

A note to you…

I’ve been stalling. Since Nine O’clock this morning I have been stalling. I know I want to write something but for lots of reasons that you don’t need to know, I keep coming up with other “‘necessary and spiritual” things that require my attention. I almost always write first thing in the morning, mainly because by the time I hit 3:00 PM on most days, I’ve ceased caring about doing anything productive or addressing anything that might hurt my brain. Nevertheless, here I sit in my writing spot on my blue couch, feet perched on my coffee-stained table, thinking out loud on paper so I can get a grasp on some of my recent hauntings.

I have a couple things on my mind, but today a new special something has cropped up. Might as well share it, since those other hauntings will no doubt hover around until I reason them out with you another fine day. Here’s how this blog came about…

I have recently determined to follow through with connecting with a few women who I would like to get to know a bit better. They seem like people I could laugh with, learn from and maybe even encourage if God chooses to use me in that way. I reached out to them and set up times to get together. I met with one of them today. A morning meeting lasted until this afternoon and my heart is so full. When I write, one of my main goals (aside from unloading and unpacking all my craziness on paper for my own sanity) is to help those who read feel less alone. Less weird. Less defeated. Less hopeless, afraid that they will never change or grow or heal. Today, this woman did that for me. I came home refreshed and lighter and less of all the things I long to alleviate in you.

Not only did I come home with a new energy and hopeful spirit, I sat for a few minutes to reflect on the fact that had my life not been a virtual roller coaster of chaos and challenges that seemed to crash relentlessly for years, I may not have ever even met this woman. I may never have met you, or come to the kind of relationship we now have. I write and you read (can’t imagine why, other than I know first hand the gift of realizing you’re “not the only one) and we have a special bond. I can feel it. Even when just one of you comments, I know I am doing what God has prepped me to do. Without the messiness and grittiness of cancer and family addiction and upheaval of almost my entire social network in one fell shwoop, we would still be strangers or superficial acquaintances. All that stuff really sucked (Sorry mom! A Nicer-lady-like word doesn’t really do it justice 😬 ) and at times I wished every bit of it would go away and my life would go back to “normal”. But God…He had other plans for me. For all of us.

During times when I feel self-pity calling me to curl up and isolate from all humans outside my house, I review a list I once made. A list of all the people I have met or reconnected with in a new way since everything flipped upside down 8 years ago. There are at least 100 people on it. I could probably add more if I sat down today and reevaluated. My point is, without going through the stuff that I thought was ruining my life, I may have never met or enhanced my relationships with those of you who saved my life.

When I came home from my marathon get-to-know-ya meeting today, I picked up a book by Anne Lamott and read the final chapter before I put it back on its’ place on the shelf. I got to the bottom of the page and read, “she was diagnosed with Leukemia”. Lamott spent the rest of the chapter talking about her friend’s life and the memorial service that her friend actually attended, insisting she be present for the celebration before she died. After I cried like a baby for a minute or two, I smiled and prayed a grateful prayer for being allowed to live. I don’t know why I didn’t die. I know for sure it was not of my doing. Plenty of sweeter, kinder less needy, selfish and bossy people die all the time. That’s confusing to me but I am certainly not pointing this out to God just now.

February 6, 2020 will mark 5 years since my Leukemia Diagnosis. I am “all clear”, whatever that means. It’s an appropriate time to sit here, where I have sat about 1,000 times with books and IPad at my fingertips and say “thank you”. ‘Thank you” to God. ‘Thank you” to you. We go through what we go through so we can help others get through the same. God does not waste any of it. Remember that. Always remember that.

Faith/Spirituality

The blank space_____________________

Waiting: not my favorite. Pretty much everything about that word gives causes me to feel anxious and agitated. Now that I am writing about it, I am becoming even more aware of how much I hate to wait. And if I do have to wait, I try combat the monotony of it by doing something productive. Having a phone helps (or contributes to my problem) because I can answer calls or send emails while I am waiting. I have actually almost missed a flight because I avoided getting in line to board the plane until the last possible second so I wouldn’t have to wait in the long, smelly corridor one more minute than necessary. Apparently flight attendants are not very sympathetic about my aversion to waiting lines.

Today is January 7th; only one short week from the biggest goal-setting day of the year. At a time when most people are fired up and ready to make it their “best year ever!”, I still feel like I am in limbo. I feel like I am waiting on something whose outline has not been revealed. The who, what, where, when and why are hazy and seem excruciatingly far off.

My tendency during a phase like this is to become aimless, discouraged, immobilized, or worse yet, prone to taking some random action just to feel like I am at least doing something.

My timing and God’s timing are very different. My timing is typically “now”. I feel  ready to grab the bull by the horns, saddle up, and get going already!

But, as it usually works, God brought me a “word” through 2 of my daily readings yesterday. Both of them spoke to me about this nonsense of waiting. First, Oswald Chambers put it to me softly: “When God brings the blank space, see that you do not fill it in, but wait.” I most definitely  want to “get after it” if we are gonna do it at all. And if His guidance is not clear, I can easily just make it up as I go along, forcing solutions, fabricating a spiritual sounding yet selfish game plan and asking God to please bless it as I plow ahead.

aaron-burden-xG8IQMqMITM-unsplash

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Maybe I am wiser, or just older and more tired of doing it the hard way, but I think I am going to try something different this time. Instead of viewing this interim time as “waiting”, I think I will try consider it more like “lingering”. We linger over things we love or don’t want to end. We linger long after a party ends or over a romantic dinner or at the end of a memorial service where everyone is sharing beautiful memories of our loved one.

Maybe in the lingering, if I am willing, I can learn a couple things that will prepare me for the next phase. Maybe I can linger, rest, relish, recover and let God do His thing in me.

There is such a fine line between having the sense of being “stuck” and valuing this period of lingering. Sarah Young, author of “Jesus Calling”, uses scripture to point out that God tells us, “time is a trainer, teaching you to wait upon Me, to trust Me in the dark.” I will do my best to trust Him in that blank space and resist the urge to fill it in myself.

God, help me trust that my time of waiting is a gift. A time to linger with you and learn until your perfectly timed “next thing” is revealed. Amen.

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Faith/Spirituality, gratitude

Intermingled

I have decided that Thanksgiving is probably my most favorite holiday. I am 49 years old and just realized this. Some of us like to take our sweet time when it comes to self-reflection. 😏 Besides the obvious “blessing” of a holiday celebrated mainly by gorging oneself on a flood of carbs and high-fructose corn syrup ( this year it occurred to me that my sweet potatoes and my pecan pie had essentially the same ingredients), I decided that I really enjoy the chance for my thoughts to revolve around what I am thankful for.

In the past few years it seems that there has been a general push in the world to make the practice of gratitude a regular part of our lives. Look around for words like “grateful”, “blessed”, or “thankful” printed on wall decor or pillows. Sometimes we throw it around without much actual consideration on Facebook and other social media venues. In light of all that, I have to admit that I don’t always make living with an “attitude of gratitude” my top priority.

When I looked up “grateful” and “gratitude” in the dictionary (OK-when I googled those words. Same thing), I became away of a tiny but huge difference between these words. Gratefulness is a feeling, while Gratitude is more about the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness as a result of that feeling. I can be grateful in my heart all day long for the people I love and God and even the hard stuff of life that causes me to finally grow up. But my expression of that gratefulnesss, both verbal and non-verbal, is called gratitude. If we want to fully benefit from a life lived in a constant state of “thanks-giving”, the outward expression of what’s in our hearts is mandatory.

And one more quick thought on Thanksgiving. A couple days before the official holiday, I read an entry in “Jesus Calling” that reminded me that at any given moment, we all have something to be grateful for. However, at an given moment, we also have a few things that we wish we could change or even eliminate from our lives entirely. Pain, suffering, heartache and disappointment are always close at hand. The author reminds us that God has given us the gift of a new day, every day: This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24). God is basically saying that “to protect our thankfulness, you must remember that you reside in a fallen/broken world, where blessing and sorrows intermingle freely.” Too often we “walk through a day brimming with beauty and brightness, seeing only the grayness of our thoughts”.

In other words, we have a choice as to what we focus on. There is always ample opportunity to choose to be grateful or grumpy. This was especially powerful for me because, I was reading those words while in Las Vegas for Thanksgiving. Our visit was a pleasant gift because we got to spend a week with my in-laws and my two baby boys ( 23 and 19, but still babies to me). A beautiful blessing. My daughter wasn’t there because she was in Israel with my mom and the rest of my husband’s side of the family. Also a beautiful blessing. But “intermingled” with that, my father had been diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer, which is what triggered our trip and allowed my daughter to take his place on the trip to Israel. Doesn’t feel like a beautiful blessing at it’s root, but some of what has come out of it has been exquisite and could have been experienced in no other way than through what could be viewed as a curse from God and the universe by those not willing to dig deeper.

Every day, every minute of every day, we all have the choice to not only choose to acknowledge what we are grateful for (including the gifts that can come from tragedy, frustration, long-suffering, etc), but to live out that “attitude of gratitude” by letting it be the driving factor in how we interact with everyone we come in contact with. This is the best way I know to express my love to God-by loving and caring for his kids.