Saturday, February 11, 2012

How Things Work

Several years ago I was the human resources manager for a major chemical company. One of my responsibilities was corporate training and serving as a change agent when we were acquired by an even larger company. The word came down that all of our production operations were going to be computerized and the workforce needed to be trained on the software systems. This was a huge undertaking. Many of the men had worked in the company for over 20 years and had never used a computer at all, even in their personal lives.


More than one employee came to me asking that we include a session on how a computer works, taking out the guts so they could understand it. That sounded like the biggest waste of time ever, having nothing whatsoever to do with the actual keyboarding and software skills. My trainer, however, had the same tinkering interest as the students. So he included a brief lesson on computer guts and processors.  I still don't understand why that was necessary, but it appeased the employees who were then less intimidated by the rest of the class.

Some of us need to know how things work. It doesn't matter what the end result is; we need to know the intricacies and science involved. These are the kids who take everything apart in order to put it back together. And we need those people in the world! They grow up to be surgeons, architects, mechanics, engineers and so many other professions that we rely upon for their attention to detail.

And then there are those of us who see only the goal at the end and how our part plays into achieving it.

I don't want or need to know how a cell phone works to text my friend. I don't care how an object weighing tons can stay in the air, just get me from one place to another safely so that I can hug my loved ones. The vacuum cleaner sucks up dirt, my watch ticks, the tv brings me the shows I like. Don't bore me with the details of how that happens.

My spiritual life is like that as well. I don't know how prayer works, I just know that it does. A positive energy is released. Of that I am sure. I don't expect God to reveal his inner workings to me, I just trust that the end result will be for the good. My job is to plug into my community, myself, and to Him. I let Him figure out the rest. That is, after all, the definition of faith. What the senses are unable to comprehend, the heart does. And God's will be done.

Psalm 50:14-15         Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.



Faithfully yours,

Linda

Saturday, January 7, 2012

It's a New Year, A New Day, A New Life



We are all connected and everything we do becomes part of who we are. My behaviors impact my emotions, my physical health, my spiritual well-being. My environment is absorbed into a level of my soul.

My yearly ritual the first week of January is to do a home blessing. I tour my home top to bottom, cleansing, organizing and purging. On my weekly and daily cleanings I generally play upbeat music, but for the annual home blessing I'm in silent contemplation. Once I'm satisfied with my space I light a candle.  As is my home, so am I.

This year it was a particularly meaningful time because of how much I've changed. The move I had been planning to make to North Carolina to be nearer my parents didn't go as planned. Now I know I'll live in this home until I retire. I'm content with that and so are my folks.


I have been delivered from the quicksand of anger that I referenced in an earlier post. Indeed, my psyche is in the best place it's ever been.

My ex-husband remarried in October. As a result I was able to spend time with both of my sons. Healing has occurred among the principle players in various combinations. Around the time of the wedding I started reading a book that a dear friend gave me called Rain on Me: Devotions of Hope & Encouragement for Difficult Times by Holley Gerth. A scripture verse that I took into my heart was "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness." Jeremiah 31:3

Do my actions align with someone who has been drawn with loving-kindness? Self-righteousness and compassion cannot co-exist. The battle is waged within me. I know which will win, but the struggle continues. I decided I needed to create the behavior before my heart could change.  Fake it till you make it.

Every night I go through my prayer list which always includes family and friends, as well as prayers of intercession. I added my ex's name and his new wife to the list. At first I said their names grudgingly, like the kid who doesn't want to clean his room but does it anyway mumbling under his breath the entire time. But I kept at it. Every single night. And throughout the day. When I see something that reminds me of my marriage I ask for God's blessing on a new marriage that doesn't include me. I've experienced the peace that passes understanding.

I'm bolder now than I've ever been. My environment is reflecting that change. I've dyed my hair red, which my friends have said is the "real" me. My kitchen has gone from off white to a striking mustard/burgundy. I'm comfortable saying Yes and No with great clarity and no guilt.

My home is ready for the new year. So am I.

Faithfully yours,

Linda

Sunday, May 1, 2011

How to Worship

Anything we do which pleases God is a form of worship.

For me, this means each act I perform should be a way of praising Him.

The question is, how do I reconcile what I actually do with what I feel I should be doing?

For the answer I turn to  2 Corinthians 9:7

Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (New American Standard Bible)

Most of even my closest friends don't realize that I become very anxious in groups. It's a dichotomy because by appearance I'm very outgoing. And it's true that I do love people, but only in small doses. In crowds I become claustrophobic. I disdain noise. I avoid large events. Unfortunately, this form of anxiety even extends to attending most worship services. 
 
I don't suffer panic attacks, but there are other physical symptoms associated with the anxiety. I've learned to compensate and am extremely content living my quiet life.
 
I work well and have many friends. I simply tend to avoid groups. I give God everything I am and do,  and He continues to bless me, even increasing my circle of influence in many ways. Perhaps someday He'll choose to lift my anxiety as He has lifted so many other burdens from me. As for now, every small act I attempt to give to Him.
 
How do I worship today? 

  • I praise God for the home He's given me by cheerfully doing the housework.
  • I praise Him for the beautiful, healthy children He gave me by working on a charity quilt that will be auctioned off for the Kate's Cupboard ministry.
  • I thank Him for the friends He's given me by sending the moms I know a special reminder of how we are building cathedrals in His name.
  • I pray by name for those who have asked me to intercede on their behalf, and for others who do not know I'm praying.


Faithfully,

Linda








Friday, October 15, 2010

The Quicksand of Anger

I was on top of everything and moving on. The divorce was finalized at the end of August. The property settlement was less than half of the temporary settlement amount.  But other decisions were in my favor.  It's the nature of an adversarial situation that even when the parties aren't bad people, the game is played. I want to receive more, he wants to pay less. This is one of the many reasons why divorce sucks.

My anger and sense of betrayal is a spiral, just as is my sense of blessing, grace and gratitude. Early on, the sense of betrayal and abandonment were my primary emotions. That's what grief is. And the death of my 30 year marriage was worth mourning.

The grief process is so painful, but through the pain there is growth. I've spoken about some of those revelations here.

Yet with each new surprise comes the wellspring of hurt yet again. The quicksand of anger attacks me by immediately grabbing my ankles, slowly pulling me down, down, down into the pit. The more I struggle and fight the feelings, the more quickly I sink. Thrashing my arms and legs creates an agonizing, imminent death.

Our emotions deserve to be acknowledged and expressed. A wonderful therapist taught me that we can train ourselves to express our emotions without becoming them. I am angry. I have anger. But I am not Anger Personified.

Two months after moving out, when I was still under the impression that this was a trial separation, my husband became involved with someone else. It became serious. It's what he went looking for. Seek and ye shall find.

I found out through an innocent, lovely mutual young friend on Facebook several months later. It was devastating to both myself and our son; here was a chance to be honest and forthright, to let me know that there was no hope of a reconciliation. Instead we were the last to know.

We (my then husband and I) managed to work through the divorce process and just last week we were able to label ourselves "friendly exes."

The reason the spousal support was reduced so dramatically is that he showed documentation in court of his expenses compared to his income, including his rent.  Therefore, the judge reduced the spousal support.

Today I came home to find mail from my bank acknowledging my new change of address. Excuse me? I'm living in the starter home we bought almost 30 years ago. The one that my husband named DisRepairadise. The one that he insisted we re-mortage just 7 years before it would have been paid off. So I called the number included on the bank's letter. I was informed that this was actually my ex-husband's new address. They apologized for the mix up.

The upshot is that he's now living in a house owned by his new significant other (although not yet married). It's worth about twice the marital property that I live in, which he refused to maintain while here. I painted the walls, I held the drill, I hung the pictures. He mowed the lawn 4 months out of the year and complained about it. Now I owe him almost $30K for his share of our property. So, the result of the divorce is that he's actually doing much better financially and living in a much nicer domicile/neighborhood. Meanwhile, I'm working two jobs, approximately 15-16 hours per day, 12 days on and 2 off, just to pay my bills.

I feel angry. My suspicious nature is telling me that this was the plan all along, in order to make sure that the spousal support was as little as possible. His rent payment doesn't exist anymore.

Not only do I feel betrayed yet again, but the quicksand has me screaming for the name of my younger son as it pulls me down. I want my boy to throw me a lifeline, hand me a branch to pull me out. Instead, despite my warnings, he nears the danger himself. I fear he'll go down with me. The relationship between him and his dad has been tenuous for many months. This is a major step backwards.

I must become calm and deal with the NOW. How can I save myself and thereby save my son's relationship with his dad? I can't. It's that simple. The only one who can save me is the One who faced his own pit, his own sense of anger, hurt, disappointment, and a betrayal that took him to the cross.

I will forgive my ex-husband. I understand that what happened is the nature of the process. I will remain joyful and peaceful as I continue to forge my new life. It's God's grace and my commitment to living a life of Christian love that will allow me to do so. I'm not there right now. The sand is still pulling me in, weighing down the cuffs of my pants, my shoes, filling my pockets. But I'm calm. I'm not fighting against the emotions. I'm observant of all that's around me. God will let my eye land on a vine to grab, or discover that the rock of ages is directly under my feet, or bring forth an angel to lift me. I'll sing His praises for releasing me from this sorrow.

I may not be his, and he may not be mine. Maybe we stopped belonging to one another a long time ago. But I am HIS, and that is enough.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Beware the Dream Squashers

How many times have you mentioned a dream, goal or flight of fancy to someone only to have them immediately squash it for you? Probably too many times to count. If it's someone we trust or a person in authority we immediately agree with them and feel foolish for ever voicing our aspirations.

Most Dream Squashers don't realize what they're doing. They are often family members who believe they know what is best for us. They feel it's their duty to point out all the pitfalls of a plan in order to protect us.

Some Dream Squashers say they're "just being the devil's advocate." Listen up! The devil has plenty of advocates and he doesn't need your help.

Many of our dreams are just that. They are musings about "I wonder what would happen if I......" Once in a great while we can create the action steps to bring those ideas to fruition. As we think through logistics, sometimes we realize that particular goal is not really right for us. The Dream Squashers don't want to give you that chance.

Dream Squashers rarely tell us what they like about us. They don't focus on what you can do, or the wonderful person you are. They see barriers everywhere and are all too happy to point them out to you.

RUN FROM THESE PEOPLE! 

I realize that the running may have to be metaphorical because some of the biggest Dream Squashers live in your own house. Do whatever you can not to allow their negativity to hold back your imagination.

Instead, cultivate relationships with the Dream Enhancers. These are the people who encourage, listen and enlighten. They point out to you the marvelous qualities you have that you can't see for yourself.

To help you recognize Dream Enhancers from Dream Squashers, take a look at the language below.


Dream Squashers Vocabulary:

  • You haven't really thought this through.
  • You'll just give up on this like you've given up on everything else.
  • That will never work because....
  • What makes you think you could be a success?
  • Ha! I'll believe it when I see it.
  • Let me tell you all the problems with this plan.
  • A lot of people have tried and failed. You probably will, too.
  • You'll lose everything.
  • Your personality isn't the right fit.
  • You don't have enough education.
  • I just hate to see you get hurt.
  • Let me stop you right there.
  • You're going about this the wrong way.
  • I wish I could support you, but...


Dream Enhancers Vocabulary:
  • What can I do to help you?
  • You can do anything you set your mind to do!
  • I'm happy to be your sounding board.
  • Look at everything you bring to the table!
  • I love how you did A, B and C...I know you can do this, too.
  • If anyone can make a success of this, you can.
  • I'm so excited that you're thinking of possibilities!
  • We'll knock down the barriers together.
  • I'll pray that the right action steps will be revealed.
  • Here's some information about how others have tackled the same dream and won!
  • I'll stand with you and lift you when things get tough.
  • I'm with you!

Notice that the Dream Enhancers tend to talk in exclamation points. They believe in you! They know you can do it! Go for it! 

The biggest step is to become your own Dream Enhancer. Banish the internal voice of the Dream Squasher. God made us in His own image to create, to imagine, to pursue. It's who we are as human beings. So DREAM, and DREAM BIG!!

Faithfully yours,
Linda

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Plastic Surgery

I've become a plastic surgeon.


I haven't used my credit cards for several months, except for the Shell gas card when I was traveling. Since committing to Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace method I'm forcing myself to become more disciplined.

Even though I haven't been using the cards they were still in my purse, my drawer, my wallet, my mind. Today I cut them up and put them in this bowl as an offering; a promise to myself that I will walk the path toward financial security and solvency no matter how difficult it may be along the way. They're now in the trash can.

The first baby step of Dave Ramsey's plan is one I have still been unable to achieve because of the divorce proceedings and spousal support issues. But I'm close! Dave wants each of us to have $1,000 in an accessible emergency fund. I'm halfway there.

I'm also up to date on all of my bills. That feels so good! I was never so far behind to have to worry about bill collectors calling me. In fact, the furthest behind I got was 90 days and even then I was making payments, just less than the minimum. I spoke to a customer service rep and explained my situation, bringing my account current. In exchange, they are not going to put the late dates on my credit report.

This is hard for me. As I've listened to the Financial Peace tapes lent to me by my friend Cathy, who is now a graduate of Financial Peace University, I realize that I'm a free spirit when it comes to money. I'm a nerd in other areas of my life, but on money issues I just couldn't wrap my head around it. Amazingly, part of my professional life was making sure my department's financial resources were actualized to their full advantage. I was our family's money manager. We were solvent even when earning little because we've never had a luxury lifestyle. The credit cards have come up as an issue in the past occasionally, but I must admit that I put quite a bit on them after my husband left me. On some subconscious level did I feel I was getting back at him? Was I thinking of anything beyond "I want that?" Was I trying to make up for the sense of loneliness, loss and failure I experienced? Was I simply uncomfortable letting him know about home maintenance needs, or vet bills, or our son's medical bills since he'd chosen to distance himself? During counseling I discovered that it was all of the above, plus a lot of other things, all resulting in my pulling out the plastic to "fix" whatever was bothering me at the time.

My husband and I were one of those couples who could never have an intelligent conversation about money. We had such different views, each certain that he/she was right. In retrospect we balanced each other in many ways, but I sure wish that we had taken a finance course early in our marriage that would have helped us communicate effectively.  

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender. - Proverbs 22:7


I will not be a slave to the credit card companies any more. I will not be a slave to my own pity parties with the falsity that "I deserve" this or that. If I can't afford it, I don't deserve it. What I do deserve is the contentment of knowing that I'm becoming the very best financial steward possible.

Faithfully yours,
Linda

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Heartache Has Healed Me


 
 I feel a bit like Humpty Dumpty, sitting on a wall, falling down, creating a mess and no one can put me together again.

That was how I felt when my husband told me he wanted a divorce. Although I had faith that God would help me get through the sorrow, I had no vision for what my future could possibly look like. I was fearful that my loving heart was forever wounded. My primary goal for a long time was simply to protect myself from being hurt again.

I did all the things that people do in my situation: sob, deny, become angry, read every self-help book on the market, wear out my friends, become totally self-absorbed, worry about my children and whether or not they'd blame me, feel guilty, go through every hypothetical scenario imaginable by revisiting a 30-year marital history ("If only I had said this in 1989, maybe he wouldn't have left in 2009.")

Slowly, my attitude began to shift. I would not ever want to go through this process again and I don't wish it on anyone. That said, I'm seeing a change in me for the better.

When your heart breaks, it opens up. Just like Humpty Dumpty with that yolk running all over the place, there is no longer a shell surrounding me. I'm more vulnerable and defenseless than I've ever been. And that's a good thing.

I find wisdom everywhere. In the Bible, naturally, there are passages that have a particular impact on me now that were merely words before.

Just this morning I read this passage from Romans 8:38-39 - - -

I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Our Father has lifted me through family, friends and media in ways that I could never imagine. To be sure, I'm still in the midst of it. The divorce process is unbearably long, and yet I will be able to bear it.

The paradox is this: Vulnerability strengthens us.  Only by admitting my weaknesses, faults, and injuries can I use them to grow into the life I am meant to have.

In The Age of Miracles by Marianne Williamson, the following prayer is offered for those of us dealing with the pain of a break-up.

Dear God,
Please melt
the walls in front of my heart.
Remove my fear
and restore my joy,
that I might love again.
Amen

I'm more open now than I've ever been in my life. The walls (or shell) in front of my heart haven't been melted; they've been crushed entirely. I simply have nothing left to hide.

Faithfully yours
Linda