In Opposition? : Humility and Boldness

1 Peter 5:6-7 (HCSB)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.

Hebrews 4:16

Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.

 

Just prior to everything that’s currently happening and telecommuting began, I was sitting at my work desk and caught sight of the two Bible passages above written in faded ink and taped to one of my monitors. They are two of my favorite and most encouraging passages in the Scriptures, and it suddenly struck me that they seem to encourage what appear to be opposite traits – humility and boldness. I sat staring at them and thinking, “Can you be both humble and bold?”

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines humility as “freedom from pride or arrogance; the quality or state of being humble.” Further, it explains that “both [humility] and humble have their origin in the Latin word humilis, meaning “low.”” Suggested synonyms include meekness, lowliness, and down-to-earthness. I particularly like that last one. None of this is popular in today’s culture – the “let me step over your still warm body so I can succeed where you failed” culture.

Then I looked up the definition of boldness, and it was defined as “fearless before danger” and “showing or requiring a fearless daring spirit.” Some of the synonyms are confident, intrepid, adventurous, and gutsy. Intrepid was appealing to me as it is defined as “characterized by resolute fearlessness, fortitude, and endurance.” This is a prized character trait in today’s “you only live once” or “do what makes you happy” culture.

How do we make the two fit together and still uphold the teaching to put others before self? How do we practice humility before God and yet approach Him boldly?

The last couple of years, I’ve been trying to remind myself of the true power of God. I’ve been trying to stop boxing God in to my narrow-minded view of the world. I’ve been knocking the walls down to see just what God can do instead of keeping God in a small, tight space. This requires humility on my part – the acknowledgement that God can do things that I can’t even begin to imagine – the acknowledgement that I am just one tiny piece in the workings of this life – and that’s okay. All I can do right now is take care of the space where I am, but it’s something in God’s plan even if it’s not what I had expected.

In the midst of writing this blog, I was listening to an older sermon from Crosspoint Church in Nashville. Pastor Kevin Queen did a sermon in 2019 on “Sacrificial Living,” and I was thankful for the God-wink.

He said some things that got me to thinking:

“To deny yourself is to die to self every single day…to die to what we want…to die to our selfish agenda…to love God and serve others. […]

If you want to follow Jesus, you have to attend about a thousand funerals a day, and they’re all funerals for what you want. […]

…we find that the blessing and the benefit of the life of following Jesus comes when we make the sacrifices, and it’s counterintuitive to the way of this world. But it’s the way of the kingdom. […]

Romans 12:3 (HCSB)

For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.

Romans 12:16 (HCSB)

Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

Christlikeness begins and ends in humility.”

How does this leave any room for boldness?

I’ve been muddling this concept over in my head for a few weeks almost afraid to complete the blog, but then I picked up my pen (yes, the old-fashioned pen and paper) and started to write again.

Even as I wrote about humility, I had to ask myself why a humble person can’t be bold, fearless, daring, intrepid, resolute, courageous, confident, or enduring? Why can’t a humble person exercise fortitude? The answer came to me that there’s no reason why a humble person can’t be those things. I went to BibleGateway.com and searched for references on boldness and confidence, and there are no shortage of them in the Bible just as there are no shortage of references to humility and meekness.

Here is what I realized. Humility is about keeping our perspective on God in proper alignment. God comes first, and all our actions should stem from that. Consequently, we can move forward with boldness, confidence, fearlessness, resolution, courage, endurance, and fortitude. It is all about how we frame God in the process. He always needs to be at the center of our humility, or we won’t be truly practicing Christlike behavior. The same applies to our boldness. If we move forward in boldness or confidence without maintaining God as our center, we’re doing it for our own selfish reasons. In other words, we’re just living like everyone else.

So what does humble boldness look like? It looks like Ruth believing in her new faith and God as she went boldly to ask Boaz to protect her and her mother-in-law. It looks like Esther humbly accepting that she may be executed for boldly asking the king to save her people. It looks like Daniel humbly and boldly praying to God and entering (and exiting) the lions’ den. It looks like Rosa Parks, tired from a long humble day at work, boldly deciding she wasn’t going to give way in the face of racism. It looks like the boss of a small business who cares about his/her employees in a pandemic and boldly decides to keep paying them even when he/she doesn’t know from where the money will come.

Humble boldness is keeping your eye on the right ball even when several are being thrown in the air at once. It’s knowing when to say yes and when to say no, when to accept and when to walk away, when to stop and when to keep going. Keeping my faith in God at the center of my being points my compass in the right direction. Sometimes it takes a while for me to get where I’m going, but I always get there in the proper time.

Let the Light Shine

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”
~Harry Dixon Loes 

Last year, my pastor started a project – named “Project Light”– at our small country church to encourage us to bring things every month that could be donated somewhere in need. Each month we were encouraged to bring a different item, and those items included everything from shampoo and soap to socks and reading glasses. I still remember the look of surprise on the face of the cashier at a store when I rolled up with a full shopping cart of items that April. I was three months behind, and I wanted to make up for lost time.

I’m not telling this to pat myself on the back. It’s just that it was exciting for me to be able to afford to buy a cart full of things for someone else. You see, I had just started a new full-time job after having been a part-time worker for two years. While I had definitely learned how to live on a shoestring budget, I had been unable to buy much for other people over those two years. I went through that store grabbing all the things that we had chosen for the first few months of the year. I was excited about this project because, while I was still working up to having time to volunteer, I could at least help provide supplies where they were needed.

I wanted to inspire myself for the project so I grabbed a journal that a friend had given me two years prior for Christmas. This was one of those journals with a quote printed on the cover and individual Bible verses pre-printed at the bottom of each page. I opened it to the first page to begin recording Bible verses on light, and I was surprised to find that the verse printed at the bottom of the first page was Proverbs 4:18 (KJV): “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” I was pleasantly surprised, and I went ahead with my original plan to record inspiring verses on light. I turned the page and kept writing and then looked down at the bottom of the second page, and lo and behold, there was another pre-printed verse on light! Isaiah 60:1 (KJV): “Arise, shine; for they light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.”

By this time, I was beginning to feel the occurrence of a “God-wink.” I don’t really believe in coincidences, but I do believe in the term coined by SQuire Rushnell called “God-winks.” In my definition, these are positive moments of God-influenced events that are like puzzle pieces falling into place. (As a side note, I recommend reading Rushnell’s books where he describes some of these moments in more detail. The one that inspired me was When God Winks at You.)

Being a person who loves the written word, these events really inspire me when God uses words unexpectedly to minister to my needs. At that moment, I was seeking inspiration for the project at church, and God used a two-year old journal to push it along. That unexpected but delightful moment helped keep my enthusiasm up the whole year for the project, and I was so pleased when our pastor, our youth leader, and our youth traveled to deliver all of our donated items.

The following Sunday, all five of them shared their perspective on the mission. Our pastor chose a church in our state that operated a food bank in a small town with a serious drug problem. The community had declined with the local industry, and the church had seen the negative effects as well. They were (and are) in the process of learning the “new normal” for their congregation that no longer consists of the cream of the town’s residents. Instead, they are finding that God has sent them an entirely different congregation to minister to by way of a hot meal and the food bank. Our small mission group each came back with a different observation.

Our pastor shared how she had doubted the whole day before the trip as to whether she had chosen the right church to help. She felt that she had prayed and chosen the right place, but she said, when they arrived at the nice church that was so much larger than our own, that she began to doubt that she had understood God correctly. However, once the true circumstances began to emerge, she knew that they were exactly where they needed to be. The nice building was a relic of the previous (wealthier) members that no longer attended. The now wealthier church across the street used the now empty parking spaces for their own overflow parking. (I couldn’t help but think what a pity it was that the churches couldn’t cross denominational lines to operate a food bank together.) Our little church hadn’t gathered a huge amount of stuff, but it was enough to help expand the food bank for that day. Apparently, the reading glasses were a huge hit because they had never been offered as an item before. I sat there thinking about the prescription glasses I wear every day and how much I pay for them and prescription sunglasses to wear while outdoors. The people entering the food bank were excited about inexpensive reading glasses, and it humbled me in that moment to realize how blessed I was and how a simple pair of reading glasses could be an inexpressible blessing to someone else.

All three of our youth reflected on how the people who entered the food bank were so appreciative to them. They were hugged and thanked as they oversaw the distribution of items. They were humbled themselves by the joy that simple things like shampoo, toilet paper, and canned food items could bring to people in such desperate need. In their own ways, all three of them said that the trip made them realize just how blessed their own lives were.

Our youth leader shared two stories in particular that have stayed with me. First, she told of a woman working the kitchen who had lost part of her leg which meant she used a wheelchair. In our youth leader’s words, this woman worked circles around everyone, and most beautifully, she knew the names of every person who entered the church for a hot meal that day. Second, (and this story squeezed my heart) she told of a tall, slender teenage boy who came in to eat. They were serving hot dogs, chili, chips, shredded cheese and other toppings, dessert, and drinks. This young man came through the line once and got one of everything including an entire bowl of shredded cheese. After a little while, he came back and asked if he could have a second serving, and he proceeded to eat the exact same meal all over again. Then he came back for a third round, but this time he decided to skip the chips. Working on a college campus, I often look out at the students, and I wonder how often some of them go without food just so they can pay for school. Her story about this young man suddenly made me so grateful for the life my parents worked so hard to provide. I never missed a meal as a teenager or college student unless I just forgot to eat. I was humbled again.

My two takeaways from this were the following: 1) None of the things were given to the people with a dose of religion to pound them over the head. There were no tracts or Bibles forced upon anyone. The hot meal and all the items from the food bank were simply delivered with love which, from my own perspective, is the greatest sermon one can give. 2) I know from personal experience how easy it is to become jaded when giving to other people only to find that they squandered what was given – be that money, goods, or even well-meant advice. However, we don’t give our time, money, or goods to see the end result the way we believe it should be. We give because it’s what we are called to do for others. What is done with it on the other end is often out of our control, but the intent is what we can control.

I can control whether I let my light shine brightly or dimly even if I can’t control how others receive or use that light. This day-mission trip for our youth inspired them and our church, and it reminded me one more time that even the smallest things can have the longest lasting influence.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Here are some more of the verses that I used to inspire myself to be a light — especially on those days that I don’t feel like shining at all — and in parentheses are the pre-printed verses from my journal because some of them seemed to go hand-in-hand with the verses that I wrote in the journal. I prefer to use Bible Gateway to look up verses but whatever you prefer to use is awesome.

Isaiah 60:1-3 (Proverbs 4:18)
Matthew 5: 14-16 (Isaiah 60:1)
John 8:12
II Corinthians 4:6
Isaiah 42:6 (Proverbs 18:10)
Philippians 2:14-15
Psalm 27:1
Psalm 43:3
Psalm 97:11 (Matthew 5:8)
Psalm 112:4
Ecclesiastes 11:7 (I Peter 3:12)
Micah 7:8
Luke 8:16
Luke 11:33-36 (Psalm 128:1-2)
Acts 13:47
Romans 13:12
Ephesians 5:8
I Thessalonians 5:5 (Psalm 145:9)
I Peter 2:9 (Philippians 1:6)

My personal favorite is Psalm 119:105 (KJV): “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

 

What I’m reading right now: Winter by Marissa Meyer, The Power of Kindness (10th Anniversary edition) by Piero Ferrucci, Simon Peter by Adam Hamilton, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: Expanded Edition by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Listening to right now: The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer (I love listening to Richard Armitage narrate basically ANYTHING!), Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Books of the Bible I’m currently reading/studying: Isaiah and I Samuel

Filter On, Filter Off

Whoever shows contempt for his neighbor lacks sense, but a man with understanding keeps silent. ~ Proverbs 11:12 (HCSB)

I have learned as I get older — I am nearing forty — that my built-in filter is not as strong as it used to be. Previously, I measured every single word by what kind of impression it would make, but I was beginning to feel so oppressed that I let my filter slip. Is it an “age thing”? Do we feel like it’s okay to say our “honest opinion” more as we get older? Is it a “moral thing”? Was I more conscious of other people’s feelings when I was younger? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that it’s not always a good thing when my filter fails. I don’t want to be afraid to express my opinion in a civil and kind manner, but I don’t want to be so blunt that I’m cruel. Verbal cruelty has always been a sensitive spot for me so I don’t want to do the same thing to someone else.

In a continuance of my Back Again post, I’m not going to delete my last blog post because I’m trying to learn from my mistakes. Erasing them doesn’t teach me anything so I’m leaving it right where it is. I’m leaving it because it’s my honest opinion, but I’m also leaving it because I want it to remind me that I was judgmental and spiteful.

Here is what I learned as proof that I’m never too old to learn:

  1. Just because it’s my honest opinion does not mean that I need to express it.
  2. It’s possible to express an honest opinion without being so openly critical.
  3. I should take care when expressing an honest opinion to strike the balance between honesty and kindness.
  4. Erasing my mistakes just puts them out of sight and out of mind, and I learn nothing from that.

I also don’t like that my last blog sounded self-righteous – as if I was the only person capable of keeping the peace where I work. How arrogant on my part! The reality is that every single person in that department is a part of the “working waltz” every day, and I am so grateful to all of them even when they irritate me. I hope they feel the same way about me even when I irritate them!

I want to be certain that my filter is always working even if I don’t always need to use it. A friend of mine once said that I was just coming into my own when my filter didn’t seem to be working, and I appreciated the observation. However, I don’t ever want to hurt someone by failing to use my filter when I need to use it. I want to have an open dialogue with anyone around me, and I want everyone to feel comfortable talking to me. It’s my responsibility to use that filter properly. Filter on, filter off – just so long as it’s on or off at the right times.

 

By the way, I appreciate the observations from this blog post by Victoria at Snail Pace Transformations. That’s where I found the verse that I used.

What I’m reading right now: Goliath Must Fall by Louie Giglio, The Daniel Plan by Rick Warren and Dr. Daniel Amen, The Power of Kindness (10th Anniversary edition) by Piero Ferrucci

Listening to right now: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Books of the Bible I’m currently reading/studying: II Chronicles and I Samuel

Working Waltz

If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. ~Romans 12:18 (HCSB)

In a week, I will have been at my new job for exactly one year…which technically means it’s not new anymore…but that’s not the point of this post. Ha!

We all have those people at work that we have to “dance” around because of personality and character differences. I have worked in a handful of public libraries and dealt with many personalities of customers and staff, but I now work in an academic library. We are largely separated from the public in our department so I’m usually just around my coworkers. A couple of them are definitely characters all of their own making, but one in particular tries my dancing shoes until they’re nearly worn out at the end of each week.

She thrives on negativity and drama, and she will pull anyone else down to feel better about herself. This can be infuriating, but I also understand that she lives with a chronic medical condition and comes from a very insecure background. I make certain allowances because I know deep down she is often in pain and lacks decent self-esteem. The saying is true that “hurt people” hurt people, but I also know that another saying is true, “Just because you’re in pain, doesn’t mean you have to be a pain.” She definitely tests my practice of Matthew 18:21-22.

One of her other characteristics is that she treats the job only as a paycheck. Now I completely agree that this can be a healthy mental approach to a job. It can often mean that you don’t take emotions home with you that pertain to work situations. However, her approach is that she will do as little as possible to earn her paycheck, and she will NOT do her job any better than she feels like doing it (i.e. She’s lazy.). Consequently, other people can’t do their jobs if she isn’t doing her job right. This particular quality affects me because I was trained to take over her old job. I have learned many things in a trial by fire because her training with me was skewed by how lazy she can be.

Recently, her laziness has begun to cause even more problems for three other employees and our supervisor in the department, and bless her heart, she seems clueless to why everyone stays mad at her. One of my other coworkers has worked with this lady for almost twenty years and has finally hit her limit of accepting mistakes. (I’m amazed it took twenty years!) They have now been completely silent with each other for two weeks, and I have to “do-si-do” back and forth between their offices to keep the peace. I have to be certain not to visit with one too long without visiting the other, or I find myself on the receiving end of the silent treatment. I often find myself in my office working while listening to sermons online so I don’t have to talk to either of them.

It is all part of the “working waltz” – the moves that keep the board balanced on a point so that it doesn’t tip too far one way or the other. Some people aren’t as sensitive to imbalance in the emotions around them, but I am so sensitive that it can ruin my day when things are off balance. Sometimes I just have to be away from the people who are quite out of balance emotionally themselves. As of right now, I just keep dancing because I care about my coworkers regardless of whether I agree with them or am irritated with them. Sadly, it is largely just this one coworker that ever throws things off balance.

I’m personally working on not being so affected by other people’s emotional swings, and I know I can’t control whether someone else is emotionally unpredictable. I also can’t control my coworker’s work quality, but I can control the quality of my work. I’ll keep on doing my job to the best of my ability because I don’t want to have a negative affect on others. I will take care of the things that I can and hope to be a good example for my coworker. It’s just proof that even at my age I’m always in progress, and I’m constantly practicing my figurative dancing skills.

 

What I’m reading right now: Cress by Marissa Meyer, Goliath Must Fall by Louie Giglio, The Daniel Plan by Rick Warren and Dr. Daniel Amen

Listening to right now: At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

Book of the Bible I’m currently studying: I Chronicles (yes, all the begats – but there are some interesting nuggets of info in there as well)

Bringing Me Down

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” ~ Mason Cooley

Have you ever been reading a good book, but you recognize that it’s just bringing you down? I’ve been on a young adult fiction kick lately, but I can’t help but notice how depressing the content has been. Don’t get me wrong! The story lines are interesting, and the writing is good. I have every intention of recommending the same books to other readers, but I will issue the recommendation with a caution, “This series is great, but read it with a box of tissues or a cute puppy or kitten nearby because it will destroy you emotionally.”

I kept adding different young adult titles to my reading list, and I finally decided it was time to give them a chance…even if they do bring me down while I’m reading them. At present, I’m reading a standalone novel, and I’m working my way through two different series. They all have their own merits, but I highly recommend the tissues…and a puppy.

(Only a couple of days later…) The standalone novel is Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. In a nutshell, this is a fascinating retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin legend, and I do actually highly recommend it. This story manages to weave together the stories of five different families in a complex fairy tale. Initially, I wasn’t certain I wanted to even finish the book because it seemed so dark, but as the pieces fell into place, I was intrigued by the struggles involving love, hate, good, evil, pride, abandonment, racism, and so much more. This book wound up being such an exploration of issues that we are examining today! I would recommend this for older teens and adults.

The first series that I have been diving into is the Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard. I definitely recommend keeping the tissues and puppy/kitten around when reading the Red Queen series. To sum it up, the world is divided between Silver-blooded rulers with special powers and Red-blooded servants who are constantly being sent to fight Silver wars. Unexpectedly, a Red is discovered with even more powerful skills than a Silver, and the world changes as they know it when it turns out that there are even more Reds with powers. I’m halfway through the series, and I feel like I have to complete it now because it has my attention. I won’t lie though that I sometimes read a while on it, and then I put it down and read something uplifting. I’m hoping it becomes a little more positive by the end, but at this point, it wouldn’t surprise me if it didn’t. Again this book made me contemplate serious moral questions such as, “When, if ever, should a few be killed to save the many?” and “What role does propaganda play in setting the course of national events?” I would recommend this series for older teens and adults with the understanding that there is a lot of death and destruction and some mild language.

The second series is the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. This series is set in a technologically advanced future after the world has suffered from a round of plague deaths. There is a population of people living on the Moon (Lunars) who are capable of visually deceiving people. The Lunar queen believes that the only heir is dead, but there are rumors saying otherwise. Meanwhile, there’s a unique cyborg teenage girl repairing droids and other electronics on Earth, and she’s just been asked to attend a ball. Unfortunately, her stepmother would rather she didn’t. Each book in this series is loosely based on a fairy tale character. The first is based on Cinderella, the second is based on Red Riding Hood, and the third is based on Rapunzel. These books have a serious bent, but they have some lighter material as well. I’ve just begun the third book in this series, and I’m looking forward to finishing the series. I recommend this series to teens and adults, and I compliment the author on the ability to tell a complex and fascinating young adult story without using any curse words. I was beginning to think that authors weren’t capable of writing fiction without those totally unnecessary ‘sentence enhancers.’ (That’s a Spongebob reference! I couldn’t resist!)

It feels good to write about my experiences, but it feels just as good to write about the awesome writing abilities of other people. I hope one of these books appeals to you, and even if it doesn’t, just give it a try to get outside your typical comfort zone.

 

What I’m reading right now: Cress by Marissa Meyer and Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Listening to right now: Divergent series by Veronica Roth

Books of the Bible I’m currently studying or reading: Titus, Revelation, I Chronicles

 

Back Again…

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” ~ C.S. Lewis

I won’t make any excuses for where I’ve been all this time. I’ll just say that I didn’t follow through on what I started, but now I’m determined to keep up a regular post. The process will be cleansing for my soul, and I hope some of my situations will inspire someone else.

On that note, I thought about going back and re-reading my old posts, but instead I’m going to let my thoughts be what they were. No point in wasting time lamenting what I felt or wrote in the past. It’s probably how I felt, and I feel no need to hide it from anyone or myself.

Anyway, I am currently sitting at the computer doing the exciting job of cleaning out old emails while watching my Nashville Predators play. LET’S GO PREDATORS! (clap clap clap-clap-clap) As I sit here reading and deleting and reading and deleting and reading and deleting and did I mention that I’m reading and deleting? It occurs to me that technology has not eliminated my clutter. No, technology has only changed the form in which I have clutter. Instead of physical clutter, I now have digital clutter, and it’s all over the place.

  1. Email – This really goes without explanation. You give an email address for EVERYTHING, and you get an email from EVERYTHING.
  2. Pinterest – I LOVE Pinterest. I love finding things that make me laugh, recipes to try, crafts I want to do, and so on and so on, but sometimes I find myself drowning in pins and wishing I had time to do it all.
  3. Facebook (and any other form of social media) – Someone’s always posting an update that they want everyone to see, and I’m learning not to feel compelled to ready all of them.
  4. Texting – Most of the time, this is a handy development of technology, but sometimes I have pointless, time-wasting conversations with friends.
  5. Game apps – I am guilty of spending way too much time on my favorite hidden object game (Hidden City Hidden Object Adventure). It is fun, but what else could I be doing instead of playing it?

All I’m saying is that reading and deleting emails is encouraging me to simplify things. I don’t have a fail-proof plan for this. No step-by-step procedures to accomplish my ultimate goal. I just know that I don’t want to keep missing out on what’s happening right in front of me – ya know, this thing called LIFE?! I would rather be living in the now than living in the digital ether. Maybe that’s my goal for this year: more real life and less non-human interaction. Maybe that’s what ‘back again’ means.

What I’m reading right now: Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard and Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Listening to right now: Divergent series by Veronica Roth

Books of the Bible I’m currently studying or reading: 2 Timothy, Revelation, Zechariah

Welcome to My Headspace

 

“It’s going to be one of those days. The voices in my head are fighting, my imaginary friend is running with scissors, and at one point, one of my personalities wandered of.” ~Meme found on Pinterest

 I’m having one of those days. Actually, I have one of those days quite frequently. They aren’t days that turn out well. They are days that make me feel like a fraction of the person that I am. They are days that just make me want to quit on life. They are days where I just want to curl up on my bed at home and not go out to meet the world. They are days where I want to pretend the world and a lot of people just don’t exist. It’s one of those days for various reasons.

I’m having one of those days where I feel completely invisible, and I don’t want to be invisible today. Somedays I don’t mind being invisible, but today I want to be seen. However I’m not the kind of person who likes to make a spectacle of herself so I don’t know how to fix it.

I’m having one of those days where I’m feeling completely alone, but I don’t want to be alone today. I have never mastered the skill that some women possess of harvesting attention from men, but today is one of those days where I could stand to be noticed by one. Instead I’m one of those women that is never picked, and while I understand some of the reasons why (and I’m working on those things), I don’t understand how I’ve gotten this far in life without attracting some man that wanted to stick around long enough to get to know me better.

I’m having one of those days where my life feels completely on hold. Everyone else’s life is moving at a wonderful pace, but mine seems to be sitting still. So many of my friends are married, have children, work dream jobs/careers, and do amazing things, and I’m just sitting here trying to figure out is this as good as my life is going to get? Should I go back to school? Should I change jobs? Am I missing some fundamental thing that other people comprehend that makes their lives better?

I’m having one of those days where I’m ready to look at my boss and say, “Forget this! I’m done!” The job isn’t fulfilling, and I’m wondering just what I’m doing here sometimes. Is this all I’m qualified to do, or am I not giving myself credit for what I already do and what I know I can do?

I’m having one of those days where I’m afraid of everything. I’m afraid of moving forward, but I’m afraid of going back. I’m afraid of being alone, but I’m afraid of loving someone. I’m afraid of being invisible, but I’m afraid of being seen. I’m afraid of change, but I’m afraid of staying the same.

 

“I don’t feel like I should have days.” ~Grace (played by Minnie Driver) speaking to her heart doctor after her successful heart replacement surgery, Return to Me 

But I’m also having one of those days where I’m tired of all the voices in my headspace. I’m tired of the negativity. What if what is wrong with my life is that I’m not thinking positively enough? I’m tired of my own lack of movement and development. What if I need to decide which direction to move so I can head that way? I’m tired of thinking my job is a dead end. What if it’s an open door, but I’m looking at it from the wrong angle?

What if all I need to do is take a leap of faith? It wouldn’t be the first time that God has asked me to do that. I’ve done it before, but what makes me so fearful this time is that I know all the things that can go wrong. I can reason myself to within an inch of my life, and then I take all the joy out of everything around me. I can take a beautiful sunny day and turn it to something like a black hole in my head where it just begins to suck everything wonderful in until joy doesn’t exist anymore in my headspace.

I had the privilege of hearing my younger cousin speak on fear and anxiety in church Sunday morning. She read from Matthew 6:25-34, which talks about all the things we shouldn’t worry about because we don’t have control of them anyways. That’s the scary thing to so many people. They want to believe that they have control of everything…but we don’t. We control very little in this world…if anything.

So today, I’m cleaning out my headspace. I’m pulling out the broom, the mop, the dust rags, the Pine Sol, the window cleaner, the squeegee, the sponge, the air freshener, the vacuum, and anything else I need to clean house. My headspace is going to look, smell, and feel better because it is one area that I can control right now. I can control what I think, what I feel, where I focus, what I see, what I do, and who I love. I might not be able to control timing, but I can control what I do while I wait.

So to boost me up today, I’m thinking of what my cousin read and adding some verses of my own:

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28)

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

I Am Lost. I Have Gone to Find Myself.

“I am lost. I have gone to find myself. If I should return before I get back, please ask me to wait.”

~ Author Unknown

I would love to say that life has been too busy, and while it has been busy, it hasn’t been that busy. I would love to say that I’ve had writer’s block and not one word would make it from my brain to my fingertips. That would also be untrue. I would really love to say that I’ve been out of the country on some really mysterious adventure that involved intrigue, romance, amazing food, and exotic locales, but anyone who knows me would find that excuse completely laughable. No, I can use none of those excuses as to why there has been no blog post since the fall of 2016, but I can honestly tell you why.

Two words: Writer’s fear. Yep, that’s right. I’ve not been suffering writer’s block so much as writer’s fear. I’ve been terrified for the last few months to put fingertips to keyboard to write another blog post out of sheer terror. Instead I used the holidays, cooking, family visits, and the like as an excuse NOT to write. The volume of my writing cowardice concerns me. I’ve been more worried about judgment than I have with my original goal.

My original goal was to write something that helped, entertained, or informed someone else in a positive way. I try to stay away from bashing anyone because I feel that only creates a pattern that someone else will reciprocate. I believe in holding on to my beliefs while letting other people hold on to their beliefs. I cannot change what someone else thinks, and I would never attempt to force someone to see things my way. However, I have a very strong opinion that no one has the right to change my beliefs either.

On that note, the current political and social climate in our country frightens me, and I’ve had great trouble putting a positive spin on things in my own mind. I’m not taking up for one side or the other as my beliefs tend to be somewhere down the middle of both main parties, but I do believe in freedom for anyone to think or say what they believe whether I agree with them or not. Nonetheless, I find myself living in fear from the repercussions of BOTH sides of the spectrum. Will I be too liberal for some and too conservative for others?

Probably.

The last several months I have attempted to hear people out on both sides of the political spectrum, and while I cannot agree with everyone, I have slowly come to understand why some people pull one way and some people pull the other way. The one thing that concerns me is that I no longer feel that I live in a country where I can say what I believe. I feel like I can only think what I believe, or someone will be rushing to court to sue me over the fact that I don’t see things his/her way. When did it become okay to sue someone because they don’t believe what you believe? Please don’t misunderstand and think that I am approving prejudice. Never!

All I know is this. There are a lot of people who feel that they are right about what they believe, and they will be damned before they let anyone disagree with them. The problem with this attitude is that you can’t force people to believe what you want them to believe. Remember the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”? This is a completely valid point in a lot of situations. Now I’m not saying to stop protesting or expressing your First Amendment rights because that’s exactly what I’ve been doing out of fear for the last few months. What I’m saying is that you must let others do the same. The moment we encroach upon the rights of someone else we open the door to the same treatment for ourselves. What I have witnessed in our country lately is a lot of angry individuals (on both sides) set on making other people see things their way. Intolerance is not what I’ve always felt our country represented, and it’s a dangerous path for us to find ourselves on now.

The reason that I write this now is because that fear has kept me from writing over the last few months. I know that the online world makes it easy to anonymously (and cowardly) attack another person. I could be fearful or apathetic and choose not to write, but I don’t want to cower down anymore and give in to the fear of hate and its evil. We’ve seen that happen too many times in history when good people didn’t speak up for the rights of the weak, the abused, the abandoned, and the defenseless. I have often avoided serious and heavy topics in the past because I wanted to bring something lighter to the table, but we can’t avoid the serious and the heavy in our daily lives if we’re living at all. Therefore, I won’t avoid the topics which I feel like I need to write about, and I’ll let the chips fall where they may while hoping the good people respond in kind and knowing the cowards will probably rise to the anonymous occasion to attack. At least I have warned myself.

No longer feeling lost…and ready to WRITE ON!

Humiliations Galore!

Despite the fact that they were spoken by Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride under entirely different circumstances, those two words sum up my career journey this year. Between no call backs for interviews and starting three new (part-time) jobs this year, I’m now a full-fledged newbie (an oxymoron, I believe) at the age of 36, and I have never felt dumber. I recently began working two short shifts at an apparently hotly contested campus where I am housed in the corner of a computer lab that, according to some higher up, cannot be referred to as a library. Therefore, everyone who comes in believes that I am an IT person which I am most definitely not…especially according to my name tag that clearly reads “Library.” Nonetheless, I have schooled dozens of students in the art of logging in and locating printers on the network.

Just two weeks into the semester, I not only nearly lost my marbles, but I almost pulled them out and threw them at someone…specifically a professor. The situation was a printing problem, and I applied my limited repertoire of skills unsuccessfully to the issue. I then proceeded to inform the professor that this was an IT question instead of a library question so it was outside my skill set. He proceeded to tell his entire class…that had followed him into the library to stand around and wait…that he had asked the expert, but he still couldn’t print. I was slightly taken aback by this pronouncement so much so that I retreated to my desk and failed to call the IT person for help. First of all, the name tag clearly states “Library” NOT “IT/Technology.” Second this was only the second time in my life that a professor had been condescending toward me. I was a teenager the first time and somewhat incapable of defending myself. This time felt like a slap, and I had to rope in the righteous anger.

So instead of saying, “I’m sorry that with your graduate degree you don’t know how to print or treat someone else like a human being,” I just decided to return to my corner where I promptly hated everyone for the next two hours. Then I fled. I will say that it’s a sad state when I’m more excited about going to the doctor than going to work.

At my two other new jobs, the humiliation largely comes from not knowing all the skills just yet, but everyone is kind enough to help when I have questions. Why does there always have to be one person who has to humiliate someone else to make himself feel better? I understand enough about human nature, and I’ve observed enough human character to know this happens. However, it makes the figurative slap no less painful and sharp.

I openly acknowledge that I find the verse Matthew 5:39 difficult to uphold. I tend to be more of an Agent J in Men in Black kind of person, “Don’t start nothing, won’t be nothing.” I don’t like to start a fight, but it is very tempting to finish it even though I’m not supposed to finish that kind of fight. I had no control over the fact that this professor waited until after class to print something while bringing his entire class in tow. I am NOT an IT person responsible for fixing computer issues. I also cannot control how another person behaves. What I CAN control is how I react to a situation.

That day I was insecure because of how I was treated. The next day I was angry. A few days after that I finally let it go because I began to see an advantage to humility/humbleness. Humility just lets that stuff go, but I’m finding that I currently have to work through the stages to get to humility. I don’t know if I’ll ever reach the level of going straight to humility, but I’m working on it.

“If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.” ~Mother Teresa

First, Do No Harm: Driving

wrecked-pt-cruiser-01
My wrecked PT Cruiser after I hydroplaned and was hit by an 18-wheeler who couldn’t avoid me.

For just a few months, I had almost forgotten one of the reasons I quit my old job: the daily commute. Then I decided to take a drive back to my old stomping grounds to see friends, and everything came back to me halfway there. I was passing an 18-wheeler when a brand new pickup truck came roaring up behind me, and suddenly I realized that I hadn’t forgotten anything. I had chosen to block it out of my mind entirely for the preservation of my sanity.

Now some of you are probably wondering a few things. How fast was the 18-wheeler going? Slower than the speed limit. How fast was I driving? The speed limit. How fast was the pickup going? Faster than the speed limit.

I understand that many people would have an issue with me ONLY driving the speed limit of 70 mph, but I don’t drive to suit other people. Seventeen years of commuting, a family of truck drivers, and one hydroplaning accident on the interstate that totaled my PT cruiser (see photo above) without killing or severely injuring myself or anyone else have all taught me a few things.

1)      Speed is no small matter.

2)      Dangerous speed kills – and sometimes not just the person speeding.

3)      Rain and speed…well, see #2.

4)      Ice and speed…also see #2.

5)      In my interstate driving experience, drivers of regular vehicles are far more dangerous and unpredictable than truck drivers. Just sayin’.

6)      Motorcycles are very, very, very easy to lose in your blind spot. Consequently, motorcycles are very, very, very hard to see.

7)      Road rage is real. For some drivers, everything is war.

8)      Construction zones are serious matters. Even the guys just seemingly standing around don’t want to go home in a body bag thanks to me.

9)      Deer (and other animals, such as birds, squirrels, snakes, raccoons, groundhogs, etc.) do not observe human laws of the road. Therefore, they don’t care how my car looks after I tangle with them, and they don’t care if I run into a tree trying not to hit them.

All of that being said, I have learned to abide by one rule: First, do no harm. In other words, I try to go out of my way to be an unselfish driver. Am I always successful? No, I am not, but I’m successful more often than not. I get tired of seeing other people be selfish drivers. More importantly, I try to remember one thing: I don’t want to be the reason that someone else’s family member never comes home.

So here are some tips (with a little sarcasm thrown in for good measure) gleaned from my experiences to ensure that we all get home alive every day (and without committing murder on the way there):

  • If you need to slow down, slow down. Let that person in the passing lane in front of you finish passing someone by applying a little bit of your own brake. There is no reason to terrify another driver by running up on them like a maniac. If you are too distracted to realize this is happening, you probably shouldn’t be driving. Pull over and let someone else drive you to your destination.
  • If you can get over to make it easier on someone else, do it. Let that person onto the interstate. No one “owns” the road, and there is no excuse for being so selfish that you can’t get over if your path is clear. If you are too distracted, well…refer to my instructions above.
  • Put down the #%*&$ phone…paper…burger…whatever. I know how difficult it can be to let things go, but do it so you don’t have to explain how you killed somebody because of a text message or dripping cheeseburger. (Or do it so God doesn’t have to shake his head at the stupidity of the way in which you got yourself killed or, worse, killed someone else).
  • Pick your battles. Remember when I said that road rage was real? I have seen it in action, and it is terrifying because it is completely out of your control (and obviously in the hands of someone with a screw loose). Just let the idiot go. DON’T challenge him or her.

I know how exhausting it can be to deal with people on the road. Everyone has his or her own method of driving, and some of them clearly make up their own laws as they go. I can’t fix those people, but I can abide by the rule: First, do no harm. Because I want every person who comes near me on the road to get home safely and because to paraphrase Louella in the Mitford* books, “I’d rather not meet Jesus going head on with a Mack truck.”

 

*Mitford series by Jan Karon – Positively delightful series!!!