Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Perplexed, but not driven to despair..."

Humble Pie: You don't have to eat the whole thing. You just have to taste it.

* * * * *

I really liked this poem when I was 11 or 12. I still think it's pretty inspiring of who I want to be -- a tough, strong, loving servant of everyone I meet.

From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.

From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
(Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified)
From all that dims Thy Calvary
O Lamb of God, deliver me.

Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire;
Let me not sink to be a clod;
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.

-Amy Wilson Carmichael

* * * * *

'But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power of God may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.' 2 Corinthians 4:7-10

Friday, November 13, 2009

While We're On The Subject Of Stories

My story has been kicking me in the pants all week.
"But these stories don't mean anything when you've got no one to tell them to..."

O the gravity of everyday life. This is where heroes are born. Unfortunately, it's also where villains are born. Too often I am the villain in my stories. At best, I am a cowardly lion sidekick hero with a tragic flaw. That's My Story.

Sometimes I cry because I miss my family. My nephew is so grown, and I have missed too much. Sometimes I don't even know why I am still away from them. Sometimes I just want to smell the Atlantic Ocean and drive on teeny nonsensical narrow roads at ridiculously low speeds and sit on Federal-sized Hills and take pictures of precious old buildings. More on that later...

Lastnight as I was putting one foot in front of another to get to my night class, I acknowledged inwardly that sneaking question: Does this small sorrow draw the attention of an eternal God? My sniffles are so small and insignificant in this big world, but they are big as all get-out in my brain. Try as I might, I haven't been able to skirt around them this week. Does He notice? Does He care? Does He wish I would get over it and care about other things more? (Also, does God know that everything is Bigger in Texas?) I can think of lots of things I wish I cared about more. God, do you accept good intentions?


I have made so many mistakes and so many poorly (or barely) reasoned decisions. As a whole, however, I have made it work. Or rather, God has made it work, and let me fall on trampolines and safety nets and hammocks all over the town. He's protected me from many the potential catastrophe. Most of the time I am really thankful for the way things work. Yesterday, and every so often, someone sneaks into my soul with a baseball bat of Regrets and just starts beating. Ouch. Hurts so much I can taste it.

Why can't Current Me go back and sit with Past Me and tell Me what I'm really going to want to swing at in life? Also, Future Me, can you give Current Me some pointers on how strike this darn Regret Batter completely OUT? I'm ready for the next inning.

I pondered all this inbetween learning about Z discs and A bands and all these other bizarre skeletal muscle terms that don't seem at all relevant to anything. On the way home I just prayed, honest monologue to God, on a leap of faith that He cared what was on my mind. I spilled my regrets, and told Him that I had no idea how to get rid of them, and I didn't know if He really wanted to listen to my petty, immature hangups that I should've left behind. And I asked Him: am I supposed to go back and change some of the decisions I've made? Am I just supposed to accept what I've done and move forward? What do I do? Did I screw up the plan? (I'm sure you all have fabulous advice at this part.)

Strangest thing happened to end the evening. I got home from class, almost 10 pm. My roommate was packing her bags for a special trip so I went to say hi to her. I see her most days, and I've been in her room countless times. Lastnight there was a brand new small rectangle of paper about the size of a business card on her desk. In green handwriting, bright and bold, were written these words:

"No Regrets!"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

This Business of Life

If I can I'd like to express to you something I love about my job. It's very un-American, a little mind-boggling, and possibly the hardest part, but also the best.

No matter what we are doing, if a person walks in, we must give them our attention immediately, 100%. The reason is that the customer is the most important, whether that be a resident or a prospective resident.

It's not that they don't give us many other things that they want us to be doing, because that is far from the case. We have many tasks online, offline, paperwork and then some. Whatever it is, we are to take bite-sized pieces to our desks at one time to finish, and whomever may walk through the door, we give him our full attention at the expense of every thing else.

This is so TRUE. Human connection makes the world go round. Relationships are the core of business, education, humor, and just life. We must respect our relationships and give them our best.

When we are weary and stressed, this is the hardest thing to do.

When I am overwhelmed at the thought of the paperwork piling up in my bin, or the deadlines encroaching, or the sheer exhausting multitude of intense conversations I've already had for one day, giving myself to one more person seems humanly impossible. And then I do so, and in the doing I'm revived because I glimpse the gems inside the person sitting across the desk from me. I get to hear their story, see a snapshot of their journey, and it reflects the meaning in mine. This excites me, and I can keep on -- if I let it be that way.

When I am empty, what have I left to give you but a vacant stare? I need to let you pour into me what is on your mind, that it might revive mine.

There is a kind of soul-touching that must occur in order for us to stay alive. It's the reason I write.

I am sorry to say that the only place I consistently put human connection first is at work, because I'm required to for business practices. Sometimes the best business practices spill over into the best practices for life. Eh?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bloomin'...Even if it's Just Onions for the Moment

Just finished watching the brilliant Hugh Laurie as Dr. House for a couple of hours. It was a rerun, which I have seen part of before. He's in the psych ward, and of course he doesn't want to be there and doesn't think he should have to stay. Problem is, the Dr. in charge thinks Dr. House needs to get better from the ailments he chooses to ignore, and won't sign the dotted line to let House go back to practicing medicine unless he stays in the ward for treatment. House of course fights this by conniving one twisted plan after another to be surprisingly unbearable, hoping that if he persists in resisting long enough, they'll give up and give in to what he wants. His game is a bargaining game. It's a game of trade-offs and denials. He's pretty terrible - I think I would've given up on him and sent him packing with all the unforgivable stunts he pulled in two hours (between commercial breaks).

The breakthrough moment comes when he stops trying to get out. Things aren't perfectly fixed, but once he figures out that he needs help and takes the action that proves he knows where help comes from, he gets to go home. He goes home when he's not even asking for it. House still has a long way to go, but he's stopped with the dragging of the feet. Once he quits tugging on the leash, he gets to walk with out it.

Boy did I see myself in that fictional television character tonight. I am very rebellious to being tied down. I want to march to the beat of my own impulsive drum. I want to go across the country. I want to do this job or that. I want to go to school for this or for that. I want to fill every waking hour with tasks large and trivial that fill every moment, and then I want to quit it all. Nobody makes me do anything - I do what I want! It looks pretty good sometimes, but all in all I think it feels pretty chaotic from the inside.

I want to embrace the ordinary. It's within a compilation of ordinary moments that the extraordinary happens, and I want to be there to witness it. Extraordinary is always tied to commitment -- days of plodding on and on along the same path with sweat dripping and bloody blisters and maybe some tears or squabbles about whether or not we're following the right directions on the map. Can also mean getting bored and wanting to quit and go back the other way. Might include ignoring nagging doubts that the reward at the end isn't going to make the painstaking climb all worth the while. Embracing the ordinary is acceptance and enjoyment of where we are. Making the most of every opportunity. Even appreciating cliche but true sayings such as, 'Bloom where you're planted.'

I want to give up my silly notions of the extraordinary or remarkable lifestyle that I think I somehow deserve and it must be waiting around the corner if I just angst hard enough. I want to lay it down on the altar and receive the peace of accepting the pleasant places where the lines are drawn for me. But is it really genuine? Because there's always that persistent hope that if I learn to love my leash ... maybe someday I'll be allowed to run without it.

"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."