Sunday, April 29, 2018

Confessions of a control freak

My job title is manager. It’s what I do. I manage things. I problem solve. I figure it out. And at work I’m really, really good at it. Basically I’m a self proclaimed control freak. Except I’m one that is learning control, especially outside of the work realm, is often an illusion. Or a form of manipulation.

Recently my alanon sponsor told me “figure it out” is not a step. The thing is, I’m stubborn. Inside I’m like a todddler stomping its feet, angry, screaming “no, ME do it!” Even though doing it all my way results in failure more often than not.

The sad part is that this often affects my spiritual life too. Hey Mr Jesus Dude, thanks for dying on the cross so we can have eternal life. Couldn’t do that myself. But this, this issue, this problem, this concern, this person, you can back off, I got it. Then on occasion as my juggling act threatens to come tumbling down I may be like, hey, I need a quick hand for a sec. Whooo, thanks, that was a close one. Got the plates all back spinning and balanced again.  Stored your number under favs. Will shout if I need you later. Chill, see ya around.

Ok, so I know that sounds trite and disrespectful. But if that is my actions, then that’s about how stupid and silly it really is. And sad. And dishonoring. And downright foolish.

Today’s sermon was thought provoking. Not in a that’s a great sermon, elequent, bravo, cute little golf clap way. But in a way that requires action. Now that action could be to ignore it, but let’s get real, ignoring is still an action. It was about the Holy Spirit. Not in one of those creepy fall over the pew sort of ways. But in a way that reminds us that we NEED him in our life. That he is our source of power and strength. We may get pretty far along just white knuckling it. But it won’t go the distance. And it’s sure not an enjoyable way to live. So went forward after the sermon for prayer. But this isn’t something that someone else can pray and ask for you. It has to be personal. And like was said in the sermon, it has to be requested.

I’ve felt all week like I was at some sort of crossroads. Where I have to decide my will or Yours. My control or His. The choice is mine. Completely and totally. No pressure, no forcing. Just this nudging. This knowledge that my way isn’t cutting it. And that to succeed I have to be willing to let go of control. All control, not just the parts I “felt” were out of control.  No matter how counter intuitive that sounds or feels. It also means fully trusting Him. From someone who has a hard time with trust. So this afternoon I went to the cross. Literally. We have a cross at a Catholic Church a block from our house. I got on my knees, I let go of my control, I poured out my hurts, my frustrations, my failures. I asked for His Spirit to guide me. To help me trust  completely and wholly in His Sovereignty. To lead, and for strength to continue to let him guide. Because I know that stubborn self is just waiting to start kicking and screaming for what it wants. I know it will be a daily surrender. A daily choice to hand over my will and my desires. But my way wasn’t working, no matter how much I tried to believe it was enough. Didn’t matter if my way included being good, nice, helping others, leading, quiet time, church involvement, community service, etc.

No rushing winds came by, no claps of thunder, no flames of fire. No overly emotional breakdowns. Does that means nothing happened? Nope, for me I think God wants me to act on trust, not feelings. Feelings come and go, emotions come and go. So to have that as a sign that I have the Spirit of God in me could cause me to later think I don’t anymore, if my feelings later changed. What did happen is I felt at peace, a calm. A knowing that I don’t have it all together. I don’t have full control. I don’t have it all figured out. And I’ll probably have moments of panic where I want to try to jump in and wrestle with control. I’ll have times where my self wins and tries to rule. But I also have a promise. A promise that He will never leave me, abandon me. A promise that He will always be with me, even if it’s in the midst of a storm. A promise that the same God who created the world created me. And loves me. Flaws and all.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Follow the Bubbles!

As we all know, the written portion of learning can be a lot different from the actual hands on section.  This is especially true in learning to SCUBA dive.  It's one thing to intellectually know what to do in case you run out of air, its something totally different when you are under water and your air flow ceases and you have to fight panic and do what you learned in the classroom.

Another example in SCUBA training is learning to follow the bubbles.  They taught that sometimes you can get disorientated and not know up from down, and in that case to watch the direction that your bubbles go.  The bubbles ALWAYS go up toward the surface, so use them to orientate yourself.  Sitting at the desk I was like, really?? I mean come on, how do you not know if you are upside down or not?! But guess what, when practicing buoyancy and flipping and turning, you really can lose your sense of direction, not just horizontally, but vertically.  Every one of your senses can be screaming at you that you are headed up to the surface yet the bubbles are going down.  But are the bubbles really going down?  Nope, they are going up and it is you that is upside down.  It is a bizarre feeling when this happens, but it does happen. 

In our everyday lives people can warn of us getting disorientated and losing our place and what seems to be up is down, and down is up.  We think we know something as basic as this, and brush off the warnings.  But we all must have a constant standard, that no matter what our surroundings seem like or our senses and mind might be telling us, is the unwavering truth.  Our bubbles.  Stop the kicking, the panic, the thrashing and swimming against the flow.  Stop. Take a minute to just be still. And look for those indicators that will always point the way up, to our life source of air, without fail, no matter the circumstances. 

Not sure what your bubbles are?  God's Word can be one indicator, another could be friends, accountability people or counselors that help guide.  When I SCUBA dive most of the time I am in a group that is led by a dive master.  He (or she) will often swim up alongside of you and ask to check the level of your air and other computer settings.  In times of panic they will hold your arm, steadying you, help you get your breathing steady.  And the dive masters are there to give assurance as you follow them.  Ultimately, they also follow the bubbles.  But sometimes its a comfort to have a dive partner (having a partner is actually a requirement when diving) or dive master assuring you that you are on the right track.

So chill, and follow your bubbles.  They will always lead you up, to the surface and life giving air.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Greener Grass - Real or Fake?

The grass IS greener on the other side of the fence!  But it might just be fake....

Last week while I was out on a property that I manage I was watching our landscape company paint the grass.  Yes, you heard me, they were painting the grass green. 

You see, it is winter here and the grass is dormant, but this community is at the beach and is a higher end resort community.  Many of us who live in the area call it a "bubble."  Our job is to make everything as perfect as possible, even the grass.  The snowbirds don't flock down here just to see more brown grass.  And while winter rye is an option, due to the boardwalks/walkways we didn't want those seeds sprouting up in between walkways.  So painting is the most viable option in this case until it's time for the grass to come out of it's dormant state.

However, this started me thinking on how many other areas in life that instead of dealing with the real issues we cover it up so that externally it looks healthy and green. Yet underneath it is brown, dead or dormant. I've really gotten into word meaning lately so looked up the definition for dormant.

dor·mant  [ˈdôrmənt]

(of an animal) having normal physical functions suspended or slowed down for a period of time; in or as if in a deep sleep:
"dormant butterflies"
"the event evoked memories that she would rather had lain dormant"
synonyms: asleep · sleeping · resting · inactive · passive · inert · latent · quiescent
antonyms: awake · active
  • (of a plant or bud) alive but not actively growing.

So to have a dormant area in our life means we have an area that is still alive, but it is inactive, not actively growing and/or suspended from it's normal functions.  To revive these kinds of areas takes work, time and effort.  Sometimes it takes an external boost, like fertilizer or extra nutrients, or in practical terms things like counseling or small groups.  * Disclaimer: there are times in our lives where a period of inactivity or rest is needed for future growth.
Covering the grass in green paint is very much like the definition of mask: "a manner or expression that hides one's true character or feelings; a pretense." 
Obviously not everyone that asks us "how are you?" truly cares or wants to hear a real answer.  But it is important that we learn to be real with ourselves first and foremost.  From there we learn to be real with God, with our spouses and with a mentor, sponsor, accountability person or a trusted friend.  And who knows, you may just find out someone else has been there, done that, before you and can turn out to be an asset and source of strength you never expected to find.
"When you show up authentic, you create the space for others to do the same." ~ unknown
"Be careful who you pretend to be, you may forget who you are." ~ unknown

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Word of the Year (2018) - THRIVE!

2018.  This year is starting off somewhat different than other years.  For one thing I didn't write out an unattainable list of resolutions.  Things that I will forget by mid-March, if not sooner.  Instead I created a vision board, divided up in categories such as health, spiritual, family, travel, finance, career, etc. and with photos, quotes and goals on how I want each of those areas to look in my life in this upcoming year. 
I'm also using a planner and combining short journaling, a planner, calendar, goal setting, gratitude list, prayer list, stickers and mini scrapbooking and other items all in one place.

In mid-December I started going to Al-Anon and realized that I spent too much time attempting to fix or manage other people or things that are not my responsibility, while neglecting focusing on my own life and areas I need to work on.  They have great quotes, like "Live and Let Live" and "Let Go and Let God."  The group is also helping me see my codependency issues, control issues and anger and resentments I have toward others when they don't meet my expectations.  I could go on and on about this group, what I'm learning there, and their slogans, but will save that for another day.

The biggest decision so far this year was that I decided to take at least a month to live alone and work through some of my codependent and boundary issues.  A healing time.  To learn to make changes for MY life, and not to try to manipulate someone else to make changes in theirs.  And that if they choose to not ever change, then learn to accept that and be able to move on, freely and without resentments.

All of this culminated in my mind to incorporate the word THRIVE.  Nineteen days in and I realize that having a word is great and all, but that it was time to really explore what that word even means and how I can use it in my life in a practical way.  What does it mean?  What does it not mean?  How can I apply it?

First is the definition.  According to Webster:

Thrive [THrīv]
thrives (third person present) · thrived (past tense) · throve (past tense) · thriving (present participle) · thriven (past participle)
(of a child, animal, or plant) grow or develop well or vigorously:
"the new baby thrived"

While searching for the definition I saw multiple definitions on failure to thrive.  This was a medical diagnosis given to my daughter when she was a year old.  "A child is said to have failure to thrive when they don’t meet recognized standards of growth."  It is a stagnation of growth and if it persists can result in a feeding tube becoming necessary for the child to survive.

So basically thriving isn't just out there having fun and living life to the fullest.  No synonyms include the words party or fun.  Not that we shouldn't live life to the fullest.  I firmly believe we should make the most of the life we are blessed with.  Twice in the past few months I've seen someone whose life was cut short, way to short, unexpected and devastating.
To truly thrive means to grow.  Not just a growth of survival, an absence of death; but a growth that is marked by flourishing and vigor.  As I make decisions this year, they need to be seen through the lens of thriving.  Will this decision, will this choice, will this action encourage a vigorous growth in my life, or will it be detrimental to my physical, spiritual or mental well-being?  What friends, situations and activities will reinforce the principles in my life and help them grow stronger?  What choices will help me keep my boundaries so that other influences don't choke out success, but cause stagnation of growth? What am I willing to do so that I can make the best decisions to flourish and I don't get to the point where I would need an external force ("feeding tube") making decisions for me simply to sustain life? When I see the word thrive throughout this year, those are the questions I will be reminding myself of.
So there you have it, my word of the year for 2018.  THRIVE!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

When a Tiny Project Keeps Growing...and Growing...and Growing!

Currently underway is a huge sealant and painting project at a community that I manage.  One that will last several months long.  One thing I've noticed is that as they complete one section, the sections next to it, that I thought looked fine prior, now look in dire need of a coat of paint. 

The exterior paint job has also highlighted some areas in the interior of the underground parking.  So I decided to have my staff brighten up a few things in there as well.  First thing was to repaint all the blue handicap areas and the blue stripes in the parking lot.  Once this was done it made the white arrows and white stripes look dull.  So then I directed them to paint the white.  After the white was done you could see the sidewalk floor leading to the elevator lobby badly needed a fresh coat of paint.  That job was completed yesterday so then today I noticed that much of the yellow curbing now looks dull, with black marks on along the front sides of the curbs.  What was going to be a quick touch up of the blue has now led to our second week of interior garage painting.

Have you ever done that?  Where you paint one area of your home and then realize everything around it now looks dirty or dingy?  Or maybe you've cleaned out your refrigerator and felt great about it until you opened the freezer and realized it needs it too.

As I was giving my staff direction this morning on the addition of painting the yellow curbing I realized that this is happening in my life right now too.  There was a specific thing I had really wanted to work on regarding personal growth.  In that endeavor I have a mentor that I meet with regularly to bounce things off of and to get a different perspective on some things other than just my own thoughts on a subject.  It also provides accountability.  Much the same as I meet regularly with my staff, so that if they get tired of painting, I can encourage them to keep on and point out areas that they are doing great, but on occasion point out areas for improvement or safety.  To make sure they are using tape to keep straight lines or a reminder to put out wet floor or wet paint signs.  And then sometimes, like today, they thought they were finally done and I added the yellow curbs to the list. 

Today I felt that way personally, like God was speaking to me and adding way more to my personal growth list than I had bargained for. Telling me that I still have blurred lines and to use His Word to make sure my lines stay straight. That made me wonder if maybe I need to hang a "caution, work in progress" sign around my neck!  Just kidding.  But seriously, just as I'm getting one area all spiffed up and a fresh coat of paint, I turn and see another area being highlighted that now appears dirty or dingy.  In one way I'm grateful because if my first impression had just been all the messy areas in my life I might have given up long ago. So in that way I'm grateful that it is a process.  However, it is one that is definitely growing and growing. 

Questions to ask myself:
  • What are some areas in my life that I want to change or are currently working on? 
  • In that process have I seen other areas that weren't even on my radar before now being highlighted? 
  • Does it discourage me that it could become a never ending list? 
  • Or am I encouraged because while I know it is becoming much more in-depth than I had ever imagined, I also know how satisfied it feels when a specific project or area is completed? 
  • Am I willing to continue to make improvements, even if that means I will be constantly improving and learning until my last breath?

Here's a verse that I use to encourage myself:

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.  - Philippians 1:6

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Braces - The Process for a Great Smile

When I was around 30 I decided to get braces.  My top teeth were nice and straight, but the bottom ones were crooked.  I debated getting them as I thought if I've gone this long without braces, then what's the point.  Thankfully someone else I knew had braces as an adult and reminded me that two years of braces, even as an adult, were well worth the next 50+ years of nice straight teeth.  Two years at that moment literally felt "forever" but she was right.  A decade or so later those two years seem to be just a blip and am so grateful I went through with it.

At the consultation I was told that the wisdom teeth would all have to come out.  Two had erupted and two were still in the gum.  They didn't hurt anymore (they did at first) and I couldn't see them, but they still had to be removed.  This involved going to a surgery center, being put out and days of pain and recuperation and complications with dry socket.

Also there I asked if I could just get braces on the bottom ones, the ones that were crooked.  Was told for it to be effective I would have to have braces on EVERY. SINGLE. TOOTH! This was because the crooked teeth relied on the wires and brackets of the other teeth to work together to be in proper alignment.  And to make such drastic changes in direction, there needed to be much reinforcement and a lot of bracing, brackets, metal and ugh, rubberbands.

The straightening process also required monthly check ins with my orthodontist to make sure my teeth were on the right track.  At these appointments adjustments were made and at times more stretching via smaller rubberbands were incorporated. Often times at the end of these appointments the new adjustments would bring the pain back again.

It didn't take long and they straightened up.  So of course I asked if I could have the braces removed now as they were now visibly straight and not the estimated two years they were saying to leave them on. In response to that the orthodontist showed me my x-rays. He showed me how while my teeth outwardly looked straight, the roots to the teeth were still crooked, as being an adult they had had lots of years to establish strong roots in the wrong location.

When I was finally done with this long process and had the brackets and braces removed, was told that I would still have to have a retainer. I ended up choosing a permanent retainer that was cemented to the back of my teeth.  This way if any changes happened, if the teeth retained any of the "memory" and tried to go back to their former positions, they would always be shored up and stay aligned.

What's my point with all of this?  I can see correlations to each step of the process to making changes in our lives.

First off its easy to think, well I've lived my life this way this long, what's the point of changing now?  Don't give up hope. Don't think it is too late.  Until your last breath, it is never to late for change!

I have some family members that have committed to long term (9-12mths) rehab type settings and while that sounds forever, in the grand scheme of things, it will be great and lasting changes for the rest of their lives.  Much like the two years I thought were forever, looking back it was so short and so worthwhile.  There are often things in our life that the process seems to long, but positive changes, whether made in a moment, a day or even over the course of a year or more, are so worth it.

The removal of the molars, even the ones I can't see remind me of hidden things in our lives, maybe no one else has a clue that they are there, but they are hindering growth and change and until we go through the cutting and removal of these obstacles, nothing else we do will be lasting.  Even if we don't think they are hurting us now, and we know the removal will definitely be painful, this is the basis for all the rest.

As far as just having braces on the bottom, all the teeth have to have braces on them to work together to reach the proper alignment.  In life, with major changes you need every aspect shored up.  Let people come along side you and help shore up these changes.  Most changes require other unexpected changes in conjunction to provide the full, lasting change.  Be willing to be stretched. 

Like the monthly orthodontist appointments, if needed, go to professionals, whether that be doctors or counselors, or both.  Be willing to made adjustments.  Even if they feel like they are temporarily increasing the pain more than they are helping.

It's so easy, at least for me, to make temporary changes and then feel like everything is now fine.  Without realizing that possibly neural pathways in the brain have developed grooves and deep seated behaviors have formed even more deeply established roots.  So while the outside may be looking nice and neat, don't let down your guard or your shoring up in this stage, as the root causes still need time to be removed or reset in the proper locations.  Leave the braces on until your roots are strong and aligned with the new position of the external (the teeth in this case).

And finally, when the obstacles have been removed, you have stayed the course for the duration of bracing and stretching, you showed up for each appointment, you followed the advice given and it's time to be free of all the metal and brackets and rubberbands, there is still one last thing.  The permanent retainer.  What guidelines have you established as the truth in your life?  The non-negotiables? This is cementing your retainer in place.  So that no matter what the other teeth, or people, do around you, no matter what outside obstacles come at you, you will stand firm, stay aligned and straight.  Removable retainers allow you, after time, to slowly no longer feel the need for them, and eventually never use it again.  Take the time, money and effort to make your retainer permanent. Don't give yourself the option to let time allow you to progressively use it less and less until you no longer feel the need for it.  I can't say it enough, cement it in place. I've taken all the above steps before; the pain, the time and the effort, and years down the road found myself right back in the same place. This is incredibly frustrating and discouraging.

To recap -
  • remove the deep hidden obstacles
  • shore up and bracket all the support areas to the changes you want to make
  • ask for help
  • use professionals if needed
  • don't rush the process
  • establish permanent boundaries to ensure long lasting changes. 

Then SMILE!!  Use your new smile to bring joy to those around you.  And if someone asks how you got such a beautiful smile, be willing to share with them how they too can make these changes in their life. 

Hearing God - "Am I Enough?"

So God has been speaking to me all day. But not quite what I wanted to hear. No "you are enough" confirmations, no "I'm going to take away your addictions or desires," no free passes of "I'll overlook your excess spending because it's the lesser of the evils," no "it's ok to go searching for guy validation because you feel bad." No direction, no guidance, no easy buttons. Nope, all He keeps saying is "am I enough?" He isn't focused on if I feel I'm enough. Because we are here to glorify HIM. It isn't about me. Is He all I need? Is He who I turn to? Is He being praised despite feelings or circumstances?

And how do you reconcile that? When you know the right answer is "yes, Lord, you are enough." Yet your flesh is still yelling, no, it's not enough. I want my soup (when Esau had no patience and thought he would die of hunger and was willing to give up his birthright for a bowl of soup - story found in Genesis 25:29-34). I want it now. I don't want patience. I can't always see my right as His daughter and at moments my current needs seem the end all.  When you struggle to see the long term consequences because the short term desires are so in your face they are blocking your view. 

So He continues to whisper, all day into the night, "am I enough now? Am I enough if things don't change? Am I enough even when you can't see beyond the minute by minute trusting?" And while I so badly want to whole heartedly say "yes, You are my all, my enough, my everything" all I can get out is "Dear Lord, I want you to be enough, but I can't do it myself.  Please change my heart, my attitude, my desires. Help me not be short sighted. Help me see the path to life. Help me moment by moment choose that path. Give me your peace, and not let me be satisfied with temporary worldly peace." And then trust that He isn't disappointed in my shortcomings. In my brutal honesty. And that as I choose life that more and more I'll stand solid, firm and anchored and know that He truly is enough.