A loving God and a year of misery.

I am a person of faith. More specifically, I am a Christian. Think less Jim Bakker and more tree-hugging liberal, but I digress. With this bent of a belief system, I like many people from different types of belief systems, including atheist and agnostics. I get it. Faith of any kind takes a huge leap of…well…faith. Trust is in short supply in our current society and to trust something that you can’t touch, taste, see, or hear seems absolutely foolish to some people. I can relate because I was one of them.
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From “non believers” I am often asked, “how do you know?” and “how has it affected your life?” To answer the first question, I don’t know. No one does. It appears that the world has become so wildly uncertain that we have an epidemic of know-it-all(ism). Pretending to have it all figured out brings people comfort. Albeit temporary and false but it provides some immediate relief. Truth be told, I personally know preachers and lifelong believers who have doubts. It seems impossible for a thinking person not to. If someone tells you that they KNOW for sure, they are delusional or lying. It’s one thing to have die hard convictions but fully another matter to be 100% certain. I don’t think the human condition will allow it.

Now for the second question, “how has it affected your life?” I can explain it simply by telling you about the year that I’ve had. In August I was part of 100’s of 1000’s of people whose homes were flooded during a record rainfall. Our basement was submerged in 3 feet of water and sewage. We lost about 90% of the contents which included all of our baby & wedding photos, some musical instruments, washer, dryer, furnace, hot water heater, etc. There is far too much to name. It rocked our world. We couldn’t live in our home for three days and had to pay well over $10,000 simply to make it livable. Anything that the water touched had to be thrown away. We couldn’t afford to rebuild it back to the way it had been, but we were simply happy to have made it through all the financial hardship.

Fast forward to a month and a half later. It was a lazy Sunday evening. I’d spent the day mostly relaxing and felt pretty darn good. Without warning I sat up from the couch and my heart essentially went into atrial fibrillation. An ambulance ride and a hospital stay later, I was told that I had a heart problem and I needed to change several aspects of my life. Needless to say, it was one heck of a year!

So how is this reassurance of a God? Why wouldn’t my all powerful God come and save me from all of this? Honestly, it’s a tough and fair questions but I do know that even from a biblical point of view it is promised that life will not be easy. However, what is so different now, more than any other point in my life, is that all of this mess didn’t make me bitter, it made me empathetic. I would like to take credit for this and tell you that I am an empathetic person by nature but it’s simply not true.
In the past, if even a minor indiscretion happened in my life, I would have been bitter and angry.

I would have used it as an excuse to behave however I felt but there is a transformation that takes place in your heart and mind when you start to try to understand the heart of Jesus.

Yep, I dropped the J bomb.

But even if you don’t believe that he is the son of God, he was a pretty cool dude with an amazing belief system. Knowing the heart of a person like Jesus does something to your soul. I am proof. With each passing hardship I became more empathetic. I kept waiting for bitterness or resentment to creep in but it simply didn’t. I am human and have most certainly had moments of anger or confusion but the overall take away, daily, is that I have so much more empathy for people who have suffered through these things and the like. I actually faithfully pray when I see an ambulance transporting someone and take the time to thoughtfully listen when someone is telling me about their hardships.
That was the long answer to the question. The short answer? I try to sincerely not live by dogmatic rules and pull out convenient scripture to suit my life. By really trying to emulate the heart of Jesus, it changes who I am as a human being for the better. I can’t recall a single other thing that has done that for me.

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Why can’t we be friends?

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Is your friendship based on reality or history?

We all envy those stories of lifelong friendships. “So-and-So” has been friends with “So-and-So” for twenty-plus years. Collectively, we celebrate these achievements knowing firsthand that friendships can be hard. I know this feeling all too well.

A few years ago I lost what I thought was a very close friend. We had weaved in and out of each others lives since high school. It is certainly a fair argument to say that we have a limited friendship pool as children and gravitate to whomever lives in the same neighborhood out of necessity, especially pre-internet days, much like mine. However, make no mistake, it wasn’t simply a matter of convenience, but we were steeped in common interests. We grew up in the same small town, both were musicians who talked about nothing but music, and shared many other interests.

As life pressed on , and our lives took us into very different directions, we managed to not only stay in contact with one another but stay involved in each others lives. She stood up in my wedding, as I did hers. We spent many late nights sharing our ambitions and vision for our lives. This trend stayed on a steady clip well into our 30’s. However, life can get messy and ours did. We both experienced intense personal turmoil; one a divorce, the other struggling with chronic depression. Happily I report that we both made it through our difficulties with our lives intact but changed forever. We no longer related to one another in the same way but we were still great friends. Or were we? One day, we had a minor argument and without warning she just up and left my life.

Not only did this sting, it hurt! Her life took a sudden shift and there was no place left for me in it. I lived in the grief of this revelation for a few months, mourning the friendship. One day, while I was pondering it all and wondering what the heck happened, it dawned on me, we had nothing in common anymore. For the last several years we had a relationship of merely history. I was blown away by this reality because historical friends are so comfortable. They are effortless, easy, and in most cases, easy to misconstrued. Not only was this no longer a fit for either of us but I realized I hadn’t enjoyed the friendship for quite some time. She could no longer be a good friend to me. We were simply too different. This didn’t make her bad, wrong, or evil. It simply was what it was. There was nothing left there. Think about how hard it is to keep a marriage together when two people are (hopefully) constantly growing and it is our job to keep coming back together. It’s no wonder we don’t always have the wherewithal to weather that through friendships as well, at times. Coming to this reconciliation of my mind and heart made the transition of letting go that much easier. I was no longer hurt. Relief would probably be a better description.

Was this situation salvageable? Possibly but probably not. Is it goodbye forever? Maybe , but maybe not. Life and maturity have taught me to remain open to any possibility. However, it is a lesson learned. It is important to look around you to see exactly how fruitful your connections are with the ones you lend your valuable time to. If they are not what you need them to be, ask yourself “why?”. Maybe you are holding on to some friends simply out of convenience or history. Ending a relationship is never easy and it may not even be necessary to cut all ties but it is important to live in reality. It helps to manage expectation and cut out any of the false illusions of friendship because you yourself and the people you care for deserve better.

Mother’s Day

A day late and a dollar short but here are my thoughts on Mother’s Day.

While Mother’s Day is a lovely day for many, it is dreaded by some. Greeting card companies, businesses, and the media all make it into a colossal deal. It’s the one day a year that mom gets to be doted on. In kind, local businesses are hopping. Farmers markets are packed with smiling faces, restaurants are bustling with families dressed in bright, spring colors, and just about any other place that mom likes to be is a hot spot. The only way you can avoid the dogmatic suggestions of how to spend Mother’s Day is to avoid going outside, watching television, going on the internet, or interacting with other humans. On second thought, maybe staying in bed might do the trick. So why do some people have the blues on Mother’s Day?

Mother’s Day, in one way or another, affects everybody because we all have mothers, but for some, it will bring to mind deep hurt.

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The parent/child dynamic can be complicated, thus bringing up a wide array of hurts. If mom is dying, or is deceased, it can bring about aches of missing, longing, and loss.

Adopted children who have never known their birth mother might have a difficult time celebrating even if they have an amazing relationship with their adopted mother. For some, it can be a reminder of how rocky the beginning of their life was, bringing up feelings of abandonment.

However, the one segment of the population that is usually left out of the Mother’s Day blues equation are ones who have a strained relationship with their mother due to mental illness, moreover, their mother’s mental illness. Depression is affecting an ever growing number of the senior population and unfortunately many of them subscribe to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to their depression. As many of us know, this is a recipe for difficult relationships, and sadly, even more serious problems.

For many, they would rather not get into it because it brings about an emotion that we all hate, pity. Random people have pity for you, for your family, and what feels like, for your very existence. It’s an awful look to get, unmistakable, and is tough to shake off. We can all relate to the pity face, whether we are the recipient, or the perpetrator. This pity stems from a fairly common shared belief in much of the world; the belief that we should have a fantastic relationship with our mother, and if we don’t, then we are bad people. I’m kidding about that last line but you get the idea. Also, a helpful tip is that empathy is far better received than pity.

How can we help with the blues on this day?

If you are the person asking what someone is doing for Mother’s Day, and they give you the, “I don’t know” answer, don’t press. If you are close, and at a later time you would like to ask about it, please do, but don’t expect a dissertation on it days before Mother’s Day. It is painful, for many, to talk about.

If you are the person being asked and you have an tenuous relationship with your mother, it is perfectly OK to have the conversation with some folks. Its important to talk about our emotions but its equally important to talk about them with only a trusted audience. This is not only a painful subject but its also partially the story of someone else, your mother. It’s important to respect and honor privacy by not telling too much of their story by way of yours.

So how do you process these emotions the day of? One option is to hide in your house, feeling sorry for yourself, but another is to share the day with another woman who needs it.

With even a minimal amount of searching, you can find other people who are hurting over that day as well, and would love to be taken out. Women who have children who live far away, ones who have lost their child, or even grandmothers whose children will be spending the day with their children are likely to be very receptive to a fun day out. It is especially important for people with fractured families to form chosen families. After all, family, regardless of their origins, is the most important of all.