Saturday, May 27, 2017

Hallelujah Anyway...



           "Kindness toward others and radical kindness
         to ourselves buy us a shot at a warm and 
         generous heart, which is the greatest prize of 
         all. Do you want this, or do you want to be 
         right? Well, can I get back to you on that?
                                             -Anne Lamott
                                                                      Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy


I have not been able to hold back the tears. Lately, it seems, my tear ducts have been working overtime and they overflow with hope and sadness and feelings. Just as the Spokane River has been near flood stage for months, as the snow in the mountains starts to thaw, my heart seems unable to hold back a flood of emotions.

Raw emotions.

Emotions laced with hope and fear and joy and pain.

When life gets like this, when I get like this, I always turn to Jesus with the same prayer. A one word prayer, which given that I am an extrovert and never say things in a succinct sort of way, is amazing.

HELP!

That's the prayer. It's quite ironic, really, to say that to God as I know He is more than one step ahead of me. I imagine Him hearing that prayer, looking at my broken heart, and thinking to Himself something along this line...

"Well, good for her. It's about time. I've been waiting for her to stop rushing around long enough to realize that she is a bit of a mess."

Now, just to be clear, I am not all together certain that God would use that kind of language, but I am pretty darn sure that He gets my call for HELP! No matter what tongue or language I say it in.

Now, you see the God I know and Love and serve is
a God that heals broken hearts. He's a God that takes me where I am and helps me move to a better place.
He is a God that never, ever, ever gives up on me, even when I have thrown in the towel and have given up on myself.

Did anything of a huge magnitude happen that broke my heart? Not really.

It was simply one nasty, mean email laced with passive aggression that threw me for a loop. It shocked me. It left me wondering what had I ever done to her that she would throw so much clear bitterness my way.

After reading the email, I did what I almost never do.
I didn't respond right away. Instead, I just let the tears flow and I prayed. I asked God, what would You have me do? And I waited for a reply, a clear direction from Him.

I waited for a whole week and felt vulnerable and sad all week long. Amazingly, I didn't try to bury those feelings. I just sat with them and owned them.
I didn't try to run away from them.

And then one early morning, after my usual prayer time, I picked up Anne Lamott's latest book... 
             
            Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy

Anne and I go way back. Not way back  like old friends go back. Not like Linny Wise and I go back. But Anne and I go back like a reader and an author go back. :)

Anne whose words and vulnerability and authentic spirit gave me hope that I, too, with all of my humanness could  be a Christian. Anne, with her dreadlocks and gut-level honesty, who shared her journey to God and Christ...with side trips to Buddah and the Jewish faith. In her writing she introduced me to the kind of faith, the LOVE is at the center-of-it- all kind of faith.

Anne just spoke authentically to my "I grew up a Catholic and met Jesus face-to-face at a Young Life Camp called Malibu" kind-of-self.

You see I had wondered if being a Christian meant that I needed to know God just like everyone else did.

Was there really only one way to know God, I wondered when I was in 9th grade? Did I have to pray using words like Thou and Thee or could I just let it all spill out...in my own words, knowing He would love me anyway? 

What I have come to know and believe with all my heart after all these years since 9th grade may sound radical to some folks and that is okay with me.

It boils down to this... 

* God loves me, no matter what. 
* He is there for me, always
* Even when I am the biggest mess, God does not leave me or   forsake me.

That was good to know and remember when the mean email hit my mailbox.

I cry easily these days and as I read each word, which may or may not have been written with hurt in mind, well... I just lost it.

I felt like my heart had been torn in pieces. I knew some day that I would be able to better understand what was behind this, or what I had unknowingly done to provoke this. 

Yet on that day when I got the email, I felt like a first grader on Valentine's day with a heart on your desk waiting for your friends in class to leave you a Valentine. Reading them one-by- one, and smiling with the kind messages...

I then opened a mean one.

Words are powerful. Words can hurt, no matter what grade you are in.

I prayed and prayed about what to say. I asked God to give me a humble heart. In my return email I apologized if I had done anything to hurt her. Not my intent. With God's help I restrained from arguing back or saying something like "Are you kidding me? Why in the world would you say something so mean, so accusatory? Why would you even suggest that I was not telling the truth?"

After getting the return email from her, laced with
more passive aggression, even though a less hostile 
kind, I just gave up replying. I realized that perhaps what was going on had little to do with me.

All God really wanted me to do was to offer her kindness, especially in the midst of whatever pain she was feeling. And He wanted me to give her radical kindness, especially since she had not offered that to me.

He wanted me to forgive her, just as He had forgiven me.

I felt like saying..."seriously, you want me to do WHAT?
Offer her kindness? Forgive her?"

It was a small to large miracle that I  set my own hurt aside to show her visibly that I cared for her, no matter what she had said to me. I am still working on the forgiveness part.

I love what Anne Lamott says about not forgiving...
   "Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and waiting  
      for the rat to die."
                       - Anne Lamott- Traveling Mercies


And I am doing just that. Little step after little step.
I did something nice and unexpected for her, and every day I am asking God's help in forgiving her.

It isn't easy, but then doing what God wants me to do, and not what I want, usually is never easy (or at least not easy for me).

And after it was all said and done, I picked up Anne's book again and looked at the words in the title...
                         Hallelujah Anyway

Praise God... anyway. Even when you get mean emails.
Praise God... anyway. Even when you have cancer.
Praise God... anyway. Even when you are at your lowest low or highest high.

Even when it is the hardest hard, ever... Praise Him anyway.

Amen and Amen!
Love, 
Linda




Sunday, May 21, 2017

Resilience....

         
             "Resilience is bouncing back
                   from personal adversity."
                                     Option B- Sheryl Sandberg     

I really don't know where to start. It seems like forever since I have written on this blog. And so, so much has happened.

In the midst of a very busy quarter, and planning for a huge Spring Communication Conference at the college, I realized that I had committed to do a talk at the conference. Granted, I do a talk at every conference, yet this time it was about a topic that wasn't a topic I generally am asked to speak on. Comfortable topics abound. Conflict Management- check. I teach a class on it and love sharing about it. Gender Communication-check. Same scenario.

Yet this time I was asked to speak on Resilience...
a topic I knew very little about from an academic perspective. I was a new learner when it came to the topic of resilience.

Yet God always has a way, doesn't He! He knows what I need to know before I even know I need to know it.

When I was asked to speak on resilience, by a group of college students, amazingly I was smack dab in the middle of reading Sheryl Sandberg's amazing book:

         Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience,
        and Finding Joy.       

I was simultaneously reading another book about The Science of Happiness that had a major section on resilience.

After starting both books I could hardly breathe since the topic was so close to home, so close to my heart. I remember saying to Bert, you know that resilience thing? You know how I have always thought of myself as resilient? Well, I pretty much have decided that I know nothing, or at least very little, about this topic. And I think it's fair to say that it is very important."

And then as God (not luck) would have it, students
honored me by asking me to talk about that which I need to learn.

Perfect! (and I am not being sarcastic here).

And so I read and talked and read and cried. I knew
there was so much I needed to learn, for my students, for the conference goers, for myself.

Here are just a few of  the things I took in and talked about at the conference:

1) Resilience is bouncing back from personal adversity.

2) There are several "myths" about resilience:

* Myth #1: People are either born resilient or not
born resilient. Resilience is personality based.
In truth, while some people have what we call
"resilient personalities," anyone can be taught to be more resilient.
* Myth#2: Only young strong people are resilient.
In truth, resilience is not age-dependent.

3) There are six tools to help you "grow" your resilience:
* Feel your grief, do not stuff your feelings.
* Have active optimism (where you not only think positively, but make a plan for how to achieve the result you want.)
* Positive self-talk 
* Finding support from others
* Get help from others-faith, counseling, journaling
* Reclaim your joy

I then talked about my resilience "role models"-
those dear folks who have taught me so much about resilience. 

They are:
Bert (my beloved hubby), 
Vicky Westra (my dear friend and soul sis), 
Mattie Stepanik, and 
my students at SCC.

I could hardly get through talking about both Bert and Vicky, and seeing their pictures on that huge screen, without falling apart. So I just let the tears flow.

I am not done learning about resilience, but I am so grateful to God for leading me in this direction. His mighty strength is what has held me up the past few weeks as the health of one of our dearies has been tested. His strength has held me up as I have heard about Vicky's latest medical procedure. 

And as I journal and pray and ask others to pray, I am reminded that even in the toughest adversities, I can build resilience and find joy because of His love!

God Bless!
Love, Linda

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