Day 5 Progress Report. God Sees.

As I reflect back on the week, I am reminded of what I have always known: when I suit up and show up and do the work with God in front, miracles happen. God isn’t just for the big stuff, He’s here for us for all things and He responds in all sorts of wonderful ways.

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Amazing grace, I made it to Friday! Wednesday and Thursday were really hard days for me, but I had armed myself with my “plan-ahead” weapons, so I made it!

To recap: Monday I began a two-week jump-start project which I am calling, “return-to-me”. For two weeks I am working on rehabbing my tired body, mind and spirit. For me this means more prayer, replacing breakfast and lunch with protein shakes, eating a healthy dinner, limiting alcohol and writing (because it feeds my spirit.)

I knew Wednesday and Thursday would be  trigger days for me because they are the most stressful of each week. Wednesdays my hubs and I work until 1:00 PM and then we head into the kitchen of a local church, where we create, serve and clean up after their Fellowship Meal. Usually this meal serves about 100 people, but sometimes it can rise to 150. This week we served pork tenderloin.

So you get the idea, it’s laborious, but glorious. I always go home smiling when the people are full and they’ve loved the meal. (In case you are curious, the sides were wild rice and a veggie medley of carrots, broccoli and cauliflower with a three bean salad or coleslaw plus cake and brownies for dessert.) We aren’t playin’!

My Thursday afternoons from 1 until 4:30 are spent with my aging parents. While I am so grateful both of my parents are still here on earth for me to visit, it can be hard at times. (This is a story for another blog, though.) I usually arrive home emotionally drained in some form or fashion.

The problem for me on both of these days is that we have fallen into the habit of evening cocktails on these nights. Everything is so stressful, it’s a nice feeling to get home, change clothes, flop in our favorite chairs and sip on whatever it is that we’ve decided upon for that night-sometimes it’s wine; sometimes it’s vodka; sometimes other things. The bottom line is, this is what we’ve done for years, so it’s a habit that we equate with “reward”.

I knew this would be an issue at the beginning of the week so I intentionally prepared for it. Wednesday morning I woke to my usual prayers for strength and perseverance, then I wrote in my prayer journal. I planned to eat a meal at church just before going home so I would be full. Even with all of this, the drive home a battle raged inside my mind.

“Just one won’t hurt.”, said my ego.

“You made a commitment! And you’ve prayed to God, too! If you do this, it’s like you are quitting on God, ya know. You have to give Him a chance to work.”, said my heart.

“Drat! Blasted Heart! But still, you don’t have to do this all at once, ya know.”, said Ego.

“If not now, when? I’ve prayed over this and over it. God will help me fight you when I get home, now shut up.”, said Heart.

“Still”, Heart thought silently, “What if I fail yet again? Why can’t I just do this?”.

When we arrived home, I went straight upstairs opting for a long, hot bath, which has always been a source of comfort. While I was in there I prayed again for strength and I thought about just what I was asking for and why. (Aren’t I worthy of having the life I was intended to have? I am. It’s up to me to do the work in order to get back there. I’ve let things go for TOO long-taking care of everyone else. It’s time for ME. If not now, WHEN?)

So I went downstairs, had a banana, flopped on the couch and turned on a comedy show. Later, I went to bed happily thanking God for seeing me through the day.

Last night, having battled through Wednesday night, I knew what to expect out of that darned ego-talk. Even though I was prepared the same as the night before and EVEN though I knew Friday was slated to be “cheat night”, as far as dinner and cocktails are concerned, it was still THE hardest time I’ve had. I went to my parents per usual, then stopped at the grocery on the way home (my happy place) in order to select something I’d like to cook for dinner. (This is my way of tweaking the usual routine.) I even went so far as to go to a market I do not frequent. I selected some nice filets, fresh asparagus and I planned on serving the last of the fresh squash I’d made nights before. I even bought two tiny cheesecakes as a treat. Then, I stopped at Redbox and rented a funny movie as a non-food, non-alcoholic activity.

Still, when I arrived home the temptation to throw it all out the window, met me right at the front door. Blasted demon ego!

“Look, you made it past Wednesday! Isn’t THAT enough? You are stressed and sad. You can make up for this later. Next week you can tackle Thursday over! Have a drink. If it makes you feel better, you can skip dinner!”, Ego quipped as if it were nothing.

This time my heart was silent. Instead, I thought of what I’d written in my journals to God. I thought about what I really want. I thought about why I started this in the first place. I thought of starting over and over and over again, never making it over the hump.

“Darn it. This is ridiculous. I am worth MORE than sitting on the stupid couch with a stupid cocktail.”, said Heart.

Just then, I remembered I’d ordered a special herbal bath potion to soak in. Walking to the mailbox I told myself if it was there, I’d use that as my reward. It was.

Determined, I went back into the house, made a nice salad, and sat down and ate it so I would not be hungry while I prepared dinner. After dinner, I headed up the stairs and took a glorious, “I DID IT” soak!

And so here I am today. It’s Friday. (Tonight, I get to have wine and homemade pizza and it doesn’t even feel important any more.)

As I reflect back on the work-week, I am reminded of what I have always known: when I suit up and show up and do the work with God in front, miracles happen. God isn’t just for the big stuff, He’s here for us for all things and He responds in all sorts of wonderful ways. There is something to be said for journaling thoughts, hopes, dreams, prayers etc. to God. (I think it cements things in the heart more securely.) Is it necessary to do so in order to communicate with God? Absolutely not. (In fact, I’m sure there are some people out there who will be offended that this is one of the ways I choose to be connected. Oh well.)

Having said all of this, I am fully aware that after tonight, I still have to go through Saturday and Sunday in order to truly say I had a successful week. (This is a Holiday weekend so I know it will be a little harder.) These days I really am trying to keep focused on the day at hand. While I do plan ahead,the object is to keep my emotions and my determination centered on “one-day-at-a-time”.

So color me grateful. I know God sees me and I like to think He’s happy with my tiny bit of progress. I am feeling joyful beyond measure! The bonus factor that I knew when I began this is that I’m feeling closer to God than before. Lest you think all I do is pray about getting through these two weeks, among other things, I also pray that my relationship with all things spiritual, especially God, continue to strengthen. It’s working.

NOTE: Although I missed a couple of days blogging, I am still here, and I am not going anywhere. Admittedly, this is a lot of harder to do than my blogs of days-gone-by where I had a set routine and outline to follow each day. I WILL persist!

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So you have a visual, here is a photo of the tiny journal I keep in my purse. I pull it out and write in it whenever and  I have something on my heart. (The first page I always use for my favorite verses.) When I get home later, I’ll photograph the book I use there. It’s similar but large. The one below is about five 1/2 inches by 3 and 3/4″. It fits perfectly inside my purse.

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BTW, if I talk about food, I will always leave the recipe here:


Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients:

  • (2) 1/2 lb Tenderloins (1 package of tenderloin has two 1/2 lb tenderloins inside)
  • 4 tablespoons
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Any seasoning blend you like. I used a prepared one that had garlic, lemon, oregano, chili pepper etc.) You can even use prepared rubs OR just make your own with whatever you like–you want enough to coat the Tenderloin all over.
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 c. balsamic vinegar
  • Fresh ground pepper (to taste)
  • Kosher salt (to taste)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • On a baking sheet, sprinkle each tenderloin with the balsamic vinegar. Rub it into all sides.
  • Drizzle olive oil and rub into all sides.
  • Coat with your seasonings (or prepared rub)
  • Let the pork sit for up to 20 minutes prior to cooking.
  • Roast in hot oven for 20 minutes. If it still gives a lot to the touch, flip it and let it go for 6-8 minutes.

Meanwhile:

While the pork is cooking, to a sauce pan add the following:

  • 1 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. honey

Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Let the sauce reduce by half until it will coat a spoon. When your pork comes out, drizzle it over the top prior to serving.

Down but never Helpless

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Oh wow, am I in a MOOD for the past few days!  I try to take my own advice most of the time, but still there are things looming in the air that are beyond my control and sometimes, I cannot help but feel a little bit down.  Read this:  I said I feel a little bit down.  I did not say I feel helpless.

While I know I give good advice, in all honestly, there are times when the tools do not seem to work and we continue to feel icky about the things over which we have no control.  (That’s the down part, not the helpless part.)

I’m in several situations right now where I would like to open up and give a firm talking-to to those involved but it’s not my place, so I have to keep silent.  The fact is, that often in life, we’re presented with situations where it would be easy to just let go and spew what’s in our hearts, but it’s absolutely not appropriate.

It’s these times that it’s important to recognize the difference between down and helpless.  We’re actually never helpless.  That’s a total illusion.  When situations are beyond our control, the choice not to let it grab hold and pull us under is an action step that is within reach.

These are the times it’s perfectly okay to go into cocoon-mode.  Do nothing.  Pray hard.  Talk to a trusted friend or family member.  Do what feeds the soul.

I was just sharing with a close friend that I believe these are the times God uses to work on our faith.  Sometimes fear can cause us to act on impulse because we’re looking for a quick solution.  (I can’t count the number of times in my life where if I’d just waited a little while longer before doing something drastic, my situation would have improved on it’s own.)

Most often if we can find the self control to sit on our proverbial hands and wait while God is at work, the results are miraculous. He can see what we cannot.  He has solutions we aren’t aware of.  His healing has a much further reach than ours and so on.

Just recently I had a financial situation that seemed to have no explicable answer. Instead of obsessing over it, I gave it to God because, based on my past experience, giving it over and refusing to worry over it, always works. Yes, I absolutely did have a “Plan B” in mind, but rather than implement that plan, I went with “Plan A” which is always, “Trust that  God sees and knows and will respond.”

Today He did. Unexpected funds appeared and financial issue averted. Amen.

PS–That image up there?  This was a dollar bill actually received in the collection plate at the church where I work. Just love it!

 

Day Three – More on Community

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I grow weary of hearing people say, “All organized religion is nonsense created by humans, for profit and control”.

First, I hate generalizations.  It’s funny because I can remember a time growing up when that’s all my father used to say to me, “Stop generalizing”.  At the time, I didn’t really understand what he meant, but he was right.  I used to make statements like, “You always find fault in anything I say”; “This person is always wrong.”; “You never listen to a word I say.” etc… At fifty, I finally understand what my Dad meant.

I admit for a time, when I was being lazy in my faith and wallowing in self pity, I used to say things about organized religion too. I would tell myself that I didn’t need to go to church because God lives in me, etc.  “Church is a building”; “Faith is what’s in my heart.”; “God lives everywhere, I don’t have to go there to talk to God.”, etc.”

I was right (on some level), until I landed in the finance office of a church that isn’t of my own religion. (I laugh these days, because God absolutely does know what He’s doing at any given time.) I started there as an account temp because they lost their finance secretary to a full time job. I thought this job would be pretty clear cut: I’d do their finances and leave each day. NOT.

I never expected that as the finance secretary of a church, I would be the only person who got to see what good “a church” actually does in a community. As a lifelong Catholic, my only experience with church was going to Mass on Sundays, receiving the Sacraments and tithing each week or month.  I never stopped to think or find out just where my tithes went.  I thought they were supporting the church building and the school, period.  I never went beyond this in my thinking. Why would I? I just showed up on Sundays, gave what I could, and left.

Until I landed at my current work place.

Yes, it is true that tithes do go to the upkeep of the building and the staff. Church’s are non profit organizations, which means that they do depend on weekly/monthly tithing and gifts from estates and outside entities.  Without the kindness and faith of others, they don’t get to exist.

I worked for about six months just trying to find my way in the finance office. No one could help me because the business of the finance office of a church is completely confidential. Thankfully, my life long accounting background afforded me the experience and knowledge to be able to create the statements etc.

What I did not expect, however, was learning just what it means to be a church.  What I get to experience every single day is happiness and love.  While we do have a small number of staff, who are paid, the place where I work is largely governed and staffed by volunteers who give of their time freely and willfully day in and day out.  This doesn’t mean that they just write checks to the church.  It means that they come into the office to answer phones, they write thank you notes when we receive memorial donations, they go out to visit the shut-ins and those who are hospitalized, they organize visits to the home-bound, they plan picnics for new members, they create ministries for the elderly and the youth and the children, they buy beds and clothes for people new in the country, they walk in parades, the list is endless.  In short, wherever there is a need, they are there.

My “ah-ha” moment came one day the first year of my employment, when a random envelope of cash was received and on the outside it simply said, “Please give to the church”. It was a substantial amount of cash and we worked hard to find out where it had come from so I could give tax credit. In the end, a random person had given this envelope to a congregant who was leaving Sunday services…he didn’t care about “credit”.

The day we finally figured this out, my heart just opened and I cried. Not knowing the story, I envisioned some stranger saving his pennies until he felt he had enough and then he gave it to the first person he saw coming out of services. The person who received this money and turned it in could only say that this was a foreign person who offered the envelope.

My workplace caters to foreigners and refugees and I love it.  Several times I’ve gotten to use my Spanish to help visitors looking for the “English as a Second Language” classes, which are hosted by the church. (I have a degree in Spanish yet have never gotten to use it for any reason until now.) (PS-Thanks God!)

The Minsters of this place work 24/7.  If a person has a medical emergency in the middle of the night, they jump up and go. Often times during the day, I witness the Minsters going on countless “appointments” to pray with the sick, the lonely, the depressed or those who are trying to figure out “God”, period. They go when they are called, period, and it doesn’t matter how many times per day they are called…they GO.

In short, I’ve been at this place for three years part-time. I’d be there full-time in a heart beat because I’ve finally learned what a church really is. It’s LOVE actualized.

Yes, you can love and pray and worship God all on your own and HE IS there, but a church is a community of people all working together to help others.  At least, this is MY experience.

Lots of times I’m the only person who gets to read beautiful letters attached to checks that talk about what this church has meant and why “this donation” is being made and I feel so honored.  I look at it as God entrusting me as the go-between.  I make sure the donation gets where it’s supposed to, I get to write the thank you note and I get to keep the secret of who gave it.  (That’s between God and me and the donor and it’s so fun!)

So.  Yeah, I’m weary of hearing that organized religion sucks because it doesn’t.  I didn’t even mention all of the money that my workplace donates to local charities OR what it does to take care of refugees from other countries. We receive calls daily from people wanting help on their rent or utility bills and we work in conjunction with other area charities to help as much as possible. I’ve seen our Ministers (and members)buy clothes and shoes for children  (sometimes out of their own pockets), buy a bus ticket to get a stranded traveler home, deliver food to those who need it; I’ve even seen them invite a person in to sit in our church parlor to eat a meal and just chat with a fellow human. I could go on and on.

If you think, for one moment, that organized religion sucks.  I hope you will do some more research.  We give away most of what comes in and what we don’t have to give away, we make up with our own money, time and effort.

I’m so Blessed.

Those who used to know me on Myspace have to KNOW that God led me here to this place and that I’m happy as a clam.  I don’t make much money, but my heart is FULL times infinity.  I haven’t even scratched the surface here.

I think it’s time for all of us to either re-discover or discover for the first time, what it’s like to be a real member of a real community.  Church might just be the first stop.  No. I’m certain it should be.

Praise God. (I do.)

 

Day one. THIS-THAT-JOY

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As a creative person, I often feel a knocking inside my heart that says, “Let it out!  It’s time!” So this morning while I have a few hours and no set schedule, I decided my fingers should try to take dictation from my heart. The fact that my computer screen just started flashing the moment I finished that sentence, is good indication that the Universe concurs. The fact that it flashed on and off again in the exact same spot just after I read this aloud to myself -really seals the deal. It’s been too long.

Most people know me from another blog I write, entitled: Bobbe’s Trinity Angels“.  This isn’t that. So often I feel like writing about random happenings in my life.  I sign on to that site and what I want to write doesn’t seem appropriate, so I keep it bottled inside. So here is where I will post those items that do not always fit into the “inspirational musings” category. I can weave inspiration into most anything, but in my real life, sometimes I do feel pain, sadness,  sorrow, silliness, weirdness and yes, even outrage. So because I’m a person who feels better when things are in the “proper” place, this will be the space for all that.

Yesterday I had a delightful visit from a lady I barely know, who walked into my office, unannounced, unfolded a chair and sat down. We’d been talking on the phone fairly often about a position I’m trying to secure. She felt it was time to put a face with my voice and go deeper into who I really am. She announced it wasn’t an interview, but rather just a visit to find out, “Who ARE you?”

I don’t think I’ve been asked this question before.

It forced me to sit still a minute and to reflect on what to say in response. It’s easy to talk about what I do for a living, where I live, who my friends are, what I know,etc… but who AM I? That question forced me go right to where my reality lives. Instantly, I found myself talking about my life and what has shaped me; which opened the floor for more questions. It was a joyful, wonderful, heart-filled conversation (my favorite).  At one point she looked around my office and seeing my paintings and hearing my stories she asked, “If you could do it all over again, where would you be?  What would you do?”.  I laughed and said I’d probably be exactly where I am today except I’d have more power, I’d have all ready published a few books and I’d have the official title, “Reverend” in front of my name. (Yeah that’s right, you read it here first!) Additionally, I’d like to get back into motivational speaking.

“Yes, the speaking is definitely on my bucket list for later!”, I said with total glee.

She gave me a supreme compliment at this point when she said, “Well you are an excellent story teller. You should be out there sharing.”

Can you imagine a heart smiling?  Mine was.

When I got home I reflected further on who I am at my core and I can only come up with one word, Love. Sounds trite doesn’t it?

In thinking about who I am, I have to go inside and ask myself what are the things that are most important to me; what are my values; what do I stand for in this life; why am I here? When I come up from this deep thought, I see myself only as a child of the Most High and as long as I’m connected to Him, I have love flowing through my veins. THIS makes me want to work in service of others and when I get to do THAT in even the tiniest form,  JOY arrives.

Yesterday I had a joyful conversation with a new friend. While I may not have the new position secure, I’m grateful that God sent me a message through this lady.  I needed to stop and reflect on who I AM and really ask the question, is my life on course with what’s in my heart.  Gratefully, with a few exceptions, it is.

Who are you?  

Have you ever been asked this question?

 What would you say?

 

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