Sunday, October 29, 2017

At Our Core

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    when through the rivers, they won’t sweep over you.
When you walk through fire, you won’t be burned
    and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:2
A month or so ago I read – I don’t remember where anymore – that within each of us is a core of loneliness. I wondered about this for a couple weeks. Is it really so? But then I forgot – until this week. Thursday I was listening to the notes I recorded on the drive back from the Church of the Resurrection in September. And there it was.

I believe almost all of us have a yearning to connect deeply with others. This yearning leaves us receptive to all sorts of things – some good, some not so much. It opens us to the idea that God loves us and longs to be part of our lives. It leads us to find friends, partners, and spouses. It draws us into community. People sometimes have kids thinking it’ll fill that empty place in them. It leads others into dangerous or abusive relationships – and keeps them there – because they’re afraid they’ll have nothing if they leave.

Are they the same thing – this core of loneliness and this yearning to connect? I don’t think so, but I only know my own story. Does every person live with a core of loneliness? Does the blazing extrovert who recharges in a room full of people and has “never met a stranger”? How about the one who has a twenty minute conversation on the phone, then afterward says, “Wrong number”? I realize that some people don’t explore their own inner workings enough to find what's at their core. And even if some found loneliness, would they acknowledge it?

I only know that it's at my core; I’ve known at least since I was twelve. I always assumed it was just me. I was the shy one with few friends who would be in the corner at just about every gathering, incapable of small talk but secretly longing to be included. Fifteen or twenty years ago, I learned the term Dysthymia when it came along with my mild ADD diagnosis (which I’ve since learned was off just a bit.)

So I’m not a good one to ask. But I am a good one to wonder. After my 2008 interview with the District Committee on Ministry, they suggested I consider going to seminary because – as the chair put it – I have an insatiable curiousity. (He was right.)

Do you have a core of loneliness at your center?

If so, what do you do about it? How do you live with it? And how is what you do working for you? Although loneliness can be unpleasant, it doesn’t have to be a negative thing. It can lead us out of ourselves and into connection with others. Then maybe we can appreciate the quiet time when we’re alone without feeling like we’re missing out.

If loneliness isn’t part of your core, what is? If it’s a helpful thing, how do you cultivate it? If it seems unhelpful, do you have ways to turn it so it can be more useful to you?

One person’s path is not another’s. We each have our own journey with its own roadblocks and detours. Still, when we have community, we can be there for each other, and I believe that’s our whole purpose. Take care.
Don’t fear, for I am with you;
    don’t be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, I will help you;
    I will hold you with my righteous strong hand. Isaiah 41:10

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Why do I keep doing that?

stream of crimson liquid
hot cast iron
greens tomatoes
as wine
turns to vapor
dinner is almost ready

Sometimes I do things well. Like eating healthy. Like remembering that we’re all works-in-progress and deserve grace.

Speaking to the former, in the seven years since my diet changed, I’ve eaten vegetables I used to avoid – like cucumber and turnips, parsnips and rutabagas – and tried some I'd never heard of before that. (Pea sprouts were fine. So were mustard greens. Next time, I’ll let the bitter melon set longer after salting.)

As to the latter, I’m more compassionate than I was ten years ago. Well, that and I’ve learned how to convey it better. Experience and friends (thank you, Lynn) have helped me to remember more often that I really don’t know the other person’s story. My way is not the only way, or even the best. (Okay, sometimes it is.) I’m practicing telling myself, “I’m sure [Name] believed that doing [whatever] was the right thing to do/best choice given their options.

Yes, I do well. Except when I don’t. ... Like forgetting that almost everyone is as busy as I am and wondering why some task is left undone. ... Dark chocolate mini peanut butter cups. A dozen of them. (I’ll say no more.) ... Not pausing to choose the right moment to correct someone. ...

Trying to learn the ropes at a new job I haven’t been eating well or enough. Last week I realized that my overindulgences are probably my body sending me a message – rather like when the cat leave a surprise in the middle of the bathroom floor when it’s been too long since you refreshed the litter. I’ve been skipping enough meals that my body sometimes short-circuits my intentions when I come within range of kettle chips, frozen custard or other high-fat food. If I want long term health, I need to see this as a symptom and address the source of the problem.

I’ll work on it. Meanwhile, how are things going with you? Is your body (or mind?) trying to sabotage your best efforts, whether to care for yourself, your family or the world? Has you mind-cat been leaving you unwelcomed gifts? Maybe it’s time to notice. If not now, if you need a safe environment, connect with that safe person at a time that works for both of you. Explore the messages your inner self is sending you.

God wants joy for us even more than we want it for ourselves. Words like "deserve" and "worth” can get in our way. Just for today let’s each say and work on believing, “I’m the perfect ___________ (insert your name) just as I am.” It’ll make it easier to treat ourselves with love – in whatever ways that means for each of us.

I’ll keep trying to remember to think about dinner before heading to work, and to make friends with my crockpot. You do what’s right on your end.

I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t do what I want to do.
Instead, I do the thing that I hate.
Romans 7:15-20

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

One Bite at a Time

I knew when I moved into it that my little 1930’s bungalow-style house needed work. What I didn't realize was that I wouldn’t be putting as much time into it as I’d thought I would. Well, that, and that it would need more work than expected. (For example, somehow, neither the inspector nor the electrician I hired to check that all was in order was concerned with the many light switches that do nothing.)

When the realtor first showed me the house, there was another family looking at the same time. I overheard the two realtors discussing that the previous owner had started so many projects without finishing them. They didn't say this with scorn... just disapproval. I smiled. I've always been one for starting projects and only slowly (if ever) finishing them. He sounded just like me.

So I was okay moving in with a half-done bathroom and no kitchen cabinets. I’ve been fine sleeping on an air mattress until the floors are refinished in November. (For the first time in years, I had no trouble resting on a sleeping pad when Kay and I were tenting last month.)

Gradually though, I realized I was losing sleep over uncertainties, causing more stress than I needed on top of the usual stresses of new job, new town, new home, etc. I decided that after vacation, I'd prioritize. And I'd work on one issue each week.

Still, the uncertainty of whether or not there was asbestos in my kitchen flooring or the glue underneath messed with my sleep. Was I poisoning myself (and the cats)? Were we filling the rest of the house with fibers as we walked about, fibers that could destroy our lungs?

How do you eat an elephant?

Prioritize. Having a fully functional bathroom had always been my first priority, so I made sure to get a contractor in as soon as I sign the papers. That done, what do I need to work on next? Winterizing? After the top priority is removed from the list, I need to reassess. What has first priority now?

Use available resources. Suspecting asbestos, I'd searched for local remediation contractors before moving. What I discovered was that nobody was as concerned as I was. Only weeks later, when my sister mentioned learning about local testing facilities during her OSHA training, did I look again. I found someone within minutes. (No asbestos!) Talking to people and soliciting their feedback has never been a strength for me, but people are assets when we use them well.

Expect surprises. It sounds like an oxymoron, yet surprises are the norm. Whenever I meet with a couple getting married, I warn them that on the wedding day something will go wrong. How they respond to it will determine whether or not it messes with their joy for the day. If they're ready, they can let it go and will probably laugh about it in coming years.

Accept that you'll get tired before you're finished. Work out a plan for what needs to happen, how you'll do it, what help you'll want or need. But. Also. Plan breaks when you let yourself just do nothing. This will save you in the long run.

Thus says the Lord of hosts:
Even though it seems impossible to the remnant of this people in these days,
should it also seem impossible to me?  Zechariah 8:6