Day 61 – Friday, Feb. 10th (61/305): We were not given a spirit of fear

How fragile courage can be when it’s new, unpracticed, still developing… I went to work today, looking forward to the brief phone interview for the temp job, already planning how I might accommodate my present work responsibilities for the weeks I would be largely unavailable during normal business hours if I get the job. I wanted to give my colleague a heads up, in case my schedule needs to abruptly change. It caught her off-guard, as it had me, and the timing was poor. My eagerness rapidly shrank back to distress and concern. Would it work? Will I have to choose between a job I’d like to keep and a job I may need to be able to make ends meet in the coming weeks?

I was truly wishing I had my copy of Courage to Change with me. I would have turned to some pages on fear, worry, or some similar topic. (The thought to bring it had been there when I was getting ready for work. Once again, I dismissed the nudge I was getting from you know Who.)

So, I cast about in my memory banks for some 12-Step wisdom and remembered that I can choose what kind of attitude I want to hold. I could let my dismay and renewed fear dislodge the confidence I felt earlier this morning or I could remember that I need to take care of myself and trust God to work it out.

The irony, I realized as I was writing this, is that I had been given a classic “fear not” verse just this morning during my reflection time. In fact, I had recorded three such verses in my journal:

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy…” (Luke 2:10 NRSV)

Perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18 NKJV)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Tim 1:7 NKJV – This is one of my favorites.)

I’m also now remembering the spider that startled me when it dashed across my comforter as I was preparing for bed last night. Oy! Spider reminds me that if I am not decisive enough about changing my lot in life, I may end up being consumed by my fears and limitations. (Sams & Carson’s Medicine Cards, p 209) I wasn’t thrilled to abruptly encounter the speedy little critter, but I appreciated the message. (Services were held for it this morning…)

Ya think Someone’s trying to tell me something about letting go of my fears and moving past them? I can take a hint! (And I’d prefer not to wait till the 2 by 4 is needed!)

I don’t know what’s going to happen with the temp job. I didn’t receive word one way or the other this afternoon, but the gentleman interviewing me said it might be Monday morning before we (candidates) would know. Until then, I’ll plan my work keeping the possibility in mind, but let go the worry about receiving the job. I know that if I am fortunate enough to get this or some other position, God will be able to sort out the details.

Action step(s):

  • Went into work early and caught up on some personal emails.
  • Responded to an email that came because my resumé is posted on a job site. The message undoubtedly goes out to everyone with a resumé on the website (they’re looking for sales people), so I flipped things and asked the inquirer to let me know if he knows anyone who needs a good admin!
  • Asked a friend, who inquired how things were going, to let me know if she hears of any admin positions. She said she’d keep it in mind. “Networking” again! Whoo hoo! 🙂
  • Boldly shopped for some healthy foods, knowing that God will provide if I run short later in the month.

Day 51 – Tuesday, Jan. 31st (51/315): A small(?) revelation

This morning I awoke with a dream about a rattlesnake. (I happen to love snakes, btw.) I knew Snake was bringing me a message of transmutation (at least according to Sams and Carson), which means that something that might be experienced as a poison can actually be transmuted into something harmless with the proper frame of mind.

Since one of my creditors told me just a few days ago that my account may go to collection if I don’t make a significant payment this month, financial matters and my need to be willing to go down this unhappy road sprang to mind. My anxiety level rose several notches as I started thinking about potential financial disasters – like bankruptcy. I’ve been there, many years ago, and do not want to repeat the experience. I wondered if the dream was telling me to get ready to experience something I absolutely do not want to experience.

As I showered, dressed and prepared breakfast, I thought about the feelings of shame and failure that accompanied that experience and of how much I didn’t want to go there again. Then I noticed my body-spirit reacting as if I were on that disastrous financial path already. It helped a little to recognize this, especially since it’s something that might not happen. It didn’t fully relieve the stress, but I let it go as best I could.

When I sat down to eat breakfast and do my morning reflections, I read more of Snake’s message from my book. It speaks of being willing to experience anything without resistance. Then it describes all the positive things we can experience through accepting all aspects of our lives. By the time I got to the sentence about this symbol coming to me because I need to transmute some thought, I had a revelation!

I was struck by the powerful realization that even if my worst nightmare strikes and I have to go down that path again, I do not have to experience it as failure or as shame. Those are judgments I have laid upon myself. Regardless of what anyone else thinks, I have done my very best to manage my financial affairs and I will continue to do my best. My best is the best I can do with what I know and where I am right now, even when it’s a far cry from where I want to be. If creditors “force my hand,” so to speak, I may need to make different, unplanned choices. But whatever choices I make, I do not need to carry guilt and shame and a sense of failure along with the challenge of financial recovery.

I am still integrating this reality into my consciousness. There are so many cultural values that lead us to feel badly about ourselves that it was astonishing, really, to discover that I don’t have to accept someone else’s judgment, nor do I need to judge myself that way either. It is even freeing me of residual guilt and shame from my experience twenty-some years ago. It’s amazing how much that shifted things for me and how much freer I feel to keep doing what I can to get back on my feet.

Since this was the beginning of my scripture reflection time, I then opened my Bible – or rather let it open to whatever page it might. The verse I found was encouraging indeed:

Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen…and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9  NRSV)

To which I say, Amen!

p.s. Does anyone else get stupid and/or irrelevant suggestions for tags for their posts?

Action step(s):

  • Spoke to my other creditor (who was much more supportive) and committed to making a small payment this week.
  • Took a small amount of money out at the ATM so I could use cash for the grocery store to help me attend to how much I’m spending.
  • Chose my grocery items carefully, adding the total up in my head as I went.

Day 50 – Monday, Jan. 30th (50/316): Grace comes when I let go and stop rushing

Yesterday’s post helped me to see things differently. There’s something in the process of journaling and reflecting on what I’ve experienced that shifts my thinking, which is exactly why I’ve chosen to blog about this journey.

Usually it takes me a very long time from the moment I wake-up in the morning until I’m out the door. I’ve been looking for ways to streamline my mornings without making them an exercise in frantic rushing. It’s not that I stumble around in a fog or anything. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I have a lot to do between waking and leaving, besides which early mornings are also one of my best idea-hatching times. It can get distracting if I’m not careful.

After yesterday’s post, I’ve thought a lot about rushing. What makes me feel rushed. Why I tend to rush. Whether or not I even need to rush. What I discovered is that I tend to rush out of habit, out of a misperception of what’s important and necessary for my mornings, sometimes trying to do too much.

This morning, I decided to pay attention and make conscious choices all morning long. From the moment I awoke at 4:44 (much more fun to see on the clock than 4:45 or 4:50), I made a point of not letting my mind wander. I normally appreciate the creative ideas that come to me while I’m doing all my usual morning, getting-ready stuff, but I also realize that it can eat up a chunk of time I don’t have to spare.

After an impressively efficient morning of simply getting things done (helped by preparation of lunch the day before and having clothes laid out the night before), I was leaving the driveway at 6:53! Whoo hoo! The best part was that I did not feel rushed! And not only did I find parking near work, I was blessed with the “sweet spot”: the one parking space directly in front of the door that is not metered – close, free parking all day long!

At work, things were a little wacky. My computer refused to speak to the server to enable me to print. (Not helpful.) Yet, surprisingly, I was able to set things up using my colleague’s computer before she got there so that I had plenty of no-printer-needed, “manual labor” tasks to do. This turned out to be especially helpful since the computer repair person was already scheduled to come in and we ended up totally updating my system software. I did little, if any, computer work from noon on.

I also wonder if the way I began my day at work may have contributed to what became an unexpectedly productive day given the circumstances. I arrived at work at 7:05, but took the first 55 minutes I was there to attend to personal stuff. I addressed some online “paperwork” for my student loans. I wrote my tithe check and put a check for one of my storage units in the mail. (Payday is actually not till tomorrow, but I want my storage check to arrive on time.) I even started this post (though barely) before “clocking in” at 8:00.

In other words, I took time for myself, attending to some necessary personal business, at the beginning of my day, rather than expecting to have the time (and energy) at the end of the day. It felt good. Once (officially) at work, I found myself getting an unexpected task done. I went through a stack of miscellaneous notes – from September! – that had simply been ignored for more pressing tasks. It was mostly silly stuff, like updating addresses in the database. Yet it had been forgotten in the rush of other work during the ensuing months. It felt really good to clear out that tiny spot on my desk!

There is something worth noticing about rushing and choosing not to rush. I discovered I can be efficient and get things done in a timely manner without feeling like I have to hurry. In doing so, I make room for grace, even in the simple things like clearing out a small stack of neglected notes.

Action step(s):

  • Stayed focused and made efficient use of my time this morning.
  • Attended to student loan paperwork, wrote my tithe check, and mailed a payment.
  • Cleared out some neglected papers on my desk at work.

Day 45 – Wednesday, Jan. 25th (45/321): Reflecting on the journey

Don’t you realize how kind, tolerant and patient God is with you?  (Romans 2:4 NLT)

The crooked places shall be made straight, and the rough places made smooth.  (Isaiah 40:4 NKJV)

To everything there is a season…  (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV)

I continue to journey through my reflection journals from a year ago, amazed at how often those events speak to my present experience.

A year ago, I was still recovering from my thyroid surgery. It affected my voice and the recovery from that seemed especially slow. To my own ears, my voice sounded deep, unnatural, odd – I had no volume. To others, it sounded “normal,” if more quiet than usual. I couldn’t sing, which was especially hard through the holidays. It was painful to have others cheerily tell me how much better I looked and sounded; they didn’t understand my suffering.

I feel alone on my journey now, wrapped up in the pain of my private fears that seem like fears no one else would understand (even though I know that’s not true). My fears don’t seem reasonable even to me.

Looking back, I realize it’s been close to two months since I’ve applied for a job. When I think in these terms, of what I haven’t done, I feel fearful, paralyzed, afraid to try because the need feels so urgent. Yet when I look at my journey of recovery from surgery a year ago, I am reminded that even though it felt like it took forever to recover my voice, my ability to speak, then sing normally actually returned in a remarkably short time.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how long I have – and haven’t – been on this ‘blog journey’ and the very reason I gave myself a year. The time window isn’t about a deadline for xyz to happen; it’s a reminder to me that change, especially major change, takes time.

A speaker I once heard remarked that change happens in an instant, and I think that’s true. But the effects of a given change, the integration of that change into new patterns of thinking or behavior, the transformation made possible by that change, all of these responses to change take time. New behaviors take practice to become habits. New ideas take time to develop. New ways of thinking need to break through the clog of old thought patterns before they can overcome them and become the norm.

I have learned that being gentle with myself yields far better results than trying to force myself to do almost anything I am not ready to do. Even the readiness comes more easily with gentleness. And gentleness requires patience with the seeming slowness of my process. I wrote some things in my journal a year ago that I want to reiterate here, as they are worth remembering, worth reclaiming.

I wrote that I was “coming to love” the practice of letting go. I notice that I must again be “loving” it because it has become one of the best and most helpful things I have learned to do. In fact, I believe it may be the key to success for me – in finding employment, in developing my consulting/ministry work, and in making the space to receive God’s abundant blessings for my life. Each time I remember to let go of the outcome of any given action, I feel a sense of release, even relief, and am freed to move forward with greater ease.

I am also learning to listen more attentively to that still small voice that would guide me whenever I am willing to listen. During my recovery from surgery, I had to do a lot of listening to know how to best care for myself through the changes that followed. It was a season of healing, of growth and of discovering new ways to listen to my body-spirit and to God. Last year, I wrote:

This “season” probably began as one of listening. It is becoming one of still listening, even as I begin the doing. Perhaps that’s the art of life: learning to listen, then do, always continuing to listen as we do.  (SJ #37, 1/21/2010, p 149)

This morning has become a “season” of reflecting. I find myself deep in thought, deep in the peace of recognizing and appreciating that I am making progress. I am continuing to listen, to learn, to let go and do the deep inner work that is required to be able to blossom and become my best self, the person God created me to be.

As I learn to be kind, tolerant and patient with myself, I discover that God is right beside me, smoothing out the rough places little by little as I gain more strength for the journey. What a blessing to know I am never alone!

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