Friday, December 31, 2010

One Day's Ending is Another Day's Beginning

There are so many adages and quotes for times like these. "When God shuts a door he opens a window." "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."

The truth is, when something ends, you can't really solve it with a clever quote. You have to work through it, the confusion, the fear, until you conquer it, or it conquers you.

Today, I'm learning about endings again. Like most endings, it was unexpected, sort of a slap in the face. The company that I've worked for since August 2009 is downsizing, and part of that meant cutting my position and letting me go.

Initially, I faced the fear... with hysterics. One million questions and zero answers, with me at a loss for what to do. Mentally, I ran through the options, trying to reassure myself that something would work out. But when you're dealing with the fear, it's hard to be rational.

Then I spent some time talking to wiser people than myself, and lots of loving friends, and I learned a few important things. The first, and biggest, came of course from my mother, who is probably the wisest person I know. She said, "God obviously didn't want you there, and he got you out of there quicker than you were getting yourself."

The truth is, when bad things happen, our first instinct isn't typically to say, "This is good, this is part of the plan." Instead we wallow in pity and worry, bemoaning what happened and not considering that it happened on purpose. God, being all sovereign, can and does work through every circumstance, both the good and the bad. And I know he's working through this one.

I'm also learning yet again that trusting God is essential. If you don't believe that he's in control and taking care of you, you will despair. The knowledge that he is looking after me, protecting me and caring for me means I don't have to become distressed or hopeless. The truth is, he's taken care of me thus far; why would he stop now?

Finally, I learned that you have to let people in. When things of this nature happen, it's easy to want to keep them hidden. Really, it's a pride issue. But no one wants the world to know that something they were doing failed. What I had to do is get past that, and acknowledge that I needed my friends and loved ones. Allowing them to effectively love on me meant I had to let them in on what was happening. And I'm very glad I did. I have received so much support, it's overwhelming. I had someone to talk to non-stop from the moment I left work to... now. It hasn't stopped.

So my adage or quote for this experience is, "One day's ending is another day's beginning." I feel like that sums up everything I've learned tonight. This is the end of one day, one chapter, one part of the whole. Tomorrow, a new day dawns, another chapter opens and another piece begins. How fitting that it falls on the end of one year and the start of another.

I can't wait for my new beginning, a glorious dawn full of potential and life. I can't wait for God to open doors, provide in radical ways, and shower me with his love along the way. I know he'll do the same for you, no matter what chapter of life you find yourself in, and I hope that brings you encrouagement.

Happy New Year. :)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Darkness Unveiled

What was once good and perfect, flawless and right, is now tainted, darkened, and marred.

When God created the world and all that is in it, he called what he made good. Only one who is good can proclaim something to be good. Therefore, it truly was good, from its surface to its core. It was the epitome of peace, a world where everything was right.

But it didn't last long. It didn't take much time for mankind to introduce darkness into that which was so good. Depravity soon took hold of a world originally created to reflect God's glory, introducing evil, pain and death.

The older I get and the more I experience, the more I learn that the world does a good job of dispelling all good as soon as possible. Innocence is banished at the first opportunity in favor of "education" and "enlightenment." Nothing is sacred or secret as the private and personal is lived out in front of the eyes of all. And through it all, the world does a clever job of masking its evil. It veils the darkness in a mist of lies, that everything is fine, acceptable, "good."

Wrong has been twisted so far, it is made to seem right. Evil parades itself about, it is the subject of newscasts and TV shows, games and photographs. All the while, people cheer it on as progress, human rights, the norm. And little by little, what is truly good is lost.

What is good is quiet peace, self-control, restraint, love for others above oneself. Good is remembering why the world was created, its divinely appointed purpose, and not losing sight of that. To forget what is good is to allow the veil to encircle you, to the point where you begin to think of the darkness as "not that bad." In that moment, you begin to lose all that you were supposed to be, and become something you were never meant to be.

I see this darkness daily, the things that happen to innocent people, wrong perpetuated. I see lives lived out in a veiled state, stumbling, lost, the wrong made right. But what can I do about it? What can any of us do to a veil so big, so vast?

The truth is, we in our own strength will never dispel the entire veil, it is too vast. But on a much smaller level, we can help to protect others from this veiled darkness. Truth told is truth remembered. I'm always strengthened most by those who have resolved to resist the darkness, who know what they believe and why. Those who have committed to the good remind me why I stand firm in the truth, why I must.

Forbid that the veil should cloud our eyes, that we should deceive ourselves. Evil lurks in the darkness, and you must fight it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Place to Belong

I think we all dream of home, a place where we are completely accepted, fully loved, and know that we belong. Life can easily turn into a quest for this place, the illusive home.

As a child, I thought home was a place. It was the house at 1421 Savannah Street in Mesquite, Texas, with the white-walled rooms decorated with pink, floral curtains and hundreds of stuffed animals. It was where everything happened, dinners with my family, games with my friends. It was the center of my life.

Over the years and several moves later, I started to learn it was less about the place than I had first thought. Places come and go; you can move a thousand times, looking for that one place and never find it. Because, ultimately, it's not the place that accepts you and loves you and makes you belong.

Over all those years and through each of those moves, one thing remained the same; I always had my family, and they always had me. There was always a close-knit core group, unshakable, bonded. Even in going off to college, they were still there to support, love and accept me.

As an adult, I'm standing on a threshold of life. Do I continue on, as is, struggling to construct for myself a home out of all that is lacking? Or do I take that step toward the home I long to have, where I know I'll belong.

At times, here, now, where I'm at, I feel forgotten, invisible. Like a lost piece of a puzzle, trapped out of sight beneath a sofa or couch cushion, not accomplishing anything or contributing to the whole. Just waiting to be found. In those moments of realization, I know one thing. I'm tired of waiting, tired of being invisible when I know there's so much more I could be doing.

I feel this pull, to go and contribute in ways I can't here, to join with the whole, to belong once again. In this knowledge, my advice to others is find where you can do the most good, contribute the most and where there's a core group that will absolutely love on you. When you find that, do not, for any reason, let it go. Take it from someone who let it go, you don't want to disappear into the invisible. Hold on to your home, and never let it go.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Remembering How to Feel

Life, in some ways, teaches you to close off, to remove yourself. When pain, hardship, sadness occurs, little by little, you can teach yourself not to feel. It's easy to suppress that which hurts, to deny feelings, to tell yourself, it doesn't matter; it's not a big deal. But all the while, the knowledge that it does matter and it does hurt simmers beneath the surface, denied again and again.

I've done a good job of not letting myself feel some things. And in not letting myself feel, callouses have formed. Now, sometimes, I feel like I'm Andrew Largeman, the main character in Garden State, so drugged, I'm incapable of feeling anything. Life circles about me like a haze, filtering out all that would make me laugh or make me weep.

I hate that feeling, but when it leaves, it's almost more frightening. When I catch myself realizing that something is having an effect on me, I almost don't know how to respond. Even good tears are like a terror. Crying for the joy of a feeling has to be better than crying for the pain of another, but I feel lost for what to do.

Ultimately, I feel like all of this stems from a lack of control. We can't control our lives, or the people in them. All we can control is how we respond. To respond in a way that will leave you open to pain is like leaving yourself vulnerable to a raging bear. There is no control, certain agony, and possible death. You are helpless. And thus, we set up measures to protect that which is subject to what we can't control. We don't show emotion--no pain, no fear, no love, no happiness. Should that emotion escape, we have no way of knowing how we will be ravaged by those who witness it. If I tell someone I love them, and they don't love me, what painful consequences will result?

It is, after all, a vicious cycle, like so many other things we experience in life. We suffer from a lack of emotion as we transfer into a zombie-like state, and therefore deny ourselves and others the basic rite of human interaction. And all this, because we are afraid of that interaction, that it will leave us stripped and bare to pick up the pieces.

I suppose the key to this cycle-breaking lies in the people you hold most dear. Pull those people close, the ones you know can take your fragile heart in both hands and not break it. The ones who, no matter how bare your soul becomes, will love you just the same. They are your safe haven, and that is the mark of a true friend. It is those few friends that you must unleash your hidden emotions to. You must let them see you laugh, cry, love, no matter how hard it may be.

Emotion doesn't equal weakness, it equals humanity and is the key to keeping you from the thick haze of forgetting how to feel.

The Struggle

Today someone told me I should write every day. I agree, though it's difficult to always make myself sit down and write. This same person also told me to keep a blog. I've had this one for a while, but haven't always been good about updating it.

It's my new goal to write more, like I used to. I used to write every day in my journal. I was a lot better about it then because my mom made me do it. Now I have to make myself, which will be something of a challenge.

I also decided to take a different angle with my blog, writing it more as a letter than a blog entry. Each entry, however, will not be addressed to anyone specifically. Like the title, it will remain blank. It's an entry for whomever needs it or wants it; it will be written for you. It will also be written for me, as I'll probably need it the most.

Like tonight.

Tonight I need a good blurb, to process and think. About what exactly, I'm not entirely sure. Life mostly. Life and how much it bothers me when I feel like I should have it all figured out by now. Because I don't, I'm not even close.

I could go on about how I wish it was simpler, or that things came easier or that I always knew what to do. But the truth is, life is about the struggle. A mother struggles to deliver her child, a plant struggles to break free of its shell, a bird struggles to learn how to fly.

And I must struggle. For that is what life is most days, a continuous, unending struggle to live and not give up. And believe me, sometimes giving up is very, very appealing. But those of us that are born fighters know, quitting is not an option.

So I continue on in the hope that one day, life will be right. Perhaps one day, I'll know where I'm supposed to be, and I'll be there. I'll live where I'm supposed to live, work where I'm supposed to work, and love who I'm supposed to love.

Until then, I'll be here. Writing, struggling and working on making sense of it all.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Plan B... or C or D

Life, according to Green Day, is about giving up when it gets too hard. Lay down your arms, give up the fight. If "Plan A" goes up in flames, surrender and count your losses. Because really, who wants to resort to "Plan B"?

My life is a story of Plan Bs, Cs, Ds... Plan A died long ago when, as a child, things didn't go the way I thought they would. Plan B died in high school. Plan C in college. Plan D a little over a year ago. So the question becomes, if Plan A fails, is God done with you? Isn't Plan A the best plan and when that fails, haven't you messed up your life just a little too much?

Well, not exactly. If you look at biblical history, a lot of Plan As failed. Plan A for Adam and Eve was to spend forever, perfect, in the Garden of Eden. Plan A was for Esau to get the blessing. Plan A was for Joseph to live it up, the favorite son. Plan A was for the Hebrews to get out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. But somewhere along the line, Plan A failed.

God is the God of Plan B... or C or D, because our plans often fail miserably. I had life all figured out, multiple times. But just because those didn't work out, doesn't mean that God stopped working on me. God works through our failures, however many there are, it's called redemption.

The thing to keep in mind, is that God isn't bound to our plans. He works through our choices, around them, over them, but ultimately, it's his plan that succeeds.

Giving up the driver's seat is hard. Especially when we think our plan is perfect. But the best thing for us to do is let go. Right now. Wherever you're at in your Plan H or N or Z, just stop. Stay right where you are, in your land of broken plans. Like God told the Israelites in Jeremiah 29:4-11, stay in exile in Babylon, because he has plans that he is working out. He has the whole picture.

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." - Ps. 27:14
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