Just One Word

I used to roll my eyes when I would see yet another social media post about someone choosing a word for the year. I thought it was silly. How could choosing a word to focus on for an entire year help anyone? But then last year at this time I was so broken and parts of my life seemed hopeless and I figured what could it hurt?

Since I had never chosen a word for the year before, I did research on Google and found a Word of the Year Generator – which I unfortunately cannot share the link for because that was a year ago and I apparently did not save it. I used the Generator and was given the word Restore.

Restore. What a perfect word for what lay before me – a land mine of a life that I wasn’t sure I would survive. It was enough to spark hope in my heart – just enough hope to face the coming year.

Last year was hard. There were definitely good things throughout the year, but overall, it was very challenging. I had to give up my dogs that I loved (I literally had no real choice unless I wanted to be homeless), my classes for school more often than not ceased to be enjoyable and I wanted to quit (but I didn’t!), I got divorced from a 15 year marriage that I thought would be my forever, and I had to deal with the fallout from the trauma for me and my kids from that relationship that wasn’t at all what it looked like from the outside.

Restore. God definitely brought about restoration in my life this last year. I went from being on three different anxiety medications – one as needed, two daily – to next to lowest dose of only one of them (with my doctor’s help – never try to do it alone), and I should be completely weaned off anxiety meds entirely within six months. The anxiety and depression that plagued me before I left my marriage is completely gone. I have moments of sadness or feeling anxious – but they are normal emotions; not strong enough to require a diagnosis.

I was not allowed to keep my dogs but we were allowed to get our bearded dragons because they don’t make a lot of noise and they are not destructive. I still want to have dogs again someday, but you’d be surprised just how much my little scaly babies like to snuggle. Our dragons have brought us a lot of joy and laughter, and will continue to do so.

I passed all of my classes and am set to finish this fall. I will have to really focus and become more organized in order to do so – I will be doing school full time, working, and being mom. Fortunately I do school online so I am still home with my girls.

At the beginning of 2019, I had a good job, but in June I was able to start a career-worthy job. I have been told multiple times that I would make a great supervisor, but I cannot commit to that level just yet. My kids come first, and I also need to graduate before I could consider something like that. When I left my marriage and my girls and I moved into a domestic violence shelter, I really didn’t know how we would make it. I knew I would do what it took, but I never thought I would have a job that I love – one that is so much more than paying the bills. And while I don’t make the big bucks, I thoroughly enjoy what I do.

At the beginning of the year I was trying to find a church but just couldn’t find one that was the right fit for my family. A few months ago I found home, and I am so grateful that God led us there!

I’m not going into details on my finances, but suffice it to say that God is helping me there too.

And finally, when I left my marriage, I lost friendships because I finally stopped protecting a lie. I understand now that they were not my true friends in the first place. And beyond that, I have made new friends and grown closer to old friends that I had barely been in touch with before.

Restore was such a perfect word for last year that I decided to do a word for the year again this year. But now that I’m a seasoned pro (haha), I chose my own word. Truthfully, I was driving to work and singing along with my worship music playlist, enjoying my time with God, when the word came to me. That word is Shift.

Shift. According to a search on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website, the first option for shift is as follows:

Definition of shift

transitive verb

1: to exchange for or replace by another CHANGE

2a: to change the place, position, or direction of MOVE

b: to make a change in (place)

3: to change phonetically

Shift. When my attitude sucks, I will shift to a better attitude. When I am being overly negative, I will shift my thoughts. When what I am doing isn’t working, I will shift to a new way of thinking and doing. I will even do a silly hand movement if it helps!

This year will have its own challenges, but I am determined to grow; determined to keep moving forward. While I choose to be content, I refuse to sit still and stagnate.

And while I’m at it, I choose to have a more open mind to the things that seem silly to me. Because they just might work.

Planting Reality

Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality.

Earl Nightingale

Many of us have heard the popular catchphrase “what you think about, you bring about.” It seems so trite to me – like a bossy older sibling talking down to you from their place of supposed superiority. Not that I know what that feels like from experience; I am the older sibling.

Regardless of my thoughts about the tone of the phrase, I find it to be valid in my life. If I believe it’s going to be a bad day, my brain will be constantly scanning for the negative. That said, I do not believe that it is true one hundred percent of the time. I can believe it’s going to be a good day and be proven wrong. This would be where a few radical people would step in and say that I could choose for it to be a good day anyway. I disagree.

I remember sitting in youth group one Wednesday night, listening to a guest speaker. She was beautiful, which made her message even more believable to an impressionable teenager like myself. She was sharing how after a certain point in her life (in which she had had some sort of Divine experience), she no longer had bad days. That she was able to continually choose that each day was a good day because Jesus was her best friend.

Whoa, wait a minute. I am about to say something that some of you might find controversial. But I politely request you continue reading with an open mind before you make a judgment. You might find that we do agree afterall.

Having Jesus as your best friend/Savior/Lord/Master, etc., does not make every day a good day.

Say what? It’s true. Nowhere in the Bible does it say “thou shalt have a good day, everyday.” Nowhere does it proclaim that your glass must be half full (or half empty if it’s full of something nasty).

We are not called to be eternal optimists.

For some of you, this is probably hard to agree with. For others, the chains are loosening, and long-buried hope is struggling against the dark soil of your struggle.

But what about salvation? The promise of heaven? The end to our present suffering? Joy unspeakable?

I think the What Would Jesus Do? movement of the 90’s can help us figure this one out.

In John 11, Jesus received word that one of His dear friends (Lazarus) was dying. Scripture made it clear that Jesus loved Lazarus, along with his sisters Mary and Martha, very much. Despite this love, He chose to stay where He was for two more days, saying, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” After a few days, He told the disciples that it was time to go, that Lazarus was dead.

When they arrived, Jesus talked with Martha. Even though Lazarus had been dead four days, He told her that Lazarus would rise again. He then met with Mary, and was “deeply moved” at her weeping.

Let’s pause for just a second. Jesus knew from the beginning that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Okay, back to the story.

Jesus allowed his friends to lead Him to the tomb where Lazarus lay, and knowing He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead just moments later, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) Read that again. “Jesus wept.”

He did not plaster a big smile on His face and act all cheery. There are two lessons in this: 1) Real friends grieve with their friends. They don’t pretend everything is peachy and tell their friends to “look on the bright side.” 2) It’s okay to weep, to be sad, to be angry. I won’t belabor this point because I wrote another post about this a while back.

As friends, we can usually see the bright side to someone else’s problem. As the person with the problem, sometimes we can see it too. Jesus didn’t just see the bright side, He was the bright side. But still He cried over the loss of His friend and the pain Lazarus’ friends and family members were experiencing.

So now that the pressure to be Positive Patty (no offense, Patty) all the time is invalid and unnecessary, what do we do with the whole thoughts become reality thing?

What are your dreams? What are you passionate about? What do you want to do that you are not sure you can do? (Realistically – even if we had the ability to fly, mythology makes it clear it’s probably a bad idea.)

We are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. It’s been twenty years since you graduated from high school and you want to go back to school to pursue a degree in a field you are passionate about? You can do it. As Mr. Nightingale said above, “nourish with repetition and emotion.” Do things that promote that dream. Even if they are tiny things, like researching the differences between online and physical college classes. Find blogs, videos on YouTube, Pins on Pinterest that motivate you to step out of your comfort zone. And then keep building.

One other aspect I want to touch on quickly is when we do need to look on the bright side. That’s when we start to wallow. You know, the woe is me, my life is over, things will never get better pit that we all seem to get stuck in at least once or twice in our lives.

Feelings are healthy. Feelings are not choices. Our choices come in when we choose how we will respond to our feelings. And as I have written in the past, there is nothing wrong with acknowledging and feeling our feelings. But we can’t just sit there forever.

Life is not easy. It’s time to stop pretending it is.

Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

Wesley, The Princess Bride (written by William Goldman)

It’s Not All Sunshine And Roses

It’s 12:47 am and I have to be up in about five hours, but I felt the need to write this right now. I’m tired and I want to go to bed, but something said this needed to be done, so here I am.

I just finished uploading the biggest part of my grade in my current online class around ten minutes ago. It was a paper I entitled Truth or Fiction: The Fibonacci Sequence. Uploading this paper meant that this class (which I have loathed – umm, hello, math) has only one week left. Uploading this paper meant that the one thing I could do well in this course would be done. Math is not my friend, but I am really good at research and compiling it into a paper.

The problem, however, is that it was due at 11:59 pm on Sunday, April 21, 2019. My paper uploaded at 12:32 am on Monday, April 22, 2019.

It wasn’t that the paper wasn’t done. Oh, believe me, it was done. The school websites didn’t want to load quickly, and some of them wouldn’t load at all. I thought it might be my internet connection, but I didn’t have that problem with other webpages, so it had to have been on the school’s end. Once the page I needed to upload my paper to loaded, it didn’t want to upload my paper. And then it said my paper wasn’t a file. And then the file I uploaded disappeared completely from the page. Finally it uploaded correctly and I was able to turn it in. Hopefully I won’t lose points for something that was out of my control. I tried for nearly an hour to upload my document before succeeding.

Believe it or not, this little fiasco was the icing on the cake of my night. As I sat down (a few hours before) to finish up my paper and turn it in, a sudden wave of discouragement hit me. I messaged my two best friends to let them know what was going on so they could pray for me. To be honest, I sent it to one and then screenshot the messages and sent it to the other one, because I didn’t want to risk running out of time to work on my paper.

I listed six things that were making me feel discouraged – the final one being, “And I don’t want to finish writing this paper.” Three of the other five were the issues that my three daughters are struggling with right now. As a mom, I sometimes feel powerless to help them through some of these struggles, but when I’m not feeling discouraged, I know that that is just the voice of my overwhelmed mind. I can’t fix them, but I can help them. It just won’t all be solved overnight. Some of them might take more than a year. One of the other two is knowing we need a new rental – like now – and I have yet to find one. I have been looking for months. I viewed one last Thursday that I really liked, but the landlord had several people to show it to, and I am waiting to hear back. I am supposed to view another tomorrow, but I have to view it within my work hours. Someone was going to pick up a couple hours of my shift so I could go look at the apartment within the allotted timeframe, but something came up and they are no longer able to cover it. The other one is something I won’t go into detail on. Suffice it to say that parts of my life are still under control – to a degree – of someone I don’t want them under the control of. Their control is very limited, but sometimes it feels like more than it truly is.

Once I was able to list these things out, I felt immensely better. It was also easier to go to God and ask for help for these things, as the causes of my discouragement were now very clear in my mind. I also knew my friends would be there in prayer for me.

So why the urgency in sharing all of this? Because it’s too easy to live social media lives that have little to do with our real ones. It’s easy to type pretty words and talk about how faithful God is when things are going well. And although I can share with you things I have dealt with in the past, I find it’s easier to be seen as a real human with real problems if I can share with you the things I’m struggling with now.

This is not a plea for sympathy. This is merely reassurance that I am you. Not exactly you, but I have issues too. Issues that are quite overwhelming sometimes. The shoes I wear are not always attractive, and they definitely are not always comfortable. But I still believe that God is here and He hears me. He knows my past, my present, and my future, and He is in control. Although all I can see are a bunch of strangely colored puzzle pieces that don’t seem to go together at all, He can see the big picture on the puzzle box, and He knows how it all goes together.

Five hours ago, I wanted to lay down and give up. But now, with less than five hours until my alarm wakes me up to start the day, I am confident. Not in myself and my abilities, but in the fact that because of Him, I can face another day with grace and peace.