Decisions, Decisions

 

light sea dawn landscape

So many opportunities, so little time.

For years I’ve prayed, in an ongoing and fervent way, that God would open and shut doors as I careen through life. I’ve learned through many years of detours and crappy consequences that God’s plans for me are a whole heckuva lot better than my plans for myself.

Sometimes my plans and His coincide, sometimes they don’t. It all depends on the sensitivity and clarity of my hearing. It took me a long time to even WANT to listen to God’s voice and obey, let alone ferret out which voice is which amongst the drivel and cultural indignities that define our society in 2019. Is it my voice I hear? Is it Twitter or Instagram? Facebook? Ads that assault me in every discernable media outlet?

I’ve learned that when I do actually decipher a direction from God, it’s up to me to step out and find out. Activity is involved. Focused, intentional activity in the direction I’ve heard, expecting open and shut doors to guide me. I love the way God is crafting my character lately through shut doors (said no one ever). Just last week, I got a hefty dose of door-shutting. True life experiences are so much fun, aren’t they?

In waiting for my editor to get back to me on the latest batch of changes to my second book, “The Deadening,” I decided I’d contact a local magazine and pitch an idea for a series of articles to fill the void. To my surprise, they loved the idea, and furthermore, they paid a good fee for said articles. I wrote one. Got a check. Wrote the next one. Got a check. Wrote the next one. Got a check. All the while, mind you, coming up with ideas and writing these articles was distracting me from working on book number four, not a good thing, but…the checks kept rolling in! How could I NOT write the articles? Plus, as a super-duper bonus, they were quite vocal in how much they loved them. I was about as happy as a duck in a pond. Keep in mind, I continued to pray that God open and shut doors. This, I figured, was a safeguard.

Sigh.

Article four was edited by the magazine into a mere shadow of itself, which disappointed me. Article five was “pitch us some ideas” and when I did, the response was “sorry, our staff is already working on those ideas. Have any ideas for yada yada yada? (months down the road). By this time I’m starting to get the idea that the lack of specificity in direction for future articles means: no thanks, we’re good. Suddenly, I experience an epiphany. Not only am I wasting time crafting ideas for this magazine that they apparently already have covered, but I’m beginning to suspect that this is their way of weeding out unnecessary writers. I’m slow, but I’m not stupid.

sherlock cartoonGod closed the door, and I’ve finally learned not to resurrect the door, not to bang on the door, not to jerk open the door and demand attention, not to ask why. What happened was a detour from what God wanted me to do (primarily), which was work on my next manuscript. And the next. And the next. So, in my quest for maturity as a Christ-follower, I decided not to have a pity party and instead, rejoice in the fact that the detour was short and I even made a little money.

I had the distinct impression, after this lucid and years-in-the-making reaction, that God patted me on the back and said ‘Good job, daughter, they’re getting shorter, these detours of yours’.

When I lost the opportunity (well, maybe not, since I left the door open…), I felt a little slice of me slide away. But cropped-img_1345.jpgthe problem…the ongoing problem…is that the slice of validation I got from clutching the title ‘valued writing contributer’ was not the kind of validation that is  life-giving. The kind of validation that is eternal and incredibly rewarding is from God. The validation that says ‘well done, good and faithful servant’, or ‘well done, enter into your rest’, or ‘way to go, girl, you held your tongue when you wanted to cuss out the person at Wal-Mart with hundreds of coupons holding up the line but didn’t. Instead you smiled, and silently prayed a blessing over them. Well done!’ This is true validation, and as I get older, I seek it like a sunflower seeks the sun.

Additionally, I’m distracted by emotional responses that are not grounded in practicality or a sense of direction. By way of example, I got all  teary-eyed  after church a few weeks ago, and found one of the ministry leaders and declared I wanted to do something, anything to serve.  The following week I was called in and given an opportunity which I slept on, then said yes. After weeks of waiting for a yay or nay and instruction or whatever they needed me to undertake regarding the opportunity, I decided all the waiting was ridiculous. I emailed them for a direction. Swiftly, on little wings of rejection, I was told that there wasn’t really enough interest and thanks but no thanks. Shut door number two, all in one week.

Seriously? I could’ve used an open door or two at that point. Then I realized all the ‘no’s’ led me straight to a more intentional path for the better stuff. Not that the other two opportunities weren’t good, but they apparently weren’t the best decisions in this season of my life. This is where faith steps in, takes me by the hand, and tells me to hang in there. Shut doors do not mean I have no value. I’m of great value, the Bible says.  (And so are you, dear reader.) Yes, I’m being molded. Yes, I’m experiencing the (painful) blessing of shut doors. And…God impresses upon me, if I would only WAIT a second or two, in contentment and trust, HE would give me a shove in the right direction instead of having to correct my course all the time.

Well then.

Okay, I whisper for the thousandth time. Okay.

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I Can’t Hear You, You are Talking Too Much

Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness.

–Margaret Miller

for conversation articleMost folks seem more interested in talking than listening. I notice this as I sit staring at my cold coffee and listening to the person sitting across the table from me who has been talking for twenty minutes without a single thought that the other person might like to be involved in the conversation also.

Isn’t a conversation a two-way street? I always thought so, but maybe not. Perhaps culturally, the word ‘conversation’ has morphed into ‘monologue’.

 

conversation article 2

Typically I look forward to conversations with friends in anticipation of them talking, then me talking, then them talking, then me talking . . . you get the idea. I’m usually the first to dig into the meaty stuff with soul-probing questions like ‘how’s your life going?’ or ‘what’s the best thing that’s happened to you this week?’ which launches an interesting  dialogue. I love to hear what’s going on in hearts and lives and also sharing what’s going on in mine. I love the inspiration and direction that comes from a stimulating conversation.  A rhythm develops, a natural give and take of laughter, caring and transparency.

Every good conversation starts with good listening. Deep conversations with the right people are priceless.

–Anonymous

Of course, this expectation is off the table if one of us is going through a shattering life struggle. That person gets a free pass and my job (hopefully I will not be the one going through an equivalent event at the same time) is to hold a hand, say a prayer, listen with real concern and not look at my phone. Not even once.

But let’s get real, here. Barring a person going through crisis, who wants to spend a couple of hours listening to someone chat conv art 4about themselves indefinitely without realizing the other person is getting all glassy-eyed and bored because they haven’t been asked a single question or given a few seconds of space to jump in and join?  I don’t get it. And I’ve tried being transparent about my feelings, but ohmigosh you’d think I’d barfed all over them by their reactions.

I don’t do that anymore.

Instead, I’m careful to limit contact. I don’t understand the mentality. Plus, I feel devalued when I’m with them.

On the flip side, my husband and I have experienced evenings with couples that leave us smiling and content when we part ways. I think it’s because they were really interested in us. And I suspect they treat most people that way. It is a lovely thing to be around these kinds of folks. I strive to be that kind of person.

Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.

–Margaret Wheatley

Imagine my surprise, when in my devotional time this morning, God impressed on me conv art 5that my conversations with him are similarly one-sided. I laughed out loud and apologized immediately. Then I spent a while listening, really listening, and we proceeded that way for a bit. Him talking, then me talking, Him talking, then me . . .

It was priceless.

 

After the Party is Over

Christmas has come and gone, and with it, my balloon-like joy.  It popped the minute everyone left my house.

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Oh, we had lovely memories and lots of gift exchanging. Lots of hugs and oohs and aahhs. But the elephant in the room, the one sibling/adult child that didn’t make it for Christmas because he was in rehab (again) sat in the room (virtually) and glared at us as if his disability was our fault. As if being excluded from our Christmas celebration was an abuse of his familial privilege.

To all parents of drug addicts, a select club of which I am reluctantly a member, I salute

adventure beautiful blue dawnyou. I’m in my eleventh year of this stuff, and I can’t even feel my fingers anymore, where the addict is concerned. NarAnon has taught me to take one day at a time, to do the tough love thing, to distance myself from the addiction but love the addict.

And it is working, kind of.

But the emotional pain, the offense, the expense! The wondering if I should pay his bills, as if I, somehow, caused this and should suck it up. If I should be the one to tell his roommate sorry, buddy, for my child causing you such financial hardship, here’s a few thousand bucks to make up for it

Such insanity! That in no way, shape or form, did I cause. At NarAnon meetings it is common to recite “I didn’t cause it, I can’t cure it, I can’t control it.”

This helps.

But believing it, trusting it, stiff-arming the addict’s onslaught of unpaid bills and possible jail time . . . well, that’s a different matter altogether. We parents want to rescue. And so we do, over and over until we realize it does no good. It delays their sobriety, actually.

beautiful calm clouds darkOn the bright side, I got a book contract about the same time that Christmas came around and I have many, many books in me that need writing. I have many stories to tell, not the least of which include a postscript of addiction in there somewhere. Too many people can relate. Way too many. It is an onslaught that needs curtailing, but how?

Don’t get me started.

So I fall to my knees, recite the same prayers over my son, try to carry on as if ‘normal’ is a thing I can do in spite of.

But it never leaves, you know, the weight of a child that still struggles to be born.

Since he is in rehab, an inpatient, four-month program, I sleep better. The nightmares lessen. In this facility, he cannot call often, a good thing since the sound of his voice still brings tension and fear. It is a good thing not to hear it sometimes. A four-month program that is voluntary, I pray that he will stay, not run; that he will finally understand that his life is at stake, and not only his, but mine. His father too, his sisters and his brother.

The hard thing to internalize is that nothing matters to the addict but the next high.

Nothing.

We are all praying that this time, he will stay long enough that things matter. That his life matters. His family matters. His friends matter.

That we can finally love him the way he is meant to be loved, in spite of everything.

We cling to hope. As long as he is breathing, there is hope.

person standing on hand rails with arms wide open facing the mountains and clouds