Sunday, December 30, 2012

"I Don't Have Bad Days"

I was sitting in church one morning about five years ago when my pastor, Bill Johnson, said something that stirred me (and not in a positive way). He said, “I don’t have bad days.” I instantly became irritated with the thought that someone could claim such an unbelievable ability to “not have bad days.” How is that even possible? Who would dare to make such an arrogant statement? When service ended that day I felt miffed and frustrated. I knew my pastor well enough to know that he meant what he said, and he wasn’t being irresponsible. However, at the same time I felt like he was dangling an idea in front of me that gave me false hope, for how could I ever get to a place of such peace and confidence? In 2012, I was able to answer that question for myself.

Last spring Jon’s parents came to visit us and that day in March started like any other. I poured myself some coffee and sat down to check my emails. When I saw I had an email in my inbox from our landlord, I winced wondering what she would have to say. As I opened the message, my heart sank when I read the words “I am sorry to have to say this to you, but due to unforeseen circumstances we are going to need to move back into our house by summer.” Ugh. Jon was at work and I dreaded having to tell him that we just got kicked out of our home. And by summer? Really? How are we going to round up a down payment to buy a home, in the same school district within a few months time? And if buying isn’t an option, how will we find another rental in the same school district? My mind was racing with questions that had no answers. Our last move from California had put so much strain on our family, we were not ready to be stressed like that again, and only a year and a half later. I wrestled with discouragement, hopelessness and a little bit of panic all while surrounded by my parents, kids, and what was supposed to be an enjoyable spring break. Just as I found myself nose-diving into despair, I heard a still small voice, one that was very familiar and comforting say to me, “It’s too early to call this bad news.”

All of a sudden I felt hope arise. I didn’t know what that phrase meant, because to me this was clearly bad news, but I went with it. I decided that I would really listen to it, and ponder what it meant. I then had an idea of how to present the “news” (I dropped the bad part for now) to Jon. I called him when I had a moment alone and said, “Ok, this is going to sound bad, but before you make a decision about whether it’s bad news or not, just know that I felt like God said everything would be alright.” He hesitantly said slowly, “Oooookaaaay….what is it?” I proceeded to tell Jon about the email I got and he didn’t take much time to hold back from categorizing this news as “bad.” He was instantly upset and I could feel him take the same nosedive of despair I had begun to take about an hour previous to our conversation. I just repeated myself and said, “I know this feels bad, and I know this raises a lot of questions for us and I know it feels overwhelming, but let’s just try and meditate on what He said to me, let’s just try…” Jon put forth his best effort for the next few days, but it wasn’t easy.

As I kept turning over in my head the different options we had before us, everything would feel swirly and confusing. What does this mean? Does it mean we made a mistake to move to Kansas? Should we leave? Should we buy? Should we rent? Should we choose a different area to live in? Should we try and get all of this done before our annual summer trip to North Dakota? Should we just put all our stuff in storage and live at the farm for a while? Questions, questions, questions, too many options to know what to do. So I did what I always do in that situation, I sent out my SOS email to several friends that I trust and respect. I asked them to pray, and I didn’t tell them why. I wanted to hear what God might say through them without influencing their thoughts or prayers with all of our worries and questions. What happened next was such a special moment for me, I will never forget it.

While several friends responded with great encouragement, one friend answered with such clarity I instantly teared up. She called me and basically said she felt really unsure about what she was about to say, but was going to say it anyway. She then went on to explain that as she was praying for us that morning, she just kept hearing the words “putting down roots, it’s time to put down roots and make a home…” There was more but that was the basic message. It is my absolute favorite thing in the world when God answers you that clearly. I knew in that moment it was time for us to buy a home and put down permanent roots in Kansas. Knowing it and doing as it turns out, are two very different things.

The first thing we found out in our hunt for a home was that interest rates had dropped to historic low numbers. This meant for us that the homes we could not afford when we first moved to Kansas were well within our budget now. That is something we would have never looked into had we not been kicked out of our rental. The second thing we found out was we were going to need to come up with about 20,000 dollars in order to qualify for a mortgage (even with excellent credit). That is something we did not have just sitting around. After much thought we asked someone we have good relationship with if we could borrow the money and thankfully for us, they said yes. Hurdle number two was down. Now, for number three; finding a home in a very small area that fit our family’s needs, fit our budget, and kept our kids in the same school district. That hurdle was pretty high I found out as the house hunt continued.

Up to this point I had been able to really believe that getting kicked out of our rental at that particular point in time was a “God thing.” But as every day passed and no houses were presenting themselves, I started to waiver. Then I got a cold and hit a low point physically and emotionally. I was in bed most of that day when I sent out another one of my SOS emails. This time the email only went out to my Dad and Jon. I just told them that I had hit a low point, my resolve was weakening and I could feel discouragement and despair threatening my peace once again. I remember thinking, “Are you sure God? Are you sure about all of this? Because right now I am questioning all of it.” Within about five minutes everything changed, once again.

I was on an automatic email list with a realty company in the area, and as I was lying there, sick in bed I saw it! The perfect home for our family! It had just been listed that very hour and I immediately called our realtor to set up a time to see the house. I told her I was sick in bed but I would get up and get ready to see this house, I knew it was our house. The viewing was set for 6pm and I eagerly sent Jon the link. He was sold, and just as excited as I was!

When we pulled up to the house our realtor wasn’t there, and the carpet cleaners were still finishing up. There wasn’t even a lock-box on the door yet so I guess they didn’t expect appointments that early. Our realtor mistakenly thought we were talking about a house down the street so I called her to meet us at the right house. When we walked in I saw there was still food cooking on the stove and felt bad that we had interrupted their meal. It didn’t take long for Jon and I to do a quick walk-thru and both say in unison, “We’ll take it! Let’s put in an offer right now!” Long story short, we were the first offer of several over the next 24 hours – and since we were first ours was accepted. Not only was this house in the school district we wanted, but it was beautiful, the closing dates worked out perfectly for our timeline, it was tailored to our needs, and it was going to be cheaper than our rental! There was so much joy, so much peace and so much relief, I truly understood in that moment why God had said to me months before, “It’s too early to call this bad news.”

He knew it all along. He knew what he had planned for us, He knew what kind of dreams coming true were awaiting for us just around the corner. What if I had lamented all those months and stressed and worried and given myself an ulcer over such “good” news? And then it hit me, that phrase that Pastor Bill said years ago; “I don’t have bad days.” I finally really understood what that meant. So many times we hear news, or information if you will that we categorize immediately as “good” or “bad.” If we categorize it as bad, everything surrounding that information forms negative energy that settles in all around us and sucks the peace and joy from our life. I am not speaking about tragedy, or accidents, or death. I am speaking about the reports we hear on a daily basis about work, about school, about finances, about weather etc. etc. I realized there are many things in life I interpreted as “bad” upon hearing it, but how did I know how it would be turned for good if I would just wait, and see what He could do with it? I decided at that point in time to add a new category called “neutral.”

Whenever I get a report that seems negative (outside of obvious tragedy), I have disciplined myself to put that news into the neutral category and take it to Him in prayer. Then today, as I was reading one of my all time favorite books, The Shack, I read my revelation in beautiful words that explained perfectly what we had been through last year:

“[Speaking of reports or “news” we hear on a daily basis] They are neither bad nor good; they just exist. Here is something that will help you sort this out in your mind. Paradigms power perception and perceptions power emotions. Most emotions are responses to perceptions – what you think is true about a given situation. If your perception is false, then your emotional response to it will be false too. So check your perceptions, and beyond that check the truthfulness of your paradigms – what you believe. The more you live in the truth, the more your emotions will help you see clearly. But even then, you don’t want to trust them more than me. (The Shack, pg. 199)”

This new way of thinking altered how I did life in 2012. As I stand at the precipice of 2013, I’m excited to put into practice my new theology of “I don’t have bad days.” It’s not denial, it’s not a refusal to look at reality. For example, we experienced terrible loss in the month of December not just as a nation, but for us at a personal level as well. Tragedy is in our midst and there are days that grief and sadness engulfs us and the tears don’t stop. But even in the midst of those days, my paradigm remains the same. God is good, He loves me, and there is still beauty and joy and life worth living outside of this tragedy. When I look at the tragedy through that paradigm, my emotions don’t fall into hopelessness or despair. I may feel the sadness at a very deep level, but I still have hope and I find the resolve to heal and keep choosing love.

I’m not going to say that I have mastered this, oh no I have not. I am far from it. But I finally can say that I understand it, I value it, and I am working towards the reality that I no longer have “bad days.” I hope you will join me in 2013 on this journey of hope, resolve and courage. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Some of What I’ve Learned in 35 Years (in no particular order)

1. Beauty is WAY overrated. It’s not something you earned, or fought for, or discovered or created. How I wish our culture did not put so much emphasis on a random biological process that none of us have any control over.

2. (on that same note) The 400 lb woman thinks the 200 lb woman is lucky and has nothing to complain about. The 200 lb woman looks at the 150 lb woman and thinks she is beautiful and wishes she could be her. The 150 lb woman looks at the 120 lb woman and thinks she is perfect. The 120 lb woman sees nothing but flaws when she looks in the mirror. It's madness I tell you!!!!!!!!!!

3. Life is simply too short to exercise more than 40 minutes a day (unless you’re on the show The Biggest Loser).

4. Eating healthy as a lifestyle is the way to go, but I will always make room in my diet for the naughty things! Bacon, candy corn, fried cheese curds, mini donuts, yeah you guys will always have a special place in my heart.

5. Marriage is one of the hardest and one of the most rewarding things in life you will ever experience. When you find someone who will be your greatest advocate in the world, and you are his, that my friends is worth any fight, any drama, any sleepless night and all the work it takes to get there.

6. You can never take back something you said. But, if you don’t take risks and say some things that are on your mind and make some mistakes, you never learn which things are important to say out-loud, and which things you should just keep to yourself.

7. I believe in living with some regret, but only if regret can be the catalyst you need to change, do better, be better, grow and clean up your messes.

8. There are a rare few that will be in your life forever. For all the rest of the people that come and go, hurt you, make you smile, make you laugh, break your heart, its all a part of the process. Embrace it all because without the negative experiences, we really would not be able to truly value the positive ones.

9. Take the time to interview the older people in your life. Ask them; what was a waste of time? what did they wish they would have done more of? what were their victories and what were their failures? Learn from it. I once heard someone say write your ideal obituary, and then work backwards from it. Don’t be a passive human being. Live intentionally! Happen to your life, don’t let life just happen to you.

10. Whether you feel like a creative person or not, we are all born with a form of art that we are to present to the world. Each one of us carries inside the ability to do something unique and special that no one else in the world can do like we can. What is your art that the world is waiting for?

11. Pay attention to the movies, the commercials, the poems, the books, the greeting cards and the quotes that make you tear up, they will lead you in the direction of your destiny.

12. Every morning when you wake up and have your coffee or your tea, think about how the grass is plenty green on your side. A thankful heart cannot be a depressed, discouraged or sad heart.

13. Today, a real woman is powerful. She may have been born with a loud, strong personality, or a quiet, shy personality. Either way she should own that and be true to herself. She may have been born with a lean athletic build and gorgeous eyes, or a short frame with freckles and beautiful teeth. Either way, she should own that too and be proud. A real woman today might be president of a nation, or a stay-at-home mom. The point is that now she has a choice. This woman isn’t yet modeled in media or advertising as much as we would like, but she is all around you. She’s at the grocery store, she’s your neighbor, she’s your sister, she’s your classmate, she’s your boss. It’s our responsibility to make sure this is the model we are teaching our little girls from here on out.

14. People with secrets never have true peace. It’s so much better to get your failures out in the open, talk about them in your words, from your perspective. No secrets = freedom. Freedom = the ability to love openly and live powerfully.

15. Choose your battles wisely. Some things are worth fighting to the death, and some things are not your problem.

16. Never work harder on someone else’s problems than they are willing to work on themselves.

17. Watch more funny movies, you tube videos and read more far side books. Life is too short to not spend at least 50% of it laughing! And if you’re husband is funny, that’s a bonus!

18. When life presents extraordinarily difficult circumstances – fight back with extraordinary gestures of courage and strength!

19. The quickest path to self-deception is when we ignore the still small voice.

20. It will never be about what you did, how much you made, how well you did in a career. It will always be about who you loved, how well you loved, and who loved you. Period.