Lots of things are converging this first week of 2020, none of which I thought would be at least 4 hours spent trying to assess the best way to purchase QuickBooks for my business. I’m on hold as I write this. It takes so much determination to plow through the muck. I am grateful that right now this is my job, and I am sympathetic to people who need help. Speaking of help, I am so so close to announcing my new business. I’m waiting to discuss some final touches on my announcement.

I am not a resolution type of gal. The last resolution I made was a good fifteen years ago. I vowed to drink one glass of wine a day. My tolerance was low, and I didn’t like that it affected me after just a half a glass.

Yes, when most people were vowing to stop drinking, I was vowing to drink. I was a trooper for a good 6 months or so, but I recall when I decided to quit. That’s largely in part why I don’t make resolutions. I don’t want the guilt of quitting. But I gave in. I was so sick of wine I broke my resolution in disgrace, and went back to just drinking wine on occasion, and I enjoy it again.

This is similar to when I was determined to like bleu cheese dressing. I think I was in junior high. I noticed that people who liked it, really liked it. I have always loved food. The situation of my young life might have had something to do with that. We often ate out of surplus boxes that were delivered to us. The box contained things like powdered milk, spam, peanut butter… basic staples. When I moved in to a foster home and got a chance eat decent food, I didn’t pass it up. But taking it further, I wasn’t satisfied with the normal foods kids my age liked. So back then, I set out to try bleu cheese dressing, and fell in love with it.

I still don’t like to miss out on what others are enjoying, which is a good segue to my next topic: on line dating. I’ve decided to do it.

I didn’t set out to do this or begin my business the first week of 2020. It’s like when flowers begin to burst, not because of the date on the calendar, but because of all the things that come together, they unfold before our eyes in wonder.

So, I signed up last night. I’m not eager, and in fact, dreading it would be more accurate. It’s kind of like, I want to be married, but I don’t want to date. I know how unrealistic that is. A couple of weeks ago a friend talk about her dating experiences. I wasn’t inspired about the dating, but I recognized that I could be missing out on something. Love, for example? Don’t even get me started on handyman benefits.

I asked a friend what she thought about me sharing my dating journey on my blog, and like a good friend, she said, “Why not? That’s what a blog is for!” It’s true, but at times I second guess myself. After a minute or two of contemplation I decided that this could be the most interesting thing I have to offer in my posts!

I’ve long thought that it will just happen, if it’s meant to be kind of thing. But I realize my marketability is dwindling every day that I wait for it to “just happen.” Like bleu cheese dressing, I could discover that I not only like it, but I love it.

I’ll share more with you soon, but I’ll leave you with a piece of my personality profile that made me laugh out loud. If you read my blog about being a girl (click here) you’ll recall that I have thought I’m sometimes more like a dude. Well, eHarmony concurs. I can think of a couple of friends who might think, “Ah, that explains a lot.”

I really am feminine, in many ways. But this was no surprise to me.

Methodically, I’m making progress forming my business. A couple of friends have asked if I’ve gotten any business yet. I’m not yet there, folks! I want to get things in place so I’m prepared once I start. Everything is new to me, so as I work on my FORM A BUSINESS list, I’m learning as I go. I get up early to attack my list, but my days vary. Some days I begin with time reading God’s Word, some days with writing, and some days with exercise. I love the variety. I keep an activity journal of what I do each day. In the beginning I had a lot of anxiety with this change. My mind and body were at odds, as my mind forced my body to change patterns. I use the activity journal as evidence that this plan is okay and my body can be at peace with this new plan. Last week I finished my OLCC training and now have my permit (again!), I met with my tax accountant and worked on fall towels and Christmas designs. These things aren’t the essence of the business I’m going to start, but it’s a great way to bring in some money, and I want to seize on the holiday opportunity.

The most fun thing that occurred is that I received my logo drafts and have selected one. I love it and am excited to share it! The least fun (and disturbing) thing that happened is that someone took my business name and created the obvious domain name with it, meaning it is unavailable for me, unless I buy it. BUY it! For anyone who isn’t sure what that means, I’ll explain. Let’s say my business name is WINKY ROCKS (which it is not). That means someone took WINKY ROCKS and put an @WINKYROCKS.com after it. So, @WINKYROCKS.COM is taken. I, who created an LLC with “WINKY ROCKS”, cannot use WINKYROCKS.COM, unless I purchase it from the person who registered the name.

I was able to obtain information on who registered the name, but it was registered by a company called Anonymize, Inc, who anonymously registers domain names. I have contacted them by phone and email to inform them that I would like my name back, but I have not received a reply from them. Since I have not made my name public, I know that I’ve been hacked, whether on my computer, my Google account, my Legal Zoom account, or my phone (I know there are apps that can listen to our conversations, even when we’re not on our phone).

I’m unnerved and frustrated, and angry at the opportunities people have to steal from us. Unlike someone who physically intrudes or commits a crime against us, we are unable to track this activity and are left at the hands of the perpetrator, for his pleasure. My first insight to this was a book I read called, Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump.

I spent hours digging up the information I discovered about the entity that registered my domain name. I talked with a friend who is in the security business, but this isn’t his area of expertise. I chatted with Google and Go Daddy, and they don’t have information that can help me.

I have a lot of take-aways in life. I have experienced a lot that has given me insight for future endeavors. This is my latest take-away: Register your domain name before you do anything else.

Our faith in technology leaves us so vulnerable. We place our lives in the hands of a Cloud that is robbing us of our time, our labor, our memories (photos and videos) and our identities. We collectively believe that technology, such as the Cloud, benefits us. That it will provide more to us than we ever thought possible, when in fact, it’s taking away from us more than we can imagine. I find it interesting that man will place his trust in something so nebulous, but considers God to be a concept that they can’t wrap their heads around.

I hate being this suspicious, but I don’t think we can be too mindful of this topic. Mindful is what I’m going to call myself, so I don’t sound like a mad woman. But mindful is what we should be. Our ordinary conversations and activities are being monitored, tracked, and recorded. In the case of my business name, I hadn’t even placed it on social media, in an effort to keep it within a safe environment until I was ready. As we innocently accept all the conveniences of technology as they’re offered up to us, we are compromising valuable information about our lives.

When I get overwhelmed at it all, I turn to what I know to be true. There is nothing nebulous about God. Proverbs 18:10 says that God is a fortified tower that the righteous run to and are safe. I don’t know if God would consider me righteous, but I will run to his tower and take my chances on him. Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” I am grateful to God who reminds me to hold on, not give up, because he is not going to let me down. 

I desperately need these reminders. Every day I have reason to rely on God. While good things happened every day last week, heartbreak and anger threatened my joy. I need the truth of who he is. He is the stone that was rejected, but is actually the cornerstone on which I can rely.

 

I love being a girl. In a time when we celebrate everything from chocolate chip cookies to best friends, pizza, dogs, margaritas and more, I’m glad to celebrate girls on International Day of the Girl.

Over the years I’ve often thought: “Man, I’m glad I’m a girl” (Funny that that sentence begins with “Man.”). I don’t know why exactly I’ve held this sentiment, because like most of us, many times I’ve I wished I were the other gender. There are the obvious moments, like once a month, or when I’m cleaning a gutter. And the less obvious, when the subtleties of a less than mind set crept into an experience, and even into my consciousness, and I questioned the value of being a girl. Yet ultimately, I’m always glad that I am, a girl.

In a Me Too era, I’ve had cause to reflect and ask if I’ve been a victim of a Me Too experience, where being a girl has put me at a disadvantage or at risk, in my personal life, or in the workplace. I’ve recalled some moments that could qualify. Fortunately, I’ve been able to escape anything that would cause me trauma. But I am able to empathize with women who have had to come head on with experiences that have been detrimental to their well being. But in those horrible moments, being a girl was not the problem.

I’ve never struggled with confidence of knowing my gender. I can’t imagine the struggle of those who are told they are a girl (or a boy), yet their spirit says otherwise. I recognize some incongruences between the stereotypical girl, and myself, but still know that I am a girl. I’ve had many moments when my mentality is more male like than female. For example, I eat more than most of my friends in a single sitting. I love red meat (the redder, the better), and before I chose to be a good example to my kids, drinking out of the milk carton was cool with me. Giving me flowers is sweet, but I’d rather have you mow the lawn or do the laundry. I love jewelry, but not at the cost of pinching pennies. I like honest feedback, and don’t like to beat around the bush. Actions mean more than words. I snicker at smack in sports. In the workplace, respect is necessary, but make your point and skip the niceties, because usually, timing is crucial. I’m impatient with call centers who ask how I am. If I’ve contacted you, I’m in the middle of a problem and am hoping for a solution, not a social experience. I’m not a fan of Girls’ Weekends, yet I love my friends and don’t know how I could do life without them.

This girl and her red meat.

This girl and her red meat.

Yikes. I’ve never listed all those things before. I sound like a dude! I know that I’m generalizing, but for years, that’s what we’ve done. It’s not uncommon for both men and women to associate being female with romance, needing or wanting expensive gifts, or being gentle in their approach. But not all women possess those traits, like not all men like to hunt.

I’m a girl who likes diamonds, flowers, candles, clothes, and in general, beautiful things. But those things do not make me a girl. I just am a girl. Probably, a practical girl!

In spite of what could be perceived as my male like mentality, I am fully a girl. I like diamonds, flowers, clothes, and in general, beautiful things. But those things do not make me a girl. I just am a girl. Probably a practical girl!

I love looking like the girl that I am. I love dressing like the girl that I am. I like what my girlness brings to my life and to the lives of others. I like the complexities of a female, such as the strength we are, and the tenderness we demonstrate. I like connecting with men (even though the last years might look otherwise), with a feminine heart and spirit. I enjoy a man who opens doors and pays for dinner. I am happy to know a man who cooks, is a caretaker, takes good care of himself, and provides for his family. I appreciate a man who does the heaving lifting. I love letting him be a man, and me be a girl. I’m not confident I can define that. I just know that I am a girl, and I am glad.

I celebrate femininity, strength, and being a girl. Happy International Day of the Girl!

Before I delve into Misunderstood, I want to give a brief progress report on self-employment. I laugh every time I say it. Like I’m saying, “Me and the Mrs.” or something so very unlike me that the words cause my head to swivel around to see who is speaking. But I like the sound of “self-employment”, more than I like, “unemployed.” I appreciated the bank rep with whom I worked. When I asked if my business credit card could be denied because I’m not employed, she said, “Oh, but you are. You’re self-employed!” She almost got a hug.

I’m getting closer to sharing my business concept publicly. I’m not trying to be mysterious. I share it with anyone I talk with. It’s just that publicly, like on the big Internet, is a whole other measure of sharing, and I want certain things to be in place, so when the flood of questions come in, I’m prepared.

Last week was a mix of many things. I was strategic about incorporating people into my day, which resolved the loneliness I was feeling by working at home without human connections. I went to an early morning bible study, rode my bike, and met a couple of friends for a walk. I also analyzed my LLC Operating Agreement and spoke with Legal Zoom tax and business attorneys. I opened a business bank account, worked on my business plan, and corresponded with an agent about commercial insurance, which I hope to finalize this week. I worked a really great one-day customer appreciation gig I got off of Craigslist. Within that, I learned (thanks to You Tube, again) to shuck oysters. When I agreed to do that in advance, I had no idea what shucking live oysters entailed. Live oysters come with other live things, like a little crab, barnacles and some other sort of wiggly thing. Ugh. But I powered through. I took a picture, but I’m not going to post it; I don’t even like looking at it.

MISUNDERSTOOD

I’ve decided that being misunderstood is responsible for many damaged relationships. I know a whole bunch of stories where people have shut down relationships because they weren’t able to communicate themselves well, someone didn’t communicate the whole story, a third party was neglectful in the way they told a story, or a person wasn’t even sure they knew how they felt, but how they were interpreted definitely was not the heart of what they intended. Maybe it was a missed text, a missed post, or two people were talking, but walking in opposite directions, and they just didn’t hear well. There are so many different scenarios that can lead to being misunderstood. If we were a forgiving people and naturally gave the benefit of the doubt to everyone, being misunderstood wouldn’t be a big deal. Unfortunately, we tend to be a cynical, critical bunch. Given that, we have to be mindful that we are human, and in our humanness, there is a high likelihood that we’ll be misunderstood, which is worth considering before we cut someone off, or add another brick to that wall we’re building.

When we react out of hurt or anger, our tendency is to layer bricks to what we believe is a wall of protection. In reality, it’s a wall of prevention: prevention from experiencing all the joy and happiness that awaits us. If we haven’t learned along the way how to contend with hurt, pain, and confusion, one hurt at a time, we pile them up. The wall gets to a point where it’s difficult to see beyond, or to remove any of the bricks, where pride is the binding mortar. 

I know I’ve been on the giving side of being misunderstood. I’ve miscommunicated, I’ve left someone out, or have been absorbed in my own life. Once I realized this, I could only hope to be forgiven, and I recognized the value in giving others a break.

I once hosted a party and forgot to include someone who is now one of my best friends. She was the wife of president of the youth football organization. I was inviting everyone. Everyone! But I forgot to include her in the email. Fortunately, she brought up the gathering. I was embarrassed and apologized profusely, but the explanation still fell short: I forgot her?! Very recently, I completely forgot another best friend’s birthday. In this case, I was grateful for Instagram, after I saw a post by her daughter. I was able to redeem myself because she’s that kind of friend. But what about the occasions where someone didn’t say something to me or I wasn’t reminded on social media, because I missed a post (which in my case is often). What happens when I’m just tired and don’t feel like giving an explanation to something, or extend an extra amount of effort toward someone? What if lounging in the sun and eating nachos is more appealing than answering the phone some days? That’s not likely, but what if?!

A misunderstanding can cause us to become slighted or offended, and even indignant. We can stack that wall, or we can step back and consider options that will make a way for us to see more clearly. As Christians we know that God is perfect love. God’s Spirit lives in us, and there is no fear in perfect love. Of what do we have to be afraid? What causes indignation? Fear of rejection, loss of status or reputation, questioning our worth and value? These are worthy considerations, yet as a Christian I seek not to be measured by the world’s judgement, but by God’s judgement of me. John 4:16-18 explains that perfect love casts out fear. When I trust in perfect love, my fears of loss and anger subside, and I can begin deconstructing walls… or maybe not building them to begin with. And I can be at peace with my fallibilities, and yours, too.

Whether it’s in a social, personal, or professional arena, addressing misunderstandings is worth the discomfort that accompanies making the effort towards clarity. At work one day I’d received a really negative reaction from a co-worker. I couldn’t imagine why she was so angry with me. I did my best to engage her so we could sort it out, but she would have nothing to do with it. I was grateful our supervisor called a meeting. She is so great about confronting hard issues and she has learned some skills that are pivotal in resolution. She began the meeting with all of us stating what we appreciate about the other. Beautiful! We all softened. Then my accusers (there was another who was in agreement with the first) stated their beef with me. Bam. A complete misunderstanding. I held back the tears and silently reminded myself that I was a professional. I was determined to avoid an emotional breakdown, yet there were obvious dead give aways on my face that signaled distress. When it was my turn to speak, I said, “I believe I’ve been misunderstood.” About the same time, my supervisor agreed and confessed a key piece of communication that she’d forgotten to provide to this portion of staff. Being unaware of this information, they were in the dark, and blamed me for something of which I wasn’t guilty. There were a couple of tears among all of us, but they were minimal, and happy. This could have gone a completely different direction had we not taken time for discovery.

Sometimes we don’t need discovery, but rather acceptance. Perhaps others are juggling things in their world, and we’re a ball that gets dropped. Maybe a friend is really good at looking like she’s got it all together, but in reality she has a child on her hip while she’s stirring gravy and helping her 2nd grader with math, wondering how she’s going to get her 8 year old to dance practice, and her husband is away on business. At this time in her life, it’s hard for her to wrap her head around her friend who needs her because she broke up with her boyfriend of 10 years. Maybe someone is struggling to keep themselves or their marriage together, and as a result they’re missing some cues from their children.  Sometimes, we need to look past a personality type that we don’t like. Even a personality type can be misunderstood. Scenarios like these happen ALL. THE. TIME.

I understand that not all rifts are a result of misunderstandings. But so many are! Our relationships are life giving and vital to our well being. This is one thousand times more true when this is your family. Paul says not to let the sun go down while we are still angry. Anger is real and at times justified. But if it’s fueling brokenness, especially in your family, you’ve let the sun go down on your anger, and it’s worth exploring a misunderstanding.

The biggest tragedy of all is this: Most of the walls we build are preventable. When we refuse to humble ourselves and to use our skills, of which most of us are capable, we rob not just ourselves of joy, but we rob everyone of joy. The wall builder and those who are on the other side of the wall are missing out. We miss the fullness of all God has to offer us now, in this life, experiencing the intimacies of one another today and the memories we will cherish once our loved ones are gone.

In other words: We miss you.

We are capable. We will reap huge rewards when we are courageous, confront awkward moments and sacrifice our pride. Let us be human. When Jesus was on the cross he said, “Forgive them Father; they know not what they do.” If only we could follow his humble and brave expression of love.

Forgive me, Father. For I also know not what I do.

Goofing off again. That’s what it feels like. Anything that doesn’t have me stressed and hitting the ground running by 6:30am, feels like “goofing off.” But on “goofing off” days, I work in the evenings. That is not a change. I’ve been doing that since I started the side business of t-shirts and party accessories. So, when I’m cutting the day short for a lecture, a walk with a friend (two walks on Wednesday), visiting George Fox to watch football practice on a beautiful fall evening, I am reconciling the change of pattern and hoping that what today feels like “goofing off” will someday become what is also known as, “enjoying life.”

What a luxury it is to enjoy life. The email from George Fox came through and normally I hit DELETE, but this time I paused, considered, and committed to going. In the life I’d create for myself, I’d study full time, something like theology, ethics, human behavior, cause and affect. I love all of that and I’d get some initials behind my name. The initials I can put behind my name now are ok though… LOL – Learner of Life, which is funny.

I attended a Q&A and lecture at George Fox with a good acquaintance who is a nurse and a Christian. I met her about a year ago and we’ve not seen each other since, but formed a strong bond when I co-lead the Rooted group at church. I’ve so wanted to spend some time with her, and I was glad when this opportunity worked for both of us.

The headliner was Ray Barfield, who lost his Christian faith after witnessing so much suffering of children with cancer. He is a Professor of Pediatrics and Christian philosophy at Duke University. The three other panelists were equally impressive. The very first question from the audience was the famous one: “How do you explain God to your patients when their child has just died?”

Last week I referred to that same question that a friend asked me. I know kids who have the same question, except about their parents. My friend’s husband has ALS and their lives are changed forever. Friends fiercely battle cancer, and some have lost. We all lose, when we lose them. These are unbearable scenarios, and I didn’t have an answer for my friend, but neither did the panel of 4 professors who presented at the the William Penn George Fox lecture

Each of the panelists answered from their own unique experiences with God, their education, and who they are individually. They explained their struggles with that question, and their peace with the struggle. For me, coming to peace with that question only happens when there is a real struggle. To grapple with confusion is to dig deep for an answer and to wrestle with God. If we turn from that option to secure our own answers, we will never know who God is. Wrestling with man to secure those answers won’t get us closer to God. I think we should explore the questions with each other and learn from the discovery. But I’ve come to learn that if I expect that man can answer a question so complicated, then I am expecting more from man than of God.

Right now I am reading the book of Job. Most of us know the reputation of his struggle. But while we know of Job, by studying his story, we don’t just know of Job, we know him. And in this way, we also know God. Whether it’s Job, or John or Leviticus, or the Psalms, this is how we discover the depth and truth of who God is.

One of the panelists (Kristen Lakis) shared something with which I could relate. She said, “We find our peace (these are not her exact words, but my interpretation of her message and how I related to it) when we lament our grief (as Job did) and from that lament, praise erupts.”

Sometimes the change of a mans heart is the biggest miracle of all.

When my life changed as I knew it, I dwelled on specific scriptures that friends sent my way. One friend decoupaged scripture on to a wooden vanity tray (oh, wait, now I can’t remember if she did that part or if I did it!). I devoured those scriptures every morning. They were promises that would get me through the next hours. They didn’t promise that my husband would repent and all would magically recover, but they were messages of hope, that all would be well. There’s a song that pierces my heart when I hear or sing it. It’s called, It is Well With my Soul. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0dIWJ4t4Jg

My Go To journal of verses, like my spiritual 911.

When we are intimately communing with God, his Spirit tells us, in the most quiet place deep in our soul, that all will be well.

Eventually I removed those verses from the vanity tray and have them tucked into my Go To journal of verses that I keep on a shelf to grab when I need a reminder of who I am and where I’m going, especially when I’m stopped in my tracks by hurt or confusion.

I think God’s words were a bandaid to protect me until healing took place, and that occurred as I read the Psalms. I’d sit in my favorite chair and read one after another,

Answer me when I call to you,

    my righteous God.

Give me relief from my distress;

    have mercy on me and hear my prayer. Psalms 4:1

It was as if a friend was holding me as my heart cried out in pain and anger. The tears would slow and I could say, “Thank you, God. Often in a whisper. I had no answers, but I could get up, and move forward with what I knew had to be done.

It was such a pleasure to hear these people share their experiences with many of whom are nursing or physical therapy students, seeking a way around complicated situations they will face. The panelists recognize their humanness and the tension of a loving God in a world of hurt, pain, and confusion. They don’t present as knowing the answers, but it was clear that they individually seek answers. They’re curious and want to know how to reconcile their questions and pass on their discoveries so they can help people in their most vulnerable and fragile moments.

I don’t anticipate a life where I will study ethics or theology all day, but getting to listen to those who do, is a very nice way to “enjoy life.”

I hope to post the link on my blog when GF posts it.

Panelists in order the listing in the email I received from George Fox: Ray Barfield MD, PhD (Duke); Pam Fifer EdD, RN, CNE (GF); Kristen Lakis LCSW (Duke); Daniel Kang PT, DPT (GF)

October 25, 2019 Update: The links on SEEKING GOD IN THE RUINS I promised to post when George Fox shared them.

Dr. Ray Barfield Lecture

Panel Discussion: A Clinician’s Guide to Re-Conceptualizing Death, Dying, and Suffering