Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Learning to "MAKE DO"

Happy Wednesday!  It’s finally light enough in to take a walk outdoors in the early morning before work, although I have a meeting at the other campus this morning so my walk will have to wait until after work today. Earlier this week, though, I managed to get a mile in as the sun was coming up. While walking down the dirt road, I notice a mama duck and her babies swimming in the ditch near my house. I smiled as I continued to walk and, as you probably guessed, I’ve been thinking about these ducks for a couple of days now as I pondered why I had noticed them. I’ve written before that oftentimes when I ‘notice” something unusual or unique, I believe it is God’s way of speaking to me and encouraging me on my journey. It just means I have to think about it and ponder it a while.   For a few days now I’ve been thinking about that Mama Duck and how she was ‘making do” with what she had; namely, just an overflowing ditch!

 Most of us, at one time or another, have had/have to “make do with what we had/have.”  At least, I have.  Perhaps it’s dinner time, the kids are hungry, or someone stops over, and you open the refrigerator or cupboard and it seems bare, and yet, you manage to “make do” and throw something together out of nothing but leftovers, and to your surprise, you get a compliment about your meal. Perhaps you’ve experienced this during the holidays when money was tight and you couldn’t possibly afford to buy the Christmas gifts that you wanted to give and you had to resort to a homemade gift or something sentimental, and it turns out the recipient just loved it and it was “their favorite Christmas gift ever.”  Perhaps your plans got changed or you couldn’t afford to take that special vacation you had planned, but a trip to the park, a visit with an old friend, or a picnic turned a day off into a ‘perfect day.”  Things might not be the way we had envisioned them; we may be carrying extra weight and wonder if we will EVER reach our goal; we might now have all that we ‘think we want” or our life may not be the way we had hoped it would be, but somehow ‘we make do” and if we truly look at things with the eyes of gratitude, we realize that things are not so bad at all.

I thought a lot about that little duck this week and how happy she appeared to be (seriously, Theresa….what does a happy duck look like anyway?  LOL) as she swam in that ditch with her babies, surrounded by overgrown brush and weeds.  Did she wish she were in a big, clean lake with a lot of room?  Did she think the water was too cold or moving too fast? Was it clean enough? Had she hoped for a nicer place to raise her babies?  Hmmm….  I seriously doubt that silly little duck was thinking anything at all, but she certainly could have picked a nicer place to raise her ducklings, but she seemed to be “making do’ with the muddy little ditch in the woods as she did exactly what she was created to do: swim, splash, quack, give life and protect those around her from harm. There is much to be learned from that little duck.

It would probably be very difficult for me to find someone….any one…who could say that his/her life is absolutely perfect and everything is EXACTLY the way he/she wants it to be, but there is a very big difference between being JOYFUL and PEACEFUL and having a perfect life with a perfect job and a perfect house with a perfect body.  I think too many times we equate happiness with perfection and I, personally, don’t think the two have much to do with each other.  Certainly, we all want to be the best that we can be. We strive to improve our life; our well-being; or health; and we work to educate ourselves, find meaningful jobs; improve our relationship with God and others; and make changes to make our lives better, but does our contentment, joy, and peacefulness come from perfection?  To me, I don’t think it does.  I think true JOY comes from gratitude and realizing that even in the midst of a storm or dark time in life, we are abundantly blessed and God is present. It comes from recognizing that each of us is a work in progress and even though our lives are not PERFECT; we are carrying extra weight or have habits that we’d like to change; that our children or partners sometime disappoint us; our bodies sometimes fail us; our jobs sometimes stress us out; and our lives are not EXACTLY the way we want them to be….we STILL are blessed with many good things.  Truly happy, joyful, and peaceful people learn to “MAKE DO” with what they have and realize that each day is a gift from God; that life is very short; and that there is much to be celebrated along the way because God gives us EVERYTHING we need to get through each day; to be strong in our journey; to change our lives; and to face each challenge that comes our way. Even THOUGH....we are on a journey; even WHEN we are trying to reach a goal or lose weight; even WHILE we are making changes….there is much to rejoice about; to celebrate; and to be thankful for.

Today…. I encourage you to be recognize that even if your life isn’t perfect;  even though you may be struggling to lose weight; quit smoking or give us some other habit; even when you have lost motivation or will-power; or are in the midst of an emotional, financial, or physical struggle that EVERY DAY is a gift; every pound lost or step taken in the right direction is something to celebrate; and there is ALWAYS something…(you may have to look really hard to find it, but there is always something) to be grateful for.  We are abundantly blessed and if we truly want to be happy, we must learn to “make do” with what we have before us while working to change those things that we have the ability to change.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tell yourself............

Good Morning...I'm not afraid to admit that I talk to myself…..A lot!  After all, what we THINK....and what we a big part in what we DO.  Many times throughout this journey, I would stand in front of the bathroom mirror; sometimes not recognizing the person staring back at me, and say, "'ve got this!" Other times throughout the day, I ask myself, "Theresa.....what do you want more…to eat a candy bar or cupcake or whatever or to………....(the answer  is always to WALK...and keep on being able to walk)" or "Are you REALLY hungry, or just sad, stressed, tired?" Other times I give myself a pep talk in the privacy of my car or office (or wherever) telling myself, “YES…with God’s help you CAN do….whatever it is you need/want to do” or “Just a few more steps….or the day is almost over…..or Look how far you’ve come.” Finding meaningful Scriptures to speak out loud help too. 

Sometimes I catch myself saying things out loud like, “I am SO tired” or “ Gosh, I feel awful” or other negative things, but other than validating that I really am feeling physically fatigued or not feeling well, saying it doesn’t do a darn thing to change the situation. In fact, it often just makes me feel more worn out. Likewise, words like, ‘He/she is such an idiot” or ‘Do you BELIEVE what he/she just said/did?” have no value when spoken either to someone else or in the privacy of one’s own ‘space” where no one but yourself can hear you.  Negative words allow negative thoughts to grow and almost always  lead to negative actions that reap negative results.

What we say to ourselves is as important.....well, maybe even MORE important than what we say to others.....because it impacts our behavior. Today, I encourage you to take a few minutes to speak positive words to yourself first……and then find something positive to say to those you encounter today…… and speak a good day into existence! Have a good day today.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Learning to dance in the rain

Good morning everyone! It’s Saturday morning and here it is just a few minutes after 3:00 a.m., and even though I don’t have to get up to go to work, I’m up and drinking coffee and ready to start the day. Sleep seems to allude me these days and I’ve been struggling to quiet my mind.  One would think that with all the thoughts that keep swirling around in my head that I would be able to write but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I currently have three posts started on three different days this week that I just couldn’t find words to finish.  It’s just a phase in the journey, I suppose, and one of these days things will begin to come together and my thoughts will make sense once again. In the meantime, I’ve been trying to keep myself mentally busy and focus on the blessings at hand, rather than dwell on what could have been.

This week was especially difficult because I had planned to be vacationing this week in a beach-front condo on Fort Myers beach. The trip was a gift to me and Bruce and I were to planning to celebrate his birthday this week there so this week my mind was in a much warmer place. I’m still struggling to understand what went wrong or what God is teaching me from this ‘hard to understand” situation, but I’m trusting that, in time, I will see His hand at work.  Waking up to a blanket full of fresh snow on the ground two days ago certainly didn’t help much, but yesterday it was sunny with bright blue skies and I spent the afternoon going to my first several garage sales of the season. I was also able to be take a friend to the doctor and spend time with him this week as he deals with some medical issues, as well as finish up a lot of work for my two college classes (only have 2 exams left and I’m finished for the semester) so in reality, there has been some good in the week.  Anytime I focus on ‘what could have/should have/what might have been” thoughts instead of what “is’, I find myself in a mentally dangerous place and I have to work hard to remain positive and focused on all the ‘good things” that fill my days, while recognizing my humanity, and allowing myself to feel all the ‘ups and downs” that come with one’s journey.

Anytime we encounter struggles….whatever they may be: illness, financial set-backs, death of a loved one, heartache or disappointment…..even the daily stressors of raising kids, job issues, household repairs, or just a ‘bad day’, it can become even harder to keep focused and motivated to continue on one’s life changing journey. Things that normally would just irritate us can become a big stumbling block or send us spiraling out of control….if we let them.  It is during these times when we may want to go back to old habits, or seek comfort in things, places, or even people that are not good for our mental, emotional, or physical well-being. These are the times, however, when we have to work even harder to stay motivated and keep asking ourselves, ‘what do we want more?”  These are the times when we have to acknowledge that life is filled with both cloudy days and sunny ones…..each necessary for growth….and recognize that life is really a dance….the “Theresa dance” and we often find ourselves taking two steps forward  and one step back.

This dance….is a reality in so many realms of our life but we don’t always recognize it as a dance; rather, we think of it as a set-back or a stumble. Realizing that change often results in a two steps forward, one step back dance is a key to keeping on track. The changing of the seasons does the dance. We had 70 degree weather in Michigan last weekend and I have my new pool up and filled with water: On Thursday morning it was 26 degrees and my pool cover had 2 inches of snow on it! We have a couple of days of warmth when we think spring is here and the daffodils are blooming, and then it’s cold, windy and snowy again and the freezing temperatures are threatening to kill the new buds on trees.  It’s a dance…but eventually this dance will result in the changing of the season and it WILL be warm and green and time for gardening, swimming, and riding my bike.  In the meantime, I have two choices: complain about how cold and miserable it is every other day….or rejoice and be grateful for the sunshine when it does brighten the day.

Dealing with a chronic illness, either in oneself or a loved one, is the same kind of dance.  My Rheumatoid arthritis is like the weather; completely unpredictable and I can go a few weeks without much pain or inflammation, and then without warning, my joints are flared and I struggle to do the simplest tasks.  Those of you that deal with any type of chronic illness yourself or are caregivers for loved ones know this dance very well.  You/your loved one have/has a few good days and then a ‘not so good day” either because of treatment like chemo or an illness like dementia. Even those who struggle with depression know what I mean. Life is a mix of “ups and downs”, good days and “not so good days” but we have two choices: Rejoice and be grateful for the good ones or allow the difficult ones to taint our joy and turn us bitter.

Likewise, grieving a loss of ANY kind….a loved one, a job, a break-up….it doesn’t matter; they all need to be grieved and need time to heal…results in the  same kind of dance. We might make good progress and perhaps even manage to smile or laugh…and then something reminds us of our loss, a special day occurs like a birthday, holiday, or anniversary….and we feel sad and empty. It’s part of the healing process and we have to allow ourselves to grieve, feel, and process the pain….or it will fester inside of us and cause us problems down the road.  It’s a dance….two steps forward; one step back…and even though we may not like this particular dance, we have two choices: be grateful to God for the love that changed us and enriched our lives or be bitter and angry about our loss. Recognizing that time heals can help, but in the meantime, be gentle with yourself and allow yourself to grieve in whatever “healthy” way you need to. Eventually we will be okay and the ‘good days’ will outweigh the bad ones.

Whatever it is about our life that we are working to change involves the “dance.”  We do great with our weight loss and then we have a set-back: two pounds lost; one pound gained.  We stick to our exercise plan; two weeks of exercise; then we lose momentum and motivation.  We manage to build up a bit of savings in our bank account and then we have a major car repair. We make progress in a relationship with a friend or relative and then an argument occurs.  LIFE… a dance……and while we can’t always control or even LIKE the music that it plays, we can be grateful and recognize that as long as we continue to take TWO STEPS forward we are still making progress, even when we take ONE step back.  And besides….even if we don’t like to dance…or aren’t very good at it…..dancing burns calories, right? 

Today…..whether you are feeling like a ‘two steps forward” kind of day….or struggling with a “one step back” moment, to recognize that as long as we don’t continually take “one step back” we are still making progress toward our goal and to remember, we have a choice today to either be grateful for the blessings that are at hand….or be bitter and negative about those things we don’t like, are not happy about…or have little control over.  The sun isn’t even up yet where I live, but I’m going to do my best today to be positive, to be happy, and be grateful…..and try to take a step forward in the “Theresa dance” of life!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What lingers below the surface

Somewhere in my childhood I learned the phrase, “It’s good for what ails ya.”  Those words likely accompanied some horrific tasting concoction of whiskey, honey, and lemon, or some other home remedy meant to cure the croup or a bad cough; almost as if knowing it would make me feel better made the stuff taste better. In any case, those words stuck with me and I have used them myself throughout the years when I tried to motivate myself to do, eat, or drink something that I didn’t want to, but knew would be good for me. You know what I’m talking about; physical things like drinking water, getting some exercise, taking medicine, or emotional/spiritual things like ‘turning the other cheek,’ forgiving, or biting your tongue. The words can be applied to many things, and in reality, they do ring true when we think of all the things, habits, practices, and thoughts that are somewhat difficult or unpleasant, but really are ‘good for what ails us.”

For the past couple of days it has been SUNSHINE that has been “good for what has been ailing me.”  After a long, cold winter, even temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s are welcome, especially when accompanied by the sunshine.  My spirits have been lifted as I walked around the yard, scouting for signs of spring and hoping to catch a glimpse of some of my perennials coming to life. It’s a bit early for that, but there are  some tulips and daffodils beginning to sprout, and I’m itching to finish up my college classes in a few weeks so I have more time to ‘play in the dirt” and get rid of the debris, leaves, and dead stuff that has accumulated in the yard. In the process of doing that, I will be mentally getting rid of the ‘emotional stuff’ that needs to be cleared away in order for new growth and life to happen.  Most of the time, when we want to change our reality and feel better about ourselves (however we define that for our own personal growth) the hardest part is getting rid of the ‘dead stuff or debris……also known as thoughts, hurts, un-forgiveness, lingering pain, bad habits, etc…   that are hindering new growth and keeping us from reaching our potential.

Many of you remember that last summer I put in a little pond in one of my perennial gardens. It’s just a small pond, and was a learning experience for me, but it sure brought me a lot of joy last summer. I was thrilled on Sunday to discover that it was completely thawed out and soon it will be time to clean it out and put the pump back in it, along with the silly goldfish that I had to bring in the house last winter. (if you’ve been around this group for a while, you may remember the story about those 22 cent goldfish that cost me a fortune to keep alive; if not, check out the old posts on my blog page:  You might also remember the stories of digging up cattails and pond ‘weeds’ from the ditch.  Just thinking of those kinds of crazy warm-weather experiences I get myself into made me smile a little.  Yes, gardening, friends, God, and remembering past moments of joy are “good for what ails me” and is helping me in the healing process.

I grew cattails in the pond last summer, but they are nothing but a clump of dead, brown, shriveled up leaves at the moment.  A friend and I were looking at the pond a couple of days ago and I told him that I was going to have to empty the water out and clean out all the leaves and dead stuff from the pond plants that were there last summer and then start over fresh.  At that point, I reached down and grabbed the shriveled up cattail clump and pulled it out of the pond, intending to toss it into the woods. However, when I pulled it out of the water, I was thrilled to discover that there was a green shoot growing out of the mangled mess of roots that had been submerged below the ice. I actually let out a squeal of excitement….and surprise….because I was certain that the plant was dead.  After all, it APPEARED dead….it appeared hopeless….there was no sign of life, growth, hope…..ABOVE the water.  Hmmm…. here we go again, “You’re speaking to me again, aren’t you, God?”

And so, you’ve guessed it, I’ve been thinking about dead….or not so dead….cattails for the past two days, as I reflected on that discovery and thought about how many times in my life; on my journey; in my relationships; in my spiritual life…..actually in all areas of life….when it appeared on the outside that NOTHING WAS HAPPENING; that there was no hope; no progress; no growth….but under the surface, there was new life brewing.  God often works ‘behind the scenes” and many times in life, it appears to us, and perhaps others as well, that we are just wasting our time and that will never reach our goals or make any progress.

Any of you that have encountered the dreaded plateau in your weight loss journey know exactly what I’m talking about.  You might go 2, 3, or 6 weeks, faithfully sticking to your eating plan, only to be disappointed when the scale doesn’t budge. You might be going to the gym every day and still not seeing muscle mass appear. You might feel discouraged and convince yourself that it is hopeless and that you are just doing the hard work for nothing. You might even want to give up because by all appearances, you are just wasting your time, and your plan is not working.  To you… I say…. “Hang in there, below the surface, new life is brewing.  Just because it APPEARS that you are not making progress, that your weight loss has fizzled out or died; that you’ll never each your goals….DOES NOT MEAN….that your journey is over and that you are not changing your life. It just might not be VISIBLE at the moment, but below the surface, you are doing great and in a little while, if you are patient and persistent, you will see tremendous growth and progress...likely all at once. Don’t GIVE UP!

If you are struggling with a relationship of any kind and you continually try to be the ‘bigger person’ and let things roll off your back; you are the first one to extend the olive branch; you are the one doing all the giving or making all the sacrifices only to be unappreciated; or you are the one who thinks that you will never be good enough; never be pretty or smart enough; never be….whatever it is that your teenager, your significant other, your boss, or your mother-in-law wants you to be…. take heart and don’t’ be discouraged because just because it APPEARS that you are not making any progress or the relationship is not improving on the surface, you never know how much your kindness and love is affecting that person underneath the surface. Your good works and efforts might be causing growth and making a difference in the heart of that person or situation but you just can’t see it YET.  You might be pleasantly surprised when that ‘impossible to please or make happy” person says, THANK YOU, or gives you a compliment or a hug. Keep being kind; loving; and forgiving….one day it will pay off….if not for someone else, at least for your own peace of mind!

You can apply this principle to just about anything in your life that appears to be stagnant or hopeless. Obviously you have to be ‘emotionally healthy” and realize that sometimes ‘throwing in the towel” is the best thing to do for your well-being, but I’m talking about something different and encouraging you to keep taking steps in the right direction, even when it appears that you are not moving. Keep working hard; keep on doing what you need to do; keep on thinking good thoughts and practicing good habits, and keep on believe that NO MATTER how hopeless it seems; no matter how many times you’ve failed; no matter how far you have to go or how hard it gets….that underneath the surface, THERE IS GROWTH AND PROGRESS taking place. You just might not be able to see it yet, but in time….you will see the results of your hard work. Don’t give up and don’t ever stop believing that you CAN and you WILL change your life with God’s help.

Finally….and perhaps most importantly….the cattails have taught me to be conscious of “what is happening below the surface” of my actions…and those of others around me.  When the cashier at the grocery story treats me rudely, instead of immediately thinking, ‘Gosh, what a crab,” I’m going to smile and ask her about her day because I have no idea what might be going on ‘below her surface.” She might have received bad news that day; her husband might have just left her or she might have received a shut-off notice for her electricity….any number of things lurking below the surface. This is true of every person we meet. People hide all sorts of worries, troubles, and anxieties behind the expression on their faces and things may not always be what they appear. Many times we hide our pain, fear, and depression behind a fake smile.

 Likewise, in my own life, I’m going to make a more conscious effort to be aware of the MOTIVES and EMOTIONS that are prompting my own thoughts and behavior.  When I reach for a protein bar or find myself wanting to eat a snack, I’m going to pause and try to identify what is going on in my mind and heart. Am I really hungry….or am I just sad, stressed, lonely, or tired? Am I reluctant do something new because I’m afraid or feeling unworthy?  When I’m tempted to lash out at someone or am impatient….is it because of THEM….or because of something I’m feeling inside ME?  Am I taking out my frustration, anger, or hurt about my own reality on someone else?  Am I being irritable or feeling stress because I procrastinated and put off doing my homework because I just didn’t feel liked doing it?  More often than not, we eat, drink, smoke…or exhibit negative behavior and thoughts….because of some emotion or thoughts….that are coming from within us and lurk beneath the surface.  Things are not always what they appear to be.

Goodness…..all of that from a weed I dug up from the ditch last summer! 
Have a good day everyone and be grateful for all things today. It is a gift.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Worms on the sidewalk

Good Morning.  “Thank you” doesn’t seem adequate to express my appreciation to you for your kind words, thoughts, prayers, and countless private messages, e-mails, phone calls and other gestures of love and support in the past few weeks as I picked up the pieces of my broken engagement.  Just know that your thoughtfulness and kindness means a great deal to me and that as each day comes and goes, I’m slowly finding my way back to the ‘main trail” of my journey and in time, I’ll be, NOT… “as good as new”….but “BETTER THAN EVER”….because my experiences these past several months have taught me many things and, in spite of the ‘ups and down’s, I am grateful for the experiences and am stronger; wiser; and grateful for the ‘side-trip’ of my life’s journey.

It was a lovely, sunny weekend (with an ‘extra day off” thanks to a power outage at the college on Friday and a “no school day”) and the temperatures in northern Michigan were in the 50’s and 60’s. Spring is definitely in the air. I have some tulips and daffodils that are beginning to poke up from the ground; the ice is off the lakes; and there is only a little bit of piled up snow remaining in the ditches and shaded areas of the woods. I managed to finish the two essays, one quiz, one exam and 5 chapters of college homework that was due this weekend taking even more stress off my weary mind. We are definitely heading in the right direction and my semester ends in about 3 weeks!  I even got my new pool put up yesterday and it should be ready to start filling with water by next weekend….that is, if I get the water “un-winterized” this week.  LOL.  Nothing like rushing the season, eh? Summer is a long ways away, but I think God knew I needed a warm, sunny weekend to attempt to divert my attention to better days ahead.  In spite of the sunshine, though, I thought a lot about earthworms for the past few days.

Let me explain…. Two days last week it was raining heavily when I went into work and as I walked up the sidewalk into the college I noticed the first batch of worms of the season creeping across the wet pavement. I counted 40 of them in a short distance! Typically, I would say, “Yuck”…as I tried to avoid stepping on those slimy creatures, but I was actually happy to see them after a long winter. Those worms are a welcome sign of spring after a long, cold winter and they actually caused a small….and rare, these days….smile to form for a brief time as I thought about the better days ahead.

As I walked to my office, I remembered a little ditty that I used to sing to my students when they were feeling sorry for themselves or pouting. It goes like this: “Nobody loves me….everybody hates me… I think I’ll eat some worms.”   The silliness of those words often was enough to cause a smile and sometimes even brought the child out of the “poor me” mood that he/she was in.  I’ve been in-and-out of that mood for a few weeks, but thoughts of  “nobody loving me”  certainly were proven wrong after the outpouring of friendship I’ve received in recent days!  Sometimes, however, how we are FEELING doesn’t match up to the reality of our lives and we forget that we are abundantly blessed and surrounded by God’s grace. Those silly worms reminded me, that YES…even on rainy days… I AM incredibly blessed and have much to be grateful for!!!

And so… I’ve been pondering what God might be saying to me from an abundance of worms creeping across the sidewalk on not one, but two, rainy days in a row.  Several years ago, I was like most girls: I hated worms and was grossed out by their slimy bodies. Now, after learning about their value to my gardens and my renewed interest in fishing, I’ve come to recognize that they are very beneficial to the soil, as food for the birds and other wildlife in the yard, and as bait (well, more like food because I lose them all the time) for the bluegills I love to catch. Ugly…yes; slimy….certainly; mushy and wiggly and somewhat creepy….no doubt; but nonetheless, very valuable to the environment.  And so…..I wondered….WHY…did I notice them on the sidewalk?  Why have I been thinking about them all weekend?  WHAT was God teaching me about my journey?  Hmm…………..

I started with the question, “Why do worms come up to the surface during rainy, stormy weather in the first place?”  As a kid I heard that it was to avoid drowning in their burrows, but I later learned that that isn’t the case for all worms as some can survive in the lakes for a period of time. Then I heard or read that sometimes they came up to the surface to take advantage of the moisture which makes it easier to mate or to move from one place to another. Another theory is that the pelting of the rain on the surface reminded them of the sounds a mole makes and they came up to avoid being eaten up.  Hmmm……I began to think about those silly worms and what I can learn from them to help me on my journey.

First…..IF…it is true that they are trying to avoid drowning during a storm…..what a great lesson to “GET OUT OF THE ENVIRONMENT” and look up….get up……rise up…..or stay there and wallow and drown in the misery of a storm/rainy day that the worm has absolutely no control over. The same is true in our own lives.  When the stormy, dark days happen.....when troubles, illness, or heartbreak comes our way….most of the time it’s beyond on our control….we really do have a choice in how we respond to it.  For a while, it might be tempting to stay there and wallow… bury oneself even deeper in the darkness and safety of the earth….to avoid coming to the surface and interacting with others……to just stay stagnant and wait to be swallowed up by the elements or depression…….BUT…….if one is to survive; to live; to breathe… needs to be like that worm and work one’s way up to the surface…..TO RISE above the storms and raging waters….to keep moving UP…looking UP…fighting one’s way to the safety of the light….even when/if it’s hard.

Next…..if the worm is truly coming to the surface to mate…..then one must realize that doing so is risky because that worm on the surface is taking a chance on getting eaten by a bird, stomped on by a passerby, or run over by a vehicle.  It becomes vulnerable to be ‘out there” to be visible and unprotected on the sidewalk where it could be hurt, but in order to connect (in whatever way worms connect) it must take that chance.  Otherwise, it could stay buried and protected in the safety of the earth’s burrow and darkness.  Likewise, I have learned that trusting others, opening up to love and friendship, makes one vulnerable. It means laying one’s soul, one’s fears, one’s heart out to another, knowing that it could be trampled on.  BUT…..those earthworms are HEARTY….and if something takes a bite of, or chops part of its body off….it can regenerate and regrow that broken piece. It can take A LOT before succumbing to the abuse.  We, too, must sometimes risk failure….or take a chance, not just on love, but each and every time we try to do something that we are uncertain of. Every time we “START OVER” on a weight loss or life changing plan, we risk failure. Every time we try to reconcile or forgive someone who has hurt us, we risk being hurt or disappointed again. Every time we start a new job, a new diet, take a new class, or try to do something we’ve never done before, we become like that worm and we ‘put ourselves out there” where we could be trampled on, disappointed, make mistakes, or eaten up by anyone who doesn’t support us.  We must take a chance….on life….on love….on ourselves….if we are to reach our goals.  But…we have to remember that, like that worm, we CAN REGENERATE if we get wounded. We CAN survive a bit of pain. We CAN bounce back if we get hurt or we fail or we get stepped on by life’s cruelty.  WE CAN….and WE WILL…. if we trust that God is with us and allow Him to heal us.

Finally….if the worm is truly taking advantage of the water to help it move from one place to another easier, than we can realize that the storms and hardships in our life are actually opportunities for us to get from ONE PLACE to another with ease.  Certainly, I am a better person today because of my relationship with Bruce, not necessarily because of the heartache and broken engagement, but because of the good things that came from our time together; the things I learned about myself; the ways in which I allowed myself to trust and be loved; the barriers that were broken down through our interaction, and the things that I’ve experienced. I learned valuable lessons in trust, communication, commitment, and recently, forgiveness and humility.  I am in a “different place” in my head today than I was a year ago….and my current and future friendships will be improved because I have grown as a person through love and loss.  Sometimes, when we look back on periods of life when things were difficult or trying, we realize that without that illness or health scare, we may not have made the lifestyle changes that literally saved our life; without the death of our loved one, we would not have come to appreciate the gift of life and those around us; without the struggles of raising kids, the heartache of defeat; the times of trouble, we would NOT have changed our thoughts, our actions, our behavior and we would STILL BE IN THAT PLACE of heartache, pain, or addiction.  It is the ‘hard times’ that test us…that challenge us….that threaten to consume us…and are very often  the vehicle in which we move to a much better place in our heads and our lives.

And so….today… I move forward on my journey, I remind you that, like an earthworm… ME… have a choice to either stay in the comfort and security of your burrow (whatever that may mean to you) or you can RISE above whatever temptation, fear, anxiety, or struggle you are faced with; you must be willing to be vulnerable, make a mistake, experience a set-back, or be hurt if you wish to find fulfillment and change your reality; and every hard time; every trial or bad day is really just an opportunity to MOVE TO A BETTER PLACE in life.  Changing one’s life is hard work and sometimes, in the process, we get hurt; we get eaten up; we fail and we face struggles…..but it is truly just PART OF THE JOURNEY…..and eventually, we will find our way if we keep moving in the right direction!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Processing the pain...........

This is an extremely personal and very difficult post for me to share, but since you have were invited into my personal life a few months ago when someone very publicly declared his love to me and then a few months ago with the announcement of our engagement, I feel I must share my thoughts about a recent development in my personal life,  regardless of how painful they may be. It is part of the healing process, I suppose, and Good Friday and the Easter weekend seems like a perfect time to reflect and write as I process the pain and betrayal.

Most of you are aware that I recently announced my wedding engagement. Just two weeks ago I was happily preparing for a future with a wonderful man, but for some reason that I do not yet know,  Bruce has decided that he no longer wants to get married.  Although he has not yet shared the reason for the breakup, and I may never have that privilege, the “whys’ and “what happened” does not really matter at this point. I must simply surrender all of this confusion, heartache, and pain to God, trusting that it was really His intervention that is at work, even if I don’t understand it.  Still, I have been left with a boatload of emotions ranging from disbelief, frustration, embarrassment, shame, anger, but mostly sadness because regardless of what happened, I have lost a friendship with a wonderful man; a friendship that began a long time ago and on that has changed my life. I hope that someday that friendship will be restored and I move forward with only feelings of unconditional love and friendship for a person who changed my life and brought me such joy for a brief time.

And so today…. after two weeks of thinking, hoping, and praying that this is all a bad dream… I have to publicly admit that it really isn’t a dream and that yes, it has happened….and that without an explanation, my engagement has ended.  More important than what happened, however, is the reality that I am okay and peaceful; God has a plan; and that there is much to be learned from these past few months.  This really is an opportunity for me to “walk the walk that is so freely talk” and try to uncover the presence of God in this situation. 

And so… I think…..about how often I say and write, “We cannot control the behavior of others or the things that happen TO us; we must merely control our reaction and response to them.”  The 5-minute conversation ending the engagement is one of those events in life that sometimes “just happen’. We don’t see them coming. There is no explanation. We don’t’ understand and we are simply left shell-shocked saying, “What the hell just happened?”  I’ve been there before when my mother died suddenly at age 54; when I lost my job of 15 years; when I watched my grandparent’s summer home burn to the ground; and when  I received the phone call that my 24 year old cousin died in a car accident.  You’ve been there before too….perhaps with devastating news of illness, death, accident or tragedy.  These are things that sometimes “just happen’ without warning; without explanation; without making any sense and they leave us devastated, hurt, and confused. These events have the power to destroy us….if we allow it…..or to strengthen and empower us…..if we can work through the pain and surrender it to God, seeking His grace and strength. 

Oftentimes, it is these losses that set us on a downward spiral and become the root of our addictive behavior because we try to numb the pain with food, drink, shopping, bitterness, and a whole plethora of other behavior that ultimately does more harm than good. I know; I’ve been there – done that, and admittedly did again the past two weeks when I ate 7 protein bars in two days. (NOT GOOD….even though it wasn’t cookies, ice cream, potato chips, or candy…it was still a classic situation of emotional eating. This stops now…because I’m certainly not going to let anything sabotage my entire journey!) In the days of “OLD THERESA” I used food to numb the pain of incredible loss and buried feelings of shame, unworthiness, and sadness with chips and soda. I lost control and I ended up at 400 pounds and unable to walk. You know the story…..perhaps you have one of your own. Fortunately, God set me free from that life and I have better tools in my toolbox now and better ways to cope with heartache and loss.  Be assured that THIS will not destroy me; that I will be back in the game soon; that God’s grace will prevail; and that, in time, I will be OKAY!!!

I realize that I cannot control this situation. I cannot make it go away. I cannot change Bruce’s mind or make him talk to me. I cannot do anything to change this situation other than to offer my friendship, seek God’s strength, and pick up the pieces and move on….but I can control THERESA….and how she responds, and I can CHOOSE how I am going to react.  While it would be easy to choose anger, bitterness, and negativity, that will only hinder my journey and compound the sorrow, so instead, I choose GRATITUDE…..sincere, simply, gratitude, both to God and to Bruce for the wonderful moments of these past several months.

First….. I am grateful to God for allowing our paths to cross and for the ways in which my life was changed over the past year or so. God used this relationship to teach me how to love and to accept love in return after years of building a wall so high around my heart that kept others at a distance.  I learned a lot about myself and am a better person today as a result of this experience.  Second…. I am grateful to Bruce. Regardless of what happened….I have nothing but love and respect for him. He treated me like a princess, showered me with love and affection, wined and dined me, and gave me experiences that I never would have had.  He was able to break down barriers that were preventing me from allowing others to be close to me and helped me accept myself, my body with its imperfections and flaws, and realize that I am okay; I am lovable; I am worthy.  We spent hours and hours laughing, talking, and simply being together. His generosity and kindness were beyond words; his companionship, encouragement, and friendship will be missed; and his presence in my life has left a void……but I am incredibly grateful for the time we did have together. He is a good man and I wish him nothing but peace and happiness in his life.

I am also grateful for each of you who have been a part of this story and my journey.  Your words of support, encouragement, love, and wisdom regarding my relationship have been deeply appreciated, as were all the private notes expressing happiness and good cheer. Mostly, your prayers….then….and NOW as I begin the healing process are welcome and needed.  Please don’t post any NEGATIVE comments or opinions as they will not help. No one is to blame; this is simply God’s will even though I don’t’ see it that way right now.

And so…..on this Holy Weekend of reflection on the pain of the crucifixion and in anticipation of the new life of Easter, I remind you that  yes, indeed, life is sometimes very difficult and our journey sometimes takes us on rocky roads, but the story doesn’t have to end that way.  We get to decide if heartache and pain will win or if we will fight it.  Jesus did not remain in that tomb…..he did not let death destroy Him; He rose again…..and I, too, shall rise from this…and you, too, shall rise from anything that threatens to overcome you!

Am I sad today?  Absolutely heartbroken.  Do I miss Bruce? Immensely.  Am I confused and hurt?  You bet.  Will it destroy me?  No way……because I know and believe… spite of the pain….that Romans 8:28 says  “  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose.”  I don’t know why…but I know that God has a plan for my life, and therefore, I must simply trust, believe, and be grateful, and continually seek His will.


Be blessed today on your own journey and know that you are all in my thoughts and prayers.