Faith

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Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 

 

Sound familiar? (If not, that’s Hebrews 11:1.) It has an inspirational feel to it, don’t you think?

But what exactly does it mean?!?

What IS faith? Believing that God exists? The Bible says that the demons accomplish that much, and that they are a good deal more impressed by it than we are. As with many important things, it’s easier to know what faith is than to define it.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. But from time to time it becomes important to me to really understand it. In other words, to actually be able to define it.

For my own use, for myself. I’m not about settling eternal questions for all of humanity. But for my own understanding, when the storms come and hell in a hand-basket doesn’t sound so amusingly distant, what does it mean to have faith?

It does, of course, mean that I genuinely believe in God. So I know I’m at least up with the demons in the faith department.

And beyond believing IN God, I found that it meant to BELIEVE God, which is a different thing: to take him at his word.

I was always really good at faith. That’s not a point of pride; absolutely not an accomplishment for which I put forth heroic effort. It was just a fact. As a result of my upbringing, my personality, my understanding of God, faith was simply an inborn talent.  A gift. Something I just did well, with little effort.

Then it wasn’t.

For most of my life, when the storms came, my faith buffered them and saw me through them, so I assumed that I had all the pieces I needed.

And maybe I did. I think faith can be built incorrectly, not having all the pieces to start, but now I also wonder if faith can be damaged in the storms. In the swirl of all the hell, with the hand-basket long since splintered and scattered to the wind.

I’m still not sure if faith can be injured or if injury just points up the areas where my foundation was weak, but I know that two storms in my life – by no means the biggest, or the longest, or the hardest, ironically –  left me with some water intrusion and a handful of shingles missing on my previously rock solid faith. Clearly I needed a better understanding than I had.

I’ve had to really go back through my thoughts and views on God, my relationship to him, my understanding of him, my views on how he leads me – the whole shebang.

In the midst of that I happened upon a definition of faith in the Amplified Bible that really struck a cord. Ye old Amplified defined faith as “an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom and goodness of God.”

Hmmm….

The power of God was never a question for me.

And wisdom? When you are omniscient, I’m content to throw in wisdom as a given.

But according to the Amplified, faith also, inherently, included the goodness of God. Not the greatness. Not the righteousness, or the justice, or the perfection. But the goodness.

Did I believe God was GOOD?

Well of course I did! How could I not!?! What kind of Christian would not think God is GOOD?!??! 

One of the big inconveniences of being a scientist is that you feel compelled to look for some evidence behind your assertions.

And the evidence showed a girl who, somewhere along the way, had gotten a bit shaky on the goodness of God. Talk about a blow to my pride! Now I had broken faith AND broken pride! There’s a mess for you.

I did actually still accept that God WAS good, intellectually. But to do so I had to transform my definition of good so profoundly that it ignored all the ways God defines good. Could God be good and cruel? Of course! God is God, so if he’s cruel that must be ‘good’. Could God be good and compassionless? Of course! God is God, so if he’s compassionless that must be ‘good’.

But that isn’t what God calls good.¹

Conundrum. A conundrum, it turned out, of faithlessness.  A conundrum that therefore had to be resolved.

Because Hebrews has other things to say about faith too, like, without it, it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God. That one is a little less nebulous than ’substance of things hoped for’. And a little more intimidating, when you come to really think about it.

So, I’ve been pondering faith, and me, and God, for a while now, trying to dig myself out of the mess that got me here, as well as the mess that ‘here’ is. And I found that searching more deeply into who God is, regaining a perspective on what ‘goodness’ is from God’s commentary on it, is bringing some clarity.

Make no mistake, I don’t think that God being good means that everything that he allows or does in my life is going to be an unremitting delight. I understand that pain, hardship, distress are natural parts of life, and that God is not a genie in a bottle whisking it all away. But knowing that God permits, and uses painful and difficult circumstances is very, very different from coming to think that God is not trustworthy, and that harm and trouble are his will and intention for me.

So I’ve been studying how he says he treats and thinks of us. The promises he makes. The attitudes he displays, and the attitudes he requires of us. And this little amplification on faith has come to be a real help in my journey.

Faith is an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom and goodness of God.

That sure fits with the end of Hebrews 11:6 “…for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

So try these babies out with that perspective on faith:

Hebrews 11:6  “And without an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom, and goodness of God it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

Or

Hebrews 11:1 “Now an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom, and goodness of God, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Or how about this little gem: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom, and goodness of God…”

It adds a little richness, don’t you think?

I like it anyway. I find it challenging, but also clarifying. Faith seems a little less nebulous, a little more defined.

One of the things that always used to confuse me was times Jesus praises people’s ‘faith’. The examples range from dogged persistence to down right insolence, but they were never what I thought of as faith. They begin to make more sense if I define faith this way.

If I have an inherent trust, and enduring confidence in the power, the wisdom, and the goodness of God, I’m going to be pretty darn persistent about getting to him with my need. I’m going to be pretty bold about seeking his help and direction.

And while I’ll always be cautious, not wanting to treat the God of the universe like a cosmic gum-ball machine, I think that as long as I define faith this way I’ll stay more real about what good is, and I’ll look a lot more closely, when I start doubting God’s goodness, to find what is really going on.

Now, when I hear the frightened, confused ‘Well, God must be good, even if he doesn’t act like it’, I have a little alarm telling me that my faith might need some attention. And it points me in the direction of what faith really is, so that I can more clearly see where that attention is needed.

It’s a new path for me, but it seems to be healing so far, and I hope to be able to make the big important changes I’m seeking a lot more effectively through it.

 

If you happen to celebrate Passover, which begins this evening, or Earth Day, which will be in full swing at the time this posts, may they be blessed. 

 

 

Be well. 

 

¹Mostly. I’m still working my way through some Bible stories that I wish weren’t there, but for now I’m going with the most prevalent expressions of God and of ‘good’ as defined by him throughout the whole cannon.

 

Wide eyed terror, er, I mean exciting new adventure

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In March, 2014, I sold my house, packed up my life, said goodbye to a beloved community, and followed a long sought dream.

And that went very, very, badly.

I’ve failed at many things in the course of my life, but none so spectacularly as that.

I had worked hard to prepare well, but had clearly missed some key ingredients in the happily-ever-after mix. In the end, I ditched the dream and ran for cover, and have spent the last year-plus trying to just get recovered enough to move forward with any semblance of hope.

Finally, in the last few months, I have begun to inch very slowly forward. SLOWLY being the operative word here.

Because anything but SLOWLY was far beyond my capacity.

So SLOWLY I’ve been getting up the courage to face the prospect of another long-haul move, without simply dropping dead from negatively and cowardice.

And after SLOWLY getting enough of a grip back to start looking forward again, I SLOWLY planned a trip for this coming August to visit several areas in Washington state  to see if they are viable options for living a frugal, abundant life, rather than fodder for another ghastly Lifewreck.

SLOWLY I’ve been doing research, SLOWLY deciding the best place to stay on my exploration trip …

And SLOWLY I’ve been preparing my skittish mind and tattered stomach for that adventure. VERY slowly.

SLOWLY trying to do every. little. thing. possible. to ensure absolutely, positively that this holiday will be peaceful, productive, and panic free.

Then my landlords phoned to inform me that they need to sell my house.

Now, this was by no means a 30-day eviction notice; they were very kindly giving me the earliest heads up they could on a process that usually takes a while.

But it put a decided crimp in my SLOWLY!

Since my house could conceivably be in escrow by mid-August, starting my research in mid-August became somewhat less practical.

I really don’t want to move to someplace else here, THEN go do research for a possible move out of here, and THEN have to move all over again. I did two moves in 6 months as a result of the Lifewreck, and that was enough to last me. So, by the time this posts, I’ll be half way to my home-away-from-home for the next few weeks in Washington.

Being ‘almost’ ready for the next adventure, though, instead of fully prepared, is a very scary place from which to leap.

That is part of what went wrong in the Lifewreck, and while there are many skills I’ve not mastered, I’ve got ‘once bitten twice shy’ perfected.

I have friends who love the excitement  of a move. NOT ME!

My dream is to buy a quiet, peaceful little house that suits me and stay there until I die. I get plenty of adventure just living life, I’ve never felt the need to artificially inject more.

And I HATE moving. 

If you multiply that by about 10,000 and add fire, brimstone, and gnashing of teeth, you get my attitude toward long haul moves.

However, after a tiny, well ordered panic, I determined that I must try to see this little wrench tossed into my SLOW, as an opportunity, not a calamity.

And, when better to experiment than when you’ve relatively little choice?

So, I reluctantly embrace this ‘exciting new opportunity’ to learn now, a bit earlier than I had hoped, the final things I need to learn about Washington as an option.

Who knows, maybe by the time my vacation rolls around I’ll already know all I need to know?

Maybe that will mean that Washington is off the table. But even that is helpful information. ANY variable eliminated will surely help.

And maybe it will mean that Washington is completely possible and why did I wait so long??

With enough miracles I might even be MOVED by my holiday, and get to enjoy it rather than spending it trying to learn make-it-or-break-it data!

That would be a blessing of incalculable value.

But regardless of the outcome, I am trying to be more positive than comes naturally, and be grateful for this opportunity.

So, want to come on an adventure with me?!?

My writing time is likely to be more limited during these next few weeks, both with the turmoil, and with having to make this time really count, so I don’t know what this will look like in terms of any sort of sensible posts.

But as best I can I’ll try to share some of this … adventure… in the most positive ways I’m able.

 

Be well. 

Adventures in Optimism Episode 1

 

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Well, here I am in the delightful Pacific North West!

Even though this is the worst time of year for my vampiric little soul, it has still been a blessing: temperatures in the 70s and low 80s instead of 90’s and100’s for my first week, and even a couple days of rain!

As I had feared, road trip + acclimating + catching up with old friends + just dealing with everything has resulted in Not Much Writing Time.

A few tidbits, though, from the journey so far:

The road trip here was just LOVELY! It was cloudy from a mile outside my town until I was nearly here, and it rained a good deal of the way. So much nicer than the glaring sun, A/C all the way trip I had feared. One of the highlights of the trip was a hawk sitting in the median right beside me, just surveying the land. I also drove by a little farm with an enormous, gorgeous pig in the front pasture. It is a rare joy these days to see a pig able to live like a pig.

And one of the special joys since I arrived has been catching up with a dear friend who I hadn’t seen in YEARS. That alone would be worth the trip.

Rather less sleep than needed for my ideal disposition, but so far no major crimes committed. 

I arrived at my temporary home in good time (such good time, in fact, that I hit Portland, Oregon at rush hour – NOT something I’d recommend) and have found it to be fairly tolerable.

I am not at all well suited to hotel / mass people storage living, so definitely not unmitigated delight, but it’s liveable. My room even looks out onto a little wooded area. Complete with bunnies!

In fact, the only real flaw in the home-away-from-home (except that it’s AWAY and I’m a homebody) is that the soundproofing is Just. Not. Adequate.

Any time I have next door neighbours it sounds like someone is herding elephants through the bedroom.

And I am absolutely the Princess and the Pea when it comes to sleep:  noise, light, heat, cold – doesn’t matter, it will keep me awake! Sigh.

The hotel staff have been great, but there is only so much that can be done. It’s only a month,  it’s only a month…

My actual home life aside, the surrounding area is LOVELY.

Despite recent housing booms, there are still many little forested areas, and a fifteen minute drive in nealry any direction brings me past at least one lake or river!

(If you grew up in any remotely normal environment go ahead and laugh, but I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, so having random forests, lakes, and rivers show up inside a five mile commute is a HUGE novelty.)

Curious detail of the week: I’ve read for ages that this Northwestern area is among the least Christian in the country; now, maybe I just happened into the Christian Ghetto,  but I’ve not seen so many Churches in one place since my last trip through the Bible Belt!

So, that’s my week in a nutshell.

This weekend the ‘Could I live a frugal life here?’ research begins in earnest.

I still swing between nearly calm and nearly hysterical when contemplating that, but am working to keep up the positive perspective!

 

Be well. 

 

 

Adventures in Optimism Episode 2

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This is a strange, strange place.

The children here… they act … like children. I see them riding bikes and walking to the corner store and playing what appear to be completely unorganized sports with groups of their friends. They even mostly dress like children, rather than like miniature supermodels.

I remember this from my own childhood, I’ve seen it in other countries, and I’ve read about it even in modern media, but it’s my first real experience of it in many, many years.

Maybe it’s just that kids can go outside here without bursting into flame, unlike in the southern desert regions I’ve mostly inhabited, but it is kind of heartwarming to see children out of doors, and even frequently looking at and talking to EACH OTHER rather than staring at cell phones. It is especially odd because this is a fairly good sized city and I’m in a fairly affluent part of it – the last two places I’d expect kids to be kids!

Then there is the fact you CAN go outside in June without bursting into flames!

I know I’ll get used to it, but it’s a work in progress.  A friend mentioned yesterday that it was 7pm and 97 degrees at his home. MUCH more what I’m used to. Here it is cloudy many mornings EVEN in June, and on the weekend I’m headed for an area that is still regularly in the mid 60s for temperature! IN JUNE! Now JULY!!

Of course that’s why I’m here testing this place to begin with, but it still astounds me. My native friends are appalled at the recent heat, since even here climate change is visible and the current US heat wave is shoving its nose in, but from my desert perspective this is pretty darn good!

Tidbits from the Journey So Far

For sale by owner.  I have never seen so many houses for sale by owner before. I don’t know if they have odd realty laws here, or a dearth of realtors, or what, but I’m not just talking tin-and-cardboard shacks – there is a neighbourhood near my hotel with $600,000 homes in it and two of those babies are For Sale By Owner too!

UL campus. Okay, I am a dork, I know it. That is the only excuse I have. I am staying about 5 miles from the UnderWriters Laboratories campus and I just think that is SO COOL. It’s also quite a campus. Looks like a very high end park from the street. They have signs up all over that it’s private property, but no fences and it’s hard for me to believe that all the people I’ve seen using it as a lush walking space are UL employees.

The not-100s. This has probably already come through, but I just have to give it its own space. While I’d rather it were fall or winter or spring, to be outdoors in SUMMER and not miserable from the heat is SO EXCITING !!

Quiet. Not in my hotel at 5am, alas, but on the streets it’s QUIET here. People hardly ever blast their stereos in their cars, they seem to mostly keep their dogs in line, they even sort of speak quietly.  After years of sensory overload in Ca, I’ve really enjoyed the quiet.

Distance. I have lived the last ten years in California. Most of them in a county that is larger than several states and a number of countries. Washington is so … small. Now, to be clear, when I say ‘Washington’ I mean only land from the Cascades to the ocean, so we’re not talking the state’s longest diagonal, but the simple fact that I could drive from the Oregon border to the Canadian border in a very, very, reasonable day’s trip is amazing to me.  You can spend more time in traffic on a southern Ca commute than that trip takes!

Sense and reason. Because I’m in this extended stay place the housekeeping folks only tend to my room once per week. Last Friday was to be my first ‘housekeeping’ day, and I waited, and waited, and waited. Finally they knocked on my door, long after I had assumed they forgot me, and said that they had been completely slammed so they couldn’t get to me that day, and could we reschedule? I work in an organisation where people apologise for taking an hour to get to your email on a Sunday while sitting at their father’s deathbed, so I found it completely heartwarming that someone would say ‘We simply can’t get everything done, I’m sorry.’ And it wasn’t even as if they were neglecting me! They STILL took my trash and my used bath linens and offered me any other things I needed.

But not from Google Maps. Google Maps is NOT sensible here. I started off thinking maybe they had a lot of one way streets or construction blocks or something. No. Google Maps just has a twitch here. It will happily take me half a mile out of my way to avoid a simple left hand turn at a minor traffic light. Thankfully I am getting a feel for the area and starting to note probable ‘more sensible routes’ on the map before I start out.

Grit. I met a girl who lives – with her nine-year-old son – in a studio apartment she is pretty sure is smaller than the hotel studio I’m in right now. (And she cleans the hotel studios such as I’m in for a living, so she has a pretty good feel for their size.) Her kitchen she is certain is smaller than my hotel kitchen (and trust me, I’m not staying in a penthouse palace here) and only fits a mini fridge with one of those semi-freezers that doesn’t really freeze enough to be safe. “But at least we can’t keep ice cream around” she said happily, “so that is good for us. If we want ice cream we have to walk to the corner store to get it!”.  This girl is tougher than I’ll ever be, and she has a much better disposition!
Now of course grit is not unique to here; I just like to celebrate it whenever I find it.

All in all it’s been a good week.

The poor sleep is taking a toll, but it’s still manageable, the abject terror is fading, thank God, and so far none of my research has revealed hopeless failure.

This weekend I’ll take a trip to the most distant areas I am contemplating, and then I shall be ready to start making some decisions and narrowing my focus – God willing.

 

 

Be well. 

Adventures in Optimism Episode 3

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Well, this week has been more adventure than I planned!

Have I mentioned that at ye old day job we have been going through a strategy process and planning a restructure of my team? This has meant about 6 months of living in limbo, which is always somewhat stressful, but we’ve gotten through it pretty well and were very much looking forward to it being OVER.

Then came the note that all of my team’s jobs will end on 30 September. Including, of course, MINE!

There will be some new positions created, but it doesn’t look like I’ll be a good fit for those.

It has certainly created the opportunity for a reflective pause.

Or, I should say the vital need for a reflective pause, since my days now involve trying to get my urgent work tasks done, and commiserating with co-workers who are scared and confused, and trying to process all the information about what my future looks like now. Completed most of the urgent stuff today, so I HOPE to have some open space tomorrow and Friday to be more attentive to my co-workers and to the reams of information on What Next?

Since my possible move to the great Pacific North West is largely dependent on both HAVING A JOB, and also on having a job that I can do from home, my trip is now effectively complete. I simply can’t make decisions about a long haul move until things are settled at work.

On the upside, I got to all the places that I think are realistic options for a future move, and I was very much encouraged that it might be possible to live here within my limits for a reasonably frugal life.

It will be very hard leave here, where we are currently heading into low 70s / high 60s and rain, for my hot and sunny home, but even in that I feel more ‘ready’ and okay about it than I would have anticipated. And goodness knows HOME is always my favourite destination, even when that home is not in my favourite location.

Tidbits from the Journey:

Once of the great joys of this last weekend was getting to see another dear friend from Grad school! I had warned her when we started to set up a date that I was a still bit mental these days, then when we got to the day of meeting I had just gotten the news about my work, so I was REALLY a mess. Sarah, as always, was like a cool drink of water in a parched land.

GORGEOUS countryside. WOW. I spent a significant part of the holiday weekend driving all over western Washington, and it was SO beautiful. I have to keep reminding myself that it is summer.

A full night’s sleep!! I actually got it both dark enough and quiet enough to get one full night’s sleep! It transformed me! Now, alas, the following night, on the road trip, I had a HORRIBLE night with only 3 hours of sleep, but hey, one night is better than none!

Tom Petty. I have heard more Tom Petty on the radio since I arrived here 2.5 weeks ago than I have probably heard in the preceding 2-3 years. I finally had to look him up and see if he grew up here. No. I have no idea what it is. Nothing wrong with it, it’s just odd.

Gratitude. I’m scared and distressed about this new wrinkle with my job, but I am also grateful. I am SOOO grateful this didn’t happen in the middle of the LifeWreck. That would have been beyond my capacity. I am also grateful it didn’t happen until I had begun to get my trust in God back. I’m not at 100% yet, but I am FAR better able to weather this new crisis than I would have been a year ago. And I’m sure grateful that it didn’t happen the week AFTER I moved to a completely new community – and a rural one at that!

I had to think about it at first, but I decided I’m even grateful that the job crisis happened AFTER I started off on this research trip. Though I’ll head home sooner than I had planned, I really got the main information I need, and I would not have even considered this trip if I had learned about the job beforehand. I don’t know what will happen now, but I feel at peace for this point, at least, and that is pretty amazing.

 

Be well. 

 

 

Blessings in the storm

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My goodness it’s been an intense week!

Last week was such a whirlwind – getting the news about my job ending at the end of September, numerous meetings about that, and having to get myself back to CA, on top of two projects with deadlines – that I really didn’t have any time at all to process the reams of information about my job disappearing.

Or even the FACT that my job will be disappearing.

This week has been a bit of a whirlwind too, but at least I have the 10 hour drive (11.5 with CA traffic jams) and most of the deadlines behind me.

So now I’ve at least caught up on the ‘What to expect as your job disappears’ paperwork, and I’ve begun to actually FEEL all the feelings swirling around this latest crisis.

I am EXHAUSTED by the end of most workdays! Which, I guess that at least prevents laying awake nights worrying. 😀

One of the most unexpected things about this little crisis has been the blessings within it.

I imagine I’ll do more than my share of whining and maybe even raging over the course of this latest adventure, so I want to take at least this one opportunity to acknowldege the BLESSINGS.

My boss sent out a general announcement about the restructure, and within hours the man I respect most in my whole organisation (and one of the men I respect most in the world) had sent me a note asking how it would affect me, and expressing concern.

Since then I have received a number of similar notes from people I admire all across our organisation. Not just people I work with each week, but people who could easily go a month, many months, without ever thinking of me. I don’t think I felt so honoured when I GOT the job as I do by these expressions of concern and support!

As soon as another colleague heard, she skyped me to say that if I need any help processing things, or just want to chat, she is there for me – and I know for a fact that this woman has been working 75 hour weeks lately due to more work than people to do it.

Since I was in Washington when I got this news, I had to call my friend who lives there, whom I had been expecting to spend more time with, and tell her that I was leaving two weeks early and couldn’t say now when I’ll be back.

And she immediately offered that I could come stay with her if I need a place to live. No questions, no strings, no time limits, just ‘If you need this, you have it’.

Do you have any idea what that does for the soul on the receiving end?

If I get nothing else out of life’s lessons, I pray that I get THAT lesson well enough to do the same for someone else down the road.

And my lovely housemate, who will arguably be most affected by this if the worst comes, made the same offer! She also took me to my favourite restaurant for lunch the day after I limped back from Washington.

Who has friends like this?!?!

Actually, I hope you ALL do. I hope I am so good a friend.

If not, I hope I grow up to be.

Yesterday this same housemate came home with a special edition of of my favourite workout magazine, focused on stretching and strength. “Because,” she said “you’ll need to be taking good care of yourself during this time.”

I am also one of those blessed people who has a truly supportive family. They do not all pray, but those who do have all offered prayer support. And ALL of them have offered emotional support, wisdom, and help whenever I need it. I know that not everyone has that and I do not take it lightly.

Even the fact that I have a fairly long notice, and some options, and an emergency fund, is a blessing. I know that some people lose their jobs with no warning.

So, this isn’t the most peaceful of times, and I have moments of horror and despair, yet I am richly blessed.

I do not, yet, have the whole picture of my ‘abundant life’, and yeah, this latest crisis even looks a bit like going backwards; yet my life is pretty abundant.

 

 

Be well. 

Last Chapter / New Chapter

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WELL.

Here it is.

By the time this post publishes, I will be more than halfway through the last day of a job that I’ve held for nearly a decade!

It’s definitely bittersweet.

I am sad. There are so many things that still need to be done, that I wish I could be here to do. And it’s hard to leave behind the day-to-day relationships with truly beloved colleagues.

And it’s certainly scary to be ACTUALLY laid off!

To move into SUCH an unknown.

I’ve never left a job other than voluntarily before. 

But I’m excited too. This is a whole new chapter of my life. This is a chance to move in new directions and expand on directions that the past 10 years have built into me. 

I’ve surfed many a wave of reflection these past few days.

SO many  memories and experiences from these last 10 years, this place, this work. 

Some of these are BIG DEAL experiences.

In this job I got to work on projects that literally change people’s lives. That is an honour and a treasure I never imagined.

I’ve gotten to meet and correspond with some of my heroes in the field; people who have transformed the world and the way we interact with it. Quite a treat for a starry eyed kid from Phoenix, Arizona!

Some are not BIG DEAL experiences at all.

Yet these are are among the memories I hope pass before my eyes in my final moments.

I’ve gotten to work (even if just briefly) on 5 continents. And to work closely, over a long period, with people on 6 of them. You don’t get that in the average day job!

One of the most magical meals I’ve ever enjoyed was on a work trip:

The power outage struck as my boss, a colleague, and I waited for our meal on the open air rooftop of a little Indian restaurant in Nairobi, Kenya.

In the US they probably would have closed the place down.

In Nairobi, though, we sat and talked, laughed, and ate incredible food, for two hours, in the dark.

No one, customers or staff, was remotely disturbed by our near invisibility. If anything the event transformed us from a couple dozen separate parties into one big one.

I have seldom enjoyed a meal more.

The best cup of coffee I’ve ever tasted, and the best chai, were also the blessings of work trips.

And the PEOPLE I’ve met! 

The most dedicated, intelligent, and determined people I’ve ever met have been blessings of this job.

And not just my brilliant colleagues or the occasional big wig.

I met a waiter in Dominican Republic who, at all of 23, spoke three languages and was going to school nights to learn a fourth.

I speak one. I’ve tried hard to change that, and I still speak one.

This intelligent, dedicated, young man will never have the opportunities I had simply by being born where, and to whom, I was born, but he had more initiative than I’ve ever had.

That meeting was one of my greatest honours. That waiter stands in my hall of heroes.

Now, this job was not perfect.

Like any other job, this one has been stressful, frustrating, irritating, even maddening over the course of nearly 10 years.

Picture if you will the annoyances of bureaucracy and office politics multiplied by working across 90 countries, and every time zone known to man.

That none of us have ever strangled another is probably due as much to the fact that we were on different continents than to our inherent good nature or even our Christianity!

And the enormous blessing of working with people on 6 continents, inherently requires the curse of very, very, very long haul flights. With associated jet lag.

So, many memories centre around just trying to keep my forehead off the table toward the end of a long meeting on the second day of jet lag.

I vividly remember, at the end of a very important strategy meeting, riding in an elevator with four colleagues, trying to continue a discussion we had been having.

We found our exhausted selves unable to carry out complete sentences, and those leaning against the elevator walls were nodding off – on a four floor ride!

We thankfully determined that strategic decisions should NOT be made by us, then, and at least enjoyed a very healing laugh.

So yes, bittersweet.

A big chunk of my life fit into those 9+ years.

And those 9+ years have fitted me for things I would never have imagined.

I look to the next chapter with interest and excitement, in part because of what this past decade has given me.

New Life Resolutions: Kicking it into High Gear

 

Just a few short weeks ago, I laid out the plan for this year:

  1. Focus FIRST on getting more of the kind of work that I really want to keep doing.
  2. Expect hope instead of horror with this next move.
  3. GAIN health in the coming transitions.
  4. Shape my life so that one year from today my own life is more abundant and I’m more of a catalyst for others’ abundance too.

And so far?

 

Number 1, a little intimidating, but giving it a decent run.

The lack of immediate ‘security’ is nowhere even remotely near my comfort zone, but I’ve been able to stay the course. I’m learning a lot, and though I still don’t know what the outcome will be, I’m doing the work!

I’ve gotten through the career coaching. And numerous training courses. I’ve learned more about small businesses, and resources for them, than I previously even imagined there was to learn. I’ve chopped down my budget and spruced up my resume. My head spins with the skill-related knowledge I’m brushing up on.

I’ve even found some options for jobs that fit within my goal!

Number 3, I haven’t been doing too badly on either.

As mentioned, transitions are NOT my happy place, but I’ve managed to keep up on a workout routine that is at least holding me together, and I’ve (mostly) managed to stick to it even when deadlines loom.

Chronic Pain: Not as bad as it could be, and even improving some.

Mental Health: Not where I want it to be, for sure, but it could be, and trust me, it has been, far worse!

Faith: Holding up decently, and 10,000 times better than in the midst of the life wreck.

Number 4, of course, is a longer term outcome.

But even here, I feel that all the things I’m learning, and the progress I’m making ought surely to be of use to someone else down the line. And some days I even remember what it’s like to have the energy to contribute!

Which leaves us with:

Number 2.

Expect hope instead of horror with this next move.

You’d think with the improved faith, decent mental and tolerable physical health, nearly a year of warning, and even the courage to try something as radical as working for myself, this one would be much easier by now, wouldn’t you?

Not so much.

 

Apparently the power of Horrible Move PTSD transcends well-rounded progress across the rest of life.

Once again, my landlords are preparing to sell the house I live in.

This time it’s for sure.

This time, it’s time to move out, and on. Forward.

Which is nearly paralysing.

Strange how you can have so much horror about leaving a place you never wanted to be!

Because it isn’t that I like where I live now, or that it’s a good fit. It is that this is a known evil.

It’s that my BETTER, BIGGER, HEALTHIER faith still isn’t perfect faith, or anywhere near.

So it’s still hard to expect hope instead of horror.

But, as with the other three, if I’m going to accomplish this one, well, I just have to do it. I have to move forward, even if that means inching forward. Because paralysed isn’t one of the options.

So, what abundance lessons have I learned that I can apply NOW?

Not a bad start.

Will that carry me through without a qualm? Probably NOT!   🙂

But if it at least carries me through despite the qualms, it’s a good start.

 

 

Be well. 

Adventures RESUMED.

Image: cobblestone path

They’re back!

Remember the Adventures in Optimism?

It was just shy of a year ago that I first heard the words ‘We are going to sell the house.’ in reference to the house I’m living in, and the Adventures began.

Fairly successful considering the conditions, but by no means an unqualified success.

And yet, here I am again, adventuring to the most optimistic of my ability! Not quite so northerly this time.

I find myself in the lovely Pacific North West state of Oregon. Once again staying in a house that is not my own, once again assessing the fiscal, cultural, and psychological possibility of living in this land more permanently.

There are distinct differences this time:

  • I am not in a hotel, and rather than being noisy, my temporary abode is deliciously quiet.
  • I don’t have a nice, secure, long-term job to light the eyes and tempt the hearts of potential landlords and mortgage officers.
  • I do have a good possibility of renting this particular quiet abode, however!
  • And I’ve had a year more of learning to trust, of preparation, of experience.

And of course there are some similarities too – grey skies, rain, gorgeous surroundings, and so far, pleasant, courteous people! 😀

So, what will it be?  Trust or fear? Life abundantly or LifeWreck 2?

I’m certain it will be trust AND fear, but I’m praying, and striving, to have the TRUST win out by a large margin.

And I’m TRUSTING that it will be life ABUNDANTLY, not another LifeWreck. That’s difficult, and of course it’s where most of the fear comes from, but it’s something I can do.

I’ve learned, and I’ve gotten more healthy, and I’m in a different place than I was at that last, ill-fated, move.

 

We shall see. Let the Adventures … resume!

 

 

Be well. 

Hotel California

Image: Bridge crossing into woodland

‘Relax’ said the night man,
‘We are programmed to receive.
You can check out any time you like,
But you can never leave.’

That lyric has long haunted me.

It was NEVER my intention to live in California.

I’m just not the beachy type. I don’t love the sand, the sun, or the excitement of All the Beautiful People. I SURE don’t love the traffic.

California is not a place where I can live in simple abundance.

But it IS pretty tough to escape!

It took 12 years, but I’ve finally broken out.

I’m so happy to be in the cooler, more peaceful Pacific Northwest.

It’s scary too: will I succeed or fail?

After several nights of 3-5 hours of sleep, and a full day of driving – all on top of several weeks of moving stress, it’s easy to feel more scared than excited.

But I know that I’ll regain the energy. And so far this new place is so PEACEFUL, so QUIET, that even in today’s chaos, with EVERYTHING in disarray and most of my stuff not even here, it’s been healing to be here.

So I’ll cling to that hope, to the little bit of trust I have gained, and expect amazing things of this next chapter.

 

Be well. 

 

Abundance of less reality check

 

Photo of a large tree on the bank of a still lake or pond

I have moved!!!

So far, however, this is NOT true of most of my possessions. Sigh.

The latest estimate is that they will begin travel today.

This is very similar to the estimate yesterday. And the day before. And … you get the picture.

This has entailed a handful of difficulties, not the least being that my diet revolves around items largely boxed away somewhere in California, and I am currently sleeping on a twin sized (ish) inflatable mattress.

BUT it has also given me the opportunity to appreciate the situation I am in!

Because, mild inconveniences aside,

  • I do have everything I need to do my work.
  • I have a working fridge and oven!
  • I have quality indoor plumbing, so can have my nightly bath before hitting the hay… er… balloon bed.
  • And hey, I HAVE the balloon bed, so I’m not in a sleeping bag on the linoleum!
  • I even a decent smattering of furniture that my Landlords have not yet moved, so at least what possessions II brought with me are semi-organised.

Therefore, as I began to stress about yet another delay of THE STUFF, I decided to PAUSE.

Take a step back.

Reevaluate ye old perspective.

And you know what? I found some real blessings!

The joy of enforced unbusyness.

I have been sick since a few days before I got here, which has just CRUSHED my energy. (Finally getting functional these last 2 days.)

Had my things been delivered on time, I would have felt enormous urgency about getting them unloaded and unpacked.

But they weren’t here. Not a dang thing I could do about that.

So you know what I did instead? I got to REST. Which is probably why I’m getting better already.

I’ve also taken some pauses to just appreciate being here. I know I would have done that some – appreciating unloading in 60 degree, rather than 100 degree weather, at least! – but I would not have paused and savoured this first period the same way if another huge project had arrived a day or two after I did.

Light at the end of the tunnel preview.

Getting this first small wave of stuff I brought with me completely organised before the tsunami hits, was an unexpected blessing

If you’ve ever spent weeks wading through the never-ending deluge of BOXES YET TO GET TO you’ll understand how nice it is just to be DONE for a brief while!

Much LIGHTER plan changes!

I have changed some of my plans for how to use this space as I’ve spent time in it. Making those changes before said space is loaded up with heavy boxes or tables that need to be moved is a big benefit!

Perspective in practice.

Moving ALWAYS makes me more passionate about simplifying and downsizing, and this has provided an opportunity to see what I really miss!

Putting some walk into that talk, baby.

Of course the biggest blessing is probably the simple fact that instead of getting more and more stressed out each day, I am (most days) able to calmly go on with the life I have in this moment. 

After three years of trying to be more mindful, live more intentionally, it’s encouraging to see I’ve learned SOMETHING!

 

And I THANK GOD I didn’t cave into space-crunch-panic and put any of the plants into the moving boxes!

The temptation was there! I have small car and entirely too many plants. But thankfully all are here with me, a bit rumpled and indignant, but not gasping out their last breaths in a 96 degree warehouse somewhere in CA!

Be well. 

City Girl in the Country, Book 1

Photo of a large tree on the bank of a still lake or pond

Toto darlin’, we are NOT in the capital city anymore!

  • Population of the Sacramento Metropolitan area from whence I came: around 2½ million.
  • Drive time from my house there to the nearest interstate highway: 10 minutes, give or take.
  • Distance to the nearest Trader Joes: 2 miles.

Population of my new abode? Not quite 4000. Drive time to the nearest Interstate? About an hour.

To the nearest Trader Joes? About 2½ hours!

It is illegal to pump your own fuel here, but burning trash in your yard is no problem.

So yes, this will involve some adjustment.

Driving toward the little bridge to the west of town, I noticed an assortment of rubbish floating on the collected rainwater.

Then I got closer: Ducks, Kat. Not rubbish: DUCKS! Despite the odd relationship my old town had with poultry, you just didn’t get THAT every day!

There is also a small crew of seagulls who assist at our local dump, sorting through the trash for any edible tidbits that missed being composted.

THEN there was my trip to DMV!

Have you EVER walked into a DMV office and not stood in line? If so, I assume you live in near me. I had never once had that experience until this week.

In fact, I haven’t stood in a line except at the grocery store since I arrived here! Nor, for that matter, sat in much traffic. It takes getting used to.

There are a lot of things we don’t have here.

It’s part of living in a small town.

But we have a hardware store that stocks nearly every genre of merchandise I am capable of imagining. Home Depot doesn’t hold a candle to this place.

And anything the hardware store might lack, the grocery store in the next town over has completely covered.

I asked at the library if anyone knew where I could rent a goat – and would you believe they actually had suggestions?!? (Since my lawn tools are finally arriving today, I did not end up renting the goat.)

Some of the adjustments, of course, are due not to the size of the town, but to the state it is in.

As I mentioned, in Oregon it is illegal to pump your own fuel.

I can see this quickly becoming habit forming! At first, I worried that it would bother me. Now I wonder if I’ll have to stay here forever just so I don’t have to give it up!

And while the main street of my town is perhaps three miles long, it boasts three coffee houses along its course (well, two coffee houses and one coffee boat, actually). And not one of them a chain store. I love that.

My route to the county dump is a Pacific Coast Highway Scenic Byway!

Then, of course, there’s the WEATHER. 

Just thinking about it makes my vampiric little heart glow with joy.

It is JUNE, and today the high was 64, with gorgeous clouds covering the entire sky! People keep asking me what brought me here and most of them blink and look slightly lost when I answer ‘The weather.’

But I am slowly finding my kindred spirits.

The cashier at the grocers and I had this exchange, then both looked out, doe-eyed and dreamy, at the threatening grey sky, while she responded ‘Ah, yes. It is beautiful here.”

Not all small towns have a strong community feel. But this one does.

This is the first place that I have ever encountered a public library which has more volunteers than it can use!

At the dump, you sort out your bottles that can be exchanged for a deposit refund, and the dump donates those to a local charity that serves people with disabilities.

The second day I was here I saw a sign in a parking lot that said ‘You matter’. The kind of thing you’d expect at a church, right? Or maybe a high school? This one was in front of the hardware store.

Undoubtedly we have our share of jerks here, but everyone I’ve met so far has been really nice. Nice in a way I remember from childhood but had forgotten.

I imagine a move like this one isn’t everyone’s idea of a step toward abundance.

So far, for me, it is.

 

 

Be well. 

 

 

 

 

 

The good, the bad, and the ugly: House Move 2017

Being constantly bruised, scraped, sore, dirty, and exhausted begins to lose its appeal.

Not being able to locate anything when I need it isn’t as much fun anymore either.

Did I really do this voluntarily?!?! I must be even crazier than I realised.

Okay, no. The location was optional:

Tuesday’s forecast:

  • Place I grew up: 118 (48 C)
  • Place I just moved from: 104
  • HERE: 69 lovely degrees, and cloudy!

but actually moving was not.

And, for the most part, this move has been less horrible than previous moves. (Of course, since my last two moves surrounded a major health and life crisis, it might be hard to top those for basic suckiness.)

Anyway, lessons from this predicament season:

Container moving for the win!

For me, when at all possible, using something like U-BOXES is the way to move. The stress of having to get so much done in a short time when moving myself by truck just isn’t a good match for my health. And piloting a truck as big as a house along narrow, twisty roads, ups that stress enormously!

Professional moving costs a FORTUNE, which I don’t have, and curiously, for me it is equally stressful! With the exception of the narrow, twisty roads, of course. I still feel that time pressure, and I just don’t like having a bunch of strangers man-handling my stuff.

Because I’m a on strict budget right now, I had to do a lot of math for this move, but really, the U-Boxes are near enough in cost to the truck, with far less stress.

Pushing, and respecting, limits.

This will be surprising for absolutely no one, but moving, a job search, trying to build a business, and an autoimmune disorder, are not a recipe for efficiency.

So right now I’m learning to just put one foot in front of the other. To say “You know you just can’t do that really well right now, so look for what you can do, and just do it.” It’s been good.

Now, there are definitely times where even putting one foot in front of the other can’t go on. I respect that.

And I’m once again learning that I need to anticipate those moments when I simply can’t keep at it, and I have to rest. Doesn’t matter what ‘should’ be, I have to live what IS.

Sometimes you have to stop to move forward

Last Monday I spent nearly 100% of my very precious ‘moving’ time (yes, right now my waking hours are very carefully allotted) putting up shelves and setting books on them. This seemed like the most ridiculous waste of time.

There are five U-Boxes to be unloaded!

There are 1,000 things to do! All important!

I HAVE NO BED, for goodness sake!!

But I kept at it. And you know what, when the shelves were up, and the books were on them, I was able to clear a huge space in my basement so that the next day my ‘moving’ hours were vastly more efficient. I got two U-Boxes unloaded, except for the appliances!

Later that week, I spent my moving time organising the kitchen.

Definitely not the most critical or time-sensitive task on my list! And I admit I mainly did it because I was staggering with fatigue and carrying heavy boxes up stairs no longer seemed wise.

But when it was done, my paths were more clear, so subsequent moving went faster, and I could find things that I needed, so making meals became a lot more practical!

Sometimes going with your gut IS right!

Not always, which is the overthinker’s living nightmare.

One of my greatest fears is being one of those ‘the grass is always greener’ folks. Blech! I don’t want to be discontented and unwilling to shape my life. I don’t want to be a whiner, or, worse yet, always chasing something new because I’m unwilling to do the hard work of changing me.

So, I’ve had many moments of

What if it really IS just me?

I should be able to be equally content anywhere!

(Even, I am ashamed to say,) But other people are perfectly happy here!

 

Because I do believe that we forge a great deal of our own contentment through our attitudes. I know from experience that almost anything can be made MORE tolerable with the right attitude.

But MORE tolerable is not the same as appropriate. It isn’t thriving.

I truly tried to be as content as I could in California’s sun, and heat – which many people love. And traffic, and pace. And cost of living. And noise.

And I had a pretty good life there.

But here I don’t have to work extremely hard every day to be ‘pretty much okay’. I don’t consider ‘Actually, it wasn’t that bad!’ to be the description of a really good day.

I AM healthier here. Even though I’m tired, even though I can’t wait for this moving and settling to be over. Even though my house is in chaos, and I don’t know what the future holds.

Even when I am sick, as odd as that may sound. Because, so far, here I am just sick. Not sick + struggling to survive the day. Sick + more and more mental. Sick + I can’t really remember what peace feels like.

Every once in awhile, I even toy with the idea that maybe I COULD THRIVE again someday.

So, I’m not sure how you know when a change is a true need, rather than something you just need to address in yourself.

I just know that sometimes change is a real need, and making the change makes a clear difference. And it’s good. 

 

Be well.