Hell in the Hallway

Recently, I prayed for a man who lost his job last winter and has been searching for another job since. It isn’t for lack of effort that he hasn’t found work yet. It seems his field is a competitive one and for whatever reason, he hasn’t been able to secure a new position.

My heart ached for him. I could feel the frustration in his voice. This in-between place he’s in is what I heard a man once refer to as the “hell in the hallway.” When God closes one door and while you’re waiting to find the next open door, you experience hell in the hallway.

hallway hell

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What If I’m Not Thankful?

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It’s the time of year when everyone is preparing to gather ’round a home cooked meal and tell, one by one, everything they’re thankful for.

For some folks, the thought of having to share thanks stirs more angst and anxiety than thankfulness.

You’ve lost a loved one. You had to bury your child. You’ve received a terminal diagnosis. You’re going through a divorce. You lost your job. Your car stopped working. Someone stole your wallet. You’re immersed in negativity. You’re stuck. Your past haunts you.

“I’m not thankful. I’m hurt. Angry. Sad. Grieving.”

What if I’m not thankful?

I resonate with those feelings. That despair. Resenting the holidays because while some were skipping around in “the most wonderful time of the year”, I was realizing more and more what wasn’t, and what would never be.

In the same breath people were telling me they were sorry for our circumstances, and either quoting scripture (to try to pipe me out of being sad) or another cliche phrase they assumed would magically make everything better.

It is true, scriptures says, “In all things, give thanks.” (1 Thess 5:18) There is an important clarification to make note of here, however.

The verse says IN all things, not FOR all things. Even when you’ve been dealt the worst possible hand in life, while you don’t have to be thankful for that circumstance or situation, the premise is – though you may have to dig really deep to find it – there is still thanksgiving to be found. No matter what situation you’re facing, there is always appreciation or joy in something else.

There are things I will never be thankful for. That doesn’t mean, however, I can’t find something else to appreciate.

If you find yourself in the throes of thanklessness and if you find yourself resenting this holiday season, I want to encourage you to take baby steps.

Maybe you’re not thankful – for so many things! – but your breakfast tasted good. Start there.

Try to find one thing, one day. Two things the second day. And don’t confuse being thankful with being happy! You don’t have to be giddy about anything to be thankful. One little step at a time.

I’m thankful potatoes were on sale.

I’m thankful for cashews.

I’m thankful I choose my own holiday traditions.

I’m thankful the sun is shining.

I’m thankful for indoor plumbing.

I’m thankful it’s almost January.

Wherever you have to start, start there.

If anyone is trying to force you to be bubbly, or over-the-top enthusiastic because they somehow deem this is what this period of life is about, be thankful you’ve got more depth than they do.

I know this time of year is challenging, to say the least, for so many people. I know while the hustle and bustle of gatherings and food and decorations has everyone else occupied, you’re trying to figure out why you have to get out of bed in the morning. No matter what you’ve been through or are wrestling through still, others have decided it’s time for you to “buck up and be thankful.”

They’ll never get it. Don’t expect them to understand. They can’t, and a lot of them won’t allow themselves to.

Be thankful for the people who do, and who are, supporting you right now, where you are. For those along for the journey while you grow, taking one step at a time.

As we head into Thanksgiving, and then into Christmas, I want you to take the pressure off yourself. If you’re not thankful for what you’ve suffered through, no one can blame you for that. And if they do – find new people.

Try, though, to find one little thing – anything – you can be thankful in. I promise you, there will be things that present themselves that may surprise you. You’ll be thankful for things no one else will realize or notice for themselves.

Work through your feelings. Work through your issues. And simultaneously, look outside of those feelings and issues to find what you can appreciate. It will bless you. Somehow. His way.

I’m pulling for you. You can count on that.

So Long, August.

August

So Long, August

August is almost over. And quite frankly, I don’t want to talk about it.

If it were up to me, we could extend July a little longer, have September start a little earlier, and skip over August altogether. It isn’t up to me, though.

So another year, another August behind me, another end-of-summer month feeling pretty beat up.

No, I’m not going to talk about school starting and how stressful it was for me to switch schools for Little Miss. I’m not going to talk about how I buried my head in the sand and didn’t do anything about getting her ready for school because I couldn’t bring myself to deal with it. I’m not going to mention how my baby girl is somehow in elementary school, and already crushing on her handsome classmates.

I’m not going to talk about how Little Man is not so little, and how the only snuggling he does is when he’s fast asleep and I can drag him out of his bed for some sleepy cuddle time. I’m not going to talk about how grown up and inquisitive and talkative he is, and how it wears me out to no end, but before I go to bed for the night, I just want to snuggle him one more time…

I’m not going to talk about the fact that August 24th was four years to the day of me finding out I was pregnant with Harlynn, and how I didn’t even realize the effect it had on me until a friend asked me about it.

Nope. There’s no point in hashing it all out. No point in sharing all the delicate details of the month that kicked the living tar out of me once again.

No need to share I had more social engagements this month than any other this year, and that one afternoon I sat at home on my sofa, fighting back tears because I just couldn’t converse with one more person for one more minute. This circumstantial-extrovert was completely tapped out on social skills. Me, the one who loves to host and be hospitable – – so over it. Crying because….people. Nope, no need to share about it.

I definitely don’t need to go into any detail about my aunt ending up in the hospital and how close we came to losing her. I don’t dare share the details of losing one of the most influential spiritual mentors of my life to ALS, and how difficult her funeral was for me. It made me think of how much I love her, and how I probably do a less-than-admirable job showing others just how much they’re loved. I mean, it’s kind of hard to show people how much you love then when you’re sitting on your sofa crying because you’ve been around too many people…

Gosh no, I don’t feel like mentioning a daggum word about any of it.

So instead of sitting here talking about what a bear August has been, and how I’m very much looking forward to September’s arrival, I’m just going to say, “so long, August.”

So long.

What Am I Supposed To Be Doing?

I don’t like challenges. I don’t like things to be hard.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. I like overcoming things other people think are challenging, and I like walking through to the other side of “tough stuff” looking like an unfazed superstar. If someone else thinks it’s rough, and I plow through unscathed, I like that.

If I’m not winning, or if I’m really struggling, or if it’s just plan tough – I don’t like that. Not at all. If I can’t figure out the daily sudoku puzzle in the newspaper, obviously the puzzle is mistaken. I don’t ever try to keep going to find out, though. I quit. I throw in the towel.

I’m tired of tough stuff. I’m tired of failing.

I went to the grocery store the other day in our June-gloom weather. It wasn’t raining so much as it was misting enough to be annoying and quite literally put a damper on my evening. After I got the groceries and loaded up in the car, I found myself just sitting for a while.

What am I supposed to be doing?

What Am I Supposed To Be Doing-

It wasn’t a simple question. It wasn’t like, “Oh, right, I’m supposed to be driving home right now….” It was deep. It was rooted in frustration. It was a plea.

What am I supposed to be doing?

There are a lot of things I’d like to do. But I’m either too busy, too broke, or too scared to do them. I want to travel. I want to write that first book (and it’s subsequent sister books). I want to sit on the sofa and knit another sweater. I want to take the kids to the zoo (but…rain). I want to read more, write more, do more, go more, be more.

Instead, I find myself in a grocery store parking lot, miffed at the rain, miffed at our budget, and miffed that my life is so hard.

I said it. I complained about it out loud. My life is hard.

I mentally justified all the reasons why. Apartment life with kids, crazy work schedule, trying to build my own blog, not having a clue what I’m doing, enrolling in every webinar on the face of the internet planet, cooking, cleaning, churching, being responsible, running Harlynn’s Heart, and trying to not let the fact that one of my children died, kill me altogether.

Total whine-fest.

What am I supposed to be doing? I’m tired of not knowing. I’m tired of muddling and struggling my way through things. I’m tired of trying to figure things out. I’m tired of feeling purpose-less.

Have you been there? Are you there right now? It’s not just that I’m confused about my path, or losing sight of my goals. I feel absolutely purpose-less.

It’s a lonely, dark, scary feeling.

I started the drive home, instead of waiting for an audible answer. After all, I had ice cream in the car. (It was on sale….dangit…)

Seriously, God, what am I supposed to be doing?

 But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.
~ Exodus 9:16

Those words were spoken to Moses. The dude who led a bajillion slaves out of Egypt, and brought the 10 commandments down from the mountain. He struggled with his purpose. He struggled with what he was supposed to be doing. He doubted. He wondered. He tried to get out of doing the hard stuff.

He tried to get out of doing the hard stuff. He argued with God, and was like, “Actually, Lord, I have a better idea…you could just send my brother instead, and I’ll be on my way now….thanks for the talk….”

I don’t like this feeling. I don’t like wondering if I’m anything more than a vanilla latte addict. Val who? Oh that gal that was addicted to lattes? Yeah, whatever happened to her?  Pass the mustard.

What am I supposed to be doing? Well, I reckon I’m supposed to be doing whatever I can. I suppose I should stop focusing on the things I don’t like or can’t do, and get to gettin’ on the things I can actually accomplish. I suppose I should let the challenges sharpen my traits, and my tough times drive my pursuits.

Eventually, one day – maybe even in a single moment – my purpose will be revealed. I know everything I’ve struggled through will have prepared me for, and shaped me for it.

Then I’ll know. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.