Get off my lawn…

If you’ve ever seen the movie, Grand Torino, you may remember the phrase, “get off my lawn”.  The movie opens with the death of Mr. Kowalski’s wife, and the gathering of family after the funeral. In this scene, it is clear that he and the rest of his family do not relate well to one another – in fact, in an understated way, I would say Mr. Kowalski was not particularly nice to the rest of his family, nor the priest with whom his wife had trusted.  Classic model of the “strong, silent type”, his cantankerous demeanor can seem cold and uncaring, even rude.  Although his son tries to interact with him, it is clear that the relationship is tense.

As the movie progresses, the Hmong teenager next door tries to break in and steal Mr. Kowalski’s prized possession, his Grand Torino.  We see that, despite the hard and calloused exterior, deep down, Mr. Kowalski isn’t such a bad guy as he begins to teach the teen some life lessons.

get off my lawn

A few weeks ago, I engaged in a discussion with a friend of mine about this movie.  His perspective of the movie was a man who was protecting his prized possession.  Mine was one of familial relationship – or lack thereof.  His perspective was the “bigger picture”, which I believe is the intended perspective the writers / producers had in mind with the movie.  My perspective was more trivial, focused on the characters’ personality, and the fact that he couldn’t get along with either his family or his neighbors and was destined to die a crabby, lonely man.  My perspective was, no doubt, colored by the similarity of the main character to someone in my family (withholding the name to protect the innocent.. lol).   In the movie, Mr. Kowalski had become embittered by life, as has the person I know.  Years ago, a pastor friend of our told me that he knew beneath this person’s gruff exterior lies a tender heart.   I couldn’t see it then; I can’t see it now.

As I reflected the conversation about the movie, and about my own life, I realize that my “dark” years WERE a reflection of the bitterness I developed after losing my dad.  I understand HOW life can hurt and how we can become bitter about things that happen to us.  I get it completely.  But I also know that I didn’t have to stay there… and I didn’t.

What causes life to embitter some people while shaping others to be stronger and relate better to others? What enables some people to pull through the bitterness to become better while others fall prey to life’s snares, becoming disgruntled Mr. Kowalski’s?

In , Ezekiel 36:26 , God says, 26I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh

Out of the ashes, God took me and gave me a purpose – His purpose for my life.

I can honestly say that, because I have chosen to leave the bitteness at Jesus’ feet, He has continued to refine me with a giving heart – a heart that breaks over brokenness and despair; a heart that desperately tries to right the wrongs; a heart with a tremendous capacity to love.

Throughout my life, I have oscillated several time between withdrawing due to pain and standing strong despite the pain.  During one of my withdraw phases, where I made a conscious decision to shut off feelings toward certain people in my life, a friend of mine challenged me that they would rather fully feel at the risk of being hurt than to miss out feeling the deep connection that comes from the right relationships. Having recovered from that withdrawal period, I would now agree with their perspective – it is much better to love fully, risking being hurt than to never experience.

I believe it’s possibly to not become a victim of life. It requires a choice be made on how you respond to things that happen. It requires believing that you are better than your circumstances. It requires inner strength.

Be blessed today, my friends.

SB

Copyright 2019 Journey For Life. All rights reserved

Happiness Engineer

Sometimes if you “color it pretty”, you can make something awful seem altogether pleasant.   I came across the term “happiness engineer” a week or so ago.  Having an engineering background, and a generally positive view of life, I thought the term so idyllic (almost like a Disney Imagineer) that I was immediately intrigued to learn more.   When I read the job description, I discovered it really was a technical customer service professional who works to resolve problems people have with technology.  Don’t get me wrong.  These people are invaluable.  Despite having an engineering degree, my stomach turns in knots at the thought of trying to resolve a problem with my WI-FI repeater, or setting up surround sound for a new TV. There are times when the Happiness Engineer resolves your issue and you are grateful for them – you let them know how much you appreciate their help. But there isn’t anything in me that would make me want to be one of them.

When I was in college, I worked part time at a hardware store called, Hechinger’s (similar to Lowe’s or Home Depot).  I started as a cashier, but was moved into a customer service role at the service desk – a sort of “happiness engineer” for the home improvement world.  (By the way, it is my believe that EVERY person should spend a stint working in the retail or fast food industry just to understand what it’s like so that you can always remember to be nice to those who work in those industries).  The problem with such a role in the retail world is that the public is generally not very nice, and the adage “the customer is always right” sometimes can tempt people to take advantage of the situation.  Typically, customers who came to the service desk were returning items that either didn’t work, were extra, or that they simply didn’t want anymore, so they are already dissatisfied with something.   One evening, an older woman came in and asked for help with her order, and asked if I would accompany her to the “housewares”department.  Glad to help, I actually left my post at the service desk (with others there to help other customers) and spent the next hour or so walking around the store with her at her beck and call, helping her get items that she wanted.  When she was finally done and checked out, I apologized to my manager because it was unusual to leave the service desk for extended period of time, especially to simply help someone shop.    No harm, no foul, he said, glad to help the customer.   Until the next day when she returned.   Both the manager who was there the evening before and I happened to be on duty again when she came back.   To our surprise, she was returning ALL of the items that she bought the night before.   She pointed her finger at me and began yelling obscenities at me and threatening me, blaming me for her purchases.  It was such a bizzare tirade that the store manager actually asked her to leave the store and not come back.  Although I could probably chalk that experience up to an out of the ordinary issue with an older woman perhaps with dementia or mental health issues, it forever colored my desire to work in a customer service role.

As a matter of fact, I used to say that I never wanted to work in either a contract manufacturing role or a customer service role (have you ever heard the adage, “want to make God laugh… tell him your plans”? (topic for another day).   Ironically, I have found myself in BOTH of those roles during my career, the past seven years working in a Service Management role for a medical device company.

Happiness engineer..     there are some people you can’t make happy no matter how hard you try.  (perhaps that’s also a topic for another day…)

What have been your experiences with “happiness engineers”?

Be Blessed today, my friends,

SBhappiness-engineer

Lyrics for Bach

Life is very difficult to live on pins and needles, but much more rewarding when you can travel through life with people you love who love you for being you; people with whom you can be yourself, even if that self is goofy at times. (In fact, sometimes the goofiest friends are the best)

Weeks (or months) ago, a man at our church gave me a CD he thought I’d enjoy – it took classic 70’s and 80’s music but gave them Christian lyrics.  He asked me once if I had had a chance to listen to it, but I hadn’t, so last week, I gave them a try.

As an aside, I generally consider that I have successfully raised my three children because, in part, they have quite extensive taste in music, and are very familiar with the songs with which I grew up – 70’s and 80’s.   I must admit one very large parenting failure in this week, however.  When I asked my youngest daughter (now almost 14) what the title of the song was to which she’d heard the chorus modeled after Prince’s hit, Purple Rain, (lyrics, “Jesus Reigns”), she replied (with quizzical look), “Jesus Reigns?”     Umm.. no.   She hadn’t heard of Purple Rain.  (sigh)

At any rate, on Sunday morning, I saw the man who’d given me the CD talking with one of my good (and goofy) friends, so stopped to say, Hi.   Of course, he asked me again if I had listed, and I was pleased to tell him I had.  He then turned to my friend and began to describe the CD.  He said,   “it takes classical music and puts Christian lyrics to it”.   A puzzled look washed across her face, so I gently corrected, “Classic Rock”    She laughed and said, “Oh, I was trying to remember the words to the last Bach piece I learned, and I couldn’t remember ever learning any… it’s just chords”. (another reference to something I tell her often about music.)

Later that day, I remembered that I had something I wanted to give her, so I sent her a text to ask her to help me remember next time I saw her that I had something for her. She replied, “is it the lyrics to Bach?”

I absolutely love her sense of humor. She cracks my up every single time I talk to her. It’s good to have friends that make you laugh.

If you haven’t laughed with friends lately, make it a point to reach out to one who will brighten your day.

Be blessed today, my friends.

 

Never look back

In a post last week, I talked about making choices. This or that…

Once the choice is made, never look back. Be confident in the choice you made and move on with life.

Years ago, we needed to replace our dishwasher, so I went to the local appliance store and picked out a new one. It was stainless steel when they were first coming out, and it was quite expensive, but we had enough money to pay for it in our checking account, so I wrote a check and made arrangements for it to be installed.

When I told my mom, who had moved in with us shortly before, about it, she criticized me for spending so much money. She made me second guess my choice-to the point where I called the store to cancel the installation and order the cheaper one. Because I had paid by check, I had to wait for the check to clear before they could refund. It was quite an ordeal.

Eventually, the cheaper, non stainless steel model was installed, and the first washing was to occur. Dinner was spaghetti that night… and we washed the dishes and the entire interior of the dishwasher turned pink. I could have spit nails as my mom said to me, “you should have gotten the stainless steel one”. Really????

That moment was life defining for me. As seemingly insignificant as a dishwasher, what I learned through that experience was to trust my own judgement and not allow someone else to make me doubt it. Sure, I believe it’s important to seek advice from those you trust when making a decision. But at the end of the day, once the decision is made, never look back. Own it.

Ironically, a few months ago, we needed to replace that dishwasher. I did my research and bought an expensive model with very high ratings. It works just fine.

I made a life decision last week, one that will begin to take shape within the next few months. It was not an easy decision. Both choices came with benefits and potential challenges down the road. I’m not looking back. I’m going with the decision that was made, confident that the future will be what we make it.

As you finalize decisions, never look back. Even in the bad decisions of life, God is working to shape you into who He needs you to be for the purpose to which He’s called you.

Be blessed today, my friends.

SB

Copyright Journey For Life 2019. All rights reserved

Inner-Monologue

The Power of Self-Talk– by Dr. Perry, Make it Ultra

Dr. Perry is one of my favorite bloggers – one day last week his post about self-talk was extraordinary. You should check it out – as well as other posts on his page.

Self talk, or inner monologue, is the voice inside your head. We all have them. In his article, he talked about two schools of thought about how and why they exist. He also described how, many times, this voice will start positive, but as life wears on, will become more negative, telling you all of the reasons why you can’t do something.

One key take-away from his post was this:

“We must learn to actively engage with this (inner) voice in order to keep it positive and avoid letting the negative self-talk or negative core beliefs infiltrate our life.

It helps to identify your inner voice as that of your inner child. Much like a child, it needs to be taught rules and manners. It must be trained to be comfortable with silence in order to avoid constant unnecessary chatter. When your inner voice throws a tantrum and begins to tell you all the things that are wrong with you and your life, it must be met with kindness and compassion.”

Unnecessary chatter – my inner voice frequently talks to me – in fact, probably needs to be trained to be comfortable with silence..   Often, my mind will role-play conversations with other people, most of which never take place.   The good thing about my inner-monologue is that, in general, it is very positive.  Ever since over-coming my “dark” days, I tend to be a very positive person and, as such, my inner voice is generally my cheerleader, telling me that I CAN do things, often encouraging me to step out boldly without a safety net.  Frankly, I’d rather live life dangerously than not at all.

 What does your inner-voice tell you?

SB

Quality of Life vs Quantity

When I was in California a few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to meet up with my cousin, who lives near Hollywood. He is six years older than me, and both of us are the babies of our families. We spent a good bit of time reminiscing about our childhood and about our grandparents, with whom he spent much time with as a child.

My grandfather was a Tri-State athlete back in the day, and earned many medals in multiple track and field events including shotput, discus, and pole-vaulting. He was very strong, and very muscular, and I can remember him “high jumping” the railings in our split level home well into his seventies.

My grandmother developed Multiple Sclerosis in her 30’s, and had a rare form of it that doctors told her would allow her to live a long life, which she did. For most of my life, however, she was completely crippled, essentially paralyzed from the neck down. My cousin could remember when she could walk without assistance, but my earliest recollection of her walking was with a walker, and mostly I remember her being bound to a wheelchair.

Because of his strength and physique, my grandfather was able to pick her thin but dead-weight body up well into his eighties. He would get her up every day, get her ready, and take her out for a drive. Every single day.

Because she spent most of her time sitting, she developed bed sores and eventually had to have surgery to address them. During her stay in the hospital, she received breathing treatments so that she didn’t develop pneumonia, again because she spent her time laying/sitting, but not really moving. During one of these breathing treatments, she passed out. The nurse, who was very young, said, “oh she must have fallen asleep.” I argued with her, saying that it seemed she’d had a stroke or something, and insisted she get help, which she did. It was difficult to revive her, and the nurses and doctors didn’t believe she had a stroke, but from that point on, she could no longer even talk to us.

She lived for about another two years, in the most agonizing, slow death I’ve ever seen. While my grandfather did his best to care for her, she was eventually put into a nursing home to receive “more care”, though spent most of her time in bed. He spent every day with her, right at her side. I visited every Sunday, and tried my best to keep her updated on my life. All I wanted was to hear her voice, but could only see her eyes looking back at mine, wondering what the thoughts in her head were saying.

I told her about my job, beginning my career as an engineer, our wedding plans, and my cold feet about marriage. I desperately wanted to know what she thought, and tried to read her eyes, but couldn’t.

My prayers for her actually changed to praying God would have mercy on her and take her home. She knew Jesus as her Savior, and there was peace in her journey, but it went on for an agonizing period of time with a horrible quality of life. I got to where, although I would never do it, I understood why people wanted assisted suicides. Watching her die like this, and being able to do nothing to help was one of the most excruciating pains I’ve felt.

My uncle made her a wheelchairs bed so she could attend my wedding. Here she is. (Gramps is right behind Grandma. My cousin, Ed, is in white on left rear, along with rest of the family on mom’s side)

All of this brings to mind the question of whether it’s better to have quality of life verses quantity. I felt as if her quality of life was horrible, yet God chose to leave her here for a very long time. On the other hand, I felt my dad, who died of cancer when he was only 47, wasn’t here long enough.

It seems we don’t have a choice in the matter, but if given the choice, is it better to have quality of life or quantity? Does your decision change if you have security in knowing where you’ll spend eternity? If you have fulfilling relationships? If you have accomplished all you wanted in life or have more to do? I’m interested to hear your thoughts….

Be blessed today, my friends!

SB

Copyright 2019 Journey For Life. All rights reserved.

Waiting on God

A few weeks ago, I downloaded two books to my audible ap, and was blown away by how God worked in my heart when I listened to the first one

Yesterday, I listened to the other one while I had some driving time. It was called Waiting on God by who I thought was Francis Chan. Turns out it’s not really a book at all, but a connection of sermons (or talks) by Francis Chan, Bill Hybels, James MacDonald, and John Ortberg, all dealing with the same topic of waiting on God.

It is incredible to me, although I shouldn’t be surprised by it anymore, that God knows exactly what I need to hear and provides it to me.

One of the challenges about listening to audiobooks while driving, though, is I can’t take notes. I’m going to listen again to the book, this time with my pen and notebook, pulling out the wisdom and reflecting Gods Grace

Essentially the message I heard yesterday was that 1) we cannot expect God to fulfill His promises to us while we are walking in sin. We need to rid sin in our lives and align our hearts to His. 2) our “wait” is not a passive one… that He is shaping us by our experiences while we wait– shaping is FOR the promises He will fulfill in us.

God knows what He’s doing. We need to step back and trust Him.

I’m trying

Id appreciate prayers to help me wait on Gods perfect plan, and allow decisions and circumstances to further shape me to who He wants me to be.

In Him,

SB

Copyright Journey For Life 2019. All rights reserved.