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Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Out-With and the Fury

If you’ve read “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” by John Boyne you’ll recognize these two phrases.  (Tho I haven’t seen it yet, I imagine if you’ve seen the movie you’ll recognize them as well….)

One of the things I wanted to do when I started this blog was to write about the books I read and the impact they have on me.  I’ve done that a few times since starting this—tho not as often as I imagined I would.  Or as often as I’d like to.  I have so many thoughts flowing through my head when I finish a book they never seem to “gel” into anything that would make sense to anyone else.

After reading this book I don’t really care if it makes sense to anyone else.  I want to put pen to paper (even if it’s only e-paper) and record a few thoughts.  It doesn’t matter if it flows well, or if it’s something that interests anyone else.  I want to write about it anyway.

Holocaust books trouble and intrigue me at the same time.  They always have.  I’m not sure why.  This book was no exception.  It’s written from the perspective of a 9 year old German boy.  It’s charming, beguiling, abhorrent and disquieting all at the same time. 

I don’t want to re-tell the story or discuss the plot.  If you want to read what people think check out the reviews on Amazon.com or on Goodreads.com.  Plenty of people smarter than me have written lots of thoughts.

There is something so compelling, so captivating in Bruno’s story.  You see Auschwitz (or “Out-With” as he pronounces it) and the Fuehrer (or the “Fury” as Bruno calls him) through the eyes of an innocent, naïve 9 year old child.  The author does a remarkable job of showing his adult audience the horror of the situation while sheltering his younger readers from the full vileness of Auschwitz and the Holocaust.  I am truly impressed with how Boyne was able to successfully balance the two. 

As an adult reader of his book I found myself drawn into Bruno’s life more than I had realized.  At the end of chapter 18 I had to literally set down the book.  I set it aside and said out loud, “I don’t want to read the rest.  This will NOT end well.  I don’t want to read this anymore.  I don’t want to know how it ends.  He’s so innocent.  He has no idea.”

I picked it back up a few minutes later and read chapter 19 in almost total denial.  “Maybe it will be okay.  Maybe it won’t be as bad as I think.  Maybe the author won’t take the story where I think he’s taking it.  I’m jumping to conclusions.  Maybe it will turn out fine.” 

How did it end?  You’ll just have to read the book to find out.  (Or e-mail me for more of my thoughts offline.)  I’ll say only that the author impressed the heck out of me.

The thing that is staying with me (as much as the story) is the author’s note at the end of the book.

Boyne writes, “The issue of writing about the Holocaust is, of course, a contentious matter, and any novelist who explores it had better be sure about his or her intentions before setting out.  It’s presumptuous to assume that from today’s perspective one can truly understand the horrors of the concentration camps, although it’s the responsibility of the writer to uncover as much emotional truth within that desperate landscape as he possible can.”

Wow.

Maybe that hints at why Holocaust literature pulls at me so much.  Maybe it’s (at least partially) because I know that I cannot understand what happened.  What it must have been like.  What it must have felt like to experience it.  I cannot imagine how those who ran the camps managed to convince themselves it was okay to treat other human beings so horribly.  So brutally.  I cannot imagine how so many people knew about it and did nothing.  And how so many more people intentionally chose NOT to have knowledge of what was happening.  How many people chose to deny what was happening.

I can’t wrap my brain or my heart around any of those questions.  So I read, and re-read, as many different perspectives as I can.  I read as many different authors as I can.  Any well-written book that touches on the Holocaust in any way—even if the main focus is not present, first-person perspective.  From “The Reader” to “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” I am drawn to them.  With a curiosity to learn more.  To attempt to gain a better understanding.  To see things from a new perspective.  To answer in any small way possible, “Why?” and “What can I do to keep it from happening again?”

None of the answers are satisfactory.

There aren’t enough words in the universe to explain “Why.”  When I get to Heaven the first thing I’m going to ask God is, “Why?”  I am positive I will not be alone.   Faith (the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen) alone allows me to trust God will have an answer we can all accept.  I cannot imagine what it will be.

“What can I do to keep it from happening again in my lifetime?”  Yeah.  That question makes me want to scream.  And cry.  Look at the genocide/holocaust in Rwanda and Darfur and Zimbabwe.  Those were in my lifetime.  Those were in my adult lifetime.  What did I do?  What am I doing?  How often did I actively avoid news stories…..feeling there was nothing I could do.  I tell myself, those places are so far away.  Maybe it’s not so bad.  Maybe it’s not what they are saying.  Maybe……

But I know.  It is that bad.  It is what they are saying, and have said.  It is.

And I feel so helpless.  So powerless.

I pray, “God do SOMETHING!  End this!  End it now.  You can do that.  You can bring people to their senses. Please.  Please.  Please!  I’m begging.  Bring peace.  Bring love.  Bring understanding.”    And I see no change.

Maybe I’m drawn to Holocaust literature because I’m searching for an answer.  What can I do?  What can I do?  What can I do?

I have no answers.  So I continue searching.

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Yes.  You read that correctly.  Cricket made me cry.

No, not “a” cricket.  Just Cricket.  Not an insect (are they insects?  Hang on a second I need to Google this.  Ah….they are indeed insects.  Closely related to katydids.  Who knew??)  Not the sport.  Just Cricket.

Cricket is a moniker used by someone who posts on an internet bulletin board on which I frequently lurk.  (RMSJr if you’re reading you’ll know the board and moniker I’m talking about.)  Cricket’s not her real name (No!  Really Spudsie??  LOL!) .  Her frequent posts help balance out my infrequent ones.  Over the years I’ve come to really respect what she has to say and look forward to reading her views on political and social topics.  Her views frequently mirror my own (sorry RMSJr….I know that probably pains you….you love me anyway right?  ;-))  and she’s able to articulate things better than I could.

The main thing that has impressed me about Cricket is her willingness to state her point of view and not care what anyone else thinks.  (Or at least that’s how it seems from my perspective.)  She’ll let everyone know where she stands and engage in dialogue regarding just about any topic regardless of the online insults hurled by “anons” or even known posters.  Her beliefs are her beliefs and she’s not afraid to let anyone know.

That’s sooooo far from where I am.  I suspect my beliefs and views are just as strong and deeply held as Cricket’s.  I tend to keep them to myself.  I recently told a friend of mine that I’m a democrat and she was really surprised.  The circles I tend to “run” in are largely republican—make that vocally republican.  And I’ve learned over the years just to keep quiet on most political topics.  It’s a habit I’m slowly trying to un-learn. 

(Yes, I know.  I’m not really “un-learning” a habit.  I’m changing the way I interact with people.  I’m choosing to speak up.  I’m choosing to be authentically “me”—whoever that is.  It’s just easier—and shorter—to write that I’m un-learning.  Grin!)

So I really admire Cricket for being herself and for being willing to freely state what she believes.

There was a thread started recently about Jim Wallis and the subject of social justice.  It hit a nerve with me when someone called Jim Wallis a Socialist.  While I cannot claim to have read everything written by Jim Wallis, I have read a fair bit of it.  And it seems crystal clear to me that he is NOT a Socialist.  Period.  So I jumped into the thread and gave my opinion.  And somehow Cricket and I ended up posting a few things back and forth to each other. 

Now I’ve “known” of Cricket and actively followed her postings for a while.  But given the infrequent nature of my own posts I’m positive she had never noticed me before.  Since we seemed to share similar views on the topic and had similar experiences from other Christians when discussing the topic I made a bold move.  Well…..bold for me anyway.  LOL!  I posted an e-mail address and invited her to drop me a line to continue the conversation off the board if she’d like.  And she did!!  Cool beans!  J

She sent me an e-mail with some more of her thoughts on social justice, a little of her back ground, a little bit about her views on different stuff, and an invitation to share my own thoughts.  So I did.  I replied with an overly long e-mail (some of you who have received similar e-mails from me can commiserate with Cricket….LOL!) about a little bit of my history and my thoughts on social justice.

Describing what “social justice” means to me is challenging.  I feel very inarticulate.  I feel as though I stumble and fumble my way through it.  It’s something I FEEL rather than THINK.  And goodness knows I have problems identifying emotions and feelings, much less using them to explain a bigger concept.  When I hit “send” and watched my e-mail disappear into cyberspace I wondered if my words made any sense.  Was there anything of worth in them?  How many typos did I have?  LOL!

Evidently it made a lot of sense to Cricket.  She replied with an e-mail today that made me cry.

Good tears.

She shared a few stories from her life, some of her early exposure to the concept of social justice—before she knew what it was called or knew that not everyone viewed it the same way.  She shared some of her frustration with “church people” (my words—not hers) and their frequent opposition to social justice. 

It was really cool learning that about her.

That wasn’t what made me cry. 

What made me cry was what she said about me. 

Recently I’ve been praying that God would show me what he wants from me in a very clear way.  In a way that I CANNOT miss or misinterpret.  I’ve been praying that in the context of trying to find a life direction.  (See previous blog entries for more about that.  J)  “Hey God, I’m gonna need some major help.  Could you show me what you want from me, where you want me to go in such an obvious way that I cannot miss it.  In a way that I will feel in my soul that it’s where I can start.  Even if the direction changes along the way, even if you have something different in mind for further down the road, could you simply show me where to start.  Make it resonate in the core of my being.  Make it energize me in a way I’ve forgotten I can be energized.  Please open my eyes, my heart, my mind.”

I trust God will help me as I continue my search.  There hasn’t been handwriting on the wall (yet!) or anything like that—and there may never be exactly what I am praying for.  And that’s okay because I know he’s got my back!  And when the creator of the universe has your back, it’s probably best to just let him do his thing.  He’ll come up with a way of guiding me that will be more impactful, more effective than anything I could imagine.  (You rock God!!)

I think in my prayers he’s heard something else.  Something I didn’t really articulate.  (He’s really good at reading between the lines.)  He’s heard my desire to try to see myself differently.  He’s heard my frustrations at not understanding why people say the good things about me that they occasionally say.  He’s heard me say, “What do they see that I don’t see?  Why can’t I see that in myself?”  And he’s sending people to me to help me see ME more clearly.

And this is where Cricket’s e-mail made me cry.

She started her reply to me by calling me a beautiful soul.  I kid you not.  It caught me completely off guard.  I wasn’t expecting anything remotely like that!  I mean, really, the only thing she knows about me is what she read in one e-mail (albeit a lengthy one…).  That’s it.  One e-mail in which I felt I didn’t express myself very well.  Wow.

And she didn’t stop there.  She went on for three paragraphs to say the most heart-felt things about me.  In one e-mail she was able to see things that I haven’t been able to see in thirty-cough-some years.  Not only did she see them, she told me about them.  She told me about me.  And since I wasn’t expecting it ALL of my defenses were down.  I felt the full impact of it deeply.  It actually resonated with me.  Wow.

As Yoda would say, “Unexpected this is.”

I love it when God answers a prayer I didn’t even realize I prayed!

So today has been a good day.  Cricket made me cry.

And see myself a little differently.

Thanks God!

Thanks Cricket!

Cricket

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Back to the beginning for the potato.

In the two weeks after my last blog entry I found myself still locked in flight mode when trying to think about possibilities for the future.

I thought I had made a pretty good start with answering “How do I want to feel?”  Yet it didn’t really go anywhere after that.  I kept looking at my questions, thinking about them when they weren’t physically in front of me, and hitting a wall.

Coach Jim has helped me form the habit of trying to think of things as hitting a speed bump instead of hitting a wall.  It’s a really helpful visual!  Much more positive and manageable than a wall.  At least with speed bumps you know if you back up far enough and get enough momentum behind you you’ll be able to move forward over them.  With walls?  Not so much.

I kept trying to think of the screeching halt of forward movement as a speed bump.  I really did!  I gotta confess…..if it was a speed bump it was the world’s largest one.  Grin!  I couldn’t get over it.  I couldn’t find a way around it.  I couldn’t even see over it.  Very frustrating.

And I was NOT looking forward to the next conversation with Jim.  The ONE thing I want to be working on, the ONE thing I’m trying to focus on, the ONE thing I keep coming back to…..it keeps shoving me back.  I end up shutting down.  Getting stuck.  Not being able to pull back and see the picture from a different perspective.

So while I wasn’t looking forward to the conversation because I really, REALLY don’t enjoy admitting I haven’t been able to do something that on the surface seems to be really, REALLY simple…..at the same time I found myself really, REALLY looking forward to the conversation because I knew Jim would be able to help guide me through it.

I’d sent him an agenda prior to our conversation with three different items on it.  One of them was “general life direction.”  Jim asked, “So Spudsie, what topic do you want to start with today?”

“Well Jim, the one I don’t want to talk about is the one I think we should start with.  General life direction.  I keep hitting a wall.”

Am I the only one who does this?  I would rather have talked about ANYTHING other than my struggles (and self assessed failures) at thinking about my future.  Weather.  Sports.  Gardening.  Reading.  (Okay….that’s not a fair one.  I’d rather talk about books and reading with anyone anytime! LOL!) Even recipes for green bean casserole would have been preferable!  Yet “general life direction” is the topic I chose to talk about.  I figured if I was fighting it so much it was probably the one thing I needed to talk about.  (And really….who wants to exchange green bean casserole recipes anyway?!)

I told Jim I was stuck.  And he asked me a few questions to try and figure out exactly what I meant by “stuck.”  And he tried a different approach for getting me to talk about my thoughts for the future. 

WHAM!

No, not the 1980’s music group.  (Wake me up before you go-go…..opps….sorry…I distracted myself!)

That was the sound of a potato hitting a wall.  So maybe it was more of a SQUISH than a WHAM?

Okay.  Jim’s done this before.  He tried another approach.  Okay.  This one seems to be working better.

SQUISH!

Hmmmmm.  Okay.  We got a little further with that one.  How about…..

SQUISH!  SQUISH!

Wow!  Who knew potatoes could bounce when they hit a wall????  That was impressive Spudsie!

(GRIN!)

Yeah.  Several different approaches.  Same results.  Shut down of any flow.  Of any momentum.

So Jim took a step back.  And asked more questions.  Hmmmm…..Spudsie doesn’t typically have problems talking about the past, so let’s ask her a history question about this topic.

“What’s the first time you remember having this reaction to thinking about the future?”

A-ha!  (Hey!  Another 1980’s music group!  It must be a theme tonight…)  This question I have an answer to .  My paperweight story!  I turned into a puddle of crying, starchy goop whenever I looked at my “what would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” paperweight.  That’s when I knew I needed help.

So we talked about that for a little while.  And then Jim asked, “So have you ever tried writing an answer to that question?”

Silence.

Ummmmmmmm.  Gee.  Now I feel silly!  No I haven’t .  Sheesh…why didn’t I think of that?!  Writing has been the one place I seem to find answers while working with Jim.  (Well…..besides in the actual conversations of course!)  I start to write something and some odd neural connections start connecting in different and new ways.  Things aren’t as overwhelming.  They aren’t as scary.  They aren’t as difficult when I write about them.

And the paperweight question was the start of all of that.  And since it doesn’t scare me anymore, why not try to write out an answer?!  Jim!  You’re a genius!!  (That’s said in all seriousness by the way.)

So here’s an attempt to start to answer that question.

“What would I attempt to do if I knew I could not fail?”

Number one.  Write a story/book.  Fiction.  I even know the general time period and a general theme-ish type thing I’m drawn to.  World War II and just after WWII era Germany.  Somehow tied in to Holocaust survivors. 

I would LOVE to do the research for this.  Research is something that really energizes me.  And there is so much raw emotion surrounding this subject that it helps me realize that emotions are a good thing—not something to be frightened of.  They can be something that strengthens you.  That carry you though the unbelievable horrors of war.   Of life.

A year ago I would NEVER have thought of this.  I scoffed at creativity.  Oh!  Not in other people.  I really admired it (and still do admire it) in others!  It was simply something I thought I didn’t possess.  And while creativity may not be something I feel I possess large quantities of, I definitely see sparks of it in myself.  My brain has had to come up with some really creative ways of dealing with some pretty lousy stuff to get me through to this point.  Now I want to see if I can redirect some of that ability in other directions.

Number two.  I would do something with animals.  Oh heck….who am I kidding?!  If I knew I could not fail I’d do something with birds—specifically penguins.  I’m serious!!  I love those crazy little flightless waterfowl!  When I volunteered as a docent at our local zoo I would watch them for hours at a time.  And at the end of my 3 hour “shift” I’d always have half a dozen stories to share with the zookeepers or with Mr. Spuds.  “Oh!  You wouldn’t believe Watson today!  And Tressel’s still refusing to eat—even when her dad dropped the whole fish right on her feet.  She just ignored it and kept begging for food!”

The more I watch the birds from my bedroom window the more I realize that birds are birds are birds.  The sparrows do so many of the same things the penguins did.  (Well no kidding Spudster!  They are both BIRDS!! J) It’s really cool to watch them and be able to understand why they are doing what they are doing.  Hmmmm…that probably doesn’t make much sense.  You’ll just have to trust me!

I know this one isn’t really specific.  I’m not sure exactly what I would do—I just know I’d find SOMETHING (other than being a zookeeper) penguin related.  Maybe lead tours to take other “penguin freaks” like me to visit them in their natural environments?  That’d be super cool!

Number three.  I would eat, drink and sleep books.  Again, I’m serious.  I love to read.  Love, love, love, LOVE IT!!!  What I’m missing now is someone to share that with.  Mr. Spuds is allergic to books.  Or at least that’s what he claims!  😉  He will read one or two books if he’s having a really good year.  Me?  I’ll read one or two a weekend! 

I’ve found a couple of outlets for my “You will not BELIEVE how amazing this book is!” thoughts.  But it’s not enough.  I haven’t found anyone locally who wants to read some of the same books at the same time and talk about them.  Sigh.  It’s frustrating to have all of these thoughts in my head and no “easy” way to see if anyone else agrees. 

So maybe I could start writing more “formal” reviews.  (As if any writing I do is “formal”!  LOL)  Or start trying to find a book club, or form a book club, or I dunno…..just do something to get more conversations going about books.  Goodreads is awesome!  And The Next Best Book Club within Goodreads is an awesome group for sharing book thoughts!  I still find myself struggling to communicate all of the thoughts I have about a book in a few paragraphs.  I find myself wanting to stop in the middle of a chapter and have a face to face conversation or a phone conversation with someone, ANYONE…….  “Hey in chapter 23 when Tom Builder went into that cathedral for the first time did it make you think of…..”  (Ahem.  Jim… just in case you missed that, it was a reference to “Pillars of the Earth.”  😉 No pressure or anything!)

Where was I?  Oh yeah…giving my coach grief because he hasn’t read “Pillars” yet.

What?  That’s not what I was talking about?  Are you sure???  J

Anyway, I’d do something talking about amazing books.  And amazing authors.  And discovering new ones.  And the classics.

Number four.  God.  I’d devote my life to God……………… and become a nun.  Although since I’m not Catholic that’s probably going to be a problem.

Okay.  The nun part won’t work obviously.  But whatever I do with my life it has to be something that can help bring glory to God.  To help me share with people how amazing God is and all of the amazing things he’s done in my life.  And is doing in my life.

I suppose this really should be number one…but I’m writing stream-of-conscious-ly and not in order of importance.  God’s definitely got to be an integral part of whatever I do.  And whatever I do needs to help bring me closer to him—to help me learn more about him.

So number four doesn’t really answer the paperweight question.  And that’s okay.  Because whatever answer I give God will be at the center of it.

Number five.  Food and traveling.  I’d do something involving eating food and traveling.

I could be the female version of Anthony Bourdain!  Without the past heroin habit.  Or the cooking skills.  Or the running-your-own-business skills.  Or the publishing connections.

Sigh.  Okay.  So I’m probably not gonna be the next Tony Bourdain am I?  LOL!  J

He does inspire me though.  I love that the voice in his books is the same as his voice in the TV show “No Reservations.”  When I read his books I can hear him talking.  I love that!  I’m not reading a lecture, I’m reading a conversation.  Even Mr. Spuds read a collection of his writings and enjoyed them.  So that’s saying something about his talent as a writer!

If I knew I could not fail (or go broke trying!) I’d develop my palate.  I’d learn to distinguish more flavors.  I’d be the judge on “Iron Chef” who articulates exactly why they love the fresh flavor of the mint in the dish rather than the judge who simply exclaims “This is amazing!!!!”  (BTW, thanks for that example Jim.  It’s really stuck with me!)  With each chef-prepared meal I eat I think I learn a little more about flavors and how they work together.  And it’s really fun!!

And traveling to new place is a blast!  Of course by the time Mr. Spuds and I actually visit them they aren’t really “new” to me…..I’ve researched them to bits and typically have a folder full of possible places to visit, to dine, to explore.  (That’s my capital J-ness coming through loud and clear!)

Number six.  Helping people.  Again, that’s not overly specific is it?  There are sooooo many people in the world hurting, searching, looking, in need and in want of help.  I just want to do something to make their lives easier.  To help them find peace.  To find calm.  To find motivation.  To give them hope. 

As much as I love animals (and trust me on this, I LOVE animals) if given the choice of contributing to a charity that helps animals or a charity that helps people—I chose the charity that helps people every time. 

So maybe I could take my administrative/organizational type skills and use them in an environment that helps people.  A non-profit organization with a mission that inspires me. 

The thought of that energizes me less than the other things I’ve written about—yet it would be better than what I’m doing now.  Hmmmmm…..it’s far more practical and far less energizing.

Number seven.  I’d pick winning lottery numbers.

What?????  Oh come on……it answers the question perfectly!  If I knew I could not fail I’d buy lottery tickets with the winning numbers before they were selected.  Wouldn’t you??

Number eight.  I’d talk for a living.  Yeah….I know ……the potato who communicates with her friends through e-mail rather than the phone or in person wants to talk for a living.

Scoff all you want.  I really enjoy talking to groups of people (or individuals) about topics I’m passionate about.  Back to the docent days…..I loved talking to the zoo visitors about the penguins.  It really energized me to give my 30 second “These are Humboldt penguins and here are a few amazing facts you may not know about them” spiel.  And then to talk one on one with guests who had more question?  It totally fired me up!!

Wow.

A year ago I was in a puddle just looking at the question.  What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

And now I have eight (okay…..technically seven since picking lottery numbers doesn’t really count) different answers!  Wow.  Wow.  Really.  WOW!

So now where do I go?

As always……to be continued.  (That one’s for you Bob!)

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What a week!  I seem to be getting “hit” by a number of the out-of-my-control migraine triggers today.  Lousy weather (I’m guessing there was a change in pressure with the storm the came in and iced everything over), hormones jumping all over the place, stress from driving on ice, and lack of sound sleep.  No wonder my head hurts!  I’m hoping to stave off a true migraine and manage the pounding will-someone-please-close-the-curtains-so-there’s-not-so-much-light headache I have right now.

I’m amazed that January is almost over……and I haven’t been doped up on Immitrex at all!  (That’s rare for a January!)  In fact April was the last time I had to take any.  Well……if I’d remembered to pack them in July I would have taken them….but that’s an entirely different story.  Anyway, the multi-day migraines feel like ancient history.  Yay!  The headaches I’m left with are MUCH more manageable—and seem to be decreasing as well.  J  Happy days!  (Adding that to my joy journal!)

This week started with a pretty intense coaching conversation with Coach Jim.  Hmmmm…. “intense” isn’t exactly the word I’m looking for.  More like “oh my word- I want to yell STOP—but don’t want to stop the conversation—but don’t know if I can translate what’s in my gut into words that make sense—and even if they make sense to me will they make sense to Jim—and if they make sense to him will he hear what I’m trying to say instead of the words I use” type of thing.

Is there a single word for that?  (If there is I’ll bet it’s a German word—along the lines of doppelganger or schadenfreude —one “word” composed of several little words to encapsulate an entire concept.  I love German words like that!!)

But I digress.

So.  Tough conversation with Jim.  At least now I know a little better what Peter (of Biblical fame) felt like when he had the “do you love me” conversation with Jesus.  To paraphrase.. Peter’s conversation went something like this,

Jesus:  Peter do you love me?

Peter:  Yes I love you!

Jesus:  Peter do you love me?

Peter:  Yes, of course I love you!

Jesus:  Peter do you love me?

Peter:  Lord, you know I love you!

Now if you’ve never hear the story before that exchange doesn’t make any much sense at all.  I gotta say I agree with you!  In the version of the Bible I grew up reading the word “love” in both Jesus’ and Peter’s quotes was the same.  In the original Greek the word “love” was one word when Jesus used it and a different word when Peter used it.  Jesus was asking if Peter loved him with a total, complete, holding-nothing-back kind of love.  And Peter answered that he loved Jesus with a friendship kind of love.

Well….that’s oversimplifying it.  And to oversimplify it even more….it was like Jesus asking “Peter, do you love me?” and Peter answering, “You know I like you.” 

In the version of the Bible I grew up reading it was a confusing conversation to read.  “What on earth?!  Isn’t Jesus even listening to Peter’s answer?  He said ‘Yes’ so why does Jesus keep asking him the same thing over and over again????  I don’t get it!”

Monday I found myself in the middle of the same type of conversation with Jim.

We were talking about conversations I’d had with people over the past couple of weeks.  I had decided to try and open up about some fairly personal stuff and try to be a more authentic Spudsie.  For whatever reason (and there are a number of them) that doesn’t come easily to me, I have to make an effort.  And it feels as though it’s a fairly risky thing to do.  But if I wanna grow I’ve gotta stretch—despite some discomfort.

The conversations left me somewhat discouraged and I talked to Jim about it.  We talked about what I was hoping for when I started the conversations with other people.  I hoped the people I talked to would listen for understanding—instead of listening to react, or to “solve” my problems.   And since I was talking with people who I trust and truly care about me they (naturally) wanted to offer advice and try to fix what was bugging me.  Which was discouraging to me.

At some point in the conversation Jim asked me, “So what would it feel like if you went into these conversations without the expectation that the person you are talking with should react the way you want them to.”

Ummmm….hold the phone there Jim.  I don’t think I AM going in with the expectation that they SHOULD react in a certain way.  I’m hoping they will.  I’d like for them to.  It would be really, really nice if they did.  But I don’t think they SHOULD.

And that’s the point where the conversation got fuzzy.  LOL!

Jim:  So what would it feel like if you went into these conversations without the expectation that the person you are talking with should react the way you want them to?

Me:  (Really, really long pause)  I don’t have a clue how to answer that.  I don’t think I DO go in thinking they SHOULD react in a specific way.  It would be nice if they did.  If they chose to.  But I don’t assign that “SHOULD” to them.  It’s their choice.

Jim:  You’d like them to listen to understand, correct?

Me:  Yeppers.

Jim:  So what would it be like if you didn’t think they should do that?

Me:  ?!?!  But I don’t think I do think they SHOULD listen for understanding.  I’d like for them to.  I’m not requiring them to.

Jim:  So how would the conversation go differently if you didn’t think they should listen for understanding?

Me:  (tapping the microphone)….hello…..is this thing on??  Jim, I’m trying really hard to listen to what you are saying.  I just don’t think that’s what I’m doing.  Maybe I’m arguing semantics…….I don’t think I hold the belief that someone else SHOULD listen for understanding.  I would like for them to.  It would make the conversation easier for me.  But SHOULDs aren’t something I can put on someone else.  They have to choose how to listen.  I can’t assign a SHOULD to them.  And, truly, not to be argumentative, I don’t feel I go into conversations thinking someone else SHOULD react in a certain way.  It’s totally their choice.  I can’t dictate to them how they SHOULD listen or respond.  I don’t demand that of them.  I don’t start conversations with ‘here’s how you SHOULD treat me’ that sounds totally selfish….”

Jim:  Whoa there potato…..I think you’re right.  It’s semantics.  ‘Should’ is a pretty specific word/has a strong meaning for you.  I think we are saying the same thing—just using different words.  And is it wrong/a bad thing to be selfish?

Me:  Oh yeah, selfish isn’t good.  That’s a problem.  And SHOULD is a really powerful word for me.

And the conversation went on from there.  It probably doesn’t read as confusing as it was in person.  LOL!  And I’m paraphrasing what I remember of it….what I heard….not Jim’s exact words.  So a third party eavesdropping would probably have a completely different understanding of what was said.  Grin!  We worked through it and moved on.  It turns out we were really saying the same thing…..though I don’t know that Jim will ever use the word “should” in a conversation with me without having a flashback!  😉

Oddly enough the thing that has stuck with me about our conversation is the one thing he let go without a comment.  I’m pretty sure he was thinking it…..thinking it loudly enough that I heard it.  (Or maybe I’m reading waaaaaaaaaaaaay too much into nothing…which wouldn’t be a first for me!)  He didn’t say anything about my lightning quick “shelfish is bad” answer.  I think I may have detected the slightest pause while he had the internal debate “do I want to get off subject and talk about this now or just let it go for the moment?” but he didn’t say anything.

And I find myself wondering…..how does Jim define selfish?  Is it different than how I define it?  When he asks, “Is it wrong for Spudsie to be selfish?” does he mean what I hear? 

To me selfish is this.  I do what I want, what I think is good and right for me with NO REGARD for anyone else.  I do what I want regardless of the cost to anyone else.  I do what I want and the rest of the world be damned.  It’s all about me. ME.  ME.  ME.  I don’t care about anyone else but me.  If something I do hurts you—too bad!  Didn’t you hear?  It’s all about me.

And that’s bad.  That’s not good.  That’s…..well…that’s just selfish.  And wrong.

There are a lot of times when I make decisions that are in my own best interest.  There are times when I weigh my options and decide to choose what’s good for me over what might be equally good for someone else.  For example, spending an undisclosed (cough, cough, don’t ask!) amount of money on 3 purses and 2 wallets at the Kate Spade outlet store at Christmas was ALL about me!  Are there other things I could have used the money for?  Yep!  I could have donated it to one of the charities Mr. Spuds and I support.  I could have mailed it to my sister.  I could have spent it on bird food.  I could have donated it in someone’s name to a charity they support.  I could have bought my Happiness coach a Kindle!  (J)  There are a million other things I could have done with the money that would have helped someone else—that would have put their needs/interests in front of my own.  And still I chose to spend it on me! 

To some that may seem selfish.  (Clark Kent-if you are reading I KNOW you are thinking I could have self-lessly spent it on Williams Sonoma stuff for you right?? J LOL!)  To me that wasn’t selfish.  My company did very well in 2008 and gave me a generous year-end bonus.  Mr. Spuds and I sat down and spent time deciding what to give to others, what to save, what to set aside for future unforeseen expenses, and what I could use as “new purse” money.  (Guess which category was my favorite)  It was a deliberate decision—where I weighed what I wanted and what others might need/want.  And I arrived at a balance that was acceptable for me.  I didn’t feel selfish or self centered in that decision.  I felt well balanced.

So the decision to spend the “new purse” money didn’t feel like a selfish one.  It took into account other people.  At the same time it was not a self-less decision.  Clearly I decided my wants ranked higher than the Columbus Zoo’s need for additional money for a Polar Bear exhibit, or for my former church’s need to pay off debt. 

If it wasn’t self-less and wasn’t selfish…..what was it?  How do I define it?

Hmmmmmmm…..I don’t know.  Maybe I need to redefine my words.

Is there a way I can re-define “selfish” to be something different than “it’s all about me I don’t care about you at all”?  Or is there a different word I can use?  Or a different way of looking at the concept?

One of the synonyms for selfish is egocentric—meaning (almost literally) “me at the center.”  And there are times where “me at the center” is how I have to make decisions.  If I made decisions that always had my company at the center I’d never leave the office.  If I made decisions that always have other people at the center I’d never spend the time and effort to work with a Happiness coach to work on growing.  If my decisions NEVER have me at the center I’d say “yes” to everything everyone asked me to do and never have time to keep any of the commitments.

And that’s no way to live.  Yech.  Clearly I need to choose to put myself at the center of some of my decisions—and I do.  So at times I’m egocentric.  So by definition does that mean at times I’m selfish?  Hmmmm….. “selfish” has such strong negative connotations for me I’m not sure I can redefine it that easily.   “Selfish” still feels like “it’s ALL about me all of the time” when in reality it’s only “ALL” about me when I choose to make decisions all about me.  Deliberately.  Intentionally.  With knowledge (and sometimes with a bit of sadness) that I’m giving up some of my ability to meet the desires of another person.

This is tough for me.

Or…………………… maybe instead of trying to redefine “selfish” I could stop reading so much into half-second pauses Jim has in our conversations.  😉  Hmmmmmm……..that might be easier!

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The lesson at our church on Sunday was about God’s grace. 

I love (intellectually) the subject of grace and believe it really cannot be taught often or strongly enough.  We need more of it in our world.  We need a better understanding of it in our world.

Evidently what I needed (and still need) was a better connection to it emotionally.

Tom talked about God’s grace and defined it in a very specific way.  (Listen to the entire lesson here if it intrigues you.  It’s well worth the time.)  For his lesson Tom used this working definition of grace.  “Grace is the free unprovoked dispensing of favored (or even most favored) status to one who does not deserve it, with the giver absorbing any cost necessary to provide it.”

Wow.  That’s strong.  And hit me more emotionally than definitions of grace normally do.

Here’s the normal ladder I think of intellectually.

Justice- Getting what you deserve.  I sin and under justice I get God’s wrath and punishment.

Mercy- Not getting the negative thing you deserve.  I sin and under mercy I receive no punishment.

Grace- Getting better than you deserve.  I sin and under grace God does something nice for me.

Even my fairly intellectual definition (at least what I understand and accept on an intellectual level rather than on an emotional or heart level) of grace is pretty unbelievable.  When I sin, when I do “wrong” according to God why on earth would He do something nice for me?  That just doesn’t make sense.  But I can accept that’s just who He is.  I don’t understand it—but honestly there’s a lot about God I don’t understand.  I’ll just add that to the list.

And I see that in my life.  I have blessings (beyond count!) that I don’t deserve.  So that’s a clear, tangible sign of God’s grace. 

Emotionally—that’s a different level.  When I sin He’s not happy with me.  He gets hurt.  He would rather not be around me.  Right?  Because sin separates us from God.  So clearly He’d want to avoid me.  He’d want to put some space between us until I come to Him and beg forgiveness.  Right?  He’s not going to come running to me, throwing His arms around me and say, “Spudsie, you rock!!  Do you know how amazing you are?  You are one of a kind!  There’s no one else on the ENTIRE planet like you.  I love spending time with you.  You are so special to me.  You get ‘most favored’ status.  I love you!”  Right?  He wouldn’t say that.  He wouldn’t want to be near me.  Right?

Well, according to the definition of grace Tom used, that’s exactly what God would do.  He’d run to me and gush.

I sin and deserve separation from God.  I deserve death.  And He comes running to me and loves me.  And tells me about everything I’ve done that’s good. 

Is He unaware of the sin? 

No.  He knows all about it.  But I’m covered by His grace.  By His amazing grace.

At the end of Tom’s lesson on Sunday I was (quite literally) in tears.  And not the dignified quiet weeping of a tear or two running down my face.  Nope.  The full blown, nose running, make-up running, not a tissue in sight kind of tears.  Tom talked about God walking into our group and walking up to us (me) individually and telling us how much He loves us.  Beaming as He looks at us.  Loving us.

And I was in tears because I really, really WANT to believe that God thinks that about me.  (About everyone!)

But I’m not sure I do.  I’m not sure He feels that way about me.

Occasionally I get a glimpse of it.  I feel it for about a millisecond. 

Most of the time I feel as though God is disappointed in me.  That He’s not happy with me.  That He cares for me in spite of who I am, rather than because of who I am.  I feel His judgment so much more than I feel His love and grace. 

Does He love me?  Does he extend His grace to me?

Intellectually?  Yes.  I know that He does.

Emotionally?  I’m not so sure.  How could He?  And why can’t (or don’t ) I feel it?

Mr. Spuds and I have been attending the small group meeting that Tom and his wife are a part of.  (What an awesome group!!!  I’ll have to write more about them later.  For the moment let me just say they astound me!)  And the group was talking about grace—when we’ve received it from others and when we’ve given it.

Mr. Spuds and I talked about this before the small group meeting.  And we really couldn’t come up with examples of when we’ve received grace (based on the working definition Tom used Sunday) or when we’ve extended it.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  We’ve had generosity and mercy extended to us countless times.  And we have extended mercy and generosity to others often.

But grace?  That’s an entirely different level.

At the small group meeting it seemed the conversation kept coming back to examples of “grace” that involved friends and/or family members being generous.  Or showing mercy.  And the group kept referring to those examples as “grace.”

And while the stories were inspirational, I’m not entirely sure they were examples of pure grace.  They were mercy.  Generosity.  Love.  Compassion.  Forgiveness.  All good things.  But not pure grace.

And I wanted to talk about pure grace.  God’s grace.

So I tearfully asked (in front of a group of near strangers) if I was the only one who had a hard time believing the end of Tom’s lesson on Sunday.  Am I the only one who has a hard time feeling God’s grace?  Who pretty much can’t believe that He would come running for me?  That He thinks I rock?  That can’t really feel his grace in my heart?

The group assured me I was not alone.  That it’s hard.

And then Tom started talking again.  (Mr. Spuds has commented that some of the things I say in the small group often resonate with Tom.  He’s not sure if Tom “gets” what I’m saying and struggling with on a deeper level or if I “get” Tom’s lessons on a deeper level…but Mr. Spuds says it’s interesting to watch the connection.) 

Anyway, Tom suggested that maybe we could feel God’s grace more, feel His grace deeper if we spoke it to each other.  If we spoke in first person on God’s behalf.  “Spudsie, you are amazing.  I saw what you wrote today and it blew me away.  You are so loving.  You are so wonderful.  I just want to take your face in my hands and love you.”  Etc.

Tom was talking to me saying these things—as if it were God talking directly to me.

And I couldn’t maintain eye contact.  I just couldn’t.

(Okay, Coach Jim would probably stop me here and try to help me see this a little differently.  So let’s see if I can coach myself through this.)

I chose not to maintain eye contact for fear that my emotions would further overwhelm me.  I chose to look away so I could continue to participate in the group discussion and not dissolve (completely) into a puddle of tears.  I chose to avert my eyes so I could keep some protection (or defenses depending on your point of view) around me. 

But it was more than that. 

I chose to look away, to break eye contact with Tom because I didn’t think I deserved to hear those things from God.  (Or from Tom speaking on God’s behalf.)

And I don’t.

And because of His grace, He wants to say them anyway.  He wants me to hear them.  (He’d probably shout them at me but He knows a raised voice raises all of my defenses, and I’d never hear Him then!  J)

I just don’t think I’m strong enough to hear them.  I don’t want to argue with God.  I don’t want to say, “Yeah….you really don’t know what you’re talking about….I’m not any of that” to the Almighty.  I want to believe Him.

I just don’t know how to choose to hear Him.  I don’t know how to accept it.  To live in His grace.

God’s grace……it’ll mess you up.

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“Called Out of Darkness”

Yesterday was kinda tough for this potato.  The damage I did to my foot while on vacation took an emotional toll.  While still in Vegas it kept me from doing a bunch of stuff I had wanted to do.  I didn’t let it completely sideline me, but I really did miss out on things I had wanted to do.  And the stuff I did despite the injury was marred somewhat by the limp and excruciating pain.  (Hindsight being 20/20 it would have been much less painful had I thought to have Mr. Spuds find an ace bandage to wrap my foot in and a cane so I could keep weight off of it and still move….but alas….I didn’t think of either of those things until I was back home and doctor told me they would help.  D’oh!) 

Basically Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were still fun vacation days, and at the same time they were so much less than I wanted them to be.

At the airport Mr. Spuds got one of Southwest’s special blue envelopes so I could board the plane before the “normal” passengers.  It sounds a little foolish, but I resented needing this special pass.  I really did need it—I was moving so slowly at that point I would have help up the entire boarding process.  But it was one more reminder (in addition to the brutal pain in my foot, lack of a shoe, and basic feeling of unwellness) that I was damaged goods.  And I really didn’t want another reminder.

I managed to get in to see the doctor on Saturday morning.  He didn’t think the foot was broken, but told me to stay off of it.  No problem doc!  It hurts too much to do anything!  He said it should start to feel better in 3 to 5 days.  And if it doesn’t, I get to go see a foot doctor. 

So naturally I spent all day yesterday wallowing in pity party.

Okay, that’s too harsh.  I spent all day yesterday trying to avoid wallowing in a pity party.  I was partially successful.  Despite that, it was essentially a wasted day.  I didn’t read anything.  I didn’t really write anything.  I spent the day staring at the TV, desperately wanting to do laundry, clean the bathroom, visit a friend; all of the stuff I had hoped to do when I returned from Vegas.  But I was stuck in my room—not allowed to do any of it.  I was helpless.  And I really, really, REALLY don’t like being helpless.

Today I decided enough was enough.  I have to return to work tomorrow, and I may as well do whatever I can today—without moving.  So I finished reading the book I had started on the plane.  (Have I mentioned how much I love my Kindle???  It rocks!  I had a dozen books to choose from….and didn’t have to cart around any extra luggage!)  And when I finished that one I decided to finish “Called Out of Darkness” by Anne Rice.  It’s the story of how she found her way back to God.  I had started it before vacation but hadn’t been able to finish it.

The first hundred or so pages were a little challenging for me.  Some it I could really relate to.  Some of it was foreign to me.  Rice grew up Catholic and she describes in great detail what that was like.  The education.  The saints.  The services.  The community.  The Latin.  All of that is pretty foreign to me.  I have a little knowledge, but I haven’t “lived” it and for some reason I found it difficult to relate to.

That was odd—the book I had just finished reading was about a zoo in Warsaw during WWII.  I’ve never been to Warsaw—much less a zoo there.  I clearly wasn’t around during WWII.   I’ve never helped people escape Nazi terrors.  Yet somehow I was able to relate to that book while Rice’s descriptions of a Catholic upbringing escaped me.

Odd.  I don’t really understand the difference.  But there it is.

There were parts of the first hundred or so pages that were easy to relate to.  They talked of Rice’s faith (while growing up) on a very personal level.  That was really neat to read.  She does an excellent job of describing what I would have called indescribable.   She gives words to feelings and thoughts I could not articulate.  Pretty neat stuff!

The final 100 pages of the book were mind-blowing. 

During the first half of the book I found myself thinking, “Get to the point Anne!  This is supposed to be the story of how you found your way back to God.  Why spend so much time describing your early faith?  Tell me about what your faith is NOW!”

I had to laugh when I found myself hit with those thoughts.  “LOL!  Come on Spudsie, it’s her story and she gets to tell it however she wants to.  That’s her right as the author….and as a person.  Just keep reading.”

I think Rice describes a struggle countless Christians have gone through.  Those of us raised on or with a parent’s faith have to go through a journey to make their faith our own.  Hmmmm…..that’s not quite right.  We have to go through a struggle, a journey to find our own faith.  Some of us abandon the original faith completely.  Some stay with the faith generally and make changes to how they practice.  Some cling to the faith of their parents so tightly they risk losing it altogether. 

For some the journey, the struggle is relatively quick.  For Rice the journey took thirty-some years.  As she looks back on those years she sees how her writing mirrored the struggle though she didn’t realize she was in the middle of it.

She talks about how her return to faith, her return to God was a deliberate choice.  One she made knowing it would require active participation on her end.  She didn’t stumble in to a blind faith.  She chose to return to God knowing full well she would have to wrestle with questions of what total devotion to God means.  Of what trusting God means.  Of releasing her own questions of “How can this be your will” to God, instead of answering them on her own.  She eloquently describes those struggles.  And how she went into them with open eyes.

Rice also talks of her fears of returning to God.  She writes, “I believed in God.  I feared Him.  I feared what He might ask of me.  I saw the shallowness of my commitment.  I saw the incompleteness of my life.  Mine was a negotiated abandonment, and that mean it was not a true abandonment at all.”

“I don’t recall talking to anyone about this.  It was too intensely personal to share with another.  And how pompous and foolish it might have sounded over a café table.  What if God wants something more of me?  I’m afraid.”

She struggled to find a way to make a deeper commitment.  And it hit her—she needed to write only for God.  Only for His purposes.  She needed to release that part of herself to Him.

Wow!  If we could all feel that, if we could all come to that place in our Christian lives, in our total lives, how different could church, could religion be?  Totally surrendered to God.  The thing we want to grasp the most—to release that to Him.  What would church communities look like then?  What would families look like?  What would our world look like?

More to the point, what would my world look like if I decided to make that choice?

I could be totally mistaken (I often am!), but I believe Rice wrote this book to tell her story.  To tell of her journey back to God.  Simply to share it because she had lived it.  (And she’s a writer—so that’s what she does.  J)  Perhaps she hoped it would be encouraging to readers.  Maybe she dared to think it might give inspiration to others struggling to find their way to God.

To me she did far more than that.  She challenged me.  She set the example.  She said, “I’m willing to let go of what made me a popular, successful author.  I’m willing to let go of the old characters.  I’m willing to leave them behind and to now write only for God.  I’m willing to ignore critics, willing to ignore doubters, scoffers, willing to be guided by God and God alone in my writing.  I’m willing to let go of the one thing that I know and go wherever God guides me.  Because I love and trust Him.”

What a remarkable thing to do.  What an example.  What a challenge.

Reading often transports me to unexpected places.  This book has been no exception.  And for a work of non-fiction to transport me to an unexpected spiritual place—that’s quite surprising. 

What is it You want from me God?  What am I trying to cling to?  And how do I let it go?

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Here’s a song to get everyone in the mood for Thanksgiving.

“Bright light city gonna set my soul
Gonna set my soul on fire
Got a whole lot of money that’s ready to burn,
So get those stakes up higher
There’s a thousand pretty women waitin’ out there
And they’re all livin’ devil may care
And I’m just the devil with love to spare
Viva Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas

How I wish that there were more
Than the twenty-four hours in the day
‘Cause even if there were forty more
I wouldn’t sleep a minute away
Oh, there’s black jack and poker and the roulette wheel
A fortune won and lost on every deal
All you need’s a strong heart and a nerve of steel
Viva Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas

Viva Las Vegas with you neon flashin’
And your one armbandits crashin’
All those hopes down the drain
Viva Las Vegas turnin’ day into nighttime
Turnin’ night into daytime
If you see it once
You’ll never be the same again

I’m gonna keep on the run
I’m gonna have me some fun
If it costs me my very last dime
If I wind up broke up well
I’ll always remember that I had a swingin’ time
I’m gonna give it everything I’ve got
Lady luck please let the dice stay hot
Let me shoot a seven with every shot
Viva Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas,Viva Las Vegas

Viva, Viva Las Vegas”

What?  What??  That doesn’t get everybody in the mood for Thanksgiving?? 

????????

Oh!  I think I understand…….this song gets me in the mood for Thanksgiving this year. J

Mr. Spuds and I are getting ready to leave for vacation this week.  We are packing and prepping.  Wanna guess where we are going?  Yup!  We are “running away” to Las Vegas to eat dinner on Thanksgiving at Bouchon.  Yuuuummmmmmmmmm!  I’m drooling just thinking about it.

So clearly it won’t be a “traditional” Thanksgiving for us.  We are trying something different.  It should be tons of fun!  Lots of good food while we are there, a good show, a great spa facility (I actually packed 4 days worth of work-out clothes for vacation!!), a great room.  Ahhhh….good times.

So, since I won’t be around to post a note on Thanksgiving I thought I would mention (perhaps a little early) what I’m thankful for this year.  

God.  I’m thankful for God.  Do I need to expand on that?  LOL!  There’s so much he does that I’m thankful for….I could probably blog for pages and pages.  I am especially thankful for his very clear presence in my life this past year.  He’s always around.  I know that.  This year I’ve been able to see him more often, more clearly.  I am thankful for his gentle guidance.  For his mercy and grace—something I need to learn to extend to myself.  I’m thankful he continues to extend it to me even though I try to reject it.  Thanks God.  You rock!!!

Mr. Spuds.  I have the best husband on the planet!!  (Even though he does make fun of me knowing what the Vulcan IDIC symbol is.  J)  He has been so supportive of me…….well…ever since I’ve known him.  His patience is amazing.  He allows me to be me.  Even when I’m trying to change, he still lets me be me.  He encourages me in so many ways.  He’s my rock on earth.  He keeps me centered and grounded—even when I feel like I’m lost, when I look at him I know I am loved and treasured and know I am where I belong. 

Family.  My family is amazing.  I love them all and am so thankful for their love, support and examples.  They are some of the most remarkable amazing people you could ever meet. 

I am so thankful for my mom’s example of dedication and commitment and protection.  She sacrificed some of her emotional safety to try and protect me and my siblings.  I didn’t recognize that at the time, but she put herself in harm’s way to try and stem some of the abuse that was headed my way, and my siblings’ way.  She couldn’t divert all of it, but every bit she could turn aside gave us a better chance.  She’s stayed with my dad through some of the toughest time I can imagine.  If Mr. Spuds treated me the way she’s been treated, I’m not so sure I would have stuck around.  But my mom?  She’s committed.  She’s in this for the long haul.  She’s worked to improve her marriage from within the marriage.  What an awesome example she is!

I’m so thankful for my dad’s example of a completely generous spirit and heart.  He’s not a perfect person—who is?  I often wonder how unhappy he must have been (and may still be) in the core of his being.  It must have been an excruciating pain for someone with the compassionate heart he has to lash out at those he loves the most.  His heart longs to give everything he can and to help everyone he meets.  His wry sense of humor is hilarious!  (At least it is to me! Must have inherited that from him.  LOL!)  I am very thankful he is my father.

Coaches.  This is a new category this year.  “Coaches?  As in plural?  Spudsie, do you need more than one coach??”  Oh yeah.  Coaches.  Plural.  More than one.  Oh, I have only one “official” coach—Coach Jim.  But I’m realizing that I have seemingly countless people in my life who are coaching me in one way or another.  People who are guiding me—some without even realizing it. 

Friends, co-workers, strangers, all kinds of people are setting examples of how to make deliberate choices.  Showing me how to be more of what I want to be.  People who encourage me.  People who pray for me.  People who listen to me, who read my ramblings here.  People who are interested in my life and who look for ways to encourage me.  Friends from all over the country—some who have never met me in real life.  I am so thankful for each and every one of them as they help coach me through life. 

And of course my “official” coach—Coach Jim.  I am so thankful he’s been willing to help me, willing to work with me.  Willing to continue to be patient with me (much more patient than I am with myself).  I’m thankful he’s always willing to say the same thing 83 different times and 24 different ways until I finally understand it.  Without his patience and gentle guidance and calm example I’m not sure I’d have made any progress.  When I find myself getting frustrated with myself in our conversations I stop and remind myself “Hey Spudsie, listen to Jim.  Listen to his tone.  Is there ANY frustration with you in his voice?  Is there any hint of irritation?  Nope.  Then let go of yours.  Just be in the conversation.  Leave the assessments on the sidelines.”  I’m thankful for Jim and the effort he puts into working with me.  Because of his efforts I’m really excited and curious to see where I’ll be at this time next year!

I’m thankful for my health.  I’m thankful for my employment.  I’m thankful for my home.  I’m thankful for my yard.  I’m thankful for my turtles (even when they try to bite me!).  There is so much I’m thankful for this year. 

And for the first time in a long time, I’m thankful for me.  I’m thankful for who I am.  For who I am working to become.  Not that I’m perfect, or finished, or where I want to be.  It’s just that I’m beginning to realize that Spudsie, just as she is, is kinda cool.  And I’m thankful for that.  And for everyone who’s helped me get here. 

For all of this (and more) I give thanks.

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