A Christmas Reflection

We’ve all heard lots of stories of the Nativity, the birth of Jesus, their journey to Bethlehem, and their sudden flight into Egypt. It all seems so familiar—maybe too familiar–to us.

As I was reflecting on this attitude in my own life, I paused to carefully consider what some of these things must have been like for the Holy Family.  So, I closed my eyes and took a ‘journey’ with them. I invite you to imagine yourself with them also as they go to Bethlehem, as Mary births Jesus, the coming of the shepherds, and the visit of the Magi.

It is daybreak on the last day of Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem to register for the census. Breakfast is over, the donkey is ready, and Mary climbs on the donkey’s back. Joseph walks on ahead, gently leading the donkey. The way is rocky and rough. Joseph’s feet are sore and maybe a little bloody from the journey. He doesn’t say anything to Mary because he doesn’t want her to worry. She has enough on her mind!  She is heavy with child and weary. She perhaps even wishes they were already in Bethlehem so she can rest before she begins labor. The Christ Child would soon arrive! However, Mary doesn’t complain; she doesn’t want to worry Joseph.

They journey as purposefully as they can, both of them knowing Mary’s ‘time’ is growing close. The donkey too must feel tired and thirsty. Joseph finds some water for the donkey near a stream and the animal drinks his fill of the fresh, cool water. He also gives Mary and himself a drink.

They travel for hours towards Bethlehem. As evening draws near, they enter the city, hoping for a restful place to stay. However, they find no place to lodge. All the lodging places are already filled with other travelers, and the innkeeper is only able to offer a stable for their bed. Joseph and Mary reluctantly but gratefully accept. They enter the stable quickly for Mary is beginning her labor pains. Joseph quickly and tenderly lifts Mary from the donkey and gently lays her down to prepare for the birth. He prepares a trough for the baby Jesus—this manger where animals feed will soon be where the newborn Savior will lay His sweet head. His mattress will consist of hay. This just doesn’t seem befitting a divine king, but nothing else is available.

Mary cries aloud in pain as she gives birth. Joseph waits, ever caring, ever concerned, and his big strong hands prepare to catch Jesus when he appears from Mary’s virgin womb. What an intimate and emotional moment for both of them! The baby Jesus cries briefly, and Joseph gently cleans Him and lays Him on His mother’s lap. This son, the angel announced to Mary, was here.

I wonder what Joseph and Mary said to each other concerning this holy child? What questions did they speak of or hold in their hearts? They could not have known that some 33 years later He would again be covered with blood and water. This son would heal, console, preach, bless, teach and challenge others and perhaps even them. But how could they possibly know all this? They knew He would be mighty, but what did that look like?  How would it all take place?

Meanwhile, out in the fields, as the shepherds watched their flocks, they were startled by a great noise in the sky. There appeared angels with trumpets announcing a birth. The shepherds were no doubt quaking with fright at the sight and the noise. The angels, aware of their fear, calmed them and shared the Good News of their Savior’s birth. The shepherds must have wondered how they got invited to this glorious event. Curiously but joyfully they went along with their flocks to see the newborn baby.

Mary and Joseph were enjoying the Christ Child as He cooed and gurgled. They played and talked with Him and each other. Soon, the shepherds came with their flocks to see the baby. Joseph and Mary looked up when they heard the noise. Funny, they weren’t expecting visitors. How did the shepherds know?

The shepherds came, unshaven, uncleansed, with their smelly flocks, their animals making their hot, steamy smells along the way. Mary and Joseph welcomed them while baby Jesus looked at the visitors with soft brown eyes. Perhaps He laughed as the animals said hello in their God-given way. Did a part of Him know these shepherds and animals were all a part of His divine creation? A part of His plan for a welcoming party? One has to wonder. They all knelt in wonder and worship.

Meanwhile, visitors from the East were arriving by camel with treasure for our little savior. They got off their camels and knelt in worship. What? More visitors? Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh? Wow!They were gifts befitting a king. But why these gifts in particular? Surely it meant something very profound. How did all these people know about His birth? There were no written announcements–only shepherds and Magi prompted by angels and the stars. Our savior wanted a humble crowd, and that’s what He got. What wonderful gifts Jesus got on His birthday—shepherds, magi, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. No cake. No candles, but the best light of all—the star announcing His birth. And we are gifted by the best light of all—for Jesus is the light of the world.

Copyright © 2007 Theresa M. Williams

Good Things Come in Small Packages

This phrase usually describes some sort of gift, perhaps an expensive gift, like jewelry. I have another take on this. Recently, in the mall, my husband and I were walking to yet another store for some gifts. When we passed by some ballerinas performing to music, I stopped briefly to watch. Sure, I noticed the tall thin ladies, and they were very graceful and pretty. But what struck me was the ballerina in the front. She had very pretty but athletic legs. She had a beautiful innocent smile, and she was at least a head shorter than her fellow ballerinas. (You could say she came in a ‘smaller package.’) While I am well aware of height differences–being as short as I am–what I noticed was she didn’t seem to need the long thin legs the others had in order to be graceful. She made the most of what God had given her and did a very nice job.

No matter what size package WE come in, let us take the time to appreciate our differences but also take notice of what God has blessed each of us with. I’m not talking about merely physical attributes, but good things like a nice smile, a good attitude, a kind heart, a sense of humor, compassion, you get the idea. Let’s take note—not only during this holiday season, but all throughout the year–of what unique and special gifts our friends and acquaintances are to us. The attributes I described above are like small packages, and good things come in small packages!

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Living in the present

What does living in the present mean? It means learning from the past, but not worrying about it. It means not being overly anxious or concerned about the future. It means trusting in the One who made us. It means to pay attention and be mindful of what is happening right now, taking life as it comes. What is mindfulness? It is a state of active, open attention to the present. Think of the current moment as a gift, a present.

I must admit that I have a tendency to be anxious and worried, whether it’s about something in the past–Did I say something to upset someone? What will they think of me? Will they be angry or upset? While we should develop good social relationships and be conscientious about them, worrying does not help–or the future: What is going to happen when my mother dies? How will I be able to get the amount of time off work that I need to take care of her affairs? (She lives in the Southern Plains while I live along the East Coast.) How long will that take? While these are concerns, I must not worry about them. If there is anything I can look into, fine. If not, I must trust that God will provide what I need when the time comes, but not worrying is easier said than done. Our choir director usually adds the following when he leads us in prayer: “Lord, help us not to worry or be afraid. Help us to trust in You.” Amen!

Here’s what the Bible says about worrying: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? (Matthew 6:25-34 NRSV)

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

The gates of hell shall not prevail

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18 NRSV)

When I am tempted to feel discouraged about the persecution against the church, against Christianity, against all that is good, decent, right and true, I remember the words of Jesus. He tells us that He will prevail, that Satan has limited time, and that He (Jesus) is in charge! I would reword/summarize this Bible verse and state that evil shall not prevail.

It seems like we hear about abortion, adultery, alcoholism, corruption, drug dealing, serious illness, shootings, terrorism–to name but a few bad things–on a daily basis. Remember that Jesus and good will prevail. The last foe that He will conquer is death itself. 1 Corinthians 15:55-56 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

During this Advent season, let us turn to the Price of Peace, Jesus Christ, for our comfort and hope. He is the Light of the World, the way out of darkness. Take courage, and do not be discouraged, for our King will prevail!

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Lesson from a coffee pot

I had a work faux-pas (an embarrassing goof-up) recently at work. I had filled a coffee pot–the kind that requires a stem to pump coffee out–and set it in the conference room. One of my co-workers was not able to get coffee out of it, however. When I looked, I realized I hadn’t put the stem in the pot so it would pump coffee out. What does all of this have to do with Jesus? Well, it got me to thinking about Advent and the stem of Jesse. Jesse is the father of David, and Jesus is one of David’s descendants. The Bible says: “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:1-2 NRSV).  This version of the verse says stump, but other translations say stem. So, Jesus comes forth from the stem of Jesse.

Just as the coffee pot with no stem was ineffective, our lives without Jesus are ineffective.  Just as I needed the stem inside the coffee pot for it to work, we need Jesus inside us for our lives to be effective. Without His help and wisdom, it just isn’t happening.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Have we no shame?

I’ve just blogged about socks. Now it’s time to get serious.

At the risk of sounding old-fashioned or, gasp, old, I remember a time when we didn’t even think about putting ads on TV for feminine or incontinence products, hemorrhoid cream, men’s performance issues in the bedroom, etc. Now, we hear less about hemorrhoid cream and more about Viagra and Cialis. Is this all people think about? Good grief! Why not turn our attention to the higher things of life like how to improve our relationships, eat healthier meals, or manage our finances? Maybe if we thought more about those things, rather than having an over preoccupation with sex, we’d all be better off. I’m not trying to trivialize the need for getting proper medical help for a delicate personal issue, but it seems like we’re bombarded by the topic of sex in one form or another. If it isn’t drug therapy, it’s scantily clad women in an automobile ad, or worse. Maybe if we respected our bodies more and kept private the things that should remain private, we’d have a society with better morals. Just saying.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Allergic to socks?

Socks have been on my mind lately. I recently had a hole in one of them as I was getting ready for work. How very rude! 😦

I don’t know what percentage of people wear socks. I don’t know how many wear them only because they have to. I know of one lady who wears Birkenstock sandals–swears by them–but no socks. I’ve know her for some time, and I’ve only seen her wearing socks twice. Our nephew Sean, now in his 30’s, didn’t wear socks when he was younger, for whatever reason didn’t like them. (I think he wears them now though.) Some wear toe socks; I can’t imagine those being very comfortable!

So, just for fun, do you wear socks? Do you like to or only because you have to? I know this is an odd topic for me, but every once in a while it’s nice to mix things up and not take things so seriously.

May your feet be happy. May they be warm. May you never take this humble, but necessary, part of your body for granted. May they serve you well.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Happy Thanksgiving

Today, in the United States, we celebrate what we call Thanksgiving. Depending on what country you’re from, you may not have this holiday. Thanksgiving is a chance to not just eat lots of food, but to pause and count our blessings: faith, friends, relatives, jobs, food (of course), clothing and shelter, spouses, co-workers, (your blessings here). One of the things I can add to my ‘grateful list’ this year is that Thanksgiving is the first paid holiday I’ve had in 7 ½ years.

We all have a lot more to be thankful for than we realize. We take much for granted. If we sat down to make a list of what we’re grateful for, it might surprise us. So whether you celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday in your country or not, I urge you to pause and remember the things you are thankful for. It will be time well spent. Have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving!

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Entombment of poor self-esteem

How do I know if I have poor self-esteem, you may ask. It may be that your self-esteem is not poor, but you could still have a wounded image of yourself that needs healing. Here are some signs:

  1. You need the compliments or approval of others to feel good about yourself. This could also be a symptom of approval addition if the need for the approval is too great.
  2. You say unnecessarily negative things to yourself about yourself.
  3. You emotionally beat yourself up for making a mistake, doing something stupid, missing an appointment, being late, and so on.
  4. You believe you’re not worthy of being treated well or fairly. Note: There’s a difference between being humble and letting others emotionally walk all over you.

There are many other signs, but I’ll address these things. Some ways to combat these symptoms are:

  1. To combat approval addition:
  1. List the areas in which you hunger for approval or compliments from others, i.e. your work, appearance, cooking, housecleaning, mechanical skills, problem solving, to name a few.
  2. Next, write down beside each area what it is you believe about yourself, for example appearance: I’m not pretty (or handsome).
  3. Dig a little deeper. Is there some practical thing you can do about the situation? Face products (makeup, wrinkle cream), weight loss?
  4. Think about all your positives, the things you do well, what’s unique about you (what talents you have that others may not). Celebrate those. Remember that beauty is only skin deep. Others may look great on the outside but be ugly on the inside by being mean, inconsiderate, etc.
  5. If you have friends, ask them what they like about you. If you have to, tell them you want to learn more about yourself. You might be surprised about what you learn.
  1. The world will direct enough negative against you as it is. You don’t need any more from within you. If you have negative friends or friends that don’t respect you, consider forming relationships with more positive people.
  2. Again, others will beat you up enough (emotionally). If you really need to work on something, i.e. being late, then take steps toward the goal of being on time. Being on time is rather important.
  3. Know there’s room for improvement, but you don’t have to be perfect. Cut yourself a little slack.
  4. What’s behind the feeling or idea of unworthiness? Do people overlook you, ignore you or disrespect you? Are people (unjustly) criticizing you or treating you badly? Are you comparing yourself to someone else (i.e. they’re a better (fill in blank) than I am)? If you’re a good person and others are not playing nice, it says more about them than it does about you.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

A case of survivor guilt

I’m not sure why this subject is on my mind, but it is. Several years ago, I worked at an insurance help desk. There was a fellow employee in New York whom we will call Diane. She had called me requesting a change to one of the business software programs. When I checked with programming, they told me that since it was going to be replaced with a new web-based application, making the change wouldn’t be cost-effective. That made sense; however, I was convinced Diane wouldn’t be happy. I called her back and gave her the bad news. She wasn’t real pleased, but for some strange reason, we left the incident ticket open. Then there was the tragedy of 9/11. Our company would tell us when the New York office was re-opened so we could contact our colleagues. When that day came, I called Diane. The first thing I asked her was “How are you doing?” I told her I was following up on that ticket, but of course the answer was the same, and I was going to have to close the ticket. She said that was fine. The issue simply wasn’t important anymore. (I suspect 9/11 had changed her perspective; it sure sounded that way.) Then, Diane told me that she was in the gift shop on the first floor when the plane struck the towers on 9/11. She told me something I’ll never forget: “I should have been upstairs.” She said it more than once. I gently inquired “You feel guilty, don’t you?” She admitted she did. I assured her that it was okay to have survived (such a horrible tragedy), and there must be a reason she was still here. I told her God still had a purpose for her life. She quietly acknowledged, I wished her the best, and we hung up. I never had occasion to call her again, but I still think of Diane from time to time and wonder how she’s doing. I later learned that her reaction was called survivor guilt.

I stumbled across a website that discusses survivor guilt as well as other traumatic occurrences such as sexual assault, PTSD, auto accidents, grief, and many more. Even if you haven’t suffered one of these, it’s an excellent educational resource. I have listed the website Gift From Within under the Resources heading at the top of this blog. God bless!

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Intro to Prayer Pilgrim blog

I have often been asked for names of blog sites which provide inspiration and an opportunity to participate in a community. I am now beginning that process. I will first introduce the site via a regular blog post, and then a link will be provided both in the post and under ‘Other Blogs’ for your convenience.

Based on the Oregon Coast, Prayer Pilgrim is a ministry with a mission to train, equip, send and support people throughout in the world in prayer and service to others.

(Please note that this gentleman has walked the Oregon Coast and has a tremendous vision of prayer and how our world can be transformed. His calling and mission is to be a prayer pilgrim.) Check out his blog at https://prayerandcontemplation.wordpress.com/. For your convenience, I have also included this link under ‘Other Blogs’ in the menu bar above. Enjoy!

Entombment of Negative Thinking

I once heard someone refer to negative thinking as “stinkin’ thinkin’.” I think that’s a great way to put it.

Mahatma Gandhi put things this way: “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.”

I would further describe negativity as Chicken Little (‘the sky is falling; the sky is falling’) syndrome. Everything’s a disaster, a nightmare. The world’s coming to an end. Everything is exaggerated. A dark cloud follows you around like a storm waiting to happen. I know people who fit this description, and they are not pleasant to be around. Their negativity is like an illness, it’s contagious. You can’t stay around them very long or you get exposed and your thinking becomes ‘sick.’

If we keep repeating negative things, those things tend to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Let me give you some examples:

I feel terrible. Here you talk yourself into being sick. (Try telling yourself that you feel great, and try to believe it! I tried that at least once, and I started to feel better.)

I can’t do this; it’s just too hard. It sounds like you’re doomed to failure before you even try. (Think of The Little Engine That Could. He said ‘I think I can; I think I can.’)

No one loves me! (Of course they don’t like you; you’re so negative!) Who would want to be around you?

This entombment of negative thinking holds us prisoner of our thoughts. Like Gandhi’s quote above, there’s a link between your thoughts and your destiny. Another way to combat negative thoughts is self-talk:

·        First, make a list of the negative things you think and say about yourself and your circumstances.

·        Next, quit speaking those negatives out loud. The spoken word is very powerful.

·        Once you get your list, beside each negative write a corresponding positive.

·        Put this list of positive thoughts somewhere where you are reminded daily. Say those positive things out loud!

This effort is going to take time and persistent effort on your part. If you hang out with negative people, rethink those relationships. Friendships should be positive and encouraging, not bring you down. The good news is that you can do this, but only if you ‘think’ you can!

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

On Getting Older

I know some of you following this blog are older than I am, and I’d love for you to share some of the positive things you’ve learned as you’ve gotten older.

It’s funny, turning 50 wasn’t that big a deal for me. Turning 55 was ‘hitting the speed limit’ and kind of humorous to talk about. This past year when I turned 57, laughing about my age was a bit more challenging. It’s like ‘Oh no, I’m almost 60!’ I guess I need to take my maternal grandmother’s attitude, that age is just a number, and it is (just a number)! On Facebook yesterday, I ran across a post about a couple that had been married 80 years, yes 80! The husband still had that ‘cat that ate the canary smile’ on his face, and they were holding hands. It was so sweet. Those of you who go to my church have probably met a couple named Grace and Roy that are very devoted to each other. She’s the love of his life, and she speaks so lovingly of him. I hate to think of either of them without the other; that’s sad.

I recently realized that some things that used to get me riled up no longer do. I seem to be calmer and happier. (Of course, the fact that I have a job I like might have something to do with this.) In any case, I have some theories as to why this might be. Could it be I’m learning to be more patient? Maybe I’m just tired of some of life’s stupid dramas.  Maybe some things just no longer matter. The jury’s still out on the answer, but does it really matter? I want to focus on things that DO matter, like what should be on my ‘bucket list.’ (To you who’ve never seen the movie ‘The Bucket List,’ these friends have a list of things they want to do before they die or ‘kick the bucket.’) I want to consider what kind of (further) legacy I will leave on this earth. What do I still want to achieve? Where does God want to lead me with my writing abilities? How do I want to be remembered? What work does He still have for me to do? Time will tell. Life is an adventure. God is good. The next ‘chapter’ of my life is yet to be written, and God is the divine author… Where does He want to lead you?

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

God is preparing you

I came across a saying recently: “God is preparing you for what He has prepared for you.” I found this to be very thought provoking. I thought back to the last few years where I have been hunting for a permanent full-time job. My search began with the staffing agency I worked with part time. I let them know I was open to a permanent position. I was working a transcription job from home that didn’t pay well. I was also deeply unhappy, miserable actually, about other things related to that job. Almost 2 years ago, I started a temp assignment that turned into nearly 6 months but did not result in a permanent position. I left my transcription job behind and went to exclusively doing temp assignments while continuing to look for that elusive full-time permanent position. It was a very frustrating and discouraging experience. Not only had things drastically changed in the job market, the interview process, and how you presented your resume, but the business world’s corporate mentality had changed as well. It was an entirely different world, and I had to relearn a lot. I was also keenly aware that I have a very unique set of skills that, while impressive on paper, may not exactly fit into a company’s idea of what they are looking for.

I had a series of assignments that were kind of strange, to say the least. My supervisor at a printing company wasn’t very nice to me. Another job I had was a part-time accounting clerk. I had never done that type of work, and it took me a while to learn. The 80-year old lady who trained me wasn’t always very patient and was pretty set in her ways. Being very intelligent, however, I finally got the hang of it, and I grew to love the people there. Unfortunately, it became apparent this wasn’t going to work for my husband and me, financially, long-term. I was very disappointed and sad. I then began a temp-to-perm with a different staffing agency. The client didn’t make the time to properly train me, asked permission to cuss in front of me (which I didn’t give them), and then lied to the staffing agency stating I ‘didn’t learn fast enough.’ What’s next, I wondered. At that point, I just wasn’t in a good place emotionally. I was very discouraged and even a bit angry. What was with these companies, and what is God up to anyway? What did He have in mind for me?

The staffing agency then found me the job I am currently in, which began in June of this year. I worked as a temp until recently when the company offered me a permanent position. I am working as an administrative assistant. I am using new software and doing some things I had learned to do years ago, but so many of the processes have changed.

Looking back on all this, and thinking of the statement at the beginning of this post about God’s preparation, I was able to look back and see how God was preparing me for my current position. I now do some projects for the accounting area where that previous experience has come in handy. I could go on and on. It seems that this position has encompassed so many of the skills I have learned over my lifetime. It’s so nice to be wanted, accepted, and appreciated, and this hasn’t happened much over the last several years.

I will leave you with this: For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope (Jeremiah 29:11 NRSV).

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

My transition back to corporate America

I made a decision a few years ago to leave my medical transcription job and return to corporate America. The reasons for doing so were many: better pay, fewer telemarking calls, more contact with people face to face, a better opportunity, and healthcare benefits. My husband wants to cut back on his job working retail so we can spend Saturdays together—something we haven’t been able to do in years. He wants to do more spiritual direction, and we want to have a better life.

This transition started off with, obviously, looking for a job. After months of no success, the real transition began with a week-and-a-half temporary staffing assignment that turned into 5 months. Needless to say, this necessitated severing my ties to my transcription job. As a result of this assignment, I learned that I could get back into corporate America again and learn complex tasks. However, this first assignment didn’t become permanent, as I thought it might, for a variety of reasons.

I had assignments off and on for most of 2 years, some of which I liked better than others. In one assignment, I ended up getting stuck in the crosshairs of a personality clash between my supervisor and his manager. When you’re in a situation where they disagree on something fundamental in your job, it’s a losing battle.

On one of the assignments I had, I struggled to learn the ins and outs of an accounting clerk position from an 80-year-old woman who wasn’t always very patient. I had never had that type of position before, but I took it because it was work, and you never know. I had to learn a different type of business besides. This work was part-time and located 20 minutes from our home. The other employees were very kind to me, but I had to keep job hunting because it was obvious I‘d never get healthcare benefits because it would never turn into full-time work, and we were struggling financially on my part-time income. We were hoping things would work out somehow, and it broke my heart to have to leave.

Even before I officially broke away from my transcription job, there were interviews, resume rewrites, and a huge learning curve in the processes and mindsets that had changed since I last job hunted. Then there was wondering how potential employers would perceive me. My hair had started to turn white. While my face wasn’t wrinkled, and other than having ‘middle-aged spread,’ I looked pretty good, would they think I was older than the person they wanted to hire? How did I feel about the person staring back at me in the mirror? Did my features remind me too much of a relative I didn’t particularly like? I knew I had a lot of skills to offer, but which way was best to direct them? What did I really want to do? What was reasonable and possible? What industry or type of work culture would I do best in?

Anyone who knows me very well knows I detest office politics. How would I deal with that? In lots of ways, I feel too old mentally for all that garbage. In the real world, though, I’d have to deal with it, somehow.

There were so many good interviews, and sometimes I felt so close to getting a job, and then the opportunity just seemed to slip away. I wondered many things: Was the job market really that tough? Was I considered too old? Was there something else about me they didn’t like? Was the job itself or culture just not a good fit? It was frustrating, depressing, and it took a toll on my self-esteem. It was lonely not being part of a work family. It was demoralizing hearing of so many others finding a job so quickly. Why not me? Where was my job? Was something holding me back? Much as I didn’t want to, I decided to color my hair to appear younger. Some would maybe call it vanity. I humbled myself as to the real possibility of age discrimination and colored my hair.

Then, I started a temp-to-perm job, finally! Five weeks later, the client told my staffing agency I was being let go because I wasn’t learning fast enough. I was angry. I had done whatever the client had asked me to do. They weren’t in a hurry to train me, which was puzzling. They changed my job duties from fewer phone calls to more paperwork. Feedback on the customer orders I keyed in simply laid on their desk for most of the day. And–of all things–they asked permission to cuss in front of me, which I didn’t give them by the way. Unbelievable!

Reflecting back on my experiences, a lot of jobs I had performed or had interviewed for wouldn’t have been a happy situation for me long-term. To say I soul searched and was challenged to trust the Lord was an understatement. Presently, I’m in a job where I’ve reacquainted myself with the newest skills to be an effective administrative assistant. I’ve been here since the second week of June. My boss is a perfectionist but not a micromanager. She enjoys a good laugh, which helps to make a sometimes stressful job more pleasant. She’s fair and relatively kind. She’s patient, which helps me learn patience. I feel I’m really close to becoming a permanent employee, but I’m really not taking anything for granted, I hope anyway.

Finding my work calling and work home has been an arduous journey, and I will rejoice when it’s over and I can settle into a work routine again. After additional reflection, I can see where the skills and experiences I’ve gained on these assignments have prepared me for the job I now have. Was this journey fun? A lot of times it wasn’t; sometimes it was. Was it worth it? It seems so. I’m happier workwise than I’ve been in a long time. God willing, I will soon be able to claim this company as my work home and the people as my work family. (NOTE: I got the job! See the subsequent blog post.)

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Did I Meet An Angel in Disguise?

My boss and I were recently discussing employees, how people are so different from each other, and how we can misjudge them. I described to her one lady who worked for me as a temp. (For purposes of this article, I will call her Trudy.) When she came in, I was shocked. Trudy’s clothes resembled those of a homeless person. While they were clean, they were quite worn. I must tell you my first, not-so-favorable impression was not my final impression of Trudy. Thank goodness! Let me explain. I trained Trudy, and she asked good questions. She learned well and did very good work. I learned that Trudy took public transportation every day. Since our location in Rock Hill was off Dave Lyle Boulevard, she had to walk a considerable distance from her drop-off point (near the freeway) to our office. Trudy could have very easily given up, saying it was too hard, yet she never complained about it. She was pleasant, and I enjoyed having Trudy work for me. At some point during her stay, Trudy had some family/personal issues that prevented her from continuing to work with us. She was sad to leave and really wanted to stay. We loved Trudy, and she loved us. She hugged us and told us she would miss us. We hated to see her go and would miss Trudy’s spirit. 

When I finished relating this story to my boss, she said ‘You know, sometimes we are tested. She could have been an angel in disguise.’ I was stunned that this had never even occurred to me. Indeed Trudy could have been an angel in disguise. If she was, I wonder if I passed the test. 

This incident should teach us all something. We never know where or how we will meet Christ, or an angel, incognito, in disguise. Are our hearts prepared? 

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Can I vent?

Recently, a co-worker named LeAnn asked me this question. I was puzzled, but I said yes. A little background: This woman is a polite, soft-spoken individual who had already mentioned some troubles she was having the week prior. A client had been very demanding and insisted on something being delivered to their office that day. This threated to jeopardize a software training class LeAnn was required to attend. In light of this, I suspected she had something similar happen and needed to talk. As I listened, LeAnn told me that the client had since changed their mind and wasn’t even in a hurry for it. She was understandably frustrated about the series of events, and I nodded understanding.

Sometimes all we need is a listening ear. We aren’t necessarily looking for someone to fix our problem, just someone to empathize. I shared with LeAnn what I heard animals do when they encounter trauma. They go into the woods and do a good ‘shake.’ This relieves the stress hormones in their bodies and helps them recover. We humans can do something similar. I urged LeAnn to consider giving it a try. I don’t know if she did or not, but she was very grateful for the chance to vent and the perspective offered. If nothing else, the story got LeAnn’s mind off her troubles, which is what she wanted to accomplish in the first place.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

But deliver us from evil (OF10)

Every Christian who earnestly seeks to follow God can expect Satan to attack and tempt them. Desire and opportunity are closely tied to one another when it comes to giving in to temptation. We may experience Satan as either strongly tempting us or using more subtle methods. We must stand firm and tell Satan to go away. It may appear he has power, but we have the obligation to rebuke him ‘in Jesus’ name.’ The name of Jesus is very powerful. 

A person may have a built-in tendency or desire towards a particular sin, but they may not have the opportunity. When the desire is there along with the opportunity, that’s what can lead to sin. When Jesus was in the desert being tempted, the opportunity was there, but not the desire. Where are your desires and opportunities toward sin?

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

And lead us not into temptation (OF9)

This phrase can be confusing. We are praying to our Lord, and He never leads us into temptation. So, what’s this phrase all about? Our Lord may, at times, permit Satan to tempt us. I think this part of the Our Father is asking for God’s help and common sense when we are tempted. If we know we are weak in a certain area, then we must do our part in avoiding those situations. For example, in the Bible where King David saw Bathsheba bathing, it should have gone no further. But by continuing to look at her, a beautiful woman, he fell into sin and committed adultery.

In modern times, a man who knows he struggles with pornography knows he needs to avoid strip clubs and adult video stores. He must avoid going anywhere near those types of places, because if he does go there, he is setting himself up for a fall (into sin). This is just one example.

Identify your own weak spot(s). How can you avoid these occasions of sin? The first step is asking God for the grace to avoid them in the first place. Let Him guide you so you can draw closer to Him.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

All I Can Do is Pray?

Something I’ve been thinking about lately is the expression “All I can do is pray.” This makes prayer sound like a last resort and an ineffective tool, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! Praying for others is a sacred privilege we should take seriously. Our prayers are part of the support system that people need in their times of struggle. Looking back at my own prayer life, the fruit of those prayers, in some cases, has been nothing short of miraculous. At times, God made me wait for His answer, and sometimes my request wasn’t granted. When that happened, it took faith and trust in God’s wisdom to accept His response to my prayer. Prayer doesn’t always give us what we want, but we have to trust that God will always give us what we need. When I find it difficult to trust, I make it a point to remember what God has already done in my life and how faithful He has been in my darkest hours. Then, I have the courage to ask in prayer and trust the wisdom of His answer. I have learned that God’s answers to my prayers can be very surprising. Also, I need to be careful what I pray for because He may give me something I didn’t bargain for! When we pray, the results can be quite dramatic, and it has the power to change lives.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

 

As we forgive those who trespass against us (OF8)

On January 29, 2015, I wrote about the Our Father’s ‘as we.’ I stated that if we don’t forgive others, we will not be forgiven; we will be forgiven only as we forgive. Here’s the link:

https://fromagnostictodeacon.com/2015/01/29/the-our-father-as-we/.

Forgiveness of others doesn’t mean that what they did doesn’t matter; it doesn’t minimize their wrong. Forgiving removes us from the emotional entanglement. We let God handle it and allow ourselves to heal from the hurt. Forgiving can be a very difficult thing to do. Even when we ask for God’s help, it can still be difficult, but if we ask Him sincerely, He will help us through those painful steps. Even if all you can do is to say ‘God I need to forgive this person, but I don’t know how,’ that can be an important first step.

Some time ago, my spiritual director had me write down a list of the people who hurt me that I needed to forgive. It turned out to be a pretty long list! She asked me to talk to God about those people and situations. I was to forgive them and explore any emotions that arose as a result. This process took quite some time. In fact, it would be good for me to see when that list was dated and make a list of people since then that I need to forgive.

Forgiveness is an ongoing activity until the day we die. We are fallible human beings who hurt others and who get hurt. We can feel ‘broken’ and bruised by what life, and other people, throw our way. To begin healing our brokenness, we need to pray and forgive. See my blog entry on April 18, 2015, entitled “woundedness, resentment, forgiveness, and healing”: https://fromagnostictodeacon.com/2015/04/18/woundedness-resentment-unforgiveness-and-healing/. With God’s help, forgiveness becomes possible.
Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

And Forgive Us Our Trespasses (OF7)

This phrase’s meaning seems pretty obvious. “Hey Lord, I messed up. I’m sorry, and I promise to do better with Your help. Please forgive me.” I am reminded of a scripture passage that sums up our human spiritual struggle pretty well (Romans 7:15 NRSV): “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

The Lord is merciful and forgiving. Once we repent, do we forgive ourselves and then strive to do better? Or do we beat ourselves up about what we’ve done wrong? Do we believe the Lord won’t or didn’t really forgive us? Do we ask the Lord for His help and accept that help for us to do better? Do we believe He will help us? Do we strive to do better or are we lazy about it?

You may wonder why I’m asking all these questions. We met someone a few months ago who was struggling with these very issues. She felt guilty about how she had lived her life. In fact, she thought she messed it up so bad, how could the Lord possibly forgive her? She couldn’t/wouldn’t ask for forgiveness much less forgive herself for how she lived her life and the mistakes she had made. It was to the point where our words of encouragement and scripture suggestions didn’t penetrate her heart. She was caught in the web of Satan’s lies. He was keeping her in bondage by the lies on forgiveness, but Satan was also feeding her the lie that she and her actions weren’t even worthy of forgiveness. She lost her job, her husband through divorce, and she was very miserable. She had tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide. It was very sad. She had no hope.

I leave you with this scripture: 1 Peter 5:8 (NRSV): Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. The devil would love to use your unforgiveness of yourself and turn it into that roaring lion. Don’t let the devil get that foothold in your life.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Give us this day our daily bread (OF6)

This phrase is about trusting God to provide for our needs, ALL our needs, including our daily bread. There have been times in my own life where I’ve had to trust God to provide money to pay bills, help the car start, get me safely to my destination, and yes, even provide for our meals. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. God never tells us our lives are going to be easy, but we can ask Him for what we need with no ‘busy signals,’ no long-distance charges, no phone menu hell or being placed on hold. He’s available 24/7, and we get ‘unlimited minutes.’ He loves to hear from us. He asks us to trust in His timing and listen for His response.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

On earth as it is in heaven (OF5)

This phrase ties in very closely to the two prior phrases I talked about above: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” Wouldn’t it be nice if it was heaven on earth, if people treated each other with respect, if people were honest? Even if people just took the 10 commandments seriously and didn’t do anything more than that, what a different world we would live in!

Recently, I had a car tire that was losing air, so I had to take it and have it checked. From the initial phone call, the in-person service, the attendants were kind and respectful. Some even wore a smile and acted like they enjoyed their jobs. I about didn’t know how to act (just kidding, of course). It was such a nice change. I felt so much less stressed. It was great customer service that felt like a tiny piece of heaven.

Where have you experienced a touch of heaven?

  • Did someone let you cut in front of them rather than blow a horn or be rude?
  • Did someone hold a door open for you rather than slam it in your face?
  • Did someone offer a smile, a thank you, or a word of encouragement?

Please share with us a short example of your touch of heaven (in 5 sentences or less). Please remember this is a Christian blog, and so please share accordingly.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Thy will be done (OF4)

Are we really serious about doing God’s will? Or do we perceive something as God’s will, start acting on it, and hope God blesses it? Is it ‘thy will be done’ or ‘my will be done?’ God is not a genie in a lamp or a fairy godmother, granting our wishes on a whim. He is a loving father who knows what’s best for us. He sees the entire picture, that which we cannot see. He is interested in our salvation, and sometimes what we want is not good for us at this time or maybe ever. God knows our hearts and what will draw us to Him. He knows what is needed for our salvation. He knows our weaknesses and our temptations. It could be that maybe the thing(s) we seek will push us farther away from Him or lead to self-sufficiency, relying on ourselves instead of God. What this phrase of the Our Father is really all about is trusting God in everything. The opposite of trust is worry or suspicion. Do we trust that God will get our lives ‘right?’ Are we willing to do what God asks of us? If something has happened to you that you do not understand, talk to Jesus as you would a friend. Tell him your troubles, and He will listen. If you listen back, you may hear His whisperings in your heart. Be still and know that He is God.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Thy kingdom come (OF3)

God’s kingdom coming, what does that mean? I think we’re better able to tell when it’s not coming than when it is, at least lately. There’s so much violence and un-godlike behavior. We do things as a society that don’t bring His kingdom to earth, like taking the 10 commandments out of schools, the workplace, and the courtrooms. Some segments of society think of them as the 10 suggestions, and they are not. We preach ‘tolerance’ for sinful lifestyles in the name of political correctness. We don’t dare call something a sin! If we do these things, how can His kingdom come?

We might ask ourselves what we are doing to bring about His kingdom here on earth. Do we have a good attitude? Are we kind or are we inconsiderate? Are we polite or rude? Are we respectful or not? What behavior of ours do we need to change in order for people to see God in us? Change begins with us, and God is there to help us every step of the way. May His kingdom come.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams