Pelicans, Ugly Yet Graceful

Pelicans. Such interesting creatures. Not the prettiest birds, but certainly not the ugliest either. It is fascinating to watch them as they fly low over the water without so much as the tips of their wings touching it, so graceful. They dive for food, almost pirouetting in for the catch. They are such large creatures; it’s a wonder they get out of their own way. Something to ponder. 

We humans are interesting creatures too. Some of us are better looking than others. As we go about our routines, are we graceful? Do we get out of God’s way so He can work through us? Something to consider.

Copyright © 2018 by Theresa M. Williams

 

The Process of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is essential to our spiritual well-being. Unforgiveness poisons our soul and does nothing to hurt the one we don’t want to forgive. In fact, some people who hurt us may not be aware they have done so.

Forgiveness can be a difficult and painful process. The process I will outline for you below will take time. I assure you, if you are open to it and the power of the Holy Spirit, it can be life giving and life changing. But, that’s up to you and the Holy Spirit.

  • Get a notebook or a journal and a pen or pencil.
  • Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed.
  • Breathe deeply and relax.
  • Ask God to help you with this process.
  • When you are ready, go all the way back to your earliest memory of being hurt.
  • Write down the person’s name and the offense. Don’t be superficial or try to judge if your hurt was that serious.
  • Repeat the process up until the present time.
  • If it’s helpful, split the list by:
  • Phase of life or age range
  • Place of work
  • Do this in whatever way is most meaningful for you. Expect this to take some time. It’s a process.
  • When you think your list is complete, walk away for a bit. Then go back over the list. Ask God if you’ve forgotten anyone.
  • Go back to the first name you wrote down.
  • Talk to the Lord about your hurt.
  • If you are ready to forgive them, then tell Jesus you forgive that person.
  • If you are not yet ready, ask Jesus to help you. You may have some barrier.
  • Pray the Our Father. Pay attention to the words ‘as we.’ (Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us). Note that we are only forgiven inasmuch as we forgive others.
  • Go to the next name on the list. Repeat the process above, making any notes you feel are important about how the forgiveness process went, highlighting the ones you are having difficulty forgiving.
  • Note that forgiveness sometimes comes in layers. The hurt may need to be ‘peeled away’ layer by layer until the memory of the person or the hurt no longer gets a negative internal reaction.

Copyright © 2018 by Theresa M. Williams

Getting Rid of Our Yucky Stuff

I recently bought an acorn squash to prepare for one of our meals. My husband is a picky eater, but that is one vegetable he likes. I had him cut it in half so I could scrape out the yucky stuff inside—you know, the stringy pulp and seeds. As I scraped, I thought how God can scrape out our yucky stuff from inside us–our hurts, our resentments, our anger, our emotional pain, whatever is yucky for us. Then I thought of the woman in the Bible with the hemorrhage. She just wanted to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment so she could be healed, so her yucky stuff could be taken away.

I thought about my yucky stuff, how I’ve been suffering from work burnout. I too need Jesus’ healing touch. It’s comforting to know that reaching out to my Savior for help and healing can be as simple as touching the hem of his garment by prayer and faith.

Perhaps you have some yucky stuff that needs to be healed. What is it for you that needs healing? I encourage you to reach out in prayer and faith today for that healing!

Copyright © 2017 by Theresa M. Williams

Can Spiders Teach Us Something?

You’ve got to be kidding! A spider teach us something? No way! Patience, persistence, or the concept of a good work ethic are probably not the first words we think of when describing a spider. My apologies to all those with arachnophobia (fear of spiders).

I must admit that spiders are not my favorite bug. In fact, they are frequently quite annoying, particularly when they show up in unexpected places–like dangling from my rearview mirror on the way home from Mass. While I didn’t get into an accident (thank goodness), let’s just say that spider didn’t do that anymore!

I read an article, though, that described how spiders are very patient. It pointed out that whenever a spider’s web is destroyed, it patiently and persistently builds a new one. I thought about that for a bit and decided it certainly made a lot of sense. Now, if we are trying to get rid of spider webs, we don’t tend to appreciate their persistence very much!  But, spiders are patient, perhaps more patient than I would be if I had to constantly rebuild a web that someone was always trying to get rid of. Their webs do look pretty when the dew glistens on them in the sunshine, and I have to admit some of the intricate patterns are pretty fascinating to contemplate, unless of course I run right into one!

Another thing spiders can teach us is the value of a good work ethic. When they get their webs destroyed, they build again–out of necessity, of course–but without a good work ethic they starve. Laziness doesn’t build a web. The spiders have to believe for their next meal and hope that their web won’t get torn down, yet again. Like the spider, we also must have a good work ethic, believe for our next meal, and not be lazy. We must have hope that our dreams and aspirations won’t be shattered, again. A spider building a web is a lot like us sending a resume out on the worldwide web (pun intended) looking for a job. We put it out there and pray for a fruitful harvest, just as the spider builds his web and hopes for its next catch. Just as we must be persistent and patient if we are to get a job, so too a spider must be persistent and patient in their quest for a meal.

So, how does all this change our perception of patience? While having the patience of Job is all well and good, maybe we could all contemplate the patience of a spider. You see, God can use even bugs to teach us life’s lessons.

Copyright © 2017 by Theresa M. Williams

How Should I Pray Lord?

Recently, I was feeling rather concerned and overwhelmed about all the various issues facing our world. I was confused about how I should pray regarding them. How could I cover the bases, yet do a fair job of prayer? The following is the result of this discernment process:

NOVENA ON WORLD WOES

From terrorism, deliver us Lord.

From political chaos, deliver us Lord.

From moral chaos, deliver us Lord.

From transgenderism, deliver us Lord.

From abortion, deliver us Lord.

From sex- and human trafficking, deliver us Lord.

From senseless killings, deliver us Lord.

From funding of abortion, deliver us Lord.

From bullying of any kind, deliver us Lord.

From infringement of religious freedom, deliver us Lord.

From infringement of free speech, deliver us Lord.

For an end to sexual abuse, Lord hear our prayer.

For an end to domestic violence, Lord hear our prayer.

For an end to emotional abuse, Lord hear our prayer.

For an end to financial deception, Lord hear our prayer.

For an end to political correctness, Lord hear our prayer.

For an end to Satanism, Lord hear our prayer.

For an end to killing of Christians, Lord hear our prayer.

Regarding gay rights, enlighten them Lord.

Regarding gay marriage, enlighten them Lord.

Lord, open their eyes and hearts to Your will.

For those who don’t know God or who have turned their backs on Him, help them Lord.

Help our leaders to work together for what is right and to put aside politics. Grant them wisdom and right moral judgement.

Give us the strength and determination to pray, to hope, and to never give up regarding Your kingdom.

I hope this prayer helps you in your prayer life. Feel free to adapt it as you wish. You can pray it for 9 days straight, like a Novena. You can add an Our Father and/or a Hail Mary to the end of each phrase or however the Spirit moves you. Enjoy, and God bless!

That’s What Love Looks Like

A woman patiently helps her husband guide his walker down the aisle… That’s what love looks like.

 A caregiver is attentively feeding someone with a severe disability… That’s what love looks like.

 A receptionist waves good morning to a lonely old man going to work next door… That’s what love looks like.

 A friend patiently listens to some distress at work and offers to pray… That’s what love looks like.

 A husband with other plans stays home with a sick wife to help and support her… That’s what love looks like.

 A clergyman cries with a parishioner in their emotional pain… That’s what love looks like.

 A male classmate closes a window when someone feels a draft (even though he doesn’t understand why)… That’s what love looks like.

 Someone challenges her friend when she puts herself down… That’s what love looks like.

 Friends support one another when one of them is having a bad day, helping them talk through their difficulty and offering emotional support… That’s what love looks like.

Parents laugh and play with their firstborn child, a daughter with Down Syndrome… That’s what love looks like.

 A fellow immigrant offers to attend a series of classes she doesn’t have to attend to translate for her community… That’s what love looks like.

Co-workers find out one of their own walks a long distance to/from work. They and their managers get that worker his own transportation… That’s what love looks like.

These may not be the most dramatic examples of what love looks like, but there IS one:

 An innocent man is crucified between two thieves. He is Jesus Christ on the cross, and He died in our place for our sins… That’s what love looks like!

 Blog copyright © 2017 by Theresa M. Williams

 

Are You Really Fasting?

Is it really Lent already? Yep! Ash Wednesday has come and gone. Gone also is our ashy forehead smudge. Ashes remind us that we are sinners and have a need to repent. During Lent, we hear messages about prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I will focus on fasting.

What do we think fasting is? Sure, it’s eating less or nothing at all, but shouldn’t we do more than that? Let’s not forget that fasting can include more than eating; it can have a spiritual dimension as well. Giving up material things like food can be a good thing, but our spirits need something more. Why not fast from the things that trip us up spiritually: impatience, anxiety, mistrust, judging others, gossiping, spending more time at work than we need to, bad driving, being inconsiderate? I think you get the idea. We might pray more, spend more time reading spiritual books, doing works of charity, you name it. Those are all good things, but are we making progress on our sins? I encourage you to think of your soul as the inside of a tree. The rings show how fast or slow a tree grew. The rings are sometimes close together, other times further apart. When Jesus examines your soul at the end of time, how will He see your growth? Will there be fast growth or slow growth? Will you have made progress towards becoming more like Him, the Tree of Life?

Copyright © 2017 by Theresa M. Williams

Questions for Jesus

My reflection that follows comes after singing “Mary Did You Know?” from our Christmas program. In this song, the songwriter asks Mary how much she knew about what Jesus would do in His life. I recently heard someone pose the question: “If you sat next to Jesus on a bus, what would you ask Him? What would you talk about?” These are some of the questions I’d ask:

How much and when did Mary tell you about the circumstances of your birth? The shepherds? The magi? Did she mention the gifts they brought and what those gifts represent? I know the story of the little drummer boy might be a legend, but what would you think about him playing for you at your birth?

Did you think it odd living in Egypt? Or were you too little to remember that time in your life? Did Mary and Joseph tell you why you lived there? How did you feel about that? What was it like to move back to the land of your birth? How did people react to you coming back? Were you treated differently from other boys? If so, how? When did you realize you were different from other children?

What was it like to learn carpentry from Joseph? Did you ever accidentally hit your thumb with a hammer? As a carpenter, what was the most difficult or challenging item you ever made? When and how did Joseph die? How did this affect you and Mary?

Besides your baptism, did you have much contact with John the Baptist?

Oh, the many questions we could ask Jesus. If you were on a bus with Jesus, what would you want to ask Him? Would it be about some practical aspect of His hidden life as mentioned above, or would it be something different? What are you curious about?

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams

Deliver Us Lord

Deliver us from violence and rioting.

Grant us peace.

Deliver us from hatred.

Grant us love.

Deliver us from those who would kill us, whether here or from abroad.

Grant us life.

Deliver us from corruption.

Grant us honesty.

Deliver us from prejudice.

Grant us understanding.

Deliver us from jealousy.

Grant us tranquility.

Lord, our country is in disarray. No matter which side of the political fence we’re on, some don’t feel ‘heard.’ People feel afraid, unsafe, and angry. Help us to love one another, to be honest, understanding and peaceful. Aid us to see one another as your children. Assist us to be more selfless and less selfish. Let us consider the consequences of our actions and the needs of others. Let us remember the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Peace.

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams 

The Art of Listening

Listening. It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Most of us have decent physical hearing while those of us who don’t, wear a hearing aid. Yet, do we really listen? Do we quiet our inner thoughts, or do we think of what we’re going to say next? Are we able to truly listen with our hearts without prejudice? Do we respect another enough to not interrupt (unless there’s a fire or something), or do we finish others’ thoughts or correct them before they finish speaking? We say ‘I hear you,’ but do we really?

I think these questions surface in me as one of our youth needed to truly be listened to last weekend. Also, I understand firsthand what it’s like to not feel listened to, to not feel understood, and to not feel respected for my point of view. Webster’s defines ‘dialogue’ as ‘interchange and discussion of ideas, especially when open and frank, as in seeking mutual understanding or harmony.’ I daresay a lot of us don’t listen well. We have barriers to listening: our own agenda, mental or physical or emotional distractions, our own preconceived thoughts or ideas; the list goes on. Do I listen well? Likely not. I find myself wanting to interject my story, my viewpoint, and my thoughts, even if those are not wanted or needed. How are you doing with respect to your listening?

Lord Jesus, please help us to listen to those with whom we speak, in the manner we need to at the time, and in a way that is pleasing to You. Help us to understand not only the words but the intent behind them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams

Mischievous Chris

Several years ago, a gentleman named Chris came to work at our company as an intern over the summer. He was so disabled from cerebral palsy that a caregiver came in daily. Chris was in a motorized wheelchair and wore a leather strap around his head called a ‘halo’ so he could type on the keyboard. It was pretty sad. I was uncomfortable around Chris for quite a while. I simply had no experience with someone with cerebral palsy, their slurred speech, involuntary movements, etc. I discovered that Chris had a cheerful spirit and a good outlook on life in spite of his disability. I never heard him complain.

I simply must tell you about an incident where Chris was very mischievous. Another co-worker, Mike, was a serious individual who had a bad car accident a few months prior that left his back compromised. One day when Mike stepped away from his desk, Chris noticed, turned to me with a huge grin on his face, and laughed mischievously. Oh, man. What was he going to do? I was afraid if Chris pulled a prank on Mike, that Mike would get mad, because he could be pretty intense. Chris went up to the back of Mike’s chair and pulled it towards his desk with his feet, motioning for me to be quiet. I played along with Chris’ prank, and when Mike returned to his desk, I pretended nothing was wrong. Finally, Mike found out what Chris had done. Now what? How would Mike react? Mike seemed surprised and even amused at Chris’ prank. He wasn’t upset or anything. He got his chair back, and all was well.

I was relieved Mike took the prank so well, and the incident seemed to strengthen the friendship Chris and I had started to develop. In the short time he was with us, Chris won me over with his cheerful, upbeat nature. He was a delight to be around, and it challenged me to not take myself, or life, so seriously. With Chris’ help, I was finally able to look past his disabilities and my discomfort. I still think of Chris from time to time, and I hope he’s doing well. I wish I could say I have been cured of being too serious, for that is not the case. But, I am learning slowly, and I guess that’s really what matters.

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams

How did it happen so fast?

I can’t believe it’s June already. It seems like it was just January. Time has been getting away from me lately. Would you believe Kevin’s 10th ordination anniversary is this month or that we’ll be celebrating 38 years of marriage later this month? Wow! I’m reminded of the words to a song ‘Longer’ by Dan Fogelberg:  Longer than ther’ve been fishes in the ocean, higher than any bird ever flew, longer than there’ve been stars up in the heavens, I’ve been in love with you. Stronger than any mountain cathedral, truer than any tree ever grew, deeper than any forest primeval, I am in love with you.

I’ll bring fire in the winters.’ You’ll send showers in the springs. We’ll fly through the falls and summers with love on our wings. Through the years as the fire starts to mellow, burning lines in the book of our lives. Though the binding cracks and the pages start to yellow, I’ll be in love with you. I’ll be in love with you. Longer than ther’ve been fishes in the ocean, higher than any bird ever flew, longer than there’ve been stars up in the heavens, I’ve been in love with you. I am in love with you. Songwriters: DAN FOGELBERG © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC For non-commercial use only.

The part that really gets me though is where Dan talks about comparing our life to a book, about the binding cracking and the pages yellowing (must be referring to wrinkles). I must say though I don’t believe Kevin’s and my fire has started to ‘mellow.’ Kevin and I think it’s so neat to be married to our best friend. With another couple we know, the wife has told me her husband is her best friend. That’s heartwarming.

Another song we sing at Mass talks about weeping, laughing, sharing joys and sorrows ‘until we see this journey through.’ Certainly we do that daily. Our marriages are sanctuaries (or should be), a place where we can go even if the world crumbles around us. It should be a place where we feel safe and loved. I’m grateful for every day with Kevin. I realize the older we get that someday we’ll leave earth and join the kingdom of God.

It amazes me when I hear older folks state they wish they could go back to their younger years—not me! I really don’t care to repeat my previous years. I figure I’ve earned the right to be right where I’m at. I don’t want to try to have a family, attend college, find a career, you name it. I hope to retire someday, and I look forward to what lies ahead, but I’m not in a great hurry to get there; it’ll come soon enough with all its challenges, effects of growing older, friends or parents dying, and other things. (Some of this has already happened.)

I look forward to growing older with my best friend, my spouse, and I want to take life as it comes and enjoy as much of it as I can, while I can. I’m sure it probably won’t be easy sometimes, but I’m sure going to try anyway! How about you?

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams

Entombment of Stress; What’d those pork chops ever do to you?

Did you know that stress comes in two forms? It does: eustress and distress. Eustress is the good stress, the kind we need to get and keep motivated. It provides incentive to get the job done. It spurs us on to action, to accomplish things. Everyone needs a little bit of stress in their life in order to continue to be happy, motivated, challenged and productive. It is when this stress is no longer tolerable and/or manageable that distress comes in. Distress is the bad stress we have. It’s when the good stress becomes too much to bear or cope with. Tension builds. There’s no fun in the challenge. There seems to be no relief, no end in sight. This is the kind of stress most of us are familiar with, and this is the kind of stress that leads to poor decision making. Stress can be really sneaky. It’s not always obvious to us, or others. It can build up slowly, like magma in a volcano. It can even explode on us and onto others when we least expect it—again, like a volcano. Stress is dangerous and entombs us. We are ‘bound’ like Lazarus with the ‘ribbons’ of distress. Lazarus couldn’t move because of the burial wrappings/ribbons. Likewise, stress can incapacitate us and hamper us in our ability to function. Distress affects our health, our emotional state, our relationships, our jobs, ministry, and other areas of our lives.  Physiological symptoms of distress include an increase in blood pressure, rapid breathing, and generalized tension. Behavioral symptoms include irritability, overeating, loss of appetite, drinking, smoking, and negative coping mechanisms. To read more, https://brocku.ca/health-services/health-education/stress/eustress-distress.

A dear friend of ours, whom I shall call Percy, recently exhibited distress with a co-worker by ‘going off on them.’ It surprised Kevin and I to hear about this because Percy is a very calm person. He smiles an awful lot, and I don’t think we’ve ever seen a scowl on his face or heard him raise his voice. My husband is a lot like this. He rarely gets upset, but when he does, look out! It takes people like Kevin and Percy a while to build up to outbursts and anger, but when they do, it’s very distressing. You know it took a lot to get them that upset, and you hate to see them in that state. I had a co-worker who was like this. Her name was Mary Alice. She was so upset about something one day that, when tenderizing pork chops for dinner that night, she tenderized them so much you could almost see through them! I heard about this the next morning as I checked with Mary Alice to see how she was doing. She was able to laugh about the pork chops then, but I guess you could say she took her distress out on those poor pork chops. A few days later, I jokingly asked her if she had any more pork chops for dinner, to which she laughed and said no. It was such a joy to see her laugh again. I hope Percy can relieve his distress so he can go back to work and be happy. God bless you Percy!

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams

Serving the Needy

Just what does it mean to serve the needy? Let’s explore the definition of needy: A) not having enough money, food, etc., to live properly. B) needing a lot of attention, affection, or emotional support. When we think of the word needy, a lot of times we think of the first definition, of the poor, not having enough. But, there is a lot to be said about the other definition (B) as well. Recently, I have found myself frustrated by a co-worker who is very needy. In Randy’s* (not his real name) case, he needs a lot of things done for him. He has no dedicated administrative support, so my boss and I do that for him. (I work as an administrative assistant at the front desk and am an hourly employee.) Randy has come to my desk first thing in the morning before I even get my things put away or go to the restroom or right before I am due out the door for lunch. (I have to take my lunch at a certain time to provide proper front desk coverage.) He acts as though a lot of things are an emergency and demands I do things for him right away. He doesn’t seem to understand that I work for the rest of the office too (more or less). I have had to set boundaries with him and others in the office that I will be happy to discuss what they need after my lunch hour or when I start work. (I haven’t implemented the second part yet, but it’s coming soon!) I am reminded of an article I wrote some time back regarding a previous job where I either couldn’t or didn’t set boundaries. My female co-workers were even asking me for things after I went into the restroom! (Really?) At my current job, I have a very supportive boss, and she has basically told me it’s okay to set proper boundaries, although that’s not quite how she phrased it.

While it’s important to be gracious, it doesn’t mean we let others take unfair advantage of us. Knowing our physical, emotional and spiritual limits is helpful too. Setting boundaries is important. It can even help us retain our sanity! While on earth, even Jesus intended to set limits on his availability. He often went away by himself to pray. That’s a form of boundary setting.

How do you set boundaries for others? Is it by implementing ‘house rules’? For example, if you make a mess, clean it up. If it’s hungry, feed it, and so on. If you want to share how you set limits for others, please tell us about a boundary you have set—maybe even what prompted you to set it—and how it turned out. As always, please share respectfully.

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams

Transfigure us, oh Lord

The word transfiguration is defined three ways: 1) A complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state. 2) Christ’s appearance in radiant glory to three of His disciples (Matthew 17:2, Mark 9:2-3, Luke 9:28-36). 3) The church festival commemorating this.

A few weeks ago, our choir sang a special song for the Feast of Christ’s transfiguration. It’s a pretty song that I can’t get out of my head. It talks about breaking the chains that bind us and following where Christ leads us. This song is appropriate for other days in Lent as well, not just for that feast. Isn’t being transfigured or transformed really what Lent’s all about anyway? I will concentrate this article regarding the first definition above with an emphasis on “a more beautiful or spiritual state.”

Lent gives us a focused opportunity to be transfigured into an improved spiritual state by more prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I like to refer to spiritual improvement as “polishing our halos!” A halo is a disk or circle of light surrounding or above the head of a saint or holy person to represent their holiness. Our light from our halos gets dimmed by our sins, so we have to ‘polish’ ourselves spiritually to let our light of holiness shine. Matthew 5:14-16 states: You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

There are lots of other manners in which we can be transfigured. We can make use of the sacrament of reconciliation. We can break ourselves of some bad spiritual habits. We can read the Bible and listen to what our Lord is trying to say to us through it. We can offer to help someone carry their cross by becoming a prayer partner with them for their intentions, needs, and struggles/difficulties. Maybe you can think of some other ways to be transfigured.

Some questions to ponder: How has my halo gotten dimmed by sin? How am I being transfigured this Lent? How can I let my light shine brighter for others? Have a fruitful Lent!

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams

Patience?! What patience?!

Back in the day, I worked at a company with a gift shop on the bottom floor. I saw a poster that, at times, pretty much summed up my feelings about patience. It showed a gorilla with a stern look on its face with the caption: “Patience my (expletive). I’m going to kill something!” I had to chuckle. It was kind of embarrassing that I felt that way some days, but I was honest in acknowledging that impatience is an issue I’ve had for some time.

St. Paul talks about a thorn in the flesh. Impatience is my thorn. In 2 Corinthians 12:7, he states: ‘A thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.’ For Lent, I have tried to work on my impatience, specifically with my fellow motorists. I am reminded of another word that describes the suffering that comes with impatience: Longsuffering is defined as ‘having or showing patience in spite of troubles, especially those caused by other people.’ And don’t some people cause us to suffer? They can be a downright pain in the, well, you know.

We all have our thorn in the flesh, whether it’s impatience with things or other people, having to always be right about everything, judging others unjustly or (place your thorn here). Jesus was a pretty patient person. He only got angry a few times in the Bible, when it was justified (like driving out the moneychangers from the temple or calling the Pharisees on their attitudes).

As far as my Lenten practice (patience with my fellow motorists), I have my successful days and not so successful days. Sometimes, I even let the people in who think they always have to be first. You know, the ones who are in such a hurry all the time. They speed to the front of the line, even on the shoulder of the road, and then expect to be let in because they think they shouldn’t have to wait. “Hey buster! I was here first! Who do you think you are trying to speed ahead of everyone else?! Wait your stinking turn!” Now, I have a confession to make. During this time of Lenten ‘longsuffering,’ I think I understand why some of them go to the front of the line: Maybe because no one pays attention that they are trying to get in or simply won’t let them in. ”Hey buster, I want to get there just like you do! Let me in!” (Wow. It’s pretty interesting seeing both sides of that situation!) That said, it’s hard (sometimes) to know who is trying to just take advantage and who really is just frustrated about not being able to get in line like everyone else. Something to think about next time we are on the road. Have a safe day!

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams

What the heck is Lent?

In Christianity, Lent is a time of fasting and repentance in the spring, beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending several weeks later on Easter. Note: To “give something up for Lent” is to abandon a pleasurable habit as an act of devotion and self-discipline.

Okay, now that we have the technical definition out of the way, let’s get down to business! It’s not too unusual for people to compare notes on what they’re ‘doing for Lent.’ One of my friends related she was giving up sweets because she really enjoys them. When she asked what I am doing, I told her I’m working on more tolerance and less anger with my fellow motorists. I certainly didn’t say this to sound like I was working on something more important than she was. But, at this stage of my life, I realize that it’s more important to work on spiritual things and matters of the heart versus giving up some external food or drink that I like. I figure working on a bad habit is something I should be doing anyway, and when better than during Lent? After I die, I’m pretty certain I’m going to spend a lot of time in Purgatory before I get to the ‘pearly gates’ of heaven! Working on some of my spiritual shortcomings may decrease my time in Purgatory—hey, I can dream can’t I?

Now, what’s Purgatory, you ask. Purgatory, according to Catholic Church doctrine, is an intermediate state after physical death in which those destined for heaven “undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” Now is it clearer why I am working on spiritual things and how I hope it shortens my time in Purgatory? I once heard Purgatory referred to as ‘heaven’s waiting room.’ Sounds promising, but I know I hate to wait; what about you?

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams

How do we spend the gift of time?

A young boy was asked by his mother to tell me what he liked (best, I guess) about my book From Agnostic to Deacon, A Story of Hope and Conversion. He said “the words.” I guess the mother either thought he misunderstood the question or wasn’t being very specific; so, she repeated the question. He again said “the words.” I thought to myself, he may become an author one day!

Speaking of words, one that keeps coming back to me lately is ‘time.’ Time is something we can spend, waste or kill. We can’t buy, rent, lease or sell it. It’s precious. We never have enough of it, which we call spare time. Time seems to slip through our fingers. I liken time to the little white highway lane markers. The older we get, the faster those markers seem to go by! If we don’t get around to things, we say we’ll do it sometime.

Now, for purposes of this blog, I’m not going to get too hung up on whether some of these terms should be hyphenated or whether or not they should be two words.

We refer to time in any number of ways from our meals, the military, music or musical terms, seasons, times of day or year, our work, and even entertainment: Meals: lunchtime, dinnertime, suppertime. Military or music: marks time (march in place without moving forward). Musical terms: ragtime, six-eight time, keeps time. Seasons of the year: wintertime, summertime, peak time (for leaves). Times of day: naptime, tea time, nighttime, mealtime, bedtime, daytime, noontime, playtime. Times of year: Daylight Savings Time, Christmastime. Work expressions: straight time (as opposed to overtime), lead time, flextime (to work a flexible schedule), full-time, part-time, break time, drive time. If we work too much, we need some downtime! If you watch the TV show Home Improvement, there’s something known as ‘tool time.’ Some other entertainment terms are: show time, airtime, prime time, (somebody hit the) bigtime. Some other ways we use the word time are: face time, lifetime, meantime, pastime, wartime, peacetime, and many others.

In the Bible in Matthew 10:39 we read: “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” Part of what Jesus is asking us is how we use our time. Let’s think about this for a moment. Do we help others or do we only think of ourselves? We must strike a balance between caring for our own needs and those of others, between work and play/rest. How we spend our time is often an indication of our priorities, and sometimes the priority must be for ourselves. It’s wise to pray and decide how the time God gave us is spent.

From box wrestler to exterminator, I love my job, most of the time!

I love my job, most of the time. Almost daily I am asked for my autograph. FedEx and UPS must think I’m some sort of celebrity or something–NOT!

I have a window where I can see the weather. Most of my co-workers do not have a window and tell me how jealous they are. I see a lot of trees, but not much else. Occasionally, a skink, bird, squirrel or other creature will appear, but most of what I hear is planes from the airport.

A requirement for this job is to wrestle with boxes, breaking them apart for recycling. Sometimes, I think the box gets the better of the fight!

I get to go outside daily (in all kinds of weather) to take out and bring in the mail. It’s a challenge figuring out who gets what, even though I have an extensive list of instructions. Walking to the back of the building and back to the front is what I call the postal service fitness program!

I have to have eyes in the back of my head to see employees coming to the door to get in (without digging out their key).

Sometimes I will rescue a co-worker–at a moment’s panicked notice–from ‘monsters’ in her office. I get to play exterminator by getting rid of hairy things that look like millipedes, only worse. Don’t really know what their insect class is, but I’m the hero of the moment when my co-worker can relax that it’s finally gone and won’t bother her again…until the next one appears!

I have a co-worker who has an ongoing hate relationship with the postage machine, more like intimidation. She tries, but I end up taming the beast.

We have an ice machine that is intent on banging us on the head with its cover. Don’t know how we’ve offended it, but it keeps on with its mischievous behavior.

There are a lot of other things I do at work, too numerous to mention. It helps to have a sense of humor, especially on busy days when my boss and I are frazzled.

Lord, when I’m frazzled and overwhelmed—whether at work or wherever I am–help me to keep my perspective regarding what’s important right now and what can wait until later. Help me to listen to your Holy Spirit whispering amidst the clamor of daily life. Amen!

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams

PRAYER FOR DAILY LIFE

Jesus be my friend and

Help me to be a friend.

Guide me when I’m unsure;

Strengthen me against temptation.

Give me courage to shine

Your light within me for all to see.

When I’m afraid and anxious,

Please send Your Spirit to

Calm and comfort me.

I know you would never leave me,

But I am Your child who needs

Loving reassurance at times.

Father, teach me Your ways.

Please be patient.

Sometimes the lessons are not easy.

Help me to be the gift to this world

That You intend me to be.

When my mission is complete,

May this world be better for my having been here. Amen.

Theresa Marie Williams © Copyright1994

Some Modern-Day Beatitudes

Blessed are they who don’t take themselves too seriously, for they shall be free to laugh at their foibles.

Blessed are the compassionate, for the compassion shown will return to them.

Blessed are the politically incorrect, for they shall be free to tell it like it is.

Blessed are the organized, for they shall make better use of their time.

Blessed are they who are not anxious about the future, for they shall be free to enjoy the present moment.

Blessed are they who don’t worry, for they trust God to help them with their challenges.

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams

 

Am I Dreaming? Pinch Me!

This has been my husband’s sentiment for approximately the past 2 weeks. Kevin started looking for something to replace his drugstore job after I got us on my benefits a couple of months ago. He’s in his late 50s, so he wasn’t sure what he’d be able to find. Like it or not, there IS age discrimination out there even though it’s illegal and immoral. I had lost track of how long Kevin has wanted to go into paid ministry full-time. This has been a dream of his for a very long time. As of Monday, he will be the director of youth ministry in our church. Kevin knows that he will be stretched in this new role. He has to start this youth program from scratch as we don’t currently have one. Although Kevin has no experience doing this, he’s not real nervous. In fact, he’s at peace with it. We both believe that since God led him to it, He’ll lead him through it. After all, God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called. 

Neither of us knows how God’s plans for Kevin’s new job might involve me. Will I participate at all? If so, will it be a little or a lot? What might my role be? I pray I am open to the Holy Spirit’s call. Something to think about for this New Year is how will you be called to serve in 2016? 

Copyright © 2016 by 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

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

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

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