Micro Manager

Most of the time, being micro-managed is a very bad thing. I have never worked well for managers who hover or worse, forcefully encourage me to adopt their methods and means to an end. I like better: there’s the galaxy, padowan, go to it.

Except when I’m wrestling through a very big trial, and then I appreciate the in-depth, detailed knowledge and insight my Holy Father has into my world. Tiniest details. I can’t grasp a mind big enough to hold the personal data I can’t keep up with myself times the billions of individuals in the world (and that is assuming we are it, for all I know He has dozens or more of these worlds to keep up with).

I am learning the warfare value of memorized scriptures. I can quote my handful of favorites back at the Enemy when he’s trying to do his thing and he goes away. But the arsenal isn’t very big yet. I am reading, voraciously, but memorizing is a time-investment and I will have to work on it the rest of my life.

So right in the middle of my court trial, I had one of the Christian stations on in the background during the night. My brain is so wired, our tv makes great white noise to drown out the screaming so that I can sleep. And then right in the middle of the night, a preacher (Baptist, definitely – it was a wild sermon) was shouting “If God is for you, who can be against you!” at least twenty times. Changing the emphasis…if GOD is for you…if God is FOR you…if God is for YOU…loved it. This is one of the few big guns in my arsenal – Romans 8. I love every word of it.

And earlier that same evening, same channel, different Baptist…the story of Jehosephat. Which I had been led to only a few weeks before in 2 Chronicles. Jehosephat who only had to show up and sing. It’s not your battle, Jehosephat. It’s not my battle either. I had been doubting how much I was supposed to do and then Jehosephat came up again.

I’m amazed at a God who goes to this much trouble to uplift a struggling daughter: ensuring two separate preachers on the one Christian channel I regularly watch would have sermons on, time them when I was awake (one in the middle of the night!), referencing scriptures I would easily recognize and have read during this particular ordeal, and play them on the very night I was agonizing about what I needed to do.

Amazing!

I’m sure I’m not the only believer who enjoyed or needed those words but still, powerful confirmation.

Here is what I learned from this micro-management moment between me and my loving Father God: sometimes I have to fight, but He is always there. I will be given as much reassurance as I need and I should not be so reserved about asking for it. He doesn’t want me to look at them, those I’m fighting. He wants me to look at Him. It will not be a matter of uncertainty, of what do I do now – it will be a matter of I am YOUR GOD and my part is obey Him and praise.

I can do that. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

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Take the Cup Away

This Easter – as Lent ends – I’m learning a couple of new things, as usual, not the easy way.

First of all, I haven’t regretted leaving my old job for one second but…the new job feels a little smaller in some ways even though financially it is a lot better place to be. My title isn’t quite as cute. I’m not sitting around the big table (the big table is smaller, frankly). But the people are a lot nicer and I’m a lot saner even with the mess they hired me to clean up.

So it’s an ego check. My ego is a naughty secret – it’s huge if I let it get that way. I am proud of my PhD – and sometimes that can turn into prideful. I was very proud of my previous leadership role – and that can get prideful if I’m not careful. Vigilant.

There’s not much chance I’m going to get prideful about this job. I have to watch for an attack of the smuggins about my finances and not go crazy, forgetting my stewardship responsibilities. I think after years of lack, I’m probably less susceptible to that type of slippage – which is exactly why I have to be extra careful. The hits will come from places I don’t expect them.

At the same time, I have been listening to family, friends, clergy fretting about Courtroom Drama Part II, starting next week.

This is the same ordeal that I had total certainty and peace about.

Then the clergy told me I needed a lawyer. And my parents. My husband was the only one saying, no, I don’t think you do. You got this. (well, not *me* but it can be handled without the legal help).

So I thought about that old joke – the guy in the flood – police car, row boat and helicopter come to rescue him…he says no he’s waiting for God. He dies, and gets mad at God…God says, I sent you a car, a boat and a helicopter, what do you want?

I wondered if this was my cop car and my boat and I didn’t want to send the helicopter away too.

So we tried, and I prayed, frantically – don’t let this happen if it isn’t what You want. So we met with the lawyer (nice guy, especially for a lawyer), we discussed fees, we made a plan. Then the judge refused to give us the delay we needed to work with his schedule.

So we don’t have a lawyer, and after a week of working on it – I’m going to have advice, help, planning, strategy…but it’s going to be me versus my demons (with my ex husband sitting there).

I was crushed, but not for the reasons one would expect. I didn’t think I needed a lawyer (if God is for us, who can be against us). I felt pretty confident (you will trample upon their high places). I’m trusting in Someone a LOT more powerful than I am (I am your shield, your mighty deliverer).

I was crushed because in the face of this whispering worry, I didn’t stamp my foot and say GO AWAY, we got this. I let them make me concerned. I should not have done that and I repented bitterly and just…crushed. I knew that I had heard from God but if the Bishop is making noises…well, you see the miter and you doubt, or I did.

Lesson learned: I DO have a prophetic gift, however nervous and self-conscious I feel about it right now. God has blessed me with the gift He wants me to have, not one I picked out of a Gift Catalog. This means I hear from Him, and what He tells me, I need to trust. He’s happy to validate it for me (Thank you Lord) because he knows I’m still a little wimpy and unsure of myself and hesitant to trust…yes, I can really do this in Him. By myself, I’m like a pretty unplugged lamp. No shine. No power. Nothing.

But plugged into my Power Source…I shine. It’s not my light. But I shine.

And so I’m polishing up my weapons, feeling a little pressed for time (all I can find are these five rocks), shaking off the armor that was too heavy anyway (I have to do this the way I’ve done it before, like with the bears and the lions). That giant is big and scary and of course I am very nervous – the stakes are my oldest child who I adore, deeply and dearly. And my God knows exactly what that is about…the worry over your child, and the walking out a terrible ordeal. In comparison, my three days will be a lot easier than His. But He knows what I’m dealing with.

I adore this child of mine, and having her future to bargain for is scary because of how much I love this hard-fought child. But so does my God. He has both of us in the palm of his hand, and we are resting there. Selah.

My Lord, I pray that I will be your witness in the courtroom, that the words of my mouth will reflect Who I belong to, not my feelings or thoughts.

My Lord, I pray that You will show Your mighty favor and presence, giving me strength that I do not have, wisdom that I do not have, words that I do not have.

My Lord, I pray that your will prevails, that my family remains intact, and that I can walk out of there having obeyed and pleased my God, who I serve with gladness and singleness of heart.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done. If You will take this cup from me…please do…but if You won’t, I’ll drink it and trust You.

Send your warrior angels, my Lord and my God and we will fight! Who is like us, a people saved by the Lord? Who can stand against us?

Broken

2 Corinthians 4: 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

My husband has damaged his knee. He is hyperactive, and a superb athlete. But he didn’t injure it doing any of the fairly dangerous things he loves to do (rock climb, ski jumps). He injured it moving oh so slowly training our four year old on the ski slopes.

I have the privilege and the pain of watching God court some one He and I both love dearly. My husband grew up poor, so he relies more than he should on his bank accounts.

He grew up lonely, so he is fiercely independent.

He doesn’t trust people easily.

I am watching as our Father deals with him on these things. For several days, all he could do was weep and mope. I have been on the broken end of this courtship more than once and it is painful. I have been carefully ripped limb from limb, only to be put back together better than new. But the breaking part is awful. Everywhere I have had doubts, mistrust, self-reliance, laziness, pride or a host of other sins, I have been broken and sometimes to my shame more than once.

This is where my husband is right now.

Then he realized he could still coach T-ball, albeit on crutches. He can still play drums in the worship team. He can drive.  The list of “can” is much longer than the list of “can’t”.

And I have watched as a joy I recognize is stealing over him. He’s laughing. He expressed trust that God would walk us through our upcoming court case. He just looks stronger.

There are so many wonderful things about him, that I could never explain to a non-believer my mixed feelings at watching this occur. I know the necessity of the breaking process. Clay jars have to have cracks in them, so the light can shine out. I know the absolute need for pruning, breaking, refining, and what it feels like to be the lump of steel in the forge – between the hammer and the fire – turning into a polished lethal blade.

And so I’m watching my husband have the same experience. I hate it for him, on the one hand, but on the other, I know that he will be immeasurably better for the changes this will cause. WE will be immeasurably better.

And so I am waiting, using this as a wonderful opportunity to adore and serve a man who doesn’t usually sit still long enough for me to do much more than feed him.

Peter had to be broken, suffering anguish when he denied his friend and our Messiah three times, before he was bold enough to proclaim the Gospel and receive the Holy Spirit.

Paul had to be broken, starting with blindness but also with jail, injury and pain, so that he would have the inspiration and grace to write and share and preach as he did.

Jesus himself was broken, not by temptation in the desert as we sometimes are, but by nails and a cross, and sometimes we have to share in that broken, damaged, painful state to participate with Him in the life, the glory, the rising again.

 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Adventure Magnet

Yesterday was my last day at a job I have really loved.

Sure, I frequently wished to dispose of a few of my colleagues in an untidy fashion but it has taught me that I can in fact work quite productively with people I’d rather see as lawn ornaments.

I learned I can work side-by-side with handsome thirty-something chaps and realize my husband is the most adorable of all, which would never have happened in my twenties, or marriage number one.

I stretched my brain a  little and my patience a lot.

I learned how to negotiate from the master of negotiation. I think I taught him a little about being less obvious about it. I learned that it is okay to be tough and a girl at the same time. And I got things my way, a lot.

I learned that my transferable skills are not what I thought they were, they are better than that. I learned that most people can’t do what I can do. I learned that the more I respect what they can do, the more they will do with excellence.

It’s not okay to cry at work, so if you cry a lot, it is time to move.

And that is just what I have done. Monday starts a new adventure.

So today I agreed with the Handsome One that I would go skiing (history of some trauma and drama there). I am the lodge-sitter and snack-dispenser and I have chunks of time to read my Bible and talk to people.

Not today.

Today, Handsome, who is an expert ski bunny, fell over the little one and ripped the patootie out of his knee. Badly. Crying badly. Not his usual thing.

So we had a race-car ride to the little dinky mountain village hospital, then another one home to call Doctor friend, and another race to next big town to see orthopedist and another race to get the MRI. I’ve never seen an MRI.

Considering I just learned some new things about my gifts at the women’s retreat (the same one I did nto want to attend), I stayed right beside him and alternated between admiring the HUGE machine and laying on hands. It was awesome and could only have been more awesome if it had not been a family member in the MRI.

My children were uninjured. Blessing number 1.

My husband will be at home (albeit not in ideal circumstances) so my nanny’s hours aren’t a stress source my first week at work. Blessing number 2, although I’d rather have the knee intact.

All the doctors we needed to find were RIGHT there, even Dr. Friend, who never works on Wednesdays and amazingly was in the office on Wednesday and has an orthopedist right down the hall. Blessing number 3, a big one.

We got all the last appointments of the day. Blessing number 4.

Our friends could take our kids. Amazing Proverbs 31 friend FED them and entertained them and returned them here. BIG blessing number 5. What amazing friends we have.

Husband is sleeping under the influence of three Advil and an exhausting day, having fretted about everything he can’t do for the next couple of months. But he is Polish and I have learned Eastern Europeans do that, it is how they process. By Friday, he will be ready to talk about what he CAN do, not fixate on what he can’t. But for now he is sleeping.

I do not have to be up this late, but my mind is at rest. This is the most amazing of all. We were under attack for the court stuff this week, my husband has a major injury, my job situation is changing and I’m…resting. This is possibly the biggest blessing of all.

Selah. My times are in YOUR hands.

Favor

 

“The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, ‘Shout! For the LORD has given you the city!'”
Joshua 6:16 (NIV)

As a child, being the teacher’s pet was a mixed blessing. On the one hand, you would get to do things like run special errands or be given fun projects to work on, but sometimes peers resent children who have their “head above the parapet”. I’ve noticed something similar at work – my managers always appreciate my work, and my peers come to me for help but I see the eye-rolls, oh there she goes again too.

When I was a student, a lot of the recognition I received came from effort: I’d read more books than anyone in my class, or I’d stayed back in recess to help another kid with multiplication. As an employee, while I’m blessed to be employed in a way that uses my natural abilities, it is a similar model, I offer my expertise happily and freely, I work hard, my manager and my peers benefit and I get recognized.

Favor is different. You can’t impress God. We are saved by grace not works, so that none of us turn into Pharisees. I think favor works on a similar model: you get favor because you ask for it, or God thinks you need it – not because you’re a star student.

Favor means that I get to start my new job on their second quarter day, with first quarter benefits – nothing I did allowed me to receive this, it was all about favor. Favor allowed me to delay a notice date until after bonuses were paid! Favor means my pre-employment check got done, even with hard-to-find consulting information and overseas stuff! Favor means I find stuff on sale. Favor means I can walk without fear making decisions, because God will guide me and help me, making sure things turn out how He wants them to. And that is a lot better than I could do, because I will always be surprised. He never is.

Favor means my children are liked by their teachers, learning to be Godly in a time of corrupt culture. Favor means we have enough. I am so blessed by Favor and the most amazing thing of all is that I have done nothing to deserve it.

Gifted and Talented

Gifts aren’t always easy. (not the wrapped kind, the talent kind).

My husband and I have an ongoing discussion. He is an avid drummer, he would play four hours a day if he could but he didn’t even start lessons until he was 17. I started piano lessons age 7, I play whenever the children let me (not often) and that’s okay with me. I refuse to try to compose because I hate sounding musically trite. He composes all the time. I can play just about anything if I practice, or I could at one time, and my teachers all used to pester me about music school. I never felt driven to pursue it – I knew I could play better than most people my age, but it wasn’t a passion. Just a talent. I have others that I was more compelled to develop. My husband continues to hone his skills, and because he can’t stand to rely on other people for the other instrumentation, he’s also taught himself piano, bass and guitar. That’s something more than talent – it borders on obession, if he didn’t have family and a day job. But if I earned enough to pay the bills by myself, I think he might consider it as a day job.

This is the difference between talent (something you are naturally good at, without a lot of work, probably better than many others even if they work and you don’t) versus a gift (something you can’t “not” do).

Gifts aren’t always the performing kind, like some people have the gift of hospitality and their house is always a wonderful place to be. Some people are gifted with business acumen, or at sports.

Some gifts – the spiritual kind – come with real responsibility attached, so they aren’t always easy. I have a friend who is discerning. If you’re not Christian, the natural reaction to hearing this would be, and? But what it means isn’t just that she is wise, sometimes amazingly so, but that she can “read” people with an uncanniness that borders on unsettling. She knows when something is wrong at my house before I call her. Knows, doesn’t sense, think or feel. She can “read” what some one is thinking – about her, for example. Fake smiles and cheery voices doesn’t work on her, she can tell if the other person is upset or, even worse, doesn’t like or want to talk to her. That would be a hard gift. She has tremendous grace with it. I can’t think of anyone who impresses me more.

Her husband is the most patient, generous and long-suffering person I know. THAT is a gift I would struggle with mightily. The ability to tolerate pain (stupidity in others without strangling them, for example), in large quantities, over a long period of time. Wow. I hope he has a HUGE mansion in heaven for all of that. I am not long-suffering, unfortunately I am more likely to be long-bitching. That’s not a gift I need to develop. I’m working on the reverse (the ability to show grace and love to those I’d rather strangle).

The other hard part about a gift at least for instant gratification people like I’m prone to be – they can take decades to develop, or decades to emerge. I could NEVER sing in high school when I’d have liked the cute lead part in the musical. Ohhh no. But now? In church? Sure! Just when I was old enough not to care or get especially prideful, NOW I can hit the Phantom high notes or sing with Cosette. Had I been able to sing like that in high school, I’d probably have become unsufferably vain. Which is probably why I didn’t have the ability then. Or I’d have wasted my other gifts by chasing something stupid for me like Broadway. Which in my case, would have led not only to incurable vanity but probably actor liaisons, anorexia and seriously bad choices. The lack of early gifting was definitely a blessing in disguise.

Now I’m just plagued by a worry that I’m not sufficiently discerning to recognize what I’m supposed to be doing all the time. I am driven to distraction to write (do I have time? Not so much, but I think this is going to change in the future). People talk to me, even if I don’t know them (that has to be a God thing because I live in NY and no one here does that. Except to me). And, I see things.

Not in a creepy Sixth Sense kind of a way, although that is probably what a secular person would call it. In the South we call it fey, and apparently I’ve always been that way. Like my friend’s discernment, sometimes it borders on “ESP” (what a load of tripe). But it isn’t. You sometimes hear Christians calling it the third eye – although I associate that more with one’s spiritual vision and the reason things like the Swimsuit Issue that showed up this week bother us VERY MUCH.

It used to be dreams, and it used to be people I knew. That’s a good starter kit because God knows we humans freak out easily. Phone calls from dead grandparents are strange, but they’re strange in a familiar way. I was tiny the first time I showed this peculiar gift, apparently, asking a neighbor about snakes when her husband had killed their first ever about five minutes before I arrived with my mommy.

As I’ve gotten older and more comfortable and more trusting and more…receptive…the sense has grown, and I’m thankful, even grateful, even excited about what I’m allowed to see. Sometimes it’s a glimpse of heaven, like once I saw the minute after the crucifixion. Jesus gave up his spirit (I didn’t see that part) – I saw angels, holding their breath, waiting and then, suddenly the most beautiful cheering I’ve ever heard and such stomping, dancing, excitement. Wow. I came up to the knee of the one standing near me. I don’t get the sense that time means much in Heaven, because that was a long time ago.

Then another time – in a dream – Jesus came to talk to me and I was hysterically upset. “I haven’t built you any cathedrals, I haven’t done anything, I need to do so much more…” I couldn’t stop crying as he sat by me. But he just smiled and said you are raising children who love me, and that is cathedral enough. How to make a struggling, busy stressed mommy feel a million times better about everything, just like that. Our God is kind and he loves us so much. He knew exactly what I needed to hear.

The last dream I had was hard. I don’t remember what I was doing. Then, suddenly I felt a whoosh like I was caught in a hurricane only it was faster than anything I’ve felt. I looked at the angel beside me and said, my children! He nodded and said, don’t worry, they’re here too. (Why I wasn’t concerned about my husband I don’t know but I was concerned about my small people!). So then my human brain caught up and I realized…this is the rapture and I’m seeing a tiny piece of it.

Methodists don’t really talk about rapture or tribulation or anything after about Acts, usually. I grew up Methodist. Our bishop has touched on end times only rarely. I have studied Revelation, but I don’t pretend to understand all of it. Or even much of it. But I know what rapture is all about, and I know that’s what I saw. And felt. I was rushing up through blue and white and the wind and the air and it was wonderful and the sense of joy I felt – oh my goodness, I don’t have to go through all that awful AntiChrist stuff and NEITHER DO MY BABIES, was amazing. The angel looked at me, and smiled, and then I woke up. What was that all about, God?

I have no idea.

I’m not one of those Christians who dwells on end times thinking. I figure there’s not a lot I can do about it besides make sure myself and my own are ready, if it is in our lifetime. I see the signs like everyone, but with so much of my life – I know I can’t worry about this one either. My God has taken over a lot of things that would usually cause me stress, and this has to be one of them. But wow. If it isn’t now – what an incredible privilige to see just the tiniest piece of it. Already, but not yet – like the vision in Daniel when Christ ascended – already but not yet. I don’t think time means a whole lot in heaven.

It seems like all times are “now”.

The drawbacks to a gift like this are obvious: if I ever walked up to a non-Christian and said, oh I had a great chat with Jesus in my room once, they’d put me right into that “crazy Bible beater Southern” bucket right away. But on the other hand, I’ve always been a little crazy for a belle, haven’t I?

The thing is, a gift is just that – a gift – meant to be used, enjoyed, and shared with others. God grant me the grace and discernment to do that.

Context for Cranky

We’ve now been together for nearly ten years. In June, it will be ten. A whole decade with Handsome.

I remember in the beginning, he stopped emailing me daily once. The first day I didn’t hear from him (understand, he was in NY and I was in London so email was a really BIG DEAL to me), I was mildly curious and didn’t think much of it. Day two, I was concerned – had he bailed? Had a supermodel turned up in his IT department and sat on his lap? Was he mad? Day three, my turn to get angry. Dude, what are you playing at. So I didn’t write him. For a couple of days. Finally, geek boy got a clue and wrote a nice long email.

He is naturally quite a quirky creature, as a lot of technology people are. So he gets grumpy. When we were dating, I would go into a flurry, smoothing anything around him that might be the source of the grumping. This could involve anything from a nice cold beer for Mr. Stress to TUMS for Mr. Tummy Ache to making him cut our date short to get some rest.

Then we shared a home. And the grumping really freaked me out, because now we have context and no easy escape hatch. Cue elaborate dinners, spotless home (hard with a toddler, even harder by the time we had four toddlers). Attempts to iron work shirts.

Somewhere around the time I finally got a ring on my finger – without making any threats or veiled threats or doing anything silly, just my ex finally decided to sign papers he needed to sign – my confidence levels increased. I realized, actually – he’s just grumpy. I probably didn’t do anything to cause it.

For a woman who has lived with domestic violence, this is gigantic and headline-worthy (for the rest of you, probably not such a big deal). Newsflash – if the dinner was slightly less cooked, or the wife was slightly skinnier or the kids were quieter or the house was cleaner, he would PROBABLY STILL FIND SOMETHING TO GRUMP ABOUT. This is just how he is wired. There’s no monthly schedule, there’s no clear statistical relationship between bad day at work: grump, there isn’t even a pattern that 10 years of data will bear out.

There’s just a high strung, high energy dude who hasn’t quite grown up in this area and sometimes, he grumps.

Well, I’m sure he misses the Southern Belle in its un-corrupted state, the one who used to fly into a frenzy of caretaking every time he looked even slightly disgruntled. Lest anyone feel sorry for him – he is not neglected and he is very well groomed, fed and pampered. However, with ten years of grumping data, I know – he just has to deal with it. If his grumping veers into unacceptable ranges, then he gets told – another trick that a domestic violence survivor has to learn despite a lot of trepidation.

I’ve also learned my grumping freaks him out a thousand times more now than it did in the beginning. In fact, my grumping causes the same kind of reaction his used to generate. Not that I’m going to abuse this piece of information, but it is empowering – I grump, he doesn’t leave. I grump, he fixes things. This is good information.

Grumping with context has a totally different meaning and ethos to grumping combined with new. Grumping with some security is just grumping. The lesson for me is that I wouldn’t ever want a girlfriend or a child of mine to be in a relationship where there wasn’t a little grump space – respectful grump space – allocated. No one needs to be on pins and needles as long as I was (and it wasn’t his fault, it was the DV). No one needs to nurse that kind of insecurity. If he keeps you insecure, you leave. That’s not fair. If he lets you grump, and responds with the right kinds of noises, that’s a good sign. If you respond to his grumping with a totally secure, okay what do we need to do here? kind of reaction, that’s a sign you may be in a reasonably adult relationship.

The other huge piece of news in this area is that grumping and rage are not the same thing in normal, healthy men. In abusive men, it’s a trajectory and one leads to the other (quite rapidly). Whatever triggers grumping will (sometimes but not always) trigger rage, and it’s the lack of ability to predict when those dots will connect that makes abuse so damanging. You can’t prevent and you can’t halt.

What that means for women who are single or thinking about getting involved with some one – the line between grump and rage SHOULD be very dark and very thick with clear triggers and none of those triggers should involve you. Period.

Now back to wondering if Mr. Grump got over it before he got to work today, or is he going to be eating his dinner by himself in front of the TV?