Tag Archives: transformation

Becoming who I am meant to be

My word for the year is trust, and I have been weaving that word into my prayer and meditation.

I desire to grow in trust, and I have issues with trusting.

It is a conundrum. I want to trust, and I am afraid to trust.

As I considered Lent and where God may be inviting me to grow in trust, this question came to me: Am I limiting God by holding onto what feels safe?

I know that trust involves a great deal of letting go, but this question presented my lack of trust and my fear of letting go in a different way. This question involves how God acts through me.

When my friend Jim had brain cancer, we spent a good deal of time at the New Jersey shore. Jim would look out at the ocean and say, “Look how big our God is.” And then he would add, “Think big thoughts.”

Looking out over the ocean, it is easy to see vastness and openness. It is easy to imagine a God big enough to create not only the ocean but the sky above. It is easy to think big thoughts.

But I don’t live by the ocean, and my outside horizon is limited by houses and trees.

Here, it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, the sameness of life, the smallness of life. Here it is easy to fall back into old beliefs about my inadequacies and to narrow my worldview.

I have tried to pay attention to when I am limiting my vision, when I am living and acting out of fear instead of trust, when I am living small instead of living large.

And in that awareness, I can see how often I choose to stick with what has been, rather than to risk something new; to cling to old habits and beliefs that feel safe in their familiarity, rather than let go of the old to make room for something new.

My Lenten question reminds me that when I live out of a small place, a place of fear or stinginess, I am not just limiting myself, but limiting how God interacts in my world.

I am continually tempted to play it safe, to stick with what is familiar—and God keeps inviting me to live larger, to step outside of what is known and familiar. God invites me into the great unknown. How scary that can be!

Trust me, God says. I know the plans I have for you (Jeremiah 29:11).

Again and again, I am invited to shed what has held me back and to become who I am meant to be.

Am I limiting God by holding onto what feels safe? The answer is yes. The follow-up question is, what needs to change so I can move from fear to trust?

Are you thinking big thoughts? Living large? Or do your fears hold you back? What keeps you from becoming the person you were created to be?

Act on generous impulses

Someone recently posed a question about unreciprocated generosity—should she continue to give to her friends when her giving is not reciprocated?

It is a question I have heard before, along with its sister question, “why am I always the one to initiate plans with friends?”

I once had a housemate who had a reputation for being messy. Her previous housemates warned me against living with her, using “never” and “always” to describe her lack of housekeeping skills (she “never” cleans up after herself; she “always” leaves a mess, etc.). But I ignored their counsel.

My housemate and I agreed to alternate cleaning the common living spaces—I would do it one week and she the next.

It soon became apparent, though, that my housemate was not going to live up to her side of the agreement. After a month or so, I had to decide if I was going to keep being disappointed because she was not fulfilling her part of the agreement or if I was going to adjust my expectations.

Adjusting my expectations seemed more doable and healthier for me, because my unmet expectations were making me resentful.

I accepted that our apartment would get cleaned every other week, and my housemate and I then lived together in relative peace. Yes, she was off the hook for cleaning, but she was not going to do it anyway. (By the way, she thought my suggestion that the apartment get cleaned every week was an indication that I was a compulsive neat freak.)

That situation was an early lesson for me in living the serenity prayer.

God-joy-serenity

Changing other people is impossible; I can only change myself and my expectations.

Being generous because one is a generous person is its own reward. Expecting the recipient of one’s generosity to reciprocate can lead to disappoint and resentment. There are, of course, times when another’s behavior is abusive and one needs to walk away, but I am not talking about that.

I am talking about the kind of expectations we have in daily life, like unreciprocated generosity.

It can be frustrating when friends seem to enjoy being on the receiving end of another’s generosity or participating in what others plan, with no intention of reciprocating.

The question is, are you happier when you are being generous? Or engaging in social activities? Do you need to get together with friends more than they do? If you get joy from giving and planning, then keep giving and planning because you will be happier for it.

To the person who posed the question about unrequited generosity, I suggested she give to her friends as she would to a homeless person on the street—with no expectation of getting anything in return.

If it is your nature to initiate and plan, do that. If it is your nature to be generous, then be generous for the sake of being generous. The world needs more people who act on their generous impulses.

Immerse yourself in love

How big is my God? How loving? Forgiving?

Accepting of me and my many faults?

How small am I? In loving? Forgiving? Accepting?

The empty shells sit at the water’s edge, beyond the reach of the waves, feeling safe.

I can stay there, nursing my brokenness or

I can swim out and join the dolphins, dancing in the water beyond the surf.

Jump in, the vast ocean invites me.

Immerse yourself in love.

The invitation

From the edge of a wetlands,

I watched an oriole fly across the tops of dried reeds and then

come to rest on an open pod that had let it seeds be carried away by the wind.                                                                                         

The oriole surveys his world from above.

At my feet, new growth breaks through the marsh and

will soon overtake the dead stalks.

Has the oriole noticed the tiny green shoots so far below?

Look beyond what first catches your attention.

See what is breaking through.

Something new is waiting to be noticed.

poetry-hope-vulnerability

Transform me

Transform in me,

judgmentalism into compassion,

insecurity into confidence,

fear into trust and

anger into acceptance.

Then I will be free to

love unconditionally,

forgive without limit and

let go of all that holds me back.

Or is it that if I love unconditionally,

forgive without limit and

let go of all that holds me back,

judgmentalism will be transformed into compassion,

insecurity into confidence,

fear into trust and

anger into acceptance?

Developing new habits

“Stop apologizing,” a friend said to me.

“It is a bad habit,” I replied.

She is reading a book about over-apologizing and trying to change her own habit; I am caught in her new-found awareness.

I am grateful for her insight, though, because it is helping to develop my own awareness. When I am with her now, I swallow every “I’m sorry” that attempts to escape my lips.

But, why do I apologize for things over which I have no control?

Bad weather? I’m sorry.

Bad hair day? I’m sorry.

You didn’t see my text? I’m sorry.       

Trouble with your car? I’m sorry.

The store was out of your favorite whatever? I’m sorry.

On and on it goes. At first, I had thought to count the number of times I apologize in a day, but it quickly became apparent that the number was just too many.

So why do I apologize?

I don’t really feel responsible for the weather or car trouble or most of the other inconveniences of life. I know I am not that powerful that I can control any of it.

In the bigger scheme of habits, this one may seem inconsequential, but I am beginning to see how my over-apologizing is connected to my self-image.

I grew up feeling invisible and believing that being invisible was the best I could be. If someone saw me—if I became visible—that was a bad thing, as if I was the inconvenience and I needed to apologize for being a bother. It was as if my very presence was the problem.

Therapy helped me understand the flaws in this belief system. But changing the habits I developed during those early years has taken a lifetime, and obviously, I still have a way to go.

What I need is another way to express my concern that something bad has happened or that someone has been troubled in some way—without taking responsibility for what has happened. I need to develop a new habit that expresses empathy or sympathy.

I hadn’t anticipated this as a New Year’s resolution, but it is the gift that has come to me, and I will try to honor it.

What habits are you trying to change?