I Was Right and I Was Wrong

Last month I wrote a story titled “Getting Out of the Boat….. Again” in which I shared my thoughts about making changes in my life—being willing to take some risks and trying something new. What I did not share was—I already had some ideas in mind—a plan was forming—and I was getting ready to put it into action.

And then…… I had the legs knocked out from under me….. in a deliberate but kind way…..

Long-time readers may recall that two years ago I was headed in the same direction—sitting on my porch—trying to figure out what to do now that I had put my life back together after my broken engagement.

I made the same mistake then that I was making now.

Two years ago, I was making plans and getting the approval of family and friends but ….. hmmmm….. I did not spend any time asking God for guidance. After all, it was simply obvious to me (in spite of a year of chaos) that I was in control of my life. But then, as you may recall, I got a random “not-in-Janet’s-plan” email that led to my job at Cobb County and all “my plans” got shelved.

So much for my being in control.

So thus, I am sure last month God was on His throne shaking His head and saying “Blondie—really?  Really?  You think you are going to make big life decisions and not chat with me about it?  OK Angel Gabriel—get the wheels turning—AGAIN.”

You see, I had decided on some life changes…. and woke up one bright sunny morning in October and was looking forward to putting the plans into action. But, by the end of that very day, I had had several intense conversations with others which gave me pause….. made me question my decisions.

But God was not done with showing me my foolishness. That was merely Step One. He started using both friends and strangers to make His point.

Step Two: One of my dear friends, when I shared with her my thoughts about joining new groups and taking on new adventures, looked me squarely in the eyes and asked, “WHY?”

When you get asked a “why” question and if you are honest…. well, the answer can be a bit painful. The truth was there were two answers.

One: I was still looking for companionship. This March will mark 10 years since my divorce and my husband moved out the year before. With the exception of my 2+ years with the man who became my fiancé for 4 months, I have been single. I am someone who misses the companionship of sharing a meal with someone; lingering over a glass of wine and laughing; holding hands while walking on city streets.

The honest answer—I was hoping if I ran around frantically going from place to place or event to event then I might meet someone.

But there was also another reason….. I fear becoming a boring stodgy person.

I spent 35 years married to a good man but he liked to live in a tightly controlled environment with little noise and little spontaneity. I was not that kind of person at heart but I made myself become someone who could live within those boundaries…. who lived by coloring inside the lines.

But in truth, I am someone who has a tendency to be loud and off the wall in my speech and laugh a lot and not always follow the script. I do not want to return to being the woman I once was—a woman I view as boring and dull—but I want to be totally alive.

So, as I came to grips with the reasons for my quest for new adventures, I began to think that just merely running from place to place and event to event was not the answer….. that perhaps living my life in search of new things—that was certainly important—but not to be the center of my life.

A step in the right direction BUT God was still not done with me….. I had yet to understand what He was trying to say. (I am a slow learner. Good thing He can be patient.)

Step Three was put into place…… over the last 4 weeks, to drill His message into my feeble brain, the floodgates in my life opened…. whether through divine guidance or simply due to the fact that my blinders were off.….who knows why….. but people came, as my mother would say, crawling out of the woodwork.

Over these last 4 weeks, I have found myself having intensely personal and painful conversations with women who had tears in their eyes as I held their hands; have had chats over coffee with a delightful gentleman who is dealing with the death of his wife; had lunch with a lovely lady whose husband died on Thanksgiving day after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease; chatted with Walter, my homeless friend, at our Sunday morning breakfast at St. David’s and had breakfast with some of his homeless buddies; have prayed for others as they have dealt with surgeries and physical pain; have seen changes being made in response to suggestions I have made; the list goes on and on.

I spent 3 days of this Thanksgiving weekend in solitude—reading devotionals and being quiet and trying to listen for God’s guidance.

And what I finally realized is—my new direction does not involve getting out of the boat and walking on water—I have been doing that since March of 2009. I do not need to add anything new to my life but I need to take what I am currently doing and kick it up a notch.

Instead my “new” focus is to reach out to those people who are still in their boats—to offer my hand—to offer encouragement—to offer hope—so they may try to step out and to be there when they do.

And if they fall…..  to lift them up.

Will I meet someone this way? Will I find companionship? Will I become a boring person? Maybe—maybe not. But over these past several days of reflection…. the realization of what I need to do has humbled me…… has brought me to my knees….. and I have put those questions to bed.

Last month I shared my thoughts on the direction I thought I was to take….I was to look for new opportunities and I felt I could not continue to sit safely in my boat and drift quietly along.

I was right and I was wrong.

I was right—I cannot continue to sit quietly in my boat and drift along….I do need to step out of the boat but instead of merely just walking on water by myself—I need to look back and reach out to others and encourage them to join me on this journey of faith – to let them know they are not alone.

I was wrong—I wrote that I need to look for new opportunities. It turns out that the new opportunities were there all the time in front of my face….I did not have to look for them…..they came to me.

I am out of the boat—again—but this time it is not about me and walking on water and what I should be doing.

It is about compassion and love and patience and sharing.

And for you, dear reader, this holiday season, who should you reach out to? And what stops you from doing so?

The answers may be more important than you realize.

jfh

Getting Out of the Boat….. Again

Almost six years ago, on November 16, 2012, I posted a story dear to my heart – “To Walk on Water You Gotta First Get Out of the Boat”—in which I shared a photograph of my mother, my brother, and me taken 58 years ago in Canada. We stopped at a roadside stand selling small wooden boats and purchased 2 of them. In the picture, my mother is holding one of the boats in her hand.

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Getting Rid of the Gunk in My Life

I recently dealt with a skin issue—some dry and peeling skin on my face—and was advised to keep it covered with Aquaphor.

For the clueless, Aquaphor is a healing ointment used to treat/prevent dry rough skin and minor irritations such as diaper rash or skin burns. I dutifully kept the Aquaphor on my face and it lived up to its reputation.

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Walter’s Story—and Being Challenged by a Simple Gesture

My church, St. David’s Episcopal, offers breakfast on Sunday mornings. They recently started a Breakfast Greeter ministry where a member stays in the breakfast area to welcome parishioners and keeps an eye out for new people. If you stood in the room, you would see many tables filled with people laughing and talking.

But if you are new to the breakfast….. it can be daunting to stand in a room full of people while holding a tray in your hand trying to figure out where you should sit… wondering if the persons at the table would welcome you or want to talk to you.

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Love, Defined, in 6 Words

I recently read a quote that has stayed lodged in my heart and will not leave. The quote, by L. R. Knost, is:

“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”

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Why I Entered a Dragon Boat Race

Have you ever been asked a question that stopped you in your tracks? That made you go “Hmmm?”

Last month’s story, The Year of “Hands On” Living, was about my decision to live this year “Hands-On” ….. where I would be willing to make a greater effort to be truly involved with life… not just sitting back and watching …..but to be willing to take chances and make a few messes….. and maybe, in the process, to share my heart with those around me.

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Reflections on a Duct Taped Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

The annual tradition of finding my perfect Charlie Brown (CB) Christmas tree began in 2011 when my granddaughter joined me on this quest.  I had moved into a condo after my divorce and had given away my large tree, so I decided to get a small (aka Charlie Brown) tree. She helped me choose the perfect table top tree.

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