Key fit, knob turned & door opened

When we travel down a dark tunnel long enough, it soon becomes difficult to imagine the light at the end. The same goes for rejection. The more rejection we face, the harder it becomes to picture what success will look like. Over the past six months, I’ve been slowly venturing through the job-hunting tunnel. Every door I approached took the form of an interview, I would use my key (skills and experiences) to unlock it, but the knob wouldn’t budge. The lack of a key (right qualifications) forced me to try another way. Pretty soon the tunnel transformed into an intricate maze – I feared I’d never find my way out.

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I trust in God’s plan, but after being stuck in this tunnel for months, I started to doubt and grew distant from God. I blamed him for not having the right key to access the right door. I doubted my skills and believed no company wanted me. Constant rejection pushed me further from picturing what my life would look like when I received a job offer. I begged God so many times for a new opportunity. I told him I was ready to start working, but he didn’t answer – and I was angry and impatient.

Then a week ago, I received a follow-up email from a local recruiter regarding my resume. She met with me and set up an interview with a telecommunications company. I didn’t get my hopes up. None of my keys had worked, so what was going to be different this time? Like any other interview, I prepped, dressed to impress and showed up on time. The recruiter I’d been working with told me to call after and provide my feedback. Before I had the chance to call her, my phone rang. After rambling on with my positive remarks, she said “Well Amy, I’m glad to hear that because they’ve already contacted us and want to make you an offer.”

Dear Lord, thank you for the assurance that when one door of opportunity closes, you will open a bigger and better door for me. Teach me to trust in you more deeply and lean not on my own understanding. Amen

It’d been less than an hour since my interview ended – how could they have already made an offer? I expressed my disbelief and she replied, “They were looking to be wowed, and you wowed them.” I could feel the light’s warmth because I’d made it to the tunnel’s end. The key fit, the knob turned and the door opened.

That night after the excitement settled, I knelt down by my bed and opened in prayer. I thanked God for this incredible opportunity and apologized for doubting him. This position was everything I’d been looking for from the start: local company, great pay, collaborative team setting, creative department, writing-based position and so on. Every failed door hadn’t been a 100% fit – and even though I didn’t see it, God did. He knew what I deserved and followed through.

Reexamine, reflect & resolve

Relationships are not rainbows. They are not covered in hot fudge and maraschino cherries basking in beautiful sunlight. Relationships are hard. They involve compromise, active listening, understanding and forgiveness. Even though the first few months are simple, you’d be a fool to think it’ll always be that way. There will be speed bumps and misunderstandings that lead to rough patches. There will be times you want to shake your partner and tell them how stupid they’re being. There will be moments you’re fighting to win instead of fighting for the relationship, and there will be times you want to give up. These are the moments you need to reexamine, reflect and resolve.

“Relationships include: fights, jealousy, arguments, faith, tears, disagreements, but a real relationship fights through all that with love.” 

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Reexamine: Think about all the issues. All the reasons you’ve fought. Now dig deeper. What were you hoping to achieve during these fights? When tempers were raging, did you say something hurtful you didn’t mean to say? What was your motive? What did you want? Were you not being heard or were you not listening to your partner? When reexamining the issues, it’s important to cast your ego aside and look at things from a neutral perspective. Only then can you see the core of the problem.

Reflect: This is the time to bring God into the process. Pray for guidance, pray for him to open your heart to his wisdom, and pray for change. A change to learn how to fight fairly. A change to listen first and respond second. Finally, a change to connect more deeply with your partner through God’s love. By casting aside your ego and praying for God to open your heart, you’re making room for these changes to occur.

Resolve: When you have time to go through the first two stages separately, the conversation you have during the resolve stage will be more fruitful and insightful. One issue at a time, the rough patch will be smoothed over with understanding, forgiveness and love. Selfishness is brought into the light and destroyed with selflessness. You find a new appreciation for each other through God, and plan a new way to communicate and handle future speed bumps. This time the fight will be fair with a new goal: maintaining the relationship’s equilibrium.

Going the distance with God’s help

As long as I’ve known my Dad, he’s been an avid runner. From light jogs around our neighborhood to hardcore marathon training, he’s stayed committed to running. He’s a member of the Olathe Run Club and has participated in 4+ marathons. Needless to say, his legs are the most muscular part of his body. Running is his ideal form of exercise. It gives his mind a chance to relax and shifts his focus to the sound of his shoes hitting the pavement. Unfortunately, as the body ages certain parts do not take kindly to the strain of running.

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Over the last couple months, my dad has been training for his next marathon. For those who don’t know, marathon training is insane. You can’t just wake up the morning of and decide to run 26.2 miles. You have to condition your body and build up the endurance to run nonstop for 2-4 hours. My dad told me that his favorite part of a marathon is the atmosphere and camaraderie. He loves the cheering from onlookers and being in the presence of hundreds of runners. After training for so long, you can only imagine his disappointment when he started battling crippling back and foot pain. The pain has gotten so intense he fears he may not be able to run on Saturday.

This was devastating news. It sparked feelings of frustration, anger and resignation. He tried to ease his pain by sleeping on the floor, stretching more, alternating ice and heat, and visiting the chiropractor. When I heard him say he needs a miracle, I knew I needed some backup. I texted several friends to form a prayer army for him. My dad thinks praying for this kind of thing is silly when there are so many other superior intentions. I said, “Dad, if this is important to you, it’s important to God.”

Lord please send my dad a new source of comfort, strength and healing for the marathon on Saturday. He loves to run, and he cannot conquer this challenge without your help. Please send extra blessings his way. Amen.  

During a visit this morning, his chiropractor instructed him not to do anything until a follow-up visit tomorrow. He will be making his final decision based on how he feels after resting today and tomorrow. Luckily if he doesn’t feel up for it, he can defer his participation to next year’s marathon and not lose out on the money he spent on this year’s marathon – thanks to the race director’s approval.

Easter with a surprise twist

“He is not here for HE IS RISEN as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” – Matthew 28:6

This morning I woke up with a smile on my face and a light in my heart because Jesus rose from the dead. After scarfing down two cinnamon rolls, I donned a colorful dress and piled into a car with my family for 10 a.m. Mass knowing full-well it was 9:15 a.m. and we only lived 10 minutes away. We expected Mass to be packed in order to accommodate the “Cafeteria Catholics” – those who only attend Mass on major religious holidays.

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As we crossed the vestibule, my heart soared as I caught a glimpse of the altar. On Good Friday, the altar was stripped of everything – candles and foliage. Today, the altar was flooded with white lilies. I was excited to be there with my family, and then I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and saw my ex’s mother (the one I dated for almost five years). Seeing her was not a surprise since I often saw her on Sundays. The surprise was her response to my comment, “I thought you’d be in Nashville for Easter.” My ex had been living in Nashville for the last 4+ years. Her response was quick, “He’s here today.” All at once my mind began spinning. He was here? I asked her to clarify, “He’s here at Mass with you?” She answered, “Not yet, he and his girlfriend should be here shortly.”

This would be our first time seeing each other since our breakup two years before.  My breathing grew ragged as we walked toward the pews. “Well tell him I would love to say hi and meet his girlfriend.” I shuddered at the words my mouth decided to spew. I didn’t want to meet his girlfriend nor did I want to speak to him. I didn’t have anything against them, I just knew it would be weird.

I went and collapsed next to my mom. I still could not believe what I’d said. I knew the minute he arrived, his mom would regurgitate my exact words. The church continued to fill as we sang the opening song. Easter Mass is one of my favorite services because of the music, homily and joy. The choir’s sound was full and beautiful; the homily was insightful and inspiring; and joy was bursting from my heart. My anxiety didn’t return until the final hymn concluded and everyone started leaving. I had to make a decision. Talk to my ex and meet his new girlfriend? Or run?

My family and I waited out the crowds by remaining in our pew for a few minutes. I followed my family to the vestibule for a family photo. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his mother point me out, but I pretended I didn’t see. After our family photo I scanned the vestibule to see if they were lurking around. No confirmed sighting prompted me to head to the parking lot. I felt a strange knot in my stomach. It was a mixture of relief and regret. I was relieved I’d avoided an awkward situation, but regretted not speaking to him. What would he have said? What would I have said? Would we have hugged or shaken hands? What would his girlfriend have acted like? All of these questions would go unanswered because of my choice: avoidance.

Grateful for God’s artistic hand

Holy Week started yesterday, and on Sunday we will celebrate the end of Lent with Christ’s resurrection. Today I watched the 36th video of my Lenten journey with Dynamic Catholic. The video, Blessed and Grateful, was about counting our blessings  when we’re feeling down. By counting our blessings, we’re inviting positivity back into our point of view. We’re reminding ourselves to focus on the good that outweighs suffering.

“When I get discouraged or when I get down, the thing I’ve found that works—and works every time, and works the best, and works the fastest—is gratitude.” – Matthew Kelly

Every time I sit down to pray, the first thing I say is, “Dear Lord, thank you for all the blessings in my life.” I have led a very blessed life filled with family, friends, countless opportunities, essentials (food, water, shelter, clothing, etc.), a strong faith life and a functional body, mind and spirit. I’m grateful for the protection my guardian angel provides me and the unconditional love God gives when I’m feeling alone. It’s hard to focus on what’s making your life tough when you start thinking about the things that make your life wonderful.

Over the past week, I’ve had two experiences with nature. I’m not a professional photographer, but I enjoy capturing nature’s beauty. My favorite photos involve sunsets or interesting cloud activity. However, this week I focused on ground-level subjects. The first batch was taken during a walk. I was having a terrible day, so I decided to take a walk to clear my head. I ventured to the woods near my house, and here is what I saw.

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Yesterday my sister needed to go to Mill Creek Park in Shawnee for her Environmental Science class. While she was working, I walked a shady trail along the creek. I couldn’t believe how serene and beautiful everything was. The recent rain transformed the bushes, grass and produced small flowers. I knew I couldn’t leave without snapping a few photos.

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As I look at these photos, I can name one more blessing – God’s artistic talent. He paints breathtaking sunsets, colorful flowers, soft grasses and flowing streams. He never stops surprising us with endless sources of wonder.

Work hard. Results will come.

We control our lives. We control the time we get up in the morning, the food we eat, the friends we have, and our lifestyle. For most, lifestyle is simple: sedentary or active. When I was a kid I had a high metabolism. I could eat whatever I wanted, and my thin body remained the same. Of course, high metabolism doesn’t last forever. During my last year of college, my lifestyle shifted to sedentary. I was eating out, snacking at night, drinking, not exercising and sitting on my butt, stressed out night after night. I maintained a 4.0 GPA, but failed to control my weight. In that year I put on nearly 30 pounds. My mom told me she hardly recognized me when I moved back home in May. These words, though tough to hear, were true – I’d lost control.

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Things took a turn for the worst after a doctor’s visit. I found out my cholesterol was high and that I was pre-diabetic. Things needed to change. In December, my dad surprised my mom with a gym membership to a new place less than a mile away. In January, the gym offered a huge membership discount. For support, my mom said she’s pay for half of my membership.

As a new member I started going several times a week. The fitness loft was clean with brand new equipment. I quickly found a workout routine I enjoyed. I’ve been going for over three months now, and I’m hooked! I’m not at my goal weight, but I’m down several pounds. I can see a difference when I stand in front of my full-length mirror – Even my boyfriend comments on my slimmer figure when he hugs me.

“Fitness is not about being better than someone else… It’s about being better than you used to be.”

I wish I hadn’t let things get so out of control during college, but I can’t change the past. I learned my lesson. I no longer have a high metabolism, so I need to pay attention to how I treat my body. I’ve also learned that results aren’t immediate. The most frustrating part about working out is waiting for your results, and I think that’s why people don’t follow through. Whether I’m on the elliptical machine, walking the track, lifting weights, doing crunches or wiping sweat off my forehead, I feel empowered. Even though there may be people there in better shape than me, I’m focused on my progress, which is the way it should be.

Celebrating a beautiful life

Last night after 9 p.m., my mom received a call. The call informed us that my Oma passed away. She’d spent over three weeks in hospice after a brain cancer diagnosis.  Before this diagnosis, she suffered two strokes, three UTIs, three cases of pneumonia and multiple seizures. The past 11 months put our family through considerable suffering. Even though she’s been with us physically, we lost a big part of her in April when the strokes robbed her of the ability to speak. You will never appreciate someone’s voice until they can no longer talk to you.

We knew back in April this outcome was inevitable, but the news of her death still affected us. Mom contacted Dad at work, and I went to tell my sister. I remember seeing her face change when she saw my watery eyes and tear-stained cheeks. I held her in my arms and reassured her that Oma was in a better place – no more pain, suffering or poor quality of life. She had a front seat in Heaven where she’ll continue to watch over us for the rest of our lives.

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Before her life ended, we started thinking about her funeral. Now that she’s on her way to be cremated, plans are fast-tracked. I created photo boards and a slideshow to display parts of her life. Flipping through her photo albums gave me a deeper appreciation for the woman I aspire to be. She had qualities that set her a part from others, but one trait shined to the very end: her strength. She was a fighter. She fought to stay with us for as long as she could. She defied the odds when she lasted 25 days in hospice. Even the nurses were amazed. In my mind, she wasn’t fighting for her life, she was fighting to stay with people she loved.

What’s been comforting during this time is prayer. Last night before bed, I knelt next to my bed and said:

Dear Lord, thank you for ending my Oma’s suffering by welcoming her into your eternal embrace. Please reign down on our family with your unending consolation, love and strength. Wrap your arms around us and soak us in your grace. Make it clear to each member of our family that life will continue and that the pain in our hearts will heal over time. Lord I do not blame you for I know that everything you do is for a reason. Please bring our family closer together during this time of sorrow as we mourn the loss of a loved one. In your glorious name I pray. Amen.