Change Posts

I’m Not Needed

I’m Not Needed

Wanted, yes. Valued, definitely. But am I needed?

In 1999 I was busy. Active in my community, working, volunteering, and given the stress I often felt, integral to much of it.

Ah yes. Stress. How would I get it all done? Who was going to help? Couldn’t someone else step up for a change? If I didn’t manage the task, what a mess we’d have. My multiple commitments were at times heavy. At times I desired release. But who would do it if I didn’t?

Then the calendar turned. May 24, 1999. The phone call. Our daughter. In an accident. Catastrophic injury. Intensive Care. Life-long disability. Rehabilitation.

24321290_665ceba5be_nIn a heartbeat, I leapt off my Carousel-of-Busy-ness and was dragged into a Medical-House-of-Horror.

4107321232_fa168c6e39_nI couldn’t keep a leg in both places. After a few sad efforts, I dropped my commitments like discarded candy wrappers and immersed myself in what would become our family’s new normal.

Life eventually settled down. A day came when I went back and visited my land of Busy-ness. What ill effects had occurred when I made my unexpected exit, dropping responsibilities and commitments in my wake?

Ill effects? Not a lot. The committees and organizations were still happily humming along. People had filled the gaps I left, and with just a few ripples.

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I’m not sure if that was good or not.

It did impress me, though. We are not the centre of anything. We are valued parts, but not pivotal. God will always catch up any loose threads we leave accidentally, on purpose, or because he’s pulled us out. If something is in his plan, he’ll attend to it, with or without us.

For me, it was an object lesson in wearing the yoke with Jesus. If I can’t pull or carry the weight, he can, he will. I do not need to stress about anything!

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

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Foot Binding and Change

I watched a documentary on foot binding in China — a fascinating practice. Apparently it was the introduction of missionaries into the country that began the end of this mutilation.

In China, when the tide shifted, a generation of young girls had been bound by well meaning mothers so they’d be marriageable. No longer politically correct, eligible men rebuffed these girls. More than that, foot-bound wives and mothers were cast aside by husbands, embarrassed to be identified with this now unacceptable tradition.

When common practice changes drastically, a generation will be caught in the middle and suffer through no fault of their own. Those in the midst must reinvent themselves or risk being discarded.

Foot binding was obvious, overt. The transition was devastating for one generation. Then it ended.

Today change is no longer a one-generation event. Occurring faster than any ordinary citizen can run, technology permeates every aspect of our Western society, and upgrades have become the new superhero.

Access to information is as bound in the digital realm as Chinese women’s feet were bound in miniature shoes. Unable to squeeze ourselves in, many in my generation are being left by the wayside. Today I tried to download some podcasts to my MP3, a skill I figured out a few years ago. But the  iTunes site has changed. The process is different. I don’t understand the new icons.

I can’t do it.

I can live without podcasts, but how long will it be until I can’t find what I do need to know to function in today’s world?
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Change has become a moving target, as enticing and elusive as a butterfly.

With foot binding, once that generation died off, a new status quo was established. Our change isn’t going to stop, though, is it?

As individuals, as organizations, as consumers and voters, do we let this monster morph and grow, so every year sees an increase in human castoffs? Or can we somehow grab the reins and slow this buggy down?

I don’t have an answer yet. Do you?

 

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How much do we really need?

Three meals a day, and a bed time snack.

But prisoners and refugees know you can get away with practically no food at all and still live.

Eight hours of sleep a night is optimum.

Shift workers, emergency workers, new moms and caregivers will tell you you can function with much less.

Although I don’t like to hear that about long-haul drivers.

Twelve years of schooling if you’re going to be successful.

Lots of stories tell of self-made men and women who dropped out earlier.

Some are ashamed to admit it, for others its a flag of achievement.

A full course of antibiotics to squelch the power of bacteria.

Yet many quit the meds as soon as they feel better, and they’re still around, walking and breathing.

A living room, a kitchen, a bedroom for each, and these days a bonus room, garage, and family room.

But in the same city, ten in a flop-house, one on a heating grate, two under a blanket and a piece of cardboard.

Shelter of any kind is enough to stay alive.

 

Enough. How much is enough?

I know how much I want.

I know how much I manage with.

But do I ever consider how little I really need?

What would my life be like if I tried to live that way?

Would I have a surplus? Would my stress go down? Could I be more generous?

Or would I get grumpy? Would I hoard my surplus? Would I get self-righteous?

 

I’m not sure I want to have to know, but perhaps it’s a thought to try on for size, just in case.

 

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4 Steps to Managing Crisis

Chronic crisis takes a toll. Be it one unrelenting circumstance, or a few overlapping issues, emotions begin to reign. Turmoil feels normal.  Supports may drop away as friends and family lose sight of our ongoing struggle.

During my first experience with a lengthy crisis I existed in a state of hypervigilance for almost two years. Helpless to control my circumstance, I did little that was thoughtful or planned. I felt like a victim. This mindset only served to increase my struggle. It was not a happy time for me or those around me.

A few years after the first circumstance stabilized, the good Lord allowed me a second opportunity. Could I manage chronic crisis in a different way? This time I sought some purposeful strategies. Gradually, four daily steps emerged.

1. Make a list of what’s working. (This reminded me that progress was occurring. During times of crisis, it’s easy to miss that fact.)

2. List all the issues hanging over my head. (A long list!)

3. Highlight those which are in my control. (A much shorter list.)

4. Of those highlighted, identify the priorities for that day, based on:

  • What has to be addressed?
  • What do I have the energy to address?
  • Is this a day I can take a break from managing the crisis?

That’s it. At the end of four steps I had a plan of action for the day. One day. This day. Nothing more.

Remaining items were noted, so as not to be forgotten. They usually waited for another day, and miraculously, many dropped off the list of their own accord with no effort on my part.

Now it became a battle of the mind. I had to take every  random thought captive, separate it from clinging emotions, and decide if it was worthy of attention or not. Most of the time, it wasn’t.

At first, it wasn’t easy. Emotions wanted control. I had to constantly remind myself that panic does not change the situation. Worry doesn’t cause others to manage their part. Fretting doesn’t solve a situation not yet positioned for resolution.

With practice, I’ve learned I can be at peace in the midst of chronic crisis. I can rest in between addressing needs. I can enjoy life while I wait for the situation to resolve or stabilize. As the Beatles once wrote, “It’s getting better all the time…”

What strategies do you use to manage crisis?

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The Five Year Test

“Will this matter five years from now?”

Here’s a different spin.

“Five years from now, what story will I tell?”

  • Did I hold to my values and beliefs, or did I compromise under pressure?
  • Will I tell no story at all because I’m ashamed of how I behaved?
  • Did I put people ahead of things, or did things take precedence?
  • Were my actions based on trust, love and forgiveness, or fear, greed and revenge?
  • Was my role reasonable, careful, and thoughtful, or was I selfish, a martyr, or head-in-the-sand?
  • Will I be tempted to re-write or hide some of the story?
  • Will I regret knee-jerk reactions, or will I tell of thoughtful, intelligent decisions based on reality and resources?
  • Will my story be about how terrible life was, or how I went deeper and found God at a new level?
  • Will I be steeped in misery and sorrow, or be able to comfort others with the comfort that was given to and accepted by me?

Today I’m living the story I will tell five years from now. What will that story be?

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