Problems are like old shirts (and other insights)

I’ve already established that I lived in my head for many months between being laid off from my job and moving to Alabama. While a lot of my journal entries were chasing after total understanding, obsessing over things that I couldn’t change on my own and just worrying about all sorts of things, there were also some moments of epiphany. Moments of clarity. These happened especially when I took time to slow down and just be quiet. Be still. Not chasing after things or trying to check off all the items on my to-do list. And I thought I’d share a few of those.

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My closet isn’t this bad, but this is the epitome of pushing items to the back of the closet or just trying to squeeze things in, no matter how often these items are used or if they’re even wanted.

Problems are like old shirts

I was praying in the chapel at my church and meditating on life while looking at a stained glass window of St. Claire.

(March 2008) I can’t help but feel that right now my extra longing to enter religious life is just an escape. I’m looking for a way to leave my problems behind but that’s not going to happen. Problems aren’t the same as old shirts or maybe they are. I tend to shove the clothes that don’t fit or I don’t like to the back of my closet. Yet eventually, I have to face them, clean out the closet and confront them.

I need to confront my insecurities and accept my flaws. That’s too big of an undertaking to handle on my own. Lord, I need your divine strength and wisdom to help me accomplish this. Please help me to see myself the way You have created me. I want and need to be able to be thankful for the way You have made me. To trust there is a reason for my characteristics and personality. I know You didn’t make a mistake but please help me to understand and believe that.

I need to offer God my past, my past relationships. Ask Him to heal my memories. Those where I feel inferior to others and my brother. You hide those feelings well. Yeah, a little too well that I can’t even verbalize what’s wrong. I don’t like how restricting language can be sometimes.

But I wasn’t really ready to confront my insecurities and flaws, not enough to change them. There were other things, bigger obstacles to face before being ready for that task. It’s what I’m learning right now, actually. To really get to the heart of the problem, I have to accept where I am, embrace who I am, love myself right now. Because if I can’t love myself as I am at the moment, making external changes aren’t going to suddenly make that different. For me, that’s at the heart of everything.

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Call to obedience

This journaling stint took place after a walk down to a nearby park at a lake in my parents’ neighborhood. I settled down on a park bench and just enjoyed the beauty around me.

(April 2008) I’ve been drawn to a life of service. I feel the most whole when serving other people, volunteering and helping out. … I think I just have a heightened sense of insecurity.

And then some other people showed up, and I watched their interaction. And what I saw really spoke to me, so I described the experience.

A very obedient dog here at Gem Lakes. Little kid told him to stay. He walks from the dog to the pier and throws an orange toy in the water. The dog doesn’t move until the toy hits the water. Then, he dashes to the pier, runs up the length and belly flops in the water to retrieve the toy. Amazing. Doggy paddles to shore and drops the toy at the kid’s feet.

How can I be that obedient? Just follow. Stop questioning and follow. Trust His steps. Just as a little kid will often try following his parents’ bigger footprints in the sand. I need to follow Jesus’ footprints, his example and Mary’s example and Joseph’s example.

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The unassuming caterpillar

And about a week later, I was back at the lake-front park, sitting on a park bench. I was enjoying myself, when I discovered an unexpected guest had joined me.

(April 2008) How does a caterpillar surprise you on your pant leg? He’s not swift. He inches along, gliding on the bench seat, moving in a perfectly straight line and you happen to be in his path. He thinks maybe you’re a giant colored anthill. A mountain that must be passed. No hesitation but, like every thing, one tiny scoot after another.

I jumped when I noticed his furry line across my pants. He seems to stop and look at me, possibly questioning the sudden earthquake, and then continues. My hand reaches to pick him up, but at first he resists. My fingers are not expecting to feel bristles. I try again, stand up holding him in my palm. Tickles. I place him back on the bench. He continues for my book. I move my belongings to the other side of the bench. He continues to the edge then traces the corner and travels to the back rest. Traveling in circles and no complaining. As I leave the park, a butterfly zigzags in front of me. Unable to be captured.

My immediate evaluation of the experience: Even animals and insects have to put up with mundane tasks before reaching some level of freedom and independence.

But there’s so much more in this illustration than simply living through the mundane.

  • There’s holding fast to the path you’re on. Faithfulness. Obedience. It takes many forms.
  • Acknowledging a disturbance without letting it disrupt your journey. Remaining on course.
  • Persevering, even though you may not know exactly where you’re going or you may not be seeing any changes. Trusting. The effort will pay off. It will be worth it.
  • The beautiful transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. Clearly these weren’t the same insects on this day, but what a message to encounter both!
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