Whining isn't cool!

Hi there! Long time no see, Friends! I want to talk about doubt and being afraid. Lots of stuff is in my world right now and I have been praying like crazy. It has been rough but I know God has plans for me. It is hard to remember that it isn’t always flowers and roses! I have kind of glimpsed at a piece of my future story and it is good. I want to hope and it seems like it is going to happen but I have to be honest, I am afraid to hope. I feel like God has always been there for me but I have had to figure it out by myself for a little while before he swooped in and fixed it. I have not been faithful and let God handle things because I didn’t really trust that He could do it for me. You know, the guy who made the whole Earth and all the creatures in it. The guy who has written the story of me and everyone I have ever met. Yea, that guy. Ok, tell me why I am wrong!

I also find myself thinking that so much bad has happened to me that I DESERVE for something good to happen. Um, Amanda–you DESERVE nothing. Who are you–Jeramiah?! You deserve to know and feel that God has you in his arms. You DESERVE to know that what ever happens, good or bad, God has planned it and is using it to better my life and my existence. Other than that, you don’t DESERVE anything.

Pastor Darren talked about how your life should have changed by being a follower of Jesus. He said that if your life didn’t change after you decided to follow Jesus then you didn’t really change. Well Duh! Except that it made perfect sense. It is one of those things that I should just KNOW, but like the warning on a cup of coffee that it is hot and will burn you if you spill it, it just isn’t as obvious.

I remember the moment I gave my life to Jesus for real. I had always been a Christian in name but not always in my heart. I had quit my full time job and put all my hope into the business I had started as a professional Pet Sitter. It was going well but then January came and so did all the bills. I needed to buy pet sitter’s insurance. I had to pay for my memberships to two different trade organizations. Not to mention everything else that goes along with starting a new business. It would all be okay, though–I had a decent tax refund and a big pet sitting job coming up so I would be all set. However I didn’t get that refund. And the big job canceled because someone was sick so I couldn’t in good faith even charge them the cancellation fee that I usually required. I borrowed money from everyone I know to pay for it all. I hustled to pick up jobs and I did everything I could think of. Except the one thing I should have done–prayed. After like 5 weeks of waiting for the check that never came, I finally broke down. I was crying in the shower because I didn’t want anyone to hear me (sign of weakness?!) and I told God that I get it finally. I told God that I give up and that I would give him control. I thanked Him for the opportunities I have been given. I felt drained and weak…but strangely peaceful. By giving up all my worries and fears, I was free to remember why I quit my full time job and why I was passionate about my new adventure. Even though the money wasn’t there I was still peaceful. It was weird. And a funny thing happened–the check I had been waiting for came the next day.

I had already “gotten it” with God but I still thank him every day. I definitely falter in my belief when things get really tough in my little world. (See above!) Ultimately, though, I will never forget how peaceful and confident I felt after that day in the shower. I guess I just have to remember to thank God and just know that He knows what the future holds. And keep praying!

I don't deserve this…or do I?

I have taken a new position at work. I was actually pretty insecure and nervous about it. Although it is what I really want to do, it is SCARY since I am officially in charge of the cat rooms now. I mean, the Director knew I can handle it. She knew it would be okay even if I didn’t…she is so smart that way!

Have I mentioned how much I thank God for my job? I applied for the job and had the gall to tell the person I was applying to that I could not work the hours they had posted. I must be honest, I was not actually expecting her to offer me the job. The job fell into my lap TOO EASY. I mean, God is not THAT good to me! I prayed for this job and it just appeared for me. Seriously. I had not even applied anywhere yet! So I made it harder for God to make it work for me. And blast it, HE WAS NOT DETERRED!

I gave her alternate hours that would work for me and somehow they worked for her, too. Voila–God wanted it to work for me and it did. I have gotten a few different raises and added jobs here and there since then. Seriously–I keep trying to think of ways that this job is not PERFECT for me but I just can’t do it.

Recently, I lost a big account in my pet sitting company. I was worried about money, although I do try to give it to God when I start to spiral about it! Anyway, The Director offered me another job. (The job I referenced above actually) It came with a big raise that will cover the money I lost. I am working a bunch more, but it is okay because I don’t feel like I am working! And honestly, I KNOW I am the perfect person for this job. Thank you God for that as well!

Anyway, the point of my post is to say that I have tried in every way to say that I will mess up this job but God is not ready for that to happen. Isn’t it funny how when He decides it is right for me it is right?!

Giving the pen back to God

Something happened today that changed the way I am thinking about my life. The mailman knows my name. I am sure you are thinking, “so what”, right? It IS a big deal though. It is another sign from my God to remind me that there are plenty of options out there for me. Let me explain.

There are a few men I have been spending time with lately. None of them are perfect for me. They each have something that make them special to me but it doesn’t outweigh the thing (or things) that make them utterly wrong for me.

I have this need to make them perfect though. This need for companionship and the comfort of having someone to love. I am SURE that one of them is going to fill my need. I talked to my former Pastor about it and said that there was something that just wasn’t right. His response was maybe it was the Holy Spirit talking to me. I have to be honest, I brushed him off on that comment. Although I heard it and keep hearing it whenever something doesn’t “fit”, I was willfully ignoring it.

Then today I ran into the mailman getting out of his truck. He was getting a package out of the back and I kind of waited to see if it was for me. I haven’t ordered anything lately but the excitement of getting a package is irresistible, you know?! When I saw that it was a box from Target I knew it wasn’t for me. The mailman saw my face and said Nope, not for you. I get it, getting that last package is a thrill. I told him I hadn’t even ordered anything lately but still. And he said, “I did deliver a parcel to number 3 yesterday, so there is that…” The thing is, I never told him what apartment I lived in. So he knew who I was!

At first I was happy that I have lived somewhere long enough that the mailman knows me. There are so many ways that Westbrook has become home for me, that this apartment is like my Bat Cave–my secret paradise where I can be myself and there is no one here to judge me. Having the mailman know who I am was just one more way that I am where I belong.

Except the longer I think about it, the more I think that there is a completely different meaning behind the mailman knowing me. I think it is a message from God, actually. It is a message to remind me that I am worth more than just settling for someone who isn’t my version of perfect. A message to remind me that I am memorable and that God’s perfect match for me may still be out there. A message to remind me that I am trying too hard to make things work in my favor…I am trying to make things work when they just aren’t right right now.

I am not saying that one of these men isn’t going to be “the one.” But (as usual) I need to stop trying to take the pen away from the author of my story and make the ending work MY way. If that is how it is meant to me, He will write that into existence. If not, He will write that as well. Either way, I have to have faith that God has a plan and my job is to just wait for him to tell me. Message received, Father!

Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.”

My Retractable Key Chain

Happy Thanksgiving! This one is bittersweet for me. Although I miss my Beloved and everything I did today made me think of past years when he was well; it is also gloriously the last holiday I have to share alone for the first time. I will still be alone next year but it will be my new version of normal and not the “Poor Girl Who Lost Her Husband’s” Thanksgiving.

Yesterday marked a year that he has been gone. A day I had been dreading since he passed last year. A year that all I could see ahead of me was depression and sadness. A day marking the end of a year I was pretty sure I was not going to survive. But God has plans for me.

God knew I would survive and thrive during this year of uncomfortable pain. He gave me tools–like the realization that I had been checking the temperature of the room and adjusting myself to make everyone else comfortable. I didn’t even occur to me that someone else should be adjusting the room to meet MY needs.

When I was doubting my purpose he gave me a job that makes me feel empowered and strong. A job that reminded me of why I got into animal care in the first place when I was doubting if it is what I wanted to do. A job where I am surrounded by love and understanding, even when I am having one of my crazy episodes. A job with co-workers that remind me of what it feels like to be worthy and accepted for being me.

When I wanted to walk away from cat sitting, I prayed He would tell me what I should do. He reminded me that I needed to work hard and build up my behavior work before rushing into quitting. I have to be truthful, I tried to act like I didn’t hear Him on that one. I was really hoping He would tell me to go ahead and jump. Everything had been pretty good up until that point, nothing too uncomfortable or life changing. I really wanted to just move in a new direction without knowing what was next but God kept throwing thoughts in my head to make me doubt that move. I finally got it when I heard the Dave Ramsey quote, “Listen, children do what feels good, adults devise a plan and follow it…” OK, God. I devised a plan to keep cat sitting while focusing hard on getting behavior clients.

I have been listening to an audio book and one thing really sounded familiar, like it was a new thought; but one that I heard before. The author said when you are doing nothing because you are afraid, force yourself to do something. The act of doing something small will help remind you that you have the skills needed and help you move forward. I am paraphrasing but that was the jist. My therapist has told me basically the same thing in the past when I didn’t want to go to parties or out. She said to tell yourself you are going for a set amount of time and when the time is up you can decide if you want to continue or go home. Spoiler alert, I almost always end up staying! Once I get there I realize that no one thinks I am stupid, ugly, over-dressed, under-dressed, etc. The act of getting there is all I need to remind myself that none of the stuff Frank is screaming in my head is true. So in other words, this is a tool that God put in my toolbox a long time ago. When I was looking around for the “dropping-my-main-source-of-income-and-hoping-for-the-best” tool, I found that one instead.

I am surrounded by people I love and who love me back, last year this time I really felt like my one true friend was gone. My eyes are open to my world, I am no longer trying to stay in the place where Albert led me. Turns out that the tools God has been given me were keys. I am instead looking forward down the hallway and seeing all the new exciting doors for me to open that only I have the key for.

So even though this Thanksgiving was bittersweet, I am thankful for it. I am in a really good place for the first time in a long time and I wouldn’t be here if my life had stayed the same. Turns out being uncomfortable has an important place in my life!

Nehemiah 8:10 Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

It’s Not Real!

I have been struggling with anxiety so much lately. I spend the whole day and sometimes the next day crying or on the verge of tears. The thing is, I know what ever it is that I am upset about is not true or not real. I get this little voice in my head that tells me some little untruth and that is all I need to start spiraling out of control.

I am like a little kid on an Easter egg hunt. I run around with my basket and pick up all the untruths to drop in. I sit at the end of the Easter egg hunt with my basket of lies and look around at the other people with the other baskets. Except I am not happy or proud that my basket is fuller than everyone else’s. Actually, I can’t breath and I can’t move because the basket is full of all these heavy boulders. I look around and everyone is laughing because I didn’t pick up any eggs at all. They were all rocks that I mistook for eggs. It’s not real!

The Bible says “…  if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. ” (Matthew 17:20) The devil knows this and has told me I don’t need to read my devotionals and I don’t need to write in my blog. I don’t go out except to work because I don’t want to run into anyone and have to explain why I am carrying around these useless rocks. When I do interact with anyone, the devil is certain to plant a little untruth in my head so I can run with it. Except I foiled his plan today–I went to church and heard the word of God. Pastor Darren always begins the sermon with a prayer for our time. And you know what he says? He says Thank you God for your word and thank you that it is true…

After the service I talked to a friend about my crippling anxiety. She confided that she also fights with irrational fears. Actually, it turns out that everyone I have talked to is struggling with a very similar problem. Satan is a busy little bug! Anyway, back to my friend. She told me that her husband likened the anxiety to a mosquito. It buzzes around in your ear and can’t really do anything (I mean, besides like malaria or that new infection EEE but that is SO not the point!) but it irritates you and ruins your plans. I have always thought of my anxiety like a guy in the back corner of my mind (Frank) sitting in a room playing solitaire. Every now and then (more often lately) Frank comes out of his room and whispers stuff to me so he can start up some drama. When I finally get a hold of his lies, he goes back into his room. Always there, lurking in the background and waiting for the next opportunity to try and ruin my plans.

I left church and talked to some of my coworkers about it. I explained to them that I get these irrational fears and they just blow up. I asked them to, if they see that I am spinning out of control, remind me that it isn’t real. But I don’t think it will be much of a problem, I am writing in my blog and I am going to put the Bible on audio so I hear it even when I am asleep. (Did I mention that I wake up at 2 am almost every night lately?!) Tomorrow I am going to take a walk to the beach (another something Frank has talked me out of doing) and I will go back to reading my Bible and thanking God for all the good and the bad in my life. It isn’t going to be smooth sailing; Frank senses when I am just a little weak and comes right out. Hopefully, though, when that happens I will recognize it and pull out my index card that I wrote the verse about moving mountains on. I will flip it over and see the words in capital letters IT’S NOT REAL!!!

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8 NSB

Off the rails!

Hi there! I am not writing about day 15 of my 21 days of gratitude today because I have something else to talk about. I wasn’t going to “bother you” with this, but then I remembered that I am not trying to be a peacemaker at my own expense anymore. So without further adu…

Standing up for myself and saying what I really feel is not an easy habit to get into. I have actually had times where I have said, “I’m fine” and then turned around as I am walking away to say “actually…” It isn’t that I don’t want to say how I really feel. I don’t actually know what is holding me back!

Maybe I am afraid of hurting someone else’s feelings. Even though I am putting my self first (for the first time in a long time) I still can’t seem to shake the feeling that my opinion or whatever it is will hurt the other person. Then I am not going to feel good, and isn’t that the point of putting myself first?!

And who am I to think my opinion is that important anyway? Maybe no one actually cares what I think and they are only asking because it is the right thing to do. That last part is my crazy, Frank, trying to cause trouble but he has a point! People routinely ask “how are you doing?” when they don’t actually care how I am doing. It is just a polite way to start a conversation. Maybe asking someone’s opinion is being nice because I am there but if I wasn’t it isn’t like that person would think I am going to see what Amanda thinks and call me! But my opinion does matter to some people and I am usually knowledgeable. If I don’t know I will find out and get back to them.

How I approach a situation is another piece in this puzzle. Instead of thinking about what I can say that will make the other person happy without lying of course or/and will keep the good vibes in the room going strong, I need to think about how I actually FEEL about the situation. And instead of just blurting that out, I also need to think about how the other person will react. Not that I am censoring myself anymore, but I don’t have to be a jerk about it, either!

The other part of this is being able to read people. I have always noticed how people are standing or what expressions they have on their face, mostly so I can tell if what I am saying is upsetting them or agitating them. I can change course quickly before it becomes a wave that crashes over the situation and wipes away any happiness or calm. Except now, I need to read their emotions so I can prepare to defend my opinion if they seem like they don’t agree. But still share my opinion, no matter what the body language is telling me.

It is a learning curve, for sure. I learned how to say exactly the right thing most of the time, even if it wasn’t actually how I felt. Learning how to say how I feel without alienating my friends and making people think I am some stuck up jerk will take time but it is doable!

An Interesting Town Character

My friend Jenny told me to pray to God for guidance about whether to get a side job or not. I talked to Him on my walk but He didn’t answer my question! The thoughts that He kept putting in my head were about remembering my worth. What? I know I am worthy yada yada yada. What about the job dilemma?

But…Okay, God. Because I have vowed to listen even when it is uncomfortable (or I think it is wrong!!!) I started listing all my gifts that God had given to me and all the reasons why I am worthy. Out loud. While I walked home. Truthfully I didn’t even notice if people were staring at me or anything because I was very intent on listing them all. With my tight capri leggings and tank top, I did not once think about whether anything was jiggling or ugly to people driving past me as I walked and talked to myself. Making a name for myself as an interesting town character hahaha.

Then a funny thing happened. I started to remember all the times I had buried my opinion to make someone else happy or satisfied. I don’t even remember a time when I did something without thinking about the repercussions on my reputation. Right now, I am already thinking about what to do to make myself more “date-able”. I got my hair cut really short after Al died and I LOVE it. But…guys like girls with longer hair so I will have to start growing it out. I am exercising like a mad woman because I have to be thin to be noticed, right? I am wearing colors that compliment me according to (fill in the blank,) I am listening to music that is “normal”, not like the BeeGees (even though I love them!). What if I did stuff to make ME happy and started using my many gifts to attract someone instead? Listing my gifts is really making me feel strong and reminding me of who He has made me to be. Thanks God!

After my walk, I actually went to the store and bought myself 3 new shirts. Two are yellow, even though (fill in the blank) said that yellow is not a good color on me and I look better in blues. Yellow makes me happy and I can’t think of anything that looks better on me than that! And I will be keeping my hair short for now. I love it and my opinion should be the only one that matters on the subject. I am still walking every day but that is more for my mental fitness then my physical fitness. I want to be a size that makes me happy, not a size I think will be appropriate. I am giving up the gym for right now. It is a pretty big chunk of my budget and I can do almost everything at home. Besides, I spend a lot of my time looking for approval while I am there instead of being thankful for the strength and determination God has gifted to me so I can lift the weights or do the different exercises.

I still had the job dilemma but I figured God was trying to get me to remember who I am first. Even with the job search I was not thinking right. I was definitely trying to find a job where I would get the most exposure. Do I work near my gym? In a place where my church family might see me? There are a couple of potential future fellows I have been listing, if I work near them it would be a good way to open the lines of communication. Maybe I feel like I would be respected more because I have to work so hard without Al to help me. As if working every day, caring for my home and pulling myself out of the darkness that tries to engulf me isn’t enough! God knows my heart and He knows I need to build myself up before I am released into the world in a part time job. The attitude of putting myself second to make others happy or to make things easier for them is a hard one to break.

I woke up this morning, listened to the BeeGees as I walked to the beach and put on one of my new yellow shirts after my shower. Wouldn’t you know it, I got an email from a friend about a job that would be perfect for me. I haven’t even started looking yet! Thank you, God!

“For I know the plans I have for you”–this is the Lord’s declaration–“plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11