Hiding my Fear behind a Mask

Do you “believe” in masks? I am not sure actually. What I DO believe in is not dying LOL!

I am the Shelter Manager at an animal shelter and we have been closed since the middle of March. Next week, however, we will open back up. For appointments only, but we will actually be there for the people that inevitably pop in. I have installed a hand sanitizer right inside the door and I will have a basket of masks for those people who “forget” to wear one. I am NOT convinced they work but I would rather be safe than sorry! Today I have someone coming in to relinquish cat. Although I want to be a helpful member of my community, I have a sick feeling about meeting her. Not her necessarily, just strangers in general actually! It turns out that wishing for things to start moving forward was a nice little dream but I am pretty terrified of that happening. I know that if I am supposed to catch the COVID-19 virus, God has already written that. I know that He has plans and I am on a need to know basis with them. Does the fact that I am afraid anyway mean I don’t have faith?

I guess not doing something because I am afraid and I don’t trust that it will work out; and doing it EVEN THOUGH I am afraid because I know God has got me is the definition of faith for me. I am pretty sure if God didn’t want us to feel fear he wouldn’t have put that emotion in our makeup. Except when the Disciples were afraid during the storm on the sea , Jesus kind of chastised them for being afraid.  “Why are you so afraid? Don’t you have any faith at all yet?” – Mark 4:35-40. So which is it? Can someone explain this to me?!

Check yo’self before you wreck yo’self!

I am a little thrown off lately, with the home lock down I am thinking a lot of people are. I have been reading Leviticus and it is dry and long. I am really hoping it ends soon but I am trying to absorb as much of it as I can!

I am having a big breakdown. The email at work got hacked and it has been a nightmare to get it restarted, the email security team promised me that it was finished but I am still not receiving emails. I can send them but then when people reply it goes…I don’t know where but not to me! One of the kittens that were born in March is not doing well. She (or he, I can’t tell and neither can the vet!) is almost half the size of her litter mates. She was still eating, drinking and using the litter box like everyone else but just a peanut; except that while her brothers and sisters keep growing she is staying the same. When I brought her to the vet today they basically told me that she wasn’t going to live but told me to try feeding her every two hours and stimulating her to go to the bathroom. I am doing that but honestly it is just so I feel like I am doing something. I got back to the shelter and there was a message from someone who applied and was upset about the fact that she applied and was turned down for a kitten after she was told they would be available and she wanted an explanation. I had emailed her already and maybe she responded but I didn’t get it because of the hack. I emailed her back today but it still isn’t sending me emails so now she is really going to be mad!

All this is too much and my mind is fried. I am having trouble keeping my anxiety Frank from trying to make me crazy. I keep thinking stuff like if I got hacked I definitely did something to cause it and that the little kitten is sick because I didn’t bring her to the vet when I first saw that she was smaller than everyone else. None of that is true or relevant, but that doesn’t keep my mind from spinning!!!

I need help at the shelter and I need to ask for it. Gone are the days when I can just do things by myself! Except that when I expressed my feelings of loss and hopelessness to my team, it makes me feel weak. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just ask for help and then accept it gracefully instead of always thinking I am powerless for asking? I know I need a team, I can’t do this stuff alone. Not that there is too much work, it is just better with more than one person shouldering the burdens. Jesus didn’t walk through the world alone, he had his besties (the disciples) with him as he traveled and spread the gospel. He didn’t just do everything alone, he told the disciples to go heal people and to spread the gospel. I have never thought about Jesus and said, wow, he was so weak! He didn’t do anything alone, he had to be surrounded by his people. Do I think I am better than Jesus and should be able to handle life on my own? If God wanted me to be alone he would have written that into my story!

I had a meeting with the team and we made a new schedule that includes help here. The day after I brought the little kitten to the vet I had to bring her back to be euthanized. That tore out my heart but at least I had my friends, my teammates, to help me grieve her. Driving home with the empty cat carrier I realized that it didn’t make me feel helpless to have them. Actually, they are a few of the only people who I know truly understand what it means and how it feels to have a little baby that I watched from birth not make it like her brothers and sisters. When I say I feel sad, they just sit with me because they just know. I have always said how much these people do for my mental well being and I can’t lose sight of that. If Jesus didn’t go it alone, what makes me think I should?

It won’t be easy to give up my feelings of “strength is only accomplished when you are truly doing everything alone” but I have to do it. Very few parts of life can be done solo! I have had managers in the past whose biggest weakness was the fact that they refused to accept help from their team, the reasoning being that they truly felt that they were the only ones to do it correctly and perfectly. The end result was them not being able to do anything well because they were spread too thin. By feeling weak and powerless when I ask for help, I am really making the same choice. Even if I don’t have the same reason, it will be my downfall if I don’t check myself before I wreck myself!

Hanging up the Pity Party Dress

Hi there!  I trust you are all safely tucked in your homes while we wait out this pandemic.  I know I am. This is such a scary time to be living through–I saw a meme on Facebook that said something along the lines of, You know how you thought your grandparents were weird and your parents would tell you it was because they lived through the Great Depression?  Our grandkids are going to think we are weird and our kids will tell them it was because we lived through the coronavirus pandemic. I laughed, and then realized that it was true. 

It has become habit for me to wipe down all the doorknobs and cabinet handles several times a day.  I now think nothing of putting on latex gloves when I take care of the dog or the cats at the shelter, and it has become something I do when I am just getting the mail or really doing anything now.  And grabbing one of the face masks in the adorable wicker basket by the front door before I leave the house is as normal as grabbing my car keys. My new version of normal will be one that sticks with me (and you, I bet!) for a long time to come, even when the threat of illness has gone away.  It is kind of comforting to wear that mask when I am going out in public. I think it will be scary NOT to wear one anymore when we get to that point. And now I know I am going to tuck a few away to be more prepared for the next virus. Gone is the innocence of thinking that there could never be an outbreak like this.

With all of this turmoil and uncertainty, there have been good things as well.  For instance, I was promoted to Shelter Manager and moved into the onsite housing right before the world really went crazy.  You know, back when we SHOULD HAVE been taking the protective measures we are taking now, except no one thought this was real?  (For the record, including me.) I had been working closely with my team to get everything in order. Even when the shelter was closed to the public, it was still me and our assistant shelter manager taking care of the business.

Now, however, I am alone here.  A couple of weeks ago I realized that I might have been exposed to Covid-19, and everything changed. I met with the Board, and we decided that since we had only one dog on premises, I’d try to manage it until it’s considered “safe” to go back to some form of normal life.  The truth is, it isn’t too much work to handle; I just had no idea how isolating this would become. New house, new job, then the quarantine. Also, I am not open to help like I should be. I just don’t know how to say, I am feeling lonely or I am crying and can’t seem to stop, can you help? That pesky voice in my head just reminds me that if I express feeling  bad then I am just going to make everyone else feel bad, and it won’t accomplish anything except killing everyone else’s good vibe . Best to just suffer in silence and keep the peace.

I am reading on social media about other shelters and how they are delivering pet food to people and how they are acting as a temporary shelter for animals when people are sick.  It feels like yet another way that I am failing- as a shelter manager. We are not doing any of those things and the whole team has agreed that we don’t want to take in sick people’s pets.  Today, however, I reminded myself that I am running the place completely alone. No matter how you slice it, that’s just hard..

I started to feel a little better, but then I talked to a friend and she went over all she was getting done while still working.  She is also running things solo for the safety of everyone. It occurred to me that I don’t do much of anything outside of the normal care and love for the animals here.  I mean, yes, I am answering emails and such. Honestly though, that is about 2 hours of a day. When I really thought about it, I spend a bigger portion of my day laying on the couch watching movies or laying in bed because I am just tired.  I am not a psychologist but I would say that sounds like a pretty clear case of depression!

Maybe it is the self isolation that has thrown me into a pit but it is going to be me to start digging out.  Tomorrow morning I am taking a yoga class online and following it up with a 30 minute rebounding video. I am not going to sit here and say I am going to be productive and Superwoman, but I am going to keep track of my days.  One of two things will happen–either I will realize that I actually do have productive days, or I will realize that I am wasting time and be more motivated to fix it. I am not usually a pity party girl and I don’t intend to start now!  

WWJD and Happy Birthdays

Have you ever felt like God broke his promise and how do you keep Jesus in your life every day? Also, how do you keep Christ in Christmas? These are some questions that were brought up at my IF dinner for my woman’s ministry and I honestly have to say I didn’t really know how to answer them! I am going to try and think through them out loud here, leave me a comment and tell me your answers!

I guess when I was just learning about God and his promises “for real” (I had of course heard and read about Him before but not with an open heart and mind) I thought of all the times that I felt alone and abandoned by God. He promised to always be by my side. And when I didn’t feel his presence that is because he was carrying me then…isn’t that what the Footprints in the Sand poem says?! Looking back now I think that was true–there were a lot of ways that God got me through awful stuff even if I didn’t “see Him” in the middle of it all. But I definitely felt like God broke his promise to me at that time.

How do I keep Jesus in my every day life? This one was really thought provoking for me because He is there…I know He is…but how? The obvious answer is I pray. In my car on my way to work. When I open my eyes in the morning. When someone cuts me off in traffic and my first thought is ‘where are the cops when I need them’ and I instead pray that they get where ever it is that they are going in such a hurry. But how else?

When I make big, hard decisions I ask God to help me make the right choice. I don’t always think about WWJD (remember the bracelets from the 90’s–what would Jesus Do?) when I am deciding what to do with my day. Or when I try to figure out what to have for lunch. Or what to say to a friend who is hurting. It seems insignificant but THAT is when I need Jesus in my life. Maybe not when I can’t decide between Burger King or McDonalds (hahaha) but if I use Jesus (or the WWJD idea) to steer me when I am making ALL my decisions I will be making the right choices. I will be able to recognize when I get a feeling I should do something and it doesn’t align with what I would normally do that it is probably not the right choice! I won’t have that gut instinct if I am only going to God for the big stuff.

Keeping Christ in Christmas was easier when the kids were little for sure. The ladies in my dinner last night all agreed that the ones without littles to impress about the importance of Jesus, it is really hard. One said that she just doesn’t even feel it this year. I have to agree with her.

When my kids were little, Jesus was a part. We sang Happy Birthday to the baby Jesus in the manger (the baby was placed in the manger the night before and up until the day we let Mary and Joseph wait like us!) before we opened any presents. I am ashamed to say that it didn’t really go any farther than that. We didn’t even read the Christmas story in the Bible. In my defense, though; I was a pew warmer and not really a Jesus follower so I thought I was keeping the reason for the season in the front of the kids’ minds.

Now, I put up a tree and I put up my nativity set. But not the cool one that had the empty manger so I could place the baby and the wise men there on Christmas eve. I couldn’t see the point of doing all that. Nope, I put up the one piece nativity set that I put up by Al’s bedside when he was bedridden. The one that doesn’t take up much space and has a light to represent the North star with 2 AAA batteries. After the dinner yesterday, I am going to put that one back in the Christmas decorations tote and take out the one with the empty manger. Singing happy birthday to baby Jesus in the morning is a tradition that I need to keep going, even if their are no impressionable minds to act for. Scratch that, I have an impressionable mind! And I will read the bible. If I read a chapter of Luke every day, I will finish the Book of Luke on Christmas eve. (I will have to double up to catch up this year but next year this will just be a part of Christmas) That will remind me of the reason for the season and get me out of the funk I am in this year. AND it will put Jesus in my life–win win!!!

 Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Just call me Peter…Simon Peter…

So I am not sure what to do lately. I have been trying really hard to be who I think God wants me to be. I really believe that the perfect person is out there, and that God has it set up in my life. I just have to be patient. Have I mentioned how much I hate waiting for stuff?!

I had a someone come to the house and hang out with me for a few hours. We sat outside and talked, it was actually really great. The only problem was that he called me “religious.” Like 3 different times. And it wasn’t a compliment. I don’t think it was a dig, either, I truly think he was just pointing out the fact that he knew my religion was strong and important. He didn’t try to kiss me or do anything other than talk. I am not sure what he was expecting when he agreed to come over but he absolutely respected me and my Faith while he was here. So why did him calling me “religious” feel like he was calling me damaged or less than?!

I AM “religious.” I am proud to be “religious.” Or am I ? I was embarrassed and…I don’t know…ashamed! I actually looked around my house at anything that made me look like I was, I don’t know, a Jesus Freak. I contemplated taking down the song lyrics to a Christian song about Faith that I had hanging in the bathroom and all the different signs of my strong Faith. I was trying to keep my Christianity in the little box I have had it in all these years. I doubted the path that I know I should be on. The path that I WANT to be on. I know that finding a love that puts God first is going to be so different and so amazing. I know that I need to do this. But when it came down to it, I definitely wanted to go back to being the person I used to be. The person who loved first and learned about a person second. The person who is so needy for love that she ignores it when things are not as good as they should be because they are good sometimes. Is this a test? Do you think God is testing my faith by sending me someone to call me religious as a bad thing and seeing how I would handle it? If that is the case it was an epic fail. I should be proud to be called religious!

I made an appointment with a pastor so I can get some insight. I need someone to tell me why I am doubting so much. I don’t know if I even ever want to get married again, but I don’t want to just be alone. So how does that go? And how do I know when it is time to become intimate? Or is there ever a right time if you aren’t married? It seems like in the Bible couples slept together and then they were married. So…if I meet the person I think is perfect for me and decide to be intimate with them, am I basically agreeing to marry them?

My head is spinning and I need to go to sleep. I am going to keep unpacking this in my mind and in this blog. Please comment if you have some insight!

Song of Solomon 8:7: “Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned.”

Every Day is an Adventure

I love working at the animal shelter. I have had a bunch of opportunities to be a super star at work and that feels really good. I am cutting down on cat sitting so I can focus more on cat behavior and get my name out in the area I live in. I am pretty well known in my former town but no one around my current town knows me. I have two guys I am interested in, one that I have been emailing. The one I have been emailing is the only one that is a christian, although the fact that he doesn’t want to meet just yet has made me weary of him. The other believes in God but that is as far as it goes. I want to think he would enjoy going to church with me but I also don’t want to be trying to change someone. Is it changing him or would I be disciplining him to God?

I never realized how much Al configured the ins and outs of our life. Even when I didn’t live together, he was able to guilt or persuade me to do things he wanted me to do. He was so good at it that I never even realized it! Of course now I need to make decisions and life choices and I am like a 20 year old in a 46 year old’s body!

Oh well, every day is an adventure 🙂

Isn’t it Ironic…don’t you think?

I am having a moral dilemma and I don’t know what to do so I am posting it here and hoping for some comments. And it isn’t ironic–that song has just been playing in my head since I started overthinking about this. Here it is!

My car is 20 years old and has 224,000 miles on it. I use it for work and I put ALOT of miles on it. I figure I have a good 6 months left before something breaks and is so costly that I won’t be able to fix it. My dilemma is this–do I get a job or do I have faith that God will figure it out as he sees fit? I have never had a moment in my life that I didn’t have a car when I needed one. God has never allowed me to be lost or abandoned me when I needed Him. So I should just have faith, right? Except that I worry that getting a job is what God wants me to do! If I save like $120 a week I will have enough when my car dies. God helps those who help themselves, right?

God and I have a complicated history. I know in my head that everything that has happened to me was God’s will. I know that each hardship or triumph has brought me closer to the best version of myself that God is leading me to be. The problem is that I feel really isolated and abandoned at times. I feel like God was out on a business call and so he missed it when bad things were happening in my life and now he knows some of it but he doesn’t know it all and doesn’t ask. He just keeps pushing forward and probably secretly wonders why I am not as gung ho as He is about my situations.

My friend told me to pray to God for guidance. She said to ask God to open doors for me if He thinks I should get an additional job and close them tight if he doesn’t. That way I am having faith that He will let me know and I won’t be overthinking my decision. I have been walking to the beach most days so I can talk to God and no one bothers me. I think I will ask Him to open the appropriate doors (or close them!) that during our conversations. I guess that is the bottom line, pray and be open to see what God is telling me. I can’t disagree or do what I want instead. I am not in control!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.–Proverbs 3:5

PS Just because I am not writing about my days of gratitude, does not mean that I am not following along in the verses. Sometimes I have time for reading but not for blogging! And sometimes (like today) I have other things I feel the need to share. 🙂

Day 6 and Day 7…plus some extra :)

Hello again, Friends! I know that I am not being consistent with my 21 day plan, but in my defense I am actually very busy with cat sitting jobs. My heart is learning to be grateful, I have added thanks for things I would not have previously thanked God for in my morning chat with Him. I don’t have any regrets about it because I still feel like am growing in my faith. By not rushing through the days just to finish them, I am really ingesting each point.

Speaking of points, let’s get to the points of Days 6 and 7. Day 6 asks me to write down struggles that I am in and how I feel God is helping. I think this one is important because I have said before that I definitely have trouble with seeing God’s presence in my struggles.

I guess the biggest struggle would be starting my business. I have been in this field for far too long to be struggling like I am now. However, if I flip that around I can say that I am NOT in the same field. I am in a similar one, but cat sitting and cat behavior is completely different then dog walking and general pet sitting. I don’t wake up in the morning and think that I am doing another day of the same ole stuff. I had to stop dog walking so I could care for Albert and God provided for me by pushing me towards taking feline behavior courses. When my season of caring for him was done, I had all these new skills to push me forward in a new direction that was comfortable for me but challenging at the same time. Being that I am in a somewhat new area (an area that is SATURATED with pet sitters!) I am able to stand out from the crowd because I 1. offer feline only care and 2.offer behavior skills that others don’t have. There are other struggles, but this one is the main one that I thank God for.

Day 7 asks that I thank God for…ME! Since I am one of God’s masterpieces, why shouldn’t I thank God? The reflect was to look in the mirror and say thank you. I don’t have a mirror in front of me but truthfully I am pretty vain so I know 🙂 I will start with thanking God for my beautiful blue eyes and smile. I am thankful that I have features that are all in perfect alignment with my face, nothing is too big or too small. I have great skin, few wrinkles or grays and don’t look my age at all. I am also thankful that I still feel confident and beautiful even though I am not “thin.” I am bigger than I want to be but I still feel strong and empowered. I continue to lose weight and build up my strength (I thank God for MOB-fit because it is such a welcoming place, the perfect place for me to be!) but not because I think I need to so I will fit into some kind of version that society states.

For the things to thank God for that are not physical or maybe not even positive is next on my list. I thank God for my inquisitive nature because I am always finding new ways to do things and new, exciting things in my every day life. And I thank God for all the trials and tribulations that have formed the person I am. I can’t remember the last time I was bored! There are so many other things but these are the big ones.

And more… I have one more thing I want to talk about. On Sunday, Pastor Darren talked about Jonah and how he heard God but he ignored it. He did more than ignore it, he did something else instead. And all the puzzle pieces fell into place for him to leave, including a boat going where he wanted to go. The point of the story was that there is always a “boat in the harbor” to take you somewhere else when God asks something of you. And here is my question. How do I know? I have always felt like I will just know when it is God speaking to me and not Satan. I know when something is not right or when it is something that completely goes against the teachings in the Bible. I mean, duh?!

After listening to the sermon, though, I am not confident that I know who is speaking to me. Part of how I feel like I can tell it is what God wants me to do is because everything falls into place for me. If it too hard, I just reassess what I am doing because it is obviously not what God wants me to do. But now when things fall into place maybe it isn’t God who is pulling the strings for me after all? Of course I am talking about things that are in line with the Bible and what I know is God’s will. Here is a real life experience. When Al died, I had a number of people tell me how great I was with caring for Al and how I should think about going into care giving or nursing. I thought about it but then I was reminded of all the work I had been doing for my cat sitting business. I decided that it was God’s will for my life that I continue to work on that business. Then one of my clients (and I consider a friend) got sick and needed care. I already care for his pets daily but now he was looking to have me do some “home health care” stuff. I didn’t want to do it. It reminded me so much of caring for Albert before he died so that didn’t help my mental state of mind. But–I was thinking that maybe God DID want me to get into the care giving after all? It was uncomfortable and not everything God gives me is rainbows and unicorns. But I am really pushing my boundary lines in my business. I am giving cards to people when I want to just walk by and I am talking about cat behavior stuff to…really anyone who will listen! I don’t talk to strangers. I don’t talk to friends even sometimes! But now you can’t shut me up hahahaha! Instead of going back to bed when I get home (my mind and body are begging me to!) I work on the business. So what gives? Maybe this goes back to having faith in what God’s plan for me is. I just have to trust that if I am making sure I do things that align with the Bible, it is the right thing. Right?

21 Days to a grateful heart…

I have started (and recently restarted because I wasn’t giving it the kind of attention that I wanted!) a plan to help me see the gratitude in my life instead of just seeing the big holes of ugliness that seem to keep popping up. I have been reading different bible plans over the years to coincidence with my life and this one is no different.  To be sure that I follow it and put the energy and focus in that I think I need, I am going to write down the reflect section here. Starting today!

So today’s reflect–Gratutude is a condition of the heart. Let’s kick these 21 days off with a heart-check. What was the last thing you thanked God for? What’s in your heart that is blocking you from cultivating gratitude? Are you more focused on what you didn’t get rather than what has been given? (courtesy of YouVersion “21 Days to a Grateful heart”. http://www.elevatehim.com )

I thank God every day for another day so I would say that was the last thing. The thing in my heart that is blocking me from cultivating gratitude is my doubt. It isn’t that I don’t believe in God’s almighty power, but I don’t believe He will use it for me. Does that mean that I don’t feel like I am worthy of having a life that my Father would have planned for me? Or am I just so convinced that everyone eventually lets me down so why not
have a “plan B” in case God does, too? I am not more focused on what I didn’t get than what has been given to me because I know in my heart of hearts that everything I have been given (or denied!) is part of His master plan for my life. But there again, are those just words I am telling myself or do I truly believe that God has a plan for me? Doubt. It is a wormhole the Devil has used often to work his way through my brain! But not anymore. Starting right now, I say “Not today Satan!”

How about you?  Read the reflect section above and answer the question for yourself.  Was it an eye-opening experience for you like it was for me?  Let me know in the comments 🙂    Until tomorrow, Peace and Love!

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Matthew 25:15 to 30–Parable of the Talents

Today in Crew we talked about the parable of the three Servants who are entrusted with caring for the Master’s money. God is the Master and the servants are basically us, in case you don’t know the story! The first two make good choices and double their Master’s money. The third Servant is afraid of the Master and buries the money he is entrusted with. When the Master returns, he tells the first two what a great job they did and that he will be giving them more responsibilities because they can obviously handle it. The third one, however, he pretty much tells him that he sucks and throws him out.

The thing that was pointed out in my crew was that the third Servant did not have faith in the gift that God had given him. He didn’t really know God, he said he was basically mean and he stole stuff that he didn’t work for. By burying the money, he let fear override the ability the Master thought he had to handle the money.

I would like to bring this story to modern day time and my life. I know what you are thinking…It’s not always about you, Amanda…except, I am the author of this blog so it kind of is! Seriously, though. Follow me here, this hit a cord.

I just graduated from my Diploma in Cat Behavior and Psychology. The goal had been to use the degree to advance my career as a Cat Sitter and maybe move into cat behavior jobs. I posted on Facebook when I graduated with a picture of my degree. I feel really good about myself. I know that God is the push that led me to pursue this in the first place. In some ways, I think Al getting sick and not being able to be left home alone was God’s way to put me on the path I needed to be on to even think about this. Maybe it is a stretch, but being a cat behaviorist seems to be a gift God has given to me.

But instead of using it to double my income, I had every intention of adding it to my list of things I have gone to school for but will never really use. Except, God was not okay with that. Instead of letting me bury the money, He sent a few people to remind me that I am worthy in the way of needing a cat behaviorist to help them with their cat problems. And I have grown enough in my Faith to believe that I do possess the gifts from God needed to help people with their problems. The bottom line is, I am like the middle Servant. I have a bit more skill that the least entrusted and less than the most entrusted. Eventually I will be in the Most Entrusted category because I will not just bury the money and sit in the dark waiting for judgement about it. The reason the first servant got the biggest amount of money was because he had the biggest ability to watch over the Master’s prized possessions. Everything I do in God’s name gives me more abilities to care for his possessions.

I am still learning because I refuse to just sit stagnant. God will present more to me as I accomplish what he gives. I think that is the beauty of being a Christ-follower. You never really know what gifts you will be given but you can’t just sit around with your Master’s money buried under the tree to keep it from being stolen. You have to just know that God has got you in his sights and step out in faith. His answers may not be the one you are expecting but they will always be the right ones!