Tag Archives: struggle

The Certainty of Uncertainty

As much as we might like to think we know what the future holds, we really do not. Anything can happen to keep us on our chosen path or derail us. We need to be prepared for uncertainty as much as we can be. Of course, we cannot cover every possibility. A town less than an hour from where I live was struck with torrential rains and gale force winds. When the storm was over, homes were flooded and damaged. This came as a great surprise. The news showed the residents coming together to help out with assistance coming from other areas as well. We just don’t know what might happen tomorrow.

Each time I drive by a serious accident on my way to work, I hope that there were no fatalities. There are times I am surprised that the driver lived. Even though I don’t know the driver of a fatal accident, I cannot help but think of the profound affect that this accident had on the family. The sudden death of a family member leaves the family confused, angry and anxious for the future. It is never hard to face the loss of a family member.

Other losses, such as a loss of a job or career, can cause just as much anxiety. Even when we get news about a severe or terminal medical condition is a loss. Again, we never know what might happen. But one thing we can do is live in the moment. Knowing that we are in someone’s heart, their thoughts, and prayers can be comforting. It is important that we look inside ourselves for strength. It is also important that we look to others for support. I certainly hope that you have those persons or organizations to give you support when you might need it. If you are a religious person, seek out God. Your faith can be your comfort, even if you have to be angry and shout at God at first because you just can’t understand why. It’s okay, God has very large shoulders.

Whatever might come your way, I wish for you speedy healing. If it is a door that closes, remember that every exit door is an entrance to somewhere else. We cannot know what will happen tomorrow. We need to plan for the unknown, but live in the present. It is paying attention to the now that builds the bridges to tomorrow. We might not know what is around the bend in the path, but what we do can determine the road.

Peace be with you.

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Who am I?

In my workplace, they have announced that there will be layoffs soon. This will be the third time in 4 years. This time it is a little different, the previous layoffs were for staff reductions. The current layoff is due to outsourcing the department that I work in.

We still don’t know when, just why. As I try to uplift my fellow employees, as I was their supervisor until the last layoff, I try to focus on their talents and potential. During one very serious discussion, we spoke about who we were. There are lots of long term employees who are nervous about the upcoming cuts. I have 30 years in service. With so many years in service, many are unsure what they might do, or even can do. I reminded them that they are not what they do. Something I had to realize several years ago.

I shared with them that I once was very ill and that I felt that I could not continue working the position that I had. I told my manager at the time that I could not continue in that position and understood perfectly that he would need to replace me. I was ready to move on to whatever path awaited me, but my manager offered me another position that was less physically demanding and I remained with the company.

I came to grips that what we do isn’t necessarily what we are or who we are. Employers will find others to fill our positions. But the person we are cannot easily be replaced. I am a: father, son, brother, husband, friend, citizen, uncle, nephew, cousin, student, teacher, mentor, mentee, worshipper, and even a sinner. I am all these things. So even if I am chosen to leave my employ, I am still me. I will just have to seek other ways to use my energy and talents. I’m thinking about going back to school. But I will have to wait and see what will happen. Until then I will concentrate on who I am, my potential, my talents, my passions. I am me.

Remarriage Statistics

The US is the most remarried country of the western nations according to a study by Cherlin in 2009. In another study by Deal in 2005 found that one third of all weddings in America formed step-families.

I, myself, am in a remarriage. Being over 50, I am part of the statistic that 25% of people who remarry are over 50 years old.

Now, you would think that being married a second or third time, you would have the maturity and wisdom from your previous experiences. I would think that and do think that. However, even though I believe that a second marriage would be better, the Census Bureau in 2006 found that 60% of second marriages, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. But the challenges of remarriage are different. You deal with complex relationships made even more complex with differing backgrounds.

In most remarriages, I believe the main drivers of frustration are money and children. Expectations differ greatly, especially in the way children were raised.  What was totally acceptable and a non-issue in one household nearly commanded the death penalty in the other. This can definitely cause some tensions when you try to blend the two households. It is not that anyone is wrong, it is just different. This exists in first time marriages as well, but I believed it is amplified in further marriages.  It definitely take time, patience and trust to build newer, stronger relationships with the spouse’s children, remembering that it is a new dynamic for them as well. This is true for both minor and adult children, even grandchildren.

Both partners may have established careers and their own nest eggs.  This can be a concern of the children as well as the partners. Communication about goals and comfort levels can help alleviate money differences. It is also wise to determine in advance how monies are to be dispersed if one spouse passes away.

A 2002 study by Hetherington showed that on average, couples in step-families have three times the amount of stress of couples in first marriages during the first few years. But with time, stress levels for couples in step-families can fall to normal levels found in first marriages.

I said earlier that I believe that I can use the lessons from my first marriage in my first marriage to improve the happiness in my second marriage. I will admit, that I was not prepared for the some of the unique challenges that have arisen. I plan on working hard in my relationship and working though the challenges. Love and marriage takes lots of hard work and its worth it.

Are you in a step-family relationship? What kind of challenges did you experience that you did not expect. How did you overcome those challenges. It may be true that 60% of second marriages fail. That means that 40% make it.

I know that the statistics are scary, but couples do make remarriage work. Marriage always has challenges and it is overcoming those challenges as couples and families that make relationships stronger.

Take care, stay well and be safe.

Opportunities from Crisis

The Chinese word for crisis is wei-chi. Wei roughly means danger and chi is part of the word that means opportunity. Even though there are arguments that this translation is inaccurate, it still makes for good argument for positive thinking.

At the time of this writing, I see no lack of crises. Each day I hear of new financial, budget and career crises. My employer, as well as many others, are “right sizing”. As much as this might make business sense, it devastates the workers that are let go, and greatly increases the burden on those left behind.

So, are there opportunities in this crisis? Quite simply, Yes. If you are one of the survivors, there is an opportunity to demonstrate established skill sets as well as picking up new ones. Management may appreciate out of the box thinking as necessity is the mother of invention. Tasks can be streamlined by dropping non-critical steps.  Survivors have the chance to really shine.

For those that were let go, it is their opportunity to examine their gifts and talents. While they look for employment for available jobs, they just might start their own free-lance business. There have been many stories of persons who have monetized their hobby, whether it be cabinetry or home crafts. Other potential jobs involve house cleaning, writing, errands, and decorating.

Sometimes, it is crisis that brings out the best in people. During natural catastrophe, we have seen people show great courage and compassion. I once wrote of the Fukishima engineers that stayed in contaminated areas to keep the nuclear reactor under control. Their courage and determination inspired me. I am sure inspired others as well.

We also have a history in this capitalist society to profit from crisis. It is crisis that inspires inventors and businessmen to see needs and create products and services to meet those needs. In our own personal crisis, we discover what our true strengths are. We may even uncover a passion that we didn’t know we had.

If you are experiencing a crisis, look for the opportunity that may be hidden within. Opportunity often presents itself in subtle ways. We need to always look for the potential in every situation, even those that cause us the most stress.

Taken Too Young

I would have entitled this ‘Taken Too Soon’, but as I am not the Lord of Time, it is not mine to say when is too soon. Last weekend, Theresa’s nephew passed away suddenly. He suffered a medical malady throughout his life. Although this malady restricted our culture’s expectations of this young man, he touched the lives of very many. During the viewing there were hundreds of people who paid respects to the family. There was a steady stream of visitors for four hours. His mother told Theresa that her son knew each one of them.

In this young man’s life, he made an impact on many individuals. He always greeted everyone with a smile and a big “Hi.” He lived in the moment. He loved movies and excelled at remembering the dialog. He loved live music. And he loved to dance (see a video of him below). In his short life, he taught those around him to accept that which cannot be changed and enjoy the moments as they come.

He died much too young. A few months ago, a young girl passed away from cancer. She passed much too young. I still do not understand why medical maladies afflict those so young. I never will.

These young people teach us that life is uncertain, that the end can come at any time. They teach us that we must appreciate the time that we have. That time is fleeting and that our life is precious. Our life should not be wasted on things that waste our time or does not help us grow. This is a lesson that that we all can appreciate. Thanks Matt.

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Tarry a bit

Yogi Berra stated, “when you come to the fork in the road, take it.” This is sage advice. It does not tell you which way to go but that you should go forward.

Times in our fast paced life can easily be tumultuous. We are sometimes so busy with the little things in our life that we forget to live, and we can unintentionally neglect what is important. We can also be so busy making a living that we forget to live. There was a time when I worked a full time job and two part time jobs to support my family. I know I did the right thing but I also missed out on quality time with my two young sons. This is time I can never get back. Kids grow up so fast!

In Proverbs 46:10a it says, “be still and know that I am God.” Sometimes, when we are faced with too many stresses, opportunities or paths that we are overwhelmed, we are paralyzed by fear or uncertainty. We might even be fortunate enough to have too many blessings to choose from. There are times when we should stop, tarry a bit, and seek the will of God in our life.

We have to balance our responsibilities with the people and things that are important to us.  This isn’t always easy.. We have tough choices to make. To make these decisions, we must take our time, seek counsel, and pray for direction. What is it that will lead us to our potential? How can we use the natural talents that we have to bring many others and ourselves joy. Our talents were meant to be shared.

So, when you come to that fork in the road, take it, but tarry first for a bit and choose the path that is best for you. God bless.

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Patterns

All around us are patterns. Patterns appear everywhere, even when they don’t. We are pattern creatures. Our brains are designed to look for patterns. Our brains examine and recognize thousands of faces. We see patterns in nature: in petals of flowers; sections of leaves; and in the structure of a snowflake. Our bent for patterns even allows us to see patterns where none exist. In the chaotic drifting of clouds, we often amuse ourselves picking out recognizable patterns.

We often find comfort in regular patterns in our lives, even when those patterns produce negative circumstances. We are sometimes afraid to move away from known circumstances that are unhealthy because we cannot be sure what change will bring, even when change might be positive. When we notice patterns in our lives where people care about us and build us up, where people show us that we are supported and loved, we feel more comfortable in changing our circumstances for the better. That is why we need to see and feel patterns that convince us that there are better alternatives. Negative patterns can be broken. When we recognize things are better, we need to be appreciative and thankful.

We need to recognize those patterns not only in our own lives but in the lives of those around us. It is so frustrating to try to help someone who seemingly does not want to be helped. It might be they are too fearful to attempt change. It might be they are too wrapped up in their negative pattern to see a way out. It might even be that they do not want to be helped. Early on, like many, I had to learn that you cannot change anyone, they must change themselves. I also had to learn that I did not always know what is best for them because of the limitations of my own experience. Because of those lessons, I had to learn that there are many that I am not able to help, that I might not be the one placed in their lives to lift them up. But, I just might be the seed that allows them to accept the one person who can.

When positive patterns  that we are comfortable with change, it can be disconcerting. When time set aside for sharing seems to end or slip away, it can leave one  to wonder why the pattern changed. What changed? Can we recapture it or make it better? Does it mark a time for growth or alert us to a problem that needs attention? Is it our time to move on?

Opposites or contrast can help us appreciate patterns. The Bible is filled with contrast: choose this not that; do this not that; wise vs. foolish; good vs. bad; positive vs. negative. Even our tastes are defined by contrast. We expect cookies to be sweet because the pattern has been that all the cookies we eat are sweet. We know sweet because we have tasted sour or bitter. We were trained by the patterns of our experience.

Habits are like patterns. They repeat and establish an expectation. I encourage us all to look for the blessings in life and be thankful for the gifts that abound whether it be God, nature or human endeavor. Your daily actions establish the pattern of who you are. Let that pattern be a positive one.

God’s Healing Spirit

In services today, there was a laying on of hands and prayer for healing. I sincerely hope that the service brought comfort and healing to those involved. I have been suffering from chronic pain for many years. Most of my pain is from arthritis with some nerve pain caused by taking statins. The gabapentin that I take for the nerve pain helps me the most. I actually did not participate in the laying on of hands portion of the service. I have been praying for healing for a very long time. I am not dissuaded from God’s love or caring. Paul had been afflicted by “a thorn in his flesh” and had asked God three times to heal him, but God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Who am I to demand that God heal me, when he chooses not to?

I believe God heals miraculously and through people as well. Some are given gifts of medicine and science and ease suffering this way. Some use their afflictions and disabilities to bring glory to God and uplift not only those afflicted like them but to inspire others as well. There are several examples, but one that comes to mind immediately is the story of Nick Vujicic. He was born without arms or legs. He prayed mightily to be made whole. Even though he did not look whole on the outside, he is complete on the inside. Nick may not have received the miracle he was looking for but became the miracle God meant him to be. God healed his spirit. Nick’s ministry, Life Without Limbs, has brought hope and inspiration to so many.

Compared to what many people deal with, the pain that I suffer seems so insignificant. I will seek understanding as God continues to reveal his will for me.

May this new year bring you many blessings.

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Storms in Life

I have written about seasons in our lives, but like any season, there are occasional storms. In our physical life, these storms can cause damage to trees, our homes or even cause flooding. But often the storms drive us inside but bring life-bringing water. Storms in our personal life can be destructive but can also be instructive.

We all have experienced personal storms, where we are deluged by several situations occurring at once or one critical situation that worries us and take much of our attention. I have written before when I had become ill and thought I would be unable to return to work. This was a devastating time for me, but it was a chance for me to sort out what was really important in my life. That particular storm was both destructive but eventually instructive.

We are faced with trials, caused either by ourselves or others. The writer of Hebrews states; Endure hardship as discipline. – Hebrews 12:7 NIV. If we think of storms as a way to learn lessons, we can purposely look for the lesson. The writer of Hebrews goes on in verse 11; No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

The lessons can be a new outlook on life, a solution not thought of before, a demonstration of strength that you never thought you could achieve. It may even allow us to see the love and caring of others. It can build character and perseverance that we need for another time.

My current storm involves a threat of unemployment due to company reorganization. Whether I lose my job next week or not, I will consider it an opportunity to move on to the next chapter in my life. Like anyone, just not knowing is scary, but we cannot let fear paralyze us.

There is a storm in my life. I could try my best not to get wet, or I could learn to dance in the rain. I think I’ll dance. Yes, I will dance.

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Leaving it up to God

My last two weeks have been very eventful. Things seem to be going in every direction and leaves my mind to wandering. A few weeks ago, we were looking for something to watch on Netflix streaming. We chose “Up in the Air”, a movie about a hatchet man starring George Clooney (which I think was the main driver in Theresa picking this movie). Little did I know that I would soon be experiencing the same type of situation last week. When I got the email to attend a meeting and viewed the other participants, I just knew it was a termination committee. Of course, this layoff was not based on my performance but on reorganizing the structure of the company. I basically took the role of the poor soul receiving George Clooney’s character’s straight forward pronouncement.  I felt bad for the others that received the same email that day as well. It was a very sobering day for all of us.

That was the Wednesday before last and the day before my vacation was to start. I looked forward to the time off to be able to assemble my thoughts and decide on my options. On Friday, we drove from upstate NY to Durham, NC so that we could attend an Eagle Scout Awards ceremony. Although I have never been involved in Scouting, I nevertheless understand that it took a great amount of effort and dedication to achieve such an award. It was a very happy moment and a wonderful distraction.  Upon returning from NC, I applied for five open positions within my company both locally and at other locations, deciding that relocation was a viable option. I am quite hopeful for re-employment. Even if I am not successful, I know that I had, at least, tried.

I suppose that I would consider myself an optimistic-realist. I learned a long time ago that I control very little in my world other than my own reactions to it. Because I know that I don’t or can’t control the world, I have very little in the way of expectations. I do hope that things go well but I know that as long as I do my very level best and leave the rest up to God, I can be proud of the man I see in the mirror, regardless of the outcome.

I know people who like to “control” everything, some intimately. I have always noticed that they are frequently frustrated, worried and upset because the rest of the world is not following the “script” that they have so graciously supplied. I was one of those people, maybe it was my nature, maybe it was because I became the “man of the house” at a very young age, maybe because I was just simply immature. I think the Army changed my mind. In the Army, I wasn’t my own person anymore, I was United States government property. I was told when to sleep, when to wake up, when to eat, when to use the toilet, when to stand still and when to march. As terrible as that may sound to a fiercely independent person, it is there that I did much maturing. I could either deal with it or fail miserably.

I am not in control of what happened to me in the last two weeks. I am in control of how I handle it. I discussed the possibility of long-term unemployment with my family. I got out my unemployment plan. Everyone should have an unemployment plan, even if you are currently employed, not just for unemployment but for long-term disability as well. Basically, what would I do if I became unemployed today and could no longer bring in an income? It is actually best to do this while you are employed because you will have more clarity of thought and emotions are quiet.

I saw an interesting sign on a church marquee, “Faith gives you the ability not to panic.” I like that. I will wait for the eventual outcome of this, knowing that I have reacted rationally and with the best intentions. I know I am not in control. I know that I and all people have free will. I am subject to the consequences of my decisions and am subject to the decisions of others.

God will open doors for me. I have to pay attention and not only look for those open doors but have the faith and courage to walk through them. I have tried my very level best and will continue to do so. I will leave the rest of it up to God. If you are also looking for work, look for the doors that are open to you. Humble yourself to walk through doors that may lead to opportunities never before imagined.

Take care, stay well and be safe.

P.S. When I went to YouTube to see if I could find an appropriate video, God took me directly to this one by Tracy Lawrence called “Up To Him”. I listened to it twice and I cried. It so much speaks to what I am going through right now and how I feel about it. God is truly amazing. The sentiment in the song as to working as if it is all up to me and pray as if it is all up to Him is what started my tears. I believe this song speaks to many of us. Enjoy the video.