Monday, February 11, 2013

Caffeine Overload in a Classic American Diner

A cornucopia of folks are scattered throughout the restaurant where I am people-watching from a corner booth. The diner is an American classic, reminiscent of my parents’ era with its Formica tabletops and vinyl seats. I’m half expecting Rock Around the Clock to filter from the sound system, but country music continues to play.

Out the window, interstate traffic whizzes by beyond the parking lot on this wintery day. A silvered-hair senior citizen shuffles down the sidewalk behind her walker. Her younger companion—perhaps a daughter or granddaughter—places a hand on the small of her back.

Inside the diner, a bearded fellow wearing an Irish cap leans in close to his lady friend, an ear trained on her every word. A man of sizable girth bellies up to the hostess stand. A family of three sits at a booth a couple tables away from me. The mother helps her young son draw his way through a maze on a paper placemat. Some new arrivals stop by their table to say hello.

I’m in this eatery for a few reasons. First, I didn’t eat before my doctor's appointment this morning. Second, I’ve had a hankering for a good old American breakfast of fried eggs and bacon. And finally, I wanted a different locale to work on the reading assignment for my ladies’ Bible study. Yet, here I am people-watching instead. At least I can use the excuse that I’m gathering material to write a new story.

My waitress pours me more coffee. I vowed off the stuff three days ago. However, when I noticed an unexpected charge on my receipt for a cup of Joe, I decided to ask for some anyway. I’ll start cold turkey another day.

The little old man who just sat down at the table next to mine is probably one of the regulars. I’m not sure why he took up residence in my little corner of the world. Maybe I sat in his booth.

I pause to contemplate that thought. The man is too close for comfort in a diner with many other open tables. With that said, maybe I didn’t take his usual seat after all. Maybe I need to rethink this attitude of my space being invaded.

As I gaze out the window, a middle-aged man guides the woman beside him toward the front door. I start to think I lack regular dining companions like these other patrons seem to have. With a "someone is in my space" mentality, I sense that’s the reason some of my relationships aren’t quite where the Lord intended them to be.

You know, it's amazing how caffeine affects me. My sole purpose in coming here was to eat breakfast and read my Bible study. But in a matter of nanoseconds, I went from gazing around a diner to thinking the worse about myself when it comes to old friends.

I’m not sure if some past relationships need to be rekindled. But I do know current ones founded on common Christian values can survive the test of time. I just need to turn over those past friendships to the Lord. He'll let me know if I should initiate rebuilding them or not.

The three cups of coffee I’ve had while sitting here have definitely made me jittery. My ping-ponging thoughts make me believe that I must write an article for a local city’s newspaper. A story about an orthodontist office located in the town’s old train depot. About the doctor who took over the practice years ago from his dad.

Boy! How did that thought come out of nowhere? I need someone to pop me on the back of the head. Like the way Agent Gibbs smacks Tony DiNozzo on NCIS.

This is why I need to quit drinking coffee. How can the Lord work through my writings when caffeine jumbles my thoughts? No telling if this story idea is mine or God’s when I’m under the influence.

I finally pick up the reading I came here to do. The Bible verse for the day talks about how all discipline seems painful for a time. However, peace will follow once we overcome whatever area of our life is being disciplined. (Hebrews 12:11)

A well-known speaker quoted that scripture in one of her videos I recently watched. She talked about how the Spirit in you will let you know when something isn’t good for you, even if there’s nothing wrong with it. And even if it’s okay for others to have.

Caffeine comes to mind... to my rapidly racing mind.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Parakeets and Other Fowl Provide Answer

All writers need inspiration when trying to find their niche. A couple days ago I asked for divine help on topics for my daily writing.

The Lord came through with flying colors, literally.

Yesterday, I became discouraged after searching online job boards, so I went down by the lake for a quick workout. While walking at a brisk pace, I had an emotional moment and needed to stop. I wanted to know about my future, what else I could possibly do regarding my job search or my writing.

Old gnarled tree roots that had pushed their way up out of the ground near the water’s edge looked inviting, so I sat on one. The cool breeze coming off the lake prompted me to zip up my jacket. The sound of waves lapping at the shoreline calmed me… somewhat. My gaze fell upon the expanse of lake before me.

As tears brimmed, all I wanted at that moment was to make sense of my current situation.

My eye caught movement in my peripheral vision. A mallard and his mate paddled toward me. They came searching for bread crumbs I did not have.

The answers I was searching for didn’t come either, so I got up and resumed my trek. I had covered quite a distance when I stopped at a cove. A swan skimming slowly across the surface of the water added serenity to the scenic view.

Answers. Where were the answers I so desperately wanted?

I usually find such guidance when I feel closer to God, and I usually get there by first listening to worship music. So, I pulled out my MP3 player, inserted my earbuds, and raised my face toward the warmth of the sun. My soul found peace 15 minutes later even though I still had no answers. I turned off the music and headed home.

The sound of small birds flitting about in some bushes caught my attention. I paused and remembered the scripture about God taking care of these creatures. Even though birds don’t sow, reap, or store food in barns, God feeds them. (Matt 6:26).

I asked myself a question that sounded a lot like the one at the end of that scripture: Doesn’t God promise to take care of me just like He does those birds?

Yes, He does. There was a definite spring in my step as I continued onward.

And then it happened. Fodder for my writing that day.

As I approached the old Filter House, I heard squawking in the treetops and stopped to observe.

Could it be?

I read about a colony of these winged creatures living at White Rock Lake and always wondered if it was an urban legend. Yet, here they were in all their green, beautiful splendor. Monk parakeets!

Out came my iPhone. Click, click, click. I had real proof I’d seen them.

Who would have ever thought of birds? The writing material I had been hunting for came in the form of the avian species. A duck and his mate. A swan. Small birds in bushes. Wild parakeets.

Not only will God take care of me as he does these feathered friends, but I believe He also provided them as my first writing topic after I asked Him for daily themes.

Now that’s something to write about.

Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life….  Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:25-26)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Worrywart, Be Gone

Network. Network. Network.

Human-resource experts say in today’s market a jobseeker should not expect to find a job by using only a home computer and job boards. He must get out there and network.

Did I emphasize network?

Let me also emphasize my focus for this blog post isn't really about finding a job. But I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, so let me just say I made a significant dent in my search for employment today. Well, it wasn’t exactly my job search that had a dent put in it. It was my tendency to worry that was impacted.

You see, three weeks ago I interviewed with a recruiter for temporary employment. Although her staffing agency places people mainly in office jobs, she’d made a note of my strong writing skills. A week passed and I didn’t hear from her, so I sent an email. Today marked two more weeks without a word, and I sensed I needed to call her even though I felt uncomfortable doing so.

I figured this recruiter was just like the one I contacted five years ago after moving back to Texas. That person never returned my phone calls, so I assumed I didn’t measure up to her company’s standards. That I wasn’t a good fit for their clients. Or that I performed poorly on their assessment tests. I allowed feelings of rejection to cloud the fact that I do make a good first impression and perform well on tests.

And then God stepped in, and I stopped my job search in order to hone my writing skills. All I can say is that it was a God thing. And it wasn’t a coincidence that the doors to potential jobs closed as well.

So, as most of you know, I went back to college, graduated in 2011 with a journalism degree, and now have published articles under my belt.

However, I’m still looking for a full-time writing gig. At times, worry plagues me. And you know what's weird? I thought I overcame that type of worrying a long time ago.

Yet, that worrywart mentality has a habit of rearing its ugly head when I take my focus off the Lord. When I scan my bills, but forget God’s assurance He’ll never forsake me. When I look into the eyes of a homeless man, and forget God’s promise I’ll never have to beg for bread.

Yep, the worrywart stronghold that once consumed me crouches on my doorstep just waiting to take me prisoner again.

With that said, I’ve sensed a stirring in my heart to become a mentor to younger adults. To console and counsel them in areas I’ve struggled with and overcame. So, last night I attended the first session of a program at my church dealing with “freedom recovery.”

My heart leapt when the facilitator testified he used to worry about finances. How he worried his salary as a pastor wouldn't be enough to support his family. This spiritual leader, who was once a worrywart, learned to stop focusing on outward circumstances. Instead he began to focus on the wisdom of God found in scripture.

The scriptures talk about how the heart can be deceived, even the heart of a Christian. And worry is a heart issue.

As sinners with fractured hearts, we see our lives and the world around us through fractured lenses. However, God’s word is truth. Our trust and focus must be in the wisdom of God.

I really needed to hear that again. I’m so thankful I went to last night’s gathering.

And I’m glad I obeyed the prompting inside me this morning to phone the recruiter I met three weeks ago. She never received my email. My negative experience five years earlier with the other recruiter hindered me from reaching out sooner this time around. As I talked with her, my eyes opened to the fact that there was probably nothing I did wrong with the other recruiter all those years ago.

In hindsight, I believe doors were supernaturally closed back then because the Lord wanted me to concentrate on becoming a writer.

God knows everything about me, even my natural talents. And He knows my future.

The right job will come along. Just wait and see.

Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? (Matthew 6:25-27; NKJV)

Friday, February 1, 2013


“Why do you think God has placed you in environments flourishing with young adults?” Martha asked me recently.

As a recruiter, Martha volunteers once a week at a local church to support and encourage unemployed jobseekers. Several days ago, we left the weekly meeting where she does her magic and were sitting in a barbeque joint. She asked that question as I bit into a piece of brisket.

Our conversation revolved around my holiday job at Fossil that ended a couple weeks earlier. I knew the call-center gig was only temporary, yet I was bummed when I walked out the door for the last time.

While working at Fossil’s corporate headquarters, I surmised the average age to be in the mid 20s. I was one of only two temporary workers in the call center over the age of…. Well, I’ll just leave that number alone and say I could pass as the parent of most of the employees.

I savored my barbequed brisket and contemplated how to answer Martha’s question. After swallowing my food, I took a sip of iced tea.

“I don’t know all the reasons why God led me to that job at Fossil.” I set my cup on the table. “But I do know He showed me while I was there that I’d been healed.

“Oh?” Martha’s inquisitive brown eyes searched mine.

I explained I’d been a stay-at-home mom for over a decade. By the time our children entered their preteen years, my husband began building a wall between us as I was trying to save our marriage. I reentered the workforce, and he left a short time later. I was devastated.

After the divorce, I sold our home. I’ll just say now that it was a God thing as to why I moved into a one-bedroom condo. A month after settling in, my teenagers wanted their own space, so I agreed to let them live with their dad in his bigger house.

The pain was so excruciating as I dealt with the loss of interacting with my loved ones on a daily basis. I was a sobbing mess for a very, very long time

Ongoing contact with my husband became a thing of the past once his girlfriend moved to our town. My parental responsibilities began to dwindle as well, especially in regards to our children’s education. I would later learn the other person co-parenting behind the scenes with their teachers wasn’t their dad but his girlfriend. To add insult to injury, I stumbled upon an online comment saying she was now the “queen.” The one that ruled his roost.

I felt as though my kids had been ripped from my arms, my mommy role stolen.

Night after night I cried out to God, a broken woman. My marriage and family—all that I held dear—were shattered. I needed the Lord to heal me. And I needed to forgive.

Years after my world collapsed, I heard an inspirational speaker hint that when a person is physically, mentally, or emotionally traumatized, he can become stuck in a place in time when the trauma happened.

I realized I had become emotionally stuck in my children’s teenage years, trying somehow to regain a foothold in that lost season of my life.

As my teens matured into young adults, I struggled to let go. This struggle became very apparent to me during a family photo shoot a few years ago. In front of the photographer who was a little bit older than my son, I spoke to my 23 year old as if he were still a 14 year old. The embarrassment in his eyes and the astonishment on the photographer’s face spoke volumes.

Visiting with Martha at the restaurant, I relayed how God rescued me from being stuck in that time warp. How eventually my healing came in environments where younger adults abound. In such places as the college campus I returned to and graduated from in 2011. In my church where the average age is in the mid 20s. In my home group. And in the Fossil call center. Mingling in those arenas has shown me that, indeed, the Lord has healed me. Now I relate to my adult children in the healthy and natural way God intended.

To add an exclamation point to the Lord’s healing power, I was okay with my son and daughter doing something recently that I’ve always done as the parent—paying the bill at a restaurant!

I’m finally unstuck from the emotional trauma of my past, and I give God all the glory.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3, NKJV).