World’s Best Boss

I am very choosy about which mug I use eachworldsbestboss day at work. Do you do the same thing? I need just the right size and shape – and message or picture. I find that I often pick up the mug in our office that says “World’s Best Boss”. I’m boss to no one at work, but for some reason I just love this mug.

Today, as I drank coffee out of the mug, I realized that I’m not a boss of anyone but myself. Hm. Am I the best boss of me? Would I be delighted to give myself the World’s Best Boss mug? Honestly, probably not. Though I’ve come a long way, the voice I use to talk to myself is still often harsh. I don’t have much patience for my mistakes, limits, and messy humanness. But I want to be a compassionate, encouraging, grace-filled “boss” to myself. My favorite bosses have believed in me, let me fail well, encouraged me to keep going – they helped me improve, be the best version of myself, and do things I never thought I could. Can I be that kind of presence to/for myself? Sure, this also happens in community, but I can see great value in extending this grace to myself. The only person I can change – and boss – is myself. And, before you protest, “Wait! God is my boss, so this is irrelevant!”, certainly the more compassionate I am to myself and see myself as genuinely loved by God (and speak to myself in ways that are congruent with that belief), the more compassion and love I’ll naturally extend to others.

How about you? Would you give yourself this mug? What are the characteristics of your favorite boss?

Indifference

Yesterday, I went on a little hike with mom. She wanted to get out and walk since today 15085585_10154602531757976_1658862637640513339_nshe’s in a surgery that will mean less activity in the next few weeks. She talked to me about a possible negative side effect of her surgery and said, “I kind of hope that doesn’t happen.” That struck me as funny because I would have said, “Man, I don’t want that to happen!” She said, ever practical, “Well, I can’t do anything about it – it either is or isn’t. No sense in fighting it.” She isn’t denying it or giving in to it, just sitting in a neutral stance. A rather realistic and mature view.

It made me think of the Ignatian Exercises that I’m engaged in now. St. Ignatius talks about living with “holy indifference”. That’s not dismissing or denial or even not caring. It’s an open-handed way of living. Trusting that God is at work and desiring whatever will bring us closer to God. The Principle and Foundation, written by St. Ignatius, says “The goal of our life is to live with God forever. God, who loves us, gave us life. Our own response of love allows God’s life to flow into us without limit. All the things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily. As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God insofar as they help us develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth toward our goal. In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some obligation. We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God. Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening his life in me.” (modern translation)

I’m certainly not there yet. I honestly DO want health, success, long life, enough money. I know that “everything has the potential of calling for in me a deeper response to God”, but I still find that I crave comfort, ease. I’m grateful to see that God is showing me the possibility of how I could get to a place of greater open-handedness.

Shingles

I had shingles about one month ago. When the doctor diagnosed me, my mouth literally dropped open. I was not expecting that! Dealing with the pain of shingles for about 10 days was the most physically painful experience that I’ve dealt with. A friend of mine who also had singles in the past said, “The pain is singular, isn’t it?” Indeed, it is. The horrible stabbing nerve pain turned me into a crying mess each day – feeling tired and just wanting the pain to end. The sores appeared on the right side of my face (MY FACE), neck, tongue, throat. To say I was utterly miserable is an understatement. (I’m kind of tempted to post a picture for sympathy points, but it’s rather mortifying.)

I tried praying through it. I thought a breath prayer would be perfect since I couldn’t do anything but sit there and try to breathe. “Lord, Jesus Christ…ugh, ouch…ow” (breathe in) “have mercy on…ow, OWW, ow… me… owwww… a sinner” (breathe out) “Lord, ow, ow, OW… oh, forget it!”

Now that the pain is gone (I have deep respect now for those who deal with chronic pain.), I’m left with some residual numbness on my right cheek. I can’t really pinpoint where it is, but I can tell that something is odd, numb, and not quite right. The doctor said this could last for months and it could even be permanent. I also have a few scars on my face that will probably always be there.

This whole terrible shingles thing takes my mind back to the pain of grief that I’ve been trying to sort through well. The grief I cried my way through over the past year has been miserable. I tried praying through it, but I often don’t have words. Now, I’m left with some residual scars and I can’t pinpoint where it still hurts, but it does still hurt. My spiritual director told me the other day that a person can’t fully grieve when they feel unsafe or are in crisis mode. Now that I’m finding my footing in my new job/home/community, more grief will no doubt surface.

Sometimes, the numb spot on my cheek suddenly tingles. The doctor said that’s a good sign of healing. Sometimes these days, my heart is unexpectedly light and I find myself smiling. Surely, that’s a good sign too. I think I’m going to be okay.

Bubblegum Extravagance

When I was little, we had very little money. There were a lot of gifts in growing up poor – appreciation, creativity, ingenuity, simplicity. My parents made it fun – I remember the sparkle in my dad’s eye when he showed me that egg yolk could serve as glue in a pinch. The smallest treats (new socks, a little activity book, etc.) were big to us.

One day, when I was about 6 or 7, my dad came home from work and he had that look in his eye. Mischievous, excited – he had a big secret that he was bursting to share. He went out to his truck and soon returned with his arms loaded up with of packs of gum – he gleefully poured them on my mom as she sat on the floor. All kinds of gum! Bubblegum, mint gum, fruit gum! I couldn’t believe my eyes! Laughing, my brother and I jumped up and yelled excited questions, “Where did this come from?? How do you have all of this?? Why?? Can we have some??” Our outburst caused our little dog to join in the commotion, wagging her tail, barking. Smiling, Dad said nothing as he went back to the truck for another load of gum! He made three trips to the truck before he finally explained – a delivery truck had lost part of it’s load on a quiet country road. As my dad drove up, he noticed several people had pulled over to investigate and scoop up some gum, so he joined in.

We spent weeks happily chewing gum and giving packs of gum away to friends. (Actually, I was distressed at how much gum my parents gave away, but it also felt so expansive to have something that we could give away!)

This little incident keeps replaying in my mind these days. I didn’t see it then, but now when I look back, I see this as tangible evidence that God delights in extravagance. We often couldn’t afford things like bubblegum – it was a non-essential. This surprising influx of gum was a purely joyful gift. I have often mistakenly seen God as withholding, unresponsive, stingy. But when I take the time time look and remember, I see evidence of God’s extravagance all over the place. In memories, beauty in nature, friends who love me, the amazing variety in food and scents. There is so much in our human experience that is for our enjoyment – not just for utilitarian purposes. This awareness causes me to want to be extravagant in my own giving.

What about you? Where have you noticed God’s extravagance?