First Impressions Aren’t Always Accurate

Today I met with a new therapist. And I really like her. So my second impression is great!

My first impression wasn’t so good. My appointment was at 9:15am. I got there at 9:00am in case there was additional paperwork. Though the hours listed on the door said the office opened at 9:00am, no one arrived until 9:05am, and it was another therapist. She commented that it looked like everyone was running late. There was no receptionist, so I held on to my intake forms.

I entered the waiting room with another client, after signing in on the clipboard. My phone rang – a “No Caller ID,” so I didn’t answer. I’ve been getting lots of robocalls, so I tend to let them go to voicemail, if they even bother to leave a message. I then turned on Do Not Disturb, so my ringer didn’t go off during my appointment.

The therapist who had unlocked the doors came and took her client – the other woman in the waiting room – back to her office.

I checked my phone, and the caller had left a message so I clicked voicemail. It was the therapist, telling me that she was running 15 minutes late, and that the receptionist was out this morning. Good to know – at least I was assured that she was on her way.

I dropped my Starbucks cup into the bathroom’s garbage can. There were scraps of paper towel on the floor, and the can was overflowing, though I pushed it all down.

As I sat back down in the waiting room, I noticed a wear mark on the opposite wall where a chair had apparently worn through the paint. There was a small table with crayons and paper, and toys nearby. I looked at the artwork on the walls, which was a hodgepodge of pictures. There was no pattern to them, but each picture was pretty and relaxing. Maybe that was the theme – calm!

My therapist arrived at about 9:35am, and took me back to her large overflowing office. I think she is the owner of the practice – her name is first on the letterhead. She’s a very busy woman – owner of this practice plus another office in a nearby town plus teaching at a local college. Given her many commitments, I was impressed with the time and attention she gave me.

She asked great questions – there’s lots to share as we get to know each other. She was open with me about her personal faith in Jesus, which is really important to me in a therapist. She was friendly, kind, genuine, and has a wonderful smile which reaches her eyes. Her schedule is very full, but she found a slot in which to schedule me next week.

I’m excited to see her again. I won’t let those first impressions darken my judgement. My best friend reminded me of my “lateness factor in our relationship” and she “loves me still.” So I’m extending that same grace to this new therapist’s office. And now that I realize how busy she is, I’m all the more grateful that she’ll take me as her client!

Trouble with Waiting

In this world you will have trouble. Jesus said this (John 16:33), and He wasn’t kidding.

I’ve always taken these words personally, though they certainly apply to more global issues like war, economy, politics, poverty, oppression, etc. But I’ve always read them for my encouragement, to remind me that this world is not perfect and there is trouble. Every day. With a capital T that rhymes with P and stands for…poor me.

When I’ve been self-pitying about things that aren’t going my way, or even real problems in my life, this verse is a reminder that these light and momentary troubles don’t surprise God, though I might be caught off guard. God promises that I will grow through these experiences, these difficulties, and shine God’s light more brightly because of them. They build me up for eternal glory – they count for eternity.

For our momentary, light distress [this passing trouble] is producing for us an eternal weight of glory [a fullness] beyond all measure [surpassing all comparisons, a transcendent splendor and an endless blessedness]! 2 Corinthians 4:17, AMP

I was reflecting on my situation a year ago, and the turmoil that I was feeling as our move to Florida was on hold. I really struggled then; it felt like the yo-yo of moving and not moving was never going to end. I couldn’t believe that after all of my life’s difficulties in 2014 (depression several times, car accident, empty nesting, family health issues), I was expected to handle more in 2015. And I really struggled with the reality of “trouble.” I felt like I had already had so many impossibilities that had been out of my control, and this start to 2015 was going to undo me. Even my therapist and psych doc had told me that I’d been through more difficulties than most people can handle without breaking, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that I broke, and that I had major depression again.

But God’s Word says that even though we know that we will have trouble in this world, Christ has overcome the world.

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.] John 16:33, AMP

These troubles are not forever. And we are not alone in them – God promises His perfect peace through the tough times.

I am to keep my eyes focused on Christ, not on my circumstances, nor on my troubles and difficulties and tribulations and distresses and sufferings. My eyes on Jesus means that, like Peter, I get out of the boat and focus on Him and not be distracted by the waves of turmoil all around me. (Matthew 14:25-32)

Easier said than done.

I’m in a situation now where I’m waiting again. Waiting to see what God has planned for me. I’m waiting to make friends, waiting to be in leadership, waiting to connect, waiting for whatever He has next for me. I thought that by now, after almost a year of living here, I’d be further along in these areas. So I’m trying to use this time to draw closer to Him. To treat this seemingly uneventful, without trouble but without impact, time of my life as a time to spend getting to know Him more. This requires discipline – to be in God’s Word and in His Presence every morning. To commit each moment of each day to Him. To be willing to let Him guide the day.

And my days are pretty uneventful. I don’t have a lot going on, though I am trying to be involved in things that take me out of the house and get me around other people. So it should be easy to find time to spend with God. To write. To read. To relax in Him. To meditate on His Word and contemplate His character – to get to know Him better while I wait for whatever it is that He has next for me.

I learned from last year’s angst. I am less bothered by the waiting. I’m not anxious, I’m not fretting. I’m trusting God that He’s working out all the details in His due time.

Yes, there are daily difficulties: I feel lonely sometimes. I wonder what I am offering to the world right now. I miss being in leadership, in facilitating discussion groups or teaching. I wish I were more connected with other people, and wasn’t alone so much of the time. But these things I’m missing, these troubles, I’m learning to see them as opportunities to give them to God. To pray about all of them. To tell Him my heart and hurts and loneliness and concerns, and trust Him to work it all out for His eternal glory. His timing. His plans. My patience. My dependence on Him. My increasing knowledge of who He is, and trusting His plan for my life, for my daily activities, and for any troubles that may come.

Notebooks: organizing and planning

I love the devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. Every day is written as if Jesus is speaking to the reader.

September 16: (italics is my emphasis)
YOU WILL NOT FIND MY PEACE by engaging in excessive planning: attempting to control what will happen to you in the future...When your mind spins with multiple plans, Peace may sometimes seem to be within your grasp; yet it always eludes you. Just when you think you have prepared for all possibilities, something unexpected pops up and throws things into confusion.

I did not design the human mind to figure out the future…I crafted your mind for continual communication with Me. Bring Me all your needs, your hopes and fears. Commit everything into My care. Turn from the path of planning to the path of Peace.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  1 PETER 5 : 6 –7

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. PROVERBS 16 : 9

Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. PSALM 37:5 (NKJV)

I read this and thought, “Of course planning brings me peace! I have Notebooks full of peace!” An entire Notebook System actually. I pick up the 10-for-$1.00, 70 pages college-ruled wire-spiral-bound notebooks at the start of school supply season. And in a variety of colors, too, because each project notebook should have its own color. (I have to double up on a few – the stores only have six colors at that price.)

My Notebook System is a central place where I jot down my thoughts on whatever is happening, pages to organize and record them. It’s a collection of details, because I don’t trust my brain to retain those. And I carry the required project Notebook everywhere, so that I can write in it at a moments’ notice, as soon as the details surface. None of that “I’ll remember and write it down later.” No! Write right now!

So my Moving Notebook (M.N.) is full of things to tell a Realtor we needed in a house. Things to tell our realtor we wanted to sell with the house. Notes on what those realtors told us. Dates. Deadlines. Contact information – realtors, moving companies, inspectors, insurance companies and notes on what they said our policies would be, what to pack in the suitcases, what goes into storage for the kids, churches to check out, sites to see, restaurants to try, names of our neighbors. [I would meet folks along our street, and then rush home to write down their names and which house – “A&S – kitty corner, wine (welcome-to-the-neighborhood bottle), across from M&K who are next door,” “G&S two houses over,” “T – left next to A,” “Other A – kitty corner across from us,” – you get the idea.] Other Notebook stuff – what did we need to shop for? Measurements for windows, for lampshades. Christmas “New House” Wish List. You name it! If I thought of it as we were preparing to move or even after we were here, it got written down in the M.N. And I’d read through each page regularly, checking stuff off when it was completed, writing DONE across the top of the page when I no longer needed to read that one, writing things a second time on a fresh sheet if the old page had too many scribbles. I’ve got this Notebook system down! I even pulled out the M.N. yesterday to look up measurements for our nightstand covers. And I added that ice cream place E told me about.

I’ve had lots of Notebooks: Notebooks dedicated to Summer Vacation Bible Schools (one per summer – reference last year’s but each summer gets its own). A support group I facilitated. Moms In Prayer. A leadership committee at church. The band committee at school. I did use my Graduation Planning Notebook for both kids – the things that happened Senior Year for each kid were similar, but party planning notes from hers didn’t help with his. Except that I still had that business contact for tables and chairs!

Honestly, I depend way too much on my Notebooks. I’ve often jokingly said that this is the way God created me – to be organized, a planner. I love logistics – pulling together all kinds of pieces to create a final project. All those spiritual gifts inventories and good-for-me books confirm it – it’s a gift from God, to be used by Him through me for the body of Christ.

But I am learning to be careful. God may have created me with a passion and talent for organizing and planning, but not as the end-all. I am not to put the plan above the Master Planner. These Notebooks do not bring me Peace. For example – when our move to FL was delayed, there was nothing in the M.N. to help me. Nothing that relieved the anxiety. Nothing that hurried up the wait. I had made the mistake of treating the Notebook as if it was the ultimate plan, and I was wrong. The plan for our move was in the hands of God, not in my Notebook.

God knows the Plan. His timing is not mine. His direction is often not mine. I may have misunderstood – or probably assumed – certain details or expectations. And I’m sure to be disappointed if I trust only in my Notebooks.

God wants me to be so tuned in with Him, walking so closely with Him, that when He moves in a direction or at a certain time, I’m ready; I’m there. And that can only happen when I spend time with Him. In His Word. In prayer. In His Presence. I need to be so close to Him that when He moves, I move. Like a dance, and I let Him lead! I need to be ready – He might spin me and catch me in a flourish.

I think I’ll start a Dance Steps Notebook.