Humility-what it is, what it isn’t


 20_07_3Y

(Today’s post has a definite religious viewpoint. Just wanted you to know. This post is  featured on both blogs.)

I opened the door in response to the quiet knock. A timid youngThai woman bowed her head and mumbled some words. “Why was she bowing?” I asked myself.

She had on a uniform with the name of the hotel embroidered on it, so I knew her to be one of the hotel staff. I let her in and in her broken Thai/English vernacular, she said, “Housekeeping, Madam.” I understood that but still couldn’t figure out the bowing part.  My first instinct was to tell her to straighten up, but I knew I couldn’t make her understand what I was saying. My second instinct was to gently place my hands on her head and lift it but I know better than to touch a stranger in a foreign country. Over the next two weeks, I was bowed to so many times, I felt like royalty. My husband laughingly explained it was protocol for the staff at this particular hotel. I grew to like it a little too much, I’m ashamed to admit.

Fast forward twelve years later. I’m at a motel chain in Atlanta, Georgia, a far cry from the Bangkok Hilton. On the flight there, I was reading a book by John Ortberg, entitled, “The Life You’ve Always Wanted”.  It’s a book that focuses on spiritual growth and at the end of one chapter the author suggests we ask this question, “Am I becoming judgmental or exclusive or proud?”

That question is what prompted me to remember my experience in Thailand. How this job dropped into our laps a week before my husband was to be unemployed is a story of God’s intervention but I won’t go there now. (Just so you know, that didn’t mean his salary was huge. That may be true of sales reps who travel a lot but not forensic auditors. He just got a LOT of frequent flyer miles which is how I was able to go with him a couple of times a year.)

We were extremely grateful for his new position in the beginning but when the job’s requirements changed to international travel, we had to work a little harder to be grateful. We had to convince ourselves that God knew what He was doing. We are now at the end of that crazy schedule and while it was tough being apart so much, we both agree that our faith has grown exponentially in the process.  We’re glad that God chose to interrupt our lives the way He did. We wouldn’t trade the lessons we’ve learned for any amount of mundane predictability.

We knew it was important that we handle what others would view as a “WOW” in the right way. We knew people can be impressed easily and we didn’t want that.  We knew we were the same people.   So we decided early on that we wouldn’t broadcast the bit about the international travel. I remembered the times I’d heard other women talk of international travel and I remembered how that seemed to create a barrier for me in those relationshps. My fault not theirs but I didn’t want others to feel that way about me. It’s too easy to get a big head. Besides, the glamour wore off after about the third trip.

Humility doesn’t mean we can’t feel good about our achievements. We all feel good when we’ve worked hard on a project and it turns out even better than we expected.  I feel a healthy pride when one of my paintings turns out good.  (It’s rare.)  Unhealthy pride almost always leads us to thinking we’re more valuable than the next person.

 The wrong kind of pride always shows up in how we treat other people.

We can enjoy the fruits of our labor without feeling we’ve abandoned humility. Physicians make the salary they do because they’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on an education, years of internship and often hold a patient’s life in their hands. Respecting someone’s expertise is very different than elevating them.  My husband earned every one of his frequent flyer miles the hard way: cancelled flights, long layovers, being away from his family and friends, being sick In a foreign country, having to rush every minute when he was home to see the people he needed to see, and never getting any time to enjoy his own pursuits.

When God blesses us with something we need never apologize for it. As long as we acknowledge that God is the ultimate source of every blessing and show our thankfulness in meaningful ways, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the fruits of our labor. Pride rears its head when we twist our thinking to convince ourselves we did it all on our own. That’s when we cease to be humble.

Many people confuse personality traits with humility.  Some of the most humble people I know are extroverts. Some of the least humble people I know are introverts.  Further, humility doesn’t mean we never confront or share our opinions either.  Christ was humble but he wasn’t meek or timid acting. Hardly.  He often harshly addressed the hypocrites around him.  Even during his trial, he never backed down from the truth.

(Remembering my promise to myself to keep my blog “real” I share this personal bit.)There are days, when during my quiet time, I say to God, “God, I think I made you smile today and that makes me feel good.” I want to know I’ve made God smile. Why would I want anything less? I don’t feel the least bit prideful about saying that. Maybe that’s because on other days I have to say, “God, today, I think I made you sad and that makes me feel awful.”

If you can look in the mirror and once you look away forget about yourself, you are well on your way to humility.  If you can pick up someone else’s mess without complaining, you are well on your way. If you can graciously offer your place in line to someone behind you, you are well on your way.  If you can visit someone who needs a visit even though they’re not the most pleasant person, you are on your way.  I believe as with most aspects of life we have to be intentional or we simply will let things slide

Deliberately put yourselves in situations that keep you humble.

I want to tell you a true story. Your first thought may be that this woman I’m going to tell you about was less than humble by sharing her story. That’s not true. She’s one of the most genuine people I know. It happened in a Bible class I was teaching and the subject was relationships. Her demeanor in telling her story was gentle and sweet and I could tell she struggled with sharing it for fear she would bring too much attention to herself. But it perfectly fit in our discussion.

It happened in the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  She has four children. Her and her husband struggle financially. This particular day everyone was getting on everyone’s nerves. Her husband was becoming frustrated with the children and with her. This was very much unlike him. This kept up for the afternoon and she was to the point of tears.  She was also getting irritated herself with her husband’s lack of understanding about a few issues that were transpiring that day. She went into a room and prayed.

She knew what she had to do.

Everyone was gathered in the family room sulking, no one talking to one another. She went into the kitchen, filled a large round bowl with water, and gathered some soap and a washcloth. She entered the room, and without saying a word she knelt in front of her husband. She said that everyone immediately became still and quiet as they watched what she was doing. Her husband was so taken aback, he just sat there. Without one word, she took off his shoes and socks and gently and lovingly washed his feet.  Her family was so struck by what she was doing, tears came to their eyes. (Mine, too, as I listened.)

She never said what happened next. She ended her story very quietly and none of us spoke, even the never-at-a-loss-for words teacher. As I recall, the silence in our room continued for quite awhile as we took in what she’d done. I will never forget it. It is to this day the most graphic example of true humility I’ve ever heard about.

She could have been justified in nursing her wounded feelings but she knew her husband was upset with himself and rather than chastise him, she took the opportunity to humble herself before him.

Those of the Christian faith are beginning to celebrate Holy Week, the interval between when Jesus entered Jerusalem till the day he rose from the dead on Easter. During that time there were a few trials, many betrayals, and finally a crucifixion. In Philippians (a book in the Christians bible), it says that Jesus humbled himself.  Christians believe Jesus, being God’s son, had all the same power his father did. He could have stopped his own crucifixion but instead he humbled himself and fulfilled prophecy. No one had to humble Jesus. He did it himself.

 Humility isn’t an intrinsic quality. Humility is an action.

Spring. Yea!


garden 2008 august

Is everyone as excited about spring as I am?  In case you’ve forgotten, I live in Michigan. We have very long winters and this year was no exception. But the snow is melting and yesterday I saw a blue bird stuffing twigs into our faded birdhouse nailed to a tree directly in front of what we call our “sunroom”.

I like watching birds although I’m hardly a seasoned bird watcher. one   I especially like watching them build their nests. We have a number of gourd birdhouses in front of the house. I grew the gourds myself and  I’ve painted them bright colors. They will need painting again. While I love spring in Michigan, I don’t like what else spring means.  The yard work, the deck, the outdoor furniture. Ugh! There is so much to do I’m tired before I begin.

Then there’s the problem of my pulled” whatever” in back of my knee. A Zumba class gone dreadfully wrong. The fears that my gardening days are over. That wouldn’t be the end of the world except I have a huge garden. Actually, I have about three gardens. Maybe I’ll just scoot around among the flowers on my butt. Whatever works, right?

218987600602865111_ZLo1FQZ8_c

I think people in cold climates have a fondness for spring that few other states can. We’ve been pretty much holed up in our homes for months now with the occasional venturing out to get groceries, etc.  It’s fun living in Michigan in the spring. You don’t see any of your neighbors for months. It’s almost as if you don’t have neighbors. Then suddenly people seem to burst from their homes in one massive movement.  There’s a barrage of activity as they make use of every hour of daylight. People are friendly and exuberant in their long-overdue freedom.  It’s like we’ve been released from prison.

I can’t imagine this happening in warmer climates. Here, it’s exciting and energizing. Unlike the birds who are stuffing their nests, we’re cleaning out ours. Piles of stuff show up on the curbs and I get so excited I can’t stand it. The anticipation of all the “treasures” I might find. I’ve embarrassed my poor husband more than once by yelling “Stop!”, I have to have that”. My husband will ask, “What is it?”, when I throw “it” into the bed of the truck. I will respond, “I don’t have a clue, but it will be wonderful when I’m done with it.”

Oh, the ideas that are oozing out of every part of my overly energized brain as I plan all my DIY projects. Oh, the possibilities that await me. Sigh…………

Yea, it’s spring!

Image


Great stacking tin tables

TIN TABLES

Image


Great tin table I found at local superstore.

an explanation


DSC00751

an explanation

Some things I need to explain.  I realized (should have sooner) that the title of this blog isn’t working.  I mean, really, who “googles” worms, unless you’re into nature, fishing or some other science field?

So, I started another blog called “depressionsgift.com”.  Already, it has taken off because the title is appropriate to the content.  While I will continue to post to this blog, it will probably be evolving and become more of a site for DIY projects and various other subjects as I develop it more.  I will eventually change its name although I really, really, like it.  It says so much about life and depression.  Oh, well……live and learn. 

So if you started following this blog because it focused on depression, you will want to follow “depressionsgift.com”.  Hope to see you there.

(I hope I’m not the only blogger out in blogland that has had a false start.  Stay with me.)

 

a blank canvas


2009-12-19-IMG_0961-v2

a blank canvas

Today I “googled” best times of day to blog and frequency of days. Just when I was beginning to think it wasn’t a good idea to post often, I learn that it really is. Plus, I was getting discouraged. It’s really hard to get noticed when your main topic is depression and you’ve decided that Facebook is not a place you want to have your posts show up because (1.) you’re afraid of what people (family, in particular) will think and (2) you also figure knowing that there are people you know who are following you might impede your freedom. Whew! That was one long sentence.

But here I am, back again, trusting that if I’ve felt that inner prompting to blog, it must be right and I must be patient.

Today is a blank canvas. I’ve had a cold the last couple of days and have laid on the couch like a potato. Today, it’s “get moving” day. The day stretches before me like a white blanket of snow with no tracks yet. What kind of tracks am I going to make? Are they going to be deep, the plodding, lumbering kind? Or are they going to barely dent the snow as I skip on? I’m determined that this blank canvas of mine is going to be filled by tonight with people I’ve connected with, things I’ve accomplished, and a heartfelt connection with God.

What kind of footprints are you going to leave today on your canvas? Are you wondering if you can even get up off the couch? I’m here to tell you:

You can.

I didn’t conquer my depression by lying around thinking about it. I was determined there was excellent mental health waiting for me if I faced my culpability and changed some things. That’s why two or three days of indulging a head cold can’t continue for me or it will lead to repeating the “couch” behavior over and over again-this time for no good reason.

It’s early (at least in time zone). Don’t let this day go forward without leaving something positive behind. Don’t get to evening and realize your canvas is still blank.

Despite what you might think, you, and you alone, can determine what this day will look like. No matter how you feel. No matter your circumstances. Your canvas doesn’t have to remain blank.

grief and faith


006-IMG_1648

grief and faith

Today is Sunday morning and I’m not in church because I have a cold. I’m not sick enough to be in bed but I don’t want to share my germs with anyone. I hate it when people are coughing and sneezing and then want to shake my hand after the service. I’m sorry but that’s not what sharing our Christian love is all about.

My husband called me before he entered the sanctuary with some bad news. We learned that  a friend of our’s whose husband died last week after an eight week battle with cancer (Yes, you read that right, an eight week battle. The doctors only discovered the cancer eight short weeks ago and now he’s gone.) has also just lost her mother two days ago. How does a person deal with that? How does a Christian demonstrate their faith at a time like this? How does a Christian wear their faith and what does it look like when their world has been shattered?

Here’s my thoughts based on years of studying the Bible, reading books by the great authors of past and present, prayer, and my own trials with depression and other circumstances. Faith isn’t necessarily a:

Smiling face.

Lack of tears.

Lack of heartbreak.

Lack of questions.

Faith comes to fruition through all the above. It is through tears, heartbreak and questions that we become more aware, not less, of God’s all-encompassing love. How can we know a God of comfort if we’re never been in a situation to be comforted? How can we know a God of strength if we’ve never been held up by Divine Arms? How can we have a will to survive when it seems as if God has abandoned us if not by experiencing that “quiet, still voice” that assures us we will?

My husband said in that same earlier conversation, “Don’t be surprised if Susan (not her real name) is a basket case.” To which I responded, “I would expect  her to be.” I was a hospital chaplain for about ten years and I’ve seen a lot. I’ve seen grief expressed in hard-to-imagine ways.  From screams, from fainting, from stroking the deceased from the top of their head to their feet, to family fist fights, to stoicism, to anger, to not caring at all. So,  I’m not expecting anything when we go to the funeral home tomorrow.

If she’s smiling, I’ll know she’s simply trying to hold herself together so she can get through this first funeral and then prepare for the second. If she’s inconsolable, I’ll understand that as well knowing her still to be a woman of deep faith. It doesn’t matter what I think anyway. The time we should least judge anyone’s faith is when their experiencing grief.  “There but for the grace of God go I“, is never more true than at a time like this.

Our time will come.

I think sometimes that’s why we do judge. We don’t know how to separate what has happened to them and what may, no, will, eventually happen to us. So we project on them all the ways we hope we will behave but aren’t the least bit sure we will. We foolishly imagine we would handle it better or worse.

We don’t have a clue.

If we don’t want others to judge us during our darkest hour, we’d better not judge them. I did once. My best friend’s husband died. She wouldn’t allow visitors outside of family to visit till three weeks afterwards. There was no visitation and no funeral. I never even had a phone conversation with her during those three weeks. I have never been so hurt. I almost ended our friendship because of it. (Not right then, of course, but over the year following.) But I had made a promise to her family that I would see her through the grieving process. That was almost three years ago. We’re still best friends. (Obviously, I’ve worked through it.)

As I’m writing this, I’m reminded of what I read not too long ago:

We get through the tough times by learning to walk in the continual awareness that we’re walking in the presence of God.

That has been true for me as well.  During my darkest times, I’m sure I haven’t acted as others might expect or want but I’ve walked in the awareness of the presence of God and, frankly, that has kept me from caring what anyone else thought. Dealing with depression, however,  has proved harder because depression invades and distorts our thinking as nothing else can. But even then I’m still aware of whose arms are holding me up.

Anyway, whatever you’re dealing with today, whether it’s grief, depression or any number of other assaults, I hope that you are aware of God’s presence in whatever way He has chosen to make Himself known to you.

living room re-do


living room re-do

Finally, some remodeling pictures to post. The very day we started ripping up the tile, my mom came over to visit. I had stopped by her house earlier and asked her to come over and have a glass of iced-tea.

I saw her pull-up in my driveway and went out to meet her.  As she stepped up on the first step to come inside, she slipped on the concrete and hit her head hard on the sidewalk. She didn’t lose consciousness but was bleeding from her head.  Thank goodness she didn’t lose consciousness but she did suffer from verigo for about three months.

It is now six months later and she is well on her way to recovery but seeing as she was unsteady on her feet even before she fell, I don’t anticipate she will get any better than she was before the accident. 

Anyway, you can imagine what my next few weeks were like. My husband had a fishing trip planned with my son the next week and I insisted that he go ahead.  So after visits to the hospital, I would come home and rip up tile. I could only carry about ten tiles at once so there were countless trips to the garage. 

 In the meantime, we had already hired a contractor to begin doing some work on the second floor. To say I had a lot going on all at once is to put it mildly. Anyway, it’s done and it’s beautiful.  Here’s the pictures.

This first picture shows the tile that covered the hardwood floors. To the right you will see some carpet. There is also carpet next the staircase. The former owners had a wood burning stove in the fireplace and brought in the firewood from what we call our “sunroom”, a former porch. There are doors leading outside. Rather than drag firewood over the carpet, they essentially made a wide tile “path” from the door to the fireplace. It was kind of cool and certainly made our home unique. However, the tile was cracking and I broke a couple pieces checking out the floor underneath. So……….

IMG_1301The next few pictures show various stages of demolition.

IMG_13002013-Jan  I-phone 015If you look in front of the fireplace you will see that we uncovered a beautiful flagstone hearth. We had no idea it was there.  We were thrilled but it took us a total of forty hours to get off all the cement and mastic. I was on my knees so long, I suffered an injury to my knee that still isn’t healed. 

We contracted the refinishing of the floor. IMG_1590Here’s the floor with the beginning stages of the poly. The dark spot is the area the contractor stained to show me the color. I am in love!

IMG_1603These next pictures show the finished floor.  The floor is wet here but I chose a matte finish and so it is considerably less shiny than what shows here.

After the floors were done, we re-painted walls, trim and fireplace in both rooms. (They are  big rooms with ten foot ceilings.  Yikes!) We painted the same colors.  Reason?  I was too chicken to go white and the colors are very neutral. Trim is Behr’s Cottage White which is my favorite new white.IMG_1630 IMG_1629 IMG_1681The picture above was taken after we painted the living room. The staircase is not completely done yet. We are working on the upstiars and will be replacing carpet on stairs so am waiting for that to get done. The bannister and newel post is black.

These are pictures taken at Christmas and a couple after Christmas. I forogt to mention that the pillow below is made from a skirt I bought at Goodwill. Now the part about the waistband should make some sense.

IMG_2429-001IMG_2486IMG_2480IMG_2307IMG_2306

indulgences


IMG_0938

indulgences

Sometimes it’s good to treat ourselves.  It’s even better to plan for it.  There’s nothing wrong with having a little of what you fancy, as my friend’s mother always told her.

The thing is,  most of us feel a little guilty about indulging ourselves. And certainly we can’t imagine scheduling it. But what’s wrong with that?

Why not for the rest of the month and for every month after that,  you pencil in a symbol (maybe a book, if reading is your indulgence of choice) that has meaning for you on a few days of each month. These are the days you will “treat” yourself.  It doesn’t have to be expensive. It could be anything.

An hour to curl up and read a book.

Browsing through a stack of magazines.

An ice-cream cone.

A facial of oatmeal and honey. (Lots of other recipes on internet.)

A diy pedicure or manicure.

Bake something great.

A call to someone you haven’t talked to in a long time.

A hand-written thank you not long over due.

A visit to the library.

“Pinning” on Pinterest.

Planning a special meal.

A nap.

Browsing  bookstore.

Visitingt an art gallery (even on line.)

Doodling. (Now frame it!) You’d be surprised at what talent may be lurking inside. (I was never even interested in art and one day I signed up for a drawing class, which led to painting classes and now most of the art work in our home is original and the artist is ME!)

These are just a few things you could try. It depends on how much disposable time  and money you have. And when you start indulging yourself a little, you will probably find yourself thinking about other things you can try. Fresh eyes are always good. here   But if we don’t actually schedule some time, we’ll never do it. Most of us have a hard time giving ourselves some “me” time but something abut putting in on our calendar makes it “official”.

I’m not very good at personal indulgence either. But I do try to do something I enjoy every week. It might be making paper jewelry, playing around with my craft supplies, spray painting something-anything. (I love to spray paint.)  Lots of interests keeps depression at bay.

I like to have a lot of projects going on at the same time. That way, I have lots to choose from depending on my mood.  This may not be for you but it works for me.  I usually have three or four books I’m reading, something I’m knitting, jewelry in the making, various diy projects and a stack of magazines.And if none of those meet my fancy, there’s always something that needs spray painting. I hate to be bored or inactive and I’ve found being idle not good for my moods at all.

So indulge yourself. And whatever you do, don’t feel guilty about it. I don’t.

a post that made me smile


I found this post here the other day. I’m passing it on to you as it made me smile. Hope it brightens your day.