Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Transitions As Our Best Time of Growth

I went to a friend’s retirement celebration this past weekend. It was a wonderful experience of care and appreciation of one who served 39 years in one agency. That’s a long time any more! This is a huge transition into being his own boss and managing his own time for himself and his family now! What a great time of celebration! On the other hand, one who has spent a long time in one place, especially for this amount of time, may say "what now"?
Transitions can be chosen and exciting experiences, and they can be unexpected and disappointing, at best. Either way, they often draw us into a time of saying “what now?”, or at least place us in a position that we are unfamiliar with in our lives. When life is status quo, we can get up in the morning and have some idea of what to expect in the day and what is expected of us in our purpose and list of things to do. Transitions are often the times when we are moved to explore and grow, whether we want to or not.

In the case of my friend, it was a chosen and anticipated time to get up and start his day without getting into morning traffic and go his own pace into the day. For others, this is far from true. There are many types of transitions. One of my friends experienced the loss of his father, and another just heard of the unexpected death of her mother. Some of my clients are dealing with pain and/or violence from their partners in marriage. On the positive side, I know couples beginning their life with a newborn, and others preparing to graduate. Transitions can be painful, are usually uncomfortable, and are the times where most of our creativity and growth occur.

Carl Jung, a psychologist of the early 20th century, focused most of his work on the midlife of our lives. He saw this as a time when most of us go through a spiritual crisis. That is how he viewed what many call a “midlife crisis”. He saw this as a time when we recognize that much of what we thought we wanted and assumed we needed in life didn’t make sense anymore, and we become “lost” in what we really want out of life. We transition into asking “what now?”

James Fowler, who focused on the psychology of religion and wrote about the six developmental stages of faith, tells us that it is not in the “stages” that we grow in our faith. It is when we are taken out of our comfort zones and are forced to transition from our “old understanding” of God and our connection with that which is greater than ourselves that we are moved to grow in our faith. Our growth is in the discomfort and the searching, not the status quo.

I have heard it oft stated that “birth, death, taxes and change” are the only constants in life. Especially with our fast paced lifestyle in our society, this is so true. We can make a decision about how we want to face our transitions whenever they come. Knowing our resources and how to utilize them is usually important in this process.

Family, friends and my faith community are among resources that I have found to be significant in my own transitions. In this past year, personal life coaching has also been very important in helping me be more intentional about my own growth. I  believe resources and attitude make the difference in how we pull these transitions off. This has been one of my greatest lessons in my journey through my transition of the past year. How do you help yourself in your times of transition? What are your resources?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Simplicity in Life is Often the Most Satisfying

I enjoyed my early morning time in my small back patio area of my townhouse reading my devotions and experiencing quiet time with the flowers, birds, trees and my dog, Precious. Well, I was listening in quiet. On the other hand, the birds were very active. I love this time of year!!

Sometimes the most simple and basic of life is the most satisfying. What is more satisfying then being visited by a pair of bluebirds in springtime? Or what about the incredible colors of red, orange, yellow and purple bursting forth from the new flowers, the green of leaves on the trees after a dormant winter and the fresh spring breeze that hasn't yet taken on the heat of summer? I can do this now because of the events of the past year for me.

Last week I wrote in my blog a quote from John Maxwell about "time management" being an oxymoron. It stated we don't manage time, we manage our lives. It was one year ago this week that I was a part of a "downsize" of a hospital system. It was very painful then. Now, well, I consider it a blessing. Yes, I miss the consistent income and many of the people and the mission of the work I was doing. On the other hand, I was not fully happy because of the tension in the atmosphere of the hospital (like many healthcare systems these days), and that I was not free to utilize many of my skills and experiences there.

I don't fault that system. It is a good one on so many levels. Now I am grateful that I am where I am. I have time to explore, to do what I love, and to stop and appreciate the simplest of things in the present, like the birds building nests, and my dog exploring the weeds for another lizard. It also has allowed me to build my counseling practice and to explore opportunities to provide life coaching and training with those who seek a more satisfying (and simple?) lifestyle.

This time has also fed into my creativity. I have begun to ask basic questions more seriously about what really matters for me. What fills my life with meaning and satisfaction? Where do I get energy? What do I do well and want to do even better? I recently went to a workshop on building up a counseling practice (and coaching/training practice for myself). One of the things David Diana, LPC, one of the speakers, stated was that it is important to have a niche, and to be the expert in that niche. Not everyone will want what you have to offer, but those who do will come to you because you are the expert. The word gets out when there are persons who really like what you have to offer.

This, for me, is part of keeping life simple, staying focused on what is present, and basic to being good stewards of what God has given us. I still have much to learn about keeping life simple, yet full and satisfying. I think it is an ongoing life lesson. I am thankful, though, for the gift I have been given to take a hard look at what is important to me in this past year, and what it has taught me in coaching others in exploring their own lives. This reminds me of an old Shaker hymn, "'Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free. 'Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be..."

Monday, April 9, 2012

An Easter Tradition

I love Easter! Obviously, it is the time we celebrate our Risen Lord and the Grace and Life we know through Him. I also love Easter for the music. In my family, music was so important! My parents are the ones who first taught me to love music, and taught me of the values of the Easter faith through music.
I am one of eight children, and every one of us learned at least one musical instrument growing up. The irony for me is that the one I most enjoy now is one I didn’t play as I was growing up. The music, however, is in my bones and spirit. Easter brings the best of that out for me.
This Easter I had the privilege of playing my flute with several strings members and play along with our church choir in our Friday Tenebrae service. This is when music is more then notes, more than instruments, more then people who have skills and bring harmony (or appropriate dissonance) together. This is when it all comes together and tells a story and becomes a prayer that goes beyond any words. Anyone of us is part of something so much greater than we are as individuals. We are even more than the music put together. It becomes the Holy Spirit moving through us telling of  God’s Love for us!
Easter is more than a day, a family gathering, a church service. It is the harmony that tells a story of God’s love for us. Of all the traditions that we have in our Easter celebration, it is often the gospel in the form of music that moves me to the cross and into the celebration of Easter best. I am so grateful for the Easter tradition my parents have passed on to me.