July 10, 2013

5 Choices I've Made In Response to Pain and Loss

I lost my job as a career coach and got it back, within 24 hours. 
True story.

This happened last year, in what I know was not a twist of fate but divine intervention.

Photo Credit: Michael Ruiz, Flickr

Most everyone who reads here know I am a pastor. In addition to fulfilling this call to serve the church full time, I write, travel and speak. One thing I don’t always talk about as much is the fact that I’m a certified coach and serve part time with a company called NextJob, based in Klamath Falls, Oregon. (I honestly don't talk about it a lot because every time I do somebody or a few somebodies respond with, "Ohhhh pleeeasssse can you coach me?" That is so flattering. I'm honored that anyone would ask. But right now I can't do any more than what I'm already doing.)
When the company was going through a transition in 2012, everyone who couldn’t give full time hours was laid off. Being that I am pastoring the church which is my first priority and cannot give full time hours, I was let go. 

They have always known that I can only give them a maximum of 10 hours a week, 15 in an emergency without having a complete nervous breakdown.  I seriously thought the Director of People & Culture (basically our HR Director at the time) was going to cry when she let me know. Actually she's the person who was responsible for finding and hiring me. She told me it was one of the hardest things she ever had to do to tell me that they were letting me go and asked how I was feeling about the news. I told her, “I trust God with my life and if you’re telling me this is the direction the company is moving in, I know this is no surprise to Him. So I’m going to be okay. My life is in His hands.” I thanked her giving me the amazing opportunity of being with them for the last few years, and we ended the conversation, both of us expressing gratefulness, yet sadness at the changing season.

 The next morning I woke up and the phone was ringing and once again it was her. “Deanna, are you sitting down?” she said. “Yes…”  I replied.  

"We're extending you an offer to come back!"

 “Seriously?” I said.
“Yes! I am so excited to make this call. We are able to bring one person back and when our management team discussed it, they unanimously chose you, with the understanding of your time limitations."
Needless to say I was over-the-moon and this January I will be starting my fifth year coaching with them.

Photo Credit:pdpao, Flickr
So a few months ago, we had an all company meeting where management discussed with all of us the difference we as a company make in the lives of others. We were determining as a group what sets us apart from the rest in our industry and sought to identify the main ingredient. At the end of all the discussion, Kristi Weigant,our Chief Operating Officer, said they had arrived at a conclusion about what sets us apart and the answer was…love.

You’ve probably never heard of LOVE as a key ingredient of a business in corporate America. That’s one reason I love serving there, even for a few hours a week…because it aligns perfectly with my personal values. And it's something totally different from what I do as a pastor -- a brief opportunity to dip my toes into corporate America each week, which I like. It's an insane dance some weeks switching on a dime from leading a worship service to writing an engineer's resume or coaching them for an interview.  
What's more important than love? According to Jesus, nothing.
I wrote Kristi a note about how much the “love” value means to me. I was already secretly serving every client with love. Now I could be out of the closet with my love. Yippee! Did I mention I loooove living out of the closet?
Months prior, I made a confession to my boss at NextJob, with fear of what might happen as a result. I hate making big mistakes at work. Or what I think are big mistakes. I will reveal my confession after first sharing why I arrived at the place of having to even confess something.

When I became an adult I realized I had choices to make about how I would live, what my values and choices would be. Obstacles can break us, or shape us into what we are designed to be.

I am still in a healing process  and will be for life. This isn't a statement of defeat or doubt, simply stating a fact that I will be in process until heaven. We all are. Life is a journey.

How will I choose to live the rest of my life in response to significant losses and perpetual trauma? Adoption took so much from me. But I don't have to let it keep taking. After grieving my losses, what will I do with the rest of the time granted to me on earth?     

Photo Credit: Doug88888, Flickr
 Choice #1: I will love more, not less.
Loving without reservation is hard for an adoptee. We tend to be so afraid of rejection. So we're careful about radically loving. It's easy to hold back a piece of our hearts, never fully giving ourselves to anyone. 

There were times I lived in self preservation mode and was cautious about letting anyone in, building a wall to protect myself. I did this with my family, people in the church, friends or new acquaintances. Then I realized, the same wall I built to protect myself also kept me from being loved. When I feel myself slipping into this pattern of preservation, I recognize it and do a course correction to make the choice to give myself fully to those in my life.

Do I get hurt sometimes? Absolutely. I've had to remember that loving is always worth it, for me -- even if the other person doesn't respond in kind. One of my favorite songs is an old song, Never for Nothing," by Margaret Becker and describes my feelings and beliefs on this perfectly.   

Love is always a winning choice, for me -- even if hurt by the person I love. 

Choice #2: I will trust more, even when it’s scary.

It’s hard to trust people. Harder than loving! That’s one of the most difficult things about being an adoptee. Trusting is a challenge for most anyone, but being an adoptee means having trust issues on steroids.Before your life even started, people made sucky choices that would affect you forever. Now when anybody tells you the sun is shining you want to get your umbrella out. I know, I know.

I got pretty pathetic about trust for a while. Angry pathetic. I used to love riding rollercoasters but then I stopped for a while because my trust in people was so broken I thought the people who maintenance them were probably losers, who didn't care about people and were out eating a sandwich or texting somebody instead of tightening up a loose bolt. I told my kids I wouldn't go on rides with them anymore. Then I reminded myself of the choice to trust, even when it’s scary.

Last year my family encouraged me to go ziplining with them in Mexico. Yeah, it was as frightening as heck at first. Ironically it was a ziplining dog named Chico, sent to me as a miraculous gift that helped me through this experience. You think I'm kidding? Seriously, this dog was my saving grace.

It is much harder for me to trust people than love them but I choose to not walk around in fear having a lack of trust for all mankind. I will keep reaching out and taking risks and trusting because I know nothing great happens if you don’t.

We miss out on some of the best life experiences if we never reach out to trust again.

Choice #3: I will pursue health   

Pursuing health was a major choice, particularly emotional health. I wanted to give my husband an emotionally healthy wife, my kids an emotionally healthy mom, and our church an emotionally healthy leader.

Neither of my moms are big on therapy and both desperately needed it. Growing up I noticed how depressed my adoptive mom was. I asked her about going to counseling. She would say things like, “I’ve just gotta keep on keepin’ on!” and “God is my strength." One day I said, "God's really falling down on the job these days, Mom." Nope. Didn't go over too well. 

My mom made the occasional visit to the pastor’s office for help, but it wasn’t the same as therapy. I have the utmost respect for pastors, but ministerial advice is not the same as therapy. As far as my original mom receiving therapy, if you've read the past two months of my blog you know...

So, in response to the pain of having two unhealed moms, my choice is to pursue healing. I refuse to go through this life without pursuing wholeness! For me. I'm worth it. And, so are those around me. I do not want my family, my church, my friends, and the rest of the world to have to pay the price for the broken places of my life. I want to give everyone the most healthy  me that I can possibly give. 

Photo Credit: miloszberez, Flickr
 Choice #4: I will give more, not less.  

I make a choice to give extravagantly. For all the unfulfilled places in my life – the ones where the windows of time may have even closed to receive what I always longed for – my choice has been to give away what I missed.

How is that possible?

Some say you can’t give away what you don’t have.  

 I say you can give away what you never got from humans as long as you get it from God!

 That’s a choice I’ve made again and again and again – asking God to fill me and enable me to give away in increasing degree to others, the things I never received from people.

In this previous post, I shared things I never received. I know there are millions of people out in the world who also long for these things. What can I do to help? Daily I ask God, "Fill me, so in turn I can give them to others who are going without!"  

I have made a choice to lead a monthly teen and college girls mentoring group, to pour into them. To laugh with them and cry with them and speak the words some have never heard from those they long to hear it from.

I have made a choice to mentor and teach and most of all love the people of Celebration Church Tampa, and leave nothing left unsaid. To leave every service tired.  If I haven't hugged enough necks or patted enough hands and heads, it's not time to go home yet.
Choice #5: Express love out loud

Part of loving more and giving more, means expressing it.

Love must be expressed. 
It is meant to be an outward an expression of what is on the inside, not hidden.
Mother Teresa said, “Preach the gospel. When necessary use words.

I respect Mother Teresa but words are necessary. Actions are super important, but words mean something. People need to hear life giving words, from me, from you.
Some say, “Deep down, people know I love them even if I don’t say it.”

No, they don’t.
That’s a load of crap.

Love it not meant to be something people have to go around figuring out.
Love shouldn't be wondered about. 
Love is not meant to be a bunch of missing puzzle pieces.
That's part of the problem with adoption. We are left with so much to wonder about.
Let no one wonder about your love!
Love with crazy, reckless and radical abandon.
This love, it's not a ritual to me.
It's a conscious choice, an outward expression of an inward work. 

I will not allow trauma and pain and obstacles to win and cause me to go under a rock somewhere and try to preserve myself. 

My husband needs me, my kids need me, my church needs me, the world needs me. 

Yes I know I just said me four times, but it’s not just about me, me, me, me. All the people in your world need you, you, you, you. And you my friend, have a choice to make. 

How are you going to respond to pain?

My Daily Response
Daily I make a choice to  express love out loud, and give affection to my children. My now adult boys are used to me kissing their stubbly face each time I see them. Multiple times.  Describing to them how and why I’m so proud of them.  Savanna Rose is more reserved with affection but is always agreeable to me scratching her back, and when I do I tell her all the things that make her perfectly wonderful...all I ever dreamed of in a daughter. 

Daily I make a choice to give physical touch and affection to my husband. He needs a whole woman, not a shell of one stripped down by adoption. He needs me to let him know why he’s still the one for me, 26 years later.  He longs for a life partner who freely gives myself to him, with no inhibition. Verbalizing my love shouldn’t be reserved for special occasions. Daily, he needs to know, he needs to feel.
I choose to liberally sprinkle, “I love you's” when talking to people in the church even when in the midst of church business.

 “PD (what most of my church lovingly calls me) do you have the worship schedule for next month?”   
 “Yep, here it is! Love you!!”
“PD, are you busy?”
 “Never too busy for you, sweetie. What’s up?”
“PD, I love you!”
“I love you MORE!”
“PD, what time is the meeting tonight?”
 “7:00. Love you!!!”

 “PD, pray for me because I’m starting my job tomorrow and I’m so nervous.”
 “You’re going to do amazzzzzing. I’m so proud of you!!!”
Love you! Love you! Love you! 
Before hanging up the phone.
Before walking out the door.
Before driving away.
Before pressing send on an email.

Sometimes it’s hard to change gears to corporate America.

 Confession time.

Saying I love you is like breathing to me. And yet it hasn't lost it's meaning.

So one day I was on a call with a job seeker client for NextJob and we were finishing up his resume and the call and I said, “Okay, your resume is updated, you're good to go, and our next appointment is set. Talk to you next week. I love you!!!”
 Oh. My. Gosh. I. Just. Said. I. Love. You. To. A. Client.  

Not a private client. 
A NextJob client.
I am toast.

I quickly tried to recover and say that I’m so used to saying I love you to everyone in my life and it just sort of…happened…but I didn’t mean it in a romantic way or anything like that. I'm your career coach, but not interested in sending flirty pictures of me in the bathroom with a low cut shirt, looking up at the ceiling, hooking up...or anything like that, really. Seriously. I just...ummm...love you. That's all. I just love you. Like Jesus.

Imagine my surprise when he said, “I love you too, Deanna…”

And he quickly followed up with, “Well, I mean not in *that* way…but you know, I love you, like as a person…”

Oh. My Lord. My. Boss. Is. Going. To. Flip.
So, then I had to tell my boss that I said, “I love you” to a client. 
Because that’s just the way I roll. No secrets. 
The last thing I want is a client calling up my boss and saying,”Do you realize you have a coach going around telling clients she loves them? That’s kind of………..off…I think she needs help.”

So I told my boss and she thought it was HI- LAR- ious.  

I got in no trouble for this. 
Although I never did it again. 
But can I just say, I feel the love?

Every single client I talk to, I feel the love.
Even if what I feel is not love coming back from them. 
Even if they are difficult to work with a pain where a pill cannot reach, telling me over and over again that a one page resume is still in style, let me tell you, there is a plethora of love going out from me, to them. Because I’ve made a choice. 

With everyone I encounter in life, I've made a choice.
Loving more, not less.
Trusting more, even when it’s scary.
Pursuing health at all costs.
Giving extravagantly.
Expressing love out loud.
Adoption took so much away.  One thing it didn’t take away are my choices, NOW. I joyfully take every choice given to me. When a person's choices are stripped away as a child it’s all the more important to value them as an adult. How dare we throw these choices away? And to not make a choice is to make a choice!

These are five important choices I’ve made.
What choices have you made?
What choices are you thinking about making now?

Max and I would like to pray for you, today.