Thursday, October 30, 2014

The trapeze artist must learn to let go

By Susan

I had my whole life planned out since I was thirteen years old. I even had the name of my three children picked out. Despite the wrench that the Iranian Revolution threw in many of our lives, in the plane of my little life, things were going as I had planned them.  I had gone to college right after high school, gotten married at nineteen (the same age as mother, as I had planned), gotten a job, saved money and was now ready to embark on the next phase of the plan.  For Ben and I, the next step was finding some place outside of the United States, where we could live among people of a different culture and serve our Faith and humanity. After some extensive traveling around the world and looking into various job possibilities for Ben, we ended up in Venezuela.  Instead of Ben finding a job as a mining engineer, however, we started a business selling computers in Puerto Ordaz, an industrial city in the southeast part of the country.  For the most part, everything was going according to my plan.  I had always put very little importance on money and material well being.  But I have to say that I had been blessed with both, with very little effort on my part.  The computer store had been open for a couple of months and I was about six months pregnant with Miranda.  Ben and I quickly realized that we did not have the best instincts for running a business.  People would come in with their children to buy home computers.  The twelve year olds would try to tell their parents that they needed the top of the line color monitors and the fastest processors for playing games and doing homework.  I would try to talk them out of it!  Things were going pretty slowly. 

And then one day, we woke up to find that one of the biggest businesses in town was venturing into computer sales and opening a store in the same shopping center as ours. I remember sitting at lunch when Ben told me of this new development.  I burst into tear, crying uncontrollably, saying that our baby was going to starve because we could not provide for it.  We had used up all of our savings in setting up our life and our business, and I could not see a way for us to succeed in something that we neither enjoyed nor were good at.  Ben, of course, comforted me and assured me that things would turn out fine, but I was completely scared.  This was not part of my plan. 

I don’t remember whether it was hours, days or months, but it was not too long after that day that I saw an image in my mind.  It was of a trapeze artist swinging back and forth, back and forth and finally choosing the perfect instant to trust her partner and let go, knowing that she would be caught.  I realized that up to that point I had claimed that I trusted in God and believed that I could live on very little, all while I had savings in a bank account and everything going my way.  It was at that moment that I came to understand that trusting God is like that trapeze artist letting go.  You make plans, you prepare but you must also trust that God will guide you in the right direction, protect you from making serious mistakes and have mercy on you when you do.  True happiness does come from letting go and trusting.  Perfect plans are usually anti-climatic anyway.  What’s the fun in knowing how everything ends?  It is more exciting to be prepared and let God guide you, test you and lead you. 

We stuck it out in that business for another three years.  When Miranda was about two and a half and we were about to have Safaa, my cousin Vafa showed up as reinforcement.  When even with his business savvy, we could see that there wasn't much future in that business, we thought about coming back to the States.  But luckily, we remembered the lesson learned from the trapeze artist and decided to stick it out.  Because it is one thing to venture out into the unknown, fully prepared and with a savings account to back you up.  It is another level altogether to fully trust.  We made up our mind to stay and for Ben to start consulting as an engineer.  Few days after that decision was made, one of his American clients walked into the computer store.  Ben mentioned that he was thinking of leaving the shop and going out on his own to consult.  The guy told him to come out and interview with his mining company.  He did, got the job and worked for them for the rest of our time in Venezuela. 

And, because we had learned to trust in God’s will, we ended up with a fourth child.  Ben got to chose his name. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

What Do You Like about Yourself? By Andrea

What do you like best about yourself?  While perusing the internet, I came across this question on multiple pages so I decided to give it some thought.  Like most people, there are plenty of lines in my story that I would like to change- my waistline, my bust-line, my bottom line, just to name a few. Overall, though, I think I have a fairly healthy self view.  I like me. I am a ‘glass half-full’ kind of girl by nature, and I like that about myself.  

But as I thought and wrote about this more, I remembered a line from one of my September journal entries I just reread a few days ago: I think my optimism and idealism, my hope and ‘look for the good in others’ mindset has gotten me into trouble yet again.  I can clearly recall my emotional state of unrest and anxiety in the taxing, overwhelming situation about which I was writing.  I was also very frustrated that I could not turn off the Pollyanna in me. I was angry that I could not communicate what I was feeling rather than what I believed. 

During that time everyone kept telling me about how great it was that I could keep 'such a positive, gracious, hopeful attitude’. All I really wanted was a reprieve, relief from the stress, for someone to rescue me from the mayhem and foolishness. I prayed for God to remove the burden. I hoped for the problem to just disappear. I wanted someone else to see that I was wilting, instead people said things like ‘way to keep persevering’, ‘way to be a problem-solver, ‘thanks for looking for gems rather than stones.’  I wanted to be able to say “This really stinks!  It’s really hard, and I really CANNOT handle it!”. But that is not how I am known. People expect me to give my all, to be faithful, prayerful and to stay in the fight until something changes- for the better. The truth is and always has been that I expect this of myself, too. Even in the middle of all the woes and anxieties, I could not stop believing that things would get better.  I could not stop searching for answers.  I could not give up or give in. I could not communicate that my glass was half-empty because that’s not really what I believed.

I know God is at work.  I know that hope is a game-changer and love does conquer all.  I believe there is a solution to every problem, a possibility for growth and change for even the most challenging of us. I guess the thing I like best about myself is that I am a perpetual optimist with a desire to see and to do good in my little world.  Yes, this view does get me into trouble sometimes- making people think I can handle a lot more than I maybe actually can or should.  Over time, I have grown a little less idealistic than in my youth.  I know that life does not always go the way I believe it will, no matter how much I believe. Nonetheless, I also know that having a positive, proactive outlook makes a greater impact than the opposite approach.  Looking for the best gives me strength to keep going.  So here I am- staying the course, pursuing hope and embracing optimism.  I think I look pretty good in rose-colored glasses.

For each of us there is something unique that we add to the world. We have all heard it before.  It is true!  Rather than self-deprecating, spend a few minutes self-appreciating. What is it about you that you like best?  Chances are appreciating yourself will cause you to be more of yourself. Being yourself may invite challenges or obstacles.  It may get you into trouble sometimes.  You can handle it.  By being more of yourself, you will empower others to do the same.  And without even having to try very hard, you’ll have made your world a better place.  Simply by being you.

Life is an echo.  What you send out, comes back. What you sow, you reap.  What you give, you get. What you see in others, exists in you.  - Zig Ziglar

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Apples to Apples

I drew a picture of an apple once.  For a friend of mine who was feeling down about being the only one in our high school freshman group that did not have a boyfriend.    That might sound a little odd, but I didn’t know how else to make her feel better, so I decided to draw an apple.  The apple was small, but the only thing on the paper, so it made the luscious red apple standout.  I talked with her as I drew my chosen fruit with care and detail, along with a stem and a leaf to finish off my drawing. 
            I explained to her that she was like this apple.  Full of life, and flavor.  She had so much to offer, and anyone who even took the time to “take a bite” and get to know her, would be enriched by it.  She has such a passion for everything, and was always smiling and happy, and fiery, like the red dressing of the fruit on the page.  I explained that the boys she was fussing over and worrying about where like the stem of the apple.   Sure it was nice to have, but not having it did not in any way remove the value or worth of the apple.  The apple was still worth having, and a great choice for your health.   Just like she was worth more than words can express.  And the simple fact that she did not have a boyfriend did not make her anymore special. 

            Sometimes I struggle with remembering my own advice.  The harsh words of someone I care about can make me question my worth so easily.  Even strangers, and their judgmental stares of how I chose to raise my kids, or how bad I am at mowing my grass, makes me wonder about my value as a person.  I know I am far from perfect, but when other people seem to agree with me, it makes it that much harder to see myself as that red, vibrant apple.  The young, idealistic me would be very upset with my easily influenced self-perception.  She would say to tear off the stem of self-doubt, negativity, deconstructive criticism, and believe in my value to the very core.   I think its great advice, that on a daily, moment-to-moment basis I must chose to remember, and then follow-through.   ~E