Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, and I doubt anyone is going to read this for a while, but I feel the need to write something about thanksgiving.

Yesterday I learned for certain that our counseling program is coming to an end. Which means I get to add being "laid off" to my list of situations for which I can offer experiential empathy, perhaps not a bad thing for a counselor in the times ahead.

This is hard for me personally for various reasons related to how the situation unfolded and led to a somewhat dramatic denouement. (I'm not even going to bother to see if I spelled that correctly, it's my day off.)

(Addendum, added two days later with a less heavy heart: Things are already looking up! I did spell that word correctly! Maybe I'll pursue a job as proofreader somewhere....)

Beyond my personal situation, though, is the multiplied effect this decision will have (and has already begun to have) on our clients. Of course God will work through this, and that is what I am trying to help them see, but another "of course" is that it's hard for anyone seriously involved in therapy to hear that their therapist is leaving. It's a bit harder in this case because some of the clients feel a sense of betrayal by the organization we work for, whose mission statement says it is about meeting physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. They know our organization is moving ahead with plans to build a new medical clinic, so they conclude that it isn't dire necessity driving this decision. (And from what I've been told, it isn't.)

To cut the counseling program (which consists of only two people, neither working a full workweek) just doesn't make sense to them, and of course no one from among the decision-makers is going around saying to our clients, "I'm sorry this has to happen."

Which means we have to say it, even though it's not our decision.

And then there is the reality that many of our clients may not be able to get good care when we close because they either cannot pay even the low rates some private services offer, or they have an insurance that is hardly accepted by anyone but the local mental health centers who I like to believe do the best they can, but are terribly overworked and understaffed.'s hard. No getting around it.

And therefore the photo of pansies, from our trip to Mountain View last month.

Pansies make it through the winter here in the South. They are amazing, with those bright cheery colors.

You can go out on the morning after a freeze and see how they've withered, as if hunching down to keep themselves warm. If you didn't know better, you'd think they had died.

But as soon as a warmer day hits, they spring back to life and are just as vibrant as before.

And I've lived long enough, and been through enough, and gotten to know God enough, to know that even though there will be frozen days of withering ahead for my clients and likely for me as well, the sun will return, and life can be colorful and vibrant again.

More than that, I hope to stay vibrant throughout the experience. And thanksgiving is part of that. I've been reading from a little book a dear friend gave me, Jesus Calling, and she has some good stuff on giving thanks. Here is one day's entry:

Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity. That is why I have instructed you to give thanks for everything. There is an element of mystery in this transaction. You give Me thanks (regardless of your feelings), and I give you Joy (regardless of your circumstances). This is a spiritual act of obedience--at times, blind obedience. To people who don't know Me intimately, it can seem irrational and even impossible to thank Me for heartrending hardships. Nonetheless, those who obey Me in this way are invariably blessed, even though difficulties may remain.

Thankfulness opens your heart to My Presence and your mind to My thoughts. You may still be in the same place, with the same set of circumstances, but it is as if a light has been switched on, enabling you to see from My perspective. It is this Light of My Presence that removes the sting from adversity.

(Note from Sheila: I think it important to understand that the word "obey" comes from the word for "hear" or "listen." It tends to have some negative connotations in our present day, but has a much deeper meaning than subservience.)

Not too long ago in my life, I would read similar things and scoff or at least accuse people of being superficial. (Which they sometimes are when they say similar things. I think it can be a religious veiling of denial, refusal to acknowledge how hard life can be and how much it hurts.)

But this writer, Sarah Young, is not superficial. And what she is writing about is similar to what the apostle Paul, Christian mystics, and all those serious about pursuing God write about, and it has been born out in my short experience of truly discipling myself to thank and trust God. It sometimes makes big differences in the circumstances, but more than anything it changes the heart and soul and opens us to His Light. And that changes everything.

When you think about it, the circumstances will be finished one day for all of us. The heart and soul will remain. That's where the most important changes happen.

It may sound irrational. I would say it's beyond rational.

Happy Thanksgiving Day.


Carisse said...

Thank you for your thoughtful post. I just planted 140 pansies in my garden for exactly the reasons you have listed (thought it almost broke my back to plant so many -- what was I thinking??). I'm sorry to hear that your counseling job is closing out for you and your clients, but I think all will be well. We will give thanks in all things.

Lucy said...

Oh, drat, that's a reverse isn't it?

But oddly before I got to the bit about obey meaning 'hear' or 'listen' it seemed to me that you would need to stay open and calm and listen for the next thing you need to do, not to panic or try to hard to control things or rail against the situation.

Bravo you, for writing this, I hope it helped.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Sheila dear, and hold on, but loosely!

Thinking of

Mike Z said...

Thanks for the words Sheil-ba! I sometimes say to people, including myself,(yes I talk to myself doesn't everybody) facing difficult circumstances "be thankful you woke up breathing". Afterall, He gives us our daily bread and much more. Everything we have really is a gift from God. I am so thankful everyday for my precious little girl Emmakate who is really God's gift to my wife and I. It is our responsibility to raise her, who really belongs to God as each of us does, with His guiding hand.

You have a great Thanksgiving my special friend,

Mike Z

Sheila said...

Carisse--140! I cannot imagine how long that took! Wish I could see the end result.

Gioietta said...

I have no words of wisdom in this situation. I also feel especially sorrowful for those, so to say, 'left behind' by others' decisions, however I will be praying with Thanksgiving, for perhaps the chance to see something come through, like a pansies sprouting wings ;)
Lots of love,
PS I sort of made an 'advent' wreath. It's just evergreen sprigs from my backyard tree and some candles in jars, not all the same size. I remember you introducing me to these spiritual traditions for the home, and just wanted to let you know I am going to try and incorporate in the years ahead!