Archives for the month of: March, 2015

Yesterday, I dripped ink from a printer cartridge on my pants. Actually, it wasn’t my fault. I was under the assumption that the cartridges are drip-proof. Alas, this was incorrect. I had 3 bright pink splotches on my tan pants to prove it. Since I was at work, I had no choice but to go through the entire work day with these pink spots glaring at everyone from my thigh (note to self: get a pair of emergency pants to keep at the office). I tried blotting with a tissue, but it accomplished so little that I found myself thinking snarky thoughts at everyone I’ve ever heard say, “You’re supposed to blot, not rub.”

Fear not, however, because I have discovered the secret method of how to remove ink cartridge stains from pants. I will now generously share my new knowledge with you.

Step 1. Ask Facebook what you should do.

Step 2. As per the best suggestion, dig out the old can of hairspray from the back of your cabinet and spray it on the affected area.

Step 3. Watch the affected area closely to see the stains magically disappear.

Step 4. Be extremely disappointed when the stains do not magically disappear.

Step 5. Wet the area thoroughly with warm water, pour laundry detergent on the area, and scrub desperately with an old toothbrush.

Step 6. Become dismayed at the lack of results and as a last resort, dejectedly fill the sink with hot water and submerge the stained portion of the clothing.

Step 7. Completely forget about the clothing soaking in the sink as you binge watch House of Cards.

Step 8. Be surprised when you go to wash your face and brush your teeth before bed and you see the clothing that you forgot about is still soaking in the sink.

Step 9. Warily check the clothing and…success! The stains will be gone and the only reminder will be a sink full of pinkish water.

I hope my expertise will be helpful to you. Happy washing!

I don’t usually swear.

I just don’t feel that it’s necessary in daily life. In fact, I think it sounds pretty crass when you curse all the time. I have friends who do it, it’s fine, no judgment. I just usually don’t. I do, however, get that there are situations in which a swear word is actually the best option to perfectly describe what is going on. Like when you flip your half-cooked grilled cheese sandwich onto the lit burner instead of into the fry pan.

Then a few f-bombs actually feel pretty good.

Everyone has what I call “Sliding Door Moments.” If you’ve seen the movie Sliding Doors, you probably get what I mean. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a movie about a woman’s (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) life shown in 2 parallel timelines. I don’t think I’m giving anything away here, but just in case, SPOILER ALERT. In one timeline, the woman catches a subway train just before the doors slide shut and gets home in time to see her boyfriend cheating on her. She breaks up with him and falls in love with someone else. In the other timeline, she misses the train and doesn’t catch him. She stays with him, even though neither one of them seems to be getting much out of the relationship, and he continues to cheat on her. END SPOILER ALERT.

As I’m sure you’ve probably guessed, a Sliding Door Moment is a moment in our lives when something occurs or a choice we have to make radically changes the course of our life. For example, one of my Moments was January 8, 2008 in the early morning. At that moment, I seriously, SERIOUSLY considered not going to the airport and not getting on the plane that would take me to Japan. I clearly remember thinking, “I don’t HAVE to go.” That’s an example of a choice that I made in a Moment. An example of a seemingly serendipitous Moment would be when the representative at Chase Visa gave me the advice that eventually helped me out of debt.

250 yen for one strawberry. To buy or not to buy?

250 yen for one strawberry. To buy or not to buy?

Both of those moments profoundly changed my life. Some of it was good, some of it was bad, all of it was difficult. But at the end of the day, I am here because of those moments, and they helped make me who I am now.

Even though I like my life and who I am now, it’s tempting to think, “What if?” Of course it’s not tempting to wonder about the Moments that obviously led to good things. I have never once tried to imagine what my life would be like if I still had all that debt. But what if I hadn’t gotten on the plane? I had a really good life in the U.S. I had lots of friends, I liked my job, I was very involved in my church. There was absolutely nothing that I wanted to run away from. There are also lots of events I wouldn’t have missed if I had stayed: marriages, births, concerts, parties. Another Moment I often wonder about occurred back in 1987. It was the moment I forgave my high school boyfriend for cheating on me. Forgiving him led to 7 more years in a totally unhealthy relationship, a devastating breakup, and depression. What if I hadn’t forgiven him and instead broken up with him? Wouldn’t my life have been better?

As easy as it is to dwell on those Moments, to convince yourself that life could have been better or easier, it’s so wrong to do it. Most people will tell you that you shouldn’t regret those episodes in your life because they made you stronger and wiser. That may be true, but that is not the only reason I like to leave the past in the past. The Bible tells us that God has a plan for each one of us, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And as if that’s not enough, He also says He will go with us: “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” and “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” He never once promises His way is easy or painless, but He does promise we won’t face our challenges alone. If we trust this, then we know that those Moments were meant to be. There is no point in wondering “What if?’ because there is only what is.

So the next time you find yourself dwelling on a decision that you should or shouldn’t have made, remember that you are right where you are supposed to be.

This morning I led our staff devotion time and I shared a very personal story about debt. I’ve shared this story maybe only 2 or 3 times, though I have let others use it in financial counseling situations. At the time that it was going on, I felt extremely ashamed and kept it a secret from my friends. But now I am happy to share it if it helps someone understand the crushing weight of being in debt. Anyway, the reason I shared this particular story this morning was because I was talking about..love.

Perhaps I don’t highlight this part of the story enough, but the person who recommended the debt consolidation service to me, which helped me get control of my debt, changed my life merely by being kind. When I tell my story, I usually focus on the stress of receiving (and avoiding) phone calls from debt collectors. So stressful! They are not nice people. I mean, I know they have to do their job and all, but it’s very clear that they usually look at people like me as “losers” and “deadbeats.” I can understand it. From their little cubicle where they work every day to bring home a paycheck, it seems very simple: if you use a credit card, you have to pay the bill. If these people have never experienced debt themselves, it’s easy for them to think that a lack of payment comes from a lack of willingness to pay. To them, we are just people who are trying to get something (or a lot of things) for free. And that just is not fair; everything has a price.

I was not shocked by this attitude when I was met with it. Defensive and embarrassed, but not shocked. It’s extremely difficult to think outside our personal experience, and it’s very easy to apply our own situation to everyone. I think this is a common way of thinking for most of the world, and it’s not limited to this particular situation. That whole “walk a mile in my shoes” thing? Way easier said than done. It takes time and effort to try to understand where someone is coming from when their situation is so different from our own.

These people who are on the phone all day making the same kind of calls over and over again? I bet they’re tired. I bet they’re disheartened. I bet they’re cynical. I would be. I’m sure I would find it difficult to maintain a positive attitude all day every day, to be kind and understanding with every person that says they can’t pay what they owe. It’s so much easier to put everyone in the same box, the same mold. After all, whether a person answers with tears or with threats, isn’t everyone essentially saying the same thing?

To be fair, I was definitely saying the same thing as everyone else. I was avoiding the phone calls, making minimum payments, making excuses. In no way did I stand out from the crowd. There was no way for anyone to know that I was losing sleep or that I was paralyzed with fear. I had no idea how to get help because I was too embarrassed to ask for it. What made all the difference was the way that one woman on the other end of the phone chose to treat me. I made the phone call expecting it to go like all the others: get scolded for making a late payment, be sternly advised to pay more, and be told thank you in a manner that suggested I didn’t deserve to be thanked. But instead, this call changed the course of my life. This woman told me gently (but very plainly) that, according to my payment history, I was never going to pay off this debt without help. Then she offered to connect me with a debt consolidation service. I was so stunned by her effort to help me that I began to cry. I tried to tell her through the tears how grateful I was and how she was the first person to help my by suggesting this, but she just waved it off. The whole call was over in less than 5 minutes.

I don’t know anything about this woman. I don’t even remember her name. Maybe she gave everyone this same information. All I know is that it was this one simple act of kindness that led me to get control of, and eventually pay off, my crushing financial debt. My entire life was changed (for the better) by just a few kind words. She chose to treat me differently not because she knew me and knew what I needed, but because she chose love. It’s so easy to judge others, to compare them to ourselves. I do this every day! It is a constant challenge to remember that love starts with ourselves. If we love others the way God loves us, it can change someone’s life forever.