Author Archives: Nancey West

Lost or Re-directed

Have you ever been lost? So lost that you feared you may never find your destination? I recently attended a conference in Portland. I drove each morning from my brother’s house in SE Portland to the Jantzen Beach area for the meetings. The first morning, I left early, giving myself time with the morning traffic. Which was a good plan as I had to creep along in rush-hour traffic. Almost to the conference location, I began feeling proud of myself for my seldom-used-skills in heavy traffic. I was even patting myself on the back for remembering that the Hooters restaurant was the exit before the one I needed…or was it?
Then I saw my destination below me, at the end of the exit ramp that I failed to take. After crossing the Columbia River and circling through downtown Vancouver, I was again on I-5, this time headed south. At 8:30 AM southbound traffic into Portland was at a near stand-still. I knew where my destination was – just across the river. Since I would be getting off at the first exit, I remained in the outside lane where I could marvel at the distance to the water below. Creeping across the bridge activated my fear of heights. My fingers tapped the steering wheel.
It felt like an eternity before the first exit was in sight. Finally, I was off the interstate with my destination near. Only I turned wrong at the first light and ended back on the freeway! Tension quickly rose as I inched along with traffic to the next exit. Once off, I zipped under freeway anticipating the northbound on-ramp. There wasn’t one. I was headed east into an unknown area. I pulled off on a side street to re-vamp my plan and asked a construction worker how to get on I-5 North. “Turn left at next block and go a mile or so and follow signs.”
“Left! That takes me south.” I would be headed away from my destination!
Eventually, I found the freeway, the correct exit and the convention. Relief. I survived the ordeal and was safely at my destination. Though arriving at the conference didn’t put me at my goal of publishing my book. I talked with several agents and publishers. No one was begging me for the opportunity to publish it. One agent said that if I made some changes she would take another look at it. Yes! On to another “destination.”
Looking back, I realized that morning was much like my life. Sometimes I was on the right track and other times not. Two years ago, I had a destination in mind. I could see it clearly. I wanted to help others who have felt worthless and hopeless, so I helped write a plan to expand the Soup Kitchen. I was part of a board applying for funding to build a transitional housing project where, eventually, I would be able to teach lessons from my book, which by then would be published. I joined the Homeless Coalition for the city, determined to tackle problems in my community. I could see my goals. It would all work out because I was doing it for God.
Or was I?
Two years later and I feel no closer to the dreams I had. It appears I am circling my destination but not arriving.
Again, life imitates my travels. I thought I could predict how each goal in my life would work out. God didn’t agree with my plans. I had to circle around and take another look at what, or maybe why, I was so passionate about each of my endeavors.
I began writing my blogs months ago with enthusiasm. After going to a class on blogging, I discovered I had a lot of details that needed improving. So, my blogs stopped. While I work through the changes, they may continue to be sporadic rather than scheduled. I am back on the “interstate,” moving slowly. It may not be a straight path. But I am traveling toward my goal and, with God’s help, I will get to where He wants me to be. The same is true with my volunteer work. I will let God guide how each should go.
What I thought was my destination was only a stepping stone. But that’s a thought for another time. Keep your eye on your dreams, but be flexible to God’s guiding.

Honor Your Parents

Recently, I was editing a chapter in my new book and was thinking about a section on forgiveness. We all know we should forgive anyone who has called us names, hurt our feelings or offended us. Then I remembered the ten commandments. I was taken back by, “Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)

How can someone honor their parents if they were abused or neglected? For myself, I can forgive them because they did the best they knew how. That is an excuse that doesn’t justify my, and my siblings, feelings of neglect and worthlessness.

But how does someone who was beaten, abandoned or tortured, honor their parents? I ached inside trying to make sense of the commandment. Then I realized that “honor your father and mother” was not about your parents. It is speaking to you, the child.

You aren’t going to change what has happened. You can’t change anyone, except yourself and how you want to move forward. In order for you to heal you must first respect the fact that they are your parents. But you don’t have to carry any of their actions with you. Put them in the proper perspective of the past. Carrying bitterness and anger will only feed the pain and kill any chance for your joy.

The commandment is about you and how you react to something that was done to you. Is it an easy solution? By no means! But once you take that first step to honor you parents’ place in your life and give your future to God, you will find strength to grow away from the negative impact and toward the abundant life you were promised.

Honoring your parents doesn’t mean putting them on a pedestal or giving them praise they don’t deserve. It can mean seeing them in the light of broken people and not continually complaining about their actions. Honoring may mean not picking fights or arguing when you feel mistreated. Honoring may be letting go of what they did and focusing on what good you can do.

Don’t overlook professional help if you are struggling. Your mind can twist and turn thoughts until you don’t know what is accurate. Counseling may help you straighten out some of the confusion.

Proverbs give us advise on seeking wisdom and finding peace. If we fill our minds with meditation on God’s word, we will have less room or time to be angry over past injustices. Chapter 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)

“Honor your father and mother” can become your first step in becoming the person you want to be.

Be Grateful for Strangers

People come into our lives in many different ways. I met Mary at her friend’s yard sale. In only a few minutes we connected with a common threat – growing up with no self-value. I have no idea how we got to the subject but I told her about the memoir I am writing titled I’m Nobody. She said she wanted to title her book Erased. She told me something she had learned and I marveled that it was also one of mine. I told a story from my journey and she understood the pain. We took the next step in our new-found friendship – we became Facebook friends!

Each day I look forward to seeing what nuggets she has posted. She writes what is on her heart: “There’s a special place in my heart for the ones who were with me at my lowest and still loved me when I wasn’t very loveable.” I can relate and think of those friends I have like that.

She posts sayings from other posts: “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.” Oh, if we could all live by that.

Mary posts spiritual thoughts: ”at my lowest, God is my HOPE. At my darkest, God is my LIGHT. At my weakest, God is my STRENGTH. At my saddest, God is my COMFORTER.” This is so true. I hold it dear.

She makes me laugh, “I am on the 12-step chocolate program: to NEVER be more than 12 steps away from chocolate!”

Some of her posts may have a moral statement: “Smoking is not a sign of maturity…it is, however, a sign of rebellion and self-destruction.”

Once she posted the old saying “people come into your life for different reasons…” I think we bumped into one another to become light and encouragement to each other. Only I am sure that she provides much more encouragement to me than I do to her. I may not even recognize her on the street, but often I see a post and say, “that sounds like Mary!”

You don’t have to be best friends and share your deepest secrets to be encouraged or comforted by someone’s words. You can bring joy to strangers when you share positive words, just as I Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Encourage one another and build each other up.”

And be grateful for those who bring you encouragement. Like Mary.

Batting Average

Following the College World Series, I was reading the records set by OSU. One in particular caught my attention. Adley Rutschman hit the ball 17 times in 30 at-bats which is a batting average of .567. Rutschman set a record for the series by hitting the ball 56.7% of the time.
Even a batter that hits the ball less than half the time is considered a good batter. He may not cross home plate but can earn the team points. He may not even make it safely to first base or he may be tagged out at second or third. But he hit the ball. Rutschman’s 17 hits earned the team 13 runs. His hits allowed other members of his team to safely make it to home.
Neither the batter or the team worried about the 43.3% that Rutschman did not hit the ball. They focused on the amount of times something was accomplished and ignored the rest.
When a batter faces a 90-mile-an-hour fast ball, he can’t afford to think about the percent of times he struck out. His focus must be on the ball coming at him and the ability he has to connect with it at that time. Off the field, he may study the films of how he batted. He analyzed them, worked on improving and focused on the future.
That is a good lesson for all of us. How many times are we happy with ourselves for doing something correctly only half the time? It is more likely that we scold ourselves for anything less than perfect. We have a tendency to focus only on the failed attempts. That focus can cause us to miss handle the next challenge that comes our way.
What we focus on is important. Would we keep our child’s or grandchild’s disappointments on our refrigerator? So why do we emphasize our own? If we concentrate on that which we do well, it may surprise us as to how often we achieve goals that we had previously dismissed.
“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11. This was my favorite verse when I was learning to live a new lifestyle after I developed an autoimmune disorder. I held firm to the Lord’s promise that I had a future. His plan was not to harm me but to prosper. My body could not do what it once had, but He filled my spirit so full that I felt gratitude for the change. I was grateful for the blessings and cherished the memories of all the things I had once been able to do. With God’s help I focused on the things which built me up and not that tore me down.
Focus on your hits and be ready for the next challenge.
And don’t forget, God bats 1000!

In the Blink of An Eye

I recently followed the Collegiate Baseball World Series. My team, the OSU Beavers, was among the 64 teams playing. I was hopeful that they could win their way to the top. Then, they lost their first game. One more loss and their season would be over. They were able to win the next games and make it to the final playoff. The champion would have to win two out of three games. The West Coast teams are often looked down on by the eastern colleges. I so wanted the Beavers to give the Arkansas Razorbacks a challenge. Another let down. The Beavers lost the first game. The second game was a set up for a big disappointment. We were down by one in the ninth inning. The Beavers had two outs. Razorbacks were on the edge of their seats for that third and final out, and the title would be theirs!
The Beaver batter hit a high, fowl ball. With two strikes against him, if the ball was caught he would be out. The game and the series would be over. Three Razorback players ran under the ball. I held my breath as the ball fell. It was an easy catch. I knew all was lost for the Beavers. In a split second, all my fears were proven wrong.
The ball hit the ground. The game continued. The batter hit a single and brought a runner in. The ballgame was tied. The next batter hit a home run. The Beavers were up by two.
The Razorbacks were to bat for one more chance to win the game. With one out and one on first. The batter hit a low, fast drive to the pitcher. In another split second—double play, game over. Another game would need to be played for the title.
In the final game the Beavers pitched a shut-out and easily won.
The Beavers were the National Champions!
One missed ball gave life to the Beavers dream and took it from the Razorbacks. Life can change just that fast. How many times have you given up on something because you couldn’t see how the outcome you wanted could possibly happen? The Israelites did not trust God’s promise. They were given the promised land but scouts reported that battling the inhabitants would result in their own capture. Instead of enjoying what they were to be given, they wandered for forty years because they couldn’t see the promise as possible. (Exodus 12)
Later, the Bible tells us that the Israelites knew the Philistines soldiers were more powerful than their own army. They could only see defeat and tried to help God by taking the Arc of the Covenant into battle. They were devastated by the outcome. (I Samuel 4)
Sometimes the results can’t be seen by our foresight. We have to believe God and trust Him to figure out the method.
Take a lesson from the athletes, play your best until the game is over.