Living Out Loud With Passion & Faith:What’s Your New Tag Line for 2016?

Jukebox Hero
Living Out Loud and shamelessly playing my air guitar to Foreigner’s Juke Box Hero karaoke  after Sean’s cousin Jeanne’s cruise wedding. We were all a bit pie-eyed “performing” in front of a bewildered if not disgusted audience. Good thing they didn’t have rotten tomatoes!

Happy New Year! I removed the word “Healing” from my homepage tagline “Living and Healing with Passion and Faith” to “Living Out Loud with Passion and Faith.”

Why? Because after four years of blogging and therapy and getting deeper into my faith, I felt it was time.  I feel more whole. When I first started blogging four years ago, I was in the throes of therapy working out forty-something years of hurt, anger, righteousness, and conflict. Some of the junk was due to the cards dealt to me; some of it was self-inflicted.  Many of my posts talk about facing stuff, shedding old skin and growing some new.

I’ve been able to forgive myself and forgive others. I’ve learned the blessings of extending grace instead of waiting for the other person to bend first.  I’ve become a bit more discerning before jumping in. It is OK and sometimes crucial to say “no.”  I remind myself to consider the big picture, to be still and know that God is God. More than a few times, I’ve given a tricky person or difficult situation over to the Divine to duke out, instead of me.

I’ve also gained peace by disengaging when it just wasn’t worth the effort or damages to hammer my point home.

So, here’s to a new year of living up to my new tagline “Living Out Loud with Passion and Faith!” I expect to laugh more, cry more, praise more, forgive more, and play more air guitar!

Is it time for you to have a new tagline in 2016? What would it say?

Divine Depositor Revealed: Culprit Close to Heart and Home

“I have something kind of awkward to tell you,” our 23-year-old daughter Erin said on speaker phone from Vermont last week. My husband Sean and I held our breath. In a nano-second, my maternal mental Rolodex spun with at least seven or eight “awkward” scenarios she might break to us. Thankfully she came right to the point. “It was me who wrote on that twenty-dollar bill.”

Relieved it wasn’t something grave, I was just flabbergasted. “It was you? Really? Why?” I had tears in my eyes and a smile a mile wide that she couldn’t see.

“When did you do it?”

A few years ago, she said, but she had forgotten that she had done it at all until she was reminded by my previous post.

Back in 2011, sometime between her junior-year college breaks Erin had gone to our former church with us and was intrigued by this “reverse offering” idea. I recall now that it was a project loosely based on the Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30. A woman challenged parishioners to take a sum of money and to go out and invest it so it might yield more money for the church. I remember one woman used her “talents” to buy beads and wire and then made and sold jewelry with the proceeds going to the church.

From what I gather, Erin’s take on this project was to use her own (hard-earned) $20 from her part-time job and sort of invest it in us, her parents! “You and Dad are always doing so much and model devotion, love and perseverance. I just wanted to give this to you.” She explained that the message she wrote back then just flowed and “fit perfectly around the bill.”

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When I discovered this money popping out of my bible bag last week, I hadn’t recognize her handwriting.  I think I was thrown off because she had written, “Dear Sean and Tan,” and not, “Dear Dad and Mom.” Instead I’d asked a few female friends if they had made this divine deposit. Erin never crossed my mind.

There is only one other time in her life when Erin referred to me as “Tan” and not “mom.” When she was about 2 1/2 I had asked her to pick up her toys or something and she just gave me a look and said, “I don’t think so, Tan.” Needless to say I couldn’t keep a straight face and all parental resolve went out the window.

“I hope you aren’t disappointed,” Erin said.

“Why would I be? Because it was you or that you wrote on money?” I joked. I wasn’t even a little disappointed that the mystery was solved.  I was delighted, not disappointed. I explained to her a few reasons why:

First, finding this twenty-dollar bill with the message from “The Holy Spirit” brought me a profound sense of mystery and excitement (just like the still anonymous Valentine’s card from 2013). Who would take the time and thought to write such a lovely, spirit-filled message and give this generous gift of $20? I felt blessed to have such a grand list of possible friends/suspects to wonder about!

Then, there was the reminder of how God still speaks to us and gives us signs and words of encouragement especially at times in our lives when we feel burdened and weary.

Plus, posting about this mystery stimulated many readers to think and share about mysteries in their own lives! It started conversations about miracles, mercies and unexplained circumstances.

I told Erin that my heart was full of joy because I believe that the Holy Spirit in her moved her to write that encouraging message on that $20 three-plus years ago. That it was meant to be found now as words of encouragement to keep us on track. Think about it, three years ago Erin was a “broke college kid”and twenty bucks was no small amount for her to part with!

All in all, I feel so blessed that I have a daughter (and son) who even when they naturally and appropriately question the basics of what they’ve learned in Sunday School (who hasn’t or doesn’t?), that they are, in my heart and understanding living their lives guided consciously or unknowingly by the Holy Spirit. Finding this message, nearly four years after it was planted in my often-used Bible bag was yet another gift of God’s good and perfect timing. Even though it was written in my own daughter’s hand a few years ago, I feel the Holy Spirit was all over it then…and now!

Who Keeps “Messaging” Me? An Angel? Departed Loved One? God?

Have I totally lost it? Or have I officially been messaged —repeatedly now—by an angel, a departed loved one, or even God?!

Ordinarily, I get through the toils and snares of my life by praying, reaching out to wiser ones, and meditating on The Serenity Prayer.  But time and intensity can take its toll. Truth be told, lately I’ve felt almost ground down to the nub. I know am very blessed with a wonderful nuclear family, a host of quality friends, and an incredible, insightful therapist.  I know I can’t make it without turning to my Higher Power on a daily basis.  Yet, even with these supports, I confess I’ve been struggling to keep the faith.

Maybe I got to critical mass last week and somebody, somewhere thought I needed serious signage!

Last Tuesday when I was at my grant-writer job reading my mail, I noticed something a bit odd. A particular and faithful corporation who gives us a good-size check every year at this time had a “bungle” on the salutation part of their formal business letter explaining their grant award.

They had addressed the letter to Tanja Esperanza Moriarty. Esperanza? Well, my professional ‘signature’ for the past 9 years has always been “Tanja B. Moriarty.” I don’t even spell out or usually hyphenate my maiden name at work. I just use the B and a period.

In my very limited Spanish, I know that Esperanza means “hope.” Ha! I’m sure short in that department, I thought.

I showed the letter and “Esperanza” to my co-worker Val. A woman of strong faith without missing a beat claimed, “That’s God giving you a little encouraging punch on the shoulder.”

I was still in “self-wallowing mode” and said, “Hope-schmope!”

“Come on, Girl,” she scolded.

I smirked, but since I’ve had more than a few funky/spiritual things happen in my life (see Mind,Body, Soul posts), I decided to make a copy of the letter to keep in my pocketbook.  Had the door to my hardened heart opened just a crack?

Exhibit #1:

esperanza

The very next day, I went to outpatient radiology for my annual mammogram. I checked in at the window and was told to take a seat. I grabbed a chair in the waiting area and wouldn’t ya know it? Right in front of me was a small table with this tri-fold brochure staring me right in the face:

Exhibit: 2

hope is power

My heart jumped a bit. The crack of the door of my boarded-up heart pushed open just a teeny bit further.  “O.K.” I said aloud. “I’m paying attention.”

Later that afternoon, I had met my wonderful pastor for cup of coffee at Sweet Harmony Cafe and Bakery on Main Street. Pastor Joon Lee and I periodically do this to check in with each other.  After a good-sized gingerbread-chocolate latte I contemplated the extremely cold weather and bouncy-back road ride home, and decided it would be wise to hit the little girl’s room before I left.

You won’t believe this, but as I sat on the porcelain, I turned to my right and saw THIS was hanging on the wall:

Exhibit: 3

hope sign

The small print reads, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, HOPE for tomorrow.”

It was like lightning!  Esperanza! Hope is Power! Hope for Tomorrow!

I left the coffee shop tingling, and it wasn’t all from the caffeine! Someone, somewhere was conking me over the head to “Have Hope, Tanja “Esperanza” B. Moriarty!”

Here I was, feeling at the end of my rope…and out of God-knows-where comes a barrage of “hope”, “hope”, “hope.”

What do you think, my friend? Who has been messaging me with these signs? Or would you say it is just one of those coincidences? Please share your opinion, your personal experiences.

Are You A Boat-Rocker or A Doormat? No More Christian Nice Girl Can Help

If you know me or have read even a few of my rants, you might be justified in calling me a boat-rocker. One who speaks up, goes against the tide, and says, “Hey people, the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes!”

To be honest, I’ve heard more than once in my life, “Why can’t you just let it be?” “Stop being a bulldozer!”

Looking back over the past few decades, I believe I have been a vigilante for justice, champion of the underdog, a sometimes unsolicited protector, and a buzz-kill-whistle-blower.

I haven’t always won popularity contests pointing out things— (“Hey caregivers, your dependent (senior citizen) really needs some new teeth!” “Hey, hip radio station, it’s not OK for your DJ to encourage 15-year-old listeners to get drunk on a Saturday night!”). I’ve spoken up at church meetings and in town government as a Selectman and taxpayer. I’ve campaigned against verbally abusive and sexist kid coaches and challenged community “do-gooders” when they soft-soaped school drug-use survey results. The list goes on and on.

Sometimes I saw immediate change— the elderly lady got new teeth before she passed away! The FM station brought their radio show to the high school in effort to make nice. Sometimes it seemed fruitless to stand up, though. We got the crappy coach canned, but he was rehired almost immediately at a different high school.

Wouldn’t it just have been easier to look the other way? Just go with the flow?

Believe it or not—I haven’t always sounded off. I’ve done my share of plastering on fake smiles, holding my breath, stuffing it all down. Suppressing too much (especially anger) has led me to have to deal with mid-life anxiety and low-grade depression. When I’ve failed to speak up and felt I should, I felt like I had an itch I couldn’t scratch.

I have evolved enough to know by now at 48 that it is not up to me to save the world. To help me discern, I’ve begun wearing The Serenity Prayer etched on a bracelet. I truly need “the wisdom to know the difference” of what I can or cannot change so I can go through the rest of my passion-prone life without bulldozing, bungling, or burning out.

The book No More Christian Nice Girl:When Just Being Nice–Instead of Good–Hurts You, Your Family, and Your Friends by Paul Coughlin and Jennifer Degler, Ph.D. (Bethany House Publishers) has been another great tool to help me figure things out. I learned why it isn’t healthy or even Christian to be “a nice girl”, faking, stuffing, seething. I am relieved that I haven’t necessarily gone against God by speaking up or calling something or someone out when someone was being neglected, hurt or mislead. I will concede that there were times when I came on too strong—even for a good cause.

NMCNG reminded me that I need to be more like the complete (360 degree) Jesus. While He lead by example of a life of love of God and neighbor, he decidedly had a firm side. He wasn’t always the smiley, bearded, hippy-crunchy shepherd featured on the felt board in Sunday School. The authors say, “a narrow focus on the sweet side of Jesus gives women the idea that God wants Christians to behave sweetly in all situations.  Here’s the problem: Jesus says in Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth,” not the sugar of the earth.”

We are called to be stronger.

Jesus got pretty strong sometimes. He challenged those in authority and turned over the tables in the temple (Matthew 21:12). Coughlin and Degler reveal several more passages, almost twenty percent of the four Gospels showing where Jesus wasn’t always “nice and gentle, but assertive and firm when necessary.”

My kind of Jesus!

Admittedly, I have a LONG WAY TO GO in being more Christ-like, but I can strive to be a Woman of God—because “…God prefers his women to do more than passively sit on their hands while evil triumphs.” (Page 82). I can be firm out of love, instead of saccharine-sweet and smoldering inside.

Coughlin and Degler explained, “Our goal with this book is not to create Christian Mean Girls who bulldoze people…Christian women need to find a balance between passivity and aggressiveness.  This starts with finding a backbone so that they can be redemptive forces for good in a world that too often strips people of their dignity and worth.”

I encourage you to read this book to get over being a “Christian Nice Girl.” (If you are a guy, you can pick up, “No More Christian Nice Guy: When Being Nice–Instead of Good–Hurts Men, Women and Children” by Paul Coughlin.)

You’ll find as described:

“When passivity and false niceness don’t bring the abundant life Jesus promised, some Christian women try even harder to hide behind a fragile façade of pleasant perfection. Paul Coughlin and Jennifer Degler give women the empowering message that they have options far beyond simply acting nice or being mean–if they will emulate the real Jesus Christ and face their fears of conflict, rejection, and criticism. Brimming with enlightening information, thought-provoking questionnaires, real-life stories, and biblically based teaching from both the male author of the pioneering No More Christian Nice Guy and a female clinical psychologist, this book will motivate women to allow God to transform them into authentic, powerful women of loving faith.”

Like me, you will learn how to navigate successfully and not be a doormat in relationships with family and friends, boyfriends, your spouse.  You’ll see how to be firm in the workplace. The book even talks about knowing when it is time to walk away from abusive relationships.  It’s definitely a cool resource for a Bible study group. Anyone interested? I will serve chocolate covered pretzels representing how we’re to be both salty and sweet.