Archives For smgianotti@me.com

* This article first appeared on Patheos on November 9, 2016.  

“This isn’t middle school anymore,” one of my ninth grade teachers used to say whenever someone complained about homework, “it’s not a bunch of warm fuzzies.” Neither is forgiveness, and for many of us the holidays can feel more like forgiveness boot camp than walking in a winter wonderland. 

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As our families disappoint once us again, old hurts flare up, and holiday shopping ends in shouting matches, forgiveness can like an assault to our humanity. Could God really ask us to stoop that low, to forgive that person Continue Reading…

Last week I posted about the imaginary critics and how, thanks to them, I found myself shelling out my hard earned cash for a subscription to Eharmony.com. And it was all true, but it was only part of the story. God, as he likes to do, had his hand in the mix too. Thankfully, while I was spiting the world and spending my money to prove the imaginary critics wrong, God wasn’t critiquing my lack of faith or my failure to ask his opinion before I signed-up for online dating again. Instead, he was concocting a new dose of grace.  

 

About a month into my Eharmony subscription I met a man who has turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen to me. A man who, when reading my article on the imaginary critics, pointed out how I failed to mention the end of the story, the part about meeting the love of my life.

 

This is one of the challenges of being a writer. You pick out one aspect of life and hold it under the microscope to get a really good look at it, to try to crack it open and see why exactly you let things like imaginary critics influence you. You can’t always tell the whole story, it would distract from the point you’re trying to make. I told this to my man, Jay-Michael from Colorado, but I’m not sure I convinced him. 

 

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Over this past week, though, it did seemed like I ought to tell you the other half of the story, if only for practical reasons. Since meeting Jay-Michael, the days have unravelled into a wonderful mess of months in which I find that having a love life is rather unproductive. My perfectly manicured schedule, with just enough time to see a day’s worth of patients at the office, finish my eschatology homework, and go for a run, has gotten all hob-jobbled by late night conversations, daydreaming, and spending more time than I like to admit looking at pictures of our last weekend together Continue Reading…

Several months ago I signed up for eHarmony to prove to all the imaginary critics in my life that I was doing my part to get married. You know, all those people out there who mutter under their breath about how I’d be married if I just tried harder. By the time I’d typed in my credit card number, I’d practically composed an entire speech about how I’d spent my twenties trying to get married and I wasn’t about to waste my thirties doing the same, especially if God intended to keep me single. This didn’t strike me as odd—spending my hard earned wages on internet dating just to prove some theoretical faultfinders wrong—until I heard my niece wailing about the Play-do in her tights. That’s when I realized it was time to fire the imaginary critics.

 

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I was FaceTiming my sister-in-law when my five year old niece found Play-do smashed into her tights. As her mom told her to pack up the dough so they could get to church on time, my niece began to whimper about needing her tights washed. Her mom said there wasn’t time and that no one would notice, but my niece began to wail that they would. Who? The mean people. Those all-seeing, all-knowing, invisible judges who zero in on bits of Play-do smashed into tights, who whisper disparagingly about single women who aren’t trying hard enough. It’s time to pull a Donald Trump on them and let them know for once and for all that they’re fired Continue Reading…

Thanks to Sarita Fowler for sharing how God cares about the little stuff at work. This blog is part of the Finding God at Work series. 

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At nine weeks pregnant I felt nauseated every morning. But when my agency asked me to interpret on stage for a 9:00 a.m. program, I thought, I can do this. After all, the assignment will only take an hour and I’ll get paid for two. No-brainer. I didn’t stop to consider that nearly every day my stomach began its lurching and heaving around that time. 

 

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The night before the assignment, I started preparing—deciding on my clothes had become a chore. I had started gaining weight and I didn’t fit into my go-to black slacks. I opted for another pair of pants that were a little too long and a little too snug. No worries. I’ll just wear heels, and I’ll suck in my stomach. I hadn’t worn heels or sucked in my stomach for over two months. 

 

I arrived early for the assignment and saw the stage where I would interpret for the deaf audience. No chair. It doesn’t matter, I’ll only be interpreting for an hour Continue Reading…

I dug into my brownie Sunday as I asked him to catch me up on the last fourteen years. Jeremiah and I had lost touch after college and only recently reconnected via Facebook. Despite more than a decade of silence, we fell back easily into friendship. We’d both lived overseas, survived faith crises, never married, and felt our lives to be on the verge of something new. Neither of us expected our stories to turn out this way. Our other college friends got married, had kids, and lived in the cities they’d planned on with the jobs they’d hoped for. But not us. God doesn’t have us on the group plan. 

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I know Jeremiah and I aren’t the only ones who can feel like we’ve missed open registration for God’s group plan. Most of us tend to compare our personal slice of adversity to everyone else’s plenty. If the doctor diagnoses us with a chronic disease, every one on Facebook just glows with health. While we scrimp on groceries to pay the rent, everyone around us drops twenties at Olive Garden like it’s no big deal. When another month passes and our hopes for children get dashed all over again, another five couples at church announce their pregnancies Continue Reading…

Thanks to Kate Knapp, LMHC, for contributing to my Finding God at Work series on how she experiences God through her work as a therapist. Check out her free counseling videos or follow her on Facebook.  

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Although I’m therapist, sometimes I feel in danger of being the bull in the china shop. I can see the damage in my clients’ lives, the hurt, and the likely reasons for it all, and I want to tell them where they went wrong and how to fix it. But even if I can diagnose the situation accurately, I can’t repair it. That’s not my job—not the job I’m paid for or the one God calls me to.

 

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Hank and I sat down for our eleventh session. We’d spent the first ten wading through the issues he’d presented for while I waited for the real issue to surface. We’d talked about his faith, low level depression, and pending life choices. We discussed doctoral programs and his wife’s thoughts about what he should do. Then, during that eleventh session, out of no where—whamoo—an affair. For the past 6 months. His wife found out when a friend saw Hank with the other woman, who was a part of his education circle. His doctoral options were now looking limited and, more importantly, his marriage was a mess Continue Reading…

I almost hate to admit it, but every time I pick up a new book by C. S. Lewis, after the first chapter, I check the cover to make sure Amazon mailed me the right book. By the end of the second, I’m questioning the cultish love that Evangelicals hold for Lewis when his writing style is so vague and drab. By chapter three, I’m hanging on for dear life, just based on the principle of the thing—I mean, I love Narnia after all. Fifty pages more and I’m confessing my disappointment to a friend like it’s some sin. As the pages keep turning, I nearly give up hope. But then it happens: the one line that changes everything.

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I last suffered through this emotional roller coaster while reading, for the first time, Till We Have Faces. As I plodded, then dragged, myself through the book, I began to lose faith in Lewis all over again. But, then, in the final chapter, at the end of the first paragraph, in a single sentence, his genius overwhelmed me again. With a handful of words, Lewis turned a disappointing bedtime read into a life-transforming, leave-me-gasping-and-flipping-back-to-read-it-again book. That one sentence made all the difference. 


Life is like a Lewis book


It strikes me that life often works like a Lewis book. We’re trudging through some page in our story, disappointed. The writing feels dull. The plot seems to be going nowhere. The tragedies break our hearts Continue Reading…

Let’s be honest, we’ve all had days where work makes us angry. Thanks to Chris Dortch for being honest about it for the Finding God at Work series. 

 

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Blasted crape myrtles. I know most people wouldn’t describe them so, but their pretty, pink posies fall in droves, faster than my net can skim them off the water. I know I should enjoy the hot sun on my back, the cool breeze fighting back against the warmth, and the freedom for my mind to wander—from Aslan’s bright shore beyond the Great Sea all the way to the bloody streets of Victor Hugo’s French Revolution, from the emeralds of Oz to the dark stage haunted by the Phantom.


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The strong smell of chlorine wrenches me from the worlds whispered into my ears, and I have to step back before the fumes overpower me. I really should pay more attention to my job. This daydreaming landed me in the pool last summer. I pull out my headphones and focus on the plague of pink that has now consumed the pool. How is this even possible? There are more flowers now than when I got here half an hour ago Continue Reading…

Currently, my Facebook newsfeed teems with anger, grief, and arguments about Terrance Crutcher and Keith Scott, the last two black men killed by cops, and the protests their deaths have sparked. I’m tempted to take that break from Facebook I always think about, just so that I can distance myself from the chaos. 

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I’m tempted to stay quiet and neutral as the news unfolds, reserving judgement, because that’s an emotionally safe place to be. I don’t know these men. I don’t have all the details. 

But in a world where nothing is clear cut, how much information do I need before I’ll cry out for justice Continue Reading…

My roommate walked in the door as I finished typing an email. As she asked me a question, my fingers went into autopilot. I clicked a few words, hit send, and started to answer her when it broke onto my consciousness that I’d tacked “Love you, Shannon” onto an email to one of my professors, a man in his fifties who also attends my church.

“Oh crap!” I burst into the middle of my roommate’s sentence, “I just typed ‘Love you’ to Dr. Zhivago.”¹

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While her diaphragm nearly seized up with laugher, I typed a hasty apology explaining how my roommate came in right as I was finishing the email and how my fingers went into autopilot and how I always sign emails to my family that way. I hit send again and, rubbing my face in disbelief, turned around to finish the conversation.

A shocking response

My roommate and I were still standing in the kitchen, my laptop doing penance on the counter, when his response popped onto the screen.

“Oh my word,” I said to her, “listen to this Continue Reading…