Moving Forward in Faith

Faith cartoon Bible Verse cartoon quoteFour days ago, I started a new position at a new company in an entirely unfamiliar field. While I enjoy most “new” things, having a significant training curve ahead has been humbling.

But, God gave me what I asked for.

If you follow this blog, you know that I resigned a position in October and planned to look for something else immediately. We were still recovering from my husband’s late-career job elimination that took place three years earlier, so not working wasn’t an option. Though he became employed at a different company, he took a substantial pay cut.

Two days after my farewell-party at work, I was sworn into two months of jury duty.

When I finally completed my service, the profoundly foolish governor of our state decided we had to remain on-call for six more months, as his stance on Covid believed swearing in another grand jury (as was scheduled) would somehow increase positive cases. The irony is that someone in our two-month group of jurors tested positive one day after our service termed. But I digress…

It was December 1st and after a lot of hubbub in the last several weeks, I decided to shop, wrap, decorate and plan for the blessed holiday. It was the first time in a while that I felt light, excited, eager to nestle in for what I knew would be our last Christmas season all together before one child moves out of state for her job and another will likely be married in the new year. I decided that this Christmas, aside from the Covid-weirdness affecting our normal bigger parties, we would simply be together and I would focus on that for a couple of weeks.

On December 2nd, my husband’s voice held an ominous tone when he called to say that an unexpected conference call in two hours gave the vibe that there would be changes at work. Two hours later – along with several hundred others – he lost his position.

I walked into the bathroom when it was still light outside and did not emerge until it was dark. I’m guessing it was a couple of hours where I sat, stood and knelt in an embarrassing amount of anger and self-interest. The holiday timing was humorous. The lightness I felt the day before was robbed. The heaviness over our family with the news just made me madder. Of course, I’m the queen of concealing, so after the bathroom retreat, I went about my merry way baking and wrapping (though shopping abruptly ceased), determined that my adult kids would not observe me wallowing in the 50lb. heart-weight I was carrying. The main concerns included zero severance this time around and the cost of insurance which all three of our children are still on with us.COVID-19 Layoffs: Emotional Intelligence and Your Company ...The day after the news, I was praying and the song Defender came to mind by Francesca Battistelli. The lyrics that stayed with me were, “All I did was praise…all I did was worship…all I did was bow down…all I did was stay still.”

Being a hard-on-herself woman, I’ve never been great at staying still. I struggle with having faith without my own hand being involved in the outcome. This has been an area of spiritual immaturity in a life that does possess indicators of mature faith. Inexplicably, I decided on that floor to merely worship, accept that this passed through His hands before I knew about it and He knew what we needed. I also prayed He would provide me with a role that would support our family without my husband’s income. Of course, it was the second round of Covid ripping through our area, Christmas is normally a terrible time to be looking for a job, and a looming presidential shift were all scaring most employers away from doing any hiring until after inauguration day.

A few days later, the company that terminated my husband’s role called to say they had a temporary contract available for less pay but he would retain the healthcare benefits if he was interested. He immediately accepted.

A couple more days later, a friend called who I don’t speak with often, wondering if I would consider taking the role she previously mentioned to me. A month prior, she reached out asking if I could recommend a person to fill a financial position in her department. Though gushing with gratitude over her kindness, I reminded her that I think in words and find meaning in people-interactions. At best, I’m horrible in numbers and don’t thrive well in an isolated office environment. She assured me the role would be light on math and firmly believed I was the person for the position.

After our meeting, the job was miles outside my wheelhouse but the salary offer and close location could not be passed up. I accepted, thanking her for the confidence when I was walking into the position at a deeply humbling 25% capability. That was mostly for being computer-proficient.

Any believer who has lived a little bit with the Lord knows that “standing in faith” does not always produce favorable conclusions. However, God responded to my willingness to give up the struggle on that floor. I determined to be hands-off. I wouldn’t even say I was nice about it when I laid it all down before Him, I was just sad. The preceding weeks had necessitated a liver surgery for my mom, brought a scary mammo situation for me (all is well) and we were running meals to two sets of parents for weeks. I reread the scriptures I screenshot below.

While we all like to quote that “faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see” (Hebrews 11:1), this experience wasn’t like that. There have been plenty of times when I’ve prayed scripture over a situation. This was more about leaving my disgust with the circumstances at His feet and determining not to ruin what is normally a very happy month in our home.

While the Word and praying it over our circumstances is vital, God honors the heart. Faith is evident when we simply go to Him, acknowledging there is no where else, no One else who can help. As I mentioned, the outcomes aren’t always favorable. At my age, I’d say most in an adult lifetime do not play out quite how we prayed they would. Yet, the biblical patriarchs taught us the importance of surrendering, even when faith seemed an unreasonable response to the circumstances.

These are thoughts that must continue for me moving forward. During the first three days at work, I sincerely contemplated how I could get out of it. I legitimately know nothing about the industry and it’s a highly confusing niche of said industry. Just in case I was imagining the excessive confusion I was experiencing, I asked the one other soul I work with (everyone else is remote), who confirmed that the systems are clunky and the work is “complex and confusing”. I tend to embrace ‘complex’. My inner spirit resists ‘confusing’. The kind-hearted woman who hired me also added, “you indeed see in ‘words’. This job is purely data-driven…all spreadsheets and formulas.” If only you knew how often I had cursed Excel when I rarely had to use it. Now, I’m immersed in thousands of rows of Excel, learning four very different software programs on three monitors, in an isolated office of QUIET. God is funny, isn’t He?

I believe work is a form of worship. For two decades, my “work” was raising a family, making a home and teaching part-time. Now, it’s still a bit of those things but with a full-time regular job as well. We can serve Him in our approach and in how we treat co-workers, but we also earn, paying for the beautiful home housing us and fill the fridge, gas tanks and closets for our families. This is ministry.

While 2020 brought blessings with the challenges, most of us are happy to have it in the rearview. To you and yours: with all my heart I wish you goodness, health and peaceful relationships in 2021.Happy New Year 2021 wishes, greetings and GIFs to share ...

 

 

 

 

The Unusual December

See the source imageFor the last several years, my post-Thanksgiving activities centered around two things: finishing up the semester of final exams and grading papers, followed by the always-fun list-making for Christmas gifts and planning gatherings. In 2019, my twins moved home after graduating college in May and the Christmas nest would be full with the baby duck arriving home for her university break on December 11th. Dear blogging friends, I had December plans.

Those Christmas plans were exchanged the first few weeks of the holiday season with work. Then, more work. Speeches, a major corporate dinner and a bad run-in between a poor deer and poor me replaced my annual yuletide joys. The blank paper ready for my Christmas lists would have to wait.See the source image

As we always do, we were hosting Thanksgiving dinner and my husband did it all except the baking. For those who have been reading this blog awhile, you’ll recall that I took on another job last Spring. It was to be three days with a maximum of 24 hours/week. I also continued my teaching schedule and accepted another position at the college to run a writing lab.

God had me in a season of corporate “work” in 2019 that I hadn’t experienced in decades. I briefly explained why I took on this new life-change HERE (Joining the Rat-Race Mid-Life). What I didn’t expect was that I was thrown into running an entire department at my company within days of hire and in recent months, have needed to escalate my hours, requiring far too much time and mental energy for a position that was supposed to be a side hustle.

The week before Thanksgiving – three days before an ad agency was to arrive to interview executives, I was surprisingly requested to be a key speaker in their corporate video. A series of questions would be asked, lights would be on me in a dark room…ugh…just when I started dreaming of Christmas menus and my Thanksgiving table only days away…

I worked all weekend without pay to prepare for this unexpected and nerve-wracking event ahead on Monday.

A slew of gentlemen hovered around in the dimly lit room while I was recorded and even though I’ve been teaching college for years, that was crazy stress on the inside while I was as poised and professional as possible on the outside. When the photographer and video crew completed my segment, I tore off my suitcoat and took a deep breath, thanking God it was over.

Eagerly walking toward the door, the executives halted my departure, telling the ad crew to follow me through the orientation I was about to deliver in the conference room for live footage of company activity.

My jaw clenched and back on went my suitcoat.

Hours later, I plopped into my office chair, hoping my deodorant had done its job as I once again swapped a cardigan for the stiff suitcoat.

Before the end of that very same day, the President strolled into my office and announced that it would be appreciated if I would emcee the upcoming investors dinner. Prior to that moment, I was planning to excuse myself altogether from the event…after all, I’m only part-time and really had more important things to do on a Saturday night in December. It was further explained that they still desired for me to go full-time, etc. etc.

My nerves amped up again as the two weeks slugged by until the corporate event. I thought about how a 20-something would really love these opportunities. At 50-something, a mom first, a college professor second, it’s all been really curious to me what God is up to.

Decked out in my best conservative dress, in full-makeup, coiffed hair, with well-rehearsed script in hand, I climbed into my Chevy Traverse on a snowy December evening, so happy the night finally arrived and within hours I could get back to my “real life”. I had prayed over the evening, as the highest executives would be seated directly in front of my podium. Yep, no pressure there.

En route to the swanky venue, I safely swerved to avoid deer #1, but his buddy behind him ran directly in my car’s path… the sound horrific, steel crunching, the poor animal (I was distraught over that thing), my fear and emotional upset setting my heart racing and my hands shaking uncontrollably.

Within minutes, I had pulled over into a gas station and my shaking fingers located the President’s cell number in my phone. I planned to notify her that someone else would have to emcee the event. Something prevented me from making the call. After 30-minutes in that gas station lot, although I was still shaking, the car could drive and off I went. Sitting in the parking lot of the venue, I took some deep breaths, trying to settle my spirit. I decided the first order of business when I walked in was to tell a few organizers that I’d rather not speak due to the accident and would be leaving early.

To this day, no one at my office knows that I hit that deer. The second I walked into the dinner party, demands were immediately made of me. The President was furious with the administrative staff and had to tell me all about it, and I needed to be at the podium within minutes of her concluding statements. See the source image

The following week, even the most busy-body ladies who peer out the windows trying to catch employees leaving early, didn’t notice I was without a vehicle. Without me listing the bizarre upper-management conduct at this organization, it would be difficult to understand the corporate culture. There are many questionable activities and early on, I drew boundaries which others have not. While I’ve gained respect because of those boundaries (and have encouraged others to do the same), compliments from those impressed with my December activities are meaningless to me. I serve an audience of One.

That brief description of only two -of several- chaotic work events in the last few weeks leads into my desire to be a light in an otherwise difficult place for my co-workers. If God placed me there, He has a job for me to do. While the December days passed and I didn’t host friends this season, I reminded myself that service comes in all forms-even those I don’t like :).

I apologize for the rambling nature of the post today…I miss my blogging community and wanted to share here even though as I’ve said before, “if I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter” (attributed to Mark Twain).

God bless your week ahead…See the source image

One of the Best Christmas Gifts I Ever Received

I’ve never been great at answering the question, “what was the best gift you’ve ever received?”

Salvation? My children? Health? …. the list is long. But when pressed this year to come up with something tangible that was actually wrapped in paper, I had to say it was a Hallmark Store book titled, The Night Before Christmas.What’s so special about a story we’ve all heard since birth?

This one records voices.

My friend recorded my kids’ voices reading the famous tale in another room while I was prepping a meal, wrapped the book and gave it to me the same day. My twins were around 10 yrs. old and my youngest around 8 yrs. old at the time.

I was so touched and gushed about what a thoughtful gift it was. I meant it but could not have known how PRECIOUS that book would become in the subsequent years.

My daughters voices matured and of course my son’s voice has changed dramatically. Every year that I pull the book out and open each page, tears stream down my face. I close my eyes to picture those little voices running through the house at Christmas…over a decade has gone by since that gift was given to me.

If you regularly follow my blog, you’ll recall my posts about the wedding I attended in Scotland this past summer. The bride’s mama was my precious friend of 20 years who lost her cancer battle three years ago. Her departure at the too-young age of 49 makes me clutch that voice-recorded Christmas book even tighter to my chest, knowing that she gave me that gift that was so much more of a gift that I realized at the time.

The first few years, I think the book was nicely placed on top of some other decorations in a regular Christmas box, packed away until the next year. A couple years ago, I began wrapping that book so carefully…storing it as if it were gold. It is gold to me.

As I contemplate gifts for others in years to come, I’ll search out books that also record voices. It is a treasure for parents and if the book remains in tact as time passes, grown-up kids will certainly get a kick out of letting their children hear them when they were young.

The Beginning of Advent

We all know that the higher we go, the smaller everything below appears. On a recent flight, I thought about God’s view of our physical world.  Our seemingly big homes look like tiny Legos.

Once the plane soars above the clouds, earthly treasures are not visible at all. We are such tiny specks in the vastness of the galaxies. Yet, Jesus decided to come down from on high to love on we little people, assuring us that we are anything but “tiny” in His eyes. Focusing on how He sees us is a struggle. At our jobs, we work toward earning trust and respect from our superiors. At home, we tend to give extensively, wondering if the future outcomes will match the current effort.

It takes quiet time with Him to refocus and get centered on the absolute Truth this world tends to dismiss and mock. That’s what Advent will be for me this year: Him and remembering how He sees us.

“O come, O come, Emmanuel…” 

See the source image