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 ...

 

 

 

 

Monday Thought: Spurgeon

Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom. Charles Spurgeon

Empty and Barren. Full and Bountiful.

During a recent walk at the park, I stopped to stare at these trees, contemplating how the two different trees reflect people’s lives. Or, at least resemble differing seasons in their lives.

One person can be the empty, impoverished, stark tree – yet, they work, travel, parent and operate in the world alongside other trees whose lives are abounding in growth, bursting with color and fullness. Sometimes we are the depleted, defeated one…other times, we are full, complete, abundantly blessed.

Why do some lives flourish more than others? 

Similar to the photo below, I also considered how siblings on the same original “branch” veer off as twigs in different directions – one blossoming and succeeding, the other empty and dry.

While God is Sovereign and guides our lives, He gives us enough free will to create or destroy-grow or become stagnant-give up or persevere. Yet, there are those who devote just as much positive effort as the next person but hit concrete walls at every turn. Their circumstances are real and it’s discouraging.

I was standing at my kitchen island last week, across from a beloved person in my life. Our relationship is a curious one as he is the husband of my oldest step-sister. I refer to him as my brother-in-law, because he feels more like family than my blood relatives. He and my husband have become deep friends over the years, bonding over muscle cars (which someday I’ll have to post on this site). He loves to talk, is very relational and covers a variety of topics, including politics. We all love him.

He is battling serious cancer and yet, refuses to bemoan his circumstances. He’s not in denial but he is unlike anyone I’ve ever seen walk through this. He chooses to redirect his thoughts away from the non-stop challenges including his limp, pain, inability to taste or even eat much. I can’t adequately convey the heart-wrenching injustice of this homicidal disease. It rips the person’s dignity away when they are the most vulnerable… they want to be seen as whole when all people see are the physical signs of their illness.

As we caught up on each other’s week, my three 20-something kids gathered around the kitchen island with us. They began bantering with me, pulling food out, asking him questions, and then began a series of everyday, regular chit chat with each other. I looked over at my brother-in-law and saw his eyes following the kids. His eyes spoke before his words emerged, he again reminding me how blessed I am to have these three. Reminding me that our parenting challenges over the years were really nothing. Years ago, I might have thought catching one of them in a lie was Armageddon (strong indicator of how I am as a Mom), but looking back, my parenting-teen troubles were indeed little ones.

His only son has been battling addiction since he was a young teenager. He’s 30. Legal fees drained their savings more times than I can recall. My brother-in-law speaks more openly now than ever before, and I have glimpsed their parental sufferings in new ways. They too set out to be strong parents, worked hard to give their child a positive life and my heart is broken for their plagued family history. Through this barren land they have walked, they have built treasures in heaven. Despite their own parenting difficulties, they took in three different adolescent children over the years when the biological parents had issues. There was sacrifice involved that made my husband and I admire them. They gave up their own comfort to bless others – even those who may never appreciate the level of sacrifice to their daily life, marriage and finances. 

We used to flip pages of magazines once a month and wonder why the glossy good fortune, perfect genetics and posh vacations laid before us couldn’t be ours. We had 30 days in between deliveries to get over ourselves. Now, we scroll. Hourly for some. Every 2 minutes for most. Social media makes it easy to assume that others’ trees are flourishing while ours are not. People tend to indulge in the ‘what if’s’ or ‘if only’s’ as they scroll. For those of us at mid-life and beyond, we are better at laughing now than coveting. We’ve been through some life and know the reality vs. the fantasy. Most importantly, we trust that the depleting times are usually followed by new abundance. Perhaps not in the same ways we were previously accustomed to abundance, but blessed nonetheless.

If we are going through an empty, stark, unproductive or sad season, let us persevere as best we can in our weakened state-allowing God to be our strength. If we are presently experiencing ease, comfort and few worries, let’s count ourselves deeply blessed to possess a free, uncluttered mind for as long as it may last.

Peculiar Situations and Strange Sights These Days

Many of us have surpassed the month (or longer) mark of residing nearly 24/7 within our respective homes. We are glued to the newscasts, read endlessly about COVID-19 and talk to family and friends who are essential workers. Despite our deep interest in what is occurring to the world at large, most of us are experiencing this bizarre historical occurrence in a quiet containment, wondering, questioning what is really happening. We are the fortunate ones.

There has been chaos in hospitals and nursing homes. They have been operating on 24/7 high alert. There was early confusion but orderly response. Thankfully, the infamous infection and death curve is flattening and the non-stop pace for healthcare workers is slowing. They have been soldiers at war. They deserve our respect and gratitude. They have sacrificed. 

There has been loss of family members and friends. The survivors of the virus and  survivors who are now without parents, children or grandparents do not want to hear you tell them that the flu kills more people annually than Coronavirus. 

21 million food and shelter providers known as ‘Mom and Dad’ have lost their jobs. No doubt, that number will increase.

These peculiar circumstances are accompanied by peculiar sights. Some are humorous. Some are unnerving. Here are a few strange sights and peculiar circumstances these days…

  • Swing sets without swings – to reduce the risk of sharing the virus.
  • Nets and rims removed from basketball courts to deter kids playing games.
  • Empty napkin aisles and paper towel aisles.
  • Empty meat counters at Wegmans.
  • My 401K.
  • Church on the laptop.
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  • More humorous sights include grown men wearing longer hair😄. When my 23-yr son complains about how awful his hair is, I remind him that when he was 15 yrs old, he thought his hockey-flow hair peeking out from the back of his hockey helmet was “sweet” :). 
  • Children re-appearing to live in the nest… One was sent home from her university. The one we just moved to a stunning oceanside town seven states away said 3 1/2 weeks alone in her apartment was enough. With my son still here, the nest is officially full! What an unexpected Easter table!
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  • My work, my daughter’s virtual university work, my other daughter’s professional work covering our dining room…Skype classes and conference calls and laptops and phones…
  • My husband’s work strewn about the back sunroom…Zoom videos and laptops and phones…
  • Huge, electric signs on the thruway yelling, STAY HOME.
  • Broken eyeglasses that can’t be fixed anywhere but at home. I’m guarding my prescription reading glasses like they are a brick of gold. 
  • Children’s playgrounds with “no play” signs.
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  • “Currently unavailable” being stamped on products sold on Amazon such as isopropyl alcohol, disinfectant wipes, tissues…even good hand soap is a tough find. This is AMAZON. The company with “too much” of a supply of absolutely anything and everything. 
As I walked my local park recently, I observed an older woman stop in front of the American flag we walkers all lap by every 30 minutes as we round the path. She put her hand on her heart, whispered something brief and started walking again. I’ve been walking that park over 10 years and have never seen such a thing. Are we more grateful these days for our country? Its strong and protective response to this crisis?

All of us have different lives in some big or small ways as a result of COVID-19. The inconveniences may last a couple more weeks, while the economic impact may be more detrimental than we even imagine. Will the remaining anchor stores make it? Macys? JCPenney? Will the smaller ones like Ann Taylor and LOFT survive? Will our local restaurants close shortly after they attempt to reopen?

Will America begin manufacturing their own antibiotics and other medicines? Who knew that 80%-90% of all vital pharmaceuticals are made in China? Not me. Further, I’m disappointed in myself for never noticing the litany of articles from the last few years literally warning the U.S. of the profound dangers of permitting merely one country to supply Americans’ critical medicines. The implications of this are endless. 

Was this global shift in every society on every continent the result of a nefarious plan or was it purely accidental? I don’t think much about that, but others are diving into the theories all pointing to Wuhan. 

We all look forward to freely moving about society again someday. But when will we literally move about “freely”? 

When can we shop for Kleenex because we actually need some and find that it’s in stock?

As for me, I try to keep my eyes above the empty shelves, above my monotonous computer screen filled with work, higher than the frightening economic months ahead…to Him will I bow down and cling, remaining closely attached to the Vine Whose love spreads higher, wider and deeper than any rapidly contagious virus.