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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

(This was originally published in error as a separate page two weeks ago.)

Notes along this journey:

I’m not made for the corporate life. I’m just not. Others are. I’m not. It’s a box I don’t fit into. Small organization, yes. Work for myself, yes. Freelance, yes. Just be, yes.

Job searches are so much about trying to fit into the corporate life. It’s a bit disorienting that way. When people ask me what kind of position I’m looking for, I need to figure out a better way to answer, a simple way to say I want to earn enough to support myself by being a writer and a maker and a mentor and a learner and a teacher and a simple living guru and a disciple and a disciple-maker. And not worry if anyone else thinks that sounds irresponsible. I’m very responsible.

I believe I am called to live in such a way that shows another way is possible. A personal way, yet a community-building way. An artisanal way. An intergenerational way. A simple way. An ancient way. A contemplative, spiritual way. A way that supports justice and participates in restoring shalom to our world.

I do not know if in that description there are ways to fully support myself. But if God calls me to it, God will make a way. I have been consumed with how to continue to make a living. After all, paying the bills is pretty necessary in our culture. But it’s had me bound. And that’s a sign of not trusting. I don’t want to be bound. I want to make a life. My life.

I have this vision of a house like Nonnatus House. If you are a fan of Call the Midwife, you know what that means. Maybe not a full blown convent, because maybe it could be co-ed. But a place where people who like each other enough to live together share expenses, thus easing income-pressure for everyone, and share common areas. Share life. Share vision. Share service. Neighbor with their neighbors.

I stand at the crossroads, and I’m looking hard. I ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, because that’s where I long to walk. There I will find rest for my soul. (Jeremiah 6:16)

God wants me to see the path, and I want to see it. So the way will open. On that I’ll rest.

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I’ve been quite busy this past week for being unemployed.

Let me back up. One week ago yesterday was my last day at a job I’d had for just over a year. It was a good last day. We ended well.

The next day, the rest of my life started. I feel set free. I anticipate good things. I wake up ready to take steps toward the future and enjoy the day.

Day 1: I put my home work space in order to serve me better moving forward. Well, mostly. It’s only 10 x 8 and serves as both home office and sewing studio, while also containing my Hoosier kitchen with dishes and games, because it’s actually supposed to be a dining room. It’s a work in progress.

I began reworking my LinkedIn profile. It too is a work in progress.

At a networking event, I introduced myself as a tutor, writing coach, and fledgling business owner. When I said I make aprons incorporating vintage linens, two women shifted from talking business to sharing about their aprons, a grandmother’s apron, dishes left them by a relative, things that connect to human-heart yearnings. It confirmed to me that it’s not just about aprons.

Day 2: I drove an hour north to meet with Sandy, my partner in this fledgling business. (It’s my job to get our online presence set up. I’ll share here when it is.) She took home all the aprons I’ve made to begin photographing them. I got back just in time to go to lunch with a friend from my previous employment and then wander with her through a gift shop on South Pearl. Call it competitor research.

Sandy texted me about some photo staging props she’d found on Craigslist. After some texting and deal making, since I live closer to the sellers than she does, I hopped in the car again and picked up two posable mannequins — headless children — and brought them home in my trunk. A bit macabre, I know.

Day 3: My son, daughter-in-law, and I went to two farmers’ markets. After lunch I went to pick up our other Craigslist finds: a wooden standing rack with metal hooks and some nice wooden hangers. By this time my compact car was pretty full.

Day 4: Worship in the morning, zucchini bread baking in the afternoon, plus cutting out aprons, reading, movie watching, talking to my son on the phone. Oh, and cleaning my iron, because the bottom was sticky and I can’t sew without an iron. A YouTube search yielded instructions to clean a hot iron with an acetaminophen tablet held in pliers. Crazy. But it worked. (How-to here.)

Day 5: Labor Day. Lunch with my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter. Then another meeting with Sandy 30 minutes north. We spent a long time camped out in Panera, discussing business, life, and hopes for both, after which we transferred the headless children and display rack into her SUV.

Day 6: Roberta, whom I had met at Day 1’s networking event, and I met for coffee/tea. She told me about other networking opportunities and suggested schools to contact about tutoring. Home again, I responded online to two students who had posted requests for tutors and applied for a job at a hospital. With book club later this week, I finished this month’s selection, One Summer, by Bill Bryson.

Day 7: First I contacted two high schools and a community college about tutoring services, then posted my availability on the college’s online bulletin board. Then a get-acquainted lunch with a woman from church. Leaving the restaurant, I made stops at Hobby Lobby and Office Depot, then the bank to ask about business versus personal accounts. After supper I talked to a friend, then finished one apron and started two more.

Trusting God means taking the steps God shows you to take. Moving onward.

Let’s see what today brings.

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I moved here a year ago. I started a new job that I thought I would stay with for, say, four more years and then I could retire. I had it figured out.

But “it wasn’t a good fit,” as they say euphemistically when a job sucks the life out of you. I totally respect the organization, but this type of work, especially in this place, is no longer healthy for me. So I’ve resigned, effective at the end of August, without a next job lined up. #stepoffaith or #desperation.

When you’re burned out, you don’t look for the same kind of work that burned you out.Therefore my search now is as much about a change of direction as it is about finding new income.

I believe in calling. I also believe mine is changing.

I crave a whole life. Not compartmentalized. Shalom giving and growing, for myself, for those I love, for the world.

What needs to happen to get there?

First, a lot of prayer. Also, trying to tap into the resources God has made available to me.

I’m doing personal work with a career coach and a counselor, which involves homework. Meditative, thinking, feeling, writing homework.

I have books I want to read or reread and actually do the exploratory exercises they recommend. In case you’re interested, they are:

One thing Michelle, my career coach, is helping me with is the workup to an Etsy business. This involves a line-in-the-sand date by which to research, write a business plan, create more of the products that my friend and I want to sell, set up the account and all the social media marketing pages, and write an editorial calendar and some blog posts to get us started.

Pretty exciting, because my creativity wants really badly to come out and play.

But I also have to support myself in the process. And by support I mean both income and self-care. My days don’t seem to have enough hours to do it all, but taking a step or two every day toward my new life is part of supporting myself in both ways.

So what did I do today, this Sunday, this day of rest? I paid attention to my spiritual health. I bought some luscious peaches, ice cream bars, an avocado, and a gorgeous red pepper. I had some conversations with family members. I texted with a couple of friends. I worked the Chicago Tribune Sunday crossword. I watched an episode of The Gilmore Girls. I filled out a job application. I did laundry. I made notes on potential blog topics, which is part of homework. And here I am, writing this one.

Finishing this job well is important, but I am looking forward to being free of it so that I can move more fully forward, even if I can’t see all the steps yet.

Steps. Onward.

 

 

 

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I’m trying an experiment. It’s inspired by Jen Hatmaker’s book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, in which she chronicles her journey of a different kind of fast for each of seven months. Why would she do such a thing? Isn’t that kinda crazy and extreme? She writes that her decision came out of the question, ” Where have I substituted The American Dream for God’s kingdom?” Her plan for 7 was to be “an exercise in simplicity with one goal: to create space for God’s kingdom to break through.”

Now, in many respects I’m already Ms. Simple. Some of Jen’s fasts wouldn’t make sense for me. Clothes, for instance. She writes about how appalled she was when she actually inventoried her wardrobe and was faced with how obscenely abundant her clothing options and therefore her clothing spending were. I, on the other hand, for example own three pair of jeans: one paint-spattered and holey, one blue denim, and one black denim. I’m still wearing my husband’s black socks to work, and he died six years ago. Hey, they’re warm, have worn like iron, and mostly don’t show under my slacks. No, they don’t work with dress shoes, but I barely ever wear dress shoes. Bunions and hammer toes are not welcome in my life. Just sayin’.

But going on this kind of a journey, opening up space for growth and movement with God, really appeals to me. Maybe my frugal nature will mean that my discipline somewhere along the way will be to add something instead of taking it away. I don’t have it all figured out yet. But I’m starting with food.

Jen carefully chose seven whole foods to limit herself to for a month. I already eat very little processed food and meat, enjoy lots of fruits and vegetables, and major on whole grains instead of highly refined. My goal will be to go without wheat or sugar this month. April 1 was the first day, and my first challenge came within hours, when my colleague Sean delivered to my desk the bag of dark-chocolate covered dried cherries I’d ordered maybe a month ago from his daughter’s high school band fundraiser and then forgotten about. “After this,” I told myself, and opened the bag. So good. I’ve had some each day. Until today. Because I felt so sluggish yesterday after I indulged in some. So they’re going away. Then my dear friend/cousin/soul-sister Becky and I decided to share Easter dinner, and the first thing out of my mouth was “Let’s just order pizza.” As good as that sounds, we’ve made a different plan. My part is to bring broccoli salad from the deli. It probably has sugar in the dressing. I’m at peace with that. it’s Easter after all.

Along with the dietary change, I want to see what exploring the concepts of bread, wheat, and sweetness, metaphorically speaking, reveals to me.

Today I read Psalm 81 because my concordance told me it has a reference to wheat in it. Just starting simple, you see. And by golly, it speaks to sweetness too. Sweet music, specifically, expressing joy and praise. So hmm, what if when I get the urge for chocolate or pie, I at least turn on music or better yet make some? Take a joy break? Consider the sweetness of God’s love for me?

Further in the psalm God says he desires to feed his people with the finest of wheat. That set me to wondering what the finest of wheat was in Biblical times. Thank you, Google, for filling me in. Given how different modern wheat is from ancient grains and how it’s prepared now, it makes sense that the vast majority of the types of carbs we eat have such an adverse affect on our health. We are settling for dust — too often contaminated dust at that.

I’m also on a quest to find raw, unfiltered, local honey.

I hope you’ll read Jen’s book, but be warned, it could shake you up. And that’s a good thing.

I’ll let you know how this goes.

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Where I work we have a women’s empowerment training program called Soup of Success. Part of the funding comes from grants, and the other day one granting organization sent a team of interviewers to gather stories of success from graduates of the program. I was privileged to sit in on two of those interviews. They were powerful and uplifting and spiritual. I handle a lot of the communications for our agency, so I was hoping for some good quotes we could use. I heard that and then some.

One woman whom I’ll call Angelica now leads a class for women in prison called Beauty for Ashes. One of the things she tells them is that “It’s only midnight for one hour.” Persevere, and on the other side of the darkest hour we start moving toward the next day and sunrise. I can only imagine what it means to be in prison and have a gritty woman come alongside you with that reminder.

That night turned sad for me. Sad and tired. My life looked impossible, against me, overwhelming. I finally just went to bed, hoping to see daylight in the morning. And you know what? It came. In fact, it’s now two days later and thanks well up in me for the sunlight coming in my window, for a friend to call and compare our weeks, and for God who cares deeply enough about me to remind me that he loves me through the midnights and will bring back the light.

Oh, and for the resale shop where I found a bigger crossbody bag today. Leather even, and with today’s sale of 30% off, only $16. black leather crossbody bag

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Restoration

This morning our congregation sang these lyrics: “Rid me of myself, I belong to you.” I had to stop. It struck me that while the intent of these words is to worship God instead of self, for some people the more appropriate prayer is “bring me back to myself.” That’s what I found myself praying: To make me more fully the person God made me to be, so that I can accomplish what he made me to do.

When we moved here, I had a sense that it was for restoration of some kind. Then things just seemed to get even worse. Now I see that God is in the process of restoring me.  For way too many years I was a thin version of me. I adapted myself to my husband to the point where I lost touch with myself.  (I feel so bad that this is the me my children grew up with. I cheated us all. But I digress.)

So first, God, finish bringing me back to the person you made me to be. Then shine through me into my world, which is really your world. I know I belong to you, that your design in me is good, and that you delight in me.

I reject worm theology. I am God’s precious daughter.  To live with the mindset of a worm denies his love and grace.

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I find myself this morning burrowing through boxes I thought would stay closed for a good long time. It all started yesterday when I found out that I need a new furnace.  The good news buried in that bad news is that a new heating/cooling system will be hugely more energy efficient than my current 1975 models and will save me money big time on my utility bills, but I still have  to figure out how to pay for this. I know God will provide for me. He always has, one way or the other, but I’m working with him here. I know my cushion won’t cover the whole expense. For some time I’ve been tossing around the idea of signing up with airbnb.com, offering my guest room to travelers for some extra income. Now the furnace issue is pushing me to get serious, and before I can actually do that I have to clear out the closet in there. Hence, going through boxes. Some I can just carry downstairs, but others maybe it’s time to weed stuff out. Again.

I boxed this stuff up during the year after my husband died. As widows do, I went through his stuff, got rid of lots, and saved some. I haven’t opened it again in two years. So far I’m one book box in. Already the process drains me. I thought I was done with this.

Just now I messaged a relative to ask if she and her husband, in seminary, want some of the theology/devotional books. I’ve put a Spanish-English Bible and a U.S. Constitution/Declaration of Independence booklet in my tote bag to take to work Monday, to put out for food pantry clients, because our experience shows that people are not just hungry for food, they are hungry for something that feeds their soul and mind.

Then I picked up a couple of my own books that I’d boxed up because I hadn’t looked at them in probably fifteen years: When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple and If I Had My Life to Live Over I Would Pick More Daisies. They’ve become stereotypes since I bought them, and I figured they were Goodwill bound. But when I opened one and read a random poem, it took me straight to my mother, who died by my side in 2001, and I think I may need to reread both books again. I go to another poem, and there I am, too. At least for now, they will return to my shelf.

I still don’t know if I’ll follow through on this airbnb.com idea, but I’m closer to it than before. I don’t even know if I’ll ever be done sifting through things — and thoughts, and memories, and emotions. This is what it means to be alive, right?

By the way, I’ve been reading Joshua Becker’s blog, Becoming Minimalist. If you want encouragement for simplifying your life, you might want to check it out. Just be warned, that the process of thinning out possessions will often take you to some important emotions. But that’s really a good thing, too, is it not?

Onward.

 

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