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Posts Tagged ‘strengths’

(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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Names matter

I meet once a week with two friends, Jo and Becky. We share our lives, encourage each other, and pray with each other. Over the past year we worked through a book together called The Intentional Woman: A Guide to Experiencing the Power of Your Story, by Carol Travilla and Joan C. Webb. Toward the end of it one of the questions was this: “What would it look like if you trusted God with all that you’ve learned about yourself — past, present, and future — during this study?” I wrote this answer: “Would I stop being timid? Would I finally be a grown-up?” As I shared that with Jo and Becky, Jo gently stopped me. “You’ve talked before about how you’re timid. I don’t see you as timid. I never have. Could it be that someone a long time ago called you timid and you keep living in that identity? What if that’s no longer your name? What if God has a new name for you?”

And right away, I knew it was true. I was a shy kid. I have always blushed easily. My father, a quiet man himself, and many other people close to me seemed to believe that teasing me about being shy and turning red would somehow move me past it, make me bolder. All it did was make me more self-conscious, less sure of myself, and ashamed of who I am. In effect, they named me Timid. And yes, I believed it and have struggled with it ever since. (Parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and teachers and friends, take note.)

So I’ve shed the name Timid. Habitual ways of responding to the world don’t fall away overnight, so sometimes I slip back, but less and less. I’ll always be an introvert, and that’s just fine.

By the way, I love and recommend Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. She makes the valid point that introversion does not equal shyness, but that often others label it as such. The research she writes about is extremely validating to me, that being an introvert is not a problem to be fixed, but carries with it strengths to be embraced and used for good.

The next question: Does God have a new name for me? Yes, but when will I know it? Well, I think I’m learning it. Some evidence:

My heart responds to old spaces redone in ways that make them vibrant now.. To upcycling. To relationships being restored, made new. To awakening people to their potential, perhaps buried in personal ruins, and empowering them to live who they are meant to be. To restoring neighborhoods to health. To being part of making things work the way they ought to work.

For over three decades I have loved the story of Nehemiah, who lead the massive project of rebuilding Jerusalem including its walls that war and years of neglect had made rubble. I love how just about every person in that city joined in that restoration effort. When we were getting ready to move here over seven years ago and I was heartbroken to be moving so far away from our children, grandchildren, and friends, God spoke to me through the story of Nehemiah that the purpose of our move was restoration. I didn’t know what that would look like as we moved back to the place I knew well growing up. When it became clear that my husband was a secret alcoholic and it was killing him, I prayed for his restoration. Eventually I came to understand that in taking his life, or rather not overriding the natural consequences of the addiction,  God did restore him to perfect health and freedom from addiction. God also restored me to live free of the addictive dynamic of our marriage, and I continue to experience restoration of my own life, my own self, and my relationship with my children.

For just as long, Isaiah 58 has moved me. Isaiah writes there about God’s plans for God’s people. He promised, among other things, “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations. You will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

Notice how those words are all capitalized. The translators believe he’s talking proper names here. I have not physically rebuilt ruins, streets, or dwellings, but my gut tells me what matters most to me is restoration. I want to be part of restoring justice and mercy and beauty and truth and love to our broken world, in whatever little ways I can.

I am Restored to be a Restorer.

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I just watched the movie Secretariat. It’s probably not the best movie ever made, artistically speaking, but I enjoyed it. At the end, when Secretariat was tearing up that Belmont track, pulling further and further away from the other horses, and the soundtrack was playing “O Happy Day,” I could not contain myself.  “Let him run his race,” Penny Tweedy’s father had told her before he died, and she did. Using the strong will God gave her, she found people who would also let him run his race, and by simply being the creature God created him to be, he ran it. It was his race, and more. I saw the glory of God.

Penny ran her race, too. Actually, at 88  she’s still running it. I loved the spirit portrayed in her, the never give up spirit, the know who you are and press on spirit.

I’m sure all this has been written previously, but tonight it’s mine. I needed to see it, to hear it, to clap hard, in time to “O Happy Day,” to the end of the race. I needed to hear in my head again the line from Chariots of Fire when Eric Liddell says, “God made me fast, and it gives him pleasure when I run.”

The song at the end of the movie says, “It’s not how fast, it’s not how far, it’s not who cheers, it’s who you are. In the darkest night you make your sun. Choose your race, and then you run.”

God, are you pleased with my race these days, these weeks? I hope so. Thank you for re-energizing my spirit this way. I want to be the person you made me to be, full out.

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I’m a big fan of finding your strengths and living by them. There are lots of ways to do that, but Marcus Buckingham’s books are some of the best. Here’s a quick little assessment tool related to his new book which focuses on women and strengths. It’s not comprehensive, I’m sure, but the results for me were pretty darn close. According to it, my lead role is as a creator and my supporting role is as an advisor. Not too far from what I’m doing these days. Guess that confirms some things.

[clearspring_widget title=”The Strong Life Test for Women” wid=”4a6e274b799f5199″ pid=”4ab19286ab70e62c” width=”200″ height=”450″ domain=”widgets.clearspring.com”]

What are your strengths? What if we all arranged our lives to make the most of them? How can you tell when you are operating from strength? Or not?

My strengths require some quiet time alone. Signing off now for more of that.

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