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Posts Tagged ‘transitions’

(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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The subject for this post came to me at about 3:30 a.m., and I’m going with it. I don’t know if it’s just about habit, or if there’s more there. But here goes.

When I get up in the wee hours to go to the bathroom, by instinct I reach left first for the toilet paper probably 6 times out of 10. That’s where it was in the house where I lived for the 11 years before moving here. In this bathroom, it’s on the right.

My kitchen wastebasket is under the sink. This is where it should be. It’s where it was in the house I grew up in and in some other houses I’ve had. In others, it’s been in the pantry, beside the cabinets,  or underneath a kitchen island. But wherever, at least once a week I’ve reflexively opened the door under the sink before realizing, oh yeah, it’s not there.

My parents had a starburst clock on the living room wall for many years while I was growing up. And still — still — occasionally I look on my living room wall when I want to know what time it is. Never mind that I haven’t had a wall clock in my house for years, probably decades.

This is the sentence that came to me at 3:30 this morning: Every place I’ve lived has left its mark on me.

I have lived in lots of places. Let’s see —

  1. The house I grew up in. Lived there for 19 years. The clock on the wall. The white house with trees in frontwastebasket under the sink. Good, solid life. That place is truly in my core.
  2. The tiny house we lived in briefly right after we got married. Today it would be considered part of the tiny house movement.
  3. The 12×50 mobile home my dad helped us get. Bigger than the tiny house. Smaller than the apartment where I live now, a fact that gives me perspective.
  4. My parents’ retirement home in Florida. Temporary until we could buy our own.
  5. The house we bought in Florida.
  6. My mother’s home. Also my childhood home. Dad had died and we lived with her for 9 months, again till we could buy our own home, having moved back from Florida.
  7. The house we bought there.
  8. The first parsonage. My husband was the associate pastor at that church.
  9. The second parsonage. My husband was the only pastor at that church.
  10. The third parsonage. My husband was the senior pastor at that church.
  11. The home of a friend’s parents. Things had gone sour at the church and the congregation voted to ask my husband to leave.We did, with nowhere to go and no income. This place was shelter and storage space as we tried to heal and figure out next moves.
  12. The first house in Colorado. We bought it without seeing it, after friends on site checked it out and arranged for a volunteer crew to remodel it. It was traumatic for multiple reasons.
  13. The second house in Colorado, which we rented when we lost that first house.
  14. The third house in Colorado, which we started out renting and eventually bought. Lived there for 13 years.
  15. The house in Indiana. Lived there for 11 years. It’s the one my husband died in.
  16. This apartment, where I still reach for the toilet paper where it was in the last house. And where the trash again fits under the kitchen sink.

This litany of homes brings back all kinds of memories and emotions. But it’s what happened, and I do not think where I live now will be my last home, so the list will continue to grow.

It’s true. Every place I’ve lived has left its mark on me. It’s not the place, ultimately, but what happened there. The seasons of my  life, some quite short, in which I was changed in some way. I grew. Joy and sorrow mixed. Sometimes joy won, sometimes sorrow won.

My children lived in 13 of these homes, too. They also bear marks from those places and the life we shared, for good or ill.

I don’t want any of us to live in those places any more. I want us to move forward. But sometimes sorting through the past is necessary to move on, to heal. Just like you sort through things before a move. Some things you can leave behind. Some things you decide are either meaningful and beneficial, can be repurposed or rearranged to make them useful, or are just plain beautiful. So you take those things with you as you move . . . onward.

Let’s do that.

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It’s been a week

You know how sometimes things get worse before they get better? Yeah, that.

I moved into a newly remodeled, bigger office last week after being shuffled through two different temporary spaces ever since my old office wall came down to expand a classroom back in August. Most of my stuff has been in boxes, just like when you move residences. I got to pick a paint color and tell them how to place my furniture. The new space has great light from big windows. It feels good to finally unpack and begin to settle in. But it also feels overwhelming.

I always like to sort and purge as I pack for a move. That’s how through multiple home moves I have kept the accumulation under control. But when a move comes on top of normal job responsibilities, some very urgent, you don’t get the luxury of sorting through things.

I had a dream once where we had to move in one day, so we put all our household belongings in grocery bags in the back of a pick-up truck. At least this wasn’t that bad.

So now as I unpack, I’m trying to sort and purge. When I took this job, I inherited several other people’s files and never reorganized them to integrate into my system, which admittedly needs improvement. This must be wrestled to the ground. Keeping in mind document retention guidelines, so far I’ve filled a wastebasket and run to the shredder several times, and my table is covered with piles. The office that looked so fresh and clean before I moved in is now controlled clutter. And in the midst of this, regular work must get done. Nevertheless.

One thing became abundantly clear yesterday. A lot of stuff I thought was essential to print out 4 or 5 years ago because I was sure I’d use it or reference it has not seen the light of day ever since. My temptation is to read it all through again and hang onto it like lost mementos, when it should probably all get pitched. After all, it’s all no doubt still available online.

Life lessons in all this?

Often things have to get worse before they get better. And they will get better only if we persevere through the ugly times. Keep looking forward.

We create surroundings that reveal and reinforce our inner condition. If I lack focus, how can I expect to keep organized?

Clutter squanders energy, and who can afford that? I’m still learning this lesson.

Patience. God, the God of order, is patient with me in my process. I need to be patient with myself.

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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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My house feels like a weight around my ankles that I don’t want any more. If I had thought I’d live here as a single woman, I would not have picked this house. Come to think of it, I didn’t pick it anyway. Art did. I never saw it, other than a few photos, before we agreed to buy it. It met both my criteria, that it be big enough that if our children came to visit they could stay with us and that the neighborhood be walkable.

Then Art died, in this house, in the living room. After one failed attempt to sell it, I’ve stayed on, made it more my home than ever, and found I like living alone. Yet the yard work and home maintenance are stressing me out, and so is the length of the mortgage. Freedom from these would feel so good.

I went to visit a friend recently who lives in an apartment downtown above a restaurant. Not sure if it would be called a loft or not, but I could like living in a space like that. The building is probably 100 years old. It has windows that are almost floor to ceiling, wide worn wood plank floors, ceilings a good 12-ft. high, and lots of open space.

Maybe a place like that will be available for me. Maybe it won’t. But in the next few days I’ll decide whether or not to list my house for sale again. I probably will.  Maybe it will sell, maybe it won’t.  If the time is right, God will open the way and this house will be a good fit for someone else.

My family doesn’t come to visit very often, but I still want an extra room for when they do, because they are always welcome. I still want a walkable neighborhood — in fact, if there are actual shops and parks to walk to, instead of the boring figure eight in this little subdivision where I live now, I’ll be more likely to walk. It will feel good to choose a place all by myself and arrange and decorate it to suit just myself. I’ve never done that before. It’s about time.

Gulp.

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