One Word 365 2014: Move

I am a planner.  I like to research all the angles and figure out all the possibilities before I embark on a new venture. Sometimes I think I like the pre-planning more than I like the actual doing of something new.  In fact, I believe it could almost be considered a form of procrastination.   For example, I’ve been planning to set up my own proofreading/copyediting business for a couple of months now and I keep tripping over my perfectionism and delaying the launch of my business website until it’s just right. 

So when I started praying and thinking about what my One Word should be for 2014 and the word “move” kept appearing, I knew it made sense for me. 

For one thing, our family is supposed to actually move this year.  We’re moving from South Carolina to Virginia once school is out.  I’ve been a bit heartsick about it and frankly, pretty much overwhelmed. It’s going to be very difficult to leave the life we’ve found here, but we know that if it’s what God wants for our family it will all work out in the end.  Considering that when we moved to SC 7 years ago I had never lived anywhere besides Tennessee, we at least have a little experience with moving to a place where we know no one.  Aside from leaving our own grown-up friends, I’m concerned about my young ones moving at the tender ages of 9 and 12. 

And then there’s the physical aspect of move, as in exercise.  I freely admit that I would rather sit and read a book than take a walk around the block.  Healthwise, I really need to get moving, even if it’s playing Just Dance on the Wii.  Something.  At one point in time I was doing the Couch to 5K program and I had progressed to running/jogging/loping 22 minutes at a stretch but that’s long since fallen by the wayside.  It’s going to be interesting to see if I can incorporate some level of physical activity into my life this year.

There’s another meaning for move that might come into play this year, and that involves a hardened heart.  Oh, I don’t think I’m that cold yet, but friends will tell you that I am much more likely to mock a overtly sentimental movie than to cry at it.  Some might even call me “cynical”.  Does that make me coldhearted?  Probably not, but I’m very concerned that this attitude might carry over into my daily life, and I could find myself no longer moved by the very real hardships and circumstances of other people.  Maybe 2014 is the year that God is going to move in my heart to soften it toward others.  Maybe He’s just going to move in my life, period.  Anything could happen.

Finally, there’s the aspect of move that is the one pressing on my heart.  This is the move that reminds me to move when I see a need, or when someone needs a listening ear, or when God calls me to do something.  Stop thinking so hard, weighing all the pros and cons – just move and let God take care of the results.  Like I said, I have a tendency to put things off by ruminating too long and calling it “research”.  Maybe I need to step out in faith a little more often and trust God to catch me if I fall.

However you choose to look at it, 2014 promises to be an interesting year. 

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One Word 365 2013: How’d I Do?

This was the first year that I participated in One Word 365, an initiative designed (I think) to direct us away from resolutions that we won’t keep and toward a focus that we choose, either on our own or as directed by God.  My word was Less – an odd choice, but the one that I felt was being impressed upon my heart.  Here is the post I wrote at the beginning of the year and here is the one I wrote in the summer.

So how did I do?  Well, I did find myself doing less in the way of time-consuming activities.  My youngest daughter started the year in two competitive sports and she dropped one of those during the summer, which meant I was doing less driving and spending less time out and about.  I made a conscious effort to spend more time at home and I tried to be aware of my current time commitments before adding any new ones.

I took the word to heart when it came to clutter around the house.  I didn’t completely clear it all out, but I hauled several loads to Goodwill over the year and gave quite a bit to friends.

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I also decided to be more conscious of the online commitments I was making, because I have a tendency to hear about a thing (Bible studies, link-ups, new books, Hello Mornings, you name it) and it sounds so cool that I jump right on the bandwagon.  Then I drop off a little while later because I just can’t keep up with all the things.  This year I did less so I was better able to continue what I started.

On a purely superficial note I got a fairly drastic haircut in November, chopping off several inches of my thick hair.  I had been growing it out for a couple of years and while I was a little sad to lose it, I feel so much more like myself with shorter hair.

The verse I kept hearing was John 3:30:  He must become greater; I must become less.  Less of me means more room for Him to work in me and through me.  I can’t say that I perfected the concept of less, but doing One Word 365 this year definitely gave me a head start toward some positive changes inside and out.

Behind the Scenes: Nativity

I’m hanging out with some of the bravest writers on the planet today at Crystal’s place for Behind the Scenes.  That’s where we take those Pinterest-perfect photos and tell you the story behind them.  Come join us?

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She was my boss and my friend, and most of all, she was my mentor.  And in some ways, I was hers.

Carolyn hired me as her part-time assistant way back in 1990.  My job was to help her process payroll, and as a young mother with no college degree it was a great opportunity.   Despite our 15+ year age difference, we became friends.  She had never had children (and never wanted them), but she was maternal with me.  We bonded over our mutual affection for cats.

I had worked with Carolyn for 18 months when my then-husband decided he didn’t want to be married anymore.  She was there for me while I went through my divorce and she kept me from letting my emotions overwhelm my reason.  She gave me practical financial advice, earned through her own divorce many years before, and she let me sit in her office with the door closed when the tears just couldn’t be contained any longer.  And when it became clear that I needed to work full-time in order to support myself and my young daughter, Carolyn made my case to management and brought me on full-time.

She was there cheering me on during my courtship, engagement, and marriage to Jon.  She took great pleasure in hosting a bridal shower for me at work and coordinating our reception.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many ways she mentored me at work, but it was largely because of her training that I was able to later become an HR Manager at another company, despite that fact that I had no college degree.  Beyond the payroll, benefits, and human resources training, she taught me business etiquette and how to navigate the often choppy waters of an office work environment.

But I’d like to think I taught her a few things too.  We talked a lot about faith, and Carolyn told me that she just didn’t believe all the things that I believed about God and the Bible.  Some of it didn’t make sense to her and she couldn’t understand why a loving God would allow so much pain in the world or send people to burn for eternity.  We used to joke about our funerals and she told me that she wanted the song “Spirit in the Sky” played at hers, and as I understood it that pretty much encapsulated her beliefs:  she wanted to go to the place that’s the best.  One thing that spurred a LOT of discussion (because we were good friends) was my and Jon’s decision to wait until our wedding night to… well, you know.  She just couldn’t believe I could marry a man without knowing whether or not we were compatible in that way.  I told her that I believed that God brought us together and I trusted Him enough to know it would all work out.

The very first Christmas that I worked for Carolyn, she asked me what I’d like as a gift.  After some thought I told her that what I’d really like was a nativity set that was sturdy enough for my then 2 year old to touch and handle without breaking.  That was the year she gifted me with Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus.

Every year after that she gave me two or three more pieces in the set.  She joked that she knew I couldn’t leave her because it would take years for me to collect all the pieces, but sadly, I did choose to leave the year after I was married.  This set is definitely sturdy enough to be handled because it has survived roughly 20 years more or less intact.  (The nutcrackers you see in the picture were an addition by my nine year old daughter.  I’m sure there were no nutcrackers at the birth of Christ but there were no wise men either, so there you go.)

I’ve lost touch with Carolyn except for the occasional Christmas card, but I think about her every November when I unwrap the pieces of my nativity set.  Maybe this is the year I’ll sit down and write her a long letter to thank her for all the ways she mentored me as a young working mother.  I think she needs to hear that, and I need to say it.

 

Sleigh Ride!

ImageIt was Christmas 2007.  We had been in South Carolina a year and a half, and we were very active in the new church we had been attending for 7 months or so.  The small congregation had accepted us into the church family from the very first day we showed up at the door, and we accepted them right back.  It truly was a match made in Heaven.

We hired a new worship pastor in the summer, and when he announced auditions for the praise team, something in me stood up at attention.  I tried out and wonder of wonders, made the team.  This picture was of the Christmas production that was most likely our debut.  I can’t remember the name of it but it involved a wooden sleigh in one scene and “live” candles in another (both of which resulted in some incredibly funny stories), and lots of good music in between.  That’s me in the pink vest, singing alto beside my friends Amy on the left and Matthew on the right, just in case the lighting is so dark that you can’t tell the Amys from the Matthews.  I’m trying to act like it’s totally natural for me to be holding that microphone when in fact, it was way out of my comfort zone.

I’ve been a singer for years.  I sang in the high school choir and the “pop group” (similar to what Glee and show choirs do, on a smaller scale).  I sang in the church choirs, when I was in a church that had one.  I even had a solo or two thrown my way, but I was never a “star” – the one that people think of when they’re looking for someone to play a lead role.   I was a supporting player, an alto who mainly sang harmony and served to make the lead vocals sound good.  And I was OK with that.  If I’m honest, I could admit that sometimes I wished to be the one who got called on to sing solos, but mostly I was glad to avoid the pressure.

I sang on that worship team for three years, and I loved it.  It was my niche, and there was such a sense of “rightness” for me in it.  The church was growing and changing, stretching itself to accommodate the people who came there seeking something (Someone) to fill a void in their lives.  And I saw it all happening from my vantage point in the front of the church.  I made lifelong friends on that team and we shared experiences that can never be taken away and that will bond us forever.  The worship pastor liked to write his own productions (some of which were quite powerful) and we lived in fear of his wardrobe requests.  They invariably required some hard to find item of clothing that had us scouring the Goodwill stores for weeks beforehand.  There was the year when we all had to wear shirts in “Easter egg” colors.  And the year when we did a Western themed play that called for denim skirts and (gasp!) line dancing.  Good times, good times.

We’re still at that church and we still love its vision and mission.  The church facility has changed dramatically in the six years since this photo was taken, and the church body has grown from about a hundred members to over two thousand on a typical Sunday morning.  There have been personnel changes too, including the worship pastor, and while our current one doesn’t do the kind of productions pictured above, he is, quite simply, amazing.  His talent, his heart for worship and his desire to seek God’s direction for his ministry make him a very effective worship pastor, and he has a sense of humor that makes him a delight to be around.

But if I’m honest, I can admit that sometimes I miss the days of our ragtag band of musicians and handmade Christmas “productions”.

 

Where I’ve Been Lately

Once upon a time, I wished for more time to myself.  I wanted time to think, to write, to watch TV shows that didn’t involve sports or the Disney channel, to read books both to learn and purely for pleasure. With a tween who needs supervision and guidance, and a younger child who seemed to only need ME most of the time, alone time was in short supply.

In October I thought my time was coming.  My husband took a new job 6 hours away in a different state, and due to the needs of our children we decided that he would go ahead to the new state and start working, and I would stay here with the children until school is out next May.  On weekends he would come home so we could all be together.  I had visions of quiet time after the kids were in bed – time that I could use for all those activities I never seemed to get enough of.  I’d have more than enough time to do all the things I’ve been missing out on.  Scads of time, really.

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Let’s just say it hasn’t quite worked out that way.  There is a lot that goes into getting two girls out the door to two different schools every day while getting myself out the door to work on time.  When we were all in one house, my husband and I worked together to do all the things:  packing lunches, signing school paperwork, reviewing homework, etc.  Now….it’s just me.  I’ve already told him this, but I can see now how much he was contributing to the everyday running of the household. 

So my days tend to run together, what with work, school and extracurricular activities for the kids.  And all that time I thought I’d have at night after they’re in bed, well, I spend it trying to get ahead on the next morning – packing lunches and snacks, signing paperwork and reading logs, etc.  By the time I do all that it’s time to get myself in bed because 5:30 comes early, y’all.  In fact I should be setting up tomorrow right this minute but instead I’m desperately writing this post, like I just need to get the words out of my system before I choke on them.  A kind of word vomit, if you will.

And the ideas for posts keep coming but I don’t have time to write them down.  And the links to sparkling, inspirational posts by friends keep popping up on my Twitter feed, but I don’t have time to read those any more than I have time to write my own.  I feel like that furry guy up there on the wheel, running and running but getting nowhere.  If I didn’t need sleep I might actually get caught up.

I need to work on my business website and my blog website.  I need to find time for Bible study.  I need to find time to actually eat a healthy meal instead of a bowl of cereal or something from a fast food joint.  I need to be able to connect with friends both online and face to face.  Christmas is coming and for the first time in years I am totally unorganized.  I have no plan for gifts or baked goods or cards or parties or any of that.  It’s haphazard and that just doesn’t work for a control lover like me.  My Advent observance is, like everything else, hit or miss.

Some days it feels like a victory that we all got fed and were where we needed to be at the right times.  Who am I kidding?  That IS a victory!

The good thing is that this household fracture is just temporary.  This time next year we’ll all be together again and this period of time will be a (mostly) distant memory. 

Meanwhile I’ll keep treading water and trying not to drown in all the “have to’s” so that maybe one day I’ll get to the “want to’s”.

Just in case you wondered where I’ve been.  🙂

Stand By, or Step Out and Speak Up?

The cashier at WalMart cried yesterday.

I stopped by to pick up a few items and went through the express checkout lane.

And the cashier was crying.  Silent tears were streaming down her face and once in a while she’d swipe at them with the back of her hand.

She kept working, quickly dragging each item across the scanner and bagging it up, while the tears continued to fall.

And I just stood there, not knowing what to do.

For those few minutes there was a war inside my mind.  I didn’t know this girl and hadn’t seen her before, or hadn’t noticed if I did see her.  Do I pretend I don’t see the tears?  Several other people had gone through her line before me and none of them seemed to notice her distress, or at least they didn’t comment on it.  She’s almost finished with my order and I can move on.  Maybe I should just keep my mouth shut and give her her privacy.

Or do I say something?  What do I say?  Should I offer a hug?  A prayer?  What if it makes her cry harder?  What if it makes me cry?  What if I embarrass her by commenting?  What if talking to her opens up a big ol’ can of worms I’m not ready for?  What if she tells me a sob story that then makes me feel obligated to help in some way?  What if speaking up just makes things all messy?

What do you do in a case like that?  Do you just bite your lip and try to get out as quickly as possible?  Or do you step in?

I don’t think we serve a God Who expects us to stay out of the fray.  He calls on us to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.  He expects us to get down in the muck if necessary.  To get real, and to get our hands dirty.  We are not called to be bystanders who just watch the parade of life go past us as we stare after it.

Because life is messy, isn’t it?  People like us aren’t perfect and sometimes we make emotional messes that aren’t easily mopped up with an apology.  Sometimes real people get into situations that can’t be neatly resolved and tied up with a pretty bow.  Real people sometimes need real help and that might require doing real work, like clearing brush, or doing chores, or running errands or listening without judgement.  That last one is a hard one, isn’t it?  Real people get sick physically and emotionally and they need tending to, and we’re the very ones God calls to do that.

How many time do we sit on the sidelines of our neighbors’ lives?  We feel like we’re bystanders and we don’t have any business imposing ourselves on someone else.  Or maybe that’s just me.  All too often I let my concern about being seen as an imposition keep me from reaching out, and I don’t think that’s really what God had in mind for me.  Isn’t it worth the risk to my imagined reputation to speak up?  I think I’d rather be seen as a nosy buttinski than duck my head and let an opportunity to show His love slip away without at least looking a hurting soul in the eyes and letting them know they’ve been seen.

Why do we do that – sit on the sidelines and refuse to engage?  The world around us makes it fairly easy to walk through it without making any real contact, even with the very ones who share our homes.  There are screens everywhere to look at, from huge TV screens to the smallest ones that fit in your hand, and staring at those means we don’t have to meet the gaze of another person, who might – mercy save us! – have needs that we might be able to address.  It just feels safer in our little cocoons, where no one asks much of us. Oh sure, we say, we connect with people all the time online.  Well I say that has its place, but it doesn’t qualify as true connection.  For that you need “face time”.  I think the human race has lost something with our dependence on the connections we find online.  But I digress.

I was a bystander yesterday and I had a choice to make.  I could stand by and walk away without entering into this girl’s distress, or I could step out and speak up.

So I did it, the barest minimum:  I asked her if she was OK. She nodded her head, even though it was obvious that she wasn’t.  Then I asked her if I could do anything for her, and she shook her head “no”.  She didn’t look me in the eye at all.

And then it was over.  That was the end of our interaction, because my order was done and there were others behind me in line. 

I wish I could have done more.  There was a part of me that wanted to run around the counter and give her a hug, and I blame that on my Allume sisters.  (you know who you are, Tonya)  I did pray for her, because as we all know God can do WAY more than any of us can.  I’m not sure what I could have done differently.  I didn’t even have a tissue to offer her.  It was truly an clumsy attempt to show some love.

But I hope she felt like someone cared at least a little bit yesterday.