New Chapter…

Friday marks my last day as an employee of my company. I am the second one in my department to be laid off due to budget cuts, which means that my small department has now lost 20% of their workforce.

I have been trying to leave this job for well over a year…I’ve been trying to find something that better fit my passions, skills, interests, etc. and I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to “be” in terms of a career. This job was never going to be a career–it was a stepping stone to hopefully move onto different positions within the company…and I have now been here for two years and eight months, not due to lack of trying!

About three weeks ago, after God continued to close door after door, I had resigned myself to the fact that I needed to just stay put until we had a kid. I moved my office furniture around, dove into projects and was pro-active about taking an extra project on that needed to be done. I was actually enjoying my job for the first time in quite a while because I had DECIDED to enjoy it.

I definitely did not expect what happened last Wednesday to happen. No one did. My bosses were quite upset about it and apologized profusely to me. I was stunned. I felt strangely sad, though I had been praying that God would release me for a long time now, and the only reason that makes sense is this: I didn’t get to leave on MY terms. I didn’t get to give my notice, and it wasn’t for my reasons. This isn’t my choice. My choice was to stay here until the time comes to be a stay-at-home mother, not to be let go because the company is making cuts.

Over the past week I have grappled with this new reality and still have no answers. However, I fully believe that God is completely sovereign and that He loves me deeply. I believe that His ways are far more wise than my own. So I will trust Him and choose to be content.

We are not worried at all–we have no doubt that He will provide for us – He has done it continuously and will do so again and again. I am truly content and am excited to see what comes my way! I’m excited to be able to be at home more to take care of things like planting our vegetable garden, finishing projects that we need to finish, and doing other tasks that need to be done around the house on a regular basis so that Brennan doesn’t have to do as much in the evenings (i.e. yard work now that spring is here). I’m looking forward to whatever temp agency assignments come my way and excited to meet the people who God has planned for me to meet.

Friday begins a new chapter in our lives with no title. No introduction. Nothing written down yet. We’ll just take one day at a time and see where God leads. 🙂

New Perspective…Part One.

So, something occurred to me in the past twenty-four hours that just might be an answer to a long-standing prayer of mine. Maybe. It’s at least getting me closer to understanding the “why” of my jobs, past and present. I have split this into two blog posts because it’s far too much for one post.

First, some background:

In 2001, I was ready to take on the world. I wanted to be the governor of California someday, with every intention of being my friend’s vice-president in 2028 (we even had a website!). High-profile aspiration is an understatement.

That’s how I saw myself: working in politics to change our country for the better, and everyone would know my name and how awesome I was. I wanted to feel important, to feel admired, to feel respected because of my capabilities, talents, and brilliance. In one word: pride.

Over the next few years I interned with Newt Gingrich in Washington, D.C. (2003), I worked on (and ran) several campaigns, attended the 2005 Presidential Inauguration (and a ball) and was even on ABC for thirty-seconds. I attended campaign training at President Reagan’s ranch in Santa Barbara and was pictured in TIME Magazine with the rest of the training group. I was on my way…or so I thought.

Fast-forward to 2007: Two years past graduation and I was still living in Southern California (not my plan). I kept trying to get back to D.C. but doors just would not open. Instead, I was working for a financial company fixing tax returns all day long–completely low-profile–along with doing youth ministry at my church (nearly full-time for a while). I eventually became content (but not fully happy) in the tax job and even tried to move into management, to no avail. Even though my bosses said I was the perfect candidate for management, I continued to be passed over for promotions, and it didn’t make sense to any of us. But, it was a good job so I remained there.

In December 2007, I felt God urging me to pray for discomfort. My faith had grown stagnant and I was desperate for a change. He brought to my attention all of the accounts in the Bible of people who grew tremendously through trials and discomfort (and never through times of prosperity or easy living)…

…so I did it. I began praying for the next year that God would make me uncomfortable in order for me to become more like Jesus. God definitely delivered. 2008 was one of the toughest years of my life thus far, and I never DREAMED of what God would call me to do/lead me through. From the spiritual struggles to the physical (pneumonia), He used that year to the fullest to mold and shape me. I knew it would be a challenging year (I could probably write a book), but I never dreamed of the growth and transformation that would take place by surrendering to God’s plan and letting go of my own.

The biggest change was my move to Pennsylvania. I had been contemplating this for many years but kept trying to do things my way and nothing ever worked out. I visited PA in October 2007 and during that trip I realized that I didn’t want to live in Southern California anymore, at all. The realization even brought me to tears one day.

I began praying that God would allow me to move to PA, and I prayed for six months before I felt an answer from the Lord. He said that I could stay or go, and that He would use me wherever I was. That was a huge lesson in itself, realizing that sometimes God allows us to make decisions and that sometimes there is no “right” answer.

I moved to Harrisburg, PA on July 31, 2008 knowing only two people in the city, having no job, and having very little money. I chose Harrisburg because of it being the center of Pennsylvania politics. I worked through a temp agency for awhile until obtaining a job with a lobbying firm–which I thought was PERFECT! This was it–my door into the political arena!

Boy, was I wrong. Looking back, I firmly believe that God allowed me to have that position for a year to show me that He did NOT want me in politics. It was a terrible year–the job was a terrible fit and I was so miserable in that role. I saw a side of politics that I had never seen before and I was completely disillusioned. I was let go on 09/09/09 and the joy that I felt was indescribable! Most people aren’t happy after being fired (or, in my case, “forced to quit”), but I felt all the heaviness that had weighed on my heart disappear and I felt so free.

From there, I was unemployed for a year, and that year was an incredible gift to me. I watched as God provided faithfully for me and I was able to pay my rent until April 2010, when I moved in with Brennan’s aunt and uncle until our wedding. I was able to focus on church planting and mission trips, and I was so joy-filled through it all. I got engaged during this time, so this also allowed me to focus on wedding plans/marriage. God’s provision was constant, and though it was a humbling year, I learned to accept help from others and to not be proud.

I worked for a temp agency as much as possible (talk about humbling), and in June 2010 I began working part-time for a consulting firm (huge blessing). In September 2010 I obtained a second part-time job (my current role) and was finally working full-time again. I learned more during that year of unemployment than I thought possible! It was a humbling and faith-filled year.

That brings me to today…I have been in my current role for two and a half years. I have never been recognized or thanked for my work by my supervisor. I do work that a high school student could do. I have never had a raise (and I don’t make much to begin with). I do not use my very expensive, hard-earned bachelor’s degree. I go most days completely unnoticed by my co-workers (and have NEVER been asked to join them for lunch when they go out). My gifts and talents go by the wayside as I watch the clock day by day, waiting for 3:00pm to arrive so that I can do things that actually matter. I feel completely unappreciated and overlooked. I have applied for and even interviewed for MANY jobs during this time period, but God has not opened any other doors. So I have remained here, despite how miserable I tend to be here.

Even my role as a relief houseparent at MHS is largely a “thankless” job (from the students themselves, not from the supervisors or the houseparents…students aren’t going to thank you for disciplining them, haha). Don’t get me wrong–I LOVE it, and it’s highly rewarding to help these students make decisions and learn lessons! My point is that they don’t care about the fact that I’m intelligent, a great musician/vocalist; they don’t really care that I am a good photographer, or that I was once in TIME Magazine. They just want to be fed (they are middle school boys, after all 🙂 ), entertained, and kept safe. Above all, they want to be loved.

So why has God been allowing me to go through these things? I think I’ve determined His reasons…

To be continued…

New Perspective…Part Two.

(See part one here…)

Yesterday, as I was talking with a dear friend about her potential job opportunities (very prestigious and impressive jobs for which she is perfectly suited), all of the above-mentioned things started to run through my head. As I listened to her speak, I realized that I, too, long to be admired for what I can do–for my God-given gifts and abilities, for what I worked so hard to accomplish in college/post-college. I long to be known as someone who “did something” with her life, whatever that even means. I, too, tend to put my value and self-worth in my career, in how people view me, and what I’ve done, which explains so much about why I have felt so miserable in recent jobs. That hasn’t changed since 2001.

But you know what has changed? In the past year, my desire to be a mother (a stay-at-home one, at that) has increased exponentially (considering that I never saw myself doing that, it wasn’t hard for it to increase drastically). I have come to realize that raising children to love Jesus and to be productive members of society is the greatest possible career that I could ever have. What a stark contrast to how I felt even one year ago.

And last night, it became very clear that God has used the circumstances of the past few years to prepare me for being a mom (No, this is not a pregnancy announcement 🙂 ). From what I hear, being a mother is often a “thankless” job as you continuously and often sacrificially serve your children. Someday, they might recognize the amazing job you did to prepare them for life and to take care of them, but humans are naturally born selfish. They aren’t going to say “thanks, mom, for changing my diaper so that I don’t get diaper rash” or “thanks, mom, for staying up all night with me when I was sick”…that’s just how it goes. They don’t care how accomplished you are and they certainly aren’t going to marvel over your talents. Being a mother is going to require humility, sacrifice, unconditional love, and lots of grace…and I know now that I am much better equipped for motherhood because of the circumstances of the past few years.

Much of the past twelve years makes so much sense now. I was in desperate need of humility, and God brought circumstances into my life to teach me how to be humble. I wish I had been a faster learner! Haha. Not that I’m completely humble–definitely not. But, given where I was in 2001, I have come a long way and my perspective has completely changed. I was so unaware of the grip that pride was holding on my life!

I now view the word “rewarding” completely differently. It no longer means being recognized and praised–it means offering recognition and praise expecting nothing in return, all for the benefit of others.

So, now I have something new to embrace, and something hard with which to grapple. God doesn’t want me to be “famous”–He wants me to make disciples, including my own future children.

I need to remind myself constantly that it doesn’t matter what the world thinks of me, and it doesn’t matter if they notice how “awesome” I might happen to be…

What matters is that I live my life according to the Gospel, and that I share it with others at every opportunity.

What matters is that I find ways to use my God-given gifts and talents to further the Kingdom of God, especially within my own household, without doing it selfishly or for recognition.

What matters are the eternal things, not the temporal.

What matters is that my value and self-worth come from God alone and not from anything that I have done or will do.

Gas Station Etiquette 101

I spent 68 hours at gas stations throughout the month of July. This experience gave me plenty of time to make observations about what I have deemed the “Gas Station Etiquette” of a majority of the people I observed. Some of these observations were frustrating, some amusing. I decided that I needed to blog about these things because it is apparent that some people were never taught how to behave properly while visiting a gas station.

These are all things that I observed multiple times. And yes, this is intended to be humorous. 🙂

 

 

1. When arriving at a gas station and pulling up to a pump, slow down. Be aware that there are other cars and people around you.

2. When you pull up to a pump, park 1-3 feet from the pump, not 5-6. You block traffic and the hose isn’t always long enough to reach your vehicle when you’re too far away.

3. Turn off your engine. It’s the law. And it’s a law for a reason. I don’t care if it’s hot outside. You’ll survive when you get back into your car.

4. Never leave your vehicle while gas is being dispensed. Just because you really need Starbucks doesn’t mean you should walk across the street while pumping. This is inconsiderate and dangerous in so many ways.

5. Do NOT smoke near the pumps, or anywhere near the fueling area really.

True story: At one station in particular, I was standing 5 feet away from two men who were standing right next to the pump smoking while they pumped gas. Even worse, they LIT their cigarettes while pumping. Shall we go back to basic science? Gasoline and its vapors are flammable. I backed away quickly to reduce any damage that might occur should an explosion have taken place. 

6. You must always pay before pumping. Don’t be surprised or feel inconvenienced. It’s been this way for a LONG time.

7. If a receipt prints, either take it and keep it or throw it away. Do not leave the receipt hanging from the pump and don’t stuff it into the plastic brochure holders attached to the pumps. Those are not trash cans.

8. The fueling area is NOT a parking lot. If you need to go into the store, drive to one of the conveniently located and clearly marked parking spots near the entrance.

9.  Just because it is convenient for you to park right in front of the store entrance or in the middle of the parking lot (where there are no parking spots) doesn’t mean that it’s convenient for everyone else. There are painted lines for a reason.

10. When you go into the store, turn off your car. There is no need to leave it running, unlocked, unless you really want to get rid of your car. Do not leave it idling for ten minutes or more (I saw this SO many times). It wastes expensive gasoline.

I’m sure there are more things that I could share, so I’ll update as I remember more. All in all, I observed a complete lack of consideration for others during my time. What happened to putting others before yourself?

What is your biggest “gas station etiquette” pet peeve?

Book Review: “My Big Bottom Blessing: How Hating My Body Led to Loving My Life”

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I was asked to review this book, and I am SO glad that I read it. As someone who struggles to be content with my outward appearance, this book delivered messages of biblical truth and encouragement that resonated deep within my heart. The author, Teasi Cannon, is so open, honest, and relatable! Her story is powerful and an incredible example of God’s redemptive power.

The book doesn’t only deal with self-image issues–Teasi dives in and tackles important (and seldom discussed) inner heart issues that she discovered on her journey toward a healthy self-image. I related to a few of them–such as not celebrating the successes of others because of a fear that it demeans my own talents. I definitely need to work on that, and Teasi provides questions and scripture to help readers work through those issues.

Teasi discusses the concept of an “Orphan Heart” which is when we are living as though we aren’t completely loved and cared for by God. It made complete sense and I realized that there are some areas in need of work in my own life.

“I let my doctors (not Vanity Fair or Cosmo) tell me if I’m physically healthy, and I let God alone assign my value.”

I loved this passage and had to include it here:

To “glorify” God with our body means to use it to honor or magnify Him. There are many ways to interpret what that might look like in our individual lives. But one thing is for sure, we can’t do it if we hate our body so much that we keep it hidden from the world in shame. That’s the devil’s goal. How do you think he’s doing?

Our enemy wants us to be so ashamed of the appearance of our body that we forget all about the life-changing potential (God’s Spirit) it houses. If he can influence us to become embarrassed enough, maybe we’ll just stay home and keep that good stuff to ourselves. (I’m not going because my pants are too tight.) And when we do, it just leaves more hurting people–maybe even a family member or friend–to die without hope.

This is just an example of the powerful message this book contains. She is absolutely right! I had never thought about it that way, but I can completely see how the devil is using the media/perception of true beauty based on celebrities to manipulate us and keep us from doing God’s Kingdom work. Teasi has put words to the struggles that we see all around us and within ourselves.

You can download a sample chapter here. You can also see a blog post or download an interview with the author here.

Even if you don’t struggle with self-image issues, I recommend this book. We all have baggage from our past that needs to be dropped in order to fully be who God has created us to be…and this book provides resources to be set free for good.

I received a free copy of this book from Worthy Publishing and the opinions expressed are my own.

Lessons Learned From Not Speeding…

A few months ago I made the decision to no longer intentionally drive above the speed limit (note: this only applies while driving in town…I know, I know…for some reason, the interstates are a separate thing in my mind which isn’t right, but that’s how it is right now… 🙂 ) because I realized that it is a sin. It’s become quite the “respectable sin” in our society, and I’ve become increasingly aware of it in my own life.

I’m a California girl. Everyone speeds there. I lived in Southern California for seven years prior to moving to Pennsylvania, and there, if you don’t speed you get run over (on the interstates, at least). It became a way of life…but that is all changing now.

Believe it or not, this didn’t start because of a speeding ticket (I’ve only had two in my entire life, and neither of them were recent).

This started because we live on a road where the speed limit is 25 miles per hour. And there are great reasons for that speed limit: the road is narrow, it’s a neighborhood, there are children, and there are many hidden driveways all along our road. However, because people often use our road to bypass part of Hersheypark Drive, they are always flying down our road.

Having lived here for six months now, it has come to irritate me greatly. It took me awhile to put words to my irritation, but here’s what it comes down to: disrespect. I felt disrespected by the non-residents flying down my road.

This led me to realize that whenever we speed, we are being disrespectful both to the residents of that area AND to the local law enforcement officials…and to God. So, I decided to stop.

It has been a process, and I’ve learned a few things along the way:

1–I care FAR too much about what strangers think of me… 

It is amazing how much I’ve been tempted to speed because someone gets really close to my tail and I get anxious–not because of safety, but because I don’t want them to (1) think I’m a bad driver or (2) get angry and call me names that I can’t hear anyway. It sounds ridiculous written out, but it’s true! Why on earth do I/we care so much about strangers being upset with us because we are obeying the law? (Working on this…)

2–It is AMAZING how many people speed…

I can honestly say that I’ve felt very isolated in my quest to obey the law. Related to number one, it is amazing how many times I’ve been passed in recent months…and it has been humbling. And it has surprised me, because the local police here in Harrisburg/Hershey are ALWAYS looking to catch speeders. Always. I think they’re bored 😉  But seriously, I didn’t realize before just how many people choose to disobey the speed limits continually.

3–Speeding doesn’t really save that much time…

That’s an argument I hear quite a bit from those who choose to speed–that it saves them time. From my observations lately, unless you’re doing 100 mph, you will likely not save more than a couple of minutes. Yesterday I was passed by someone on a two lane highway who was in SUCH a hurry…we got to our destination at the exact same time due to lights and other cars ahead of him doing the speed limit. 🙂 And yes, that made me happy inside. Working on that, too.

I’m sure there will be more lessons learned as I continue my quest to not speed…but this is what I’ve learned thus far.