New Chapter and Healing from the Previous One…

I began a new chapter in my life this week – moving from unemployment/temporary work to a new, “permanent” position.

I had a difficult time in the weeks leading up to this new beginning as I was unsure of whether or not I should have accepted the position. It didn’t have anything to do with the job or the employer itself – it had everything to do with a “fear of commitment” in regards to jobs that I didn’t know I had developed. It had everything to do with past scars caused by some awful supervisors that I’ve had in the recent past. And it also had everything to do with the fact that this isn’t my “dream” – this isn’t what I feel so passionate about, and I was afraid that taking this job would prevent me from further pursuing that which God has placed in my heart. Essentially, I was afraid of what might be around the corner and I was afraid of making the wrong decision.

From the very first hour of my new job I began to see that the negative things about my past job are nonexistent here. From the smallest to the largest things, God has redeemed my employment situation. I also began to see that I had built a wall around my heart during my last job that was preventing me from being excited/feeling blessed about where God has brought me now. I didn’t realize that I had done this, but God is using new experiences each day to slowly remove one brick at a time, which is showing me just how high the wall had become. Still, even now, I am having a hard time letting myself be excited and letting myself just accept that God has brought me to a place where I am neededwanted, affirmed, empowered, treated with respect, included…

Looking back (hindsight is 20/20, after all) over this past summer, there is no doubt in my mind that everything God allowed to happen was incredibly intentional:

May 17, 2013: Laid off from HE&R (SO THANKFUL!!!!), beginning a time of solitude, reflection, unknown, and healing.

At the same time, Brennan and I are beginning to feel that we shouldn’t be “regular relief houseparents” at the Milton Hershey School anymore due to family/church circumstances…we begin praying.

June/July: Able to do photography for Christian Retreat Center‘s camps because I was laid off, reminding me of my love for photography.

June 25: Jon Acuff sends out an email/blog post/tweet about joining him on an adventure and I accept.

Brennan and I decide to try to become “emergency relief” at MHS which would allow us to be home each weekend (unless called) and would allow us to still be involved with the students.

July 15:The START Experiment” begins…my risk was to focus on self-discipline after several months of not-so-subtle nudging from the Lord…

July-August: I realize through the START Experiment and the accompanying community what my dream job really is and I begin to pursue it. I start Essential Harrisburg and begin sending my portfolio to potential organizations.

I also interviewed for this new job at MHS in August.

We are told that we wouldn’t be allowed to be “emergency relief” due to the number of couples already in that status. I also find out from HR a few days after my interview that I cannot accept a potential job offer from MHS if we are still “regular relief” because of the number of hours I would be working.

We are faced with an incredibly difficult decision to either quit or stay on as “regular relief”

One Sunday, while covering a student home, my supervisor “just happens” to come by and I am able to pour my heart out to him regarding all of this and our desire to stay on with the school as houseparents.

We find out on September 3 that we have been granted “emergency relief” status…and an hour later, I am offered the job that I later accepted. 

September 12-17: I had the incredible privilege of attending “The START Conference” in Nashville, TN and finally got to meet some of the amazing friends I made through “The START Experiment” and was able to further clarify my “dream” and made some connections with professionals in that field. AMAZING. I came home filled with energy, excitement, peace, and even more trust in what God is doing behind the scenes.

Our God is not a God of coincidence. Nothing that happened this summer is a coincidence.

If I had not been laid off…if I had not accepted Jon’s offer of adventure…if…

This new chapter of life is still very new, and my future is still very “fuzzy” and obscure, but I already feel so at peace.

I know that God has placed the dream in my heart to travel around the world, taking pictures and telling stories, and I have no doubt that He will bring that to fruition in His timing. For now, I am going to do my best here, at a job about which I am passionate, telling the story of Mr. & Mrs. Hershey and their incredible generosity and legacy, while waiting for whatever God might have in the future.

 

 

The Start Experiment, Round Two: Day Nine

Today, one of my wonderful fellow “Starters” posted something that almost made me cry because it spoke directly to my heart.

Know what isn’t the only reason you’re not working for your dreams? It isn’t always your fear that is preventing you from being successful. Sometimes it is your unwillingness to sacrifice. You’ve got to decide today that the pain of staying the same and not chasing your dream is costing you more than it would to chase it.  — Ashley Revely

Oh my. Between that and the email that Jon Acuff sent to those of us in Round Two today, I feel broken. In a good way. I forgot my journal at home, so I decided to just blog about it since I’m sure that others feel the same way and might need this encouragement.

Jon’s email today talked about not just settling for “jobs” when they’re not something that makes us feel alive and when they’re not part of our calling. I have done that my whole adult life. Every single job.

Funny “coincidence” that after I read that email I headed to an interview for a job that I could do and could do it well. But, it has nothing to do with the passions in my soul and my new-found mission in life. Same with the job I interviewed for last week. In fact, I honestly feel that accepting either of these jobs would be detrimental to my dream. Interesting what a new perspective can show you.

Ashley’s quote doesn’t only apply to my dream, though: it also applies to weight-loss and health. Before our wedding, perhaps because I had a goal, I lost 20 lbs and worked hard at it. I felt GREAT and loved what I saw in the mirror. I felt thin. After the wedding, I gained it all back PLUS some because I wasn’t willing to sacrifice things along the way. I’m realizing now that the cost of staying the same is far more painful than chasing my dream and working hard.

Today I’m going to break both my dream job and my dream of weighing 45 pounds less into simple steps and look at WHY I’m failing at weight loss. I know that most of it is due to lack of preparation and planning, but some is still due to laziness. What will it cost to pursue my dream and what sacrifices are necessary? I am thinking that any sort of permanent job is at the top of the list. I’m also thinking that getting up at 5am to ensure that I have plenty of focus-time will continue to be a must.

What is it costing me to stay the same? Joy, peace, self-image, contentment, passion.

What might it cost me to change? Time, effort, maybe financial sacrifice, trusting God a whole lot more.

The pain of staying the same is DEFINITELY costing me a lot. It’s time to sacrifice things that are standing in the way so that I can fully pursue what I am called to be.

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?