I’m sorry, what?

I was sitting in church last Wednesday night minding my own business. Pastor gets up to give some announcements before the teacher comes up for the lesson. He says that the person who has been teaching the Wednesday night kids class has decided to step down and if anyone would like to take it over, please see him. Ho hummm, I thought.

Take that class.

I’m sorry, what?

Take it.

But…am I not doing enough? I work a full-time job and just in the last few weeks took on a second job so that I could give the $120/mo that you asked of me. This means that I’m working 55+ hours a week. (I’ve found that I thoroughly enjoy working at the Christian bookstore where I spend my evenings. It doesn’t feel like work.)

You said that you’d step out in faith and see where I’d take you.

Okay, so how about this. If I haven’t been able to shake this thought by next Wednesday, then I will take it.

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday found me thinking about this class pretty much nonstop. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday…not so much. “Okay, so maybe God wasn’t calling me to that class. Whew.” Wednesday afternoon as I sat at work, I felt a huge “tap on my shoulder” in a spiritual sense to go ahead and text them that I’d take the class. I typed out the text message without putting anyone’s name on the “To” line. I read it a few times. Then I added their name. I read it a few more times. Held my breath and hit send. A few minutes passed and they replied that yes, I could have the class.

(Teaching children is not new to me. I’ve been in a self-imposed Sunday School teachers retirement for about 6 years. Prior to that, I taught for about 10 years – all at my current church. I’d never felt the urging to step back into teaching.)

After I the conversation that led to me being given the class (which officially happened later that evening with an in-person meeting with a couple of people) I let God know that teaching this class was not my idea. It isn’t my vision. It isn’t my burden to figure out. This is His class. His vision and His burden. I’m not going to stress about planning anything for it. And honestly, I’ve already watched God start making plans, which is crazy. I was texting a friend because we will need to share some of the time with kids choir practice and without me thinking about it – dates and plans begin to flow out of my mind. Not a lot – but enough for the moment. Isn’t that how God typically works? Giving you enough for the moment. I’m fully trusting Him to continue planning this class. I’m bringing Him water and letting Him turn it into wine.

Not as sneaky as I’d like to think

Remember that 5k that I was going to run? I’m not.

My life feels very different than it did when I last posted something back in February. The last few years, I’ve felt as though I was on the brink of atheism. I read a book called Jesus, Interrupted and it was very hard to move on from. I called it a Pandora’s box of atheism. It seemed impossible to put it all back into the box. To be honest, it’s still hard. It feels like something that I’ve just put under a blanket in the corner. If I don’t look at it, then maybe it will go away.

At the end of last year, I was so tired of feeling the burden of atheism on my back. I didn’t admit these feelings to anyone except for one person – and we never discussed it face to face. I couldn’t. The conversation had happened via emails. But at the end of last year…I decided to go all in. If I was going to believe in God – then I’m going to do it. I started out in the most difficult way that I knew how – giving my tithes. I gave them anonymously – in a tithing envelope, but with cash and no name. I reasoned that it was so that I wouldn’t feel prideful in knowing that our ministry knew that I’d started giving my tithes again after so long of not. That went on for about six months. About two weeks ago, I realized that it was actually rebelliousness that was keeping me from putting my name on the envelope. I didn’t want them to know that I’d picked this practice back up and I often wondered what they thought about the anonymous tithes. Maybe they’d figured it out – I’m typically not as sneaky as I’d like to think. So for about six months I’ve faithfully given my tithe and two weeks ago I added my name.

During the last two months or so – while I suppose that God was speaking into my heart about the rebelliousness concerning the tithes, something else was spoken into my heart. That our church needs to be paid off within the year. I can only describe this as God speaking to my heart, because I have my own debt. Our church requires $70,000 to pay it off and my student loans are over $20,000. If I was going to focus on a loan – shouldn’t it be mine? But the thought was there. I hesitate to call it a vision – because I imagine that visions are something much more. But on the same token…it sort of was a vision. A dream, a goal, to see our church paid off. I figured that if 50 people would give $120 a month for 12 months – that would pay the church off. So I spent a few weeks on that and then it was spoken into my heart again that I shouldn’t say that “If people would do this…” but that I should do it. It was only a couple of weeks later that our Pastor presented his vision that we pay the church off in a year. I didn’t know he’d been thinking this. But it seemed that God had invited me to share in this vision.

I’m sorry though, what? I should do it? I don’t have $120 a month extra to give. Not even if I stop eating out would it equal $120 a month. Then I realized that I have time. So I started looking for a second job. The girl who has been struggling with atheism was now looking for a second job just to have $120 to put towards the church’s loan. When she has her own loan to worry about. So I started looking. Checking my email one Saturday morning, I received the normal daily job listings that I always skim over. There was a part-time job opening at a Christian bookstore. I thought “Ahh, why not.” So I applied. They hired me. Now the almost-atheist girl is faithful in tithes from her regular job, faithful in tithes from her second job (at a Christian bookstore where I spend 15 hours a week talking to Pastors and broken people alike, all about Jesus), and is making enough money to pay $120/month on the church’s loan. I was going to give this money anonymously, but again – God corrected me. It was placed in my heart that the ministry needs to know who is on their side. They need to know that they’re not alone. So, I will put my name on it.

All of this is merely money, though. Sure, my own thinking has considerably changed and my goals are far different than most people would say that they should be. But if I’m going to serve God, then I will serve Him. I don’t know why this much has been put onto me and why I am having to go to such great lengths to make it happen. I am reminding God of this verse:

“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” – Matthew 18:18 (NIV)

I am praying/hoping/having faith that I am loosening things on earth. What is loosened may not necessarily be financial and it may not be for me. That’s okay. I just want to see something loosed and I want God to allow me to recognize it as such.

My prayer in the last couple of months is that God will accept the water that I have to offer. My talents that I have to offer God are basically water. Water is regular, boring, tasteless, and (in developed countries) plentiful. Some people have beautiful talents to offer God – beautiful voices, the ability to play an instrument, or the gift of conversation. I have none of those. I have water. But I remember that water is all that Jesus requested in his first miracle. He requested water and made wine. Wine is something that is a process. It takes time to become something delicious. So I am asking that God accepts my water sacrifice and makes it into wine.

May 23, 2015

I’m going to participate in a 5k.

It will be the second one that I have participated in – but the first one for which I have prepared.

Let me tell you about my first 5k. I foolishly thought that my leisurely walks around the neighborhood were plenty preparation to walk a 5k. Wrong. I foolishly did not mentally prepare for the excitement of beginning a 5k with everyone cheering and running. I also cheered and ran. I ran for about 1/2 block. Then my legs cramped. And then I couldn’t even walk at a decent rate and quickly fell back with the people pushing strollers. And then they were passing me. And then I realized a shortcut in the race that would mercifully allow me to not finish last and I took it. But then as you near the finish line, people are there cheering for you. And you feel excited again and you start to run to the finish line. And then you cramp up again. Because you/I didn’t prepare. (Sorry to the person who ultimately did have to finish last because I wasn’t brave enough to take that spot.)

Fast forward a couple of years to today. About a month ago I went to the doctor for a physical and was given a clean bill of health – YAY! But I’m overweight by about 50 pounds and I know that if I don’t become more active (especially now that I have a desk job where I sit all day) I will continue gaining weight and my next physical may end as cheerfully. I saw online where a local orphan ministry will be holding a Color Run at the end of May which will give me time to complete a Couch to 5k program. Almost twice.

My goal for this race is to be able to walk the first part at a decent pace and then run the final mile. I did Week 1 Day 1 this afternoon and it was ROUGH. I technically didn’t finish – I was too out of breath after a few jogs to do more. But I did manage to run-walk for .90 miles (my entire path was 1.6 miles, since I had to walk back from where I ran). Which looks more impressive than it really is, considering 5 minutes of that was the “warm up walk” and I covered a decent distance doing that. And WHY are our brains instantly against us? I got into the car and thought “Well, that was a failure.”

What? No it wasn’t. What part of that was a failure? I didn’t finish…but I didn’t FAIL.

It isn’t failure unless I quit.

37

I have never exactly been known for my stellar decorating skills or my ability to keep a clean house. In fact, I lived in my current house about 3 years before I hung curtains (There were shades, but no curtains). I live alone, so there was nobody messing the house up except for me…and yet I always felt like Pig Pen from Charlie Brown. Messiness just followed him, no matter what he did. That’s how I felt. Somehow it never occurred to me that having a clean house is a process and not an event. And if you want me to get very psychological – I think that having a messy house was a defense mechanism. I didn’t see it at the time, but I do now. About two weeks ago, something just clicked. I cleaned my house, rearranged it, and it has been clean ever since. I don’t even feel like it has been hard to keep it clean. I even invited friends over. If someone knocked on my door right now, I’d let them in with no hesitation. My bed is even made. And then, it occurred to me this morning that being married would be nice.

What. Whut. Who is this? Despite being almost 37, getting married was rarely a thought in my head. Did I grow up in the last month? The sudden ability to keep a clean house and thinking that getting married sounds nice? In just the last two weeks, I’ve involved myself in projects – things that are completely normal for everyone else but things that I always thought I’d do “after I clean my house.” A messy house allowed me to push everything back and suddenly with that gone…I’m ready to open myself up to more things.

Who is this new person? I turn 37 in three weeks and I think it is going to be an interesting year.

Don’t panic

I have a new job.

I. have. a. new. job.

I HAVE A NEW JOB!!!!

Get that? I have a new job. It is with the bank that I’ve worked at for seven years, so that is nice since I have about 6 weeks of PTO saved up. The job title, I admit, sounds fake: Loan Documentation Specialist. I think it is the “specialist” part that sounds made up. But it isn’t. I promise. I will be going from a front line teller to a back office person with no customer contact. Sounds like heaven! But, I have to write this blog to myself. Because things are going to get rough.

And I will want to throw in the towel.

This post is to serve as a reminder that the feeling of having made a mistake will happen. It will happen and it will hit me hard. Probably after a couple of weeks on the job – maybe a month. There will come a time when I will realize how far out of my comfort zone I’ve gotten myself and I will panic. I will panic and long for the days of being a teller at my old branch – where the work was simple, unchallenging, and comfortable. Here is what I have to tell myself: That feeling of panic WILL pass. And when you reach the other side of it – is where you will begin carving out a new comfort zone. It’s where you will gain confidence in your job. But first, the panic will come. It doesn’t mean you’ve made a mistake and should bail. It means that you’re growing. Don’t panic over the panic. It won’t stay for long.

Crossing my fingers and saying my prayers

I’ve had quite a few job interviews lately. Some within my company and some not. Job searching is stressful, guys!

I wish that I was one of those people who knows with certainty what they want to be when they grow up. A doctor, a nurse, a teacher…etc. That would have made life easier. Instead, I didn’t know. So I graduated high school way back in 1996 and went to community college. I finished one semester and was offered a job in a bank making a whopping $7.75/hr. Back in 1997 that was a lot of money for someone who just got out of high school. Except it interfered with my college schedule. So I quietly dropped out of college and just started working as a part-time teller. The problem with this plan is that it is 2014 and I’m still a bank teller. That was not how I’d pictured it going! Granted, I am now considered a “level 3” bank teller and I make enough money to comfortably support myself – but I’m still a bank teller. Over the years, I would take a class or two each semester at the community college where I’d previously dropped out and eventually my advisor said “If you’ll buckle down, you can finish this associate’s up in a year” and so I did. My 2 year degree took me 18 years to complete. And then I went right into a 2 year program for my bachelor’s degree and I finished that up earlier this year.

So now – here I am. Still doing a job that I fell into when I was 19 years old…but NO MORE. No more, I tell you. This week I applied for a job within my company (where I’ve been for 7 years and have about 9 weeks of PTO stored up…I’d prefer to stay there for obvious reasons) and am not even going to hold back on telling you how MUCH that I want this job. It’s not an exciting job (But no bank jobs are truly exciting, let’s be honest)…I’d be in loan documentation. But it would be a challenge, more money, and I would finally not be a bank teller anymore. Crossing my fingers and saying my prayers for this one!!

Keep it off Facebook

Thanks to social media, there is a disturbing new trend. It’s the “Been missing you at church” comments.

I’ve just come to rant, I suppose. But these comments aren’t okay. Okay? If someone has missed a couple of services (or a couple of months worth) and they post a cute picture of their kid, or a funny cartoon status, or a photo of an apple pie…this person probably doesn’t want 5 or 6 people commenting with “Hey, been missing you at church!” For one, it feels like public shaming. Secondly, it feels like their cute kid, funny comic, or apple pie are irrelevant because they haven’t been to church. Maybe their out of town friends or family didn’t realize they’d been missing church. But now they do. Have you really actively noticed this person missing at church or did it just now occur to you when you saw them pop up on Facebook? Does a Facebook comment leave someone feeling that they’ve now done their “Christian duty” by commenting? Because, I’m sorry, you haven’t.

I’m not advocating home visits over a Facebook comment. But I am saying let’s leave Facebook comments out of it. Also, posting it to their wall. Keep it out of the public eye is what I am saying. Even if you aren’t close enough to the person to have their phone number – Facebook has this lovely thing called “email” and I think that would be appropriate. It’s private, personal, and you can still keep your message to just a couple of sentences. If you’ve been spiritually struggling – which is going to be more effective? A Facebook comment on your kid’s cute picture or an email that says “I’ve missed you at church lately! I hope that everything is going well with you – if you need anything please let me know. I hope we will see you back soon.” This will probably (but not necessarily) get a response. And it may open up dialogue. (And it may not.) But that’s okay, because you’ve opened the door. And if this is someone that you generally chat with at church – invite them out for coffee. Not to talk about their absence at church, but just to stay connected. In real life.

Your kid isn’t cute

Okay, they are cute. But not always. Or at least…not always to everyone else. I will concede that sometimes it is funny when small just-learning-to-talk tots are sassy or misbehave in clever ways. But it isn’t always cute. 

Real life example: A couple of weeks ago, a very proud grandmother brought her just-turned-3-year-old to church with her. She allowed her to sit with the older kids on the other side of the church. Strike One. She isn’t old enough to sit without adult supervision, so she’s chatting and moving around and standing in the pew while the 10 year old’s are trying to contain her.  The worship team begins to sing a song and the tot stands up and begins jumping around. It’s a worshipful church where people DO jump up and down occasionally. But this isn’t one of those times. Tot is jumping around in circles and Grandmother is beaming with pride and videoing her. Strike two. Later it was posted on Facebook as “worship.” No, Grandma. That wasn’t worship. Strike 2.5. Later in the service, the same tot begins to wander around the sanctuary sitting with different people. She wanders over to my niece’s things and starts pulling out her snack and her toys. Grandmother is STILL beaming with pride that her little granddaughter is being so social. Strike THREE. No, Grandma. We’ve crossed the line from adorable to misbehaving. It is not adorable for you to allow your grandchild free reign of the sanctuary. Not everyone thinks this behavior is the cutest thing ever. At least I don’t. 

 

Let me help!

I’m 36 – not married and no kids. All of my friends have kids. That means there is no more of “Hey, let’s go to dinner tonight!” and a lot more of “let’s go to dinner next month, you name the date” and that is okay. My friends-with-kids are very busy and it is hard to get away. But here is what I want them to know:

-I love you. Your kids are an extension of you. I love them, too.

-When I text you to hang out, I fully realize that it won’t be like our past days of dinner and a movie. It will be in the form of me bringing pizza to your house and coloring with your kids, fill up their drinks for them, grab a second slice of pizza for them, wipe up that drink they spilled, and snuggle them while watching their favorite cartoon. Oh, and between all of that – you and I will get some talking in! All of that is okay. Remember my first bullet point?

-Yes, I still text you frequently and I may still email you. Maybe you reply and maybe you don’t. It’s okay. I know that you are, eventually, reading what I write and I know that you do care. It’s just hard to express when somebody has spilled their cereal on the floor the moment you were reading my text. 

-I know that you are busy and some days you want to escape. Let me help with that! I’d be more than happy to oblige if you texted me “I’m losing my mind. Can you come watch my kids for an hour?” or “please bring me coffee” or “I need an extra set of hands when I go grocery shopping tonight” I am happy to oblige!! I never offer those things because as a non-parent, I don’t want to accidentally offend you. I’m not insinuating that I could do a better job, I’m just saying that I love you and I want to help. 

Take advantage of your non-parent friends, moms!! We may not have our own children, but we are probably going to be excited for the opportunity to help you. Before you had kids, it was easy to surprise you. Bringing you a coffee at work was an easy way to brighten your day. Now that you’re a parent it is different. If I stop by your house unannounced with coffee – am I interrupting nap time? Are you cleaning up poo smeared on the wall and not at all wanting a visitor? Are YOU catching a precious nap? You see the difference. My desire to make your day brighter is still the same, but just how to do it is trickier. Help me help you!

 

 

Bible in 90 Days

I’ve created a sub-blog, if you will. It can be found here. I am going to start reading my 90 days bible again tomorrow and I always start with a notebook writing my thoughts down, but then I lose the notebook and then I lose my notes.  You’re welcome to follow along, or not. It will be more like reading the bible in 90-ish days. I believe the last time I did it, it took me 6 months instead of three. Oops. 

 

 

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