Monday, July 28, 2014

The Journey Begins...Again

The long and winding path from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 Edward Webb, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
Two and a half years ago, I had to quit a job that I loved and move.  Since then, I have been a full-time stay-at-home-mom.  It's been difficult, as I enjoyed working part-time and I miss it.  

A year after I moved here, I wrote this

"And I love where I am now.  It is a new chapter in my life, that, although I didn't write it, has been wonderful.  It is a chapter in my life that I have seen, felt, experienced (pick which word you relate to best!) God's leading more than any other time in my life.  Even before it was certain we would move here, I somehow knew that this was the place we would go.  It was strange too, because there was the potential of another place, closer to where I had grown up, that was becoming an option.  I would have preferred that place, but I knew it wasn't the time yet."

I have often wondered why God wanted us here.  What specifically was there for me to do?  A few months ago, I thought I knew exactly what it was God had called me here for, but as it turned out, that job opportunity was not to be.

Yesterday in church, our pastor was talking about blessings, and read from Genesis 12:1-3.  I ended up deviating from that and reading further on, since I have always loved the story of God calling Abraham, and noticed something.  

"And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb." (12:9)
"He journeyed on by stages from the Negeb as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first, and there Abram called on the name of the Lord" (13:3-4)

What first stood out to me was the phrase "journeyed on by stages".  When God called Abraham, God's promises didn't just appear.  In fact, God's promises of descendents and land were so far in the future that Abraham would not even be able to see them himself.  

I next noticed that after the second journey by stages, Abram ended up where he had been at the beginning.  He'd left his family and all he ever knew to go on this journey of God's calling, and ends up at the first place he had come to initially.  He had to start over yet again.  How frustrating!  

It brought me a little comfort though, that even Abraham, this person that God chose to start a great nation, had setbacks.  The journey wasn't easy or clear.  I don't know if he expected it to be or not, but I know that I tend to expect it to be pretty clear.  I didn't expect to spend this much time being only a stay-at-home-mom, and I didn't expect that part-time job to disappear just when I thought it was the exact right opportunity for me.

But life doesn't always meet our expectations, and we sometimes have to think about where we've been, what we've done, and just start over.  The last two and a half years haven't been a waste, at all, even if they weren't what I expected.  Not working has had some of its own blessings: no problems staying home with my kids when they were sick or had a snow day, getting to know a family in the neighborhood and loving the kids in that family, deciding to cook or bake whenever I had an urge to do so, etc.

But now, I do feel like I am starting over.  Soon, football season and the new school year will begin.  Both my kids will now be in school (1 elementary, 1 preschool), and it is time for a new chapter in my life.  And I still have no idea what that is.  The question "what is your ideal job" has been posed to me twice in the last couple of weeks, by two people who have no connection to each other.  And it stumped me. I am not entirely sure what my ideal job would be.  I have a list of dreams and interests and what I am good at and I don't know how they fit together.  But here they are.  I'm hoping that deliberately writing them out and publicizing them will somehow help bring some clarity and direction. 
  • Must be part-time and flexible so I can stay home when the kids are sick and can't go to school as well as flexible during school vacations. 
  • Writing/Editing
    • I am currently at 17,498 words in my novel
    • I've been blogging on faith/Bible topics since 2005
    • I have a yearlong spiritual discovery project started that could potentially be a book
    • I have always been good at proofreading and have read and provided feedback for writers in my writing group and do some freelance proofreading for an editor friend of mine
  • Publication Design
    • I've created newsletters, booklets, posters, handouts, inspirational sayings on an amateur basis for various organizations and personal use (caveat: I have no idea how to use Adobe products. I know that's a big negative).
  • Social Media 
  • Speaking/Preaching/Teaching
    • I have led Bible studies, given sermons and other devotional talks for many years
  • Getting to know people on a one-on-one basis
  • I've enjoyed my church/ministry jobs the most
We always talk about the church being a community and that people are not supposed to do life alone, so I'm asking for your help and feedback.  I'm not sure what type of job combines those interests and abilities, but if I don't put it out there, I will never know.  So, please, if you have thoughts, advice, know of something that seems like it would fit me, let me know.  And we'll see where the next journey leads. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Being Bold and Honest

For the second year in a row, and the fourth time overall, we've spent a week at an Evangelical sports camp.  I really enjoy having the week off from cooking: we get to eat every single meal in the cafeteria of the college where the event is hosted.  There is a morning children's program for my kids and optional afternoon activities, chapel each night, and then adult social time after that. 

There's also a study for the female spouses of the coaches working the camp.

That's the part I tend to struggle with the most.  Most, if not all, women's events I have ever attended I have not really enjoyed.  This is probably along the same lines as the reason I rarely enjoy Sunday School or small group type stuff anymore--they just don't have the depth that I am interested in or need.  Last summer, I didn't attend the women's study.  I wanted some time alone to write and I am glad I did that.  This year, I did attend it, with a little trepidation.  Last year's study was one that I read afterwards, and I thought the book that was used was badly written/edited and could actually be very concerning if it was followed the way it was written.  I sent an email to the leader of the study and expressed my concerns, she wrote back, I wrote back again.  It was a cordial conversation but we obviously disagreed and I wasn't too sure I would be welcomed back again this year.

But I was. 

And more than being welcomed, it turns out that people appreciated my being there.  On our last day of the study, we wrote some affirmations for each of the women in the group, and when I got mine back, I was surprised to read some of them because it's not really how I see myself (which should be good evidence that our perceptions of ourselves can get really skewed):
  • I admire you very much in how honest you are and how true to the Word you are!
  • Thanks for sharing your wisdom.
  • Thank you--your sharing and encouragement has been such a gift to us.
  • Thank you for being so real.
  • You remind me to exercise my gifts and be who God created me to be.  Thanks for granting me permission. Inspirational, you are.
  • I so appreciate your heart and security in knowing who you are.
  • Thank you for sharing your passion and wisdom.
  • I have been blessed by your knowledge and insightful contributions this week. Thank you!!
This surprised me because of my comments when we were talking about self-worth.  When the question about what we often base worth on, I said that we often base a person's worth on his or her gender, and I also commented later that we put certain people or "levels" of faith as we perceive them up on pedestals.  The other bold/honest comment I made was that we idolize marriage and motherhood and too often women are discouraged from being and doing anything else and are taught that is all they are made to do, and their passions for anything else are snuffed out.  I didn't think that would go over well at all but it seemed as if there was some agreement in the room, and when I got my affirmation sheet back and saw the comments, I realized that maybe, people have similar thoughts and are too afraid to voice them--I know that I have been afraid in the past, and even was a little fearful to do so this week.

What I learned is that I need to do it more often (and so I did--and wrote an entire page on the back of the evaluation sheet with some concerns I had about one particular event during the week).  There are too many people out there who feel as if they are the only one thinking something.  I know, because I often feel this way.  It never occurred to me that I need to be the one to take that first step and help others see that they are not alone.  This will be an adjustment for me; it is stepping out of my comfort zone.  But in a way, it ties back into my theme for the year of "Alive".  If I am only living in the safe and predictable areas, then am I truly living?  I don't think so.  

In Deuteronomy 31, Moses is telling the people that they are going to cross into the Promised Land...but without him.  He encourages them to "Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the LORD your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you"  (Deuteronomy 31:6).  Too often, I have lived in fear of being bold.  It is not really my nature to be that way and who knows what the reasons are for it; I'm sure there are many.  But I'm going to try to remember this verse when I want to speak up about something and feel myself pulling back from doing so because I'm afraid of the reaction of others or what they will think about me.  Being bold must, of course, be tempered with wisdom and caution too; it's not just recklessly saying or doing something because I feel like it.  It would seem that this is the next part of the journey of faith that God has me on, and if so, I can only trust that He'll guide me through it.

get the InLinkz code

Friday, July 04, 2014

Labyrinth of the Dancing Christ

This morning, I visited the Labyrinth of the Dancing Christ at the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, NM.  I've been wanting to visit for a few months to start off my yearlong project that I am planning.  While I will write more of the experience at another time, I want to share one train of thought I had while there.

When my husband and I arrived, there was nobody around.  It almost felt as though we were trespassing even though the place was open at the time.  It was still, peaceful, relaxing, quiet, yet with sounds of rooster and other birds nearby.  I felt uneasy; I was expecting to talk to an employee and have him or her give me a brochure or tell me exactly what I was supposed to do in the labyrinth.  I didn't want to do it wrong.  But there was no human being for guidance.  We discussed who would go first and I asked my husband if he wanted to go first and he said no, you can if you want.  With trepidation, I stepped into the labyrinth.  The first few steps I worried: was I walking too fast or too slow?  Was I thinking the right thoughts?  Was I supposed to be praying something specific?  As I walked, I calmed down some and decided to just have the experience of doing it, whatever that experience would bring.

I had known the labyrinth was circular, and had assumed it would be more of a spiral than the way it actually meandered back and forth.  Sometimes, although I was headed in the direction of the center, I was actually further away along the radius.  I would then get closer, and further away--like a dance.  

Too often, we think of faith or our relationship with God as linear.  We think of our life path as linear and Jesus as the way of keeping us on the straight and narrow correct path directly to God or Heaven.  

But it isn't.

If we imagine ourselves in the labyrinth, all journeying together in this faith in Jesus, we are not all in the same exact location, even though we are heading in the same direction.  Sometimes we may appear further away than we are, sometimes we draw closer and then further away.  We can look around the labyrinth and see others on the journey with us, but cannot pinpoint their exact location from God.  

It would do us well to remember this every time we have a disagreement with others in how faith is practiced by each person or group of people.  

We need to remember that God is our guidance.  Just as there was no human to direct me into and around the labyrinth and I had to take that first step in faith, so we should remember that it is God that guides our faith walk too.  We rely too heavily on other humans: pastors, authors, bloggers, to show us their way of believing and acting instead of actually trusting God to guide us each on our own personal journeys.  We travel both individually and together, walking, dancing, in the labyrinth of faith.