Thursday, May 16, 2013

Simplicity, Duplicity

Last week, my friend, Katie, and I went to a conference about leadership.  This year’s focus was on leading simply.  How to keep the main thing the main thing.  Getting down to brass tacks.  Major in the majors.  And other clichés.  (Note: The speakers at the conference did not use these clichés.  They are all way too successful and cool for that).  It was…inspiring.  I loved every minute of it and I've hated every minute since.  Because inspiration, when you’re stuck, is a horrible thing. 
I want to be a speaker at that conference someday.  I am not going to put it on my “vision board” like one of the speakers recommended, because (A) That would require a “vision board.” And (B) A vision board, to me, would end up being more of a “All the ways you’re failing today” board.  Goals are in-your-face reminders of what you’re not and instant triggers of the fear that you never will be.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.
I have heard that most people like either Math/Science or English/History.  I've always liked Math/English.  It comes naturally to strategically look ahead at all the ways something could go wrong (Math) and then tell others (English).  (I am a joy to have on a team when pitching new ideas, lemme tell ya).  I analyze stories, and tell stories about analysis.  But mostly, I just analyze emotions.  What do I think about what I feel?  Do I feel ok about how I am thinking
So, naturally, I have been thinking about how I feel about the conference, about the post-conference funk.  How is it possible for the feelings of excitement and rejection to coexist in one heart (or is it mind)?  Here is where my analysis has brought me:
  • I am a woman. (Clearly, that didn't require much analysis.  Hang with me). 
  • I am a woman who is gifted in public speaking—the Church would call it the “gift of teaching.” 
  • I am a woman who does not particularly enjoy teaching children. 
Within the walls of the church, women are praised for being gentle, quiet, and nurturing…maternal.  Women can be teachers…in children’s church.  The church does not have a great reputation for valuing strong women. 
Outside the walls of the church, the world values strong women.  Movies, songs, and books all glorify women to rise to the top of the corporate ladder, make their own way, demand respect, and meet their own needs.  Independent women.  Powerful women.  As long as you look pretty while you’re doing it, women can break the glass ceiling.  The sky is the limit…unless you’re an astronaut...if you want to be an astronaut you can be…even if you’re a woman...and then the limit is beyond the sky. 
And here I am.  Stuck between the two worlds. . 
If I pursued it, I believe that I could be moderately successful in a training/professional development/ teaching role.  I could get a Master’s degree at a cheap state or online school and work my way up a ladder somewhere. 
But there’s part of me, a significant and deep part of me, that knows that the ladder is not going to get me where I want to go.  I want to teach, but not about HR policy or the proper way to collect registration packets.  I want to teach people about God, and life, and love, and hope, and thanksgiving.  But I don’t want to teach those things to seven year-olds.  I have tried to make myself love the small children.  I can’t get past the jam-hands.  (Why are they always sticky?!) I want to teach the fully-grown people, or the almost fully-grown ones. 
Two of the colleges I attended emphasized that there is no division between the “sacred” and the “secular.”  All things can be done to the glory of God.  Teaching HR policy can be ministry.  I recognize that.  I know people who have had “secular” jobs their whole lives and have done those jobs to the glory of God.  I do not want to diminish that in any way.  I believe, though, that God has placed in my heart a desire to use my gifting in ministry, as it would traditionally be defined.  God and I have been round and round on this.  If He wanted me in ministry, He should have made me love children and/or hospitality.  Women who work at a church or ministry are allowed to 1. Teach children  2. Host people in their homes for dinner  3. Answer phones (Note: Secretarial roles are usually reserved for women whose children grown and out of the house and/or widows).  If He wanted me to use my gifting to minister in a “secular” role, then He should not have given me to the longing for ministry. 
I am not sure how to wrap this up, so I am switching back to bullet points:
  • I want to openly acknowledge that saying God should or should not do anything is crazy.  He is.  He loves. There are no shoulds with Him.  He made me this way on purpose.  I am no accident.  I do believe.  Help my unbelief.
  • I do think that the church has some flaws, but she is His bride.  He calls her beautiful and I want to be part of that in any way I can.
  • I long for a day when the duplicity of my personality and gifts come together and make sense.  I think I would feel better.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Go college.

I have to write a book report today.  I haven’t done this since college and I thought it might be like riding a bike, but apparently my I-haven’t-read-the-book-but-can-B.S.-my-way-through-a-couple-of-pages ability has atrophied.  It could be that the book is less than captivating…or at least the first chapter and a half is.  It could be that the writing part of my brain has been absorbed by the blog/twitter-stalker part.  Whatever the reason, I would like to grant five metaphorical points to all of the professors who claimed that getting a liberal arts education would be valuable in the long-run for the sake of “learning how to learn” and whatnot, because even though it may take a little more time than it used to, I will be able to write this summary/ reflection.   I will convince the probably non-existent reader of my little essay that I read this book and deeply value the concepts therein.  

Friday, May 04, 2012

Not in the job description...

Kid1 is looking down at a medal hanging around his neck.

Me:  “What is that medal for?!”

He glances up at me.  He recognizes me but he doesn’t know me.  He looks back down and says:  “Soccer.” 

“I play soccer!”  I say, maybe a bit too enthusiastically.  He looks up with furrowed brow, says nothing, and looks back down.

Me:  What is the name of your team?

Kid1: The Gators

Me:  Cool!  What position do you play?

Kid1:  Defender.   (Still looking down)


Kid1: (Looks up with brow furrowed further than before)  Are you kidding me?

Me: No!  I played soccer when I was your age, and I still play now.

Kid1: How old do you think I am?

Me:  (thinking...) Hmm…8?

At this point, Kid1’s eyes get pretty big.  He glanced at his friend and says, “Whoa.” 


His friend, Kid2, discerning that I know things, wants in on the action.

Kid2:  What’s my favorite food?

Now, Kid2 is really cute, but let’s be honest—he’s a chunk. 

Me: Hmmm…Pizza?

Their tiny, developing minds exploded at this point, as I had guessed…nay—sensed the correct answer.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

I don’t know that I’ve ever really celebrated Advent.  Growing up, we had Advent calendars every year, and believe me, I celebrated that tiny piece of chocolate before school each morning.  (When you’re nine, there is something about eating chocolate before school that is exhilarating).  I don’t know that I processed that the anticipation I felt was a symbol of the Jews' anticipation for a Messiah, and a shadow of our anticipation for Christ’s return.  Chocolate never quite made me think of how Jesus would return and make all things new.  I want to do it differently this year, though.

I want to leap in the presence of the Lord, as John the Baptist did...

To await the arrival of Jesus with such eagerness that I physically yearn for him, as Mary did...

To draw nearer to the Savior as I wander, so I can present Him with gifts, as the wisemen did.

I want to recognize when my spirit aches for purpose and passion, that a new job is not the answer.  And believe that the “sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  I want to long for Christ’s return rather than for presents. 

Presence.  Presents.

And I am frustrated that I don’t feel the feeling I want to feel.  But I’m trying to remember that even my frustration, my numbness, is evidence of my need for His return.  Unfulfilled longing will not remain unfulfilled.  It is just not yet fulfilled.  I cannot stop believing that Christmas will come just because it hasn’t come yet.  It’s only December 7th.  Just so, I cannot stop believing that Christ will come; it’s only December 7th.  

He will come.  Feelings will be felt.  Longings will be fulfilled. 
And that is Advent.  That is hope.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
-Charles Wesley

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

As a “professional development” opportunity for our department, my boss got everyone StengthsFinder 2.0 and asked us to take the test.

In a meeting this week, we are going to share our top five “strengths” with the group in hopes that we will learn to work together, blah blah blah…
In an effort to pull together what I would share, I was trying to find a couple of sentences that really summarize each strength. The description of my first one sounds like something Paul would have railed against. In fact, I think he did. I became so frustrated I began to wonder how much damage the book would cause if I threw it into my computer screen.

I decided to come back to that one later.

In the description for Number 2 it says, “You might find fault with your own talents.”

True story.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Terrible Poem.  Entitled, "In case you stalk me, too" for Beth Moore.

I’ve been stalking you for several years.
I know your hopes,
                   Your dreams,
                            Your fears.

I know your kids, I’ve read your blog.
I’ve followed tweets, I love your dog.
I hope this doesn’t creep you out.
We could be friends; I have no doubt.

I just thought that you should know
You broke my heart a week ago.
You hired her instead of me.
You gave that girl my destiny.

I guess it’s only fair you did
You didn’t know I exist-ed.
But now you do so please let me know
Next time you have a job to post.

I know I’d do fantastic work
And now we’re friends…so that’s a perk!
Thanks for your consideration.
Signed, Katherine Smith, faithful patron.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Over Spring Break Daniel and I were invited over to the home one of Daniel’s colleagues and his wife. It was going to be a night of pizza and Scrabble—just getting to know each other a little better. We offered to bring salad and dessert. Should have been easy enough, except I freaked out a little bit. What kind of lettuce? What kind(s) of dressing? What veggies? What bowl? How much? Should I do two bowls? I will bake a cake. I’ll do two layers, icing in between. Everyone likes chocolate cake, right? What if they don’t? What if there are allergies? (I asked Daniel to text and ask if there were any allergies we needed to know about). I went to the store, bought everything, and went home trying to calm myself down. I baked the cake and let it cool.

The cake totally fell apart when I started to spread the icing. Way beyond repair.

Cue sobbing in the kitchen.

I left the cake in a heap on the counter and ran to the store while Daniel chopped up the veggies for the salad. Plan B: Individual no-bake cheesecakes. Get the box, add the milk, mix it up, plop it into the cupcake tins. Done.

We arrived at their house and found out that we would not be ordering pizza, we were making our own. So fun! They have all the ingredients and we get to build our own and then everyone tries everyone else’s. Starting to relax. Enjoying myself. Then the husband drops this bomb:

The wife made the crust from scratch.
And by “from scratch” I mean she ground her own wheat for the flour.

Ground. The. Wheat. (And of course the veggies for toppings are from her garden).

We played Scrabble and we ate cheesecake and they all seemed to really enjoy it. Then she asked me for the recipe. --It's on the box.  The box comes with this power stuff and if you add milk and mix it up, and voila! It’s cheesecake.--  I felt this big.

This couple was so great. We would definitely hang out with them again. She was embarrassed that he had even told us about the wheat…she just likes making it that way. They weren’t judging me. I was. They weren’t being unkind or holding me to a standard that I failed to reach. I was.

At church we sing a song with a line that says, “Reveal to me my sin.” Usually I just left that line out when singing. But then one day in my homework for my Beth Moore Bible study, she asked why we would be more scared of knowing the sin and confronting it, than we were of the consequences if we didn’t. Whew. So I’ve been praying that I would be aware of my sin, my pride, and that I would war against it.

So thank you, wheat-grinder-lady. Thank you inviting my husband and me over to your home, and for making flour for us. Thank you for being kind and gentle. You were used by God to reveal the sick, black sludge pride in my heart.  I will be memorizing this verse now:

“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” Galatians 6:4-5 MSG