Last Chapter / New Chapter

bridge-1082117_640

WELL.

Here it is.

By the time this post publishes, I will be more than halfway through the last day of a job that I’ve held for nearly a decade!

It’s definitely bittersweet.

I am sad. There are so many things that still need to be done, that I wish I could be here to do. And it’s hard to leave behind the day-to-day relationships with truly beloved colleagues.

And it’s certainly scary to be ACTUALLY laid off!

To move into SUCH an unknown.

I’ve never left a job other than voluntarily before. 

But I’m excited too. This is a whole new chapter of my life. This is a chance to move in new directions and expand on directions that the past 10 years have built into me. 

I’ve surfed many a wave of reflection these past few days.

SO many  memories and experiences from these last 10 years, this place, this work. 

Some of these are BIG DEAL experiences.

In this job I got to work on projects that literally change people’s lives. That is an honour and a treasure I never imagined.

I’ve gotten to meet and correspond with some of my heroes in the field; people who have transformed the world and the way we interact with it. Quite a treat for a starry eyed kid from Phoenix, Arizona!

Some are not BIG DEAL experiences at all.

Yet these are are among the memories I hope pass before my eyes in my final moments.

I’ve gotten to work (even if just briefly) on 5 continents. And to work closely, over a long period, with people on 6 of them. You don’t get that in the average day job!

One of the most magical meals I’ve ever enjoyed was on a work trip:

The power outage struck as my boss, a colleague, and I waited for our meal on the open air rooftop of a little Indian restaurant in Nairobi, Kenya.

In the US they probably would have closed the place down.

In Nairobi, though, we sat and talked, laughed, and ate incredible food, for two hours, in the dark.

No one, customers or staff, was remotely disturbed by our near invisibility. If anything the event transformed us from a couple dozen separate parties into one big one.

I have seldom enjoyed a meal more.

The best cup of coffee I’ve ever tasted, and the best chai, were also the blessings of work trips.

And the PEOPLE I’ve met! 

The most dedicated, intelligent, and determined people I’ve ever met have been blessings of this job.

And not just my brilliant colleagues or the occasional big wig.

I met a waiter in Dominican Republic who, at all of 23, spoke three languages and was going to school nights to learn a fourth.

I speak one. I’ve tried hard to change that, and I still speak one.

This intelligent, dedicated, young man will never have the opportunities I had simply by being born where, and to whom, I was born, but he had more initiative than I’ve ever had.

That meeting was one of my greatest honours. That waiter stands in my hall of heroes.

Now, this job was not perfect.

Like any other job, this one has been stressful, frustrating, irritating, even maddening over the course of nearly 10 years.

Picture if you will the annoyances of bureaucracy and office politics multiplied by working across 90 countries, and every time zone known to man.

That none of us have ever strangled another is probably due as much to the fact that we were on different continents than to our inherent good nature or even our Christianity!

And the enormous blessing of working with people on 6 continents, inherently requires the curse of very, very, very long haul flights. With associated jet lag.

So, many memories centre around just trying to keep my forehead off the table toward the end of a long meeting on the second day of jet lag.

I vividly remember, at the end of a very important strategy meeting, riding in an elevator with four colleagues, trying to continue a discussion we had been having.

We found our exhausted selves unable to carry out complete sentences, and those leaning against the elevator walls were nodding off – on a four floor ride!

We thankfully determined that strategic decisions should NOT be made by us, then, and at least enjoyed a very healing laugh.

So yes, bittersweet.

A big chunk of my life fit into those 9+ years.

And those 9+ years have fitted me for things I would never have imagined.

I look to the next chapter with interest and excitement, in part because of what this past decade has given me.

Just NICE news for a Monday

clasped-hands-541849_640

Happy Monday!!!

I hope everyone is well!

I had to take my elderly Mac into the shop last week. A simple thing: needed a new battery, drop off at lunch, pick up after work.

Then The Call came.

When the technician turned it on after replacing my battery, the display no longer worked. The 500-some-odd-dollar display.

YIKES. This was not news I wanted 10 days before the end of my job.

But his next words were : “We will take care of the cost of replacing the display, because while we can’t figure out what happened, it could have been something I did while doing the repair, but I’m calling to get your permission to replace it.”

After recalling my jaw from its plunge to the floor, I assented with thanks.

I vaguely remember customer service like that when I was a kid, but it’s been a long time since it was something I looked on as the norm.

And it reminded me that there really is a lot more good in the world than I generally hear about.

I want to take a moment  here at the start of a busy week to just savour the simple reality that people are so much more kind, generous, and amazing than our sound bite culture usually implies.

These stories bring me hope and joy this week:

Rebuilding a neighbourhood, one homeowner at a time

Rebuilding a town, one business at a time

Bridging generation gaps

Education for life

 Rebuilding the the climate, by creating a different path

Leaving this life in STYLE

Be well. 

 

(I should point out that this same Apple Store, the week before, had spent several hours finding out that I did NOT need a $200 repair in addition to the battery, but only needed some FREE service to my software. Apple is by no means a perfect business, but they have MY loyalty.)

A Retrenchment Observed: My life as a roller coaster

blackpool-1160517_640
Far be it from me to accuse God of possessing a wicked sense of humor, but at the least he seems to have more faith in me than I’m always certain is justified.
Pondering my life last night, I realised that, plotted on a graph, my last few years look suspiciously like a roller-coaster.
  • March 2014: off to realise a dream!
  • By June that year: pretty nearly wrecked, having lost 20 pounds and half my hair, wondering if I would lose my mind before I was done…
  • In 2015, I was in a better situation and rebuilding my life. Not perfect, but definitely an upward curve.
  • In June  this year  I was happily touring western Washington state to determine if I could move to my beloved Pacific Northwest!
  • Then, the first week of July, I learned that my job would disappear at the end of  September.

The last few weeks have been nice condensed version of that graph.

There was some hope that I would be the best fit for one of the new jobs on my team. But alas.

The stress and chaos of getting everything done at my soon-to-be-former job was starting to ease though, and I was beginning to have a little time to focus on the future. I could feel a nice plateau coming. Not at the height I’d have preferred it, true, but still a bit of calm.

THEN! 

Just days (it feels like moments) before the end of my job, I was approached about a possible consultancy job!

The kind of job that, had it come up before all of this chaos, I would gladly have taken a leave of absence just to do. One of those dream-come-true jobs, working with a team that I love and respect, on a project that uses all my favourite strengths, for a purpose about which I care passionately.

BUT.

(You knew there was a BUT, didn’t you? How else to keep the roller coaster going?)

My company has this policy that if you actually do get laid off, you can’t work for any part of our organization for a year afterwards. And the new job is with another part of my organisation.

It’s not the first time that I’ve not been thrilled about this policy, but this new episode is a lot more immediate, and personal.

The dreadful policy recently got changed I am told: now it’s only 6 months! And that is great news for the future.

But asking someone who wants to hire you NOW to sit around for 6 months until you can get back to them isn’t all that terribly comfortable.

So I’ve spent the last week bouncing back and forth with our HR people about whether we can arrange this as a short-term contract and find some way to make it work before my actual separation date one week from today.

If we can’t make that work, then I won’t be able to take the dream job.

It’s as simple as that.

So, once, again, I had to debate: Will I really trust God no matter what?

Will I trust God if my dream job is not only out there, but presented to me, and because of a rule that I don’t understand or respect, I can’t take it?

Well, in short, yes.

Because I’ve reached a pinnacle of pristine and sterling faith? Oh no. FAR from that.

But, I have spent the last year rebuilding my badly damaged faith. It’s been a hard path, but I have learned a lot walking it. In the end, God either is, or is not. Merits my trust, or does not.

And I can’t decide that based on how much I like my current circumstances.

I will be heartbroken if this opportunity is snatched away. But, I expect I’ll live through it.

And either way, I will trust.

It’s not much, in the testaments of faith spectrum; it’s not like I’m facing the lions here. But it’s a start.

Be well.

Monday Encouragement: Don’t sacrifice who you are

beach-917336_640  Happy Monday!

I hope everyone is well!

I happened upon an admonition this week that I wish everyone could take to heart:

“One thing is for sure: If you give too much power to the opinions of others, you will become their prisoner.  So never let someone’s opinion alter your reality.  Never sacrifice who you are, or who you aspire to be, just because someone else has a problem with it.” 

I love that!

I see people, all the time, sacrificing who they are for reasons that just aren’t good enough. And the worst such reason has to be JUST because someone else has a problem with it.

If you sacrifice who you are, we miss a treasure. Don’t go there! Don’t fail to make the contribution that only you can make.

It’s the only way God’s design for you will ever be complete!

And don’t give me that ‘But it’s different with ME… ” drivel!

It isn’t different.

You ARE unique, but I do not believe that you are SO unique as to be  the One Single Person in our multi-billion-person community with nothing whatever to contribute!

God knew exactly how you were going to mess it up, or fail to do it, or not be ____ enough,  or be far too____, long before you ever hit the stage.

So seriously, he’s got that covered.

He’s always had that covered.

Being you is STILL the right thing. Don’t sacrifice who you are.

 

GONE FISHIN’ September 2016

fish-1402423_1280

Okay, it’s true again: I haven’t REALLY gone fishing

REALLY, I have to take my Mac into the shop, and it may be a week before they can have it back to me.

If I were a good, organised, responsible blogger I’d be all prepared for that, but in my current chaos the tidy backlog of posts I was so proud of having prepared ahead is long gone, and I do what I can.

This week, darlin’, this is what I can do!

SO:

HAVE A SPLENDID WEEK!!

ALL  THE BEST TO YOU!!! 

And see you next week, when hopefully I’ll be writing from a much happier, healthier computer.

 

Be well. 

Monday Musings: Anything worthy of praise

 tulip-123794_640    Happy Monday!

I hope you are well! I am well enough.

I’ve pondering lately Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 

It has come to be remarkably convicting in my old age.

‘Convicting?’ you say.

Well you might say that if you are anything like me. I always read this as one of those warm fuzzy verses that filled in between the ‘meat’ of Paul’s serious instructions.

At most, it was narrowed to I should find something better to do than watching horror films or thumbing through the Enquirer.

As I’ve moved through these past couple years though, I’ve realised how much is packed in this tiny instruction manual.

Whatever is true…

Does that mean God’s providing for my every need? Even when my job ends? If I believe that is supposed to be true, then I guess it does. Then it seems I’m supposed to think on that, rather than the what ifs.

Or that nothing I do can separate me from the love of God? Nor separate anyone ELSE from it?

Even people I don’t like, or respect, or think they SHOULD be able to get a share of God’s love? Kinda looks that way. Pondering required.

Whatever is lovely …

I think peonies are lovely. And a perfectly browned loaf of bread. I think raindrops on leaves are lovely. I’m really supposed to think on these things?!?

Well, apparently God thinks I should.

Maybe stopping to smell the roses is a bigger deal than we realised.

It’s become quite the education!  And it clearly isn’t done with me yet. 

 

Be well. 

You are not invisible

I really don’t know what it’s like to feel invisible. I was 6 foot tall before I was 16 years old, so I’ve always stood out in (or at least above) a crowd. I would often have loved to be invisible.

But I certainly know what it’s like to feel that life is painful … that life is disappointing … or that I don’t matter when, or how, or to whom, I NEED to matter.

And while I may have WISHED for a little invisibility from time to time, I know that for someone to truly feel invisible, is a terrible wound to the soul.

To anyone who has dealt with the other end of the ‘visible’ spectrum, a reminder, and an assurance:

 

You are not invisible.

Who you are MATTERS.

YOU matter.

Even when you don’t think so.

Even when someone important has told you you don’t.

Even if the voice inside tells you that every day; it isn’t true.

You are NOT invisible.

You are not forgotten.

 

Your life, your story, they matter.

YOU MATTER.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. This week has been National Suicide Prevention Week. Whether you feel invisible or not, if you ever think that the world would be better off without you, or that the pain you feel will never get better, please know: THOSE ARE LIES.

Please

listen to the stories of others who have found that ‘life after’ can be amazingly different, and worth living

https://twloha.com/blog/you-are-enough-too/

https://twloha.com

https://Iamsecond.com/struggles

talk to someone who knows what it’s like and KNOWS HOW to help… 

Call 1-800-273-8255 

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx 

http://www.crisistextline.org 

trust that the darkness can be conquered…

don’t give up!

 

To Write Love on Her Arms also has directories of local groups who help people get through a crisis:

Resource page, to find local help, by state: https://twloha.com/find-help/local-resources/

Resource Page to find help based on the problem for which you need help: https://twloha.com/find-help/help-by-topic/

Please note that they also have a section specific to Veterans on the topic page.

You can also find the numbers for local and national, 24 hour, free helplines on all the local pages.

If you happen to be someone who needs some hope, needs some help, today, it’s worth it. YOU are worth it. 

 

 

And if you are concerned about someone else, the resources above can help, but this article also has a simple process to make it a little less stressful to offer help:

If you know someone who might be suicidal

 

 

A Retrenchment* Observed

bridge-1082117_640

Has it really been only  two month since I stepped onto this merry-go-round? Time flies when you’re having chaos!

Well. Last week I interviewed for one of the jobs that will be replacing my own.

It wasn’t a perfect fit, I knew that going in, my boss knew that too. But, it was a job I could do, a job I could find value in. And, well, it was also A JOB.

Which, when facing the end of my current position in 3 weeks …. you know how that goes.

This week I learned that I did not get the job. The feedback on my interview was remarkably complementary, I am grateful for that. But that fact remains that this job wasn’t a perfect fit, and they hired someone they hope will be a more perfect fit. I hope so too.

And I hope a more perfect fit for me awaits.

I know that if this has to be one of those awful tales of going from  a great job I enjoyed to a series of terrible jobs I do to pay the rent, I can survive it. But I don’t want that.

So, the real adventure starts here. Should be a good test drive for my newly rebuilt faith!

The most unexpected thing about this little crisis remains the blessings within it.

 

The extraneous falls away. 

I can’t remember the last time that my job was focused on so few things! And all of them legitimately high priority! I love having my work focus narrowed to only the essentials.

Also, the little frustrations – a technical term that we routinely misuse, a policy I disagree with – they don’t matter anymore. Any change I will make in this organisation, I have already made. Now my only job is completing the essentials.

At home too, the extraneous at least recedes. So many projects, concerns, and decisions must be on hold during this ‘mean time’ that is my current life.

Faith grows. 

As I’ve said before, I’m so I am grateful that this came now, not during the LifeWreck, or in the time I spent recovering from it. But I was worried: Would this be too much for my so-recently-rebuilt faith? So far, no.

If anything, this has brought a lot of clarity about God, my relationship with him, and my place in him. I have had remarkable peace, all things considered.

Reconnection.

One of the things that I did several weeks ago, to try to ensure that my faith DIDN’T crash again with this new storm, was to reach out to my wonderful friend and pastor, Pete, and that has been a huge blessing.

Pete has of course helped me in practical ways, like the excellent pastor he is, but also it’s just been a blessing catching up on his life, his ministry (while he remains my pastor, because that’s what he is at heart, I’m not technically part of his congregation, since I live some 800 miles away) his family, and his ever new understandings of God’s work in our world.

I also had the opportunity to reconnect with a colleague who is going through his own retrenchment process. I wouldn’t wish this on him in a million years, but it’s been a blessing to be able to share this journey with one who is going through it too, but not in my own team.

The ever amazing kindness of friends.

I’ve talked before about how amazingly my friends have come through for me in this crisis, with offers of places to live, of help, with prayer, etc.

I have a dear friend named Greg whose beloved brother died just days before I found out about my job, so I didn’t mention the job crisis to Greg.

Well, this past week I finally had to ‘fess up’, and immediately Greg responded asking if I had savings, and what they could do to help. “We would not leave you stranded.” he said.

I stand amazed that I have this many friends who would sincerely offer so much. I hope with all my heart that I live up to that class of friendship!

So, I am interested to see where this adventure will take me, but I’m grateful too, to see where I’ve been, and what richness I possess.

 

Be well. 

 

*  I’m still not clear if ‘Retrenchment’ is a term commonly used in the US, or only by fussy international organisations who use British English in their business. In case the latter, Retrenchment means the process of being laid off. Sounds so much more elegant though, doesn’t it?  🙂

Happy Labor Day

technology-792180_640

Happy Monday!!

If you are in the United States, Happy Labor Day!!! (It takes some concentration, but I’m even trying to spell ‘Labor’ the American way.)

Most of my life the ‘smaller’ holidays, like Labor Day, haven’t meant that much to me. I cherished the ‘day off’, appreciated the history, but they didn’t have the rich detail of Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Labor Day, if anything, I associated with annoying sales ads – a rather profound irony. But it’s becoming so much more real to me as I get older, and as I understand the world better.

Labor day, more than any other American holiday, celebrates efforts by the people, for the people.

Goodness knows the American workers who –  in MANY cases risking their lives – made America great, did not do so for the glory of amazing discounts on TVs or washing machines. They fought to free themselves, their families, their fellow Americans from a tyranny of corporation plus government whose concentrated power had made it impossible for the 99% to realise the American Dream.

Sure, in the past several decades we have lost a lot of the ground that was gained by those whose fight Labor Day commemorates. But that need not be our end game: what Americans managed once, we can certainly do again.

So, I’m going to spend a little of this much prized ‘day off’ better understanding the people, and the work they did, that made America great, and appreciating their sacrifices.

 

Be well.

 

 

On Being Sick

I realised this week that I have been in chronic pain for nearly as long as I had been alive before the chronic pain arrived!

That was momentarily sobering.

I was 24 years old when I woke one August morning with little bracelets of pain around each of my wrists, looping up my pinkie fingers.

Being 24, this was hardly a blip on my radar – must have held my book oddly reading in bed the night before. When it didn’t go away I wondered if I did something strange in my workout.

Then it didn’t go away for a long time.  And it started to spread.

THAT made it to my radar!

Eventually I broke down and went to the doctor.  Then more doctors.  After enough quality time with doctors for a lifetime, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).

That was 21 years ago. 

When I first got sick, the pain was terrible. Beyond-my-previous-capacity-for-imagining-pain terrible.

RA is an autoimmune disease. That means you get sick because your body attacks its own cells. With RA, it’s your joints that the body decides to war against, so your joints swell, and hurt, and sometimes get deformed. They may even degrade away. (This isn’t jolly news when you are 24.)

Sometimes they just decide not to work and you drop things or face-plant, or other amusing party tricks. (For YEARS after I got sick I stopped holding babies unless I was sitting on a couch or arm chair. The thought of just dropping a small baby with no warning at all terrified me.  And was incredibly easy to imagine by that point. )

RA also has non-joint effects too, like astounding fatigue.

They tell you when you get RA that you’ll experience ‘morning stiffness’. This is an understatement of such magnitude as to be a sick joke.

There are 30 joints in each of your feet, did you know that? I didn’t, until the ‘morning stiffness’. Now I’m intimately familiar with Every. Single. One. of those joints.

I used to set my alarm for two and a half hours before I really needed to be up. Not so I could read the Wall Street Journal over breakfast, mind you, or perfect my hair and make-up, but because the pain could be so bad I didn’t how long it would take from the time I woke up to the time I could walk well enough to get ready for work.

But here’s the thing: I don’t live like that anymore.  

After about three years I began to improve. The excruciating pain very slowly mellowed to tolerable. Then eventually even to mild pain most of the time. Fewer joints were affected. If you can imagine, the deformed joints even straightened! The crushing fatigue became mostly manageable.

Now I can usually walk the moment I wake up!

Part of this is a remission: the RA stopped eating up my body. I don’t know why it stopped, yet didn’t leave completely. I don’t know why I was healed, but not entirely.

So, my life has changed a great deal since the first few years of being sick. Chronic mild and periodic moderate pain beat chronic horrific pain ANY DAY.

And now there are FAR more options for treating chronic pain. Back when I got sick, a progression of drugs with increasingly horrible side effects, and maybe periodic joint replacement surgeries were the future awaiting me.

Research paid lip service to exercise for RA, but I actually had one doc say ‘Well, don’t worry too much about exercise, after a while you won’t really be able to move much anyway.”

To a 24 year old girl! 

But now there are all manner of mind-body options for reducing and managing chronic pain. Now I know what foods, routines, and choices help me minimise the pain. I know how to work out enough to manage the pain, without making it worse (usually). Now I even see blessings in what chronic pain has taught me over many years.

Even in this current, very stressful season I (so far!) remain healthier than I used to be on my very best days. It’s not great, but it IS good.

When I realised that I had been in chronic pain for 21 years, I thought “Might it actually be possible to leave chronic pain BEHIND before I get to 24 years of having it?”

Could my life improve even MORE than it has so far?

Sure, it’s a long shot, but why not try?

So, my new goal for the end of August three years from now, is to be living without chronic pain