Monday Musing: What if we left more up to God?

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Happy Monday!!

I hope everyone is well!

I’m doing well. It’s been raining and cool for most of the week, and ALL of the weekend, which makes my vampiric little heart just glow with joy.

I was reading in Philippians last week, and the coolest thing stood out to me:

… And if there is any of this that you don’t agree with, God will make it clear to you. 

I love Paul’s quiet assurance. No worries, no need to argue, God will clear everything up in due time.

I think a lot of Christians are sure it’s our job to make God clear.

And, certainly, we need to be clear, and teach what we know.

But too many of us think we also have to change those who disagree with God’s word, or at least our interpretation of it.

And that’s a BIG job!

Too big, in fact.

So, I find comfort in the reminder that GOD has that job, not me!

His Spirit is a far better teacher than I’ll ever be:

  • he’s got more experience,
  • he understands the situation better,
  • and goodness knows his motives are purer than mine!

I can tell the truth to any who ask, but then I must rest in the assurance that my work is done, and God’s work is in good hands.

THAT is good news.

It got me thinking. I suspect there are a lot more things that I’m meant to leave up to God. I’ll have to ponder that.

 

Be well

Working From Home

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I get lots of questions about working from home.

Interestingly, most fall under one extreme or the other:

Wow, you are SOOO lucky! … 

or

Ohmygod I could NEVER do that. … ’

Really, both are right.

Whether working from home is the greatest thing on earth, or the worst, depends on who you are.

I LOVE working from home.

Love it! It improves my focus, increases my  productivity, reduces my stress, and gives me back hours of life that would otherwise be collateral damage to a commute.

But, for extreme extroverts who need the energy of interacting with other people to fuel their energy and creativity, working from home probably ranks right up there with dental work.

What it is and what it isn’t 

  • Working from home is NOT necessarily being your own boss. Most of the time I’ve worked from home I’ve been a regular employee.
  • Working from home can mean setting your own hours, but not necessarily: depends on your work agreement. Good ol’ 9-5 is very common, even from home.
  • You can get work done  more efficiently at home, since you have more focus and fewer interruptions.
  • Meetings are usually different, taking place via technology, instead of in person.
  • But reading, writing, ‘rithmetic, assembling widgets – whatever it is you do,  is about the same regardless of where you do it.
You DO still have to work

The weirdest misconception I  get about working from home is that you can do whatever you want to do all day.

Technically, I suppose, you can. But, just like at the office, if what you want to do isn’t your work, you’ll quickly find yourself without a job!

No one yet has offered to pay me simply for being on their payroll.

Even when I’m working as a consultant rather than an employee, I still have a job to do, which only gets done if I do it, so, much of what I ‘want to do’ each day has to be my work!

Working from home perks: 

NO COMMUTE!

This ALONE makes working from home worth it! For me, commuting equals unpaid work time in an especially unpleasant environment, so giving up the commute is like gaining several extra hours of life each week.

Interruption control

If you’re compelled to answer every knock on the door or ring of the phone, working from home may not help your productivity.

But I have no problem ignoring  the doorbell or phone, so for me working from home is nearly distraction free.

(Skype is my version of someone dropping into my office, but that is still less frequent than people wandering by on the way to the water cooler and stopping in! And at least conversations I’m not even part of don’t filter into my home office!)

On the other hand

However, when I DO have a letter to sign for, or the dreaded 4-hour window for a repair person to arrive, it’s nice having the flexibility to be home to answer the door without taking a whole day off.

Break time is productive! 

Okay, I know there are folks with yoga mats in their cubes, but that just isn’t me.

At home, however, instead of spending a break at the vending machine, or interrupting a colleague’s concentration, I can spend it on my yoga mat, washing the lunch dishes, going for the mail … the possibilities are endless!

When I know a commute awaits, I take the shortest lunch possible. But at home I usually take a full hour, because I can run errands, do a workout, or just enjoy a long refreshing pause in a place where I can truly relax. I may even cook a proper lunch!

Comfortable clothes. 

I’ve read countless articles by people who insist on wearing suits, makeup, dress shoes, whatever, to work at home. And you know, if that’s your thing, more power to you.

But I have NEVER found uncomfortable clothing motivating.

Nor had less respect for myself in comfortable clothes. So unless I have a video conference, I work in yoga pants or sweats, depending on the season.

I can’t begin to tell you how much my productivity flourishes when I’m not tugging at fussy clothes all day!

Many blessings

I have colleagues whom I consider dear friends, all over the world, and I’m not quite old enough to have spent that kind of time in THAT many offices! They are all blessings of working remotely.

Working from home caveats:

Manage thyself

A realistic concern I hear frequently is managing your own motivation and time. This doesn’t happen to be one of my challenges, but definitely: if you need someone to keep you on task, working from home is not for you.

Remote, actually. 

I have a friend who needs lots of regular feedback from her boss.

I’m not saying this couldn’t work in a remote situation, but my experience has been that managers comfortable with employees they never actually see don’t tend to be the really hands on types.

They may still be extremely supportive; I’ve had GREAT remote bosses. They just aren’t necessarily checking in regularly.

Also, if your friendships always tend to be current officemates, working from home may make a lonely, unhealthy, little island.

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Working from home can be a real snare for workaholics!

Once the boundaries are blurred, work can push family, friends, healthy activities, everything right of your life.

If you can’t ‘leave it at the office’ it may not be wise to bring the office home for good.

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Some people work from home so that they can take care of their kids while they work.

I can see how this would be a huge perk if you can do it, but for me this absolutely would not work! 

The whole reason I thrive working from home is uninterrupted focus. So, for me, trying to combine these would make both parenting AND work more stressful and less effective!

Fiberoptic ceiling?

When I joined my last company, my boss asked me to work from the office for a year before going remote because he believed that if people didn’t know my face, I wouldn’t move up in the company.

I suspect he’s right.

Moving up has never been my goal, but if climbing to the top, fast, is your goal, working from home will probably limit you.

 

So, there are liabilities to working from home, and benefits.

If you’re a good fit for it, you naturally overcome the challenges because of all the benefits you find.

And if it’s not a good fit for your personality, there are plenty of jobs that include an office!

 

 

Be well. 

 

Monday reality check: being YOU

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Happy Monday!!

I hope everyone is well!

I’ve recently ‘found’ Joyce Meyer. I had heard of her long ago, but for years she was just Random Celebri-Christian; No-Big-Hair.

Then a friend suggested one of her books, which I found remarkably sensible and real. So, I’ve read a couple more. 

Most recently I was reading The Power of Simple Prayer

In describing her dismal failure at trying to pray in a way that suited a hero of hers, but did NOT suit her, Mrs. Meyer says

“I encourage you to be all you can be, but don’t try to be what only someone else can be. God will never help you be anyone but you!” 

I SO get that.

For the longest time I tried to cultivate the gift of Hospitality.

Now, I’m an extreme introvert:

  • I passionately dislike small talk,
  • don’t really enjoy being with more than one other person at a time,
  • there are few people I actually enjoy having in my space,
  • and even having THOSE people over requires recovery time.

I am most peaceful and productive when I’m by myself, and having anyone but my closest friends over makes me a wreck.

Are you seeing failure looming here?

It took ages for me to recognise that not only was this ‘GIFT’ not one I had been GIVEN, but it was probably the last gift I’d ever operate in successfully!

Sure, like any Christian, or decent member of a community, sometimes I’ll need to extend hospitality beyond my normal comfort zone. Not a problem.

But that doesn’t mean I should focus the majority of my energy on becoming something I have no talent for!

Being a prayer warrior, a counsellor, a truth teller, a trustworthy friend .. these are things God helps me be, so it makes sense to focus my energy there!

What are the gifts you have, that deserve the biggest, best part of your time and attention? 

 

May God grant you the grace to pursue those with all your heart!

Be well. 

Sense, lies, and lesser evils.

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If we do nothing else right this year, can we please just stop lying about our lesser evils?

Maybe a ‘Friends don’t let friends vote on denial‘ campaign?

Sure, the candidates’ staff needs to lie about them – that’s why they make the big bucks. And maybe their few TRUE supporters have a good rationale, too.

But the rest of us, who never signed on for these candidates?

WE have no business spouting nonsense in order to make it less appalling to vote for them!

That’s a lot of what got us into this mess to begin with! We’re already reaping the consequences of a few decades of lazy, full-blinders-ahead voting; let’s not make this worse.

Within hours of Hillary Clinton snagging the Democratic Nomination disturbing drivel began cropping up about how her crimes, voting record, and general approach as a power-hungry 1%er should be overlooked.

She’s only human…

Nobody is perfect ….

Everyone makes mistakes…

Are you kidding me?!? 

Yes, Hillary Clinton is human, and yes, every imperfect one of us makes mistakes.

But Ms. Clinton’s choices were not mistakes. They were intentional breaches of ethics, and securing the privilege of her peers and financial backers over the needs of the American people.

It isn’t necessary to lie about that, even if I feel I have to vote for her!

She hasn’t earned my respect or trust, so why should I stand out in the heat whitewashing her record? Madness!

Yes, there are legitimate reasons to vote for Hillary Clinton.
But let’s be real:  The most compelling one is,

She’s not Donald Trump.

  • She’s reasonably less likely to drop us into a completely unnecessary war (or three),
  • far less likely to incite jihadists to attack the United States, and probably even has some deterrent effect,
  • she won’t actively work to destroy our climate,
  • and she can be fairly effectively bludgeoned into not shoving our best shot at decent quality health care and living wages off a cliff.
And that’s about it!  Her biggest asset is the Republican nominee, and we all know it

 

Along with the ‘Hillary is only human’ bilge, came the statements about Donald Trump being ‘the Christian option’.

Or ‘not meaning it the way it sounds’ when he says (numerous times, vulgarly, unrepentantly, over decades) that he claims the right to sexually use and harass women as he chooses.

Or that his lifelong history of privilege, lying, exploiting tax loopholes, and gaining the most profit possible for himself at the expense of his workers and the American people, has no bearing on his legitimacy as The Champion of the Common American.

Are you kidding me?

NOTHING about Donald Trump could possibly be considered representative of Christianity, and every literate Christian with a Bible knows that. And no logical person thinks Mr. Trump is going to champion our rights over his privilege.

So let’s be HONEST about it!

If you feel you must vote for Donald Trump, because

  • you believe that God is bound to the American Republican Party,
  • you genuinely believe legislation is the way to reduce abortion and trust Mr. Trump to keep his word once he’s got your vote,

or ‘He’s not Hillary Clinton.’

 

then SAY THAT!

Don’t make Mr. Trump something he isn’t, or ignore all the awful things he (proudly) is, just because you see no choice but to vote for him!

It’s okay to be honest about lesser evils.

Actually, for those of us who are Christians, it’s not only okay, it is Biblically required.

And perhaps as importantly, it’s the only strong position to take.

If we excuse away the very legitimate things we don’t like, or respect, or trust about these candidates, we risk forgetting what we find unacceptable, and just blindly supporting ‘My Candidate right or wrong‘ rather than holding them to account.

So we never get better options.

Alas, I may vote for Hillary Clinton next month.

But that doesn’t require my excusing her past, OR accepting it as ongoing behaviour!

If anything, it requires holding on to a crystal clear understanding of where she falls short, because I never again want to find myself in this voting situation, and that will take some hard work!

Be well. 

Monday Reset: The Next Chapter

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Happy Monday!!

I hope everyone is well!

Here in my little corner of the world, we have just enjoyed a weekend of unseasonable rain, so I am unseasonably well!

Today I begin another NEXT CHAPTER:  moving from my former-job-that-no-longer-exists to a wonderful, if slightly intimidating, three month contract doing what I most love to do, with a team I respect and adore.

It’s still a scary moment:

The future remains an unknown.

I still have many things beyond the job to decide – BIG things.

I’m still trying to recover from The Lifewreck, for goodness’ sake, and am always on the lookout for anything that will drop me back into it!

And, of course, I want to be sure I do the best job possible for these lovely people who have put their trust in me!

But it’s also an opportunity to grow my trust and faith in a situation that is arguably one of the bigger tests I’m going to face:

Other than losing a loved on, or having a life threatening illness, this is probably one of the toughest times of transition I’m likely to encounter outside The Lifewreck.

So I wanted to take a moment to encourage everyone facing a next chapter – because we all are, whether they are BIG chapters, or fairly little ones – to live the WHOLE of it.

Not JUST the horror.

Not JUST the excitement.

But every piece that goes into making this chapter a full and vibrant part of a life that supports moving into abundance and shalom.

 

Be well. 

Joy and Gratitude in the Storm?

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Countless researchers doing countless studies have shown the very strong links between joy, gratitude, and all manner of really desirable outcomes, like physical and mental health, success, prosperity.

But few have expressed their findings as sensibly and usefully  as Brene Brown:

“We think that not being grateful and not feeling joy will make it hurt less. We think if we can beat vulnerability to the punch by imagining loss, we’ll suffer less.

We’re wrong.

There is one guarantee: If we are not practicing gratitude and allowing ourselves to know joy, we are missing out on the two things that will actually sustain us during the inevitable hard times.” ¹

I’ve never struggled with avoiding gratitude in trying to ‘beat vulnerability to the punch’ but I have to admit that, especially if we think of joy as including hope and faith FOR THE FUTURE, I’m quite guilty there!

I’m the ultimate “Well, it’s all worked out RIGHT NOW, and thank God, that is AWESOME! … but let’s not get too comfortable” girl. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so it’s entirely too risky to hope for the positive in it!

Anybody else been there?

 

After reading enough studies that I ought to have gotten an honorary PhD out of the deal, I KNEW that wasn’t the most healthy– or,  specifically, health producing – viewpoint.

But I couldn’t quite pinpoint the key facts well enough to apply them until I read Brene Brown’s work on the topic.

It is the joy, and the positive hopes, that build up a healthy enough brain and body to make surviving the tough moments possible!

 

All of a sudden it made sense!

I already knew that thoughts, emotions, etc, basically travel through our bodies in little packages of chemistry.

And I knew that the ‘negative’ emotions, even negative thoughts, travel in chemistry that does ghastly things to our immune systems, nervous systems, digestive systems… pretty much you name it.

I certainly have lots of personal experience with those effects!

And I knew that most of our positive emotions, thoughts, even imaginings, travel in chemistry that tends to repair and nourish our cells.

CLEARLY a critical piece of the ‘Abundance’ puzzle!

Perhaps most important, I had learned that our mind treats negative expectations pretty much exactly like negative experiences. Egad!

I’ve experimented over the last couple years, and dabbled more intentionally over the last few months, and generally found that yes,  cultivating gratitude and joy (even if by arduous act of the will some days) does seem to make me more resilient to the occasional AWFUL!

And wallowing ‘safely’ in the pessimistic (which, alas, is still pretty much effortless) actually DOESN’T seem to protect me!

What it does instead is take the occasional AWFUL and stretch it out for hours, days, weeks, before it even happens!

Even more embarrassing, frequently the AWFUL doesn’t happen at all, but by the time I find that out I’ve ALREADY  suffered all the way through it in my mind!

Example: 

When I learned that my job would be disappearing I immediately thought of never finding as good a job again.

Of having to work in the absolute worst of all possible environments for me FOREVER.

Or sleep under bridges and search for vegetarian scraps…

Not the most positive chemical soup!

Then I got a three month contract for what is effectively a dream job! Even more ideal, really, than I could have dreamed!

And I was truly grateful!

Then I thought, “But what happens after Jaaaanuuaaary?!?! I’ll never find another ….” you get the gist.

Time for a REAL experiment. 

If practicing and cultivating gratitude and joy are critical to resilience in the inevitable hard times – which they are…

And if they also reduce the toxic chemicals coursing through my blood stream day in and day out – which they do…

Then it’s about time to develop a healthier default!

So.

How to change my ways?

How to build UP the healthy defences instead of regularly etching them away with toxic chemical spills?

Starting here, my ‘Retrenchment’ focus is on:

  • gratitude for the blessings I have, including this wonderful three month opportunity,
  • and an attitude of joy in my expectations for the future.

If I can progress on this during a retrenchment, I figure I’ll be in pretty good shape for the normal crises!

It’s not going to be easy. I have YEARS of practice anticipating the worst as a way of ‘protecting’ myself!

But I also have years of experience being sick, stressed out, mental, and frankly, of the AWFUL things still pretty much being AWFUL when they did come … so clearly the ‘protection’ hasn’t been all that effective!

Let’s see what doing it differently will yield …

 

Be well. 

 

¹ Quote is from Dr. Brene Brown’s excellent book The Gifts of Imperfection, in the chapter Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark.

Yom Kippur!

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I wish everyone a blessed Yom Kippur!

I love this ‘Sabbath of Sabbaths’ which provides an opportunity to pause and reflect in the midst of an otherwise ordinary space of the year.

Yom Kippur reaches from sunset today through nightfall tomorrow, which is a rare and lovely method observing a ‘day’ in this culture and age.

Although most readers here probably do not celebrate Yom Kippur (and I certainly don’t observe it according to accepted Jewish traditions), I hope you find at least a moment within this one to pause and be aware.

Be well. 

Monday Encouragement: Promise in the chaos

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Happy Monday!!!

The past weeks, and yes, the past year, have been some rough and stressful times – in the US, in Haiti, across the world.

Today I thought I’d just share some verses that I’ve found especially … helpful… in the midst of the madness.

Take a moment, forget that they are nice-Bible-verses-you’ve-read-a-hundred-times.

These are promises given by God!

They are powerful.

And, I’m finding, they are true…

I wish God changed everything – my situations, and me – in the blink of an eye.

And it’s scary and stressful that he doesn’t. But I am finding that as I DO what he says to do (which frequently, is just trusting him) HE does what he has promised!

For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. Psalms 37:5

You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly. Proverbs 3:24

Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better? Matthew 7:7-8 

God reminds us, I heard your call in the nick of time; The day you needed me, I was there to help. Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. II Corinthians 6:2

He’s got it covered!

Shalom. 

Judging Not

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I’m starting to think God might be on to something with this whole ‘judge not’ thing.

I’ve always (Okay, mostly. Well, as best I can.) accepted that I HAD to obey about judging, because, well, God is all powerful.

But I didn’t GET it.

I saw it as God-is-perfect-you-aren’t-get-off-your-high-horse. But that didn’t really make it clear WHY.

What I never noticed is how judging others limits us:

We can’t learn from those we judge.

The kind of judgement I’m thinking of here is not ‘using sense and discerning the truth of a situation to be safe or wise’, which the Bible is clear we must do.

I mean deciding someone is unworthy, worthless, or unredeemable based on their choices, behaviour, or characteristics. Writing them off. Condemning them.

On THIS God is crystal clear.

And  when I judge you like that, I make you a thing, a set of characteristics, rather than a complex human being.

YOU, as you, don’t really exist for me anymore.

But YOU, as you, are where all the lessons, and experiences, and knowledge, and emotions, and VALUE lie.

So I don’t get that anymore when I judge you. I lose all the good in you – the lessons you’ve learned, the experiences you’ve had. 

And let’s face it, no one person can make ALL the mistakes, or encounter all the experiences in the world and live to tell about it. So if we aren’t learning from others’ trials and errors, victories and failures, losses and recoveries, we’re going to miss a lot.

And we won’t learn the right things. How do I know the best way to change a situation I find incomprehensible, unless I learn from someone who has been there?

And we miss the point. 

Recently I’ve learned the name of a football player. The last football player’s name I knew was Joe Montana, so, clearly not my area of expertise. 

While caring no more about football than when Joe Montana was actively doing whatever quarterbacks do, I now know the name of Colin Kaepernick. 

Mr. Kaepernick is famous for not standing up during the National Anthem.

Inspired utter hysteria.

Without exaggeration, the man could have beaten his wife or raped someone and gotten far less attention for it. I hear he’s even getting death threats now.

But I’ve seen precious little discussion of the values our National Anthem represents. Or what the place of active dissent is in upholding those values. Of the importance of the rights we share, and of safeguarding them – even against our own preferences. 

To me, those are far more important than Mr. Kaepernick’s sitting, or standing, or taking a knee.

When we are ready to kill a man over his response to a song, it may be time to refocus. 

It doesn’t matter if this is a racial protest, a political one, a famous one, or a commonplace one: if ever there was a country where you should be safe expressing your deeply held values, it is the one nestled under the Star Spangled Banner. 

Perhaps worst, we lose our sense of responsibility.

One of the scariest outcomes of judgement I’m seeing is that we don’t feel responsible for fixing what we can judge instead.

Examples of this are legion!

  • People who passionately campaign against abortion but don’t lift a finger to provide safe homes and intensive, ongoing support to parents in crisis pregnancies and their babies.
  • Or fight to ensure that adequate healthcare and decent-waged jobs exist to support young families.
  • Or provide help in healing  to women and men for whom it’s too late to prevent this terrible choice. 
  • People who write off millennials as a generation of whiners without taking the time to understand their complaints – or offering to mentor any of them! (Or maybe be mentored BY THEM; because, my experience of millennials, almost without exception, has been that they are talented and dedicated, with work ethics that put mine to shame!) 
  • People who don’t vote in elections because they don’t like the current political system, for goodness sake!
  • And people like me, who judge all of those people for years before realising there must be SOMETHING I can do to change things, and that if there is, I’m probably obligated to be doing it!

Mentors and judges seldom coexist in the same body, it seems. But responsibility is where the power is: judges seldom change the world, mentors regularly do.

Maybe God chose to withhold the right of judgement from me because I don’t see fully enough to begin with, so the last thing I need is more limiting!

I used to think not judging was something I HAD to do, because God was clear that it’s the only exit door from him judging me.

Now I suspect it is meant as a gift that opens the world up to me in ways I’d never experience from my seat of judgement.

Monday delight: The Little Things

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Happy Monday!

I have two glorious weeks off between the end of my job and the start of my writing contract!!!

Now, the stress has done curious things to my sleep schedule the couple weeks, so I admit that I MAY spend more of this time than I’d like catching up on rest so I don’t get sick. Sigh.

BUT what I HOPE to do, mostly, is enjoy the little things that aren’t as accessible when working full time.

Cooking a real breakfast instead of multitasking through my usual  toast, tea, and tofu without even noticing them. 

For that matter, drinking a whole cup of tea while it’s STILL hot, rather than tossing it in the microwave each time I remember its existence. 

Making the dreaded COSTCO run in the slow, peaceful middle of the week … in the middle of the day … with NO HURRY whatever.

Having enough time for the light easy reading-that-keeps-me-sane, AND other fun reading that I’ve been looking forward to, but that usually drowns in a sea of More Important Things. 

Workouts that aren’t crammed between … anything! 

Spending a whole delicious morning at the LIBRARY…

We are even supposed to have nice, cool, rainy weather for a tiny part of the time, so God willing, I’ll have a hike or two!

My tastes are pretty simple, and even rather boring, I freely admit, but I KNOW I’m not the only one who needs more time to enjoy the little things sometimes.

What are your ‘little things’?

 

This Monday, I wish you ALL the little things that bring you joy!

 

Be well.

 

 

Okay, this is, EMPHATICALLY, not a music Monday post, because my favourite ‘little things’ song is EMPHATICALLY not a peace inspiring tune of cheery encouragement.  (Unless, like me, you have quite a messed up perspective and relish less-than-kinder-gentler music!)

But how can I possibly ignore my beloved Danny Elfman on a blog dedicated to The Little Things? Especially when it’s SO MUCH FUN? Enjoy at your own risk! 😉