Breakfast with a stranger.

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I dropped my car off at the shop for an oil change and tire rotation. An hour later, I got the dreaded phone call–apparently the little noise I asked the mechanic to check out was just one of a long litany of problems with my aging vehicle.

Because my car was going to be out of commission for several hours, I walked over to the Goodwill where I found a journal/workbook to keep me busy for awhile and then headed to a nearby diner for the duration. When I flipped through the pages of the journal at the store, it looked brand new–but now I could see that someone had filled in the first few pages.

So as I ate my eggs and bacon, I opened the book and started reading the reflections of the previous owner. It felt a little weird–a little wrong even–to be going through a stranger’s diary, but I couldn’t help myself. And it wasn’t really like I was snooping. After all, it was my journal now.

It was clear that she was struggling with some things–the same kinds of things I struggle with. She thought her life would be more together by now. She wondered how–or if–she would be able to accomplish all that was on her plate. And she too wrestled with pursuing her life purpose, which seemed to be far bigger than her available resources. I looked to see if she had written her name and phone number on the inside cover so I could call her, if only just to say, “Me too.”

She was at a crossroads. I am too. Wondering if I should continue my work, which feels like my calling, even though it no longer comes with a sufficient salary. The crazy thing is, even as my paycheck is reduced, I feel like God is giving me a bigger vision and asking me to expand my reach. His reach.

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This is the way.

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I’ve been seeing this George Bernard Shaw quote splattered across Twitter and Pinterest and I just have to say NO. That is not what life is about. For the record, Shaw was a eugenist who also said “If we desire a certain type of civilization and culture we must exterminate the sort of people who do not fit into it.” So there’s that.

As for you–you have already been created. You don’t have to waste your time recreating what God has made (in His image no less) and called good. We are under the illusion that we have an infinite selection of paths upon which to walk, limited only by our imaginations, when the reality is that God prepared a way uniquely designed for you. And we stumble around aimlessly hoping for some cosmic compass, when God says if you veer off the path, listen for My voice and I’ll get you back on track.

It’s so simple.

But we’re just like the ancient Israelites. Their mandate was clear: Get out of Egypt and go take the Promised Land. Be strong and courageous. Fight for your freedom. Possess your birthright. I’ll be with you the whole way.

But when they saw the giants–the mountain of debt with no foreseeable way to pay it off or whatever your giant looks like–they panicked. A bunch of them decided the Promised Land was not really their thing and proceeded to create another version of themselves which they no doubt tweeted about endlessly. Their whole lives were spent railing against who God made them to be and desperately seeking some more reasonable and appealing reality.

“Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the Lord, “to those who carry out plans that are not mine. In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength,but you would have none of it.” Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” | Isaiah 30

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Reality check.

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Found out yesterday I am taking a 25% cut in pay, effective immediately. So much for three months. Spent all of last night confronting denial. I had been holding on to the hope of some kind of rescue from the inevitable, waiting for my fairy godmother or handsome prince or some other mythical being to sweep in at the eleventh hour and set things right.

It’s 12:01. Time to acknowledge that the only check I’m getting right now is a reality check.

My friend Arthur tells the story of facing a critical funding deadline for a project and praying desperately for the money to come in. When the usual pleas proved ineffective, Arthur tried a new tactic. He asked God to show him where he was in Scripture. As it turns out, he was behaving like the older brother of the prodigal son–you know, the bitter one. The one who was jealous of his formerly philandering younger sibling’s welcome home party. The one who whined about how his father never served him a decent steak. The thing is, the older son could have had fatted calf any or every day of the week. He owned the ranch. But he chose to obsess over his lack, disregarding the resources of his father’s estate at his disposal. He could not see the inherent potential in the raw materials available to him.

So here I am. Whining because the solution to my crisis is not appearing before me wrapped in pretty paper with a sparkly bow on top when the truth is I have been flat out lazy about developing the resources my Father has provided me. In fact, I’ve never even taken any kind of meaningful inventory of the raw materials He has placed within and around me. I’ve had my eye on a finished product when I have no idea whether the parts I’m working with even lend themselves to my idealized (fantasized) outcome.

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Pleasing God.

walkinfog“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

Thomas Merton

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Birthright.

birthrightHave been sick all day with something I think I inhaled while pulling up the old carpet in my soon-to-be office over the weekend. Felt miserable…but the down time allowed me to read a friend’s work on birthright. I’ll be honest, it’s pretty depressing so far–a long litany of biblical characters who forfeited their birthright, mostly out of fear. Fear of not fitting in, of losing popularity, of having to engage the enemy. As scary as it is to fight giants as you occupy your Promised Land, there is nothing more terrifying than facing God after having surrendered your birthright. The thought that God gave me a priceless gift and I lost it because I was too self-absorbed or wounded or careless to cultivate it is devastating. And yet it is the exact thought that has manifested as a vague but disabling sense of anxiety over the past year. As I think about it, this is probably what prompted the post on deliverables. The conversation with my boss touched a nerve–deep down, I am afraid I will never be what I was supposed to be.

I’m hoping the book includes some good news on the possibility of recovering your birthright, even after you’ve made some spectacularly mediocre decisions.

All iteration.

A disappointing discovery followed by a challenging confrontation. Learning that talk of transparency may mask monumental misinformation. Trying to unpack, process and ponder difficult decisions while dealing with deadlines. And making no progress that might move me beyond the three month mark.

On the bright side, this:

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Three months.

calendarWoke up with a headache. It is possible that I may have indulged in a glass of wine too many {which would be any more than one} last night. In spite of the free hug yesterday, I ended up throwing myself a spectacular pity party. Popcorn, movies, vino, Kleenex…the works. Hey, it’s my pity party, so I’ll cry if I want to.

This morning I listened to a pep talk by Joel Osteen on replacing fear with faith. He talked about a railyard worker who accidentally locked himself in a refrigerated box car–and panicked. He knew the temperature would be below freezing and he didn’t believe he could survive the night. The next morning, his lifeless body was found curled up in a corner with a note he had scrawled on a piece of cardboard reading “So cold.” The thing is, the refrigeration wasn’t working in that box car and the temperature never got below 60 degrees. Freaky, right?

So I’m keeping this in mind, trying not to become consumed by the reruns of yesterday’s meeting with my boss playing in my head. Because what I thought I heard him say was that there’s no place for me. And for a girl who’s always wrestled with her sense of place in the world, that hit the bulls eye.

When I first met Jesus {I know that sounds weird…I’m just not sure how else to describe it. I had known of Him, I just didn’t actually know Him until I “met” Him. Talked to Him. Invited Him to clean me up and rearrange my stuff.} Anyway, when I first met Jesus, I felt for the first time that I had come home. I had a place in Him. And it was enough and too much all at the same time.

Over time, I found place in the company of others. My fellow law school students, colleagues, friends. Some of these relationships were healthy. Some not so much. They became more real—and more important—than my place in Jesus. I don’t even like to admit that, but it’s true. I had lost my first love—my first place.

And because I like to look for the reason in all things, I have to wonder whether I’m in this floor dropping out from under my feet circumstance now so I can reestablish my place in Jesus. Or…more accurately…so He can reestablish His place in me.

Truly, I cannot do what I’ve been asked to do without Him. But with Him—in Him—all things are possible. So Jesus, I want to see the impossible become possible in You these next three months.

Deliverables.

deliverablecheckSo I had what was supposed to be a routine weekly meeting with my boss this morning. To be honest, I always dread these meetings. I work for a non-profit organization that is having alleged financial challenges–and I’m constantly afraid I’ll be sacked.

I say “alleged” challenges because we are a bunch of crazies who actually believe God can come through and keep us afloat simply because He loves the overlooked population we serve. And guess what? He does. He brings in funds from the most unlikely sources at the very time we need them most and not a second sooner. The whole thing is alternately exhilarating and terrifying.

Today’s meeting was the latter. Our faith-infused CEO has taken a sabbatical of sorts, leaving us in the hands of a highly capable, but infinitely more pragmatic, leader who is trying to get the organization to make sense on paper, which could be a mistake. God’s activities don’t always pencil out, even when His outcomes are explosive.

So this morning I tried to justify my existence to my now boss who seems skeptical about my value to the organization. He repeatedly mentioned something about deliverables and I rolled the word over my tongue wondering whether the work I had done could be measured in tangible outcomes. Regardless, the bottom line is that I have three months to deliver. Three months to bring revenue into the organization. Or I’m done.

For the record, I wasn’t hired on as a fundraiser. There are some things I am good at, but money is not one of them. If my livelihood weren’t on the line, I’d find the whole thing hilariously ironic.

My cell flashes numbers from states across the nation, which could indicate how well-connected I am, but I know better. Delaware is student loans, Ohio is that department store bill I can’t afford right now and Washington DC is calling to collect back taxes. I let it ring because I can’t bring myself to acknowledge that my budget can’t squeeze into the salary I have now, never mind the lack of salary I could be facing in three months. I resolutely determine that I’ll get a handle on all of this, yes I will. Tomorrow.

My sister called earlier and asked if was appropriate to wish me happy anniversary for a marriage that has since been dissolved. The question stung because I knew she didn’t have time to hear me explain about this morning’s meeting and how I got my three-month notice on the very day ten years ago that I found out my marriage was effectively over. I had disappointed my husband in the same way I was now disappointing my boss. I had no defined deliverables. Not then; not now. I was simply not what I am supposed to be.

Three months. I have three months to do something I have no idea how to do or I will be terminated. Of course my boss was careful to say that it is not me who will have been worthless–just what I do. “It’s not you, it’s your position.” Try as I may, I am not grasping the distinction.

When I signed up for this work, I said I was all in. All. As in everything. For better or for worse. I am what I do. And vice versa.

I’ve been listening to what is frankly a stupid audio recording by someone who is undoubtedly wildly successful pontificating on the critical importance of knowing your “definite major life purpose.” And instead of applying his sage advice to my own less than stellar life, I am thinking of the dad in A Christmas Story eagerly unpacking his major award–the culmination of his life’s work. A leg lamp.

I’ve never won a leg lamp, or anything else for that matter, but I know my life’s purpose is to in some way restore the idea that we all possess basic human dignity. That’s what I’ve been working on this past year–that’s what I’m invested in–and to learn that I haven’t contributed anything of concrete value to our organization is gut wrenching.

Not to be overly idealistic, but I actually believe we are fighting against the notion that human worth can be calculated in dollars. And now I have to deliver a certain number of those dollars to validate my own significance. It seems perverse in some way. And entirely rational.

I understand the need for solvency, sustainability and capital. After all, I was the one who gave the Israelites in the Wilderness: Moving from Manna to Manure speech. At some point, God expects you to till the ground, plant some seeds and cultivate your crops. It’s part of getting to the Promised Land. You can’t stay in transition forever.

So rather than continue to whine about my plight, I need to suck it up and get to work. I don’t know whether I can deliver, but I’m going to give it my best.

On a cheery note, I met a guy today who saved me from my pathetic pity-partying by telling me that I am both rich and beautiful. Okay, he owns a cosmetics store, but still. He actually got in my face and challenged me not to dwell on the negative, but to pick myself up–smile–and move forward into a great destiny. And then he gave me a bunch of free products. And a hug. Now that is a deliverable I can reproduce :).