Not Forsaken

Is that a trick question? I wondered.

The Wells Fargo operator had asked, “Is this a time of hardship?”  I didn’t understand why she asked at first, but then realized it was because I paid the October mortgage bill on the last day of the grace period.  For me I felt like we were winning–aka, no penalty. The mortgage company sees this differently than I do.

A month ago I wondered how in the world we would get the house ready to sell.  Hubby’s muscles have left us.  The 16yo has to be taught how to do every odd job plus has homework.  The 20yo is 1526 miles away with the Air Force.  I have multiple jobs.  We gave most of our money away over the years doing the ministry I thought God asked me to do.  The clock is ticking.  We have one asset, the house, and it needs to go in order to start over.

Help comes from unexpected places.  Someone I work with said she’s been reading scripture and decided she would get people together to help.  Two miracle gift cards showed up to help purchase paint.

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I prepped the house as best I could and busy friends took time to help me move furniture around and patched a ceiling hole.  A neighbor and co-worker helped me sell other furniture and miscellaneous items to make room and to assist with the cost of more paint and supplies.

October 13 came and I had little idea who would come.  I thanked God in advance for whatever muscles that would arrive.

First, dear friends near my age came along with a 32yo new dad who could choose to be anywhere but chose to paint with purpose.

Around mid-day two young guys arrived.  I thought they were going to be disappointed that the basketball goal was already sold the hour prior.  “We’re here to paint,” they said.  When one took off his sweatshirt and out popped an arm with Jesus’ face tattooed on his muscles, my tears were unavoidable.  I knew right then miracles are happening.  The hands and feet of Jesus are present.

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As the weekend progressed people came for different reasons.  Some said they want to give back because their life has been better lately.  Some because of their love for the Lord.  One couple came partly because familial ALS is in their family too.  I began to pass out house keys like candy.

One young man looked deep into my soul, sized up the situation, asked me to list out the projects that scare me, and promised he’d stay by my side until the jobs are done like he would for his own mother.  He’s 26 and has a lot of carpentry, plumbing, etc. skills.  Wow. Wow.  Wow.

We’ve been full steam ahead with volunteers ever since.  I’d love to say some of their names, but I haven’t asked for permission.  I do my best to thank them personally.

On Tuesday night I went with my best friend since birth to see Hillsong.  I had no idea how I could stand on my sore feet and I stressed internally that I should be home working.

During the song I Am Who You Say I Am God mushed my heart like Playdough.  In a prayerful time I felt the Holy Spirit tell me, “You answered the call.  You gave up a lot.  You never let go of the house or lifestyle, and you’re going to have to let go of that now too.  It will hurt.  And you will go on.”

Like the song says:

I am chosen, Not forsaken

I am who You say I am

You are for me, Not against me

…I am a child of God.

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The castle I painted for our sons is gone, covered by “falling snow” white semi-gloss.  We are packing for a new adventure.  I am struck how the answer is “surrender” every time I am perplexed.  I look forward to sharing the manuscript Surrender on the Trail with readers one day.  As it turns out the trail was merely the beginning of what I am learning about surrender.

Love,

Signature GSE

P.S.  Thank you to new and old friends from Springdale Nazarene Church and SNC Norwood who took time to help our family.  May you be blessed abundantly.

In About A Year…

She energizes me every time we are together.

We make a plan of attack.  We let go of stress.  We choose to focus on our project and nothing beyond the scope of that project.  We slash 12-15 occupied hours from our week to make this happen.  This is bold and brave in my tangled world.  This is unpaid time to create something bigger, better, broader.  This choice frees our minds and invites creative space.

We have been so busy delivering the service that we miss consistent time to compile, gather, and finish content for the workshop series.  We’ve done the research.  Now we write what we’ve wanted to complete for three years.  More youth and children can have access to the opportunity in upcoming days when we hit pause so we can adjust our work.  As a different friend says, “Sometimes you need to take a minute.”

We pick a date for our next meeting and hit the bi-weekly calendar repeat button.  It feels good to be with a fellow creative person.  And she’s so smart.  She’s done the surrender work in her own life.  She is at peace.  I want peace.

Back in the car I think, In about a year we’re going to meet our goal.  Maybe in six months!

My car rattles.  I make my way to the highway, then catch myself.  No.  Not in a year.  Not in 6 months.  We will do the work and it will happen as it happens.  This project will unfold as it is meant to be.

I will not force it.

I will surrender to the process.

I will do my part of the work and we will see the reveal in time.

I pray, Show me the way.

I am a planner who can also be spontaneous.  I get hung up in the goal setting and walk in circles around the straight line that would be the easiest route.  I make things harder.  Not this time.

Make me a new vessel, Lord.  Guide my path.  Not my will, but Yours.  I don’t want my work-all-night-to-meet-a-deadline mode of operation.  No.  Not this time.

And so, the project begins with fresh air and a relaxed attitude.

       Proverbs 37:7 Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret….

In about a year…  We will diligently do the work with an open mind and see what happens.  I will rest when it’s time to rest and I will work when it’s time to work.

Does this make sense to other artists/writers out there?  Does surrender lead to a better way through life’s path?  I welcome your thoughts.

Pictures from the Cincinnati Nature Center on 9/17/18.  I was there for a training event.  The instructor gave us time to explore.  I saw deer, frogs, turtles, and I watched the leaves begin their seasonal descent.

God bless you,

Signature GSE

Why #WildWednesday

The first time I used #WildWednesday on an Instagram post, hubby said he was a little concerned what I was up to.  I blog Wednesdays and Saturdays on the steady with a few special occasions sprinkled into the mix.  Wednesdays are extra special to me.

We were married five years before children arrived.  Wild Wednesday is a term we used long ago before two people became three, then four.  Being young and the lowest seniority at each of our jobs meant we often worked weekends.  When off days fell on Wednesdays we could take quick road trips.  The world seemed quiet and travel costs were less expensive mid-week.  #WildWednesday is a nod to a sweet time.

On this Wednesday I am still thinking, praying, and meditating about the 3-Day Surrender Experiment.  Coming up Saturday I plan to post about “capacity”.  In the meantime, I am feeling a little wild indeed, wild about cutting down shrubs and tidying landscaping outside our home!  My imagination chopped down ALS a few times too.

Caregiving means more than caring about someone else.  This week caregiving involves sawing gnarly trees and bushes while singing the song “All By Myself”–not the verses in the melancholy Celine Dion way, but belting out the chorus in a proud anthem type way.  Happy Wednesday, y’all!

Colossians 3:23  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord….

#MeToo and the Christian Woman

Before I hit “send” on the type of email that 99.9999% of the time you should not send, I shared it first with my new boss.

Within minutes the office phone rang.  “Come see me please,” he said.

My boss looked me in the eye and expressed with stern lips, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“I’ve counted the cost.”  It’s a hill I’m willing to die on.

He nods, “Ok.  Good luck.”

I proceeded to send the email to the head of the company and Human Resources.

~~~

I’ve been asked a few times what I think about the #MeToo movement.  The experience I describe took place a long time ago, way before #MeToo.

Once upon a time I spent over a decade in the corporate world.  It was clear that some men abused power or said whatever crude thing they wanted with little consequence.  I wondered why I was told as an adolescent that girls can do anything we set our mind to do, but once I was in the business world somehow, I, a woman, often felt “less than” or “used” in some way.

There were many examples.  I entered a meeting where a client raised an eyebrow and said to the men with me, “Well, I’ll sign the contract since you brought this.”  I was a this?  One year I spent every work day at 5pm being critiqued by a boss for my performance beginning with how my hair, clothes, and makeup looked that day.  A year.  Every day.  He thought he was helping me function in a man’s world–that’s what he called his pacing and instructing while I sat wanting to go home.

I’ll spare you the long and varied list of inappropriate moments.  Not all men behaved this way.  Men who were spiritual or had a personal growth mindset were respectful.

~~~

Back to the email sent with no turning back.  Times were tricky.  An executive woman had been fired and then settled a lawsuit.  I knew those in charge were on edge.  I had asked for months to increase pay for my staff as well as provide equal pay for males and females.  My request had been dismissed multiple times.  It bothered me when females with similar qualifications were hired for less salary than a man for the same job.

So, I wrote key bullet points of concern and asked to meet with the head of the company and HR every Friday at 1pm for about 20 minutes.

“What do you want?!” The head of the company bellowed at the first meeting.  He had invited another male executive who was known to be threatening.  I knew first hand because he had threatened my family the year prior when I pointed out something else unethical.  Specifically, “It would be a shame if your boys grow up without a mother.”  The Holy Spirit reminded me of David and Goliath.  I wasn’t afraid.  The HR representative brought two pens and a yellow writing pad.

“I want to discuss an example or two each week of things that have been said or done that involve discrimination.  I believe our company can treat people better.  Twenty minutes each Friday should do it.  I believe we can work together for healthy change.”

“For how many Fridays?” his nostrils flared with suspicion.

“As long as it takes.”

And so, we began.  I brought weekly succinct topics or situations and explained why you can’t say this or that about women, or make fun of people in general, or discriminate against minorities–conscious or unconscious.

Outside of these meetings, a nervousness grew in the boardroom.  The leadership group said cursing was no longer permitted.  Jokes were shut down with side-eye looks before punchlines arrived.  My department’s pay raise was approved after six Fridays.

I think the men began wondering what in the world I planned to say next each week.  Eventually I offered an ending, “I think we’ve covered what needed to be said.”

HR put down her pen.  The threatening guy yawned.  The head of the company snorted relief.  We almost had become comfortable in the muck.

That was a time and place where I chose to go uphill alone after deciding I could accept potential negative repercussions.  One thing I like about #MeToo is that people are saying you are not alone when discrimination happens.

With or without such a movement, God gave us road maps in the Bible to address wrongs peacefully.  Actions are not to be taken lightly.  Here are steps I followed:

  • Consult scripture.  [Matthew 18:15-17,  Galatians 6:1]
  • Pray.
  • Go to the person directly.  I had with no progress.  That’s why I moved on to request the Friday meetings with HR present.
  • Seek wisdom and/or wise counsel.
  • Think about timing.  My guess was it was a time when the head of the company would listen to me whether he liked what I had to say or not.
  • Consider chain of command.  My new boss learned my intentions from me first.  I had reason to believe based on his professional behavior that he would be supportive.
  • Count the costs.  I remember thinking of the best and worst scenarios that could happen and accepted in advance that the outcome could be good, bad, or something I couldn’t imagine yet.

~~~

Down the road after the head of the company left the organization and later I had too, I saw him one more time.  He wanted me to work on a project with him.  I asked why would he want me to do that?  His answer, “Because you taught me about love.”

I didn’t see that coming.  But it made sense.  God is love.