My daughter earned her first $1 bill today. Is that legal? Surely not. Well, it happened, nonetheless.
We enjoyed lunch after church at a local diner. Our waitress, a young, cheerful woman who told me she had a five year-old son, went out of her way to express kindness to my daughter, and I was thankful. She brought Maggie chips before our meals arrived. Any parent understands the magnitude of this gift (if this doesn’t happen, your child morphs into some sort of monster in 5.2 minutes). She entertained all of Maggie’s detailed questions patiently. Maggie enjoyed her gigantic flower-shaped pancake, coated in margarine and syrup, and had a grand old time. After the meal, the waitress jokingly asked Maggie if she wanted to help clear the table to help pay for the meal. And lo and behold, Maggie agreed to help.
She jumped up from the table and followed the waitress around, asking what she could do to help. My mama heart burst with love and joy, watching my daughter serve. She didn’t expect anything in return—she genuinely wanted to clean, serve, and assist our waitress. Our waitress allowed her to help clear the table and then gave Maggie a $1 bill as a gift for helping out. Maggie thought she’d won the lottery and beamed from ear to ear with pride, clutching the money and her stuffed puppy dog, Homer, as we headed to the car, waving goodbye to our new waitress friend.
I remembered all the times that week I’ve felt grumpy and cantankerous about doing laundry, cleaning up after dinner, and loading and emptying the dishwasher. How many times had I begrudgingly washed my daughter’s hair or felt annoyed that I couldn’t enjoy my coffee alone in the afternoon? I specifically recalled feeling disgruntled about trying to hurriedly finish editing a presentation while Maggie attempted to crawl in my lap. And while I have to extend grace to myself–because parenting is difficult, and I am not perfect–I can also learn a lot if I watch my daughter closely. Maybe if I attempt to approach life with just a little bit more of her attitude of service, enthusiasm, and joy over what seem to be tiny moments, I’ll feel less overwhelmed, less disgruntled, and less annoyed when I’m juggling parenting, housekeeping, friending, and working. And maybe if I find pleasure right where I am, I’ll also feel a little less brokenhearted when she slams the car door and walks into school morning after morning, year after year, in just a few short months.
Today’s guest blog post is written by my lifelong friend, Tori Walker Kirk. Watching her journey has been inspiring and filled me with gratitude.
When I read that Bethany needed people to write gratitude posts for her blog, something inside me screamed, “Do it”!I’m not a writer, but I do have my fair share of things to be grateful for, so I told her I would write one.
Since telling her this, I’ve written several drafts about what I’m grateful for, each sounding amazing in my head and so uninspiring on paper.To the trash each and every one went. I started second guessing myself.Why did I volunteer to do this?!That voice inside me kept saying, Do It!
There are so many things I’m grateful for and for many years was blind to. Finding gratitude wasn’t an issue, but narrowing it down was, so I decided on a list.Some are understandable, some thought-provoking, but all me.So here is my diverse gratitude list in no particular order.
1.My husband.I was alone for 7 years after my divorce.I chose that path.My theory was you can’t get hurt if you’re alone, when in reality I was miserable.God saw this, and He saw fit to put this man in my path, and not let me walk alone.He has helped redirect my journey to a better one, and I can never thank Him enough.
2.My kids.The relationship with my kids has not been an easy journey over the past few years.Those who know the story understand.My love for them has never changed.They are and always will be mine.
3.My friends.From that crazy group of church/school friends to the friendships I’ve made over the years, they always appear right when I need them.
4.My brief pregnancy this year.Sadly, it ended in miscarriage, but it showed me my body is still capable of creating life.
5.Rockie.She came as a package deal with my husband, and I can’t imagine life without her.She’s funny, smart, and full of love.
6.Yoga.It centers me, balances me, grounds me, makes my mornings smoother, and my nights restful.
7.My job.I’ve been a pharmacy tech for almost 14 years, but I now work in an environment which challenges me daily and allows me to grow in my profession.
8.Mornings.They often start with a walk with my husband and dog. Yoga comes next, then coffee and Jesus time to help prepare me for the day ahead.
9.My baking skills.I’m a fairly decent baker.That gene is inherited from my grandmother and great aunts, and I’m proud to carry on their traditions.
10.My renewed sense of self.I know where I belong.I know I am loved.I know I will persevere in all things.
My list could go on, and most days it does.Thank you Bethany, for allowing me the chance to post the good in my life and for giving me the opportunity right when I needed it.
Let me give you guys a quick snapshot of my life right now.
I’m wrapping up my position as a full-time faculty member at a community college, grading finals like a demon while saying plenty of sad goodbyes to colleagues and students. I receive daily emails which I print out to add to my “kudos” folder, all the while contributing to my guilty conscience (teacher guilt is a lot like mommy guilt, in case you hadn’t heard). In addition, I’m completing the most atrocious pile of exit paperwork I’ve ever seen in my life. Quitting this job is complicated!
Through a strange sequence of events, which I believe were divinely ordained, I obtained an amazing new job as content manager for an online job board. I have been working part-time this semester, which has been quite an impressive and comical juggling act, and I begin full-time in January. One of the best perks of the gig is working from home. However, I learned that I can’t actually work from my home; we can’t access broadband internet service here since we live in The Sticks. Thus began the speedy, desperate search for a small, affordable office space. My search ended soon after it began, and thanks to a local business owner, my husband and I have been working to order equipment and furniture and help prepare a space.
In the midst of this work-related hubbub this semester, I’ve been grieving some losses–losses by death of people I loved who’ve passed on, and losses of people who moved to other cities this year and who moved out of my life, too. It has simply been a heavy year in terms of loss. Carrying this weight while trying to “keep on the sunny side of life” has been a tough balancing act, to say the least.
And then there’s Maggie, who turned three last month. She’s a beautiful child and full of life, but she’s also full of pee, and I find myself needing to Google things like, “how to remove urine smell from couch cushions.” So it’s come to this, eh?
But here’s the deal.
While everything I have written thus far, which is approximately 367 words, is true, it is also only one side of the truth.
Here’s the other side I haven’t told you about yet. I hoped you decided to wait for it.
I do have problems.
But I have the best problems.
I wrote this portion of an email to a friend of mine over the weekend.
Tonight I felt really stressed and was praying, and God somehow revealed to me a change of perception, and I said to God, “Thank you so much that I have the BEST problems.” My problems are so good. Genuinely, they are. I have all this office equipment I could afford sitting around my house ready to be put together taking up space, and I need help with it. That’s my “problem.” I have stuff to grade by students who love me and are sending me the nicest emails that I am printing out and saving. I have too many people who want to spend time with me and not enough time to fit them all in before I quit working at the college. I got to move my retirement into an IRA and had to find time to go to the bank and felt grumbly about it today! But I got to keep my money instead of losing my retirement funds! I mean, I could keep going, but really…. I needed this reality check and change of perception tonight, and after God snapped me back into reality, I felt about 400% better.
I talked to my boss on the phone a few days ago, and she genuinely sounded excited about my upcoming training visit. Of course I’m excited, but it floored me to hear so much excitement in her voice. Quite honestly, it brought tears to my eyes. How lucky am I to be working for people who can’t wait to see me?
My three year-old daughter asked me to rock her tonight and sing songs to her. That rarely happens. Yes, I have a urinary tract infection, and the weight of her 35 pound body on my bladder didn’t really help with the urgency/frequency vibe I’ve got going on, but somehow I was able to be where my hands were rather than where my bladder was at that moment and look into her big, sleepy, hazel eyes for as long as she’d let me.
I have the best problems.
The only real problem I ever have is when I lose my ability to see things the way they really are.
Today’s post was written by one of my English Composition II students, Crystal Riley, on the topic of the motivation of gratitude. I have known Crystal since junior high school. When God allowed our paths to cross again and for me to serve as her instructor, I felt truly privileged and have enjoyed watching her grow as a person and as a writer. I have learned at least as much from her as she has from me–isn’t this the beauty of teaching?
We all have had someone to wait on us and say thank you for your patronage. Have you ever really said thank you back to the person who waited on you in a way that was meaningful? In my life I have had several jobs that required me to wait on people. It is not a gratifying experience. Sometimes I wanted to say, “Here is your crap, please don’t come back!” I never did; I always took the time to force a smile and say thank you. I got so good at the routine that I caught myself sending off my unwanted family guests in the same way I thanked the unwanted customers who left the store.
There was an old man who came to the gas station every morning at 4:30. I made his coffee and waited on him every day. I thought he sat in that booth sleeping until his friends came in shortly after. All the old men would drink coffee and share stories. My shift ended at 7:00. Every morning just before I closed my drawer, he paid for his breakfast and told me I was a good ole’ girl or told me how good the gravy was. He always said something nice; he even commented on how well I had shined the floors! I never thought much of it. I always just thought he appreciated that I personally filled their cups instead of making them get up to get their own coffee. It was a small thing.
Later I worked at a video counter in the local grocery store and missed the old men from the gas station. One night my old man came in, and I waited on him and his granddaughter. He had been left to babysit. I helped them select a video, and as he was paying for it, he thanked me. He had a genuine smile and kind eyes. He patted my hand and told me he knew I was a nice girl. It is a crazy thing that the way he said thank you to me just made my day even if the praise didn’t come from my boss. I told him I just loved waiting on him and how nice he was. He responded that it costs nothing to let someone know that they are doing a good job, but it could mean the world to the person doing the job.
I thought about him often and what he said. I’ve had some of the worst jobs you could imagine, and I think about my co-workers at times, and how awful things are for them. I make it a point to say thank you when someone helps me, to take that extra moment to let them know I appreciate them.
It only takes a moment, and it may be the only kind word that person hears all day. If we all just take a moment to offer a word of encouragement or take a moment to simply be kind, we could all make a world of difference in how someone’s day goes. I never knew that old man’s name, and he never called me by my name, but I think about him because he was so nice, and his extra words of encouragement made my day nearly every day.
As I gear up to go back to work full-time this fall, transitioning from an adjunct instructor to a full-time English instructor, I find myself fluctuating between excitement and eager anticipation and anxiety and grief as I let go of this period of my life–the stay-at-home mom phase. No longer will Maggie’s cute babbling on the baby monitor serve as my alarm clock. One month from now, I’ll entrust my child to babysitters three days a week and rely on them to fill me in on the brightest moments of the day, to keep me posted on her milestones and her tantrums and her patterns of behavior. Soon Maggie and I will both have to adjust to a new schedule, a new routine, and a new balance of people in our lives.
Don’t get me wrong–I’m beyond thankful for my new job. If you missed my post about my new job, reading that will certainly clarify any confusion about my feelings about that. For years, I didn’t even think I’d ever have the opportunity to go to graduate school; a few years ago, my husband (boyfriend at the time) encouraged me to pursue my passion for English language and literature, regardless of the practicality of it all… talk about winning me over! I enrolled in a Master’s program a few weeks later, and I’ve never regretted that decision. I feel that I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing with my life right now; it’s a wonderful feeling, and a great way to serve God and other people.
Still, I’m a mom, and I’m a mom who wears her heart on her sleeve sometimes. I’ll be the first to admit that it took me an entire year’s worth of prayer and meditation before I felt absolute peace about the decision to go back to work full-time at this point in my daughter’s life. But it does feel like the right time. If there’s anything God has repeatedly taught me, through practical experience, it’s that He is always right on time (if I yield to His will and don’t push and shove and insist on my own). There’s something easy and beautiful about letting God make things happen.
I would not trade the past 20 months of time I’ve spent at home with my daughter for anything; no amount of money and no thrill or prestige would entice me to reconsider how I’ve spent this period of time.
This morning Maggie and I took a walk down our quiet country road, admiring the bright morning sun reflecting off the surface of nearly every dew-covered leaf in the woods. We played with bubbles in the backyard. Every time Maggie popped a bubble, she excitedly exclaimed, “I gots!” Maggie played in her sandbox, silently scooping and shoveling sand into her little bucket over and over again, occasionally turning to glance at me sitting nearby, maybe to ensure that I was still watching her. The light reflected off her wild auburn curls. I found myself watching nothing but her hair, mesmerized by the light in her curls, the sun spinning around and twisting every time she turned and picked up her scoop and set it down again.
What is that worth, I wondered. What is this moment worth to me?
Everything. There’s nothing anyone could pay me to trade me for this moment, and nothing I’d exchange for the life I have lived with my daughter for the past 20 months.
I know that I haven’t wasted my time because I have chosen to be where my hands are; when I make that choice, I’m never wasting my time.
*Today is the second part of “Leap of Faith” by my friend LaTresha Woodruff-Johnson about her God-led journey. Check out this piece about LaTresha which appeared recently in Sync magazine. LaTresha celebrates her three-year anniversary with the Conway Police Department on January 31.*
I committed a leap of faith when I left my television news reporter job, the only job I had ever known and loved. I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do from there; I just knew God had a plan for my career and my life. After all of the job opportunities I had been chasing got caught by someone else (my way of saying I did not get the job), I devised a plan. I got up each morning, spent time in the presence of my heavenly father through meditation, prayer and studying His Word, and then I searched the internet for jobs for a couple of hours. When that was complete I called somebody, heck anybody, who could spare a little time for a housewife, to meet for lunch. I also volunteered and dabbled in cooking just a little, enough to satisfy my husband.
My days of worrying about what God’s next step would be were over; I made the conscious decision to bask in the fact that, “He could do anything but fail” and that God was simply preparing me for what he had in store. He was about to enlarge my territory both spiritually and in my career. I wore this new attitude well. Even my husband noticed a change in me, and he liked it! We all know a “happy wife means a happy life.” Men, if you don’t know that, I have just solved all of your problems.
In November of 2010 my wonderful husband read an article in the local newspaper announcing a job fair at a local college. I reluctantly went thinking, “You don’t get the kind of job I am looking for at a college job fair.” I got to campus, and I could not find a parking spot and annoyingly stated out loud that I was going home NOW! Well that didn’t work, because I could hear the still quiet voice in my head saying, “I am in control of all things,” and suddenly a spot became open. Once over that hurdle along came another. It was pouring rain, and my umbrella was nearly taken away by the wind. I started to turn back, but the voice of God wouldn’t let me.
I forged on, and when I reached the building, I was drenched, but I put on my face on and went inside thinking I will just pick up items to prove to my husband I had in fact gone to the job fair. I went in, stopped at the first table and got stuff so my job there was done, so I thought. Besides the trinkets like pens and stress balls, I had really nothing to show for my little visit. Then I saw a familiar face, a police officer I had worked with for several years. He was the Public Information officer for the police department, and I interviewed him often about cases being interviewed by the department. He informed me that he had gotten a promotion. I congratulated him, and the light bulb went off in my head.
Before I knew it, I asked, “So who is going to be the public information officer now?” He said he wasn’t sure, but he believed they were considering a particular officer. I then proceeded to tell him that I would be their next PIO, to which he replied that they do not hire civilians; their PIOs have always been police officers. I thought well, that may be, but it’s about to change. We took a picture, hugged and I set about my mission to be the Public Information Officer/Spokesperson for the police Department. I got into my car and called a Lieutenant at the PD and told him when he had coffee with the Chief the next morning to tell him he needed to hire LaTresha as the PIO. He seemed to like the idea and agreed to do so. Meanwhile I went to a friend’s house and told her I would no longer be a housewife and that I was about to start working as the PIO/Spokesperson for the police department. She was excited and said I never mentioned that I had an interview and I informed her that I had not had an interview, but I knew this was what the Lord had for me. She gave me a strange look, but God would not be denied. While I was there I got a call back from the Lieutenant saying he tried to sit still and wait until tomorrow, but he decided to go ahead and talk to the Chief, and he felt the Chief would call me next week. (This is where I will start to insert the phrase “But God.”)
I was super excited; this was shaping up to be the best Wednesday EVER! I didn’t think it could get any better, but it did, “But God.” While I was still at my friend’s house, I got a call from the Police Chief himself! I said to him, “So you got my message,” his reply was, “Yes along with emails, phone calls and a picture.” We set a meeting for Friday. He wanted Thursday, but remember I got rained on, and my hair was a dreadful mess so I needed to get myself to a salon so I could pull it all together.
That Friday meeting changed my life and probably the Police Chief’s life. I went to meet him full of confidence and ideas. We shook hands, and I proceeded to talk for probably the next 45 minutes about how I could do a more effective job than a police officer because I was the media, and I knew how to deal with the media. I know what they need before they get there and can move the process along faster. I truly believed that Officers were trained to serve and protect and that while the previous PIO’s did a great job, they were better at being police officers.
So I implored him to allow them to do what they were trained to do and bring me on to do what I was trained to do. Because I knew lots of people from my reporting days and people knew and liked me, I felt I could launch outreach programs to help really endear the police department more to the community. By the end of my speech I asked him, “Do you have any questions?” He seemed stunned, I didn’t know if he was stunned by how much I talked or stunned by my knowledge and confidence (I later learned it was all three). The Chief admitted he had had reservations about changing the position but added after listening to me he believed it was a great idea and wanted to see it happen. It did after all the red tape of city government. I started working as the Public Information Officer/Spokesperson on January 31, 2011.
I am a testimony to the fact that you should never give up on God because He will not give up on you. Just when you think you have no options, like He did for Abraham in the book of Genesis Chapter 22, the Lord will provide a ram in the bush!
13Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son.14Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.”…
In those times when the battle made me weary, and I felt I couldn’t hear God, I stopped and listened for his voice. (Psalm 46:10)
Be still, and know that I am God:
When I look back over this experience I realize that when we are still, and we listen to God and really live out His will for our lives, it works out just as he planned. You see if I had left my reporting job in 2008, if I had moved on my own and not waited for my answer for from the Lord, I am confident that I would not be where I am today. This job was not open in 2008 when I wanted to leave the news business. God was creating this opportunity just for me. If I had moved on my own, who knows where I would be. “But God” Because I waited on the Lord I am in a wonderful place spiritually, personally and professionally. I love my job, I am not micromanaged, my boss trusts my judgment, I am allowed to be my creative self, and I have the respect of my colleagues and my community. And they all know I love the Lord and am driven by the fact that I am His child and that He wants the best for me.
I encourage you to pray about whatever situation you are facing and be ready to listen for God’s voice and to follow His will for your life. My Leap of Faith not only allowed me to land in a great place to work, but I am also always resting comfortably in the arms of my Lord and Savior!
*Today’s post is part one in a two-part series by my friend LaTresha Woodruff-Johnson. I’m thankful God places inspiring, compassionate women like her in my life. Stay tuned this week for part two.*
I love the LORD; I am not afraid to say it. In fact, I’ll take any opportunity to tell people that I love the LORD. But when you say that to some, they ask, “why?” I say things like, “because HE first loved me,” or “HE gave his only son that we might have life.” But more importantly “because HIS grace and mercy is new every day, and HE has done so many things in my life; HE’s made a way out of no way.”
I have so many stories of what HE’s done for me, how HE’s changed my life, but there is one in particular that I find myself telling people over and over and over again. You see, it’s a timely and timeless story about my “Leap of Faith.”
I have always sought the LORD’s guidance before making decisions, so when I started feeling my soul moving in a new direction or yearning for new direction, I thought to myself, “It’s time to leave the news business, put down my microphone, step away from the camera, the people/fans I’ve met in my 14 years as a reporter.”
So I did what I do? I got on my knees and prayed to my heavenly FATHER. I asked for guidance, I wanted to hear a clear word from HIM on what I should do. I felt he was leading me to find something, a job allowing me to be more available to my husband, my church and my community. I waited and waited and waited but heard nothing! To me that meant it just wasn’t the time to walk away. With that, I threw myself back into work. I changed my attitude and tackled each day head on; I started it by telling myself to, “Expect Good things,” and not to allow others to determine how I am going to feel today. I took back that power. Soon that burning desire to leave news reporting went away.
But GOD wasn’t done with me on this issue. Two years later I got that desire in my soul that I was not where I needed to be. I wrestled with it for a few weeks saying to myself, “I’ve gone through this before–it’ll pass.” Well it didn’t, and I found myself on my knees one night praying to my Heavenly FATHER again. But this time when I got up, there was a strange feeling that came over me. A feeling of peace–my soul seemed to be at ease. So I talked to my husband, and he supported my decision to resign from my reporting job. That was April of 2010, but I didn’t have a new job. All I knew is that I had heard from the LORD, and I was following his will. I ended up staying four more months because the news department was so short-staffed. Yes, I prayed about that, too, and the LORD moved me to stay and help out.
August 27, 2010, was a bittersweet day, bitter because I was leaving what I considered in 7th grade as my dream job, what I was meant to be, thought I’d retire from a big reporting/anchoring gig from CNN. But it was sweet because I had faith that my GOD would supply all of my needs. It was one of the happiest days of my life. I did a great story, a child who was kidnapped but returned home safely. What a happy ending to a great career; for me it was one of the happiest days of my life!
I gladly tackled this strange life of not constantly going and going from one end of the state to the next in one day, writing stories behind the eight ball and constantly being on alert. Yes, my days were filled with sleep and thoughts of learning to cook, but they were just thoughts! This all lasted about three weeks, and I was ready to get going. See, as a reporter, I was always tackling numerous things at once, never an idle moment. I started to get a little uneasy, and the LORD started dealing with me again. I believed HE was saying, “LaTresha your idle time has come and gone; it’s time to get to work.” By work I believed he meant, find a job, one that lets you help people, find time to volunteer, and honor Me through your works.
I ramped up my volunteering with one agency and became “a Friend” of two other non-profits. While I started getting that feeling of fulfillment, my tank wasn’t quite on “F” so I started with Big Brothers Big Sisters and became a friend of Habitat for Humanity and Conway Cradle Care. While I enjoyed being involved with these organizations, there was still something missing. I could hear that sweet still voice of the Lord saying, “I want more for you. I want you to do more.” So my job search kicked into HIGH gear. I attacked the search ferociously! I set my sights on what are called “Public Information Officer” positions. I can’t tell you how many times as a reporter I interviewed Public Information Officers from various agencies and thought, “I could do that job with my eyes closed.”
I applied for about 20 PIO positions; I had 5 interviews where I felt I had “knocked it out of the park!” Slowly I started getting word that the positions had been filled. Soon there was just one position left, and I thought, “This is the one.” After all I had made it to the 3rd round of interviews. I didn’t even know there were 3rd rounds. I just knew I had this one in the bag, so much so that I didn’t bother God with it anymore. I remember the day that I got the call about the position, I had decided not to get up early and search the internet for jobs because I was so sure I was about to get this job. The phone rang. I fumbled for it, cleared my throat, looked at the caller ID, and sure enough it was the hiring manager for the agency. My heart leapt. I thought, “Here goes, about to enter the working world again,” and I was excited.
You cannot imagine the heartbreak and devastation I felt when I heard the words, “We have offered the position to a more qualified candidate.” It was all I could do not to start sobbing right there on the phone. He went on to say things like, “You possess all the qualifications and would have done an excellent job but…” And that’s the point I stopped listening. I can’t even recall saying goodbye and hanging up the phone. My pity party went on for the rest of the day. I didn’t even get out of bed.
It was only the next morning when I forced myself into the shower that I started thinking clearly. Sitting in the shower I realized that I got ahead of myself. When things looked like they were going in my favor I didn’t ask God if getting this particular job was His will. I left him out of the equation. He’d been there leading and guiding me through it all, but I decided I could handle it from here. When I put my hands on it, God took his hands off. It was as if He was saying, “If you think you can do better than your Heavenly Father, go ahead give it a try, you don’t need me.” I asked my heavenly father’s forgiveness and gave in to what I already knew–that He would take care of me no matter what. I knew He didn’t bring me this far to leave me!