Tag Archives: Words

The Giver Gets to Pick the Gift

girl_staring_at_mountains

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

Oh praise the One who paid my debt
and raised this life up from the dead

As I sang those words on a Sunday morning a few weeks ago, I thought about my almost-four-years of work at the church and the possibility of leaving them behind to take my dream job, the job I had just interviewed for and really wanted. The job I just knew I was going to get.

Your job at the church is a gift, I heard. And this new job, if you get it, that will be a gift, too. You don’t deserve either of them. You haven’t earned them. You’re not entitled to them like you think you are. They are gifts from Me. And as the Giver, I get to pick the gift. I know what you want. I know what you like. I’ll pick the right gift. And even if it’s not what you asked for, you’ll understand why I picked it. Maybe not right away, but you will.

Those words echoed in my head as I went home, as I went on with life, as I waited for the call I had been waiting for for nearly two months—the call that would mean I would finally be getting paid to sit around and read books all day. I’d finally be an editor. A real editor. Not the fake kind that just re-words awkward class descriptions for the church website and has to make sure the date is right on the bulletin. (Okay, so that’s a little dramatic. I know book editors are not the only real editors. And I know what I do at the church is important. I’ve just always wanted to edit books.)

Two months is a really long time to wait for something you’re sure is inevitable. I knew I might not get the job, but everything seemed just right. I interned there. I knew people there. I was encouraged to apply by someone who worked there. I know what they publish because I’ve read little else in the last three years. And the opportunity just dropped in my lap. I didn’t go looking for it. God was going to give me this new job. But in case He didn’t, I told Him, secretly afraid he was using this opportunity as some kind of sinister test, it must be because I’m not supposed to have it. It just made too much sense.

They’d assured me that I’d have an answer by Friday. After weeks and weeks of checking my email every five seconds and jumping every time my phone made some kind of noise and bugging my references to find out if they’d been contacted, the day had arrived. The same Friday our apartment lease expired and we’d have to sign another twelve month lease THAT DAY or pay an extra $80 in rent to go month-to-month so we could move as soon as possible. Since the new job would be a bit of a hike.

The hours crept by with no word. By this point, I’d convinced myself they’d picked someone else. Surely I would have heard by now if I was their choice. Around noon, I called and talked to an assistant. “No, they haven’t made a decision yet,” she told me, “They’ve had a sales conference all week. They’ll probably decide next week.”

So many emotions. I was so done with the waiting. I wanted to move on with my life. So many things were up in the air because of this job. We might have to move. I might have to stop reviewing books on my blog. I might have to give up the extra week of vacation I’ll have earned by the end of this year. I might have to start paying exorbitant rates for my health insurance. I might have to leave the coworkers I love.

Then finally, last Wednesday, my answer came.

No.

Seriously, God? If You knew You were going to tell me no, why couldn’t You do it after the first interview? The sample edit? Or even the Friday when I was supposed to have an answer? Why did You do this to me?

I still don’t know.

They told me I had the skills, but another candidate had more experience, and they encouraged me to try for an entry-level position next time one opens up. If those types of jobs still pay what they paid when I was in college, there’s no way we can afford that kind of pay cut. Not if I want to pay off my student loans and start a family some day.

It feels a little like the time my parents went to Disney World without me. When they asked what I wanted them to bring back for me, I asked for a dress just like Snow White—blue and yellow and red with puffy sleeves. But that’s not what I got. Instead, I got a white dress with neon paint splatters all over it. And flip flops with a rainbow of curly ribbons tied to the top. I’m sure my mom was so excited to give them to me. But I was disappointed. They didn’t match the picture in my head.

Now I know that the Snow White dress was too expensive. And the dress I did get was darling. But back then, I was too little to understand why that mattered, to understand that my parents had more information than I did. All I knew was they didn’t give me what I wanted.

So the dream I had for so long and then gave up and then thought might happen anyway has been taken from me again. This time I wasn’t quite so willing to give it up. This time it hurts like heck. This time it feels a little hopeless. And I feel a little angry.

But the Giver gets to pick the gift.

27 Lessons in 27 Years

globe babyToday I turn 27. Actually, in three minutes from the time I’m writing this. Honestly, I’m feeling old. My sister turns 21 in November, my baby brother is graduating high school next year, and I’ve been married for (almost) five years. This is the first year I’ve actually been grateful when people say, “You’re 27? No way!” And I finally understand why turning 30 is a big deal. I’m not there yet, but I totally get it.

When I was trying to figure out what my “birthday post” should be, I decided it would be fun to share some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Some are happy, some are sad, and some are a little funny, but they’ve all been a part of “becoming me” in a significant way.

  1. If someone is trying to annoy you, ignore them. They’ll eventually get bored and go away. (I can thank my little sister for teaching me this one.)
  2. Churches don’t have to be full of hypocrites.
  3. Leadership doesn’t have to be loud. Sometimes quiet leadership is more effective.
  4. God is trustworthy. Always.
  5. It’s okay to ask for help.
  6. Relationships don’t work when each person only gives 50%. Each person must give 100%, so when one person can’t give their all, the other person can pick up the slack.
  7. God cares about the little things, too.
  8. Stories (real or imagined) change lives.
  9. Babies aren’t so scary after all.
  10. Adults don’t have it all figured out. Life is an experiment.
  11. We’re all different, and that’s a good thing.
  12. When you have a favorite thrift store, second-hand shopping is awesome.
  13. Budgets don’t prohibit you from spending money, they give you permission to spend it wisely.
  14. You can learn a lot from other generations. Everyone has something different to offer.
  15. Teaching four-year-olds about Jesus is SO FUN.
  16. Humility often means not seeking credit and taking blame.
  17. Regular dental appointments are important. You do NOT want to get a root canal.
  18. No matter how much you hate exercise, it will make you feel better. (If my husband asks, I did not admit this.)
  19. Divorce sucks. And it will affect your kids—no matter how old or young they are.
  20. Food doesn’t make you happy, it just makes you fat.
  21. You don’t have to have all the answers to be a good friend. Just be there.
  22. (Usually) good writing should go unnoticed. It should flow in such a way that the reader doesn’t even think about the act of reading, they just do it.
  23. What you want to do is not necessarily what you’re called to do.
  24. Working at a church is hard.
  25. There’s no such thing as a normal family.
  26. Minnesota isn’t so bad.
  27. Having a husband who’s your best friend makes life a lot more fun.

So there you have it. Obviously I’ve learned more than 27 things in my lifetime. At least, I hope it’s obvious…

Toothpaste, Ira Glass, and the Picture in My Head

wildflowers in a field

 

“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you . . . We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work . . . It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions . . . It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” —Ira Glass

 

When I was five, I decided I needed glass slippers like Cinderella. So I made some. I snuck into the bathroom and, using and Q-tips, I covered my new patent dress shoes with a sticky paint made of  toothpaste, baby powder, and baking soda. Then I did what any five-year-old would do—I put them in a donut box and hid them under my parent’s bed. Because, well, where else would I hide them? Mom was not happy when she discovered them two weeks later, rock-hard and still under her bed. She later told me that’s when she knew I had an imagination.

I was a frustrated artist. I didn’t have the supplies or the talent to create the images I had in my head—landscape watercolors, sketched portraits, painted houses. Some did make it to paper, but they always resulted in tears. (Of course, I cried about everything—not being able to buckle my seat belt was enough to provoke frustrated tears.)

And really, not a whole lot has changed.

A few months ago I tried to turn a four-hour car repair ordeal into a Father’s Day blog post. It was awful. I’m sure I could go back and do something with that draft now, but my first version was so far from where I thought it would be that I didn’t even go back for a second read through, let alone any edits.

I’ve become afraid of writing, which is sad because it’s something I love to do. I always have. In high school I had the luxury of journaling everywhere I went, and if I wasn’t doing that, I was writing long notes to friends. It was exciting to spend my entire hour of chemistry writing while pretending to pay attention. (I really hated science.)

I have all these great ideas—ideas that pull in quotes from literature, personal stories, Scripture, and my own thoughts—but I don’t write them. I jot the ideas in a notebook that follows me around every day, mocking me because yes, I had the great idea, but it will never turn out the way I want it to.

I know that I’m supposed to write constantly, even if it’s crap, because that’s how I’ll get better. That’s how I’ll find the gold, but that is SO hard for this perfectionist to do. I want to do it right and do it right the first time. I want to send it out into the blogosphere and wow everyone with my words. I want to make Annie Dillard and LM Montgomery and Philip Yancey proud. (But mostly Annie Dillard.)

How comforting to know that my struggle is normal, that my writing will improve as I work on it, that my skills will catch up with my taste in beautiful words. At least I hope they will. But hope is important. It’s way better than not writing just because I’m afraid.

So I’m actually going to post this even though I’m not completely happy with it, even though it falls short of the picture I had in my head. Because I have hope that just the act of writing it will get my next post that much closer to where I want it to be.

Writing Tip Wednesday #18: The E’s Have It

Eiffel Tower Kimberly VardemanHave you ever wondered how to spell fiancé? fiancée? I didn’t learn the difference until I got married. And what about blonde? Or blond? I had to research that one for this post—I had no idea.

It all boils down to the same thing—the words are French, and they have gender. If you know Spanish, it’s like the difference between loca and loco.

“Fiancé” and “blond” are the masculine forms of the words. “Fiancée” and “blonde” are the feminine forms. The masculine forms can be used to refer to males and females, and the feminine forms refer only to females.

In American English, as a noun, “blond” is used for males and “blonde” is used for females. As an adjective, “blond” is most common, though you can add the “e” and use it to describe females.

Now you know.

(And in case it’s bugging you—Chicago style would not put an apostrophe in “E’s” in my title. I added it for clarity.)

Photo credit: Kimberly Vardeman via Flikr