Tag Archives: Work

Breaking Rules Isn’t the Problem

God used a book to make me aware of my people problem. I was sitting on the couch watching TV when something slammed against the front door. I jumped and saw the UPS man climbing back in his truck. Weird. I wasn’t expecting a delivery.

When I opened the door, there was a small cardboard package from Barnes and Noble with my name on it. Curious, I tore into it and found the book People Over Profit by Dale Partridge (the founder of Sevenly). But I didn’t order it. I never order my books from Barnes and Noble. Jonathan didn’t order it. It couldn’t be a review book—those always come directly from the publisher. I asked my boss if he sent it. (His response was, “No. Did you want me to?”) I even called Barnes and Noble. The lady on the phone was obnoxious—”I can see why it would be unsettling to get a book you don’t remember ordering. Did you check your credit card bill?” Uggh. There was no order number, no packing slip. She transferred me to a different department and then they hung up on me. Where the heck did the book come from?

peopleoverprofitI still don’t know. But since it was about the very same issue God was dealing with in my heart, I decided I needed to read it. It wasn’t life-changing, but there was so much wisdom. I think anyone who works with people—coworkers, clients, customers, church attendees, whatever—should read it. It was a quick, easy read full of practical advice:

“After all, the killer of quality is not efficiency. Rather, it’s the desire to do things at a pace that can only be achieved by compromising one’s values and mission” (pg. 36).

“How you make others feel about themselves says a lot about you” (pg. 63).

“The marketplace, left to itself, doesn’t see people” (pg. 64).

“When you say a company believes that people matter, it means they hold the following convictions: People are valuable. No Person is worth more than another. Every person deserves to be treated fairly and with respect. Organizations should be empathetic to all people they touch” (pg. 65).

“Too many companies treat their customers like a mere metric of profitability . . . they’ve begun operating as though customers exist to serve them rather than the other way around . . . A ‘people-matter’ organization works to make customers feel special and valued. They don’t just tell patrons that they want their business; they work to retain it” (pg. 67).

“Companies are good at valuing some of the people they touch, but few value all of them” (pg. 71).

“Companies that believe people matter must believe that all people matter” (pg. 72).

“We often forget that every organization is just a group of people–individuals with hearts, minds, desires, hopes, and feelings who are enlivened by a common mission” (pg. 75).

“By adopting “people-matter” principles and fusing them into an organization, companies can build a loyal tribe of individuals who will fight alongside their leaders and help build an unstoppable enterprise” (pg. 75).

“Authenticity is the act of telling people what you believe and care about, not telling them what you think they want you to believe or care about” (pg. 106).

“It requires bravery to accept who you are and stop trying to be what you think people want” (pg. 112).

“Quality isn’t what you say it is; it’s what they say it is” (pg. 124).

“Quality means listening, responding, and making changes quickly” (pg. 125).

“Look for ways to build the incredible into the ordinary . . . offer them the freedom to do for one what they wish they could do for all” (pg. 133).

“We should give because we love others, because we want to meet their needs, and because we believe that people matter” (pg. 138).

“Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will” (pg. 147).

“When you sense fear of the unknown, it’s often a sign you need to walk into, not away from, what is repelling you” (pg. 174).

Want to read more about my people problem? Check out these two posts: People Matter (more than rules) and I Don’t Follow the Rules.

Living a Portfolio Life

Calling GoinsI’ve spent the last four years (at least) trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. I’ve been working at the church, but that didn’t seem like enough, even though I knew I was supposed to be there. And I made it to the last round of interviews for my dream job and then didn’t get it. I just couldn’t figure out what I was missing.

Until I read The Art of Work by Jeff Goins. In it, Jeff talks about the significance of calling and explains that it goes way beyond your day job. Your calling is the sum of many things—your skills, your job, your relationships, your interests—it’s the whole picture of your life, how you choose to spend your time and use your gifts.

I realized that I don’t have to spend my days agonizing over the ominous and evasive calling God has placed on my life because I’m living it right now.

My calling is to work at my church, to be a good wife and friend and sister, to spend my free time writing and reading and editing and blogging (and crocheting and sewing). My calling is to embrace where God has placed me, do what He has asked me to do, and give Him the glory no matter what.

And I think I’m okay with that.

Are you trying to wrap your mind around the idea of your calling? Check out Jeff’s book. It’ll get you asking the questions you need to ask to figure out what you’re meant to do. Visit this link to find out how to get a free copy and a ton of bonuses—you just pay shipping.

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*As a member of Jeff’s launch team for The Art of Work, I received a free copy of the book in exchange for spreading the word. 

Not My Circus

If you stop by my office, you’ll see a framed copy of this Polish proverb on my wall where I can see it every day:

“Not my circus, not my monkeys.”

I love it for a few reasons. One is that it’s the only Polish proverb I’ve ever heard. And since I’m Polish and proud of it, that’s a big deal.

But the main reason I love it is that it speaks to the heart of one of my greatest strengths, which also happens to be one of my greatest weaknesses–I am a responsible person (responsibility shows up in my Strengthsfinder Top 5) and I tend to be a fixer. Doesn’t matter if it’s my responsibility or my problem to fix. You can bet I’ll try, and I’ll feel pretty crummy when it doesn’t work out the way I think it should.

It’s hard not to take on extra responsibilities, especially at work. It’s not just my job, it’s also my church. And that means a significant personal investment, far beyond what I would devote if I worked somewhere else. I want to do a good job, and I want my church to be a healthy place. As a result, I struggle with wanting to stretch beyond my job description to make everything meet my own personal ideals.

But the church is made up of many people for a reason. We each play an important part, and we don’t all do the same thing. It’s okay for me to let others fulfill their responsibilities, whether I think they’re doing it right or doing it wrong. It’s not my concern how or why they do what they do. And there’s freedom in that.

Romans 12:3–6 says, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.”

A friend once told me that when I find myself taking on responsibilities and even frustrations that aren’t mine, I need to resign. So if you listen carefully outside my cube, you may hear me say “I quit.” It’s not because I’m leaving my position, it’s because I’m choosing to lay down what I shouldn’t have picked up. Because God gave someone else the gifting to do it better than me. It’s not my circus. And those aren’t my monkeys.

Not My CircusNot My Monkeys (1)

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.

Bringing Summer Inside

DesktopOne of the things I miss most about being a kid is the few weeks leading up to the last day of school. There’s a build up of excitement and energy you can’t get anywhere else.

Yesterday was the last day of school for the kids who have classes in our church building. The parking lot was so full of parents’ cars that I had to park on the other side of the church and walk. And today the halls are empty—the teachers are shuffling around their classrooms in their comfy clothes, eager to wrap up their work and start their own summer vacations.

But I don’t get that luxury. My vacation comes in the form of a few days off here and there throughout the year, many of them spent in the car, driving to and from Michigan where my family lives.

Most of my glorious, blue sky summer days are spent at a desk in a cubicle, with only a translucent skylight and sometimes—when the office across from me is empty—a borrowed window that won’t open to let the breeze flutter through.

Now, I don’t like heat. And I can’t sit in the sun for long. My body just can’t handle it. But I love to be outside. I love the clouds and the birds and the fresh green leaves that quiver in the breeze. So sitting inside all day feels like a waste. I know it’s not. I know the work I do is valuable and important. I just wish I could do it outside.

So I’m realizing I need to find ways to bring that end of the school year excitement with me as I sit down at my desk each day. I need to bring the summer goodness inside and use it to infuse my work with the new life and sunshine I enjoyed as I walked in from my car. Because I do like my job. And the work I do is important. And my cubicle is great, it’s a million times better than most offices I’ve seen. But just like anything else, it’s hard to see sometimes.

Not only do I need to bring the sunshine in, I need to bring in that hope, that anticipation, that excitement for the wide-open possibilities that come with the promise of summer. My day-to-day is full of that same exciting potential, but I have to find it. It’s not quite as obvious as an 80-degree day. But it’s there.

Meet Margaret

This is my car, Margaret. I named her after my grandma. Jonathan and I bought Margaret in Minnesota, but she was made in Michigan like me. She’s 125,500 miles old.Car

Margaret is a champ. So far this winter, we’ve had several days of at least -20 degree windchills (that’s not even counting all the other below zero days), and she sits outside all night and starts right up every morning. She’s a little groggy at first, but she comes around. I think we do just as well as native Minnesotans—maybe better. Jonathan’s car, which doesn’t have a name, can’t do that unless it sleeps in the garage.

 

This morning Margaret and I had a great conversation.

“Good job, Margaret. You can do it. We’ve just gotta get to work and we’ll be fine. I know it’s slippery, but you can do it. We just gotta stay safe and we’ll be okay. Just keep going.”

Then I patted her dashboard. Repeat four or five times and you have our ride to work. We made it without incident. A little pep talk goes a long way!

And Jonathan thinks it’s silly to name your car.

Thankfulness?

Thanksgiving

This morning I heard that in five years, most stores will be open on Thanksgiving. I remember feeling sick to my stomach when stores started doing that last year. And not just because of the people who wouldn’t be able to spend what is perhaps the most family-focused holiday with their families (perhaps because it has nothing to do with getting stuff?). It’s the irony of it that makes me sick—a day intended for showing thankfulness has been turned into a day of greed.

One article I read quoted a Best Buy representative, who basically said they’re just giving customers what they obviously want. I would guess it has less to do with people wanting to shop on Thanksgiving and more to do with people wanting (and in some cases, needing) to save as much money as possible. So if the stores offer their best deals on Thanksgiving, that’s when they’ll to shop.

I recognize my thinking on that point may be a little naive—that want-to-save could easily be construed as greed in many situations. And there are people out there who would much rather be shopping on Thanksgiving than spending time with their families. (I can sympathize—it can be torture to spend holidays with a royally messed up family. Like Christmas the year my parents separated—we all got together on Christmas morning like nothing had changed, but it had. It may be one of the most awkward things I’ve ever experienced. And this year we’re going all the way to Michigan to see my family, but I don’t even know if we’re going to have a Thanksgiving dinner!) But that doesn’t change that Thanksgiving is meant to be a day to show thanks.

Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving an official holiday in 1863. Here’s part of his official declaration:

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

Part of me wonders if that’s the problem in our country. We’ve removed God from everything else—why not remove Him from Thanksgiving, too, even if it is a day set aside to offer “Thanksgiving and Praise to ourbeneficient Father.”To add to the irony, Lincoln also said,

I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for each singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union.

 So I won’t be shopping this Thanskgiving. Instead, I intend to spend the day thanking God for His many blessings, asking Him for forgiveness (for myself and my country), and begging Him to align America with His plan—‘cause I’m pretty sure buying more stuff (that will likely be broken in six months) instead of Thanking Him for what He’s already provided is not part of His plan.

Unknown No More (Kinda)

bridge

Awhile ago, I posted about some big changes that could be coming for me and Jonathan. Well, they came, and today I can finally tell you about them.

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downtown

Tomorrow morning, Jonathan starts a new job as the managing editor of a newspaper on the east side of the Twin Cities. (He’s still working for the same company, just a different paper and a different office.) And this Sunday, we’re making what feels like an awfully big move to be closer to his new office. (It’s not really that big—I’m keeping my job and we’re not changing churches, but the new place is at least half an hour from where we are now, and we don’t know the area at all.)

River

This has been a long time coming, and we’re excited (and a bit stressed) that it’s finally here. It’ll be a great opportunity for Jonathan and a bit of a “culture shock” for both of us. We really love our current location, and quite honestly, I’m really struggling with the move. Our new place is gorgeous, but it’s in a much more “rural” setting than where we are now. Being minutes from Uptown really has its perks, and I’m going to miss being able to get just about anywhere in two minutes.

courthouse Church

But all whining and worries aside, we’re both confident that God has been guiding us every step of the way, and we can’t wait to see what happens next. I’m excited about getting to know Jonathan’s new community and living in a more “rural” area.

farmersmarketsign farmersmarket

These pictures are from when we visited Jonathan’s new coverage area in August. Pictures of our new apartment will come after we get settled in. In the meantime, say a prayer for us. We’re having a few difficulties with the company that manages our current apartment and aren’t quite sure of the best way to handle it.

So if you don’t hear from me for awhile, it’s because I’m getting settled :)

I’m Thankful for . . .

I chose not to do the 30 days of thankfulness posts everyone else is doing this month because, let’s be honest, it wouldn’t happen. But I decided I can manage four daily posts, so consider this the first post in an almost-week of thankfulness.

I also decided to take a more serious look at things I’m thankful for. I’m going to skip over the easy ones, the blessings anyone could guess (my husband, my family, my friends, blah blah blah) and take time to thank God for the blessings He’s brought into my life that have been harder for me to recognize, the things He knew were for the best, even if I didn’t (and maybe still don’t) think so.

Today I’m thankful God asked me to give up my career dreams. It certainly hasn’t been an easy road (and I still have days when I hope maybe things will still work out the way I wanted), but when He asked me to let go of the plans I had for my own life, put down roots where He had me, and trust Him to use my skills for His glory, He knew what He was doing. And since then, some really cool things have happened—I took over leadership of a ministry at church, got my first paid freelance editing project, and realized how much I love the job I already have.

And to top it all off, the writing- and editing-related projects I’ve gotten to work on since letting go are more in line with the direction the publishing industry is heading. (So who knows what will happen next?) Not to mention God has used the whole thing to challenge  the pride and condecension I didn’t realize had a hold on my heart.

God really does have a plan for my life. Go figure.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. —Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)