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It’s day 7, Sunday, the end of my first week of unemployment, or self employment. At the beginning of Week 2, I’m not sure what name it deserves.

I wish I had a map for this journey. Next to my OREGON map would be my INCOME WITH SERENITY AND FLEXIBILITY map. That’s where I want to go, but I haven’t seen that map. I think I have to navigate to this destination on my own (always with God in my pocket). If you’re following this blog, use caution not to take anything too seriously. I’m not sure which turns I’ll take, except to consider each intersection carefully, looking both ways before I cross the street.

An important part of this experience is to confer with wise and experienced people. Some of those people are friends who have a ton of knowledge and experience in owning their own business or consulting businesses. I talked at length with one friend last week who helped me identify some things that caused me to adjust my plan. As I sat down to begin and write out a business plan, knots began forming in my stomach, and I thought, “Dang. This is hard.” I began to question everything, and wondered if it’s possible to reach the destination I’m seeking.

I thought the same thing as I realized how lonely I feel during the day. I miss my co-workers and the camaraderie I had with them. When I was working, I longed for some breaks when I wasn’t interrupted and could focus for more than five minutes on a task. Now I long for an interruption after I’ve worked five minutes on a task. I want it all. I recognize the discipline needed to stay focused, the creativity it will take to feed my spirit with the energy I get from others, and that all of this has to be intentional in order to co-exist. I mentioned this aspect of working at home to my neighbor who is an at home dad. He said he finds that he spends a little more time talking with the cashiers at Safeway than he used to. Nothing against the Safeway cashiers. I’ve been going to the same Safeway for over 20 years and I would miss them if I moved. But I’m determined to be intentional and use my creativity that doesn’t include the Safeway cashiers. And yet… isn’t it just great to connect with people? I think I love them.

It’s just been a week, so I’m doing my best to grant myself a break. I’m in this weird place of knowing I’m in this season by choice and I’m on a mission, but I want to enjoy it, too. Like I’m heading down the road, but feel guilty when I stop for an ice cream cone. I want to write, but feel guilty if I do that, and read my bible, and make a dinner for a friend, get my hair done, and ride my bike. I want to free myself of those guilt emotions and find peace as I enjoy life and earn a living.

I’m working to sort out those emotions, but I recognize how easy it is to slip into patterns that I could regret. It’s been really hard to get myself to bed in time to get myself up around 5, the time I used to get up when I reported for work at 6:30. On days I rode my bike, I got up between 4:30 and 5. Because of that schedule I’ve earned an undeserved reputation of being a morning person and self disciplined. When one behaves so responsibly, it’s hard to convince anyone otherwise, but the truth is that I am not a morning person or self disciplined. I am determined, and that’s what drives me. I love to be up, so I guess I have to get up. Once I’m up, I love mornings and the solitude or productivity a morning gives me. I love to be productive, so I must get myself to bed. But I could watch TV, read, write, work on my t-shirt and party accessories business all night if there were no consequences to doing that.

WEEK ONE was getting my feet wet. WEEK TWO is stepping in a little deeper, with a little more knowledge, and committing myself to improved behaviors that will push me closer to: INCOME WITH SERENITY AND FLEXIBILITY.

Below is what I was able to achieve last week toward my business idea:

  • Discussed business idea with a few friends and listened to feedback.
    • This was invaluable. The business idea is the same, but I believe I’ve refined it after a couple conversations.
  • Met with graphic designer (friend) about logo idea.
  • Contacted insurance about commercial insurance for my business and car.
    • I think insurance will legitimatize my business and give customers assurance that their assets are protected. Also, since I’ll be using my car for business, it’s important that I am protected if something were to happen in the course of a work activity. I don’t want gaps in my insurance. Most auto insurance doesn’t cover personal vehicles when they’re used for work activities, and when people use their vehicles for business and only carry personal insurance, they’re putting themselves at risk.
  • Researched how to write a business plan and began writing it.
    • I Googled this and am going through each of the sections. The first is the Executive Summary. As I go through each section, I’m prompted to sort through and make decisions about each area, for example, pricing, scheduling, etc.
  • Researched and signed up for a scheduling system. I signed up for G Suite, but am not confident that’s the way to go.
  • Worked on design ideas for Christmas products for sales.
    • I worked in my Silhouette for some Christmas ideas to sell and worked on a product for a friend.
  • Worked a Nike Offsite event.
    • This was such a treat. The company with whom I worked was such a pleasure. From the collaboration and exploration of how to achieve the end goal to working with the personnel at the event. I got home around 11, and I used that late job to justify getting to bed late and getting up late. I’ll take anything I can get to justify a sleep in!
  • Exchanged emails with a friend for a Day Of wedding coordinator in August.
  • Purchased a Legal Zoom membership.
  • Spoke with attorney (referred to through Legal Zoom) about an LLC and trademarking my business name.
    • I learned that an LLC is the way I want to go because it will separate the business from my personal assets and protect me.

Some things I did that were not work related:

  • Read the bible.
    • This makes getting to bed early(ish) worth it. I’m at Job in a whole bible reading plan. I’m in year 2. Yikes. I loved the exchange between Job and Zaphor. Zaphor thinks he has the answers for Job, and when you read what he has to say, it seems Zaphor does have some good answers. But Job puts Zaphor in his place and tells him to mind his own business. What joy to see that people are people, in today’s world, and before Jesus’s time.
  • Made a Bday dinner for a friend.
    • So fun to make a meal for a friend and enjoy the process.
  • Yardwork, made a small dent in cleaning out Bridgette’s old bedroom, rode my bike, walked Winky, talked with friends on the phone, put up some fall decorations, went on a couple of walks with friends, took car in for service, got hair cut and colored, football game and food prep for the tailgate, and… drumroll please, went to Chick-Fil-A for the first time… and now I know. The chicken strips were so moist and succulent and the lemon slushy thing is to die for. They squeeze their lemons every day!

I gotta tell you. The work stuff I did is the stuff that gives me knots in my stomach. It’s like turning down a gravel road without street lights. The other stuff are things with which I’m familiar, so no knots. But knots and all, I’m not giving up. If it’s like anything else, the more I experience it, the less scary it will be. I’m counting on street lights in my future.

Now, on to Week 2!

To read about what got me here, read My Unexpected Season.

As I sit here, rain pelts the roof and stormish clouds hover. It’s as if fall has bullied summer out. It’s forced its way in, impatient to wait for September 23rd, the date fall is in invited to join us with open arms, when we are inclined to invite it to stay awhile.

We have expectations of what each season will bring us, yet we are often hit with an unexpected weather change that causes us to wonder where our beloved specific season has left us. Prematurely, rain has replaced sunshine and blue skies have turned grey. I’m no stranger to the unexpected, and I find myself here again in my personal season. I’m startled by the change, but in moments where fear or anxiety tap on my shoulder, I fix my eyes on the bigger picture. I’m intrigued and find wonder in the way things can weave together so mysteriously. 

The end of summer and beginning of fall have always been hectic for me. Both kids’ birthdays are in the first week of September. When the kids were at home, we had the beginning of the new school year, which because of my work at a school, I now refer to affectionately as SY20XX. I’m big on abbreviations, but not acronyms for some reason. Anyway, add birthdays, the demands of the new SY and both kids playing a fall sport, and fall has always been a packed season. Bradley still plays football at a nearby college, and with working at a school, the intensity of the end of summer/beginning of fall persisted. This year I added something else to the mix: I left my school job on August 28th, and went to work for a new company on August 29th.

As soon as I got a breath, I imagined writing a post about the enthusiasm I had for the new career endeavor. I would have told you that on my first day, I was a bit embarrassed because I greeted my co-workers with a hug and held back tears. I’d left a solid job at the school and people I love, for a brand new profession, with the hopes (after several conversations) of a management position with the company. But for now, I took a substantial cut in pay. They wanted to try me out. Everything was so different all at once, and I think my body and spirit were more overwhelmed at it all than my mind was. It might have been putting on the brakes while I was doing my best to convince it that it would all be okay. I have a hard time deciphering between this thinking head of mine and my spirit who I like to think guides me.

I hope it’s not arrogance, yet maybe I’ve got some self reflecting to do on this topic. But because my work ethic and enthusiasm to learn are strong, I imagined I’d be moving up to management within a time frame my budget could tolerate (possibly supplemented with more t-shirt orders or signing up to be a Lyft driver). I also possess what some might consider an overdose of hope and peace.

You know that peace that surpasses all understanding that we’re promised in Philippians 4:7 and the hope we can count on in Hebrews 6? I think I scare my daughter with my hope and peace, and I sometimes wonder if I’m confusing it with ignorance or denial. I put it to the test though. If I were ignorant or in denial, I wouldn’t work so hard to achieve self sufficiency. I would throw caution to the wind and I would have flown to NY for my son’s away football game. I would splurge on spa treatments, buy cable, and be first in line to buy the new iPhone. I would take vacations!

I believe that I’m mostly aware of what I’m doing. I’m constantly talking to God, asking for guidance. I need input from others, and my bed partner Winky, doesn’t count.

Proverbs says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel…” so, I confer a lot with friends. They’re my partner substitutes. I pick and choose them sporadically to listen to my ideas, hoping not to overwhelm any one of them with everything that must be considered in one’s life. Then I make a decision, pray that God will bless it, and proceed. I have faith in that process, and in that, I find peace and hope. That means when things don’t work out the way I anticipate, I am not rocked. I’m planning my course, but like Proverbs 16:9 says, “the Lord establishes our steps.”

My dear friend who is not a Christian asked me the other day if I thought God is a puppeteer, orchestrating my moves. This is one of those moments that I wish my knowledge would allow me to spout off explanations about the mysteries of God. I love this friend and totally get what she’s asking, because I seek the answer to that question regularly. I do believe God is almighty and decides when the wind blows and the seas calm. And I also believe that he made the weather, and well, weather is weather, and if it rains in Portland, he lets it rain. This topic opens up a huge can of worms, and the biggest question a non Christian has is, “Why would God choose to save one child and not another?” My friend, in essence, asked that very question. I have to tell her that I don’t know. But what I do know is that he’s real. That he’s God. That he loves me, and that he is faithful to me. I also want her to read, The Reason for God, by Timothy Keller. He has the answers! I have it cued to listen to it again.

I can say this because God’s faithfulness to me is not a wand he points in my direction and grants me a charmed life. His faithfulness shows up in my heart, in my peace and my hope, in spite of anything but a charmed life, where hardly anything is what I thought it would be or what I would choose it to be, except that I am fully and joyfully at peace.

 

Joyfully I commuted to my new job, reveling in the newness of it all. The commute where for 30 or so minutes I got to pray or listen to Catholic radio or to a current book (I just finished “Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown: Five stars!). It was blissful car time that I’d never have anticipated tolerating, let alone enjoy. But what’s not to enjoy with a view of Portland on both sides of the Markham bridge as I moved with all my new car friends? As I turned the corner off the bridge, old buildings covered in graffiti and railroad tracks and trains that stop traffic several times a day surrounded me. The city is pumping the economy and I’m part of it. I loved it!

The new job however wasn’t as exhilarating as the commute. My eyes were opened to the back house of a staging company where the employees work incredibly hard to create a stunning ambience that will appeal to potential buyers. The first week I was both in awe and physically exhausted. Into week two, I’d discovered how to manage the job so I was contributing more by packing, unpacking, and placing items, rather than lifting bins. The team encouraged this strategy, as they know the toll on the body. I was beginning to get the hang of it all and saw a potential rhythm I would enjoy. But somewhere in the two weeks something unconnected to the physical work wasn’t lining up.

After much thought, reflection, prayer, and some conversations, I came to the conclusion to give my notice. Again, I put my process in place and made a decision. I can’t say I know where God fits into these specific steps, but I felt solid going into the job, and while disappointed, I felt solid leaving.

Suddenly the season that I’d anticipated had switched gears. Of course I considered waiting it out. There’s a really good chance things would have worked out. But at this time in my life, I wanted more control. I’d left my school job for more opportunity and I wasn’t feeling confident that this was going to be it. As I sought a solution to the confusion about the job, I wondered what I could do, where I would work, what can I offer? I was reminded of something I do well, which is to juggle things. Maybe it’s from the years of restaurant work or from being an oldest child taking care of my younger brothers and sister, or my foster siblings. I’ve been in charge and juggling my whole life. Maybe this is what I have to offer!

So, with the decision to leave my job, I am forging ahead with a new plan. While in traffic on my way home from church on Sunday I came up with a business idea and name I love! I’m not yet sharing the name on social media until I research a trademark. I conferred with a Legal Zoom attorney yesterday. Which, BTW, I am so far, impressed with Legal Zoom! My concept is that I will be a source for those who need help juggling the tasks and demands of their life. We’re all stretched so thin, and I will be the one you call to fill in the gaps. Need gifts picked up and wrapped? Call me. Need your house spiffed up for company and the table set? Call me. Need a “Day Of” wedding coordinator? Call me. More to come, but that’s the gist.

I hope to incorporate more blogging into my new effort as well, so you if you follow me, you can move from one season into the next with me, and witness how I manage the clouds, knowing the blue skies are not far behind.

H A P P Y  F A L L !

I saw a darling t-shirt advertised the other day. It said, “BLESSED MAMA.” These days I notice t-shirts like I smell steak on a grill. Since my motto is, “the redder, the better,” you can imagine how I can sniff out a t-shirt like a backyard BBQ. I see t-shirts walking down the street or sitting at a cafe table and I try to figure out if it’s sublimation or HTV. I analyze how far down from the neck it starts, how much shirt space is used, and what kind of material it is. My skills as private t-shirt investigator do need to improve so people don’t mistake me for staring at their chests, or breasts.

Everything I am has been influenced by my role as a mom. It’s been a privilege to navigate this life with two people who drove my decisions, and when decisions went sideways, knowing they needed me to be their compass gave me cause to redirect. It’s an awesome assignment that I chose to accept. What choices would I have made were it not for these two lives who depended on someone to nourish their body, spirit, and soul?

I might be living life in NYC working for Everlane. I’d wake up, have coffee while doing a devotional, ride my bike through the city to work. I’d stay until 5, get a drink with a friend, go to the Columbia University talk on “Why Curbside Recycling isn’t Working” (or in my ideal world, I’d present), get home in time to read a chapter in Anne Lamott’s latest book, practice for the part I’m hoping to get in the new Off Broadway rendition of Legally Blonde that has been opened up to people who have never acted before, then snuggle in my clean sheets (that do not include Winky hair), and dream of my upcoming trip to Paris.

That sounds incredible! But while today I can imagine making choices that would lead me to that life, I don’t think I could have imagined anything like that in my early thirties. At age 34 when I got married I don’t remember any aspirations. I assume I sought happiness, but outside of that, I had no tangible goals or ideals. I lived day to day with a survivor mentality and good work ethic and I plodded along, hoping someone would fall in love with me. I loved God, but for several years I had abandoned walking with him. My decisions were only influenced by what felt good and seemed right enough at the time.

Someone did fall in love with me. We got married and two years later we had Bridgey and two years after that, Bradley. Instantly what once felt right or good enough, wasn’t good enough. Decisions took on more weight and relevance and impacted our children and their well being. When I was pregnant most everyone who was pregnant read a book called “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” It gave explanation to euphoria, vomiting, pickles and ice cream, swelling, and everything in between during this 9 month metamorphosis. Everyone read it (or rather, referred to it) because our bodies are fundamentally the same and there is a predictability in the pregnancy experience. But there was no one book called, “What to Expect When You’re a Parent.” Instead, there are more books on parenting than there are stars in the sky. No two families are alike, so there are many theories, angles, philosophies, and strategies.

I took this new role seriously, but felt I was stumbling along like a blind person. I touched my way through, anticipating a final destination. I’d find my way out, filled with relief and joy, but then discovered there was another door to go through. Tap here, try this, test that, stumble, scrape, and crash. Then another door, and another, and another.

If I had imagined raising my kids on my own, you couldn’t have dragged me through that door. Yet when I was faced with it, unknowingly, Bridgette and Bradley pulled me through it. These two souls who I longed to foster into the best they could be, regardless of what door, house, or circumstance they faced, created in me courage and determination to transform me into the best I can be.

I’m a blessed mama. I love you two!

 

Side Note: My alter self isn’t opposed to that life in NYC. You never know. I could get that job at Everlane!

Dear God, I thank you for this day in Portland, Oregon. The sky is clear; it’s crisp and strikingly beautiful. I thank you for the comfort of my home.

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I embrace this new year with enthusiasm and excitement. In this morning it’s easy to do.  A new 2015 is on the immediate horizon. Even with my enthusiasm for what’s ahead, I am aware that the realities of the new schedule will be different than what I’ve been living. The differences remain to be seen, and in some ways, I welcome what I imagine to be more predictable, even if rigid. I pray that you walk with me this year as I become fully enveloped in my new job, even on those days when it’s ordinary and mundane, strenuous and frustrating.

I pray Lord that I will walk in your will, every day. I recognize the impossibility of that, but it’s my desire, nonetheless. I ask that your Holy Spirit would speak to me when I’m out of your will, and that I would correct before I make mistakes that are difficult to adjust, especially when they affect other people. I pray Lord that my heart for people would be your heart. That I would see them through your eyes, accepting their faults and aware of my own, and that ultimately, I wouldn’t spend any time at all on anyone’s faults. This is why I pray; I know myself well.

I pray Lord that you will give this old mind the ability to learn things that don’t come easy to me. Insurance and numbers have never been easy for me. But you gave me this job, so I trust you know something about me that I do not.  I ask that you would give me clarity and comprehension, and that like a sponge I would absorb information that will help me in being the best I can be in my job.  I pray that my information would be used to improve others’ lives. That it would be helpful and valuable, and that it would all work together for your good, my well being, and financial security.

I pray that my new relationships will be meaningful and that while I’m working full time, my old relationships will remain strong and lifelong.

I pray for my children’s well being while I am gone for a 40 hour work week. That when I am unable to help them, our history will emerge and wisdom will be on their side. That the effort of the past will be fruit for their future, and that they will thrive in your will and your Holy Spirit will be their guide.

I pray for the dogs, that they will be happy and find a way to entertain themselves, so that I am not spending my time doing that when I come home. I pray that they learn to use the doggie door and that they use it to go out and relieve themselves, and that in the process they remain in our yard, and safe.

I pray that I’m disciplined and return to good eating habits and that my bad habits don’t linger into Valentine’s Day, or any other excuse I can find to eat a good or bad meal, or snacks, or samples at Costco.

I pray that in the midst of my job, I can continue to build a home where at the end of the day, it’s where I most want to be, and that ultimately, others also enjoy spending time. I pray that I am able to continue the small things that will add to my skill set and professional value, such as Spanish. In that, I include my blog; where that fits, I don’t know, but I ask you Lord that I can continue it, unless I discover I no longer enjoy it.

I ask you Lord that your Holy Spirit will guide me in my schedule. That I will make time for reading your word first thing in the morning, time for prayer, and for exercise.  That my first priority is to feed my soul with your words, and that I will provide for my body what it needs to stay strong and live a long life, God willing.

Lord, as I say this prayer, I am reminded of a million things that I could ask you for.  Time for good meals, my kids’ activities, discipline in getting to bed early, so I can get up early. I praise you every time I get out of bed, because as much as I love the day when I get going, I love my bed when I’m in it. Transitions are hard, and that transition is included.

You are my strength. In you, I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.  I understand Lord that I will fall short of my earthly aspirations. I ask Lord that you will keep me grounded and I ask that my perspective will be what is important to you.  My human nature will seek to accomplish it all, but I ask you Lord to bless me with your nature. I pray Lord that my life in 2015 will glorify you.

I am excited for 2015. My hope comes from you. You have been my provider and will continue to provide according to your will for my life. I thank you Lord for 2014. It was hard, good, and I (we) walked it with you. I ask Lord that we continue into 2015 in the same way, and that each step is a step closer to victory, whatever that looks like.

I love you.

Amen