9:30 pm. I was pacing back and forth in front of my coater. It was running smoothly and didn’t require my attention. Nothing to do but think. My chest ached. My heart was heavy because there was nothing I could do to alleviate the conflict that was swirling around me. I wanted to pray but my words had run out. So I leaned against the warm glass of the coater’s door and stared at the tablets rushing past, and said “Lord, you can fill in the blanks.”
The day was in wreckage. I’d melted down at job #1 that morning, and biked home in tears. I’d gotten myself together in time to go to job #2, and now there was friction and hurt between my friends. My mind was too full. I’d pushed myself to breaking. I was spent.
But CTP-10 wasn’t out of God’s reach. The concrete ceiling couldn’t keep my prayers, nor my songs from reaching him. Thus, as I prayed and sang, my stark process room was God’s temple, and his presence brought me peace. He is the constant, the anchor.
“You are the calm in the center of my storm. When the cold winds blow, you’re the fire that keeps me warm. When this old world gets me down, I will rest inside your arms. You are the calm in the center of my storm” (Paul Overstreet).
I’m a vain, vain soul. I know this because of the inordinate amount of time I spent staring at my purple fish-scale pants when I should have been paying attention to the pastor this morning. And yesterday my coworker teased me that every time she turned around I had my scarf arranged differently. And that would have been almost true.
I can buy new clothes every month and still not have enough. I can fix up my hair (which never falls perfectly even if I’m trying) and do my makeup, wear my most stylish outfit, strut around like a peacock, and feel like I’m really quite a spectacle—and that’s not enough.
And it isn’t enough. All the outer trimmings can’t make me truly beautiful.
The Apostle Peter said, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1).
Someone once told me a story about a woman I know. This lady was working at a summer camp, and, as a grandmotherly woman, went to one of the girls’ cabins at bedtime to say goodnight to the girls, tell them stories and pray with them. As she gave out goodnight hugs, one of the girls said to her ‘you are the ugliest lady I ever saw’.
I was taken aback when I heard this. Ugly? The thought of this lady being ugly had never occurred to me. If I thought about it, I could reason that perhaps she wasn’t going to be on the cover of a beauty magazine. But ugly? Never. This woman, who is very dear to me, is a constant positive, smiling, encouraging presence. She has the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.
I was convicted today, while gazing down at my purple pants, that I spend far too much time and energy on my outward appearance, and far too little on my inward appearance.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (2) and “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (3).
I’ve been praying for God to graciously show me the selfishness and hardness in my heart, and clearly this is one such example. I pray that as I know him more, this self-absorption that keeps my eyes on the mirror and on my purple pants, will dissipate, and leave behind the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
(1) 1 Peter 3:3-4, New International Version
(2) Proverbs 4:23, New International Version
(3) Luke 6:45, New International Version
And I don’t mean waiting in line, or for the microwave to finish. Actually, due to my Twitter app, Facebook app, WordPress app, and Kindle app, I can pass my line-waiting time in productive bliss. It’s the unproductive waiting I abhor.
And that is what my day was all about. Lemme ‘splain.
When I arrived at work I was given a coating assignment, but the coating pan was awaiting a post-cleaning swab so I had to wait. It was eight. The swab was scheduled for ten. I accomplished every small job I could think of, which took fifteen minutes. After waiting, and deliberating, it was decided that my two coworkers and I would make a suspension. But, just as we were ready to begin, it was discovered that one of our mixers was broken.
A mechanic was summoned. There was nothing else to do. Everything was set up. The instructions were read and reread. So we waited for his arrival, and we waited as he tinkered.
The mixer was pronounced serviceable, but the supervisor required consulting. I waited for the supervisor to be consulted.
Seems I would have made as much progress if I’d stayed home.
Ah, but what else could you do but wait? You may ask.
I have no idea. I asked my coach if I could do something. I tried to spur my coworkers along. Nothing worked. I was guilt-stricken, because I was raised to work hard and waiting doesn’t constitute of working hard unless one has a Kindle app to read furiously on. I felt like a slacker, because I was being paid good money to stand there.
Maybe I should have tried harder. Maybe I could have, I dunno, swept the floor or something.
Or, maybe, I just needed to wait, and when the time came, be faithful with my work.
I liken this to my life as a whole. I work hard—I set goals, I read, I write, I network. Yet things don’t seem to change. So I work harder! I obsess over what I’m doing wrong. I feel guilty.
But what If I need to wait? What if I need to be still? What if, by my very attempts at busyness, I miss the point?
Perhaps I need to be diligent in my work, and wait, trusting that my Heavenly Father shall work all things out in his time?
I hit the wall tonight. Maybe it was triggered when I took apart my coating machine, cleaned it and put it together again only to have it not work. Six hours of work down the drain. Perhaps it was the politicking of my coworkers. Or, maybe I’m just tired. But I took a nosedive. Energy: gone. Tear ducts: primed and ready.
I’ve been flying high for a few weeks now—working hard, making changes, learning, and having fun. But today I read my sheet of goals, looked at my bank records, saw the year ticking away, and realized that I was no where near where I wanted to be.
Keeping score on myself sucks.
Before I kept score I thought I was doing pretty good—above average for sure, Maybe even great. And now I’m horrible.
I’m nowhere near hitting my goals for the month. I don’t know what I was thinking when I set them—obviously I didn’t think I was going to plateau/get stuck on almost EVERYTHING.
And who decided I should set a budget? Damn it, I’m going to keep this budget if it kills me, and it just might. I had no idea I was wasting so much money!
There isn’t enough time to read all the books I want to read AND write AND network on social media AND keep up the housework (though I wouldn’t mind letting that go…).
I’m eating healthier but I’m still fat. I’m saving money but I still can’t afford a car, and winter is coming fast–can’t ride the bike then, not in Manitoba. I’m improving at my job, but I’m still a long way from competency. I might have been able to catch the mechanical error tonight, but I wasn’t confident in what I was doing.
Well, I DON’T give up.
By the grace of God, tomorrow will be a new day. I am reminded that, first, it has always been in my lowest moments that God has provided for me in the biggest ways. This isn’t the first time I’ve thought I was a lost cause. Second, I don’t have to get my life together immediately. It would be rather nauseating for y’all if I did.
This life is a work in progress. Have I done my best? YES. I have never done better than now. Well, then there is no more to ask of myself. It’s probably time to take a break, relax and rest up. So, with that, I’m going to bed.
I spent the week coating antidepressants, ’cause that’s my job.
Yesterday, I watched the waterfall of 800,000 tablets rush past, and thought about how messed up this was. In the last two weeks I coated literally millions of antidepressants for North American consumers.
According to Harvard Health contributor, Peter Wehrwein, “The federal government’s health statisticians figure that about one in every 10 Americans takes an antidepressant. And by their reckoning, antidepressants were the third most common prescription medication taken by Americans in 2005–2008, the latest period during which the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) collected data on prescription drug use.”
There must be a root cause. I recognize that depression is sometimes due to physical and chemical factors. There is a history of depression and other mental illness in my family. I went through a period of depression and emotional instability in my mid-teens, which I attribute to chemical and hormonal causes.
However, I struggled with depression this spring, and after discussing it with a medical professional, tracking what triggered it, and eliminating factors, I realized it was not chemical. It was situational–caused by stress and discouragement in the workplace. I don’t doubt many of those who suffer from depression are also suffering from situational depression. It is serious. It can’t be just ‘snapped out of’. For me it took changes in lifestyle, a support-system of friends and family, faith in God, and just plain healing. Many people do not have those options.
So, what to do? I’m not content to just continue coating antidepressants.
I’ll be honest, I believe one root cause of depression is isolation and directionlessness caused by a broken relationship with Jesus Christ. Depression pushed me to lean on God. This gave me the strength to find a way out.
But I know many of you do not believe the same way.
Today, as I washed my heaps and heaps of dishes and listened to a sermon by Pastor Mark Driscoll, I was reminded of the need to be an encourager. People spend their days in negative, being thumped by work, thumped by their family circumstances, thumped by their finances. Then they turn on the TV and the news thumps them some more. Jeepers! That’s hard on the system. The least I can do is bring some positive into their life–listen to them, complement them, point out the good in them. A little encouragement won’t solve their problems, but it sure lifts the spirits.
Maybe my encouraging words could make one or two of those antidepressants unnecessary. I’m not gifted in encouragement, but I’m going to step it up. I invite you to do the same.
I can think of encouraging words that changed my life, for instance, when my voice teacher told me I could actually sing. Up till that point I thought I had a bad voice.What are some encouraging words that have stuck with you over the years?
Whenever you run away
Whenever you lose your faith
It’s just another stroke of
The pen on the page
A lonely ray of hope
Is all that you need to see
A beautiful history
I went through the valley this spring. It began with stress at work caused by underperformance and some relational issues there. Fear multiplied mistakes, and mistakes multiplied relational strain. It got to a point that I would be sick to my stomach at work and depressed at home. Finally I quit the job (or was voluntarily terminated, depending how you look at it). I left with a lot of anger and bitterness in my heart. Some might say it was justified, but I’m not proud of how long it’s taken to forgive.
I floundered for five weeks, searching for work and not finding it, trying to make sense of what happened, trying to find things to do with myself, trying to find casual work to pay the bills. How do you write a compelling resume or sell yourself at an interview when you’ve royally screwed up the last job? It seemed no one wanted me, or that’s what I told myself.
You shouldn’t always listen to what you tell yourself, by the way.
Then things seemed to fall into place. I had a couple interviews. I found a part-time job. I got some temporary work. I was offered a summer job.
Yet it was confusing. Of the two interviews, I was certain both would offer me a job. I negotiated time to wait with the summer job. Of the two jobs, one was for an egg packing company at minimum wage and bad hours. The other was at a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant with good hours and good pay. I really wanted that one, but they wouldn’t give me an answer. I prayed and asked for advice, and decided to turn down the egg job.
They called and offered. I turned them down. I bawled my eyes out. Here had been a job at my fingertips and I had turned it down? “Am I crazy?” I wailed, pacing around in my apartment. “God, you led me here. Don’t let me down now.”
And then I had my accident, which I chronicled in The Funny Version. And there I was laid up, unable to work. I remember lying on the stretcher in the hospital and going “God, what are you doing? What are you doing?”
Paying my bills was what He was doing.
Within a short time I had money from workers compensation, and the paycheque from the temp job. Suddenly my rent and my credit card bills were paid. I was in pain and I was functionally useless, but I was taken care of. I was also employed. About a week after my accident, while I was visiting with my Grandma, I was called and hired for the job I’d wanted. Start date, about a month after. I also spoke to my boss at the temporary job and he said I could come back to work until the new job started.
I just had to get well, and that took about three weeks.
My friend Amanda and I recently reminisced about when we’d worked together at the job I quit—the one where I’d been sick and depressed. I opened up to her about what had happened to me at that job. Our experiences there were very different, but neither of us work there anymore.
“But if we hadn’t worked there we wouldn’t have met,” she said. And that’s true. I gained a dear friend from that job I messed up.
After Amanda and I parted ways, I gave it some more thought and realized there were a few big perks to losing that job. For instance, I was able to get a part time job at a clothing store. I really enjoy that job, but I also get great discounts on clothes. I love fashion, but after a couple years of college, a low-paying job, and unemployment, my wardrobe was quite depleted. Now it’s… not.
And the other job is much better paying and has benefits—I cringe when I say that because it sounds so middle class and mediocre and apathetic, but when you need a grand in dental work… And this job has plenty of room for me to grow into it.
And, I’ve gained new friends at the places I work.
And I had time to start a blog while I was unemployed, which is my pride and joy.
And I learned about communication, honesty and clarifying expectations.
I am hesitant to get too optimistic, because I was really optimistic about the old job and it turned out to be hell on earth. I grieve for my loss of trust and loss of relationships. But I trust that as I go forward, I will see how these speed bumps and spike strips on the road were pushing me toward something better.
I’ll look back and see my beautiful history.
By the way, I’m not saying all of this to make you feel sorry for me. I’m trying to tell you that God’s been good to me, and all that I’ve gone through (which is minor compared to what some have experienced) has been used to make me a stronger person, and to increase my faith. I hope that this account is an encouragement to you.
“Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway” -John Wayne.
I discovered something odd about myself the other day. I examined other test subjects (coworkers, I mean) and found a similar phenomenon among them.
I am well aware that my life contains comfort zones. We all have them—protective bubbles of familiar tasks, people, places and viewpoints. What I hadn’t considered was that comfort zones might contain uncomfortable things.
I just completed a training program for a job at a large manufacturing facility. For two weeks I sat through presentations and worked in a lab. But the bulk of our time was spent reading Standard Operation Procedures (SOP’s). These give step-by-step instructions for every mundane detail of factory life—all in highly technical language. Often they were for machines or procedures I had never heard of.
I’m sure you can imagine how ‘exciting’ that was.
The odd thing was that because I was afraid to go work on the plant floor, which was part of the program, I began to look forward to the safety of SOP reading. There were no new people. There were no surprises—just me and the other two girls. Boring as heck, but comfortable (the SOP’s, not the girls).
Pathetic, right? It makes me wonder what other circumstances I’m accepting in life—boring, unedifying or harmful as they are—because they’re comfortable. Maybe it’s unpleasant but it’s familiar unpleasantness. Like: “Oh, I don’t mind living paycheque to paycheque. At least my bills are paid.” Or “I don’t mind being fat. I dress well so I still look good.”
It may be fear, apathy or plain laziness. But whatever my reason for staying in the comfort zone, once the pain of staying there becomes greater than the pain of changing, I’ll change. Hence, the second job. And often you won’t be able to stay in that zone forever. My employer sure didn’t let me stay in training. I’m on the plant floor now, like it or not.
So if our comfort zones are actually uncomfortable, and if others might force us out of them anyway, shouldn’t we root out these little islands of complacency ourselves? Or, if you’re a person of faith, why not let God work on these parts of our lives instead of dragging our heels?
Just a little something to think about. I’ll be thinking about it too–as I’m working on the plant floor.
Monday is goal-setting day for me. List writing day.
It’s an efficiency thing for me. I’m a scatterbrain and, thus, if I do not write down what I need to accomplish I don’t get much done. So every Monday at breakfast I write down the to-do list for the week.
Clean the bathroom. Post to blog/Facebook/Twitter. Make dentist appointment.
Then there are the goals–write 8 hours a week (laugh if you want, but that’s hard for me), eat 5 fruits and veggies each day, exercise three hours. These are accompanied by little circles or boxes that can be checked off to show how much I’ve done. These are matched up against my monthly goals–writing word count, fitness goals, financial goals, books to read, etc.
Well, yesterday I didn’t have time at breakfast to write my list. I recently started a new job, and my world is in shambles. My schedule is in uproar. I’m learning new things. I’m meeting new people. By the time I get home my brain is tired. Oh, and then I turn around and go to my other job.
I’m not an overachiever, I’m just poor.
I know that some people are far more busy than me. I know. But right now I feel like I’m up to my neck. I could push myself to be more efficient, and I will, but… On Sunday I was challenged to learn to be still and silent–to take time to get away from my tasks and be quiet. How counterintuitive! How ridiculous! I am BUSY here!
But, as I was told, love and busyness are incompatible. How do you build a relationship in a hurry? How do you build a masterpiece in a hurry? And that is what I am seeking to do: to love God and to build my life into a masterpiece.
So, here is the challenge that went onto my to-do list (once I wrote it, on break at work). I will be still and silent for 10 minutes every day. I will take time to just be. And y’know… I think it might be what saves my sanity, and what gives me the strength to plug away at the to-do list.
I challenge you to do the same thing: take ten minutes to sit, drink coffee, think, meditate, or pray. Let me know what happens. And, if you have any books or articles on the subject you think I’d find helpful, please comment.
The glory days. I hear people talk about them. I hear songs about them. The year they won the big game, traveled to Europe, graduated from college, got married. Those were the best days of their life.
I find that sad. The best days? Already passed?
I have this picture on my desktop of my sister and I canoeing, taken by my Mom at the front. It reminds me of the fun I’ve already had this year, and that I’ll be working 50, 55 hours a week. Not much time left for fun. I fear that the best days of the summer have already passed.
Time is an odd thing, so easily spent. I just finished a month and a half of unemployment–a long span of time with no job, or not much of one. You think it would be great, right? I could get so much done.
Yeah… not really.
I tried, honest I did. I set my alarm so I wouldn’t sleep away my morning. I pegged things off my to-do list. I wrote (a little). I visited family and friends. And all that time, all I wanted was a job.
And I’m two weeks into working full time now. My apartment is a royal mess ’cause I just have time for essentials. Now I work all day and look forward to going home. I’d love to have another week off.
Oh the irony.
So, I spend my days trying to get to the next thing. Days become weeks, weeks become years. I’m young, but I already look back and wonder where the years have gone. And did I do anything with them? What do I have to show for it?
How do I make my time count? How do I not waste what I have? How do I make every year one of the best years of my life?
Well, I haven’t figured that out. I’m not a guru.
But here’s my guess: I need to know where I’m going. I need to ‘begin with the end in mind’ as Stephen Covey says. I’m just starting to figure that out.
As a person of faith, I believe I have been made for a purpose, and I have been tailor made (gifts, body, temperament, everything) for that purpose. You may not believe the same way. Whatever the case, I urge you to examine what you believe and why you believe it. Examine your values. What do you love? What is most important to you? If you are a Christian, I urge you to contemplate if your values line up with God’s values.
Write these values down, and start planning your life accordingly. Purpose streamlines focus.
But, of course, it takes a healthy dose of discipline to carry out that purpose, and that’s where I fell short.
I started writing this article on my lunch break three weeks ago. That afternoon I was in an accident (detailed in ). Suddenly I was laid up for three weeks.
So, I got a second go, and I’m happy to say I did a lot better this go ’round. I set to work on this blog. I wrote. I visited my Grandma. I studied. I read. I went fishing. Not all my time was spent on those things. I also watched TV. But, I made progress.
These days I’m exhausted from the shock of working a physical job after being laid up so long. But I’m also riding a buzz of excitement. I might be onto something.
So tell me, what are you doing to make your days count?