A Lesson from a Week of Making Antidepressants

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?



What Algebra Taught Me (and I don’t mean math)

Motivation doesn’t generally start in tenth grade Algebra. The word Algebra doesn’t reek of motivational powers, if you know what I mean. But, that is where I learned an effective way of lighting a fire under my seat: prizes.

Yes, prizes. Lemme ‘splain.

I was homeschooled, so by nature all my schoolwork was homework. Math homework was a three to four hour process every day. I wasn’t that great at it, and by the time the second hour rolled around my brain was shot and my tear ducts were working overtime. My Mom, in an attempt to keep sane and keep her daughter on the path to academic success, suggested a concept she’d read about. It was called ‘sprints’—breaking up a task into shorter bits and assigning a time limit to them. For instance, I had one hour to complete ten math problems. To create more motivation, she encouraged me to add a ‘prize’ for winning or a ‘punishment’ for losing. For instance, Mom recalls that one day I missed a goal so I had to drink nothing but water for the rest of the day. I also bribed myself with canned drinks—an hour for ten problems, and then a canned drink to enjoy while I finished the rest. Turns out, I’m a five-year-old when it comes to motivation.

It seems rather silly—using prizes or punishments to motivate myself—but it was quite effective, and I still use that method today. For the last two months I’ve been setting time goals for my writing. I must write eight hours every week. On my weekly to-do list I draw sixteen circles representing half-hour intervals and fill them in as I accomplish them. And every week I set a prize for myself.

If that week I’m craving ice cream, or I want to rent a season of TV shows, or I want a pair of earrings, I don’t buy them. Rather, I say ‘okay, if I succeed in writing eight hours, I’ll rent Sherlock’. If I don’t meet the goal, I don’t get the prize. And that’s happened quite a few times. Its an effective money saving tool too.

Last week I tried on a cute shirt off a sale rack at work, but I didn’t buy it. I put it on hold. I wrote this post to finish off my last half hour for my writing goal. The previous morning I still had five hours to write–it had been a busy week, and my family was spending the weekend at the lake. But, once they went to bed, I stayed up past midnight writing, and then wrote in the vehicle on the way home from the cabin. I wanted that shirt.

I can’t make winning too easy on myself. This week I changed it up, and set a ‘prize goal’ on two fitness goals for the week. If I meet them both, I get the prize.

I also don’t set prize goals on everything. That would be far too expensive, since I set weekly goals in three or four different categories of my life, and monthly goals in eight different categories.

I’m sure this method wouldn’t motivate everyone; I’m just throwing out an idea. The point is to find something that drives you toward your goals and dreams.

I’ve heard it said that people won’t lift a finger for their dreams, but they’ll work hard if they get to play laser tag. I guess sometimes the overarching goal is just too big. The task has to be broken down into bites, each with its own motivation. I learned that from Algebra.

My Beautiful History

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.

Wouldn’t you?

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.

A Peculiar Thing Called a Comfort Zone

“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.

Lemme ‘splain.

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.”

Geez, Geralyn!

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.

Can I be Still?


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 Best Days of My Life


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.

Sweet irony.

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?

No Stupid Questions? Oh Yes There Is.


I’ve been told there’s no such thing as a stupid question. And I suppose that’s true, at least in spirit. What they meant was “If you don’t know, ask. Don’t blunder along in the dark.” And trust me, I’ve done far too much blundering. It takes a certain humility to learn—the humility to admit you don’t know everything. But, there really is such a thing as a stupid question. Lemme ‘splain.

This not a stupid question:

At a previous workplace, a meat shop, I was tidying the store when a well-dressed gentleman walked in.

“Can I help you?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “Could you tell me what a heritigeebuseeness is?”

My mouth opened and shut. “Pardon me?”

“A heritigeebuseeness.”

I guessed by the accent that he was new in town. I really didn’t want to embarrass the guy, but I hadn’t the foggiest idea what he was talking about.

Be cool, Geralyn. You’re a professional.

“Um, I’m not sure if I understand,” I began. “Could you explain what you mean?”

“The sign outside the door says heritigeebuseeness. What does that mean?”

I looked up into his eyes, gripped my broom and wracked my brain. The sign. The sign. Oh! The plaque outside the door! “You mean a heritage business? Oh yes, that means that this building is very old, built in 1914 I think. It used to be a bookstore.”

“Ahh.” He nodded and smiled and took his leave.

That is not a stupid question. He didn’t know. How else would he know if he didn’t ask?

But this is a stupid question—one I had to answer twenty times a day. “Is your boss busy?”

Umm… self-evident.

Trumped only by: “Is your boss tied up right now?”

It was the mayor of my small town who asked me this and, being an ass, I replied “No sir, we don’t make a practice of tying him up.”

But I think my favorite dumb question came from a middle-aged fellow who came in one afternoon with his teenage daughter. I did my thing, asking “is there anything I can help you find?” And he said:

“Which of these cheap roasts can you cut into nice steaks?”

I blinked.

To make a nice steak out of a cheap roast takes either a) serious cooking skills or b) magic. Basically, you get what you pay for. I looked at the assortment of rump roasts and cross ribs. “You mean for barbequing?”

“Yeah. The lady at the grocery store cut up a roast for me into nice steaks—a cheap roast.”

Well, good for her. “Do you remember what it was called?”


“Well, nothing I have here really cuts into nice steaks. I suppose we could cut a top-sirloin for you. That’s probably the cheapest option. But I have some nice sirloin steaks right here.” I pulled a couple from the cooler.

He shook his head vigorously. “No! I want you to get me a roast and cut it into steaks.”

“But it would be the same thing.”

“But a roast is cheaper.”

“I can’t do that.”

The guy looked at his teenage daughter. “What a little shit.”

Steam threatened to blow from of my ears. First he tried to con me into selling him good meat for cheap and now he was calling me names!

Be cool, Geralyn. You’re a professional.

I decided to appeal to a higher power. “Let me ask the butcher.” Henry happened to be nearby so I told him what this guy was looking for.

“Hmm…” Henry strode out into the storefront. “Well, we could cut you a top sirloin, but we have these nice sirloin steaks right here.”

The customer crossed his arms. “No, I want a roast cut into steaks.”

“But we’d just charge you the steak price, so why don’t you…”

“They did it for me at the grocery store.”

Henry stood his ground. “Well, I can’t.”

So, out went the man with his daughter trailing behind him. I felt vindicated, and I never saw that guy again.

The way I see it, the question is only as stupid as the attitude behind it. If you genuinely want to learn then there really isn’t a stupid question. However, if you ask a question, you need to be ready to accept the answer. I’ve caught myself doing this before. I belong to a writing group and when we meet, we critique each other’s work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to a critique and gone “yeah, whatever”. As Jerry Harteis says, “Of all the opinions I like mine best.”

Now that is dumb. I know I can’t please everyone, but if I’m going to discard critiques because I don’t like them, then why am I wasting time with a writing group? Learning requires humility.

Its not as if we should blindly accept the answers we’re given.  We must compare the answer given to the results of the answerer. If they’re a hundred grand in debt and living paycheque to paycheque, I wouldn’t take their financial advice, know what I mean? But if the results they have back up their answer, I’d better give it serious consideration.

So, I suppose, it’s worth displaying a little ignorance now and then. But keep in mind: there really such a thing as a stupid question.

I’d love to hear from you. What’s a stupid question you’ve been asked?

Three Reasons Why You Should Study History

I’ve loved history as long as I can remember, so I can’t really understand this: “History is boring”, or “History is irrelevant” or “Studying history is so hard—I can’t remember the dates.”

Actually, I can’t remember the dates either, but anyway…

It seems that history is taught as an esoteric list of dates and names of dead people, battles, kings and other irrelevant things. That’s a shame. Chris Brady said that this is like “giving you an ice cream sandwich that you spit out because you don’t like the taste of the paper. If no one unwrapped it properly for you, or taught you to do it for yourself, you might be stuck your whole life thinking ice cream sandwiches taste like paper”.

And many people I know were handed wrapped ice cream sandwiches. They left it wrapped, set it on the shelf, or took a bite and threw it out. And once you’ve tossed it or shelved it, why would you pick it up again?

But I’m telling you, if you threw out history the moment you left high school, you’ve severely short-changed yourself. Lemme ‘splain.

1. History shows us why we think what we think.

My ethnic background, as many Canadians, is a blending of two heritages. On one side I am Dutch, the child of a 1st generation Canadian. My grandparents emigrated just over 50 years ago, bringing with them a ‘time capsule’ of Dutch language, customs and thinking. That’s why at family gatherings we greet each other and bid each other goodbye with kisses on the cheek. That’s why we eat speculaas, olie ballen, slaatje and other things most people haven’t heard of.

There’s also still fall-out from World War II in my family. My grandparents were very young when Holland was occupied by Germany, still in their formative years. Many of the health issues my grandmother has now are related to malnutrition when she was young, growing up in wartime Holland.

On the other side, I am Mennonite. A hundred and fifty years ago my ancestors emigrated from Russia in order to find religious freedom. They brought with them a conservative, peaceful, separatist worldview. All these years later I live in one of the original towns they planted, a town that still retains much of its conservative, rural mindset.

I get the bulk of my belief system from the Mennonites, and the more I study my history, the more I believe in what they believed. But the blending of cultures in my family has softened the Mennonite conservatism and given me a broader look at life.

You look at life through the lenses of your heritage. You interpret events the way you were taught to interpret (however deliberate that teaching was). Thus, if you want to understand why you do what you do, you should study your history. And also, you must keep in mind that others have their own unique history that makes them see life very differently.

2. History shows us why others thought what they thought.

As an amateur Bible scholar, I’ve been studying the book of 1 Peter for almost two months. 1 Peter is a letter, written by the Apostle Peter, to the Christians of Asia Minor. At this time the Christians were a socially marginalized group, either because of their faith or because they were aliens, scattered in foreign nations. This was also during the reign of Nero, a time in which Christians were persecuted throughout the Roman Empire. Given this social and historical context, the book means something rather different than if it were written to middle class, Canadian, Evangelical Christians. As a Christian my beliefs are considered old-fashioned and intellectually inferior, but they don’t affect my ability to get a job, support myself or remain safe on a daily basis. When Peter talks about ‘suffering’ he doesn’t mean going without air conditioning for a week.

When we read or learn about historical events, it is crucial to understand the context. If we project our 21st century, North American worldview on everything, our interpretations will be sorely misguided.

3. History helps us see where we’re going.

It’s an axiom that history repeats itself. Much of what we’re doing now has already been tried. We can consult history to see how previous attempts have concluded.

For instance, Canada, the United States and many other countries are on a paper, fiat money system, not tied to any real backing. What is the likely result of this? Well, we can read the example of John Law and France in the early 1700’s. Fiat money flooded the economy, creating a boom. Orrin Woodward said “Since France was printing inherently worthless fiat money with both hands, the prices of everything in France were rising dramatically… the timeless axiom that bad money drives good money out of circulation, came into full effect. Gold coins were hoarded and smuggled out of France, and paper fiat currency was spent as rapidly as it was received.” This could not be sustained forever. The bubble popped, and for many years there was widespread economic chaos.

And that’s not the only example. You could read about Germany post World War 1, or about Argentina in more recent times.

So why did our governments instate a fiat money system? Well, it’s a democracy. We let them. Did we not know any better?

In recap, you should study history to understand yourself, understand others, and understand where the world is going. These are three of life’s huge questions and they all find their answers in history.

So what should we do about it?

Why don’t you start with your own history? You can read books about your town, country or region. You can visit museums. But the most interesting way of studying your history is by talking to your parents and grandparents, if you are lucky enough to still have them.

Please comment. What has your relationship with history been? What parts of history interest you?

For further reading, see excellent examples of lessons learned from history at Chris Brady’s blog at http://chrisbrady.typepad.com/
and Orrin Woodward’s Blog at http://orrinwoodwardblog.com/

Person Looking for a People

I never knew I wanted a ‘people’ until a couple winters ago. I was preparing for a missions exposure trip to northern Manitoba. Part of that prep was a course that covered the history of the native people in Canada, as well as their culture in northern Manitoba. I was struck by the loyalty of the aboriginal people—loyalty to their people, to their ancestral lands, their languages, and their heritage, loyalty in the face of a hostile culture that was intent on wiping away their culture and practice. But in the face of this loyalty, I came to realize: I had no people.

Technically, I am a Mennonite. I have blood-ties to the Mennonites who emigrated from Russia in the late 1800’s. I know what warenke, kielke and farmer sausage are (even though I don’t really care for them). In my understanding, Mennonites don’t drink, don’t dance, are theologically conservative and emotionally non-demonstrative. And I appreciate that. I admire the Mennonite commitment to a holistic spirituality—taking care of the heart through a missions’ focus, the body through relief work, and the lifestyle through a simple way of life and hard work. I hold to Mennonite theology to the best of my understanding though, as most people, I have my difficult spots and doubts.

But I have a very difficult time seeing Mennonites as ‘my people’. My theology may be Mennonite but my ethnicity is only… sort of. I didn’t grow up in a Mennonite community, and though my church belongs to a Mennonite conference, it does not reflect a strong Mennonite culture. My father’s side of the family is not Mennonite. I don’t have the right last-name. I’ve sometimes called myself a ‘half-breed Mennonite’.

So, I suppose the Mennonites are not my people.

I’ve been studying 1 Peter for almost two months now. One of the key points of 1 Peter is that Christians are God’s people—once we were not a people, now we are His people (2:10). We are now ‘living stones’ being built up into God’s temple (2:5). Wherever we are from, whatever our ethnicity, whatever our ‘sect’, our macro identity is found in the church, the people of God. This crystalized for me this morning as I read McKnight. He said “find your identity in being part of God’s family, not in being part of a society that does not accept you”. The fragments of thought came together in my mind. I do have a people.

I recently joined a ‘cell’ group from a church in my community. I don’t attend that church, but I was looking for other women my age to connect with. On the whole this church believes as I do, but their practice and emphasis is quite different from what I am accustomed to. Still, when I met with these girls, prayed, worshiped and confessed with them, I felt at home. I felt connected, like I’d known these girls for a long time. And why not? They’re my family. Together we are God’s household, his people.

I do have a people. My people are the church. Locally, that means Mennonites, but on a broad scale, my people are all around the world, worshipping Jesus and living to please him. When they are oppressed, that is my people being oppressed. When they thrive, that is my people thriving.

The only question is, what am I going to do about it?

The Weather Wimp

It was insta-freeze, frost-bite, north pole cold outside. Inside, it was about the same temperature as a fridge. The meat shop where I worked had Mexico-grade insulation—that is, practically none.

She was a middle-aged woman in a nice coat, carrying her car keys and buying a ring of farmer sausage. “Did you find everything you needed?” I asked. My fingers danced over the keypad of the till.

She set her purse on the counter and rubbed the crease between her eyes. “It’s miserable outside,” she said. I looked up, dull-eyed. She was only the umpteenth person to say that, and she didn’t have to tell me how cold it was. I’d walked to work that morning.

I sent her out the door and turned around. Amanda, my long-suffering coworker, eyed me.

“I hate when they say that,” I said. “I feel like saying ‘No, you’re miserable outside.”

She cracked a smile. “Yeah, weather doesn’t have feelings.”

I have to admit that on such a bone-chilling morning I don’t want to go outside either. But if weather is all it takes to hijack my good day, well, I won’t have many good days.

Ken Blanchard said “I go out into the world every day with the attitude that my ‘OKness’ is not for grabs”. And I like to repeat the quote “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing”. The point is that we have the power to control our attitude and even, to a great degree, our mood.

This is tough for me because I tend to pick up my moods by osmosis, rather like a thermometer that can only read the temperature of the room. It’s hard to be cheerful when those around me are not. Thus, I often grit my teeth, say ‘I will not be like you’, and just tough out a lousy scenario. Maybe I can find the humor in it.  But if I can’t be cheerful at least I won’t contribute to the misery of others.

My basic idea is that my life-situation, the task of the day, the weather, or my health will not determine my OKness. It is adherence to the overriding principles governing my life (in this case, my faith) that determines my ‘OKness’.

I know. There is such a thing as a bad scenario, just like there is such a thing as bad weather. But in between the extremes, life is made up of events that can go either way. So, is your OKness for grabs?