Unemployed – Day Two

I’ve written too many Day One entries whether on a blog or in a journal, full of enthusiasm and optimism for specialized goals I’ve conjured up for myself, only to find that on Day Two the spirit wanes and the resolve weakens. I remember writing about homeschooling the girls in Ghana on Day One.  Something along the lines of, “Look how organized I am!  Look how well-behaved my kids are!  Look how much we’re getting done!”  You can only imagine what Days Two – 500 looked like.

In order to avoid the Day Two denial stage, I’ve added an accountability option – to tell you about it.

So, to explain, despite the title, this is not Day Two of my being unemployed (I think we’re on Day 92. I’m not even technically unemployed.), nor is it Day Two of a job search in earnest.  Ah heck, why didn’t I just name this post, “Loreli – Day 14,023”?

Because. This is Day Two of a 40-day self-prescribed fast/quest to hear from God about where he is leading me, as far as my employment situation is concerned.   Right now I would technically call myself “underemployed.”  I wish to be fully employed, as in certain and disciplined about how I occupy my time each day, hopefully resulting in a pay cheque in my bank account. Although that is not my primary motivation; that’s my husband’s.

During these 40 days, I intend to spend a lot of time clearing out the detritus of my heart in order to hear God more clearly.  I feel like my head is fuzzy, full of stuff I want to do, can do, must do! Plans! Ideas! What ifs!  But there’s no clarity of vision.

I’ve been feeling a little lost since making the final decision to sell my business.  My reasons were valid – not burn-out, not loss of interest in the business, but an understanding that God was pulling me deeper into ministry.  I feel this call, it’s just undefined at the moment.  When something you feel so deeply is undefined, you get a little restless.  I believe that if you were to rev the engine in your car, plus your car had no wheels, it might feel something like this.

I find myself in this no man’s land of wanting to work, but not willing to compromise.  That’s a dangerous place.  I honestly worry that I might do something stupid in my eagerness to get a move on.  I’m already a ministry hog, leading women’s ministry, doing communications for our missions project, managing social media for a few different organizations, plus the assemblage of duties one acquires as a “Pastor’s Wife.” Plus, hello, I blog.  Besides this personal one, I write a weekly blog for our denomination, which gives me technical “employed” status.

Here’s the thing: if I am excited about what you’re doing and I can get involved, I most definitely will.  The dangerous part is that I overbook and overwork myself and miss out on what’s important: listening to God’s voice, spending time with my family, making meaningful connections, and Sabbath.

In her book, 7, Jen Hatmaker talks about fasting.  I agree with her findings.

According to scripture, fasting was commanded or initiated during one of six extreme circumstances:

  • Mourning
  • Inquiry
  • Repentance
  • Preparation
  • Crisis
  • Worship

I believe my circumstances fit into the category of Inquiry – which we Canadians spell enquiry, so I’ll make that small change – which involves me asking God a lot of “What about…?” questions.  More so, this is about Preparation. I believe God is preparing me for… something.  That’s all I’ve got for now.  But I know from experience that at the end of a period of uncertainty or crisis, we can usually  look back and say, “So that’s what this was all about!”

Fasting increases my reliance on and desire for God. My physical hunger alerts me to my spiritual hunger.

I just want to home in on what God has in the works.  I want to be a part of his plan, not the other way around.

Just so you don’t worry that this is a hunger strike,I will only be skipping supper.  I won’t eat after 2 p.m.  As provider for our family and cooker of our meals, my husband is so annoyed by this.  I did this for Lent and he felt like he was forced to fast too, from my company, because it was just him and the girls at the dinner table each night.  So I’ve made some changes, that I will still sit with the family and engage in conversation as we usually do – and it can’t be about my wishing I could eat.  I will have one day a week where I will eat supper (which will be Fridays).

I feel it has to be a supper thing because that’s where the hunger hits the hardest.  I want to eat the most then.  There’s the proviso that the family feels this is an imposition on them, I will change my fast to suit their needs.  Next option is giving up Diet Coke, so I’m really hoping this supper thing works out.

These 40 days are about hearing from God.

Just today, I had a few interesting nudges.  Check this out.

We should take the stigma out of being unemployed so that people won’t have to say they have a blog.
-Andy Borowitz

OK, I just found that incredibly funny in a nervous laughter kind of way, since I do tell people I blog when they ask me what I do, which they always ask.  And I always hope they don’t think I’m as delusional as I might actually be.

For real though. I struggle like most people with where I find my worth.  Blogging falls short.  So this was timely:

So you want first place? Then take the last place. Be the servant of all.
Jesus (Mark 9:35)

I don’t even hardly know what that means, but I want to. I think it’s a Best Kept Secret about fulfillment and purpose.

If you’re a fellow believer on this path that we travel, seeking God’s will, I would love you to walk with me.  I’d sure appreciate your prayers if you feel so inclined.  I intend to write about the experience.  Writing helps me process my thoughts.  Writing keeps me accountable. Writing will help me work through Days Two – 40.

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Today’s Agenda: Emote and Diet Coke

What happens the day before one leaves on a trip for Ghana, West Africa, you wonder?  It’s all about having a list and not getting it done.  It about being pre-occupied with one’s emotions to make any good use of your quickly fading time. THIS is the experience of running around like a chicken with its head cut off.  Embrace it.

I’m giving myself permission to feel the ups and downs of leaving family, friends and a “comfortable place” behind (not comparing Ghana to Canada here, just comparing the plane to my couch) and pursuing adventure and discomfort (OK, here I’m going to mention that it’s 40 degrees Celsius in Bolgatanga).

I’ll even write it on my To Do List: emote… and blog about it.

Since I’m not using my time productively anyway, may I use this page as a landing place for the things swirling around my head? Kthanks.

  • I’m curious about the results of the KONY2012 Cover the Night campaign.  I’ll admit that I’m guilty of bandwagonism.  The Invisible Children viral video pulled at my heart-strings.  What can we do?! I wondered at the desperate situation.  Only to be reprimanded by the critics for being so naive for believing wholeheartedly in a 30-minute clip.  Then when Jason Russell lost his mind a little bit, I felt even more duped.  Then when smarter people than me started telling me “the truth” about Invisible Children, I got confused.  Are there 30,000+ child soldiers or around 100?  Is Kony in Uganda or elsewhere?  Is this currently a threat to innocent children or not?  Kony2012 fatigue started to spread as quickly as its fame.  My faithful activist friends are still covering their Facebook profiles, but I saw only a couple 81/2 x 11 posters around town this weekend.  I can barely find media on that which took the world by storm.  What the hey?  There are definitely lessons to be learned here about human nature.  We put a lot, a lot, a lot into promo and advertising, but follow up is severely lacking.  Perhaps that is the scale of authenticity – how do we report back?  Also, we love to be inspired, a good movie, a good book, a good campaign, but how often does that translate into action?  The bad news is, we’re all a little more cynical.
  • For full disclosure, I just found the follow up video from Invisible Children which says, “You made Kony famous,” except I don’t believe them – in the ideology or the success.
  • I wish John-Mark would stop singing Don Henley’s “Last Worthless Evening.”  It’s just 10 days.
  • As you know, Jen Hatmaker’s, book 7 gave me a kick in the pants to evaluate the priorities in my life.  Or rather, re-align them to pursue more of God, less of me.  Tomorrow I’m travelling back to the place that challenged me to trust God fully.  This time, I know that destination well, I’m a little more competent, I’ll have to work harder to let God lead.  But I don’t want this spiritual journey to be about a physical place, that I have to go to Ghana to feel a certain way.  True transformation would change me no matter where I happen to be.  But it was a catalyst and it will be a good reminder.  I expect to blog about it while I’m there.  The Lord can be trusted.
  • One of the things you think about when you’re leaving to go on an adventure is how you will access the things you require on a daily basis at home, e.g. make-up, hugs, Diet Coke.  You either go without or find a reasonable facsimile to help you cope.  I know that Diet Coke will not be within reach as it is here, but I do know that they have Coke and Pepsi aplenty, so I’ll get my caffeine.  That means it won’t be a difficult trip for me or those I’m travelling with.  I’ll report back on the make-up and hugs, but the aforementioned 40-degree weather forces one to reassess one’s needs.
  • Speaking of those I’m travelling with, I’m going to Ghana with two self-described “crunchy mamas.”  They love health food, cloth diapers and saving the world.  They have seen me drink Diet Coke twice and both times I’ve felt incredibly guilty.  They are now going to witness the reality of my daily consumption and I’ll just have to convince them that it’s necessary.  How else am I going to clean the rusty nails in my body?
  • I remember reading the science fiction novel, Dune, as an adolescent and being horrified about the characters’ dependence on the desert planet’s addictive spice.  They could only go so long before they had to consume it.  They exported it and they exploited it.  It was a depressing scenario.  If that were true in reality, we would just make a great feel-good ad campaign about how beneficial the spice is for your social life and you could almost be grateful for the addiction.  I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.

One of the crunchy mamas just e-mailed me.  Unfortunately, there really are things I need to get finished before I go.  Which means I’ll be blogging again shortly.

7, again

I picked up a book today I didn’t want to love.  It had been recommended to me by a friend some time ago called 7, by Jen Hatmaker.  I was babysitting my nephews and saw it on my sister-in-law’s table.  She’d just finished it and yes, I could borrow it.  Which she never would have agreed to had she known I’d spend most of the day neglecting her sweet cherubs because of it.

The premise of the book is, well, let me just copy and paste from Jen’s website:

7 is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence. In the spirit of a fast, they pursued a deeply reduced life in order to find a greatly increased God.

Based on that description, you might agree that it’s a book to be avoided.  It might stir something up, something I’ve been really good at burying.

You see, I’ve done this 7 thing before, where you challenge your choices through the lens of the gospel.  I’ve fasted and I’ve lived a life in the spirit of a fast.  When you live by the message of Jesus, to surrender everything to follow him, it can will force you to make huge changes in your life.  My family was shaken and, as Jen refers to it, messed up by the challenge.  At that time in our life, we were personally convicted to sell everything we owned to do cross-cultural work in Ghana.

For the sake of full disclosure we did not sell our red couch, chair and ottoman, most of our books and, strangely, a bread basket.  These remaining possessions were distributed among our friends most likely to return them.   For the sake of over-sharing, I’m sitting on the red couch as I write and we just used the bread basket at supper.

Otherwise, we were shaken to the core.

You would think that when you experience such life-changing conviction that your life would STAY CHANGED.  I would like to believe that you cannot return to the person you were. The Spirit wouldn’t let you, would he?!  Haven’t we been freed?  But as I read through the pages of 7, when I hear how Jen’s fasting from excess opened her eyes and heart to others’ needs, I am troubled by my recurring blindness. I see how I have placed a sheathing over the eyes of my heart.  I’m hoping it isn’t as thick as it was before, but it has effectively confined my compassion.

There’s a crack in that “protective covering” as I have been deeply affected by chapters 1-6 of this book, read today in one sitting, held in one hand while pretending to play Thomas the Train with the other.  I was distracted, recalling what can happen when you feel like this…

Having done this before, there are justifications I’ve since made that need to be overcome.  I remember treating our house in Ghana like a dorm room.  Zero excess.  No decor, no extras, not even curtains on the windows.  I never thought I was saving the world because of it, but I did it out of respect for those outside my door without homes.  Then my Ghanaian friends told me to settle in already.  It made them uneasy that I wasn’t making my house a home, that maybe I wasn’t committed to ministering there.  This actually caused me to re-evaluate my thinking.  Did this mean I didn’t have to go without in order to serve others?

As silly as it seemed when my Ghanaian friend told me to put up curtains in my windows, I realized that they didn’t want me to suffer needlessly.  They wouldn’t live without given the choice, why would I?  Since those convictions were thrown into question, I was thrown for a loop, and the pendulum swung the other way.

It’s been 4 years since we moved back to Canada.  The first 6 months were spent in shock, so let’s say 3 1/2 years.  Still, I’m surprised at how quickly my old habits came back.  How I bristle at interruption – a phone call or knock on the door –  instead of seeing each moment as God weaving our lives into the fabric of his will.  How I turn first to retail or snack therapy, instead of prayer, to help me out of emotional crisis.  How I want to set up policies and procedures to fix problems instead of recognizing the unique way the Spirit moves in every situation.  How I long for approval from other people.  I fit prayers in here and there instead of first and foremost. I worry instead of trust…

My Dad said the most benevolent thing to me when I discussed this tension within me.  First he quoted Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do,” which is probably the most empathetic verse that Paul wrote.  Then my Dad added, “But Loreli, cosmically, you are not the same person, even if you have the same struggles.”  He reminded me that the circumstances of my life have changed because of the work of the Spirit.   Despite my failures, my desire to walk close to Jesus remains the same.  The fact that there is even tension within me is the work of the Spirit.  I can’t go back.  I won’t.

The tricky part is moving forward.


Read the book. Even if you really don’t want to.