Sunday, December 31, 2017


This post is kind of like the writings in my Candy dish series but hopefully a little meatier and more substantial. I have a few ingredients swirling around in my head, and I thought I'd mix them up, pop them in the oven for a bit, and see what turns out. Enjoy!


When I was a teenager, long after all the other teenagers my age had gotten their driver's licenses, Dad decided that it was time to teach me how to drive. (I've probably blogged about this before, but I was thinking about it recently.) He made this decision spontaneously -- without consulting Mom -- at night. So, he put me behind the wheel of the family car for the first time -- AT NIGHT. In the dark. No prior training or pep talk that I can recall. Not in an empty parking lot. In actual functioning streets.

Dad was a natural basketcase, but riding with a brand-new student driver -- IN THE DARK -- made him all the more anxious. On top of that, he was a terrible instructor, so of course this was not a good experience for me. Thankfully (and mercifully), I didn't wreck the car, and we both made it through the ordeal alive.

Later on, I heard that he complained to my sister about how I didn't know what I was doing -- that I didn't even know how to use the turn signal. Well, duh, Einstein. You were supposed to teach me. And what a stroke of genius it was to give me my first driving lesson AT NIGHT.

In the past several months, I've been thinking about how God is a Father who's totally unlike my birth father. I know I've thought about this subject plenty in the past, but God has wanted me to think about it some more. So, while I was thinking about this first driving lesson recently, I wondered if maybe that experience was completely the opposite type of parenting that God does with us -- those of us whom He has adopted as His children. Then I realized that my first driving lesson wasn't really a "don't let this happen to you" type of parenting example. It was more of a metaphor for trials.

During a trial, you're suddenly forced into the driver's seat of a vehicle that you've never driven before -- and that you've never had any training on how to drive, ever. Everything is new and scary all at the same time. It's dark, you can't see where you're going, you don't KNOW where you're going, and you don't know what you're doing. And to make things worse, you've got the voice of fear freaking out in the front seat with you.

Maybe years later, you suddenly find yourself in the driver's seat of another vehicle that's just like the one you drove that night, only this time it's easier because you know what to expect. You've had practice, you have a piece of authority with you (driver's license), you know where you're going, you know what you're doing, and you no longer allow the voice of fear to ride with you. Not to mention, it's daylight now, because you've thought ahead and do most of your driving before the sun goes down.

So, you know it's going to be OK.


This casserole ingredient is rated R. Raw. Reality. Ready or not, here it comes.

See my little MeepMeep pictured above? Aww, so adorable. Her halo is blinding you, isn't it? I actually took this photo earlier today when she was calm and back to her normal self.

Earlier this week, she was not her normal self. She was in heat. In fact, she's gone into heat several times since she came to live with me. At first, I guess I was kind of naive and didn't know what, um, the body fluids were that she was emitting. But through internet research (where I learned more than I needed to know) and in consulting with the vet, I learned that it is possible for a female cat to go into heat after she has been fixed. In MeepMeep's case, what more than likely happened is that while she was carrying her kitten(s), giving birth, etc., the composition of her ovaries changed a bit -- causing them to be somewhat unrecognizable during the spaying surgery. So, any altered ovarian tissue that's been left behind has caused her to go into heat.

At first, I wondered if perhaps she could smell Macho's scent in my furniture. (The neighborhood cats always used to come looking for him through the window.) But I think her experiencing these amorous cycles is just a minor fluke.

When MeepMeep goes into heat, it can last for 1-2 days or 5-7 days at a time. It will start with acute separation anxiety and howling. My sweet little meep-meeping cat will turn into a horny little deep-growling beast who doesn't let me exist in a room by myself or sleep at night. She doesn't say, "MeepMeep"; she says, "WowWow." She will crouch on the ground, move her tail to the side, and do a little dance. When she's finished, she'll repeat her little dance almost indefinitely. I love my cat, but I like her a lot better when she isn't in heat (because when she's in heat, she isn't herself).

I tried almost everything I could think of to live with this freakish phenomenon: I would ignore her, or I would pet her and let her finish. I even downloaded some mood music onto my phone for her so that I could humor her and just ride out her little trial.

But when she started humping my arm (or my leg), she took things a little too far. I've said things that I never thought I would utter as a crazy cat lady: "They scooped out your equipment so that you wouldn't be able to have kitties anymore; this part of your life is over; I'm sorry." "I love you, but not that way." "Mama's not going to DO you." "Do you want a cigarette?" (It's OK to laugh.) Egad. Sorry, kitty, my arm just wants to be friends.

A few days ago, I finally found out how to snap her out of her mood: Vocal exercise #1, the humming exercise. When I buzz-sing my voice warmup, she immediately stops purring, her body perks up to listen, and she scurries away.

Aww, yeah. Being a musician is finally coming in handy.

As I've thought about MeepMeep's condition and about how I ended up adopting a cat who, um, can still get very hormonal, I've thought about what God said right before I brought her home: She needs me, and I need her. I don't know if anyone else would be able to put up with her horniness but me. And it's not like I have no idea what comes over her.

If you followed my blog a couple of years ago, maybe you remember that I've struggled with lust. That struggle isn't over yet, but I've still been fighting, and I've learned a TON about God as He and I have been walking through that struggle together. When I talk to MeepMeep and tell her that she's not a piece of meat, it reminds me of the real talks that God and I have. When MeepMeep wakes me up in the middle of the night and does her little dance, it reminds me of all those late-night hours that God and I have wrestled through my issue together. When I play her mood music on my phone and let her finish, it reminds me of the way that God has been patient with me and hasn't slapped me away.

Because He adopted me, and He can't send me back. He's stuck with me forever. And we like it that way.


My church is very cool. They encourage their pastors to take a sabbatical every seven years (e.g., several weeks off every seven years so as to prevent burnout). When I woke up yesterday morning, it dawned on me that I've been involved in my church for a little over seven years (I started attending in 2009 but started to really dive in deep in the middle of 2010). This year, 2017, God strongly encouraged me to rest (and I'm really going to miss it when the clock strikes midnight tonight). So, even though I'm not on staff with my church (although I dream to be someday), I think God gave me my version of a sabbatical.

Very cool.


This has been a crazy life-season for me. I'm thankful to have a temp job, but since it pays about $7 an hour less than what I was making before, I've been struggling financially. But God has been encouraging me along the way. One thing He's said is, "This isn't for now. It's for later." I think that means that the lessons I've been learning, the opportunities I've been exploring, and the things that God has been setting me up for will come in handy in a future life-season. Even though I've been avoiding the harassing creditor phone calls in the meantime.

I think that means that I'm not a screw-up. I'm not a loser. I haven't taken several giant steps backwards in my life. I'm just letting God reposition my footing so that I can walk forward properly later. And maybe I'll meet somebody who will need to know the lessons that I'm learning now. Then maybe my story will help them.

That will be worth it.


Have you ever flushed a public toilet, only to not have everything flush all at once? Maybe it's one of those dinky environmental models that doesn't use much water pressure. One redneck way to trick it is to use momentum. You flush it the first time, and then right before it finishes filling up with water, you flush it a second time. Then WHOOSH -- the momentum from the second flush will create enough pressure to let everything all go down. (At least, that's my non-plumber guesstimate of what happens.) Then you can exit the stall and move on with your life.

Trials can be like that, too.

I've felt like God has been telling me that the purpose of 2017 was to show me how strong I am. Then in 2018, I'm going to use that strength.

Even though my 2017 was a year of rest, and most of it felt like I was on vacation, lots of crazy things happened to me -- especially during the last four months of the year. I lost my job, then WHOOSH my car battery died, then WHOOSH the fender liner of my car came undone, then WHOOSH I was denied unemployment benefits, then WHOOSH I lost my cat, then WHOOSH I got a job that only pays most of my bills. And look at me. I'm still alive and kicking. I'm still the badass that God has been creating me to be.

I just hope that everything that needed to be flushed out is already gone. I loved my 2017 as a whole, but I'll be darned if I'm going to go through the momentum of those last four months again.

I know for sure that God knows what He's doing. I trust Him.


"Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men!" (Psalm 31:19)

Here's another thing that God has shown me: If I'm going to go through a financial struggle, Christmastime is the perfect time for it because at this time of year, frankly, people tend to be more generous than usual. (And in Texas, the weather in November/December tends to be pretty kind to my electric bill.)

I've shared one example of awesome generosity in a photo a few paragraphs up. Some very generous friends gave me containers full of food and Christmas desserts. (These actually aren't all of them.) I enjoyed their contents, washed them, and created some storage space for them. Yes, I had to make room for these blessings because they were more than what I had been prepared to receive. As I looked at the empty containers yesterday, I was thinking/talking to God, "That's like 2018." He replied, "Mm-hmm," kind of with a wide-eyed tone in His voice that maybe you'd use with a teenager who's finally catching a clue about how to live an adult life. ("Um, yeah, I already knew that, kid. Welcome to reality.") It wasn't condescending, but it was a light-bulb moment for me.

Yes! That's it! My 2018 is already set up for me. It's like a set of empty containers that are waiting to be filled with the good things that God's stored up for me. And we've had to make room to receive all the blessings. It is going to be that overwhelming of an amount.

I've been talking about me and my life, but maybe 2018 will be like that for you, too, reader. I'm sure God has some awesome things up His sleeve for you, too. Maybe they're good things that will require some preparation to receive. Just some food for thought.


Earlier today, I felt like God told me that life would gradually go back to normal, and then it would suddenly become awesome.

I'm ready. BRING IT ON.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Two lists

This evening, as a prelude to working on a writing project, I decided to write this blog post as a warmup. Not a pity party or an advice magnet. Just a warmup.

I understand that my independence is God's gift to me, and I love it. I have no intention of getting married anymore. (I mean, how could I pick from all those dozens of suitors that keep fighting over me? Laughing out loud!) The physical desire for marriage is still there, but emotionally I am 100% happy being single and staying that way forever. (If I were to ever get married at this point in my life, the poor guy would just be a live-in booty call. Just keeping it real.) And although I used to want to have dozens of children, I stopped wanting to have kids a long time ago. (Menopause is just around the corner, and why would I want to adopt a kid and raise him/her all by myself? No way.) So, what I'm about to write is sincere and humorous simultaneously.


1) When my back itches, I have to use my remote control or my hair dryer as a back scratcher.

2) I always have to take out my own garbage.

3) Valentine's Day royally sucks every year.

4) The Bible ain't kidding when it says that two are better than one because they get a better reward for their labor. Lately, all my 40-hour-a-week labor has left me with is a small pile of unpaid bills. That is a lousy reward.

5) I am unable to express myself sexually God's way (e.g., through marriage), which is a huge bummer whenever the hormones hit. Just keeping it real.


1) I don't have to take anyone out for a walk or keep anyone on a leash.

2) I can reserve all of the human food in my home for myself without any guilt trips.

3) If my checkbook has been balanced incorrectly, there's no question as to who messed up.

4) I don't need to ask anyone's permission to bring home takeout for dinner, go shopping, work overtime, participate in an extra activity, or stay out late.

5) If I need to wake up early in the morning (which honestly can happen anytime between 3:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. on a regular basis), I don't have to worry about disturbing anyone except the neighbors.

6) I can sing those crazy vocal exercises whenever I need to, not worrying about disturbing anyone except the neighbors.

7) Since I'm pretty stingy with the electric bill, I can keep the lights or the heat as low as I want.

8) I don't need to be considerate of other people when I'm spending time in the bathroom.

9) My imagination and creativity are continually sharpened. (No offense, married people, but it is possible to have a life without a spouse and without children. There is no need to force my life into your box of comprehension.)

10) My cat's continually sharpened claws continually sharpen my cat-like reflexes.

11) If I have an emotional meltdown while I'm at home, I don't have to apologize to anyone or explain myself. I can just have a good cry with God, and my cat will probably just keep grooming or napping as if nothing unusual were happening.

12) I can pump my own gas, check the air pressure on my own tires, and get my own car serviced -- and still be a heterosexual female while doing it.

13) Planning, picking, buying, and hauling my own groceries is always a natural high. And a life-workout. Especially when coupons are involved.

14) Whenever I make a decision, the only Person I need to consult with is God. (I love my cat, but she doesn't get to weigh in on any decisions. Unless she were to get a job.)

15) Despite what you may think or what people may tell you, family holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas can actually be pretty cool when you're single -- if you have people to spend them with. (The first year or two were hard for me, but then they got better.) And my cat honestly couldn't care less.

16) Whenever I wash dishes or load the dishwasher, I know that I'm the only one who dirtied those dishes -- and I don't have to give or take feedback about it to or from anybody.

17) I get to wear my hair, dress up in my clothes, and decorate my apartment however the heck I want -- without having to please anybody.

18) I don't have any offspring to throw into the mix of my family / non-family dynamics. Egad, that would be complicated.

19) When I'm at church and the pastor prays for "every family represented here," I get that household prayer all to myself (and my cat).

20) If I ever feel like composing a song or writing a blog post or doing anything that requires private creativity, I don't have to shoo anyone out of my home or struggle to find a quiet place to do it. I can just do it.

OK, so this turned out to be a pretty big warmup. But the second list is longer. Sunglasses smiley.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

White-collar freebies

I originally meant for this to be a Facebook post, but since it was becoming pretty lengthy in my mind, I decided to post it here instead. I would like to offer you some of the things I've learned during my 20+ years in the American workforce:

1. The world doesn't revolve around you. When you're away from the office, not everyone will miss you. When you make a mistake, not everyone will shame you. Beware of anyone who tries to convince you otherwise. And just know that your company's mission will always be bigger than YOU.

2. The employees who smoke will always be best buddies. The only real way to get into their clique is to smoke with them. (Not recommended.)

3. If you know yourself, you'll do a better job. For example, I've discovered that I'm a kinesthetic learner. I learn by doing. That means I probably won't remember everything I'll read in the training manual. I'll need lots of repetition, trial and error, and the opportunity to ask lots of questions. Then I'll remember how to do the job pretty much for the rest of my life. It's often helpful to communicate what you know about yourself to your supervisor as well.

4. Nepotism will ALWAYS exist. Bosses will play favorites and hire their friends and/or family. Sometimes this is a good thing, because they'll hire people who will do an excellent job. And sometimes this is a bad thing, because they'll hire people who will be very incompetent. Just keep your head down and do YOUR very best work. (And frankly, I depend on God's favor to get me jobs to begin with.)

5. CEOs won't hesitate to bring either their children/grandchildren or their pets to the office. Perhaps it is because they want to show them off, or perhaps it is because they do not wish to pay for a sitter. At any rate, they do this because they own the company; therefore, they can do whatever the heck they want, even if it is disruptive (or annoying) to the work environment. Just go with the flow, or maybe use earbuds/headphones if they're allowed.

6. If you work for a good company, there will ALWAYS be good people around; they will most likely be the ones who are running the company. If you work for a bad company, there might not be good people around for very long; they will most likely be the ones who are about to surprise everybody by resigning.

7. Little details can tell you a lot. For example, if a CEO misspells the name of his own company on his LinkedIn page, that means he is very full of himself and/or that he surrounds himself with people who are afraid of correcting him.

8. When the cat's away, the mouse will ALWAYS play.

9. People will protect what they worship. If they worship their job, they will do everything in their power to defend it and keep it happy. Even if it means sacrificing YOU to keep it happy. (I think Morpheus from The Matrix would say that it's because they're utterly dependent on the system.)

10. Entertainment like Dilbert, The Office, and Office Space are so close to the real thing that it's funny. And it's therapy.

11. Don't be afraid of learning new skills on the job. If you got a college degree about 20 or 30 years ago, the information you learned in the classroom can still serve you well... but technology constantly changes the way people communicate with each other and do business. Pay attention to details like file types, document-creation shortcuts, and even keystrokes on your computer. You never know when a new skill (which may seem like a fad at first) could come in handy later on... or could even build onto another skill that you'll need later on.

12. Some jobs come with a lower or higher rate of pay for a reason. Work that requires analytical thinking pays more, and work that isn't rocket science pays less. It's all good work, but it's also good to know that your coworkers at a lower-paying job may not get or want your higher-thinking conversation.

13. There will ALWAYS be people gossiping in the workplace, even if it's explicitly against company policy.

14. Sometimes there will be somebody in the workplace who is like a declawed cat. This person is soft and delicate on the outside but doesn't hesitate to bite when provoked, and they have no outside survival skills. This means that they probably couldn't get a job somewhere else if their life depended on it, so they'll probably be working in the same place forever. This usually occurs because their coworkers/supervisors coddle them and enable all of their babyish behavior. You can definitely be loving, gracious, and kind to this person, but you should otherwise avoid them like the plague. Especially if they try to curl up on your lap only to hiss at you if you make one false move.

15. There will ALWAYS be somebody in the workplace -- at least one person -- who does hard, honest work and who is emotionally mature enough to handle it all. You should make it your goal to be more like this person. Make friends with them, get to know them, and learn as much as you can from them.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The brazen house

In my previous post, I talked about 2017. In this post, I'd like to talk about 2018. Actually, there are several different ideas floating around in my head right now, and I hope they come together OK.

"Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain." (Psalm 127:1)

I work for an insurance services company, and I look at pictures of houses all day. Since I don't have a construction background, I've been learning a lot -- from the ground up. (Ha! Couldn't resist making a pun.) One thing I've learned is that apparently not everybody cares about making a good impression on a home inspector.

Some of the homes that I get to see pictures of are very nice. Most of them are plain and simple, with nothing too out of the ordinary to report. Every once in a while, I'll see a huge mansion-like place and wonder what kind of high-paying jobs the owners have. And, unfortunately more often than not, I'll see a neglected old shack-like place.

Maybe at first glance, just from the front of the house, you'll see a nice-looking home. But if you walk around to the back yard, you'll see junk strewn everywhere, and it won't even seem like you're at the same house.

Or maybe you'll see an immaculate-looking home, but for some reason there will be one or two shrubs that are overgrown and unruly. Or maybe everything about the house will be perfect, except for the minor detail that whoever designed the house forgot to install the gutters or a handrail or a porch. Or an entire wall has grown mold or mildew, and no one has fixed it yet. Or maybe a storm ripped off a huge piece of siding, and the owner is taking their sweet time in replacing it.

But what still shocks me a little bit is the homes that are so covered in trash and overgrown shrubbery that you can barely tell what kind of house it is. And maybe there are also some broken windows or huge pieces of dry rot. Maybe there's also an old car that doesn't run anymore, and it's just sitting in the back yard, probably next to a couple of old appliances or maybe a broken commode. Usually with that type of scene, I'm really glad I'm only looking at pictures and not actually smelling the house.

So, every day at my cubicle is like an intriguing mini-study in human nature. It kinda makes you wonder... Why would you meticulously manicure your front yard but treat your back yard like a giant trash can? Why would you take the time to design a perfectly good house but not install some important items -- like an air conditioner or a driveway? And why the heck would you pour so much money into your house only to neglect it? If you know that your foundation is crumbling, why wouldn't you drop everything to fix it so that everything around you won't just collapse into the ground? It kinda makes you wonder what kind of emotional rock some of the homeowners are living under.

I've probably just lived a sheltered life, but when I first started working at my job, I was amazed at how many different kinds of building materials can be used to create a house. There's brick, wood, stucco, metal, and a zillion different ways to combine them, paint them, arrange them, and permanently set them into the ground. Maybe if you drive down a certain neighborhood, you'll see a street lined with houses that all look the same; but if you look closely enough, you'll notice that they aren't all exactly the same, and they certainly don't all have the exact foliage or upkeep. Behind those four walls (or twelve walls) there are hopes, dreams, histories, and possibilities.

In case you haven't figured it out, what I'm trying to say is that houses remind me of people.

"And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." (Jesus talking to Peter in Matthew 16:18)

As I've mentioned on probably multiple occasions, Jesus was a Carpenter (actually, in a sense, He still is One), so the Bible has multiple references to "houses" and "building" things. Jesus knew how to build things when He had a Carpenter job, and He still knows how to build things spiritually.

Metaphorically speaking, I often take a step back and examine my "house," and I wonder what the heck is going on. I hope I haven't permanently damaged anything, I hope the foundation is strong enough to withstand the storms, and I hope I've been maintaining the grounds in the way that the Builder has been wanting me to. And, lately, I've been wondering what the heck has been going on with all these crazy renovations. Should I move? Should I check in to a hotel for a while? And the Builder will say, "I know what I'm doing." So, I'll stay put, and I'll trust Him.

"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit." (Jesus talking in John 15:1-2)

The main word that I keep hearing for my life for 2018 is "brazen." When I first started thinking about this concept, I got really worried that I would get in a lot of trouble in 2018, because one definition of the word "brazen" is insolent, rude, or harsh. (And you know how I can be.) But God has been encouraging me that the word "brazen" will mean so much more than that. For instance, if you're going to pursue creative endeavors, you need to be pretty darn brazen. Artistically, you need to push envelopes, defy boundaries, and really put yourself out there if you're going to create something that's really good. Maybe 2018 will be like a personal renaissance for me (like 1999 was, when I wrote a ton of songs). Maybe God will be brazen for me -- maybe He'll fight for me in ways that I haven't let Him fight for me before. Maybe He'll defend me in ways that I've never gotten to see Him defend me before.

I've also heard that 2018 will be the year of the "suddenly." And, in the same way that 2017 was a year of pruning, 2018 will be a year of shaping.

I would like to offer a disclaimer on what I'm about to say. God knows me. He has a relationship with me. So, He knows how to talk to me. The way that He talks to me may not necessarily work with somebody else. And why should it? I'm me, and you're you. Ain't nothin' wrong with that. So, with that said...

As God was talking to me at random one day (as is one of His many customs), He said, "Next year is going to be f----ing awesome." I've censored it here, but He didn't censor Himself when He spoke. Of course, this alarmed me, because since when does God cuss? So, when I asked Him to confirm that it was really Him speaking, He said, "Did you hear the brazenness in My voice?"

Why, yes, I did. That makes perfect sense. And I totally look forward to having a f----ing awesome year!


Changing the subject, I would like to say that MeepMeep is quite different than my previous cats. She's a very good cat, but different nevertheless. In retrospect, I think maybe Macho and Choochie (my tiger and my puma) were kind of wussy in comparison to MeepMeep (my panda bear). Macho and Choochie would vomit every once in a while (either hairballs or undigested food), but I haven't seen MeepMeep vomit at all in the two months that I've known her. (Maybe she passes her hairballs in the litterbox?) Well, it sure is nice to not have to spend so much time cleaning the carpet.

Maybe one thing that made Macho and Choochie so soft and relatively wussy is that they were adopted when they were kittens. They were fully domesticated pretty much all their lives, minus their first few weeks of life. My sweet little babies.

MeepMeep, however, didn't begin her domestication process until she was maybe a couple years old, and she didn't move in with me until she was about three. She's been a feral cat for most of her life, so she has some street smarts. She's alert, she has quick reflexes, she moves at lightning speed, and yet when she communicates with humans, it's usually with a high-pitched, quiet "meep." These are some very strong survival skills that I think helped keep her alive before she was domesticated.

However, a side effect of all these cool skills is that she's still pretty wild. Several paragraphs up, I shared a photo of what I found one morning when I was trying to make my lunch. I noticed that my loaf of bread was shredded in a few places. Like a chew toy. My gosh. I didn't know cats DID that type of thing. So, I store my bread inside my pantry now.

MeepMeep is also wild in the way that she plays and interacts with me. Her nails have scratched me multiple times, so I've been plotting a way to subtly ambush her to trim her nails. And she playfully gnaws on my arm from time to time. I think maybe she's still learning that Mama doesn't have fur like she does and that she can accidentally hurt me. Lately, she's also begun biting my leg and knee. (I wouldn't get arrested for gently pinching her in self-defense, would I?) I've shared a video here of her biting my leg one evening. Ha! Literally an ankle-biter.

Here's the part where you might get offended. (Did you hear the brazenness in my sudden disclaimer?) I've felt like God has shown me that Macho and Choochie taught me how to love God and let Him love me (e.g., pretty much everything I've blogged about in the past eight years or so). But I've felt like He's shown me that MeepMeep will teach me how to love people.

I love MeepMeep -- my adorable little panda bear cat -- but when she bites me, it hurts. Sometimes I yell in pain. She wants to play, or maybe she just wants attention, but she doesn't understand that her survival skills have the power to do some damage. If she leaves a scar, that damage could be permanent.

What I've been learning to do is hone my own survival skills to match hers. Most of the time, I hide my pain so that I won't be a whiny little helpless human, but sometimes I fight back (in ways that won't get me arrested). I've growled at her a time or two, and when her ears got wind of the sound I made, she backed off. And yes, I've gently pinched her a time or two.

But most of the time, I either scurry out of her sharp-clawed grasp or I scoop her up into my arms and love on her. (The latter kind of freaks her out a little.)

So, if God is training me on how to be a pastor someday, I'm learning how to deal with people. Sometimes God's people don't know their own strength. In their quest for attention, they bare their fangs and cause some pain, and they often couldn't care less about the damage they're doing. (Of course, when I say "God's people," I mean me, too. I can totally be a jerk.)

But the truth is, I wouldn't trade MeepMeep for anything. I want her exactly the way she is. Years from now, when she's older and slower, I'm going to miss when she was younger and stronger. I'm choking and tearing up just thinking about it. She has some wildness, but I believe that wildness can be tamed.

I think I'm living proof of that.

The other day, my boss sat me down and told me that I'm doing a good job. She asked me if I had any questions about the job, which of course I did, and she clarified some things for me. After our conversation -- at my job where I look at buildings all day, and probably when 2nd Chapter of Acts' song "Mansion Builder" was playing on my iPhone -- I felt like I heard God ask me, "Would you like to help Me build My church?"

Yes, absolutely. I would love to. I would be so honored to. Whatever You want, here I am.

I know God's house is full of wild, crazy people who sometimes pick on their overseers for sport or bite the hands that feed them. But wildness can be tamed, and it's really something to get to see it happen over time. I know there are parts of God's house that are so fragile and sensitive that if you brush against them the wrong way, you'll make a mess and you'll have to clean it up. But being a part of restoring a treasure can be such a rewarding process that you'll remember for the rest of your life. I know there are parts of God's house that have been neglected and are now rotten and dilapidated, so He's had to step in and do some major repair work. But if He'd like some help during the renovation process, I have a pair of slightly scarred hands that are eager and ready to work.

Just as long as I get to be with Him. That's really all I want.

F----ing awesome!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Adjustments, vacations, and clashing swords

As I've mentioned previously on my blog, I've felt like God has said that the year 2017 would be, for me, a year of 1) rest and 2) common sense and that 3) I would be bored, in a good way. I've definitely seen that theme unfolding for me throughout the year. Since rest has been a difficult thing for me to achieve in the past (I used to be a workaholic), I found myself getting almost impatient with the "rest" part of God's equation for 2017. But I found Him gently but firmly insisting that 2017 was a one-shot deal; I wouldn't get any do-overs. He explained that 2017 needs to happen if 2018 is going to happen -- not in a "duh, chronological order" kind of way but in a "certain events must occur this year in order for next year to unfold correctly" kind of way.

For me, 2017 kind of felt like a vacation. At my previous job, things were very slow at my desk. When I talked to my boss about it, she kind of scoffed at me and told me to take an early lunch. So, I did. One time when I tried to help my coworker with her workload, she kind of got a talking-to from our boss, and I could tell that it had upset the equilibrium in the office mechanics, so I just enjoyed my free time like my boss had instructed me to do. (I ended up catching up on many hours of sermons on YouTube.) I was definitely bored, in a good way. From time to time, work would suddenly pour in and I would get really stressed out trying to get it all done, so I think it all balanced out in the end.

At home, one thing that God put on my heart was that He wanted me to have a five-minute iPhone quiet time every evening. As in, that's all He really wanted for my daily quiet time. So, I've been turning on some worship music on my phone and reading usually a Psalm or a Proverb or wherever God leads me, and it usually lasts about five minutes. He and I usually continue talking afterwards (while I'm getting ready for bed) like an old married couple, and we like it that way. Many times, I linger on my couch with my phone still on while I try to pour out my heart a little bit more or while I have some questions that need answering. God patiently listens, I usually cry, and He gently nudges me that it's time for bed. Lately He's continued talking to me either after I go to bed or in the mornings when I'm trying to wake up. It's really cool. And it's quite restful.

When you're on vacation, you usually end up either doing or trying things that you haven't done or tried before -- or that you maybe won't have a chance to do or try again. I think my two months of unemployment provided ample opportunity for that. I discovered the local public library, I sold a few items on eBay (which I don't have the supplies or the time to do while I'm working full-time), I found myself in a dire financial situation where I tried to trust God only for money (He came through, and I'd like to continue trusting Him that way for the rest of my life), and I discovered British comedy clips on YouTube (specifically my new favorite: The Catherine Tate Show).

Earlier this year, I went to a class at church where one of the pastors was a guest speaker. He shared something that he and his team heard God speak to them for 2017. From what I can remember, he said that 2017 would be the year of the clashing sword. Ideologies would clash this year, and we would need to let that happen. But there would also be opportunities opening up this year. We the church would need to pray for revival to happen in the process. I think this word was pretty accurate. News headlines this year screamed clashing swords: politics, Civil War monuments, etc.

And I think I experienced the clashing sword on my job as well. I felt like I should have had more work on my plate, but my boss disagreed; I felt like my boss should have managed me more directly, but she ended up managing me remotely on Facebook instead. I became unhappy at work this year (way back in March, I believe). When I prayed about looking for another job, God reminded me that 2017 is a year of common sense; if you don't like your job, it's common sense to look for another one. And He kept impressing on my heart that the way that I would leave my job needed to happen naturally. Long after the stuff hit the fan (because it was ultimately a Facebook post that forced me to leave), God told me, "I know what you're like on Facebook, so I used that." OK, then. Clash, clash.

Recently, He basically told me that 2017 would be a year of adjustments -- and that He didn't tell me sooner because I wouldn't have liked it. Heh, heh. He's right.

I've made all kinds of adjustments this year -- big and small. Due to a couple of circumstances, my finances kind of took a hit this past spring and never really caught up. So, I gradually relearned to live on a little bit less money, and I think that was preparation for the unemployment season that I was hit with a couple of months ago. I'm currently still quite broke, but I'm not hungry, and God has shown me ways that I can creatively stretch my dollar. (These are skills that I was forced to learn years ago, but it's been cool getting a refresher course.)

While I was unemployed this year and praying for a job, I felt like God told me that I would need to tighten up my work ethic at my next job. After about a week of working at my new temp job, I understand what He means. It's a quota-based job where I'm required to review a certain number of documents per day. Historically, quotas and I haven't gotten along. But I know myself, I know what to expect, and I know how to speed myself up. (It involves checking Facebook less frequently throughout the day, saving any chitchat for lunchtime/breaks, and listening to music on my phone's playlists that I had already put together to help me stay in the zone while I'm working.)

Throughout this year, one thing that I felt like God was telling me about my life was that the "land" needed to rest. For instance, I'm a songwriter. I didn't write any new songs this year because I felt like He kept telling me, "Nothing new in the field." So, I didn't plant any new songs. I didn't really start any new projects in my "field." Nothing that was really new happened to me this year: I became suddenly unemployed (which I've lived through before), I lost my cat (which I've experienced before), I got a temp job (which I've done many times before), and I volunteered at church (which I think I've been doing for most of my life). Nothing new, and no complaints.

MeepMeep and I have both been making adjustments this year. She moved into a home that was ready to receive a female cat, but I've tweaked a few things here and there to adjust to her habits (since her personality and preferences are different than Choochie's were). As you can see in this photo, I moved an old folded-up comforter (that Macho and Choochie used to sleep on) to a corner of my living room because I noticed that MeepMeep likes to sleep there. I covered the comforter with some old sweatshirts that already had MeepMeep's scent on them, and now she likes to sleep there either during the day while I'm gone or late at night while I'm getting ready for bed. (Or maybe she just likes to guard my CDs and VHS tapes.)

I'm also happy to report that she stopped rolling around in her litterbox. I think she stopped several days after her arrival -- possibly after she realized that she had plenty of carpet to roll around on instead. (Thank heavens. Her coat is much softer and better when it doesn't feel like or smell like Fresh Step.)

I've taken a great deal of delight in watching MeepMeep respond to her environment in ways that Choochie did not (even thought I thought she would). For instance, after I moved here, I bought an ottoman for my feet that I assumed that Choochie would adopt as her napping spot. She never did, but MeepMeep has. I've seen her using it as a scratching post more often than as a bed, and I've walked into the room to see that it's been overturned (with an embarrassed look on MeepMeep's face). But it's still a very fun thing to see.

Aww. And she's finally adopted Choochie's old napping spot on the couch.

"Who is the man that fears the Lord? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses." (Psalm 25:12)

I have a feeling that I'm going to be pretty busy in 2018. One thing that I've noticed after experiencing rest is that I'm ready to hit the ground running as soon as I'm done resting. Sunday is usually a productive day for me at home because after a Saturday of doing nothing on purpose, I'm ready to get going.

I'm currently working full-time, but I'm also trying to line up some freelance work on the side. I'm currently volunteering at church, but I'm also open to volunteering some more. Just being open and exploring my options -- nothing is set in stone right now.

Here's what I know for sure: No matter what I end up doing, no matter how I spend my time, no matter how busy I get, I'm committed to resting one day a week. This is one of the Ten Commandments, yes, but it's something that frankly we Christians aren't always good at doing. At least, if you grew up in a Baptist church, you might not be good at resting because Baptist churches usually keep you pretty busy during your Sabbath. (During the latter half of 2009, I was exhausted and burned out from working two jobs -- so exhausted that all I really did for New Year's Eve was blog about how tired I was.)

So, 2017 has been a year of adjustments for me. I remember after I got new glasses this year, and they didn't fit right, God told me, "There's no shame in getting an adjustment." My glasses fit just fine now (after the adjustment). God also showed me recently that when you make an adjustment, that change will usually last for the long haul.

I think I'll be very content to live my life the way I've been living it for the long haul.

The other evening, during my iPhone quiet time, I was marching around my living room and noticed a couple of major adjustments that God had made in my life. I lost my job in Southlake, but God provided me with another job in Southlake. I lost my cat, but God provided me with another cat. So, my life is different in many ways... but it's also the same in many ways. God restored some things. So, I stopped marching around my living room and prostrated myself in tears while I thanked Him.

Of course, 2017 isn't over yet. I just thought I'd jot down my thoughts about this very unique year while I had the chance. After all, I won't get a do-over.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Unemployment completion and reflection

On Tuesday, God willing, I'm going to start a temp job that's located about a block away from my previous job! If it works out to be a more permanent solution, this could perhaps turn out to be a vindication/confirmation type of situation.

"Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me." (Psalm 50:14-15)

What a crazy season this has been! I've been unemployed at various times in my life, and for various amounts of times, but I gotta say... this time was the most frightening and the most awesome simultaneously. (Some moments were downright terrifying and took a while to recover from.) I came into this season with no savings, no job prospects, no relatives who offered me money, and no unemployment checks. I had a tiny bit of extra money available, but that ended up being used for car repairs and immediate bills. All I had to lean on was God. And He was enough.

In terms of financial/practical help and gifts, here's what I received during the two months that I was unemployed (as well as the three weeks beforehand, as well as in the very near future), if I remember everything correctly:

3 gift cards (Target, Jason's Deli, iTunes)
3 dozen cans of Coca-Cola
5 free meals, either treated from friends or mostly provided via event leftovers
1 pantry's worth of food items from a friend who changed her diet
$357 in cash
a zillion prayers
an assortment of free beauty products
1 month of electricity and cellular service (paid with financial assistance received from my church)
1 month of rent (paid with a cash gift from a friend)
1 month of rent and water (paid as a surprise from an anonymous friend)
1 month of rent (to be paid for December with financial assistance received from my church)

I'm overwhelmed. I'm humbled. I'm thankful. I'm in awe. I'm blown away. I don't deserve any of this, but I sure do appreciate how God has provided for me, and I sure do appreciate how He moved His people to help me.

There have been times in my life when I've needed money and gotten it -- but with a guilt trip attached (from the people who loaned/gave me funds, not from God). This time around, as the funds trickled in when I needed them, God said that He wanted to show me what it was like to experience generosity without the guilt trip.

"I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." (Psalm 34:4-6)

Seriously. I cried out to God and begged Him to help me, and He assured me that He would take care of it. I've never experienced anything like this before. Yes, I've been the recipient of someone randomly or anonymously giving me $100 here and there (which is what the people in my church like to do), but this felt like much more than that. In fact, I remember crying on my couch one day and talking to God about those past seasons when people would randomly give me money, and I think I mentioned that it would be nice if that would happen again. So, it happened again, AND THEN SOME.

One time when I was crying out to God because I didn't know how I was going to pay my rent, He replied in plain terms that I could understand, "How would it glorify Me if you were to die in the gutter?" I know, right? It wouldn't. So, He took care of it. AND THEN SOME. When He says He's going to provide "exceedingly abundantly above all you can ask or think," He isn't kidding.

I think it would be awesome if ALL of His Bride (not just a few of my friends) would reflect more of His heart.

At one point, I made some phone calls to local agencies and other ministries who offer financial assistance to people for rent and utilities. I felt treated like cattle. I called about two weeks before October rent was due and received mostly voicemail greetings. One greeting instructed me to call back on October 3rd so that I could receive $25. Another greeting instructed me to speak slowly and also explained that my call might take up to four weeks to be returned. One lady returned my call several days later and left a voicemail; she explained that she would only be available to speak to me for 20 more minutes and that she wouldn't be available again until a week later. One lady returned my call right away but instructed me to write down some phone numbers along with her personalized shorthand. Um, thank you, but I'm not 4 years old. If you tell me the name of an organization, I'll be able to spell it out myself. Moo.

Sheesh. I'm glad God was available immediately to help me. (Not to mention: Being humbled is one thing, but being humiliated is another.)

God had instructed me to take this season one day at a time, and He would usually give me a specific word to follow for a particular day. One time, He told me very clearly, "Where you live is more important than where you work." He confirmed that multiple times, including providing me a way to pay three months' worth of rent.

One thing that I felt like He spoke to my heart was that I would only be unemployed for two months. When I start my temp job on Tuesday the 24th, that will be exactly two months after the last day that I worked at my previous job, so I think that confirms what I heard.

I'm currently behind on several creditor bills, but if there's one thing I've learned during this past season, it's that God will provide. (I already knew that, but I got to learn that on a deeper level.) I mean, three months' worth of frickin' rent is a heck of a lot of provision. God has brought me this far, and I know that if I hold on to Him, He'll continue to take me wherever He wants me to be.

And, of course, this season was about more than just money and provision. I said goodbye to one cat and hello to another. My heart has been ripped out and healing simultaneously. MeepMeep and I have been getting to know each other, and I don't think it's an accident that this very important process has been occurring while I've been unemployed. I look forward to establishing a regular routine for her once I start working. (Because I've been currently keeping her awake during the day when she should be napping.)

Also during this crazy season, I've spent some time getting acquainted with the area in which I live. (I moved here 10 months ago but spent most of my time in the area where I work and go to church.) It's a suburb that has a reputation for being quite boring, and I like it that way. There isn't much to do around here because there are mainly just residential neighborhoods as far as the eye can see. So, I feel safe here. MeepMeep and I are very happy here, and we intend to settle here for the long haul.

This season has been an adventure indeed. The job interviews were quite a hoot. Explaining to potential employers why I left my previous job got some interesting responses if I went into too much detail. One lady scoffed at the name of my previous employer and asked if they were affiliated with any other company, I'm guessing because she hadn't heard of them, or perhaps she was researching and couldn't find more information about them. (Most marketing companies proudly tell people who their clients are, and they're happy to share case studies of how they specifically helped their clients, but whatevs.) Other potential employers metaphorically cried on my shoulder about how other job candidates treated them either during or before interviews. I have made a mental note to not use job candidates for my own personal therapy (if I ever interview job candidates in the future, that is).

I also did a lot of soul-searching. If you've followed my blog for the past several years, you know that I'm called to be a worship pastor. I'm discovering that many people either don't remember that, don't get that, or even counsel me to do something instead of that. Of course, I appreciate the counsel, and I understand that my calling probably won't result in a steady paycheck until much later down the road. And I promise you that I get why you would discourage somebody from being overly excited about something that God might not want them to do. (And I totally understand that while you're reading this, my heartfelt words could easily go in one ear and out the other.) But here's the bottom line: I know who I am, and God knows who I am.

And I'm pretty sure He's been testing me to see whether or not I'm still willing to do or become whatever it takes to live in my promised land someday. No matter how long it would take.

About two months ago, during my exit interview at my previous job, the CEO of the company asked me what I wanted to do in terms of an occupation (because I was about to leave my editing job). I replied that I wanted to continue working in the Christian sector. He scoffed at me. Well, sir, I may no longer be employed in the Christian sector, but I'll still be around.

I believe God wants to keep me around here.

Thank you, thank you, thank you SO much to everyone who has prayed for me, offered a kind word, or gone out of your way to try to help me during this time. I couldn't have made it without you!

And, as always, if it weren't for God, I'd be toast. He's my Father who takes impeccably good care of me.