“I have a new job.” This is a phrase I’ve said in seven scenarios in the last year and a half. I’m not saying this to brag—I’m asking for confession. I’m not a bad employee, or have work wanderlust and can’t settle on anything—I wouldn’t like to be known as any of these things. At any rate, those jobs came at low points in the bakery season, and I hope I won’t have to say that phrase again for at least three more years.
My struggle with my chosen profession is that things move so fast—the pace of the kitchen, the pressure of “working the line,” the potential of losing a job if one small detail (like missing a garnish on a plate…seriously…) is out of place—and unfortunately I am easily overwhelmed sometimes. So when job #7 came along that required commitment, desire to learn new skills within my chosen profession, and variety in the day-to-day-work, I said yes.
When I took the part in the “Miracle Worker” play, my heart was aching at the chance to try something new. You might say I had the same feeling when I took job #7. There are always times of stress when learning something new, and in my first three weeks, I’ve been in information-dump-mode. Before kitchen life, I was used to SOPs, accreditation rules, monthly reports, student schedules and syllabi. Once kitchen life began, my brain was filled with cooking techniques, recipes, and health inspection and safety codes. Now sitting in the middle of both worlds, I strangely feel like a kid in a candy store, where all the things I love to do are in the same place, all of it new, yet familiar at the same time.
Maybe it’s not that you need to change your job or career (well, sometimes it is), but maybe you just need a change of scenery—to learn something a little step deeper about your job. What happens to you when you get the urge to try something different? I understand that some jobs and places of employment have specific ways of doing things, and I’ve worked in some like this. It may be as simple as asking what can be done to help out a coworker who’s going on vacation or maternity leave. Or suggesting ways to make what you do more efficient or user-friendly.
What if you love your job, your co-workers, your commute, everything, and yet you’re still in a rut? In the last year (especially regarding my long-term goals), one thing my sweet husband has challenged me to do is to ask God what it is that I want. God knows us better than we know ourselves, and I believe that if we love Him and follow Him, that His and our desires will align. And when you ask Him (He loves when we ask for things—read John 14-16!), He will respond. Be encouraged and have hope! New is good!
Friends, I think I’m in for yet another life lesson. One where the exact same phrase has been used in two very different spheres of my life: “Sense of Urgency”.
In pastry school, our instructing chefs told us about a kitchen intuition that we would quickly have to adapt if we didn’t possess it already. In a professional kitchen, cooks must have everything set up before service begins, be ready for last-second changes, and know what is at their disposal every step of their shift. Cooks develop a sense of urgency that permits them to move quickly and safely through a kitchen shift in order to handle the fast pace easily. It also requires multi-tasking, juggling ingredients, mixes, hot pans, and timers simultaneously. This skill is one I wasn’t born with and one I still find challenging.
The play I’ve been involved with, Miracle Worker, has also asked of us a sense of urgency. The director needs us literally to be quicker about some things: performances start this week and sometimes we lose our place in the script or our blocking on stage. We must urgently remember cues in less than five days. In another way, there are places in the script where we portray the action much slower to what the script calls for—a deaf-blind-mute girl with no discipline is running around the house! Our reactions need to change so that the girl is portrayed as a child with disabilities (with pitiful parents) rather than a destructive animal.
These three words have come up as a potentially detrimental trait to my personal performance, in both my work and my “extracurricular” life. It wasn’t until yesterday that I began to wonder what else I lack a sense of urgency with.
Many of us naturally act slowly. It took me a whole year to decide to change careers from administrative support to a culinary path. Some of us take our time making plans, thinking things over, working out to-do lists, moving ourselves into action. Some of us don’t have a great sense of urgency to do things and it can be easy to slip into the mentality that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. But sometimes the lack of pressure means that we lack motivation, energy, or passion. And still in other circumstances, it can be that while we prefer accuracy over speed, our jobs demand the very best of both.
Are there any areas of your life where you might need to pick up the pace some? Anything in your job that might ask more of you than you think you can handle?
Abba Father, as we get overwhelmed with work, life trips us up, and we struggle to regain our stride, help us to find motivation in You. You are our sustainer. Help us all to learn a sense of urgency so that you can be blessed by the work of our hands and we can see Your kingdom grow. Amen!
Abba Father, thank You. For inviting us into “life in the fullest”. For being the Fluid through which we move about, so that we neither stop moving nor move at impossible paces. For giving us grace when we trip up along the way. Thank You.
You are the initiator of passion. You are the One who sets our paths straight, the Dream-Giver, the Hope we have for our futures. You are the One who gives us gifts, talents, abilities, and personalities and You are the One who gives us avenues to use them all. You are the One who saw that we made it past childhood and formed us into capable and useful members of society. You send us into our workplaces with Kingdom goals and equip us to love others with a supernatural kind of love. You are the One for whom we seek to live our lives and Yours is the Kingdom we hope to help build.
Father, please forgive us when we make life, relationships, and work about ourselves. Forgive us when we forget or dismiss the desires and needs You gave us and carry on in our own pursuits. Forgive us when we don’t ask You what we want and when we don’t ask what You want from us—and we wander, aimless and frustrated. Forgive us when we put others ahead of ourselves, when we expect to be first, when we leave humility at the door, when we miss the point and don’t seek out the truth of things. Forgive us when we treat those around us unfairly and when treat ourselves poorly. Help us to turn our doubts, fears, and anxieties into trust, love, and grace.
Lord, we pray for our co-workers sincerely. We lift to you those in our workplaces who already believe in You. Help us to encourage and build them up in the Spirit, and to find ways to engage non-believing co-workers in a healthy way. May our lights shine collectively, not in a sterile, sick-light sort of way, but in a warm, welcoming way that invites others to You. For we who are the sole believers in our workplaces, give us faith to be strong at work, full of courage and grace for those around us. We also lift to you those co-workers who don’t believe, whether because they don’t care to know or because no one has told them. We pray that we who believe would be afforded opportunities to share Your love with our unbelieving friends, and we pray that their hearts would soften and open to all You have to offer. We pray that the commitment You ask of us would not seem worthless and that the sacrifice Jesus made would not seem futile.
Abba Father, we seek to do our best at the work You’ve asked us to do. Help us to trust You for our past, present, and future, knowing that You have the best in mind for us from beginning to end. Teach us to trust You when You say go or stay, and that we lean into You when uncertainties come.
Thank You again. You are too good to us.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I recently started reading a book called MWF Seeks BFF, the non-fiction story of a newly married writer, Rachel Bertsche, in Chicago on a yearlong search to make friends. I’ve been in a friend funk for the last few months, feeling like I haven’t been doing my part in a number of my relationships, when I decided to make this my next read.
Not even two weeks after I started reading this book, an article in Chicago’s daily news reader published an article on loneliness. To toss a cherry on top, we talked about the same idea in small group two days ago. The conversations connecting friendship, loneliness, community, and social media have been so intriguing that I wonder if anyone else catches the drift. Even in a city of three million people, it’s easy to be lonely.
Courtney, Susan, Me, and Emily (Photo credit: Courtney Thompson)
In hindsight, I see that throughout my educational phases, I’ve collected small cadres of friends that I still connect with, but as life, marriages, babies, job changes, and family moves happen, those ties become more loosely tethered or even clipped amid transitions.
If you’ve been at your job longer than a year, you may have found a group of friends to fall into, but most who don’t stay at jobs for very long often don’t leave their jobs with long-lasting friendships. As young, working professionals, it can be hard to connect with others on a deeper level.
Finding time to invest deeply with others can be a tough with work time, family and rest time, and other commitments. As women, most of us naturally need more quality, interactive friendships than men do. Sitting on the ol’ Facebook seems like a good idea in the moment just to catch up on friends and family, but it lacks the face-to-face time that we all need—and can even make us feel more lonely. Additionally, many of the “friends” we keep on Facebook are not individuals we would choose to make deep connections with anyway.
Jesus was always surrounded by people and yet found it necessary to purposefully surround Himself with 12, and then three even closer. This is the kind of fellowship we need: friends to walk with one another, carry each other’s loads, admonishing, laughing, learning, and worshipping together.
Holly, Jennah, Julia, me, and Nok. (Photo credit: Holly Reid)
So with all this said, here’s my challenge to you and me: in the next few months, while the scourge of winter still strikes, take a couple hours of your week and connect with someone face-to-face.
Invite the new girl at work/small group/your church pew out for coffee after work or church.
Take that acquaintance up on their offer when they said, “Let’s get dinner sometime!” (Yes, even call them if you must!)
Contact a close friend that you haven’t communicated with for a few weeks or months (or better yet, Skype or Face Time!).
Most importantly, even if communication is slow, pray for your friends—and with them if possible, even if it’s over the phone, an email, a note in the mail, or a quick text prayer. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
Do you have a spiritual or emotional cycle that you find yourself on over a period of time (the “ladies’ physical cycle” aside, sorry guys)? A cycle where you can see your ups, downs, highs, and lows like an infinity sign (∞)? As I look over old journal and blog entries, I’m noticing that my Lindsey-and-Jesus learning curve is on repeat like a bad Top 40’s radio station. I told you the skeleton outline of my cycle here and these last few weeks, I find myself in the mire of fear and frustration over work (or lack thereof), family, and faith. I inherited my mother’s sense of “Worrywart”, and while there are no medications for this disease, the best treatment is abiding in the Lord.
The more I linger in my thoughts, murky as they are sometimes, the more I hear the Holy Spirit in me whispering, “Abide in Me, Linds. It’s so easy, I promise.” The reference comes from John 15, where Jesus is comparing the believing life to a grapevine, and how we cannot bear the fruit of faith in Him if we are separate from Him.
It sounds like such an old school term, “abiding”. The dictionary defines the verb as meaning, “to remain, continue, stay; to have one’s abode, dwell, reside; to continue in a particular condition, attitude, relationship, etc.” The Message translates of these verses, “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.” As a believer, it’s easy to take for granted that Jesus “lives” in my heart—his motives, pleasures, thoughts, and actions should all become mine—but not often have I ruminated that He wants me to make my home in Him just as He does in me. That perhaps all this worry and frustration I tote in my heart crowds out His space like smoke in a burning room.
Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” As I think of myself living in Him and at the same time carrying his easy yoke, I feel the worry and frustration lift. Not that life magically gets easier or that I get what I’m hoping for, but life can be seen through Christ-colored lenses. Somehow that makes my heart peaceful.
Abba Father, for we who are on weird loops of our spiritual cycles, please open our hearts to reminders that You want us to make our homes in You as You are in us, and that Your yoke is easy! Encourage us to walk in You as You walk in us. Thank you for inviting us into Your gentle space and thank You for Your fresh air. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I did something a few days ago that for me was a little crazy. Not completely out of character, but perhaps a little more “extroverted” than many people view me.
I auditioned for a play.
The church my family attends has an in-house theatre company that does a play once a year—many churches in Chicago have programs like this—and since it seems to be more community-involved than professional actors, I figured I might give it a shot. The play I auditioned for is “The Miracle Worker,” the story of Helen Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan. I saw the play when I was a little girl, and I was thrilled to read the script and get to know the characters and story better. As a proud Alabamian in a huge Yankee metropolis, I was especially excited to try out for a role that fits into my heritage.
The audition went fine. I tried out for all of the female roles except Helen. Later that day, I was offered the role of Helen’s mother, Kate. I am ecstatic.
I’m sharing this with you now because I do enjoy my job, and sometimes I need something to give a little spice to the mundane. There are the usual things to take time outside of work: church/small groups, time with friends/entertaining at home, sports groups or events, taking care of kids and family—taking care of kids is itself a full-time job!—but it’s easy to get caught up into the time-suck hole of life and find that little of the routine brings real joy. I’ve resorted to temporary office work until the bake shop comes alive again after the post-holiday dormancy of the bakery. During the frozen wintry months, cabin fever comes way more often than normal and I was praying for an opportunity to do something interesting while developing something in myself that might pose a challenge.
What do you do to break the ordinary out of your life? What challenges do you plan to step up to in 2013? Ask the Lord what challenges wants you to undertake. Who knows what kind of new dreams and opportunities will come your way when you simply ask: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).
Father, help us to put aside fear, doubt, and anxiety so that we can find the joy that you’ve set before us. Remind us that you have good things for us—sometimes in unexpected places and at the strangest times—and that we can trust those things for Your good. Thank you in advance for making us bolder, stronger, and more graceful, and may these newfound dreams be used well in Your kingdom. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.
P.S. If you happen to be in Chicago April 19-28, come see the show! Find me on Facebook for more details.
A few days ago, my family and I took some time to remember the 6th anniversary of my Mawmaw Johnson’s passing. She was a mighty woman, not in the aggressive sense—aggressive she was not—she was simply amazing. As I reflected on her and what she means to me, I began thinking about the heroes in my life. I have a few thoughts, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to share a little bit of my thoughts with you.
This is my grandmother that passed, Marguerite, with my niece, Riley, who is 10 now.
First, I would like for the Smith ladies to come to the stage: My sisters, Myra and Meredith, my mom Lela, and my grandmothers Birtha and Marguerite (even though she's not technically a Smith). These women, living and with the Lord, have shown me so much grace and how to be graceful. They have shown me—and given to me through great genes—that I can persist, I can come out victorious, and I can be joyful because the evil one cannot steal my joy. These women have endured near-death situations for themselves and their children. They have loved Jesus and their husbands, parents, and children with every fiber of their beings, even though it's hard sometimes. They have worked hard and played hard. They have never failed to encourage, pray for, show concern for, laugh with, cry with, and love me and everyone in their paths. My Mawmaws, my Mom, and my Sisters—they are my heroes and I love them so much.
These are my sisters (the one on the right is Riley's mom) and me on my wedding day .
Another of my other heroes is the disciple Andrew (off the wall, huh?). He was the brother of one of the most obstinate, yet faithful men in the New Testament, Simon Peter. He was a fisherman by trade (what a dream job!). Jesus came up to him and Peter while they were working and told them to follow Him. They did it immediately. He was a doer, as seen here (John 12:20-22) and here (John 6:1-13). He was in Jesus' innermost circles. He heard what Christ said and didn't stop to say, "Well, how will this affect my bank account, Lord?" "Why can't someone else do this? I just don't feel like it today." "Philip, grow up and do stuff yourself. Quit coming to me. You're a disciple, too." In John 1, as Jesus was calling the disciples to himself, Andrew was one of the two who heard the prophet John call Jesus the Lamb of God. John said that the first thing Andrew did was find his brother Peter, tell him “We have found the Messiah,” and brought Peter to Jesus.
Sometimes I’m too quick to excuse what God asks of me by passing it onto someone else, by thinking too much of myself (and my bank account, and my allotted 24-hour day), by waiting on someone else to do the thing first. The women of my family and the disciple Andrew remind me that there is more to life than just me. These individuals are my heroes because they actively try to make a positive impression on the kingdom of God, most of the time without complaining. These individuals inspire me to be excited about Christ, our Messiah, and to bring everyone I can to Him.
Who are your heroes, the ones that inspire you to be better? Who pushes you to believe and to love? I’m interested to hear your responses. If you’re interested, leave your responses as a comment on the Facebook link to this post.
I recently inducted myself into the fan base of the production “Les Misérables”. I was familiar with the music as my older sister went through a musicals phase in high school; naturally, I would inherit her old music and appreciation for the stage. Upon my induction this weekend at the local movie theater, I had warnings from friends to bring a box of tissues. I knew the basic storyline from the score, but the tears continue to flow three days after the movie ended.
Without giving the whole story away, I’ve been ruminating on the two main moral premises of the movie—justice and grace. My heartstrings are often plucked with stories of justice being strongly served. Within the “Les Mis” story is the hero, Jean Valjean, and the antihero, Inspector Javert. Valjean was a poor thief who after being shown grace and forgiveness, turns his life around completely, but was chased even after his repentance by Javert, who only wanted to do his job and bring past injustices to light.
A couple of times in the story, we see Javert and Valjean confront one another. Most would probably root for Valjean: “He changed! He’s a good man now! God has forgiven him and so should we!” These are perfectly good reasons for this perspective. Somewhere in my heart, though, I feel sad for Javert, the one with the sense of duty, the only cop we see that isn’t going after prostitutes or extorting the poor. And in the end, he gets a taste of the grace Valjean received and doesn’t know what to do with it, such that it brings him to despair.
I relate to Javert more often than I do to Valjean; I relate to the older brother more often than I do the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). “I follow the rules, I do all You ask me to do, and still…” Still the criminal gets away scot-free with his conscience intact. Still the son that let go of his inheritance and ruined the family name gets to come back and gets a party. Still the coworker that slacks off on the clock gets to keep his job even though I’m busting my chops to keep mine. Still…still…still.
When I find myself in this rut, I have to remember first that my sense of judgment and God’s are not on the same level, and that He will have His judgment however He sees best. I also have to remember that there is grace for everyone, for even the ones who get away, for even me who complains that I experience grace daily and take it for granted. “’My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
Abba Father, may our sense of justice become like Yours, may we mature in our sometimes childish faith, and may we come to understand and love the grace that You freely give and wish it for everyone in our paths. Teach us to celebrate for the ones that get away because Your love passed us across the horizon. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The hour and the year changed all at the same time last night. We weren’t out late partying or even staying up to watch the ball drop (actually I was nursing a sick husband on the couch as we tried to find something on Netflix that we haven’t already seen), but I felt an uneasiness about the hour change like one waits for the doctor to come back and give the diagnosis. Sometimes the feeling of anxiety overcomes the feeling of excitement in me and completely takes the breeze out of my sails. I’m resisting, though, and I hope that by day’s end excitement will prevail.
Last year was a doozy for me professionally. My rocky entrance into the pastry world after school was hardly admirable. As is always the case, bakeries typically don’t hire many people after the New Year because customer post-holiday resolutions and finances don’t exactly bolster unnecessary pastry purchases. Once I found jobs in my field, keeping them was an ongoing challenge. The challenges mean that I have much to reflect on for future improvement, between the trials of small business ownership for my bosses and my learning to keep up with the pace of a fast-moving kitchen (and sometimes failing).
I chose this picture to remind me that I still have much room to grow this year, just as this little plant has lots of room to grow in spring before it blooms in summer.
On a different note, 2012 was a year of casting big nets. I was able to do one-day workdays in lots of different kinds of pastry venues, from bakeries to restaurants to caterers. I’m not sure I’ve found my niche yet, but it’s certainly weeded out the types of places I tend to struggle in.
How did your 2012 shake out? Was it the best year yet of your professional career? Was it tolerable, but you found yourself in moments of uncertainty, instability, or discouragement? Have the ups and downs of work made you sick to our stomach or caused you to raise your hands in exhilaration? Perhaps this was the year you decided not to be miserable at work, but the longer you stayed with your job, the more miserable you got. In any case, we can be glad that we can move forward into our future knowing that with Jesus as our Savior, our lives are in the loving palm of His hand.
For this year, for myself, I hope for a sense of stability, of finding my “kitchen legs” and moving with grace, consistency, and accuracy. I pray for strength of integrity and character, not to be a doormat but an agent of peace in my workspace. If you need these things for the coming year, I pray the same for you, too.
For all of us, though, I ask the Lord to guide our steps, to quiet our hearts when the storms get rough, and to help us trust Him every day for every thing.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7). Happy 2013, sweet friends!
It’s true, the whole bit about the older you get, the faster time passes. One year ago (December 16, 2011), I was one of 73 graduates of the Patisserie program at the French Pastry School. As I look back over the last 365 days, I see the whole spectrum of emotions: fear, frustration, anxiety, complacency, peace, joy, excitement, ambition, hope, and everything in between.
I see how the cycle of my faith turned through each phase: frustration with myself and the Lord; fearful of my future in my new career; satisfaction with, excitement about, and joyful in the work I was doing; dreaming big dreams with the Lord; and then back again to restart the same things over again. I tell you, it’s been a very busy year.
As I try to imagine what 2013 will hold, I’m desperately trying not to hold this next year in tightly gripped hands to the Lord. There are so many things I would like to do, both professionally and personally, and I’m both terrified and elated to find out what will pass in the coming days. While life with the Lord shouldn’t incite fear, He does sometimes surprise us with the unexpected—for us Type-A control freaks, surprise and fear are often synonymous.
Since I was a young believer, however, I’ve found so much solace in Jeremiah 29, where God took a nation from exile into the promise of a blessed and abundant life: “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:10-13). Whenever I start on the uptake of my crazy emotional cycle, and as I see it coming again with the New Year, I will be meditating on these verses, knowing that whatever happens in the next year, the Lord has me right in the careful palm of His hand.
Abba Father, whatever big or little things you have for us, please help us to see Your blessings and Your will in our lives. Help us to not be anxious, but to trust in You for anything and everything. You are so good to us—thank you in advance for your goodness in 2013. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Lindsey keeps it cool in Chicago with her husband Josh and cat Diesel. You can keep up with her at http://thegreycity.blogspot.com/