Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I wasn't blogging, but I was still thinking....

Wow, almost a week with no blogging...Friday I was out and about and we had dinner with new friends (it was a lot of fun and I had a great time btw.) Saturday I worked all day listing on ebay and Sunday I finished listing 67 items....the most I've ever had up at a time. Monday was Robb's day off and we had a great "chill" family day. Yesterday, I was back at it photographing for ebay. Having discovered web-hosted picture site "PHOTOBUCKET" I can list multiple pics of the same item, thus inspiring more confidence in the item, and therefore a better percentage of items sold out of items listed. Today, I'll be doing further research on shipping from home option, which will be sorely needed when the checks start rolling in from the the last bunch of items. Robb and I estimated that I spend about an hour photographing, listing, and packing each item I offer, and right now I am averaging about between 7 and 9 dollars per, enough about work (classic sign of a workaholic...she thinks your are interested in her work!)

Somewhere in the middle of all of this, I have been thinking about something that I never really thought about before. I'm still only mulling it over, but I'm going to try and lay it out here...

All my life, I endeavored to be Somebody. Stemming from my schooling in a Christian school, where I responded to the exhortation to IMPRESS people: with my dress, with my academic accomplishments, with "Fine Arts"...I heard that people cared about what I wore, how smart I was, and how long a speech I could memorize and deliver with dramatic flare. The next mountain to climb was to get a college education and marry a Pastor: the two greatest achievements a godly girl could attain. (Somewhere in the midst of this process, I actually became of follower of Christ...what a novel idea). Then came various positions as pastor's wife, church secretary, Christian school teacher, Sunday school teacher and piano-playing choir director....the whole enchilada... every cliche' you ever thought of for a Pastor's wife. As a Pastor's wife in a small community, I could write a check at a garage sale against the equity it afforded me. I was proud to go places with my husband and be the wife of the Chairman of the Camp board....The Moderator of the Central Michigan Associaion, a member of the State Council of 15... Can you see where I am going with this?

For the first time in my life, I'm nothing. Okay, maybe not "NOTHING" but let's face it, Engineer of Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, Ebay Peaon, and Housekeeper are not all that glam.

And to add insult to injury, I have a very bad haircut, I found a big purple spider vein in my leg, and I seem to be responding to some kind of stronger and more intense form of gravity. I could not see the words on the screen at church while sitting toward the back last week, but I can't see what the kids have written unless I hold it at arms length. In short, I am not getting any younger, thinner, or more beautiful. Turns out, according to Hollywood, other women, and magazines, at 31 I apparently have only the sweet release of menopause, grandchildren and death to look forward to.

I confess that this is probably a very good place for me.

So I am reconstructing a self-view of myself that is based on the theory that God does not want my self-worth to be propped up on having a respected position, being pretty or intelligent, or being particularly good at what I do. (I have in fact, come to see these things as hurdles to my faith) I'm not sure that I am humble enough to serve in obscurity without getting miffed occasionally, but I'm at least thinking about what it would look like. (I'm also not going to just let nature take its course with my appearance, because I'm pretty sure that would bum my husband out.)

I am thinking about you blog-readers who have attained this ability to serve your families and churches with real humility, and if it doesn't give you a big head, let me say that I admire that about you and I'm curious about your stories of how God taught you such humility? Did you come to accept it gradually, or do you still struggle with it? And how do you avoid the temptation to be in competition with other Christians to be "more holy." (That last one is one of the reasons I am so drawn to the Emergent Church movement, with focus placed on the fact that we are all screw ups and no-one is better than someone else.) In short, what place does ambition play in the journey of faith?

Incidentally, the same Christian school that I heard "IMPRESS" from, had many teachers who served in complete obscurity with little recognition for what they sacrificed to stay there teaching numskulls like me. The world is not worthy of them.

So that's what I've been thinking about...


A said...

Ok, I'll bite. From one of the biggest "elitists" to ever walk the hallowed halls of Jackson Hall, I sum it up in one word.


You know that chorus that was popular thanks to Sonic Flood back in 2000-2002? It had several verses, but the one that used to be the most uncomfortable to sing, and really mean, was:
"Brokenness, Brokenness is what I long for, Brokenness is what I need, Brokenness, Brokennes is what you want for me . . ."

Like anyone ever really "longed" for brokenness.

I didn't know what it really meant until February 2002. I had it all and lost it all. I was the Sr. Pastor of "country club church" at the age of 26, moderator of the CMA, happily married to Barbie doll wife (or so I thought), blah, blah, blah. Then it all went away.

I came face to face with failure, complete, utter failure in every respect. Home/marriage, career, reputation, everything was gone.

But that's when I learned what Grace really was, and how it worked, and what it felt like. I found out that apart from Grace it is all filthy rags anyway.

After walking through the valley and staying committed to God to get me up the other side of the mountain, I figured out that it has to be all about him. Yes, he has gifted us. Yes we are fearfully and wonderfully made. But that only means something if he is working through us and gracefully enabling us to do something for him each day.

When you get it, you get it. Afterward, it doesn't matter who you are, what you do, where you do it, or who knows about it. You just bask in the Grace that enables you to breathe each moment and put one foot in front of the other, and stay in tune with the purpose for which God is enabling you to do those things.

Lucado did a pretty good job explaining it in "Its not about me". But it is one of those things that can be talked about a lot but once you experience it, everything changes.

I am the fortunate recipient of God's Grace that allows me to be a gifted tool in His hand to make a difference every day in the lives that I come in contact with. It doesn't matter what position that comes with or who knows about it, God knows and He is pleased. I no longer have to try and please my earthly Father so desperately because my Heavenly Father knows my heart.

Now I can sing and mean, "You are the one, the famous one, the famous one, great is your name in all the earth."

If you can figure out a way to process all of that and learn the lesson without the pain I experienced, you are blessed. Something tells me we all have to experience some measure of loss, pain, brokenness to get there. And as I have now firmly concluded and freely proclaim, "I wouldn't wish it on anyone, but I wouldn't trade it for the world."

A said...

I didn't mean to kill this thread. C'mon everyone, jump in, the water's warm!

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light."


Sandy Mc said...

Wow, you have been busy. Congrats on your e-bay stuff, way cool:) I have only done UPS shipping from home, but it was way easy. They even credited me for less than a dollar because I had overweighed an item! Looking at the USPS website makes it *look* like shipping from home would be easy too.

I am not sure I can offer any insight to your reconstruction. I have "never" been anything (same reality context as your "nothing") so I do not have THAT to barrier to break down. I could give a list of stuff that I have done (stuff like getting a pilot's license) but, it's still just stuff.

On the aging, I hope that what I believe is true that God planned for us to age gracefully (but not avoid it) I have a beautiful 91 year old Nana, so I will "let myself go" because if I don't do it now at 45 how would I know "when." Not to criticize, but I am trusting God to help Roy love me however I LOOK.

Your ideas about humility vs competition to be more holy just don't even click in my head...I have no idea how that feels to "compete" that way though I am actually a closet competitor. For me "ambition" and "faith" just never meet in the same sentence and I actually perceive that that has hindered me in persuing my passions.

A: I love what you said and I agree that probably everyone must go through "something" but I would like to suggest that for some of us it is in "increments" (perhaps we *need* more frequent but more gental reminders?) My life has been a string of imperfections, that God must frequently pour small doses of His grace on so that I can continue through His strength. When I started into this passion of mine in 1998 I grabbed a quote from Sue Mallory's The Equipping Church and have tried to live it: "Humble Helplessness"

BTW, "Holiness" was a favorite chorus at our Saginaw church as well as a fav of mine:)

Sara said...

I definately struggle with wanting the "great christian image". In the eyes of society, my peers and my family I have never been considered 'respectable' by others. I have never experienced a season when everybody knows my name, where everybody talks to me and wants to talk to me.

I've always kind of been that person who shows up in a conversation and others think "oh, great she's here."

I always feel as though i have to proove to others that i am someone worth listening to that i have something to offer this world.

I struggle with it because i have huge dreams for myself in minstry, lives that i want to influence, and relising that my background, my own thoughts and opionions will sadly keep some of those people from listening to me.

I went home this past week and took my dad to Burger King, and he asked me if i missed working there. I said "No, i don't miss any of the work that i've left...but i do like coming keeps me humble."

I find that i struggle with pride on wanting to be recognized by all in the prestigious community. But it is in those times when i go home and i reflect on the fact that i was nothing, i am still nothing compared to God...and while others may never respect me because i do not and never will fit the typical protigue of a good christian woman. God says that the only person i should be trying to please is him.

So, i pray, and i ask God for humility. A humility that truly recognizes who i am in light of who HE really is...and when those moments of true humbleness come I am joyful in the fact that i just get to serve him. And that service no matter how unrecognized by the elite community it may be...glorifies God in some way.

Andrew said...

Glad to have you back, Vanessa. You have been missed.

I'm not going to claim to be any kind of an expert on humility, but I can relate to being humbled. It happened again this evening at prayer meeting. On Wed nights Leah and I go to a regular old church prayer meeting. Some of the most faithful, humble, godly believers you will ever find meet there each week. They love God and they love people and when I hear them pray for others (even me!) I think this: these people don't love me and my family because I'm something special - I could never deserve this. This must be grace.

It also happens when I think about friends who make personal sacrifice to support my family and our ministry. This must be grace, and it is humbling.

I've still got much to learn.

courtney said...

A: I totally appreciate your comments on this subject, having watched you from the sidelines through your process. And having never been what I call one of the "beautifuls" at before-mentioned BBC, I felt broken and useless from the day I entered until the day I left. At the time, I didn't understand that life was a process. I thought I had to be perfect when I got there....and following a "perfect" older sister into that den of lions didn't encourage me. It was all my own baggage and it made certain situations worse in my head than they had to be but....
It wasn't until I walked away and joined the "real world" and saw "real people" who didn't have the answers that my parents tried to instill in me that I realized that it didn't have anything to do with me. It didn't matter that I couldn't play the piano and didn't want to be a pastor's wife and didn't look the part of what my father constantly tried to tell me "a lady" was. And that was when the beauty of grace truely hit me. That's when I started to realize how complete atonement really is. That's what is so amazing about the grace of God. I'm a screw-up; thank God!
Ness, sometimes I know exactly how you feel and sometimes I just know you. Not being one for wanting to be "up front" in an organization, I can't say that I can relate to the feeling of being know and recognized (that actually terrifies me). But I do know that feeling of wanting to be useful and wanting to know what my niche is. It's what constantly makes me want to pack up and do what I can for Vintage. I feel connected to it already. Since I can't, at least I can say that I'm willing. I'm open to whatever IT is. Since I hate change, that's an overwhelming feeling for me.
The IT for you will come; it will be made more apparent because you are willing, open....and your sleeping with one of the top guys so I'm sure he'll make sure you get in :) ha ha This is yours too. You might not always feel like you can own it, but you've made sacrifices for this too and the blessings will come. Your JOY will be made full. You will find a way to work out your passions and also a way to feel passionate about it. You've planted the seed, now, like a child, you must watch the pot for the first signs of green. I've found out that God uses pastry chefs. He has a place for people who have empathy. That's the stream I swim. You'll be waist deep in IT soon.

Sandy Mc said...

Yea...what Courtney said: "But I do know that feeling of wanting to be useful and wanting to know what my niche is."

And wierdly...*I* am the big sister in my family, and still I was often found doing lots of *stuff* trying to find a place for me next to my sister's cuteness (neither of us could hold a candle to you even with what you describe as a "bad" haircut, lol!)

ness said...

As each new entry was added to this discussion, I was very moved by the stories of your journeys.

A-literally moved to tears. I knew you then and I know you now, and if I could have protected you from that horror somehow, I absolutley would have, but God has brought tremendous and amazing good from it....namely JAYE T! (and more, I know)

Sandy, I am fascintated by the vast difference in our backgrounds and perceptions of things. Your perpective is tremendous....both as a woman further ahead with kids, etc, and also as Christian free from the sometimes toxic mixture of a legalistic Christian upbringing and adolescent angst. (you may be interested to note that the other contributers are all of the same alma mater which will remain nameless)

Sara, my sweet. We have always firmly believed that it is these humble beginnings of which you speak that will give you a depth in ministry unlike most of your peers. It took me a long time to get over my fears of the Lesbian Lizzes and Bob Bailey the Perpetually Drunk Mad Scientist -our neighbors at our first church- You would have been their friends without fear : )

Andrew- Thank you for your kind words. I know what you mean about how people contribute and support your ministry being humbling. I am absolutely amazed by that as well when we get a check for Vintage...It means that God has moved in their hearts to contribute to what you dream of doing...which means it is actually God's dream for you....Amazing.

And Sis, You'll never know what your friendship and support has come to mean to me. I never dreamed (when we were kids) we would be this have a true servants heart and always have. Bless you.

I love you guys. ((HUGS))

alright, I gotta get to work!!!!

courtney said...

thanks for making me cry at work!!! love you

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