Tag Archives: Transition

By Waiting and By Calm

magnolia2

 

I generally like to think that I’m a patient person. Lately, however, all of this waiting is really trying my patience!  Throughout this period of transition, there has always been something to keep me busy – writing assignments, part-time work, Spanish classes, job searches, preparing reflections for my prayer group, networking dates, trying new recipes, hanging out with friends. One of the keys to staying hopeful is simply having something to look forward to each day!

Last week, for the first time in almost 10 months, I finally hit that moment where I just wanted to bang my head against the wall and shake my fist in exasperation.  I am so done with the waiting game!

The most recent round of waiting has gone something like this:

I found this amazing job posting!  I spent the weekend polishing my cover letter … I applied for the job … I had two really great phone conversations … Wait … First interview … Wait … Wait … Second interview! … Wait … We’d like to check your references!! … Wait … Waiting some more … Still waiting … (ugh).

I’ve been assured that this is normal, and coming from the business world, I really appreciate their thoroughness!  The time line has also been interrupted by Holy Week schedules and Spring Break holidays.  (I appreciate that, too.)  Luckily, each step along the way has been met with positive feedback and hopeful signs.  But by now, I feel like a five year old waiting for Christmas, especially since I can see the presents sitting right there under the tree in front of me!

I have to admit though, this most recent round of waiting feels different than the waiting I was doing … say, six months ago.  Perhaps I’m more prone to growing impatient now, because there is a very clear end in sight.

It is much more difficult to wait for something ambiguous and unknown.  Spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen, reminds us that waiting is an active, not passive, activity.  Part of the spiritual discipline is to remember that something is happening in the stillness.  Nouwen writes:

People who wait have received a promise that allows them to wait. They have received something that is at work in them, like a seed that has started to grow. This is very important.  We can only really wait if what we are waiting for has already begun in us. So waiting is never a movement from nothing to something. It is always a movement from something to something more.

From time to time, I pull out my bucket list.  I’ve also gone back to that wishful thinking exercise that I used with our students, “If you could take a semester off, how would you spend your time?” This weekend, I think I’ll embark on my list of Cheap Things To Do In Chicago.  I keep telling myself that there is still time – to spend a day at the museum, to dive into a home improvement project, to go for a long walk along the lake.  Time is a gift, so how can I use it well?

Assuming this job offer comes through, my life is about to get extremely busy!  I keep reminding myself that a year from now, I’m going to wish that I had a little more down time, a little more flexibility, a few more lackadaisical spring days with nothing pressing on my calendar.

Psalm90-4

 

During Lent and Easter, I’ve been reading Tim Muldoon’s book “The Ignatian Workout for Lent” which offers 40 short spiritual reflections based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  On the Monday after Easter (when this misery of waiting brought me to a halt), I read this reflection based on the post-resurrection narrative of Jesus and Peter at the seashore.

The disciples knew Jesus had risen, but they had no idea what this meant!  They had gone back to Galilee and returned to what they knew – fishing.  In hindsight, we see these Easter days as a time of great celebration.  But the disciples were still confused and waiting for Jesus to offer some kind of guidance.  This particular reflection could not have come at a better time for me.  Muldoon writes,

“There will be time for the work of the kingdom; for now, it is enough simply to break bread with Jesus and eat fish with him.  Life after Resurrection is not a relentless cycle of actions to change the world; it involves patient waiting for the Lord.  Most important is not endless activity but willingness to wait for the Lord and simply be with him.  We may be active, but our action will not bear fruit unless the Lord directs it.  Wait for him.” (Muldoon, 152)

As I was putting together these thoughts this morning, I did a quick search of my own writing files.  I found a note, scribbled in the sidebar of a talk I gave nearly ten years ago, when I was making the shift from the corporate world into graduate school.  Given the timing of client visits and other transitions, I had given my notice in April, while I wasn’t starting graduate school until August.  That was a lot of time!

I wrote:  “This period of waiting meant I had time to make peace with my new reality.  It gave me time to make amends with difficult people and situations; time to grieve all that could have been and projects that would be left incomplete; time to create closure on that chapter in my life and truly begin to discern my next career move.”

It’s funny how similar and appropriate those remarks are to my current transition.  These 10-months in between full-time jobs has given me the time and space to grieve and to say farewell to people who were important to me.  It’s also given me a tremendous amount of space to creatively imagine what the future holds and to discern God’s will in the midst of it all.

Again, Henri Nouwen speaks of the creativity of waiting:

To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction. That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.

I’ve been given every assurance that good news is coming soon.

Thanks for waiting with me.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

To Everything There is a Season

*Inspired by the good preaching of Fr. Ken Simpson (09/26/2014)

Picture 098

Sunrise over the Atlantic at Eastern Point Retreat House

I remember the first time I pulled an all-nighter in Chicago.  It was one of those, “I don’t want this night to end, so let’s stay up and watch the sunrise over Lake Michigan” kind of nights – which is always a brilliant idea in the moment, but you undoubtedly regret it the next day, yet continue to tell stories about it years later!

My friend Daniel was preparing to leave the windy city for a two-year volunteer commitment in Honduras.  Daniel and I were in prayer-group together, and for that short season in my life, he was a true soul-friend.  I was not looking forward to saying goodbye.

A week before Daniel’s departure, his roommates hosted a farewell party in their tiny garden apartment and adjacent backyard. It was a warm summer’s eve with card games and singing, and someone even passed around a sombrero at midnight to take a free-will offering for Daniel’s mission.

No one really wanted to leave.  Perhaps, if this night never ends, we could delay bidding good-bye to Daniel just a little while longer.  By 2:00 am, most of the weary faces began hailing cabs.  At 4:00 am, the last round of us were staving off sleep deprivation and laughing, because by that hour, everything is funny.  Then someone suggested that we head over to Lake Michigan.  After all, it was still summer, and sunrise could not be more than an hour or so away.

It was here, where I truly discovered what “kairos” means – God’s time.  The Greeks distinguish chronos (clock time) from kairos – the fullness of time.  Kairos is to live so completely in the moment that you lose all sense of chronological time.  Furthermore, sitting with legs draped over the rocks, lapping up splashes of tide, and watching the horizon change colors – I experienced a sense of timelessness.  Day and night became inseparable.

We humans have created calendars and ticking time pieces that mark the entrance of one day and the end of another.  But time itself is continuous.  God does not sleep.  Indeed, God created the sun and called it “day”.  God created the moon and the stars and called them “night”.   But time itself and the passage of time is endless and eternal.

That beautiful passage from Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us:

There is an appointed time for everything and a time for every thing under the heavens.  A time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.  A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build.  A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance …

Ecclesiastes speaks of the fullness of time – not clock time, but God’s time.

BethDad

Fall Harvest in Nebraska, 2009

There is a time to plant and a time to uproot the plant.  The farm-girl in me knows that ideally there is a DATE when plow overturns soil or when the combine takes its first sweep of the season.  But more realistically, there is a TIME to plant.  Which means a farmer breaks ground when the temperatures are moderate and the soil is not too moist.  Similarly, when it is TIME to harvest, there are not enough hours in the day (just ask my dad!) – even if that means running the combine for 14 hours at a stretch!

This lesson hits home for me most poignantly now during this time of transition in between jobs. As I sit with this scriptures at this TIME in my life, I wonder how God views my life.  Perhaps God does not see my time as employed and unemployed.

God sees the year I spent teaching, the steep learning curve of project management, long lasting friendships and family gatherings, the joy of graduate school, my time in campus ministry, late night conversations with students, weekends away on retreat, mission trips to Nicaragua and Haiti – all with their high-and-lows and in-betweens.  God does not see those as distinct, separate puzzle pieces.  Rather, in God’s eyes, life is one continuous plane.  The picture is already made whole.

There is a temptation to call time spent working as “good” and to name being unemployed as “bad”.  I don’t think God sees it this way.  (Although, I do not mean to down play the financial struggles that come as a result of being without work.  I feel that pinch, too.)

My spiritual director gave me some good advice recently.  He asked me to set a DATE.  Realistically – given your expenses, your commitments, your severance package, your savings – how long can you (comfortably) remain out of work?  Recognizing that we all have different financial obligations and sources of income, someone else in my situation might have a very different response.  For practical purposes though, it’s important to have a DATE in mind.  Because then, as my spiritual director reminded me, you are free to give the remaining TIME to God.

Since doing this little exercise, I’ve discovered that I have time to go to the gym and time to sleep.  Time to write and time to dream.  There is a time for networking and time for resume writing.  Time for prayer and time to practice my Spanish.

I still spend a significant number of HOURS (time) on the job search.  But I spend significantly less emotional energy worrying about what the future holds.  There will be a TIME when the right next thing comes along, even if that means hitting that “date” and taking a job in order to make ends meet.

There are certainly days when I wish this transition would be over already!  In those moments, I remind myself this is God’s time, also.  God’s vision for my life is much wider than mine.  God is endlessly patient, and God waits for us, because God sees all of time.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Being In Transition … An Update

Starved Rock 2005I sometimes get the sense that people are afraid to ask how the job search is going.  It’s not that they aren’t curious or concerned.  Perhaps they think I’d rather talk about other things.  Recently, a friend who I hadn’t seen in quite some time said, “I bet you’re getting tired of this question….”  I’m always glad when people ask.

Up until a few weeks ago, I had a steady part-time freelance writing assignment.  I enjoy the work, and I especially appreciate the flexibility of working from home while looking for full-time employment.  A few weeks ago, I learned that the next phase of the project had been delayed and won’t pick up again until mid-October.  This has given me a lot of extra time to concentrate on my job search – too much time almost!

When I first learned that the writing project was delayed, my heart sank to the floor.  It was the first time during this transition that I experienced that momentary sense of dread.  It finally hit me that I am unemployed.  This new reality of “not working” nearly knocked the wind out of me.

Being laid-off from a job you love is enough to send even the most healthy and emotionally stable person into a temporary identity crisis.  Who am I?!  And who am I without those daily tasks and workplace relationships?  I never thought that I was a person who placed my entire self-worth in my job, but I could feel my confidence quickly slipping.

For those who might find it helpful, here are three things that keep me grounded:

1. Shortly after I was laid off, a dear friend said to me, “Beth, it really doesn’t matter what you do for a living. No one cares if you’re the janitor or the CEO.  We love you because you’re YOU.  Your life already has meaning, value, purpose.  You don’t need a fancy job title to prove your worth to us.”

I come back to this reflection often … especially on those days when the emotional roller coaster threatens to hurl me downhill.  I know that my life has meaning and purpose, and good things await me in the future.  This season of being in between jobs is part of my story, but it does not need to define who I am.  Frequent coffee dates, networking lunches, and play dates with my god-daughter help remind me of this as well.

2. I have a routine and a to-do list. I still set the alarm clock and get up at a reasonable time each day.  I spend time in prayer, and I try to get to the gym most days.  I make myself a to-do list, even if it includes simple things like “take out the garbage”.  I’m learning that finding a job is a job unto itself, and that I will wear myself out doing it 24×7.  I try to keep my internet searches strategic and limited.  Too much time on Monster quickly turns into a mindless obsession and leads to endless worry!  Life is about balance, and I’m learning to balance my career discernment along with everything else.

3. Finally, I learned a valuable lesson several years ago. “You have the right to tell your own story.”  (How I learned this lesson is a tale for another time!)  Each of us has the ability to speak the truth about our lives.  Words have meaning, and words are important.  Sometimes, we have to learn to tell the story differently.

Simple questions like, “what do you do?” or “where do you work?” were quite complicated at first.  I had no desire to jump into the pity party pool of “I got laid off, and let me tell you…”  So recently, I’ve been practicing a new story line – one that is both hopeful and true.  If our faith teaches us anything, it is a story of HOPE.  My story goes like this:

I’m a writer, and I work from home.  I had a long career in campus ministry and before that I worked in corporate consulting.  I’m in transition and looking for full-time work.  I’m hoping to find a mission-based organization where I can put my project management skills to good use (ideally Catholic, but I’m open to other non-profits too).  In the meantime, I’ve been doing a lot of networking and using the extra time to brush up on my Spanish.

I can say this, because I know my life has meaning and purpose and value – and because for right now, it’s true.  Feel free to ask me how it’s going.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized