Physically, I’m ready. Bags are packed, malaria pills are ingested, and I have carefully weighed and repacked my two bags full of donations half a dozen times to make sure I’m at 50 lbs (I’m like a few ounces off).
Mentally, aside from crafting a packing list, I’m not ready. It’s been a whirlwind of a semester (I still talk in school terms), and up until yesterday I haven’t given it a seconds’ notice that I will be with a group of people I don’t know or doing hard manual labor or away from Internet or entering into what some call a fourth world country. I am getting giddy just thinking about the Internet part; it will be so nice to be disconnected for a week.
Not sure what to expect, but I will catch you all on the flipside! :)
Traditions are a funny thing. When you are a kid, they are a fundamental part of your family and have so much significance to a time of year. You seem to think they are things everyone does, but of course learn later your parents just make them as you grow.
When J and I got married, we talked about what we wanted to instill in our family moving forward. There are so many anniversary traditions out there — taking a trip, going out to dinner, giving traditional anniversary gifts — and we wanted to do them all! But realistically, we probably needed to choose one to manage expectations and keep things simple. So we decided our only anniversary tradition would be to get off of work and spend the day together.
Our third anniversary was this past Wednesday, and it wasn’t the best timing. I am about to be off for six work days, and the funeral for my friends’ baby required me to take off on Friday. But work is never more important than relationships, so we took the day off as planned.
We woke up late (well, 7:30 is late for us), picked up breakfast and went for a hike with Leia. Afterwards we browsed in a bookshop, dropped of Leia and went out to lunch where we ate an absurd amount of food. That’s one of the delights of having the day off during the week — luxurious lunches. We ventured over the North Carolina Museum of Art where we tried to walk off our meal. :) Then we headed home and read books on our patio. We made pizza for dinner and watched American Hustle.
My best friend’s baby Owen passed away last week. He lived six weeks and one day.
I remember the day I found out about Owen. It was a Wednesday in June and I had a text from Al asking me to call her. My heart beat a little faster — she either had good or bad news. It turned out to be the best news: she was pregnant! That day I bought a bottle of champagne to toast when he was to be born.
The first time I saw Allison after she announced she was pregnant was in August, on our way to a friend’s wedding in DC. I had just moved into our house and she was pregnant and we were going to see our old dear DC friends. We were so happy. I saw her again throughout the fall in Asheville, then Charlotte, then Boone and then we celebrated New Year’s together, ringing in the year of Baby Parker! My friends and I threw her a shower in January and we sent her back to Atlanta with so many presents and prayers and well wishes. Next time we would see her she would be a mom!
The days and weeks leading up to his birth were very cold. We talked on our commutes home about her maternity leave and his nursery and the ways she was trying to induce labor.
He finally arrived February 23rd around 5pm. Text messages were flying between friends announcing his arrival, and when I got home that evening I opened that bottle of champagne with J to celebrate our dears friends turning into parents.
Everything fell apart the next day.
When I got back to my desk after an afternoon of meetings, I had dozens of unread messages and missed calls on my cell and work phone. Owen had a serious heart condition and they were flying him to Egleston Children’s Hospital.
I went to see them the following weekend with my sister. We didn’t know what to do, but knew we needed to be there even if we just took care of their dog. It was heavy, but Brian and Allison were so strong. They still are so strong.
I met Owen briefly (I wasn’t supposed to be back there because of flu season, but Allison really wanted me to meet him), and I was utterly smitten. What a sweet, precious baby.
His parents have spent the last six weeks by his side, reading to him, playing music over him, telling him stories. He had countless procedures, an open heart surgery, and more work on his tiny body than most could handle in a lifetime.
He finally went to be with the Lord Monday evening.
I really thought he was going to make it. I had such faith that he would live. I have never prayed so hard for anyone or anything in my life. His name coincidentally meant “strong warrior” and I knew for sure it was a sign he would fight through and be healed. The night before he died I even had a dream that Al and I were holding babies and there was a toddler in between us playing on the floor. I woke up with a peace and certainty that the toddler was Owen and he would live.
But it wasn’t and he didn’t.
I once heard that if we knew all that God knew, then we would pray for the things to happen the way that they do. When and how in all the world could I ever wish this situation to happen?? Too much, it’s too much.
Even still, in the midst of such pain, I know that the Lord is good.
What do we know of God’s plans? How in the world can we comprehend the grand story he is writing? One of my favorite passages is at the end of Job when God finally answers. He spends three chapters going through all of the ways he is higher. He is mightier. He is smarter. He gave up his only son for us — will he not also give us every good and perfect gift?
I have to think of life sometimes like my dog. She is a sweetheart but knows nothing about this world. She has no concept of how much we know. She has no comprehension of what we do all day when we leave her at home. She doesn’t understand that the land we stand on is only a tiny portion of a large country in the midst of such a huge world. She can’t even fathom it!
We are like that with the Lord. How in the world will something this sad and hard be used for good? I have no idea, but I cannot wait to find out. Because if you allow a sweet baby boy to be taken from this world for a reason, then it better be a good one.
I don’t think we will ever know why on this earth. But I have faith that one day we will. One day we will see the big picture. We will sit at the Father’s feet and hear all of the stories of bravery and grace and redemption from the beginning of time and rejoice and celebrate the woven stories of all that has come to pass. And sitting next to me in heaven will be a little boy with a scarred chest hearing his beautiful tale.
In the meantime, we miss him and we are sad.
Please continue to pray for my friends. These are just my memories of Owen; for every one of mine, Allison and Brian have a thousand more.
We live in an age of Do It Yourself. We love creating. We can’t get enough. Blame it on the bloggers, the Pinterest pinners, whomever, we love making our own fill in the blank.
This Do it Yourself mantra has crept into so many parts of our society, even the workplace. I read about more and more people who are turning their hobbies into businesses, and it is seriously so inspiring to see people’s dreams make them profits.
But what about the rest of us? Those who are still working for The Man?
Many of us sit at our desks and read about cool new gigs that people create, and I think sometimes we feel inferior. (At least I do at times.) We romanticize the Working for Myself job and think that Corporate America is for those who can’t get their dreams off the ground.
But friends, that is not so. There is great work to be done within companies, and not everyone is meant to run their own business… or should! I don’t think passion in work is just confined for those who create it from scratch.
I really enjoy my job and have come to enjoy working for a company. No, I don’t love it every day and sure I don’t jump out of bed every morning excited to wear a pencil skirt and heels, but I am happy to be at a company in a position that I enjoy. And as much as I’d like to sit around in sweatpants all day long, that is not sustainable. We were made for work.
“Work is so foundational to our makeup that it is one of the few things we can take in significant doses without harm. Indeed, the Bible does not say we should work one day and rest six or that work and rest should be balanced evenly but directs us to the opposite ratio. Leisure and pleasure are great goods, but we can take only so much of them.” - Tim Keller
I don’t want to dismiss those who work from home or have their own business (I’ll be the first to romanticize and envy your situation), but I want to encourage my fellow 9 to 5-ers who clock in, take orders from a boss, and bring home the paychecks each week. Your work is important, and there are so many benefits that we have.
Benefits of Working for Someone Else
Simplicity and consistency. For the most part, you know what to expect when you come in day after day. Some may call this monotony, but I think there is a peace about knowing what is expected, what you will be paid for that work, and how you can model the rest of your time around your work. You do not always have that luxury as an entrepreneur.
When the job is done, you get to go home. Okay, this is not found at all companies, but the general rule of thumb is at the end of the day, the work stops. I did not have this luxury in my last job and I value it so much in my current one.
You have an easier budget. Take your post-tax salary and divide it by 12, and there is the monthly amount to budget. Have you ever tried to budget with income that fluctuates from week to week? Way harder.
Health benefits. I take for granted health benefits at my job. I have a handful of freelance friends who pay an absurd amount of money for their health care, out of pocket dental visits, and vision expenses.
Retirement money. Most companies have retirement opportunities that you can participate in, and many times they will match a certain percentage. If you are not taking advantage of this, run to your HR department and sign up. Free money people!
Paid time off. One of the largest complaints I hear from those who work for themselves is the pressure that work never ends, there’s always something else to work on. With paid time off, though, you are able to disconnect a little easiest than if you work for yourself.
Co-workers. You may not see this as a benefit if you work with some unpleasant people, but one of the reasons I love coming to work is connecting with my coworkers. Gabbing about the latest episode of HIMYM (hated the finale, in case you were curious), taking long lunches on Fridays, celebrating birthdays with cake, and just having normal interaction with humans on a regular basis. Working by yourself can be so lonely!
Weekends. Two glorious days off from work. Need I say more?
Taxes are taken out for you. Ouch, this one may be fresh for so many who run their own businesses and April 15th is quickly approaching.
Opportunities to advance or move on. Working for someone else gives you new opportunities to advance and grow in your career, or the freedom to move on to another company when the opportunity comes. You also get the chance to work and learn from some very smart people. Quitting or moving on from your own business feels like failure (which it oftentimes isn’t) and is so personal.
Your job is important. Maybe you don’t see it as that important because it’s not glamorous or you do such simple work, but if you are contributing to the economy and society, then you are doing important work. Unless you are a drug dealer or gossip columnist… you probably aren’t benefiting society at all.
What would you add from the list? Do you work for a company? For yourself? What is your ideal work situation?
PS – The image above is from Getty Images‘ ”Lean In Collection” to help portray female leadership in stock photography.
There are a few times of the year when I want time to stop and savor the season. Now is one of them. The pear blossom trees are in blooms, the forsythias are changing from their brilliant yellow to lime green, and the weather is so unpredictable it keeps you on your toes.
This month will fly by, I just know it. I’ll be out of the country for a week (oh my!), work is as hectic as ever, and I have so many house and garden projects I want to get started.
Have a wonderful time in Haiti (can’t believe it’s two weeks away!)
Celebrate our 3rd anniversary
Go on an Easter Egg Hunt
Run in a 5k race
Build a compost out of pallets
Start a window-box herb garden
Figure out the plan for a vegetable garden (pots vs. raised beds)
Start to maybe think about paint colors for the dining room
Sometimes I come to this little space and the words flow freely. Thoughts form quickly and I can’t type fast enough. Other times I login, open a new post and stare at the blinking cursor, type a little bit, then decide to pick it up another day.
If you can’t tell by my radio silence lately, I’ve been in a season of the latter.
It has been a very hard few weeks. One of my best friends has been going through hell as she watches her newborn baby suffer with an unexpected heart condition. He is so sick and it was all so unexpected. How can you go through nine months of ultrasounds and doctors visits and not detect a broken heart? I went to see them the weekend after Owen was born, which was active and productive, but I sit here now feeling helpless and weary for them. It’s hard to focus on anything besides that sweet baby boy sometimes, and I feel the fear and hope on the other end of the phone whenever I talk with my friend.
In desperation to do something I created a t-shirt campaign to help pay for some of their medical expenses. If you want to help, we are selling “Team Owen” t-shirts and onesies to help raise money and show support. The campaign ends March 28th. Thank you for all of those who have supported and prayed for them so far! That little boy is a fighter and is loved by so many.
In other news, I have started to tutor an Iraqi woman once a week. It all came about so randomly and perfectly. After reading so many books on social injustice (Radical, 7, Generous Justice), I felt a tug on my heart to be a part of something here in my city. Sure I could join an organization, but I really wanted something organic and natural; actually become friends with the poor. But how in the world do you begin an authentic relationship with a population that you never come in contact with?
I asked the girls in my small group to pray for an opportunity, and literally two days later I got a message from a friend who leads an ESL program where I volunteer to bring food every few months. She asked if I would be interested in tutoring an Iraqi refugee who is pregnant and has two small children. As soon as I found out she lives a mile from where I work, I eagerly agreed. I’ve only met with her three times and already I am humbled by her kindness. She’s the nicest, friendliest and most hospitable woman I have ever met. I look forward to our English lessons every week.
Adding more to my plate has forced me to pursue a balanced life. I used to think that balance was figuring out how to evenly accomplish everything you want to and still remain zen. I am learning balance looks more like owning up to your failures and accepting that you can only do so many things well. It is choosing the best over the good.
Two things I am trying to figure out: how to run my household well and how to take care of myself. I am slightly embarrassed to admit how hard both of those things are for me.
First, how to run a household. I just have a self-sufficient guy and a low-maintenance dog, how hard is it to manage a house? It’s not like I have a brood of children to take care of. Nevertheless the thought of making dinner is crippling sometimes, and oftentimes I approach Sunday evenings with dread.
Second, taking care of myself. Is it really that important? After months of neglect, I’ve decided my answer needs to be yes. I need to put myself first sometimes. That sounds very unChristian to admit, but I am a happier and more helpful person to all the people when I exercise on a regular basis, eat healthy, and have enough time alone to decompress.
So, how do I start becoming more balanced? I’m not sure, to be honest, because I’ve become accustomed to being mediocre at all the juggling. But I know a balanced life means saying no to more things in order to say yes to the important ones. To be intentional about my time. To make Sundays count. To not go out of town at the drop of an invitation. To schedule exercise and view it as necessary not optional. To partner with J on the home. To create margin so that I can be flexible.
I am choosing to say YES to:
Working hard (then leaving work at work)
Yoga and pilates classes
Meal planning and real food
Date nights and adventures with J
Teaching ESL once a week
Reading before bed
An organized and meaningful home
Running with Leia
Co-leading a small group and cultivating relationships
Catching up with sisters/mom/friends on my way home from work
More time at my house
Blogging, whenever I want to
I am choosing to say NO to:
Watching TV shows I don’t love
Reading hundreds of blogs
Desserts during the week
Shopping out of boredom
Saying yes because of guilt or obligation
Impulse food decisions
Blogging out of pressure
One of the things on both lists is this blog. I really love this space as it offers such a great release of creative energy for me at times. Other times, though, I feel pressure to post more and better. Once upon a time, I thought I could turn this blog into a big money-maker and generate enough income for me to go full time whenever we have kids. Ha! That dream has since passed, and that’s okay.
Over the years I have been discouraged by the lack of growth and found myself constantly comparing to others who seemed to juggle blogging and life so easy. I know what kind of time and energy it takes to grow a blog, but my real job and real life (two things I genuinely love) have always gotten in the way. And whenever I’ve put too much pressure on it, the fun is gone. It goes from a hobby to another chore.
This post, for example, is waaaaay longer than recommended and easily could have been split into four different posts. It would have been shared four more times on social media and probably gotten four more times the traffic and four more times the hits and four more times the ad payments. To that I say — whatever. It is so much easier and so much more fun to just sit and write away instead of thinking about strategy and what photo could be shareable on Pinterest and what clever title I can write to make this more searchable.
I’m going back to blogging for me first, my beloved always-following readers second, new readers third, and advertisers very, very last.
In summary: it’s been a long winter. Come quickly, spring!