Grace Settles Softly

Grace settles softly,
A cheerful chirp like delight
mixed with my cynical disbelief.
I deserved so much worse;
I was waiting for so much more.

Grace breathes Her life into crushed hopes,
a gentle whisper
at
a
time;

A friendly whiff of encouragement
once, twice, until…
Grace begins to live a life of Her own;
Outside of me,
Yet from me
And I lay myself down
again
to be this
channel of Grace,
This echo of Hope,
one decisive moment
at
a
time.

Susan Seiling, 2018

Ten Tips For Living A Gluten Free Life

Growing up, my mom cooked one meal for the entire family, and if we didn’t want to eat it, we could make ourselves a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was rare to know of a family with a food allergy.

Those days are gone. My kids go to schools that ban peanuts, and in my own family we have allergies to gluten, milk protein, fructose and almonds…a combination that makes cooking a challenge.

I gave up gluten about three years ago. After having my last baby at 40, my body began to revolt with auto-immune issues. I was unable to wear my contact lenses because my corneas swelled; I had spots of psoriasis appearing on my arms; and I had chronic migraines. My daughter was also experiencing food allergies, so I went though an elimination diet with her. The improvement from not eating gluten was so pronounced, I decided to stop eating it altogether.

For those of you who are thinking about going gluten free, or who have someone with a gluten-free diet in your life, here are some thoughts about living and cooking without wheat:

1. Think from the perspective of ingredients, instead of recipes.
What ingredients CAN you eat? If you can eat chicken, think of ways to dress up chicken that still fall within your diet. Think of vegetables you can eat, and then look for creative ways to use those vegetables.

2. Don’t overlook simplicity.
A simple grilled chicken breast with steamed veggies and some butter is delicious and filling. So is pot roast with potatoes and carrots; or meatloaf made with oatmeal instead of bread crumbs; or chili with some tortilla chips; or a taco or baked potato bar, where each family member can put whatever ingredients they like on their plates.

3. Soups can be a great choice…but watch out for sauces!
Broth-based soups are your friend if you are gluten free, as long as they don’t have pasta in them. Cream of anything, and any type of bisque will probably have flour and milk. Also, watch out for flour and wheat in sauces, including soy sauce. Use corn starch instead of flour to thicken gravies and sauces.

4. Salads make a good lunch.
You can put all kinds of things on top of a salad…grilled chicken, shrimp, veggies, nuts, seeds, olives, dressings (just watch the ingredients in salad dressings).

5. Use your spices!
Pre-packaged spice mixes contain a lot of preservatives and random ingredients. Taco seasoning, for example, has flour in it. You can make great spice mixes from spices in your cabinet. Here is a yummy taco seasoning that does not have flour, and our family likes even better than the premade packages.

6. Think of alternative starches to eat.
Even if you are gluten free, you can still eat all kinds of potatoes (chips, fries, mashed, baked, fried); all kinds of rices (a rice cooker is VERY handy); oats (Cheerios and oatmeal); and corn (including corn tortillas and tortilla chips). As with all food intolerances, you can go to varying levels to avoid the culprit food. If you are looking to go ABSOLUTELY gluten free, then look for the “Certified Gluten Free” label to ensure the grain in your food did not mix with wheat gluten while growing in the fields, or in the food processing equipment.

7. Watch out for sneaky ingredients.
Ingredients are easily hidden in restaurant food and your friend’s cooking. Battered fried food; sauces; soups; meatballs are likely gluten culprits…some candies also have flour on them to prevent them from sticking to other candies. If your friend has Celiac Disease, then be mindful to disclose any and all flour you used in their meal…it can make them seriously ill.

8. Be strategic with your desserts.
You get used to the texture of gluten free baked goods after awhile. But baked goods that don’t require flour are better. Desserts like chocolate mousse, or chocolate tortes, no bake cookies,or those little peanut butter buckeyes…are awesome.

9. Good places to learn more:
Paleo websites are great places to find recipes and cooking ideas. The book The Paleo Approach is also an excellent and educational book and talks about using food to heal auto-immune issues.

10. Tell restaurants about your allergy!
If you have a true allergy, then always tell the restaurant when you order. Good restaurants will change their gloves/cutting boards/etc. to avoid cross-contaminating your food with other foods in their kitchen.

What happens if I eat gluten? I don’t have a Celiac diagnosis, so my symptoms are more annoying than debilitating: fuzzy thoughts, my hands hurt and I get migraines. Yesterday I went off my gluten free diet because I had high tea with my sisters, AND my sister made my mom’s brownie sheet cake (I really could not resist it!). Today I have a low-grade migraine and feel super sluggish…so…back to gluten free I go.

Do Thoughts and Prayers Even Matter?

Following recent mass shootings, I’ve seen dozens of posts stating that “thoughts and prayers” are a cop-out; That we need laws and to DO SOMETHING, DO ANYTHING to prevent such devastation from happening again.

It’s a month into high school, and we’ve already received four calls from the principal about (unsubstantiated) violent threats, and news that a smart and dynamic boy committed suicide.

Our society is broken. Kids in America have more stuff and activities than any generation in history…and they are killing themselves and each other. There are so many people who are hopeless, mentally exhausted and wracked with anxiety. The problem in our nation isn’t one that can be fixed by legislation, or the sheer will of the people. It’s a heart problem. It’s people who feel unwanted, unloved, sad, rejected, alone and hundreds of other negative emotions that lead them, one thought at a time, into further paths of darkness.

I know this because I have walked in that darkness. For 25 years I tried to do life on my own, with my own standards. Twenty years ago, as I walked down a steep mountain trail that beckoned me to jump over the edge, the word “PRAY” echoed in my head…and I did so, earnestly, even though I never really prayed before. I prayed that, if God were real, he would move us to a different place. I prayed that he’d take me to a place where I could learn more about Him. I prayed that if I survived to the bottom of the mountain, he’d give me a way out of the overwhelming situation I found myself in. I prayed that He’d take my life and make it something new, because I was floundering on my own.

And that’s exactly what He did. He led me to a place where I could learn and grow and change into something and someone completely new. He changed my heart. He transformed my marriage. He gave me three beautiful children, each one overcoming great odds to make it into existence.

I’m realizing that the people who mock prayers on social media don’t know the transforming power of prayer. They don’t know God’s power because they have never experienced it personally. They believe the world’s destiny resides in man’s best thoughts and legislation. I find that belief altogether terrifying. It’s like expecting bandaids to fix gaping chest wounds.

This is what praying does: It unleashes the power and sovereignty of God in our world. It ushers in protection, provision, hope and unreasonable joy in any situation. A world without prayers is a world destined for destruction, one broken heart lashing out at a time.

So, when I walk in the store and see someone whose countenance looks broken, I pray.

When I see a kid who is sitting alone with no friends to talk to, I pray.

When I send my kids off to their public school, I pray for them, the other students, and their teachers.

When I see a friend lose a child unexpectedly, I cry, and I pray.

And when I see a situation I have no idea how to help, I will type, “My thoughts and prayers are with you!” into the comments section of Facebook. Unlike flowers, a donation, or legislation, prayers last into eternity, and call on God Himself to change the course of someone’s life forever for the better.

In the true battles of life, it’s not about the weapons at all. It’s not about gun control or thought control. It’s about individual hearts rallying together, helping each other, and shining light into the darkness so others can join in.

Let us pray…because absolutely, prayers do matter.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. – James 5:16

How Do You Eat An Elephant?

After 19 years of business ownership, homeschooling two kids, and completely rewriting my life over the past year, I am intimately familiar with being overwhelmed. I know what it’s like to see a full slate of work ahead of me, and realize the only way to get it done, is for me to physically do it. Since I find myself in this situation frequently, I have a great question to pose for my next blog post…and that is:

How do you eat an elephant?

An elephant is an overwhelming circumstance or situation. It’s a series of fires that have begun in your life and orchestrated themselves to simultaneously scorch multiples aspects, often at the same time. It’s when you find yourself completely overwhelmed at your life situation, and at the realization that there is no easy way out…and no matter what path you find to walk along, it’s going to be a long haul.

It’s when my husband was diagnosed with cancer at age 37, when we thought he just had a hernia.

It’s when my son was unexpectedly born with cleft lip and palate…a birth defect that is very fixable, but requires a childhood of surgeries and interventions.

It’s when I found myself driving down our mountain road, knowing that the end of our business was near, with no clear path how to sell it.

It’s when I realized that the only things standing between our life in California and the new life God was calling us to in Tennessee was selling two houses, closing down a business, packing up the contents of the houses, finding a new house in Tennessee, loading our moving trailer, and then actually physically moving our family across the nation…Any one of those things should take several months to accomplish, and they all had to happened at the exact same time.

In the last year or two of our business, I had the same disturbing dream, over and over again. Initially, it caused me great anxiety each time it emerged in my sleep…but by the tenth or eleventh time I had the dream, I had grown so used to it, I’d think, “Oh it’s my stupid anxiety dream again,” even while I slept. The dream had lost its power.

I think there is something similar to navigating the elephants in life. At a certain point, you stop thinking “OH NO! AN ELEPHANT!!!” and instead think, “Ok…there’s the next elephant…here we go, God…”

I’m several elephants into my adult life, and have come up with this step-by-step elephant-eating plan for anyone who finds themselves in similar overwhelming circumstances:

Step One: Size up the elephant. Take a good look at the circumstances and the complete and utter chaos you have found yourself in. It’s nuts, isn’t it? I mean really…who could do well navigating a challenge like THIS one? Allow yourself the freak out moments, because it will lead you to the next step:

Step Two: Acknowledge you can’t eat the elephant alone. It’s going to take other people to help you…and most importantly, it’s going to take God’s help and direction. Other people may tell you to eat the tail first; or the ears…but then you will find God putting your heart into conquering another aspect. Listen to God’s leading. When we moved to Tennessee, I had competing voices in my head (and in my life) telling me to prepare our house to move; do the final paperwork for our business; make sure our children were faring as well as possible, given the chaos; look for a house in Tennessee…the only way I was able to successfully move from point A (California) to point B (Tennessee) was to follow God’s steady voice, one step at a time. This leads me to the next concept:

Step Three: Take one step at a time, and one day at a time. Most of my days are written for me before I even wake up. I know when my kids need to go to school, when I need to go to work; what waits for me at work, and I also know the overwhelming number of things that must fit in alongside these daily realities. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I ask myself, “What is the very next step I need to take?” And then I do that step. It’s amazing how doing this one thing, over and over again each day, truly does move life’s mountains.

Step Four: Don’t look too far ahead. When you are in an overwhelming circumstance, what you MOST want to know is when it will be over…when you will have some semblance of control over your life again, and can go back to worrying about what you’ll make for dinner, instead of how to pay for the food. When I find myself worrying about the future, or wanting the five or ten-year plan, I take stock of my life at that exact moment: If I am fed, in a warm house, and have clothing on…and so do my children…honestly, everything else is a bonus. The Lord’s prayer doesn’t say, “Give us this day our next ten years’ worth of bread,” but simply “daily bread.” And sometimes remembering His faithfulness with daily bread makes it easier to trust He will continue to provide it as we live out the years ahead.

Step Five: Don’t be afraid of hard work. There was a point in time when I would shy away from a project because it seemed too overwhelming. After years of business ownership, and especially after navigating my past year, I know the power of diligently accomplishing one thing at a time, one day at a time…you can do impossible things by simply rolling up your sleeves, and actually doing the work. Stop thinking about how overwhelming it is…and just DO THE WORK.

Step Six: Don’t fear exhaustion. Exhaustion comes from hard work and intense living. At some point, you will have time to sleep again. If you become too focused on how tired you are, it robs the energy you need to actually navigate through your situation. Accept that exhaustion is a part of life sometimes…and you will survive it.

Still, even with all of this advice, sometimes you just get sick of the elephant. You want it to go away, or disappear, or be replaced by something delicious and decadent and not have to eat more of the STUPID STINKY ELEPHANT…MAKE THE ELEPHANT GO AWAY!!!

That’s when you do the most important thing:

Take a bit of time to take care of yourself. Sleep in. Do something fun, just for the sake of having fun. Go for a walk. Look at the stars. Eat a Blizzard from Dairy Queen. Allow yourself time to dream…sometimes the best way to eat an elephant is to allow yourself time to stop looking at it for awhile, and focus on things that give you joy. It reminds you that eventually the elephant will go away…this too shall pass..and all of that elephant wrestling will leave you stronger, wiser and able to enjoy the sweet things of life even more.

What’s Harder? Homeschooling or Working Full Time?

So, it turns out that when you work a full time job AND have a family AND have a 40 minute commute each way, you end up with a lot less time for things like blog writing…

Despite the busyness and the packed schedule, my ideas keep flowing…so I will continue to write this blog, even though a brand new season of The Bachelorette (my guilty pleasure) is calling my name.

Yes, I will write… And I will tell you about this new chapter of life called “Life As a Full-Time Working Mom”. This chapter was written into my story following many other chapters of motherhood including:

Life as a mostly stay-at-home mom
Life as a business owner mom
Life as a mom of little tiny kids
Life as a mom of school aged kids
Life as a mom with a very sick spouse
Life as a mom who GETS PREGNANT AGAIN AT 40!
Life as a homeschooling, working mom with a newborn…

So, at this point, I figure that God wants me to have the perspective of what it is like to be many types of American moms, so I can fully relate to any mother I meet. Therefore, for this chapter of my life, I am working full time.

I am beginning a series where I answer various questions, and the first one is: Is it easier to be a full-time working mom, or a homeschooling mom?

That’s quite a question to start out with, isn’t it?

I am six months into being a full-time working mom, and it is both harder AND easier.

This morning as I drove off to work in my quiet car and listened to a podcast that had nothing to do with parenthood, while sipping my hot coffee ALL BY MYSELF, it felt like being a working mom was VERY EASY and VERY QUIET. Hot coffee and quiet have been nearly impossible to come by for the past 14+ years, and now, for 40 minutes to AND from work, I have both.

Over the past several months I’ve had a very heavy workload at work, learning the nuances of nonprofit bookkeeping, the culture of a new workplace, the names and personalities of dozens of wonderful people I’d never seen before, but who now fill my daily life…it has been very, very intense.

But it’s not anywhere near as intense as homeschooling two kids while running a small business. Or closing down a business and moving across the country with three kids, two cats and two fish…

At work, I am able to complete a task from beginning to end, several times each day. If someone interrupts me, they are extremely polite as they ask for my attention. I am able to delve deeply into troubleshooting many issues, and actually come to conclusions…unlike most of parenthood, which changes just as soon as you feel like you’re getting the hang of it…

So, the day to day life…it’s easier in many ways as a full-time working mom.

Here’s what’s hard:

  • Trying figure out a clothing style that doesn’t look completely like mom fashion, when you’ve been living in yoga pants for the past decade…or mountain fashion, when you’ve been living in the mountains for 20+ years.
  • When to get to the dry cleaner, and the doctor and the dentist…why does everyone keep 9 to 5 hours, when the rest of the world needs to work, too?
  • Sleep is also hard…if I stay up too late watching the rose ceremony on The Bachelorette, I still have to wake up to get to work on time the next morning, instead of letting me and the kids sleep in until we are ready to rise and greet the day.

But you know what is hardest? Missing my kids. Missing being there when they get home from school. Missing seeing my four year old make the day-to-day discoveries of that magical age. Having to catch up my kids’ days at the end of the day, instead of while they are going through it…that’s hard for me. My kids are my favorite people in the world, and it’s hard to have time with them limited by work…though I truly feel God has called me to this exact job and this exact point in time…

So I am thankful. Thankful for the contrast, and that I have spent nearly all of the past 14 years deep in the trenches of motherhood, living every single day alongside my children.

Thankful that Rich gets to be with our kids in a new way, spending loads of time with them as he lives out life being the official daily parent-on-duty.

Thankful for God’s palpable presence and direction in this chapter, just as He gave it in the last one.

And thankful for this new perspective on what it’s like to live life as a working mom.

Seeing all of the full-time working moms who now fill my life has convinced me of two things:

  1. They love their kids fiercely and well; and
  2. They are mentally strong, organized and admirable as they try to live out God’s call to steward their life at home AND in the workplace.

No one works as hard as working moms…except every other kind of mom. Motherhood is a lot of work, no matter how you live it out. And whether I’m home full time, or at work…being a mom is the best job I’ll ever have.

My Not-So-Stinky Commute

Many events stop traffic on my morning commute: Crossing guards in the school zone; Parents dropping off their kids; An occasional accident…But few things have been more memorable than the day a skunk stopped traffic on the corner of Old Fort and Veterans Parkways.

I was sitting patiently at the intersection, munching on my Cheerios and waiting for the impossibly long light to turn green. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a black-and-white animal, ambling down the road, completely oblivious to the lines of traffic directly in front of it. I had been waiting at the light for a good 30 seconds, and as I anticipated the light turning green, the skunk decided it was a fine time to prance in front of the lines of stopped traffic.

What do you do, when a skunk walks in front of you, and you are driving the lead car in a long line of traffic? Do you accelerate into it, hold your breath, and hope he decides not to spray you? Or do you sit and watch patiently, knowing that the cars behind you will begin laying into their horns with each passing second?

I glanced at the driver next to me, who was leaning over his steering wheel, staring at the road in disbelief, a smirk of a smile in the corner of his mouth. I caught his eye, wrinkled my eyebrows as if to say, “What do we do?” And he chuckled and shrugged his shoulders.

So we sat. And we watched the skunk make his merry way across the six lanes of traffic, back into the intersection, into oncoming traffic (oh no, oh no, oh no!!!!) and miraculously into a neighboring yard.

The skunk survived. The light turned green (amazingly, it didn’t turn green while we were watching the skunk…I told you it was a long light)…and we continued on to work.

That intersection has become one of my morning favorites…stopped at that light, I find myself next to business people, young moms, truck drivers, and other random characters, all a bit groggy, slurping their coffee and crunching on random breakfast bits. It’s an odd camaraderie; a place of daily life; and sometimes, like that morning, a place of unexpected grace…for the skunk, and for us.

My Next Big Assignment…

The rooms were bursting with donations for the thrift store. The food pantry’s shelves stretched in long lines: a bounty of canned goods, foods, fresh meats and vegetables, diapers and toiletries. People sat, waiting to speak to staff members to discuss their needs. Some wore looks of despair; Others had a sense of calm, knowing they had come to a place that would help.

I walked through the operation, seeing more and more bounty; more and more good; more and more tangible, practical THINGS people needed to live their lives, and it was truly like seeing a storehouse of God. It seemed never ending; ever expanding; and a place full of true, tangible hope…

I think it would have looked different to me, two years ago. Two years ago, need wasn’t fresh in my mind. I had a successful business, and money to pay my bills at home and at work. Two years ago, I couldn’t imagine being in Tennessee, much less looking for a full time job working for someone else.

But that day, on that tour, knowing the state of my pantry at home, compared to the grocery-store-like bounty of the food pantry, I saw personal, tangible gifts from God, ready to be given to the community. I had the sense that I was standing on hallowed ground, and I wanted to be a part of it. It nearly made me cry.

So, I accepted their temporary position and began working in the accounting department, processing donations. It was supposed to be a 1-2 month position, so I continued to look for another job.

A week after I started, I was offered another job in accounts payable at a very large corporation. It was full time, with benefits, and I accepted the position because it seemed like the logical and wise thing to do…but my heart wanted to stay at the ministry.

I was supposed to start the new job on January 8. The paperwork was submitted, the drug test taken (successfully!). Then, on my last day of work at the ministry, my supervisor gave her 2-week notice. She had found another job…and I was offered her position. Of course, I said yes.

That’s how I found my new job as an Accounting and Human Resources manager. It came from a temporary position, through a temp agency who just happened to have a non-profit Christian ministry come on board the day after I applied for a different position with them. The temp agency thought the ministry might be a better match than the original position, for some reason…

My new responsibilities closely resemble many of the jobs I used to do at our small business. And I’m beginning to see a new type of fruit from the struggles of our last 18 months. If we had to close our business, downsize our lives, move across the country, and go through everything else, to put my heart in the right place for this particular assignment…then…Thy will be done…

After 19 years, I felt like I was stagnating in our business, and that I hadn’t learned anything new in a long time. It turns out, I was wrong.

Three years ago, we began working with an online ordering system with a back end that closely mirrors the back end of the ministry’s online donation portal. Last year I figured out how to import everything in that portal into Quickbooks, and I can now give that knowledge to the ministry.

All of the expansive and exhausting work of 2017: selling our brands, and refining our books to present them to the buyer; the job of closing down our corporation, and the huge amount of information and precision that required…it all provided a greater level of knowledge and accountability in my bookkeeping, and a deeper understanding of accounting and QuickBooks, and that is exactly what I needed to take on this new position.

I never wanted to be a bookkeeper. I didn’t go to school for it, and have no formal training in it. But the last thing I did before Christmas break was write a check for someone’s rent. My work helped someone have a home for Christmas this year.

Though I’ve been keeping the books of my small business since 1998, I never realized bookkeeping could fundamentally change someone’s life until I cut that single check.

So I’m happy to embrace this next assignment, knowing it’s not really about me, anyway…

Matthew 25:35-40 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Searching For The Perfect Plan

After trying many planners, this is my favorite daily planner for homeschooling…and they also make a regular daily planner, as well.

Today I was supposed to go to work. I navigated the morning obstacle course of making lunch; feeding my little boy; getting dressed; and finally settled into the car with a fresh podcast loaded onto my phone…only to discover that work was cancelled for the day.

My plans changed.

Again.

No matter how much this last year has taught me, it still unsettles me when plans change. Especially when most days include unexpected diversions and disruptions.

The concept of “planning my day” became part of my daily vernacular in college, when I was introduced to my first “daily planner.” Ohio University issued official spiral-bound planners, which could be purchased at College Bookstore for a few dollars. Tests, quizzes, homework assignments and club meetings quickly filled in the pages of my life, and within a few months, I found myself living by this book. If something was written down in it, it happened…if not, it would be forgotten.

College was marvelously and fantastically predictable. Syllabuses were issued; books were studied; tests were taken…and I eventually received my diploma.

This standard protocol did absolutely nothing to prepare me for the realities of my adult life.

Immediately after I finished college, Rich and I took a six week road trip, with no plans other than to “go explore out west.” We loaded up his 1999 Nissan Sentra with food, a tent and clothing…space was so tight, I didn’t even pack a hair dryer. We spent four of those weeks in New Mexico and Utah, exploring the national parks, drinking Snapple and searching for any type of music on the radio…we were in the middle of nowhere…there were no iPods or Smart Phones in the 1990s…

I went from a completely planned life in college, where I could fully manage my time as I saw fit…to sleeping in a tent with absolutely nothing to do other than follow our whims.

It was tremendously unsettling, and a great introduction to the unpredictable life that was to come…

– First, business ownership (always working, even if we weren’t always at work).

– Then, having children (always a parent, even if you should be sleeping but someone randomly throws up / has a bad dream / heard a noise).

– Then, homeschooling (making plans, but having to be ever-flexible to your child’s needs for that day…times three, when you have three children).

– And now…becoming a working mom. Full time. As in…I am leaving the house every morning at the same time, and coming home and feeding my family…packing lunches, and doing it all over again the next day, five days in a row.

I find myself wanting to plan my life, much like when I was in college…making plans for meals, lunches, outings and dates with my spouse and kids…

But last week, I planned to go out on a date with Rich, only to be texted that my son threw up, just as we sat down for dinner. With so many disrupted plans, I am finding myself resentful of planning. I can’t live my life by my plans, because plans change. People get sick. Appointments are missed. Life is tiring, and sometimes I just want to sleep, sleep, sleep and forget ALL OF THE PLANS.

The past year has taught me that planning is a luxury. To meal plan for the week or month, you need to have money to buy all of your groceries ahead of time. To make plans for coffee with a friend, you must be able to predict that you will be able to leave your family at the allotted time, and actually meet her. To plan for outings or trips, you must be able to reasonably predict that you will have the time, money and energy to actually deliver on the plans.

So, when people say they live by their plans or their calendar, I think…you are so lucky. You are so blessed that your life is predictable, and has a steady rhythm. Sometimes people don’t live by plans because they can’t catch a break to actually make them. There are chapters in life like that, it seems…and sometimes it inadvertantly becomes a way of life…

Still, I try…

Because planning gives me the illusion of control over my life. A well-laid plan makes me feel like all the stuff of life will eventually be accomplished, and this gives me peace.

So, I will continue to plan our meals, search for good routines, look for slots of time when I can connect with each family member…and all the while, try to figure out how to have peace when the plans fall apart. I’ll try to live life working towards a plan (not berating myself if the plans are broken…again…)

I’m also realizing that it’s okay for the plan to be having NO PLANS…some chapters call for full immersion in the moment…afterall: “The heart of man plans his ways, but the Lord determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

You can plan your day, your month, your life, and in the end…it’s really up to God how it all works out.

Work was cancelled today, for example, but I had the time to write this post…

His plan was better than mine. It always is.

The Insanity Of Finding a Job In the 21st Century

Job Fair

It’s been 23 years since the last time I applied for a job. Back then, you filled out a paper application with a pen, neatly writing your name, home phone and address, along with all of the other information they required. Penmanship mattered…if the employer couldn’t read your phone number, you may never hear from them. Resumes were printed carefully on a laser printer at Kinko’s (not the dot-matrix printer most people had at home) on bonded resume paper, then mailed in a matching envelope.

Weeks would go by, without knowing if the person received the application, or what may be going on with it. I had my mom check our home answering machine constantly, and wondered if and when I might be called for a job interview, or an internship.

I guess this proves my age, because 23 years later, finding a job is a completely different animal. What I have discovered during my last month of job searching is that it’s almost completely automated, and it all happens online…Especially if you have a very limited network, or are just starting out somewhere, like I am. Though I am “mid career,” most of my network is in California, not Tennessee. This presents a bit of a challenge…

For the past several weeks, my iPhone has been constantly loading jobs from Indeed.com and Glassdoor.com. Besides the steady stream of new jobs, these sites have also been helpful to discover what businesses are located nearby. Here in Nashville, there are 150+ jobs being posted every day, just in our suburb alone. Most of these sites let you apply directly through them…you upload your resume once; add a cover letter if you’d like…then submit your job application. That’s it.

Really, truly…that’s it.

Your resume goes into a deep black void of space, and it’s rare to hear back from anyone, other than the automated email engine that lets you know your application was received. It’s all a bit soul-less.

I’ve also joined several job boards on Facebook…Nashville Jobs, Murfreesboro Jobs, Nashville Only Jobs, Murfreesboro Jobs Now…they all feature recruiters who…you guessed it! Post jobs! Most are for forklift operators; packaging clerks and jobs at the nearby Amazon distribution center…not exactly what I’m looking for, but it’s impressive how many jobs there ARE here, for people willing to do the work.

Job FairEvery once in awhile, I will see a posting for a Job Fair. One came up recently where they were hiring for bookkeeping and H/R, and since I have experience in both, I figured I’d drive up to Nashville and actually physically put my resume in someone’s hands and smile at their face…kind of like in the 1990s.

A “Job Fair” as it turns out, is quite an experience. As I sat in a room of 30+ individuals from very diverse backgrounds, I thought to myself…this is the pool of applicants I am competing with, every single time I submit a resume on indeed. Here they are! We are all in the black void of submitted resumes together! 

One by one, over the course of the next three hours, I watched them be pulled for individual interviews, as the remaining people snacked on Cokes and cookies. We went from a crowd of people sitting with perfect posture, to everyone slouching on their Smart Phones, or chatting with their nearby neighbor. The guy next to me, for example, had three kids close to my children’s ages, worked in staffing for the past five years, and was native to Nashville…we had a lot of time to talk.

I eventually was called in for two separate interviews, and it felt good to share my thoughts; my ideas on work ethic; and my skills with an ACTUAL PERSON, instead of just listing them on my LinkedIn profile and hoping for the best.

Looking for a job in 2017 is a highly automated process. The good part of that is that employers have a large pool of applicants to choose from. The bad part is…it removes the personal interaction of actually meeting applicants…seeing them face-to-face, and discerning if their smile is genuine; if the place is peaceful; if the manager’s face is relaxed, or stretched tight with stress.

Still, it’s the 21st century, and remembering the “good ol’ days” won’t do much good, when it comes to actually landing a job. Though the majority of my job submissions have gone unanswered, I’ve had several promising interviews lately, as well as job offers. I’m looking forward to writing a post about what it’s like to work for someone else, after 19 years of self employment…

So much to learn, in this Life By Susan.

Following A Sense of Peace

I woke up in the middle of the night, and as I rolled over, I marveled over something unusual. For the past several years, it became common for me to jolt awake at some odd hour, and have adrenaline begin to course through me as I thought about the day before; or the day behind; or the never-ending list of tasks I needed to do.

But that night, I realized that I wasn’t feeling the adrenaline surge. Instead, I felt something much more pleasant…a sense of contentment, and a place of peace. Somehow, waking up in the middle of the night really became about simply rolling to a new position, and not about trying to steal unmarked time to fix all the undone things in my life.

As I’ve navigated through the last year, I’ve had many opportunities to choose peace in my heart, or complete and utter panic and worry. It’s not the sort of thing you choose once, and you’re all set and off the worry train. It’s a constant choice, again and again and again.

My mind woke up a bit more as I snuggled back into bed, and I began to feel the worries begin to nag at me. There are so many details that are open in our lives right now; so much opportunity to freak out…most people’s lives are like this, and I know we are no exception.

I felt like my mind was telling me, “Peace? Seriously? Look at all that is COMPLETELY NUTS right now! How can you have peace? That’s lazy, and a cop-out, and unless you spend tonight worrying about it, you won’t figure it out! Maybe you were woken up so you could FIGURE IT OUT!”

And the quieter voice said, “No…no….it’s time to sleep. Peace. God has this under control. I can trust God. He’s going to give me what I need during my waking hours. The night time is for sleeping and rest. I will rest.”

It’s a constant struggle to listen to the quieter voice. But after a year of watching some of my worst-case life scenarios play out, I can say…worry did NOTHING to help me navigate it. It was God’s still, calm voice that provided EVERY SINGLE STEP we were supposed to take. And I needed plenty of rest to complete each of those steps.

I’m learning to walk according to a feeling in my heart that aligns with that sense of God’s peace, and to pursue things that make that sense of peace grow stronger. As I work to find a job here in Nashville, when I read the job descriptions, I ask…does the idea of doing this job give me peace? Or does it make me freak out with anxiety, even though I’m fully qualified to do it? I’m applying to the places that seem to offer peace to my soul. The over-achiever in me would apply to the position with the most responsibility, or the most pay. Places of power and high positions don’t motivate me. It’s places of peace that I crave.

As I was thinking about this new and steady singing in my heart, I found myself reading Psalm 28, and was struck by versus 6-8:

Praise be to the LORD, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. 

Here’s what I noticed:

God has heard me, and He hears my cries for mercy. My prayers are not in vain. He knows exactly what is going on, and is fully capable of solving our problems in a moment’s time. If we’re still stuck in the problem, He knows it, and is using it to lead us where He wants us to be, in our mind, body and spirit.

God is my strength and my shield. It’s not my great ideas or workaholic tendencies that will save me. It’s God himself. He provides the ideas; He provides the strength; He provides the protection…which is good, because He is so much better at it than I am!

My heart trusts in him. It’s a choice whether to trust God, or not. When my heart trusts in God, often my mind is saying, “Are you crazy? This makes no sense! You need to fix what’s broken! That’s irresponsible! You can do better than that!” But my heart is saying, “Trust. God is faithful. Rest in Him. Simply take the next step He shows you.”

When I decide to trust him…HE HELPS ME! So, the prayers and cries for mercy are answered with HIS HELP…it’s a cycle: Trust leads to help, which leads to trust, which leads to help, which leads to deeper trust…I play an active role in the growth of my faith, or the withering of it.

When we experience God’s divine intervention in our lives, and the help arrives; or when we are still praying and waiting and have so many unanswered questions, but still choose to have peace…our hearts leap for joy! I’ve felt my heart leap for joy in the past, when my babies were born, or when I walked down the aisle towards Rich, the day we married. But to feel your heart leap for joy, in the middle of the night, when you roll over in bed? When your heart is full of a sense of effervescent wonder at Him, and His love, and how He has carried you, against all odds? That He has done the impossible, and will continue to do the impossible? And the humble realization that there is no end to His help and protection and peace? When your heart KNOWS that in a new way, and you catch yourself LIVING that truth on a subconscious level, in the middle of the night, there is only one response:

With my song I praise Him.
I can’t sing well, but I can write. So this post, my friends, is my song of praise, offered to all of you!

May God’s peace be with you!

John 14:27  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.