Category Archives: slice of life

An open door

On July 31, I gathered up the few items left in my office, logged out of the computer one last time, and quietly slipped away to my car.

I was walking away from a job I’d had for 12 years, from people I loved who had become like family. The thought of not seeing them every day brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat.

I cried. A lot. So much so that when I thought about it later, I was embarrassed.

Making the decision to leave was hard. I had known for awhile that my time in my previous job was probably coming to a close, but I didn’t got looking for a new  job. It found me—and God opened the door to allow me into a new chapter and a new opportunity that challenges and excites me.

I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know what the next chapter of my life will be like. But I do know that I have to walk through the doors that God opens.

So, I’ll keep walking. . . and let Him write my story.

Advertisements

Firsts and Lasts

I remember my first day here.

I was 24, about to graduate from Vanderbilt Divinity School, and excited. I’d bought a new hair product—and accidentally used too much, and it made my hair look oily. But at that point, it was time to leave for work, so I decided to pretend like this was normal and make the best of it. I rushed out the door, headed to my first real job, not wanting to be late.

I was about 30 minutes early.

I didn’t know then that I was starting an adventure, that I would meet people who would become friends for life. I expected hard work and deadlines; I didn’t expect laughter and practical jokes.

For awhile, my coworkers liked to play jokes on each other when someone went on vacation. We covered Karen’s office in sticky notes. We put an old typewriter in Emily’s office, complete with a note from the first president of LifeWay. Once, I came back from vacation to find a speech bubble taped to every piece of furniture, my bookshelf, desk, chair, and lamps all declaring they had missed me.

I didn’t know the breadth and depth of the experience I’d get. From interviewing musicians and authors to editing devotions and short-term studies, I had a chance to a little of everything. I’ve run a monthly magazine, edited ongoing curriculum, and been on site for video and photo shoots.

But most of all, I’ll remember the little things. The note from a reader who said that EC helped her to draw closer to Christ. The coworker who stopped to pray with me when my grandma had a massive stroke. The people I got to mentor and train and encourage.

On Friday, I’ll walk out of LifeWay and close a chapter in my life’s story. It’s a good chapter, full of growing up, learning how to interact with others, and becoming a good editor.

And there’s a new exciting chapter just about to start.

So, keep reading. This book isn’t finished yet.

The day Facebook injured my vanity.

I’m a sucker for any kind of quiz on social media. From finding out which Disney character I am to what old lady name best fits me—if it’s a quiz, I’ve probably taken it.

10999260_10155891902545637_3581565011577542830_n
The picture in which I apparently look 42. Or 29.

The other day, I saw a “How old do you really look?” quiz. It analyzed your Facebook profile pic and spit out an answer.

And do you know what mine was?

42.

Yeah. 42. That’s a great number for Jackie Robinson, but it’s not for me.

Not to offend any 42-year-olds out there, but I’m 36. And, to be frank, I don’t really want to look 42 until I’m actually 42. It would be even better is I didn’t look 42 until I was 52!

Random Facebook quiz, you injured my vanity.

Thankfully, how-old.net made me feel a little better. It said I look 29

(And that was based on the same picture. . . )

3 types of social media posts that make me crazy

I love social media. I still use Facebook and like that I can keep up with friends from high school and elsewhere, no matter where we may live now. Twitter keeps me up-to-date and is usually good for a laugh.

But there are a few things people do on social media that make me a little crazy. And I’m willing to bet some of you agree, too.

1. The Lure.
The Lure is that social media post designed to elicit a response from the reader. It takes many forms, many of which you probably know well. I’m so OVER it. Can’t take it anymore. I can’t believe he did that! Maybe those examples seem a little melodramatic, but I’ve seen similar posts many times. The lure is often passive aggressive. It’s meant to draw attention to yourself and cause readers to ask questions like: What’s wrong?, Need to talk?, or How can I help? I’m not saying every status update or tweet has to be happy; that’s not real life. But they don’t have to be passive aggressive. So, if you think you might be about to post “The Lure,” ask yourself:

  • Is this designed to get a response that makes people feel sorry for or focus their attention on me? 
  • Am I being intentionally vague so that people will ask me a lot of questions?
  • Is my desire to feel like the center of attention? 

2. The Sell.
I love that you have found a product you love or a company that you want to work for. I really do enjoy seeing posts about the amazingly crafty things you make and have for sale. But I don’t like it when EVERYthing you post is an attempt to sell me something. Truth be told, I don’t buy into the essential oils craze, I think losing weight involves more than drinking a specific drink, and your skin products are probably amazing, but I can’t afford them—and I don’t want to join your team. For me, social media is social and about connecting, not advancing business. If you want to sell on social media, I’m fine with that. But create a page or separate account for your product or business and use that to sell your wares, not your personal account. Questions to consider if you’re a repeat offender of “The Sell”:

  • Are my social media posts on my personal pages more about my business or my life? 
  • When I interact with my friends via social media is it about actual life stuff or trying to sell them my product?
  • Are there people that THE only time I interact with them on social media is to ask them to buy something?

3. Private Made Public.
Maybe this one is just me. Perhaps I’m just too sheltered or think some things should remain private. I truly get when you want to wish your spouse or significant other a happy anniversary or birthday, or even just honor them in some way publicly. And I think choosing to publicly honor that special someone is laudable. Who wants to be with someone who never says they love you in front of others? But you don’t have to overshare in those posts and outline every aspect of your relationship. A simple Happy Anniversary! Thanks for standing by me all these years, even though I don’t deserve it! would suffice. We don’t have to read the personal note you’d inscribe in a card or letter thanking him/her for being your best friend, lover, encourager, etc. It’s your relationship and part of what makes that special is the intimacy. Guard that intimacy; don’t slap it on social media for the world to see. Questions to ask if you think your post might be TMI:

  • Would I be embarrassed if my mom, dad, brother, sister, teen child, pastor, boss, etc. read this? More than that, will it embarrass my significant other?
  • Is this something personal that would be better said in person or shared in a personal note, card, or letter?
  • Am I striving to create a facade of intimacy online, rather than investing in the relationship in person?
  • Is there a simpler, less exploitative way to let people know how happy I am and how much I love this person?

I’m sure there are many more social media faux pas that make you crazy. Share them in the comments!

Dance like no one is watching (or like everyone is)

On Monday night, I made up my mind.

I was going back to the gym for a BodyPump class. (For those who don’t know, BodyPump is one of Les Mills’ many classes taught at many gyms. It features loud music, weights, and a lot of reps. It’s more cardio than strength training. I like it, but haven’t been in pretty much FOREVER.)

So, I came home from work, walked the dog, changed into gym clothes, grabbed a water bottle and hurried over to the gym. I wanted to get there a little early because BodyPump takes some time to set up . . . and I didn’t want to be stuck at the very front of the class or the very back of the room.

When I got to the Y, the lights were off in the group fitness room and music was blaring. Through the frosted glass, I glimpsed another woman in there setting up her bench and weights for class, so I opened the door and wandered in.

As I gathered my bench, mat, and weights, I was surprised to see that there was another woman in the room who I hadn’t seen earlier. I began setting up my station, but she pulled my attention away from my task. She had plugged her phone into the stereo system and was blaring songs from her playlist. While class members wandered in and began setting up for class, she danced and swayed in the middle of the room, snapping her fingers and shuffling her feet, singing along to her favorite lyrics.

More and more people entered; no one acted like this was anything out of the ordinary. The woman switched songs, added a few spins, and kept dancing, hand atop her head. She was wearing a nice office button-down shirt, skinny pants, and I assumed the blazer I’d seen when I laid my purse down at the back of the room was hers.

Class was scheduled to start in 8 minutes and more and more people were pouring into the room, yet still she danced as people set up their spots all around her. She was oblivious, and we were all acting as if we were, too.

Finally, about 5 minutes before class, she turned off her music, unplugged her phone, and slipped into her black pumps. She gathered her jacket and left the room, singing the lyrics of the song she’d just turned off.

I don’t know if this was a regular occurrence for her or if she just had a bad day and thought to only was to redeem it was to dance the day off. But she danced like no one was looking, even though we were all pretending not to.

It was random and hilarious, but part of me just wanted to shout, “Dance on, lady!” 

Dear people of Nashville

Dear Nashville drivers,

My mom always told me to offer good points as well as criticism when giving a critique, so I’ll start with this: I love you guys! I love this city and the quirky streets that change names 600 times and the fact that there are about so many roads names Old Hickory around here that people sometimes have to ask, What Old Hickory are you talking about? I love that we get all crazy when it rains and it takes 30 minutes longer to get places—and our overreaction to even the thought of snow makes me smile. It’s also special how my bright red car seems to have a cloak of invisibility that causes all of you to either pull out in front of me or try to merge into my lane—on top of my car.

But alas, that’s not the reason for today’s post. Today’s missive is meant to help people see things a little more clearly, and for that to happen, I’m going to have to be frank. So, here goes. . .

In the past two days—in two very different parking lots in two very different sections of town—I have nearly been mowed down by a couple of you playing NASCAR in the parking lot. I get that Thanksgiving was a little later than usual and you feel rushed to get all your Christmas shopping done before December 25. I get that it’s a busy time of year—if you had looked at my planner last week, you’d see that I’m just as busy as you are.

All that said, it’s no reason to drive through the Brentwood Target parking lot at breakneck speed, only to slam on your brakes to avoid hitting me as I turned from putting my shopping cart in the corral. When I was learning to drive, my dad told me to drive more slowly in parking lots (and residential streets) because you never knew when someone could run out into the street in front of you. Maybe your dad should have given you that warning, too.

Now, my friend in the blue VW Beetle—I’m not sure what you were taught when you were learning to drive. One thing I know you didn’t learn, though, is patience. See, last night I was walking out of World Market in Nashville West, and a nice car had stopped so that me and other pedestrians could walk across the lanes to our parked cars. You, in your infinite impatience, didn’t seem to realize why the other car had stopped and began swerving around her, pulling into the other lane of traffic to pass a car in a parking lot.

OK, there’s a bit of a problem if you think you’re so important that you can’t wait for a few minutes to allow pedestrians to cross the road.

But, I don’t think you realized there were people walking, until you started to pass the other car and finally saw me—which was when I yelled “Really?!” at you and gave you my patented death stare, which was tinged with more than a little disdain. Here’s a life lesson for you, which can be taken literally and figuratively: Don’t ever let your own desires or self-importance become so large that you don’t have time to stop for others.

And finally, I must give a shout-out to the lady in the Nissan Altima. There are specific rules and regulations that govern how a four-way stop works. Let me give you some refreshers:

1. A 4-way stop means that you actually stop. That means your car should not be moving. It means that you do not merely slow down to a creep and keep edging out into the intersection so that other cars cannot pass until you move and therefore, you get to leave first.

2. If you’re the last person to arrive at the four-way stop, you’re not the first person who gets to go through. Most of the time, you go in the order you arrived at the stop. Which means, since me and three other cars were there before you, it wasn’t your turn anyway. (And just so you know, if you arrive at the four-way stop at the same time as someone else, yield to the driver on your right. )

So, Nashville, it’s eight days until Christmas. Until then, let’s slow down, smile at one another, and enjoy Christmas. It’s not really about getting the best bargain, rushing from place to place, or getting everything on your to-do list done. It’s about a Gift of grace and mercy who gives us peace. Let’s revel in that this season!

This day in history

On this day in 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, devastating New Orleans and many other coastal areas in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

As I typed those words into a Facebook status for an account I manage at work today, unexpected tears sprang to my eyes.

2005.

Eight years ago.

Eight years since I sat in my office and dialed my brother’s cell number over and over, hoping the busy signal would fade and that I’d get a few seconds of scratchy connection to know he was OK.

Eight years since he weathered the storm in a small house at a Christian camp outside of New Orleans where he was working at the time.

Eight years since that Labor Day weekend when he drove home to Missouri with all he could pack in the back of his truck and came home to stay.

Eight years since the phone call that my high school best friend’s little brother had been in a car accident.

Eight years since that devastating moment when my mom turned to me and quietly told me my friend’s brother wasn’t coming home.

Every year, when Labor Day rolls around, those memories come back. The joy of my brother coming home and being safe. The heartbreak of a friend and dear family who were grief-stricken in the death of a child and brother. I knew then that your heart could be broken and joyful at the same time.

Eight years. It feels like yesterday and long ago. But I don’t stop the tears when they come to my eyes when I remember. I let them fall as I pray for my friend and her family. So much life has happened in the interim. My brother got married and now I have two nephews—but I want my friend and her family to know that they’re not forgotten.

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Words of Blessing

Your words matter.

It’s a phrase I’ve spoken a thousand times, probably written a thousand more.

Your words matter. I’ve written before about how words can be a blessing or a curse—and we’re the ones who get to decide which one.

I think there’s a reason so much in Scripture involves the spoken word. God speaks the world into being. Fathers speak blessings over their children that can’t be negated even when they discover they’ve blessed the younger son instead of the older. And I don’t think it’s a mistake that in the Gospel of John, the disciple Jesus loved calls Jesus the Word. What God had spoken and promised had become flesh. The Word was alive.

Words matter. They’re important. And over the last few months, when I’ve had few to write and even less time to think about what I’d write if I could think of something, I’d forgotten that. The joy that this blog had once brought me had faded. I didn’t feel like I was writing for the joy of it anymore. . . .just the expectation of having something new on the page.

So, I let it sit silent for weeks that stretched into months.

But last night, someone said something to me that reminded me of who I am. He didn’t mean it as a blessing, but it felt like one. I needed to hear those words and didn’t even know it. They felt like a gentle rain falling on a parched soul.

“I can’t wait to hear what God does with your life. You are so talented, so creative—you know how much I think of you,” a friend who is leaving our church for an exciting new teaching position said.

And I didn’t know until that moment that the reason I hadn’t been able to write or think of anything to write lately wasn’t that I’d run out of words. It was that I’d stopped believing I had any to offer. That I’d begun to feel talentless and uncreative and tired.

And that wasn’t who I was created to be.

Your words matter.

They may be the thing that ignites a forgotten dream, comforts a suffering soul, or reminds someone of the person they were created to be.

Your words matter. Use them wisely today.

Today is a gift

Earlier this week, through Facebook, I learned that a member of my high school graduating class (and a member of my extended family, my second cousin) had passed away unexpectedly. He was found in his truck outside a local McDonald’s near where we grew up and the death was labeled suspicious at first. It is now a murder investigation.

It’s been a little shocking to say the least.

In response, a guy in my high school class posted the picture below, taken of our class on the day we graduated. (Yes, my class was small.)

857217_830243923080_191620738_oWhen I look at that picture now, I’m struck by how young we look. We were just babies, but we thought we had the world by the tail.

And as I’ve read the posts on Facebook in the aftermath of Sean’s death, I’ve realized something not so great about myself.

In the years after high school, I went to college five hours away from home at a school no one in my graduating class attended and only one other guy from my school (two years older than me) attended. After college, I moved to Nashville, went to Vanderbilt, and began my adult life.

And I think I wrote off some people in my class, Sean being one of them. Classmates have written beautiful tributes to him on Facebook, and I missed out on knowing someone because I couldn’t see past my own self-importance. I was so focused on myself, and maybe thought I was better than others.

And I was wrong.

Every day is a gift, and every person is made in the image of God.

And today as I write those words, I mean them. I sense their weight.

May I remember them. May I not miss the opportunities to love others. May I fight the tendency to think I’m better than others. And may I live this day as a gift from God, living every moment and redeeming the time.