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.

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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!

Saying good-bye

Yesterday, I did something I’ve never done before. I started training someone to take over my job.

I’ve had interns and trained younger editors. I’ve tried to explain what all my job entails to teenagers and adults alike. But I’ve never actually trained someone to take over, to do the job because I won’t be here.

I was 24 years old when I started this job. I went to grad school straight out of undergrad and started in this position the same week I graduated with my Master’s. They actually gave me the Friday of graduation off, though I’d only worked about three or four days and didn’t have any vacation days on paper. I was a copy editor for several years, working on undated and dated curriculum pieces, then promoted to editor. For the last 10 years, I have been the editor of our daily devotional for teens, which comes out each month. I also maintain the social media presence and provide the content for the app.

There are so many memories here. The time I had coffee with the Jonas Brothers, long before they were well known. That day we stuck sticky notes all over Karen’s office. The time I was leading a visiting musician upstairs for an interview and walked right out of my shoe on the stairs. When my favorite past intern told me she had fallen down those same stairs when she came for her interview. Lunches when we laughed, so much that Mike’s face turned red and others in the cafeteria turned to stare. People who have supported, challenged, and encouraged me.

Twelve years can be a lifetime. I was 24 when I came and thought I knew so much. And now, I’m 36 and know that no one knows that much and that being an adult and a professional doesn’t mean you’ll magically have insight or wisdom. I came here for my first job, and I thought for a long time that it would be my career. But God has opened another door, and I need to see where it leads.

So, yesterday, I began to train the young woman who will replace me. I wrote outlines for an issue I won’t edit. I tried to tell her tasks and things I do that are second nature to me, as natural and commonplace as breathing. I tried to give her a history of the resource she’ll edit because, in many ways, I’m the only one here who still knows the history. I’ve created lists and spreadsheets, all trying to capture 10 years of my life’s work.

It’s hard to say good-bye, even to a job, even when you know that it’s time and are excited about your new opportunities. It’s hard to let go of something that has been a defining part of your life for so many years.

But it is also a new beginning—and beginnings are good.

A little grace

Several months ago—maybe as long as a year—I read a Facebook status update that has stuck with me.

It was one of those posts where someone is obviously working out passive-aggressive frustration online in public view. And the writer boldly declared that everyone needed to stop saying they were “tired,” because only people with children or medical disorders could truly say that.

My fingers itched to type a response. I actually started one once or twice but decided that my words wouldn’t be written or delivered in love so I needed to keep my mouth shut—or the virtual equivalent of that.

But the comment stayed with me. And so did the reminder that I’ve so often needed to call to mind when I’ve been frustrated or upset with someone’s behavior:

You don’t know what that person going through. You don’t know what it’s like to walk in his or her shoes.

It’s easy to pass judgment, to see someone’s situation from our point of view and proclaim that they’re lazy, unorganized, or don’t really know what tired (or stressed or depressed or poor or whatever) is because you’ve got the corner on the market.

We go through life making easy judgments about the people we interact with, when we have no idea about the inner workings of their lives. The stress at work she downplays. The marriage that feels like it’s falling apart. The child who is making choices that causes him to stay up at night, praying for God to help and protect that son or daughter. Grief that comes when she least expects it and threatens to drown her in the waves. Fear. Debt. Mistrust.

Instead of passing judgment when someone doesn’t behave the way you think they should, I’m proposing a new option. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Acknowledge that you don’t know the things they are going through that may be causing turmoil under a seemingly calm and perfect life. And instead of getting angry or assuming you know more than you do, commit to show them grace. Grace that they don’t deserve. Grace that is confounding to the world and overwhelming and doesn’t make sense.

Grace.

Like the grace God has shown you.

 

Good Things (episode 5)

Well, it’s Friday and it’s a “Good Things” Friday here at Unfinished Business. So, let’s just get started listing a few blessings and happy things in my life over the last couple of weeks!

  • Yummy cobbler. With ice cream. And friends.
  • While we’re on the topic of food, let’s put homemade cinnamon rolls up there. I made some to help encourage some coworkers with a big deadline today—and the cinnamon rolls may have also encouraged me.
  • It’s my month again to teach in the children’s area of my church. My friend Michelle and I teach a kindergarten class. Last week was a little rough with all the kids being amped up from July 4, but I’m still happy I get to hang out with them. They move up to a new class at the end of the month, and I’m so amazed at how much they have grown up and matured over these last few months. I hope we’ve planted some seeds of the gospel!
  • This guy.
  • Meeting a printer deadline with no stress or tears! Yay!
  • Wimbledon.
  • A Cardinals come-from-behind win (in the 9th) over the Cubs on Wednesday night. I may have stood up in my living room and cheered (and told the Cubs fans to sit down. ) You know, because they can hear you through the TV.
  • Feeling like I’m doing a good job tying up loose ends and ending a chapter in my life at my current job well.

    It swelled a little and was sore, but it’s better now!
  • Getting the silverware drawer open after a large spatula jammed it—with only minor
  • injuries to my hand.
  • The weekend, folks. The weekend. It’s coming! ENJOY IT!

“A finished person is a boring person.” Anna Quindlen