My $6 regret

six dollars

What can you buy for six bucks? Not much, right? A fancy coffee, a fast-food meal for one, a pair of socks, a six pack of root beer, maybe a pack of Pokemon cards?  Keep thinking about what six dollars can buy….

My “day job” is in Human Resources which includes recruiting. I work in an industry with high turnover, low pay, and a hard, physical job. It is really hard to find quality candidates that are honest, don’t have extensive criminal backgrounds, and employees that will work for the company for more than a few months. Have you ever worked in a job where you felt like you were spinning your wheels?

I’ve done a lot of recruiting at job fairs. It’s strange…one day no one shows up, one day we get a lot of applicants that get hired but then never show up to work, one day we nicknamed “Felony Thursday.” (Practically everyone who applied had a felony, which excludes them from most positions.)

Recently, instead of “Felony Thursday”, it was “Living in a Shelter Tuesday.” Several people I interviewed had no home to call their own. They just wanted to start over, from the bottom. Here’s where my “six dollars” comes into play.

Meet “Mr. H.” Neatly dressed, well-spoken, a firm handshake and eye contact started our conversation. It was my favorite interview I’ve ever done. He talked about growing up on a farm, the hay-bailing labor that he did as a child that he actually remembers fondly. He talked about his relevant 25-year experience. He talked about being a Christian and how it has kept him grateful for every morning that he wakes up. Being in HR, I can’t ask him about his religious beliefs but I did chime in, “me, too” when he said he was a Christian. I couldn’t help it, I’m proud of it. He confirmed he has never received even a parking ticket and he could pass a drug test. At that point, I am so pleased that he walked into the interview. I have found a great match. (Victory!) The next step, I explain,  is for him to go to the police station for a copy of his arrest record (hopefully showing nothing) and have it sent to us. I add that there is a $6.00 cost that he is responsible for. (Cue the awkward silence) ……….”Whoa, I better stop you right there, ma’am. I do not have $6.”

I am at a loss. My heart sinks with disappointment and disbelief. He said that he is currently living in a shelter, has enough for bus fare to get the drug test, but cannot come up with the $6. A friend might loan him the money but he won’t see the friend until next week. He adds that his mentor at the shelter said he cannot go around asking for the money.

While he is saying this, I thought to myself that I am SURE I have six dollars.  It took everything I had not to just hand over the six dollars. See, I’m a generous, loving, trusting person, but I’ve been burned before by interviewees that lie…to my face. I’ve been made a fool trusting applicants that say they can pass a drug test or say they have no criminal background. Time after time, I’m lied to so it’s made me jaded.  So, while Mr. H laments about how he wishes his circumstances were different, and this might just not be the right timing, I am completely torn.

Before I reach for my wallet, he stands up and says he is sure his friend can loan him the money and he will send me his arrest record by the following Monday. Phew. Ok. This is still ok. This is going to work. Maybe he will be able to finally get out of the shelter! I have no idea why he’s there, how long he’s been there, or what his story is. I just know he affected my heart.

Monday comes and goes, nothing.  He’s never to be heard from since. What happened? Did he fool me? Or could I have changed his life if I gave him that $6? Could he have been an angel in disguise, testing me to see if I will help? Have you ever thought about that possibility? Or did I do the right thing by not giving money away, not totally sure where he’d spend it?

How do you feel when you come across people in need? Have you been burned? There are so many factors to consider, right?  Would it make a difference if your kids were with you at the time? Do you lead by example and give – or assume the worst?  This man, Mr. H, really acted like he wanted to work. If only I’d given him the $6, I could have known the answer. Six dollars doesn’t buy much, but it might have bought a new start for this man!

Deuteronomy 15:10    Be sure to give to them without any hesitation. When you do this, the LORD your God will bless you in everything you work for and set out to do.

What would you have done? (Please reply!) And also, how do you heal from a regret like this? 

 

 

You’re a Gem – Part 2

broken jewelry

In my last blog, (You’re a Gem – Part 1), I talked about all of the different kinds of jewels and gems that we have in our jewelry box. They can represent the types of friends we have – the “once in awhile” jewelry pieces, the tried and true pieces that we want to wear daily. The sparkly, fun, special, valuable…it all makes us smile.

I’m kinda dreading this post because it is painful. But I know I’m not the only one with broken or damaged pieces in our jewelry boxes. What about your box?

Do you have any jewelry pieces that aren’t shiny anymore? They might be tarnished or chipping. They are like friends that are going through a rough time and I can tell…whether they’ve told me about it or not. I can see they’re hurting on the outside. Is it up to me to offer a polishing cloth to help reveal these friends’ true beauty and get them back to their healthy, confident selves? Sometimes that is the right thing; other times those friends need to polish themselves from the inside out or it won’t be lasting. Sometimes it takes the professionals to handle the polishing. But I need to remind them that I still love and treasure them, no matter what they look or feel like.

What about the necklace, though cute, that gets caught in the little hairs on my neck and just about makes me want to yank it off? (Am I the only one that happens to?). I tried and try again to wear it, forgetting about that annoying pain. Because I really like the necklace, I want it to work, I want it to be a favorite…but again, it hurts me, it lets me down…and I come to a point where I just can’t wear it anymore. Maybe my expectations were too high or just too different for what (that friend) is capable of right now. It’s painful, disappointing and uncomfortable. I take it off. I keep it in the bottom drawer, or maybe give it away. It’s been fun – mostly – but it’s time to move on. It’s not worth the pain. After some tears and prayers, I wish you well…goodbye.

Sadly, the broken jewelry…it can’t be worn. Something happened – maybe I dropped it or stepped on it or got it wet – I didn’t mean to – honest. Sometimes I’m not even sure of what I did to it, which is especially frustrating and sad. Maybe it can be fixed with lots of effort and time; sometimes not.  I treasured them once. Do I save it, hoping it can be fixed someday? Do I try to keep wearing it broken and get hurt every time the necklace slips off my neck and falls into my hands? Or do I say, “It’s been great having you, but now I’m forced to move on.” I’ve got enough other stress in my life and I have to let some things go.

What about those shiny and sparkly friends? When I’m with them, I might feel more important, more elegant and more beautiful. But it can be a lot of work and anxiety prepping for that polished look that can lead me to feeling inadequate in comparison. I feel like I need to have everything polished and packaged pretty well – because they are. Some shiny and sparkly friends are coated with glam and perfection but are hollow on the inside and won’t last or can’t be trusted. Friends that you have to try too hard for, or to change who you are to be with them….might not belong in your box.

Are there empty spaces in your box of friends?  I hope so! I have discovered new friends in the most unexpected places, just by being friendly, outgoing, and trying new things.  Also, by realizing everyone has a story. Sometimes casual friends of mine became soul sisters just by listening to their story and realizing their strength and hope was something I wanted to learn more about. I would challenge you, this week, to talk to someone you don’t know very well. See if you can find a common ground. Open the door for them to open up to you, should they choose to. You might be the gem they need, just by listening. Keep space in your box open for friends that God knows you will need.

Today, I mourn the broken jewels and make room for ones yet to come.  I keep a polishing cloth handy for those who need a shine. Thank you, God, for the gems and metals you’ve placed in my box….the shiny, the favorites, the once-in-awhile”s and the “used to be”s. They were all placed in our boxes, by an intentional God, at the perfect time. Sometimes you need to put in the effort to fix the broken, admit you were wrong or did wrong, or said it wrong. Some pieces weren’t meant to move forward with us and that has to be ok. It might be time to say a “goodbye,” maybe not directly to that person. Sometimes that makes things worse. Sometimes writing a goodbye letter in a journal or an out-loud prayer is helpful.

Two are better than one; for if they fall, one will lift up the other. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Treasure all the beautiful gems that remain in your box and lift you up; Bless and release the broken ones and be ready & open for new ones. Resist being sad about any open spaces in your box…He’s working on it. 🙂  

You’re a Gem! (Part One)

diamond and teal gemI am on an airplane recently after 4 days away from home…. I look out the mini window and feel the warm sun on my pale Michigan arms. My hand reaches up to my neck and touches my favorite silver necklace I wear most days. It’s got a little jewel and two little initial charms – to represent my two kids that I can’t wait to see. My favorite silver necklace….Squirrel! Squirrel! That reminds me, I didn’t wear the Karama gold necklace that held my nametag this weekend at the conference..I’ll wear the gold one tomorrow. Silver & gold, Silver & gold….reminds me of that song, “Make new friends, but keep the-e old, one is silver and the other gold.”  (Do you remember that song?) I thank God immediately for all of my silver and gold friends. But then it seems I have more friend categories than that. What about titanium, nickel, platinum, magnesium (is that even a metal?) I smile, thinking of my different types of friends – the precious metals that I treasure like jewelry pieces in a box that I would never give away. I challenge you to think along with me of your friends in your jewelry box:  

Titanium….cannot be broken from me. The ones that were there for me; they rushed and then stood by my side, and stayed, and called, and stay, and call. I love those necklaces or jewels that you find yourself clutching close to your heart. The ones you miss regularly – something’s wrong when you realize you haven’t worn it (seen her) in awhile. Your heart hurts… must.see.her.

Some friends are like the colorful bangles I wear around my wrist occasionally- they add so much fun to my life! I smile and say, “Yes! It’s so great to see you! I always have fun with you!” But I might not have the energy or time to wear them often.

Do you have some wild jewelry friends that are a “once in awhile” friends?  I love changing it up from time to time – but it’s not for all-season wear. They’re like my friend I met in Spain who would leave our dinner table mid-paella and jump on the back of a Harley with a Don Juan and tell me “I’ll be back luego!” while tossing her head back in laughter…Bless her. I’ve since parted ways with that gem but I still treasure the times we spent together and would love to meet up for some sangria with a side of funny Spain stories.

The “hidden gems” that come out of the woodwork are incredibly special. These are the ones you never knew you had until something bad happened – the jewelry box gets tipped over and there it appears. You discover a new friendship because of an unfortunate situation…and in time, you can be grateful for the good that came out of the bad.

What about the first pair of earrings you ever wore? Do you still have them like I do?  I still have friends that were with me in the start of my childhood…I may not have see them in years but one still texts me with well wishes. Another gem sent me a handmade quilt from her church that prayed over me during a hard time in my life. Like the first earrings in my box, I don’t look at them alot but I smile when thinking of the memories and will never forget them.

There’s jewelry I never thought I’d wear. Not usually my style, but it fits me! I never would have sought this kind out but it was gifted to me and I am going to try it. It might take some getting used to, some hesitation, but it’s starting to grow on me. And when people compliment the new look, it gives me confidence that maybe the gifter knows my style better than me!

I treasure all of my gem friends! The quirky, the sparkly, the everyday, the titanium, the ones that make me feel pretty, special, and valued. I pray that every woman has at least a few friends that make her feel this way.  Thank you, God, for the gems and precious metals you’ve placed in my box.

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Proverbs 31:10

(I say that friends of noble character are worth far more than rubies, too)

So, friends, do you have a variety of gems and precious metals in your jewelry box? Have you told a friend today that you are glad they are in your box? To which gem can you send a Thank You note today … thanking them for their place in your life, close to your heart?

What about the broken, tarnished, painful jewelry (the ones that pinch your little neck hairs!)? Do you have some friendships that resemble those?  What do you do with those pieces of jewelry? Toss ‘em? Try to fix them? Is it time to walk away? Or do you wish for certain gems that you fear will never be a part of your box? ……Come back next week for Part 2 ….

broken jewelry

#SheSpeaks16 Conference Recap

Get comfy, it’s over 500 words but worth the read!

I’m participating in Cindy Bultema’s BlogHop about a recent conference I attended called SheSpeaks. Because I cannot get the term “Sock Hop” out of my head, I feel like I should be wearing a poodle skirt. I promise you, I’m not. 🙂

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I was so lucky to be able to attend this year’s SheSpeaks…held in North Carolina (I’m from Michigan). I was hoping to get inspired, confirm my calling to write a book to help others, and meet some incredible people. Check, check and check!  An unanticipated “check” was to start a blog.

Writing a blog was never something I thought I would do, but after attending SheSpeaks16, it was decided for me. On the first plane ride home, I wrote one! And then my second flight, before the plane was even off the ground, I had written another. I tell you…during those flights, I just wanted to read one of the books I’d purchased at the Conference. But I couldn’t! I tried, and then these words and stories just kept coming to mind and I heard God undeniably saying, “write it down now.” (Not in a mean tone with thunder and lightning noises, mind you. That would have been downright scary while I was in an airplane. But just a gentle, yet firm, “do this now.”)

What I now do when writing my blog is to take Shauna Niequist’s advice to “regularly practice silence to hear God.” In order to get my best words out, I need to be still, quiet, and listen. By committing to writing one blog a week, the new adventure is attainable and still allows me to be present with my family. I was glad to also hear Shauna’s quote, “Writers and Speakers are hands reaching out saying you’re not alone.” Yes! That is what my writing is about. I want those who are going through grief (death, divorce, job loss, medical diagnosis) to know they are not alone and there is hope. I want them to know I’ve been in some bad & sad situations myself, and I’m more than ok, and I’m here to help encourage them.

Chrystal Evans Hurst gave me inspiration about blogging:  I love that she didn’t think she had time to write a book but she had enough blog posts to put together a large portion of the book. Blogging is, in a way, like writing small chapters or samples of your book.

What I loved about SheSpeaks is how warm and welcoming everyone was. From my roommate that I’d never met before (but within hours felt like I’d known her for years!), to the approachable session leaders, to anyone I sat down next to! I didn’t feel competition, but rather, a sisterhood. Hundreds of women cheering me on, and me cheering on them. I heard dozens of other stories, whether it be during a meal or between sessions. It made me realize that we all have a story, we all want to help someone else, or many someone else’s. What was evident as well, is that the women I met at SheSpeaks16, give all the glory to God for their story and their purpose.  It was truly an inspiring and affirming conference.

From Lysa’s TerKeurst:  “Don’t let today’s reaction be tomorrow’s regret.”  This is such a life lesson. We all need to take a deep breath and pray before reacting emotionally.

And personally, I really related to Lysa’s quote, “Because of the pain, your life was saved.” I’ve been through a lot of pain, but my faith in God has never been stronger.  And her session, “Your Very Best Idea Ever”, included the quote to remember as writers and speakers, “Striving for credit will discredit you.” This is one I need to remember daily.

Alicia Bruxvoort’s session “Chasing Your Dream While Chasing the Kids, Too.”  If you weren’t in her session, you MUST turn to p.65 in the SheSpeaks guide and read her acronym phrases for DREAM. It is truly amazing! If you didn’t attend SheSpeaks16 and want to know, please contact me! It is genius!

Emily Wierenga’s session “7 Essentials to Writing An Inspirational Memoir,” brought out this fantastic quote: “God allows pain because it is the secret to our purpose.” Whoa! That is powerful!

If you’ve made it this far, thank you! I’ve broken the Blogging rule about not going over 500 or so words. Oops. Hey, this is my 3rd blog post. And there’s so many more great take-aways I left out. If you, or someone you know, wants any information about SheSpeaks, please do not hesitate to ask me. If you are feeling led to attend next year ….you won’t regret it!
Please comment and tell me which one of the quotes I referenced above is your favorite, and why?

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Click here to be connected to other SheSpeaks Attendees and read their awesome blog posts as well!

Boo-Boo “Itch”

Update: December 2016:  Thank you, Maranatha Christian Writer’s Conference, for awarding me 2nd place for this entry in the Leona Hertel Devotional Writing Contest!! 

I’ve had to correct myself recently when reassuring my children. Here’s why:

My son doesn’t typically fall and scrape his knee anymore but my daughter just did for the first time.

Beautiful sunny day at the park, my precious 17-month old girl in a light blue, flowery dress with a matching diaper cover. The pretty stable toddler gets going too fast in her clunky pink sandals. She sees the slide but her eyes are faster than her feet, of course. Down she goes, as I stretch out my arms, knowing I’m no Inspector Gadget – they won’t stretch out to catch her. Tears: real drops, stream down her cheeks as protective brother comes running from the other direction. Ok, there’s blood. Time to leave. Let’s go home, get a band-aid and patch up this girl. While I clutch this girl’s head to my shoulder, I say instinctively, “You’re ok! You Are Ok!” … Except she’s not – in her little mind. Her world came crashing down when she did. In the midst of witnessing her not be  ok, even though I knew she would be, I said more comfortingly, “You will be ok. You will be ok.”

I’m careful now about these words. Sometimes we are are not ok. We are hurt, abandoned, sick, sad, tired, or all of the above. But as Christians, we will be ok. We will be ok. Not right now, maybe; maybe not tomorrow. Maybe longer. But while you might not be ok at this moment and I acknowledge that, you will be ok.

I’m thinking of several friends that are hurting …. Loss, sickness, unimaginable heartbreak. Are you hurting today? Do you know someone that is? To those hurting, they are not ok right now. It’s hard to imagine, for them, when they will be ok. Reassure them with your prayers of comfort and peace, that they feel loved and know they will be ok. In the meantime, when they don’t know if & when they will be ok, use your gifts to show them love and give them hope. What are you good at? How can you use that gift to help someone going through a hard time? When you reach out to the hurting, it can help them see that with God’s love and friends’ support, they will be ok.

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

Shortly after her cement scuffle, she is ok. Weeks later, she still points to her left knee and says “Itch.” (My teaching her to say “boo-boo” or “ouch” resulted in “itch” and I really kinda love it.) I silently wonder how much longer she will say “itch” or if she even remembers the actual fall or the pain. Because what I want her to remember most is that she was going to be ok.  I say to her, Baby girl, I will always help you up and tell you you will be ok….because you will be.

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Next week: You’re a gem!