Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A question from a 7 year old

My favorite 7 year old, also known as Adventure Boy, spent some time with me recently.  He came over and had lunch, then played some computer games after which we met up with his family for a movie.

As we were headed out of the house for the movie Adventure Boy asked, "Brittany, why aren't you married?"  If I had a dime for every time I've asked that question of God...but I answered him simply, "No one has asked me yet."  Yes, I was trying to dodge the complexity of his question.  Adventure Boy, however, is bright and inquisitive and he turned the tables back on me.

His reply made this liberal minded woman rejoice for the openness of a young mind, "Why don't you ask someone?"

Yes, Adventure Boy, that is an option and I'm still looking.

This conversation reminded me of a year or two ago when K and Adventure Boy had picked me up from work and we were driving back over the big hill together.  I honestly can't remember what we were talking about but from the back seat he piped up and said "Do you know what? A long time ago people were treated badly because of the color of their skin.  That's just not right."  He was five then.

I know plenty of people who discount others because of their skin color, judging them as less than worthy.  I wish it wasn't just a long time ago.  All we have to do is turn on the news every night and we see it playing out in our cities, nation and our world.  Adventure Boy is dead on, it's just not right.

Adventure Boy, I love you.  And I love that your parents are raising you to value people for people and not the gender stereotypes nor what color their skin is.  You, Adventure Boy, give me hope.

*Bonus story*

Adventure Boy has been taking piano lessons.  He had his first recital on Sunday.  The same day I was being quizzed on my marital status, I asked him how he was feeling about the recital.  He said "Scared."  We had a little discussion in which I told him I thought he would do a great job because he likes people and likes to be in front of people, entertaining them.  I didn't get much of a response from that.

On Sunday after the recital I asked him how he felt about his performance and he said, "I play better in front of people."  This kid!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

My place of ministry

*Much of this post was originally written in March.*

"You should write a book."  My friend the manager of the Office Suite where I work said that to me this morning.  That was after she had come into my office and sat for 10 minutes recapping all that had gone on in the office since I was last there on Thursday.  That conversation was followed by a visit from the gentleman down the hall who walks by my office heading towards the coffee room about 5 times a day.  Which was followed by a quick visit to the front desk where the receptionist unloaded her frustrations.  Then the phone call came from the office manager, "you should write a book about all of us who tell you all this stuff."

There are people I know who believe ministry only happens in the context of talking about God and Jesus.  If you aren't sharing about God or Jesus and lives aren't being "saved", then you aren't really doing ministry.  There are people who think ministry only happens in a church building on Sunday mornings by one person (in their minds that person should be male) who talks at you for 45 minutes.  There are people who believe I left ministry behind when God called me out of my job as Youth and Young Adult Director at the church of my past.

I have news for them.  I am doing "ministry".  My ministry involves listening to the people who show up at my office door during the day.  Some walk in and sit down in the chair, some just stand awhile.  Sometimes ministry happens in the hallways or by the coffee pots.  My ministry involves laughing with them, counseling them, asking about their lives, hearing their complaints, pointing out the positive, sympathizing with the tough parts and praying for them.  Praying for them as they are there, as they talk, as they are walking out the door and times in between.

Some people to whom I minister believe in God, some people don't.  I don't ask questions about their faith; As I listen to their stories their beliefs come to light sooner or later.  My job isn't to do anything but listen and pray.  Yes, in the eyes of many in the circle of Christianity, this makes me a horrible evangelist.  I'm really okay with that.

My ministry isn't just regulated to the ones who come into the office, I also minister to the one's whom I interact with via email and phone calls.  I minister as I solve problems, answer questions, reassure, encourage, equip, apologize, point out problems and so much more.  My ministry happens in an office building, near the airport, on the 2nd floor, surrounded by lawyers and CPA's, start up tech companies, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist and other businesses of which I have no idea what they do.  It's definitely not a church building but it's ministry all the same.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thoughts for today

Words haven't come easily in this space, lately.  I've thought about blogging a lot.  I have many blog posts started and stalled.  I think there are about 10 just sitting, waiting for me to finish my thoughts, or have the courage to hit "publish".  So in the meantime I share these opinions and thoughts:
  • The discussion about millennials and the church is kind of putting me off, simply because I don't fall in the age range of millennials but I have many of the same thoughts and feelings about the church expressed in the blog posts and articles I read.  Why aren't we church people just willing to admit there is a problem within the churches that goes beyond generations?  Is it because we can't quite name what the problem is yet, so we keep narrowing down the scope to individual generations?
  • Healthcare.  I work two jobs.  I don't receive health benefits with either job.  I have been denied healthcare because of "pre-existing conditions" and am VERY EXCITED that I have the opportunity to purchase a plan and at least be able to breathe a little easier.  I do not intend to "mooch" off the government.  I pay my taxes and I don't quibble about them.  I just want healthcare so I can go see my doctor and not worry about getting sick or injured and not having healthcare.  
  • While on the topic of healthcare, I seem to remember every October, when I had health insurance, the insurance companies sending out notices that our current insurance plan was being changed or discontinued or the rates were going up and up and up.  It seems to me some of the problems the Affordable Care Act faces aren't solely because of the ACA but because of the greediness of insurance companies.
  • Facebook continues to tick me off and I'm struggling to kick the addiction.  It's hardest when I am bored...like right now.
  • Just about the time Daylight Savings Time came to an end, I had an overwhelming urge to walk off the frustration and irritation roaring through me...of course it was dark outside and we gave away the treadmill that wasn't working so well and I wasn't wearing the right shoes to use the one at work.  Annnnnnnnnnddddddddd that urge has now passed.  
  • Saturday I went with some high school students, the youth pastor and another volunteer to a Christian concert 3 hours away.  It was so much fun and so loud.  In the space of 5 hours we heard 10 bands.  Some I will listen to again (Plumb, Crowder, TFK), some not so much...no, I'm not going to name them.  Standing with hands raised, singing along to words that have buried themselves deep into my soul, with a multitude of instruments (guitar, piano, fiddle, upright bass, accordion, a JUG!) was soul filling. It's been a long time since I've been able to sing in worship like that...I miss it.
  • Creative Guy got a Kindle and besides reading books he likes to play games on the Kindle.  I have a Kindle as well and I enjoy the same things.  I found the game Despicable Me Minion Rush awhile back and suggested that Creative Guy try that.  It's a hit!  So much so that he called me a couple of weeks ago VERY excited that he had gotten past three difficult levels.  I now have instructions to call him when I find Gru's Disco Room or he will call me if he finds it first.  Love him.  Don't own a Kindle?  You can get it on your smart phone too.  It's free...and addicting.  =)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

So far today

Woke up at 2am, after going to sleep at 11pm.

Took antacids for the heartburn/acid reflux/stressed about work giving myself sleep issues thing.

Read until 3:45am.

Back to sleep.

Awake at 5:30am.

Out of bed 5:52am.

Showered, dressed, hair styled (it's been a good hair week, PRAISE JESUS!) and out the door 6:30am.

Bank to deposit and withdraw funds 6:40am.

Gas station as the line was on "E" and the low fuel light came on (a regular occurrence) 6:50am.

Star$ for a Salted Caramel White Mocha (my new go-to drink) 6:55am.

Bus station 7:00am.

Bus 7:04am.

Walgreens for aspirin/ibuprofen to fend off the headache that arrived in force on the bus.  8 something am. (didn't look at a clock).

Light rail 8:15ish.

Off light rail walk to office building 8:30am.

In office 8:35am.

Water and ibuprofen 8:40am.

Estimated departure time from work today 3:45pm.

Estimated time when I can return to bed 5:00pm.

Counting the minutes.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

People, money, work and life

There are few things I detest more than dealing with money, especially other people's money.  Of course, what is one of things that I get to deal with in my current job?  Other people's money.  Ugh.

I don't write the checks. I process the forms to send to the treasurer who then writes the checks.  It's a multi-step process that seems clumsy at times and gets frustrating.  Some requests arrive in the mail, some are emailed.  If mailed I get to scan and compile the requests into a single document.  Some are emailed with one part being a PDF and another being a word doc.  Compiling all of those into a single document means cutting and pasting (if the cut and paste looks clear enough) but if that fails then I get to turn on the laptop computer, put all the files on a thumb drive, transfer them over to the laptop, open Adobe Acrobat and combine them into a single PDF, put them back on the thumb drive and transfer them back to the main computer and then continue.  (You may be asking why I don't have Adobe Acrobat on the main computer.  A.  Don't have the installation CD-ROM.  B.  It's an old version and the download files aren't available.  C.  There isn't money in the budget to buy the new version.)

The next step is to double check that the expense account is listed correctly AND make sure there is money in the budget.  If any there isn't I get to go up the chain of command and say, "Ummmm...."

The current system requires the overall committee chair to sign off on check requests.  Many people just send me the requests.  If there isn't a double signature I then get to email the file to the appropriate individual and wait for them to send me the signed file back.  That can take hours or days.  I get to follow up with the individuals for the 2nd signatures if I haven't heard back from them.

This year, instead of just recording the date, payee and check amount and the date I'm sending it to the treasurer, I also get to enter the information into the budget worksheet and track the budget to-date.  If the amount is over the budget limit, I flag the request and go up the chain of command..."Ummmm...."

I then compile all the files into a single email and send them to the treasurer, or in this case the treasurer's assistant who then processes them and comes back at me with "this is wrong, what about this" and so on...I seriously don't like this part of my job.

Now, add in this fabulous fact, the treasurer changes every.year.  Every year there is someone different who does things a little differently and the whole system goes through a major adjustment period.  Last year I sent requests in weekly and they were typically paid within 10 days.  This year I send in requests on the 1st and the 15th.  Sounds easy simple and like it would work well...not so.  If someone sends in a request on the 16th and there are 31 days in the month and the 1st is on a Saturday, that means that the request languishes for 15-20 days.  Add in those individuals (ahem) that wait a month or two or three before turning in receipts and things get dicey at times.  (Newsflash, if you want to pay your credit card on the due date with the funds owed by us, you need to send the receipt in within a day of purchasing your items!)

This is one of those weeks when the s**t has hit the fan.  "Where are my checks?  Why is it taking so long?" emails have been flying.  I had to question a couple of requests, which resulted in terse email strings (beginning to SERIOUSLY dislike emails).  The tension has begun to wind through my body until I cringe when that sound plays over the speakers indicating "You've got mail" and break out in a sweat.  My stomach is cramping, I can feel the hair on my head that is not already gray turning gray and I wonder, silently, do I love this job enough to deal with this?

And there, my friends, is where I have found myself week after week for months.  Asking questions. Do I love my job enough to keep doing this? If I changed jobs, there would be other issues with other things...would I love that job enough?  What am I going to do when I grow up?  Where am I headed?  Am I just marking time after being in full time ministry?  What am I passionate about?  Do I want to just have a job for the sake of making money to pay the bills and maybe (dream on) put some away for the future that just keeps getting closer?  What is it that God has in store for me?  Am I being too dense?  Have I ignored the signs?  Am I sabotaging myself because I'm afraid of failure?

I have no answers to those questions but I do know this...I really dislike dealing with people and their money...accounting, banking, anything financial is OUT!