When I originally wrote that blog post, I was in the mindset that we were looking for one set-in-stone mission and then we could happily go forward knowing what that is. In the last year, my ideas on mission has changed because God has changed it. General ideas have stayed the same, i.e. Mission is about giving Glory to God. The day-to-day look of mission (and calling) has more flexibility which is kind of scary-cool. Can that be a new adjective please?
1. a specific task or duty assigned to a person or group of people:
2. a person's vocation
At the beginning of 2011 we were feeling called to leave the church we had been at for 5+ years. For a period of time we allowed (or I definitely did) fear of the unknown keep us where we were comfortable. Fear is kind of a funny thing, because it took a while to realize it had the ruling grip in our life. When we finally admitted that fear of the unknown is not a reason to stay put, we began to put the wheels in motion. We knew where we were being called to: a smaller church that loves on the community it is in. We just didn't know the name. Our 'church search' was comically representative of the times we live in. We had a list, we listened to sermons online (online stalked), narrowed our list, tried one and God confirmed for us that is where we were meant to be. Well, that was easy! What was all that fear business about?
Being in a new church community where we are becoming known puts us in a whole new position - being open and vulnerable. As we become known we are also figuring out how we are going to serve the church and the community. We have to continually raise the question of what is our mission.
A year ago I wrote that we were sure that "service, community, and mentoring" are important components of our mission. Today we would also add that giving our time, talents, and treasure which are from God - back to God. We also want to be intentional in how we serve. Our pastor talks about wanting the church to invest 1 inch wide and 6 feet deep as opposed to 6 feet wide and 1 inch deep. We like that concept and we're trying to use that as we pursue our mission and calling both individually and as a couple.
As we move towards the season of giving thanks (which is more than a season in our book), I want to say that I am so thankful for an alive and loving God that is moving in our lives. I am thankful for God's providence and for opening this new chapter for Paul and I to grow in our mission as a family.
In general, during the past week, each day has been an improvement on the last. The physical side effects have decreased significantly which is great.
Paul mentioned last night that during this last week when I was in the first few days of no medications in my body - I was in no way like myself. I cried if he looked at me oddly. Or we'd be laughing about something silly, but then in the next moment I would think the topic was hurtful and start crying out of no where.
I am very appreciative of the community that we've enjoyed this last week. On Saturday we spent the evening at our friends Mark and Marin's and had our new friends Darrick & Beckyjo join us for a fun evening of food and games (one of which was an awesome game of telephone with the little ones). On Sunday we went to lunch with people from our new church community and in the evening we did a dinner with our community from our old church.
It is a blessing to not only have a wonderful husband who has walked down this same path that I am currently treading on, but also to have such great community to share this experience with.
I am feeling very hopeful as I press forward!
- Bradycardia - Heart Rate is slowed from 72 beats per minute, which is normal, to below 60 beats per minute in an adult.
- Light Headed
- Crying Abnormal: Though I would say my crying is justified, Paul has a different perspective ;)
- Electric Shocks - this is the hardest to describe, the best I found is that it is an electrical jolt feeling that tends to run from the base of the neck up to the lower part of the skull.
- 7 weeks Sugar Free (and staying strong)
- Life without a counseling job (and where I have found my identity)
- Life without school - exploring hobbies (old +new)
- Finding a new church community
- Marriage: Life after year 1
The year was 2000. You remember it don't you? We were all in a panic about Y2K and the downfall of all our computer based systems! This was also the year I graduated high school! I couldn't find a picture from the actual day... at least not a digital photo. Did digital even exist back then? Look at this super cute senior picture I found! How could you not love those bangs!
Anyways, I am pretty sure that the day we moved to Big Lake, Alaska (age 10) I began looking forward to turning 18 and graduating high school. I was not happy about the small town move - not that Anchorage was exactly a metropolis... but beggars could not be choosers.
Normally I would chalk up my being up that early to the 6 hours of sleep I got the night before (I've had actually been up since 5:15am when I started this). Apparently 6 hours is my bodies sweet spot for sleep. More than 6 hours and I'm usually a wreck. I'm usually okay with less than 6 hours for a couple days (it's going on almost 15 years now, but who's counting).
But that day was different. That day I was awake because Charity and I have a big decision to make that weekend about my job. Should I stay or should I go? This has been the question on both our minds for several months now.
Looking in from the outside it appears that I've got a very sweet setup at work. I get paid well, I set my own hours (45 - 60 a week) for the most part, I set my own projects or have a lot of input into what my projects are, and the benefits are amazing. But I've been very unhappy at work since last October. Why would someone who has a job like that be unhappy? There's several reasons, but the overarching reason is that I'm learning that a job is much more about what you choose to do with your time at work than what you are doing at work or how much money you're making at work. But that's jumping ahead to the end. To really understand what brought me to my present level of unhappiness about work I need to start back almost two years ago.
Two years ago was when I had my first conversation with my (now previous) manager about my career. It was two years ago that I really started to feel the desire to have the accountability of leadership. I've been a leader at work in unofficial capacities for several years now. What that means is that I've taken responsibility for leadership, making sure I'm setting a good example, mentoring, and etc without having the accountability for leadership. Sounds great right? Wrong. It's in this accountability that one really gets to grow. When you're held accountable to something you strive harder to do it right. I have a lot of natural leadership qualities but I want to grow tremendously in this area. That's why I wanted the accountability to go along with the responsibility in leadership.
For the last two years I've been trying to get my bosses to lay out my career path and help me understand where, from a management perspective, I need to grow. But all I would ever get from them was "you're doing great" and "we should talk later about what you want to do in your career." Not exactly the most encouraging things to hear when all you're looking for is a clear path to excellence. So for the last two years I've been forging my own way setting my own path and doing it all without the feedback or the luxury of knowing from an executive level where the company is heading. So I just had to guess, hope, and pray that where I was steering myself was in the same direction that our executives were steering the company.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about the freedom to chart my own path. But it gets really disconcerting when you're trying to chart your own path with a blindfold on and no maps to go by. But in the end (thanks to God) I've been pretty successful. I'm one if the most senior developers at the company and I contribute significantly to the architecture, direction, and best practices we use at work. I'm also currently mentoring a handful of folks on software development best practices. But all of that success has come with a lot of frustration and a general lack of faith in my leadership. After 5 years (I started in 2006) with my company I've unofficially taken on a lot of responsibility but officially I'm in the same position with the same accountability as I was in 2006. All the while I've seen leadership positions come and go and have never been considered for a single one.
Another thing that's been making me unhappy at work is not being able to pursue a lot if my passions for the mobile development world. For the last several years I've been trying to get the company to invest in mobile without much luck. I think that our executives honestly thought mobile was a fad that would pass and they didn't want to invest in the emerging market and "waste" time and company money. This past year I had a breakthrough mostly because apple released the iPad which was a shiny enough object with enough press pre launch to finally catch managements attention. So I worked vigorously prior to the launch of the iPad to create a mobile video experience in HTML5 that would be a pleasure to use on the iPad. Our sites video players are all flash currently because it allowed us to write once and deploy anywhere as Flash is supported on over 95% of desktops connected to the internet. That was, until Apple released the iPad and so vehemently denied Adobe the ability to port Flash to run on the device. So the end result was that I wrote an HTML5 video player and it worked well and is still serving our video to iPads around the world. After that I was given the opportunity to start working on our company's first native iPad application. And very quickly I started unofficially leading this project.
All's well right? Well, not exactly. For three months I had been unofficially leading the app development effort on that project and we were making a lot if headway. By the time my wedding rolled around (August) we had finished 90% of the application. In fact we had made so much headway that the company was talking about creating a devices division and bringing in someone to lead up that effort. I expressed a lot of interest to my boss that I would like to be considered for the job. Remember I'd been talking with him for a little over a year at this point about getting an opportunity to lead in an official capacity. Unfortunately the only responses I ever got were along the lines of "you're too good a developer for us to make you a manger and not have you spending 100% of your time developing."
This was frustrating for many reasons. First I'd shown that I could successfully lead a team and get just as much software development productivity as before. Second it was frustrating because it was a great opportunity that I really wanted to pursue but was told I wasn't allowed because it wasn't in my career path; even though I couldn't get them to tell me what my career path was. Lastly the most frustrating part ended up being that the guy they hired ended up being one of our vice presidents good friends who didn't know, understand, or have any previous experience in the mobile landscape. He's released 2 iPad applications since joining the company. All have been copies of the one that I started (literally copied the code, updated the branding, and added a few features) without understanding the importance of writing reusable software. So now they're stuck with three forks of the same project without a clear way to unify the code base. To make matters worse, after he started he and I butt heads on the direction of the project and I was eventually told "thanks but I've got it from here" and shuffled back to the world if enterprise software and away from a passion if mine. I had invested months on that project and was told several feet from the finish line that my part of the race was over. Frustrating.
Then all if a sudden my boss stopped talking to me one day. No reason, no argument, no nothing. Just one day stopped talking to me. It wasn't for another 6 weeks that I actually got him to acknowledge my existence. When asked if everything was alright or if I had done something wrong he said "no you're doing great, I just have a lot on my mind." I'm all for needing space and time to think and plan. But you can't go 6 weeks without interacting with your direct reports. Those six weeks were some of my most unproductive because I was really worried that I had done something to piss him off. It didn't provide a very secure feeling or a lot of motivation at work. My bosses distance eventually made sense when all of a sudden one day he came in and quit. He had been courting with another large company and just didn't have time for us. Turns out that new job was the "a lot on his mind" that he was mentioning.
There are many many many more things like this that have been contributing to my unhappiness at work. Most of which I don't want to bore you with. But while all of this stuff was going on I had another set of things pulling my heart away from work as well. Charity and I had started getting very involved in service at our church. We were both helping as counselors within our community and started leading the morning children's ministry service which oversees bringing the Gospel to anywhere between 80 and 120 kids at any given service. I had also started playing drums again in one if the children's ministry bands. All if this was very fulfilling. Knowing that you're doing work that will affect peoples lives for eternity is very very fulfilling.
It got me longing for being able to do kingdom work more. God started impressing on my heart that he was calling me to do kingdom work more full time. Not as a pastor or church planter. Just pressing on my heart that he wanted me to be able to use my talents in leadership and software development skills for his glory and his kingdom. He started impressing on my heart that a lot if the frustrations I was dealing with at work were due to my desire to be more fruitful with my skills and talents.
Now this is not to say that everyone should go quit their job and go work for a church. That's not what God was impressing on my heart. God wants us out in the world living as lights for his glory. He wants us on mission at our jobs in retail, in the grocery store, at the gas station, or wherever he has put you. He wants us out bringing the Gospel to our co-workers, our friends, and our family's. No, what he was impressing on my heart was that he was calling me to do something more kingdom focused with the leadership and software talents he had given me. But i didn't know where or what that looked like.
Through this process God had shown me a lot if where my idols were at work. My idols had to do with pursuing the career I wanted, the status I wanted, the influence I wanted, all without asking how any of it was contributing to the kingdom of God. He started showing me that my unhappiness at work wasn't due to anyone at work or to anything that's been happening to me. My unhappiness was stemming from tasting what working for God's kingdom looked like (through our service at church) and not having that at my day job.
Still I didn't know what this looked like or what God wanted me to do. I couldn't just quit my job and wait for a sign. That would be foolish and I would be going against what God had called me to as a husband and leader at home. My work decisions affect who God is asking me to be as a provider for my family, as a leader to my wife, and as a financial steward of the gifts God has given me. I was being asked to be patient while God molded my heart to better understand his will. It was hard to be patient. I wanted to be happy but God wanted me to be holy.
That brings us back to the present. Well, closer to the present. Several weeks ago a friend if mine who owns a small software company down the street from my house half jokingly and half serious asked me if I'd consider coming to work for him. He owns a company that started out doing consulting on design work. Over the last few years he and his company have been working on a platform which allows churches to reach a wider audience utilizing the web and mobile applications. Their platform allows churches to make their sermons, music, events, blog, giving, and etc available on your smart phone, iPad, or web thus spreading the word of God and helping to fulfill His mission to make disciples of all nations. I wasn't sure if my friend was serious or not but it started conversations at home between Charity and I about whether or not something like that would be feasible or not.
Our big concerns were with being able to honor the commitments we had made both financially and personally. We have certain financial obligations that we've taken on like our mortgage that wouldn't be something God would want us to walk away from. He wants us to trust that he'll provide for us but to do a good job managing what he has provided. We had also taken on some personal commitments with our condo (rental property) that had financial implications. We increased our financial burden on the condo by lowering the rent several hundred dollars in order to bless a family who felt called to be on mission in Seattle.
So neither one of us was sure we could actually consider from a financial stand point taking this job. But there are other concerns that we had on our hearts about the security of work and about possibly having a baby in the next year or two. These two things actually lead to some great conversations between Charity and I. There were a lot idols in our lives revolving around my job that we weren't aware of. Idols that were standing in the way of our being able to fully trust that God would provide for us and that God had a plan for us.
So we talked and we prayed. I sought wise counsel from my friends and family. I talked extensively with my friend about where Charity and I were and what God had laid on our hearts in terms of finances and our commitments. And after a few weeks my friend came back to us with a plan that allowed us to honor those commitments while also allowing us to root out some of our idols by allowing us to learn to trust that God will and does provide. So after some more thought and prayer Charity and I decided this was where God was leading us as a family. We tested this plan against the character of God in the bible and against what the bible says about leading, being good stewards, sacrifice, and stewardship. And through that we were able to confidently say it was God's will for us to take this job.
So Friday is my last day at my current job. I'm excited about the leadership opportunities that God has laid out for me in my new job. I'm excited to write really great software that brings the word of God to more and more people. I'm excited to be able to mentor other people in software development and to be mentored my self. I'm excited for the next phase of life that God has me in where he's teaching me how to live what I learn. I'm excited at the chance for my wife and I to put some of our idols to rest. But most of all I'm excited to have a wonderful wife who is willing to help me and walk with me through this process.
I continue to run around without my head attached. Work, School, Internship. This quarter is tough because I have two classes and so every other Wednesday I am stuck at school until 9:30pm (5 hours of class). The great news is that I passed my big comprehensive exam, so in 4 months (from tomorrow) I will graduate with my M Ed. in School Counseling.Very exciting to say the least. Though I have schoolwork to finish... my head is in the clouds thinking about jobs and working on my placement file.
We have been enjoying great community with our Church. It has been wonderful to be apart of other peoples growth in Christ as well have people speak into our lives and marriage. Very encouraging, not always easy - but always worth it. We are also getting into the groove of being the service leads for the 9am Children's Ministry Service. It has been an amazing experience serving with Paul, it is also very challenging as it definitely forces me to rely on God's faithfulness and providence.
We are finally healthy as February rolls in. Paul and I have been battling head colds since Christmas. Crossing my fingers that our immune systems are finally up to par.
This past Monday marked 6months of being married. How did time go by so quickly? I am truly feeling more settled into our new life and am really excited to be married to Paul and to be growing together!
And in final news, our dog Charlie is pretty awesome - you can see her on YouTube!
Hopefully this post fills in the gaps of what we've been up to for the past month! I need to post some pictures... hopefully we'll take some cute ones on our Valentines Date this weekend!
Honestly, two-thirds of the year was spent just keeping my head above water. I was working full-time, in class full-time, and was completing practicum hours for my degree. On top of all this I was trying to plan a wedding. And on top of all this - experiencing life: joy, sadness, sin, heartbreak, and growth. Life moves forward.
The final half of the year has been all about... change. Change with marriage, changes with my job and responsiblities, changes in community, and changes with school.
So here I am - sitting at the airport in DC. Day 3 of a new year and not a clue of what to even do about the previous year.
At this point, I doubt I will have too much time to reflect - so like life, I guess it is time to move forward.
Resolutions for 2011?
- Pursue God's will and mission for myself and my marriage with Paul.
- Graduate, graduate, graduate!
- Find balance (not idolatry) with food and health.
- Continue to grow, expand, and challenge the type of community that surrounds me.
The how's of these resolutions (besides graduation) are fuzzy. But, at least I have a start!