My Work Identity - Projects Vs. People

I thought I was dying.  It happened suddenly - any food I put into my body didn’t stay there, didn’t digest.  My life was consumed with nausea and pain. 
My hypochondriac imagination worked overtime. Maybe I had cancer.  Maybe I had liver failure.  The possibilities seemed endless, and my doctor had decided to go on vacation.  

Yet, between medical tests and losing 15 pounds effortlessly in two months, I dragged myself to work every day, weak and emaciated, even if only for a few hours. While plodding through reports, I wondered -- What would happen to my projects if I couldn’t work anymore?  What would I be known for in my work? If I died, what would I be remembered for? 

This task-oriented person needed a reminder -- my work identity is not in my projects nor my task list.  My identity in Christ is ultimately manifested in my relationships.  So what would people say?

“She was so professional.”  I heard these words spoken admirably of a former boss.  Is being business-like, emotionless and impersonable admirable traits for a Christ follower?  Jesus was considered an authority and generally respected for it by many.  But no one would say he was all business or uncaring.  He worked with people, not projects.

“She was a nice person.”  Not likely everyone could say that about me, and with my reserved personality that avoids being the center of attention, I’m not easy to get to know.  While I want to be thought of as kind or friendly, I’m not sure that I am concerned with a reputation of being “nice.”  Jesus was warm and caring, but He wasn’t always nice.  He called people out when they were wrong.  He made people think.

“She was a good person.” This is better than the outward persona of being nice because goodness goes beneath the surface and is rooted in the heart.  Jesus WAS a good person, to the core.  If goodness reflects the love of Jesus in me, then I want to be a good person too.

But ultimately, I want to be known as someone who puts others above myself, someone who goes out of the way to be sure justice is served even if it was inconvenient, and someone who stands for her convictions.  Like Jesus.

So, I may not always be ‘nice’.  But I CAN reflect Jesus by being humble, respectful, kind, and patient.  I can choose to pursue what is right rather than pursuing favor.  To do these things, I need to be someone who listens and seeks to understand before seeking to be understood. 

I want to see the big picture – everyone as a person with an eternal soul, a spirit, to see them beyond the task at hand.  Work is the platform where I practice my faith, where I perform in an arena with my head and hands what I know about God and His purposes.  And not just with my head and hands, but also with my heart.

After three months, God brought healing to my body after a diagnosis of gastroparesis (partial stomach paralysis).  The healing is not complete, but I can function, and the pain that remains is a reminder – a reminder that I work with people, not projects.

Letter to Dad in 1991, from Me in 2013

Dear Dad in 1991,

I wish you could have a peek into the future.  I’m writing this now as your daughter at age 42, to you as a father at near the same age back then, wishing we both could know how things will turn out and be encouraged. 

In these difficult yet crucial decision-making years of my late teens, you may feel discouraged as I try to figure out who I am and where I’m going.  You may feel like you are failing – but you aren’t.  I am listening, even if it seems like I’m not.  The time you spend with me will leave a lasting impression.  Your efforts to know me while I don’t even know myself are not futile. 

You take me sailing, just the two of us. I may seem sullen and grumbly, and you may wish you had never bothered, but even so, it was not for nothing.  You are showing me you care.

You play racquetball with me and afterwards treat me to limeade slushes at Sonic.  We have fun together. You are showing me I have value.

We escape after dinner for Italian ice so we can talk, just the two of us. You let me pick the radio station and you listen to my music, even though you don't like it. You want to know what's going on in my head.  You are showing me that my opinions are worth something.

It may seem like I scoff at you and disregard your advice, but deep down, I really am listening.  In my youthful arrogance, I argue, thinking I know more than you, but you listen.  You don’t blow me off or ignore me, nor do you lecture me.  Instead, you ask questions that make me think, and then you give advice, continuing to insist that God’s ways are the best ways.  Then you watch me go my own way and make mistakes, but you bite your tongue and never say, “I told you so.”  You don’t give up on me.

And it made all the difference.

I know it’s hard right now.  You tease that you hope someday I'll have a daughter just like me - so that I’ll know what I put you through.  And you'll get your wish - times two.  Then you will say you're sorry you ever said that, and I'll laugh, and we'll hug each other with love and appreciation.

The times now may be difficult, but I will grow up, and I will have all the things you dream for me – a long-lasting and wonderful marriage, children, a successful career, but most of all, a life centered on Christ.  Through the valley of shadows and over the mountains of victory, Jesus will become my everything. 

And you have no idea that you are showing me how to be a godly parent to my own strong-willed children in their teen years. You are passing on a legacy of faith and love.

Hang on, Dad, don’t give up. Your reward will come.


Your daughter in 2013

Secrets to a Happy Life - Book Review

Adversity is inevitable, but misery is optional.  It IS possible to be happy, even when life around you is swirling out of control, and Bill Giovannetti tells you why and how in his book Secrets to a Happy Life: Finding Satisfaction in Any Situation.  Giovannetti reminds that your sudden need did not startle God from a nice snooze.  He saw every opportunity and every adversity in your life a long time ago. He heard every prayer you would pray and all the prayers you should have prayed but didn’t.  And He not only knew all these things, but He made perfect provision for every single one!

What is a happy life in adversity?  A happy life is a “frame of spirit”, an all-embracing way of looking at life and finding the contentedness that comes from freely submitting to and delighting in God.  Giovannetti leads us through the story of Joseph, his life and all the adversity he faced, and shows us who God is and was through it all.  He parallels Joseph’s story with the story of how He works in your life, revealing how God orchestrates the best possible outcomes even within the worst possible contexts.   

When I first saw the title of this book, I was expecting a false, shallow, health-wealth type book that said God wants you to be healthy and comfortably happy.  After reading a little about the author, I decided to read it and give it a chance, and I’m glad I did. 

At first I was a little disturbed by the language “life-changing secrets” and “find your dream” and “know your destiny”, but reading it all in context, I realized what Giovannetti was doing.  He was not writing in “Christianese”.  He is using fresh word choices from today’s culture to explain God’s providence.  He is targeting seekers who want to be content and happy when circumstances are upside down and who want to make sense of things.   He uses today’s vernacular to bring the gospel to the reader and to show how God works in our lives are how we find satisfaction in life.  

Giovanneti’s style is fun and conversational.  He takes a serious topic about suffering and adversity and presents it in a light-hearted way that encourages the reader and points them toward the Gospel for understanding.  Whether a seeker or a mature follower of Christ, this book is a great reminder of how God works in the world and in our lives.

To read an excerpt or get more information, check out the Bethany House website here.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Pick Your Crisis: Tornado or Illness?

If Satan wanted to destroy your faith, what would he do first?

He knew that Job was faithful and devoted to God, and thought it was because God had blessed him, so first he took away his belongings with an attack.  Then a tornado decimated property and killed all his children.  Job’s faith in God did not waiver.

Then, Satan was convinced that illness would cause Job to crumble.  And it worked.  Job never lost his faith in God, but his strength and resiliency faded to complete brokenness and utter grief. Job wasn’t trying to rebuild.  He sat in numbness and shock for a weak, doing nothing but grieving by tearing his clothes, rubbing ashes on his head, and ripping his injured skin with shards to relieve his physical misery.

What if Satan had started with illness before the other devastating actions?  Was it the illness that crumbled him or just the compounding effect of multiple traumatic events?  What would Satan choose to do to crush me with misery and despair? My imagination can concoct all kinds of possibilities.  Job must’ve done that too, because he says that everything he had feared and dreaded in the good times had finally happened to him (Job 3:25).

Whatever the answer, God is still in control.  He keeps Satan on a leash.  We have a choice to make – whether we will allow ourselves to be crushed by the uncontrollable dozer of destruction, or if we will climb onto it triumphantly knowing that God will use it for good and not waste it. 

We don’t get to choose.  And it is a waste of energy to contemplate it or imagine all the unthinkable that could happen.  Just know and prepare to not give in to despair.  Prepare to choose to trust.  God will carry us and teach us through the dark hours as we journey out of this world that is not our true home.