Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Remodeling" by Kelly O'Dell Stanley

My blogging has been infrequent and skattered at best this year. It's a time of unexpected change that's changing old mindsets and building new ones. It's something similar to Kelly's experience in the following article.

I'm a lot like the house I fixed up.
by Kelly O'Dell Stanley

When my husband and I bought a new (old) house, people thought we were crazy. But I had a vision. Never mind that the kitchen had ugly gray paneling on the walls, yellow-flecked Formica® countertops, blue plaid wallpaper, and poorly arranged appliances and countertops.

It didn't matter that the living room was papered in a busy, rust- and gold-colored print with birds and carriages, and had worn, gold sculptured carpet covering the hardwood floors. The shape of the rooms and the transom windows and 10-foot doors were hard to see in all that clutter, but I knew they were there.

In my mind, I could see the end result—the mix of textures, the colors of the d├ęcor, the way I'd emphasize the architectural features, and the way the rooms would flow together. I knew it would be perfect.

Partway through the process, though, I became less sure. Much less. We had a whole house to redo. Although the lines were good, every surface needed something. Peeling up the shag carpet, we discovered a spongy residue that had to be scraped off by hand. Removing wallpaper revealed cracks we didn't expect. The cabinets weren't a standard depth, meaning the sink and countertop we'd purchased didn't fit without some inspired retrofitting. The filthy cast iron bathtub had to be smashed into pieces to be carried through the bathroom door. The electricians ran into one problem after another as they rewired, hung new lights, wired new outlets. We had to remove a lowered ceiling, haul off trash, wash and scrub and paint—and my hands, elbows and shoulders ached.

I developed tendonitis, and my doctor said I shouldn't paint. But I discovered that if I shook out my hands every little bit, I could manage 20 minutes at a time before the pain became excruciating. It was one thing after another after another, and I started to believe that the process would never end.

Glances into the Future
Walking through the debris covering the floor from the demolition and seeing the cabinet frames without the doors, cut apart for rebuilding, I was deeply discouraged. It was so much harder than I expected, and it took so much time. All my family and friends were helping—my husband worked on something every night when he got home from work, my friends brought bottles of wine and wallpaper scrapers—but I felt the weight of it all.

I didn't know what to do most of the time, and without the help of my dad, I never would have made it through. He came and patiently, creatively, thoroughly rebuilt the kitchen for me, one step at a time. If something didn't fit, we re-cut it. If something broke, we made a new one. Each task brought forward another problem, and each time, as I was ready to cry, my dad stepped back, thought for a minute, and presented a solution. He's an artist, and his father had been a cabinet-maker, so he knew how to build things. Sometimes our first attempt didn't work, so we'd have to try again.

I spent the summer wanting to cry, to curl up into a ball somewhere and never come out. But almost daily, my dad would call. "I'm on my way. Meet me over there?" I'd make excuses to my clients, change into old clothes, and walk the block to the new house to wait for him. Slowly but surely, the kitchen came together, and I loved the time we spent together, side by side.

I'm not even sure when it happened, when we finally turned the corner from disaster to improvement. But we did. Near the end of the summer, I was granted moments, glances into the future, insight into the finished product.

At first, they were mere glimpses, a view stolen through a keyhole. Eventually the view became wider, until whole rooms were complete. Paint cans were banished to the basement, we relinquished the trailer used to haul trash to the dump, and the to-do list shrank to just a couple items. Now the house is beautiful, stylish, and complete. But the most dramatic change, my favorite part, is my new kitchen. When I walk through it, I'm filled with wonder. Gleaming new countertops, colorful cabinets, pretty brushed nickel hardware, crisp white wainscoting, shiny floor. Cabinets and drawers properly positioned, appliances in the right place, straight corners and clean surfaces, and every detail as it should be.

God's Remodeling
My mom walked into the kitchen one day when we were nearly done and mused out loud, "I never thought it could look this good. Did you?" Yes. My dad and I did. We had our moments of doubt, our disappointments and failures and frustrations. But all the effort was worth it. I'm so proud of what we accomplished, and so is he. It's not his kitchen, yet he retains ownership of the transformation.

Reminds me of how God works with us. He sees something inside us—an inherent beauty, a solid structure—and he goes to work. The change isn't immediate, and sometimes things look worse before they start to look better. There are times when we're just downright ugly and a big ol' mess. But he's patient and creative and oh-so-thorough. If something doesn't work, he fixes it. If it's broken, he tosses it out and replaces it with something new. If it cracks, he makes a new one to replace it. The solutions are never what you expect, and sometimes the remodeling creates other, new issues to deal with. Yet he steadfastly continues the work he began, knowing the end result will be glorious, better than anyone ever imagined. He knows exactly what he's doing.

All he wants is to spend time with us, working side by side. All he asks is that we trust his abilities and yield ourselves to his vision. So we do, eagerly awaiting the time when we will see what he had in mind for us all along.

To read more of Kelly's writing, visit her blog the whole box of donuts.

"For I know what I have planned for you,'says the LORD.' I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope." (Jeremiah 29:11 .NET Bible)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Clearing Up Career Confusion" by K. and K. Brennfleck

I read the following article on today. Although it's about making changes in your career, there are parts that are applicable to making life changes as well.

Clearing Up Career Confusion
by Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck

Are you thinking about making a career change? Too often, thinking about it is as far as many people go. If you're in a career that you don't like, you probably daydream about doing something different that you would really enjoy. You imagine enjoying going to work, and feeling productive and fulfilled each day. In your dream job, your work fits your schedule, priorities, values and salary needs. At a deep level, you can feel the difference a new job would make in your life.

Why People Stay Stuck in the Wrong Jobs

You continue dreaming day after day (or even year after year) about making a career change, yet don't do anything about it. Why? Here are the two most typical reasons:

Confusion. While many people know what they don't want to do, they are unclear about what type of work they would like to do. Or, if they have a vision of work that would fit them well, they are foggy about how to get into that career. You can't make a successful career change until you know specifically what change you want to make and have a game plan for the transition.

Fear. When people say they "hate" their jobs, wouldn't you expect they would be anxious to get into a new job? Often, however, people choose to stay in their misery because it is familiar. They choose the known over the unknown. We humans are fearful creatures. When faced with making a change, we tend to think about all the "what-ifs," imagine the worst possible outcomes, treat those thoughts as though they are the "truth about how things are," and therefore convince ourselves to stay stuck where we are.

If you are in work that is a poor fit, take a minute to ask yourself why you aren't taking steps to get out of it. Making the right diagnosis is the first step in fixing something. Determine whether your inertia is due to a lack of career direction, not having a do-able game plan for making a change, and/or some type of fear. Once you tell yourself the truth about why you are stuck, you can more easily figure out what to do about it.

Three Tips for Clearing Up Career Confusion

1. Take a look at what's wrong with your job. Take our Career Check-up Inventory to help determine what factors in your current (or most recent) job contribute most to your dissatisfaction. The inventory can help you determine whether you need to make changes in your current job, find a similar job in a different company or make a significant career change.

2. Try out a "dream job." Many people talk themselves out of even looking into a possible dream job because making a change seems impossible. While it is true that making a change will require moving out of your comfort zone, the secret to making successful changes is taking bite-sized, do-able steps. Here are some ways you can begin moving from dream to reality:

- Read about your dream job. Search for books about it at or google the job title to see what you can find on the Internet.

- Watch TV shows, documentaries or You Tube videos of people doing this work. Picture yourself in this career to see if it "fits."

- Talk to people who do this job. Ask them what they like about their job; what they don't like; how they got into the field; typical salary ranges for the profession; recommendations for how to decide if the work would be a good fit for you; etc. You can also ask them for names of other people in the field you could interview. (As you conduct these "informational interviews," you will be building a contact network that will come in handy later if you decide to pursue this career.)

- Volunteer. You can actively try out a particular type of work by volunteering your time to your church or a non-profit agency. (If you are in school, you can also seek out appropriate internship experiences.) For example, if you are interested in becoming a special events planner, volunteer to help out with a 5K fundraiser for a local non-profit. If you are considering teaching, start in your church. Brainstorm with friends and family members about how you might get some hands-on experience in a particular field, and then take the initiative to ask about opportunities. You will never know what is possible until you ask!

Once you have "tried on" your dream job in a number of ways, you will be better able to assess if it really is a good fit for you. You will also know more about the specific steps for getting into this type of work, and have developed some connections to help in your transition. Your confusion will then be replaced by much more clarity!

3. Expose your fears to the light of day. Ever notice how overwhelming your fear can be at 2:00 a.m.? When you awake in the middle of the night, anxious thoughts can be paralyzing. Usually, however, in the morning you can more realistically deal with fears and figure out what to do about them. In the same way, it is important to name the fears you feel when you think about making a change so that you can examine them rationally. Unexamined fears will keep you stuck!

The good news is that often people find that their fears about making a career change decrease as they find out more about their dream job. Fears about the unknown diminish when you learn more about the field. You may discover that many of your fears were unfounded: You may find out, for example, that you can earn more in this field that you had previously imagined. You won't need to start "at the bottom." Your age is not a big factor. Etc. If you find that some of your concerns are accurate, such as the field really is competitive to get into, you can explore how others have succeeded in spite of this obstacle. Information is a key to combating fear.

A fear of failure (Can I really make it in this field?) can be addressed as you try out the new area of work through volunteering. You will be building your skills and experience as you assess how well the work fits your God-given design. You may find that you have the potential to excel in this career field because it interests you and you are therefore motivated to learn and grow.

Confusion is not a Terminal Condition

You don't have to live with career confusion. Although the prospect of making a career change can seem daunting, there are steps you can take to achieve your dream. God designed you for a purpose. His power and wisdom are available to you. He will be with you as you take the necessary steps to discover and live your vocational calling!

"For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, his Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control." (2 Timothy 1:7 GNB)