I’ve concluded that the metric by which God will assess my life isn’t dollars but the individual people whose lives I’ve touched.Clayton Christensen, in an article for Harvard Business Review, “How Will You Measure Your Life”
Check the article for how he answered three questions, and why he thought they were the right three questions:
- how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career?
- how can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness?
- how can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail?
I’ll keep thinking on the three, and perhaps answer in a later post. Will just say up front that his questions are worth pondering.
It’s the evening of Christmas. Presents have long since been opened, and dinner weighs heavy in my belly. Many thanks to my wonderful parents-in-law (honestly, mostly my mother-in-law) for hosting us for dinner today. Today was a day of family. My kids enjoyed opening a “joint” present of a Nintendo Switch, and have spent the day playing with each other and even a bit with their dad and mom. Mom is a lousy Mario Kart racer – can reasonably be counted to come in last or next to last. The three kids are downstairs now playing something. I love to hear their voices as they laugh and goof around with each other.
Last night we all went to church together, the kids somewhat grudgingly, and attended service with our church family as well as Jason’s parents. I love church on Christmas Eve. As an elder, I got to help serve communion, which I always love, but _especially_ love on Christmas Eve as there are more folks there to participate in a lovely communal ritual. Christmas Eve’s evening service (only one yesterday) is also the candlelight service, which is a beautiful representation of the love and light of Christ being passed from person to person… Just gives me chills!
This morning we all opened gifts. I love to buy presents for my family. I love to see my kids enjoying giving gifts to each other. Christmas morning is one of my favorite days of year – not for stuff’s sake, but for the love shown through stuff. Oh, and I got (stuff’s sake) spinning plates and a diabolo – more fun toys for Clementine! And, of course, I got to see the kids’ faces for the Switch. It’s definitely a more expensive gift than our norm – I explained to the kids that my employer graciously gave we employees a tech bonus this year and that I was happy to share that with them.
I even got to talk with my dad this evening – a rare treat.
Merry Christmas, everyone. I am wonderfully grateful for this day, and recognize it as a gift. I hope your day had its own elements in which you saw blessing, and if not, that God blesses you in the upcoming days through those He blessed today.
This week our church hosted ‘winter relief emergency shelter’. Arundel House of Hope organizes a safety net of housing during the winter for our local homeless population – our church was one of many who took a week to open its doors at night to provide housing so that folks weren’t stuck sleeping in the cold. The accommodations aren’t amazing: they’re camp cots lined up in a large room. Because our church hosted both men and women, there was a divider wall in the middle of the room to separate the men’s sleeping quarters from the women. But these aren’t glamorous or even private bunks. We manage to provide hot showers 3 nights of the 7, and offer breakfast and dinner each day. In the morning, volunteers drive our guests back to Arundel House of Hope (or sometimes to the light rail or to a methadone clinic) – everyone’s up and out by 7am, not to return again until 4:30pm when they’re driven back from the House of Hope.
To pull off this week requires an enormous amount of volunteer manpower. There are three shifts of volunteers: 4-8, 8-11, and 11-8. Yep, 11-8 – to provide a safe place for our guests to sleep, we have two volunteers on site and at least one of them awake round the ‘clock. Beyond the on-site volunteers, the list of people needs includes drivers, cooks, folks to act as hosts for the shower nights, setup, teardown, prayer team, … For our small-ish church, it’s a lot of hands in.
For the past few years, I’ve worked at least one overnight shift, and often had other reasons to come visit whilst folks were more awake. Each year, we see some new faces and some familiar ones. This year, I met a mom and her high school senior son. The son attends a local public charter school and has plans to join the Coast Guard when he graduates in a few months. He likes comic books, and he and his mom spent some time playing cards together. I met a gentleman who I ended up needing to call an ambulance for, as he was in a significant amount of abdominal pain due to his stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I met another guy who showed me the business proposal estimate he was putting together on behalf of a client of his electrician business. Another guy came down the hall in his shirt and tie each morning, after shaving and prepping in the mens’ restroom. Yet another guy had us wake him up at 3am each morning so he could catch the light rail and go to its farthest stop, and then walk another 3 miles to get to his job.
Sadly, that last guy I’d met before. He was here last year, and the year before. I don’t understand why, in his particular case. There were a few others I recognize from years’ past – some who I realize face mental or other challenges that will likely keep them coming back year after year. If we (and other churches) can give them a safe warm place to be and a welcoming environment, I hope they recognize us as bearers of God’s message of love. Others give me hope that they won’t be rejoining us next year as shelter guests, but will instead keep coming ’round “only” as members of our congregation, maybe even joining the ranks of us putting out the welcome mat again in 2019.
If you’ve gotten to the end here and want to learn more, I’d encourage you to check out Arundel House of Hope’s site. They work in a number of ways with the local homeless community, so I sent you to their front page. The direct page for the winter relief program, along with reports of how things have gone in previous years and contact info for getting involved, is here. It’s an amazing program, which enables the volunteer efforts of many to unite into a safety net for those whom society often overlooks. Arundel House of Hope puts their mission to our guests as ‘To keep those experiencing homelessness in the Baltimore/Annapolis corridor from freezing to death during the Winter months and to show them the Divine’s love in simple practical ways during our time together.’ I’m pretty convinced that both of those are pursuits worthy of time and energy.
The past two weekends, I’ve had opportunities to go out into the community as my alter-ego, Clementine. Clementine is a blue-haired (for now, anyway) Auguste clown who’s been enjoying spending her time at summer festivals and parades with her pet skunk, Blossom.
Clementine was asked a question by a ten-year old(ish) boy along the parade this morning: why does she put on her clown makeup? The answer is: with a bit of work (the makeup and costume stuff) and a good bit of energy, Clementine can be a grower of smiles and happiness. The number of kids (and adults!) who wanted to fist bump, snap pics, high-five, pet Blossom, and just generally enjoy interacting was huge! Clementine got to interact with little kids, big kids, parents of kids, and even had her picture snapped with a senior citizen or two who was enjoying the parade from a wheelchair. Blossom was already wearing beads to deck herself out for the 4th of July parade, and got a new necklace from a little girl along the parade route who was making bead necklaces and thought Blossom needed one more.
My ultimate goal is to get some experience under my belt and see about sharing this opportunity with folks in my church. Our clown alley has members from my age and younger, to retired folks. We have folks who have physical limitations, and some who will never be able to live on their own due to mental handicaps, but who delight in ‘bumping a nose’ and sharing a smile in the community. Each clown has their own set of gifts to share, which seems to me to be a perfect example of what we aspire to in Christian ministry. “But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” [1 Corinthians 12: 18-20]
Among the resolutions for the New Year this year was this one: work through all 31 Proverbs, summarizing each, and memorizing a key verse from each to help bring it back to mind. 31 is about 1 every week and a half, with a bit of room for catchup. Bible memorization is not my strong suit, hence giving myself lots of room to succeed. So far, the verses chosen are Proverbs 1:7 and Proverbs 2:1. I must confess: Proverbs 2:1 is a long one. It’s the one I thought was important in instructing me, not necessarily the verse important for summarizing the Proverb. I was sorely tempted to choose a shorter one. Given that I just chose today, it may yet retreat – though I hope not. I’d rather learn the thing that I’m led to tuck away into my heart than learn the short one to achieve what is admittedly an artificial goal.
Our pastors are working through a sermon series talking about the Advent Conspiracy. Its four tenets are Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More and Love All. Our family was honored to get to light the Advent candle on the week the topic was ‘Spend Less’. So how’d we do, on Spend less in particular, or the Advent Conspiracy overall?
Tonight I headed to CVS to get stocking stuffers for my 3. Some $70 later (at least it included tape), my kids stockings will have a bit of candy and several things they’ll otherwise need for our family trip later this year. Counting it as a partial success – $70 seems like a good bit to spend on what I think of as relative inconsequentials, but everything in there is something that I think they’ll use for a particular need. (Or eat, in the case of the smattering of candy. On the plus side, I bypassed the normal ridiculously large candy bar / candy box as a Christmas present – my kids do not need an infusion of sugar.)
Present-wise, I think we as usual overdid it. We worked to keep a running list (Google Docs!) so my hubby and I didn’t lose track, but it’s still too easy to keep finding neat things. I did attempt to front-load with low-dollar items: each of the girls are getting mugs that I think they’ll enjoy both receiving and drinking from, mornings after mornings. Each are getting knee high socks. (I’m pretty sure neither are specifically aware of this website, and either way, even if they know mug and socks, I still think they’ll enjoy their particular mug and socks surprises.. ) These are things that speak to particular interests of theirs at low dollars. My son didn’t get a mug or knee-high socks, but got his own corollary of things that are low budget, but have sentimental impact. At the end of the list, though, we get to the bigger dollar items. Nothing ridiculous for any of them individually. We did splurge on an item that I budget across the three of them – think they’ll be surprised, AND it solves a problem we’ve seen in our house. By having one of these allocated to the kids, I’ll get my bedroom back, I think. THAT I find very valuable – it’s basically a Christmas present to me and my hubby!
We did give more – of time, at least. Haven’t tallied up funds. But the point of give more is actually time. We used time as a present more this year: GroupOns for activities with a young friend. Concert or theatre tickets with either the promise of a companion or of a babysitter. These, we hope, will be memorable for the recipients, moreso that a typical , well, maybe she needs one of these presents.
Worship fully.. ugh. My advent worship is bursty. I revisit my advent calendar and work to catch up, reading through 3-5 days of devotionals at a time. SO reflective. It’s better than it’s been in previous years, and I’ve tried to highlight aspects to my kids, but….
Love all… my ENTJ is working on that…
Just saw an image of a woman giving CPR to an infant, and it reminded me of a few things I need to act upon.
Learning CPR is important – being ready for the emergency, for the opportunity to save a life – that’s important. I was trained in college, when I was a rugby coach. But I haven’t renewed in a long time. Time to find a class…
Giving blood is important. My body produces blood, through no talent of mine. Even on my worst day, in terms of impact to the world, I can give blood and help tip the balance for someone’s life. Time to donate again, particularly before I get my next tattoo (tattoos mean you can’t give again for a year – the ink can be in your bloodstream, which could cause an allergic reaction in others…). Which means, time to take more iron – to not repeat the last ill-fated donation. If I’m going to get my finger pricked, I’m darn sight gonna give some blood this time.
Sharing my faith, particularly with my kids, is important. In fact, growing in my faith, so that it’s more evident as being meaningful, is even more important. My oldest daughter has been asked by our church to consider confirmation classes, and I think she’s likely to side-step this year… She can claim she’s shy (true), that it’s a lot of work (true, too)… I count that as a loss, but I’d rather have her do so when _she’s_ ready to investigate than when I wish she were ready. However, our pastor sent ahead the confirmation “to-do” list. I want to share the list with her, and then let her hold me accountable for working through the list myself… It may make an impression on her, it may not, but I certainly think that the things they ask teenagers to learn and practice are ones that would be valuable for me, as well.
I’m looking around my home this morning, two of my three kids in view. One’s at the computer – I’m thankful that we can provide them things that let them explore the world. The other greets me with a chipper “Hi, mom!”. I’m thankful for the great relationship we have with all three of them. The last is downstairs, I think: of the three she’s the one who most often leaves little drawings around, and I’m thankful for her creative spirit. Yesterday, she and her big sister got tasked with “make something that looks like a turkey – here’s some walnuts, pipe cleaners, and other craft supplies”. Our centerpiece of mums ended up with 3 turkey heads poking up out of it, and the explanation was that the turkeys were hiding from becoming Thanksgiving supper.
My husband walks into the kitchen, on the phone with his mom. They’re finalizing the preparations for him to fly out tomorrow to go help his brother and brother’s family move to our area. I’m thankful for my husband’s generous approach to life: his brother one of many folks he’s helped in various ways this year. I’m thankful for the opportunity upcoming to get to know my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and niece, as they move into the area for a few years. And I’m thankful for my mother-in-law and father-in-law: they were over yesterday for an early Thanksgiving dinner. They have always been supportive of our family, and are just great folks in general.
I think out more broadly… we’ve changed churches lately, and I’m thankful for both the church we’ve left and the one we’ve been attending. Both have and are teaching us much, and I cherish the friendships we grew at our “old” church, as well as the chance to engage with new folks at our “new” church. Both churches honor and worship God, and I am thankful to get to share in their fellowship and worship.
I think of my extended family. Those relationships are more strained this year than I’d like. I’m thankful that there’s still at least the potential to repair them, that family members still seem to have their health, and that for one family member, at least, this year wasn’t their last.
I think of our health, those of my kids and my husband and mine. My husband’s been given a clear bill of health again this year from his doctor’s, and we get to grow another year older together. My kids have been blessedly healthy and even injury free this year. I drew the short straw on injuries and managed to top out our HSA this year (thankful for great healthcare! and thankful for a reprieve from surgery!), but have recovered and gone back to the activities I love.
I’m looking around at my WordPress dashboard, and seeing an upgrade notice. That reminds me that I’m thankful for the opportunity to work in a field I love. Later today and this weekend I’ll be working on a volunteer project to provide a registration system for a charity that’s doing some great work in the community. I’m thankful that the Lord’s blessed me with skills that I can use, and pointed me towards opportunities to use them.
Yesterday we had the mom of Cora’s friends over, and the day before we were out and about with a young lady who’s an extension of the Coleman family. The day before that, we were retrieving Callie from a not-quite-successful sleepover at another friend. Very thankful for friendships, growing and grown, and hope to always remain open and inviting for more.
The Lord has blessed us this year in many ways, and I offer thankfulness to Him for another year to live, to enjoy His blessings, and to learn more how to serve Him well in every area of my life. May your Thanksgiving be as abundant in thankfulness!
Submitted for OSCON 2013, in what’s now become an annual tradition. I attended in 2010, submitted briefs in 2011 and 2012, and now submit again in 2013. I have the topic to bring it home: two, actually, both related to government FOSS, with a third idea in mind related to some innovations in our new architecture. I also have, of course, the strong interest to be a visible female presenter at a technology conference. Today’s sermon topic at church had to do with living big dreams, specifically those that are bigger than your largest life-bound items, which are tied to purposes put in place for you before you were even born. I keep returning to themes in my life of Christian business, Christian women leaders, female technology leadership… these appear to me to be directly in line with listening to talents and interests given, and using them to help show paths to other women so that they too might make use of their talents. I am convinced that one could update Proverbs 31 to show that same woman providing for her family through programming. I say with quite a bit of tongue in cheek that her “lamp does not go out at night” could be because much programming is done in the late evening hours.