Floating Epiphany

Notandum: a thing to be observed or noticed

Oh no, her lips are pursed!

Her body language looks like she’s not interested and already has some defenses to make.

MOM! Just give it a REST…

Mom and I were in an office with the two owners, a husband and wife, of this particular business. We had come to pitch some ideas about website redesign, social media upkeep, and other business promoters. They wanted to grow and we were there to help throttle them into a new and exciting time.

Except, I wasn’t doing much pitching. I was just listening to my mom propose interesting suggestions while I was battling my discomfort and hushing my fears.

You see, I’ve never been one to embrace conflict and tend to err on the side of people pleasing. I like to be liked. If I sense a whiff of disagreement, my natural instinct is to change the subject or jump more on board with whomever I’m communicating with even if I disagree. I also don’t like selling people anything. An idea. A book. Myself. Forget it. Getting a “no” sucks, so I’d rather just smile, nod, and agree.

The wife looked like she wasn’t quite following or understanding or agreeing with what my mom was saying, and it took everything within me not to brush over the subject and move unto more agreeable topics. The objections the wife had were fair, but sometimes we cling unto things that gave us success in the past rather than trying new formats that might bring us new successes and opportunities in the future.

And that’s where it clicked.

Here I was internally fighting against my selfishness, my “default” when reagirl-butterfly-statue-kneelinglly, I had no reasons to feel this fear at all. Holding unto old fears, old ways of thinking, old ways of doing things might have had their place at point but need to be re-evaluated for usefulness or benefit.

Conflict is NOT bad and NOT to be avoided. Friction and growing pains may be hard, but that’s where the good stuff happens. New ideas are shared. Relationships are built. Risks are taken. Understanding takes place. Deals are signed.

And really, a “no” isn’t that bad. There are a myriad of reasons why someone may say that and that “no” may just mean I need to figure out a new way of doing something.

After what seemed like an eternity, we stood up, gave hugs, shook hands. We toured the floor, happily admiring the amenities and hominess the place provided. As we were leaving, I noticed a statue of a little girl with a butterfly in her palm on the counter near the door. Immediately, I shook my head in amused laughter, because it seemed like a perfect representation of the solution I needed.

Children are so trusting and carefree. They’re inquisitive, explore, and ask “why”. They’re awed by every new experience and new discovery. They learn quickly. They tumble, fall, and may cry, but get right back up and keep running.

The butterfly in that little girl’s hand was once a caterpillar. It squirmed on the ground, on leaves, on trees. But not until it died to itself — essentially becoming a living sacrifice — that it blossomed into its true nature. A butterfly.

I want to die to my fears. My selfishness. My embarrassment. My pride.

And with every new experience, I hope to be mindful of those opportunities to grow. I want to be a like a child, absorbing and contributing fearlessly.

I must take note.

~Lina Marie

 

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Faith Trumps Fear

Juxtapositional: the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect.

I like to joke and refer to myself as a “tame Type A”. I’ve learned to enjoy surprises, go with the flow, and look forward to spontaneity, but my core enjoys having a plan, being prepared, knowing what’s next. I can take the backseat and let something else make all the decisions (which is nice sometimes, actually), but my friends can tell you I can be pretty assertive and decisive. (I know what I want, dang it!!)

When a dear friend hosted a dinner party several months ago, she had little, glass jars, wrapped with charms and a burlap ribbon placed at each seat at the table. Little did we know she prayerfully placed each jar in front of a seat, beseeching the Lord that each occupant would be matched with the appropriate word to define or encourage their journey.

I got faith.

The crazy thing was, I was led to study the word only a few weeks before as I sensed the Lord desired I come to know more experientially what the word meant.

Anyway, back to “Ms. Tame Type A”, I don’t worry a lot about things or overthink, but I have moments I try to figure out all my finances, habits, social life, schooling, etc. all on my own without praying first or sharing my dissonance. There is no need for me to verbally “throw up” on someone since I can handle it, thank you very much. In theory, the attitude sounds inspirational, strong even. However, I miss out on being vulnerable and involving people in my inner journey. I miss out on being molded by faith and risky ventures. 

The jar has sat on my desk for some time, but only recently have I used it as a coin collector. I thought it apt as each few pennies, though small in number, over time contribute to something larger and more meaningful.

I watched a TedTalk recently about a guy’s quest for meaning and opportunity. He shared it’s important to write down goals to have a visual reminder of what a per

Let Your Faith Be Bigger than your fears

son is striving toward. And you know what? A funny thing happened. He started seeing opportunities in things he hadn’t seen before. (Reticular activation, maybe?) I do work in a place with physical money handled daily, but I started noticing more coins on the ground (don’t worry, I haven’t ever stolen money!) inside and outside the premises. I started noticing the lone coins scattered in different locations and my pocket started making a satisfying little jingle. Haha.

All this to say, although deposited coins in my faith jar is a visual, when you remember that faith should always be bigger than your fears, you start to see the little opportunities for faith building and growing in life. Deposit them in your heart, because little by little the number will grow, the muscle will strength, and you’ll have an ROI you never dreamed of. A penny may look pitiful next to the bold word “Faith”, but wasn’t it little David that slew a big Goliath?

~Lina Marie

Surprise!

Hotsy-totsy: about as right as can be; perfect

I turned 21 on January 24. A couple months ago, my mom asked me if I wanted to do anything in particular to celebrate  my “official passage” into adulthood. Up until this point, I’ve always had sleepover parties with my girls and often shared the weekend with my younger sister whose birthday is a week before mine. This year, however, I wanted to end the tradition and imagined I’d either work on my birthday. Or sit and read with a latte or glass of wine. Or sleep.

I wasn’t expecting or hoping for anything and quite frankly, nearly lost track of how fast my birthday zoomed into view. When I saw my work schedule for my birthday week, I was pleasantly surprised my boss took into consideration my birthday and didn’t schedule me the first three days of the week. Sweet!

Two days before my birthday, a Sunday, I had planned to go to my sister-from-another-mister’s house to hang out for my birthday, spend the night, and then go out with her sister (also my best friend) for another birthday outing. Super low key, intimate, and filled with quality time. My mom was to drop me off after church and that would be that.

On the way to this friend’s house, a guy friend of mine who had been at church contacted my mom for an address to someplace. I honestly didn’t pay that much attention and didn’t think much of it. My mom is a super resourceful person and enjoys assisting people in whatever the case may be.

Upon driving up to my friend’s house, I noticed there were a lot of cars parked in the driveway. At first, I thought perhaps house church was in session, but for one, it was too early, and I recognized some of the cars that wouldn’t have been part of the fellowship. My mom tried to distract me with some of the neighbor’s goats, but WHO FREAKIN’ CARES ABOUT GOATS WHEN THERE ARE SUSPICIOUSLY TOO MANY CARS IN THE DRIVEWAY. My heart pounded faster than normal, and I jumped out of the car, ran up the steps, the door was opened for me, and I was met with a resounding — “SURPRISE!!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY LINA!”

They had pulled off a surprise party and I had no idea. (I guess that’s the ultimate hope for those sorts of things. Haha.)

I gasped in delight and shock and my hand flew straight to my mouth. I could not believe my eyes. Faces I had seen from anywhere to the day before to several months back were all in the kitchen, smiling at me, and there for ME. What in the world.

I’m a serial hugger, so I gave every person in the room a big ole hug, some a kiss too, and lots of laughter. The evening was perfect, filled with lattes, food, friends, Jesus, and thinking about the goodness of God. I’m still amazed that in spite of all my flaws and blunders, so many people would be there for me to celebrate our friendship and new seasons of life. That’s a gift.

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Humorous Intentions Gone Sour

Gauche: tacky, graceless, tactless, rude, boorish, or awkward and foolish

I’ve always struggled with discerning the fine line between conveying information and oversharing personal information. I’m not a reserved person and though I’d hope to not have secrets or embarrassing moments shared freely among friends, I genuinely enjoy people asking about my life, because I’m as nosey as they come (it has gotten better, most assuredly). I don’t share people’s deepest, darkest secrets, but we all have different boundaries of privacy and security.

This past week, a thoughtless incident reminded once again of the need for tact and social graces, especially among people in the same circles. A friend shared with me a joke this person knew I would find funny. It was about someone else, but not in a way that was degrading or backstabbing, but related to something we’ve discussed and this person knew exactly what to say to pique my interest and get under my skin in a playful way.

I casually mentioned the essence of the topic to the person of interest thinking this person would laugh. This person didn’t and was quite flustered, because it was annoying and something this person had made statements about disliking. If something isn’t directly and firmly spoken to me, sometimes I don’t get the hint and forget that I need to be thoughtful in not only what I share but in what someone would find funny.dsc_8539

The simple, shared statement turned into heartfelt (and not the sentimental heartfelt) texts which morphed into two long phone calls and me feeling thoroughly embarrassed. I’m not good with guilt and didn’t sleep well that night, even after receiving forgiveness (sometimes negative emotions linger). I’ve dealt with situations like this before, but it still took some emotional stamina not to cry or entertain less-than-edifying thoughts about myself.

All that to say, in hindsight, I keenly remembered and realized the need to value what others tell us in confidence or not. Relationships are built on trust and in learning what is meaningful to another person. It is not enough to explain away situations with justifications about your seemingly “insignificant” role but take to heart that we don’t often realize how our words sting and could put someone in an unsavory light.

~Lina Marie

Retreat or Surmount

Aplomb: self-confidence or assurance, especially when in a demanding situation

A little over a month ago, I started as a Team Member at Chick-fil-A. Compared with my previous office job position, this role was a learning curve and fast-paced. Due to some remodeling being done at a sister Chick-fil-A and a knack for learning fast, I soon was trained on drive-through and there was talk about me becoming a Team Lead for that section (God please no! Hahaha! Well, maybe not yet anyway).

I hadn’t been trained on everything thoroughly before I was asked to take someone’s headset for drive-through during breakfast for a co-worker because this person was going on break. Tentatively and with a big gulp, I did my best only to have a guest who was muffled shout at me for the condiment he wanted after I asked him three times. Soon, I was transferred to another section in drive-through only to press a wrong button, give inexact change, and who knows what else. I felt like a Jenga block had been swiftly removed from the tower and all the blocks were tumbling down.

A little after noon, I was handing a lady her change when the tears welled up big time. I tried to control my quivering chin, but could no longer hold the floodgates back and darted to the bathroom in sobs. I didn’t feel like a failure or embarrassed or scared. I was tired and needed a moment for those “torn muscles to rebuild” so to speak. My Team Lechick-fil-a-fuzzyad came in with encouraging words and gave me space and time to regroup.

My manager spoke some wise words to me after I got back to work. “Lina, everyone has a ceiling or obstacle they run into when learning new skills and improving. Some people choose to retreat while others surmount. I think you’re in the right spot.”

The next day, I bagged for drive-through during lunch. We were in red a couple orders (only meaning we were over our Speed of Service goal) and I didn’t have a passer (someone who puts the appropriate sauces and napkins into the bag and sometimes passes out the window to guests). I was overwhelmed, and I felt my natural tendency to become paralyzed and stop. I couldn’t let my feelings and the pressure get to me. My actions would affect multiple people.

After my shift ended, I thought back to that moment and realized if I pushed through, I could surmount. Staying “strong” and “put together” wasn’t the point. It was persevering and pushing through in spite of the circumstances. That moment didn’t last forever and with God’s grace, I once again realized that anything can be overcome. It was a small lesson but small lessons can aid in learning about life.

It Takes Two to Tango

Disembarrass: to free from something troublesome or superfluous

Several weeks ago, I started ballroom dancing with my best friend’s employer. It sounds a little odd initially, but she nannies his kids and he’s a longtime friend of friends in my circle, so he’s not a complete stranger. He desired a partner, and I was up for {free for me. Hehe.} ballroom dance lessons.

I’ve only been attending these classes for a month, but there was one particular Tuesday evening I was veritably rattled. We were learning beginner tango. On top of not knowing my partner well, dancing has a way of making you feel vulnerable and a tad uncomfortable. When our instructor taught us new moves, I’d try to learn the moves on my own thus anticipating my partner’s moves and not allowing him to lead. It was jolted, ungraceful, and slightly awkward. I’m not a control freak, but I have my tendencies to do things my way that make me look less bad or not make mistakes.

Ballroom dancing isn’t merely learning your part individually but as a couple. Together. It’s a half and half that makes a whole.

As these thoughts and realizations flitted through my mind (on top of our instructor piping in, “Lina, let him lead! Relax! Don’t anticipate his moves!”), I brushed aside my fears and purposed to be okay with looking foolish and making mistakes. I knew the steps well enough, so it was now time to practice and the process of polishing would come.

I took a deep breath, relaxed, and stopped being so forceful. I focused on my role of following and let him completely lead. And you know what resulted? We hardly made any mistakes, we were both peaceful, and the dance was graceful.

In those moments, the picture of submission in marriage, and even relationships in general, came to mind. Marriage is supposed to be a reflection of Christ’s extravagant love and sacrifice to His church and the churches submission and trust in her Betrothed. My partner wasn’t stepping all over me (well, it happened a few times, but I wasn’t blamelessballroom-dance-pic in that area either!), but was leading me kindly and ensuring I was okay. It was a tangible example of the divine dance we all promenade to in our own lives. When we focus on fulfilling our own roles, may it be a wife, friend, employee, or otherwise, in spite of imperfection in our authority or subordinates, living is suddenly freeing.

Hiding Exposes

Parry: to turn aside; evade or dodge

A sticky incident with a friend who chose avoidance rather than assertion reminded me of an unwise set of choices I made a year and half ago that backfired. Needless to say, it set the precedent for future change.

During my six-month internship at GE Energy Management, I showed up late, by choice, almost every day. On top of hardly liking being confined in an office, I didn’t see the point of being there eight hours a day when my work could get done in less. It seemed wasteful and unnecessary. {In hindsight, I realize this was stupid and selfish, and God knows what I was thinking.}

I was put on a fair remedial plan that lasted about a month. The requirements included showing up on time, having a one-hour lunch, showing up to SAYU (internship support) after a certain time. Easy stuff. It put me back on track and jolted me toGE Post Pic reality that I could easily be fired. This wasn’t school, and I wasn’t surrounded by people who knew and trusted me for years.

My boss said after the expiration date of this contract, we’d have a meeting to process and assess. In my head, I did pretty well. In order to save face and protect my feelings (all of this was a kind of awkward and embarrassing…), the day after the end of the contract, I sent her an email stating it was the end, I had done well, and stated my new work hours. I breathed a sigh of relief and resumed working. It’s so much easier to hide behind a screen. All was well!

Or so I thought.

I received a meeting request from her that morning that seemed ominous. My mouth went dry mostly because I was nervous if I met the contractual agreements in her eyes. Turns out she was completely peeved by my audacity and fear.  This meeting could have merely been about my remediation. On top of an already embarrassing factor, I further humiliated myself by the way I handled it: avoidance. I was a little intern with virtually no work experience stating to my boss, via email, about my decisions without her say-so? She was my authority and contained the power to decide my fate. I didn’t give myself the chance to negotiate or process with her.

I should have swallowed my pride and fear, admitted to and apologized for my dreadful decision, and faced my fear with courage and humility rather than thinking I could wiggle my way out of it. By focusing on how the sticky situation would make me feel, I made it about me; it wasn’t respectable nor mature. From that point on, I resolved within myself to face anything no matter the consequence. I’d receive the tears, disappointment, and correction from others. At the end of the day, even though it will be difficult, it only builds character and repute.

Although my boss had a reputation for being a mighty influence and force, praise God she gave me more chances than I deserved and understood I was still learning. We need people who are candid about our bad decisions even if it makes us feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, if we are recipients of evasive behavior from a loved one, friend, or acquaintance, we need to lovingly and firmly express our feelings about how it made us feel and offer constructive criticism for next time. Hiding and avoiding anything only builds up friction for the future and reveals inward motives, intentions, and character. For “better are the wounds of friends than the kisses of enemies.”

~Lina Marie