Prodigal : Owning Failures on My Résumé

This article originally appeared on

10 a.m. and I’m just rolling out of bed. It’s my morning off. I work this afternoon at my part-time office job, and I’m blissfully happy that I don’t work at the restaurant again until tomorrow.

Until the phone rings.

It’s my restaurant manager. I don’t trust her any farther than I can throw her, and apparently the feeling is mutual. She’s called to tell me that I’m fired.

I’ve never been fired before, and it’s a feeling worse than (God forbid) getting a failing grade on an English paper, because I’ve just flunked real life. I’ve lost out on an entire paycheck, maybe even several paychecks.

Angry, hot tears well in my eyes as my mind scrolls the rolodex of handy excuses. My boss played favorites, as did the other waitresses. I was the outsider, the one that didn’t come from their hoity-toity, upper-middle class neighborhood. I was the college student working three jobs and trying to earn my degree. Once I graduated, I was the girl working three jobs and trying to plan my wedding. And then I was the newly-wed commuting 45 minutes for each 4-hour shift, just so that I could get paid to have screaming mothers and their toddlers berate me because they wanted booths instead of tables, soy milk instead of half-in-half.

I was book smart, not restaurant smart.

I was the artsy type, the type that wasn’t great with mental math or memorizing daily specials.

I roll over and look at my husband. He stands at the small mirror tacked to his wall, adjusting his shirt collar before he leaves for work. He’s been working in music retail for two months, and every day before work he gets shaky and nervous, his blood pressure skyrocketing as he faces another day working on commission. All he wants is to provide for us, but if he doesn’t sell a $3,000 keyboard today, he will earn less than minimum wage. We’re working these hard, ridiculous jobs, and it’s getting us nowhere.

I feel it, this overwhelming pressure :

Make money. Pay your bills. Figure out your career. Find a full-time job. Be a good wife. Write a book. (And don’t get pregnant.)

It took me six months and another waitressing job, but I finally got the point :

If I had just owned my mistakes, if I had just taken a moment to be embarrassed by my own behavior, if I had just admitted that I made waitressing harder than it needed to be by believing that the work was beneath me, I might have kept the job.

One thing is for sure, we’ll never hear God say that our behavior is contingent on how much slack other people give us.

Thus, I can’t erase those waitressing jobs from my résumé; they keep me humble. Those jobs are a bigger part of my career than I ever planned. It’s like my mom always used to tell me,

“In order to earn the big things, you have to be faithful in the small things.”

Whether it was schoolwork or house chores or even in my relationships, the wisdom in that has never failed me. Our overall grades depend on our faithfulness and consistency in our everyday effort. We may hate jobs like retail, food services, manual labor, or nannying, but those stages of our lives are what God has provided in the meantime.

It’s a chapter in a bigger story. It’s the work that God has given you today.

It is your daily bread.

Be thankful. Steward it well.

I’ve known for a long time that God made me a writer. Maybe not for my whole life, but for a good portion of I’ve known that it’s what I do best. Eventually it dawned on me: working is a necessity, but working a job we love is a privilege. We are not entitled.

God will provide the right work at the right time if I just begin.

This is why I started blogging. In the past three years it has helped me exercise my writing muscles and hone my skills. I started by venting about my sucky job situation and all my dreams of being a celebrated writer.

Becoming a writer didn’t start with a best-selling book. It started with writing.

Through blogging I’ve realized that in small increments, my blog is my writing at work. This has transformed my writing life. It connected me with Ally and Darrel, and now Prodigal Magazine. I couldn’t have predicted that. I certainly didn’t have the confidence to believe that it could happen, but here we are.

It makes me wonder :

What experiences do each of us need to own up to in order to live a better story? What moments in your life stand out to you, the ones that you wish you could erase from your résumé? Where do we need to demonstrate faithfulness in order to be the people God has called us to be?

More than likely, those moments feel scary because they hold a significant amount of truth and freedom for us, but we have to humble ourselves enough to admit it.

Prodigal : “Facing Grief and Finding Faith”

This article was originally published on
I stepped quietly into the room where my mother lay sleeping and walked to her bedside. I took her hand, thin and bony, and held it to my face. Struggling not to cry, I leaned down and kissed her forehead.“Mom,” I whispered, “The nurses are going to put a tube through your nose and into your stomach to drain it. It will help you not feel nauseous anymore, okay? So don’t panic. They’re here to help you and as long as you hold still, it won’t hurt.”

At first she didn’t respond. I didn’t think she could hear me, but then she opened her eyes and turned to me and smiled. “I just saw Jesus,” she said. “He told me…”

Whatever insight Jesus had made my mother privy to, it was lost in a garble of sleepy syllables, but her thin hands arched above her as she tried to explain. She laughed quietly and smiled at me, happier than I’d seen her in days.Then, for reasons I still cannot articulate, I felt moved to sing to her our favorite hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”

“Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with thee…”

I made it through the first line before tears choked my voice, but she, who had barely talked in days, smiled at the sound, and proceeded to sing the rest of the verse and the first chorus back to me. Her voice was clear and unhindered, the way it used to be when she sang solos at church. She was even mostly on key.

And this thought popped into my head, “I’m closer than you think.”

And along with those words an image : Jesus, gently and patiently and lovingly coaxing my mother away from this world and into the next. In that moment, a peace and a joy descended on me, something that I had not felt in more than a year.

She died five days later.

After 14 years of fighting against breast cancer, her body had had enough. I watched her vomit several times a day for months before that, watched her abdomen distend not with fat but with fluid, while the rest of her body withered until she was Auschwitz thin.

Forgive my graphic description. There’s something about terminal illness that strips us of our preferred pretenses, the things we wish we didn’t know.

And there is something about watching the people we love die that kind of death that shifts our perspectives on life, on the eternal. It’s an experience akin to staring, nose-to-paper at a stereogram until suddenly, Bugs Bunny’s giant face emerges three-dimensional from empty, chaotic design.

I had always had faith. I had always believed in Christ and proclaimed Him as my Savior. I had always believed in Heaven as a real place, a place I would go to someday. But I believed in Heaven the way that I believe in the quadratic formula; it exists somehow, but I just didn’t get the logistics. I believed in Heaven the way that I believe in six figure incomes; some people have arrived, others are on their way, some are working their asses off to make it, some claim they’re ambivalent, and others just don’t have what it takes.

How foolish I was, how flat and empty and selective was my concept of God’s grace.

In the days before and the days immediately following my mother’s death, life took on a distinct and urgent spirituality. The gap between where I placed God and Heaven and the spiritual world and where I lived my every day life, down here on this tiny planet earth, grew smaller and smaller as I listened to that still, small voice, “I’m closer than you think.”

It didn’t ease the grief of our goodbye. However, my hatred for life, my distrust of God, my self-perpetuated isolation from His Spirit was not something I clung to anymore.

I wasn’t ready to be motherless, but I was finally ready and able to pray that impossible prayer, God, Please take her Home.

A Little Announcement…

A friend sent me this photo of Anne Sexton after this bookish post I shared a few months ago. There’s something about it that I find quite arresting. Her surroundings, typewriter sitting at her elbow waiting for words and books slanting against one another, waiting to be rifled through. Her outfit, sleeves rolled up on her button down, with comfortable slacks and black flats. Her position, chair tipped back with her feet on the desk. She props her hand in the air and her lips part – she’s about to say something good, something worth writing down.
This is the life of a writer at its best.
At times I find myself fantasizing about this life, and I have to stop and remember that writing is hard. It’s bleeding and weeping and prying your hands from perfection in order to grasp hold of the truth. It’s nothing like leaning back and propping up your feet; or at least not very often, and certainly not when there’s a camera in the room to document it. Sexton knew this all too well.
But just now, today, I feel very much ready to take it on, this life of writing – the bleeding and the crying, and then, in scarce and blessed moments, with the afternoon light gleaming through the window, the happy relief of having said something good, something worth writing down.
So here is my little announcement : Ally and Darrell of Prodigal Magazine asked me to be a staff writer for their newly refurbished online mag. My first article will be published later this week or next, but you’ll see my words over there a couple of times each month. I’m excited, scared, thankful.
But most of all, I’m ready.