A Perfect Moment in an Imperfect Life

Once in awhile, my life lines up in such a way, I can’t help but wonder what is going on. Don’t get me wrong. The Lord often answers my prayers, but to say there isn’t a regular amount of begging, well….That just wouldn’t be true.

Ever since Chef and I broke up, I’ve found myself without 3 things that really made a huge impact on my life:

  1. A legal, reliable car
  2. An income that could pay all the bills and still leave a little for us to be able to eat
  3. A safe, clean home

All these things I had when Chef and I were together, but soon after the break-up, my car broke down, I never made the right amount of money, and because of these things, I had to live in subpar housing.

When I first moved to Austin 2 years ago, my friend Exodus helped me get into a nice apartment. I’ll forever owe her a debt of gratitude because this was a huge step towards me feeling safe and independent.

Next up was the car. My Dad, Rebekkah and I tried finding a car in my budget by going to auctions.

Ok. Go ahead and laugh. Get it all out. 🙂

Dad has had some incredible luck with this method for years….I do not have my father’s luck. I ended up with two vehicles that couldn’t be inspected, one with every problem imaginable and the other one with a transmission problem. Finally, my Dad and my Aunt Cindy decided enough was enough and they went out and found me a clean, beautiful, reliable car. When  they were doing this, I refused to be involved because I wanted to just trust the Lord. He knew what I needed better than me, and seriously…I couldn’t pick out a good car if my life depended on it. What they brought me exceeded anything I could have asked for! I love the color gray on a car…mine is gray. I love stick shifts…mine has a stick shift. I love good gas mileage… mine has excellent gas mileage. It had only had one owner, and every receipt for anything ever done to it was in a white envelope handed to me, including a Car Fax. I genuinely could not have asked for a more pleasing car. Best of all, I own it outright.

Over my time here, I took some questionable jobs. Being a single woman supporting myself, I didn’t have the luxury of time. I had to have a paycheck. So, I took positions I knew I’d never be happy with and tried to force myself to be satisfied. They were largely based more on how much they paid, and because of my car situation, where they were located.

Turns out, I’m not designed that way. I can’t play politics, I can’t be impressed with wealth or titles, and I’m not able to stay somewhere that oppresses people who work for them. I ended up working for less than honest, dysfunctional families. One place tried holding my paycheck hostage until I would agree to let them shave some of the hours off. Another place was so cheap, we were required to buy our own office supplies. It was madness. But hey. I needed a job.

Over the last few weeks, I found myself getting more and more irritated at work. I get being frugal. I don’t get being cheap. The owners were getting rid of key positions and then dumping the work on those of us who remained, telling us they weren’t going to be replacing these people. This included the receptionist, and for those of you who don’t work in an office setting, this is a KEY position. These people answer phones, greet visitors and applicants, and are the first face of a company. They are important, and they are often under-appreciated and under-recognized. When we lost ours, the COO decided she could do her work and that of the receptionist’s as well. What a disaster! It wasn’t working because the HR department had to cover the desk when she had meetings (every day), took a vacation (2 days), or had to do her own work (every day). When HR had to sit at the front desk, it meant their own work was suffering.

I don’t like my own work to suffer.

Despite not agreeing with almost any management method they employed, I was trying hard to “play the game”. I spoke in length to Exodus about how angry and discontent I was becoming, and she gave me some good strategies to try to disarm the level of discord I was feeling. It worked for a little while, but it seemed the more amiable I was, the more management felt they could demand unreasonable things from me. I won’t go into the extremely boring specifics, but needless to say, last week, I’d finally had enough. I had been applying for other jobs, but this time, I was careful. I turned 2 positions down that looked like they would just be different versions of the same thing, and then Monday, I went to one that was different.

What should have been a 30 minute interview lasted 2 hours. Scriptures were written on the walls, and philosophies about how we should treat the poor of this world were discussed in length. I decided to be more honest in my interview because I didn’t want to give the wrong impression of what kind of employee I am. I’m not one to be happy with just taking home a paycheck. I need my work to mean something, and I love helping the poor. I’m a results-oriented person, and the more you try to micromanage me, the less you will be happy with the results. They got excited as we talked, even at these kinds of explanations and honesty, and that in turn, really made me excited about the kind of work I do. It was amazing, frankly.  The company was stable, the pay was more, and it was located by my house. I was walking on air.

By the time I got to work Monday, I had a job offer. I turned in my notice, and wiped the dust of this latest mistake off of my feet. I’ve spent these last few days in a bubble of joy. It’s so rare for things to be so perfect, at least in my life. I’m enjoying this.

Over the years, I write a lot of complaints and misery on this blog. Life seems to hand us more crap than not, but this time, I wanted to say, God did come through in a huge way for me this year. He fixed all of my major problems, almost all at once, and I’m speechless at His grace and His mercy. I’m not so naive to think all my problems will disappear from here on out, but I can say, I have an intense trust in Him, and a true feeling of being loved.

I just wanted to say Thank You to the Lord. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.

I hope you all feel that same trust and love today, no matter where you are or what you are doing. 🙂 God is truly good.




Homelessness in Austin

AustinSkylineLouNeffPoint-2010-03-29-bAbout a month and a half ago, I started a new job. One of the cool aspects of it is where it is located – downtown Austin. I work almost everyday a couple of blocks from the Capital Building. As downtown’s go, Austin has one of the best. It’s clean. It’s historic. It’s beautiful….And, it’s got the most expensive parking I’ve ever seen.

The company I work for, though, pays for us to park in a parking lot located about 3 blocks away. It sits right next to the Salvation Army where you can see  hundreds of the homeless people lined up along the buildings and roads every single day, wandering through our lot, sitting in the shade of our various cars, and from what I have witnessed, just existing, not living.

It’s a heartbreaking thing to witness every day. Austin has become a kind pols_naked-37254of mecca for the homeless. It stays pretty warm here throughout the year. It isn’t illegal to panhandle along the lines of literally thousands of cars that exit IH35. Because traffic here is so congested, you can find yourself hit up for money by several people at almost any of the major intersections, and if you find it hard to make eye contact with them, this is torture because they have plenty of time to get you to pay attention to them.

I have always had a soft spot for homeless people. When I imagine what that must feel like, it literally terrorizes me. But then, I started a job downtown.

18_3-smThe first week I started, as I was walking the three blocks to my office, a homeless man jumped right in front of me from nowhere and screamed at me to give him a cigarette. He’s seen my pack in my hand, and he decided scaring me was his best bet at getting one. It was, because I didn’t want to die some retarded death over something that ironically, is slowly probably killing me but in a much more enjoyable, non-bloody way.

I like to think I don’t judge any one group of people by what a few of them do, so I chalked that one up an isolated occurrence and a good learning lesson for me. Don’t carry something out in the open I don’t intend to share with them. But then it began happening daily.

cn_fairchange_comp1Since that first time, I’m kind of bullied by some of the homeless around downtown. Some of them demand I give them my lunch, or go buy them a bottle of water, or give them money. Never am I asked please, or even asked much at all. And I’m not the only person that gets accosted when they walk to and from their cars over there. I’ve never seen displaced people be so threatening.

The situation made me think though. I used to think that Austin letting people panhandle anywhere they wanted was kind of cool. You know, compassionate and all that. But now, I wonder if we are doing these people a disservice by not actively trying to better their situations instead of allowing them to congregate in large numbers downtown. The competition for a measly dollar or someone’s leftover lunch is making these people desperate and surly. I can’t think competition is healthy when it comes to the homeless. What I thought was compassionate and patient is really overwhelmed and helpless on the part of Austin.

It’s been really, really tight financially lately for DJ and I, which has meant we can’t give out money to beggars like we would like to. But by being called names, or screamed at, or threatened by the few, I’ve come to find I’m no longer making eye contact with people who hold up signs asking for help. I find I only want to give to people who ask nicely, or who don’t ask me for anything at all.

jobI wonder why we tend to feel instant guilt when we look at someone who has ended up on the street. Do we all silently give ourselves excuses for why their problems aren’t ours to fix? Because I do. Because of these last few weeks, I find myself struggling to find compassion. I find myself angry every time a hungry person curses at me for my apparent lack of concern for another human being’s welfare.

I gotta tell you. I don’t like feeling like I’m getting desensitized to the suffering of another person. But how exactly does one keep themselves from it?

~ Bird