When You Chase Without Contentment

 

                 

dreamsWe’re in an age where tapping into ambition and taking action to work towards a dream is applauded. You’ll see me putting my two hands together for that, absolutely. You’ll see me cheering on someone to get what they’ve worked for, because, obviously. We’re also in an age where souls don’t seem to have toned muscles of contentment. We chase what we want NEXT without enjoying what we have NOW. Society has churned our minds to believe that until we reach OUR goal, what WE want, we haven’t fully succeeded.

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I was promoted last year and officially don’t have the word “assistant” in my title (yay!). Those with my title on other shows are typically 3-5 years older. There are people my age still desperately trying to get in a mail room and peers who’re packing their bags because they can’t afford to live in “Entertainment City” with a dime and zero interviews. Here I am with a desk, badge and parking spot trying to fulfill a position most have years of experience on me with.

So, yes, I’m ahead of the game and one fortunate person. But why is it that my mind automatically thinks, “so how long until I don’t have ‘Coordinator’ in my title, but ‘Supervisor,’ or ‘Producer,’ because those are the titles where I truly know I’ve MADE it?”

Or, why is it that even while I have a killer position, some people pause and ask where my job is taking me? I don’t mind that question — asking what path I’m on is fine. Wanting to know where someone’s ambition is taking them is normal. Ambition is, in my opinion, a strength. Not acknowledging their accomplishment NOW and focusing on the NEXT, however, could take away from the beauty of the present.

If you ask me where I see myself in 10 years, I have many answers. Not all my passion eggs are in one basket.

Some days I want to be a wife and mom.

Or be the next Harper Lee.

Possibly Shona Rimes’ next prodigy?

Les Moonves’ future replacement?

I don’t know where life is going to take me, but I do know where it has me now, and all I can do is strive to give my 100% and trust that by doing that, by giving all I can and being a good steward, my next step will be built before me.

WDon’t take my nonchalant, “give 100%” as something simple. 100% is requiring all mental, physical and emotional energy needed for what’s being asked of you. As a friend, giving 100% could look like making an air port at 5am, listening to them cry on the phone when we’d rather sleep, or going to their favorite restaurant despite our personal craving for the opposite. As an employee, giving 100% looks like deciding to be cheerful when crabby, going the extra mile on a project, and several other things. 100% is out of our comfort zone. Regret has a harder time finding itself in our hearts when we give 100%.

Work wise, it’s easy, natural and expected to deeply care about what our boss thinks of our performance. We’re under our boss’s authority so, naturally we preform for his/her approval. I’d like to appeal this mentality as being our primacy goal. Rather than strive for the approval of our boss, I believe our priority should be striving to care what God thinks of our performance. If we in all actuality executed this, peace and rewards will follow suit.
I hear it now…. “Mary that is the cheesiest thing ever OMIGOSH.”

CHILL.

Here me out.

Actually, no… I’ll let these verses defend me:

Colossians 3:23-24:
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.

Romans 12:11-12:
Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

Proverbs 28:19-20:
A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies ends up in poverty. The trustworthy person will get a rich reward, but a person who wants quick riches will get into trouble.

Working hard, never being lazy, willingly working with anything we do “as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people,” in addition to being enthusiastic….broadly encapsulates a great employee. I’d want to hire anyone who lived this out.

When I’m tired, crabby and irritable, the last thing I want is someone saying, “your reward is in heaven, Mary.”

Okay thank you, but BYE. I want ice cream…a hug…or a Monday off work….I don’t want the words, “be patient and keep on praying.” You got your good friend, Christian cliché encouragement comment for the day points, but bring me someone who will say, “screw all that, let’s go dance and forget about it all.”

Being honest y’all…some days I just want to dance and not think about my rewards in heaven.

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THAT is why I’m the perfect target for those scriptures. They’re FOR people like me who, after work, are susceptible to falling into the land of, “me me me” and not the land of, “for You, God, for YOU.” Fortunately, those verses have been engraved on my heart for several years and consequently, when I’m in the lowest of lows, they come to mind. It’s the best/worst. Worst because I am then convicted and feel awful, but that’s why it’s the best. Those verses are fuel to my motivation tank. My mind is haunted by them after a long day — reminding me of His promises to those who work for Him, to please Him. On days I’m chewed out… it’s okay, I did the best I knew how. But on days I rock it out and my boss is happy with me, yet my heart was motivated by his approval rather than God’s – my heart is off, I don’t feel satisfied. We won’t ever feel satisfied by fueling our heart with man’s approval.

Ever.

We just won’t.

Wherever you’re at in life –the CEO, barista, musician, plumber, stay at home momma or a student, I encourage you to hang in there and strive to give your 100% for God. If you chase work for you or man’s pleasure/approval, nothing but an empty bucket of discouragement will be at your door. God’s thoughts and plans are above ours for OUR best – your boss, friend, co-worker, significant other, whomever you may be seeking approval from, they don’t know your heart in the capacity God does.

They just don’t.

Purpose resonates where you are NOW and if you’re in the fortunate position I’m in with having a job title most have to wait years to obtain, the show could get canceled and I could be unemployed tomorrow. Nothing is promised in this world and we need to learn how to be content and cheerful with what we’ve been given.
I look back on previous seasons and, knowing what I know now, I wish I could go back and be more present. It’s easy, ESPECIALLY in Hollywood, to compare and worry about what step of the ladder I’m on. Now that I’m up a step since last year, I look back and miss aspects and people from when I was an assistant. I encourage (challenge) you to be soak in wherever you’re at and strive to obtain toned muscles of contentment. Because, no matter what step comes next, you wouldn’t have gotten there without the step you came from.

Give 100%, be kind, choose cheerfulness. Everything will be okay.

 

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Jessica.

This blog was originally created for one reason: to exhort those I love. If you dig through old posts you’ll discover several entries dedicated to one person. I shifted gears two years ago and focused on writing about topics, not people. Energy was spent elsewhere, yes, but my heart has missed encouraging those I love through writing. 

Welp, here I go again!

JESSICA FREEMAN.

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I met Jessie Boo at my Thursday night homegroup this past August. I had been absent for a month and returned to find new faces. Scanning the room I saw Jess and simply thought, “okay who is this beautiful woman who resembles Sara Bareilles AND Sophia Bush!? She could wear rags and still be a total bombshell.” While those two celebrities are beautiful, Jessica had an electric, striking joy that unknowingly enticed those around her. She puts people at ease instantly with her light-hearted, goofy persona. Never taking herself too seriously, Jess can effortlessly diffuse any tension in a room.

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Whether she’s around a bubbly, boy-attention seeking girl at church or in a crowd of elderly men, Jess is always herself. She walks with the confidence knowing she’s the only Jessica Freeman in the world and wouldn’t rather be anyone else. I’ve been in situations where she’s met strangers, interacted with parents and with close friends. In each setting, she doesn’t compromise who she is or her demeanor. I’m not saying Jess doesn’t identify with natural insecurities that may arise from feeling out of place, etc., but I commend her for not tapping into altering her personality to be more liked or comfortable in a setting.  She’s the kind of person who would literally say, “ha I know I’m being awkward you guys,” or, “to be honest I’m a little uncomfortable right now.” Without a doubt, honesty is tattooed on her soul.

FullSizeRender-5If you take a look at my close friends you’ll see a common thread: great communicators. Poor communicators weave out of my circle because communication is needed in order to have a healthy, ever-growing friendship. I admire Jess’s approach with communication. She’ll swallow uncomfortable conversations because she knows it’s healthy and respectful for both parties. When a friend (or herself) is in the wrong, she addresses the issue in complete truth, no matter how difficult the message is to deliver. Her opinions and advice haven’t always aligned with what my heart wanted to hear, but that’s one of the things that makes her a GOOD friend. In moments I share my heart, she uses wisdom and is quick to say, “I’m not going to say anything, I don’t have an answer.” Her intention is to care for the heart of her friends, which I can’t fully articulate my thankfulness for. Friendships can occasionally look like mirroring feelings: when you’re mad, you want a friend to be mad with you. If you don’t like someone, you want your friend to join the wagon. Jess will validate feelings and say, “I know this is sad and hard,” but if she sees a perspective you don’t see or acknowledge, she’s the first to say, “ok Mare this is hard but look at it this way…” and redirect me to something fresh.

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In the short amount of time I’ve known her, she’s a FIGHTER. Describing her as intentional is an understatement and I’ve sat on this section simply perplexed. She’s a friend who constantly checks in, seeks quality time, and is a quick responder to texts/calls. When she chooses to love someone she goes hard and fights through obstacles with complete determination. Sleep is optional for her – if a friend had a bad day she’ll wake up early to fit them in her day, or call late at night to hear their heart. Her heart is relentless. When if comes to loving her people, she stops at nothing.

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Unsolicited advice is the worst. The worst thing is when a friend interrupts with biased commentary. Out of anyone I know, Jess is the best at NOT doing this and would never share her opinion unless asked or encouraged. Once she is comfortable with you she’ll know when/if it’s wise to share voluntarily, but I trust those moments because she speaks from such a beautiful place. Moreover, she prioritizes truth. Coddling friends with what they want to hear will not happen from her. Her voiced thoughts come from a well of wisdom, and I always leave our conversations feeling “friend-hydrated.”

 

 

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Her cute, pressed-lip smile

People have said I’m easy to read. Some have been SO confident in thinking they can read me they’ve repudiated my voiced feelings if it didn’t align with their perception. Not fun.
Jess, however, is different. I feel in many ways God downloaded the “Mary” software in her and she is able to read me in areas friends can’t. We were in a crowd last week and I was smiling, chatting with several people. Once I got to her she stared in my eyes, took a few seconds to search them (not creepy or anything) and said, with her gracious, cute, pressed-lip smile, “you’re saying you’re fine but you’re not. I love you.”

I wasn’t fine.
Nope.

Not.at.all.

 

I looked at her and said, “GOSH how do you just KNOW.” Without hesitating she said, “you have to accept that I know you Mary Lou.”
We’ve had many of these moments, and I’m slowly accepting that she understands my demeanor in ways I’m not used to friends knowing.

I laugh at her non-stop. Even when she’s being serious I laugh. Jess could be driving saying, “literally I can’t even with this traffic,” and I’d burst out laughing. For the longest time I couldn’t pinpoint why I instinctively laughed, and if someone laughed at me the way I laugh at her I would be creeped out. Finally, I locked down the reason: I take great delight in her. She’s endearing, quirky (in the best way possible), pure, funny…simply the easiest person to love and enjoy. Just as I have an image of God downloading the “Mary” software in Jess, I believe He gave me His eyes for her. God delights in us, and I’m getting a little taste of what that means. I enjoy her in all moods, I deeply care for her, and no matter what she’s going through, I like being there for her.

 

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Caitlin, me and Jess

Spiritually, we’re on the same page. We both stand firm in convictions many, MANY friends of mine don’t. I’ll never forget being at a sleepover with several ladies talking to her and another kindred spirit Caitlin. I was sharing a story and said, “I’m not sure where you two stand on spiritual giftings…prophecy, speaking in tongues, etc. bu-” and they interrupted, eyes wide saying, “YES YES YES girl. We are there.” Giddiness came over us because it’s rare to find people who have a similar foundation as you — ESPECIALLY in Los Angeles. No matter what you believe, when you find someone who wholeheartedly believes and walks out their beliefs similar to you, connection is bound to happen.
Thankful, grateful, blessed, honored, privileged. I think of those words when I think of Jess. She’s truly a diamond in the rough, one in a million person. I was not expecting to walk in my small group back in August and leave with a kindred spirit. I feel like all of last year God was smiling being all, “man, I can’t wait for Jess and Mary to meet.” Her friendship has been one of the best gifts.

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Her heart, joy and gifting’s will change the world. She impacts everyone she interacts with because her genuine, truth-filled voice shoots to the heart and people leave feeling truly cared for by her. Being a friend to someone with such beautiful qualities is an honor. I’m regularly inspired, challenged, encouraged and comforted by her. I wish everyone had a Jessica Freeman in his or her life, but there’s only one.

 

So, safe to say I hit the friend jack-pot #amiright

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Just a few of us who’ve been blessed with her friendship

 

 

 

When You Receive Perspective

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Brad Paisley boomed through my ’97 Acura Integra. My phone buzzed with a text at a stop sign.

 “Well, good talking to you Mar. Hope all stays well.”

I forcedly smacked the volume knob and welcomed sad, angry tears. Aggressively swerving through the winding roads of my neighborhood I sat in front of my house, head resting on the steering wheel. I had been talking to a boy who, for the sake of privacy, I’ll name Guy. Guy had been talking to me for months and, without any explanation, grew shorter and shorter with me. Anyone with an IQ above 90 knows his last text was communicating, “please don’t continue this conversation. I’m trying to politely shut it down.”

phone.gifClassic 18 year old options for how to handle this are:
1) Send an aggressive text back. Maybe something like, “SCREW YOU.”
2) Mozzy inside and sit in front of the TV all mopey and miserable.
3) Call a girlfriend and hate on the guy for an hour.
This story is now going to take a dramatic turn because I did not choose any of the three options — even though I wholeheartedly wanted to.

Instead, I put both hands on my stomach and prayed, “God, give my future kids the heart you gave me. I feel like no one has a heart like mine and I yearn for my kids to understand compassion and empathy. I don’t want any of my sons to send a text like that, because I want them to understand what that communicates to a girl….and I don’t want my daughters to receive a text like that. And if they do, I want them knowing they dodged a bullet — they didn’t take one.”

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I hope my “heart like mine” comment doesn’t read as being emotionally full of myself. I was shocked by my response, it felt like an out of body prayer.  I wasn’t expecting my heart to go from feeling rejected to praying for my kids I don’t even have or, honestly, at 18, was thinking about.

Abruptly praying for my future kids came in a moment where all I was concerned about was myself. God intervened and shifted my perspective. That was one of the few times I KNEW and FELT God hearing my prayer. It was an intimate, special moment. I felt Him speak to my heart saying, “Mary I live inside of you, my heart is shown through you….pray for them to know Me and they’ll know you all the more.”
That’s a lot to chew on. The meat of this post begun cooked as medium, but I just cooked it longer so I hope that’s good, err, well with you. #momjoke

K, moving on.

My heart shifting drastically was not God discrediting the sting in my heart. It was Him revealing a bigger picture. My worth, my value, was not quilted between the stitches of this guy. He didn’t know my heart; he didn’t know what I had to offer. Rejection looks like that though — it feels like an expiration sticker being slapped on a package that has yet to be opened. Through that we, the package, feel like we have to prove ourselves and do everything in our power NOT to get the sticker. What’s the point though? If someone doesn’t want to get to know you….THEIR LOSS. Each person holds value and treasures worth of being pursued, but ain’t nobody got time for knowing each person’s heart fully. Heaven scheduled that in, not earth.

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Rejection stings. I’m not disputing that. The 30 minutes following Guy’s text could have been detrimental for my heart. Fortunately, I received perspective: Guy didn’t truly know me, there is a man who will one day WANT to know me, and God deeply cares about the children He’ll (hopefully) give me to raise one day.

Before I move forward I want to tie the bow on my, “praying for future kids” moment. Reading about praying for future kids could be weirding some of you out, and that’s understandable. They aren’t even born yet so, what will praying do? As someone who prays more than she talks to any of you, I have strong thoughts and convictions about what prayer can do for the future. In this specific moment, however, God knew I needed perspective and something to cling to. Veering my thoughts to future kids was evidently not of my flesh. If a stranger sat down and shared a similar situation they’ve had with a guy/girl I would not say, “think of your future kids!” No, no I would not. That situation was so specific to my heart and my relationship with Jesus.

I’m an open book to those I trust, but being vulnerable to the web is harder. I’m breaking out of my comfort zone here because I want to encourage you. I encourage you in every day situations, especially hurtful ones such as the one shared above, to ask the Holy Spirit to adjust your mindset to a bigger picture. He knows what perspective, what picture you need.

Onward!

Roughly a week after Guy’s text, perspective got blurry. I allowed feelings to win and caved. My heart (and eyeballs) cried out:
“Why didn’t he want to know me?!”
“What is wrong with me?!”
“How could he not give an explanation?!”
I felt defeated. I vividly remember hiding under my covers crying one night — everything was out of my control. I missed Guy, I still checked my phone several times a day in hopes of him texting me, but all notifications were from my mom. In the stillness of the night, I felt the Holy Spirit speak to my heart saying, “It isn’t that you aren’t ready, it’s that I’m not ready to share you.”

Bam.

God knew, once again, my heart needed to feel comforted. What felt like rejection now felt like provision. In the midst of pain, as long as our eyes are on Him, we can’t escape His best. I am SO thankful my heart heard those words because I had been feeling unlovable and worthless. Sounds a tad dramatic but, seriously, it’s pathetic how little a guy (pun intended) can do for a girl to feel utterly unimportant. Thankfully, my pain was used for growth and strengthened my sensitive, tender 18 year-old soul.

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2009-2012 holds lessons learned from a multitude of guy hiccups. During those years I didn’t hear another gold nugget from God regarding my love life. I just had His, “I’m not ready to share you” statement to hold. During my third year of college I believe He said two things. The first was, “the man I have for you is not in Kansas City,” and the second being, “I can’t wait for you to live your love story. Trust My timing.”

Midwest mentality is to find your spouse in college and if you don’t, then, bye. Something is wrong with you. Most, if not all my friends during college, had a significant other. Many of them are engaged, even married now. Some pregnant, some with two kids. Being a Jr. and hearing I would go the next year and a half without a HOPE of meeting the man God had for me was at first extremely difficult. I probably wrote in my journal, “WHAT is the point of living!?!?!?! What am I doing here?! Where the flip IS he then so I can MARCH there?!”

Once I internally processed everything, my soul exhaled and I rested in believing I wasn’t going to meet “the one” for the next year and a half. I was fine — believing that positioned me to fully embrace independence. If you saw me on campus you knew I wasn’t messing around with life. My life revolved around enhancing my education, picking up any and all shifts to prevent debt, and investing all free time deepening friendships.

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Don’t get me wrong, I developed crushes. My college roommate Christiana can especially attest to this. Sometimes I’d twist things around and think, “maybe he isn’t from Kansas but VISITING Kansas….maybe he wasn’t in Kansas THEN… but now, because of like, free will, he’s HERE.” Dwelling in that space never lasted long. My gut knew better.

 

Throughout the years I’ve been told I’m a steady, strong woman.

I am.

I have full confidence in knowing my strength. It took years for me to be confident in my confidence because I never wanted to come off prideful or full of myself. There’s a clear difference and I’m thankful to rest in that now. I trust my strength because in the hardest of moments, I chose to obey time and time again. I’ve gone through turbulence and have ultimately landed. I chose “no” to things my flesh wanted, all because I saw a bigger picture. For me, God gave me the big picture of future kids. Do I want my kids to have a mom who did drugs, slept around, swore like a sailor or didn’t do her best with what she was given- such as school or a job? Personally, I don’t.
Disclaimer: I’m not living FOR my kids. I live to glorify God, strive to be more like Jesus everyday and be a good steward with what I’m given. Who knows, God may not have kids for me — nothing is promised. But y’all, I do think about what legacy I’m leaving, the mark I want to leave on this earth. If I died when I was 20, what life would I have left? If I died today, what would people remember me as?

Wherever you’re at in life, seek wisdom for a bigger picture. There’s purpose in the pain. Your scars, your tears cried in secret are not lost on God. Release all burdens to Him, verbally express where you’re at, and be still. See what He’ll do. He knows what perspective YOUR heart needs. If you receive a gold nugget, hold on to that. It has been seven years since hearing, “…it’s that I’m not ready to share you yet.” I thought God would be ready after one, maybe two years — certainly not more than FIVE. Looking back on what my story has been though, I’m thankful I chose singleness for that year and a half and to clung to my nugget. I’ve had years to grow and mature alongside Jesus and through that, our relationship is pretty solid. One day I’ll (hopefully) be led to grow and mature with someone, but that’s in His timing. Whether it’s another five days, five months or five years, I can trust in His timing. I have the confidence you can too.

 

When You are Kind in Chaos

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In December of 2011 I went to the Kansas City Ballet. I wore a flattering black dress, spoke with red lips and walked in classy flats — quite different from my dirty apron,  messy bun and coffee stained shoes. At intermission I spotted John, a regular customer I saw every morning. I knew his wife was recovering from back surgery while their master bedroom was being remodeled. I approached him to say hello. He was startled, uncomfortable, awkward — different from the personable demeanor I knew. He didn’t know how to treat me, his morning barista now as an acquaintance. He made jokes about fetching him a coffee and said he was surprised I enjoyed the arts or, get this, even knew Kansas City held ballet performances.

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From that moment on I promised myself I would befriend all positions in any work environment I’m in. I hated feeling less-than, not equal to or below John at the ballet.
I have great respect for professors, doctors, and producers – those who’ve established themselves professionally. That’s hard, bro. Mad respect. #youwinningfosho

In no way, however, do I think being condescending is appropriate. Zero chance.

The jobs looked down upon are typically held by people who’re in a line of work we “literally just can’t even” to. Would you want to clean toilets after the Dodgers game? Clean sewage pipes? Go office to office at 3am taking out the trash and vacuuming? Or what about cleaning windows in 100-degree weather?

Tv The Office animated GIFPeople who’re doing these tasks are invisible, but most noticeable if the job is forgotten. Joe the night janitor isn’t operating on your Grandpa’s heart or educating your daughter in mathematics. He is a person though, a man who probably would appreciate the acknowledgement of existing. We don’t have time to get to know every person’s life story, but we have time to give everyone eye contact in passing and simply say hello with a smile.

Furthermore, any employee is doing something the silver spoon-fed 30-year-old guy in his parent’s guest house isn’t doing: working.
To achieve any goal one must pull up their sleeves, put in the time and many times, put their pride aside EVEN if that means being the person who picks up Starbucks cups off the curb at LAX. I have more respect for those working ANYWHERE than for the guy or gal sitting around hoping their dream position opens up.
I didn’t want to be a slave to debt after college. I didn’t want to relate to every Buzzfeed article about how people in their 20’s don’t have their life together. I didn’t want Sallie Mae to have my name in the system at 40.

To achieve this with the cards I was dealt I had to step-up and work.

I enrolled in 15 credit hours and accepted two jobs when I moved to Kansas in 2009. I became the sorter of crusted, stain-filled pants at Tide Dry Cleaners and a barista at the cheesily named coffee shop LatteLand. Holding two jobs with 15 credit hours in a new environment became a tad stressful. So, after my clothes, coats and blankets were dry cleaned (fo free), I quit Tide and stuck with being a barista until graduation in 2013.

I don’t regret how I used my time in college, but I do regret being so hard on myself. I never felt like I could enjoy free time because there was always something I could be doing: tightening my paper, studying more, editing a project longer or picking up an extra shift for extra cash. Rest assured I had friends who made sure I had fun during my chaotic schedule. I was not a hermit.

I needed something to happen though in order for me to let loose and learn the balance of fun and work.

Something did. I was the passenger in a car accident.
T-bone collision. Ambulances. Tow trucks.

Despite a concussion, severe whiplash, a burned arm and several bones oddly misplaced, I was stubborn and not only refused to go to the ER, but I drove myself to work following the accident.

My brain couldn’t register anything at work. I didn’t walk straight and I nearly fainted several times. A co-worker called my manager and I sent myself to the hospital. I went home with documents instructing me not to set foot at school or work. Sentenced to the doctor every other day for four months my year now focused on rehabilitation rather than researching.

Those months were inconvenient, physically exhausting and, to be frank, annoying.

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Refusing help from paramedics and clocking-in to serve customers with injuries put my independence on a new level. I placed value on my education and work above my physical and mental health.

I was able to acknowledge the stupidity of this once I saw the fruit from resting. My brain was sharper; I was more energized and a lot happier.

I believe God used that time to release the burden of being hard on myself. Life put me in a place of forced rest and I saw just how much “Mary time” positively affected me mentally. I learned the importance of saying no to both people and homework to instead recharge. Putting aside work to focus on my mental and physical health was not a weakness, it was strength, and a lesson I learned the hard way.
The accident permanently affected my neck and knee, but I could’ve died. It showed me that no matter what, as long as I’m breathing, everything will be okay.

The accident also gave me perspective: we don’t know where anyone is at in their personal life and most often than not, people are struggling through obstacles and need grace. When I went back to work after the accident I was slower, my body was still in pain and I needed grace from both co-workers and customers. I was absorbing lectures slower and needed patience from lab partners and professors.

Fast-forward a couple of years to today. I was chewed out a few months back from a co-worker. I had accidentally bcc’d someone on an email when I should’ve cc’d them. It’s a deal, but it isn’t a big enough deal to be picked apart for 15 minutes. An hour later this co-worker got a phone call. His dad passed away. He broke down at his desk and I sat back (devastated for him) realizing (again) everyone I’m around has a life they leave at the door when they come to work they may take out their frustration on the little things because everything else is out of their control.

I guess what’s on my heart is this: work of any kind needs to be given respect. When you’re given a job, a responsibility or a situation where you have to step-up, don’t complain. Give 100% with a grateful attitude and kindness towards others.
Life will happen. You’ll get sick, you’ll get a flat tire and, hopefully not though, death or an illness might happen to a loved one.

You’ll want patience and grace from co-workers. I’ll tell you right now that if you’re lazy or have a bad attitude many things won’t go in your favor.

And when you’re off the clock, have fun. Write blogs, watch Homeland, go on photography explorations, do yoga, hang with family, travel somewhere. Whatever recharges you.

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There is beauty to having a strong work ethic, as well as a strong mental state. To be strong mentally we (usually) need to take a step back and rest.

I’m still learning how to balance everything. I mean, I’m in my twenties and don’t need to have it all together, right?

When You ChooseThankfulness

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I could open this post up in two ways: both are true.

Opening one:

I swipe my gold badge to enter the historical grounds of Paramount. Palm trees, trailers and crewmembers paint the scene. I turn on Michael Bay Avenue, stages surround me. Grabbing a cup of coffee and a ride on a golf cart, I use my badge once again to enter the Editorial building, my building. I greet Editors for shows like Blacklist and NCIS. Mid-day I say hello to AD’s, possibly writers, maybe a producer. I grab an already cut grapefruit with a raspberry placed in the center of the half, and return to work. After breezing through emails and updating documents, I drive to Amblin, Steven Spielberg’s production company, and deliver the Director’s cut of Episode 204. After giving the receptionist an envelope I pass three Oscars modeling in a glass case…next to the camera that shot E.T. To exit Amblin, I press a button on a tree, and a wooden gate slowly opens. Life is truly a dream here in Hollywood. How did I get so lucky?

Opening 2:

My eyes adjust to my phone screen at 6:50am: eight Gmail notifications since midnight. I scroll through reading the subject lines….press snooze and hold off until 7am for emails. I stretch my sore legs and get ready another 12 hour (maybe more) mentally, physically exhausting day. Driving down Melrose I say, “thank you God for my car, thank you for giving me a job I truly have had as a dream….” my daily monologue. I turn off Van Ness into the parking garage, but am told the garage is full and I have to drive to the other one, located on the opposite side of the lot. Great. 20 minutes later frustration builds when I notice the only coffee available is Kerig, a type of coffee one should only drink while waiting at the car wash.
I get to my desk. Its go-time: print-outs, passing out menus, picking up lunch, driving to drop-off drives, pick-up drives, countless runs to the Production office, updating distribution documents, phone calls, drafting several emails, backing up files from Editors…the tasks are endless. I return from bathroom breaks to post-its stamped everywhere on my desk with scribbled requests. In the span of five minutes I have requests to email our Avid company, order ink, drop off invoices at Accounting, update the department’s iCal and print out 10 copies of a newly updated document. Multi-tasking is crucial.

I’m the only single person in the office, everyone else married. No one is even in their twenties. I work with all men so I have trained myself to move forward after every moment I typically would get emotional in. My superiors aren’t afraid to be deadpanning blunt with me. That’s this business though, “get it done.” Someone will raise their voice, but then 20 seconds later they’ll say, “Great job. Thanks love.” And leave.

Whaaaaa.

In the midst of being corrected, over-worked and under-paid, it’s easy to lose sight of the blessing a job is.

When I moved to Los Angeles I spent everyday in a coffee shop applying to any job I could find in Entertainment. I applied to be a receptionist at Warner Brothers, an assistant editor, and the third assistant to a big-time producer. I never got an interview. I later went to the mall and applied at all clothing stores I liked. Thankfully, a week after doing that, I was given a job on an amazing show.

Here I am now, a year later, working at Paramount.

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Not long ago I went to the parking garage, chatted it up with the Valet and learned he’s been trying for two years to catch a break as an Assistant and he took the Valet gig to network.

Oy.

“Mary you rotten person you…taking for granted your badge. James the driver here is basking in the sun dreaming of your job and you’re standing here counting down until the show wraps.”

Crazy thing is…someone is sitting somewhere hoping to get the Valet’s job so they can network. Another person is in Wisconsin dreaming of moving to LA and being the guy in LA hoping for the Valet job.

No matter the position, another person is probably wishing they were where you are. I try to keep this in mind whenever I’m frustrated with where I’m at, or what I have.

Last year I tried to define the word ‘blessing’ and what it means to me.

This is what I came up with: a blessing is something someone else wishes they had.

So think about it.
Like, actually stop and think about it. EVERYTHING in life is a blessing.

God is the One who gives us blessings, so, therefore, everything belongs to God.

I’ve been given tremendous favor within one of, if not the hardest industry to break into and find myself saying, “God when is this job going to eeeend.” How could someone who’s connected with big-time people like that, find themself saying anything except “EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!”

Because, no matter what you’re given in life, how you choose to respond to blessings is a choice. I strive to view my job in the eyes of my first opening, yes. Most days though, opening #2 is most present because I’m in the thick of it and it’s human nature to respond to hardships by going, “ahhhhhh! Not comfortable!”

Thankfully though, I have Jesus in my life haunting me with words like, “I chose you above hundreds of over qualified people for this. I entrusted you, Mary. I believe in you.”

Cool. No pressure.

But seriously, no pressure….God has me.
I’m going to shift gears for a second, but I promise it connects.

I’ve been asked in recent months what I’m attracted to in a man. I won’t dive into what I am attracted to, but rather what I’m not attracted to.

Pride. Selfishness. Narcissism.

Oh, and if they don’t like sports in the least I don’t know how to deal. I have three brothers and a dad who raised me on sports so, masculinity = love of any sport. #kiddingbutnotreally #truuuu

I’ll connect the dots…when I’m not thankful for anything God has given me, I’m all three of those qualities I dislike.

Pride (in the unhealthy form) is all about self-ownership and thanking God for yourself and your amazing abilities, not Him.

Selfishness: wanting to be outside of where God wants me.
Example: longing for a hard job HE GAVE ME to end.

Narcissism: it doesn’t have to do with thankfulness; I just want all men (and women!) to know it’s universally a quality that won’t win anyone over 😉

I’m human.
I’m selfish.

I’ve been given an incredible life, a life full of things others only dream about. But, sometimes, I simply want the grass my neighbors have, something we’re all guilty of. Some student at Yale wants nothing more than to fly to a cabana in Vegas while the guy in the cabana in Vegas is dreaming of getting into Yale.

Let us be reminded of this: everything in our life is a blessing, and it’s our choice for how we respond.

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I used my work as an example and can view it with my first opening of this blog, a mindset of complete thanksgiving….or like my second opening, lens that ignore all fun aspects and focus on the annoying parts.

Both sets of glasses are always going to be on the case, and we can choose one or the other, always. But God wants us to be reminded that everything is from Him, and when we are given much, much is required.

Luke 12:48: “…From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Moreover, when we have much, we must have a heart of thanksgiving.

I wrote this blog because in the midst of my crazy amazing blessings I’ve been given, it’s easy to lose sight and want another blessing. I felt led to write this because while I hope this was encouraging to you, it was for me too– being reminded that everything is a blessing and therefore, should be treated with a grateful, thankful heart.

Verses I got pwned in for not being thankful when I should have been:

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name” – Psalm 100:4

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruits of lips that confess His name” –Hebrews 13:15

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” –Philippians 4:6
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” –Hebrews 12:28-29

When You Allow Social Media to Shape Opinions of those You Already Know

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Social media has crushed a sense of authenticity. Those who post sad stories or rants are ridiculed because, really, who wants to read such news? Those who only post how amazing their life is are ridiculed because, who lives like that? We either think, “they’re always complaining,” or, “they boast about their perfect life.” A happy medium is rare.

We don’t like seeing an excessive amount of selfies or continuous Buzzfeed quiz results. I am not ashamed to admit I have spent the time to filter out Facebook friends. Out of my 1,000 friends, I see maybe 80 friend’s posts. I found my heart getting bitter, annoyed or jealous towards people who I truly enjoy in the real world. Many of my now “unfollowed” friends are great, but I resented them because of our online friendship. That could be conceived as pathetic, but I needed to take an action to prevent myself from judging.

For me to prevent feeling that way, I unfollowed them.

We are all guilty of checking in on our crush or ex-boyfriends on social-media. If you aren’t guilty of that, God has treasures for you my friend. We see pictures of the guy with a new girl, new friends, at a party or tagged in a status—thus creating F.O.M.O or jealousy inside of us and we are left bummed. What’s (not) funny about this is when we’re on the other side of everything,…in those pictures, one of the people tagged… many times those moments aren’t even fun. That picture of the guy was forced by a girl who says, “oh my god get it get in,” and then click, picture is taken, up on Facebook. That may have been the most time the girl and guy spent together–she just wanted a picture of them to put more value on herself, her reputation.
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Not everyone is like this and yes, some events are as fun as they appear. I’ve posted pictures on Facebook where the picture truly didn’t capture the joy I had within the frame. The authenticity of it all has been severely minimalized: with my 1,000 friends I easily think everyone has babies, everyone has a wedding, everyone goes apple picking or carves a pumpkin, everyone travels to Europe, there’s always “that girl” going to help people in Africa—I don’t need an entire album, thanks. I also don’t need to hear how your husband left a cute note saying “you’re amazing babe, the love of my life” on your car before you went to work. Like, good for you.
With our 1,000+ friends it can be difficult to truly care about these events, unless they’re our closest friends who would share their adventure with us in an outlet independent from Facebook.

I REALLY don’t like seeing on Instagram what other people like. When guys double tab on pictures of girls who’re practically naked, or a selfie that has 8+ filters over it, I’ve seen myself lose respect for them. Men, if you don’t think girls notice who you follow, what you like, what you choose to feed your soul with, educate yourself.  Women, same goes for you.
Who am I though to truly know the heart in the matter? That naked girl could be his cousin and he’s supporting her (doubtful, but things happen). The girl could be posting the inappropriate picture because her manager demanded it (which I would say R-E-S-P-E-C-T yoself and get a new manager), and there’s more to the story (things happen).

That’s the thing. This is all relative.

I’m going to retract back to the woman who posted a picture of the cute note by her husband. My guess is her sisters and mom genuinely appreciated the picture. I love it when my sister posts about anything her and close people related; I feel connected. When I’m not the close friend or sister to excessive posts, I don’t double tap or “like.”

Hey, I’m guilty of posting. I gram my family regularly; I love taking pictures of my cat Karen. When I post pictures of my cat, I know my siblings and certain friends appreciate it. I don’t except someone I went to high school with 10 years ago to take a second glance.

I like to believe every post has (most likely) an appreciation from someone…somewhere….
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Sometimes I think that somewhere is in Neverland because I can’t handle a picture of oatmeal with 15 hashtags. What in the world is that about. Unfollow

I miss the days of developing pictures and showing my Gramma when she came over for lunch that week. I miss the excitement of going over to my friend’s house after their vacation and skimming through their memory card. Since I geographically can’t do that today, it’s nice to be able to electronically show and tell. Today I get hourly updates on how someone’s vacation is going and it has made me numb towards many people. I am frustrated with myself for becoming numb because each event IS exciting, and many times there IS an amazing back-story. Maybe that vacation took five years to save up for, that couple could have had three miscarriages before this miracle was born, the “A” someone got an their exam was a result of countless sleepless nights of studying…we don’t know. Usually, we are only invited to share in the end result, not the process. And hey, I’m not saying I want to be invited to the process. I can’t emotionally handle hundreds of updates weekly from people who share with me their hardships or frustrations. Ain’t nobody got time for all that, and someone with an empathetic heart like mine surely can’t take that on.

stock-footage-happy-businesswoman-dancing-after-a-good-phone-call-in-her-officeOn the other side is this: it IS fun seeing what people are up to, even if they’re the kind of “friend” we see at our local grocery store once or twice a year. Social media is truly addicting, enjoyable, frustrating and destroying.

There isn’t a “right” answer: to get rid of or promote social media. Either side can be healthy, and it comes down to a matter of the heart.

The heart plays a pivotal role in social media.

We all have our annoyances with how others navigate their profile: what they post, their captions and the frequency of both. Personally, I don’t like selfies. I think more than two posts on Instagram daily is obnoxious and don’t see the point in tweeting where you’re eating dinner. I don’t know why people “check-in” everywhere they go and it’s annoying to me when friends change their profile picture constantly. It’ll be interesting to see who deletes me after reading this ; ) Naturally I think, “they want people to say they’re pretty, they have nothing better to do than post pictures and they just want me to know who they’re eating with.”

Heart problem.

I have friends who post selfies, pictures of their food, type countless hashtags and “share” every article they read. I decided that if I find myself bitter towards how a friend navigates social media, I shouldn’t follow them.

I encourage you to do the same. Facebook isn’t reality. Instagram isn’t reality. They’re fun, they’re convenient, they’re addicting. Authenticity is hard to find in social media and if you’ve found yourself discouraged or bitter towards someone via web, abort. Figure out what action works best for you and do it—there is nothing healthy about growing bitter towards someone just because of social media.

Rather than grow bitter, acknowledge your heart and do something about it!
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When You Judge

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“There’s nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the                           ocean itself, except that when you finally see what goes on underwater,                you realize that you’ve been missing the whole point of the ocean.                        Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and staring                  at the outside of the tent.” –Dave Berry

I was a sophomore in high school when I had a revelation about stereotypes. It was before 7:45am in first period, Honors English 2. I had my bag on top of my desk with my face planted down. The bell rang and sounds of slush making their way off boots and mumbling filled the room. My classmate, I’ll call him Derek, hit my back with rolled paper practically shouting, “Lentz!” My body jolted with the girliest squeal from being startled. “Mary, hey. I read your essay and it was legit. Seriously, so good. I’d love to meet in the library to exchange notes if you’d be cool with that. Here,” he handed me my essay. “I took the liberty to write notes and dude, let’s talk.” In our class we were required to print and give all classmates a copy of our essays, but we weren’t required to read and give notes. He had voluntarily read my essay and jotted his thoughts down.

My high school
My high school

To paint a picture, Derek sported the same skinny black jeans every day with the same black beanie. His long brown hair curled along the edges of the beanie and he alternated amongst 2-3 zip-up hoodies. He snuck out for lunch as a freshman, had poor attendance and was a known drug-dealer at the school. Up until that point, we hadn’t exchanged words to each other, with the exception of classroom discussions. I unrolled my essay in second period that day and uncovered papers clothed in lines of intentional, purposeful notes.

Corrie ten Boom
Corrie ten Boom

My essay commended a hero of mine, Corrie ten Boom. She was a Christian who helped Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II, and was imprisoned for it. I was shocked Derek took an interest. I trundled through my stack of classmates’ papers, found his, and was bewildered: he was, without a doubt, the strongest writer in our class. I metaphorically felt the claw of a hammer pry nails out of boxes I had built; boxes containing people who I had labeled, stereotyped and sealed away. I was disappointed with myself for not thinking of Derek anything more than a druggie. My first clue should have been that he enrolled in an honors class, but that is how boxed in he was to me. For the duration of the course Derek and I discussed pending essays. We didn’t have practically anything in common, we respected each other and our senses of humor meshed well. I enjoyed talking to him and the morning he approached me will always be a strong memory of mine.

The main hallway at school
The main hallway at school

During our library conversations I saw strong potential in Derek. He was naturally a strong academic, exuding joy. He respected all his classmates and teachers, which is rare for a 16 year old.

My heart shifted during Honors English 2. I believe God used Derek to reveal how His love is not grounded on choices and how I should not base whom I love off their choices. Derek dealt drugs, swore like a sailor, regularly skipped class. Beyond that he was loving, joyful, smart, quite the comedian. Honors English 2 was our last class together. He was a “school friend.” We’d walk to classes together if we caught each other in the hall, or walk to our cars together after school.

Under hypnosis
Under hypnosis

At the Senior Night Graduation party, two years after our class together, I was one of 20 to be chosen to get hypnotized. Derek ran up to me afterwards, practically tumbling me over. He said, “Lentz! Hilarious show up there. You the bomb, I’m going to go smoke…catch you at graduation?” I appreciated how, although he knew I didn’t smoke, he was open about his lifestyle. I’ve had friends who medicate, drink and whatnot hide information from me. Derek never did, showing he was confident in his decisions. Most importantly, it meant a lot to me because that showed his security in knowing I wasn’t judging him and cared for him despite his vices.

Today he is a college graduate, a Navy Seal, and happily married.

Derek’s choice to approach me one snowy morning was prodigious for my heart. I can see God that morning thinking, “I am so excited Mary’s heart will be provoked today.”

Several have described me as non-judgmental and I am complimented regularly on how I seek to know people for who they are, not what they are known for or their looks. I am strongly agitated when people make false accusations or have quick assumptions towards others–but this comes from years of learning and the tangible reason roots from Derek, a classmate who made questionable decisions academically and financially, but spent his love tank admirably, with such intentional love for others.

A second note that may seem unrelated, but I feel important for this post is this….
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When I’m treated poorly by someone I barely know, it’s easy to judge. The cashier at the grocery store might be sassy, the barista may roll eyes when I return a drink, or the AT&T employee gives attitude despite putting me hold for an hour. I could easily think, “I’m giving you business…I am entitled to great customer service!”

By the kindness (and humor) of God I was that clerk on the other side of the counter for seven years. I ran the concession stand at the Little League Field, served chocolate in a mall, sorted dirty clothes at a dry cleaners and made coffee for needy, eager customers. I worked shifts on days that were personally terrible. I worked the day I learned my Gramma had cancer, the day our family pet died, the day my torn ACL knee gave out, the day after I was in a car accident and had a concussion, the day a guy I liked said he only saw me as a friend and how I was, “the Queen of platonic relationships”…and the day I didn’t get into a school I applied to.

So many employees we see have had hard days, yet they leave it at the door, put a smile on and attempt to make our experience great. That barista who isn’t smiling when you tip $0.25 may have learned her mom has a tumor, her brother has to stay in Iraq another six months or she simply may have a fever and feels nauseas but she is trying her very best to get through the shift so she can escape to rest.

I’ve seen all of the above.

If I hadn’t worked in customer service, the perspective I wrote above would not be cultivated in my heart. I try and take that perspective with me everywhere and when treated poorly, attempt to put myself in the shoes of those who “wronged” me and believe the best in them.
In retrospect, my job as an employee was to give customers the benefit of the doubt with kindness.

Snippets of my customer service days
Snippets of my customer service days

I’m not solely communicating we need to be nice to rude servers. I am bringing this full circle and suggesting those in customer service need to be nice to ill-mannered customers, and customers need to be nice to rude servers. Essentially strive to be kind to everyone, being mindful that they may have had the worst day. Many times when I paused to ask how a customer was doing their answer far out-weighed my current problems. I’ll never forget asking a regular customer what she up to that day. This girl, in her late teens, came in every morning for a tea latte. On one particular day she came in around 1pm, looking sour and unpleasant. She didn’t come in that morning so I figured she had an early release from school. I asked what she was up to that day and was stunned. She was meeting her dad’s friend because she found out her dad had brain cancer earlier that morning. He had a month, at the most, to live.

I remember taking a moment in the back room to cry. She received news I only fear to hear. What is more sad (and real) is countless, if not all people, walk the streets facing turbulence of their own.

“It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.” -Billy Graham

If we sat in a room with 20 people and shared our burdens, our scars, I believe most, if not all, would choose to walk away with what they walked in with. I don’t think we would choose to carry another person’s hardships.

The conviction stemmed from Derek was nearly 10 years ago. Looking back today, I see how my heart change then prepared me for the several “Dereks.” Countless people walked in my life after Honors English dealing with vices I once would not have not necessarily judged them for doing, but I’d assume they were just like all other people who acted the same. Working in Entertainment in the heart of Hollywood it’s rare, at times seems impossible, to meet someone who doesn’t resort to some vice as a way of survival.

If I hadn’t looked past Derek’s exterior I don’t know how my heart would have carved out. If I hadn’t worked in customer service for nearly a decade I wouldn’t have the empathy I have for those today in customer service. By having my heart provoked, by living difficult days and facing tough situations, I am more understanding, more loving, more wise.

I’d like to end with one of my favorite simple, profound quotes.

“Hardship often prepares an ordinary person for an extraordinary destiny.” –C.S. Lewis

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