on walking... one step at a time, a mile in someone's shoes, in faith, baby steps, and the extra mile

baby shoes {2}

today's picture winter theme was to shoot something we often find ourselves shooting... something that keeps creeping into our photography because we are drawn to it and we love the subject. the theme for today is called "center of attention".

this was hard for me. i often seek out floral subjects when the weather permits. but that is a bit difficult in the winter. still, i was able to find some remnants of flowers in the snow, so i got a photo of these cute little guys for my first submission today.

but the other thing i tend to photograph often, are things around my house. i always have. not necessarily only one thing. {tracey's prompt gave an example of a bird figurine, as she loves to photograph them. well, if you know me or have been to my house, you know i love birds, too! but they are not the only thing around the house that i like to photograph.}

so with that, i decided to photograph the newest thing around my house... well, part of it is old... my baby shoes. almost 40 years old, to be exact. {i've photographed them before.} but the newest baby shoes to enter my house are the other little white shoes you see... the new, bright {un-aged} white pair!

baby shoes diptych

do you remember in my uber long post where i announced i was pregnant and how i came to find out about it... at the end, i talked about those "no way!" moments that surrounded the discovery of my pregnancy... the kind of things that happened before i found out, but should not have happened, because no one even knew {including me} that i was pregnant!... the kind of things that made me know it must all be a part of God's plan which was known to him even before i was born?

well, these shoes are another one of those "no way!" instances. my twin sister, angela, had bought them in faith for me for a birthday present. my birthday was september 30th... and although i got pregnant on the 26th, i did not know about it for another two weeks. and neither did anyone else. she had seen these in a shop and thought they were precious, and she knew how much i wanted a little kiddo, so she bought them as a sign of faith! that made me a bit teary when i found out. and a bit teary when i opened the box to see them in person for the first time a couple of weeks ago.

so, i thought this would be a great subject for picture winter today. i mean, what could be more the "center of my attention" these days than objects around my home that involve baby-b??

and it worked out well... for two reasons. first, i have been wanting to photograph these ever since i saw them... in fact, even before i saw them. secondly, the photos of these shoes and the thoughts of feet and walking that they conjure up went very well with something that has been heavy on my heart. well, it was heavy, but now it is more just something i think God is using to teach me while i'm pregnant so that i do not pass on negative traits to my child.

i'll just jump right in.

i've been without a permanent job since i was laid off from my full-time job in april of 2009. during that time {more than once}, my decisions and work status have been called into question by more than one person... even just recently. i was almost made to feel like i was being asked, "well, why don't you just go take any job? there are jobs out there. why don't you just go get one?"

oh, my! if only it were that easy. i should not have to explain anything, but i will say this. i have applied at jobs that are so much below what i am qualified to do... many, many times. i am willing to do anything that will bring in a paycheck... even a paycheck that is half or less then what i used to make back in '09.

i started out applying for positions that were suited to my degree and my eighteen years of experience. but then, when i found out how many people were applying for those jobs as specific in pre-requisite qualifications as they were {one job i interviewed for had over 400 applicants}, i knew that i'd have to apply for anything! not only the jobs that were similar to what i used to do for a living.

but imagine what it is like out there for jobs that require far less experience or less specific skills... if the design job i was applying for had 400 applicants, how many more people are applying for that executive assistant job? or that starbucks barista job? or that k-mart cashier job?... ALL of which i have applied for and not even gotten a single bite on.

and why would a company hire me when someone 20 years younger will do it for much less. i am not complaining. this is the way it is. i only bring it up, because it is so easy {especially when you have a job} to say to someone else, "just go get a job! any job!"

you know why i know it's easy? i did this myself. i did it to someone very close to me. i did not say it out loud to that person. but i thought it in my mind, and i placed judgement on that person in my heart. and it was wrong of me, because i never talked to that person or asked them about every single aspect that played into why they had not gotten a job in so long.

well, needless to say, it was not until it happened to me, that i learned how wrong i was to judge without knowing. i think of the bible verse, "judge not lest ye be judged."

i don't think judging is necessarily wrong. God has given us the ability to use judgement and discernment. but what is wrong is casting judgement without understanding. and if you don't know every single detail that goes into a person's situation and decisions made about that situation, you are very wrong to judge them... especially if it is harshly and without compassion.

in this facebook, blogging, and put-yourself-out-there day in age, where much of what we do and say is so visible to others, it is SO easy to make assumptions and judgements about people without knowing the full story.

if you must judge someone, you should keep your conclusions to yourself until you have the full story "from the horses mouth". and if you can't or won't take the time to do one of two things... either ask about their situation before forming a conclsion or walk in their shoes for a "mile" {meaning EVERY aspect of what they are going through}... then be very careful what you say.

i tell myself this, because i have done wrong in this area. and when it happened to me, i found it terribly hurtful. it has happened a few times over the course of my pregnancy so far... a very sensitive time for me... when i am already terrified about money and how i will provide for this child i am bringing into the world. and assumptions were made before facts were discovered. at first, i thought "why would God let me experience such a hurtful thing right now... especially from people i would never expect it to come from?"

but then i thought, today, about how God might quite possibly be allowing that because he is trying to teach me some things during my pregnancy... things i can work on in my life before the baby comes, so that i do not pass on bad habits or negative attitudes {which kids will definitely pick up on from DAY ONE!}.

baby shoes {3}

this post is a bit of an opportunity for me to defend myself. i will admit that. and there is a possibility that the people who judged me about working/not working will never read this. but that is okay. in fact, i have a feeling few will read this, because i know people don't have time to read long posts. i write it mostly for me. a way to mark this day where i realized i do something that i do not like when it is done to me. and with a baby on the way, i ABSOLUTELY do not want to pass that on to him or her.

i don't need to defend myself to myself or to my husband, because he and i know every decision we make together {in regard to employment} is what we feel is best for our situation... right or wrong. we are not perfect, but we make all our decisions together, and he knows and i know how willing i am to work {which is why i take any temp job that is offered to me and apply for jobs that will work for our situation}. anyone can make any assumption they want. they may even judge me. but if they choose to say something to me, they better be prepared to first want to know the ENTIRE story before casting judgement. and the same goes for me... when i see something that just does not seem right in someone else's life.

when i was looking up what the exact quote was {on google} for "walk a mile in their shoes" for today's post, i came across this good article about judging others or empathizing with others. you can read it here for the whole gist of what he was saying. but here is an excerpt:
don't take offense when this happens, because they don't understand. they have not walked a mile in your shoes, so they cannot understand your feelings. if you need comfort or help, seek out someone who has been there, someone who can say, "i know how you feel."
i needed to see this. i was so offended the other day when i was judged. but then i realized, this person has not been where i am. so they can not possibly know. and it is their misfortune if they will cast judgement without knowing or without having been where i am at. not understanding and questioning is one thing. but judging is another. and i did the very same thing to someone once. i am now, so very sorry i did that. it was so easy for me to think back then {when i had a job}, "just go get a job! any job!"... but wrong to think it.

just today, i got an e-mail from a member of the choir that i was in {before i got pregnant}... it was sent to all the choir members, asking for prayer about an upcoming job interview from someone who has been without work for quite a while and struggling to find work, as much as he sought it out. i immediately understood his desire for prayer... and the desire that God would provide. because i have been RIGHT THERE. i am now.

i quite possibly might not have stopped and prayed at that moment if i had never lost a job before. but i have. and so i prayed. i think of when my father died four and a half years ago. before that point, if someone i knew lost a parent {especially if that parent was a lot older}, i did not have much compassion, because i sort of thought "it's just a fact of life... everyone will lose one or both of their parents at some point in their life." i'd tell them i was sorry for their loss and go to the funeral and try to seem compassionate for their sake. but in my heart, i could not understand their grief. it was only after my dad died that i understood the grief of losing a parent. some may say, "well, that's just the way it is... you can't possibly know what others are going through unless you have gone through it." this may be true.

but what i do know is, the older we get, the more we should realize that we can certainly try to understand what they are going through... especially if they call out for help and support. we should not say, "well, how bad can it be?" and then not try to put ourselves in their shoes to know just how bad. if the person who lost a parent can't seem to get over their grief, we should never say, "well, they should be well over this by now!" we could never possibly know that if we have not ourselves lost a parent. and even if we had, and it took us a lot less time to get past the grief, EVERYONE is different.

and at the very least!... if we can not do those things i just mentioned, we should hold our tongues and NOT cast judgment. who are we to say? who am i to say what you should be and where you should be at and how you should be spending the pennies you have to your name, when i do not know every detail of your life. and who are you to say the same about me?

i could not express more how much i have been thinking about this the past couple of days, and how much i DO NOT want my child to ever see me be that kind of a person. and this is why i am glad when difficult things happen to me during this pregnancy. i believe it is a gracious God allowing me to learn some lessons {even if the hard way} that i can pass on to my little one.

my brother put this on his facebook status yesterday...
life's most urgent question is: what are you doing for others?
never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.
the first question which the priest and the levite asked was: "if i stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" but... the good samaritan reversed the question: "if i do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"
~martin luther king, jr.
i liked seeing this, and i post it today, because it made me think of the many people who have given us food or money or some provision we could not provide ourselves over the past two years when we were struggling... the times we were at our worst, when we literally did not have a penny to even buy milk. when they gave to us, they did not do it only after having heard the facts of our situation. they just gave. period. they did not say, "hmmmm... do they REALLY need this?... after all, just yesterday i saw that she went out for lunch. i saw it right there on her facebook page. i read about it on her blog. if i help them out when it does not really seem like they need it, how will that make me look? how will it affect me?" instead, they just took us at our word when we cried out for help {or when God laid it upon their heart to help without even knowing what our situation was}, and then gave us some kind of provision with grace and humility.

i long to do this some day... when we are in a position to. again, there was a day when i might not have, because i did not know what it is like to struggle this way. and even now, though i can not provide for someone in need financially {and i know many who are in GREAT need}, i can at least pray when they ask me to pray that God would somehow provide for them... believing that if they ask for it, no matter what choices they may have made in the past {right or wrong}, that they are in need right then. and the least i can do is pray without questioning. i can "walk in their shoes" through prayer, even if i have never quite walked in their shoes.

if i sound like i am "preaching" here, trust me when i say, i am my biggest audience to the things i "preach"! if not a one around me is non-judgmental, i still want to be! and i want that little one inside me to be, too. i can't completely control how he or she will turn out, but i can do my very best to not be a bad influence and try to correct some wrongs in my life so that i do not pass on bad traits.

i want to live a life that has upright footsteps that can be followed in. i could be penniless the rest of my days, and it would be far better than to be richer than most, but pass on a subtle habit of being judgmental, even when i think i am not being so.

all that said, i am happy to say that i received a letter today that stated i am eligible for and will be receiving unemployment benefits. as a signed-up-with-a-temp-agency employee, i have been taking temp jobs when they are available... a very good thing for me, as the money is so much more along the lines of what we need, and the temp positions are doing what i have done my whole career, which will keep my skills from getting rusty. but just as permanent positions in my industry {or any field, for that matter} are few and far between, temp jobs are scarce too. so hubby and i decided after waiting too long for temp work to show up, that we would have me apply for benefits from the state unemployment agency.

even if i could snag a permanent job right now {which i have tried to do for two years, now}, i would feel bad taking it if i have to turn around and quit come june when baby-b gets here. so we feel like we are between a rock and a hard place. trust me... i would rather have a well-paying temp position than the income that unemployment benefits afford {which i am GRATEFUL for}. and further more, i would rather have a secure permanent position. {b. and i talked about him being mr. mom after the baby comes, because i might be able to find a job that makes more.} but when those jobs are not available, i have no choice but to apply for the benefits. we tried to get by without them as long as we could... expecting the temp work to come through. but our pockets eventually emptied, and we have come to this point... like SO MANY others out there who are not fortunate enough to have a job of any kind.

yes, i may not have spent every single last penny to the wisest when they were still there... because i did not think i had to be so frugal, as i had hopes of a temp job on the way. i put my eggs in that temp job basket when i should not have.

but i choose not to live my life in fear... expecting that everything will fall through all the time. i choose to live by faith {though i often struggle with that}. if anyone were to come live with us, they would know how VERY much we have cut out of our lifestyle and have learned to live without... even basic things that very many enjoy... far beneath what a good percentage of people enjoy. and this is not a complaint. i am actually grateful to have come to that point, because it made me realize how needlessly i spend and how many things i always thought i needed, but never did.

but there was actually one day when i went to the change jar because my account was in the negative, and i had no milk in the fridge, and i knew i needed some milk for the baby. and if b. had let me use his debit card to buy things we need, our rent check would have bounced. so i cried out to God and told him we needed milk {hahaha... as if he didn't already know}. i did not even ask for anything more. i only said, "please provide me with milk today... somehow, some way." it was the very first thing that happened that morning when i got out of bed.

i thought to pray and cry out, because my mom had shared with me last summer a very similar situation. she was young... only 20-ish... and her first-born son and her were in need of milk and bread so that he could eat. she called my dad at work, and he said he did not have the money to give her. so she prayed and asked God to provide her with milk and bread that day {or the money to buy it}. within hours, she had gone out to the mail box to find an envelope for her that was addressed from her sister. in it was $10 and a note from my aunt that said, "God laid it on my heart to send you this $10... i'm not sure why. but here it is." my mom walked to the store and bought milk and bread.

i cried when i heard that story, because i knew that praying for something as little as a gallon of milk is not silly to God. it is the epitome of walking in faith. and i was glad my mom told the story to me last summer, because it came to my mind the day i was in that same "boat".

you may be wondering if i ever got milk. well, yes... and then some. what happened is this: after talking to b. at work and asking permission, he allowed me to call our landlords and ask if they would hold our rent check for a couple of weeks until we get on our feet. i did call, and they were very gracious and said, "no problem at all". then he told me to go get the milk with his card. so i did.

i had thought that this was my answer to prayer... God's way of providing that day. and it was! but he went above and beyond what i "could ask or think" {ephesians 3:20}, and he sent a friend into my path that day who told me she wanted to buy me groceries and plenty of pregnancy-friendly food until we can get through to the next time we'd be able to afford them. this conversation happened just before i went to bed that night. i prayed first thing that morning after waking, and God came through {BIG TIME} in the last moment before i went to sleep again that day.

my friend {and her family} are not wealthy by any means. she is jobless right now, too. but she was able to help us right then, and she {and her hubby} sooooo went the extra mile for us. {i wrote about it here.} this is not the first time such generosity has been shown to us lately. and i would be writing endlessly if i wrote about every instance of this kind of care here on this blog.

but i am truly grateful for people like this... and it is a testimony to walking in faith. i know not, from day to day, what will happen to us or how we will pay a bill or how i can buy the simplest of thank you gifts for all the women who helped me during my first trimester or how to eat well for this baby. but somehow, God always provides. and i am humbled by that. and it reminds me that i can only take one step at a time in this "walk by faith" life. and sometimes, they are baby steps, because my faith is weak.

but i look at these old shoes of mine, and i know that i was raised in a family that went through very much the same struggles that i face now. and somehow we made it through {five kids and all!}. and here i am, almost forty years later... i made it! and i want my tiny old shoes to be a reminder to me of all that God has brought me through and will continue to bring me through when the little one who will fill those precious new shoes arrives.

so i take each day as it comes. one step at a time. and i have to ignore when people have questioned, with preconceived judgements, what they do not know. i have to strive to keep doing what i know God and my husband want, and nothing else matters... even if to someone else, it looks like i am failing or making wrong choices. psalm 128:1 says, "blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways!" this is all i need strive for. if i do, i know without question, that he will take care of me... not just financially, but in ALL ways.

i think of job in the old testament, whose friends called him into question when he was suffering, and still he said, "i know my redeemer lives." {funny how his name is the same spelling as the synonym for work... just noticed that.} anyway, i have one more excerpt:
rehearse the promises of God. job 23 says that in the midst of his excruciating pain, trying to be righteous and faithful to the Lord, he is suffering nonetheless. he says, "i'm looking for God in the midst of all of this" {job 23:3 paraphrased}.
"i look in front of me, behind me, to the right, to the left, and i can't find God anywhere.'"{verses 8-9, paraphrased} but, he says, in verse 10, "he knows the way that i take." God sees me. when it comes down to it, would you rather know that you can see God or that God can see you? job says, "[God] knows the way that i take."
and here's the rest of that promise, "when he has tried me, i shall come forth as gold" {job 23:10}. that's a promise. rehearse it when you're in the midst of that desperate or difficult or seemingly impossible circumstance.
this is from the message i mentioned a few posts back. i want to be like job... faithful to God, even when others around me would judge. God is my judge. and after that, my husband. in good times and bad, i want to be found faithful to both, and accountable to both.

i realized why we should not judge as God can judge. he sees and knows all in the lives of people {"he knows the way i take"}. we can not see and know all in the lives of others. so we are not at liberty to cast judgment.

so i walk by faith, knowing he sees the path i take.

i'm 39, and i am just now starting to learn this, but it's never too late to start. i hope my baby steps of faith will soon turn to big adult steps. and even then, i can only take one single step at a time.

baby shoes {1}


Hi Kooky said...

Great post. I, too, have had some stuff come along recently which has really driven home the point you make about not judging. It's so true - we have to go through difficult times to understand the way God sees. The trials are no fun, but the wisdom gained is priceless. (I wish it weren't that way, but so be it!)

Jamie said...

I so used to be that judging person...horrible I know. However, I too have learned how wrong and awful it is. Everyday I judge, and have to remind myself not to do it, not my job. Easier said than done, I suppose. :) Sorry to hear about your job situation, but take it as a blessing...you get to rest and enjoy this pregnancy. Especially, once your baby-b comes...rest, well...it is limited. :)

Love your picture today!

Nordljus {Lonely Librarian} said...

I absolutely love those babys shoe pictures! So funny to see them as I've actually been thinking about taking pictures of my first baby shoes just last week. I still have them two, they're blue and also almost 40 years old (I'm actually your age, or at least will be by the end of the month).

I'm sorry to read about your job siuation but I admire your strength to deal with it and learn from it and find and experience positive things in it.
I'm afraid I'm bad at expressing what I really want to say in English, but I really wish you all the best and hope that everything will work out for you for the best, in whatever way that will be. I enjoy reading your blog and seeing your photos here and in the Picture Winter classroom and to get to know you this way. Take care!

Stacey said...

Hi friend. I loved this post. Love the shoes. Love your words and your thoughts. Love what you said about the judging. I knew a little about your financial situation from what you've told me, but I'm thankful that you opened up here I now know more. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I admire your faith. I admire your trust in Him and in that knowledge that you know He will provide. And even though my family is okay financially right now, I need this reminder for other areas of my life.

Thinking of you.

Mae said...

it was a long one but it was a good one! love your words of compassion, forgiveness and generosity of spirit. what a wonderful support network you have around you. the stories you share of their generosity speaks volumes of the goodness of others -- a welcome reminder to my jaded self. thanks for sharing this!