Friday, June 26, 2009

Joy in Transition

On the Job

Thursday evening, I received an interesting phone call. I learned that I got fired. With 6 more weeks on my contract, they preferred that I did not come in any longer. Today is my last day. This is more than a little humbling to say the least. If I felt the reasons behind this firing were legitimate, I could walk away without anger, though my pride would surely be hurt. However, I was told, "It just wasn't working out with me here." Basically, my direct supervisor and I have a serious personality conflict. Never before have I been treated as if I was incompetent and unable to preform the duties on my job. Never before have I been micro-managed to this extent. However, there is a first time for everything.


There are a couple of things that employees are entitled too on their job. In my position, many of these things were overlooked. Below are the lessons I learned over the last 5 months.

1) Employees should receive training for their position. They should not have to figure the job out on their own. A lack of training leads to serious miscommunication about job details and performance expectations.

2) Employees should have a desk to sit at, especially when the job is administrative in nature. Having a new employee sit in a chair for 4 days while IT sets up their computer and the business 'finds space' for you is completely ridiculous. Actions like this tell employees that they are not valued right from the beginning. This should not happen.

3) Employees should be treated with respect by their supervisors. Often, being treated like you are not competent enough to complete your tasks diminishes employee's value as a person. This also could cause an employee to resent their supervisor, rather than respect them. This is not good for business. People often rise to the standards you set for them. Set high standards, encourage people to do better, and reward success.

4) Employees should be allowed to finish the job they start. If a supervisor continues to micromanage and never lets an employee complete a project, the employee never has a chance to shine. Further, the employee has no incentive to finish if they know their boss is going to take the task from them at the end of the day. Supervisors should delegate and then get out of the way.

5) Employees have a right to feedback concerning their performance. If there is something that can be done better, they ought to know about it.

OK. That concludes my venting session.

Where to go from here?

Well, as Hillsong says, "My God is a God who provides." I had a job interview yesterday. I pray that it went well. I was told I was a perfect fit for the position, so now I wait for the details to be worked out. If all goes well, I will be switching contracts and would be able to start work next week. That is ideal.

However, even if this does not happen "My God is STILL a God who provides." I will start working on papers that I want to write while I pursue my PhD. I need to write anyways, as it will impact the job I get when I finish my PhD. It is all about conferences and publications now. So, whether I turn to the left or the right here, the Lord works all things out for the good.

Heart-felt Thoughts

It is hard for me to understand all of this. I don't understand the reason for this. But like in all things I do not understand, I still believe that God is a good God. I know that He has plans for me. I know that the direction I am moving is more important than where I am standing. In six weeks, I'll start working on my PhD. That is the direction I am moving. So in between now and then, all I can say is, "Lord this life is yours and my hope, is rising. You are glorious." - Hillsong.

Our First Year of Marriage

People say that the first year of marriage is very difficult. For Mikhail and I, this is no exception. However, this is not because of internal circumstance, but external ones. This seems to be the story of our lives. Par for the course, if you will. Since January, we have changed jobs a total of five times, Mikhail twice and me three times now. We learned how to stick to a budget that some would consider impossible. We learned to live simply. We were showered with blessing. We got married, helped pay for the wedding, and saved so well, we got our apartment too. We learned to handle our families in the transition of marriage & we became one flesh. We have been challenged with health issues on a regular basis for the past two months, all of which affect & concern me. The car's brakes need repair. All of this may be difficult, but we are well taken care of. We lack no good thing. Praise the Lord for that.

As I look back upon this year, I know that the Lord blessed us with all of our jobs, our apartment, helping pay for the wedding, furniture, mini-trips to visit friends, good friend in DC, a wonderful church here, a marriage mentor couple whose personalities each mirror ours, and a whole host of other things. In the midst of this, we are learning to communicate. We are learning to listen to each other. We are learning to love each other better. Our care for one another is redemptive and I can see Christ working in us. We're growing. So, as I look back on this year and all we experienced, it was worth it. We are who we are today because of what we experienced and the trails the Lord helped us overcome.

Our lives continue to play out just like the Lord promised when He said, "No weapon formed against you shall prosper" and "I will not leave you or forsake you, especially in your hour of need." Truly, we lack no good thing. Our perspective continues to be challenged regarding what is important in this life. This can only be a good thing!

* This is my prayer in the fire, in weakness, trial or pain: There is a faith proved in more worth than gold, so refine me Lord through the flame. *
-Hillsong United

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Refreshed By Joy

It's been a while.

Slowly but surely over the past few weeks, I started to feel better. It is not that I have been physically ill, although at times I felt that way. Instead, I was emotionally drained. Maybe it was my move to this city? Maybe the weather is to blame? Yes, I am sure sensual shock also played a role. I've been exhausted. And I've been running from refreshment, trying to do life on my own.

Like every runner, we all need a break. We reach a point where we cannot run any further or any longer. Sunday was my tipping point. I needed refreshing. I needed to stop doing things on my own and to start spending time with Jesus! Exhausted from my interactions with the world, I realized I lacked true joy and compassion. This is a dramatic shift for me. These qualities usually abound in my interactions with others. I felt even as if the light disappeared from my eyes as well. I lived exhausted. However dry this season of my life, Jesus promised I did not have to be thirsty. Sunday, I decided to stand on His word. Today, I know I've been washed by the water.

The joy has returned. I started to notice sadness on people's faces today during my metro ride. I remembered how important it was for me to be a light, to be joyful amidst all the hurt, pain, and suffering occurring in the world. Pastor Allen Hood says that, "the same suffering sends some people to heaven and others to hell. If we trust the process, we will gain an inheritance greater than gold." I love that. I can be joyful in my surroundings. I want the process of refinement to make me like Christ. I want it to take me to heaven. I want it to inspire others to come with me.


All my life, I have seen God move in my finances. However, at no other time in my life have I seen the Lord move so much on my behalf. This year alone, the Lord provided for Mikhail and I's wedding- including lots of last minutes, He gave us an apartment, He furnished our apartment, He paid my bills, He taught us the value of saving money, and He made a way for me to get paid while I get my PhD., so much that the degree will pay for itself. Now I have seen the Lord move before, but this year, I watched Him use cash. He's blessed us to do all of these things and more, and we did so with cash. To say that I am in awe of His provision is an understatement.

My PhD.

I am not sure how many people respond to God's call on their life. I try to obey, even after a few stubborn moments or days of disobedience. God is a crazy God. He asks us to do the seemingly impossible all the time. Looking back over my life, I just never thought I would be here. However today, I know for certain, I am living my dream. Like Moses, I do not sound the most intelligent. It is difficult for me to articulate my thoughts. In fact, I don't write that well. I struggle to understand the fundamentals of the research process. All of this makes me doubt my calling to academia. However, like Moses I need Jesus to accomplish my purpose. It is the Lord who grants wisdom. He helps me to reason. My driving passions are His. And so, this fall I begin my PhD. program. The highest degree in the world. I take this leap of faith. I believe that the Lord thinks I will be a great professor one day. I believe academia is my mission field. I believe I have a purose in academia, bigger than research, teaching, and theory. If believe the Lord did not call me out here to fail. As I used to say, "The Lord does not call you into the desert, only to take away your camel." Therefore, if there was not a great purpose for me, I believe I would not be here.

It is not just my doubt and inabilities the Lord had to deal with, He provided financially too. I will get paid to teach while I attend school. Because the Lord taught me earlier this year to be a saver, the money was there when I needed it. As a result, I will be able to teach and go to school full time, and my husband and I will not even notice the pay cut. How awesome is it to serve a God like this? I mean I am in awe of Jesus. I keep thinking, "How is this even possible? How?!"

"I can do all things through Christ Jesus, who gives me strength."

The life I am living is only possible through God. That is what makes this experience so cool. I could not have done this on my own. I could not have made this happen. God did. This is awe-inspiring, becuase I am the girl who thinks she can do anything. So when the Lord surprises me, just to surprise me, just to make me excited, just because He loves me, just because He believes in me, yes I stand amazed. Sometimes I cannot move. But I am filled with joy. He called me for His purpose. He says, "This one is mine." Well, that is just holy and beautiful. I believe I can do anything with Jesus. The last 6 months in DC taught me sure enough, I cannot do anything without Him. All of a sudden, I joy flows in abundance.

Joy & Purpose

I think my culture shock has lifted. While I am not used to the weather, while I do not know my surroundings, while I do not have a huge community here, I feel great again. I am thankful for who I am and for the people in my life who invest in me and love me, even at my worst. Maybe my joy returned upon the realization that my time outside academia is ending. Maybe it returned because I have adjusted. Whatever the reason, I thank the Lord for giving me such a sense of purpose in my life. Here I am, walking where He called me, trusting him with my life, my husband's life, our marriage, that my book will sell, for article publications and tenure, and a whole host of other things. And I know one thing, God will make a way for me. Where He calls us, He makes a way.

I know that I could not have made it in my life without the Lord. I know that I would not be where I am today, nor would I be who I am today without Him. So yes, I am joyful in all circumstances. After all, I've been washed by the water!

* All of my life, in every season, You are still God, and I have a reason to sing, I have a reason to worship * - Hillsong United

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A New Addition to the Bell Household!

The Birds and the Bees

For those of you who have seen the movie Failure to Launch, this will make you laugh. For those of you who have not, don't worry, I will explain everything.

In the movie, two girls share an apartment and their lives. I think they are best friends. Anyways, one of the girls does not like noise. There happens to be this one bird that continues to chirp and chirp outside her bedroom window at all hours of the night. She hates the bird. I mean she hates the bird. So she coins the phrase "What the h**l kind of devil bird chirps at night?" Makes you laugh right. Birds don't do that. At least that is what I thought.

Outside our apartment, are several trees, which house a 100 or so birds. Right outside our window. If the moon is bright, they chirp into the night. I mean they are loud!! I disliked the little darlings until I realized that they were just doing what God created them to do. Now I envy the birds. No sooner do I decide I like them, then do they decide to make a home for themselves in our new cute hanging plant. By the way, NO, we are not pregnant. But the birds around our apartment are. The birds not only made a home there, they also made a nest. Oh Joy.

Curiously, I carefully watered the plan today. I don't want any human smell on it, I don't want the birds to abandon their nest. Not that there are not plenty of birds running around here. I guess they fly, but you get the point. Well, the friends didn't lay one egg. They did not lay two eggs. They laid three eggs in my plant. So in a few weeks, we will have 3 little ones, chirping for joy, just as the Lord created them to do, front the viewing point of our hanging plant, on my balcony.

I included a picture for your pleasure! Enjoy our little ones!

Culture Shock

Well, the culture shock of being in DC has not worn off yet. My time in my current position is coming to an end. This is a fact that really excites me. 

Being an Interracial Married Couple

A lot of interracial couples told me that they eventually stop noticing looks from people. I really thought I arrived at this same place. However, this last week taught me different. Two times in the last week, I guess 3 times in the last two weeks, I experienced hatred about our interracial marriage. It is purely anger that plays out, but it is tough to respond to. Let me give you an introduction of what I deal with.

Have you ever had a job where you had to answer the same question over and over? Like, where is the admissions office? What are the requirements for this major? Maybe you just told the entire group both of the answers, only to discover with the question that no one was listening? I have a point here. The first few times that you experience a repeated answer, it is ok. You may tell yourself that people are people and although you have heard the question 1000 times, this is their first time asking. OK, so you sympathize. Usually this is how I feel.

The issue of racism in this country is an interesting one. What continues to blow my mind is that I care about the relations between the Black and White community. I try to learn as much as I can. Some of the history makes me come undone. Hatred in this country is still growing. I believe that we need to learn from the past and make better decisions about how to treat one another in the future. However, the bitterness that results from the past is evasive and it finds even those who are most compassionate about this cause. That brings me to me.

Kill Them With Kindness

I care a lot about getting along and bridging the racial tension in this society. However, I am only one person. I cannot do it on my own. To ask me to is unfair. Mikhail's hours at work change every week. So when he goes in later, he walks me to the bus stop near our house. It is a super sweet gesture and a beautiful & daily reminder of how great my husband is.

As we approach my bus stop, a black woman, about my age, gives me a glare and she keeps staring. Now this is not the kind of stare where people look at interracial couples because they may not see many. This glare resonated with anger. I looked back at her. I wanted her to notice that I noticed. Only, this accomplished nothing. I decided to ignore her. After all, she doesn't know me and if she is angry, this is her deal. Usually this is the approach I take. Today, when Mikhail walked me to the bus stop, she repeated the same behavior. So what do I do? Do I take another bus? Do I continue to ignore her?

I don't mean to go on and on about this. There was another incident like this that happened at an amusement park last week. A teenage girl, maybe 14, stared me down while Mikhail and I were in line at a ride. I don't understand why this has to be such a big deal. We are living our lives and I would kindly like to request that other people live theirs too. Yet this is a big deal. Hatred causes people to do a lot of things. Especially when it is coupled with misunderstanding. Let's be honest, as a society, we really do not understand one another's cultures and thoughts. However, we don't really seem to listen to one another either. Maybe we are not speaking another language, maybe we are not listening. Maybe we are too quick to fill in one another's sentences and thoughts that we actually do not hear or comprehend what it is someone says in the first place?

What to do?

I will continue to take the same bus. I will continue to have Mikhail see me off at the bus stop. Only next time, I am going to smile and her and say, "Hey! Do I know you from somewhere? Because every time I see you, you look at me like you know me! I just wanted to check." Then I am going to say, my name is Gina, it is nice to meet you. Then I will extend my hand and say hello. Her response is not my concern, but the friendly gesture, I can do something about. Maybe I shouldn't care, but then again, I am a servant of Christ. So as much as I want to confront her ignorance, I will be friendly instead. Maybe this will open the door for a life breathing conversation. Maybe it will not. Again, this is better than me giving her a piece of my mind. So that works right!?

Honestly, I have not decided how to handle situations like this. I can ignore them, but it has been a week and here I am still thinking about it. I think I may use my gift of vulnerability to say something nice next time. Kill them with kindness. That is what my mom would have suggested.

Time & People

For the most part, DC houses a pretty good mix of cultures. This is a good thing. It is nice to be in such a diverse city. As someone who loves culture, this is something I really enjoy. However, this is also the main source of my mental frustrations. You see, plain and simple, whenever cultures are together, differences will abound. Fact of the matter is, differences abound even when we are surrounded by our own culture. We may have less questions running through our mind since we understand the system governing the people around us. What I mean is that, when you are in your own environment surrounded by people in your own culture, you do not need to learn to interpret their words, the meaning behind the vocabulary which is used. You don't even need to focus on people's actions all that much. You know that a handshake is a greeting. Eye contact is important and smiles welcome others.

Here in DC, there are so many people living in close proximity. Again this is a good thing. In my daily routine, I go back and forth between the slow paced Virginia and the fast paced. My office is 95% African American. The community I live in is largely Hispanic, maybe it is 70:20:10 Hispanic, Black, and White. Now I am from Orlando, Florida, so this is all new to me. What is the most frustrating is how people view the concept of time around here. Back where we live, the pace is slow. People value people above schedules. This is where we live. However, when I go into the city everyday, I am met with a stark difference. People adhere to their schedule and they will run over you to get to the top. I see it everyday. Life is a race to the metro, to get on the metro car, to get out of the metro, to run to work. People are always running. The difference in how these cultures view time is a constant source of frustration for me. I am always back and forth between the two extremes. This is mentally exhausting for me.

God's Perspective

So the DC culture, learning to handle tense situations, and my job all are apart of my culture shock. Hopefully the shock will end soon and I will settle into life in the city. Hopefully. About the only thing that keeps me in this city, is the belief that I know the Lord told us to move here. And so we obeyed. Being called does not mean the road ahead will be a smooth one. So here we are in DC, working out the issues, trying to be a good example of who Jesus was in one of the most influential and corrupt cities in the world. I keep believing we were called for a reason.

For me, being in DC is a good reminder that it is Jesus who accomplishes things in this world. After all, if the Lord wants to feed his people, he is going to feed them. I am not going to hold my breath waiting for a policy to pass to easy hunger or anything in any part of the world. Since being here, I've learned that the world really is run by the Lord. He makes things happen. I don't know why bad things happen to good people. I don't know why there is such madness in some parts of the earth. However, since being here, I've learned that I do not need these answers.

For now, I see in part and I know in part. When I get to heaven and see my sweet Jesus, I will know in full. Until then, I pray that the Lord would help my unbelief and keep me on the path He has for me. As hard as this city may be, I am living where He called me. I have the best husband in the world, I attend a church that thrives on freedom, a church that has brought freedom to me, to our marriage, and this DC community. In the fall, I will be attending my top choice PHD program, to work with the professor I used search for at conferences. So it may be difficult, but this too shall pass.

* Greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city * - Chris Tomlin