Thursday, December 7, 2017

When Your Calling No Longer Seems Like a Sure Bet

by Emily Conrad

When I invest in my calling, I want that time and energy to appreciate immediately, my returns to increase in a steady, dependable manner.

Instead, looking back, I see a jagged line of returns.

By the way, in case you were wondering, the title image is NOT from my stats. My average daily viewers range from 8 (hey, friends!) to 45, depending on what service the stats come from. That's a fun discrepancy, isn't it? But I digress...

Regardless of what data I'm looking at to judge my effectiveness as a writer, signs of positive impact--page views, comments, shares, notes--spike and fall.

Sure, I seem to be growing closer to Jesus as the line of following my calling progresses, but am I making a difference? Am I reaching people? Does anybody care?

Whether your calling is in words or something else, you wonder these things, too, don't you?

Give up, Doubt says. Invest in a sure bet.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Walking in the Light Instead of Counting Light Bulbs

by Emily Conrad

Between the 400 bulbs on the artificial Christmas tree, the string of icicle lights hanging inside the window, the four-bulb light fixture, and the two-wick candle, there are approximately five hundred lights glowing in this room, and I’m not sure it’s enough.

The morning is dark, and I’m insecure.

I quit a church committee recently. The group does good work and has been a lot of fun, but I’ve also taken on other commitments recently and needed to make some hard choices.

I am not good at quitting things—jobs, committees, other tasks. I delay the decision. I deal with the stress. I stay on longer. In the case of this committee, I stayed on an entire extra year and still faced insecurity about my decision.

My hesitation stems from my habit of counting light bulbs.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Taste of Heaven on Earth

by Emily Conrad

What do rice, taxes, retirement savings, chilis in oil, and family expectations all have in common?

They are all among things that my exchange student tells me are different here than in her home country. And, of course, we each prefer how things are done in our own homeland. Understandably.

Though I haven’t lived overseas for an extended period, my sister has. From her, I know how precious it is to obtain food from one’s home country while overseas.

Though she hasn’t seemed homesick, I wanted to give my exchange student some of that kind of comfort. However, when I offered to take her to an Asian grocery store in town, she declined. She’d already been to one. It was small, and what she’d bought there wasn’t like what she was used to.

It's not like her home here, and many attempts to create the illusion of home don’t come close enough to be worthwhile.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Drawing God

by Emily Conrad

According to one drawing I saw recently, God is a Moses-like figure with a halo, looming with his hands stretched out over the planet.

The illustration was in a drawing app I’ve been playing since I downloaded it while waiting for Dad’s surgery. (He's doing well, by the way. No signs that the cancer spread.) The app showed me the picture and my job was to label it. I knew what word it wanted immediately.

When I first saw the drawing, I thought the artist had given the drawing a smile. I saw it again later and realized it wasn't so much a smile as a neutral mouth, but still, the idea of God smiling struck me.

This isn't the first time I've thought about whether or not God is happy, smiling. Here’s a snatch of a conversation from the manuscript I finished a couple of weeks ago:

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Thanksgiving Pause

by Emily Conrad

My schedule is unusually full, my thoughts unusually scattered, drawn away from writing in strange ways. Or, perhaps, in normal ways that seem strange to me because distraction doesn't usually come quite this way to me, with a strong urge to find blank space.

But I find this stress opens the door to gratitude this Thanksgiving. As I look for relief, I recognize my need to pause, and the pressures becomes a launch pad for a few moments of recognizing I've been given much.

Thanksgiving dinner conversation moves too fast for this kind of reflection--at least in my family. Also, over Thanksgiving dinner, we tend toward the phrase, "I'm thankful for..." speaking to each other instead of directing our gratitude straight toward the One two whom it is due.

Sharing this way is good, I know. But now, before I prepare the meal or sit with others, I seek a few moments that are more than busyness. I want to prepare my heart, find words for blessings, dig a little deeper than I can over turkey and three different kinds of potatoes and cranberry sauce.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Me and the Sidelines: A story of trying to fit in by sitting out

by Emily Conrad

The pitcher paused before rolling the kickball toward me to call to the rest of the team. “Everybody move up!”

The outfielders obeyed, coming into the infield because I was up to kick, and everybody knew the ball wouldn’t exactly fly.

One glorious time, I managed to launch the ball back out and over the pitcher’s head, but that fluke didn’t negate all my other kickball experiences.

I was learning a belief about myself: I’m not good at sports.

Oh, and also: I don’t like people to notice I’m bad at something.

Oh, and also: People are more likely to notice I'm bad at sports than other things like art or academics.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Waiting Is Better When

5 Waiting Room Observations

by Emily Conrad

On Friday at about 7 AM, I traveled with my younger brother to Chicago. My mom, dad, and sister had left in a separate car about fifteen minutes before.

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you may know why we made the three-hour drive: my dad was having surgery to remove his cancerous prostate.

The days leading up to the trip were emotionally tense and jam-packed. For my part, I was making travel arrangements for Chicago, but I was also preparing a church event (for which I was the committee chair) and helping our exchange student get ready for an overnight trip with school.

The morning we left, we were running late. We remembered needing quarters for tolls at the last minute. My sister called to arrange last-minute details. So there I was, counting quarters, talking on the phone with my sister, waiting for my brother, when I hear the exchange student call my name urgently.