Tag Archives: loss

When life gives you class vi rapids…

In conversation I tend to be as direct as tact will allow.  So you’d think blogging would be even easier, right?  Not for me.  I want to write about the deep and shallow things of life, but I over the last year I have stopped short several times of actually posting, for fear I’d say too much, reveal too much or offend someone I care for.  But the real reason is that I feel like I’ve been paddling through serious white water for the last year, and blogging, journaling, or even simply taking a quiet solitary walk haven’t been on the table as serious options.

On July 6th, 2010, I was sitting in an office at the Sommet Group, in Franklin, TN.  The developers had become aware that layoffs were coming, and most – if not all – of us would be let go.  One of my fellow developers had left for an interview and texted me as he left the building: “At least a dozen FBI are headed into the building!”  I knew in my gut that they were bound for Sommet, though I couldn’t tell you why.  It turns out the our CEO had been embezzling money.  Sommet handled payroll for other small businesses, and we were apparently taking their money and instead of funding payroll taxes, IRAs, medical insurance, FSAs, etc., our CEO was using it to subsidize a failing business unit along with a lavish lifestyle.  So we weren’t just in trouble for our own company’s delinquency, but for dozens of others.  Employees from across those small businesses (including Sommet) were discovering that their retirement, medical insurance and other benefits weren’t actually being funded, though the money was being withheld from their checks.

So.  FBI *and* IRS agents raided our office that Tuesday.  They were very nice, but it was a serious situation.  I literally left my post-raid interview with the FBI and headed straight to a job interview at a consulting company in Nashville – talk about context switching!  Thank God my good friend Garry Kean was in town – I was able to talk to him at Starbucks for a few minutes prior to my job interview.

The ensuing job search was rough.  Sommet didn’t pay us the last two paychecks, and despite recruiters promising “Sure, there are plenty of senior level jobs in Nashville”, none materialized.  I secured some side work that would help keep us afloat, but it wasn’t much.  At the end of July, at the recommendation of my good friend and former Sommet co-worker, Alex, I interviewed with a company in Chattanooga, TN.  They offered me right in the range I needed – and they were the only offer I’d had since Sommet collapsed, so we were Chattanooga-bound.

chattanooga

It’s been interesting.  Chattanooga is a good city overall – lots of interesting things to do, great restaurants and it’s small.  We love living on Signal Mountain, and I work with some very good people.  I would never have considered the job here if Alex hadn’t recommended I interview – and getting the chance to continue working with him has truly been one of the most rewarding things about the new job. 

But I’m also not going to lie – it’s been a tough year.  Our first six months was overshadowed by an awful rental house.  My second full month on the job saw my team working loads of overtime, so I was practically gone the whole month.  If we haven’t been travelling, we’ve been sick, vice versa, and sometimes both.  Making friends has been a challenge as well.  We’re still looking for a church (thought we’d found a good one, but alas no).  Steph has met more people than I have.  I’m extremely thankful for friends like Jon – though he lives in Nashville, we’ve stayed in regular contact and have managed some visits as well, and Alan.  You don’t replace the network of family and friends that was built across 15 years very easily, if at all.

SignalSnow

I’m thankful for a good job – and one that continually challenges me to step up in my skills.  There’s still the interesting dynamic, though, of working alongside people who wanted to move to Chattanooga and plan to retire here, whereas I would’ve never considered it outside the events of last summer.  In the words of Gomez, “I’m just as lost as you are” – especially when it comes to what lies ahead.  It’s been tough having to lay aside so many things I love – writing and recording, camping, and others.  I don’t see an end to the white water just yet, but I still have the paddle in a firm grip….

At a Loss…

I’ve been quiet recently, as my thoughts have been tangled up in some of the ‘proverbial’ big questions of life and its inevitable hardships.

I’ve often puzzled at the spoken and unspoken attitudes about suffering which I’ve encountered in many evangelical church settings.  You’d think that we’re all destined for “upward and onward” in life – as if things would always get progressively better and brighter.  I don’t buy it – it simply doesn’t fit with real human experience (not to mention Biblical teaching).  There’s an underlying impression from so many in those circles that hardship must be because you’re not doing something right or often enough, or there’s a secret sin in your life.  To which I can only respond by saying “read the book of Job”.  Guess what?  Life sucks sometimes, and for no obvious reason.

Relationships are powerful.  The things that you say and do – they hold tremendous power.  We all have moments that our brains seem all too willing to replay – a ‘pivotal’ moment in life where nothing was ever the same afterwards.  A book I’ve been reading recently has the dubious honor of bringing to mind one of those moments from years ago – one I’ve long preferred to keep buried.  A phone conversation with my father when I was 15, being told “You’re the man of the house, now.”  Forgiveness is also powerful.  It frees you from the trap you’ve set for yourself (no one else is going to fall into it, that’s for sure).  But, as I’ve learned all to well in the last 21 years, forgiveness is only the beginning.  It removes the hooks that would otherwise drag your heart into darkness, but it doesn’t, on its own, rectify things.  By itself, it doesn’t restore what has been stolen; it gives you a fighting chance. Two decades later, I’m still trying to take hold of that fighting chance as best as I can, though I confess that lately it’s been a difficult road.  Broken families are deep wounds, and I’ve apparently struck another vein in the mine of my heart.  But it’s not my own loss that I’ve been pondering only….

A man whom I dearly love, respect and whom I have looked up to as a big brother since I was 12 is suffering from terminal cancer, and has not been given long to live.  While my family and I have found immeasurable comfort in our shared faith, and in the reality of Heaven, we are not spared the grief of loss (however temporary in the grand scheme of things), nor the challenges it brings to my sister (whose husband is the man I’m referring to) and her three children.  I have not wept in years like the night I sat at his bedside and poured my heart out, wanting him to know how loved he is, and to have hope for the new life ahead of him.  I can see the concern in his eyes for his wife and children, and as a father myself, I can empathize.  In the days ahead, they will need me, and I, them.  My nephew is not much younger than I was when my family’s world was turned upside down.

It’s fitting I’ve been reading Kierkegaard lately.  Much like Job, we all want to ask “Why?!” in the midst of suffering – but it’s astonishing how unimportant that question becomes once  redemption arrives.  As Edward Mooney writes, “The reception of a life beyond dust and ashes throws the need for an answer aside."  While I, as Christian, believe in a day of ultimate redemption, I also believe in the tens of thousands of days in between.  We can be a part of those “little redemptions” in other’s lives.  Crying with those who are hurting, giving generously to those who need, teaching those who are unskilled – none of which can happen if we let our own losses paralyze us.  And none of which can happen if we subscribe to the self-help, decorate-my-life-with-my-God-bracelet mindset that denies or avoids real suffering, and hides from the deep questions it provokes in all of us.