to believe in this living


    Several years ago, I was singing for a church banquet and came to the point in my set where I was going to sing “Angel From Montgomery,” my favorite song. I prefaced the song very simply — “I relate to this song more than any song I know” — then I started to sing:

    I am an old woman named after my mother . . .

    Not exactly what I meant, but I kept going. Besides, John Prine wrote the song. He must have felt the same way. Today, I feel like this woman more than any other:

    Wednesday I called the Inn to tell them I would consider coming back to work if they would give me a raise. For me, it was a way for both of us to save face: they got me to come back and I got to come back with some dignity. Ginger and I got home last night a little after seven to find a message from the Inn on the answering machine telling me the owner wouldn’t go for my offer but would I come back anyway. I called back this morning to say, “No, thanks.” I meant what I said and that was that.

    Twenty minutes later, the phone rang again. It was the Inn calling to say the owner had reconsidered and would give me the raise. Please come back. I told them I would think about it. A couple of hours later, I called back again and told them I would be there on Monday. When I went upstairs to check email, I found this note from Gordon who said Blogger had not allowed him to leave it as a comment on “The Next Voice You Hear,” so he sent it straight to me:

    Let me begin by saying that I’m sure you’ve already thought of what I’m about to write. I’m not writing it in the spirit of instruction, but more as an affirmation to something that perhaps is already running through your mind.

    I’d like to suggest that this new development with The Inn is not an all or nothing situation. It’s not a choice between swallowing your pride and your values and going back to work for the devil, or doing the right thing and telling them to go to hell.

    You have now learned something about this place or at least about the owner. You can’t trust him or them (whichever it is). You certainly don’t owe them any more loyalty than they have given you. So perhaps you go back to work for the money, which is an honest reason to work. Many people work in places they don’t like in order to put food on the table. Heck, that’s even a heroic thing to do. I mean, it’s not as though you’re work is hurting children or something like that. You just know that this place cannot be trusted.

    But now you can start looking for something new. Perhaps a new restaurant will become available in a few weeks or months. When you find the new thing that is right for you, you say goodbye to The Inn and hello to the next chapter of your life. You give them whatever notice seems right to you, but you don’t spend any time worrying about how they will get along without you.

    Perhaps this new development is bit of grace in a hard situation. Just enough grace to get you to the next place.

    Enough grace to get to the next place. I like that.

    In the past two weeks, the shake up in my life and schedule has given me a chance to see my life from a new perspective, forcing me to look anew at my job, my passions, my time, and our money. I’ve made it to the gym four times a week – enough for it to feel like part of my regular routine. Ginger and I both have worked hard to pay close attention to every penny we spend, not knowing how long I would be out of work. Thanks to words of encouragement and support from several folks, I’ve seen new possibilities for my writing and my cooking. I even made cold calls at a couple of restaurants where I would like to work that may prove promising later on. Standing up for myself on the salary front is new ground for me as well.

    Though I am going back to the same place, I’m not the same going back and I’m not going back to the same thing, mostly because I have a different sense of myself. This gut check has made me more sure that the two things I love and want most to do in my life are write and cook (and probably in that order). I’ve also learned, as Gordon said, that choosing to return, in part, because I need the money is not a bad thing. I understand the ground rules at the Inn; I also understand there’s a larger world out there.

    The final verse and chorus of “Angel From Montgomery” say

    there’s flies in the kitchen, I can hear ‘em a buzzin’
    and I ain’t done nothin’ since I woke up today
    how the hell can a person go to work every morning
    and come home every evening and have nothing to say?

    make me an angel that flies from Montgomery
    make me a poster of an old rodeo
    just give me one thing I can hold on to
    to believe in this living is just a hard way to go

    What I learned – again – this week is believing in this living doesn’t happen because of a job or a paycheck, but because I don’t let myself believe I have nothing to say. I learned – again — that love and grace are not bound by circumstance. I learned – again – to be thankful that I have choices. I learned – again – that I am rich when it comes to friends and family.

    All of that adds up to enough grace to get to the next place.



    1. Milton,
      A beautiful picture of personal growth in challenging circumstances. Forgive me if I sound like your father, but I’m proud of you…and proud for you.

    2. I couldn’t be happier for you, Milton. You’ve gained so much from this experience. It’s said God always opens a window when a door shuts – this time I think he broke down a wall. You are very blessed.

      Gordon’s words gave me chills. Thank you for sharing them with us.

    3. “Enough grace to get to the next place”. Thanks for sharing his words; they were wise and comforting even to me.

      I am pleased for you on all counts, and happy that you are doing that which you are called to do. No doubt your perspective will be slightly differently; I’m curious to see what words will flow out of your workspace now.

      You are a blessing to me and I’m so happy that you have stepped into your future. Rock on.

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