Monday, January 6, 2014

It's raining...HARD

I've been very observant the past couple months as I digest my current life situations. I've been watching for God's cues and direction as I adjust to a new job, new routines in a new home, a constantly-changing financial situation, the uncertaintly of whether I'd win the fight for unemployment pay from a former job (I finally won in mid-December), and how my ex-husband being newly-engaged then single again affects our daughter. It's a strange time in my life. There are few constants for this girl who prefers routine. But a major constant is just how faithful our Daddy – Abba Father – is to His children! I will try really hard not to ever write such a long post again, but there's just too much to say right now. Feel free to skip paragraphs. I pray you'll find the nugget that you need, which God gave me the words to write.
One night shortly after I wrote my last post, I was looking over finances and realizing there was no way with my current salary that I could catch up on bills. So I asked my Abba Father to step in as only He can. I'd been looking for a suitable roommate for months with no success because I'm picky: I want a roommate that will be a good influence on my impressionable, asthmatic daughter with no smoking, no swearing, none or minimal drinking, no carousing, etc. It's a tall order in our society but I refuse to waver on these issues. I posted my situation on Facebook, not to ask for sympathy but because I needed the prayers of my brothers and sisters. I asked that, if anyone knew a moral female or family who would accept a roommate with child in tow, to please let me know. That very night, a former coworker answered that she and her family had a bonus room available. Long story short, I and my daughter have been living there about three months as my finances get slightly better with each paycheck. Not only do we have a safe, warm roof over our heads, I get to spend time with the mother, and my daughter gets to play with their children, who are close to her age. The mom is teaching my kiddo to do things I can't teach her, such as how to sew. This family is one of the most giving, caring, laid back families I've ever had the privilege to know! During bedtime prayers with my daughter, we pray that we'll be a blessing to them in return, and we know God placed us in their home for a purpose.
Also during these financially-difficult times, before I lost my apartment, a friend gave me money to use on groceries, household necessities and gasoline. I gratefully accepted the generous gift then the Holy Spirit told me it wasn't all for me. I have a single mom friend who was struggling even more than me and didn't have a friend offering a roof over her head. Though common sense told me to use what I needed now and save the rest for the next grocery shopping trip, the Holy Spirit told me to take this friend grocery shopping for necessities and to fill her gas tank. I shrugged it off at first, but He kept tugging at my spirit, reminding me I had a safety net this friend didn't have. He was also asking if I trusted Him to take care of my needs down the road since the money would be used up. In addition to her extreme financial troubles, my friend has been deeply wounded by an abusive ex-husband and church members who betrayed her. I'm excited to say my obedience to my Father has made an impact on her and has helped rekindle some of her faith because she saw the Church body at work through me! There's no price tag that can be put on that! Important to note: I couldn't have shared with her if my awesome friend hadn't first obeyed the Holy Spirit and shared with me!
In September, I gulped and made the investment to take Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, a 9-week class held at my church by Biblical financial teacher Dave Ramsey. I now have the knowledge and desire to “live like no one else so, later, I can live and give like no one else.” That's how Ramsey encourages participants to be diligent and follow Biblical concepts with money, so they can become debt-free and impact their families, communities and world with their finances. I want more than anything to be an ordinary person who God uses to accomplish extraordinary things, and I believe good stewardship of what God has loaned us is a crucial component to that. My financial situation will take time, discipline and God's help to reverse. But I plug along, grateful for the steep uphill climb rather than the rapidly-downward black hole I was headed into. And I finally laid to rest the internal struggle to faithfully tithe, and to tithe off gross income. I heard a pastor ask his congregation whether they were somewhat grateful for Jesus' brutal death on the cross or totally grateful, as He paid the penalty for their sin. The pastor equated that to tithing gross versus net income. Another pastor reminded me it's better to obey God and live off 90% WITH His blessings than to live off 100% denied His blessings. After all, isn't my soul's eternal home, and the sacrifice of my Savior, worth me giving up a couple specialty coffees to give God what He requires of me, His steward? And by the way, when the Bible first became available to the masses in a language they knew, a steward wasn't just a Biblical word. A steward was someone they'd all heard of. The steward was the trusted caretaker for a lord of the land. None of the property belonged to the steward, it belonged to the lord. That's how we, as Christians, are to be with everything that God has entrusted to us! (That's another gem I learned from Dave Ramsey.) 
I had a conflict with another Christian this fall, and it was a tough time until it was resolved. But God opened my spiritual eyes to see how my perspective needed to change, and I grew in the process. I grew closer to the person and, most importantly, grew a little closer to God! I'm blessed this person was wise enough to realize we needed to resolve the issue. And, I learned that humble pie, which I used to detest having to eat, actually tastes sweet. What I mean is that, when I truly humbled myself and allowed God to change my heart, the peace and joy that flowed from that was sweeter than any pride I could have held onto. It was a really neat lesson to learn.
I have been on this half-crazed quest for years to over-analyze every situation in the attempt to discover my purpose on this earth. The over-thinking has been exhausting. I've had people remind me life is a journey rather than a destination, but in my impatience, I just want to reach the elusive destination of Jen's Purpose. On that island oasis, I wrongly assume life will be perfect. What I'm learning is that I am made more Christ-like through the struggles and how I handle them. Do I turn to God? Do I learn from past mistakes? Do I willingly give up a little more of me so I can be a little more like my Savior? I read something that was spot-on the other day: even if you don't know your purpose on this earth, if you pursue what you're passionate about, you'll find your purpose. Wow. So, if I pursue an authentic and transparent Christian life, even though it's full of stumbles and missteps, as well as successes and overcoming obstacles, I'll find my purpose? If I pursue things God has ingrained in me, such as singing for Him, writing for Him, encouraging people in His name, I'll be living my purpose? If I pursue sound finances so I can adopt a foster child, thereby doing my small part to help an orphan, I'll be living my purpose? If I raise my daughter to know and cherish our Abba Father and the causes that are near and dear to His heart, I'll be fulfilling my purpose? I'm excited just thinking of those things!
My new job is such a blessing! I love the people I work with, and I love the reason for our existence – to encourage people through Christian radio! It is a place I can be the “real me” and be appreciated and encouraged! One coworker told me it's a place I can heal from past betrayals. I am so grateful God saw fit to bless me with that work environment – I'm trying to remain conscious that most Christians aren't so insulated from the “real world” when they go to work. So I get up on rainy Mondays and minor holidays and go to work with a grateful heart.
Contemplative and a perfectionist by nature, I prefer not to be alone because I can get really melancholy when it's just me with my thoughts. Our minds are spiritual battlefields, and mine is littered with the casualties of past failures. I beat myself up over whether a decision two years ago to seek a better job was the wrong one because my finances are in the biggest mess they've ever been in. I beat myself up over whether I should have married my ex-husband. We have our amazing daughter together, but that union has caused so much grief and so many problems. My daughter spends half of each week with her dad, so I was alone a lot when I had my own apartment. Now that I live with this family, I enjoy spending time with them. Their company is a blessing, but I've also let it be an excuse to miss alone time with my Father. I read a book this fall that said, unlike physical appetite, our spiritual appetite often grows after we've been diligent and obedient to feed on God's inspired Word and in prayer. I know from years of sermons that I need to renew my mind through spending time with Him daily, but I struggle with that disciple. Authenticity. It hurts to admit these things because part of me doesn't want to reveal that I'm not Miss Super-Spiritual. But He calls me to be transparent, and I ask for you to hold me accountable on these issues.
Some key people who love me dearly have expressed concern about mentioning struggles on social media. So I talked with a wise woman with a couple decades more experience than me whom I deeply admire. She's extremely busy but I found myself answering her phone call one Saturday night around 10 p.m., and she was asking if I could help her prepare a large quantity of produce she'd received and needed to pass on to a friend in dire need. So, as I shucked dozens of ears of corn in her kitchen, I sought and soaked in her wisdom. She suggested that we can be transparent for the sake of helping others on their faith journeys and still be wise in how we do it. Then she paused, asked the Holy Spirit for guidance, and chose her words carefully and deliberately. My Father instructed her to tell me the key is to wait until we aren't in the heat of the emotion before putting the struggle on social media. That way, we don't type something that tears down a person or God's kingdom, but rather builds people up while still being authentic. I am so grateful God gave her that wisdom just for me, and I hope something I've written tonight is something you needed to hear. If not, stay tuned, because through my circumstances, I pray God will be glorified as He leads me to share how He's intervened and protected me and my precious daughter as we strive to know and serve Him.
I adore gift-giving over the holidays to show how much I appreciate my daughter's teachers, church friends and others. But this year, I bought Christmas cards from the dollar store to express my love. My daughter had so little under the tree and yet, we were both filled with peace! We were creative in showing people we love and appreciate them, and the season was more about showing God's love than anything else. I am grateful for these humbling experiences that put God's priorities in the forefront. During this season of waiting, it's definitely raining. Anyone who knows me well knows I can't stand to literally be rained on (I dislike my hair becoming like glue when the water and hairspray meet and I dislike it taking hours to get dry again.) However, this downpour of difficult circumstances definitely feels like God raining down on me, preparing me to grow so He can harvest from me what will best benefit His kingdom!