Thursday, September 12, 2019

Lessons in Trust: My response to disappointments...

After years of almost silence on this blog, God has finally given me the words to start writing again. If you haven't already, please read "A Habit of Trust."  I shared the culmination of these lessons in trust and the testimony of what God has done.

I have so much to share... so many little lessons... and I wasn't sure where to start! So of course I asked the Holy Spirit to show me, and I trust that He is leading me to start here.

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Life throws disappointments at us sometimes, doesn't it? Maybe "sometimes" is understating it, though. We hope that something's going to happen... and it doesn't. And then, when it happens often enough, we lose hope. We just start to assume the worst.

I'm what some people call an incurable optimist. The glass is not always half full, it's half full of something good... even if it's just plain water!

And yet, I have this phrase that I used to say whenever my hopes were dashed. I'd say, "Well that sucks!"  Or maybe sometimes instead I'd say, "That totally stinks!"

This little lesson started during one of the many job huts that one of my kids were doing. Or maybe all of them. My kids are currently 22, 21, and 18, so we've had a lot of job hunts over the last handful of years. They're at the age where they need to be working, but jobs are hard to get because their application looks so much like everybody else's, and they're young. I'm sure some of you can relate!

I don't actually remember which of them was job hunting when God taught me this little (but pivotal) lesson in trust. I just remember how frustrated we were at how many "Now hiring" signs were out there... how many people claimed that their company would hire anybody who was willing to show up to work... yet my responsible, eager-to-work child could submit application after application after application and never get any calls... even from locations that continued to advertise that they needed people!

So in one particular situation, a call for an interview was received, and our hopes rose... only to be dashed when they gave the job to someone else.

"That sucks!" I said emphatically.

Why? said the Holy Spirit.

"I wanted him to get that job!" I responded.

But you prayed that he would get the job IF it would be a good job for him. 

My thoughts and exclamations ground to a halt.

The Holy Spirit continued, Do you trust that I know better than you do about what jobs are good for your children? My children?

"Well of course You know better," I responded.

And do you believe that I am capable of making sure that their next job is the one that they need?

"Of course you are capable. You're God!"

Then why are you saying that My decision on this job sucks?

I was rather speechless as I began to realize that my simple statement of disappointment was rooted in pride rather than trust. Because even though I said I only wanted my kids to get jobs that were good for them...  even though I knew that God could see into the future and knew if a particular job would actually be good for them or not... when it came right down to it, my feelings and reactions showed me that I actually thought I knew better.

Think about it.

There had been two possibilities. 1) A job offer. 2) No job offer and the job search would continue.

I asked God for option 1 only if the job would be good for my child.

God chose option 2.

I then said that option 2 - God's choice - sucked.

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I didn't learn that lesson the first time. I had been in such a habit of saying that things "sucked" (forgive me if you find that vulgar), that as the job searches continued for different children, the Holy Spirit had to continue to stop me, right when the words were on the tip of my tongue. He's applied the lesson in other areas of my life as well, as other disappointments have arise. He still has to stop me sometimes.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that His simple challenge required me to think more deeply about how powerful I really believe He is. How much I really think He is in control.

Was the lack of job offer His decision? Or was it merely because a hiring manager was unable to see my child's potential? Or was it because my child had said something wrong in the interview? Or was there merely someone else better qualified?

How much do we really control our own destiny? How much do my kids control their own destinies? That's part of the question too, isn't it?

Most if not all of us believe that we do have the freedom to make personal choices. We can choose not to prepare for an interview and then mess it up more than we would have if we had prepared. That hiring manager can choose which person to give the job to.  She could even choose to give the job to her friend's daughter instead of the most qualified applicant. Right?

But if we look in the Bible, we see that God has a way of orchestrating circumstances so that His will is accomplished. Look at Joseph's story. God determined early on in his life that he would be over his brothers, and for whatever reason, God chose to tell him this through a dream. Joseph then screwed up and his pride angered his brothers. His brothers then screwed up and sold him into slavery. Joseph wound up the servant of an unscrupulous woman who manipulated circumstances so he was thrown into prison.

And yet, what God had decided was eventually still accomplished. Not only was it accomplished, but Joseph was prepared for the task God had for him along the way.

Might it have been accomplished more smoothly and less painfully for Joseph if he hadn't bragged to his brothers? Yes... but that's an alternate timeline we'll never know. Would it have been a "better" timeline? That is a question that tests our trust as well, for how could we possibly see into the future to know what is better in the long run and what is not? Very often, life's struggles and disappointments and trials are what make us better, stronger, more innovated, more wise, etc.

How about David's story? God had Samuel anoint him as king of Israel. Somewhere along the line, Saul found out, according to 1 Samuel 23:17. Saul didn't like it, and he did everything in his power to kill David.  But what God had decided would happen could not be stopped.

Isaiah 55:10-11 is where God states emphatically that this is so:
“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth and make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it."
It's like the Mississippi river. This map shows the many twists and turns that it has taken over the centuries as various things affected it and tried to stop it here or there. And yet, it still carries water from my little town in Central Ohio, all the way down hundreds and hundreds of miles until that water reaches the Gulf of Mexico.

So when I'm thinking about these disappointments in the job hunt, the questions I must ask myself are these.

Do I believe that God is capable of giving my kids favor when they interview for the job that He knows they need, so that the hiring manager overlooks any mistakes they make in the interview and sees that they are hardworking and quick learners?

Yes, I do. I believe He is powerful enough to do that.

Am I willing to trust that God really does know what is best for them? Even if it means an extended job hunt? Even if it means a job with challenges that tempt my kids to say that their job sucks?

Yes, I am, for I know that a young person getting an easy, good-paying job can actually be quite bad for them in the long run. I have no way of knowing how every single possible job out there, with its working environment, current and future bosses, commute, coworkers, job duties, and every other factor will affect my kids. I don't want them to get a good-paying job that sounds good but that turns out to be with a boss who will tear them down emotionally. Nor do I want them to get a job with a boss who overlooks so much and would go so easy on them that they'd lose their good work ethic. Nor do I want... well, you see that the list of potential reasons that could make a job "good" or "bad" is far too long and involved for anyone to really know the sum total in advance.

But God knows it all. He not only knows every day of the future in any potential job, He also knows exactly how my child would respond to each challenge that would arise in that job. He knows how they would grow and change in that job position. He knows what skills they would learn and the future those skills would prepare them for.

And He loves them even more than I do. And I gave them back to Him before they were born.

And so I chose to trust Him and change my response. I encouraged my kids to ask God to lead them, and when each new job application was turned down, I chose to respond with, "That must not be the right job for you. Thank You, Father, that You are in control and that You love my kids and know what is best." And when the only job my daughter could get paid less than minimum wage, I responded with, "Well, there must be something else about this job that will make it good for you, other than the money."

And as my response changed, my peace increased.

Months have passed, and I can see God's hand in the jobs that each of them have... and that is another lesson that I will soon share.

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Are you struggling to deal with disappointments in your life? Are you struggling with frustration and turmoil in your soul over it?  I encourage you to trust the One who knows what is truly good and what isn't anywhere near as good as it looks. I encourage you to trust that He knows how the challenge you are facing will shape you and strengthen you and teach You to trust Him and receive strength from Him. The lesson holds true even for big disappointments and painful things, for learning to trust Him with the most painful struggles in my life has taught me beautiful and powerful things that are well worth the pain I went through.

He does know what we need, and His sufficiency is always there. And the more we trust, the more we position ourselves to receive His sufficiency.

For I know the thoughts and plans 
I have for you declares the Lord. 
Plans for welfare and not for calamity, 
to give you a future and a hope. 
- Jer 29:11

Monday, September 09, 2019

A habit of trust...

I haven't shared too much in the last two years compared to years ago. It's been a long season of learning to trust, deeper and deeper and deeper, as God has walked my family through all sorts of things. He's been working in me, but so much of it has been either intensely personal or so gradual that I haven't had words to share.

Until now!

Back in 2002, I wrote a part of my story which is shared on this blog, called "My Ultimate Makeover." It was the culmination of years of revelation and years of growth that God had walked me through.

I'm now looking back over the years since, and I feel like another round of seasons has culminated. A curtain has been drawn back, and I can see what He's been doing... not only over the last two years, but over the last decade and longer.

I'm going to start 6 months ago though, and this will be only the first of many posts.

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Back in March of this year, my husband and I both came down with a cold. It was an odd cold with atypical symptoms but not a particularly bad one. It made us sneeze a lot though... and one day that my husband clearly remembers, he sneezed really hard... and felt a stabbing and excruciating pain in his side. He doubled over and sneezed again, and he waited for the pain to subside. It did, and he pushed through the day.

In the days that followed, he recovered from the cold but started to feel worse in other ways that were hard for him to describe.

In the months that followed, his health continued a gradual decline with a few occasional ups... which typically coincided with doctor visits as so often the doctors couldn't find much. Blood tests showed nothing wrong. An x-ray showed nothing. A CT scan showed infection in his bladder lining in May so they treated that, but there was still nothing to explain his growing weakness and the continuous, overall abdominal pain and sickness.

He and I, however, eventually came to the realization that something was seriously wrong, and we privately started to face the fact that the doctors might not find it in time to save him. We even began thinking about how the kids and I would make it if we lost him. No, he wasn't at death's door, but there are plenty of stories of people with conditions that the doctors didn't find it until it was too late to do early and successful intervention. And yes, he was prayed for many times, and I believe those prayers were carrying him, as you'll see.

In the first week of August, his abdominal pain got so extreme and intense that he went to the ER. He could barely stand up from the pain and weakness... and still they couldn't find anything. They sent him home with only a laxative, which we knew was not the problem.

The next day, the pain got even worse, so back we went. A doctor said it was appendicitis and scheduled him for surgery the next morning. We spent the night wondering if it was possible that appendicitis had been the problem all this time. We even asked the doctor about it, but the doctor was doubtful. He said the current pain was appendicitis, but it couldn't cause the other problems. His appendix was only slightly enlarged.

But the next morning, in surgery, is where the surgeon finally found the cause of his months of sickness.

His appendix had been ruptured... for months.  The doctors were actually hesitant to say how long it had been ruptured, for there have been very, very few cases of someone living for extended periods of time with a ruptured appendix. But his body had walled it off, doing its best to spare the rest of his abdomen from the poison and toxins and infection that were trying to kill him. We are confident that it had ruptured in March... he knows what he felt when he sneezed those two times, and I saw how his health started declining from that point on.  No wonder he felt so awful all the time!  No wonder he felt that he was dying! He was living with a condition that usually kills people without emergency treatment!

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So what about me? (Since what God's done in him is his story. And yes, he is now feeling better than he has all year!)

As those months were going by, and I was powerless to help my husband, I trusted the One who knew. The trust He had worked in me carried me so securely by then that it almost seems like a dream... and not even a bad one!  Just something that happened.  Relying on God and receiving the peace that He supplies had become so natural to me that I was singing in the hospital... simply because the song He'd placed in my heart kept overflowing.

This is the song I sang in the ER, and as I sat beside my husband while he slept in the days that followed. There's just something about those words, "When I'm broken and undone, Your mercy's just begun" that overwhelm me!

And when he finally came home and a week later was finally regaining enough strength to go back to work, I looked back over this year and the last few years and the last decade. The Katie that went through this year is not the Katie that existed 10 years ago.

How had I never once worried about his health? How had I faced the possibility of losing him with no fear? And that's when I realized.

Trust has become a habit.

It has become something that permeates every part of my life. Ten years ago I thought I trusted Him... but the One who knows the End from the Beginning saw just how many areas of my life I was self-sufficient and actually relying on myself or others. And so He kept working, and working and working, bit by bit, teaching me so many small but vital lessons in trust!

It was because trusting Him has become a habit that I was able to face the possibility of losing my husband without fear.  It was because of those years of lessons that He enabled me to watch my husband's life dwindling without losing my peace. His peace.

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These are the lessons that I want to start sharing.

If you want to follow along, just follow my Hope Is Calling Facebook page, or you can subscribe via email. (Make sure you confirm when they send you the email verification.)

To the One who is Faithful and True 
and able to do above and beyond all we can ask or think 
be all the praise and glory forever and ever 
and in my life...

Saturday, January 19, 2019

If you're feeling lost...

For anyone wondering where you're going...
For anyone feeling like your mistakes might have messed up God's plan for your life...
For anyone worrying about what your future holds...
For anyone feeling lost because of what your future seems to have lost...
For anyone wishing they could look into their future with eagerness...
Here is the story behind this song I found yesterday. If you listen, you will hear God talking to YOU. 
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Shadow Step
Hillsong UNITED

Light up the way of Your heart

Move me like You do the mountains
Move me like You do the wind
And I'll chase Your voice through the dark
Fix my eyes on the unexpected
In the wonder of Your shadow step
So take another step
You met me at the sinners table
I found You waiting by the well, unexpected
You are always there
Tracing all my steps
Light up the way of Your heart
Move me like You do the mountains
Move me like You do the wind
And I'll chase Your voice through the dark
Fix my eyes on the unexpected
In the wonder of Your shadow step
So take another step
You never left the lost forsaken
Your mercy paves the road ahead, unexpected
You are always good
You are always good

Light up the way of Your heart
Move me like You do the mountains
Move me like You do the wind
And I'll chase Your voice through the dark
Fix my eyes on the unexpected
In the wonder of Your shadow step
And I won't be afraid
In every way, You never fail
So have Your way, here God
And I'll sing Your praise
Fix my heart to Yours
Ready for the unexpected
Ready for what You will do next
I can't explain Your heart
Or dare to trace-out all You are
But when I think about the road You took for love
I know Your grace will stay the path
Light up the way of Your heart
Move me like You do the mountains
Move me like You do the wind
And I'll chase Your voice through the dark
Fix my eyes on the unexpected
In the wonder of Your shadow step
And I won't be afraid
In every way, You never fail
So have Your way, here God
And I'll sing Your praise
Fix my heart to Yours
Ready for the unexpected
Ready for what You will do next
So take another step

Friday, January 11, 2019

So loved...

Last year was quite a year for me. I learned to trust God in new ways that were at times very challenging. I didn't write much here because much of what God showed me in my struggles was private and not something to be shared online. And when I tried to find more general words, none really came.

Another part of last year was starting a college adventure. But first some background and context.

I got married right after high school and had kids soon after, so I never went to college... even though my parents and almost every one of my aunts and uncles and grandparents did. I had a lot of pressure to go to college because I was considered to be a very smart and bright student... but I had no idea what I would go to college for. So it was almost a relief to fall in love and get married instead. People quit asking me what I was going to go to college for. I'm sure I disappointed a lot of people, but they hid it well and my marvelous family supported me.

But now my kids are almost grown. I've been in the workforce for 10 years now and worked my way up to senior management. I learned what Human Resource Management was, and I discovered a passion for what it is supposed to be... being an advocate for the workers in a company... helping upper management make their company a good place for the workers.  That's not what many people think HR is, but that's what it is supposed to be, and I have become extremely passionate about it over the last 10 years of being in the workforce.

So a little over a year ago I discovered a desire to go to college for business management... to see what things I didn't know that would help me, and to get a degree to validate and compliment everything I've learned in the workforce and in life. I knew that whether or not I could do it depended on two main things:
1. Money
2. Time

It's hard to say which is the bigger challenge. Our finances require that I still continue to work 40 hours per week, and I don't want to give up the volunteering and singing that I do. Thus, where would either the time or the money come from?

So I filled out my FAFSA and a few college applications, since that is the only way to find out how much it would actually cost. And I started really praying that God would lead me... take the desire away if it was not from Him and not in His plan for me, or open doors and lead me if it was.

I was flabbergasted to find out that I qualified for reduced pricing on classes, due to my age. My kids didn't qualify because of our income, but I did.  I had to get transcripts from high school, 24 years ago, and I had to take tests to see if I was college ready. Turns out all the tutoring I'd done for my kids as they went through high school worked quite well as college-prep, and I easily passed all the college-ready tests.

So last year I took my first college classes at the local community college. I aced them and realized that the traditional college setup is difficult for working adults. You spend a LOT of time reading and listening to lectures about things you already know, but you have to do it because it's part of the class... and you don't have as much available time as a full-time college student because you're already working a 40-hour job and have a family.  Then WGU announced it had partnered with the Ohio Department of Education, and I realized that here was a way that I could get a bachelor's instead of an associates, in this field that I've become passionate about, and it wouldn't cost any more than an associates at the local college would cost. And more importantly, it's set up for working adults to prove what they already know and save time, and focus on what they don't know, so they can get a degree within the life they already live. It looked like it would fit my life and what I wanted... but I kept praying, Lord, lead me. I don't want to step out of Your will, because You're going to have to continue providing both the time and grace and the money.

So all of last year was this process and journey, and I was supposed to start at WGU January 1st. But there was a delay in getting my transcripts transferred, and my start date got pushed back to February 1st. I was partly sad but partly relieved to have another month "off" because I was feeling stressed due to a lot of private family issues going on. That stress led me to back to prayer... stress has caused major health problems for me in the past, and I didn't want to wind up there again. So two weeks ago when the date got delayed, I prayed in my journal:
Lord, please be patient with me and give me confirmation in these next 3 weeks if I really am supposed to start this degree. 
I meant... like... Him just speaking to me. Showing me in any one of the millions of ways that He speaks to me, that I was still on the path that He had for me.

But yesterday, I got this:
A $2,000 scholarship to WGU.

I'd filled out the massive application for the principle of the thing. I'd told my kids to fill out scholarship applications because you just never know. No matter how long the odds are, you never know because it is in God's hands. So I filled it out and wrote all the essay answers.  I'll be one of 55,000 students. I'm not sure how many new students had applied, but the odds were definitely long.  And yet... they picked me.

I have laughed and cried so many times since this arrived in my email inbox. It's not even the money that has me so overwhelmed. I was going to edit an extra handful of reports on a regular basis to pay that $1000/year. I felt a little bit intimidated by adding that to my life AND adding the school work, but I could do it. I thought. (But wasn't sure, hence my prayer two weeks ago.)

Now I don't have to do both. Here I am, about to start a new semester at a new school, and my entire out-of-pocket cost for this semester I'm about to start will be $65. Total. E-text books are included so that's not even added.

I feel like I did when He went car shopping for me, picked out a car in amazing condition with everything I wanted that was $2,000 below average prices, arranged everything so it was the lowest-stress car purchase imaginable... and then He made the dealer voluntarily take $500 more off after they'd already received my purchase agreement at the higher price.

God is just SO faithful, and SO patient, and SO kind, and SO good, even despite my busy-ness and my doubt and my struggles this past year and all the tears I've wept out to Him...

Living with Jesus does not mean life will be easy. Far from it. But it means He is always there, and there is always comfort in the sadness and hope in the midst of dark circumstances and peace in the midst of turmoil, and it means He is always bringing me to deeper and deeper levels of trust, and then proving Himself faithful to the trust I have in Him in ways beyond my wildest dreams.

Friday, January 04, 2019

If you struggle with anxiety or depression...

Passion 2019 just finished. I might be 20 years "too old," but I love Passion.

Anyone who is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts or anxiety (regardless of your age), Session 1 had a message for you.

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion