“Doing a New Thing”

A few months ago, in my mom’s bible study group, we began reading and studying Lysa TerKeurst’s “The Best Yes”. I was so excited about this book, because with 3 young kids you learn quickly that unless you want to literally go insane, you cannot possibly say YES to all the things you WANT to say yes to. You have to have priorities and limits and schedules. But I for one have had issues in saying “no.”

Sometimes it’s because I want to look good.
Sometimes it’s because it’s an activity or event I feel strongly about.
Sometimes I just don’t want to be left out.
Most times I just want to help.

Long story short, this book helped eliminate any guilt I had in giving “no” answers when necessary, and how to find and pursue God’s “Best Yes” for my life. Well there I was going along and thinking to myself, “Finally I am getting in a groove where I feel like I’m managing everything really well.”

Well of course as soon as you think something like that, something’s bound to change.

A friend approached me about a small, part-time, paid position at my church. My initial reaction was, “As much as I’d love to, I’m being really careful about taking on too many new things right now.”

And then I began the interview process.

I watched a series of training videos that explained the roles of this particular position.

And I felt really strongly that God had been preparing me for this for a long time.

So, I continued through the interview process and I have to tell you: God gets all the glory for this. I don’t think I could’ve done it of my own accord at all. You know there’s a verse that says God goes before us and behind us (Isaiah 52:12)? Well he definitely proved that verse true. Why don’t I think I ‘earned’ this position of my own merit, you ask?

I was asked to tell of a time when I felt like things were really tough and I wanted to quit.

Do you know that I answered that actual, grown-up, real job interview question by talking about learning to ride my bike as a child? Yes, instead of using a real-life, grown-up situation where I felt discouraged and wanted to quit, I talked about learning to ride a bike. And trust me, there have been plenty of those times when working in the restaurant industry. Or being a mom. Or a wife. Or cleaning my house! But I decided learning to ride my bike was the best answer.

Maybe it doesn’t seem so outrageous written like that. But I left that part of the interview feeling like I had blown it for sure.

The devil will play funny tricks with your thoughts if you let him.

When my friend approached me and recommended me for this position, she said “I would love to see God surprise you.” And that He has!

There are several prayers that I’ve prayed over the past 5+ years that I knew would take time. They’re the kind of prayers that take time just by the nature of the request. For example, for me to have close, Godly Christian mommy friends who I can DO LIFE WITH. Relationships don’t pop up overnight. So I prayed, trusted that God would answer when the time was right, kept an expectant attitude always searching to see who around me could be that next Christian mommy friend, and waited. I kind of put that prayer, along with several others, up on the shelf for awhile.

And in this ONE thing, He has not only pulled those prayers off the shelf, but surpassed my expectations of what He ever would have done! Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…” Exceedingly abundantly. Yes, He did do exceedingly, abundantly above and beyond all that I could have ever thought to ask for on my own.

And not only that – because answering one heartfelt prayer is enough in itself – but He also answered several of those prayers in this ONE thing. And even some things that I don’t even remember specifically praying for. They were just quiet, aching desires of my heart. And God knows my heart. How thankful I am that He takes the time to know my heart! Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

At the same time, He has shown me a completely separate opportunity that is flourishing and solves a scheduling issue I knew would have to be dealt with in the next few years. Working nights at a restaurant has been perfect for me and my family up until this year when A went to full day school, and started dancing with her dance company two nights a week. This means I was only home 2 nights a week. That’s rough. I realized this situation would not work for much longer. I want to be home with my kids at night. Be able to attend their activities. Help them with homework. Read and pray every night before bed. Our current schedules and commitments wouldn’t allow that. But God has dropped an opportunity in my lap that I can’t deny will solve this problem before it becomes a bigger one.

Isaiah 43:19 says, “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

In Joshua 1:3 God promises He will give us “every place where you set your foot…”

There was a season of life (not so very long ago) in which I felt I wanted to do more to help others and advance God’s kingdom. But that particular season of life didn’t allow that to look the way I thought it should. So I just did my best to “bloom where I was planted” as they say, taking delight in the Lord whenever and wherever possible.

Now check out this verse from 2 Chronicles 20: “…Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf…”

The Lord our God hears our prayers. Even when it looks like nothing is happening, there is always something going on in the spiritual realm. Stand firm and hold your position. Watch for what God is going to do. He will exceed your expectations in a way that, all at once, makes you feel unworthy, grateful, blessed, and so thankful that He cares about YOU. His love, grace, and blessings are overwhelming.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. – John 15:16


Autumn Reflections

"For out of the fullness of his grace we have all received blessing upon blessing, favor upon favor, and grace upon grace." - John 1:16

“For out of the fullness of his grace we have all received blessing upon blessing, favor upon favor, and grace upon grace.” – John 1:16

A week or two ago, I was driving down a road in our neighborhood thinking how beautiful it was. You know, when the leaves on the trees form a colorful canopy over the street. Most of the leaves become a bright shade of yellow, red, orange, or a deep purple. Have you noticed, though, that not all the leaves change? Sometimes one side of the tree has leaves of bright colors, while the other side remains green. Often, the ones that get the best direct sunlight change colors, while the ones that remain in shadow stay a light green.

Distant trees in fall foliage. Acadia National Park, Maine, USA.

The trees look so FULL, and the branches so heavy, that it does seem natural for those leaves to fall off. Necessary, even.

Because this season is when the trees have grown to their greatest potential, and there’s no room left for anything else. Nothing new can grow. The branches droop with the fullness of growth.

So, the leaves fall, cascading onto the road and surrounding yards, turning brown and leaving the tree branches bare and lonely. And in Winter, the branches return to their upright position: tall and straight, reaching for whatever warmth the sun can reign down on them.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines... yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Habakkuk 3:17-18

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines… yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” – Habakkuk 3:17-18

Isn’t it interesting that during the time they have the least warmth from the air around them, the branches are still reaching for the sun, trusting that it is there, knowing they need to store up the nutrients it supplies for the next season?

And after Winter gives in to Spring, new leaves appear. New, fresh leaves that have not yet been on this earth.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" - 2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Maybe we are like the trees, and our lives are like these seasons. God grows us and grows us, changing us as he shines his light into our life. The places we allow him to see and reign down upon change from a flat, consistent plateau to the new, bright, exciting color of the fullness of life. He grows us until we can’t fathom or hold anything else, and then he strips us of whatever we are too full of, making room for new growth. And if we continue to reach for him during those cold, bare seasons, then he births and brings forth something in us that we’ve never experienced before: new life.

Isn’t it interesting that the position of praise is raising one’s arms high, reaching for the heavens, just like the trees’ branches reaching for the sun?

Those winter seasons in our life, while usually the most difficult, are when we draw closest to the warmth of our Father. And when we come around the corner into Spring, we not only have room in our hearts to receive more of his grace, goodness, and blessings, but we are also prepared with strong tall branches to support new growth.

"So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow." - 1 Corinthians 3:7

“So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”                    – 1 Corinthians 3:7

Disclosure: None of the images above belong to me.

Seasons, God-incidences, & Moving On

ecc 3

One thing that has become blazingly clear to me these past several years is that God wasn’t kidding when He spoke of seasons; just look at the beginning of Ecclesiastes 3:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Sometimes I know what season I’m in while I’m in it; seasons of tragedy, for example, are obvious. Sometimes I can’t really tell until I look back on it. My seasons are not defined by the calendar, or the changing of the weather. My seasons are defined by what’s going on in my life and what God is teaching, as long as I’m open to hearing it. Because of that, I’m probably the only one who can define my seasons most of the time. There aren’t always marked physical changes apparent to onlookers.

I just began a new season, and this one is marked by a big outward change: a new job.

The restaurant I was coming from was a fantastic place for me for a long time. October would’ve marked 6 years there. Here are examples of things that made it work for me:
– Close to Home
– Accommodating of my schedule (and especially flexible with my kids and the three pregnancies I had while there)
– Seniority (though I hesitate to call it that) I’d earned through what I viewed as consistent and reliable good work
– Coworkers who became my 2nd family
– Food, beer and a concept that I really did enjoy and believe in
– Income; more of it than if I’d stayed at my former office job

Slowly but surely though, it became obvious that there were things that were no longer working for me. At the very least, there had been a nagging realization that this job would no longer work for me in 3-4 years when all my kids would be in school. I knew I would rather work while they were in school, instead of at dinner time 3 times a week, knowing I’d miss extra-curriculars, homework help, and that all important ’round the dinner table’ discussion. I wasn’t sure exactly how I would transition out of this into something else. I figured if all else failed I’d go work at one of the popular, busy breakfast restaurants in the area.

And then things started to happen. A few things that seemed at first unrelated. I found myself increasingly unhappy when arriving at work. Like, the angry, frustrated, continually disappointed, can’t-shake-it-no-matter-how-hard-you-try unhappy. Proverbs 15:15 says it well: All the days of the desponding and afflicted are made evil [by anxious thoughts and forebodings], but he who has a glad heart has a continual feast [regardless of circumstances]. I consider myself to usually be the one at the end of that verse there, with the glad heart and the continual feast regardless of circumstances. So I knew something had to change when I suddenly was relating more to the despondent and afflicted. My actions were certainly on the verge of becoming evil and my attitude was already borderline.

And then there was THE thing. The ‘last straw’ thing. The thing which I knew before I walked in the door after my shift that my hubby and I would hash out. The thing that I knew was finally the turning point, that even I couldn’t make excuses for anymore. So the hubs and I had the (surprisingly brief) talk, and we were in agreement that I needed to start looking for employment elsewhere. He didn’t really care where, but I wasn’t satisfied applying at a middle of the road chain restaurant. No, if I was going somewhere, I was going to make it count. I started racking my brain thinking of places that weren’t terribly far from home that fit my criteria. And I started thinking of people I know in the industry, and where I could possibly get a leg up in the hiring process.

It was one of those light bulb moments. I messaged a former coworker through Facebook and he confirmed that they were hiring. Perfect! He said to apply the next day, and that he’d let his managers know I was coming. (You know what that means: prepare to be interviewed, just in case.) I was feeling nervous, but knew it had to be done.

Minutes later, I got a text from my current manager. The ‘THING’ that was the tipping point ended up not being any ‘thing’ at all. Nope, it was actually just an arrangement that both of us forgot about, which made it SEEM like a ‘thing’. Instead of causing me hesitation, this actually reinforced the fact that the decision to move on was the right one. The timing was just too perfect: God-incidence #1. I believe it was God just kind of stirring up the pot enough that I couldn’t deny that He was calling me to something else. “Time to go!”

It reminds me of a book I read to my kids at bedtime. “It’s time to sleep, it’s time to sleep, the fishes croon in waters deep…” I always read it in a hushed voice, because the pictures and the content call for it. God was speaking in a hushed voice, but He used really loud circumstances to assure me it was the right step.

So I went in and applied, and before I left I took two out of the three required interviews – one of which happened to be with the staff manager – with whom I graduated high school! The manager who had been there for over 5 years, but immediately after I was hired, quit. God-incidence #2. He was there just long enough for me to be hired. What if I had hesitated? What if I decided that since the ‘thing’ wasn’t actually a ‘THING’, I didn’t need to seek out other employment? What if there had never been a discrepancy with the whole ‘thing’?!?

I remember on my last regular shift I was walking through my section, and thinking, “Take a minute. This is the last time you’ll ever bus a table here.” You know, let the gravity of it sink in a bit. I’m kind of a sucker for sentiment. I tried to be sad, I really did. But I just wasn’t. I had been hard-core training at the new restaurant and I was just plain excited (albeit a bit overwhelmed) about moving onto the next season. I was filled with the peace described in Philippians 4:7 that surpassed all understanding and guarded my heart and mind from any regret or hesitation. God-incidence #3 right there. Because if it had been the wrong decision, I would’ve been conflicted. I would’ve been upset and unsure and unable to focus on the new job (which would have been fatal, because I’m telling you it was INTENSE).

One of the biggest roadblocks to me applying anywhere else these past few years has been the reluctance to leave my comfort zone, expertise, and seniority behind, exchanging it for the unknown, which would certainly require effort and inevitably, starting over from the bottom. God-incidence #4: the training program in this place is designed such that trainees are keenly aware if this will be a bad fit pretty immediately. (Apparently there’s a lot of quitting that happens before even finishing the training.) But the other side of that is the ones that DO excel are recognized. All I can tell you is I had flash cards up the wazoo and a writer’s cramp that would rival that of any professional (writer, or student, or whoever is old fashioned like me and likes pen and paper over a screen any day). I was pretty mentally and emotionally exhausted by the end of my training. I had a bit of a freak out that I was going to fail the final and be inexorably banished from ever working there, ever again.

But of course it was fine. The only question I missed on the 50 question final was one that was not taught to me. God-confirmation #5. Hooray!

And then, though I still think I’m perfecting my footing here, the managers have made it quite clear that I’m doing a great job and they appreciate all I do. This was more than a breath of fresh air. All I’ve been doing is what I’ve always done – my job, to the very best of my ability. It’s strange – in a good way – to be so frankly thanked and appreciated. And you know what? It makes me want to earn my stripes (ha! see what I did there?!) even more.

Every decision requires some trust. I trust that God was actually and literally ordering my steps. It still requires trust, every time I make a mistake and have to humbly apologize or ask a manager to fix something. But you know what they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. (Or, the biblical version: Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? – Isaiah 66:8.)

I’m excited about the new season that’s being ushered in: new job, older kids (this year A&B will BOTH be in school!), and hopefully a whole lot of fun, new adventures that I can’t even predict yet. You can bet I’ll be sharing them here – and all the meals that get us through them 🙂

A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps. – Proverbs 16:9
The steps of a good man are ordered by the LordAnd He delights in his way. – Psalm 37:23
Direct my steps by Your word, And let no iniquity have dominion over me. – Psalm 119:133

psalm 37 23-4