Seasons, God-incidences, & Moving On

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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

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Free Peace

Reading this verse with new eyes tonight:

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:26, 27 NIV)

1. The Father sends the Holy Spirit.
2. It is through the Holy Spirit that we glean applicable wisdom from the Word.
3. We don’t have worry about remembering EVERYTHING, because the Holy Spirit will remind us when we need it most.
4. So do not fret, but instead be at peace knowing the Holy Spirit has “GOT THIS.”
5. It is Jesus’ peace, not a worldly peace, He is giving us. It lasts as long as we’re willing to receive it, and it is not based on things or circumstances.
6. He does not give His peace to us as the world gives: based on what we’ve done, how hard we’ve worked, what we have, our salary, our degree, our relational status, our family background, our economic history. He gives freely out of His love for us.
7. So don’t allow your heart to be troubled; and do not fear anything… He freely gives us all we need to overcome… He has overcome for us; we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37)!

A few things I’ve been learning in this current season:
1. How to see people the way God sees them
2. How to love the way God loves
3. Because He is a loving God, He is a GIVING God.

Lord, bless us with the resources to be able to give freely the way you give – out of love for your people. Let no need go unfilled. See your church act as your hands and feet as you designed it to. We are willing. Thank you for giving to us so freely without requiring anything from us in return. Thank you that you love everyone regardless of their past mistakes, and you still give freely. Let those who see us see You and Your love.

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A better alternative to “SuperMom”

This articulates perfectly how I feel about the mythical “Supermom”.
I’m not a SuperMom…. I’m a Supernatural Mom!

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Maybe you Need to Read this Today

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This afternoon I had one of those moments – the kind where I feel like a complete failure. Again. Like I messed up in this one very important area, AGAIN. The area I’ve been trying to improve, because it is very important to someone who I love very much, and he is very important to me. (Go ahead, guess who.)

1. The past came back to haunt me. A day I had put in the wrapped box of my past, and chalked up as a success, and therefore thought no more of, until a random circumstance brought it to the forefront of our attention.
2. I started to question my competency. “I know I’m not that stupid or careless,” I told myself, but the facts of that day still stood, staring me in the face in a kind of child-like game of “nah nah ne boo boo”.
3. I started to question, for the umpteenth time, if I take on too much. Good, life-giving things. Serving things. Loving things. Things that energize and impassion me. Things I do for my kids, friends, and family. Wondering if I didn’t say no to enough of those things, even though I thought I did.

Do you see what happened here? John 10:10 and 1 Peter 5:8 say, “The thief comes only to kill, steal, and destroy… Prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone he can devour.” And John 8:44: “He is the author of all lies…”

The devil’s lies were trying to convince me I am something I’m not. A failure, an imposter, a stupid, incapable child who will never get better in this one area.

But he forgot something important – or was counting on me forgetting it: I am a child of the one true King. I’ve been set free from the power of the enemy in my life. When I remember the Father’s perfect love for me, it casts out all fear of failure. Why? Because His grace is sufficient for me, and His power is made perfect in my weakness.
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Cue sigh of relief!

You remember that story of Jesus feeding the 5000? Remember all He was given was 5 loaves of bread and 2 measly little fish. But Jesus, “taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, gave thanks and broke the loaves.”

Jesus did not worry for lack. He didn’t wallow in the problem: that they didn’t have enough food or money to feed such a large crowd. No, instead of dwelling on the problem, He looked up to His loving Father, Jehovah Jireh, God our provider, and gave thanks for what they had.

He broke the loaves anyway. He just went, and did, anyway.

Gosh what a lesson! It doesn’t really matter if I’m not enough – because Jehovah Jireh is ALWAYS enough.

Remember how it ended? Not only did they miraculously feed the 5000, they had 12 basketfuls left over!!!! Our God likes to show Himself strong. We just need to keep our eyes on Him, and off our problem. Our God is not a God of lack. He says to bring our full tithe into the storehouse, and He will pour out so much blessing that we will not have room enough to receive it (Malachi 3:10).

I think the lessons here are these:
1. Just show up with what you have.
2. Give thanks for it, even if it doesn’t seem to be enough.
3. Keep your eyes off the problem, and on His amazing grace.
4. Watch God multiply what you have, just like He did with the fish and loaves.

So, today, if you’re looking at your failures thinking, “I’m just not enough!”, dwell on this instead:
You’re not supposed to be, because He is.

#LoveWell because #LoveWins

She Shares Truth – Psalm 38

My first response to Psalm 38 was a feeling of unease, and a thought that “I can’t relate. This does not apply to me.” David, who wrote most of the Psalms, lived under the curse of the law – the curse that Jesus redeemed us from. All those rules and regulations do not apply to born-again, blood-washed, freed children of God! God no longer punishes me because of His wrath. He no longer punishes us in the physical realm because of what we’ve done.

But then I remembered what season it is… Lent. (There’s the Lenten Lens again!) We are preparing our hearts to once again celebrate the greatest gift we’ve been given: Our redemption: our sins bought and paid for by Jesus Christ, who was himself blameless.

So this does apply to me – because without Jesus’ sacrifice, this is how I’d live. In constant fear of punishment; constant shame, knowing I’m not enough; constant hysterics, worried about performing the right ritual or what terrible thing would befall me; constant discouragement, because I won’t ever be perfect or able to live up to the law.

And that is why the Father set up the law – for us to realize we can’t keep it. WE NEED HIM.

Praise Jesus, whose sacrifice brought us out from under the curse of the law, and into the shelter of righteousness and grace!

1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Romans 8:1 – Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…

For more on the first and second covenant, and righteousness versus the law, click here.
For more on the #SheSharesTruth project, click here

What are you waiting for?

I recently found out about a  community called “She Reads Truth”, which encourages women to read the Word and share how it’s changing them. This is exciting, I thought, right up my alley!
Last week they started an experiment of choosing one chapter of the Bible and She Reads Truth Psalm 130. That chapter was Psalm 130.

What stuck out to me most was Psalm 130:5. It reads, I wait for the Lord , my soul waits, And in His word I do hope.

A few years ago, we were in a transition period.  We were planning and getting ready to buy our first home, but we weren’t in any kind of rush – we were correcting our credit, saving for a down payment, and trying to find  something we liked in the area we wanted.  If you’ve bought a house, you know how it is: having a ‘must have’ list, a ‘want’ list, maybe a ‘do not want’ list. You have requirements, but during your search you end up adjusting and refining those lists based on location,  budget, amenities, etc. At the time, we had flexible landlords and were renting a house for an incredibly affordable monthly rate. We were taking our time because we didn’t have a time limit.

That is, until I became unexpectedly pregnant with our 3rd child.

Now we were in a crunch: we would be hard pressed to fit another baby in this house. So we increased the urgency of our search.

After viewing many properties, we came to one that was a little outside our budget but in a great neighborhood. I remember asking the hubs if he even wanted to walk through this one; the pictures made the layout look a little strange. We figured we might as well – what could it hurt?

We ended up loving the house. It was much bigger than it looked from the outside; there were a lot of nice updates and stylistic details; it had a fenced backyard; there was room to grow. We found ourselves talking about what we could do with the basement space when the kids were middle school age.
Just like my current pregnancy, it was unexpected and surprising in the best way.

Long story short, we chose to put an offer on the house, which was a short sale. If you don’t know what a short sale is, it’s when the bank agrees to sell the house for less than what’s owed on the mortgage.  They do this in an attempt to sell without foreclosing on the property. It’s better for the seller and the bank. However, it can be more stressful for the buyer as they have to wait on approval from not only the seller, but also the bank – and if there are more than one institution involved in the loan (i.e. refinancing through a second bank), it can take even longer. We were told the average time was anywhere between 30-90 days, but it could be longer if there were complications. 

We put an offer in in March. My due date was June 26. Part of the reason we chose this house was because we still needed a few months to save, so we were hoping by the time everything was approved and accepted, we would have all our ducks in a neat little row. We took a risk, because if everything was completed in 30 days, we would not have been ready. But it was a risk we were willing to take. We just prayed over it and had faith it would work out.

It was in this waiting period that I found Psalm 130:5 and posted it on our bedroom wall. I knew that if I fretted about the banks, worried about the seller, agonized over budget and down payment details, I could be blocking whatever blessing(s) God wanted for us.  So every morning I looked at that verse and reminded myself, “my soul waits silently on God ALONE.” My trust was in HIM – not in the bank, or our finances, or even our realtor or loan officer, as awesome as they were. I was placing my faith in Him, and His Word says “they shall not be shamed” (Romans 10:11) and His “Word shall not return void, but accomplish [His] purposes.” (Isaiah 55:11)

As a result, God did these things for us:
1. When we made the original offer, the SELLER’S realtor not only accepted our offer, but suggested we come in lower than asking price. (Who does that?!)
2. We closed on the house June 18. Just enough time to do some painting and move in before my due date.
3. Instead of owing the amount we thought we would at closing, we owed much less. I still don’t understand what happened, except that God worked a little miracle.
4. Because of that, we were able to purchase a much needed larger car (3 kids under 5 = 3 carseats… not really possible in a sedan!)
5. C was actually 5 days past due date, so we had extra time to get settled before she arrived. (By the way, her birth story was another show of God’s strength and faithfulness – for another time of course.)

So… I believe that focusing on waiting on HIM and trusting Him allowed His blessings to pour out and overflow. I bought a key hook fit our entry way that has this verse on it: John 1:16 – “From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.” It perfectly described what God did for us, along with Ephesians 3:20 (I like the Amplified version best! ).

Psalm 130 reminds me that I need forgiveness – but I don’t have to be perfect to receive God’s blessings. All I need to do is wait on Him alone.

So what are YOU waiting on?!?

Thank you to the ladies at #SheReadsTruth for following through with this great experiment!