Today marks six months since I started working at my church. In that time, the nice and tidy little shoebox of my life has been unlidded, dumped onto the floor, and sorted out in an entirely new way.
When I started working, I envisioned that my new job would just fold neatly into my already-established life and routine. I thought it would be just an addition to my world, with the added bonus of a paycheck. Yippee! Oh, how I laugh at that thought now.
I started working, and everything in my life came to a halt. Things started immediately unraveling around me (computer crashing, kids’ illnesses, email hacked, food poisoning, Dan’s work load doubled) and then there were the other circumstances of life: Jackson had to start at a new school. Special events at church: a party called Blastoff, this little church event called Easter, then Child Dedication classes and the year culminated in our church’s baptism celebration. And then I added in a few other chaotic events (I planned my high school reunion and traveled to Georgia, then traveled to Florida for a separate trip, and there was this ill-timed big project I plopped on myself by having 2,000 of my mom’s old photos scanned).
I knew life was unraveling so it could be re-woven from the ground up. I knew I needed a new perspective if I was going to be successful at this job – and especially if I was going to fully allow God to direct my life.
God used all these events to mold me (and He still continues to mold me) and to help me learn obedience. There’s a reason I haven’t had a chance to blog about all the changes in my life these last six months. If I had written about it in the first or second month, there would have been lots of tearful words and confusion. That was the stage where I considered quitting the job. But in my rational moments, I knew I wanted (and needed!) it. I had enough perspective to know the job wasn’t the problem; it was the new routine that made me struggle.
I spent so much time treading water and protecting my boundaries those first few months. I said NO to every single thing that wasn’t related to my job, my husband and kids, or planning my class reunion. It was a maturation for me to learn limits and boundaries. When I was young, I said yes because I could. I knew I would be successful even if it was something I didn’t enjoy or was naturally good at. Now I say no because I know I don’t have to do it!
I conserved my energy because the new routine was exhausting me. (I have taken more naps since I started this job than all the naps over the past five years combined.) And then in the third and fourth month, I realized I wasn’t living. I was getting the job(s) done, but there was no joy in my life. So I said yes to a few choice things: one of them was facilitating a class at church. I am an extrovert, and I knew I needed relationship with other people to energize my soul.
One night on the way home from class, I remembered a quote I read (and it used to be a banner on my blog) that says, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” That reminded me of something I wrote in my baptism application in 2009, when I equated my life with Jesus as a dance. For many years, I tried to dance on my own. After a while, I realized dancing alone really stinks. So I decided to start dancing with Jesus. I wrote, “I’m taking Christ’s hand and finishing the dance with Him.” On the night I drove home and remember the “dancing in the rain” quote, I realized I hadn’t been dancing very much since January 24. I was too darn overwhelmed to dance; I mostly stood still on the dance floor and hoped I wouldn’t trip and fall flat on my face. I vowed to start changing that, and start dancing again.
In the fifth and sixth months of the new job, I found my rhythm and asked Jesus to lead the dance again. That was around the time of the baptism celebration, and it filled my heart with newfound joy. I was also learning more about my job – getting to know my 100+ volunteers, having discussions about Jesus’ impact on my life, and building a community of coworkers and coworshipers.
And that brings us to now: the sixth month mark of one of the most formative changes in my life. The 10+ years after my high school graduation was one of them (college, meeting my husband, my parents’ divorce, losing my brother then Mom then Dad, and having children), but this last six months has given that decade a run for its money. It hasn’t been as emotional painfully as divorce and death, but God has been molding me just as much. I know this because I have a new perspective:
- The number one theme from this past six months (and even before that, because it started in the interview process) has been OBEDIENCE. I have wanted to run away, but God has whispered, “Stay.” So I did. I didn’t like the painful growth I was experiencing, but God told me to stick it out. He did so by using my boss and coworkers to encourage me, using his scripture to confirm I was exactly where I needed to be, and He gave me a sense of peace that just didn’t make sense. The theme came up on a daily basis in my job as a mother, and every time I talked to Jackson about obeying me, I felt God nudging me in the same way. Not in a smirky “aren’t you the pot calling the kettle black” way, but in a gently convicting way. So I just quit my whining and vowed to obey Him. I followed.
- I gained perspective on my perspective too. I go through life planning not just this coming weekend or even then next, but I plan months in advance. I’m a little too focused on what’s next instead of what’s now (see my post from last week to my niece, Hannah). I practiced a perspective change and instead of thinking of tomorrow or next week, I started thinking of only the next hour. I did that for a bit while in survival mode. Once I got through that feeling, I broadened the perspective to be the next few hours or maybe even the next day. But before I get too far ahead of myself, I have learned to reel myself back in and just focus on the NEXT BEST THING. Not the end result; only what the next minor step needs to be. That helps tremendously.
- One of the main concerns of my job is finding the right amount of volunteers to serve each weekend so we have the correct ratio of adults to children. The very first Sunday I worked, I came home and cried for hours. I felt helpless because I had no idea how a handful of volunteers would be able to cover so many deep needs. And then God started stepping His way into the CONTROL freak arena of my life. I have worked 24 Sundays now, and every single one of them has been an exercise in trusting His provision. Here’s an example: in our nursery area, we have had to close the room and not allow any more babies inside because we literally don’t have enough arms to hold the babies. Imagine how hard it is to turn away parents and tell them we have no room for their baby at church. Ugh! There was one specific weekend when we started the morning with two volunteers in the nursery. Based on our ratios, that means we only had room for six babies. At a church where about a thousand people attend two services every weekend, six babies was miserably paltry. I woke that morning stressing out about how to turn away families again. Yet by the time worship services started, God had provided enough extra volunteers that we didn’t have to close the room. I was dumbfounded all morning long when random volunteers walked up and asked if we needed extra hands in the nursery. (They weren’t just random people; they were regular volunteers who were scheduled to be off that day and felt a nudge to check in and help.) God was using His biggest megaphone to shout to me: “I AM IN CONTROL. Let me handle it and it won’t fall apart. I got your back!” He still does this almost every single weekend without fail.
- I also learned SECURITY is an illusion when my computer crashed at the start of February. You’d think I’d be over it by now, wouldn’t you? Yes, I’m technically over it, but it’s a painful lesson that reverberates even today. It’s a broad theme of my life that I first learned when my brother died (the illusion of security goes hand in hand with taking life for granted), and it’s a lesson I apparently keep needing to learn as the years go by.
- These last six months, I have learned to DEPEND on others a lot more than I did before. I have that silly pride issue that is quite common: I feel the need to be self-sufficient so I’m not indebted to anyone and so I don’t appear weak and needy. *snort* THAT makes me laugh because I have felt so weak and needy since January 24th! I have depended on friends and neighbors and my husband a lot more than ever before. The hardest part has been this summer, trying to juggle a job while the kids are out of school. I’ve cashed in favors with friends left and right. It’s humbling to have to ask for help, but God knows my heart needs some humbling. He’s giving me lots of practice in it.
- Call it anal-retentive or obsessive-compulsive or whatever you want, but by nature, I’m a task oriented person. For six months, I have literally cried over the fact that my To Do List has been obliterated. There’s no way I can even put a dent in it, because it has grown exponentially. After bemoaning this fact and getting irritated that I. Can’t. Get. Anything. Done. I finally changed my focus and realized God isn’t calling me to balance my checkbook (although that IS important even if it is dreaded); He’s calling me to do KINGDOM WORK instead. When I get wrapped into my little world, I stop and ask myself whether this little tizzy I’m in is furthering His kingdom or mine. Usually, that’s all I need to stop being a whiny baby and get my big girl panties back on.
- The last lesson is one that I see God’s hand in from the first day of January. Remember when I wrote about picking scripture each year? I had no specific reason for selecting 2 Corinthians 5:7 for 2012. It simply spoke to me and I felt compelled to choose it for this year. I even wrote in that blog post, “I am praying God will whisper it to me throughout the year. When the highs and lows and dark days happen in 2012, I pray He will remind me to live by what my heart believes and not by what my eyes see.” Boy, howdy! God hasn’t been whispering it to me, He’s been shouting: “Walk by FAITH and not by sight, Elizabeth! What you see is a new routine full of questions about how this job is going to work. You worry about whether you can actually perform the job and whether your kids and husband can adapt to these changes. Stop trying to SEE the answers, Elizabeth. Believe me. Trust me. Stop trusting what you see and trust what I tell you instead. I have nothing but goodness planned for you. I chose you for this, and I will equip you with everything you need!”
Oh, He has been faithful in every imaginable way. The last six months happened in a blink of an eye, but they have forever changed my soul and helped me become more like the person He wants me to be. Thank you for leading me, Jesus!