When the story changes

Ten years ago, I was fresh out of high school, ready to take on the world. I had a dream to go to business school and start a business…or a nonprofit. I wasn’t really sure. By the time I was out of high school, I had already invested three years of my life in the nonprofit sector. I had worked with sexual assault survivors, lobbied for disability rights, been invited to hear the President speak, served on a committee to promote the arts and mentored young teens.

I was trying to pay attention to what God was showing me. Everything pointed to the nonprofit sector. And business school seemed daunting and out of my element. Conversations with trusted allies later and I was on the path to social work.

Ten years into nonprofit work and I was falling apart. Women were coming in crowds to my office with stories of sexual assault. They sobbed over their experiences. The worst was the women with intellectual disabilities who would describe their rapes in detail and shake because they couldn’t understand what had happened to them.

There were girls who were suicidal and women who did not believe they were worth being loved by a man. I was not a counselor in any sense of the word. I was ill-equipped to handle the grief and loss being thrown at me.

I was seeing a counselor myself at the time who, after months of listening to me wail about my life, suggested that I find a different profession.

I was indignant. My identity was wrapped in social work. I cared so much. The nonprofit world needed more of people like me.

But eventually, I quit. I searched for jobs in other fields. But God said no. He brought me back to the nonprofit world. I was grateful for it. The work suited me. For a while anyway.

Have you ever found a beautiful dress that was in your size but still didn’t fit right? I love online consignment stores and recently, I bought this dress that was in my size. But when I tried it on, it was really hard to put it on. The fabric didn’t stretch at all; the zipper split several times; it was itchy and a little too hot. It fit eventually but when I looked in the mirror, it wasn’t the most attractive thing I’ve worn. But I was stubborn. I had bought this dress, in my size, and I was going to wear it all day.

I didn’t feel pretty.

I didn’t feel ugly.

I just felt like another dress would be better.

Sometimes, I feel that’s how nonprofit work looks on me. Like it fits but there’s other work that would look better.

I could do this work for the rest of my life and it would feel like wearing that dress. It fits but that doesn’t make it right for me.

When I had this dream for a business, I actually wanted to get into fashion. Not designing clothes because I can’t draw to save my life but I wanted to be a personal stylist/shopper. Especially for women with disabilities. Depending on the type of disability you have, clothes can be tricky. Fabric can be tricky. I have multiple disabilities so I’ve had to play around with clothes for a while. I always feel a little shallow when I say this but I actually love fashion and clothes a lot. I think it’s important to be as comfortable as possible while still looking good. Especially when you have a disability, comfort is everything.

When I first found out I might have cancer, I looked at my life and was like, what the heck am I doing?! My life has been going nowhere for quite some time and it’s because I’ve been too scared to rock the boat. All of the sudden, I was very clear about what I wanted. Marriage, a family and a job where I could have a lot of fun. But with a possible cancer diagnosis looming over my head, I felt immobile to move forward.

And then I found out I don’t have cancer.

I get to take this epiphany and run with it.

“‘Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.”
Jeremiah 18:1-4
I don’t know what I’m being shaped into becoming but I’m excited to find out.
Photo credit: Robert Linder

 

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The number 3

When I worked with children, one of the young girls drew me this picture. She said I was standing on solid rock, with a cloud hanging over me and a chocolate-frosted donut to comfort me. It has become a metaphor for what my life is like.

***

I’m not the biggest fan of Facebook but I do like how it shows you memories of things you have posted on that day on past years.

Yesterday, it popped up this post I had written late that night two years ago. I had been job  hunting for three months since moving to the Valley and three months before that in Tucson. I had gone to a job interview at a nonprofit and had been rejected for the position, only to discover that it was because the interviewer saw that I was a better fit for a higher, better paying position.

It blew my mind.

The problem was that it shouldn’t have. And not because it was a given that God would provide me with an awesome job. A job He spoke into my life months before it happened. There were snapshots of what this job would look like and be like and my heart would leap with excitement. Because I knew God would be faithful.

There were three jobs I thought would fulfill this promise, three times I doubted God’s faithfulness when it fell through. I remember the final time. I got so close. It seemed for certain it would work out. The job had so many things about it that matched what God had whispered in my heart. I was devastated when it didn’t work out.

No, it should not have blown my mind that I got this job.

Because God asked me to apply here. Several times.

It meant picking up and moving to the Valley. It didn’t make sense. So I resisted. I never told anyone because I was sure I was wrong. And oh man, when I finally did apply for a job there and they rejected me, I was so confused. What did God want from me? I sobbed my eyes out because, for a brief moment, I stopped trusting God.

And then I got the phone call that changed my life. I was asked to interview for a higher position. I got the job. And because God had asked me to apply, I should not have been surprised when I got hired.

Recently, I was asked to write down my testimony for a pastor. I saw a pattern there I had never noticed before.

Everything in my life happens in threes. Three days, three months, three years. Three schools, three jobs, three promotions.

God has clearly been trying to get my attention for some time. I started to research what the number 3 means, according to the bible. I learned the number 3 signifies God’s sovereignty, His ability to complete things in our lives.

The more I look at my life, the more I see the number 3. The more I see God’s consistency.

That blows my mind.

During that dark period in my life when I was waiting for employment, I heard a message from a pastor where he challenged us to ask God to “do it again”. What he meant by this is that we all have hallmarks in our lives where God has answered big prayers. I remember thinking back to the day I asked God to bring me back to Him. Three days later, He did just that, turning my life upside down so that I could get the help I needed to rise above my abusive past. I figured God could “do it again” and give me a job that would not only provide for me but be something I thoroughly enjoyed.

Three months later, He did just that and I’ve been so grateful.

So why does this matter?

Because almost three years ago, in October 2014, I asked God if I would ever get married. I was ready to walk away from the idea of marriage if it meant that God had something better in store for me. And He was faithful. He spoke into my life and said I would get married.

And man, have I questioned it. I’ve been like Sarah, laughing at something so far-fetched. I’ve been like Abraham, seeking to fulfill this promise on my own. I’ve run to exactly three guys, each time wondering which guy would fulfill God’s word on my life. I’ve made bigger messes than I know what to deal with.

I wrote about the last guy a few weeks ago. I questioned whether or not I liked him. Some may argue with me but I think if you’re questioning your feelings for someone, they’re probably not the right person for you. I have been in love exactly one time in my life and even when he would drive me crazy, I still wanted him. I never questioned whether or not I wanted to be with him and while I’m ultimately grateful it didn’t work out, it taught me a lot about what it means to choose someone, for someone to be more than an option you choose because it makes the most sense.

Last week, I started to get excited about my future spouse. It’s been very reminiscent of the end of my job search, these moments when my heart would leap for joy. The closer I got to receiving this gift, the more excited I got.

That’s how I feel about marriage. Even as I type, my heart is skipping beats.

Here’s the thing: For years, I have listened to other people’s stories in the hopes that somehow, I could predict what would happen in my life if I encountered the same thing. Each time, I was sorely disappointed. Before I wrote out my testimony, I had never considered the way God works in my life, that it is uniquely different than other peoples’.

I feel really foolish for writing this but I know it’s coming. I remember how foolish I felt waiting for a job. It didn’t seem like anything would come through. I began to look for any job because I figured God would provide but to expect Him to give me what He had supposedly promised, well, that was asking too much. I feel like I could settle for any guy that God gives me but I know He’s bringing His best.

It’s scary to believe that God will do what He says He will. Because what if you heard Him wrong? What if this is just your wishful thinking? I thin k we all have things in our life that we believe God has spoken into our lives, that if we told someone, they might caution us to be careful.

What they’re really saying is God doesn’t love us enough to reveal things to us.

And yes, it is God’s discretion to conceal a matter when necessary and reveal bits and pieces of something when appropriate.

My advice?

Believe God loves you enough to guide you and when it turns out you’re wrong, because that will happen, follow Him anyway. Be the little child that takes God at His word always, without condition. I knew a woman once, who upon being disappointed that she had taken God at His word and things did not go the way she expected, she stopped trusting God. She questioned every time the Holy Spirit told her to do something. She lived in constant fear that she would hear wrong again. This stopped her from fully being obedient to God. And that fear was pushed onto me for a long time.

But I never wanted to live like that. I wanted to be so faithful that I could fall down over and over and still trust God. This is what waiting for my husband has been like, falling down, getting rejected, failing over and over and still trusting that God would keep it at His word.

My prayer is this: Do it again. 

Follow the wires

I’ve spent most of my life in the chaotic. I’ve never had a boring or steady year. My life has been plagued with suffering, illness and big leaps into the unknown.

For the first time in my adult life, the dust has settled. The calm has come.

I thought I knew what I wanted. Maybe it was peace. Maybe it was more. I had this dream of planting a church, digging deeper into the bride of Christ. I wanted to be like the famous Christian women I had followed since I first gave my life to Christ.

I’ve applied for more ministry jobs than I care to admit and been just as evenly rejected from them all. I’ve cried deeper and harder over my lost dreams than any rejection I’ve received from a boy.

I’m a career woman to my core.

I thought if you had a dream, particularly a worthy one like planting a church, God was already on board.

Sometimes, you’re wrong.

I started to learn that ministry is what you do with your life, not where you do things. I didn’t need to work within the four walls of a church to be a minister of reconciliation. Or use my gift of prophecy to speak into the lives of others. I didn’t need a job in ministry to advocate for people on the fringe.

I started to ask questions of God that scared me. Questions that rattled against all my dreams, dreams I had carried since I was eight and told my mom I wanted to build a church. I wanted ministry more than I wanted to listen to the call God had placed on my heart.

That call looks a whole lot like diving deeper into the secular world, using my sphere of influence to share the Gospel with people who might not hear it otherwise. Because I’m good at building bridges with people who want nothing to do with the church.

We live in a society that tells us to follow our dreams at whatever the cost. I’m beginning to understand that it’s more important to follow the wires that form you. Be the person you were created to be, even when it comes at odds of what you (think you) want for your life.

I may never plant that church. I’m beginning to see that I may not be wired to do so. But I was created to do something wholly unique for my life, carve a different path than what I anticipated.

And that’s okay.