This post may be long...in fact, I may split it in two. And I have to go ahead & qualify, some of this is going to be vague...because while there are things that didn't happen to me directly they impacted me greatly. But they are not my stories to tell or they aren't the stories that I can tell right now. And finally, this post is going to be a little raw...a little transparent...a little hard to put "out there" and even harder to know that people are going to read it; however, I think it's important. And I've had these words swirling around in my brain for months...they demand to be put down on paper...or computer screen...or what have you...
So here goes...
In 2015 I participated in 2 missions trips...both extremely life changing. In ways that I couldn't have even imagined. The effects of these combined trips have affected my life from henceforth and, I believe, directly altered the path of my life...in so many good ways. There will be more to this in the future...but for right now, vagueness #1. ;)
In coming back from Armenia the first time, I struggled. Struggled with seeing the world from a different viewpoint...struggled with reconciling my life here in the US after being out of the country...and, quite honestly, struggled to regain a normal sleep schedule after crossing basically 8 time zones. Jet lag is serious business & a monster that almost took me under. I could not sleep regularly for about 2 months. I don't really know if it was the jet lag or just the combined stuggles...but this was a tough period in my life. Jet lag is the only thing I really remember about the time period other than a small bit of depression. There were days that I had to make lists...like a chore list - do laundry, paint toe nails, watch this show - or I would just sit in a chair & stare at the TV aimlessly until I felt it was sufficient time to go to bed...and not sleep. Slowly, the fog lifted and life became "easier"...you know, as easy is life can really be. God had already been working to reveal some pretty major things in my life BEFORE I went on this trip...all good stuff...and He was continuing to work in my life.
Early in 2016, I committed for another trip to NYC & then with Dylan to Armenia. But what was more significant was the awareness that God was asking me to leave the Children's Ministry at our church. It was bizarre to me...and I truly struggled. I didn't understand. Children's Ministry had been my passion for as long as I could remember. I had been serving in one capacity or another in our children's ministry since the day they told me I could be a nursery worker...at 13 or 14. I had taught Sunday School, Children's Choir, worked in Children's Church...and I felt like that's where God had gifted me...but all of the sudden, He said "It's time to go." So, in June of 2016, I taught my last Clubhouse lesson and said farewell to Children's Ministry.
I don't find it coincidental at all that our church began to discuss hiring a Children's (& Youth) Minister as I was struggling to determine how God could ask me to give up this ministry. It was the confirmation to me that I wasn't mistaking what God was telling me; but it was still confusing to me.
When someone has their identity so tied up in a ministry, even if they aren't a "full time minister", leaving that ministry is hard. Even when God says to go. All of the sudden, I didn't really have a "place" in our church. And as much as I struggled to leave children's ministry, it was a struggle to find a new identity within my church. I re-joined our church's Praise Team because this was something I had done before I completely committed to children's ministry service full time on Sunday mornings. It was the one thing that I had missed so much and was so excited to come back to. I love music...I love God speaking to me through music. But once again, I struggled...I struggled with insecurity about my place in this team...even if I should be doing this. It was a hard place...
In October of 2016, I found out some news that left me reeling. Vagueness #2 coming your way. This one is certainly not my story to tell, but the impact of this left me hollow...grieving for a loss that I couldn't comprehend...that I couldn't wrap my mind around. This began a hard season in my life...watching, waiting, praying, hoping, etc, etc, etc.
As we moved into 2017, my aunt lost her fight with cancer. I simply had no idea how the loss of her life was going to impact me so greatly. The loss was bittersweet - no more suffering, in the arms of Jesus...but the loss on earth was a tough one. She left behind children and grandchildren that will miss her dearly...but she also left a legacy of literally hundreds of children that were taught by her as 4 & 5 year old children. She had been passionate about children's ministry for the majority of her life. My small 25 years or so in children's ministry paled in comparison to her 40+ years in children's ministry. It's not a contest...and that's not my point. But as I looked across her grandchildren, my eyes continually found James...the baby...the one who would not have the benefit of his MawMaw West. And I grieved for the loss that he would never understand.
The same weekend of my aunt's funeral, my car "died" for lack of a better word...which launched me into about 4 months of waiting, looking, trying to find a new (to me) car, and a lot of frustration.
As 2017 has continued, I have struggled in many ways...but I would be remiss if I didn't also mention the victories. In January, we were awaiting word on Dylan's scholarships. His sophomore year was tough...he had his own struggles but just slipped by with the minimum required GPA for his scholarship to renew...and it only renewed for the Fall semester pending his performance in the Fall. He worked hard & I know it sounds sappy (because he told me so) but I was so proud of him. He gave it all he could...and if he wasn't able to continue, he was OK with that. There was a small back up plan that would keep him in school, but it wasn't one we wanted to go to.
On January 4th, I received his statement...where I had been expecting about $4500 to be due for him to continue, his statement was showing double that. I remember sitting on my bed, praying & weeping. I had no idea how we were going to make this happen. One thing I noticed, though, was that his loans were not showing against the balance...which made up the difference between what I was expecting & what was shown. I emailed Financial Services and received the explanation that the statement was dated January 1...the loans hadn't been applied yet, but if I looked at my "daily status" I would see that they were applied. I logged on and about fell out of my chair. Instead of the $4500 due, Dylan's account showed a $500 credit. Not only had the loans applied, but his scholarships had renewed.
Later in February, I was able to sell my "dead" car to a lady who had offered to buy my car several times. I didn't get what I could've gotten for an "alive" car, but I got enough to pay off Dylan's car a year early. And in May, I was able to buy a new-to-me car that is just amazing.
So, why do I share all of this?
Because I'm still struggling...day in, day out. There have been victories...but there has still been grief & disappointment...heartache...sadness...pain...etc...etc...etc.
And I see others around me struggling as well. And I guess I want them to know...they aren't alone.
Even if...God is still good.
This is something that has been resonating with me lately. A month or so ago, I was heavily into the life of David. I listened to Andy Stanley's messages about the life of David and in my own personal Bible reading (oh yeah...I've struggled with this too) I was reading about the life of David at the same time. I have been fascinated with David. "A man after God's own heart"...certainly not a perfect man...and that's what has caught my attention & made me just sit in awe of David. Even before he "messed up royally" with Bathsheba, David's life wasn't easy. David was anointed as the next King of Israel while another king was still on the throne...another King that David not only respected, but went up against a giant to honor the King & rid Israel of this enemy. Later, David is hunted down by this same King who is jealous of David. And I have to wonder...when David was running for his life from King Saul...when he was hiding in other countries...hiding in the very cave where King Saul came in to "do his business"...knowing the whole time that God had called him to more...I think David must have struggled himself. In fact, I'm fairly certain of it when you read the Psalms. David was a man after God's own heart...but I know from the book of Psalms that he often wondered where God was in the midst of his struggle. BUT over & over, David reminds himself...and now us thousands of years later...that his trust is in the Lord. The Lord who brought victory over the giant...the Lord who has promised to bring him to the other side of this...the Lord who surely protected him from King Saul...and finally made him victorious over King Saul.
Even if...He is good.
Even through my struggles...I'm reminded that God has brought me through so much that I can't NOT believe that He has left me in this. Every day I pray (or as often as I pray...because, you guessed it...struggle) that God will use these struggles to refine me...to strengthen me...to make me a woman after His own heart.
And I'm clinging to the fact that God's goodness is not dependent on me or my circumstances...but His goodness is constant. Even if...