renewal

In this fall season, renewal is not a primary focus, but something just jumped out of a verse at me this morning and I wanted to share.

I am having a rough day at work.  Actually the last two days have been rough.  And when this situation began I reacted poorly.  Not as poorly as I have in the past, but not perfectly either.

A spirit of fear, defensiveness and anger took hold of me.

This morning, as the tension mounted…..I found myself winding tighter and tighter.  In desperation I looked around my cubicle walls and started reading the scripture memory team cards posted there.

Those who look to the LORD are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
Psalm 34:5

Well, that doesn’t help.  It only makes me feel worse, since I didn’t keep my eyes on God.

Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things
Colossians 3:2

*sigh* here again, I didn’t keep my mind focused where it needed to be.  I feel like a failure.  And then my eyes found the verse that delivered the help I needed after a failure…

Create in me a clean heart oh God, and RENEW a right spirit within me
Psalm 51:10

The word RENEW jumped out at me in a way it never had before.

I had always thought of this verse as a plea for God to create a clean heart and right spirit in me and then I was supposed to be able to keep it clean and pure and right.  Through my own human effort.

But the truth is that I simply can’t.  I can’t keep a clean heart and right spirit on my own. 

I need to be renewed….probably about once a minute or so.

Even the psalmist felt the need to have a right spirit renewed.  So logically we can conclude that even the psalmist failed to continually have a right spirit.  He had, at least occasionally, a wrong spirit.  And yet he had complete confidence in God’s love for him and willingness to rescue him.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

Though I don’t normally advocate deriving comfort from the failures of others, today I found a great deal of comfort in the failures of the psalmist.

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blessed beyond my wildest dreams

(this is a re-post with follow-up.  i’ve got stewardship on the brain, so this post was a natural to include in this series.)

A couple of years ago, just before Thanksgiving, Beth Moore ( of Living Proof Ministries) asked a very interesting question on her blog.  I answered it in a way that surprised me.  So when Brian asked me to write something for the stewardship campaign I felt a nudge to let you in on my answer.

Beth asked-

What are you grateful for that you NEVER thought you would

be grateful for?

Well.   That one got me thinking.  The usual stuff is easy – health, home, family, Jesus.  All the pat answers.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being grateful for those things.  But what, in my life, that would normally be viewed as a negative could I turn on it’s head and view as something to be grateful for?

If Beth had asked this question in years past, my answer would have been my infertility that led us to adopt Ginny.  Never in a thousand lifetimes would I trade.  Ginny has been a huge blessing.  I can never thank God enough.

But when Beth asked this question it was 2009…..Alright.  The thing I never thought I’d be thankful for in 2009  was that my husband lost his job in August.  August 4th as a matter of fact.  On my mother’s birthday.

I was so sour about it at first.  He was my Bible study partner on the way to and from work for 5 years.  We loved our commute together. So I was seriously bummed when that ended.  I said all the right things.  “God will take care of us.”  “It will be okay”  and I meant them.  But deep inside, even while I knew God would take care of us, I was resentful.  And to be honest, I kinda of imagined that God taking care of us would mean us scraping by on ramen noodles and finding ways to cut corners on everything.

I envisioned a life of constant restriction.  Nothing extra to enable us to help others. No joy.  Just getting by.

Apparently that is not what God had in mind.

Even just the first 4 months after the layoff was filled with blessings.  First, to hear my man say that he wanted to continue his tithe through the end of 2009 AS IF HE STILL HAD HIS JOB.  Wow. I don’t know how to be grateful enough to God for sending me Martin.  When I think of the background we both come from.  The sin, the darkness of our respective pasts……..and now to see Martin, how much he really does love God,  and know that he is the real spiritual head of our home.  That in itself is a blessing.

We grew in our relationship.  Our relationship had gotten lazy.  We depended on that commute to keep us connected.  We had to learn all over again to find (or MAKE) time for each other.

Martin got to spend lots of time with our baby girl, which was very good for them both. 

Four members of our family extended family were sick and needed lots of time and care in the Fall of 2009.  If Martin had still had a job they likely would have had to let him go because of all the family emergencies we went through.  We never had to face that though.

God sent a job opportunity to Martin that he never would have been able to take on if he had been tied to the old routines.  It changed our whole dynamic.

So spiritual growth, learning, new patterns, time with family……But what about money?  How did we get by?  did God provide?

*sigh*

Finances. 

The big bug-bear.  The nightmare of all who are “downsized” in this economy.   God had sent us a clear message that we were not to worry.    There were two (not one, but TWO) out of the blue, un-asked for, financial gifts to our family that, are you ready for this? enabled us to continue our tithe all the way to the end of 2010 as if Martin still had his old job !  When the checks came, the first thing on Martin’s heart and mind was the tithe.  Wow.  After all I have been through in my life and put others through, to finally be married to a real Christian MAN OF GOD is just blessing me right down to the tips of my boots. So there you go.  In 2009 I was thankful that my husband lost his job.

Well since we were so ultra faithful in 2009 and trusted God for his good provision, did we receive a huge blessing in 2010?  Absolutely!  I got laid off in October of 2010. 

No, I’m not being sarcastic.  We got a chance to trust God to provide again.  I’ll be honest, we did look at that money already set aside for the tithe for 2010….shook our heads and said “Nope.  That money already belongs to God.”

But it was sitting there, tempting us.  So we decided to go ahead and instead of writing a check out once a month, we just moved it all to the charity account.  That helped a lot.  With a combination of blind faith, deliberate actions and lots of heart to heart discussion my little family got through a couple of years that look rough on the ledger books.  But in my heart, these have been three very good years. 

We have become much more focused on relationships.  with God, each other, family and friends.  Life is not about presents, or activities anymore.  We’ve had a spiritual attitude adjustment. 

Now, if you ask me about my life, I will generally say “I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams.”

blessings rain down

After talking in my last post about the job loss, I figured it was about time to tell you how blessed I am in my new position.

I am working again.

Have been since the first week of February.

The hours right now are a bit hard on my family (7 a.m. to 7 p.m. most weekdays plus Saturdays) but it is deadline season in academia and we knew it would be like this. 

but I’m happy.

Am I happy because I’m back at Emory?  Well, yes I am thrilled to be back at  Emory University.  It feels like coming home.  I have been here for over 10 years after all.  I even got my old parking space back.

Am I happy because I enjoy my actual job?  Well, yes I do like my job.  I work in Student Financial Aid and it is inspiring to get to be part of the process that allows kids who couldn’t otherwise afford it to get to come to this great school and be a part of Emory.  Some of them are the first people in their whole family to even go to college. 

But the real reason I am happy is very simple, though it is hard to explain without sounding hackneyed and corny.

I am happy because I am convinced to the depths of my soul that I am sitting right where God wants me to be.  

and that, even on this rainy, yucky Monday morning makes it easy for me to say

 “Thank you Lord for this pretty day.  Bless me to be a blessing to someone day”

it was a total shock

When I lost my job back in October it was a total shock.  Martin had lost his job to a lay-off as well just a year before.  The temptation was to try to figure out what we did wrong. Did God want us to move? Become missionaries?

Why was this happening to us?

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all a disaster.  Many good things came out of the lay-off.

I got to spend loads of precious time with Ginny.  Nothing can replace these months I have had with her.  Just being with a joyful, bubbling two year old can be such a joy.  Okay it can be a headache too sometimes, but mostly it has been a fun-filled time that I wouldn’t give up for anything.

Through the crossroads ministry at my church  I got to examine my work style and what I really needed to look for in my next place of employment.  Instead of just hoping for a good fit, I learned how to do my part to achieve that goal.

I met amazing people through the various interviews and got to spread sunshine and a small taste of hope to a lot of people through my consistently, deliberately cheerful facebook and (mostly)blog posts.

Joining Bible study on Tuesday mornings and Aerobics on M-W-F was a huge treat for me.  I was getting to do all those things a stay-at-home mommy does.  And I loved it.  We got to play with our neighbor’s mom’s group and  I seriously started to wonder if perhaps God was saying that I should stay home.  Lord, was this the message?  Should we cut back our budget and struggle through with just Martin’s part-time salary?

Not quite ready to give up on the dream of going back to work, and to keep myself current in an office environment, I started volunteering at my church.  Just basic administrative tasks, but they were things that needed doing and allowed me to explore the possibility of one day working in a church office.  I like the thought.  So Margie, when you retire, just call me, okay?

Was that the purpose of my lay-off?  to move me in a new direction?

In the early days of my lay-off I even got the chance to witness to my boss.  Well witness is perhaps the wrong word.  I didn’t share the gospel story with him per se.  But I got a chance to BE Christian in my response to the layoff and all the processes that followed.  He constantly marveled at my calm and said that I was taking this whole mess far better than he was himself.  And every single time he said that,  I got to look him in the eyes and say “God is good. I believe that He is in control and that I will be fine”  I said that to him so many times in fact that it got down to a kind of short hand where I would just look at him, smile and say one word.  “God.”

What a privilege that was.

But was that the purpose? Was that the reason for me to be layed-off?  So that I could be this witness of calm and joy during a storm to my former boss?

I don’t know.

I may never know.

But here is the key to the whole thing

I don’t need to know.

It is enough for me to know that God is good.  I can trust that God did have a purpose in my job layoff and that it was all about HIS Glory.

September 28, 2010

today I lost my job.

a job I had been in for just shy of 10 years.  I started there October 16th of 2000 and my final day of work will be October 1st of 2010.

I never wanted to leave.  My disposition is funny that way.  Advancement is not really my thing.  The desire to change jobs every 3 to  5 years just baffles me.  I want to stay put.

And in this job, I thought I had found it.  I loved the people.  I enjoyed the environment.  and the benefits were great.

but……

Then the economy happened.  and there was a reduction in force.  Again.  my husband Martin lost his job to a Reduction in Force last year in August.  And now mine got cut.  Nothing personal.  Just math.  Frankly the look in my boss’ eyes told me that he hates this as much as I do.

So…….

now what?

I’ll tell you what – for the first time in 10 years we are now open to God sending us anywhere.  We are no longer hampered by the luxury of my benefits.  We can see what other possibilities are out there.

skeptics will say “none!”

I say “let’s wait and see what God has in store.”

oh and I get to spend more time with my favorite Bible study partner and my wonderful baby girl.

jesus saves, over and over again

I can’t really tell you the scripture this comes from, but I am convinced that Jesus doesn’t just save sinners.

He saves me, every day, every moment.  Each time I turn to Him when I feel small, or petty, or discouraged, or angry.  He saves me from that and sends me in another direction.

Right now I’m in one of those places in my life where I can fall into sin a lot.

the sin of pride – stiff necked and too prideful to accept help.  I keep telling everyone we are fine.

the sin of greed – I know we can’t afford things right now.  but I still want stuff.  mostly plane tickets.  And the occasional meal out.  But there is plenty in the pantry.  I just have to learn to be more creative.

The sin of unbelief – as I try to take over planning how to get Martin a new job and how to make our finances stretch and how to cope….There is nothing wrong with putting in effort, but the fact is that I’m not doing anything to help the situation…I’m just worrying at it inside my brain all day.  and worry is a sin.  It indicates that I think I can somehow fix something better than God can.  Hello? God or Deirdre, who do you think is the better, more experienced problem solver?  Which one of us has the greater set of resources to draw from? Which one of us knows the whole plan and what will be for the greater good?

um…that would be NOT me, but God.

There’s a great little mini sermon found on Travis Cottrell’s most recent CD.  The Live album that was recorded in Woodstock, GA back in January.  Beth Moore talks about Praising God in difficult times.

I listen to that piece every time I get in the car nowdays.  Just to jerk my brain back into the proper track.

God. Is. In. Charge.

God. Is. Good.

and I WILL praise His name.  Whether I feel it right this instant or not.

Oh, incidentally, I’m not being morbid here, but when I die, please make note, I want everything from tracks 10 through 14 of that CD played at my funeral.  The sermon by Beth, and then the songs that follow it.  Go ahead and have the eulogies first and let Phillip Shoultz sing my favorite hymn “And Can it Be” but then, after that, just put in the CD and let it run.  My funeral may start off as being about me, but it will end being all about GOD.  There will (hopefully) be people at my service who may never have darkend a church door before, and I want them to walk away knowing beyond any doubt that my hope is in Christ Alone.

Anyway.

um….back to my regluarly scheduled blog….

actually, you know what?  I think that was a good place to stop.

In Christ Alone, my hope is found.

’nuff said.

renewing the gratitude list

months ago I was posting a list of ten things to be grateful for every week.

Sometimes it was simple stuff, like oatmeal cookies.

Sometimes I tried to be profound.

I got lazy after a while and stopped posting those lists.

Well today, in the face of my husband losing his job to the concept of  “reductions in force”  I thought it might be a good time to dust that gratitude list idea off, and bring it back to my blog.

1. Money not spent – Saturday we looked at a phone upgrade, but decided to hold off because a better one for our “needs” was coming out in a few weeks.  Now we are very glad that we didn’t spend the money.

2. Money not spent (part 2) –  I have been bugging my husband to buy our plane tickets for an upcoming wedding in October and a Christian Women’s event I want to go to in January.  He had put it off one more week…and here again, we are very glad because that money will be needed to pull us through.  I still desperately want to go, but I’m gonna have to trust God that if HE wants us to go, He will make it happen.

3. Scripture – Monday morning, before we knew anything was going to happen, I choose (or the Holy Spirit chose for me?) a memory verse for the next two weeks: Exodus 33:18 “Lord I pray thee, show me your glory”

4. Health –  We are all healthy.  When I think of all the things that could have gone wrong in our lives, when I think of families out there who only have one income…..I am so grateful that nothing worse happened to us.

5.  Friends – people have been very supportive.  Some folks I was expecting, and others that I wasn’t.  It’s a nice surprise when people tell you they care.

6.  Sense of humor – Martin has an amazing sense of humor.  He has been constantly engaged in cheering me up.  He even invented a game while we were snuggled down, each reading a separate book, that you have to kiss your partner in order to start a new chapter.  My husband is so silly, and sweet.

7.  Songs from the past – Monday morning I put in a CD that I haven’t heard in years.  Twila Paris’s  “The Warrior is a Child”  It blessed me Monday.  But it blessed me even more today when I had to drive to work on my own, without my best friend, my Martin, in the car.

the drive this morning was hard.  Martin has been there with me (since we worked at the same campus) for the commute for over five years.  That’s almost 4000 hours of relating, talking, singing, devotions, and just plain old enjoying each other’s company.

This is where depression kicks in for me.  I’m a people person.  and Martin is one of my favorite peoples.

Still……I’m saying all the right things.

“yes, we are gonna be fine”

“God will provide”

“God is good, even in this.”

and I do mean them.

but I occasionally feel sorry for myself.  Which is wrong.  And it is why I’m writing this list of things to be grateful for.  To try to re-adjust my brain.

Please be in prayer for a teenaged friend of ours.  She was tree climbing and fell from about three stories up.   She has had one surgery already and many more are in future.  Pray for her family.  Her name is Caitlin.  She is in highschool.

which goes a long way to putting my “situation” in perspective.  So many worse things could be happening in my life than to have a husband who has to stay home for a week or two and find a different job.

So Thank you Lord.  And please lay your healing hands on Cait and wrap your comforting arms around her family.

amen.