So, It’s Been A While….

I know I’ve been pretty silent her in the blog world for quite a while (for almost two months, actually, if anyone has been keeping track….oops). My life, on the other hand, has been anything but silent. I don’t have adequate words yet for some of what has happened in those two months (and some can’t be shared in a public forum like this anyhow), but I can give you a brief list of some of the major life events since I last wrote:

  • We did a lot of wondering and praying about how we were going to pay rent and bills at the end of July.
  • I found a job (quite shortly after I wrote that last post about being discouraged by the fruitless job search, actually). Now I work as a server/cashier/dishwasher at a breakfast café in Westport. I really love it (except for working every weekend…). And it has been a reminder of God’s attentiveness to my heart and desires. During my final week of work with the after school program, I was praying and asking God to provide work for me and Derek. I felt God ask, “Well, what kind of work would you like?” The first thing that came to mind was a little breakfast and lunch café, full of bright colors, where I could serve cheerfully. That picture opened the door to a lot of lies in my heart about how I would never be good at the things that I wanted to do (some yucky heart residue from the after school job). About a month later, when I received the call for an interview at this breakfast place, God reminded me of that conversation with Him. Sure enough, the job opened up.
  • We contemplated a major, life-changing decision, ultimately deciding to say yes to what we felt was an invitation from God. That following month was an emotional roller coaster, careening though drama, phone calls, urgent meetings, a good deal of heartache, and then eventually ending with all our options exhausted and all the doors closed. God spoke to us deeply in that process, though, and assured us that He always brings forth life. Though we don’t know or understand what that might look like in this and we still carry a fair amount of grief over how things turned out, we’re still believing His word in that. (One of these days I may write a password-protected post sharing some more details of what happened and the ways God spoke in it).
  • Derek found a job (just in time to confirm the aforementioned life-changing decision). Now he works three days a week doing apartment maintenance and grounds keeping at an apartment complex near the Plaza (which fits perfectly with his school schedule).
  • Derek and I celebrated our second year of marriage by going out to our friend Autumn’s farm out in the middle of nowhere in Kansas. It was so peaceful and perfect. (I came home to discover that my engagement ring was stolen from the house while we were gone, though we got it back later that night, but that’s a whole different story….)
  • Derek returned to school for his second semester in CISCO networking. Don’t ask me what that is exactly. I just know it has to do with computers (and nothing to do with facebook) and that now he knows enough about routers to set up a home wireless network for us (pretty handy!).
  • I started school full-time. After almost five years out of school (which I still don’t regret, by the way), I’m a student again, this time working towards my associates in child growth and development. The classes are proving to be pretty intensive so far (more so than I expected for me first semester). I’m learning a lot already, though, and growing more and more excited about learning to teach young children well.
  • We moved out of the Tracy House and into our own apartment. We had been looking towards this move since the beginning of the summer (we were finding it increasingly difficult to live in community as a married couple, especially in a community with such a diversity of ages, life stages, and values). We felt like God was inviting us into a season of more intentionally establishing the foundations of our family. Somewhat unexpectedly, Lindsay decided that the season of the Tracy House was coming to a close and we all moved out at the end of August. So now, for the first time since we moved to Kansas City, Derek and I have our own space, a huge (and cheap!) third floor apartment, complete with a sunroom and its share of old building quirks. The building is named Isabel, which means, “God’s promise” or “Our God is a vow.” It feels like a significant name for our new home. We are mostly unpacked now (except for the second bedroom, which has become a temporary storage space for everything that doesn’t have a more permanent spot yet). Now I often find myself distracted, dreaming about ways to make the space lovely and home.

So there you have it: the reasons behind my silence over the past couple month. And now, I have some homework to do (or procrastinate on…) and some beautiful weather to enjoy….

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Oh Work….

It feels like a disproportionate amount of time an energy this past month has been focused on work.

Since Derek lost his job at the Roasterie, we’ve discussed jobs a lot: what kind of work he should look for now, what kind of work he might want to do long-term, what kind of work I want to do long-term, how all that fits in with the life we feel called to, etc. Derek has started looking into school more seriously and exploring what kinds of careers exist in the computer world. He’s talked to friends working various computer jobs, visited career counselors at several area colleges, and researched books at the library. This season without a job has been a blessing for him in the time it’s given him to consider what he wants to do long-term rather than just what will provide for this immediate seasons.

A couple weekends ago we had a middle-aged couple stay with us for the weekend (along with a single guy who has been traveling with them), which prompted more reflections on the place of work in our lives. This couple loves the Lord and are striving to walk by faith. They also believe that God has told them that they will never have to work a job again in their lives. For the past four years they have chosen not to work, instead living off of their life savings, then the money from selling their house, and now for the past eighteen weeks off of the provision of whoever will give them food, shelter, or money, living in their car and eating sporadically. They plan to do this indefinitely, believe God will provide for them. Though Derek and I know that God is faithful and provides for us (we’ve experienced that in our own lives time and time again), we were uncomfortable with their attitude towards work and unwillingness to pursue any type of work. We spent an interesting weekend talking to them and hearing their story, but then sent them on their way, armed with banana bread, prayers, and hopefully a sense of God’s love and truth.

And then, of course, there’s my job. That’s probably been the most challenging part of life recently. Outside of the expected frustrations with my boss and lack of organization in the program, I simply feel ill-equipped to handle this group of kids, much less have any sort of positive impact in their lives. I’ve worked with kids for years but this is the first time I’ve worked in a school setting, much less with this large of a group of kids (at least sixteen kids per teacher – sometimes more). Several days I’ve come home and started looking for jobs on craigslist because I feel like I just. can’t. do. it. In the past week I’ve been run over with a trash can (I did get a nice note later that afternoon saying “Ms. Rebecca I’m sorry for running you over and I will never do it again. I love you”), stabbed in the hand with a pencil, called fat, ugly, and mean, and told “I hate you” on a regular basis, among other things. It feels like chaos every day. Even when I’m not actually at work, I’m planning for work, talking about work, thinking about work, stressing about work, praying about work, or dreaming about work (the other night I dreamed that I got so frustrated with work that I quit….and then came back. Twice). I’ve been researching classroom management, talking to other teachers, and trying to stay rested and organized, but I still feel so unequipped, so ineffective.

But perhaps, in a funny way, that’s God’s grace. All this is growing my awareness of how much I need God. All the time. That prayer invariably comes up in my prayer each day, over and over: Abba, I need you! I need His provision. I need His wisdom. I need His favor. I need His authority. I need my time with Him every day. I need His voice, His presence, His reassurance. I need HIM. There is no way I can get by without Him, much less see the transformation and restoration I long for in the lives of these kids and in our neighborhood. Perhaps that’s what Jesus meant when He talked about being poor in spirit? Abba, if this is what it means to be poor in spirit, may I see You kingdom come here!

Again

Here I am again, processing through another set of changes and struggling to put words to the immense magnitude of it all in my heart. It feels like trying to scoop up an ocean in a bucket.

Yesterday Derek was let go from his job at the Roasterie.

The news didn’t come as a complete surprise this time. About a month ago his supervisor sat him down and gave him a list of things that he needed to improve on (things the he felt he was doing already) within the next two weeks or his position would be terminated. She assured him the next day that the threat of termination was really more of a “scare tactic” (an effective one, too, from the standpoint of this wife) and said that they would discuss it again at the end of the two weeks. That date came and passed with no meeting, though. When Derek asked her about it, she said it was postponed until one of the other supervisors could be there, too, so we thought that perhaps things were settled. Derek was getting more hours again and things seemed to be going better in general. But then yesterday he went to his other supervisor with a scheduling question (they kept scheduling him during times that he wasn’t available) and was told that, actually, they’d decided to let him go. His supervisor pulled an official letter off a shelf (how long had that been there?), handed it to him, told him that if he had any questions he could call the main office, and sent him home. Just like that.

With that news rolled in a whole host of questions, from the serious and weighty (Will my job cover all our expenses? Will we still be able to go home for thanksgiving? What the heck is life going to look like in the next couple months?) to the ridiculously small and petty (Where will we get coffee now?). I have this urge to scoop them all up, collect all the details, and fit them together like a puzzle so I know exactly what everything is going to look like, exactly what to expect, exactly how it’s all going to work out. But that’s not how life works, is it? It’s certainly not how faith works.

Last night we scrolled through lists of jobs on craigslist. This morning we sat together and made a budget, discussing where we can possibly cut back expenses. Right now Derek is at the local community college, talking to someone about the possibility of going back to school next semester (something he’s been thinking about for a while). And I still have my job, crazy though it may be. Practically, I know we’ll be okay. Hopefully we’ll be more than just okay. Perhaps this is opening a door to whatever God has planned for us.

But to be honest, a part of me is so tired of the constant transition, constant instability. We just went through this three months ago. When Derek got this job the Roasterie, it seemed to offer a glimmer of hope for something more than just getting by in the moment. And yet here we are again. By God’s grace, my heart has stayed fairly steady through each transition. Time and time again, faith, hope, and love (the three that remain) have buoyed me back to the surface. But will we ever get to a season where every day stops feeling like a battle to fight, another obstacle to push through for the hope of what’s to come someday?

I feel like all of this has simplified my dreams lately: A home. A garden. Good, honest work for both of us, where we can serve faithfully. Friends nearby. Family. Time with God. Time with each other, unburdened by the heaviness of depression and discouragement. Simple celebration of each season. Vibrant relationships. Fullness of life. Growth. Simplicity. Rest. Joy. Balance (yes, here my dreams start to trail away from the concrete and into the less-definable longings of my heart).

I remember a while ago Michael Flowers spoke about the Psalms of lament and how most of them include the questions “Why?” and “How long?” I can feel those same questions welling up inside right now. Abba, will you meet us here and turn my cries “why?” and “how long?” to heartfelt cries of praise!

“For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.” (Romans 8:24-25)

Back to Work

On Monday, after a summer of immense shifting and re-organizing (they closed twenty-six schools over the summer), the Kansas City school district kicked off the new school year. And with that, I started my job with the after-school program again.

Work actually began for me about a week end a half before that, with meetings, training, enrolling students, setting up classrooms, and planning lessons. At the beginning of the week, I seriously wondered if we were going to make it, if we were going to be able to pull the program together before school started. Most of our staff weren’t even hired until the end of the week and so didn’t have time for training or lesson planning, and even on Monday none of us had been assigned to a specific age group yet. It was hectic, to say the least.

When I started, I had mixed feelings about working this job again. On one hand, I was excited to be back at the school, back working with the kids, but on the other hand, last spring was littered with frustrations with my boss because of her lack of organization, lack of honesty, and lack of respect for the staff, among other things. I wasn’t exactly thrilled about working under her again.

Sure enough, my frustration kicked in right away when my boss arrived forty-five minutes late for our meetings the first two days. I could feel my negativity building already.

But then God began transforming my heart. At the beginning of the week, I prayed that God would show me how to glorify Him in this job. He reminded me to reflect His heart and character, to walk in honesty, faithfulness, humility, and honor, striving for excellence and integrity in everything I do.

“And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

Suddenly I found my heart blossoming with a desire to serve my boss. It wasn’t a political attitude of trying to say the right things to the right people to gain favor, but a genuine desire to take my gifts, strengths, and time, and use them to serve her, my co-worker, and the kids I’ll be working with this year. Whoa, that was a change. It felt like a huge shift in my attitude towards my job, a change of perspective that could only come from God. And as I began offering my strengths, my organization, my attention to detail, my faithfulness, I slipped right into a role that felt incredibly natural and was surprised by a sudden sense of peace about the job.

Of course, that was followed by a somewhat hectic week of welcoming new kids, chasing a few down hallways (most of whom were old enough to know better), setting limits, learning names, confiscating plastic teeth, getting to know new staff (we lost a couple during the course of the week – and then gained a couple more), and learning by trial and error what works and what doesn’t. But it feels good to be back and the kids are already working their way into my heart.

AND today starts a three-day weekend, complete with glorious, seventy-five-degree-and-sunny weather!

On Jobs and Joblessness

A lot has happened with us over these past couple weeks and I know I’m overdue for an update on life.

As I wrote before, Derek was unexpectedly laid off from his job the same day my job ended at the school. We were a bit stunned, but felt like God must be doing something in this sudden rerouting of our lives, though we didn’t have a clue what that might be. To be honest, even now, two weeks later, I don’t feel like I have a much better grasp on what God’s up to with us in this season, but still feel confident that He is working and whatever He is doing will be good.

In the following week we jumped back into job searching (didn’t we just do this?). Derek discovered that the Roasterie (a local coffee roasting company, whose café is just a ten minute walk from our house) was hiring. Interestingly, they had posted the job opening the very same day he was laid off. He applied and went in for an interview a couple days later. He described it as the smoothest interview he’d ever had and came home pretty confident that he had the job. Sure enough, a couple days later they called and offered him the job. So exactly a week after losing his job at the nursery, he was employed again. Talk about God’s provision!

We’re excited about this job, not just because it’s a job (though that in itself is plenty exciting), but because 1) it’s in a coffee shop (pretty much a dream job for my coffee-loving husband), 2) it’s a local company, which fits with some of the lifestyle values we’ve been pursuing lately in trying to buy more locally produced things, 3) it’s within walking distance (and also along the main bus line so it will be easy to get to, even when/if we move), and 4) it has the potential of being a long-term, career sort of job, which has been something we’ve been praying about for quite a while now. The job description stated that they were looking for “a permanent figure that desires to make a career for him/herself in the coffee industry.” Seeing that Derek had previous management experience, the manager interviewing him asked if he’d ever consider moving up to management in the company. Hmm….

Oh, and did I mention that we get a free bag of coffee each week? Yes!

As for me, I’ve been diligently job searching, perusing craigslist, sending out resumes, and taking the bus all over the city to apply places in person. I feel like I don’t have any clear direction from the Lord for this season, so I’m trying to listen carefully for His voice in each step.

This new job has also brought up a lot of discussion about our future. We are still unsure about a lot of details of our future, or even what we want that future to look like. We have ideas, pieces of dreams, but still so many questions. We know we want to like incarnationally among the poor. We know we want to live in community. We know we want to build a foundation of prayer. We know we want to built natural, organic relationships with people. Lately we’ve been talking about things we want to develop in our lives that have the potential of helping us connect with people (particularly people who don’t know Jesus). For me, this includes my sewing, gardening, cooking, and love of children. I want to develop avenues to open our lives and hearts to the people around us.

Which has brought me to consider going back to school to earn a certificate in child growth and development (I only need eight more classes so I could finish the certificate in two semesters and decide then if I want to go on and finish the associates degree). I’m mulling over the idea of running a daycare out of our house in the future (because we do hope to one day have a house of our own). It could help support us in our ministry, even after we have kids of our own, and could potentially provide a way to build relationship with the families in the neighborhood. But going back to school….overwhelms me a bit. It’s a decent time commitment and I’ve never been a student without school being the central focus of my life. It feels like it would be a delicate balancing act between priorities this time around.

In the meantime, I’m trying to make use of this open season. I like to be busy, to feel like I’m working towards something, so the abundance of free time is hard for me sometimes. I feel like God worked a lot in my heart during those six months at home after we got married, though, and I feel more at peace with the openness of this season. I’m actually excited about having time to pursue some of the things that have been on my heart.

In an effort to avoid wasting time this season (the more time I have, the easier it seems to let it slip by), I made a list of things I want to explore and do this summer. A lot of those have to do with gardening, sewing, and other do-it-yourself sort of projects, as well as general sharing-life-with-other-people sort of activities.

Currently, that list includes:

– Work on our garden
– Research community gardens (I’m really hoping to start one next summer, which means starting planning this year)
– Visit a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm in Kansas City (there’s one in particular I want to visit that employs local youth)
– Go to the Brookside Farmers Market (it’s about a ten minute walk from us but I haven’t been there yet)
– Go berry picking (I’ve been trying to find a good place to do this)
– Go corn picking (Derek knows of a place where you pick corn and get to keep half of what you pick for free)
– Learn to sew (or continue learning to sew, I guess. I’ve sewn in the past, but it’s been a while and my skills are pretty basic)
– Sew something from a pattern (I’ve actually never done this)
– Make a baby blanket for a friend who is pregnant
– Learn about sewing machine maintenance (especially with an older machine, this seems practical)
– Put together a sewing basket (I have aspirations of finding a fun basket for this at a garage sale/thrift store)
– Find an air popcorn popper and roast our own coffee
– Make homemade ice cream
– Blog regularly
– Start writing down thoughts for a book (I almost didn’t include this one, because the thought of me writing a book sounds ridiculously far-fetched, but I have some ideas so here it is)
– Go camping (I can’t even remember when the last time I went camping, so I’d really like to get a group of people to go this summer)
– Have people visit us (this one is happening for sure…yay!)
– Invite people over for dinner and other fellowship things
– Work on building friendships, especially within the Boiler Room
– Decide about school this fall
– Finish at least some of the books that I’ve started, including:
Abba’s Child
– Brennan Manning
Stranger to Self-Hatred
– Brennan Manning
Celebration of Discipline
– Richard Foster
Resse Howells Intercessor
– Norman Percy Grubb
Punk Monk
– Andy Freeman (I’ve read this before but want to read it again)
– Move? (we’ve been talking about the possibility of moving east of Troost, hopefully to live in community…)

First Fruits

I thinned out our quinoa plants the other day. The seed package said you could eat the young leaves so I tried them on a sandwich, the first thing I’ve eaten from our garden. They were pretty tasty, too.

In other news, Derek has an interview at the Roastarie today (the coffee shop within walking distance from our house). We’re praying for favor there…

Change in a Moment

Today was my last day of work (well, besides going in for a couple hours tomorrow to finish packing up my classroom). I had hoped for a summer job (we were told for the past several months that we would have one) but found out yesterday that I won’t have a job for the summer, that in fact my boss never even turned in my name.

Tonight Derek received an e-mail (yes, an e-mail) from his boss saying that he was being laid off, effective immediately. No explanation.

Needless to say, I feel a bit like the floor just dropped out from under me.

But at the same time, I’m overwhelmed with a sense that God is doing something, that it’s not coincidence that both our jobs ended on the same day. I’ll be honest, I don’t really have a clue what He’s doing, but I feel strangely at peace (even in my fear) that He has a plan in this and it’s going to be okay.

I feel like there are so many thoughts swirling around in my head but I can’t even begin to string them together right now. Maybe later. But for now, here is a piece of Psalm 37. God was encouraging me with this Psalm this morning as I wrestled through all the emotions from my job situation and I feel like He is doubly encouraging me with it again tonight:

“The Lord watches over the days of the blameless;
their heritage lasts forever.
They will not be disgraced when times are hard;
in days of famine they will have plenty.

Neither in my youth, nor now in old age
have I ever seen the just abandoned
or their children begging bread.,
The just always lend generously,
and their children become a blessing.

Wait eagerly for the Lord
and keep to the way;
God will raise you to possess the land.”

— Psalm 37:18-19,25-26,34

Knocking on the Door to God’s Will

(Written on Tuesday morning on the train to Kansas City. I’ll try to write an update soon to share how God responded to all this)

Well, we’re on our way to Kansas City again (I’m sitting on the train right now, taking advantage of the stretch of free time to write). To be honest, I’m a little anxious about this trip, mostly because it’s not looking the way I planned.

My plan was very organized. I planned to spend the weeks leading up to this trip applying for jobs, searching for housing, and making lists of apartments to visit and places to apply (I’m definitely a list person). I planned to arrive in Kansas City with interviews lined up, appointments set, and all the information we’d need neatly together in a folder. Sounds like a good plan, right?

And we have applied to countless jobs over the past couple months. We’ve searched apartment listings and made a list of a dozen or so places that look promising. We even have several places to apply in person. But until yesterday we hadn’t gotten any calls for interviews. Without interviews, I wasn’t sure what we were supposed to be doing in Kansas City or where to even start. What if we were going about this all wrong? I became increasingly discouraged and anxious.

God has been working on my heart over the past few days, though. He showed me my obsession with doing everything correctly, wisely, and reminded me that my scrambling to do everything right wasn’t going to get us jobs and open the way to Kansas City for us; His favor is what will make the way for us. God asks for our faithfulness and our trust that He will do what we can’t possibly do ourselves. In His eyes, wisdom is to walk in awe of Him (Proverbs 9:10).

As I see my plans slip out of my reach, I am forced to remember that “In his mind a man plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9) and “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the decision of the Lord that endures” (Proverbs 19:21).

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above you thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

I know that God has a plan for this time in Kansas City. My prayer is that we will be in tune with His plan, that our hearts will be soft enough an our ears open enough to be receptive to whatever He does during this trip, whatever He shows and speaks. We are asking for Him to make His direction clear to us, not just in regards to job and housing, but also in what community we should plant ourselves in (we realized that we were too hasty in committing to the ROCK and feel led in a different direction; we will be staying with the Boiler Room this trip and exploring that community a little more). We pray that He’ll show us the next step to take in following Him.

And last night I came home from small group (where they prayed for our trip, for direction and peace) and found two (yes, two) phone messages from people who had received my resume and were interested in setting up interviews. I called the one back and am supposed to call again when we arrive in Kansas City to set up the interview. I called the other one back this morning and left a message.

The two calls reminded me of back when I first moved back to Toledo after leaving college. I had been job searching for several weeks and hadn’t heard anything back from any of the places  I applied. I was getting discouraged. Finally one afternoon I knelt down in my living room and told God I trusted Him to make a way. Five minutes later I got not one but two calls for interviews. Two days later I had my job at Churchills. To me, these two calls were God’s reminder of the way He provided for me in that season of stepping out in faith and a reminder to trust Him to provide for us this time, too.

I feel like this trip – this whole process of following the Lord’s call to Kansas City, really – is stretching my faith in a way that it hasn’t been stretched in a long time, stretching it in a good way, even though my flesh struggles against it. We don’t know what we’re doing. We don’t know how this is going to work. All we know is what the Lord spoke so clearly in Kansas City this past November (and confirmed over and over in the following months). This trip feels like a jump off a cliff, like that moment suspended in the air as we wonder whether God will really catch us. But we’re trusting that He will. We have no other choice.

As we pulled out of the train station this morning, I re-read Jesus’ promise in Matthew 7: 7-8:

“Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Since we came back from our last trip to Kansas City we’ve been praying for “open doors” that would enable us to move out there. I felt like God was reminding me this morning that He’s promised to open doors to those who knock. So we’re going out to Kansas City to knock on the door of the Lord’s will, trusting that He will open it to us and show us which doors to knock on next.

Please pray for us during this trip:

– that we will be receptive to God’s plan for this trip
– that we will hear God clearly
– that God will open doors for us, especially in the area of jobs
– that God will set up “divine appointments” during our time there
– that we will grow in faith and intimacy during this trip

“Not only that, but we boast even of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5