So Easy to Forget..

For over a year I have prayed every day for a job. My contract ended June 2016 and I needed a new one. I watched as we neared the summer, telling myself that maybe more schools would hire in June. I talked myself down during July and told myself that there were always last minute hires.. maybe in August. I braced myself to face September.. my first September in a looong time where I didn’t have a contract. I comforted myself with the idea that “anything could happen” and a mid year hire was possible. I scoured job sites, explored fields other than education, and prayed every day.

God didn’t answer my prayer immediately. He didn’t answer it the way I thought he should answer it last Spring but he did have a plan and while I’m sure I don’t understand all of it, I see now that he had some work to do in me.
So the past year was trying and difficult and humbling and frightening. Every month I had bills to pay and spent a lot of time talking to God about my bank account. I had never been in that position before… needing to pray for literal daily bread. (well not totally literal.. bread is bad) But I had specific financial needs that I needed help with. And God provided! It was amazing!
Since I didn’t have a busy full-time job (I was supply teaching) I had lots of time to read. I read a lot. My morning time with God was no longer rushed and that was a good thing. I noticed my prayer life was changing too. While a year ago I was a bit more demanding about the kind of job I wanted and the particular school I was hoping for, my prayers changed to asking him to put me where he needed me and where he could use me. My heart was changing and shifting and my relationship was deepening. I moved from praying for the ability to trust him, to actually trusting him.
And now things have changed. I have a job. It came just in time and so far it seems like a great fit for the next year.
I am excited about the future and I am so happy to be working again. I am also determined not to forget all that God has done for me. I don’t want to wander slightly because things are good at the moment. I don’t want to forget the moments that I nervously checked my bank account to see if I had enough to pay a bill and found that the money was there! I feel protective of this past year because it was the year I experienced him in a totally different way. So I’m writing things down so I don’t forget about that time that God took care of me and showed me amazing kindness and love when I needed it most.
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Bratty Behaviour

Oh, how fleeting our happiness can be! It seems as though lately I have been bombarded by the idea that nothing in this life can truly satisfy us. No person, job, condo, vacation, clothing item, accessory, toy, can ever cause us to be completely happy. For a little over a year I’ve been praying for a job and simultaneously living in a state of minor terror. When September rolled around and I wasn’t working, I was shocked and fearful. As the year went on, I went through varying degrees of fear but deep down I told myself that once I had landed a job– all of my problems would be solved. I believed that true happiness would be found in gainful employment.

And so, one day in early March, I received word that I had indeed gotten myself a job! I was ecstatic! I was thankful! I could see God working in the details that made this happen for me! I was finally able to sleep at night and wake up in the early morning hours without worrying myself into a dark hole.

BUT – that happiness rather quickly disappeared and my worry for a job was way-too-quickly replaced with my desire for a really great boyfriend. It had only been a couple of days! My employment dream had come true. The key to my supposed happiness had been given to me and I so quickly forgot. I figured I had at least a couple of weeks before I was yearning for something else to make me more satisfied but no.. we are strange creatures that way.

I know that should I ever meet a tall, bold.. wait that’s my coffee order.. but should I ever meet the right man, I will be happy but then inevitably I will be wanting for something else. We are never satisfied. I feel like such a brat but I also recognize that this is what C.S. Lewis was talking about.. this is the very “desire that nothing in this world can satisfy” and the indication that “we were made for another world“. Or as Paul David Tripp wrote in his book New Morning Mercies: “Of course you haven’t been fulfilled in this world. It’s a sign that you have been designed for a world to come.

So I will continue to be thankful that God has blessed me with a job and when I feel that annoying longing for something new, I will tell myself that this is just a symptom of the human condition. Sure, those things may bring some happiness but they will not stop me from wanting more. Only God can satisfy our hearts and only He can bring us to a place where all of our yearnings and desires will be completely met.

 

Goodbye September

September was not my finest month. My circumstances were not ideal and neither was my attitude. You see, for the past 11 years I have always had a full-time teaching job in September. I am used to being slightly stressed and overwhelmed while scrambling to learn my new student’s names and organize myself and my courses for the year. I am used to long, tiring days and trying very hard not to start any sort of countdown. For the first time, in 11 years, I did not have a job on the First Day of School. And that rocked me.

 

I had been praying for a job for September since pretty much the previous September and spent time believing that God was going to provide just that for me. As I approached the summer, I was slightly nervous but still pretty confident that I would be working on the first day of school. As August started to show itself, I was growing a little more tense, but then a job opprotunity presented itself and I was SURE that it was what God has in mind for me. I interviewed and then spent the week panicking until I heard that.. Nope, it was not to be. Devastating. Yet I consoled myself with the fact that it would be okay.. I’d be working by September. And then it was the last week of August, the first week of September, Labour Day and then the first day of school. The only thing on my calendar was a hair appointment mid afternoon. For the first time in 11 years… I was unemployed.

 

I was upset. I was stressed out. I was panicky. I worried about my future, my rent payments, my RRSPs, my long term savings that were dwindling… I was a mess. I felt like a loser, a failure, way too similar to people I had previously judged. I didn’t sleep well. I didn’t wake up well. It took me a long time every morning to get to a place where I felt something that resembled peace. Maybe it wasn’t quite peace but it was something that resembled being okay enough to face the day.

 

I kept praying the same thing: “God, please give me a full time job and please help me to trust you.” The prayers didn’t really seem to be working.

 

A side note is that I am not entirely unemployed. I am on a supply teacher list at my previous school and happily, I was being called in quite a lot. I also had some friends in town and I enjoyed being free to spend time with them during the day. And, I have a good friend in a similar situation to me and we did meet up occasionally and discuss how this was only temporary.

 

One day I noticed the fact that September was nearing its completion, fall had started, the weather was changing, and I just wanted time to stop. I was dreading October because that means that a whole month has now gone by where I’m not teaching. What a depressing thought! But this is the thing! I basically spent the summer not being able to enjoy myself because I was so stressed out about a job and I spent September the same way. I know, deep down, that this is all temporary and that the supply teaching gig is actually pretty sweet. I know that I may never have time like this again and I suddenly realized, I can’t keep dreading the future and spending day after day miserable and stressed out. I can’t let one thing that isn’t going the way I want it to go to dictate my thoughts and mood on my entire life.

 

Also, I started to think about how there are so many things I’ve wanted to do that I was unable to do because I was teaching or too tired from teaching. But now– I have time. I actually have time AND energy. I don’t want to waste that. I want to be able to take advantage of the fact that I am in a unique situation, one where I actually have time to write the things I want to write and to read the books I want to read, and to cook the recipes I’ve been eyeing and to get back into running and yoga and all of the other things that I never used to have time to do.

 

I want to actually enjoy the fall. I want to spend time happily working away at projects that I’ve ignored for far too long. I want to enjoy being able to meet up with a friend in the afternoon for coffee. I want to remember that God has me in this moment in time, in these particular circumstances, for a reason and I want to be able to calm down and relax in that. He’s got me.

 

So now I’m looking at October, 31 whole days, and maybe I’ll get a job and maybe I won’t. I am determined to make use of this month either way, and to live each day purposefully and well.

 

I haven’t had my “doom and gloom” early morning freakouts for a while now and my prayers are no longer me begging God to help me trust Him. I realized the other day that finally… finally after ages and ages, I actually DO trust Him. I’ll keep praying for wisdom and guidance and direction and a job but while I pray, I hold onto the fact that I serve a good God, with a perfect plan and I can trust in Him for all things.

 

Letting Go

 When I’m having one of “those days”.. I often spend a bit of time wracking my brain and trying to figure out why I don’t feel like everything is okay. I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately and finding that it’s affecting everything, my running, my eating, my energy levels, … So I was trying to figure out why I was feeling so “off” and what needed to happen for it to get better.

In conversations with friends I found myself constantly referring back to the hurt and anger I was feeling about a failed relationship. I was on a bit of a downward spiral. One of my friend swas dealing with a failed relationship of his own and we were talking about how we just wish that the other people would realize how much they have hurt us. We were talking about how hard it is to see them happy and how part of us really wishes they were miserable or at least aware of how horrible they made us feel. None of this is shocking… it’s just the emotions that occur when a relationship or a friendship ends. Yet I found that nothing I did could ease the hurt I was feeling. I couldn’t move past it and was wondering why things always seem to bother me so much.

So then I went to church. And it was one of those times when I knew that I was meant to be there to hear that very message. Well parts of the sermon were a bit hard to relate to but the main message was about forgiveness. It was based on Ephesians 4:31-32. “ Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (ESV) The translation the pastor used began with “Get rid of all bitterness” which really caught my attention. And it hit me. I have been holding onto bitterness and anger and all of these negative emotions and it’s not healthy. I’m not able to grow spiritually, I’m not able to move on, I’m stuck in a rut and I can’t get out. I need to get rid of these things and I need to forgive because.. well I was forgiven.

The thing is.. the person who hurt me will probably never know how much he did. And you know what? That’s okay because I’m not responsible for him, I’m responsible for me. The more I cling onto these negative destructive emotions, the more power I give him in the situation and the more pain and hurt I end up causing myself. I am called to forgive people, to let go of anger, to be kind and tenderhearted. I must let go…

And so.. I prayed. I prayed that I would be able to forgive him and I was amazed by how quickly God answered that prayer request. Sure, I still have a few left over hurt feelings but I no longer have that deep anguish and resentment. I was finally able to let go of all of that and get busy forgiving and forgetting. It’s amazing how quickly God can work in our hearts.

So I think I figured out why I was feeling so down. I think much of it had to do with the fact that I wasn’t forgiving someone and I was holding onto a lot of horrible feelings. To live that way is toxic. It’s not healthy. It’s not pleasing to God. No wonder I felt “off'” and felt that way for so long. Now that I’ve let that go, I do feel so much better.

Sure, everything is not totally okay but I cling to the hope that one day, it will be.

 

A Daily Thing

quiet times If you were to read my prayer journal (no peeking, it’s private) you would probably give me low marks when it comes to variety of my prayer requests. Not because I don’t have much to pray about but more because it seems like I am constantly needing to pray about the same things over and over.

I have a few constant struggles that if I’m not daily addressing in prayer, seem to dominate my thoughts and life. I grow frustrated with how I’m always praying about these things but as someone once told me, if my continuous struggles are what keeps me in constant communication with God, well it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I was reading in Psalm 68 this morning about how God daily bears us up (vs 19). Emphasis on the word daily. I sensed immense comfort in knowing that this is just one of the amazing things our God does for us. He daily bears me. It’s okay that I need Him to do that every day. It’s okay that without asking Him for help, I’m not able to handle certain situations.

The Psalm ends with “He is the one who gives power and strength to his people” (35) which just further shows me how present He is/needs to be in my life.

God is the source. He has all the good stuff. He’s there to bear us up, to give us what we need in order to get through the day, from helping us form better attitudes and thought patterns to our salvation.

Sometimes the simplest ideas seem the most difficult to grasp. So whatever it is that you’re facing this week, remember it is God who bears us up daily and gives us the power and strength we need to get through the day, the week, the month… We have help in this!

A “New” Approach

 “You’re driving me so bonkers…I’m going to pray for you!”

I was speaking with a friend/colleague the other day about how the students are starting to drive us a little mental. (We really really need a holiday!) She was talking about how she’s been increasingly short tempered and blunt with them. We were voicing our frustrations and discussing how it’s really not fun to be the cranky and crabby teacher. Suddenly I found myself telling her to pray for them by name and to pray for help to love them. I recalled something from years ago, how when I worked in Indonesia a teacher had shared about how she’d sit on her student’s desks in the mornings and say quick prayers for them before they had even shown up to school.

I remembered how I used to pray every day for a particularly horrible girl I went to high school with. I remember noticing how on the days I prayed for her, she was nicer to me.
I remembered how God answered those very specific prayers.
The act of praying for someone irritating is difficult but effective. Whether it’s just to pray that God would give you enough love to love them properly or whether you’re at the point where you can take it a step further and pray for God to bless them.. using prayer to deal with people is freeing. It’s such a simple solution yet we often are scrambling for other more complicated, less obvious ways to deal with our problem people.
The Bible instructs us to pray for our enemies. Not only should we pray for them but we should pray that they will be blessed. Yikes! It’s amazing how praying those kind of prayers immediately starts to change our own hearts. You can’t have a heart filled with anger and frustration and ask God to heap blessings on someone horrible… it just doesn’t seem to work. Little by little our hearts start to change and soften.
I have realized that I have been very slack in terms of praying for specific people. Yes I have the regular people I pray for, family, friends, certain requests for prayer I’ve received but when it comes to praying for specific students and colleagues etc, I have fallen miserably short.
And so I will resolve to pray more for those the Lord places in my path. I will pray for those students who irk me but also the ones who I think are fantastic. I will pray for the colleagues who are my friends and the ones who drive me a bit batty. I will work to be in a constant state of prayer so that my words and actions can do nothing but reflect His Son.
This will be my goal, my new approach to living life and praying, my new way of looking at and praying for the world around me.
Wanna join me in this?

“I Hear What You’re Saying”

SHIP It’s pretty incredible what we can hear when we turn off all the noise. It’s amazing how daily and consistent contact with God allows us to be so incredibly tuned into what He is saying. I spent a long time blocking out His urging, guidance, commands.. so much so that I think I sort of forgot what it felt like to hear anything from Him. I’ve been so skeptical of people who say they will “pray about it and see what God says”. BUT HOW CAN YOU HEAR HIM??? I would find my inner self screaming in frustration. But that was because I was wanting quick results with not a lot of effort on my part. I wanted to benefit from a relationship I wasn’t giving to. I wanted quick and audible and obvious replies. But the thing is, even if I did hear His voice, I wouldn’t have recognized who it belonged to.. or worse, I wouldn’t have wanted to do what He said.

I recall hearing the idea that you cant turn a ship, we’re talking a big Titanic-like ship, around quickly. It takes a while to get it facing the opposite way and so is it true for those coming back to God. Sometimes you can’t just quickly flip back around. It takes time.
Time praying.
Time singing.
Time reading.
Time thinking.
Time waiting..
but eventually.. you’re facing the right way again. And when you’re facing the right way, you can see and hear everything you’re meant to be seeing and hearing.
I feel that in my own life, I’m finally facing the right direction. I’ve been able to work on maintaining more of a constant state of prayer and I really do believe that I’m more open to hearing His voice, His prodding, His leading. It’s a remarkable thing. Over the past week several instances have shown up where I really felt His presence and voice of instruction. I ended up feeling obliged to decline one scenario which seemed relatively harmless yet gave me zero inner peace and actively participate in another, which was a situation where I needed to trust Him much more than I’d been regularly doing. I didn’t feel at peace until I obeyed those instructions. It was crazy! But so good.
Yes I know that there is a trap we can fall into.. misinterpreting our personal feelings as God’s voice but I also believe that if we are working on spending time with Him daily, we come to know what is His voice and what is actually just plain nerves, lies or less glamourously.. indigestion.
I have been trying to be awake this year. Awake to God. Little did I know, that one of the benefits of being awake, is that I can actually hear His voice. It is my prayer that I will remember this and when I’m tempted by laziness, loudness or to wander away, I will remember what joy exists when I am close enough to hear Him.