October 19, 2013

Rainbows & Butterflies

I wanted to take the time to write today about some of the things that God has been taking us through recently. When I was single and would see a friend get married, I think that I subconsciously believed that life was rainbows and butterflies for them as newlyweds. Well, as a newlywed myself now, I would definitely say that that belief was not entirely naive. There are indeed a great deal of rainbows and butterflies in life as a newly married couple (ten whole weeks now, guys!), however, we have had our share of "storm clouds and moths" as well, and while the past couple of months have definitely not been characterized by those storm clouds and moths, I feel that it is important that we never deceive people into believing that our lives are perfect and peachy keen. It is perfect in the sense that whatever happens God is in complete control and that nothing happens outside of His perfect plan. One of the most discouraging things, in my opinion, is when someone tries to encourage me by telling me "I totally understand what you're going through, but trust me, it'll all work out." Despite the good intentions of words such as those, they actually make me feel as though I have just been tossed a 1000 lb. weight instead of the life float I was so desperately searching for to keep me afloat amidst whatever ocean of tribulation I am drowning in. What really brings me hope is when someone takes the time to share about their own struggles and happy endings, in a very real, vulnerable, and genuine way. It is my hope that this particular blog post does just that.

Stress. In small amounts it can be healthy, pushing us to put our best effort in, or to accomplish something far more challenging than we may have originally signed up for. But when stress becomes the underlying factor of your job, your world, and your life, something has to give.
Most people do not cope with stress well, and I am definitely not an exception. For the past few weeks, there has been an increasing amount of stress in my life which was entirely rooted in my part time preschool job. Sure, some may find it hard to believe that "part time" and "preschool" could be in the same context as "stress," but really, it is so much more than that.
The hours at this preschool were absolutely perfect for David and my schedules. We could walk or drive to work in the mornings together, and David could come pick me up after school and we'd spend the afternoon and evening together. Not to mention that we also shared holidays and weekends together. Needless to say, the schedule was absolutely perfect, and the "part time" facet was not a problem.
My heart feels happiest in a job setting when my "job" requires me to constantly interact with small, little people who ask the funniest questions and discover the most astounding things - such as red + yellow = orange. The little two and three year olds that I interacted with on a daily basis were what kept me going every day. As long as I am surrounded by children - the people that God has gifted me to work with best - then all is well.
However, the past few weeks have become a steadily growing avalanche of stress, and no, it wasn't due to anything in my job description of "part time preschool teacher" - it was solely based on the poor administration of this school.
Over the past few weeks I have been brought to the lowest point of my teaching career. In turn, this has caused me to question myself as a wife, person, and ultimately child of God. I never doubted that I was a Christian, but I was faced with so many doubts as to the kind of "Christian" I was really portraying in my job setting. It seemed to me that despite my efforts there was nothing positive that I was portraying, let alone "Christian."It left me in a very low state of mind which even effected the way that I handled my home life. There was a lingering voice in my head that was constantly telling me that I was a failure - a failure at being a teacher, being a wife, being a friend, being a cook, being a Christian. Poor David was forced to stand strong for his wife day in and day out, even though he would come home weary from exams or reading and need a little TLC himself. It brought a whole new meaning to "for better or for worse" for me.
I had made up my mind that I was going to stick it out at this job and continue to shine bright for Christ in that dark place. I felt that it was hypocritical of me to one day aspire to working alongside my husband in any sort of ministry, if I could not consider my present job my ministry as well. So, for many weeks I accepted the condescension and degradation that was frequently placed on me by the administration at the school, and clung to the example that Jesus was setting for me in my daily devotions in Luke. Jesus was brought to His lowest point and was completely humiliated before all, yet He persevered at the task He was given. I earnestly hoped to do the same.
I can't be too specific, but last week, something happened that completely changed everything. There were some very ugly things that happened with the administration at the school, and my co-teacher and I found ourselves being almost dehumanized by our director in a time of genuine need. Every day that week, I dreaded going in to work knowing that we would be brought even lower that day than the day before. I lost countless hours of sleep, and the time I did spend sleeping only allowed my mind to create nightmares of the current events. My time with David was suffering because, although I genuinely wanted to be there for him, I was always half-listening or half-present because my mind was overtaken by work.
Finally, after an ugly and highly unprofessional encounter with my director, David and I felt that it was time to put an end to this job. We prayed about it and sought much counsel on this decision, and ultimately it came down to the fact that this job was interfering with my #1 job as wife, and that that could not be put on the line. I resigned that night, and for the first time in weeks I was finally able to have a good night's sleep.
Alright, this is where the story begins to go UP :)
Once again in Luke, God has met me right where I am, reminding me that if He cares even for the sparrows and the lilies, that He undoubtedly knows my every need too. He has already opened up other job possibilities, and I know that He will continue to guide and direct us in whatever the next step may be.
What we didn't think about, was the fact that now that I didn't have a job, I would be able to attend Moody Bible Institute's Missions Conference with David. The Missions Conference is one of the biggest events of the year for Moody students. All kinds of agencies and speakers come in and talk about various missions work across the globe. We were able to attend ten different sessions over the past few days hosted by agencies from Wycliffe, Pioneer Bible Translators, New Tribes Missions, ABWE, and many more.
I feel so blessed that God worked it out so that I could be a part of this past week after such a difficult trial. Never once have I looked back on the decision David and I made with regret or with guilt, but instead, I feel confident that God has something better planned ahead.
The last and final session of the Missions Conference was delivered to the entire student body by a pastor from a church in Georgia. This session spoke directly into my heart. He shared from Acts 16 about the story of the demon possessed woman whom Paul and Silas freed from her possession and were then enslaved for it. He brought attention to the fact that Paul and Silas were doing what God wanted them to do - they freed this woman - yet for their good they were still put in prison. He then did a brief overview on the archangels of the Bible - Michael, Gabriel, and Lucifer. Michael was used for battle, Gabriel for the word, and Lucifer was at one time the angel of worship. As we all know, Lucifer lost this position in the heavens after pridefully lusting after worship himself. If Satan's downfall was a result of worship-envy, then it is no wonder that he despises worship of the Most High. When Paul and Silas were brought to their lowest as they sat in prison, Satan may have believed that evil had won. But this was the farthest thing from the truth. Paul and Silas, although completely debased, began worshipping God in that prison cell. It must have been like a slap in the face to Satan! On top of that, the doors were opened, the prisoners escaped, Paul and Silas were freed, a jail guard and his family were led to the Lord, and evil was defeated once again.
This message brought a whole new meaning to the verses about rejoicing in hardships. Satan may try to bring us down, but the truth is, he can never separate us from the love of Christ which always trumps evil every time.
I may be jobless and on the rise from one of the lowest places I've been, but I am lifting up my eyes in praise and worship to a God that brings good out of EVERYTHING.

Please, be encouraged that whatever struggles you are going through, you are not alone. Life isn't just rainbows and butterflies for anyone. None of us lead perfect lives, but each of us are part of a perfect plan.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."
1 Peter 5:6-10

"And after you have suffered a little while,
the God of all grace, who has called you
to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself
 restore, confirm, strengthen,
& establish you."

Prayer Requests:
- RM finding a job and holding onto the truths of God's perfect plan for her life
- David is halfway through the semester and doing awesome! However, this week he has caught a really bad cold and has been feeling pretty miserable. Please pray that he gets better soon and that God gives him the strength to finish out the semester strong!
- We will be flying to Hawaii for my mom's wedding soon! Pray for safety and for a smooth, beautiful wedding day for the Brattons!

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