Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Land Between

"The Land Between, the space that we hate, is the very soil where God does some of His RICHEST AND DEEPEST WORK." Jeff Manion, The Global Leadership Summit

I could sum up the blog entry with just that. . . but of course, I won't. I want to reflect on the land between in my own life. This most often makes me think of those in between times, the times you're waiting on The Lord to reveal His plans for you--emphasis on the waiting. The waiting can be so many different things: waiting for reconciliation, waiting for comfort, waiting for the dawn, waiting for a job, waiting to sell or buy a home, waiting for a spouse, waiting for pregnancy, waiting for an answer.

It is never easy.
It is never fast.
It is always life-changing.

Then there is the 'land between' of change. The land of growth, the land that requires perseverance, the land between Obedience & Blessings, which is so often filled with pain, struggle, and plenty of opportunities to prove your faith and your patience. It's the land of "I obeyed God & right now it doesn't feel good."

I recently took on a huge life change and it came after a very big, very long journey in the Land Between.

The Holy Spirit nudged me in January. Okay, well, it was more like a flash vision in my mind that happened very suddenly and startled even myself as I was driving into Hillsboro on 13 mile road. I applied in the beginning of February even though a search committee had not even formed yet. I was eager to obey, because honestly, I thought if I sat on God's calling too long, I'd come up with too many reasons to pass the calling on to someone else. In fact, there was a point, in April I think, where I was ready to withdraw my application. I really wondered if anyone even thought I was a good candidate and I was overwhelmed mostly at the prospect of being a working mom. Could I both work and mother to the level God requires of me? I know women do it well all the time, but could I do it? And what about when I have another baby? Lydia was just shy of 2 when I started and she was ready for the atmosphere at Kid's Connection. She is so social. But it will be a different story when I have another baby. And what if I couldn't tackle it all. What if I started my job & didn't know what to do? What if . .

WHAT IF. . .

What if I Failed?

I have Maura Wiebe & Clyde Jost to thank for keeping me in the race. :) One Wednesday night when we were preparing for a night with the high schoolers (Because Lee & I filled in as the teachers for the year the church was without a youth pastor) Maura reminded me I hadn't completed all the requirements of my application. It was the first time really that anyone had talked much about the fact that I had even applied. I passively replied that I thought I would withdraw my application. She looked surprised and then a few minutes later told me her and Clyde would like to talk with me afterwards.

It was God at work.

After church they poured into me words of affirmation that they wanted to see me as the Youth Pastor, that they believed in the gifts God had given me, that they felt strongly that God had brought me here for this time, for this place, for these students. It reignited a flame that was dying inside. A flame that had been washed out with self-doubt and uncertainty.

Thank you Clyde & Maura. . . I am SO THANKFUL you encouraged me to move forward on the journey.

Alas, after a half dozen interviews, 5 1/2 months of waiting, and 2 weeks of candidating, the church finally voted and I started working again for the first time since becoming a mother. I jumped from the land between of waiting to the land between of life change. It isn't that it is just my first time returning to work since Lydia, though that is HUGE, it is my first REAL JOB. That doesn't sum it up either, I got a job I neither specifically trained nor studied for, and this doesn't go to say that I deserve some kind of medal, it goes to say that I am an inadequate Moses on my way to Egypt--Only God can make me able. But we can't stop there. God gave me a job as a Youth Pastor--SAY WHAT?!--God called me to a position of responsibility, of great responsibility, to look after His sheep, to minister to His young people, and to top it off He gave me a job that strikes up controversy because I am a woman.

I am excited.
I am pumped.
I am passionate.
I am certain that God has me where He wants me.
But it hasn't been easy.

The biggest challenge, the most hurtful challenge, has come from the issue that I am a woman. I do not feel angry when people express their concern or belief that it is not Biblical for a woman to serve in a Pastoral role. I really do not. I can respect their decision and respect them as individuals. But it is hard to make sense of, of course. Through my scriptural study I believe differently. Through my relationship with The Lord, I believe I am living in obedience. But I don't know if that makes it sting less when volunteers quit or leave the church. . . It is my instinct to tag 'because of me' on to the end of that sentence. But I simply cannot think like that.  It took A LOT of discerning Christians to select me as the candidate and then vote me in. Christians that I believe are intimate followers of Jesus. I have to trust that if this were sin, if this were against His commands, that He would have made it so very clear to us.

The worst part of this scenario has not been in the people that comment or leave, it's in the unknown of those who do not. It is the knot I get in my throat when someone asks what I do, and I momentarily question whether or not I should use the word 'director' or 'pastor' to avoid any awkward moments.  It is in the faces of those I cannot read or who have not spoken, and Satan is quick to whisper his own perspective of their thoughts about me into my ear. The worst of it is in that painful feeling in your heart when you know there are people who don't agree with what you are doing, who don't support you, who don't believe in your call.

It's interesting that it all seems to revolve around a word "Pastor", because no one expressed concern when I was teaching The Word and directing the youth regularly on Wed nights as a volunteer. Sometimes I wonder, would it just be better if I didn't have the title? I just can't make sense of it.

Ahhh . . . and then I remember. I don't have to. I don't have to defend myself. I don't have to make sense of the disagreements. I don't have to make sense of any of it. I just have to obey. I have to obey in The Land Between, and trust, desperately TRUST, that God is doing HIS WORK.

I realize I am making myself vulnerable posting this on the 'big digital' or the 'book of faces'  (aka: the internet and facebook) but I was just discussing with Pastor Brian this morning about the importance of sharing our personal faith experiences and how I want our youth to be able to do that--so should not I do it? I want the youth to be able to read this and to know me, and to know that I desire to live in obedience to God. I want to FOLLOW HIM not just believe in Him. I want to be His disciple---even when it is hard, even when it is painful, even when it doesn't always make sense. Abraham was willing to obey even to the point of sacrificing His son and I am certain that didn't make sense to him.

God is strengthening me, stretching me, teaching me, and somehow He is going to do good work through me--though I am sure it will be nothing short of a miracle. I have a lot to learn about Youth Ministry, I have a lot to learn about the Bible, I have a lot to learn about filling this role, but I am SO FORTUNATE that I serve the God who breathed stars, who makes people, who holds all things together, and who will make me able to complete the tasks He has required of me because it is about bringing Him Glory.

And that is the most important thing of all.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Time Waits for No One

Obviously I made it a full 2 weeks into my New Year's resolution to blog once a week. And in fact, every time I have thought about it I've been overcome with a sense of self failure and have thus avoided it completely. Even as I opened this page I felt the heat of anxiety climb up the back of my neck and even had to flick my desk fan on to avoid sweating. Nobody wants to pit out in a light purple fitted-T. I enjoy blogging, and trust me, my daughter gives me plenty of material, but when I was at home with her all those months and in between my last post and this one, I just didn't find the time to sit down uninterrupted in front of the computer. I also felt annoyed with the process of uploading/posting pictures, etc.

But so much has happened since my last post. As of July 1 I am the Youth Pastor at Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church. Yahoo. What a ride it has been to get to this point. I won't go through all of the twists and turns and delays, but let's just say I applied sometime in late January.

Lee & I have been so blessed in Hillsboro. It was been so wonderful to literally feel God's affirmation on our obedience in following His call on our lives to return. It wasn't easy and I've been reflecting on this as two of my very good friends have recently (as in the last week) packed up everything they owned, said goodbyes to good friends and loved ones, and came, well, to Hillsboro actually. One hasn't even arrived yet, she is just a few hours away. All that to say is it makes me think back to those terribly difficult goodbyes in Reedley and Bakersfield. People were hurt, family and friends, and we were hurting. We were leaving the place we started our lives together. The place we started off as a married couple, and where Lydia Jane was born. Moving is so overwhelming and exhausting, and I look at my wonderful, beautiful friend, Erica Haude, and I have such great sympathy for her, because I know it is anything but easy. Hang in there, E! God's blessings are rich and full in due time.


It just keeps going even when we want it to take a time-out. Every day  Lydia Jane gets older, and smarter, and faster!! Last Friday we celebrated her 2nd Birthday. In the morning I took her to get a donut at Vogt's, then we dashed through Walmart for groceries and party supplies, then we came home to enjoy Wendy's chicken nuggets (nobody said you had to be healthy on your birthday! We went with her favorites). And over lunch she got to Skype with her Nana Kelly in California!!

We threw together a simple party (but even simple includes a minimum of 12 guests if you invite my family). Pizza and cake--per Lydia's preference! The Haude's and Rob's parents actually arrived that very evening with their U-Haul. So of course we welcomed them in. It made for a great party.

Lydia was a pure delight to watch open her gifts. She wanted to spend time with each one. She is not the type to rush on to the next bright bow or shiny bag. She wanted to enjoy each gift, which meant she wanted to read the book, snuggle the animal, try on the back-pack, or in one particular case, pick up her new chair and carry it to her room away from the crowd so she could sit in it and enjoy some peace and quiet.

For Lydia's party we borrowed her cousin Emrie's pool--and Lydia LOVES to swim and splash. As you can see.

Lydia got a couple pretty cool 'big' gifts. A swing from Lee & me, and yes, a little-person trampoline, from my parents. Both have been big hits in Lydia's world.

On the night of Lydia's birthday, I rocked her to sleep, which I don't get to do very often anymore. I held my sweet baby and I thought back to that first night together. There she was, and though I was exhausted, I woke frequently all night long to check on her. I was just too excited to get any good sleep and I instinctively woke to every tiny sound. I could have held her close to me forever. I practically did. The first year of her life we spent the majority of the time snuggling and I wouldn't trade that for anything. The second year of her life hasn't been without snuggling, she still loves to snuggle, it has just been more of a healthy balance between snuggling and running.

Lee & I are always amazed at how much Lydia wants to do and say. She has a pretty large vocabulary for a 2-year-old and I guess I shouldn't be surprised. She may look like her daddy, but she's got a lot to say just like her momma. 

If you're wondering when baby #2 is going to happen... we don't know. Sorry! Despite so many people's sense of urgency that we reproduce sooner rather than later, we're just waiting for the right timing for our family. Don't worry though, of course I've got an itch. And the maker of the universe could certainly make it happen anytime He wants to, despite even our efforts to prevent it, so I'm not worried. God's timing is always best. It sure was best with Lydia Jane.

Lydia is doing awesome at Kid's Connection. What a blessing to have her in the daycare just a hundred yards away. It had a few rough days at first, but yesterday I over heard her running down the hallway in an attempt to escape with her accomplice Ashton. They were both giggling so hard I think they may have actually thought they might get away with it. That or the rush from breaking rules was just too much fun to contain. :) About a foot from my office door they both turned back at the teacher's (3rd or 4th) request to "Come back to class, please."

I am a very blessed woman.. a very busy, but very blessed woman...