Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Tick that Broke the Camel's Back

The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps. Psalm 85:12-13

I've been through some things in the last few months that would cause most people to fling themselves under the nearest oncoming Mack truck. Thankfully, God has been working in me in huge, powerful ways and He enabled me to handle them with a grace that I can barely even comprehend, much less even dream of mustering up myself. He is amazing, and, coming from a volatile, sarcastic, easily-embittered girl who is far quicker with a biting one-liner than a word of peace and forgiveness, I am so, so grateful that when I begged Him to take my human tendencies away and please let the Holy Spirit shine out through me instead (because, like, I know how I am!), He absolutely has...when I let Him. I'm constantly working on that. But praise God, He shows up when you ask. Wow, does He ever.

Still, though, it's me...and sometimes my humanness takes over.

I thought I had been doing pretty well the last couple of weeks. I mean, I'd been walking in faith (pretty much), perservering (when I had the energy), believing (when I saw a little progress), listening for God (when I felt like it)...all of that wonderful stuff. I'd been praying (well, not like I had in weeks before, but still!) and spending time with God (kind of) and had been living in sort of a plateau of waiting on Him. I kept holding the rope (limply) and seeing the vision (when I squinted) and trusting Him (mostly) and that was fine. I was fine. Or so I thought.

On Monday, I let a conversation I'd had with my best friend the day before eat at me and dig into me all day instead of giving it up to God. It was dumb, and didn't really matter anyway - I see that now. But even so, I allowed myself to get all in a fit over it. It's so silly what I let myself get upset about sometimes.

By Monday evening, after whining about it to several other people and letting them talk me back into my senses, I thought I had calmed down...calmed down enough, at least, to take a shower, collect myself, and start praying for the following day. But when I went into the bathroom and got ready to get in the shower, I looked down at my stomach and saw, from walking my puppy in the park earlier, that a tick had attached itself to me.

I screamed. I yanked the tick off of me and drowned it in the sink.

And then I totally lost it.

I threw on my bathrobe, dragged myself out to the living room, collapsed onto the couch, and burst into tears. "That. Is. IT!!" I yelled at God. I pounded my fists on the futon cushion under me. "I can't do this anymore!! I can't wait anymore!! I can't be jobless anymore!! I can't be broke anymore!! I can't be alone anymore!!"

At that moment, as if on cue, my toy poodle puppy, who had been watching me with quite a bit of concern, jumped up onto the couch beside me, climbed into my lap, put her paws on my chest, stuck her nose in my face, and started licking me. I was startled out of my pity party. Once she saw that she shut me up, she curled up in my lap, rested her head on my knee, and sighed contentedly.

It was kind of hard to keep wailing after that.

No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Joshua 1:5

Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD's renown, for an everlasting sign which will not be destroyed. Isaiah 55:13

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

My Tower of Refuge and Strength

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

Two weeks ago yesterday, I lost my job.

Before that, I had so many other things to write about, but for the last two weeks, all I've been able to think about is strength...and how much I need it.

I've gone through pretty much every stage of grief imaginable over my now-former job. For the first couple of days, I was completely numb. I began sending out resumes and applications for other positions like a robot. I called and registered with employment agencies. I reactivated my accounts on job-seeker websites...websites I'd been checking daily just four months ago. I called to see how much longer I'd get to keep my health insurance and calculated the amount of the daily inhalers I need that I'd be able to get before it ran out. (I have severely diminished lung capacity as a result of premature birth and I must use inhalers every day just to survive. My very existence is a miracle in and of itself, but that's another story for another time.)

By the time Sunday came around, I had been through grief, anguish, anger, indignance, and self-pity. I had whined pathetically ad infinitum to my mother (and anyone else who'd listen). I sat in silent shock for hours as I looked for other jobs. I got selfish and I felt raw and needy and exposed. I felt worthless, like a leper, but also self-righteous. If anyone else tried to tell me about what was not going exactly right in their lives, it felt as if they were rubbing salt in my obviously gaping wound and ignoring my cries of pain. I don't have anything left in me to care about your problems! Look at MY problems! They are so much worse than yours! Don't you see that?! Stop whining and be grateful you're not in my shoes! I'd smile and nod and try to look understanding, but inside I was being ripped apart.

By Sunday evening, I had worn myself out with my roller-coaster-like emotions. I was empty. I was exhausted. More than anything else, I was just plainly, profoundly, and desperately lonely.

My loneliness made no logical sense, because I spent the entire day with my best friend. But after church and lunch with her and her husband and playing with my puppy at their apartment and then dinner at her parents' house, I was walking to my car to leave and the heaviness in my heart made my legs turn to jelly and my body feel like dead weight. When I finally dropped into the front seat, I barely had the energy to start the ignition.

I felt so very empty and so very lonely. I had absolutely no strength at all. I couldn't cry. I couldn't even pray.

At that moment, I envied my best friend her husband. Maybe this would be easier if I was married, I thought. It had to be. I've never (yet) been in a relationship with a strong man of God, but right then, more than any other time in my life, I wished I was. I wanted someone with strength - strength of spirit and character and faith - someone who would love me and reassure me and, most of all, pray over me with authority and confidence. Because, right then, I needed it desperately, and I just couldn't do it myself.

And maybe I was right - maybe it would have been just a little easier if I was married. But I finally mustered up the strength to turn the key in the ignition and start the drive home. I turned on my praise songs, and in the middle of "Shout to the Lord" (which Jesus and I call Our Song, by the way), my Lord spoke to me and said, "My precious daughter, I am all the strength you need."

Then He said, gently but firmly, "You know what to do."

He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall. But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40: 29-32

My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

In February, God told me to pray over a certain person every day for two weeks - actually, to labor in prayer over this person. He opened up His heart to me regarding this person and led me to pull out specific verses and use them in my prayers. It was the first time (unbelievably) I'd ever really prayed the word of God over someone in such a diligent, consistent, focused way, and my goodness, it was powerful. God met me in my prayers and absolutely anointed them in a way I had never known before. I discovered firsthand what a huge difference it makes to use the word of God in my prayers, and I was astounded. It was really exciting! It was also incredibly draining. When God first told me to pray every day for two weeks, I said "Two weeks? That's nothing!" By the third day, I was whining, "Goooooood, I'm EXHAUSTED!" to which God simply gave me the thumbs-up sign and quipped, "Eleven more days!"

Little did I know, that was practice.

So now, I am praying again - praying and believing for God's miraculous provision. The best part is, the Bible assures me over and over that God will provide - He will provide not only all the strength I need to make it through, but also everything I physically need as well. He will provide the money. He will provide the job and the insurance and the ability to keep going in His will. I know it, because that's what it says.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:25-35

And I believe it.

My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. Psalm 119:28
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD! Psalm 27:13-14