Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Daily Bread- A Story of Transformation

I wanted to entitle this blog "When it rains, it pours. ...and then it floods." Because that is how it has been for Ray and I this semester. Day 1 of the semester, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we had a crazy, absolutely insanely ridiculous mishap with his tire. This led to a bill of over $1500 getting his car fixed. (If you would like to know more, reconsider. You really don't. It was bad.)

Let's fast forward to week two of the semester. Roommate Hell. I mean knock-down drag-out, viciousness. (See previous Facebook statuses.) The storm has since calmed down some, but I am aware that there is a vicious festering rage that could cause Andi to explode at the unplugging of an extension cord or me to flip at the task of having to clean off my roommate's hair one more day. It's truly disgusting. I honestly wonder if she thinks there is a hair fairy in our apartment. God speed to her fiancé.

Anyway! Let's keep that roommate train rolling for a few weeks. Now throw in another car issue. The damage? About 1,000. And when I say about, I mean if Ray threw down another 50 cents, we would had hit four digits. Terrible.

Now in the mix of all of these things let's throw in work. Mix in a beyond generous helping of school and homework. And then top it off with the feeling of having the need to have a smile on your face when you walk into church. I know you don't need to, but when people ask "How are you doing?" You don't want to provide them with a lament.

It has been tough. So incredibly tough. But just when we felt like we had our feet out a semi-solid floor. Literally it felt like the whole earth got pulled out from underneath us.

Let me interject with something about Ray, and something about myself as well. I have always said that you can't truly love someone in a matter of weeks, and you sure as heck can't know he or she is the one in a matter of months. If you don't believe me, I can direct you to a friend of mine who I had been convinced she had no idea what she was doing until a month after she had been married. I now admit that I was wrong. Because I have learned, that when you know, you know.

Have Ray and I been together long? No. Have we had a lot of "life" to get through? We do now. But before I decided to make the commitment to date Ray I wanted to be certain that he was someone with whom I could potentially spend my life. And after much prayer, and lot's of thinking and considering, I realized that he someone like that. That's why we decided to officially date. Since then Ray and I have packed a heck of a lot of depth into our relationship. The number of "dates" we go on is actually quite small. Instead we fill our time with substance. We talk. We share. We grow. 

I am quite certain that anyone who knows me and is around me can attest to the fact that I am a different person after having Ray enter my life. He brings out the best in me. And I firmly believe that God put him in my life to be the one to coerce those characteristics to come out. I am happier. I am more confident. I am more patient. In loving Ray, and being loved by Ray, I have started to see those qualities described in Corinthians. And I can honestly say that had my heart and my life not been drastically changed my Jesus in these past few months. I would be making it through what Ray and I are facing right now. 

Back to the main topic.

Ray and I have considered the option of marriage for our future. ...Ok, we've more than considered. Either way, doors have been opening and options have been appearing that have screamed God's blessings. And in the midst of those rainy days and thunderstorms described above, we held onto the blessings that God was putting in our life. The main one? A job.

Ray had applied for a job a few weeks ago and had been given an offer. It could not have been more perfect. The town. The local church. Local friends. And the job itself was one in which he could use his management degree and continue in his love of basketball. We were in awe of God's blessings.

Now remember that earth shaking event I talked to you about earlier? Here it is. ...Ray didn't get that job. Not necessarily he didn't get that job, but there isn't a job to get due to funding. Talk about heartbreak. There is nothing worse than looking into the eyes of the man you want to spend the rest of your life with and see this light snuffed out as his dream just shattered on the floor.

To say yesterday was tough would be an understatement. It was beyond awful. But at that moment, I realized something. God had, and has, a plan for us. Now the old Stephanie would have instantly looked at this as a "Ray and I aren't meant to be together. This is terrible. Life is going to end. Woe is us" moment. Instead, I clung to the things that God has been doing in my life. That He works for the good of those who love Him. That He isn't going to give his daughter a serpent. (See this post for more information on that realization in my life.)

I found myself remembering the words to the Lord's prayer that Ray and I prayed on Monday night. "Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name! Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread."  And it hit me. We prayed, earnestly prayed for God's will to be done, and for Him to bless us with daily bread. Key word: Daily. We didn't pray for God to take care of tomorrow, next week, next year, or our life until retirement. We prayed for today. We asked God to give us the sustenance for today because that is how Jesus teaches us to pray.

I would love to say suddenly, but slowly, and repetitively throughout the day I was reminded with that, and  I found myself clinging to the promises that God has given us, that He will take care of us. And in the midst of my tears and worry, I thanked God. I praised Him for giving us those rainy days and thunderstorms before we hit the flood. Because for the past month, finances have been a key part of Ray and my relationship. We have talked about what happens in job loss, how do we want to plan for retirement, what about savings, giving up the luxury of eating out for Lent, and trusting in God as our provider, not Ray. God has clearly orchestrated a path for us to make it up this mountain slowly and surely by giving us the strength we've needed along the way. And because of that I praise Him. I praise Him for His faithfulness, His love, His mercy, His grace, and His promises. I praise Him for the gifts He gives us, and I cling to the promise of His rainbow that is going to come at the end of this flood. Because Oh what a glorious shining moment that will be!!!

This is not the end for us. This is a mountain that I am thankful we get to climb together before we get married. That we have the blessing and security that comes from parents and secure-ish jobs. We have health insurance. We have apartments. We have freezers full of food. We have our daily bread. And we'll have tomorrow's bread, as well. And every day, God is going to keep giving us that daily amount to not only sustain, but bless us. Because He works for the good of those who love Him, and we are trusting that His will is better than ours.

As for the future? Who knows. This could be an opportunity for Ray to work at a business that would provide us with more income that the job he had hoped for, thus helping us to get started on a more steady financial foot. Ray still might be able to volunteer with the basketball team at that place. It could be his service, and he would be able to do something he loves. That could easily be a door that God could open in the future. But until then, we are living today. We are praising today. And we are thanking God for the bread He has given us today. We'll let tomorrow worry about tomorrow. (Matthew 6:34)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

God's Blessings- Overcoming the dark cloud.

I don't know if you are aware of this, but sometimes being a woman causes you to just cry for no reason. This morning was one of those days. I woke up thinking about Ray and how wonderful he is, and how full of integrity he is, how loving he is, and how blessed I am. And then I started to cry. Now I'll admit there are those days that I just suddenly get overwhelmed by blessings and get misty eyed. Today was not one of those days. In fact it was quite different.

Instead of crying because God is blessing me so much, I was crying because God is blessing me so much. The difference? Me. And my worthiness of His blessings. Those of you who know me well are aware that I have always struggled with my worth and value in this world. But I've always known and understood that despite the world, God still finds me worthy. He still finds me as a beautiful soul. He still longs to bless me as His daughter. However, this is still an idea that I struggle with. Like this morning. 

Quick backtrack. Since August of my junior year when I started observing at Benton, I set my sights on moving there. There is a teaching position opening up in May of 2013, and the honest to goodness reason why I decided to add all of those endorsements to my degree and stay an extra year in school was so I would have the best chance of getting hired there. I love the area. I would be close to camp, so I could retain my summer job. I have a church family that I love in West Frankfort. And friends who are married and settled down right around there. Benton/West Frankfort became my ideal, this is what I want, please God place me in Benton dream. 

How does this tie into today? Well it has to do with my last post. Ray. As I mentioned before, those of you who know me also know my struggle in feeling worthy. God has blessed me so incredibly much by placing Ray in my life. He is everything I could have ever needed, ever wanted, in a husband and a father to my future children. He loves me, cares for me, and will provide, and protect me. He sees me as a bride in Christ, and will do all that he can to love me as Jesus does. Even my mom has said, he is everything she ever prayed for in the man who would marry me someday. 

The problem? Well there isn't one. In fact nothing but great things have been happening in the world of Ray and I. He's recently been offered a job. The location? West Frankfort. He has decided he wants to be baptized, and is highly considering transferring to West Frankfort Christian Church, the church I mentioned above.  He has the full intention of moving there, saving all year, and beginning to prepare for our life together. I know this because on the morning of his interview he told me this was the first step of starting our future. 

So in summary, I found a man I would easily marry without thinking twice. He is moving to the same area that I have planned and longed to move. He is deciding to go to the same church where I want to attend. It seems perfect. Too perfect.

I am laying in bed crying this morning thinking maybe I should just end it with Ray now, because that will save me the hurt later. This entire situation, this entire dream, it can't be coming true. It's just the world's mean trick to get my hopes up just to make them crash into the burn. The worst is always yet to come. There is always a dark cloud for every silver lining. Why enjoy and revel in this goodness I am surrounded by only to have it taken away when I get my hopes buried into the idea that my future really could be this blessed. 

It was at this point that I was reminded of the verses in Luke 11. 
"9So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
   11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[f] a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

It's as if I am expecting that in asking God to take care of my future, I am saying, "Here's my future. Just give me the serpent and let's get this over with." I like I am expecting the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Alpha and Omega, all merciful and loving God to look at me and say, "I am going to take your future and give you less than you deserve. (Because you really don't deserve anything...) I am going to bless you, but only to a certain amount. I plan on lavishing you with gifts, but only mediocre ones." 

I began praying that God would just take care of me, and to please not let me and my lack of believing in my self-worth to get in the way of His plan. I'll have to see where that takes me...