Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Thy Will Be Done

While several people know, we have yet to officially make it public knowledge. Ray and I have decided on Kansas. 

There are so many emotions in this, that I am going to keep it on the positive side in this blog. But please know, there is definitely some heart break when it comes to leaving my family and friends. 

Several people had mentioned maybe God was giving us a choice. This entire time if there was a door open in Peoria, I took it. This past week was no exception. Ray and I had the opportunity to go look at a house for rent last Thursday morning. We had really been praying that if we weren't supposed to be in Peoria, doors would stay closed, but as we left my brother's to go to the house we got a phone call saying that the people who viewed it before us rented it. I physically felt my heart break. I scrambled onto Craigslist and called a different house owner to set up a viewing. I was desperately praying, "Please God, just let this one be the one. Please let this be an open door," even though I knew it wasn't going to happen. It didn't even take us entering the house before I knew my answer. God was sending us to Kansas. 

The rest of the trip I cried on and off and couldn't bring myself to tell people we had made our decision. Because I knew once I finally said it, that was it. But praise Jesus for a Godly husband who kept my heart where it was supposed to be. 

I had been praying this entire time to not be a Jonah. For my friends who aren't Christians, Jonah is a person in the Bible who was being sent to a town called Nineveh. He refused, but God made sure he went. I didn't want to be a Jonah. If God was sending me, I didn't want to fight Him. I wanted to say what we say at the end of every church service, "Here am I! Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8) But as you can tell from my desperate prayers, it took a whale to get me to agree on Kansas. (Jonah was swallowed by a whale... It's a great story! You should check it out!)

So here I am. Sitting in the car, realizing I am Jonah, and my mind starts to think about all of the people who had told me, "God could be giving you a choice! He will bless you either way!" What if they were right? What if I made my own door by just choosing Peoria? Choosing my own free will over what I felt I was supposed to do? Well then I wouldn't just be Jonah. I would be Eve. 

In the beginning, God created paradise. We're talking complete and utter perfection. And He gave it all to His finest creation, mankind. But as you know, Eve decided to choose her own will, and, urging her husband to join her, they lost God's will. His good, pleasing, and perfect will. 

Now I am not saying Kansas is going to be perfect. I already know it isn't. They have tornadoes. But what I am saying, is God has paved the way for us to have His will, and judging from what Adam and Eve had in the beginning, I am going to believe that it is pretty spectacular. Peoria is my apple. It is my will. It is what I want. Does that mean if I chose it that God wouldn't care for us? No. God blessed Adam and Eve with clothing, shelter, food, and children, and I believe we would be blessed had we decided on Peoria. However, I can't help but wonder how much more lavishly will we be blessed for choosing God's will over our own. I don't want my will. I want God's will. That's what being a Christian after God's heart is about. 

But I still feel ridiculous. I actually asked Ray, "What am I supposed to tell people when they ask why we are going to Kansas. 'Well, the truth is, I don't want to be here, but this is where God is sending me?'" YES! Because that's the truth. While there are so many blessings that I can already see from choosing Kansas, the reason we chose Kansas is because that is where God is sending us. 

I feel a bit like Noah, the guy who built a huge boat to prepare for a flood when it had never even rained all because God told him to, and it takes me a minute to accept the fact that I sound crazy to those who don't believe in Christ before I tell them our story. Let's just say I know at least one reason why God is sending us. We have more for our testimony. We have an open door to witness, to encourage, and to share what Christ is doing in our lives. 

I am so blessed and encouraged by seeing God's handiwork all over His plans for our lives. And I am beyond blessed to have a husband who is stronger than Adam when it comes to following God's will over our own. (He's a rock. I've tried everything. Offering the best sex every day for the rest of his life. Asking if he'd be willing to just endure whatever bad things came out of Peoria. Begging. Pleading. Nothing. There is no moving that man. And I thought for sure I'd win him with the sex!... Anyway!)

I'm just blessed. To have my family and friends who have been relentlessly praying for us, to have a husband who seeks to serve the Lord, and to have church families who have guided and shaped us along the way into a Godly couple seeking to serve the Lord, following His will over ours. 

For I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I! Send me!" Isaiah 6:8

Monday, July 1, 2013

Decisions Decisions

While we have told a few people, not everyone knows about the plot twist in our plans to move to Kansas. 

A week and a half ago I was offered a teaching job in Peoria, Illinois. Ray and I had previously talked about eventually returning to Illinois and settling down in Peoria. However, that wasn't supposed to happen for a few years. 

The job offer came really quickly, or rather offers. After my first offer I called the principal of the school I wanted to teach in to requested a short-notice phone interview. I must have said something right because about a half hour after we spoke, I got the job. 

Since then our life has been an absolute whirlwind. We have been scrambling to find a place to live, and I have been working on getting everything in order job-wise in both Wichita and Peoria. Because the truth is, Ray and I just don't know where we are supposed to be. 

I know a lot of people in my life don't follow Christ, nor do they turn to God to guide their lives. While I pray their hearts will change someday, that doesn't change how Ray and I live our lives. I truly believe in the bottom of my heart that God has a plan for us. And Ray and I have made it our mission to figure out that plan. 

So for the past week I have hit the absolute rock-bottom of emotions, I have been under physical strain of anxiety, and I have cried more times that I can count. I am utterly exhausted. 

I know, I know, "Cast all your cares upon the Lord for He cares for you." "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you, and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future." "Come to me all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest." I know! I know the Lord cares for us! I know He is going to take care of us! But it doesn't stop me from picking it up for the thousandth time after laying it down at His feet. 

Why do I keep picking it back up? Fear. Plain and simple, I'm scared. I'm scared of God saying yes and God saying no. I actually told Ray the other day that whatever decision we made it was going to be the wrong one. Whichever city we ended up in, we were supposed to be at the other. 

What a fool. 

Fear. It's an awful thing. 

But what am I fearing? Moving? Not really. Failing? Yes, definitely. I'm also afraid of God saying no. Saying no to Kansas, and saying no to Peoria.

What does Kansas have? That's what I keep hearing... Well, on the surface, financial security. My pay is more, Ray's pay is more, the cost of living is less. Our money will go so far there. But what Kansas has is beyond that. It's an incredible, incredible school district with so much support for a first year teacher. I'm set up for success in their district. I can do what I love without the added stress of the instability of Illinois. Words cannot describe how much my heart hurt when I thought about having to turn my school down... And then the other aspects of life. A fresh start. Do you have any idea how much I desperately want that? I've lost so much the past few years. Family. Friends. My church. More family. More friends. I'm broken and lonely and hurting. Don't get me wrong, I'm not so naive to think moving will fix everything, but I am so looking forward to a fresh start. One where I am no longer viewed as an individual with a husband. But instead, I'm viewed as someone's wife. I am not Stephanie Lewis, used to be Carter, but when people get to know me, especially in our church setting, they will view me as a part of an "us." I want that. I need that. My husband and I need that. Ray is the most important person on this earth to me. He is my everything. The love of my life. And I have the opportunity to face the world with him and start fresh together? What a blessing. I've had the "Well, what if you and Ray have problems" talk. But ya know what? We will just have to suck it up. Because he's my husband. And I am stuck with him death til we part. No matter how many times he leaves the toilet seat up. 

I don't know how it's possible, but I love Kansas. I've been there less than 24 hours. But I love all of the things that can come from there. I love that I can have a job I love. I love that I have an apartment that is beyond wonderful and homey and cute and perfect. I love that the church that was suggested to us is a 15 second car ride or a 3 minute walk away. I love that for the first time in my life I am truly spreading my wings, and I get to do so with my best friend. I really really love Kansas. And I really really want to be there. 

...But what about Peoria? What about my family? What about the opportunity to not only teach English as a Second Language, but also get to team teach math, science, and social studies? What about being a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from everyone I love so dearly? What about finally getting the opportunity to know my amazingly incredible big brother and big sister? What about having the chance to be a part of family dinners at my dad's? And finding my place in my step mom's wonderful family? What about being in Illinois? A few hours from the part of the state I love and that has been home for the past 15 years? What about having the chance to mend and rebuild relationships with my family, and strengthen the family ties with my husband's family? What about being here when my friends have babies, or get married, or when my loved ones are sick? What about now having to be away, only to see everyone via Skype? What about knowing that given our fresh start and new jobs I will probably only hug my loved ones once, maybe twice, over the next year. What about having to say goodbye? When the truth is, I just don't want to. I just don't want to leave. 

And that, is what has left us at this unnerving crossroad for the past week and a half. This nauseating, terrifying, utterly miserable crossroad. Because I am so torn. So deeply torn over what to do and where to go. Because I don't know. I have no idea. And every time I pray for clarity or peace, or I lay it down at God's feet, I keep finding myself holding onto the decision again screaming inside saying, "I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO!" Because I just don't know. 

But what I can say, is that in the midst of this storm, I did find peace. It was fleeting, but it was there. 

As some of you know, Ray and I have had a rough year. A hard tough year. Being married isn't easy. But what got us through was Christ. What kept us together was turning to Him for guidance. And believe it or not, my peace in this situation came when I truly turned to Him. 

Ray and I want to glorify God. We desperately want to be a couple that serves and honors Him. But what we have realized through the chaos of our past year is that we have be home. We have to have a home together. A home that we live in, pray in, grow in, serve in, love in. We need a place to be at the end of the day where we find rest, where we can be recharged to keep serving God. Our place last year was a disaster. Heck, it was so bad, we did anything we could just so we didn't have to be home. Do you know what it's like to sit in your car for an hour after work, playing on your phone or reading a book, just because you hate your home? Ray and I were there. And what we really need out of this move is a home. A place where we can have friends or loved ones over. A home we can rest in. A home we can feel at peace in. I'm not saying we need anything lavish or over the top. But we need that place that feels like home. 

And it was while Ray and I were discussing our need for a home and I felt peace for the first time, an actual physical relief. Then it became clear. How can we serve God to our fullest when we are miserable? When we are catty at each other because neither of us can find peace at home? 

So it's that home and that peace that we are seeking. We are trusting that God has it. We believe that He can and will take care of us, and we believe that He is going to help us find our home. The hard part now is the waiting game to see if that home is in Kansas or Peoria. 

Until then, I will be wrestling with the decision, trying to leave it as His feet, going back and forth between Kansas and Peoria, fretting and anxious, and slapping myself because I just can't trust God. 

God is going to take care of us. Ray's already reminded me of that by pointing out our surroundings at camp. Through God's provision at a place that bears His name, we have food, water, laundry, shelter, internet, income, and an opportunity to learn about Him and praise Him nightly. He is already taking care of everything! I just need to keep having faith and keep trusting in Him 

So until we make our final decision, Ray and I truly appreciate any prayers and encouragement you feel like sending our way. 

"Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" -Matthew 14:31