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Monday, January 9, 2017

When Your Plans Change

Today I'm going to write a post that is a little more personal in nature.  I've been around the blogging world for awhile now, and one of the things that is important me in writing my own blog is transparency.  With that, I do realize that most people have enough of their own personal struggles in life and they don't usually "go down the rabbit hole" in search of post after post from other bloggers who are documenting their struggles as well.  BUT, one message I do not want my blog to send  is that I've got it all together or that I never struggle, that my house is always clean, the laundry always done, you get the picture. My life is anything but, and the past 24 hours have been a case in point.  And so I am sharing today in the hopes that should you find yourself facing similar or even completely different struggles and circumstances in your own life that the Holy Spirit will be faithful to encourage you through my own failures and successes.  Just a fair warning, this post could be lengthy, so if you want to bail now, I won't be offended! :)

As some of you may know by now, after moving back to Texas last January I eventually came to the decision to return to school and get my degree in education.  This has been a life long dream, which for many, many years was fulfilled through the blessing of home schooling my children.  But then my life circumstances changed last January I came face to face with the reality that it was very likely that I would be financially supporting myself both now and in the future.  And while I am currently blessed to have a small steady income that meets my basic needs, were it not for the fact that I moved in with my mother to take care of her, the reality that I might have ended up homeless and on the streets is too real for me to even entertain.  I honestly always believed that I would be a wife and a mother and grow old with a man who loved his job, loved me and would take care of me, so in the absence of that I was forced to come face to face with my immediate lack of income and lack of recent work experience.  That was why, with the little time that I could spare, I returned to school last fall.

Much to even my surprise I had a WONDERFUL first semester, finishing a 12 hour course load with 3 A's, 1 B and a 3.75 GPA. Everything was going great, I registered for the spring semester shortly before Christmas and then, needing the mental break, decided not to look at anything related to school until after the new year.  That seemed fine at the time, but then last night all of that changed.  

I had been told by financial aid that everything was fine and my check for the spring semester would be deposited into my account approximately 10 days prior to the first day of class, so it should have happened late last week or early this week.  Last night, just to see if they had sent an email with an ETA of when I could expect it, what I found instead was another email that had been sent to me on December 19 (the last time I checked my email was December 17 for my final grades), which stated that due to "lack of academic achievement" I was no longer eligible for financial aid and that unless payment arrangements were made no later than January 4, I would be dropped for the spring semester.  Remember, this was Sunday night, January 7, and the next email did indeed inform me that as of January 5, I was no longer enrolled for the Spring semester.  In spite of my success in the fall semester, it seemed that back in 1993 when I first pursued this dream and was forced to withdraw due to my divorce, those "W's" on my transcript were coming back to haunt me. Recent success acknowledged, there was this little matter from twenty three years in your past, uh-hmm! All of this one week into 2017 when my word for the year is, what?  JOY!  You can imagine of course how upset I was by all of this, but in true and faithful fashion the Holy Spirit was so near to me in those moments and I heard him whisper almost immediately, "Joy, joy!".  At first to be honest, I would have like to have decked him, JOY? Really?  In a time when I should be contemplating retirement but instead I'm embarking on a career that is now going to be delayed at least a semester you want me to be JOYFUL????  I just wasn't feeling it.

To add to the comic humor, which by the way I am CONVINCED God has a great sense of humor and was completely delighting in the conundrum I had created for myself, because I was also set the very next morning, THIS VERY MORNING, Monday, to launch a book group featuring Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, which focuses of course on gratitude!  So not only was I supposed to be joyful, but now I also needed to be grateful?????  Since all of this transpired around 10:30 p.m. Sunday night, I was so upset that it wasn't until 3:00 a.m. that I was finally able to get a couple of hours of sleep.  I was feeling maybe a l-i-t-t-l-e better at 6:00 a.m. when I opened up my computer screen to the devotional that I had decided do to coincide with the book, Psalms of Gratitude from She Reads Truth.  From the first, just reading the title of the first day's reading, "I am God", I could hear Him gently reminding me, "I am God, Kim, and you are, well . . . NOT!"  I had to smile because of this gentle reminder not to "get too big for my britches", as my daddy used to say.  I have a lot of plans, even plans that I know He has blessed, but He is still God and He is in control of the process, not me.

The days' reading was Psalm 100, so I opened my bible, and this is what I read, I'm sure you might be familiar with it.

Shout for JOY to the Lord!
Worship the Lord with gladness
come before Him with JOYFUL songs!

The Holy Spirit was so tender with me, but so direct in His prompting.  "No, things are not going as you had planned, they are not going YOUR way, and you can get mad and you can be angry for a little while, that's OK, but then we're going to move on. But . . . .not downcast, not dragging our feet, no. You're not only going to be OK with this, you are going to be JOYFUL! And not only JOYFUL, but you are going to shout if from the roof tops and sing it from the depths of your soul.  I could feel His presence with me, I knew that this was from Him and of Him, but being human I also knew it could only happen, only be evident in my life through Him, because all I was feeling at the moment was disappointed and discouraged. And then . . . .

Then came Chapter 1 of One Thousand Gifts.  The book I had known since November the Lord wanted me to revisit in the new year.  This was the first day, first chapter, and I read these words. 

"Is this the toxic air of the world, this atmosphere we inhale, burning into our lungs, this No, God? No, God, we won’t take what You give. No, God, Your plans are a gutted, bleeding mess and I didn’t sign up for this and You really thought I’d go for this? No, God, this is ugly and this is a mess and can’t You get anything right and just haul all this pain out of here and I’ll take it from here, thanks. And God? Thanks for nothing. Isn’t this the human inheritance, the legacy of the Garden? 

I wake and put the feet to the plank floors, and I believe the Serpent’s hissing lie, the repeating refrain of his campaign through the ages: God isn’t good. It’s the cornerstone of his movement. That God withholds good from His children, that God does not genuinely, fully, love us."

Hadn't I just entertained these thoughts less than four hours before reading this passage, hadn't I grumbled, shook my first toward heaven and thought that very thing, "Thanks for nothing", hadn't I doubted His goodness and love for me? Most assuredly I had.  But it gets even better.  A few pages later as Ann recounts a conversation she had with her brother in law who laid two babies to rest within a time frame of I think 18 months?  And this is what he said.

“Just that maybe … maybe you don’t want to change the story, because you don’t know what a different ending holds.” 

The words I choked out that dying, ending day, echo. Pierce. There’s a reason I am not writing the story and God is. He knows how it all works out, where it all leads, what it all means. I don’t. "

Yes, how often I forget that I am only a character in this story, but never the author.  And being reminded of His goodness, and assured of His love for me, can I trust how this story plays out, do I trust where it will lead me, and when?  Absolutely! 

It's easy, we're human, to get caught up in the day to day and the to do's and have to's and want to's. Being a student again with weekly deadlines to juggle, and a mother with health related needs to navigate and a daughter who needs and deserves my time.  I had to have a system, a plan to keep it all from spiraling out of control. But somewhere along the way I forgot the most important thing, I was never in control.  At some point God had been left behind in my God-breathed dream.  "I" finished the semester with a 3.75 GPA, it isn't God whose being graded here, that was ME!  But it was Him who called me to it back last Spring, Him who fanned the flames of those first embers of long forgotten dreams.  He had made the way.  Had I forgotten?  And now, now when it appeared that the plan might be delayed, did I really fall once again for that same old lie, that He can't be trusted, that He doesn't have my best interest in mind, that He doesn't want what's best for me?  I had.  At some point I had taken up the pen once again and become the author of my own story, which is a scary thing because I have no idea what happens next or how this all ends.  What if the plan changes completely, what if I never finish my degree and become a teacher?  What then?  In light of those questions, was I willing to trust, and not only trust, but even to say, "That's OK!"  If he takes my dream, my one dream that I have carried since childhood, will I be grateful?  There's a reason for this delay, it's just the way the story is written, and it's true, I don't know what a different ending might hold, and that is why I have to place my trust in the the Author of my life.  

I don't always get it right, in fact, most of the time I get it wrong, but I can say with conviction that I am at peace with this delay, that I am thankful for it. For whatever it may or may not have diverted that was not His best for me. And because I know Him, and more importantly because He knows me, I am joyful!  Way back in November when the Holy Spirit first prompted me to re-read One Thousand Gifts, which then led me to finding the devotional, Psalms of Gratitude, God knew this day would come.  When I can look back and precisely remember those moments and then stand back and see how they prepared me for and carried through today, why would I ever doubt Him? 

Trust the story of your life my friends, and until then, TAKE JOY!

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? 
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

- Matthew 6:26-27

UPDATE: On Tuesday, January 10 Financial Aid called to let me know that they pushed my reinstatement through and my Financial Aid is available again and I am enrolled for the Spring semester!  I even got to take all but one of the original classes I had signed up for and I'm happy with the alternative for the fourth!  I honestly believe that this was a test of my JOY!  And I'm so happy that the Holy Spirit was so faithful to me during this time of trial!  I could honestly feel God looking down from heaven today!  I love it when for once in my life I get it right and respond to change as I know that I should!  To everyone who has prayed and encouraged me over the past 24 hours, thank you so much! Take joy, my friends, take joy! :)

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