Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Surrendering, Part 1: A Homecoming of Sorts

So what do you do when you've decided that God exists, that He most likely has some purpose for your life, that you want to try and best fulfill this purpose, and then this very same God tells you to do something nuts?

Crazy, irresponsible, irrational, reckless, unsafe.  These are all words that the world will use to describe what God has asked you to do. 

How do you even know that this is God's best plan for you?

Well, for one you've prayed.  A lot. You've sought some wise, faithful counsel.  You've ensured it aligns with scripture.  You've researched. And of course, you've listened to the still small voice inside you (sometimes referred to as your "conscience" or "gut").  You are fairly certain that this absurd idea is from God.  Sometimes you know it's from God just for that very reason... its far too crazy to have come up with yourself!!

So, you've put all your hope and trust in Him, and He turns around and presents you with a road map that is taking you straight through the center of crazy town.  And then there's always the question... what happens if you say no?

Well, on this topic I can certainly speak from my own experience.  It seems that when I initially decided to put my trust in God (and subsequently any time I have had a major struggle, and then recommit my faith and my willingness to follow God's plan) I find myself headed somewhere completely unexpected. And usually terrifying.

I am living this reality out right now. 

Let me give you a bit of a back story, as this story is the result of 3 major crossroads and decisions in my life, that began about 3 years ago.

It was around the time that we got pregnant with our third baby that I started considering that God might be pressing us to make some big changes.  I was teaching in the traditional classroom at the time, but I knew putting three kids into childcare to go back to work would be completely unfeasible.  I had always been involved with horses, teaching lessons and training a bit (usually during my "spare" time and mainly through maternity leaves).  We started wondering if maybe God was pushing me to pursue this in a more committed fashion, and ultimately get our own facility where I could work from home and be a mom and raise our kids all at the same time. 

So over time we started looking. Just casually at first. And we found some amazing places.  This was a pipe dream if there ever were one, but it seemed right.

We knew if there were any chance of it happening we'd be borrowing A LOT of money, and so we'd need something at a reasonable price.  We looked at many places.  We put offers in.  We had family helping us out.  We were educated about mortgages, lending, and regulations. I had a 50 page business plan with budgets, projections, market research and strategies.  But nothing seemed to work out.  Offers fell through for ridiculous reasons. Things just seemed to be working against us. And along the way I changed.

Instead of this being an exciting new adventure and waiting patiently to see what God had in store, it became a huge stressor and I became anxious.  In the midst of everything, my sister and her husband acquired a big, beautiful farm.  The location was too far from the city for us as I could never maintain the necessary client base out there, but nonetheless it was a bitter pill to swallow.  It seemed like everything was working out for everyone else but our dreams were dwindling.  I was determined that it would work out for us.

After over a year of disappointments and set backs, I had this feeling in my soul that maybe we should just wait (or more accurately to my feeling at the time ... give up).  We could save up some more money, maybe make it a little more feasible.  We would have time to get better prepared.

But I was, well, indignant  ... God was, after all the one who gave us this dream. My expectations, pride and personal desires were strong and I was determined to bring this plan of God's to pass in the way I was sure He intended it. 

When we had all but given up, I came across a place for sale, owned by some folks we had known for a few years, and I figured there had to be a "cosmic" reason and it must be worth a try. They were willing to rent it if the sale didn't work out, and basically I told myself (and if I'm being honest, told God), "There, see, we can have this place no matter what".  Either way, even if the purchase option flopped we could rent it for a while. 

With that we hung the For Sale sign on our home and went to work.  I was no longer in that place where I was peacefully waiting on and trusting God.  It was happening either way.  And, God gave me over to my desires.

I sometimes think that the nature of free will is such that God cannot really stop us when we are determined enough, and at some point or in some way, He lets us have our way. 

Now I do have to say that I know without a doubt God was in this.  His hand was all over it.  Our house sold for more than expected, and extremely quickly.  The deal on the new place went unexpectedly smoothly.  But all the way along I have known in my heart that we could have waited.  I just didn't want to.  I've heard time and time again that God works in His own ways, on His own schedule.  It just felt far too slow for me (and recent events had made me envious and bitter and I wanted my "victory" as well). 

We have owned our place for over a year now and there are many amazing things about it.  We are in a perfect location.  It is a beautiful property, and the value will no doubt continue to increase.  God has truly blessed us.  But it has been hard.

Life since we got here has been harder than I ever imagined.  It has been exhausting (emotionally, physically, psychologically and financially). If I were to document all of the things that have gone wrong or been "against"  us, you'd never believe it (from horses dying to trucks being stolen and every crazy bit in between).  I cry out to God almost every day, wondering how this could have been His plan for us. 

Then a while back, I had a bit of an epiphany. 

I'm not sure that it was His plan.  Well, maybe not His original plan.  In fact, when I look back, I think it may have been my plan from the get go. 

I mean, not the whole concept, but certainly the hasty way in which we undertook this place.  I was so scared that if this didn't work out, we'd miss our chance.  I felt like everyone else was getting what God had promised us and so we should have ours too.  I was heartbroken and it left me feeling impatient and impulsive.  I was acting in what I thought was complete faith (and in all honesty, it felt very genuine at the time) but looking back I was really just scared and acting on that fear.  God told me to wait.  That still, small voice told me to pause and be still, but I (plain and simple) just didn't want to.

So what now?  If God really felt that this plan would harm us or be completely unsalvageable I truly believe we prayed enough that he would have shut this door too.  He must have had some plan of how He would use our lives being here. The question was, would we listen? 

That brings us to the second major challenge.  The arena.  We basically have a full service facility here, minus an indoor or covered arena to ride in.  So, we are completely at the mercy of the weather and the footing which, in Alberta, is not very kind.  I realized very quickly that this would be a hindrance to the stability of my business (or at least in the way I thought it would materialize). About a month after getting our horses here and starting things up (or attempting to as weather permitted) I was feeling frustrated.  One day as I mulled it over it was like I was reminded that impulsivity had gotten us here and it likely wouldn't help to continue that way. Kind of a gentle reminder of "watch what you wish for".

But life would be so much easier if we only had an arena. 

As I continued to pray and consider everything, I got the strongest feeling of God (and this doesn't happen very often to me!) saying, "Be patient with the arena.  You can go ahead and make it happen and you will get yourself into more stress and debt and wonder even further how this could be the plan.  Or, you can wait for my timing, and I will figure it all out.  Your choice."  I knew in my heart it wouldn't be fun to wait.  It wouldn't be popular (as this affects a lot more people than just me).  But I also knew, in the depth of my soul, that God made me a promise that day.  Not for anything specific, but just that if I waited, He would sort it out.

Do you want to know something funny? I am still trying to make it happen.  I'm still planning and figuring and declaring, "Maybe this is God working it out".  All I wanted was for God to speak to me and tell me His plan for me.  Then He did.  But it wasn't what I wanted Him to say.  I wanted him to say I could have an arena ... like, yesterday.

What happens when we don't like His answer?  What happens if we don't want to wait?  What happens when we don't get our way, and instead have to 'suffer' in obedience to God?

Well, I'll tell you what happens. 

We grow.  We grow up.  We mature.  We develop patience and character.  We develop trust and fortitude.  We develop a testimony to God's faithfulness and goodness. And none of those things happen when everything is peachy and happens the way we planned it all out to happen.  All of those things happen in the fires of affliction... when we feel impatient, stressed, distraught and hopeless.

But it isn't for the faint of heart.  This Christian thing, I am discovering, isn't for wussies.  I guess the crucifixion should have driven that home for me but somehow it took my own suffering to really make that obvious.

And that brings us to today. 

A couple of months ago, God set something on my heart that was above and beyond insane. Its something I've actually talked about for a long time.  Early in our marriage I'd expressed my intrigue and interest, but as life changed, so did my ideals. Nonetheless, God was preparing me years ago for this challenge.

Our oldest son is in grade one.  He is a boy.  He is ALL boy.  He's smart and keen, but he's also super active and not at all built for 6 hours in a desk. He used to love school but recently began to dread it.  He's been frustrated and feeling like a failure.

As a teacher myself, I had many ideas of things that would work to help him but the fast paced setting of the classroom, along with the general busyness and meeting of curricular objectives just weren't conducive to his success. 

Then, over the period of about a week, I had three different people suggest it to me.  Three fairly unexpected sources all suggested it (dun, dun, dun .... )


Yes, I know.  I had the same thoughts you are having right now, and they went as follows ...

"This is crazy.  This is SO crazy.  Only crazy people homeschool. What if our kids turn out maladjusted?  What if they don't know how to socialize?  How on earth would we ever find the time in our already hectic schedule? I mean, yes, I am a teacher and I'm at home already so it would kind of make sense, but it seems so NUTS!!"

Just as I had with the arena (like I said, this doesn't happen very often to me), I clearly heard God speak to my heart.  "Bring him home, and I promise you, I will work all the rest out for the good of you and your family."

Everything about it seemed insane.  Foreign.  Reckless.  Terrifying.

It also seemed right though.  And as I prayed and researched and talked with people who knew more about this than I did, it seemed even more like this might be the path we were to walk. 

The combination of the peace and excitement I felt over schooling our babes at home was amazing.  We discerned a great deal more before, at the beginning of March, we pulled our Grady out of his traditional school and into our "homeschool".  And I am so thankful we did.   After just a month we've noticed some huge changes.  He's way less anxious, and far more back to his fun-loving self.  I finally feel that I've done something in line with God's will, and its as though I can now hear Him again, after what felt like 2 years of silence.  We finally made a step to get in line with His will, instead of twisting it to seem like what we wanted was His will.

Although Grady's homecoming seems simple, for me it was so much deeper than that.  It was for me a huge (and unique) step of trust and surrender.  It was living recklessly for God's will and without concern for judgement or opinions of others ... only trusting what the Lord has set on my heart.

I heard a quote on the radio the other day (kind of a modern version of Paul's lament in Romans 7:15) that spoke directly to me:

"Just because you know God's way doesn't mean you do God's will."

I have always known that my passion and drive were great qualities that would get me far in life.  But they are also the characteristics that lead me to act stubbornly, attempting to take care of everything myself, and never leaving any wiggle room for God's plan. After all, I know better. God is too good though to let me go this on my own though, and maybe letting me "have my way" was his way of showing me that I actually don't know everything.  I can't see the big picture and I need His grace to help me muck about (literally some days) in everything I have before me. 

Admitting that I have made a mistake (without becoming a total martyr and beating myself up with guilt) is one of my biggest challenges.  Here's the thing though, we are SO short sighted. If we were truly honest with ourselves, we have no idea of the bigger picture.  Its sometimes even hard to tell what is a mistake and what is just an obstacle on the way to some grand finale.

To illustrate, here is one of my favorite analogies of God (which I've heard retold in many versions)...

We are but little children plinking and plonking away on the piano keys making a clatter of incoherent noise of our lives.  The noise is entertaining to our ears for a while, but the novelty wears thin quickly. Then, just as we are about to get up and abandon this nonsensical production, our loving Father sits down and places his hands over ours and begins to bridge the notes together and fill in the silences until all that is heard is a beautiful melody, perfectly orchestrated, and sounding nothing like the mere clanging of keys that we were able to make with our little hands. 

It takes patience though, and trust.  A trust that means letting go of ALL of the ideas we had for the outcome.  For we cannot know, in our limited capacities, what that final song will be, and how God will use what we gave Him to make something grand and unimaginable.

I can only hope that one day when I look back I see that I gave God enough to work with, and sat and played long enough to hear the final composition. 

I have no doubt that the symphony at that homecoming will be grand indeed ....


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