Thanksgiving

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May your day be filled… with thanksgiving.

I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. Psalm 95:2

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.   Psalm 100:4

Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving.  Sing praises on the harp to our God.   Psalm 147:7

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.   Philippians 4:6

Rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.   Colossians 2:7

Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.   Colossians 4:2

Here

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Sometimes this thought catches me off guard.  How in the world did I get here?

How did I get here, where I’m shopping for snow tires and thinking about emergency things I need to keep in my car in case I get trapped somewhere during a blizzard?  How did I get here, where I found myself on a recent Saturday afternoon cheering on the Seton Hall University basketball team when I never watch basketball, much less college basketball, but now I do because I actually work at Seton Hall University?  How did I get here, where I sit in church on Sunday mornings on a pew surrounded by family and there are no anxious thoughts swirling around in my head about what time I need to leave for the airport so I can get back to Florida for a new work week?

Seriously.  How did I get here?

Even though I know the answer, it still amazes me. “And He has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.”  (Acts 17:26)

That’s how I got here.  Somehow, in the vast scheme of things, this was in God’s plan.  It didn’t randomly happen.  I didn’t wake up one day last summer and say to myself, “Hmmm….I think I’ll just pack up my life from the last 30 years and move back north.”  I believe God had this on the blueprint of my life from the very beginning.  Pre-appointed.  It sort of blows my mind to try to comprehend all the things that needed to happen to make it fall into place. And yet they did.  And here I am.

I’m finding comfort in it as I look to the days ahead.  There is a new anticipation about the future.  If God could show Himself so evidently in bringing me here, if He could provide in such awesome and gracious ways through all of the decisions and all of the drama, there can be no doubt in my mind that He’s ordering the next weeks and months and years as well.

And I’m seeing how it applies to my bigger life questions as well.  How do I find myself here, where I’m still single and this isn’t the life I imagined I’d be living?  How do I find myself here,  where I’ll be making big decisions yet again about a place to live, and I’d much rather not be doing it alone?  While I still don’t know the “why”, I understand in a fresh way the “how”. I’m here because this is right where God wants me to be.  For today.  Just as He had a plan for me to come back to New Jersey, He has a plan for the rest of this life of mine as well.  No need to fret.  No need to worry.  No need to question.

There’s no place I’d rather be than in God’s will, following God’s sometimes wild plans.  Here.

Known to God from eternity are all His works. Acts 15:18

My times are in Thy hand.  Psalm 31:15

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.  Ecclesiastes 3:1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons

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I didn’t get a new backpack or freshly sharpened pencils, but I sure have been enrolled in some challenging life classes over the past few months.  I didn’t sign up for them, but God hand-picked them for me, and looking back now, I’m actually glad He did.

If I was perusing a life course catalog, classes like “Life After Job Loss”, or “Moving Long Distance 101”, or “Mid-Life Career Changes” or “How To Survive A Kidney Stone” would not be my top choices. I’d be looking for fun electives like pottery or cooking or Europe On A Budget.

But God in His infinite wisdom knew that a fun elective wasn’t going to be the best classroom for me.  He knew I needed to be pushed to do things I hadn’t done before, to replace complacency with determination, to grow instead of stagnate.  The lessons were hard, but so very worth each moment.

I learned that kidney stones are nothing to mess around with.  Seriously.  I don’t know why we’ve never considered that the apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was maybe a kidney stone. It sure felt like a messenger of Satan sent to knock me around.  And knock me around it did.  Bring-you-to-your-knees, make-you-cry-like-a-baby pain.  But God provided a good hospital, great medical care and allowed me to experience the humility of what it was like to be the patient and not the nurse.  To be surrounded and cared for by family was a blessing I wouldn’t have had if this had happened in Florida.

I learned again that God always has a plan and His timing is always just right.  I was beginning to think I’d never find a job, or at least never find a job that I could be excited about.  The closed doors and the disappointments were discouraging.  I never expected it to be that hard.  Then on a recent Wednesday morning, I “happened upon” the job postings for a university not far from where I’m living right now, and the first job that popped up was for “University Nurse”.  A college health job?  Available in October? I quickly filled out the online application.  Within ten minutes of hitting the “submit” button, I got a call from the Director of Health Services asking if I could come in for an interview. And two days later I did.  The day after my “Thorn in The Flesh” hospital experience, I got the call from Human Resources extending the offer of employment.  It’s a perfect fit, but with the opportunity to be challenged working in a much larger student health center than where I was before.  God knew all along that this particular position would become available weeks after the semester had started.  With each frustrating closed door, He knew I needed to be waiting for this one to open.

Why do we ever question that He is always at work in our lives behind the scenes?

I learned that Fall is the BEST time to move north.  Just had to throw that one in.  Anyone who knows me or who has followed this blog for a while knows how much I have missed the seasons and the cooler temperatures.  The colors on the trees and the crunching leaves and the sweatshirt weather has made my heart full.  I’ve been reminded that we need seasons in our lives, defined times of growth and rest and change.  I am grateful.

God knows the classes we need to be enrolled in.  He wants us to keep learning and growing and recognizing our dependence on Him.  He wants to show us great and mighty things that we did not know before.  When He calls you back to the school of life, embrace the challenge. Watch for the lessons.

I know there is so much more learning to be done.  But I won’t try to choose the courses myself.  I have an Advisor who knows exactly what I need.

Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things which you do not know.  Jeremiah 33:3

Make me to know Your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Psalm 25:4

Behold, God is exalted in His power; who is a teacher like Him?  Job 36:22

 

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Middle

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I’m somewhere in the middle of a story.  My own. I know the way it started, but I have no idea how it will end.

I need to embrace the adventure of it all, to excitedly anticipate the next chapter, to eagerly stay with it until the drama resolves and all these middle pages make complete sense.  Because I know eventually, they will.

But the middle part of my story right now seems kind of crazy.

Recent middle pages tell the tale of having to actually resign from a job I didn’t even start because technically I was already hired when I found out it wasn’t what they had promised me in the interview.  My sister said it was like an annulment. Loved that! My middle pages include the story of what seemed like a perfect job that I looked into a few weeks before I moved and they said to let them know when I had relocated and when I did, I found out they had hired someone – two days before.  My middle pages have job applications that were submitted but never acknowledged and email inquiries that were sent and never answered.  My middle pages have two delays on the closing on my condo in Florida – with the threat of Hurricane Dorian thrown into the mix just for added drama and unexpected bills to pay because I still owned it crossing over into a new month.  My middle pages have me living temporarily in the home I grew up in, with 99% of what I own in 58 numbered and stacked Home Depot moving boxes in a storage unit 5 miles away.

But these middle pages have some high points too. Working through some vocational and calling assessments to make sure I’m on the right track and to help decipher some new longings in my heart. My middle pages have walks on hills(!) and in woods(!) where some leaves are already hinting at the Fall season just around the corner and that makes me deliriously happy.  My middle pages have long talks with God about His plan for my future before the rest of the house gets up in the mornings.  The middle of this story has texts and calls and messages from precious friends near and far who are praying for me and encouraging me while I wait for new chapters to be written.

My email address has always started with “middlechild”.  It refers, of course, to my birth order.  It always gets a smile from anyone I give it to. We middle-born children have somewhat of a reputation. But today I wondered if I should let it remind me to be another kind of “middle child” – a child of God who is OK with all the middle pages because she knows and trusts the Author of her story.  She knows He is writing a perfect ending that won’t let any of these crazy parts between the first and the final chapters be wasted.

And so, I’ll embrace them.  Sink into them.  Let them draw me closer to God.  And I’ll keep my eyes open, watching for the pages to turn and the story to move forward.  Someday I’ll read the Epilogue.  Maybe on this side of eternity, maybe on the other side.  And I’ll know once more that the Author knew exactly what He was doing all along.

Especially in the middle.

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”  John 13:7

Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it.  Philippians 1:6

Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith…  Hebrews 12:2

God is not the author of confusion, but of peace. 1 Corinthians 14:33

 

 

 

Beginnings

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It’s the beginning of my new adventure.  The long distance move is behind me, most of my worldly possessions are stacked a mile high in a storage unit, I’m temporarily back in the house I grew up in and since it’s illegal to pump your own gas in New Jersey, I had the pleasure of sitting comfortably in my car yesterday while an attendant filled my tank.

New adventures indeed.

It’s been a crazy summer.  I sit here wondering what just happened.  Am I really not in West Palm Beach anymore?  Did I really lose my job?  Did I really say goodbye to so many friends and so many places and so many routines and follow a moving truck 1250 miles up the Atlantic coast back to the town that’s both familiar and new at the same time?

Apparently, I did.  Because here I am.

It’s been almost three months since my world turned upside down.  But there was always the undercurrent of knowing that God was in control, that He could work something good from something that seemed so very bad.  Sometimes it’s only by looking in the rear view mirror that we are able to see the road behind us, to see what God brought us through.  When we’re in the middle of it, it doesn’t always make sense.  And so, this morning, I look back and see that I am sitting at this dining room table in New Jersey instead of my own in Florida because God had a plan even when I couldn’t see or imagine what that plan would be.

I don’t know what happens now.  The job I thought I was coming to turned out to be not what they represented to me at the interview.  Looks like I’ll probably be starting from scratch again in looking for employment. The closing on my condo back in Florida has been delayed and they might be expecting a hurricane this weekend and while I’m glad to not be there, I’m technically still a homeowner.  There are a few bumps in the road that I didn’t expect.  Yet, because of the overwhelming faithfulness of God over the past few months, I know I have nothing to fear. God wanted me back “home”.  I am absolutely certain of that.  As I recall His hand of blessing and protection and guidance during the Summer of 2019, I know He’s not going anywhere.  He will continue to bless and protect and guide in all the days ahead.

A week ago today I arrived in New Jersey with a car fully loaded and an excited but weary heart. As I approached my hometown in the final miles, rainy skies cleared and a beautiful double rainbow appeared over the trees.  It might have been just a meteorological coincidence, but I don’t think so.  I think God was telling me that He has promised good things for me here.  They might not be what I expect, but that’s the joy in trusting Him.

Today is August 28th, which always makes me think of another 8/28 – Romans 8:28:  “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

He’s working this new beginning in my life for good.  And I can’t wait to tell you all about it as it unfolds.

Oh, how abundant is Your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in You.  Psalm 31:19

For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect, lacking in nothing.  James 1:3,4

As it is written, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him”.  1 Corinthians 2:9

 

 

 

 

Next

Lock box

When you wake up on your birthday and there’s a realtor lock box on your front door, you realize things are about to change.  I’ll be writing a new age on official documents, and…my next birthday won’t be in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The new age thing wasn’t my choice and I’ve been doing that every year for, well, let’s just say it’s been awhile and leave it at that. So it’s not that big of a deal. But a long distance move after 31 years in the same place?  THAT’S a big deal.

The termination from the job I loved in May was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever lived through.  But as I wrote in my last post just days after that, “When life gets into a routine and nothing rattles us anymore and every day is the same, there is no need to lean on God.  We can get complacent and soft.  But throw a grenade into the mix and we see quite quickly whether or not our faith in God is the real deal”.

So this has been the summer of faith.  It’s also been the summer of wrestling with God, of early morning quiet times at places other than my dining room table. There were tears in the hammock in my Mom’s backyard in New Jersey as I stared up at the tree canopy and realized God was leading me to make a decision that would again change my life.

And as soon as I made that decision, there was peace.  I’ll be moving back to New Jersey next month, to the place where I grew up, to the place where I can sink into being part of the family again.  I’ll be able to spend time with nephews who have only known an Aunt Sharon who lived in Florida and who got to see them a couple of times a year. No more tearful goodbyes at the airport. No more complaining about the lack of changing leaves in the Fall and eternal summer weather. Ha! I’ll be going back to a familiar place, but one that is also new.  So much has changed there since I packed everything I owned into my Chevy Cavalier convertible in 1988 and made the trek to the Sunshine State.

Now, I need a big moving van instead.  The realtor has been secured.  My place will be on the market in 3 days and I’m about to be drowning in boxes.  I don’t have a job or a place to call my own yet in NJ, but I am certain of God’s leading.  I’ve always said how glad I am that I’m a “journaler”.  I write out my prayers.  I write out what God shows me in His Word.  I write out my fears and my questions and my anxieties.  And this summer has been no exception.  But what an amazing blessing to look back on all my entries since May 31st and see how God has undeniably brought me to today and to this decision to relocate.

The next thing is scary, but exciting.  I don’t know all that God has planned ahead for me, but knowing that He knew about this all along and was preparing my head and my heart gives me the reassurance that He’s not going to leave me now.  He knows the job that I need, He knows where I’ll live and He knows the new people He will bring into my life.  I will always be grateful for the experiences and the people God brought into my life in Florida.  I’m not the same person I was when I arrived here.  It’s been amazing. I have been blessed!

It’s crazy, but it’s good. God knows, as He has always known, what comes next.  And I get to enjoy another adventure with Him.  Stay tuned.

Call to me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things that you do not know.  Jeremiah 33:3

For the Lord gives wisdom.  From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.  He stores up sound wisdom for the upright.  He is a shield to those who walk uprightly.  He guards the paths of justice and preserves the way of His saints.  Then you will understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path.  Proverbs 2:6-9

Oh the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways are past finding out!  Romans 11:33

Unemployed

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So, I lost my job on Friday.

The university where I’ve worked as a nurse for the last 13 years decided to outsource student health services and my position was eliminated. Certainly nothing I ever imagined would happen.  I figured I’d be there until Jesus came back.  Or until I retired.  But Jesus has tarried and I’m not old enough to retire, so there you have it.

I’m unemployed.

There had been rumblings about the possibility of all of this for months. But when it finally went down, it left me stunned.  It felt like a surgical excision, the sudden and painful removal of something that I felt was vital.  In one swift cut at 3:00pm, the life I’d known since 2006 was changed forever.

Ouch.

But the sun came up again the next morning as it always does.  And God is still faithful like He always is. The healing has begun. The last few months have been both crazy and precious as I’ve wrestled with God over my future and clung to Him when the answers I needed weren’t coming. I’ve almost filled up an entire quiet time journal since March when it usually takes me a year or two.  Those early morning moments with God are now chronicled for me to look back over in the days ahead.  I’ll see the journey He took me on while I learned how to look to Him instead of trying to figure things out on my own.  Especially when those things were so obviously out of my control.  I’ll see with fresh eyes how He was preparing me all along for what would happen.  It was a surprise to me, but certainly not to Him.

As uncertain as things were in the days leading up to Friday afternoon, I found myself in a place of unnatural trust and surrender.  I realized that there were lessons I needed to learn and things I needed to experience in order to grow.  When life gets into a routine and nothing rattles us anymore and every day is the same, there is no need to really lean on God.  We can get complacent and soft.  But throw a grenade into the mix and we see quite quickly whether or not our faith in God is the real deal.

I don’t know what happens next. This is a path I’ve never been down before.  God reminded me of a verse in 2 Chronicles one morning a few weeks ago. “The Lord is able to give you much more than this” (2 Chronicles 25:9).  “This” has been my dream job – working at a Christian university, using the gifts and talents God has given me, doing the kind of nursing I love, caring for and mentoring college students, seeing God continue to work in the lives of those students long after they’ve graduated.  But my God can give me even more than “this”.  I know He has a plan.  I know He sees up around the corner and is preparing me for whatever it is.  It may be something or someplace I’ve never thought of before.  Something “exceedingly, abundantly above all I could ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

In the days ahead, I’ll be spending time with family and spending time with God.  I’ll be looking to Him to guide, to lead, to provide and to give discernment and wisdom as I move forward.  The words of the well-known hymn “Be Still My Soul” have been on replay in my head over the past few weeks and especially in the last two days.

“Be still my soul, the Lord is on thy side, Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.  Leave to thy God to order and provide.  In every change, He faithful will remain.  Be still my soul, thy best, thy Heavenly Friend, through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still my soul, thy God doth undertake to guide the future as He has the past.  Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake.  All now mysterious shall be bright at last.  Be still my soul, the waves and wind still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.”

And so today, my soul is still. The future is uncertain, but God will guide me just as He has in the past.  I didn’t want this to happen, but I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that God will use it in my life to draw me closer to Himself.

In every change, He faithful will remain.

Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble and He brings them out of their distresses.  He calms the storm, so that its waves are still.  Then they are glad because they are quiet.  So He guides them to their desired haven.  Psalm 107:28-30

But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord.  I say, “You are my God”.  My times are in Your hand.  Psalm 31:14-15

He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.  1 Thessalonians 5:24