Valentine

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I have a Valentine’s Day confession to make.  I am NOT “single and satisfied”.

But before you jump to some conclusion that this is the expected lament of a single person on that day of the year where talk of love and hearts and flowers and candy hit you smack in the face every time you turn around, rest assured that it is not.

I’m not single and satisfied.  What I am is single – and sustained.

Many years ago I gave my sister (who is also single) a handmade card with just a hint of sarcasm to it which had “Maybe Next Year” written with a black marker on the center of a black heart.  It was kind of a joke meant to offset the usual feelings about being unattached on February 14th.  Now it’s morphed into a yearly tradition where we call each other on the phone and have the ceremonial changing of the year on the card. We’re running out of room.  I know.  It sounds sad and somewhat pathetic.  But what it really symbolizes is something completely different.

Hope.

God has sustained us through all those years represented on the card.  Years where the prayers for a husband have not been answered.  Years where we’ve watched others go through life stages that we’ll never be able to catch up to.  And yet, you know what? We’re okay.  Really. Not because we’ve just plodded through, numbing the ache to be cherished and chosen and loved by someone, but because God has shown Himself to be faithful.

He has sustained us through the loss of a parent, the loss of jobs and homes, through moves and dramas and disappointments. He has sustained us through so many difficult decisions we’ve had to make without a partner to make those decisions with.  God has sustained us while standing on the sidelines watching others receive the blessings of spouses and children and grandchildren.  More importantly though,  He has sustained us with immeasurable blessings that didn’t happen to include families of our own.

Make no mistake – I still want to get married.  I realize it will look completely different than it would have 30 years ago, but it’s still the desire of my heart.  I still pray for it, and I still believe God can do it.  And when it happens, it will be one of the greatest love stories you’ve ever heard. And you’ll all be invited to the wedding.  At least that’s the way I imagine it.  If not this year, then “maybe next year”.  And if it doesn’t happen, it will still be a story of God’s faithfulness and provision and loving watch care over His daughter.  There will be no regrets over having lived another year of seeking God’s will and not my own.

Satisfied with being single?  Nope.  But I’m satisfied that God knows what He’s doing in my life.  He knows me. He loves me. He knows that for right now, my singleness is what can bring Him the most glory.  I don’t understand it.  But I don’t have to.  It’s still a Happy Valentine’s Day.

I am sustained.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him.  For he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  Hebrews 11:6

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:23

He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised, He was also able to perform.  Romans 4:20-21

 

Plot

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I was never really into reading fiction all that much.  I generally preferred non-fiction books that made me think, introduced me to new ideas, inspired me in some way.  But down-time over school breaks combined with free (!) Amazon Prime novels each month have led me to dip my toes in the literary pond of these made-up stories with fascinating characters and suspenseful plots and faraway places that I can only imagine visiting someday.

I finished one such novel yesterday.  The ending surprised me so much that I found myself going back to read the first few chapters again today.  “Oh, now it makes sense!”.  All those little details that seemed so random and at times confusing, were included by the author because they were necessary parts of the story that was to come.  She knew how the plot was going to twist and turn while I was still wading through the early pages, trying to keep the characters straight.  She, of course, knew the ending.  She knew what was about to unfold.

It has me thinking about life and how the details of our days often seem random and confusing as well.  I had a card hanging over my desk at work for years with a quote by author Ashleigh Brilliant which said, “My life has a superb cast, but I can’t figure out the plot.”  How true!

I really don’t have any idea what the plot of my life is.  No idea what’s going to happen next.  And as evidenced by the last 8 months, I shouldn’t even try to guess.  Just when I think I’ve got it figured out, some new twist enters the story line and throws it all into question again.

But I happen to know the Author personally, so I’m certain it’s going to turn out in the end.

On those days when things seem like they’re falling apart or I desperately want to fast forward to the end of the chapter so I can decipher what in the world is going on, I can be confident that this story of mine is moving along exactly as God wants it to.  He’s definitely introduced a superb cast over the years.  He’s strategically changed the setting several times. He’s woven in adventure and intrigue and tears and laughter and defeats and victories and more blessings than one story should be entitled to.

And character development appears to be His specialty.  Especially my character development.

Reading fiction is teaching me to embrace the unknowns, to anticipate the plot twists, to be patient enough to wait to see how they’ll ultimately fit into the story.  Because they always do.  The author will bring it all together in the end, leaving me saying once more, “Now it all makes sense”.

God is doing the same thing in my life.  In my story.  And what a story it is.

 

No eye has seen, nor ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.  1 Corinthians 2:9

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  Romans 8:35

When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.  Isaiah 43:2

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, who are the called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28

 

Photo by David Lezcano on Unsplash

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