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

 

 

 

Finished

I read the first chapter of the Bible on January 1st of this year, and finished the last one this morning.  Ninety days.  All the way through the Bible in 90 days. Amazing.

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This is the fourth time I’ve followed this particular reading plan.  Each time God has used those 90 days to teach me something new.

The first time I attempted it was in 2012.  My Dad died on Day 23.  I didn’t really want to keep going, but God showed me that it was times like that when I needed His Word more than ever.  During the time of my second 90 day challenge a few years later, some Christian circles were trying to make a scriptural case for life choices that I had always believed were not in God’s plan.  After my journey through every single chapter in the Bible, seeing the story of that plan from the first page of Genesis through the final page of Revelation, I knew that the justifications they used were not compatible with the whole of scripture.  You just can’t read all the way through the Bible and come to any other conclusion.  It didn’t make me smug.  It made me want to be a better friend.

And the third time, Day 90 fell on Easter morning.  I read, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” from Revelation 22 as the first rays of sun were coming up over the Atlantic ocean.  I couldn’t have planned a more glorious ending to the challenge of three months in the Word.

So what was the lesson this time?

The lesson for me over the past three months seemed to be all about God’s story.  The story of His love for His people.  Sometimes reading through the Old Testament is a challenge.  It starts with the beauty and perfection of Eden, but quickly unfolds into sin and violence and disobedience and people running from God.  God keeps pursuing them and they keep rejecting Him.  The tension builds and builds and by the end of that first part of the Bible, the prophets are warning about death and destruction and calling for repentance. It’s pretty dark.

And then, God sends His Son to rescue us.

By the time I got to the New Testament, I could feel the relief.  I wanted to shout, “He’s here!  The One you’ve been waiting for all these years is finally here!”.  I thought about how all those prophecies I’d read were being fulfilled. Everything in those older books pointed to Christ. The Promised One had come.  And life would never be the same.

This year, the message of the cross and the meaning of the blood of Christ is particularly clear and sweet. I saw how the story began and I know how it ends.  The Lamb is alive and on the throne. And those of us who have trusted Him will someday live in a perfect world again, forever in His presence.  It’s an amazing and awesome thought!   To finish the story of God’s love and mercy right before Easter weekend is such a blessing! This year, it feels a little more personal.

I can’t recommend reading all the way through the Bible enough. There are many different plans to choose from.  This particular 90 Day Reading Plan seems to work the best for me.  It has helped me see the Bible as the unfolding story that it is.  It’s helped me see the bigger picture of God’s work in the world, but more importantly, His work in my life.

I read the ending this morning.  But I feel like it’s just the beginning.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.  Psalm 119:105

Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.  Joshua 1:8 

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4 

Letters

I got some letters from my Dad yesterday.  On the 6th anniversary of the day he went to be the Lord.

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They were bundled together with a paper clip and labeled, “Letters from Daddy”.  My sister found them recently in a box that had been stored in the back of our family attic for many, many years.  I didn’t even know they existed until last evening.  I opened the envelope and pulled out 11 typed letters that Dad sent to me when I was a little girl and he was traveling as an evangelist, preaching and telling people about Jesus.

“Hello there, rascal!”.  (Really, I have no idea what he was referring to.  Ha!)

“I am sitting here looking at your picture and hoping you are a good girl.  I miss you and pray for you. Are you still praying for me?”

“Do you go to bed when Mommy says to?  How about your prayers before going to sleep?”

“I pray for you everyday and hope you pray for me as well.  We had a very good meeting in the church last night and many people asked Jesus into their hearts.”

“Hi there little Indian!  I have your picture right up on my dresser and another at the church.  Everyone always says what cute girls I have.  Daddy is so thankful to Jesus for his three wonderful girls.  Will you always be good and love Jesus so I can always be proud of you?”

“I’m so very proud of my girls.  I wouldn’t trade them for any others in the whole wide world.”

As I sat on my couch, picking up and reading each yellowed and sometimes fragile letter, the tears spilled over.  Six years to the day he was called to heaven, my Dad was now reminding me about his love for me, for our family and for Jesus.  He was reminding me how he had prayed for me, how his greatest desire was that I loved Jesus too.

What a gift.  An amazing, precious, delightfully surprising and unexpected gift.  A testament to the answered prayers of a godly parent, one who never stopped bringing my name before the throne, one who never stopped wanting to see me walk with the Lord.  I was too young at the time to appreciate it, or even comprehend it.  But last night, decades later, it fed my heart in a way that’s difficult to put into words.

I’m in the middle of reading through the Bible again, something I’ve done several times before.  I realized last night that my heavenly Father has left letters for me as well, reminding me how much He loves me, reminding me to be obedient, reminding me of how much I need Jesus.  Maybe as I read through it this time, I’ll see it differently.  I’ll see it as a love letter from my Father and know in a new way that I am precious in His sight.

Dad, I miss you so much sometimes it hurts. But thank you for all those years of prayers and love and laughter.  Thank you for showing me the way to Jesus. I might still be a rascal sometimes, but I’m still walking with God and giving Him first place in my life. So thankful for those letters, so grateful for the promise of seeing you again!

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. 3 John 1:4

Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.  Deuteronomy 7:9

Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His faithful love endures forever.  Psalm 136:26

 

DNA

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It was 44 degrees here in West Palm Beach yesterday morning.  So, of course,  I opened all the windows.  I couldn’t help myself.

It’s in my DNA.

It felt like Christmas morning.  As soon as I woke up, I quickly checked the weather app on my phone to see if the forecast had been correct.  Indeed, it had been.  Within a few minutes I was bundled up in the fleece sweatshirt I never get a chance to wear unless I turn down the air conditioning, and my hands were wrapped around a steaming mug of coffee with the porch door open and the curtains blowing in the “arctic” breezes. I felt completely at home.

You see, there’s not a gene in my body that was meant for the tropics where I happen to live.  I’ve been doing some ancestry research (complete with spitting in a DNA test tube to verify my ethnicity) and tracking down “my people” across the centuries and the seas.  They came from Sweden and Switzerland.  And that DNA test?  It showed that I’m 73% Scandinavian. My people came from lands of mountains and snow and long winters.  Places where a fleece sweatshirt would be part of the daily wardrobe instead of a once or twice a year treat. I honestly think I get excited about chilly temps dipping down into South Florida because it’s in my blood to feel at home in a cooler climate.

Oh yes, God has a sense of humor, placing me in the land of eternal summer when my DNA is more suited to snow.

Maybe it’s the same way with our spiritual DNA.  We’re wired and created for another place, one so unlike the place we find ourselves now.  God says that he has “set eternity in our hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  We may find ourselves with a longing and an ache for the place where everything will be perfect and right. We know this world is not really our home with its troubles and tears. But for today and for whatever days God ordains for us, this is where we are.  So we wait and thrive and grow and learn and serve, and watch for glimpses of what will be.

For me, my glorious little cold front was a glimpse into something much more grand and eternally important.  There will come a day when I’m exactly where God created me to be.  With Him. Forever. But until then, I’ll look forward to days when I can open the windows and wear my fleece sweatshirt when the temperatures dip.  And be reminded to set my heart on eternity.

Since it’s in my DNA.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.  Colossians 3:1

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Philippians 3:20

But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.  Hebrews 11:16

Photo by PICSELI on Unsplash