Being Promoted

I’ve let life get in the way of keeping up with ThreeMility. Since my last post back in May, we’ve welcomed our third baby girl, Salem Marielle, into our family. She radiates pure joy all the time, and makes my heart so full.

salem-for-blog

I’ve also officially stopped teaching in public school. I was not sure what I would be able to do to help support our family, but I also knew that God was leading me away from my securities. After a couple of months, I had a complete (and divine) change of heart and decided I would try private tutoring (something I rejected for several years). I was fully prepared to need a lot of patience and trust before building up enough clientele to feel comfortable not working outside of the home. In a matter of 2 months, I was creating a waiting list—God provided so much more than I could have imagined!

While I am still early on in my new journey, one thing has made a huge impression on my heart. Almost a year ago now, I remember hearing a guest speaker at our church talk about his journey in planting a new church. He said he kept trying to make this dream happen, and it just would never work out. He was very discouraged, but motivated and proactive in trying to make this happen. Eventually, he brought his frustration to the Lord and felt like God was telling him to stop pushing so hard and wait. It definitely was not the answer he wanted, but he did put his pursuit on hold. He did go on later to be personally asked to pursue his dream with much encouragement and support from many important people to him. During his sermon, he said that experience taught him the significant difference between promoting self and being promoted.

When I decided to try private tutoring, I was overwhelmed and worried. I was certain it would take years before I had enough clients, worried I wouldn’t be able to get much from word of mouth like others had. I also had the “promoting self” concept replaying in my head. So, I gave it to God. Literally abandoned all burdens and worry related to providing for my family. I decided that if this was what He wanted me doing, then I didn’t need to go around promoting myself tirelessly, begging for clients, consumed with fear of failure. He would either bring them to me or I was meant to do something else, either way I was not in control. So, I sent out ONE email blast to former parents of students I taught the year before. A few weeks later, I had my first client. And then another the next week. And another. It was pretty steady with every week or so I’d get another client or two. Every single time I would smile and feel empowered by being promoted by the One who is in control of it all. I don’t have to doubt if I made the right choice for my family; I’m confidently where I need to be right now. I couldn’t really grasp what people meant by saying letting go of control was so freeing, but I do now. Take it from a control freak, like me, and give it a try—it’s truly life changing and humbling.

 

Father, are we there yet?

The decision to quit my job was not taken lightly, but it was the result of a heart change that can only be credited to God. My heart will always yearn to be at home. I love watching my babies grow into themselves, knowing I made the very best of the gift that so many people either take for granted or desperately wanted, but never got the chance to experience. When I went back to work after a year off from teaching, I wanted to help alleviate some stresses on my husband and help our family with the prospect of buying a bigger home. In hindsight, it was not what I should have done because it was out of selfish motives and apart from God’s plan, but I’ve learned that God provided grace in that time period of naïve disobedience. Though we never did buy that bigger house, our family lived comfortably for two years. We went on vacations, bought my husband a new car, enrolled our preschooler into dance classes, and never worried a single moment about finances. I met wonderful people at work and quickly grew to love each one of them for unique reasons. My husband’s work schedule finally changed to “normal” hours, allowing us daily family time no matter if it was a work day or not. I felt appreciated, valued, respected, like an equal contender in the household hierarchy—arguably I might say there were many occasions I felt like the queen bee, on a level no one else was. The transformation from humble homemaker to alpha female was disturbing.

Two months into my second year back to work, a tension began to build in my heart. I wasn’t even sure what the tension was about. My husband and I had just joined small groups at our church, with the theme at the time being empowerment. I quickly learned that the empowerment I felt was actually not empowerment at all, but pride. I was priding myself on being so good at all of these things that I didn’t realize I had long fallen off the path God carved out specifically for me. I still wanted more than anything to be with my little girls each day, but I was pushing that feeling down in order to be the best at whatever I did. Work came home on nights and weekends, even to ballet class Saturday mornings while my toddler played in a nursery and my preschooler danced her heart out. I was choosing myself over them, but did it in such a way that it was masked with the deception of dedication, strong work ethic, and sacrifice. The only thing I was sacrificing was moments and time I can never get back. For a while, I became the least humble person on earth—and I had no idea whatsoever. I’m sure my self-serving pride oozed onto the ground everywhere I walked, much like a slug.

One night, at small group, when the tension was at a climax, I shared with the group what I was experiencing. I remember the words coming out of my mouth, feeling like they were someone else’s, as the word choice was not my own—“I just can’t figure out if the tension I’m feeling is from God calling me into His will and I need to be obedient to this tension, or if this tension is the enemy and I need to persevere and resist the temptations because they are selfish.” I also talked about how I was praying daily for God to reveal to me what He wanted me to do. If it was God, I would take the terrifying leap and quit my job and abandon the comfort zone. If it was the devil, I would carry on with the way things were, knowing the tension was actually temptation. The other part I wanted support in was the waiting for an answer. God had already kept His promises of asking for wisdom and He shall provide so many times leading up to that moment, and there I sat feeling like the roads all abruptly stopped, with no hint of which way to take the next steps. Waiting caused me to create another layer of tension to heap on top of my current tension.

all was still

Our small group, for the next couple of days, sent devotionals or scripture that they encountered all related to God telling us to wait. It was so life-giving to know that God was using these women to provide comfort to us all as we each sat in our own figurative waiting rooms for various things. God let me know that His way of communicating with me on this would be Him speaking to me through other people. There were so many moments of peace in the waiting that came from the words of these women. Then, four days after our small group meeting, I sat in service listening to the message. I honestly don’t remember the topic for that morning, but I do remember the moment our pastor made a break in routine; he in the middle of his message announced he felt led to pray. As a part of the prayer, which seemed so off topic for the subject that morning, he began to say, “That tension you are feeling is not the enemy. It is God placing His desires in your heart.” I was undone. There it was. The clear, undeniable answer that God promised to provide, using the same unnatural words I spoke days before to affirm He was the one speaking. I began to sob, I mean an all-out ugly cry. Yes, it was odd to think of the unknown being my family’s future, but the real reason I wept was because I no longer had that tension. It was instantaneously swept away. I knew what to do to obey Him. The relief of such an ominous burden had been lifted and the peace filled me to overflowing. When He says cast your burdens on me, the feeling of actually doing it is unlike anything I can explain. I was finally released.

If this were fiction, this would be the point where all things fall into place and we live happily forever after. But, I am a sinner. The peace did not last, because my flesh and the enemy were at work to create more conflict in the midst of my encounter with God. It took a lot of work on my part, devoting myself to time in scripture, journaling, and praying to hear guidance from the Lord. My world felt like I had been sitting in an insanely loud concert venue for days on end, and suddenly without warning, all noise ceased. The silence became painful, and I was struggling to find a way to adjust. God provided this pivotal moment, and then suddenly, all was still. I pleaded for the next steps, but He remained silent.

For 7 months, I acted like a fool. Sure, I faithfully continued my reading, journaling, and prayers, and kept my eyes and ears open for God’s instruction as to the next steps; and since financially my not working at all was not an option, I had to figure out what work I could do during this new season. But, every couple of weeks, I would get what I thought was a sign from God telling me what I should do. There were times I thought I had a sign to look into going back to school for psychology, or building up my embroidery hobby business, or being a professional editor, or working in a private school, or studying ministry, or blogging, or private tutoring, or babysitting, or teaching pre-school. I thought I was given signs when someone gave a compliment, when I enjoyed doing something new, when a random idea popped into my head, when I saw a literal sign on the road, when I was successful at doing something.

This is not who i am

Then, as I sat submerged in a pool of my own confusion and defeat, I felt the urge to skim through my old journal entries. That’s when God finally did give me an answer. He wanted me to see that I was treating Him like the coordinator of an ultimate treasure hunt. I spent every day looking for hidden clues, secrets, innuendos, and missing evidence that He meticulously placed for me to find, piece together, and decode as His plan for me. God put His finger right on that realization and reminded me, “This is not who I am.” The feeling I had during that prayer months ago came rushing over me again. When God says it’s time for you to know, He will ensure you know- without question- that He is the one speaking. I felt ashamed, but He quickly comforted me when I realized that part of this 7 month waiting period was to teach me how to wait in confidence of who He is (obviously because I still have some waiting to do). I only thought I was waiting all this time, but in reality I was impatiently seeking answers that were not yet ready to be given.

I wonder if God, being the good father that He is, looked at me like a child who sat in the backseat of His car, asking over and over again “Father, are we there yet?” and after having heard enough finally felt it was time to explain that we were not even close, but gave a firm reassurance that we would eventually arrive, together. I’m still in the backseat right now, but instead, I’m trying to enjoy the ride, relax, maybe have a snack and even take a small nap, and trust that as soon as we do arrive, God will wake me up and announce “My Beloved, we’re here!” Then, I can unbuckle, jump out, and follow Him to do exactly what He had planned all along.