Creativity

Just under two years ago, as I said goodbye to teaching in St. Louis so that I could move to Michigan with my husband, I imagined that I would take four to six months to rest and recover and then I would find a job and get back to some kind of ‘normal’ life.  My limited view couldn’t see what God had planned for me.  I couldn’t imagine how He would allow me to experiment with different types and levels of employment so that I could see for myself what would be fulfilling, draining, energizing, depleting… I couldn’t envision a life where I would have so much freedom to learn and grow.  I couldn’t see how He could provide for us financially, so He had to show me.

In the past two years I have worked for Reuters as an election agent, tutored students in English, writing, reading, study skills and test preparation, participated in intensive reading and writing instruction, edited everything from a young adult novel to a Master’s thesis on cancer-treating drugs, scored standardized math assessments, and taught college-level writing and literature courses.

And though that sounds like a lot, I’ve had the luxury of making new friends, participating in a regular Bible study, joining a new church family, working out consistently at a local gym, reading dozens of books, visiting family across the state, exploring Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti with my husband, and providing a refuge for my daughters as they navigated some difficult life situations.  Not only that, I’ve had time to experiment with medical strategies — discarding some, embracing others — to find ways to feel better both physically and emotionally.

Much of that journey has been chronicled in this blog. I think I started writing imagining that I would arrive at a destination — that I would someday get to “The Next Chapter.” However, I think the theme of this chapter is learning to live in the process, to trust that God knows what is coming next and He is preparing me for it. I’m learning to not look too far ahead, but to enjoy each moment.

This morning, I was supposed to be doing some online scoring, but ETS contacted me and said that due to reduced volume, I was not needed and would still receive half of my pay for the morning.  So, I stayed in bed reading a great book a little longer than usual.  I got up, straightened the kitchen, made my tea, and picked up my old faithful devotional, Whispers of Hope by Beth Moore.  After having set it down for a while to study Hosea and Breathe, I turned to the first page to start my third journey through this book.

Was I surprised that the message applied directly to my life? Not really.  I’m starting to expect it.  I no longer get stunned when I see a message like this: “What God is doing in your life right now may not make sense to you, but it’s not because He’s nonsensical.  It’s because He’s creative…In His wisdom God knew [His creation] was good because He knew what was coming next.  He knows what’s coming next for you…Give God room to be completely creative.”

Two years ago, I had no idea what was coming next.  It was pure obedience (plus exhaustion and a touch of desperation) to move here with no plan. Granted, He had made it quite obvious that we should take this leap of faith by providing a position that was custom-crafted for my husband in Michigan, which we both call home, but still, for a chronic planner and do-er, it was a totally new experience.

What God was doing in our lives did not make sense to me, but it wasn’t because He was nonsensical.  It was because He had a creative response to my self-destructive soldiering ways. He had information that was beyond my scope.  He knew what was coming next. And in my exhaustion, I was willing to allow him the room to be completely creative.

Guess how creative He is — He’s giving me the opportunity to teach high school students from across the country and around the world this summer at the University of Michigan. I’ll get to speak into their writing process and, hopefully, into their lives.  He’s allowing me to lead three sections of writing at Concordia in the fall — a three-minute walk from my kitchen to my classroom. And – gasp – He’s orchestrated an opportunity for my husband and me to chaperone a group of students to Israel for two weeks in January!

Could I have imagined all of that two short years ago? Not in a million years.  I was picturing myself shelving books at the public library. Not that that would’ve been a bad gig; perhaps that’ll be the next Next Chapter.  For now, I’m pretty content in this chapter and grateful to its Author.

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord

“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,

plans to give you a hope and a future.”

 

 

 

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The manna-Giver

Am I “more consumed with conserving and accumulating manna than in honoring the manna-Giver”?  That’s the question that stopped me in my tracks this morning.

Let’s take a stroll back to Exodus 16.  The Israelites, newly emancipated from Egypt, fresh from their crossing of the Red Sea, quickly forget these miraculous works of God and start complaining because they are thirsty and hungry.  They don’t say, “God, you brought us out of Egypt; you’re amazing!  You parted the Red Sea; you’re incredible! We know you will provide food and drink!”  No, they say, “He should’ve left us to die in Egypt, at least there we would’ve had food.”

Stupid ungrateful Israelites.

But God, being God, casually brings fresh water from a rock and rains down manna from the sky.  You know, casually.  And He tells Moses that they should only gather what they need for each day because God will gladly provide them enough.  They don’t have to horde or worry. God, who got them out of Egypt, who parted a whole sea, who brought water from a rock, who made bread fall from the sky, said He would provide enough each day. But, the Israelites decided to, you know, just grab a little extra to make sure.

Stupid untrusting Israelites.

So, my (your?) story is not too different.  I wasn’t exactly a slave in Egypt, but I have been a slave to many things — my eating disorder way back in the 80s, my fears about money, my need to control, …. and as the king said, “etcetera, etcetera…” I didn’t walk across the dry bed of an ocean or anything, but I did witness the freeing words of Christ come out of the mouth of an agnostic therapist, I have witnessed over and over God’s financial provision when it didn’t make any sense at all, I have been taken away from my life of soldiering into a time of rest…Etcetera, Etcetera.  And still, like the Israelites, I complain and fret…

Stupid ungrateful me.

For some reason I look back on my life of slavery and remember how proud I was to be so thin, forgetting that I couldn’t think/remember/drive/communicate. I look longingly at the times that I kicked butts and took names, forgetting that my self-sufficiency felt lonely and isolated.  I long for financial security and try to store away extra, forgetting how God has consistently and faithfully provided for all of my needs.

Stupid untrusting me.

The manna-Giver has rained down bread from heaven so many times in our married life. When we had young children and seemingly un-payable medical bills, He provided. When we went to the seminary, people we didn’t even know provided for our tuition and even Christmas gifts for our children. When an error in withholding resulted in a tax bill that we couldn’t imagine ever paying, He met that need. When, just this week, one of our children didn’t know how to find the money to pay for summer tuition, within hours, a scholarship was provided to pay the bill in full. Etcetera, Etcetera.

And yet I am tempted, just like the Israelites to, instead of praising and thanking the manna-Giver, become “consumed with conserving and accumulating manna.”

This is one more area where I need to “resist the urge to continue”.  When I am “bent on turning” to go back to those days of slavery, I need stop, dead in my tracks, and remember the mighty works of God who has freed me, fed me, and provided for me in every way.

I can trust that His character does not change.

I can trust that He holds me in the palm of His hand.

 

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3: 20-21