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

 

Repent. Rest. Re-set. Repeat.

I just opened my Bible study.  I was hoping to spend about thirty to forty-five minutes preparing for my Wednesday meeting with the battalion, but I only got to the end of the first page when I read these questions:

What is the biggest transition you’re going through right now?

Does it feel like you’re moving from captivity to freedom,

or does your transition seem to be leading you to a more confining place?

Now would you look at that?  Seems like a pretty benign question, doesn’t it?  But you know, it cut right through some baggage I’ve been carrying around and provided a moment of clarity. And I haven’t event opened my Bible yet!

The battalion and I met for the first time after our summer break about ten days ago to start our journey through Lisa Harper’s study called Malachi: a love that never lets go. Harper paints a picture of the Israelites at the time that Malachi wrote as similar to Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind — not ball-ready Scarlett, but Scarlett returning from Atlanta to find Tara a hot mess in the wake of the Civil War.  Harper says that, like Scarlett, the Israelites are raising their fists to God in anger and indignation, “How could you let this happen?”

Well, I am certainly not there.  Oh, I have been.  Trust me.  If this is not your first time reading this blog, you know my history of raising my fist to God and even turning my back on Him.  But, folks, I am — thankfully — not in that place at the moment.

In fact, this whole blog has been about my journey past that time of soldiering self-righteousness into a season of resting in His provision, His goodness, His faithfulness.  I’ve gone on  and on about our little house by the river, sitting on the couch, working fewer hours, spending time with my husband, going to the gym, swimming in the warm salt water pool.  You have to be getting sick of hearing about this time of refreshing!

Well, I’ve got a confession to make.  I’ve been having a hard time sleeping.  I’m worrying.  I’m not resting.

Ok, I am resting.  I am enjoying a much lighter work schedule.  I am experiencing a slight improvement in my health thanks to the lessened stress and some new medical interventions.  The nest is empty again.  We are enjoying ourselves.

But I lie awake at night stewing and fussing.

Why? Well, to avoid over-sharing let me just say — finances.  Leaving my full-time position and enduring a constant stream of medical charges has caused a change in our financial situation — at least from my perspective.  I get myself pretty charged up about how we are going to recover financially — I lie awake shifting this account and that account; I picture paying off this bill and that bill.  I get myself convinced again that it is job my to resolve this situation.

I am going to pause here to let you shake your head for a few moments.

You finished?

Those few little questions at the bottom of Lisa Harper’s page jolted me.  Do I feel like I am moving from captivity to freedom? Or do I like the feeling of captivity so much that I want to keep picturing myself there? Just when I have been freed from my doing and soldiering and butt-kicking to rest in my little house by the river, I want to find some other battle to fight.  My last blog post was about repenting, resting, and re-setting for goodness’ sake.

Last Saturday I stood in the front of a classroom and showed a group of ladies how I had been walking in one direction and God had physically picked me up and turned me around to go in a different one.  I shared the relief and the new opportunities that this turning has given me, but I was not acknowledging that in the wee hours of the night I have been looking over my shoulder trying to see if that other way is actually the answer.

Go ahead, shake your head some more.  I am.

So, let me put it in print so that I don’t forget.  God brought us to this place.  He will provide for all of our needs.  He always has; He always will. It might not make sense on paper. I might not have all the answers.  However, our God who created the earth, who clothes the lilies of the field, who numbers the hairs on our heads, does have all the answers.  He has worked out our finances.  He has said to me, “Be still, Kristin, I’ve got this.” I feel like He has to say it over, and over, and over again.

But this morning, I hear Him.  So, I’ll just be over here chilling in my little house by the river.

Matthew 6: 30-31

 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

Sign me up!

Whew!  I had a close call yesterday.  I asked the administrator, during my interview when she hoped the position would start, she said, “Monday,” and I almost said, “Sign me up!”

It’s a good thing I have all of you as witnesses to my commitment of January 5.  Because when I said, “My initial plan was to not return to work until January…”  she said, “That’s fine!  We will still need you in January.”  It’s also a good thing that I have mentioned the need to only work part-time, because when she said, “It’s Monday through Thursday 8:00-3:30,” I was able to sputter, “that’s a little bit more than I was planning on.” Her response? “How does 8:30 – 1:30 sound?”

And I haven’t even told you the exciting stuff.

The school was started by a group of individuals who did a study that revealed a college graduation rate of 12% among the residents of the south Ypsilanti area where the school is located.  This is in stark contrast to the 84% college graduation rate on the other side of Michigan Avenue where Eastern Michigan University is located.  It’s first goal was credit recovery, but quickly shifted to high school completion.  The school uses an online platform combined with project-based learning.  The halls are decorated with project plans and completed projects — among them a three-dimensional replica of Fort Michilimackinac and a comparison/contrast of Twelfth Night and 10 Things I Hate About You. 

The head administrator and the principal explained the fluidity of the curriculum to meet the needs of students who might be the first in their families to graduate.  The administrator said, “What the students need more than anything is someone who believes they can do it.”  When I asked, “So, what might my role be, would I need to come in on day one with a plan?”  She answered, “They will let you know what they need.  They want this. They will put you to work.”

So let me get this straight —  the students, many of whom are over 17, come to school voluntarily, follow their own plan for high school completion, enlist the help of school personnel to make that happen, and display virtually no behaviors unbecoming of students?  Because they know that the teachers believe they can do it and are working to make it happen?

Sign me up.

Now, perhaps I am looking through rose-colored glasses.  Perhaps I am not seeing the school’s weaknesses.  Maybe it is not all that they say it is.  There is only one way to find out.

Sign me up.

I mean, after all, it’s not a contract.  I would only be a paraprofessional.  If I don’t like it I can leave.  Right?

Let me be clear, here.  I have not actually been offered a position, but I think it’s mine if I want it. Listen to this:  I might be getting paid to encourage students to finish their high school diplomas — students who really want to finish their high school diplomas.  I am also being paid, by the way, to read and respond to a master’s thesis on cheating in educational settings.  And today, remember, I am going to be paid to report election results.

Remember last week when I was worried about finances and I climbed up onto my Dad’s lap to talk to Him about it?  See what He’s doing?

Yeah, I see it, too.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,

according to His power that is at work within us,

to Him be the glory.

Ephesians 3:20

Worry?

So for the past couple of days I have been a little worried.  We had some expenses surface that were unexpected and the finances started to look, to me, a bit scary.  I may have uttered the words, “if I just got a full-time job, this would not be a big deal.”  As if in response to those words, I was plunked down on the couch with the most demanding aches I have had in quite a while.  I literally had to rest.

A still small voice was uttering:  Hey, little girl, I’ve got this.  You are not in charge.  I think I can handle your finances.  

Wait, what?  I don’t think I heard that.  Let me worry and grump around the house for a couple of days.  And I did.

Then, I opened my Bible study this morning.  I have to be honest and tell you that I haven’t done my regular Bible study in three days.  You see, our group got a little behind in our study, so we have altered our pace.  It is no longer necessary for me to do my homework every day.  So, I let it sit for a few days.  Should I make it very clear here that my few days of worrying coincide with my few days of not doing my regular Bible study?

I know, I know, it is not a magical formula.  But we are what we eat, you know?  If I take in the Word of God, it tends to center me on truth.  If I fail to take in the Word of God, the other ‘stuff’ in life tends to overwhelm me, crowding out the truth.  I start to feel like I have to carry all my problems on my own.

Anyway, I opened my Bible study this morning.  The whole point of the study was prayer — taking concerns to our Dad because He delights in giving us all good things.

More than usual, the study required that I look up verse after verse to make the point.  Luke 11:13 — the heavenly Father gives things to His children, Ephesians 1:3 — He has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing, 2 Peter 1:3 — His power has granted to us all things, and 2 Corinthians 9:8 — God is able to do this.  Now, I know this Bible study was published in 2014, but it wasn’t published this morning.  Yet God assembled this study to be just what I needed to see this morning. Because He knew where I would be in my thoughts this morning.  Because He knit me together in my mother’s womb.  And He knew about the expenses that, to us, were unexpected.  So, He probably has a plan for how they are going to work out.

Yup.  Schooled again.

Was it just yesterday that I wrote about the three time periods — now, a little while, and when Jesus is revealed?  Wasn’t I talking about how I was going to live my life for the little while I have until Jesus is revealed?  Do I want to spend it worrying?  Or do I want to climb up onto my Dad’s lap, tell Him the situation, and let Him reassure me: Hey, little girl, I’ve got this.  You are not in charge.  I think I can handle your finances.  

Yeah, that one.

Do not be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom.

Luke 12:32

Evaluating Exchanges

It came this morning — my first rejection notice.  “Thank you for taking the time to apply.  We are contacting you to let you know that the position has been filled.”  I should have kept every letter or email like this I have received over the years.  You can’t be addicted to applying for jobs without experiencing the rejection letter.  And, just like with parking tickets and library fines, I take rejection letters in stride.

I actually was not surprised by this one at all.  The position needed to be filled as soon as possible, and I recorded that I would be available starting January 5.  This letter didn’t sting.  Actually, it spurred me on to look for more openings and to put in more applications.  You know, improve my chances.  So, I checked all my usual spots for jobs, to no avail, and then said to myself, “OK, on to blogging.”

The fact is, as much as I am looking forward to finding a position, I know I will make an exchange when I am actually hired.  I will exchange availability for schedule.  I will exchange boredom for activity.  I will exchange rest for work.  I will exchange energy for pay.  It’s math, guys.  24 hours – 0 working hours = 24 Kristin hours.  Right now I spend each of those hours virtually as I please.  I sleep for 8-10 of them.  Yeah, I know — luxury.  I cook for 1.  I read for 1-2.  I exercise for 1-2.  I socialize for 1-2.  I do Bible study and blog for 1-2.  I rest for 1-2.  I clean or run errands for 1-2.  And pretty soon, my twenty-four hours is used up!

Now, one thing I know about math (besides the fact that I am lousy at teaching it) is that it is consistent.  It always works.  So, if I work for 4 hours a day and sleep for 10 hours a day, that leaves for 10 hours for everything else — exercise, cooking, cleaning, shopping, socializing, spending time with family (including my husband, of course), and resting.  That might work.  If I spend 8 hours a day working and 10 hours a day sleeping, I have six hours left for everything else.

Before I slowed down due to my physical limitations, I was spending about eleven hours a day with work-related activities — travel to and from work, actual time at school, grading and prepping, and extracurricular activities.  I started to realize that something needed to change when I would drive dazedly (I think that’s a word!) home from work, collapse onto my couch, and then crawl off to bed before I started the whole cycle again.  After all, 24 minus 11 hours at work minus 10 hours of sleep = enough time to shower, eat, switch one load of laundry, and respond gruntingly to the people I love the most.

I can’t go back to that. I would exchange too much.  I am not willing to trade time on the phone with a daughter or son for time in the car.  I am not willing to trade dinners with my husband for supervising a hallway.  I am not willing to trade time blogging for time grading papers.

But I think I am willing to trade a couple hours of Netflix for a couple hours in a library, or teaching a community college course, or editing a dissertation. I am willing to trade time spent hunting for jobs for doing an actual job. I am willing to let my husband cook dinner occasionally so that I can use my God-given gifts to connect with others.

I am close to the time when I will be ready to make an exchange. But I won’t trade time with my son who is coming home on leave next month. I won’t trade the Christmas holidays with my daughters who will both be here.  I won’t trade meeting my new granddaughter.  I won’t trade walks with my husband.  I won’t trade time re-connecting with Jesus.

This gift of time, of being still has allowed me to appreciate the value of time with those I love the most.  It’s worth more to me than any job, any title, any paycheck.

I won’t trade it for anything.

Matthew 6:21

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Monday morning struggling…

Uh-oh. It’s happening again.  This is my third start on today’s blog.  I have gotten to two or three paragraphs and deleted twice already.

I was going to write about our trip to Washington, DC this past weekend and how blessed and beautiful that whole trip was.  Then I started hearing myself speak and I was like, “blah, blah, blah, who cares about your trip?”

Then, I started doing statistical analysis on this blog — what topics are most interesting to people who are not me.  Yeah, I tried math. Bad idea.

So why don’t I stick to what I do well and tell you what’s on my mind this morning. I sometimes feel redundant like I write about the same things all the time. But, hey, it’s my blog — it’s what’s on my mind — I can’t help it.  Whenever I try to force something and make it about something else, I end up deleting a whole bunch of paragraphs.  In fact, I am not even sure this won’t get deleted.

I am not sure it will have a point at all.  And maybe it doesn’t have to.

Here are the facts.  We had a beautiful weekend.  I am exhausted.  I am in my pajamas and need to be out of them within the hour.  My hips and feet feel like they are coated in IcyHot (no, I am not a paid sponsor, in fact I doubt I will ever have need to buy this stuff because my body seems to simulate its effects on its own).

But in the midst of this less than stellar mind-frame, I read my Bible study this morning which was about how the Word of God is effective even when we don’t think it is effective. I know, it sounds like a rather boring topic, doesn’t it?  But a little nugget grabbed hold of me.

You know, I’m sure by now, how pre-occupied I am with figuring out what it is I am supposed to do next…so after I read “If we’ll ask God to fill us with the Holy Spirit as we read and study, He will alert us when He’s speaking to our situation through a precept that doesn’t blatantly fit” (Beth Moore, Children of the Day, 155), I saw “we’ll often feel emotionally and spiritually satisfied after a work handpicked and infused by the Holy Spirit…If you’re on the right track of your spiritual gifting you’ll start getting snippets of feedback that affirm your contribution…(157),
and I thought, holy cow!  I love blogging, I am affirmed through blogging, but, “um, God, sorry to bother You, but I am a little worried over here about finances and paying for stuff, you know, education, and trips, and stuff.”

But in the same lesson I also saw, from The Message version of Psalm 119,

Give my request your personal attention, rescue me on the terms of your promise…put your hand out and steady me since I’ve chosen to live by your counsel…[you know, I am trying to be still and know that You are God over here]…

And I thought to myself, this is where the rubber meets the road, isn’t it?  Do I trust Him enough to do what He says even when things get a little uncomfortable?  a little scary?  When I can’t see how things will work out?

In this moment, my answer is ‘yes’.

Do I believe that I am only supposed to blog?  Nope.  I think you are going to get bored reading stuff about me being still.  I think I need a little material to write about. So, perhaps I’ll get a job at the library, or teach composition, or work at the airport. And today I answered an ad from a grad student who needs help organizing a thesis. I could do that.

I don’t think I know what’s next yet.  So, I think I will continue to acknowledge that He is God and I am not, and I am, after all, sitting in the palm of His hand.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.