Ladies and gentlemen, I am about to participate in an experiment.  After two years of limited part-time employment, I am gearing up for the next level of engagement.

As you may be aware, from 2005 to 2014 I was a full-time teacher and administrator at a small private high school in St. Louis, MO.  For at least seven of those years I was a very hard-charging,  responsible faculty member who worked long hours both at school and at home.  I managed that position while being married to a seminary student turned mission-planting pastor and parenting three teenagers.  It was a very busy life full of challenges and rewards.

When chronic illness started to impact my effectiveness in that position, my husband and I began to watch and pray for God to open a path to something different.  This blog began when God answered our prayers and transplanted us in Ann Arbor where he has been serving as the Dean of Students at a small Christian university for the past three years.

When I joined him two years ago, I rested for six months and then began to experiment with different levels of employment.  I started with occasional private tutoring.  I added a summer ‘internship’ at an educational agency before transitioning to adjunct instruction coupled with private tutoring.  I’ve been doing well for the past year balancing those two positions.  I have taught a few hours a week in the classroom while supporting several private students that I meet in homes, in libraries, or in coffee shops.  I’ve loved this combination.  So, I’m continuing it this fall — at the next level.

Starting next Monday I will have three sections of college composition. (All the writing instructors in the room just gasped.) Now, to be fair, two of those sections are small at just 12-13 students each.  The third section is a more average-sized class of twenty-one. So, do your math and you will find that I am going to have 46 composition students.  That’s a solid load.  Most English teachers would say, “That’s fabulous!  What a joy to have forty-six writing students!” (My last year in St. Louis, a staffing issue created a situation where I had about 80 writing students!)  And, indeed, I am thrilled.  I am also thrilled that entering my second year as a private tutor, I have a solid student base that easily yields 8-10 hours of tutoring per week.  God has indeed engineered a sweet gig for me.

However, I am a little anxious. My health is more stable than it has been in close to four years.  With the help of my medical team I have eliminated biologic and anti-inflammatory medications.  That’s right; I take nothing for pain!  I am also currently weaning off the anti-depressants that I started taking seven or eight years ago.  I walk, do Pilates, practice yoga, and get in the water regularly. I see a physical therapist and a chiropractor,  avoid gluten and dairy, and am following my doctor’s instructions for taking homeopathic and nutritional remedies. I’m doing all the things, yet I still have a measure of pain in my hips, neck, and back.  I still have psoriasis. I still have chronic eye issues. I still get knocked down if I do too much.

So how much is too much?

That’s why this fall is an experiment.  Can I teach forty-six students in the classroom and meet with a handful outside of the classroom without spending every weekend in bed? Will I still fit in exercise? physical therapy? time with friends?  time with family? What will happen if something unexpected pops up — an out-of-state emergency, a family crisis, a family celebration? I don’t know.  Have I created a schedule that allows for these variables?  We’ll see.

I do know that the success of this semester is more likely if I continue to practice the disciplines that I have re-discovered in this time of stillness — Bible study, blogging, prayer.   It seems I struggle to fit them in, when in truth, they are the most impactful moments of my day.  Writing the prayer reminders on my mirror and my fridge is a help, but I still need to choose to act on those prompts and actually pray. My devotional materials sit out in plain sight, but I have to move toward them and take the time to engage each day.  My blog is constantly percolating in my mind and begging to be let out through my fingers, and when I allow it the space and time, I become aware of all that God is working inside of me.  When I do these three things — prayer, Bible study, and blogging — I feel centered and purposeful.  I feel at peace.

So, on Monday, I’ll step feebly forth.  I won’t try to kick any butts or take any names, I will just show up and see what God has in store in this next chapter.

Luke 12:32

“Do not be afraid, little flock,

for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

Sumballo, a Re-visit

This post, written right after Christmas 2015, seems relevant today. As you gather all the pieces of your holiday celebration and ponder them in your heart, may God grant you the wisdom to see the big picture.

This morning, I opened my morning devotion from Beth Moore’s Whispers of Hope: 10 Weeks of Devotional Prayer and found this verse from Luke 2 — the Christmas story:

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Luke 2:19

When I’ve read this verse in the past, I’ve pictured Mary holding baby Jesus in her arms kind of shaking her head in disbelief; I’ve imagined her saying, “Well, you weren’t kidding, were you? You said I would conceive and bear and son, and here he is!” I’ve imagined pondered to mean “wondered in astonishment.” However, Beth Moore, a biblical scholar, corrects my image a bit; she says pondered is translated from the Greek word sumballo which means “taking many things, casting them together, and considering them as one”. These words make me picture tossing many snapshots onto a table, discovering connections between them, and finding the theme of the collection.

Among Mary’s photos I see — her pregnant body on a donkey on that long journey to Bethlehem, her downcast eyes in the moment when her parents discovered her ‘situation’, her peaceful resolve during tense conversations with Joseph, and her brow beaded with sweat during the labor and delivery amid the straw and dung. I see images of the first glance at her child, I hear the knock on the wall of the stable when the shepherds arrived, I smell the frankincense when she opens the gifts from foreign dignitaries.

When she pondered those moments “as one” what did they add up to for her?

I’m sitting here three days after Christmas in my little house by the river, and I, too, am taking a moment to ‘sumballo’. I’m looking back at the events of the last few weeks — the parties, the visits with family, the gift buying and giving, the hopes, the disappointments, the laughter, and the tears — and I’m casting them together as one.

In fact, this whole blog — every post on every day –has been an attempt to ‘sumballo’. Since I started writing in the summer of 2014, I have been looking back over sections of my life: I’ve been ‘casting them together’ and ‘considering them as one’.

Sometimes we are  tempted to look at isolated moments as defining moments — that time that you lied to a trusted a friend, the year that your parents were divorced, the semester that you failed a class, that car accident that nearly claimed your life, the winning football championship, the Homecoming coronation, the birth of a child. Certainly these moments shape us, but they do not define us — not in isolation. They only offer hints until we sumballo  — until we put these moments into perspective as parts of a whole.

If I am going to look at the fact that for the ten soldiering years of my life I was way too busy, and I often overlooked the emotional needs of my family, if I am going to acknowledge that this behavior was costly to my physical, spiritual, and emotional health and to the physical, spiritual, and emotional health of my family, I can’t view that time in isolation. If I am going to truly sumballo, I need to look at other seasons as well. I need to remember that I also stayed at home with my children for almost ten years — nurturing, hugging, reading, teaching, correcting, and guiding. I need to acknowledge that for the past five years I have been recovering from soldiering and learning a new way. Within each of these periods have been awesome moments  — young children singing happily in the car on a road trip, teenagers rolling on the floor with laughter, and young adults gathering for the holidays. However, each period has also had moments of devastation — betrayal, trauma, and disappointment. If we grasp onto any one moment and let it define us, we get a a distorted view. In order to see the clearest picture, we have to cast all of the moments together. We must consider them as one. Only then, can we discover a theme.

And what is that theme? Way back in my twenties when someone challenged me to write my testimony, I wrote that the theme of my life was “rescued by grace”. Even in those early years, I knew that God had been protecting me, walking with me, holding his cupped hands beneath me to carry me through. He was overlooking mistakes, forgiving wrongs, and allowing me second and third and fourth chances. When I was careless, he protected me. When I was selfish, He was benevolent. When I was hateful toward others, He poured love on me.

He rescued me with grace.

As I am approaching fifty, I look back at all the events of my life, and I ponder them all in my heart. Time and again I see my  failed attempts to do things on my own followed by God’s miraculous provision. I see God transforming my pain into compassion for others. I see my pride falling into humility. I see the love of God.

I wonder what Mary thought as she pondered ‘all these things’ in her heart.  She had to see God’s miraculous provision in a faithful husband, a place of shelter, and safety from Herod. She had to see God transforming her pain and embarrassment into compassion for others. She had to feel humbled in the presence of the Christ child. She had to see the love of God for herself and for all of humanity.

Despite our weaknesses, our poor choices, our sin — He loves us. He has seen every moment — every victory, every failure, every injury and every recovery. None of it has been a surprise to Him. He has gone before us, and He has held us in the palm of His hand. He has cast all the events of our lives together and saturated them with grace.

That is the message that I find when I sumballo.

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?’

Every t crossed, every i dotted

I’ve been sitting here in my house by the river for seven months.  I have settled into my freedom of sleeping as long as I want, making plans for whenever I want, eating what I like when I like it, and changing plans at the drop of a hat.  If I want to go for a walk, I might go at 10am, or noon, or 3pm, or 7pm.  If I need groceries, I go when I get around to it.  I might stay in my pajamas all day, or be out the door pressed and dressed at 9am.  It’s a life of luxury.

But, guys, I got a job!

I know, I know, I’ve been trying to get a job for most of those seven months.  I have been crying about wanting something to do, something to do.  I have complained about my restlessness and need for something more…and now I have it!!

So, before I start work next Monday, I am trying to suck up my last moments of relaxation and freedom while also tying up the loose ends of everything I’ve started over the last months.

You may remember that I got very excited about a project with Days for Girls (http://www.daysforgirls.org/).  I am happy to report that by the end of this week a friend and I will have completed 10 hygiene kits for girls in Africa.   Many girls miss up to two months of school because they do not have the sanitary supplies that would allow them to attend during their periods.These kits will provide the supplies they need to stay in school.

Last week, the battalion and I finished our study on The Sermon on the Mount — I’m going to have to pass on the next study while I go through my training for my new job, but I am hopeful that I will get to rejoin them in the fall.  In the meantime, I will carry them in my heart right beside the lessons we have learned together.

I put the last few pieces in my latest 1000 piece puzzle last night.  I think the puzzle table might remain bare for a few weeks while I get my bearings.

Because, guys, I’ve got a job!

I was thinking yesterday about how perfectly God chose this job for me:

  • It’s working with students one-on-one.  This is really my favorite part of teaching.  I will work with the same students every day, one at a time, for one hour each.  I will get to know my students, watch them grow, laugh with them, and celebrate our victories together.
  • It is part-time.  When asked in the interview if I would rather work full- or part-time I replied that I would prefer part-time, unless that would eliminate me from the position.  The interviewer replied, “Not at all.” I can determine how many hours I would like to work.
  • It’s a seasonal position.  I only had to commit through August.  This allows me an opportunity to see if I can manage working five days a week.  Since students commit to five days a week and see the same teachers every day, teachers must also commit to five days a week.  If by the end of August I have determined that five days is too much, I can leave gracefully and move on to what’s next.  If I like the position, I will be eligible to apply for regular employment.
  • It’s an entry-level position.  Translation: the pay is not great, but the responsibilities aren’t either!  Someone else will write lesson plans that I will execute.  I will have no grading to take home — no stack!
  • I will be learning.  Before I even start teaching, I will have eighty hours of training that will equip me to help students who have always struggled with reading.  I love to learn.  Even better, I love to share what I have learned with others.  This is a perfect set-up for me.

How did I end up with such an awesome situation? My Headhunter found me this job.  He has known me since before I was born.   He knit me together in my mother’s womb. He not only provided a job that meets my needs,  He provided me with just enough time to finish my projects so that I can enjoy Easter weekend with my family before I start work on Monday.  He crossed every t and dotted every i.

I don’t know why I thought He wouldn’t.

Matthew 6:8

for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

Intensive Coursework

Sometimes I feel like I am taking an advanced course — like the three-weeks-in-the-summer-six-hours-a-day course that earns you three credits.   One summer in college, I took a course called ‘Teaching the Christian Faith’.  After sitting in class all day, I would go home and work all night to prepare for the next class.  During those three weeks I felt like I was eating, breathing, and sleeping with ‘Teaching the Christian Faith’. I think I remember making my friends sit around one evening while I gave them an object lesson — something about preferring an old sweatshirt to a new clean garment — so that I could practice before I stood in front of the whole class.

I am forty-eight years old and I am no longer enrolled in college, but, guys, I am taking one of those courses right now. The course seems to have started about the time I started writing this blog, and it seems to have several course objectives.  And, apparently I am not mastering these objectives very quickly.

If I were the teacher, this is how I would state the objectives:

I will acknowledge that God is God and I am not. 

I will learn how to be still and know that He is God. 

I will trust God for His provision. 

I will wait for God to establish the work of my hands. 

I will understand that I am sitting in the palm of His hand. 

I know these are the objectives, because they are the themes that come up repeatedly in my blogging.  And, if you haven’t figured it out by now, blogging — actually all writing — is, for me, a way of processing thoughts, issues of faith, and emotions.

But these objectives show up outside of my writing, too. Yesterday in church, our pastor said “We need to acknowledge that God is God and we are not.”  He also said, and had as one of the points in his outline, “Be still.  Now.”  I can’t make this stuff up.

I also get everyday practical exercises to ensure that I will master this content:

  • Bills that seem too large to pay — Trust God for His provision.
  • An interview that resulted in, “we’re going in another direction” — God will establish the work of my hands.
  • Life circumstances that seem overwhelming — Be still and know that He is God. 

My last blog was about money.  The numbers aren’t all adding up on paper. (My husband reminded me over the weekend that they never have.) So, I have been trying my old MO — need money? work more! I went to an interview on Friday for a proofreading position — full time (and some overtime) for March through July or August. While I was contemplating this position, I was working out in my mind how I could keep my tutoring and proofreading clients.  I mean, how hard can it be?  I’m sure I can do it!

I was discussing all this with one of my daughters, who not too long ago observed me lying in bed for several hours a day. She remarked, “That sounds like a lot.”  I responded, “I think I can manage.”  So, I went to the interview which involved two hours of proofreading a biology lab manual.  As I was marking misspellings and font shifts, I was thinking, “I could do this 40-50 hours a week.  That would solve some of our money issues.”

When I am at the front of a classroom and a student gives me a wrong answer after weeks and weeks of instruction, I have been known to make a buzzer noise and ask the ‘next contestant’ if he has the correct answer. I mean, come on, we have been over this and over this.

On Friday, I confidently turned in my proofreading ‘test’ and walked out the front door of the publishing house, thinking to myself, “Yup, I will be working here very soon.”  But before I even got home the buzzer sounded. “Wrong answer!”  I had a message from the publishing house that said that had chosen a ‘different candidate’.  What?  I thought you were hiring several.  I thought you were building a pool of freelancers that you could call in for special projects? I was going to solve all of our problems.

Buzzzzzzzzzzzz!  Wrong answer!

This morning I open my Bible study.  (Are you tired of reading those words yet?) Here is the text; I am not kidding.

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you of not more value than they?  Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? … But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you. 

Sometimes when my students don’t get an objective, I present the material over and over — in multiple packages — praying, hoping that I will find just the right combination of direct instruction, practice, and external reinforcement to make it stick.

The Master Teacher is skilled in multi-modal instruction.  He is aware of my special learning needs.  He does not grow weary or frustrated when I continually go back to my old ways, even after weeks and weeks of instruction.  He just prepares another lesson for me, knowing that eventually, I will “know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

Until then, I will be taking this class.

I know the plans I have for you

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

“plans to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11

I’ve been sitting at my computer now for about an hour.  I keep getting distracted from my blog.  I made a hotel reservation for an upcoming trip.  I sent a few emails.  I printed a few documents. And I even started a job application.

Don’t worry, I quickly abandoned it when I realized how long it was!  I don’t think I’m ready yet!  That’s ok, it’s only October 13.  I have time, and God has a plan.  Right?  I am counting on it!

That doesn’t mean I am going to stay in my pajamas until January 1 expecting a phone call that will offer me a ridiculous amount of money to do exactly what I love.  Of course not!  Although my jammies are rather comfy, if I do say so myself.  I will apply for some jobs.  I may even complete an application today, but I’ve gotta work up to it.

God’s plan for me right now is to be doing exactly what I am doing.  I am resting.  I am processing.  I am feeling.  I am evaluating.  I am healing.  And it all takes time.

It’s pretty amazing to me that the whole time I was running around in St. Louis, working full-time plus, parenting, maintaining a large home, and barely keeping my head above the water line, God was planning for me to take this break.  He knew it was coming. I had no idea.  I just kept pushing.  Wash another load of laundry, grade another stack of papers, buy another cart of groceries, fill another prescription, cook another meal, make another appointment.  It was non-stop.  Until God said, “Stop.”

I never expected a break.  I longed for a shift, a different position, a lighter load, an emptier nest, but never in a million years, did I imagine six months of not working, just resting, just recovering, just contemplating.

But He knew.  He knew I needed time to do nothing.  Hours to read, to play Words with Friends, to sleep, to watch Law and Order (there, I finally outed myself), to try new recipes, to drink coffee and tea, to connect with old friends, to make new friends. I had no idea I needed this.  But He did.

It’s a bit overwhelming, to be honest.  The one who created the universe– the trees, the river, the deer, coffee, and every single person — noticed me running frantically about like the squirrels in the trees outside my window.  He saw me fussing and fretting and trying to order my world.  And, instead of just being entertained my my futile attempts, he stepped into my life and provided what I needed.

So, why would I worry that he doesn’t have the next phase planned, too? I have no idea.  For forty-eight years he has provided just what I needed at exactly the right time — friends, mentors, experiences, finances, food, shelter, clothing, spouse, children, employment, and even rest.  Why would He stop now?

Luke 12:6-7

Are not five sparrows sold for two cents?  Yet not one of them is forgotten before God.

…Do not fear, you are more valuable than many sparrows.

Mann tracht und Gott lacht.

I woke up exceptionally early this morning, and wasn’t ready to crawl out of bed right away, so I grabbed the book on my nightstand and began to read.  I typically read fiction, even though there is a stack of non-fiction waiting for me.  I prefer an escape into story to any type of reality, but especially to self-help books.  I really don’t want to read about how to manage my finances, what career is best for me in the second half of my life, or how to control my autoimmune disease. 

I want to get lost.  For a little while.  

So, this morning I grabbed Anna Quindlen’s Still Life with Bread Crumbs which I had started last night.  It’s the story of a once-famous photographer who has to re-locate in her 60s in order to gain control of her waning finances in the wake of divorce and decreased popularity.  She is struggling to re-enliven her career and find meaning for her life.  The scene I read this morning ended with her sharing with a new friend a statement that her father often said, “Mann tracht, und Gott lacht.”  Translation, man plans and God laughs.  

I laughed out loud.  God spoke to me through Anna Quindlen’s fiction.  You may think I have lost my mind by now.  And that may be true.  But, if I remember correctly, I finished yesterday’s post with the Scripture, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but the Lord’s purpose prevails.” I plan, God laughs.  I plan, God directs.  He wants me to get it through my thick skull. He is God and I am not. 

I had lunch with a new friend yesterday.  Among the many things we discussed, we touched on how to find purpose and meaning at this season of our lives — you know, middle age.  How should we use our time?  What should we commit to? 

Later, on a walk with my husband, it came up again.  When I say yes to something, I say no to something else.  If I say yes to a full-time teaching position, I say no to most everything else.  If I say yes to working days, I say no to lunch dates.  If I say yes to a PhD program, I say no to reading much fiction.  

I am figuring and planning; God is laughing.  He knows the plans he has for me. Plans to prosper me and not to harm me.  Plans for good and not for evil.  (Jeremiah 29:11) His laughter is the gentle laughter of a parent saying, “Calm down, little one, I’ve got it under control. I know what you need before you ask.” 

For now, I believe, He has called me to rest and be still.  He will reveal what is next when it is time for what is next. 

In the mean time, I will be reading fiction and being pleasantly surprised when He uses even that to remind me that He’s got me in the palm of His hand. 

Isaiah 46:4

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you.

I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

The simple things, A Re-Visit

In July of 2014, I joined my husband in this little house by the river; I wrote this post that very week. Just shy of seven years later, we are going to move our things and ourselves to a different little house nearby. I’ll write more about that in the coming days, but before I do, I’m going to indulge in a little reminiscing; join me if you like.

Yes, we are living on campus.  Don’t worry; I think I am going to love it.  

When my husband moved to Ann Arbor one year ahead of me, in the fall of 2013, and I was still living in St. Louis, the university offered him a house on campus so that he wouldn’t have to purchase a home or rent an apartment before I joined him. It’s a simple little place — three bedrooms, one bath, kitchen/dining on one end, living room on the other. They put fresh paint and carpet throughout and temporarily furnished it for him. 

On our first visit, as my daughter and I walked through the place, I thought to myself, “this could work.” Moments later, she said out loud, “this is horrible.” It could be perspective.  

In St. Louis we owned a large two-story home with a finished basement — three lovely levels of living space that were perfect for a busy family with three teenagers. We loved it at the time that we purchased it, fresh off four years in seminary housing. Our kids each found their own space, and we spread out a bit. It was a lot to maintain, but I was healthy at that point, and we had a crew that could be enlisted to help.

However, over the last two years, as two have moved out and I have begun to deal with the pain and fatigue of autoimmune disease, it has become a challenge to maintain the house and the yard around it. In fact, before my husband was offered this position and we decided to move across the country, we were actually looking for a small place that was all on one level. That’s right  — we were looking for a place just like this!

Even better, the university does all the maintenance, so my husband can focus on his job. They do the yard work. They clear the snow. We get to choose what we spend our energy on. When I arrived on Sunday, I found that my husband had planted a small garden, so we can pick fresh tomatoes! When the movers brought our things yesterday, we discovered that our Adirondack chairs sit perfectly under the overhanging roof on the patio, so I can have my morning coffee outside with a view of this gorgeous campus.  

We were worried that everything wouldn’t fit, or that the things we brought might not work in this new place., but we’ve had surprise after surprise. Our bedroom furniture fits perfectly, even my grandma’s little chair. The guest bedroom houses all our daughters’ things while they are in transition. Our son’s futon fit in the office to provide a spot for overnight guests. I’ve got a reading corner complete with picture books for any children that may visit. And, best of all, my puzzle table found a home just outside the office.

My heavenly Father knew exactly what I needed, before I even asked him (Matthew 6).  This simple home is going to be very easy for me to maintain, so I will have energy to spend on the things that matter — meeting new friends, hanging out with my husband, and being still. 

Epilogue: I don’t think we imagined in 2014 that we would live in our little house by the river for seven years, but it turns out that God knew then what we did not, that He had provided a place of simplicity where we could focus on some deep work that He was preparing to do in us. This little house by the river has been a place of healing — more reminiscing on that later this week.

A word about paychecks…

This post, written in 2014 and polished up in March 2019 is one of the most frequently viewed of all my blog posts — maybe because so many of us confuse our worth with what we earn. 

I have always loved to work. I love to be doing; we’ve established that. I like the feeling that I am meeting a need. I like the satisfaction of a job well-done. And let’s be honest — getting a paycheck is pretty great.

I’ve been paid to babysit, to drop a fry basket into a vat of boiling oil, to stuff envelopes, to mystery shop, to write devotions, to teach, to proctor tests, and even to walk door-to-door asking ‘how many people live in the house, what is their ethnicity and employment status’. I’ve been paid everything from fifty cents an hour to a respectable salary with benefits for me and my family.

It’s an exchange, isn’t it? The worker does a task; the employer pays a wage. That wage provides the means for the worker to buy food, housing, clothing, and other necessities. It provides a means for the worker to save for the future. It allows the worker to bless others.

But somehow a paycheck has come to mean something more. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain, I tie my wages to my worth. If I am earning, then I have value. The more I earn, the more value I have. I am worth something when I am working and making a wage.

Uh-oh. What happens when I resign my position and decide to be still for a period of several months?  If I’m not working, I won’t be getting paid. This could present a little problem in the inner workings of my psyche.

Over the years, my husband and I have been in every state of employment — we have both worked, only he has worked, only I have worked. For a few months, neither of us was employed full-time. We have made very little and we have made substantial salaries. But one thing remains, we have always had just about exactly what we needed at the moment. We have always had appropriate housing, vehicles that work, food for our family, clothing that looks respectable, the ability to give gifts to others, and the means to take modest vacations.

Just before our first daughter was born, I was teaching full-time in a residential facility for emotionally impaired children. My husband was finishing his hours of supervision to get his license in counseling. I was definitely the primary wage-earner, yet we agreed that I would resign my position one week before her due date so that I could be a stay-at-home mom. We made this decision even though he had not yet secured a full-time position and even though we didn’t have much in savings. It was a step of faith. I don’t remember our families saying much about it, but they must have thought we had lost our minds! On the day our daughter was born, my husband came to visit us in the hospital. He had about five dollars in his pocket, not much in the checking account, and no idea how he was going to get groceries before I got home. After he visited,  he stopped by the counseling office where he was doing his supervision, checked his mailbox, and found a check for over $500 in pay that had been delayed due to insurance! In 1992 that was plenty to get groceries, pay some bills, put some money in savings, and buy his new daughter a bow to wear home from the hospital. During the following months before he had a full-time position, we were blessed over and over by the generosity of others and God’s provision that often came just in time.

It grew our faith and reminded us that all things are provided through Him — even a paycheck.

Yes. That money that someone gives me in exchange for a task I complete is not really a measure of my worth; it is God’s way of providing for me. He has given me gifts and skills, he has plugged me into positions, and he has provided for my needs.

He has declared my worth.

Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 10: 29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Did you see that? I am of far more value than many sparrows.  I am worth more than my pay check. My value is found in Christ.

Yours, too.

And you can’t measure that with a paycheck.