Friday, April 20, 2012

Weaving a Story

December trudged into January. January slumped into February. I was thankful. I was oh-so-thankful for the many, many generous people that had helped us move, sheltered us, encouraged us, given our children precious gifts and memories. And yet, it seemed so hard. We were so uncertain. Had we made the right decision? In an instant my heart would go from grateful to a quivering mess of uncertainty. We had left such a full life, such precious people, and because of what.. Money? Since when did we let money make our decisions for us? We serve a big God that isn't bound by things like that. And yet, we both felt we couldn't argue with our situation. Though we wavered, we ultimately made the decision that seemed best. 

But the months that followed led us to question. Application after application. No fruit. Ian was working so hard, sending out over one hundred applications for a measly two interviews that didn't go anywhere. We had no direction, nothing we were moving towards. We had so much momentum from the last 4+ years of working towards a goal, it seemed life had just slammed on the breaks in the middle of nowhere. 

Ian and I took turns being up and down.. something we often do, and something I am very thankful for. Very rarely are we both down at the same time. We respond well to each other. I found myself feeling strongly and saying again and again that I knew without a doubt that God had something for us. It might not be right around the corner, it might take a few extra twists and turns, but there is something out there that is just right for us. 

Occasionally Ian would respond with, 'But what if that something is me working at McDonalds?' To which I would respond, 'Well, then you'll be the best employee McDonalds has ever had.' Our view is so limited. We can only see so far, be so convinced of what exactly God is doing. But I honestly believed (and still do) that God could use my husband at McDonalds if that's where He wanted him. I also believe, however, that God led us very specifically to St Andrews to pursue the degrees that my husband now holds. And I believe that God uses the gifts and talents He gives us. I was not convinced that God would have begun to weave such a story for us and not have the perfect thing in the next thread. Years of effort leading up to working at McDonalds? That would be like beginning a tapestry of deep blues, soft reds, a spring green, a warm brown, then throwing in some neon yellow with a sparkly pink right in the middle. In some contexts it would work perfectly, but it just didn't seem to fit here. 

So we continued on. I found my heart being filled with special time with family, watching my kids get attached to precious people in ways that could never have happened if we had not come back with nowhere new to go. I basked in the warm, Indiana sunshine, watching my oldest explore, get bruises and bug bites, loving all the time outside in the wilderness. I breathed thanks for the extra hands to cuddle my youngest in his squirmy moments as well as his still moments. I couldn't believe how many things the Lord had blessed us with, and yet, I saw the discouragement in my husband's face. I prayed, I was encouraged, I tried to encourage, and boy did I ask for prayer. 

I started attending my mom's Bible study after we moved, and I remember one Tuesday morning I asked for specific prayer for Ian. I asked for people to pray that he would be encouraged. That he would get an interview. That even if it amounted to nothing, there would be something to lift his spirits. There had been so much rejection, so much disappointment, perhaps the Lord could give him a little something to just buoy him along in this tough position. 

A little later, he got an email from a friend (Thanks, Luke! Just add it to our tab :) suggesting that he apply for a job at Fuller Seminary. In the midst of so many applications, with the prospect of a job that he wasn't sure was a good fit, Ian didn't apply right away. In the end, he decided to give it a shot and sent the application. Within a day or two, he received an email asking for an interview. We were surprised. It was a fast turn around. This gave way to speculation here and there about what it could mean. (Side note: speculation is torturous and unhelpful in these situations.. I recommend avoiding it at all costs.) As he prepared for the interview and looked into things further, Ian found that the job was not only a good fit for him, it was something he was really interested in and excited about. Maybe too good to be true. 

After the interview, Ian was told they would make a decision within the week. We were grateful that we wouldn't have a long waiting period (refer to my previous note about speculation) and looked forward to news. I tried so hard not to get my hopes up. I knew that they would be dashed. I had learned quickly that hoping and imagining with these job applications was useless until a job was offered. And yet, I sheepishly had to admit that I had looked for churches in the area. 

But we didn't hear anything. The next week they told us they were delaying their decision for another 10 days. I was so disappointed. To me, this meant nothing was going to happen. If they wanted him they would have just told him, right? 

The nature of our position right now is that everyone asks what we are doing. What our plans are. This meant that everyone I saw within those 10 days was told that we were waiting. Almost all of them offered to pray for us. I just wanted us to be where God wanted us. If that was here at my parents' house for another year, I was thankful. If that was moving to California, I was thankful. 

The phone call came just as we sat down to dinner on Tuesday night. The night before the deadline they had given us. Ian left the room (it seems children two and under don't really set a great ambience for serious phone calls) and I sat trying to act normal while Excited and Terrified did the rumba in my gut. The conversation was long. I was hopeful. I snuck away from the dinner table to try to eavesdrop and see what was going on. I couldn't tell. It was torturous! I knew I shouldn't hope. I knew he wouldn't get it. But I knew how talented he was. How could they not want him? 

All I had to do was peek in after he hung up the phone to know it had been another crushing blow. The final nail in the coffin for the coming school year. Recruiting in the States was winding down, there wouldn't be much left. I can't remember if I said anything. I rubbed his back. I left the room so he could be alone. Tried to conclude the day in a normal fashion with our boys. 

We told a few people, and though he was discouraged, I found myself genuinely surprised that he wasn't struggling more. It seemed his initial despair wasn't sticking. I began to formulate a plan for the coming year in my mind. The prospect of me working more while he continued to hunt for something seemed ok. We could do it. I knew the Lord had a plan. 

Sometimes a good night's sleep is really helpful. Other times, the new day just seems to shed more light on the things you don't want to see. This was one of those times. We were headed into another long tenure of ups and downs. The disappointment I thought had been waning the night before came on full force the next day. We were quiet. We were uncertain. We were defeated. 

Thursday morning I was reading books to Aed while Asher slept when the phone rang. A woman asked for Ian. Could it be? I didn't want to let myself go there, though I did wonder. I handed him the phone and he walked away. It was another long conversation. I tried so hard to keep my hopes under wraps, but the thought crossed my mind, 'What if they changed their minds? What if the other person didn't want the job? That can happen, right?' 

I tried to read faster so we would be finished and I could talk to him when he hung up. He asked if I had seen who it was. I told him no. Then he put on a video for Aed, telling him Mama and Daddy needed to talk. I was so confused. Wouldn't he be excited if he had gotten the job? He seemed so serious. I had no idea what he was going to say. Even so, I found a grin trying to creep across my face. My mouth somehow knew more than my mind did.

I walked into the kitchen. He looked at me and said, 'I got the job.' 

After my initial shock I said, 'I hate to say I told you so, but I did tell you! God had something big!' 

Then Ian dropped the May 7th news. They want him there by May 7th if possible. Then the freight train of logistics hit me. Then the realization that we'd be saying goodbye again. The many conflicts we have with a sudden and far away move in the next few months. My fear of being somewhere new, with kids this time. Suddenly we were sucked up into a whirlwind of planning and decisions and problem solving. And we were thankful. We told a few people, hoping it would feel real. More than one person told us they had hesitated when we told them he didn't get the job. They couldn't explain it, but against all odds continued to think that he would get it.

This morning I woke a blissful few minutes before 7:30. So grateful for a later morning. I took a few moments to look in a small book I have full of snippets of writings by Christian authors. There is one for each day of the year. Let me share with you what the writing for April 20th was.

Waiting on God is an act of faith - the greatest thing ever required of us humans. Not faith in the outcome we are dictating to God, but faith in His character, faith in Himself. It is resting in the perfect confidence that He will guide in the right way, at the right time. He will supply our need. He will fulfill His word. He will give us the very best if we trust Him. 
- Elisabeth Elliot
If you have faith as small as a mustard seed,… Nothing will be impossible for you."
Matthew 17: 20

So we are moving. To California. And we are still shocked. A few more threads in this story the Lord has woven. We will raise this ebenezer as we walk forward into each day. The next few months are going to be hard. And overwhelming. And full of change and struggle and adventure and wonder. But we have this testimony to look back on. To see that it was not without purpose that we uprooted ourselves and faced adventure in 2007. It was not without purpose that we uprooted ourselves again and moved back as 2011 came to a close, wondering if we had made the right decision. And it is not without purpose that we will move to a new far away land that will be oh-so-different from what we have known. 

To God be the glory, great things He has done.