On Expectations, Extreme Circumstances and Diaper Stuffing Trust
It’s been a year.
It’s been a year that has been nothing I thought it would be.
Some of it has been overwhelming. Some has been heartbreaking. Some has been incredibly odd. Some has been so funny I nearly wet myself laughing t the obsurdity
None of it has been expected.
I am sitting in a house I sought for nearly a year. Why so long you ask? Because life was in my way. Last year, on this very day, my world fell apart and I ended up back where I began, in a house in Shasta Lake City. I wanted to come back up the hill to the Burney Basin I was called to love. Life had different plans. Life crushed my heart and all my plans.
Wait a minute! Pastors get crushed? Oh yes, we do. Lest you think that a highly spiritual calling exempts us from the horrible realities of hurtful people and painful circumstances, let me assure you, pastors have found themselves torn to bits within. This world does not play favorites with difficulty, not even with those who spend their lives seeking God, loving God, knowing God, representing God.
But Back to my thoughts…
The whole house seeking thing was incredibly hard. At first, I just wanted to go back to the place that shattered. I wanted it all to be a bad dream and I wanted to wake up in a cold sweat, sit up in my bed and let the hazy fear melt away as I realized I had lost nothing. That desire did not last long as a moving truck came and gathered my things. I tried to settle back into my old place, but ministry and work would not allow it. There were puppies to raise and no safe place to keep them out of the unusually crazy, ruthlessly rainy weather. The movers did not bring my puppy-safe kennel and it was then summarily denied me, so I did what I do. I called a friend and went to stay with her in Lake Shastina for a while, so that I could keep puppies safe, warm and healthy. The move put me back up on a mountain, only, it was the wrong mountain, and equally far away from The Meeting Place
All the while I looked for a place to live in the Burney Basin. My ministry is here. My church sits on the main highway. To do what God has asked me to do I had to get back to Burney. A pastor’s salary does not cover long commutes in a gas guzzling 4-wheel drive. The snow that fell often solved the problem of expensive gas, closing roads and keeping me 52 miles from my work.
So, I kept searching and I raised puppies in someone else’s home. I was out of my place and out of my element. I had no space that was mine. Still, I was oh so grateful for the safe surroundings. Without them I would have had to keep puppies in the kitchen. That, dear ones, is a scary thought. The noise alone would have destroyed my sanity, not to mention the pooping, peeing, jumping-on-the-baby-gates to see if they could be overcome, mess. German Shepherd puppies are the cutest creatures in the universe. Eight of them at once, in all their cuteness, are a formidable gang. They act like—well—they act like puppies. Busy, barking, whining, playing, needy puppies.
But I digress…
I spent two months and two weeks with my girl. Her generosity was appreciated and I did my best in that foreign world to be a blessing in every way I could. Loving attitudes, cleaning and quiet were my best bets, and I did all as much as was possible. But then it was time to go, and no Burney home had appeared for me. So, with tears in my eyes and a wobbly heart, I packed up my clothes and my little grey computer table and headed back to Shasta Lake. I set up housekeeping in my old place and I kept looking.
I found some solace with the improving weather and I drove the winding mountain roads that led to my church so that I could do what I had been called to do and be with the people I had grown to love. I prayed for a place to make my own. I prayed, and I prayed and oh, I prayed some more. God knew where I should live. I begged him to show me.
And nothing happened.
Then I got a text from a fellow minister and found myself intrigued. He was instantly interested in my world. He had been out of ministry for a while, like so many, the result of this painful world, but seemed to think mine was worth his supportive effort. He wooed me and chased me until I caught him. I found myself again swirling in change as I planned a wedding.
And then the call came. A house was available. Heart pounding and emotions tentative, this fiancé of mine and I went to firm up the deal. I prayed all the way to the front door, hoping my need for shelter in the place of my ministry had been provided. The house was simple but doable. I could make it work.
We arrived with my heart shrouded in 9 months of prayer to find that the previous tenants had damaged the interior of the house so severely that it would take months to repair. I held up my head and declared the Lord’s goodness in the face of my disappointment drenched soul. I wrapped my heart tightly in trust to avoid despair and we drove back to Shasta Lake.
Three weeks later, standing on the platform from which I preach, I got married. With no house to claim, my new husband and I had to stay in Shasta Lake. My longtime roommate was gracious and forgiving of the intrusion into a home that was intended, post-marriage, to be hers alone. It was awkward. It was uncomfortable. It was downright hard at times. I did what I do. I worked hard at making it as easy as possible for others. It didn’t work much and the whole place was miserable.
The trust wrapping my heart began to fray. I wanted to believe it was going to come. I wanted to believe my prayers were being heard. I wanted to believe I was on the right track and that God was still working. The discomfort of my circumstances pulled at the threads of my trust until I saw it completely unravel and leave my heart totally unprotected.
An unprotected heart is susceptible you know. It is soft and squishy in there….without security it is easily bruised and often broken. I tried to gather my trust and put it back around my vulnerable heart, but it was more like soggy diaper filling than protection. It just kept falling off. I was a mess. No one knew it though. My circumstances did not allow for a safe place to share my brokenness. There was simply no one to talk to about it. So, I kept it in, trying to keep that diaper stuffing trust around my connection to my Lord. It was hard, really hard. I admit I hate it when God allows my life to be so pressed with difficulty that I end up feeling like I am standing on the precipice of hopelessness, teetering between solid faith in Jesus and the drop off that descends into the world of shattered belief.
But that is not why I am writing….
Nothing was going as I expected. Nothing. I was married. Did not expect that to happen. I was trying to do a ministry from what seemed to be a million miles away. I was skyping and writing emails and calling and seeking to love. It was not what I expected to do. I was trying to figure out how to make peace in a home that was not a bit peaceful. I had not expected that complication. I was trying to find time to write the book that has been living in my head for the whole of the last year and failing miserably. I had not expected that at all.
I was totally stressed out, exhausted mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
The first of December is not a good time to be seeking a house. It’s not a good time at all. Its cold. Its dreary. People don’t move in December. At least not people who have good sense. It’s a horrid time to move. I did not expect to find this house. Actually, I didn’t really find it. My new husband found it. It looked impossible. It was too expensive. It was for sale not rent. I was not hopeful. But with some urging, I went to look anyway. We prayed over it. I stood in the tiny front yard and asked my God if this unlikely place was the house we were to have. The gentle, quiet voice of my Lord whispered, “yes.” My ragged heart tried to believe, but 11 months of disappointment and a mountain of other stressors drown out that voice. I could not hope. I wanted to hope, but it simply was not there. I only felt sadness. Sadness for the repeated pain of the last year. Sadness for the awkward and painful place I was currently in. Sadness for the year that I had wanted to do so much and had been able to do so little.
Thank God, he does not act for us based on our emotions.
We offered a lease option and we waited a week. When we heard back they wanted more money. We have no more money. We offered the same thing again. To my surprise, they accepted and one week later we began the move back to the place I love.
The last two weeks have been a mishmash of moving and unpacking and serving and, oh yes, we celebrated Christmas with both families. I have lifted more than my bad back should have allowed. I have set up and put up and washed up more things than I thought I could own. I have gone to bed exhausted every night. I have taught on Sundays and tried to meet my obligations.
I did not expect it to be this way.
But when is life ever what we expect? God does not lay plans for us that meet our expectations. Not fair you say? Oh, but God is not fair. No, he is not fair, but he is good. He is not interested in our ease—in those things we find manageable. Rather, he is interested in our faith. He is interested in our hearts knowing him and his great Love and Wisdom in all things; and he is interested in our level of trust. He allows, yes, even plans these things for his own glory and for our ultimate good.
He expects me to trust. What I expect falls under that command, no matter what he allows in my world. I expected a totally different life. I didn’t get it. Will I trust him in the life I have? That is what he wants to know. That is what will give him glory and make me reflective of the character of Jesus, who trusted his father completely, even to the point of going to death on a cross.
We are basically moved in. It is quiet in this house. The awkwardness of Shasta Lake is gone. I am sitting still, looking out the French doors at the perfect-for-German-Shepherds back yard. The big kitchen is clean and waiting to be filled with the people of the Meeting Place as we invite them to share our home for a time. My bed awaits my ever over-tired body, and when I lay it down I will sleep in the house I sought for year.
God knew. He knew how hard this year would be. He expected it. He also knew that I would be changed by it and I would learn his presence in the difficulties. That, Dear One, is the only thing I have a right to expect.