One of the most dramatic questions posed by Ms. Schrier in this study hit me really hard. She asked us to look in the mirror and see how much the person staring back at you had changed in a years time. Spiritually, of course.
See that's hard for me to actually wrap my mind around. Change. Naturally, we are inclined to see change as the physical. Since a year ago what has changed in that department? Not much. Still a big struggle of mine. Somehow I allow myself to get all hung up on that though, and I fail to see so much that has changed on the inside.. on the parts that you can't see in the mirror. How you've changed spiritually in a years time.
This time last year, I held Hero's hand as he walked along the short stone wall outside of the administration building. The leaves blew around us and crackled underfoot. The wind had a crispness in it but was still a little warmer than we were used too back home. He giggled and jumped, and absolutely everyone who passed by us said hello to us. I remember being inside the building, where we were treated just like family, and my soon-to-be neighbor came in to bring some paperwork. The housing manager introduced us as the new family who would be on campus, and smiled as he said that at the beginning of the winter semester they would have the most kids that they have ever had on campus.
He took us around the back of the church, down another short road and pulled into the parking lot of what would be our new home. I remember seeing the fenced in yard, and thanking God for that. My kids live to play outside, and I was thankful to have that peace of mind. I remember what it felt like walking into our home for the first time... sitting together in Applebee's and just talking- and wondering if this was really happening or if it was all just a dream. We were really doing this? We were really ready to sell out to the ministry in such a grand gesture? To give up everything that we felt was our anchors and come to a place we had only visited three times- was this truly happening?
A year ago.. the air felt the same. The leaves had changed and fallen and the crisp cold of winter was breezing through the air... and it was all so scary and new. Telling my family, telling our kids.. it was so hard. To see their tears and feel their pain and mask my own fear and apprehension. To actually make that step, to say this is it... here we are Lord... use us.
So much has changed in a years time. So very much. So much more than just our address.
When I came here I had an expectation of what ministry was supposed to look like, based on what I had known. I didn't know a lot about ministry, but what I did know I imagined we were coming here to prepare us for that. To know our bibles like the back of our hands. To be able to answer all the tough questions. To learn to be calm under pressure. To be able to know where to set those boundaries. I had all of that in the back of my hat. A list to check off. God was going to bring us here and teach us how to be one of those 'ministry families' and I was ready to start checking off that list. I came in with high expectations of leaving a completely different person, which was great because I was so ready for a change! I was tired of being emotional, tired of feeling hurt and shut down. Tired of having to pretend to be righteous all the time- God was bringing us here to teach us all of that.
That was a year ago. And guess what? That's not what I have learned.
I have learned some amazing things though...
I've learned that God never wants us to be anything other than ourselves. I've learned that the best parts of ourselves can be the ones that we are convinced we need to get rid of. The enemy can convince us of many, many lies. He can take our greatest gifts and twist them in our faces, so we don't have the courage to stand up and use them. I have always been so emotional. I personally attach myself to so many circumstances that sometimes it will drive me crazy. I'm very empathetic, and can feel deeply the pain of others. You know the joke, "I was sleeping soundly until I thought about something stupid I said thirteen years ago" that's true to my life. I've always thought that was a downfall. Yet God has taught me, its just the opposite. I can reach out to other people, even when they shut me down and push me away. I can care about those who don't seem to care about me. I can have relationships and expect absolutely no reciprocity... because I can empathize, and care as much about someone else's pain as I do myself. That doesn't make me selfless, please don't ever think that-I'm plenty selfish just as much as the next person... but it does make me a good friend.. a loyal friend, and someone who is not going to forget that one person that I put on my prayer list. Even when you think nobody else in the world thinks of you or prays for you.. if you've crossed my path and made an impact on my life, I likely will from time to time, and I'm always here when you just need somebody to talk too. I used to think that made me weak, but now I know it just makes me usable.
I have learned that righteousness is unattainable. I've also learned that faking righteousness is one of the biggest mistakes that anyone could make. I can't tell you how many paths I've crossed and thought in the back of my mind, 'oh, that person's life is so perfect....' only to find out that they have their own scars to bear. It is because of the amazing people that God has put in my life who are willing to pull up their sleeves and shamelessly bear their scars that I am willing to own up to my own. To stop pretending to be perfect. Life is so much less burdensome when you are willing to take off the mask. To just be who you are, and stop trying to hard to be who you think everyone wants you to be. It's a hard lesson to learn, but an essential one nonetheless. Yes, we are a ministry family. Yes, that is my husband in the pulpit. Yes, we are sinners, we sin daily and we have a past that is unforgivable in the hearts of humans.. as do you, the person sitting next to you, the person behind you.. and all of that is okay, because we serve a God who casts our sin as far as the East is to the West. So don't hide your scars. Bear them, because you never know who is sitting behind you using all their strength to cover theirs that they have been left so bound by them their hands are unusable to Him.
I have learned that my life is not going to look like anybody else's. This has been the hardest lesson I have had to learn. I have put a large number of expectations on my head.. of what ministry is supposed to look like, what home school is supposed to look like. What I am supposed to look like. Unfortunately sometimes it takes absolutely falling apart, and allowing God to take something and pull it to pieces so it is absolutely the farthest thing that you can imagine it to look like before you can understand this. Sometimes it takes breaking something for it to mend together stronger. But through the many tiresome days, through the tears and the frustration of finding out that my life doesn't resemble anyone elses- that my children aren't like any other children to understand that I have to trust God to form my life before I allow expectations to take over. If you hold the bar too high its always going to be impossible to cross over- and you are just going to fall time and time again before you do. The truth is that you don't even need to adjust the bar to fit your own standards. You simply need to hand the bar over, and allow Him to move it up and down, and learn to maneuver it as he guides you. Sometimes he will raise it to challenge you and make you better. Sometimes he will lower it to give you rest. But always, always trust that He knows where the bar belongs.. and be willing to follow wherever that may be.
My life doesn't even resemble the life that was here a year ago. The disgruntled, lonely, frustrated homeschool Mom who had put a five bedroom house full of things for six people into a two bedroom, bright orange apartment on a college campus. The one who sat in the floor and cried for the first week of our new home school year because school didn't start at 8 am like it did at the kids school.... the Mom who prayed God would just move us soon because no one seemed happy to be here. The Mom who was so frustrated that she didn't have a dishwasher! The Mom who was scared to death that I was going to allow the real me to peak through and open up to someone.. to allow anyone in my heart to see the real me. The one who feverishly sorted though homeschool group after homeschool group online to make sure my kids are socialized!
No, that isn't my life anymore.
Don't get me wrong- I still have all of those moments.. but they are no longer who I am. They are fleeting moments, passing thoughts. Now I'm not that person anymore. Now I'm the Mom who allows school to start late because Sister has decided to spend an hour on her piano in the morning... or allows Brother to skip his spelling lesson because he's so into his math lesson I am thinking.. he's finally getting it! The Mom who really loves her apartment, and is thankful that she has an AMAZING husband who spent an entire weekend painting my apartment white so its no longer orange (YAY!) when I finally decided to make this place our 'home', no matter the fact that it was indeed a temporary place. I'm the Mom who is thankful for the nights I can lay in Brothers bed beside him reading Stuart Little, while the girls listen quietly from their own beds. And the one who is thankful that my girls are learning selflessness and stewardship in sharing their space with their little brothers. I am the one who plays those sappy 90's love songs while she washes dishes for the third time in one day, and sings along.. not caring who hears. From being so closed off I didn't like it when my closest friends came over- to being so excited that our neighbors came over and stayed until 2 to watch the election (and brought cake! Seriously, I have the best neighbors!)
So when I look in the mirror, I don't see someone who has, more than likely even gained weight in a year. Or someone who looks tired because she was up until midnight checking history papers (or even blogging, right? I mean lets be honest here!) Haha. No, I see a woman who has learned to take off her mask and just be who God created her to be. Who allowed God to push her out of her comfort zone and change her life the way that he wanted it to be. I'm no amazing Bible scholar, but I do have more of a desire in my heart to study Gods words. Not because I'm here or my husband is a preacher and I have some sort of holier than thou attitude lol.. to the contrary.. its because I want to be more of who I am, I want to find my identity in Christ. I want to know how he created me, and how wonderfully flawed all of the people that he wrote the Bible about. Out of the millions of people he could have chosen to write about- he chose the ones who were so unquestionably flawed to write about in his scriptures. I'm thankful also, that I'm one of those flawed sinners who he chose to use to serve him.. in whatever capacity he puts us in at the end of our journey here and the beginning of another. It's been a blessed year.. and I'm excited to look in the mirror next year and see how a year has changed me once again.
The best part? Is that it wasn't me who did the change. He did it all. He did it slowly, and most of the change happened when I was willing to step back and let him do it. So how have you changed in a year? If the answer is, not much.. then perhaps you are just trying too hard :)
So to grace, how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be
And let Thy goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above