Tag Archives: faith

That Flighty Temptress . . .

So now, as my mind reverberates with the cacophony of mental vibrations resulting from the clashing of my many worlds, I am forcefully reminded of the word God spoke into my heart when I was 17: “I have given you a homeless heart.” Today, I feel that deeply. Here I am in my little apartment, the place I have called home longer than any other, but I feel strangely out of place. This awkwardness, this sense that I have traded brightness for stability, will continue until the vicious and monotonous pace of work and life sweep me up again. In a few weeks this grief and inner conflict will be a distant memory, and I will again be comfortable in this habitat that I call home.

The question is . . . do I want to be comfortable?

I wrote that almost exactly 8 months ago, in the last week that I did any real blogging, right after I got back from my month home in Mexico.  And ever since, that last question has taken up space in the back of my mind, one of those thoughts that wavers on the divide between consciousness and disregard.

My life has generally been one of churning change, at least since I was 11.  Living between countries, moving between homes, never quite unpacking, constantly saying goodbye.  The closest I’ve ever gotten to choosing change was moving to California.  It was absolutely my choice, but I made it because after weeks of interviewing the only other career option I could find was the grocery store I worked at all through college.  I know that it was God’s way of pushing me out here.  I spent about 5 months reveling in the naive belief that I had finally found stability.  Then it all unraveled and I found myself in yet another maelstrom of constantly shifting change.  A year after that, I found Chamberlain’s.  What a mess I was in those days!  Depressed, lonely, unfocused, insecure, self-conscious . . . I could go on and on.  I should have been fired so many times.  But I wasn’t.  People believed in me, saw my potential, didn’t let me quit, protected me, listened, guided, and were ever patient.  Slowly, I finally found my stride.  I listened, I learned, I came out of my fog, I grew up.  I made friends.  I finally, truly, and completely unpacked.  I got cats.  I bought furniture made out of real wood.  I became confident, I learned how to trust my instinct.  I finished my master’s degree with honors.  I grew, cultivated, and maintained an amazing network of colleagues who speak well of me.  I became someone who, for the first time, feels like my someone.  I’m not perfect and I’ve got problems, but they’re STABLE problems.

Needless to say, I have CLUNG to this stability.  It has been my lifeblood, my one great accomplishment.  I have had opportunities to let go, but I haven’t.  I’ve had reasons – really GOOD reasons – to walk away, but I dug in my heels.  Do I want to be comfortable?  A. B. S. O. L. U. T. E. L. Y.  I want to feel safe and adequate.  I want to be better than anyone else at what I do.  We all do.  Change does not endorse these things.  Not at all.

And yet that thought clung to the sides of my brain . . . do I want to be comfortable?  On a whim and out of curiosity I did a quick job search just to see what was out there.  Item #2 on the results list: Social Worker for the Refugee Foster Care program at Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County.  Must speak Spanish.  Hmm.  Interesting.  Yeah, right.  I don’t know if I’m ready for THAT kind of change. . .

That Sunday my pastor came up to me with that look that says I better pay attention.  “God wants to do something in your life this year.  He wants to take you to new places.  He wants to do something in your life, but you can’t go on what you feel.  You can’t go on your emotions or on your thoughts.  You just have to have faith.  That’s your word for this year.”  Aw, crud.

So I went and talked to a few people, told them about the job.  The consensus was unanimous: everyone said they felt it in their guts, they got goosebumps, they felt so much excitement . . . irrefutable confirmation.  So I updated my resume (which I highly recommend if you’re ever feeling a bit inadequate – it’s a great morale booster) and sent it in to Catholic Charities in the third week of January.  I sent it in too late, but they were planning to hire again soon so just call back in a few weeks.  Okay, I can handle that.

As the months slipped by, major change did indeed start to happen.  Chamberlain’s got reorganized, and I was promoted.  The changes were a result of some really challenging advocacy by myself and my coworker; it was a time of grief, loss, victory, and learning.  I am definitely stronger because of that experience.  Since then, I have had the opportunity to help implement things that have desperately needed implementation.  I have been able to be creative again and develop new ideas that work.  I like my job more than I have in years.

And then the call came in June.  They don’t need a social worker, but they’re over-funded.  They’ve decided to incorporate a mental health component to the Refugee Foster Care program and need a clinician to pioneer it.  Would I interview?  Deep breath. . . okie dokie.  I knew in my gut that this was it. I honestly gave them every reason NOT to hire me.  I told them I needed a lot of transition time before I’d be able to start.  I told them I think clinical theory is generally irritating and that my clinical perspective is called common sense.  I told the supervisor interviewing me that he’s really bad at responding to emails.  I showed off my dry wit in discussing the possible benefits of “duct tape therapy.”  Turns out that all that stuff actually made them like me more.  They didn’t want anyone obsessively stuck into a theoretical mindset.  They countered my 30-day transition request with the assumption that I would want 45, and said they’d rather wait longer for the right person.  They joined my humor with their own even stronger variety (or rather, the kind I pull out when I’m NOT sitting in an interview).  They said they wanted to make sure that whoever they brought in would fit in well with their office culture and be able to handle some decent practical jokes.  They told me at my second interview on July 12th that I was the first of three second interviews and I’d hear back in a week or so.  Thirty minutes after I left the building I got an email asking if I could come in so they could extend me a formal offer.

And so it has transpired that because of a trip to Mexico that led to a blog that ended in a question that stuck in my brain and caused me to consider the words of my pastor I applied for a job that I didn’t get which allowed me to get a promotion to learn so many things and develop a lot more confidence so that when a position was invented and tailor-made for me I would be ready to recognize and answer the Call and choose . . . change.  A new adventure.

And now . . . let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, Adventure. 

– Albus Dumbledore

So now I find myself facing the most dramatic change I’ve ever chosen, and wondering what the heck I was thinking.  It is much more difficult than I ever imagined.  I knew it would be hard, but I never imagined how much of my identity and my confidence is wrapped up in my job.  Chamberlain’s has been my home, my family.  I’m honestly not quite sure how I’m going to make it without these people and without all these kids running around all over the place.  Things will sure be awfully quiet.  And I’ve been grieving. . . a lot.  It’s kinda like a mini-suicide, choosing to walk away from this amazing place that has become part of me.  But again, I am blessed.  My new supervisor left a similar position about a year ago, and went through a very similar experience.  He had the compassion to ask me how I was doing, and then gave me my first directive: take an extra week between jobs to grieve, rest, and do something fun.  My 45 days became 52. God knows our needs.

Today was the day that I announced that I’m leaving.  All the grownups and all the kids, back to back.  I had the conversation 7 times, and they asked me questions that required answers:  Why?  Why now?  Do you want to leave us?  Can’t you wait until I leave first?  Will you forget us?  If you’re sad, why do you want to leave?  Just tell them you changed your mind because you love us too much!  Who’s gonna take care of us?  You’ve been in my life for so long, how can I do it without you? . . . It’s amazing the gift children have for mirroring our own thoughts and emotions back to us.

My answers came to me easily, without my planning it.  When we’ve learned what we’re meant to learn, there’s no more action.  And when we’re not active, we stay still.  And when we sit too long on the couch just because it’s comfy and we love it and are happy there, we get fat and lazy and stiff.  And if I get fat and lazy and stiff in my job, I’m no good to anyone.  You’ll always be in my heart.  I couldn’t forget you even if I tried.  You’ll always be able to find me if you really want to.  And no, I don’t want to leave you at all, but I need to.  It is time.

And I think about adventures.  No adventure begins without a goodbye, without a loss, without a significant risk, without throwing yourself into the unknown.  We must indeed step out into the night to pursue Adventure; she beckons us with hope and promise and excitement, luring us into the dark where all our wits are tested.  I’m afraid of this dark; I’m not sure what I’ll find in there.  Depression tempts me, pulling me back into the safe cocoon of isolation I lived in . . . before, during times of change and uncertainty.  I have a healthy fear of that place, and now I have the chance to find out how well I stand on my own two feet.  But over and over I hear in my head, “You can’t go on your emotions or on your thoughts.  You just have to have faith.”  So to the best of my ability I’m ignoring the doubts and crying through the grief and moving on.

I know this is right.  I’m excited, thrilled in fact!  It’s so weird to be so sad and so excited at the same time.  I get to create, invent, plan, organize. . . with a lot more available resources.  I’m really good at that stuff.  I get to grow my Spanish into a professional arena, which is something I’ve been wanting for a long time.  I get to immerse myself in other cultures again, dive into that long-dormant passion of culture and identity and assimilation.  All my years of obsessing over who and why I am, all the philosophizing that drove everyone crazy . . . it matters now.  These passions, these questions, the years of searching through my grief, the goodbyes, the moves, the uncertainty . . . it has new value.  God planned it all, he made me who I am and how I am so that I could be what He has made me to be.

So here we go . . . time to finish strong and hurl myself into the dark tunnel so I can feel my way through to the adventure on the other side!

“Make your choice, adventurous Stranger,
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had.”

– C. S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

Don’t Give Up – Desiring God

Not my thoughts, but in my thoughts.  To all who are discouraged, tired, or grasping at vanishing threads of hope . . . This is truth for you.

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/dont-give-up

A Ridiculous Faith

I’ve heard several great sermons in the last couple of months about trusting God when it doesn’t make sense.  On Sunday it was about a poor widow who went to the prophet Elisha because she needed desperately to pay her bills.  Elisha told her to start pouring her little bit of oil out into a bunch of empty containers.  As I read through this story in 2 Kings, I realized that there’s a whole bunch of stories of miracles grouped right together in chapters 3 – 6.  I’ve learned that whenever there’s a group of something in the Bible it’s because there’s a common theme.  At first glance, these don’t seem to have a whole lot in common.

3:4-27 – 3 kings are facing a losing battle in the middle of a draught.  God tells them to dig a bunch of trenches all over the valley, even though there’s no water.  “Make this valley full of trenches” (3:16).  God flooded the valley, but it wasn’t the flood that won the battle.  The reflection of the sun on the water made the enemy think it was blood; when they went down to investigate they were caught off their guard and slaughtered.  Random!

4:1-7 – A poor woman needs money desperately and is down to her last bit of oil.  Elisha tells her, “Go, borrow vessels at large for yourself from all your neighbors . . . do not get a few.”  Then she pours that little bit of oil into all those containers and it just keeps coming until she has enough to sell and pay her debts.  Who’d a thunk it?

4:8-37 – The son of a woman dies, and she puts his dead body in bed and travels a really long way to go find Elisha.  Together they ride all the way back; the kid had to have been dead more than a day.  So Elisha prays and then he lays down nose-to-nose on top of the boy long enough for the body to get warm again (that’s awhile).  Nothing happens, so Elisha goes for a walk and does it again; this time the kid sneezes 7 times and wakes up.  So bizarre.

4:38-41 – Elisha’s whole class of student prophets gets food poisoning from some bad gourds they made a stew out of.  Elisha comes and throws some flour (meal) in the pot, stirs it up, and the food was okay to eat.  Hmm.  Stew with flour stirred in . . . sounds kind of gross.

4:42-44 – Kind of like the lady with the oil, there wasn’t enough food to go around.  But they passed it around to 100 men and had leftovers.  That’s pretty cool.

5:1-27 – Naaman had a seriously bad case of leprosy.  He went on a really long trip to visit Elisha because someone said Elisha might be able to heal him.  The cure?  Wash your open infection-prone sores SEVEN times in the nastiest, dirtiest, germiest river around.  It worked.  Wow.

6:1-7 – All the prophets-in-training were building a new town and one guys’ axe-head fell into the river.  I love what he says to Elisha: “Alas, my master!  For it was borrowed!”  (Axe-heads were expensive back then.)  Elisha threw a stick in the water where it fell in, and the hunk of iron floated up.  Seriously?

I realized that I don’t know a whole lot about Elisha other than the fact that he was Elijah’s assistant and took over after Elijah took the chariot up to Heaven.  But really, Elisha was a pretty cool guy to come up with all these interesting solutions that I sure never would have thought of.  I went back to investigate Elisha’s story.

Elijah, fresh out of a pity-party, wandered along and “found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with 12 pairs of oxen before him, and he with the 12th.  And Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him.  And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, ‘Please let me kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you.’”  (1 Kings 19:19-20)

I don’t know a whole lot about farming or plowing, but I’ve watched my share of “settle the west” drama and I never saw any pioneers driving 12 pair of oxen.  I certainly never saw a farmer pairing with one.  I mean, what kind of farming are you doing that TWENTY-THREE brute beasts are not enough to get the job done?  Even Santa Clause only needs half that many relatively dainty reindeer to fly a sleigh with enough toys to satisfy all the children of the world!  And what kind of a man are you that you can fill in for a missing ox?  Elisha was either really serious about his job, or a little off his rocker.  So this big tough brute of a farmer follows Elijah around for years, watching Elijah teach and lead and council kings through lots of war and victory and defeat.

Then it’s time for Elijah to go to Bethel to catch his seat on the Fiery Chariot to Heaven (2 Kings 2).  Elijah tells Elisha to stay behind, but Elisha won’t.  The two must have been really close, because Elisha is told not once but five times to stay behind.  Apparently it’s common knowledge at the prophet school that Elijah’s going, because the students keep coming up to Elisha to make sure he knows God’s taking his master away in a little bit.  I love Elisha’s answer, every time: “yes, I know; be still.”  Elijah asked him three times to “Please stay here;” each time Elisha pretty much just says, “Yeah . . . nope.”  It’s very amusing to me, Elijah’s gentle begging, the students’ incredulous reminding, Elisha’s firm rebellion.

I wonder if everyone around him thought of Elisha as I have most of my life: Elijah’s tag-along.  Tough as an ox, gentle enough to want to kiss his dad goodbye, loyal enough to pad along behind his master on a journey that he will return from alone.  I wonder if everyone thought Elisha thought he could just tag along right up to Heaven. Elisha was just plain ridiculous.  But Elisha had a plan.  When Elijah was about to board the chariot he asked Elisha what he wanted.  Elisha’s answer is simple: “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.”  He got it.  Wow.

Next thing you know, Elisha’s doing all those random miracles.  He makes random prophesies, like flour and barley being sold really cheap.  I believe in prophecy, but I’m not sure that I’d buy into that one; but there was a royal officer who died because he didn’t believe it.

As of about 3 hours ago, Elisha is suddenly one of my favorite Bible characters.  Elisha was EXTREME.  Elisha was patient.  Elisha was quiet.  Elisha believed that the ridiculous was possible.  Elisha was greatly blessed because he asked for the unbelievable.  Elisha was the tool for great miracles because he put no boundaries on God.

I love some of the random stuff that Elisha does and says.  Really, who in their right mind throws a stick in a river to make a hunk of metal float?  I see him standing there, staring down at the water thinking, “Oh, snap.  Stick.  Hmm.  Wonder if that would work?  Let’s try it . . . whadya know?  Cool.  Nice going, God.”  I picture this because I think it’s exactly how I imagine it would go if it was me.  I’m a person of impulse; people of impulse operate largely on intuition.  Intuition doesn’t always make sense.  In fact, a lot of the time it doesn’t.  Unfortunately, the world doesn’t set much importance on “gut.”  A lot of times I don’t act on my intuition because it feels ridiculous.  Random words or thoughts that pop into my head, things I should do for people, places I should go, how I should prioritize my time.  A lot of people think I’m a little ridiculous, I think.

The Bible is a ridiculous book.  Man is created from dirt, cities turn to salt, ancient infertile women have kids, floods cover Mount Vesuvius, young men chill in fiery furnaces, mud makes people see, waves heal people . . . on and on it goes.  I marvel at a God who puts so much love into creating a universe that functions with order and rhythm, and then proves that love by breaking all the rules.  Not only that, but He asks me to prove my love to Him by believing that He can break them.

I want to have a ridiculous faith like Elisha.  I want to be extreme.  I want to do my daily work with such enthusiasm that 23 oxen just isn’t enough.  I want to follow my Master blindly to the very end, paying no attention to all the voices that tell me how silly I am.  I want to ask for the unattainable and expect the unexpected and believe the unbelievable.  I want to believe without a shadow of a doubt that . . .

  • The mere reflection of His power in my life is enough to defeat my enemies
  • That the very little bit I have to offer can be miraculously extended to be more than enough
  • That life can come out of death simply by my persistent and stubborn demands
  • That the nastiness I always seem to be wallowing in will ultimately be my saving grace
  • That trusting my instincts, even when it doesn’t make sense, will keep me in the center of God’s protection

What ridiculousness do you cling to?

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