God’s provision

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Europe Dunn Right Episode 1: When the Worst Thing Becomes the Best Thing

We started our great European adventure in the Atlanta airport. We’d bought tickets with Air Canada that flew from Atlanta to Toronto and then on into Istanbul. Our plan was to spent 12 hours in Istanbul, doing a mad dash through the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque before continuing on to Athens. Over the past few years Istanbul has become a source of fascination for me, so when I found out that the cheapest way into Europe was to fly through Istanbul, I was all about it.

We spent the night in Atlanta so we’d be able to arrive at the airport bright and early before our 11 AM flight. We were among the first people to check in. When we checked in we were told that we had no seat assignments, but not to worry because they would be assigned at the gate. We got coffee, went to our gate and read for a while, waiting for an agent to appear.

When the agent showed up, we politely asked for seat assignments. She said to sit down and wait and she would give them to us as soon as she had them. We politely and patiently sat down. 30 minutes later, we checked back in with her and were given the same answer. I tried to be calm, but I was starting to get nervous.

A few minutes later the gate agent announced that the boarding process was beginning. We stood at the desk and said, “We still don’t have seat assignments.” She asked us to wait just a minute until she was done boarding these people. At this point it became clear to me that we were not getting on this flight. As the final passengers boarded the plane, the gate agent finally told us, “You purchased tickets, but not seats, so we’ll have to put you on the next flight.”

I collapsed into a chair where I tried to do deep breathing exercises while popping anxiety pills. In spite of being fairly well-traveled and very flexible in many ways, I am not good with travel delays or changes in travel plans. Any type of travel where there is the potential to miss a connection–a flight, a train, etc.–makes me physically anxious. And when things go wrong, even though they are usually fixable, I freak out.

Once everyone had boarded our flight and the door was closed, we waited for the gate agent to give us a new itinerary. The best they could do was a flight that got us into Istanbul late in the afternoon–not leaving enough time for us to leave the airport and see anything before our evening flight to Athens. We asked if we could just fly directly to Athens since we wouldn’t have time to see anything in Istanbul anyway, but the gate agent said she could only book us tickets to our original destination. I angry-tweeted at Air Canada for a while while being very polite to the gate agent. We were both disappointed to realize we’d miss this whole day of our trip and end up spending two full days sitting in airports.

And then, the agent had us sign the paperwork for the airline to send us compensation for being involuntarily removed from our flight. Because we’d been bumped from that international flight, the airline sent us large checks (not travel vouchers). When we added everything up later we realized these checks covered almost exactly half of the cost of our entire 18 day trip to Europe. Which means we got a 1/2 priced trip to Europe.

I know. We’re still in shock.

The thing that seemed like the WORST THING EVER to the anxious traveler in me turned out to be an enormous blessing.

We flew to Toronto and then to Istanbul where we sat in the airport for about five hours before flying on to Athens. Since Jonathan’s luggage didn’t make it to Istanbul, we got to spend part of that time getting him Turkish boxers and t-shirts to tide him over until his bag arrived.

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Here’s Jonathan, killing time in the International Departures lounge in the Istanbul airport, waiting until we can check in for our flight to Athens.

I can’t finish this post without talking about how close to home it hit to hear about the Istanbul airport bombing, just 3 weeks after we’d been there. I think about the 36 people who died and the 147 more who were injured and know that it could so easily have been us. I am grateful for our safety, but I do not believe we are entitled to it any more than anyone else.  Today Turkey erupted into chaos as the military attempted a coup. I can’t help but thing of all the lives that have been and will be lost as the government and military struggle. I pray for peace and it feels inadequate. As-Salaam-Alaikum.

 

 

 

 

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Daily Bread: Faith When Things Fall Apart

I didn’t grow up saying the Lord’s Prayer, either in church on Sundays or on my own. I knew it, of course –-I could recite it if called upon to do so—but it was not a part of my spiritual life until about a year ago when I started reading morning prayers from Shane Claiborne’s Common Prayer on a regular basis. Each morning’s liturgy includes a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.

For the past few weeks we’ve been attending an Anglican church here in Columbia and the Lord’s Prayer has a place in the Anglican liturgy as well.

“Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name,” we pray. “Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.”

And then, “Give us this day our daily bread,” And this is where I get stuck.

About two months ago I wrote this post about provision. I wrote about how I wanted to whine and complain about all of the unknowns in my life, but when I took a break from whining, I really could see God’s hand and his provision in the way the pieces were coming together for us as we prepared to move.

I clung to those signs of provision. I strapped them on like a life preserver, protecting me from all that was still unknown. We arrived in Columbia buoyed by the things we did know – we had a great condo lined up, Jonathan was starting classes right away, and I had 4 or 5 freelance jobs in the pipeline ready for me to pursue. There were still a lot of questions, but these things gave us confidence that everything would fall together in the end. Instead, things fell apart.

A week after moving into our condo (and painting and decorating and getting it set up the way I’d imagined in our months of kooky Korean wallpaper and windowless rooms) we got a call from our landlord. The condo had been listed for sale for several months before they leased it to us and someone who had viewed it previously had put an offer on it. Just one week into our one-year lease they were asking if we could please move out. We did some negotiating and came to an agreement that feels fair to us, but this still means we will have to find a new place and move out of our beautiful condo within the next three months.

Before arriving in Columbia, we decided that I would take the month of September to try to make freelance writing work as my primary source of income. If things weren’t coming together by the end of September then I’d have to take whatever random job I could get. I had worked diligently for the past five months in Korea to make connections and pursue opportunities. I even took a contract job back in April for a company who paid me abysmally and juggled working for them with teaching full-time in an attempt to gain the experience I needed to work for a better company I’d been in contact with. I worked every connection I could think of and came to Columbia with 4 or 5 solid leads. I figured even if they didn’t all pan out, a few of them would, and this would be a great foundation to build on. We arrived and I started making phone calls, “I’m here now and available! What do you have for me?” And one by one the doors closed.

Now we are more than halfway through September and I’ve managed to scrounge up a grand total of 4 hours of consistent work/week. (Which would be spectacular if only I made $100/hr). I spend most of my days looking for and applying to jobs (freelance, part-time, and a few full-time) and while I’ve had several prospects, so far nothing has panned out. The more desperate I become the less picky I am about what I apply for and the more I feel like I am just whoring myself out for jobs I don’t even want. Each day that passes I struggle more and more with feelings of worthlessness and I end most days heavy with discouragement and with fear. I reach the end of another unsuccessful day and I am bombarded with the fear that I will not be able to provide. That we will run out of money. That my husband will have to drop out of his program –the one thing he’s ever been really passionate about– because I have failed him.

It’s hard not to feel like I was wrong about provision. Like I wanted to see God’s hand in this so badly that I squinted until I could convince myself it was there. It’s hard to feel like I can trust him when he seems to be all about taking things away.

And yet. Within a week of arriving here I was invited to join a women’s Bible study led by the friend who helped us so much with finding our place here. I went to meet people, even though the phrase “Women’s Bible Study” usually makes me want to throw up a little. And what I found was a group of women who are willing to be real.

Over the past few weeks I’ve had five separate women from that group text me, call me, take me out for coffee, or invite me to their homes. They have sent me leads on jobs and a new place to live. And last week when I arrived at the church they had brought bags of groceries from their own homes to help fill my pantry. If that’s not grace, I don’t know what is.

It struck me this week that this phrase I pray so often, “daily bread,” is, well, daily. It is not “Give us this day everything we need for the next five years,” or even, “Give us this day enough bread to last for the next month.” It is asking God for enough for today. And it is coming back to Him, needy, each new day.

So while I can’t always seem to muster up the faith to believe that God will provide an income and a new place to live, or even a final resolution to this ear infection I’ve had off and on since July, maybe all that is required of me is enough faith for just one day.

Give us this day our daily bread.

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God’s Most Favorite Child: Thoughts on Grace, Provision, and God’s Economy

For as long as I can remember my mother has possessed an uncanny ability to snag the very front parking spot in whatever parking lot she happens to be in. Not like, near the front. The very first available spot. The one that’s practically inside of the store and is also under the only shade tree in the lot. “I am God’s most favorite child!” she would spout in triumph, gliding into that parking spot like it was a front-row seat at the Super bowl.

I love my mother for this. For the way she taught me to see the fingerprints of God in something as ordinary as a parking spot.

Of course, she wasn’t trying to make some deep theological statement here. I don’t think she believed we could measure God’s favor by the way he doled out parking spots. There was no assumption that God gave the choice spots a few of his favorites while the less favorite were relegated to the back of the lot and the really awful people had to park across the street. She simply saw a good thing and let it point her, and all of us, straight to God.

Over the past few months as we’ve moved steadily towards the end of our time in Korea and the beginning of a new chapter in South Carolina, I have struggled with anxiety. I have struggled to believe that everything would work out. That I could trust God to provide a job with sufficient income, a place to live, vehicles to drive, new friends and community.

Even as the pieces began to fall into place I continued to Children-of-Israel the situation. Remember the Israelites in the desert? God delivered those dummies out of slavery by parting a sea and they were like, “Did you bring us here to starve?!” and then he sent them MANNA FROM HEAVEN and they were like, “Ugh. Did you bring us here to die of boredom from eating the same food over and over?”

I like to make fun of them because I see myself in them so much. My whining skills are top-notch. (My husband says he shudders to think that our children will inherit that from me). So even as God has opened doors and provided for us over and over again, I’ve continued to come up with new insurmountable obstacles to complain about. And God, in spite of my grumbling and in spite of my disbelief, has continued to provide.

I want to share the story of how God is providing for us. I want to give credit where credit is due. But in the past few years I’ve become more concerned with right theology when it comes to things like God’s blessings. I think “blessed” is one of the most overused and misunderstood words in the Christian vocabulary (but more on that another time). In particular, I am very uncomfortable with the idea that good things in my life are a sign of favor or blessing. I believe that all good things in the world come from God, but if I say that the good things in my life are from God’s favor or blessings, what does that mean for people who aren’t experiencing good things?

I know there are several of you who are in a similar situation to mine right now – preparing for a big move or a big life change and experiencing a lot of anxiety about it. I would never want to imply that things are falling into place for us because God is blessing us, but if they aren’t falling into place for you it’s because God is choosing not to bless you. I don’t believe that’s true.

I want to share how God is providing for us. If you are in a season where you aren’t seeing things work out and you feel anxious, I hope you can be encouraged by this story rather than discouraged. A parent doesn’t always give a child everything they want in the moment that they want it, but that doesn’t mean the parent doesn’t love that child or is no longer present with that child. So with that in mind, here’s our story.

The first major provision came in cars. We sold both of our old beaters before moving to Korea and have no vehicles. Jonathan’s grandmother recently decided to give up driving and offered to sell us her car inexpensively. And then my dad told us that he was planning to get rid of his big vehicle (a Tahoe) but that the trade-in value is minimal even though it’s not that old, because it has high mileage. He offered to donate it to us which means a tax break for him and a free car for us. Grace.

Next we were stressed about finding a place to live. We’re in a unique situation trying to “view” places and apply to rent them from another country. Imagine being a landlord and getting an email saying, “We live in South Korea and we don’t have jobs in America so we can’t prove our income, and our current landlord only speaks Korean so he can’t give you a reference, but we’re really great, I promise!” Not surprisingly, we weren’t getting lots of positive responses.

And then something amazing happened. I have an old family friend living in Columbia – our families were friends when I was a kid and I was friends with her little sister, but we haven’t seen them in 15 years or more. But I got in touch with her to ask about Columbia stuff and she volunteered to go look at places for us. At first I felt bad asking that of someone I didn’t know that well, but she was so kind and enthusiastic about it that we quickly gave in and accepted some amazing help. Guys. Lorien is the bomb.com. Like the actual bomb.com. She arranged viewings, talked to landlords, went to places, took pictures, made videos, found new listings for us, etc.

We signed a lease on a condo by the end of the week. Initially we really wanted a house for the charm factor, but God provided a beautiful condo that’s going to be awesome. It’s the most spacious and nicest place we’ve ever rented with a kitchen that makes me swoon. It’s comfortably within our budget and it is less than a mile from Lorien’s house which also helps put us at ease about our concern for friends and community. Grace.

While I still don’t have a full-time job lined up, I have been wishfully thinking that I’d like to work part-time and do freelancing/work-remotely things part-time so I have a more flexible schedule. As of right now I have two long-term freelance writing contracts and one more in the works. All three of these contracts have come through friends or other old connections that have randomly resurfaced. Grace.

When I look back at each of these graces, I can see God’s hand and his provision, and I realized that my mother was right. She is God’s most favorite child. And so am I. And so are you. And so is my frustrating coworker. And so is my most disrespectful student. And so is your Mother-in-Law.

God’s economy is not finite. Lavishing love on me doesn’t mean he has any less to give to you. It is the one economy in which all of our being of equal worth doesn’t diminish our value. And that is a divine, unearned, and irresistible grace.

I hope this can be an encouragement to you, wherever you are in your life, especially if you are like me and can always find something to stress out about. Take a breath and look for the places where God has stepped in, even when it didn’t look the way you wanted it to. Often you can find him in unexpected places if you only choose to look.

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When Waiting Feels Like Free-Falling or How Trust is my Nemesis

I loathe dislike waiting with a fiery passion.

I know, I know. Does anyone really like waiting? But I REALLLLLLY don’t like it.

I’ve been living in a state of constant frustration lately. As we prepare for our international move, I am beyond ready to have things settled. I want to have a job set up and waiting for me when I arrive. I want to find an apartment or rental house for us to live in. I want to get rid of as much uncertainty as possible. Yet every time I try to take a step forward, people tell me I can’t. That I have to wait. I’ve applied for dozens of jobs and received the response, “Why don’t you get in touch with us once you’ve arrived.” Hubby and I have spent hours looking for a place to live only to be told, “It’s really too early for you to be looking at rentals.”

I can barely keep myself from shouting, “But we are leaving in 65 days! It does not feel too early! I need to know NOW!” 

This whole situation has brought out an embarrassingly juvenile side of myself.  I feel angry all the time. A few days ago I burnt dinner. Before my husband could even say anything, I glared at him and said, “If you want a new one you have to make it yourself. I’m not making another one.” And he did. (That guy is a saint, I tell you).

It’s like I’ve taken all of my frustrations about the things I can’t do and tried to balance them out by making certain that I let everyone know what I will and will not do in any situation where I have the choice.

See, I like to pretend that I’m an adventurous person. And from the outside, I can see how I might look like one. After all, I live in a foreign country, I love to travel and to try new things, I’m preparing for my fourth move in five years – and three of those moves have been to places I’d never been before. Oh, and let’s not forget my illegal tattoo!

It’s easy to look like a laid-back, carefree adventurer in pictures. Don’t be fooled. It’s an illusion. I am all about the adventure, but it’s highly controlled adventure. I love being spontaneous, but it’s planned spontaneity. (Yes, there is such a thing).

I am that rare personality that combines constant yearning for adventure and excitement with an equally strong sense of responsibility. Add in an unhealthy dose of chronic anxiety, and you’ll see why I live in a state of constant inner-conflict. Basically, I’m a rebel trapped in a good girl’s body. Or maybe it’s the other way around…

Usually the way that I balance these parts of my personality is by planning as much as possible and preparing for all contingencies. (“Always be prepared!” as my Eagle Scout father instilled in me). I try to think things all the way through and prepare myself for the worst possible scenario. Once I feel prepared for whatever I might encounter, I can take the plunge and do something crazy because I know there’s a safety net in place. I know what I’ll do if things don’t go as planned.

We moved to Korea having never set foot in Asia. But we did a TON of research first. We secured jobs through the government so that we were sure there would be accountability for things like getting paid the proper amount on time. We chose to go through a program that would provide an orientation rather than one that left us to our own devices. And we talked to lots of people who had worked in Korea before. We arrived with an entire suitcase full of things we’d been told were difficult to find (deodorant, taco mix, and tampons) and we had decided from the very beginning to play things by ear. We signed a year-long contract that we would try hard to fulfill, but we’d told ourselves that if it was absolutely horrible, we could decide to go home. Safety net!

I’ve shared that I’ve been struggling with anxiety at a new level over the past few months as I’ve been faced with all the unknowns of our future, so I’ve tried to deal with this anxiety the best way I know how – by being responsible and making myself feel as secure and on top of things as I can. So it’s been not only frustrating, but frightening for me to be told over and over again that there’s nothing more I can do. That I just have to wait.

I am realizing that this is a big fat TRUST issue. (Ah, Trust, my nemesis. We meet again!) I am unable to accept that things might still be OK even if I can’t check all the things off of my list in the time frame that I want to. I am unable to rest in the knowledge that I’ve done everything I can do. I am unable to accept the logic that things will work out the way they are meant to work out, regardless of how much I worry about them now. I am unable to accept that when God leads us somewhere, he doesn’t leave us to figure everything out by ourselves.

I have a big fat trust issue and I’m being forced to trust anyway. It’s like God has taken away the lifelines of planning and responsibility and asked me to believe the safety net is there, even though I didn’t install it myself. It would be funny if it wasn’t so horrible.

Right now I feel like I’m in a slow-motion free fall. And I have two options – I can fall kicking and screaming and lashing out at everyone around me for all the things I can’t change, or I can relax and enjoy the view while it lasts.

HEADER IMAGE CREDIT: JUN GIL PARK ON FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

Rejoice with Those Who Rejoice: When “Sensitivity” Robs us of Holy Celebration

Recently a Facebook friend of mine announced her pregnancy online. Like many similar Facebook announcements, this one was accompanied by a picture of teensy baby shoes and a due date, but the thing that stood out was a comment she made after the announcement. She explained that following this announcement, she wouldn’t be posting pictures and pregnancy updates on Facebook out of sensitivity to friends who were struggling with infertility, miscarriage, or who were single but longing for a family.  rejoice

My initial reaction to this was, “That’s incredibly thoughtful.” There are many people for whom social media has become an overwhelming bombardment of people who all seem to have the things they most desperately desire. In particular, I have heard from women struggling to get pregnant or who have experienced miscarriages who find the pain of getting on Facebook and reading other people’s pregnancy announcements and updates unbearable at times.

At first I was touched by this woman’s sensitivity – that even in a moment of great personal joy she would be thinking of others. I thought, “I want to be a woman who loves others like that.” But then I started to wonder – how far do we take this kind of sensitivity? Will the pain of those struggling with infertility go away once that baby is born? Unfortunately, probably not. Will that mean this woman is then obligated not to post pictures of her newborn or of her children as they grow? Is there a point at which well-intentioned sensitivity to others robs us of the experience of holy celebration?

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I’m not criticizing this woman and her decision. In fact, I deeply respect her decision and admire her thoughtfulness. I don’t know her situation – she may have specific friends or family members in mind whom she is loving truly and well through these actions. The only reason I bring up her announcement is because it served as a catalyst for me to think about two different issues. First, what is the balance between celebration and sensitivity? And second, what is the role of social media and other public platforms in our celebrations?

Today I’m going to focus on that first question. I’ll address the second one in my next post.

A few months ago Christianity Today published an article by D.L. Mayfield about whether or not Christians should drink alcohol. Her major argument was that out of solidarity with those who struggle with alcoholism, Christians should abstain. Christians should follow the Apostle Paul’s direction in Romans 14:21 “It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.” She calls out a trend among young, hipster Christians to use alcohol as a symbol of our liberation from fundamentalist traditions and calls for greater compassion towards those trapped in alcoholism by refusing to celebrate something that holds many in bondage.

Some of her points really resonated with me, but I also felt myself pushing back a little. Not so much with the alcohol issue*, but with the way I’ve seen people adopt this attitude – compassion and sensitivity towards those who struggle with something – as a primary value in their lives. If sensitivity and compassion are our primary values then we have to abstain from celebrating anything that might cause someone else pain or discomfort. This would mean not posting a picture of a great meal because someone might be struggling with their weight (or in solidarity with the many people who don’t have enough food). Or not celebrating a promotion at work because someone might not have a job. Or not posting a picture of your first home because others can’t afford one. Or not celebrating getting your PhD because others failed out of college.

There will always be people struggling. There will always be someone who doesn’t have what you have. There will always be someone who is triggered or tempted by something that is an innocent pleasure for you. If you have a relationship with someone and part of loving them is being sensitive to their vulnerabilities, then by all means, show love and grace by avoiding alcohol or by not emailing them your ultrasound pictures, or not bringing up how well you did on your SATs. We are called to love others more than we love ourselves and this may be part of how we love well. But if your motivation is a general concern that you might maybe offend someone or that someone might be hurt that you are experiencing something great and they aren’t, then I think you are robbing yourself of holy celebration.

It’s true, the Bible says to “Mourn with those who mourn,” but FIRST it says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice.” (Rom. 12:15) I think there is something important about sharing our joy with others – about celebrating God’s goodness in community. I think there is a way for us to rejoice, to celebrate, with both joy and compassion.

I don’t have this figured out, but I think one important part of this is our attitude when we share good news. Are we rejoicing in the unmerited gifts of God, or are we boasting? Do we celebrate with gratitude or do we take for granted blessings that others may not be experiencing? I think it’s much more problematic when we ignore or even complain about the blessings we have than it is when we celebrate the gifts in our lives.

For example, I don’t think it’s wrong to rejoice in a pregnancy on Facebook, but it might be wrong to complain about morning sickness or about how huge your stomach is on Facebook when there are many women reading that who would give anything to be feeling those things. Or here’s an example from my own life. Once I was complaining to a single friend that the problem with us waiting to start a family was that there was no guarantee it would be easy when we felt ready and maybe by the time we were stable enough for kids I would be too old, etc. My friend very gently told me, “It really bothers me when you say things like that. I also want a family and worry about waiting too long, but I don’t have a husband like you do. If you are that worried about it, you could start trying at any time. I don’t even know for sure I’ll get the chance.” Ouch.

She was right and I was convicted of my insensitivity and ungratefulness. The problem in both of these examples is insensitivity, but it’s the result of taking for granted the blessings in our lives instead of viewing them as unearned, lavish gifts.

I’m still mulling this one over. How do we celebrate with compassion and love for those who aren’t celebrating? How do we enter into others’ pain and loss without denying ourselves these sacred celebrations? And on the other side of that, how do we rejoice with those who rejoice when we feel like mourning? I would love your thoughts.

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*I have close family members who are alcoholics. I admit that alcohol is a unique struggle in that, unlike greed or gluttony or a shopping addiction, alcohol has a large potential to physically hurt the alcoholic and other innocent people – drunk drivers, domestic abuse, neglect, etc. So while it isn’t “worse” than other sins or harmful behaviors, the consequences can be more serious and far-reaching. Additionally, the verse in Romans is talking about “not causing a brother to stumble”, not “not causing a brother to be uncomfortable or jealous” and I recognize the distinction.

How Disney Helped Me Quit My Job

Well, I did it. I quit my job. Last Thursday I marched into the Managing Director’s office, plunked down my letter of resignation and said, “I am done with this! I cannot work in this toxic environment anymore! I am too smart and I have too much self-respect to work for the idiots who work here and think they are the most important people in the world and act like big children and go out and party all the time even though they have families and little children. You don’t pay me enough to deal with this kind of crap. So I quit!”

Alright, that’s not exactly what happened. What actually happened was I timidly sent over my letter of resignation with a lot of “I’m really sorrys” and “I really appreciate all the opportunities you’ve given me here” and then I cowered before the other girls on marketing staff and my boss and stammered out all the reasons why this was just an opportunity I had to take, etc. etc. etc. Those of you who know me well know how much I hate confrontation and never want anyone to be mad at me, even if I don’t like them. So maybe it wasn’t the most triumphant resignation of all time, but still…I did it.

And do you know what got me through it? This song which was playing in my head the whole time:

We can analyze later why my brain subconsciously believes that “I’ll Make a Man out of You” equates to “You are a brave and capable woman,” but I think the obvious takeaway is that Disney has once again pulled through and helped me in a time of crisis.

I’ve never quit a real job before. Most of the other office-type jobs I’ve had in the past were paid internships or temporary assignments that had an established ending date. I’ve never had to tell people who weren’t expecting it at all that I was just quitting. To make matters worse, the same week that I resigned, three other people in our office resigned. (Which I think says something about this office environment.) But I ripped off that Band-Aid and now it’s done and I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted. I still have to finish out my two weeks, next Friday will be my last day. But having the end in sight makes me feel ready to handle anything they throw at me (or, you know, ignore it since there aren’t really consequences at this point.)

So…here’s what I’m doing instead. For the last month or so I’ve been talking to a family on and off who are looking for a new nanny. Their old nanny had been with them for 8 years, but is having a baby in August and will be staying home afterwards. (Methinks they must be a good family to work for, or the old nanny would not have stayed with them for 8 years.) The mom of the family approached me about this job and initially, I had no interest in going back to nannying. After all, we all know how crazy that made me last time. But, after several weeks of talking and praying and the family having a hard time finding the right person, I’ve ended up with what I think is a pretty sweet deal. I’ve got two kiddos, Porter (9) and Spencer (6) who will be in school during the day for the regular school year. I will work full-time for the rest of the summer and then, beginning the last week of August, will only work in the afternoons-early evenings. I will manage the kids’ schedules, get them from school, help them with homework, take them to their activities, and make sure they have everything they need for school and activities. During the school year I will only have to work about 28 hrs/week with paid holidays and 1 week of paid vacation. And (this is the clincher) they have agreed to pay me enough that we’ll still be able to cover all of our expenses, etc.

Since I will have all of my mornings free (during school) this will give me some extra time to work on my classes that I will hopefully start taking online through Fuller Theological Seminary in September. The program I’m trying to do is an MA in Intercultural Studies with an emphasis on Children at Risk. I think I could really be good at and love ministering to at-risk kids around the world. Additionally, I will have more time to work on the small baking business I’ve started out of my home and hopefully promote that further. (More on that once I get my website up and running.)

Initially, I wasn’t attracted to the idea of nannying again. I certainly got burnt out the last time and it’s also sort of a pride issue for me. Sometimes I feel embarrassed to tell people that I’m a nanny or I feel like I’m hurting myself in the long-run by not doing a “real” job.  But some wise friends (and also my husband) pointed out to me that when you compare working another year or two doing something I hate versus doing something I enjoy more, part-time with a lot more day-to-day flexibility, it’s kind of a no-brainer. Sometimes you just can’t plan for all contingencies, as much as I’d like to, so you have to accept that all you can do is walk the path that God sets before you today, and make the best decision you can for that day.

And I’ll admit it, I may have seen Brave pretty recently. (If you haven’t seen it you, you definitely should.) So when the offer was officially made there may have been this Scottish voice playing in my head asking me: “If ya had the chance to change yer fate, would ya?” And my unquenchable sense of adventure said YES! Challenge accepted!

In gratitude to Disney* for being a constant in these tumultuous times, I have (very) tentatively decided to shoot for running the Disneyworld Marathon in January. That’s right, folks, a full 26.2 miles (please do not comment, you super-fit people who have run like three marathons and only trained for like a month. This is legitimately the most epic undertaking of my life.) I did my first training run yesterday – and immediately regretted even waking up that morning. So, we’ll see how that goes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                               

*Don’t worry, guys. I know it wasn’t really Disney who provided this opportunity for me and gave me courage to quit and gave me peace when I felt anxious. That was Jesus and I am so thankful to Him. But I do think he maybe used the familiar comfort of Disney to help me just a little. Probably.

How I Am Fundamentally Incapable of Making Decisions

This past weekend Jonathan and I took a mini-vacation up to Asheville, NC. We had never been to Asheville before, but had been talking about going for a while. About a month ago I sneakily researched and booked a cabin in the mountains a few miles north of Asheville. Then I sneakily requested time off for Friday afternoon and I sneakily packed all of our things. I got home around lunchtime on Friday and told Jonathan we were taking a trip! I was a little nervous about the cabin since I’d seen pictures of it on the internet, but obviously had never been there. Pictures can be deceiving. But it was absolutely lovely! See!

Welcome to Chestnut Cabin

The cabin was built in the early 1900’s, but the inside was fully renovated and there was a stocked kitchen and two little bedrooms and a nice living room where we could watch movies and everything. And the best part of all…our own giant hot tub in the back yard! It was the perfect location. It only took 5 minutes to get to a grocery store and 20 minutes to get to downtown Asheville, but the cabin was very secluded and quiet and peaceful. We had two gloriously bright and beautiful days and nights clear enough to see more stars than we’ve seen in a long time. Also the planet Mars. : )

This is the view from behind the house if you are standing up on the deck where the hot tub is.

We hung out in downtown Asheville on Saturday. It is a really unique city. Most cities you visit have some unique qualities, but more or less the same feel to them, but I can honestly say that Asheville is different. I have never seen so many hipsters in one place. It’s a small city, but there were street musicians everywhere, some sort of protest against nuclear power plants going on in a little park (after which the protesters marched single file through town silently except for a few people who were banging on pots or drums. I am positive that at least half of them had absolutely no idea why they were there), and people openly passing joints back and forth while waiting to cross the street.  Asheville is one of those places where you feel obnoxiously preppy while wearing skinny jeans a plain blue sweater and Toms.

View from the front porch.

We had dinner Saturday night at this fantastic little hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Nine Mile. I found it on Yelp and am so glad we picked it. It is in a really weird location in the middle of this historic neighborhood where the houses are old and enormous, but pretty run-down. You’re just driving down the street through this neighborhood and then there is randomly this one building on the residential street that has a little corner grocery store and this restaurant in it. It’s an interesting little restaurant, long and very narrow, with a purple tin ceiling and old wood floors. The atmosphere was great, pretty intimate and nice, but not fancy, and the food, which is Caribbean-inspired, was delicious! Jonathan had jerk chicken with a creamy mango-y sauce and veggies and I had mahi mahi with a banana mango relish over linguine with peppers and a coconut cream sauce. AMAZING.

OK, one more picture and then good-by cabin. 😦

Over the weekend we also had a lot of time for talking. We talked through (and over and around) lots of possibilities concerning me going to grad school. I got accepted to NC State to do a Master’s in cultural anthropology. It’s a two-year program, but it’s not funded (at least for the first year) And I would only be able to work part-time while going to school. Which means cutting my income at least in half and also taking out a loan to cover tuition which would be adding to a decent amount of student loans I already have from Wheaton. I was also still waiting to hear from Ohio State regarding an MA/PhD program I had applied to there and had some positive interactions with a professor in the program who seemed very interested in working with me.

After talking about all of the options for a while we landed on a possible solution to the dilemma of wanting to go to school and wanting to be able to afford it. We decided that if I got into Ohio State I could look into the possibility of deferring for a year and we could spend this next year working and saving as much as possible. That way we could enjoy another year in Raleigh (which we love), but still have a concrete plan for what we were doing next and something for me to really look forward to. Because the program is an MA/PhD I felt comfortable deferring for a year because after I was in I’d be in for good and wouldn’t have to worry about applying to PhD’s etc. And Jonathan felt good about this plan because he could continue to apply to Ohio State’s MFA program (the entire time I was doing my degree if necessary) because it is one of his favorite programs.  And we both felt good about this plan because if our present income remains steady we should be able to save a little every month barring a huge crisis.

We thought, “We are geniuses! This is perfect plan” (at least, that’s what I thought.) We (I) started making all kinds of plans. I found a little house for us to rent next year that costs barely more than our apartment. I started planning a trip to visit Jonathan’s brother in South Africa next summer (where he is not yet 100% certain he will be.) Also potential side-trips from that trip (you know, long layovers in Europe, that kind of thing.) And also a mission trip this year to either Uganda or Romania (effectively spending all of the money we’d be “saving” during that year, I know.) I felt happy and peaceful and excited and thankful that God had finally given us an answer.

And then…we returned home. Away from the magical mountain cabin I discovered three forms of rejection from Ohio State waiting for me—one online and two hard copies, just in case I didn’t get it the first time….they really, really don’t want me.

I was beyond frustrated. Honestly, I am still really frustrated. I feel like all I want is to do the right thing—to pursue what I should pursue in a financially responsible way, and to be selfless in making sure whatever we decide doesn’t keep Jonathan from being able to pursue his goals as well. I mean…these are all good things. And yet, not matter which way I look at it, it seems like the sort of decision where somebody loses. Where something important is lost. If I don’t go to school I think I’ll regret it. If I go to school and it keeps Jonathan from being able to do what he wants, I’ll regret it. If I go to school and we end up tens of thousands of dollars further in debt, I will regret it. There just isn’t an easy solution. In fact, right now it feels like there isn’t a solution at all. And the days keep ticking by til April 15th, the day we have to officially make a decision. And I genuinely feel further away from a decision than I felt when we first started talking about it.

Last week in our community group we were discussing a sermon our pastor, Tyler had given about prayer and about Moses’s relationship with the Lord through prayer. The passage we focused on was from Exodus 33:12 where Moses says to the Lord, “You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so that I may know you and continue to find favor with you.'” As I have gone through this week of frustration…of thinking I’ve finally found an answer and then discovering that I haven’t got a clue… of honestly deep frustration with God over his lack of a clear answer, I have been really impacted by the thought that God knows me by name. He knows me intimately…what I’m good at and what my desires are, my hopes and my fears. And it occurs to me that maybe the prayer I should be praying is not, “God, what should I do with my life? Should I go to grad school or not? What is the right answer to this question?” but rather, “God, teach me your ways so that I may know you and continue to find favor with you.” And somehow learn to trust that the God who knows me by name really does know what’s best for me. That I don’t have to try so hard to figure it out on my own. Even when God doesn’t seem particularly interested in telling me which way to go. 🙂 Jonathan put it this way—that instead of praying for God to tell us what the right decision is, perhaps we should pray that God would change our hearts to be the kind of people who make right decisions because we are directed by the Holy Spirit.

I will be honest. I am not completely comforted by this. And I haven’t been able to completely stop myself from trying to figure out solutions. But I do think there is truth here. And I know that, more than anything else, I need God to show me His ways.