Thursday, July 19, 2012

Beyond what you can bear

It seems to be a consistent theme in my life that as soon as I feeling strong about my faith, a bunch of situations test it. My extended family has been dealing with some big issues in the past few weeks and they aren't things that anyone can do anything about besides wait and pray. Waiting and praying is not my thing. I find it to be really, really hard. I want to do and solve and there is nothing I can do and no way I can solve anything.

On the homefront, we have been dealing with the economic realities of being new parents who want/need to provide our child with certain things, but are trapped in the economic conundrums so familiar to so many  people our age. My friend Chris, who weirdly seems to be on a similar wave length, articulated this situation much more eloquently than I can.  All I can say is that we both became teachers, and this required large loans and doesn't pay enough to cover those loans and life in general. (I am not trying to start a political debate about the economy, political policy, or the issues with teachers, so please don't start the fight.)

What I do want to share is that it often feels as if we are trapped in a hopeless situation. I love my job and I work hard to be the best teacher I can be. However, it seems financially irresponsible to make this the one job I have for the rest of my life. I would really like to become and administrator, but the 25k in additional loans makes me pause. Our monthly payment already exceeds most people's mortgages and I can't see adding to that with the job market the way it is.

Since Harrison's arrival, a lot of well meaning people have asked when we are going to purchase a home. It has never been a priority for us, because it has never seemed financially feasible.  We are among the few of our friends who don't own a home, but we are also among the few of our friends who have retirement accounts. Most people we know have to choose between the two. We feel it is important to provide our son with a college savings plan (this way he won't have the same debt) and we can't do both.

99% of the time, I am ok with this. I feel blessed and we have more than we will ever need, but yesterday I had to get on the phone with National Ed. National Ed services some of my grad school loans. They keep selling the management of those loans to subcontractors who have done things such as; send my bills to my inlaws house (I have never lived there), added someonelse's art school loans to my bill, and now sent me to default even though I was in deferment. After a very frustrating phone call, I spent most of yesterday in a quiet panic.

I felt that this situation had made it so that we couldn't get the car we need. National Ed reported me as in default to the credit reporting agencies. They state that they emailed notices, but I have searched up and down and can't find any. They called me one time, on May 29th, and sent one letter. By the end of the conversation, I was able to get them to reverse the default in their system, but they won't take it off the credit report.

As someone whose own father used her identity to do all sorts of awesome things, I am well versed in the obscene amount of time it takes to get these things removed. I was feeling pretty frustrated. I didn't really sleep last night. These are the moments when it feels impossible to have faith, and yet these are the moments when faith matters most.

I have to take deep breaths. God doesn't promise a life of ease and he doesn't promise a lack of pain, but he does promise to be there with us and to help us grow. I am not at a place of peace about all of this, but I do recognize that my problems are small compared to those of some people I love very much. We have jobs and are healthy. We have a place to live and plenty of food.

I have been meditating on James 1:2-4

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way."- The Message

This is tough, and I don't like what it says, but growing in faith means facing what we don't like. It means looking at our weaknesses, fears, and faults. I am big wanter. I want bigger and better often, and forget about humility and thankfulness. I still think that God should show his love through giving me what I want, but have avoid thinking about my stewardship of what he has given me. Now may not a season that we can do all we want to do. We may never have that season, but I can make it a season about growing and learning. That is my goal. I think I will start by memorizing the verse.

Monday, July 9, 2012


My friend Chris Plumb recently started a blog, you can check it out here. He recently wrote a novel and is looking for publishers. The blog is more about his random thoughts, which I find interesting. Please support him. He is stepping out in faith, and believing in his dream. He sat down and wrote a whole novel, which I always think about but would never actually have the discipline to do. He wrote the novel as response to circumstance. He, like so many other talented teachers, hasn't been able to find a permanent teaching position, and turned the negative into a positive by using this time to write.

I am very humbled by the fact he simply decided that he was going to write a book and did it. There are so many things that I want to do, but don't follow through with. It takes a leap of faith to follow your dream and put yourself forward. I have been thinking about faith a lot lately. Soon after Harrison was born, someone wrote me and shared that they saw Harrison as a reward for my faith in God's plan. They felt like I had submitted and therefore received what I wanted. This perspective of my experience bothers me. It makes feel like a economic transaction. I did this, so you owe me this. 

At church this week, the message cemented my feelings. Pastor John said over and over again "Faith is not a guarantee that you will receive the outcome you want." This statement reverberated with me. There were many moments in my journey through infertility were I had a "false faith" I said the "right" things and expected God to grant me a baby. It never worked, because God isn't a slot machine. I can't put in a certain amount and win a prize.

"But" I can hear my friend saying, "You did get what you wanted, so there has to be some reward."  This is a dangerous way to approach faith. I know, it is how I did it for a majority of my life. I made the "right" choices, I was a good girl, and I expected certain rewards out of it. If I was faithful than God was obligated to provide me with the family I wanted, the husband I wanted, and the future I wanted, when I wanted it. When I was 18 and the boy I "wanted" decided that our plans to go to college and get married weren't want he wanted, I was left feeling cheated. I put in a certain amount. I upheld my end of the bargain and God had let me down.  I put God in a box of my expectations.

It took a decade for me to stop dealing with God in this mathematical way. It took a deep challenge that brought me to my knees in order to let God out of the box. For me, faith comes through obedience.  I had to slowly work my way up to accepting that I wasn't in control and that my plan was not "the plan". Everyday I have to get up and make a choice to not try to be in control and let God's plan be in place.  This is not easy and it isn't my nature, it is an active choice.  Sometimes I am successful and a lot of times I fail.

Harrison has been a blessing beyond my imagination. I don't feel that I did anything to deserve or "earn" him. What I did was give up control and commit to whatever life God had planned for me. I admitted that I didn't know everything and that I needed A LOT of help to get through this crazy life.

Faith is a personal experience. Sometimes, like my friend Chris, you  need to move forward and take chance, or, like me, you have to stop trying to "make" things happen and wait for God's plan. For me, faith is an active daily choice. What is it for you?