As 2016 wains and 2017 comes, I am thankful for this year

   

     This morning, my wife thought it would be a great idea to recount and remember the past year of pain, joy, prayers, and how God has answered every challenge with our children tonight. As she and I have taken today to reminisce, God continues to remind me of His faithfulness in our journey with Him. When I resigned last year as the pastor of Faith Community Church Lakeside and then restarted a degree I should have finished 22 years ago, my only hope was God providing and not leaving us to flail about dying from pain brought on by an uncertain future. Even thought today, that future is as uncertain as it was when I resigned, I am more hopeful that God is able to carrying us through and cause us to thrive as he has these last 9 months. With every resume I send to churches I can hear the enemy tell me how unqualified I am and how no church is going to hire someone not currently at another church. I am met with doubts and tempted to give up the idea of ministry. However, I cannot, and I see God spurring me onto being part of the church in a discipleship and leadership role. I just don't know when and where. When I have felt like throwing in the towel, it has been God's peace and strength carrying me to continue on the journey we are on. I can only give up when God lets me give up. This I am thankful for.

     I know for many, this year has been trying. It has for our family too. I have been jobless, without direction, wanting to give up on school, overweight and over burdened, fearful, stressed, and have walked around thinking I am destroying my family. I have joked with Michelle that our kids will need counseling after this year. However, as I look at the emotions and weight I had carried throughout this last year, I have seen God answer with His incredible Grace. When I have been stressed, it has been God calling me to lay those burdens at His feet and rest in Him. When I have worried about money or a job, God has pointed me to His grace and His love for me. When I had several churches turn me down (all in the same week, that one was hard), it was God reminded me that He would never reject me nor leave me. I have heard His gentle words as I have struggled, "If I have provided and carried you this far, I won't fail you to provide for you and carrying to through the next part of this journey. I have this and I have your family". So at each turn, when the future seems so far off and our present seems so overwhelming, God and His incredible Grace has met us. He really doesn't waste anything nor does He forget us.

     This year has brought to us (especially me): healing from trauma that happened 31 years ago, a new sense of empathy for those who have suffered abuse, an awareness of emotional immaturity in me and in others, a renewed desire to see people experience the Grace of God daily, a renewed hunger to preach God's word and see people know Christ as their primary calling, the reminder that God is the one who provides for my family, and a complete and utter dependency on God to equip, provide, and invite us into His ministry. I am incredibly grateful for 2016 and do not regret this year nor have animosity toward it. We have lost much this year, but have also gained more in Christ!

     I want to leave you with my journal entry from March 2nd, this past year. I hope you see the uncertainty that I had and know that God has walked us through these past 9 months without fail. It has been His great pleasure to invite us on this incredibly challenging journey. I don't know what is next, but I know He has this! Enjoy and I pray you see how God has used this year to call you to Himself! Here it is and may the Lord make 2017 a year we become more satisfied in Him and He more gloried in us!

March 2, 2016:

     "Thankful for the Lord’s rest. Slept through the night and woke up at 6am, though I rolled over and slept til 8am. I don’t remember the last time I slept through the night. I went to bed around 12:30am, convinced myself not to go watch tv after my 11:30pm shower. Very thankful for sleep last night. Today has started in peace. Although I know that this Saturday is coming, which requires our final decision whether to stay as the Pastor at Faith or resign, I am at peace with resigning. There are no prospects for jobs that I am aware of and we are certain we will not be staying in the area. There is a lot of unknowns, but there is Hope through everything. It is becoming more apparent that God brought us here to heal and grow, while He has used our struggles to help others know Him more. I do not regret coming, I just wished I wouldn’t have signed a 2 year least on the house to save $100 a month. I wanted to commit to be here, but the lease was really about the $100. There is a beautiful rest in me today, a health that I have not felt in a while, maybe ever. I have lived wounded for over 31 years, yet I know better that God has been with me through every bit of it. Even in reliving the day my dad left when I was 10, I see that the Lord was with me in that room. I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t going to be destroyed. At every point of my life, there has been an enticing call to throw life away, but God has kept me from much of that destruction. Although I have sinned, God has also been gracious to use that sin to show me my need for Him and for Him to become more for me. 

The curious feeling in me right now is that I have not faced a great conflict yet. I have had small battles but none of these has resulted in depression, only sadness which lifted shortly after I would cry. I am realizing it is okay to cry and to feel. I hope I do not forget the lessons here to not stuff emotions down deep but to let them come out in a healthy way. 

I could fear the future, but there is a great hope in me about our future. I want to see people know God and walk through healing. More and more each day, I desire people to experience the grace that I am swimming in. I have swum in this grace most of my life and I thank you God for it. 

There is so much that we do not know. We don’t know where to go from here, we don’t know whether to send out resumes or not and we do not know if we can get out of our lease without huge penalties. But we do know God has a plan for us and I cannot put limits on that plan.

I am thankful today that my bed does not hold me as a safe place from the pain. I am also thankful that my God holds my life and whether there is a storm or a warm peace, He is my future!"

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