Katie Revisits Pain and Purpose–or, She’s Back in Black

I shocked myself a little bit this week when I realized I hadn’t published anything on this blog since February. FEBRUARY. Dang. Where’ve I been?

It’s not that I haven’t written at all. I’m working on a bible study that I hope to have published. My biggest obstacle is deciding when I’m done with research and can actually write. I’d like to have it done by the first of the year. Don’t hold your breath, though. I sure won’t.

We launched Sunday morning services for Renew Church in February. It was awesome. Euphoric. What a joy to see it all come together! After all those years of wrestling with God’s call to move and plant a church, we now see a long inspired vision spring to life. My insight into this rather lengthy test of faith was that God indeed has a plan, that the plan is most often challenging if not downright painful, and that the pain of the plan puts me on my knees. I get to be a part of what God’s doing, and it draws me to Him like a gravitational pull. The more challenging the test, the stronger the pull.

The church launch was the last time I wrote for this blog. Since then? More of the same. Husband, kids, teaching, church plant.

Oh yeah, and then I got pregnant.

You’ll find these two principles sprinkled throughout my blog: God has a plan, and God gives me more than I can handle. Then there’s a third principle—that the first two are for my benefit (among many other things). What follows here is more of more than I can handle.

When I found out I was pregnant, I almost didn’t react. Back in the day, when getting pregnant made sense, I would stand over the little pee stick and wring my hands in anticipation. A positive test would be met with squeals and then a high five to the good Rev. But this?

Unplanned. Unplanned for a 45 year old. Unplanned for a full-time working momma and wife to a bi-vocational pastor. Unplanned after many miscarriages had gone before.

One time in all our pregnancies we heard a heartbeat, but it was still so early that there was nothing to see on the scan. All we knew is that the baby’s heart was beating. Back then, I thought a heartbeat meant that everything would be okay. But four weeks later I was bleeding.

Last summer, we allowed ourselves to get excited when we saw our 8 week ultrasound. With this scan there was more to see. Peanut had a head and body. There was a picture of a little person there.  I knew that we weren’t out of the woods.

Two weeks later, I went in for another scan. There’s a horrible moment when the tech doesn’t say anything. Just tick, tick, tick on the keyboard, and you know that it’s bad news.

Loss is not uncharted territory to me. I’ve done this many times. But it’s doing a fine job of wrecking me.

My husband took my girls on a trip this weekend, so I’ve been alone. It’s actually been really good for me to have a couple of days to reflect. People have a great capacity to sweep grief aside in order to perform. The only way for me to function was to put this loss on the proverbial backburner. Day in and day out, I had this peculiar feeling that there’s some loose end that needed attention, but I couldn’t bring myself to face it.

Since Friday night, I’ve been facing it. What I’ve found out is that when I can assign a purpose to my pain—when I see how it figures into God’s plan—I go straight to Him with that pain. But when I can’t figure any way that He can use it? When it seems purposeless? I bolt.

All my planned pregnancies, and subsequent miscarriages, led me to something. They led me to adopt. They taught me about His authority. They strengthened my marriage. They deepened my empathy and provided me with an avenue to minister to others. I see their purpose.

But not this time. I got nothin’.

As I took all this to the Lord this weekend—finally—I realized that my obscured view of His purpose is the purpose.

If “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”, then certainly I must apply faith to this situation. I can’t see his plan. I don’t know His purpose, and yet it is my deep hope that He has one. It’s the lack of understanding—or perhaps the lack of accepting—His purpose that is the opportunity to build my faith.

Before I found out I was pregnant, I read a blog which asserted that everything doesn’t happen for a reason. It bothered me. Maybe we’re splitting hairs here. Maybe you say God doesn’t have His reasons yet still believe that He will “cause all things to work together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” The writer who published that blog contended that Romans 8:28 does not mean that everything has a purpose, but that I can choose a response to my circumstances that benefit me. The obvious question here is, what if my response is wrong? What if I make the wrong choice? And I definitely chose wrong in the past. In the beginning of our miscarriage journey, I chose anger, and it got me absolutely nowhere.

I say that interpretation of Romans 8:28 makes too much of me and my ability to respond and not enough of God. He is bigger than my ability to make the right choice. His Word declares that God Himself makes all things work together for my good. I believe it, and yes, believing it is a choice.

Picture this. You take your last breath. Your spirit departs your body. You hear ethereal singing and the Holy, Holy, Holy of the creatures around the throne. You see Him—complete with the holes in His hands that are now reaching to embrace you. When you pull back from the most heavenly of hugs, He offers to answer your most disturbing question.

Why did I suffer? Why did I have so many miscarriages that I lost count?

“Oh,” says the Word, who has been with God since the beginning, “no reason.”

No. That can’t be right.

I choose faith—the assurance that though I can’t see or understand His purpose, He has one. When I ask Him why I suffered, I believe He will point to my participation in the work of the kingdom, to others who were moved by my testimony, and to how my suffering was the gravitational pull that put me before Him and kept the cross before me.

For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’

Isaiah 46:9-10

Before a launch, you gotta yield . . .

Tomorrow we will open Renew Church’s doors for our first ever Sunday morning worship service. Actually Renew Church’s doors are really the doors of the Boys and Girls Club of Saline County, AR. After 18 months of bible study in a living room, it’s time to launch.

Church plant!

Church plant!

The vision for this ministry prompted us to leave comfort and security in Texas and trust God to provide all our needs in coming to Arkansas—when Todd told the church staff in Texas that he was resigning, neither of us had jobs. When we rolled up to our rent house for the first time in Benton, Arkansas, we had one part-time job between us. I can’t claim that I had faith through all of this; I was simply too afraid to not take that leap.

God began working in Todd years ago, first with this little whisper plant a church, plant a church, plant a church which gradually increased in volume and intensity. Then finally in 2012, we catapulted into this wild free fall of faith—if God is saying go, I’m afraid to say no.

So, here we are.

It is glaringly obvious that the Lord went ahead of us and put each piece in place. In the beginning, I was concerned about basic needs and where the money would come from so that we could survive. Looking back, what is most impressive to me is not really about money, but more about comfort and sustenance. It’s about how he drew us into relationships with godly friends who also have visions for ministry that seem impossible. But God builds the ministry and nothing is impossible for Him.

With all this awe and gratitude bubbling over in my heart, I am especially aware of the years God has spent preparing me for this.

Me. The one who said rather pointedly, “I will not go back to teaching school so that you can plant a church.”

Me. The one who scoffed at the idea of leaving Texas for Arkansas. Plant a church? In Arkansas? Psssh. Try that one on your second wife.

Evidence of changes that would come are found in the notes I jotted down in my bible over the years. There are many, many references to God’s authority scribbled in the margins. Even this morning as I read about Jesus’ baptism and the descent of the Holy Spirit, I wrote, “Jesus—God and sent by God—demonstrates submission to God’s authority. Does this demonstration of submission and willingness open the door for the power of the Holy Spirit?” Looking back, I see that pattern played out in me. At each milestone as I yielded more to God’s authority, I experienced His power to change me.

This morning I also ran across an old note on the first page of I Thessalonians. Sometime in the last few years I wrote this–

            Faith–>Work

Love–>Labor

Hope–>Endurance

Serve the living God and wait for His Son.

Then on the opposite page, I added later—

            Share the gospel and your life. The fruit of the ministry is your joy and crown.

Faith compels us to work. Love for the Savior inspires us to labor for His purpose. Hope of seeing Him face to face creates an indomitable endurance. And all this happens by the power of His Spirit as we yield to His authority.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that I’m teaching school in Arkansas to provide for our family so Todd can co-pastor a church plant.

The woman who wrote all that down is so drastically different from the 26 year old who naively vowed to be joined for life to a minister. Want to know something funny? For the first few years I toyed with the temptation to walk away from this marriage. What a dumb kid! I would have missed out on all this JOY.

A healthy fear—or reverence, if you prefer–of God’s authority has made all the difference. It prevented us from ending our marriage. It guided us through miscarriages to adoption. It prompted us in the very decision that brought us to Arkansas. It instigated all the changes that make us want to fulfill our purpose. I’ve seen something good born out of every instance where we yielded to His authority.

Church, we must stop dodging God’s authority and looking for loopholes in the things He expects from us. It is a gigantic obstacle to fulfilling our purpose in this world. Don’t hesitate to yield. By the power of His Spirit, good things will come.

I’m pretty excited to see what’s next.

ADVENTures Day 2–It’s the bad news that makes the good news . . .

How delightful it is to see approaching over the mountains
the feet of a messenger who announces peace,
a messenger who brings good news, who announces deliverance,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Listen, your watchmen shout;
in unison they shout for joy,
for they see with their very own eyes
the Lord’s return to Zion.
In unison give a joyful shout,
O ruins of Jerusalem!
For the Lord consoles his people;
he protects Jerusalem.
 The Lord reveals his royal power
in the sight of all the nations;
the entire earth sees
our God deliver.       Isaiah 52:7-1

Day 2. I’ve been in the car all day, driving home from Thanksgiving at the farm. As tired as I am, there’s no way I’m skipping the second day of Adventures in Advent! Especially since God has made this scripture real to me.

Tomorrow is the last day of National Adoption Month. For weeks I’ve wanted to get some thoughts on my blog about our adoption experience, but time is at a premium and other topics were easier to tackle. As I looked over the second Advent scripture, I saw my experiences with adoption peeking out from behind the words. I know what good news is!

Possibly, I know good news so well because the bad news was such a piercing to my heart.

I was ten weeks pregnant when I went to my first OB appointment. Todd went with me, and we were so excited. Todd had spent months looking for a church job after graduating from seminary. The appointment was on a Monday morning, but the day before Todd preached at a church in Tulsa in view of a call to a staff position. The whole weekend had been one long interview, and we felt sure that this job was the one we had prayed for. Now we were off to see the first images of our first baby. Everything was coming together. A new job, a new home, and now the beginnings of our little family. I was going to quit teaching and be a stay at home mom. We had the world by the tail.

The doctor was all smiles, offered an extra VHS tape since we hadn’t known to bring one, and I was all set up for the ultrasound and the first recording of our sweet little one.

Maybe the reason I’ve held off on writing about these experiences for so long is that words just fail me when I try to describe that pain. I remember every excruciating detail, but to write it is to relive it, and maybe deep down, I don’t want to go back there.

The doctor went from buoyant to business in a fraction of a second. Quiet and grim faced, he simply tapped my knee, saying to get dressed and come to his office. We, of course, were seized with fear. I remember my limbs going limp and clumsily going through the motions—tumbling into my pants, getting lost in my shirt sleeves, gripping my equally shocked husband, numbly making my way to a seat in another room.

The doctor delivered the news factually but compassionately. He seemed particularly concerned that I not blame myself. Todd stuttered his way through a few questions—I couldn’t find my breath. It felt like I’d been body slammed. Then I was given a choice: I could schedule a D&C or wait until I miscarried naturally. At that moment, I was suspended somewhere between denial and complete despair. I just wanted out of there, to find a place where I could cry or collapse or scream or throw things or any other socially unacceptable behavior I chose.

There is so much more to this story. I could fill a book. But for the purposes of this post, I’ll stick with what is relevant to our Advent passage. We went through this pain several more times—being told by a doctor that our baby had not survived beyond the seventh week. Those three miscarriages were particularly traumatic—the first two I ended up in the ER. But I believe that there were a number of very short pregnancies in between where I miscarried before I knew I was pregnant.

So what does this have to do with Advent?  For about five years, all we got was bad news. I wish I could tell you that these were years that were fruitful in my walk, years I spent pressing in, studying His Word and allowing Him to reveal His character during my times of suffering. Ha! Not even close. I was unbelievably angry with God. If He loves me, why doesn’t He heal this? It’s like my situation didn’t reflect what I thought was true of God, so I just held Him at arm’s length for a long time. I did not see any new revelation of God’s character because I wasn’t really looking. What I wanted was an answer to my prayer in the only way that I could see where the healing of my heart could take place. He simply had to give me a baby.

Then one day, after four years of miscarriages and heartache, I started praying the right prayer. Instead of praying that God would give me a biological child, I prayed that He would heal me in whatever manner He chose. I just didn’t want to be angry anymore, and I wanted my relationship with Him to be what it had been before all this mess. I wanted Him to restore the joy of my salvation.

One thing led to another that led to an adoption agency in Houston, Texas, called Alternatives in Motion. We waited a long year for the phone call. You know the one I mean? THE phone call!

The phone rang on a Sunday night when we were least expecting it. We were a few minutes into the conversation before I realized what was happening. I remember saying, “Wait, are you saying that this baby is available for adoption?”

On the other end of the line was the agency director, Jan Deets. She laughed a little. “Katie, I’m saying this is your baby!” I’m not even sure what happened for the next few minutes of the conversation. Todd was on the phone in the bedroom, asking a few questions and getting all the details. I was too busy dancing! Finally!

Jan with Emma Kate

That’s Jan on the day we met our second daughter, Emma Kate. I’ve always loved this picture.

 

Within a few weeks of having our sweet Eden home, I realized what God had done. He had revealed Himself through the adoption of our daughter. Even though I was a believer for a lot of years before, I now saw salvation in a different light—that God deeply, deeply loves me and made all the arrangements so that I could be His child. I had doubted for so long that God could work all this pain together for good. I had felt for so long that God was punishing me by not allowing me to carry a baby to term. I had grown accustomed to thinking of God as angry, and cold, and distant. But here He was showing Himself. He does good things! I pined for that baby for so long; finally I was able to bring her home, call her mine, and lavish her with love I’d been carrying for years since my first pregnancy.

Eden day 1

The good Rev with sweet Eden on day 1. This picture is another one of my all-time favorites.

 

Isn’t that a beautiful picture of salvation as well? He pines for us, for our repentance, so that we can be forever in His love—never to be snatched from His hand. Todd and I went through a whole rigmarole in order to adopt—paperwork, interviews, workshops, and payments. But God made His payment for my adoption in blood—the blood of His own Son. And if I, being so imperfect, could so love this little baby girl who was only mine because of a legal document and the say-so of a judge, how much more could a perfect God love those for whom He paid so immeasurable a price?

As for our scripture, Isaiah spent many pages describing judgment and exile, using words like fire and wrath. These people got bad news, over and over, unlike anything that we can comprehend. God’s people would not only hear the bad news in prophecy, they would live out its horrors. They must have doubted His goodness at times. They must have wondered if they had been forever cut off from His love. Imagine the joy, the expectancy, of a people who so suffered to hear their salvation proclaimed! Not only that, how they must have treasured the assurance that they belong to the God who reigns over all—and that every nation everywhere would witness their redemption.

Guess what? If you are in Christ, these words are for you as well. Sometimes, the good news is best understood in light of all the bad that has gone before. None of what you have suffered has been wasted. Your God reigns, and He will return and comfort His people. Every nation everywhere will see what our God has done to redeem us.

If you don’t know Christ, then know this–He wants to adopt you. You’ve been separated from Him because of your sin, but He’s pining for you. All the work is done, signed in the blood of the perfect Christ, who will buy you back from your sin. We celebrate His birth at Christmas, but it’s His death and resurrection that are the true tidings of comfort and joy!

 

 

Zacky schools us on being chosen–and being a good follower.

Gotta make this fast. You have NO IDEA what it’s like to sneak a little time on this computer.

First, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Zack. Or Zacky, Z-Dog, or even just plain Z. Or, there’s always my full title, Zacchaeus Our Wee Little Man. For some reason, my mom thinks that’s funny. I’ve never gotten the humor.

young Z

I had to hijack the computer for a little while because I think I can contribute to my mom’s little blog here. She’s been talking a lot lately about being chosen. No one in this house knows more about being chosen than ME! That’s the truth.

See. I was adopted. I really needed adopting, but I didn’t know it at the time. My mom—the other one, my dog momma—had a huge litter of pups in a dog pound down in Orange, Texas. I had no idea at the time that I was spending the first few weeks of my life in what they call a kill shelter! Isn’t that the most horrible thing you’ve ever heard???

If I hadn’t been chosen, they would have killed me! And I had. No. Clue. Everything was OK, as far as I could see. I didn’t know any different. My dog momma was in pretty bad shape, though. She had me and all my brothers and sisters. We were all together for a while and then she just wasn’t there anymore. I try not to think about it too much, but when I do, I just imagine that she was chosen. But I don’t really know.

Everything at the pound was handled for us pretty much. At the time, I was satisfied. We had food and a slab of concrete to sleep on. We had lots of fleas and stuff, but like I said, we didn’t know any better. So we stuck together. We played and wrestled. It’s funny that now I realize how little I had since I’ve been chosen.

A couple of my brothers were chosen early on, so I had some idea of why these people were wandering in and out. They would come in and watch us, give us a pet or scratch behind the ears. Some would even pick us up and hold us, and we’d gnaw on their fingers. We liked the attention, but we didn’t really know that we wanted to be chosen. It’s like the full meaning of being chosen was kind of blocked from our view at first.

One day my mom and dad came in. Same routine—checking all of us out, a little pat, maybe a belly rub. I kind of waited for the love ‘em and leave ‘em maneuver, but they didn’t just grab a pup and run.

It’s something I’ll never forget. They sat on our concrete slab and loved on us. But pretty soon, my family–the other pups, I mean– lost interest. They’d rather chew on each other’s toes and ears or dive in and out of the food and water dishes. I’d wander off a few steps and come back. I’m not sure why, but I wanted these people to love me.

Mom said to me not too long ago, “Sweet boy. You know why you were chosen, right? It’s because you followed.”

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For anyone who keeps his life for himself shall lose it; and anyone who loses his life for me shall find it again. What profit is there if you gain the whole world—and lose eternal life? What can be compared with the value of eternal life? Matthew 16:24-26 (TLB)

Wow. I’d kind of forgotten that part, but she’s right. If they got up and moved away, I ran right back to them. I did follow. It wasn’t clear to me at the time—but they would have chosen more if more had followed!

wee little man

The wee little man right after being chosen.

But then came the big change. I had no idea what I was in for. No more concrete slab. They had brought me home. They had prepared a place for me. There was so much more to being chosen than I’d realized! Like rules and discipline—no more chewing on anything and everything. And I couldn’t just poop and pee on their floor like I did on the concrete. That was tough. I didn’t like being taught at first. I just liked the love part. It took a long time for me to get that being taught is part of the love.

The worst part was the vet. Ack! Mom said that it wasn’t just all the nasty habits we had to get rid of—we had to lose all the lingering pests from my old life. A trip to the vet, and—I won’t go into all the details—I had medicine for all the parasites trying to make their life by ruining mine. Then my mom and dad insisted that I stay in the boundaries of the house and the yard, or the problems from that old life would be back and cause all kinds of problems.

Oh, and I almost forgot! I wasn’t the only one the Beasleys chose! Check out my sister Trudy and my brother Malachi.the kitty sibs

Mal, actually they called him Bitty, was even worse off than I was when he was chosen. He was all by himself with no cat momma and no brothers or sisters. My mom heard him crying in a parking lot and he RAN to her. Now that’s following. He knew he needed to be rescued. I was so caught up in what I thought my life had to offer that I didn’t know I was living in a death factory! Bitty knew that his life meant sure death!

Now, Trudy was in a city pound like me. She was really sick when she was chosen, but she didn’t know it yet. She had something called distemper and when she got with the Beasleys she gave it to Bitty. They had to give medicine to both cats, which my mom said was hellish. Dad tells a story about trying to force them to take their medicine, but they kept fighting him off. See, they hadn’t figured out that tough part of being loved like I mentioned earlier. Dad had to tell them over and over, “If I don’t make you take the medicine, you’ll die!” Mom and Dad took a beating from those cats to make sure they got better.

chosen girls

The “after their own kind” sibs. We look different, but we were all chosen.

Eventually Mom and Dad adopted a couple of little girls—you know, after their own kind. I love those little girls. They do a lot of the loving! I do my best to love back, too. I bark and bark if anyone gets near the house. See, I know that’s my job as part of the family. It’s my gift! I scare the feet off of everybody so they won’t hurt my girls.

That's me in the early days, taking care of my girl Eden.

That’s me in the early days, taking care of my girl Eden.

Just a few more things about being chosen before I sign off. I live day in and day out with my Master and his family. I’m more like them now than like the dogs I used to run with! I’ve changed a lot! I’ve gotten so much better about the rules, but I still have to be disciplined sometimes. That’s OK. They are so sweet and forgiving, and even though I’m an old man now, they still teach me. Do you know that I even eat from the Master’s table? It’s true! They would never give me anything that’s bad for me—like chocolate. I got seizures when I stole Kisses from the girls’ Halloween candy. But Dad gives me good stuff, even a little steak here and there.

Here’s the thing about being chosen. I don’t miss the old life. I did a little at first. Then I realized how many good things came to me that never would have if I hadn’t followed. Now I follow and I follow and I follow. Mom’s in the kitchen? Me, too. Moves to the bedroom? Yep, I’m there. See, now I know that I was rescued—and just how horrible a place I was rescued from! And because I love my Rescuer more than anything, I won’t stop following!

Long ago, even before he made the world, God chose us to be his very own through what Christ would do for us; he decided then to make us holy in his eyes, without a single fault—we who stand before him covered with his love.  His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to! Ephesians 1:4-5 (TLB)

Obedience–Sans Medal, Joy Beyond Words

Matthew 1:18-25

My husband Todd and I are adoptive parents. We have two beautiful little girls, Eden and Emma Kate. Being their mommy is simultaneously the most fun, scary, costly, draining, exhilarating, most eternally consequential challenge I’ve ever taken on. Raising children, as you most likely already know, is a tremendous responsibility.  With that in mind, I can tell you with absolute certainty that there is no other honor on this planet like being chosen to raise someone else’s child.

We may make a big deal over our celebrities and their awards ceremonies and their acceptance speeches. We fawn over our athletes and their almost super-human feats. Trophies and big paychecks are seemingly the highest honor in the land. But success and accomplishments are not the same thing as someone studying your character and then selecting you over all the other candidates. Not once, but twice, someone looked closely at the Beasleys and drew the conclusion, “You are good enough for my baby.”  It’s a pretty awesome feeling. So….where’s my medal?

Now give some consideration to Mary and Joseph. The Creator chose them to raise His son.

Joseph is the one who really has a choice to make. Mary will become pregnant, for sure, and debating the angel is not likely to change her fate. But her fiancé could bail out on her if he chose to. Legally and culturally, he would have been completely within his rights to put her aside for someone else. Who would blame him?

But Matthew tells us that Joseph was righteous. His habit was to follow God’s law. He considered handling the situation in the most delicate way possible—to bow out but still protect Mary if possible. Already, he has my admiration. Most of us like to see others’ sins exposed when they’ve caused us grief. What God needs from Joseph is an act of obedience that would fill each of us with dread. It requires more than humility. He must put aside any plans that he has made for his own future—he must abandon his pride, his personal goals, his “right” to seek security and prosperity—all for the cause of Christ.

Righteousness is costly. Obedience has its price. The longer I walk with the Lord, the more aware I become of the continual call to yield to God’s authority. Each time I reach a fork in the road and choose to obey, I experience some loss. Maybe I’m abandoning the pursuit of something pleasurable. Or I am faced with giving up some ease or luxury that seems to come automatically to everyone else. Other times, it seems that I must give up my dreams in order to fulfill my responsibilities.

Likewise, the longer I walk with the Lord, the more I realize that He works and works and works (really hard…because I’m stubborn) to change my definition of the things that become obstacles to Him. Success takes on an altogether different meaning so that we don’t measure it by awards or a paycheck. Obedience has a way of converting that desire for pleasure into a deep longing for joy. Even our decisions become God’s to make.

Some years ago, my husband started making a lot of noise about wanting to plant a church. I gave him a hard time about it. Well, I tried to sound supportive, but really I was hoping he would come to his senses. He had a position on a church staff in Texas—a nice, safe job with a paycheck and benefits. Then he suggested moving to Arkansas and I thought, “Now you’ve just gone too far. Arkansas???”

Just abandoning all that security to take a risk was the big scare back then. But it’s actually even scarier in practice than I ever imagined. As it turns out, each step in this process is marked by that same fork in the road, “Now what, Beasley? Are you going to obey?”

We’ve done a lot of downsizing—our home, our lifestyle, not to mention our pride! When we decided to move, we didn’t have jobs. We’ll just trust God that He has jobs for us. Well, of course He did, but we never imagined how long we would be here before we had jobs that would actually pay the bills. I had quit teaching a few years ago because I wanted to write. In fact, I told Todd once that I would not teach school so he could plant a church. I applied for every job imaginable, but God gave me a job—you guessed it–teaching at a Christian school.

If I could name just one thing, the hardest thing, about yielding to God’s will by making this move, it would be giving up the pursuit of prosperity. We are so accustomed to the American dream that we think it’s our right to expect that bigger and better things will come our way as we get older. Social media ruins me on this. Everyone posts pictures of their new homes and their vacations. Compared to everyone else, it felt like we were going in reverse.  I would look at where we are and not just feel jealous, but a little ashamed.  Once I was looking at a church bulletin, perusing the bible studies being offered and upcoming events. I didn’t have the money to attend any conferences or workshops. I could come up with the fifteen dollars for bible study book, but decided I needed that money for other things. Even church was too expensive for me.

Here’s the crazy thing. Obeying God’s call to make this move has given us so much joy. The Lord has answered our prayers in the most amazing ways. I tell my students all the time, “Yes, there is a God. I’m teaching school and I love it.” They know my story. I didn’t want to go back to teaching at all. I viewed it as God making me give up my dream of being a writer. But I have never had more fun at a job, and every day I look forward to being with my kids.

Now, I could have stayed in Texas. In fact, I was sneaky enough with my pseudo-supportive wife act, that I’m sure I could have manipulated Mr. Beasley into staying right where we were.

And I would never have known the rewards of obedience.  It was costly, but I’m overwhelmed by blessings.

Joseph is faced with a choice. When God intervened, He said, “Do not be afraid.” I wonder if that was enough for Joseph. Do you suppose that he made the decision to obey, and the fear just–poof!–disappeared? Keep reading and you’ll find that obedience does not automatically equal safety. I find it interesting that Joseph could have avoided all those risks, but he would have missed seeing God at work!

We aren’t told much about Joseph as a dad, but since I’m raising two kiddos, I’ll read into it. I routinely look at my girls and gush to the Lord, “Thank you! Thank you for trusting me with these babies!”  If I have so much joy as a parent, what must it be like to watch the Savior grow and learn? How does it feel to watch baby Jesus, toddling along grabbing at pieces of furniture, steadying himself and then reaching to sit in your lap? Do you suppose Joseph, at the end of his life, regretted his decision to obey?

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Can you give an example of a time that God gave you joy when it was completely unexpected?
  • How do you respond when God presents you with something new? Do you feel like it’s an opportunity or that God is just asking too much?
  • What act of obedience have you been avoiding? What will it take for you to make the leap?