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.

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?

 

An Open Valentine to the Good Rev, Todd Beasley

Alright, ok. So we said we wouldn’t do Valentine’s Day, not even cards, this year. Are we Grinches, or what? No, we certainly are not. Money is tight and time is at a premium, so we are conserving all of that plus our energy for a night out without the kiddos. Good for us.

Except that I can’t shake this nagging feeling that I—a would be writer—should do just that. I could spend all afternoon at Hallmark, but what card would say what I would write to you? Lately I keep having these moments, really sweet moments of revelation, where I am suddenly aware of how great a life I have because I’m your wife. At the same time, I’ve always thought we should share more of our story. People expect ministers to have perfect marriages and perfect families. I wonder who needs to hear how much we’ve changed. How we played with that temptation that maybe we shouldn’t be together at all. What we have is an unlikely love story. It’s a love story that was strangely devoid of love for quite a long while.

If ever a marriage was a beauty for ashes story, I think it’s ours. Not because of infidelity or unforgiveness or debt or any of those things that is usually associated with marital pressure. For us it was naivete, selfishness, indifference, and dare I say…ignorance? Dumb kids. That was us in days of yore, but luckily, we were just smart enough to realize that our God is great and that He is in the business of bringing the dead to life. So it was with our marriage—a lifeless, lightless coexistence. Yet, here we are—walking in the light. Together.

So your valentine would like to share with you a few of the revelations that make me so grateful that God intervened. And, as I must be true to the blogging force that says all articles must be numbered—I give you five evidences that God redeemed our union.

5. I cracked a joke about thinking years ago that our marriage was in trouble because you never laughed at my jokes. Really, that isn’t far from the truth. It seemed like I had kids laughing all day long, and yet all my humor was wasted on you. Why you don’t enjoy the same borderline inappropriate humor that I share with eighth graders is a mystery. I figured it out years later. I’m a cut-up because I like the attention. In fact, I think we both had these weird ways of trying to get each other’s attention which invariably failed to satisfy. We don’t have to perform for each other like that anymore. Who even knows what changed? You are attentive and so generous with your time. And FUNNY. In the years since we surrendered all our mess to the Lord, we’ve cracked each other up. I wish I had a dollar for every time I wanted to post something you said or did and just couldn’t because it was, ya know, borderline (or over the line) inappropriate.

4. I have a big crush on my pastor. That’s right, baby. You’re the only one for me. Maybe you’ve forgotten this, but I haven’t. I did not—DID NOT—want to marry a minister. As I recall, you did NOT want to pastor, and I was soothed by the notion that your seminary degree would be a great benefit as you sought a job on a college campus or something less churchy than a pastorate. How could I have possibly known how suited we would be for each other in the ministry? At what point did I round that corner and say, “Yes. We should plant a church. You will pastor and I will teach”? No one on this planet knows better than you do how ridiculous—inane, really—it is for me to WANT to teach school. And that I would do it so you could pastor? People, there is a God. He wants to change you at a molecular level. Trust me. I testify.

3. Here’s a crazy one, babe. We don’t have the things we were running after when we took our vows. We, in fact, have taken a really hard road. On. Purpose. Sometimes I think we are just plain crazy. At the same time, I have never been happier. Rather than stomping my feet because I’m not getting to run hard and fast after “my dreams”, I am more often asking God, “What’s next for the Beasleys?” And the weird thing is, there is so much JOY in it. What happened to all that resentment and stubbornness? Our life has been hard for the last several years. There have been many times when I thought we would never reach a place of rest. I don’t think we’re resting yet, but I’m at peace. And we get to do this together. That makes me happy, love.

2. When I was single, I had a little checklist of things I prayed for in a husband. I got pretty good at sizing up a dating situation based on my list. Remember the day I checked that last thing off the list with you? To be perfectly honest, I was attracted enough to you that I probably could have omitted a thing or two. But I was still interested in knowing if you had saved sex for marriage. I figured that you hadn’t and I was prepared to say that it didn’t matter to me. Maybe it didn’t matter that much at that point. You were walking with the Lord—I could see that. I admired your integrity. It was when I walked down the aisle that I realized how important that last item on the list truly is. You looked so far away and small at the other end of the aisle. When you came into focus, I remember sucking in my breath and thinking, “That man waited 27 years for me.” Twenty. Seven. Years. I almost hyper-ventilated. Thank you for bestowing that honor on me. It is truly foundational to the way I view you as a man, as a husband, as a daddy to our little girls. Every time I think about it, I fall deeper in love with you.
I prayed for a man who would be a good father, and for you it’s effortless. The other day when you were helping Emma Kate with her reading, she was discouraged and said she wanted to quit. You said, “Okay, well I’m going to read it.” When you proceeded to read it incorrectly on purpose, she would giggle and correct your mistakes. You are a master at getting the best out of them. I literally watched you from the kitchen, with my heart skipping beats and everything in me turning to mushy goo. A friend, who married long before I did, told me that seeing her husband as “the daddy” made him all the more sexy to her. I thought it was weird back then. Now I get it.

1. I know you don’t like it when I call you the Reverend. Really I should repent for pestering you like that. Do you know why I do it? I’m so proud of you, Rev. You are wise and have such a gift to communicate His Word. There was a time when we couldn’t figure out what we’d gotten ourselves into and why we’d chosen each other. Remember those days? They’re long gone. I was twice selected to be Mrs. Todd Beasley—by you and by God. You better believe I wear it with the utmost pride.

You wondered if you were dropping the ball because we aren’t “doing” Valentine’s Day. I don’t think so at all. I love dramatic, showy gestures as much as the next girl, but lately our life has been a dramatic, showy epic of faith. Our lives are woven with special moments daily. I was satisfied sitting on the bed yesterday, laughing with you at our girls’ shrieks and giggles and antics in the other room. My heart was full hearing you pray over our girls at bedtime. Flowers would be no better than you holding my hand in the car and praying over the house we hope to buy.

Love of my life, I’m so thankful that you’re mine –on the 14th of February and every other day. As Grinchy as I am, I think I have to follow convention and say…Happy Valentine’s Day.

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3 (NLT)

Mad Skillz–er–Skills. See Katie Spell.

Been on a job hunt lately? Dumb question. I’ve seen the unemployment numbers. Obviously a big chunk of the American population is looking. Let me make my apologies to any of you who are looking for a job because you lost one. Reading anything that I have to say on the subject is bound to aggravate you. I left my teaching job quite deliberately. My best friend said to me on the week I gave my notice, “Katie, you’re so funny. Everyone’s hanging on to their jobs for dear life and you just up and quit.” We used to have classrooms right next door to each other. She updates me periodically on the changes in the district, such as insurance. It’s not exactly a cut in salary, but when you don’t get as much help paying for insurance as before,  it amounts to less pay—a whole lot less if you happen to get sick.

Yep, I’ll bet the Beasleys are a touch irksome to people who didn’t leave a job by choice or whose pay doesn’t keep pace with increased living expenses.  “Katie, you’re so funny…” Yes, I’m hilarious.  I’m thoroughly amused by myself. I’m laughing all the way to the bank…to squeeze the last penny from our tax refund.

If you read my most recent post, you know that my husband and I are moving our family from Orange, Texas, to Little Rock. We made the decision to go this summer whether we had secured jobs or not. It’s been a year since my last paycheck, and Todd just gave up a perfectly good job so that we could free-fall into whatever God provides.  Ever heard that bible verse about waiting on the Lord and mounting up with wings like eagles? Well, I’m waiting on that eagle to swoop in before we go SPLAT!

Here’s what it’s like to apply for jobs in a city, state, where you don’t yet have an address. Silence. Eerie, awful, prolonged silence. Not even the peaceful chirp of a solitary cricket. It’s so quiet, it’s deafening. For the first time since college, I was passed over for multiple teaching positions. The last few jobs that I really wanted, I got. Not so in The Natural State. I am plagued by the suspicion that a few superintendents got together and agreed, no doubt while exchanging sinister chuckles, “Yeah, we don’t want her kind around here!!”

None of that matters, though, because I now have a part-time position at a Christian school. Whew. Once again, I can’t doubt God’s existence when He so obviously provides what I need and not what I thought I needed. Full-time teaching jobs suck all the energy out of me. Had I been hired by a school district, I would have effectively put a writing career on hold–again. I admit, the full-time pay would be nice and meet a need. But my other half is still looking.

My husband and I both have seen how ridiculous it is to look for a job in a new city. How much more difficult a road to navigate when you apply for jobs outside of your field.  I actually got booted off of an online application for a job which listed a GED as the minimum education requirement. If I hadn’t already jumped off the cliff (still listening for the flap of an eagle’s wing), this would have sent me over the edge. It tossed me out of the pool of applicants because—get this—I’m not qualified to be a receptionist because I’ve never worked in an office. Do you know why I’ve never worked in an office, stupid nameless, faceless, cyber-whoever-you-are but-certainly-not-human­­­­­-resources? Because a teacher acts as her own secretary, that’s why. They take phone messages for me in the school office, but other than that, I handle all my own phone calls, emails, messages, files, documents, records.  I create, delegate, negotiate, evaluate, present, persuade, and placate. I am professional, I am articulate, and I have run away leadership skills. I taught eighth grade for eleven years. I CAN GET ALONG WITH ANYBODY. Seriously. There must be a better way to weed through applicants.

Even more daunting for a minister seeking secular employment, I’m sure. If it frustrates me being denied the opportunity to hand my resume in person to potential employers who might be ignorant of the skill it requires to teach kids, then certainly Todd’s job search is an uphill climb. Every one is somewhat familiar with a teacher’s daily routine.  But a minister? Most people probably have no frame of reference for Christian ministry to begin with. Until we started putting resumes together, even I was in the dark. I can tout my abilities to get a middle schooler to crank out five paragraphs, but I have a grade to hold over the child’s head. Ministers have volunteers to work with. I was in charge of a group of volunteers a few years ago, and listen, people, that’s like herding cats. Moreover, in the ministry the authority pyramid is warped a bit because, even though the minister is in charge, the congregation pays the salary. Talk about skill. Administration. Communication. Presentation. Negotiation. Persuasion. And all this with integrity and a sincere desire to make a difference. Companies should be climbing over each other to interview Todd.

Mulling this over in front of the TV last night, I realized that the obvious solution is starring in a reality series.  People with much less “real” work experience and virtually no education have far more earning potential. Ah! A solution! Let’s run through a quick list of possibilities, shall we?

Picking? Too much travel.

Little Rock is nowhere near an ice road, ocean, or swamp. Shucks.

Too dignified for Jersey, not near dysfunctional enough for Kardashian. Rats. That was secretly my first choice.

Wait a minute, babe. I’ve GOT it. Pest control! Rounding up a racoon and her brood is a little like herding cats. Transfer skill! First of all, the location is perfect! Plenty of critters in Arkansas, I’m sure. So let’s just check the requirements:

  • Wild man call? Not a problem.
  • Talk as ignorantly as possible? It will take some practice.
  • An accent so thick it requires subtitles? For the money, you can sure get one.
  • Experience working with animals? Some, yes. I recall a story about how you trapped a possum once. Whether you want to put your hand into muddy water to retrieve a snapping turtle is up in the air. We’ll see how desperate we get.
  • Catchy nickname? Keep in mind that Turtle Man is taken.
  • Big ol’ gap where your front teeth ought to be?

Aww, dad gummit!! That’s the deal breaker right there, babe. You have too many teeth. I know you won’t go for an extraction, and I don’t want to kiss a toothless face.

So where does this leave us? Right where we were. Leaping.  I read in Sarah Young’s devotional book Jesus Calling that “it is virtually impossible to stumble while walking in the Light with [the Lord].” Likewise, we can’t stumble during a free-fall.

I Know My Limitations. I Live in Here.

A great friend of mine texted me recently, “You amaze me with your faith.” She knows me better than just about anybody, so I’m sure she wasn’t dazzled for long. I cringe when someone says something like that to me because, if I may be permitted to borrow a line from Rock of Ages’ Stacee Jaxx, “I live in here.”

I like to pretend I have it all together, but I’m overly prone to stress, an easy scare, not a risk taker, a good candidate for a sundry of meds…you get the idea.

I’ve been describing my most recent circumstances as a journey of faith and fear. There could not be a better description of life as I now know it. Here’s what’s happening. A number of years ago, my husband started ruminating on a desire to plant a church. That is, he wants to start a church from scratch—no congregation, no building, no salary, no insurance, no IRA, no security. You see where this is going, right?

Admittedly, I didn’t take him all that seriously at first.  At about the time that he expressed an interest in church planting, both of our fathers had life threatening health crises within about six weeks of each other. To our great relief, they both recovered, but this segued into a conversation about how–possibly, perhaps, maybe, someday, at some ill-defined point in the future–we should consider moving to a location between our parents. A location such as–let’s say–Arkansas, or more specifically, Little Rock. That’s roughly halfway between Fort Worth , Texas, and Creal Springs, Illinois. No need to google Creal Springs, folks, I will enlighten you.  It’s in Southern Illinois near Marion and Carbondale (Any grads of SIU out there? Go Salukis!)—about the same distance north and east of Little Rock as Fort Worth is south and west.

This was all sort of theoretical back then. We were established in Southeast Texas and obviously God had work for us to do.  Hurricane Ike had blown through, creating all kinds of mayhem, and we wanted to stay and see our church through a rough patch. Moving to plant a church was like this disturbing dream where I keep reaching for a doorknob but it is always just a fingernail’s length out of reach.  I can’t decide if I want the door opened, but something compels me to keep reaching. Even asleep, I’m vaguely aware that what is on the other side of the door is at least unsettling, if not a nightmare. Still, we only discussed a possible move someday.

When my father became terminally ill last year, we had to give this move a lot more consideration. Todd is an only child living twelve hours away from home. My recently widowed mother is finding her way without my dad after 47 years of marriage. Being equally accessible to them as they age makes sense. My husband began networking a little, so moving to Arkansas suddenly wasn’t just a whim residing somewhere over the rainbow. Then, in the last six months, things picked up quite a bit. We made a trip to Little Rock over spring break to check out the opportunities. Dave, a church planter and friend, drove us around the city and discussed all the locations and possibilities. Nothing captured my attention until he said something about starting a “multi-ethnic” church.

Sometimes, it just takes a word and the dots connect. All he had to do was throw it out there like one of so many other options. It sounded distinctly in my ear while everything else downgraded instantly to background noise. Multi-ethic. Cross-cultural. Many-colored. Did I mention that our children are bi-racial? A blend, just like my family. How beautiful! No longer is this solely my husband’s vision and only sort of my ministry but just by association. I’m not just along for the ride anymore. It’s my call, too. Not the decision type of call—the higher type of call.

The opportunity to plant a church in Arkansas is there, and really all that’s left to do is take that proverbial leap of faith, make the move, and get to work. EEE. GAD.

Now, an easy way to approach this is to wait for a “parent” church to get onboard and provide a stipend or a salary of some sort. We could do that. All this time that we theoretically talked about planting a church, I naively believed that there would be some kind of funding from the get go. However, there is no guarantee that any church will ever assist us. Plus, regardless of the timing, Todd will have to be a bi-vocational minister in order to be a part of this project. I simply had never realized this before we had a real opportunity on the table. Oddly, I’m the one who proposed that we move this summer, whether we have jobs or not, so that our children can start in their new school this fall. Doesn’t sound much like me. I am, after all,  the person for whom stress balls were invented.

The reason I can confidently say no one should be amazed at my faith is that I’ve lived with me for the last four months. Why did I ever think that I could handle stress like this? Keeping the secret alone had me climbing the very walls! And looking for a job? I was categorically unprepared for the anxiety of looking for a job when I’ve been wanting to transition into writing for so long anyway! What if I end up being the bread-winner and I’m locked into working full-time for years to come? Then there is the question of getting this house sold. Money is so tight. Moving is so expensive. Holy cow. Too many variables. Too many things that I have to trust God with ALL AT ONE TIME.

Still, it’s done. Todd announced his resignation even though neither of us had jobs. We had been unable to secure even a bridge in Arkansas to live under, and all the while our house in Orange has been on the market since May without so much as a nibble. For several months, we have both been looking furiously for employment. I had several promising opportunities, including two interviews, for full-time positions with benefits. Nothing came of any of it.  Finally, a week after Todd resigned, God opened a door for me to teach part-time at a Christian school, the same school where my children will attend (no, we aren’t paying for the tuition—that’s gift from my sweet momma!).  Although this won’t do near enough to meet our financial needs, Todd insisted that I take this job. He knows that part-time employment is best for his hyper-stressed wife. What’s good for the goose, ya know…plus, I can work and still make time to write.

Once I committed to a job with a start date on August 1st, we had to find housing even if we don’t have the money to pay for it.  We found a house to rent, for which I’m very grateful. The landlords are friends of some dear friends, are taking our word for it that we are good for the rent, and are kind enough to allow us to keep our enormous dog, Zacchaeus, in the house. This is no small answer to prayer. Zacky was my baby when I couldn’t have babies. I couldn’t bear the thought of giving him away.

Housing and a job for Katie. Those two things we can check off the list.  I thoroughly enjoyed my first day after accepting the teaching gig because I didn’t have to troll the internet for a job I don’t really want in the first place. We still lack a job for Todd and for our house in Orange to sell. I don’t know how to trust God with this except to just keep saying, “Hey, God, I trust you with this.” In fact, when I really feel low, I mentally cash in my Matthew 6:33 chips, wag my finger toward Heaven and remind Him, “You promised!”

Twelve years ago, Todd and I were in a similar predicament. He was pastor of a small church that couldn’t really afford a full-time minister. I had a miscarriage about six weeks before we moved to Tulsa for this job, so I was pretty fragile. Then the church’s lack of funds became increasingly obvious. They had to cut our insurance just a few months after he started, and we had planned on getting pregnant again. I vividly remember Todd delivering the news about how the decision had been made, how we would have to pay thus-and-such amount when the church had promised otherwise before we moved. Todd, although pretty discouraged, spoke calmly from the recliner across the room from me. On the other hand, I responded the way you would expect someone to respond when they match the description above.

Collapsing at his side on the floor, I hung my top half over the arm of the chair and wailed, “What if God brought us here just so we could sink?!

I love this man. He said, “Okay. So, if God brought us here to sink, is that okay?” He didn’t have to elaborate. I’ve never forgotten it. I hope I never will.

The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me;

 your love, O LORD, endures forever—

do not abandon the works of your hands.

                                    Psalm 138:8

My best-laid home improvement plans so oft go awry…spiritually speaking…

Let’s hear it for the American middle-class homeowner.

“Hey, where should we hang this? It makes great décor.”

My fine husband had removed the liner of our shower curtain—the one he bought many months ago. The one made not of vinyl, but of water resistant fabric. The one which we, scratch that, I would (theoretically) take down from time to time and wash with bleach.  Ergo, we should (theoretically) always have a sparkling white cloth hanging inside the tub. After a year of neglect, it is now bespeckled with a mildew pattern resembling a hyena’s coat. Ah, the best-laid plans of mice and home owners so oft go awry.

We’ve been on a home improvement kick lately. This is a cycle in our lives. Scratch that. This would be a cycle in our lives if ever we completed the cycle.

I can always feel it coming on because I find myself watching too much DIY network.  The good news is that this time around I’ve had some irrefutable moments of insight and clarity. Many times of late, I have exclaimed aloud while watching a few of these shows, “Why on earth would you put a $40,000 bathroom in that house?” Seriously.  The understated living room whispers a plain-Jane, live-within-your-means lifestyle. Does it make sense, then, to knock out the walls of your guest room to clear a space for a fireplace and mini-bar in the same room where you bathe and (how’s a nice way to put this?) eliminate waste? I scoff ever more loudly at the landscaping shows that take ordinary, easily maintained, kid-friendly backyards and transform them into the Fantasy Island set.

“We want a space for us and for the kids,” the homeowner invariably says. In response, the designer cordons off an area smaller than my laundry room for the child to have the batting cage he has always dreamed of—as if a kid will never desire to do anything in the backyard but swing a bat.

Once upon a time I watched these shows and dreamed of an outdoor kitchen, shower jets to douse me from all directions, not one but two ovens, and an indoor grill. In the ten years we’ve been in this house, I must have wised up. These days, my first thought when I see these glimmering amenities is ack, I would hate to have all that to clean!

The shower curtain got its one and only bleach bath when I—scratch that—Todd bothered to take it off those tedious little rings.  This is, on the average, more often than my one oven gets cleaned. And it’s a self cleaning oven. Who am I kidding? I can’t be trusted with two.

I was ruminating on this on the phone with my mom.  We were having a good laugh about how gross we can be with things other people aren’t likely to see.

“There’s a spiritual application here, you know.” For those as biblically wise as my mother, there’s always a spiritual application. As usual, she’s right.

I’ve been doing a lot of searching in the last year. Todd was so sweet to —not begrudgingly agree—but encourage me to quit my teaching job and explore writing as a career change or consider going back to school. It’s impossible to describe how difficult it has been to pray and wait for God’s answers. I am still unsure of what His answers are exactly, but I can confidently say that this year has not been wasted at all.

 Still, for all the spiritual benefit of the soul search itself, how often have I pouted with God that His plan isn’t dramatic enough or lacks that flashy quality for all the neighbors to envy?  I mean, really! Shouldn’t we be able to transform the direction of my life in a weekend? C’mon, God! Let’s have the big reveal already!

I have this mental picture of God, leaning on his elbow over the arm of His jeweled throne, saying, “Wow, that shower curtain is grody. Let’s start small, shall we?” This reminds me of a verse about being trustworthy with little things before being blessed with greater things. In this case, how trustworthy have I been with the grunt work? Have I put in my dues?

I resent it as much as the next person when it’s suggested that I let go and let God. It frustrates me, too, when I can’t escape the Godly counsel that He is taking His time because He’s working on me.  But that doesn’t make it any less true.  The last year has been an overhaul of me. It has been very, very painful, but I’m so grateful for the net result. I’ve never loved Him more.

My aforementioned, oh-so-wise mother told me once, “God doesn’t always give us direct answers to our questions. He always reveals who He is.”

Talk about the big reveal.

 Every time God takes me in a new direction, it’s always a perfect fit, no matter how painful the road may be.  It’s nothing like the backyard that suits me completely but slights my family members. 

Furthermore, because He is a very thorough God, His rehab of my life would not devote one-third of the value of the entire house solely to the bathroom.

For God’s priceless plan, a plan for my benefit and fulfillment and for His glory and Kingdom, a plan where He is revealed more and more and my love for Him keeps deepening, that’s the big reveal I’m waiting for—if somewhat impatiently. 

So bring it, Lord. In the meantime, I am tackling the shower curtain and a few similarly grody tasks.

 

 

Come to think of it, I never go gentle into that good night.

Well, here it is. Opportunity knocking.  More like bull-dozing its way into the vestibule of my mid-life. I’ve started this blog because…. (slight pause for a deep breath)…I’m a writer. Gulp. I said it.  There is a big ol’ hairy back story that explains the phobia of declaring my writing intentions, a back story which will no doubt make a fine appearance in this and future posts.

If the About page doesn’t include enough interesting tidbits about me, the following are probably more revealing:

Katie is–

  • A total basket case….a snapshot of this beauty will come frighteningly into focus in future posts. I have some former students who can testify to my inability to make it through a 45 minute class period without becoming emotional about something. Last night, I pleased myself immensely by sitting through an entire graduation ceremony without boo-hooing. Short lived joy, as it were. I cried as I hugged the graduates afterwards then sobbed in the car on the way home because I miss teaching.
  • Forty-two. I could smack people on Facebook who wish you a happy 40th birthday and then tell you that your 40’s are the best decade ever. Puh-lease.  I have not gone gentle into that good night.
  • Married to the world’s nicest guy–you know, heismrbeasley while also able to claim the username heisreverendbeasley. I could fill a book about marriage, and actually I plan to eventually. But for now, I cannot over emphasize this: I love Todd Beasley. Period.
  • A mom to two beautiful girls, a seven year old and four year old.  The story of how I became a mother is also book worthy.  We’re adoptive parents and are grateful to a wise and sovereign God who chose us to suffer through many, many miscarriages so that we could be Mommy and Daddy to Misses Eden and Emma Kate.
  • A laughter hog…I think the hardest I’ve laughed recently was at a Phineas and Ferb episode.  I’m always disappointed when my daughters opt for Spongebob.  The hardest I’ve ever laughed at a movie was Get Him to the Greek.  There’s a 5 minute scene in that movie that’s a from your gut, belly-bustin’, total bladder failure but you don’t care because there’s always Depends laugh.
  • An aspiring people person…The project for my 30’s was to quit trying to overhaul myself into an extrovert.  Today I can say to my husband with only minimal guilt, “I have to get away from you people before I LOSE WHAT’S LEFT OF MY MIND. “ Insert audio of the ubiquitous Spongebob in the background, and some of you can easily relate.
  • A life-long learner plagued with the I can’t ever finish anything disease—which is closely related to the genetic disorder, perfectionism. Someday, SOMEDAY, I will finish a sewing project, and I pray it’s the heirloom Christmas stockings and matching Christmas tree skirt I’ve started over and over and over and over…
  • A chronic over-extender who can’t multi-task to save a life and for this reason I’m also an–
  • On and off again school teacher. The multi-tasking element of teaching combined with self-deprecation brought on by hyper-perfectionism wears me out a bit—which brings me to my career goals…

I made a momentous decision in January 2011: to leave the teaching profession for GOOD. Of course, with the clumsy grace that only a self-proclaimed basket case possesses, I simultaneously:  A.  ground my 13 year career into a powder for the purpose of ceremoniously tossing it off the proverbial small town Texas overpass,  and  B. clung desperately to my lifetime teacher’s certificate, repeating the not even all that comforting mantra, “I can always come back to teaching.”

One other disclaimer before you read on, I’m a bona fide, card carrying Jesus freak. I know what you’re thinking, but when you read that I’m a Christian, kindly refrain from assuming that I’m religious. I didn’t bring it up to make anyone feel threatened or to resurrect some painful memory where the church deeply wounded you.  I simply believe that someone died so that I could live, and I’ve put my faith in Him for salvation.  Because this blog is all about facing down my fears (i.e. writing for public consumption), my faith is on the table. For instance, I wouldn’t be doing this at all if I hadn’t met Holly. She was my roommate when I ran the Savannah Rock-n-Roll half marathon with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training last November. I’d been praying about how to get started with this new chapter of my life. I didn’t particularly want to share a room with a complete stranger, but she (is awesome, by the way) encouraged me to give blogging a try and also had a number of suggestions for tapping into my creativity. Some would say it was just my good fortune that I met someone who inspired me. Some would say it was coincidence. This Jesus freak says that I prayed some rather desperate prayers for direction and He answered. It’s perfectly okay for us to agree to disagree.

As far as identifying my goals for the future, I don’t even know what to say. It is a lie to say that I don’t feel a tug back toward the classroom, especially after last night. One of the most talented students of my career told me that I was his favorite teacher. I had already given him a hug, congratulated him and told him how proud I was. Ten minutes later as I was leaving, he chased me down to tell me that I was his favorite. Dang it.  I’m tired of rethinking this decision.

One beautiful thing about running everything by God is that the decision isn’t really mine. When He puts me back in the classroom, back to lesson planning I go. For now, I’m sticking with this–

I’m a writer.