Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Week (or two) of Encouragement

If I had to define the last two weeks in one word  I would say, "Encouragement". I have never in my life experienced such a huge surge of encouragement. I have been at a crossroads for the last two weeks. Not sure which way to go. During that time, I received confirmation after confirmation, of God's will in my life.

I have, for many years, felt a callling into women's ministry, or full time ministry of some kind. I have always felt it would have an element of teaching, and women, but could never put a label on it. Since I first felt this calling, I have tried to take steps that, I believed, would take me towards that goal.

The funny thing about that is, God very often has other plans. I have always known that. I've seen Him move in my life in ways I would have rathered He not. Each time He makes one of these moves, however, I have always been able to look back and see the purpose in it. So, you would think that by this point in my life, I would begin to recognize when God is moving and get excited....oh how I wish! Rather I react as I always do...with much weeping and gnashing of teeth!

The most recent of these "moves", not counting the last two weeks, was when I married my sweet darling husband, and promtly moved to East Texas, away from my beloved big city. I cried, I worried, I begged God to provide a job in the city that would convince my husband to stay...but it did no good. A week after our wedding, I moved to my new home, with my new husband, to Tiny Town USA. It wasn't so much where we were moving to, as what we were leaving behind: my entire family. I am a family girl, as all good Italian girls are raised to be. My cousins are some of my best friends, really more like siblings than cousins. My aunts and uncles are more like surrogate parents and my grandparents are angels. My parents lived in another big city just down the road, and moving to East Texas doubled the distance between us. I was not at all sure I could handle the separation. I thrived on the crazy antics of my family. I was very scared for my new husband and prayed my homesickness wouldn't throw a kink in our first year of marriage.

Fortunatly, God is good, and I quickly learned that bonding with my husband was far more entertaining than missing my family. Not to say I didn't have my days, but when I did, my husband would drive with me down to see them, or suggest I skype with my parents. His incredible patience and understanding helped me get through the first few months, making them more of a dream than a nightmare. I love that my husband loves my family as much as I do, and understands and supports my relationship with is a blessing for which I will always be thankful.

To make life even easier, God provided me with a job that, I swear, I dreamed up. One night, before I started job searching, I wrote a list out of everything I wanted in a job...including not working past three o'clock on Fridays (which I believe to be a crime against humanity, by the way). I prayed that God would give me a job that fed my passion for women, marriage, and families. A few weeks later, I landed a job as Program Assistant for a state funded Marriage Education Program. Cherry on top: the office closes at noon on Fridays. :).

I cannot tell you how much I have learned in this position. Far beyond my administrative responsibilities, my supervisors trained me in facilitating Marriage education workshops, paid for my certification in several marriage curriculum and invested in me personally. The husband and wife duo that I was privledged to work for took me under their wing and poured into me, sharing everything they knew about the marriage and family education business.

But every good thing must end. And when the funding for our program was cut, that's just what happened. I'll admit, despite the fact that I would be out of a job in 6 months time, I was excited when I learned the program was ending. I know that sounds backwards, but I was excited because I believed that whatever the next step was, it was going to be another step towards my goal to work in women's ministy. I even dared to think that perhaps my next job would be in women's ministry!

See, what I loved most about my job was that it was directly related to my passion. I was a part of something bigger than me, somewhere I could see God working every day in the couples we served. My heart was filled with satisfaction every day I left. I thought surely the next step would be to move into the ministry God had called me to.

Thus my struggle for the last two weeks. You see, a week after we learned our program was ending I was offered another position in a different program. It was a pay raise, my milage and cell phone would be paid for, benefits...still get off at noon on Fridays...the whole shebang! So why is this a bad thing?

I would be teaching teens and selling curriculum to schools...which combines my two worst enemies: Sales and School teaching. I DREAD asking people to buy stuff from me (which is why I made a crummy girl scout), it turns my stomache into knots...but not as many knots as the idea of standing infront of a classroom full of teens. This job was way outside of my comfort zone and certaintly not "en route" to a job in women's ministry. I coudn't help but question if this was realllyy what God wanted for my next job.

Please don't get me wrong- I am DEEPLY appreciative to have a job flat out handed to me in this economy. I realize that many people are without jobs at this time, and I don't mean to minimize their position. I was grateful to have the job, just questioning whether it was in fact what God had in mind for me.

I asked for a little more time to think about the offer, to determine if this was really something I could do. And that's when the encouragement started. First my husband, then my college girl friends, my parents, and finally, several coworkers. Never in my life have I heard God speak so loudly OVER AND OVER again. I would seriously be near tears, torn over passing on the job because it wasn't in line with my ultimate goal and taking it because I had no other options and it was fantastic pay. Suddently someone would call or walk in and speak STRAIGHT to my unspoken fears.

I'm still nervous about standing up infront of a room full of teens, but I am confident this is where God has me, and I trust He wouldn't give me a job and then leave me for the lions! Most importantly, despite my not seeing the connection with my calling, I trust that this is part of His plan and is purposful, just like moving to East Texas. So, I'm done stressing out and I'm going to praise my God that His ways are higher than mine, and that He is a wonderful provider and my constant encourager.

Thanks if you read all this! You're pretty great, I hope you are encouraged. If God is doing something in your life that you don't understand, I pray you'll remember that He always has a plan and a purpose. ALWAYS.