Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Things...

2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

It's a new year! 2017... It's hard to believe it kinda. I remember when 2000 seemed like such a big deal, a new century! Now here we are, almost 20 years later. (yikes!) Even though it's a new year, those who are in Christ have the gift of newness every morning! I posted this on Facebook earlier, and wanted to "declare" a little of the goodness of God in my life. 

January has a tendency to mark big changes in my life. Especially starting in 2012 when I walked into my first recovery meeting and realized that I needed to be there. A step out of denial that I had it all together and a decision to surrender my struggles to the only One that could handle them. This January will be just like the others. I've taken another step towards trying to put our lives back together, all the while remembering the way to do that is through surrender. It's gonna be another hard year, I know that, but with grace and miracles and beauty strewn throughout it just like 2016. Praying for each of you as well, my friends. This year is full of growth that can be found in surrender. He knows the plans He has for you. Have peace and hold on to that. 

2016 started hard, was hard in the middle, and ended hard. (Honestly, I could say that about every single year. And some more than others...) But it wasn't hard without the reward of growth, even more closeness to Christ, and being witness to more miracles.  Probably the biggest change leading me into this new year is a new job!  As many of you know, circumstances financially have been strained for a LONG time. Honestly, even back when things looked 'together' they were a complete and utter disaster at the root.  Every January (just happens to work that way), I get one step closer to financial freedom again! For years God has given me opportunities to work and survive as the only income for our family while also having two little kiddos at home. People ask all the time "How do you do it!?" Well, I don't! He does. He does through numerous jobs, through friends, through strangers... His provision is amazing. Even providing financial classes and mentoring early on, so I'd know how to steward the gifts that would come. (Look back at your life, so much of His goodness is in hindsight!) I knew at one point that I would need to move to full time work. I wasn't sure how this would look and have been praying about it for the last few years.  Even though I wasn't sure how it would even be possible, He was. He has taken care of every detail, and dumped something in my lap this year that I couldn't have imagined. Perfect timing, perfect step forward, perfect opportunity for my family. For me to work full time, have full benefits, without my boys spending a moment in childcare. What a gift. 

But the work I've been doing the last several years has also been such a gift. All four of the part time jobs I have, random hours and all, have been such a blessing to me so much more than just financially. But in order to work a full time job, I had to say goodbye to one of the most special jobs I've ever had in my life; teaching music at Promiseland Preschool in Brentwood.  There is nothing like working with the most beautiful team of God fearing women, praying with these women each morning, worshiping and praying with almost 100 kids every day and teaching them about Jesus and His love... I cried for almost a week about leaving. Unfortunately, the boys caught me in tears a few times, but it was a good lesson for them. Change can be hard. Sometimes stagnant can feel comfortable, and being stretched can be painful, but comfortable is never really where we wanna be. Being stretched has always looked beautiful, at least in hindsight. It was hard, but these types of hard things in my life have always ended up being the right things. I wrote this letter to the parents and children of the school to share the goodness of God in the midst of the sadness of my leaving. 

Dear Promiseland families,

I’m writing to share with you the goodness of God in my life!  The Christmas Program is always the pinnacle of the year for me. Hearing almost 100 children singing the story of Jesus, from the BIGNESS of our Creator, to the tiny baby He sent to save the world, and the Amazing Grace offered to us through the sacrifice of his one and only Son; it humbles me. What an honor to have so many of you there!

In late 2012, I heard a very clear message while praying aloud my frustrations on the car ride to church. I felt the Spirit was moving me to start kids worship on Sunday mornings at our Franklin Campus.  I didn't have much prior experience in teaching, or working with kids, and really no interest. I thought for sure God couldn’t mean KIDS... I felt so ill equipped. I knew nothing about kids' music and wasn’t even sure what it looked like to lead worship music. There was no way I was made for this, or would even be any good at it. But God knew. I took a step forward in faith and almost immediately I felt connected to the kids, and a passion for leading them began. Serving in this way eventually led me to my position at Promiseland in January 2014. I had never taught music before and had no idea what I was going to do with a bunch of sweet preschoolers (and toddlers!).  Again, God knew.
My time at Promiseland has blessed my life tremendously. It has blessed me financially, it blessed my children who both attended the program, and most of all it has blessed my heart to teach, sing, dance, worship, and pray with each of your children during the week. It has been some of my most precious times in the past three years. Our God knew me so much better than I knew myself. He knew that leading children would become a passion in my life, He knew what a gift this program would be to my family and me, and He knew that this position would prepare me for the next step forward in my life. A few weeks ago I accepted a full time position at a local elementary school.  Yet again, I felt a little ill equipped and sad to think His provision could be leading me away from Promiseland. But He knew. He knew how things would work out long before I did. And I have learned to listen, take a step even if it’s in blind faith, and let Him work out the details. As He promised, He has done just that. He has supernaturally filled my position at Promiseland and worked out all of the kinks. He has used this job that has blessed me tremendously, to bless someone else. And let me tell you, He hasn’t left out a single detail.  

This is not, and never was about me. He has used my weakness and inexperience to tell His story and show His strength.  I am grateful to continue to surrender and let Him take me where He will and use me for His glory. Your children are so special to me. Every hug, every laugh, every high five, every smile… These are memories and moments I will cherish always. I have laughed and cried with them, worshiped and prayed with them, and shared with them stories of God’s goodness and love. That is why I am writing today. As sad and hard as change can be, let’s bless God in His goodness and share the stories of his provision in every situation. Please tell this to your children. God is working, and it may feel sad at first, but we can trust He is always GOOD. He is taking care of me, and will take care of them. Because He knows. 

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’ Jer. 29:11
Miss Shanna 

The way he has replaced my position helps fulfill the beginnings of a life dream for one person, and fills up the transition time for another. All along he had these wonderful women picked out for this time, and when He was ready He offered me a step of faith.  I'm so thankful I took that step (I've learned to always take that step!) and it all worked together perfectly.

Additionally, this full time job (and the most amazing deal ever) has given me the opportunity to own my first vehicle in almost 10 years!  I swear I've cried more in December than probably all year. So much change, so many goodbyes, like saying goodbye to this dear friend. Civi (a sweet Civic who we called "Civi" because the "c" had fallen off the logo on the back) has been there for us for the past 4.5 years. She started as something to get us to and from the grocery store, and out of the heat, but became a part of our family. I can't imagine where'd I'd be without her, truly. One of the best gifts in my life. (Even if she was only borrowed) There with us through the hardship, growth, hurt, and joy... She has been dependable, gotten me to and from life changing recovery meetings (3 a week to start!) and even though I never imagined using her for much more than trips to the grocery store, she has held up to drive me all over for work and traveling to visit family, and only a few middle-of-the-road breakdowns... ha! But time was running out for her... Going on 17 years old, she needed to find a place where she could be fixed up a final time and finish her life helping out someone else. And because of my new job opportunity, I was able to upgrade the vehicle to something that will be so much more efficient (and roomy!) for our family for years to come. I can't even BELIEVE that I am able to own a car again!! God is so good... So so so so good.  

Sometimes I feel like I am 34 going on 24. Starting over, from the ground up, just with two kiddos along for the ride this time. This job isn't some huge financial upgrade (I'm still keeping my other 2 part time jobs), but it's a good transition job with lots of potential and a lot of my coworkers are doing just that (just in their early 20s.. ha!). But the hours and benefits are MORE that I could have ever asked for. Perfect for right now. Upgrading and owning your own vehicle also feels like a "post college" move... A step out into the "real world". But ya know what? Though I may not have a lot, God makes sure I always have enough. He keeps me humble, keeps me grateful, and I want to keep on sharing about it. I think my boys are fortunate to get to watch me walk through the hardships and experience the gifts and the provision. They get to see where everything gift comes from, the story of how we found our home to the gift of food on our table. They experience what it means to work hard and save up to take our first family vacation. This "starting over" is newness and rebirth and it is all a gift. It's not a regression, it's a renewing. I want to be intentional this year about sharing the goodness. Sharing the amazing miracle stories of how He's providing. I haven't blogged in years, but I realize the importance in remembering every gift. So I hope to be over here more often. Happy New Year to you all!