Tuesday, November 4, 2014

In the Power of Christ I'll Stand

It has been almost two years since I have written on this blog, and I want to share why. 

I have been away because God answered my prayers in a way I did not foresee. (Isn’t that how He normally works?) He also answered my prayers in a way that I did not want and in a way that blows my mind because He is so amazing.

I just read my last post, and couldn’t help but get emotional thinking of all that God has done in the last couple years.  I had written:

It is time for me to be still before God so that when He says, “Go,” I can say, “Here I am,” instead of, “I should be there.  Why did you put me here?”

There have been two instances since then when God has said “Go” and by His grace and strength, I was able to say Here I am.” The first instance happened a month after I wrote my last post, and to be honest, at the time I did not see it as a “here-I-am-send-me” moment. 

I need to take a step back and give a bit more back story.  I wrote my last blog post following a breakdown in my car in an HEB parking lot after seeing a mom pushing her baby in a shopping cart. Yup, that's all it took. I just started bawling, asking God why I couldn’t have kids now. Michael wanted to wait to start a family until we paid off our school loans, and that was going to take six or more years if nothing changed.  And things did change—my hours were cut at one of my part time jobs because my position didn't have a full-time equivalent. (Retirement issues were involved. I'll spare you the details.)

I prayed for God to give us money to pay off our loans.  I imagined that we would be one of those families that you hear of that find an anonymous check in their mailbox for just the right amount of money. I prayed that God would put such a burden on someone’s heart—then I could have what I wanted.  (Yes, I now realize that this was ridiculous.) Later that evening, Michael came home from Bible study announcing that he wanted to give more to others.  “NO!” I thought, “I just prayed that God would have people give us money, and now you want to give our money away. That does not fit in my plan.” I was mad at him and at God because I was not getting my way. I was not being submissive to my husband. This caused distance between us, which I believed was his fault.  (Now, as I type this I think “Wow, that is one ugly woman.  No wonder there was distance between us.  Who would want to be around that?”)

I wrote my last blog post after God had gotten my attention and shown me that I was the one in the wrong, not Michael.  I was the problem.  I was not being submissive.  And most of all, I was not trusting God. God had gotten my attention with the pages of a book called Crazy Love. He brought me to my knees.  He showed me my pride. He began to humble me at that moment, but at that moment I had no idea to what extent He would humble me.
At that point, I was no longer angry and I was working to trust God’s timing, but I still prayed that He would give us a way to pay off our debt sooner than later. 

A couple weeks later, my Bible study teacher said off hand, “We do not need to worry about money.  God controls the storehouses.” That truth struck me.  God could provide a way for us to pay off our loans, no problem. I finally rested in Him.

A couple weeks after that, I received an email from my boss asking if any of the part-time tutors (of which I was one) were interested in a full-time position. The college had decided to make a full-time equivalent to my part-time position.  If I got this job, it would be the answer to our prayer.

There was one glaring problem.  I have panic attacks. And this job opportunity scared me.

Some say that when they experience a panic attack they feel as if they are dying or going crazy. I agree. I had been struggling with panic attacks for the last four years. At the moment I opened that email about the job, God began to break me and bring me to a place where I had to solely depend on Him. I was terrified to apply for the job, but I knew it would be disobedient to tell God, "No, I won't accept this answer to my prayer."

So I bought a suit, (I had always wanted to buy one of those powerful yet feminine pants suits—not a Hilary Clinton pants suit but something with a Kate Middleton vibe.) I prepared answers to possible interview questions and created a list of questions to ask when my boss would inevitably ask if I had any questions.  I was ready, but I was so scared. I feared that I would have a panic attack during the interview. 

I did not. In fact, a week later I was offered the position. Still, I feared the new work environment, the new people, the new job tasks, and that all these things would trigger panic attacks. But I had to say yes, and I believed God would give me the strength I needed to walk in the path He had laid before me.

Through God given faith, I chose to believe God's truth instead of Satan's lies, even though it was often tempting to believe the lies. When my heart and mind would race and my hands would tremble and go numb and my stomach ache, my forehead sweat, my throat become dry and choked, when all the symptoms I experience when I have a panic attack would hit me, it was easy to believe that I couldn't take on the tasks of this new job. One of my first tasks I was given was to speak in front of 250 students to tell them about our college's tutoring program. In high school and early college, I had performed in front of crowds near a thousand, but the first panic attack I had experienced quickly drew me inward and I closed door after door to the outside until at my lowest point I was diagnosed as agoraphobic. Thus, you can imagine the fear I felt as I walked in front of those students and grasped the microphone with both hands in order to help control my shaking. But in Christ's strength, I did it.

God was melting away the frost of fear that paralyzes those it possesses.

I was facing the hardest trial I had experienced up to this point. Through the trial, I often sang these words:

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow'r of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.

I know these words to be true. I know what it is to stand solely in Christ's strength because the mental battle has stripped away all of my own. And because of this, I know "the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of the inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe" (Ephesians 1:18,19). 

Michael would read Ephesians 1 to me so I could fall asleep at night. He would play a song He found for me, Blessings by Laura Story. He would text me a verse, Psalm 55:22, to encourage me on a day I needed encouragement: "Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken." He would patiently listen to my faint voice on the other end of the phone when I did have panic attacks at work.  God had given me in Michael an earthly rock who points me to my spiritual rock, Christ Jesus.  I wrote the verse Michael sent me on a note card along with other promises in Scripture, and pinned it to a wall of my cubicle.  The righteous feed on God's Word, and it was His Word that brought me through this trial still standing. 

Through all this, I know God as my Provider. When my hours were cut and we didn't see how we could pay off our debt, God was all the while working to provide a way.  He allowed my hours to be cut, so that He could create a full-time position for me. God can create opportunities out of nothing. (Can we expect any less from a God who created the universe out of nothing?) I can no longer doubt God in my tough circumstances, or at least I shouldn't! Through that job, we were able to pay off all of our debt in 6 months rather than 6 years! But I knew God had given me the job in order to do something more in my life. He provided a chance for me to overcome my anxiety and build my confidence in Him.

God matured my faith in so many ways through that job—namely He showed me I can live in Christ's strength when I have no strength of my own (a lesson I needed to learn in order to say yes to the next time He would say "go").  I also only had to work that job for a year and a half until God would lead me back home where I desired to be, as a stay-at-home mom.

This was not the path I had imagined for myself, but now I know God more and love Him more, so I am thankful for the trial. The blessing of trials is that you get to personally know God's promises. Your faith is tested, but you also get the chance to test God's promises and experience them as true. Our heavenly Father knows what we need, and He provides our daily bread, the provisions we need today for life and godliness (Matt. 6 and 2 Peter 1).
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