Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Joy in Singletown USA

I thought I'd wrote about something that I'm enjoying lately - single life (sans dating). I say sans dating only because so often people love their single life for the opportunity to go out with so many people. I'd like to differentiate myself from those folks. While I'm trying to Dave Ramsey my financial life (his name is best used as a verb), I'm finding myself renewed in my enjoyment of being single.

I'm writing this in hopes to encourage ladies out there. Don't get me wrong, I'd like to be married one day, but I find grace constantly pressing on me to just love this time with the Lord and on my own. I simply cannot pity myself or feel terrible that I'm not in the same life stage as so many others in my vicinity (and on Facebook). I have moments of the blues and sometimes people forget about you because, hey, you're a unicycle and there aren't kids in the picture and it's apparently weird for married people to pursue new relationships with a singular person (hence the rarity of hanging out with new, married friends - at least in my experience and in many I've observed). But despite that, I can't help but relish the freedom and independence I enjoy. Can't beat only having to agree with yourself about small things!

1) I recently adopted a puppy, who has brought me lots of joy…and sorrow as I leave him home when I head to work.

2) My money is free of permission slips. Can't beat managing your own money and not having to think of 2 or more people. Thankful that my cash doesn't go to things destroyed by a small army I created. Instead it buys awesome things like USB cords and anime. //sarcasm on that last one

3) Cooking - maybe I will. Maybe I won't. Don't have to. Often don't want to. Can I? Yes. But joining my friends for trivia at ye olde pub is worth way more fun than cooking and cleaning the mess up. No one expects me to do it and my skill at rationalizing a meal out is unthwarted by today's menfolk who expect both bread winning and bread baking.

4) Other people's kids are hilarious. I'm not the type to shy away from kids. My singleness isn't out of aversion to responsibility nor children (I find those singles ignorant and missing out). Besides being a teacher, I have so many stories from caring for other people's kids. What's great about other people's children is that you get to see what works and what doesn't. You get to see, "Hey, I want to know how they are getting their kids to be this way," etc. You get to laugh at the hilarious things they say. Or you get to experience your favorite classic movies with them who might be seeing them for the first time. You relive your childhood in a way that is hard when you are childless. Plus you earn a little extra gas cash for things like last minute trips to visit your buddy in Kentucky.

5) Graduate school is an opportunity to meet new people from all walks of educated life and actually spend some time with them since I'm virtually obligatory person free. I've learned not just from my classes but from engaging with other people in my program. The experience working with my professors has been one more of comradery and collaboration than parent-child. It's a glorious "we're all adults here" atmosphere. I feel more of an adult in this context than even at my job. There's something about connecting professionals looking to better themselves.

6) Sleeping alone is awesome. Okay there is awesomeness I am missing out on, sure. But being unconscious in a giant bed is still amazing when no one is snoring or stealing covers or sick. Granted, my dog can fulfill any one of those annoyances should I miss it. But sleep (and non-extra body heat) is definitely a perk people don't appreciate.

7) Chick flicks for me and no sharing the remote is joyous. I don't have to pretend to watch sports or endure Halo in the background. I also do not have to listen to Dora, who, like myself, is a very LOUD Latina, making declarative statements for 30 minutes. The Spanish-fluent squirrel is da bomb though. I watch Downtown without anyone whining about it and I don't even have barter!

8) Perhaps the greatest opportunity I have is the ability to serve at will and last minute. Because I don't have to check in, I'm able to drop what I'm doing to help out. There's so much satisfaction to be found in helping or accommodating others. It really blesses them and rewards me just in knowing I could be of use though I'm not constantly depended upon by people I call my own. In any case, I'm able to serve in many ways and free to be as busy or relaxed as I choose.

Just wanted to share these. I don't by any stretch imagine I would regret going on to the next stages, God willing, but rather enjoy what I have right now. If you haven't tried some of the above, I highly recommend them.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

An Open Door...

It's been a long time since I wrote a post. That has been intentional, but lately I've felt the need to share about my summer and the amazing things that have happened since then.

Coming out of my previous teaching experience in Gwinnett, while the year was the best that I'd had ever, my heart was to come back home to Acworth where my church was. In march, I set a limit on myself that I would job search until the 30th of June. If I couldn't find another position closer to home, I was going to stay put, find a roommate and an apartment, and find a new church home and community. My heart would be broken, but I would know that I'd done what I could to find something closer to home.

April came with no interviews. May came with no interviews. June came with no interviews. I was sad. I'd applied in the business world and in the education market, and all was silent on the western front. I was bummed. I was disappointed. But I knew that I'd tried everything, applied everywhere, and gave it my all. I'd already set myself back by doing poorly in graduate school, it was painful to not at least find a job near home. I'd prayed for something different. Over Spring Break, I'd prayed that I would have clarity in what to pray for. And there were two things I came away with - working closer to home and being able to earn more.

And nothing. I felt like God had given me those two things to pray for so that I could develop community in my community and get out of debt while being in a position to financially help others. And July came and I was down, but I resolved to commit myself to the school in Gwinnett...then the calls came in. Right before I was heading back to the system for pre-planning, a school (an excellent school) in Roswell called me for an interview. I would have gotten the job - they don't call you just before the start of school to not hire you. But the distance was still 50 minutes from my home. I'd said I couldn't, but I called a friend to see if I should call them back and say I actually would like to interview. She said she thought not to bother unless it's just right - at home. I said okay and hung up my misgivings. I was going to be okay where I was.

Then, two days later, it happened. The Wednesday before I was supposed to return to Gwinnett on Friday, a school in the same cluster where my first job was called me. They wanted to know if I was interested in interviewing. Without hesitation I said yes, and all the hope I'd ever had bubbled up. I immediately called my superiors at the Gwinnett school - and they said something that shocked me: I should do what is right for me. I was blown away by their support even though I might put them in a tight position. It happened that they had interviewed two people for one position - both whom they had liked - and one could take my vacancy if there was one. My AP was going to allow me to leave training to go to my Friday interview.  I began to hope, and I wanted to burst at the seams.

I had my interview, which I had mixed thoughts about. I wanted the job so badly, but I couldn't feel out anything. The waiting game was awful. I called the school Monday, and waited again. I knew they would start their school year on Thursday. Monday evening, I'd heard nothing. I was convinced I didn't have the job. I'd been through the job wringer so many times. It was my fifth time entering the ring - and I had a good right hook, but nothing was ever a guarantee. The next day I went to the new teacher onboarding for Gwinnett - Over 1,000 new teachers were there, all happy to find a job (especially lit and history teachers). I was the only person a little sad. I went to my meetings, then was headed to the next session. The phone rang and I ran outside. It was the principal - she was calling to offer me the position. I started shaking so much my voice was quivering. She told me what I would need to do and I ran off to complete the process.

God showed me that He would answer my obedience with faithfulness. I was blessed beyond measure. After leaving Marietta, I'd searched without luck to find a middle school language post (they are HARD to come by). And here I was, going back home to the same place I loved to teach the younger students. As I think about it now, I simply want to cry at the joy that was handed to me. After 1 year of complaining, 3 years of wandering (and a little more complaining), over 10 interviews, over two dozen applications, 16 months of 50 minute commutes each way, and repentance, I was allowed to return home. I cannot express what it means to me to be back. I feel blessed beyond measure and I'm so thankful that God guided me through it all.

Psalm 27:13-14
13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Time Has Come...

I have been praying for the last few weeks that the Lord begin to change my heart regarding my lack of urgency in sharing the Gospel and living this life for Him in a more intense way than I've ever lived. While my exterior - my speech and opinions, language and education might convey to some in our American Christian culture that I'm mature, the truth is that in my private thoughts and personal ambitions, I'm exactly the image of false piety that plagues American Christendom. I've known it and struggled with it for some time - these are perhaps strong words, but I use the because I love my mattress and value so much stuff.

Materials are not the devil, but I demonstrate a level of idolatry that has bothered me for a long time because it does not comport with purchasing the pearl of great price, living to lose my life that I might gain it, or much of what Jesus taught about wholly pursuing Him. I am, which I hate, like the rich young man who tells Jesus that he does not sin against the last 5 commandments but cannot sell everything and live as a pauper for the sake of the Gospel. I cannot live with these specters of a message that I know was left for me.

While I make the observation that our culture is replete with my brand of Christianity,  I'm not saying that anyone else ought to feel the way I do - I am neglecting a call to ME to really believe and dig deep to give it all up. God is telling me to give up the hoax that remaining in the US, embedded in a live of blissful complacence and "normalcy," will satisfy the deeper dissatisfaction that I have that I'm being called to something that will require more myself than I could ever hope to do in my laughable "own strength." To say that I am scared is an understatement of major proportions. And I'm fighting the urge to ask God why I am burdened in this way when others can be content in their lives. But to dismiss these feelings after they keep coming back - after I keep affirming that I can't deny what Jesus tells us to do and what that means to me would be to sin and live in a state of medicating that incessant rumbling in my brain that I HAVE TO DO MORE. And never have I felt more alone.

So, practically, what will I do and what is the plan? I am burdened for missions. I cannot envision staying in the states if I'm to call myself elect - I have got to go somewhere with less distractions because I'm too tempted  here, in my crippling weakness to really live as God is saying to me I have to live.  If I can master it here, I will stay. But that is so unlikely, that I think I must go.

Right now, today and for the next 2-3 years, I'm praying the following:

-What possessions to sell immediately
-What I will keep to take
-A job for the next 2-3 years that will enable me to pay off my debt
-Completing my graduate education in 2 years
-What country to go to

So, there it is -  a tentative game plan. If God is leading you to pray for me, please pray I don't fail - even now, I'm concerned about how I will financially help my family because I feel a responsibility for that, too. Right now, the heat is on, but the fervor will subside in the next few days. Right now, all these things are pressing in on me, but I'm reminding myself that there are a few years time and first things first (like paying off my debt!). I'm excited and terrified of failure, but if I neglect the urge anymore, I will be disobeying Who I love most in my life, Jesus.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Growing Up Fast...

Today, at our church, Four Points Church in Acworth, our pastor preached an awesome message that was a two weeks in the making for him and a week in the making for me.

My walk with God has struggled so much lately. Between dealing with new emotional pain and financial hardship newly encountered in my life - the details of which I can't and won't mention here, since I wasn't the source of them - I've found it difficult to seek the Lord through prayer or read His God. I know in my heart I don't want to be some "fair-weather" follower. I don't want to praise only through good circumstances, after all, it was not God who brought sin into our lives. However, I struggle nonetheless.

About mid-week - I can't remember the day, they all bleed together when I have to get up so early! - I was praying to the Lord about why I've been feeling so angry lately, even hatred. I didn't have to scour my heart to find the answer for long. I told God that I just don't understand why it has to be harder for me. Rather than going down the "it's not fair" route, my question wasn't quite seeking that line of thinking.

Most people my age are enjoying their youthful freedom, their marriage, their children, their jobs. I, on the other hand, have struggled through my profession since going into the workforce. While this year has been the best to date, I still find some lingering sadness.  Most people my age aren't dealing with the heart break of more than one person's poor choices or devastating decisions and the impact on their lives. I had to ask why it has to be so much harder, not just for myself, but also for another that I do life with - why we are dealing with such radical hardship all in one foul swoop? I still don't know why and my question wasn't answered that afternoon, but I did find solace in the gathering of believers.

At church, relating a story, our pastor used the same phrase verbatim about a situation he was confronted with - really has been confronted with since the birth of the church. He had asked as well why it has to be so hard for him. Confessing his sin, I felt less alone than I have in the last few months, working through so many tumultuous years. While relieved, I know my heart to still be broken over many things, but I am fighting through it. While having defeated much anxiety and depression by the power of the Holy Spirit and the blood of Jesus, I am feeling "normal" sadness. Reminding myself that I have much to be thankful for, I press on, though watching someone close to me suffer more is so hard.

So many of my experiences have made me old - old in heart, and stubborn in my lack of faith in seeing things get better. I know we will have joys and sorrows in this life, but my heart so longs for joy. I feel as though so much has been robbed by sins, outside of what I've committed against God, I almost do not see how God can replace the years the locusts have eaten. I will pray though, outside what is within me, that God helps my unbelief and I withstand the tears I'm shedding for the sorrow. I will pray that I know that soon enough, though it be even 70 more years of suffering, that one day all these pains will be a different life and a new one will be given me when He receives me unto glory.  I will press on and press in.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Coming Change...

My heart is very burdened. Let me tell you why.

Without getting into too many specifics, I'm feeling very drawn to the mission field. In my heart, I cannot deny what I am feeling to finally be a calling on my life - to share the Gospel of Jesus with others outside my home in the U.S.A. I'm finding that the way that I live out my Christianity here at home, in what I consider to be the greatest country to live in, is less committed, less intense, and more selfish than ever before. I feel as though I am called to remove myself from the environment in which I live and serve in a capacity outside my capability.

While I have felt these inklings for a long time without a specific calling, I have known that the timing has not been right - things were not lined up properly. They are hardly lined up as we speak, but I am praying through my sinfulness to make headway toward the mission field away from my home.  I feel that I have failed in so many ways to share my faith in Jesus here, but I am praying that I find confidence in the Lord and lose confidence in my ability to fail. I am praying that I prefer Jesus as my master to sin as my master.  God knows that what I need most is discipline - which happens to be my greatest weakness. So I am praying and reflecting.

Just to be clear, we are not talking preaching - I believe what the Bible says about women in that capacity, and I am happy to abide by it. But I do feel something needs to be done - >>I<< need to do something by God's power in me. As I navigate these waters, please co-labor with me in prayer over the following:

1. I wish to complete my graduate program, which could take 2-3 years. Please pray I am able to focus and do this quickly.

2. Pivotal to being "free" for mission work is getting out of debt. Currently, my debt is, well, ridiculous. I'm sorry, that was supposed to be RIDICULOUS. 

3. Please pray for my relationship with Jesus and consistency. My discipline is lacking, my rate of indulgence is high, and I cannot serve two masters, though I know I'm trying to. Please pray that I kill addictive sin in my life.

4. While I am feeling pulled, I don't know where, though I wonder if it's an unreached group of people. There are hubs and places that I can go, but I am praying that God clearly confirm and reveal to me His plan. If I am not interpreting this pull properly, I pray that He correct me and lead me to where He desires me to be.

5. My greatest challenge and worst sin is lack of discipline. Even now, I know that it's a nature to me - which is scary because I feel as though it's built into me, a dangerous way to think about it because you know automatically, or think you do, that it is near impossible to conquer. I ABSOLUTELY need to pray through this and conquer this sin. It is mastering me right now and I don't know how best to fight back.

To those who read regularly, thank you for your time and patience. For many years, I was convinced few people cared for or about me, and God has shown (and it's oddly humbling) that I am gloriously wrong. If you have prayer requests, please let me know. This is a two way street and reciprocating brings me such joy. I will write an update the sooner I am more clear. In Christ, Erin

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Employment and Gratitude...

September 24th of this year, I walked into my fourth school district in four years. I was hired by Gwinnett just the Friday previous and was headed to the benefits meeting.

The wait was very long. My goal, through disappointment and frustration in the summer months, was to refrain from complaining and simply ask for prayers. After all, how could I complain when I chose to walk away from my job? I still wonder if I was simply everyone's last choice, everyone's last option, but that has passed. My friends tried to remind me about my crazy certificate. It was hard to wipe away all the good feelings from interviews that amounted to vapor. But, in the end, God has blessed me where I am. Allow me to share.

This is another situation where I started late in the year - in stark contrast to last year, I did not immediately have students my first day - I had a whole week to prepare. I wasn't thrown in a classroom with no resources - no locking cabinets to put my belongings. I wasn't expected to figure everything out haphazardly on my own and be held accountable for mistakes I didn't even know I could be making. I felt welcome and valued as a professional for the first time since leaving college.

In taking the time to let God do His work in searching out my heart, I find that it was the best time to go back to work. I have not felt anxious this year - until I was called into the principal's office and complimented in front of school leadership. While I am thankful, being so new, I want my visibility to be lower, haha. I am thankful, however, that God has given me favor again. I'm praying that this would be an excellent year for me in all the goals I have set. There is still so much to do, but God has been encouraging me, and I am so thankful for His hand on my life, despite so much messiness.

Right now, I am looking for an apartment - praying about one really. It's more expensive, but it would be good to move. I pray here and there about marriage and what the Lord's plans are for me, but it's only sporadically on the radar - a good or bad thing, I don't really know. I think my exposure to so many married people my age, especially in my church, less so in my friendships, makes my awareness about being single more acute. Maybe if I were where more singles were, I wouldn't put pressure on myself (or at least feel quite the fifteenth wheel or sore thumb). So there's that. For the most part, things are feeling very positive and I'm simply thankful to God for the opportunity of success, favor, and rest. Having lived in such a hard place, I'm enjoying my year as a teacher.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Battle of The Bulge - Not That One, This One...

In light of two posts ago, how I said that it is not surprising to the overweight, obese, and extremely obese that they need to lose weight, I thought I would share more on my current efforts.

I signed up for Medifast, which is a portion controlled meal replacement program (PCMR program) because of the success rate, the medically-based support, and the ease of use.  On the program, which I had started in August of 2010, I lost 30 lbs, which was awesome - I didn't realize how awesome it could be. Things got crazy in the Spring time of 2011, and I made a wonderfully easy excuse for going back to overeating. Since then, I've not even really struggled so much as fumbled around for motivation to make it back to the program.

Enter unemployed me in August of 2012. As I have been working on and off through the summer, purging old papers, donating old items, and basically dealing with some 26-year dysfunctions, I have been avoiding the losing weight, exercising, life-change questions. But finding that I want to explore career options that require me to keep up a healthy appearance, I cannot avoid those questions lately. Being the emotional eater that I am, it's easy to make excuses and not bother still. Add to that me not valuing certain things high on the totem pole, it's been a difficult season to motivate myself - I am keenly aware of how psyching myself out does not work and how, somehow, leads to even greater disappointment when I fail.

But, there is something I'm hyper aware of this season - not having a job lined up can seriously impact my emotions and sense of worth. And lately, I'm not keen on it causing more weight gain. Normally, I would indulge a lot more during this time, compensating for a sense of loss and blues. This time, I decided to work on discipline that I am missing. While joblessness is not great for working on financial discipline, I've outlined that and physical maintenance as two areas where I need a serious overhaul. 

After consuming all of the hoarders episodes at my disposal - both the TLC and A&E versions, I was looking for more reality and watched HEAVY (a one-season wonder from A&E) and now am watching previous seasons of Biggest Loser. While I enjoy the competition of BL, it's not realistic. What I do enjoy is the self-analysis of contestants and the ability to relate to the struggles of others. What's cool is looking at the idolatry of food in the scheme of everything else. I've had one light bulb moment, after watching the second season of BL - a woman who made a huge difference said, "Never in my life did I feel like I could have control over food." This was not an amazing statement in and of itself, but rather the difference was what I was thinking - I was not even on the food page, and while hearing her, I thought - whoa, it's about so much more than food management, but that it is a facet of it. 

When heavy people talk, it's so much about "food this" and "food that" attacking that one issue. But it really is about so much other stuff - putting your mind on other goals, making food stuff a secondary issue that simply needs to be part of another goal...somehow, I'm finding that by making food management one facet of a larger picture, I'm less compelled by it. And while you can read a book and see that, hear it and know it in your head, when it sinks in that it's about way more, you realize that it's crazy not to move past problems steeped in basic needs like shelter, food, and clothing. Heavy people like those in my circumstance are controlled by over focusing on food, whether that is to eat poorly or better. I'm finding more success in doing a plan and removing the focus on thinking about what I'm eating. I'm enjoying looking for recipes and being creative with my guidelines, and I feel less fear about what happens when I go "off of the plan" in the future because my efforts this time are less obsessed with fear about my relationship to food and more focused on where I want to be in a year or so. 

I don't want people to think that somehow this is easy, but for the first time, I feel that I am seeing beyond something, which is important for me. The worst is having patience to see results, but I already feel like inflammation in my body is down, something that makes me feel amazingly better physically. What's the most important is the diminishing fear of failure that I have and my sense of stick-tuitiveness that seem to be less perfectionistic and less all-or-nothing. That, to me, is the greatest feeling of all. 

That's it for this evening's two-post run. I'll be writing soon as I look to fill some unemployed hours, haha!