Tag Archives: faith

Life really is a roller coaster

I spent the weekend at a family reunion at Okoboji where the activity of choice for the teens and preteens was riding as many rides as possible at Arnold’s Park. I had NO interest in this particular activity but watching the anticipation and joy in their faces did remind me that I once had those same emotions each year when the carnival would come to town for Fun Days. The favorite ride seemed to be the roller coaster. Now I am no thrill seeker and roller coasters don’t interest me at all, but I began to think just a similar our faith in God really is like riding a roller coaster. Yes, we’ve all probably used this analogy, but I think there’s more truth to it than we tend to realize.

 

 

I recall the pit in my stomach as the roller coaster slowly climbed the hill, the pause at the very top that allows the anticipation to build, and then the exhilerating free fall as the coaster raced down the track. There was the sigh of relief when it was all over quickly followed by a strange desire to do it all again. There was no real fear. There was faith of an innocent and naive child. As an adult, my experience is completely different. I see all of the ways the ride could quite literally go off the tracks. I rarely allow the anticipation to build on the way up the hill and I hang on for dear life on the way down instead of throwing my hands up in reckless abandon. There’s no real faith and there’s no real enjoyment.

So which way would God have me approach life?

Following Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit really does feel so similar to that roller coaster ride. There are challenges and obstacles making the trek up the hill challenging and leaving us often feeling like we’re just barely inching or lurching our way up to the top. And then just when we think we’re able to maybe catch our breath from the climb, it feels as though we are hurtling down the other side barely able to hold on. Both aspects can feel exhilarating or exhausting, depending on our attitude and our perspective. Will I embrace faith like a child, which allows me to enjoy the view and long to go on the ride again? Or will I constantly assess the risk and the danger, close my eyes, and hang on for dear life essentially squashing any chance of experiencing any joy?

I want to throw my hands up, open my eyes wide, and experience life in its fullness. I want to trust the rollercoaster designer and engineer – the author and perfector of my life’s adventure. In what ways has life felt like a roller coaster for you? What feels like you’re creeping up? What has made you feel like you’re racing towards the bottom?

One Life – Live it Well

I’ve alluded to the faith stretching journey God has taken me on over the last year, but it seems like the right time to share about it in full. Just over a year ago, I left counseling fulltime to teach at Central College. (You can read about that decision here.) I accepted a one year position, which means I have spent a good portion of the last year applying for jobs (explaining my lack of posting new blogs!). My friends and family fasted and prayed for God’s will throughout the process, but we were all a bit biased. We all wanted for me to be offered the tenure-line position opening at Central. I had felt specifically called to Central and I had worked there in some capacity for the last six years. Central College had my heart and Pella was the community I felt called to remain in. So I continued to work on believing God is the giver of very good gifts. He is the good, good Father and so why wouldn’t He work all things out so I would remain at Central? However, I had to balance that with knowing nothing is guaranteed and God may still have something different in mind. So holding those two truths in tension, I continued to apply for other positions while still praying into and leaning into where I believed I was being called – Central.

As I suspected, I loved everything about teaching fulltime. I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to plan lessons and create learning opportunities and build relationships with students! And as my love of teaching grew, my desire to earn a tenure track position – ideally at Central grew as well. The waiting was so difficult. And then in the midst of the applying and waiting and interviewing and waiting, I received my word from God for the year – FAITH. Let’s be honest, this did not feel like a great word to receive. I knew if God gave me exactly what I wanted – that tenure line position – it wouldn’t grow my faith in the same way as if a different scenario played out. So I had a sneaking suspiscion God was up to something, but I also found myself beginning to believe – truly believe – God’s way really was going to be the best.

We continued to wait…and wait…and wait some more.

Answers began to come. First, I was indeed offered a tenure-line position, but at a different institution. I seriously considered accepting the offer. On the surface, it looked like a potentially really great fit. However, although I was intrigued by the opportunity, I wasn’t excited by it and I never felt called. Faith…do I trust an opportunity at Central to come to fruition or settle for the one before me? Ultimately I turned it down but I remained mindful that you cannot simply “fast and pray and get your way” with God. But I believed I was being obedient and so we continued to wait…

The day came…an email from the academic dean’s office and a meeting scheduled. My tribe and I braced ourselves – trying to temper our growing excitement at what this meeting might mean. I sat down across from the dean and heard these words, “I cannot offer you a tenure track position.” Somehow my mind went blank and began to race all at the same time. Here was confirmation of the sneaking suspicision I had that God was going to choose to grow my faith in someway. The permanency I so desperately longed for, that I believed would be provided by a tenure track position was not meant to be. In its place was an offer to continue as a lecturer for an additional three years. At this moment I had to choose to trust God or not. Can God still be a good, good Father who gives very good gifts when we don’t get what we want? Even when we believe what we want is in line with God’s will!? YES!!

It took time, but I now know without a shadow of a doubt that the offer to teach for three years as a lecturer is a MUCH better situation for me than being offered a tenure line position ever would have been. It was a hard, long year, but it was ripe with growth and lessons learned. Here are just a few…

God REALLY is faithful. It is His VERY NATURE to be faithful. And as we take small steps of faith, He reveals more and more of his faithfulness to us.

God longs to be WITH US. He is EMMANUAL – literally God with us. His Spirit desires to lead and guide, to comfort and empower. God wants to relate and walk alongside us.

NOTHING is more satisfying OR freeing as stepping into God’s call on your life. No matter what the cost! I had a wonderful career as a counselor and I will always be honored and humbled that I was able to walk with so many as their therapist for over 9 years. However, it was not God’s ultimate will for my life and because of that I was absolutely exhausted by the work. I believe I am just as busy teaching as I was counseling, but I feel energized and alive. And it is because I am where God wants me to be. And though I don’t have the permanency I thought I wanted, I’m very content with the unknown!

Switchfoot has a song called, “Live it Well”. ¬†One of the lyrics says, “Life is short, I want to live it well. One life, one story to tell. Life is short, I want to live it well. And You’re the one I’m living for.” I have one life. You have one life. We must choose to live it well by living only for God. And sometimes (a lot of times) that means taking steps of faith – terrifying and sometimes confusing steps – but steps that lead to incredible freedom, contentment, and joy. Live it well friends. Live it well.

 

When life disappoints, God remains faithful

Every January I ask God to give me a word to focus and guide my growth for the year. This year, God gave me the word “faith”, which I found interesting because to be honest, I thought I had worked at increasing my faith the previous year! I have to be honest, I was a bit concerned when I realized this was God’s word for me because increasing one’s faith is not usually accomplished through ease and comfort. God simply doesn’t mess around when He wants you to grow and as I suspected, the year has been ripe with faith growing opportunities. This past week brought another one…

For over a year, I have believed God had given me a very specific promise. I faithfully leaned into and prayed around that promise. In fact, friends and mentors prayed and believed with me. This week, it seemed time to act on the promise I was certain I had heard. I stepped out boldly and faithfully.

And I was told no…

Wait…WHAT??

It was audacious (but not unreasonable) request, so the no was not entirely surprising. At least not from a human point of view…But God does surprising things! And so I had fully expected a “yes”! I expected God to move in amazing ways to fulfill the promise I’d been given!

So had I heard incorrectly? What just happened?

I spent the next two days trying to make sense of what had just happened. And honestly being sad over the loss of what I had believed was to be mine! I was disappointed and somewhat disillusioned.

And then God showed up, just like He always does.

I spent time praying and talking to God while driving home from having dinner with a dear friend. I was simply being honest with God about my emotions and my confusion. And then I looked up and saw a rainbow…the ultimate symbol of God’s faithfulness to keep his promises.

That rainbow led me the entire way home. And it got me thinking about God’s promises. God promises us a lot of things! He promises to fight for us (Ex 14:14), and to give strength and power to the weak and weary (Isaiah 40:29). He promises that all who believe in him will receive eternal life (John 3:16) and he promises freedom from sin (John 8:36). He promises to comfort us (Psalm 23:4), deliver us (Psalm 50:15), and to never leave or forsake us (Deut. 31:8). He promises to work all for our good (Romans 8:28) and to complete the good work he began in us (Phil 1:6).

However, despite all of the things God DOES promise, there are many things he doesn’t. He doesn’t promise a house, or a spouse. He doesn’t promise children or your dream job. He doesn’t promise a reliable car or money to buy the newest iPhone. He doesn’t promise fame or even respect from others. He doesn’t promise ease or comfort or protection from suffering. In fact, God promises we will have trouble and go through hard times! He just promises to be with us through them!

My word for the year is “faith” so I thought I’d be learning about and growing my faith in God. And I am. But more than that, I am learning about God’s faithfulness. You see, faithfulness is part of His very being and His very character. Deuteronomy 7:9 says, “Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.” Even when life feels confusing, God is faithful. Hebrews 10:35-36 says, “So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.”

So I still don’t know what will come of the specific word I believed I was given. Maybe I heard incorrectly. Maybe God will reveal an even better way! As usual, it isn’t about me and my desires; it is all about God, his character, and his will for me! So in what ways has your faith been challenged? Are you confused, disillusioned, or disappointed? The good news is God is faithful to keep His promises. We can rest assured in that and must remind ourselves that what He promises is always better than what we thought we wanted in the first place!