Unlocking the truths of anxiety

If you have been reading this blog long enough or know me well enough, you know I struggle with anxiety.  I will never be cured from it.  It will always as my husband says, “be my crutch.”  We all have some sort of crutch we walk through life with.  If anxiety is yours, then you understand the racing thoughts, the sweaty hands, the jumpiness, the extreme emotions, going through your day in fight or flight mode etc.  You may experience deep fear that might even paralyze you.

Many of us will still fall into pits of anxiety from time to time even if we have fought for our mental health through counseling, medication, natural treatments, exercise, etc. We are broken, but God loves us anyway.  He cares for us. These are some of my favorite Scripture verses I read through whenever I feel like I am in one of those pits.

God’s plan for our lives is not one that will harm us or destroy us.  His PROMISES are to give us life so we can honor and glorify Him.

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For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. – 2 Corinthians 1:20

The Lord will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your life.  The Lord will watch over you coming and going both now and forevermore.  – Psalm 121:7&8

We all go through difficult times.  It is inevitable.  If you claim to know Christ you will endure suffering.  But God’s plan is PERFECT and it’s good.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6

Everyone quotes this verse when they think about anxiety, but don’t forget that key little phrase “with thanksgiving.”

“You thank God before you make the request because you’re saying, “Lord, whatever you do in response to this request is GOOD.” – Tim Keller

Seeking the Lord is a day by day sometimes hour by hour process.  

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,…- 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

“Peace comes from the same thing that joy comes from–the assurance of your salvation.” – Tim Keller

Nothing or no one can overpower you.  God is ALWAYS on your side.  He is NEVER against you.

 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:31

And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us.
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?

– from Our God by Chris Tomlin

God is ALWAYS with you.  You need not walk alone.

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! 2“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you – Isaiah 43:2

God offers help.  Seek him for direction in your anxiety.

I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. – Psalm 40:1 & 2

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. – Psalm 121:1&2

Your faith in Jesus Christ is worth more than gold.  It is WHO YOU ARE.

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ – 1 Peter 1: 7 & 8

You are a CHILD OF GOD and it’s not because of all the nice things you do or the ladder of success you are trying to climb.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.…- Ephesians 2:8

 

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OK do you trust me?

Blessed.  Beyond Blessed. This exact term was resonating through my head this spring.  I was asking myself, “Do I feel beyond blessed only when everything comes together?”

Because what happens when things fall apart?  Can you still look up to the Lord your God and say you are beyond blessed?

This spring, I was reminded in the tinier plans that if things go according to what I really want or the contrary what I fear, God IS.  God is good.

I realize I did not go through any major crisis moments this spring so my heart is humbled when I look to my friends who did.  But we are reminded in the minor inconveniences as well as the intense struggles that God IS.

We had four trips in two months (three to the Midwest) which seems just plain crazy.  One was unexpected–my sweet grandmother passed away on April 1st.

One thing I feared in all this…I am talking about an anxious reaction…is people getting sick.  Stomach bugs and bad colds always thwart plans. Yet we have no control over them.  It has been a horrible year for sickness.  Our kids have all been sick multiple times.  It started the last week of September and was off and on until the second to the last week of school.  It has not just been us–many of our friends have dealt with it too and some much worse.

We went to St. Louis in mid May for my husband’s graduation ceremony.  He earned his Doctorate of Ministry from Covenant Seminary.  Before we left we had plans to leave our kids with Friend #1’s house (btw–for the sake of this blog post I am referring to friends with numbers but it does not imply their ranking as friends).  Only days before we left, Friends #1 lost a loved one and had to travel to the Midwest for the funeral.  Thankfully Friends #2 offered to take our kids.  The day we were supposed to leave Friend #2 came down with a stomach bug and we had to leave our kids with Friends #3 who graciously offered to take our kids last minute.  I remember through the whole ordeal God saying to me, “OK do you trust me?”

We have no family remotely close to where we live.  We have to rely on our friends in these situations.  I am extremely grateful for “our village” who came through for us last minute and reassured us our kids would be fine.  I cannot imagine how lonely and frustrating life would be if we did not have “a village.”

Our kids eating breakfast with Friends #2 while we were away

Our kids eating breakfast with Friends #2 while we were away

My fear is I would be sick in St. Louis since I was exposed to all this crud.  That became reality as I went to bed the first night in our hotel feeling a little queasy and an hour later sick in the bathroom.  I was frustrated, angry, and anxious.  I felt like God was saying, “OK but do you trust me?”

I recovered quickly.  I did not miss his graduation lunch or the ceremony or the Cardinal games the next day.

Cardinals game with the husband and his brothers...

Cardinals game with the husband and his brothers…

I did miss some things, but overall I made it to all the important things. It was a tremendous honor to see my husband earn his D Min after hours and hours of work on his dissertation, multiple trips to St. Louis, and countless amount of time interviewing and reading.

Graduation Day!

Graduation Day!

We came home from St. Louis exhausted on a Sunday afternoon.  The youngest child was going to a birthday party which Friends #4 who graciously agreed to pick her. The middle child was going to a different party about a half hour away.  I made plans in advance to have him ride with Friends #5 since I knew we would be exhausted from our flight.  We had to get up at 3 AM central time.  As we arrived home Friend #5 texted me and said their daughter got the dreaded stomach bug and they weren’t going.  How do you tell your son you are not going to take him to a birthday party a half hour away because you are functioning off three hours of sleep especially when you have not seen him in four days?  My plan was to take him and set up a sleeping bag in the van.  I would sleep while he was at the party.  I was grumpy about the whole thing but again I felt like God said, “OK do you trust me?”

I texted Friend #6 last minute who was on her way to the party and agreed to pick up my son and take him along.  With our younger two gone all afternoon we could take long naps and get caught up on the sleep we lost.

That was Sunday.  On Friday we got ready for our annual church retreat at a camp about 1 hour away.  We left Saturday morning and had a full day of activities that first day.  Sunday morning the husband woke up and said, “I don’t feel great.  Kind of yucky.  But I don’t think I am sick.”  Anxiety began to run rampant again. I knew he was getting sick.  My kids don’t need to be constantly watched anymore, but I cannot let them run off alone.  Especially when there is a lake, a large woods, and unfamiliar parts of the camp.  My kids were excited to be at camp but a little out of control the first night.  I felt like I NEEDED my husband’s help.  Again I felt like God said, “OK do you trust me?”

The husband got sicker as I feared and had to go home.  However, the kids were amazing.  I don’t think I had to break up a single fight the rest of the weekend.  They always told me where they were going.  They stayed out of trouble. They had a wonderful time!  So did I!

Three kids at our church retreat

Three kids at our church retreat

I had a great hike around the lake with them at the conclusion of the weekend and we saw a bald eagle perched in a tree.  Another reminder of God as we see the handiwork of his creation.

Coming home on Monday, my youngest got the dreaded stomach bug.  The following day my oldest woke up with it. My anxiety escalated because I knew I was running the Minneapolis Marathon the following weekend.  I had invested months of training, bought a plane ticket, motel room & rental car.  Plus it was the first time I would run a marathon with my sister.  I did NOT want to be sick.  I hoped my husband and daughters caught what I already had, but I had no way of knowing.  Our symptoms were all a little different.

Again I felt like God was saying, “OK do you trust me?”  I was so paranoid about getting sick I hardly had time to be nervous about the actual marathon.  The end of this story was I did travel to Minneapolis, I did run in the marathon 100% healthy, my sister ran it too, and it was an amazing weekend.

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Me running in my fourth marathon

I know had I got sick and missed it, that I would STILL be beyond blessed.  Because whatever happens God IS.

It’s a bit harder to wrap my finger around this idea of “beyond blessed” when I think about some old friends God put on my heart recently. During our time in St. Louis old friends of ours lost a child.  On my way to Minneapolis to run a marathon with my sister, an old friend lost her sister unexpectedly.  While I was talking to my mom about her trip recently to visit old friends she mentioned her friend’s son is dying of cancer.  I’ve seen evidence in all three of these situations via Facebook and social networking that all three of these people are clinging to the hope that God IS.  Despite all the feelings of anger, frustration, depression, pain, despair, and loss–God IS.  Because they know if we don’t have the hope of God’s love through Christ, then what we do have?

Will you stand on the hope of God promises?  And will you pray for those in your life today who may not “feel beyond blessed” for whatever reason?

 

December 10: Promises

1-Recently Updated1We had very strange weather today.  Dark gray clouds with pouring rain most of the day.  Around 4:30 as the sun was beginning to set the kids played outside in the gigantic puddle in our driveway.  It was the first time we saw the sun the whole day.  At 3:15 PM when I picked the kids up from school, it looked like 10 o’clock at night.  As the sun peeked its way out at sundown a beautiful rainbow filled the whole sky.

The words to this hymn in my church’s Psalter Hymnal You Are Our God; We Are Your People written by David Hoekema immediately came to my mind.  It fits appropriately with the promises of Advent.

It rained on the earth forty days, forty nights, and all of the world was destroyed

The ark Noah built at the calling of God saved God’s chosen ones from the flood

God gave to Noah the rainbow sign, “Such a flood I will not send again—

I am your God; you are my people.”

And when Jesus Christ came to live on the earth, God’s promise to us was fulfilled.

His life and his death were a new covenant, assurance of love full and free.

God gave His Son, his only Son; to all who receives him he says,

“I am your God; you are my people.”

Goals for the Fall

Ok so I have to admit I am a little obsessed with the “Why are we so much busier than 20 years ago?” question.  Especially with technology making life convenient.  I discovered that this question has a multitude of answers.

I decided this year I would try to make my life less overwhelming and cut out the “run around crazy.”  Come mid August anxiety set in.  I didn’t feel ready for the work, life, church balance.  Now that we’re three week into the school year, I already made some progress.   It helps to record it here, but my fear is a few months it will be a whole different story.  Here’s some changes I made:

  • Saying “no.”  I had to say, “no” to a few small things already.  Even though they were minor things, it was painful.  It made me realize I am a huge “people pleaser” when it comes to extra tasks & projects.
  • Exercise:  I will still exercise (and I have been consistent) 5-6 mornings a week because it does give me a mental boost and it’s my best use of “alone time.”  I came to the point a few years ago where my thoughts were, “Ugh I need to go exercise.  I SHOULD really go and do it” to “I NEED to do it and I WANT to do it and I can’t imagine NOT doing it.”
  • No fall sports:  Our kids are at the age when they don’t need to be doing sports year round.  They are pretty young.  So rather than push swim team or soccer, we will  continue to run 2-3 times a week for 15-20 minutes maximum…although we took the month of September completely off.
  • Praying about our schedule & pursuing God:  I have prayed about our time commitments and activities.  I am striving to seek the Lord first in everything (not just my schedule) before seeking Facebook, friends, etc.
  • Not talk about being busy:  It has become a status symbol to declare how busy you are and walk around in a frazzled state.  I am trying to be thankful for the opportunities God has given me and decrease the pressure put on myself.
  • Eating!  I am in three weeks into a pretty significant change in eating.  You can read it about on my exercise blog.   I am striving to do so without having to purchase products I cannot really afford right now.  My goal is to eat clean foods.  This is a quote from my gym’s website:
  • Clean food is basically food without any added unnatural or processed ingredients. If you can’t find the ingredient or food in nature, then it probably isn’t clean. For example, an orange is a better option than orange juice (processed and added sugar). And orange juice is better than an orange creamsicle (who knows what is actually in one of those). The more steps food has to take from its natural state, the less clean it tends to be.Clean foods are the best because our bodies are designed to thrive off real food.

It has helped that we have so much fresh vegetables and fruit in the house right now from our garden and other people’s gardens.  I am determined to keep it up throughout the fall and winter as well.  My reason is not weight loss but basic health.  I struggle with anxiety, severe PMS, and I am around kids all day with runny noses.  We’ve already dealt with one stomach bug already that I thankfully only had mildly.  It is too early to tell if the diet change is making a significant difference, but I can tell you I lost two pounds and my anxiety has been minimal.

So bring on the fall!  I am not sure what this school year will hold, but it’s been a good three weeks already.

Depression Is Real

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As the death of Robin Williams moved from breaking news to yesterday’s news to no longer news, I cannot help but focus on the reality of depression and how it plagues so many of us.

We see a funny, animated, energetic, successful man on the screen.  But behind closed doors, there is addiction, depression, and despair.

There are many of us appear to be happy, upbeat, joyful, and excited about the littlest things in life.  We may be clever, silly, and natural entertainers.  Our highs touch the sky, but our lows sink us beneath normal. This is exactly how I felt in the fall of 1995 when I started college.  This was before I knew much about anxiety and depression and that I struggled with it.

I felt like my mind was racing so fast that my body could not keep up with it. Recently I was watching Episode #4 of Disappeared in which an 18 year old boy who has struggled with anxiety and depression in the past leaves his home in a small Illinois town. Searchers find a note he handwritten in a state park in Wisconsin that says, “My head is too big for my body.  Finally I will get some sleep.”

This is exactly how I felt.  I did not want to commit suicide…I never got to that point…but escape the crazy consuming racing thoughts…I wished it for it every day.  There were days I thought it would be easier to transfer to another college, move to another state, quit school and move back home, or just sleep–but I knew my thoughts would continue and maybe intensify.

I felt like an entertainer.  I could be upbeat, funny, and energetic in large groups of people. I could always be found chatting with someone in the lobby or studying with someone in the study basement.  But behind closed doors I was an emotional mess and I had no idea how to express this.  I even wrote this poem in November of 1995:

My name is the Entertainer

I make people laugh with my jokes

Until they shove me away

If only they knew I was crying inside

Perhaps dying

My name is the Entertainer

And I am a walking liar.

I didn’t know what to do.  Every day got harder.  The thoughts did not go away but got faster and fiercer.  I became more lonely every single day.  I was losing friends.   I did not blame people for not inviting me to things or wanting to get to know me better because I didn’t really like myself either.

That is the problem with those of us prone to anxiety and depression.  We can be hard to deal with.  We can be a challenge to live with.  We are way too sensitive and you have to walk on egg shells around us.  You can raise your hand during “the prayer request time” in Bible Study and tell about your friend struggling with cancer, but we can’t share about our dark depression that is paralyzing our own life.

I remember walking into a counseling session nervous, scared out of my mind and believing at that time counseling was only for “the crazies.”  After my counselor told me I tested high for anxiety his next words were, “This is treatable.”

There is help, my friends.  There’s medication, support groups, exercise, dietary changes, job changes, counseling and more.  All these things helped me at one time or another.

But ultimately and most importantly there is God.  I believe he did not intend for us to live this way trapped in our racing thoughts.  I know our world is constantly saying, “this is who I am and I need to accept who I am.” People will try to pump you with self esteem messages that if you only love yourself a little more you wouldn’t be so depressed.  There might be a place for this in certain circumstances.

If we were born any which way, we were born sinful.  Sin entangles us and triggers our mind to succumb to anxiety. Sometimes we feel too weak to fight it.  God is fighting for us.

I healed because I came to a place where I realized all I had was my faith in Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:7)  It was a feeble shaky faith. I didn’t have to try love myself more and change myself into a healthy person because Christ already loved me with his ultimate sacrifice on the cross (Galatians 2:20) and changed me into a new creation.  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I began crying out to the Lord asking for a way out of this.  I didn’t have many people to talk to and those I did talk to I had exhausted the relationship.  The Lord never grew tired of listening to my laments.  He answered my prayers.  Not overnight.  Slowly the thoughts died down, I found solid friendships, I could focus again, I could sleep again, and I found practical ways to live with my anxious prone brain.

I had setbacks.  I still struggle.  My moods are sometimes unpredictable and up and down.  But I will forever carry with me “a hope.”  (1 Peter 1:3).

My friends it’s so much more than loving yourself and loving others.  It goes beyond following Jesus’ teachings and trying to be like Him.  It is knowing Him.  It is abiding with Him.  It is trusting Him.  That my friends is where it needs to begin for us walking in depression.

 

I Survived the Hagg Lake Triathlon

Triathlon is an amazing sport because you do not put continuous strain on the same muscles.  Swimming, biking, and running all work different parts of your body thus preventing overuse and even worse…injury.

The challenge for the newbie triathletes like myself is was what to focus on.  If I did not have much of a life, I would run, bike, swim, lift weights, and do yoga twice a week.  Being a mom of three and not wanting to wake up at 4:30 AM every single morning and feeling ready for bed at 8:30 PM when the sun hasn’t fully gone down, I can only focus on one or two areas.  I chose open water swimming.

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After nearly crashing head on into a dock last summer and literally swimming in circles, I knew I had to tackle this.  I had the wet suit (bought super cheap on ebay), the nice goggles (Mother’s Day gift), and access to a private lake.  After several practice swims this spring and summer, I knew I was ready.  A week before my triathlon, I swam in my friend’s lake and did not fasten my wet suit properly.  I felt something dragging and rubbing against my neck, but ignored it.

IMG_1153The next morning I woke up with a chafed neck.  My husband looked at it and had the nice response of:  “Woa it looks really really bad.” Thanks. And it hurt like a neck injury.  I could not fully turn my neck to the right without pain.  Thankfully chafing heals quickly and by Saturday morning (the morning of my race) it did not hurt anymore.

I drove to Hagg Lake and left my house at 5:15 AM.  I printed out directions from Map Quest, from the race website, hand wrote directions, and programmed the GPS.  Obsessive?  Probably.  I almost missed the start of the Portland Marathon in 2006 because we were overconfident we could find the starting line in downtown Portland having only lived in Oregon one month.  Never, ever again.  I can still feel the panic.

I signed up for the “tri-it tri” which is for the novice triathletes who are first timers.  We swim 1/4 mile while the sprint triathletes swim 1/2 mile.  However we bike the same 12 miles and run 3.1 miles. I found out quite a few of my tri-it competitors were not first timers–they were just scared to swim 1/2 mile.  I cannot say I blame them.

All we had to was swim to a green buoy, swim across to another green buoy and then swim back to shore.  They gave us the instructions like four times which I was very thankful for–I think I need them that many times before it sticks.

We were the final wave of swimmers.  When the gun went off it was a big crowd of people all swimming towards the buoy.  I kept bumping into people and finally found a spot where I could push forward.  At one point I looked back and there was hardly anyone behind me.  Oh well–my goal was to swim open water not get first place.  My anti-fog goggles fogged up the entire time but I could look up and see the green buoys.

I made it out of the water and headed up to transition.  I’ve learned the art of transition and had all my items laid out in the order I put them on.  This would be my first triathlon biking in clips–the last two I wore regular shoes and biked on the clips (which is probably more dangerous because there is very little pedal–but I felt safer).  Running with the bike in clips is challenging and hopping on the bike and clipping in is nerve wracking, but I made it.

The best place to eat and drink is on the bike. I learned that on a Triathlon 101 video.  I taped a packet of peanut butter gu to my frame.  I ripped it off immediately and some of the gu got all over my fingers which got on my handle bars thus creating a sticky mess.  And what I am supposed to with the empty packet?  The video never said.  I threw it to the side of road afraid I was going to get yelled at for littering.

Then I made Rookie Mistake #1.  I grab the bottle of Gatorade, drink it, reach to put it back in the water bottle holder…and miss.  It goes rolling down the road settling in the middle of the bike course.  There is a whole slew of bikes coming.  Do I leave it?  Do I stop and get it?  Because I am such a cheap skate and it’s my favorite water bottle, I stop and almost forget to clip out which would have sent me crashing on the bike course thus creating another barrier.  I grab the water bottle just as bikers are coming and I yell, “Sorry just getting my water bottle,” feeling like a total dork.  Later on the course I saw someone’s water bottle to the side of that road so I wasn’t the only dork.

That was the least of my worries.  My friend told me this course is really hilly.  No problem.  I bike on hills.  “No, like people actually walked their bikes up the hill.”  Oh come on–how bad can it be?  Wow!  The uphills were massive.  I actually cried (thankfully not too loud) on the last hill.  But it wasn’t just the uphill it was the downhill too.  I am terrified of going at full speed down those hills.  I see myself wiping out or crashing into someone.  I know I shouldn’t, but I still ride the brake.

It doesn’t help I did crash my bike on a hill in high school and messed up my face–and blacked out.  I don’t remember falling.  I remember seeing a kid in the road and the next thing I remember is being in the bathroom wiping up the blood streaming from my face.  It also doesn’t help an elite triathlete who has given me advice and swims at the same pool as me had a bad crash a couple weeks ago.  I was so grateful I made it and I didn’t have to stop.  I just kept climbing up the hills.  I was proud of my orange road bike that has nice low gears for climbing.

It was a relief to get back to transition and strap on my running shoes.  Running–I can do this!  Then I made Rookie Mistake #2.  I pinned my number to my biking shirt which I was wearing over my tri suit.  I didn’t want to wear my biking shirt in the run because it was getting very hot out.  So I had to unpin the number and re pin in to my tri top.  I had to choose  running in layers when the temp is getting to the 80’s or get the worst transition time.  I chose the latter and yes, I had the worst transition time of all the tri-it triathletes.  But at least I was comfortable on the run.

The running course was partially trail, partially road, and a few rolling hills–pretty normal.  My time was about 9 minutes more than what I normally get on a 5K.  I had to take a few walk breaks because that bike ride nearly wiped me out.

My final time:  1:49:45.  Of the 21 tri-it triathletes, I got 8th place.  Of the women I got 5th.  Of my age group I got first (ha ha–there were only two of us).   Not bad!

What’s next?  I have no idea.  Probably no triathlons anytime soon and that isn’t because I don’t want to do another one.  It’s more of a scheduling and cost reason.  But maybe another open water one in the future?  Lord willing, I’d love to do it again.  And have my training focus on bicycling.

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Ten years ago…

I think it happens to me late May/early June every year.  I get a little sad.

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Ten years ago,  2004 we were loaded up a U Haul barely fitting everything in (we joked it was like playing Tetris) and left our home in Fruitport, Michigan.  I had a job as a youth director there from May of 2000 until June of 2004.  My husband and I lived in a house next door to the church from May 2001 until we left.  In some ways this move was harder than our move to Oregon in August of 2006. (We lived in Gary, Indiana from June of 2004 until June of 2005, Muskegon, Michigan the summer of 2005, and Grand Rapids, Michigan September 2005 until August of 2006.)

I felt like God was calling me into youth ministry when I was in my teens–“a kid in youth ministry myself.”  Although I went through some difficult years as a pastor’s kid that made me question actually working for a church, God blessed me that first year with an amazing group of kids I loved.  As I went through my first year of ministry, I kept feeling God’s peace.  I expected chaos and conflict, but I was blessed with the opposite.  I am not saying everything that first year or the next three were easy.  There were difficult times, heartbreaking moments, times I made mistakes, and days I questioned my calling.  There were times I was exhausted and felt inadequate.  Yet I cried almost every single night our last week in Fruitport and it was like mourning the death of a friend.

I did not talk it very much until later…it seems like it came out at all the wrong times…but I was not just mourning our church, but youth ministry in general.  I knew it was very unlikely I would do youth ministry as a job for a very long time…if ever…and I would do some new thing for work.  So I searched for that thing.

When we left in 2004 and the years that followed, I quickly tried to fill that hole of missing youth ministry with something else.  I thought I would go into early childhood education. After a brief stint of working in a day care, I felt like a door was closing.  I thought about becoming a veterinary technician because I love animals.  After a couple classes, it just wasn’t me.  I had to move on.  When a friend of mine asked me a couple weeks ago, “If you could do anything for a job, what would you want you to do?”  I honestly don’t know.  I don’t have an answer right now.  In some ways not much has changed in ten years.

Don’t get me wrong–I’ve had some good jobs.  Jobs I love.  I love my news writing job.  I love interviewing people.  I love writing.  My world has opened as I see God working in places like inner city Seattle, rural Minnesota and the suburbs in between.  I do enjoy child care.  It has worked absolutely perfect with our schedule, the kids are sweet, I can stay home with my own kids, and I think I need a house with more chaos than serene.  There are always kids here, art projects on the table, toys in the backyard, and laughter–I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I have done youth ministry as a volunteer for many years.  I do enjoy it.  I love the kids as much as I loved my Fruitport kids.  But it’s different.  And it was an adjustment to be on staff versus a volunteer.  For one youth ministry is a small compartment of my life and I cannot give it the attention to the degree I wish I could.  I have very little time to read youth ministry books, go to conferences, meet with other youth leaders, visit schools, go to sports games, and take kids out for ice cream.  Those are some of the things I enjoyed  in Fruitport and I can’t do those things here because of my demands as a stay-at-home mom, my kid’s schedules, child care, writing, and other responsibilities.

When the kids are in school all day and a few years has passed–I have a feeling our lives will be different.  I may be doing “that new thing”  even though I have no clue right now what it is.  Maybe it’s paid youth ministry.  Maybe it isn’t  Maybe it’s not much different than what I am doing now.  Maybe it’s something I never dreamed of doing.

But whatever it is, I am grateful for the four years of youth ministry I had.  And I am grateful for the ten years of doing odd jobs, writing, child care and being a stay-at-home mom.  I don’t know tomorrow will bring, but I can know God has a plan for me.