Sunday, April 10, 2011

Our Story, part two

I remember hearing once that there is a tribe of people somewhere in Africa whose cultural norm is to not react to pain.  In other words, if someone from that tribe were walking down a road and stubbed his toe on a rock, he would just keep walking with no apparent reaction.  Supposedly when this was first witnessed by outsiders, they thought that there was something genetic in this group of people that kept them from feeling pain.  It was quite the opposite; they felt pain, they just chose not to react to it.

That concept is utterly foreign to most of the world, and probably especially to a modern day American girl like me.  I can post a status update on facebook about my stubbing my toe and within five minutes fifteen people will have commented, telling me how sorry they am for me, how they hope I feel better, and how one time they stubbed their own toes and it hurt so much so they understand my pain.  My toe will hurt me less because I will feel validated and special about my little accident since so many people care.

What's interesting about living out your faith in the midst of hardship is that there is a careful balancing act in weathering the storm.  My general first reaction to hardship is to freak out; I am just like the disciples who panicked while the skies let loose a torrent of wind and rain that was sure to devastate their little boat.  But Jesus, oh Jesus; he was sleeping during that storm.  Because, as was our beloved motto at YoungLives camp last summer, there is no panic in heaven.  Our sovereign Lord is moving the heavens and the earth and working every little thing in and of them as a part of his glorious and perfect plan.

Ultimately, though, we're human and we're broken and we're imperfect and we're going to panic a little.  Pain is still pain and it still hurts.  I don't think God expects us to simply keep walking when we hit a stumbling block, but I don't think we're supposed to flip out and scream and cry and cuss and lay down and think we're going to just die.  Maybe instead an "Ouch!" and a glance around to see if anyone else noticed, and a better awareness of the rocks in the road so we don't whack them next time.

We came to a point where we realized that, due to financial hardships in both of our non-profit places of work, both of us might have to leave our jobs.  With our jobs would go our health care, and at this point I was 3.5 months pregnant.  We had already made the incredibly difficult choice in the previous fall for The Hubby to cut his hours (and pay) with Young Life in half to help recover our area budget, and we'd decided to make the most of that decision by using our savings for the graduate school courses that he dreamed for a long time of one day completing.  That had also meant losing our heath care, so we paid out of my check to join the much less beneficial benefits at my job.  It was hard to take such a drastic hit financially (and it wasn't like we were exactly rolling in the dough in the first place!) but we cinched our belts and generally took it in stride.  It was essentially a rock in the road; we tripped, it hurt, but we kept walking, even though now we were facing no money and no benefits just a few short months later, with my belly was swelling more every day.

I struggled so much in those weeks and months with the constant uncertainty.  I had no idea if my job would offer me a contract for the following school year, and they were letting go more incredible employees every week.  During this time we were also notified that our budget was so bad that The Hubby would have start receiving only 75% of his already part-time paycheck, for which he was already working at least 30 hours a week.  Thankfully, he was also substitute teaching.  I don't know what we would have done if he hadn't been able to make that extra money.  The late-night conversations about what to do next were getting really long.

Going to work became torture for me.  I was so sick and tired, and there was so much pain, hardship and hurt surrounding everyone there.  It felt like being on a sinking ship with only a few lifeboats, and you didn't know what wave might knock you next or if there would be room on a lifeboat.  I was afraid to let anyone know I was expecting and I tried to keep it secret for as long as I could, but eventually I had to share.  There was joy in that, and I'm thankful for my sweet colleagues who were genuinely joyful for us.

We stayed up so late talking in our bed night after night, trying to figure out what decisions we were supposed to make.  Those talks were always cut short by cuddling up and talking to the baby, feeling her kick and move and trying to find her heartbeat on the $6 echo I grabbed at a consignment sale. But finally, we finally made the heart-breaking decision to leave Young Life and for The Hubby to start looking for employment elsewhere.  We still had no idea what was next with my job.  I had planned my entire life to be a stay-at-home mom while my children were babies, but we just didn't see how that would be feasible with school and no job for The Hubby.

It felt in those days like I could never get a full breath between waves.  I knew in my heart of hearts that everything would work out, that the Lord was in control, that there was a plan in all of this.  I knew one day I could look back and smile on our hard days because they would all make sense.  But the uncertainties were killing me, and even though I wasn't screaming or giving up, I was sad that it felt like joy was being stolen from our precious first-baby time.  I know that I let the stress cause a lot of the health problems I experienced during my pregnancy.  I knew it then, too, and I was mad that I couldn't seem to just let it all roll off my back and keep smiling.  And, oh, how I tried!  I was proud of how hard we were leaning on the Lord and proud of how we were leaning on each other.  It was hard, but we weren't drowning.       

We were praying constantly, and in those days our faith and our marriage grew exponentially.  Our marriage was our haven, one of the few places where complete trust and transparency were safe.  Day by day, my desire to stay home with the baby when she arrived in the fall was growing.  If it were even possible for that desire to grow more; I knew deep down that I would never, ever leave her for her work.  I knew I couldn't.  I would rather starve.

The end of May came, and after months and months of uncertainly, I was one of the few given a contract for the following year.  Knowing full well that The Hubby's employment with Young Life was done as of July 1st, and knowing that he had no new job lined up, I walked into the office a few days later and handed the contract back, unsigned.  We had decided I would not return to work in the fall, to stay home with the baby, and to let the cards fall as they may.  As I walked away from that office, despite some hurt, it still felt like the heaviest of weights had been lifted off my shoulders.  There was a new bounce in my step, though probably indecipherable within the waddle that had begun to compensate for the big belly.  Instead of feeling scared, I felt free; I felt safe, I felt right.  I slept great that night, and I couldn't wait to see how God was going to show up next.

To be continued...    

2 comments:

  1. Although I knew most of this part of the story, it is SO good to be reminded that we sometimes just have to trust--take that next step in line with our convictions and trust that God will indeed make a way. I don't know as much of the next part of this story, so I'm excited to keep reading how God did make that way! What a great idea to have this all written down, by the way. Waverly will love reading this (from who knows what kind of technology) when she's older!

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  2. I love that you're "coming out" about all of this. :) You write beautifully, dear friend. Your words are striking a major heart chord of mine and I know you know what I mean. Love you, sweet sister.

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