Sunday, February 10, 2013

Water on the Altar

We have been trying to move for years.  We bought this house as shiny-eyed newlyweds who had watched too much Trading Spaces, and we thought we could make this thing the coolest house on the block.  We had fun fixing up our thousand square feet.  And then we had three kids in four-and-a-half years, and the house dropped down to last priority.

Over the years, we have looked at houses, fallen in love with houses, and even made offers on houses.  But God closed every door.  So we kept coming back to trying to be content where we are.

When Jared and I were discussing our goals for this year, he said his top goal is for us to finally move this year.  I laughed at him and told him in no uncertain terms that my goals weren't even close to his.  But then I spent time praying about it, and I felt God nudging me to accept the possibility of moving this year.

So we have been looking at houses, walking through houses, getting pre-approved for a new home loan, talking, and praying.  Some surprising opportunities have come up, and we have continued to work at being as emotionally neutral as possible and focused on trusting God to lead us each step of the way.

The topic of moving is complicated by so many factors.  We have to clean, organize, and fix up our current house to make it appealing to buyers.  We have to pack, paint, and clean while maintaining life as usual for our three young kids.  Do we try to move before or after our big family vacation in June?  We haven't found any desirable houses in our current school district.  That means that Nolan would have to switch schools and Griffin would be starting school at a new place.  Also, the topic of Griffin starting kindergarten is overwhelming in itself.  Which school will best meet his needs?  How will he do with starting all-day school?  And what exactly is an IEP?

In the midst of the moving discussion, I'm still trying to get on track with therapy and activities for Griffin.  I've been talking to several helpful people and looking into various resources.  A friend invited me to attend a conference with her about Autism Spectrum Disorders and the school system.  Perfect!  I found a different conference, called Autism 101, that is designed to help me better understand the resources available to Griffin and our family.  Great!  I've been looking for an activity that will work on Griffin's muscle tone, and we've had a few painful failures with basketball and tumbling.  I found out about private swim lessons offered right here in our town, and I was so excited that both boys can take swim lessons to prepare for our big vacation this summer as well as give Griffin a physical outlet and a chance to develop his muscles.

Things were looking great.  I finally had a plan.  I was right in that sweet spot of figuring some stuff out and trusting God to work the rest out.

And then it all changed.

I had emailed Jared the information about the Autism 101 conference, and he replied by telling me that he would be traveling over the date of the conference.  And while we're discussing it, he gave me a list of all his upcoming trips.  My stomach knotted as I read date after date of his departures.  He will be traveling for part of every month from now through June.  Noooo!

Shortly before this travel conversation, we also discovered an unexpected problem.  Jared's paycheck wasn't what it was supposed to be.  Some investigation led to the discovery of increased Social Security taxes being taken out as well as a few more adjustments to what is taken out of his monthly check.  And the amount of his upcoming bonus was decreased by the higher-ups.  And his company decided to lower the amount of his long-awaited raise (hopefully coming later this year).

The business trips and decreased income pushed me back into the dark world of Survival Mode.  That's when we go through the motions of school and church, eat strange meals because we have to use whatever food we have on hand, I don't get any "me time" or participation in adult activities (committees, groups, or volunteering for anything), and the kids don't get to do anything out of the ordinary.  Survival Mode doesn't allow for swim lessons or Autism conferences.  Survival Mode is not compatible with moving.  I don't enjoy Survival Mode.

A dear friend recently bought me the book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  It is having such an impact on me.  It reminds me daily to focus on God's presence.  Truly focus on his presence and let him take care of the details of my life.  This is a big stretch for me, but it also really changes the way I view God and my life.

I was trying to mesh all these things together in my mind:  our dream to move to a larger house, my desire to learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorders, the need to get Griffin into therapeutic activities, our tighter finances, Jared's travel imposing single motherhood on me, Survival Mode, and my efforts to focus on God's presence and trust him.  A Bible story came to my mind.

In 1 Kings 18, Elijah (a prophet of God) addressed the people of Israel and said, "How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!" But the people were completely silent (1 Kings 18:21).  Elijah then addressed the 450 prophets of Baal and told them to choose a bull, prepare it for sacrifice, lay it on their altar, and call on their god.  He planned to do the same.  He said whichever god responded by setting the sacrifice on fire was the true God.

The prophets of Baal prepared their sacrifice and cried out to Baal.  They cried out from morning until noontime with no response, so they danced around their altar.  Elijah came and mocked them, saying they needed to speak louder because perhaps their god was daydreaming or busy or asleep.  They shouted louder and even followed their custom of cutting themselves with knives and swords.  "They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no reply, no response" (1 Kings 18:29).

So Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down.  Then he dug a trench around the altar, prepared the bull for sacrifice, and laid the wood and bull on the altar.  He called out for the people to fill four jugs with water and pour it over the wood and offering (the bull).  Then he told them to do it again.  And again!  Three times they poured the water over the altar, until the water poured over and filled the trench around the altar.
At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”

Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!” (1 Kings 18:36-39)
I hadn't thought about this story in a long time, and I know that God was the one who brought it to my mind.

The decrease in our income and the unexpected business trips are like water on our altar.  God is laying the groundwork to show that he alone can accomplish all he has planned for our family this year.  So far he has only given us hints that change is coming for us.  It might be moving, or it might be different changes.  I do know that God doesn't want me to take credit for planning and carrying out what he is actually doing.  He wants me to trust him now before I know anything as well as in the midst of scary change and painful progress.

I find it very difficult to balance daily tasks and preparations for the future.  I guess the point is that I don't have to balance it.  Part of God's change on the horizon will undoubtedly include helping me understand how to fully trust him with today as well as tomorrow.  Maybe my personality is more water on the altar!


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