When the answer is continually, “No”

I have not written much lately about our daily adventures. Frankly, I’ve been in quite a funk.  The last 14 months have been difficult…really difficult. Losing my father. The Handy Man’s fall off  the ladder. The Handy Man losing the job he hated that didn’t make much, but at least it was steady.  Losing my grandfather.  Even the good things, while very good, were stressful: our amazing trip to Maine (where I traveled 1200+ miles with four kids alone and then back 1200+ miles with two kids alone, and where we put Daddy’s ashes to rest) and Lindy’s wedding (about which I never even blogged because I was too exhausted!)

The Handy Man has been working part time for a friend who installs tile.  It is a physically demanding job with unpredictable hours and often very long commutes.  Meanwhile, the Handy Man has been applying to jobs locally.  I babysat a little girl for a few months, and then I passed my test to get my CDL to become a bus driver, and now I drive part time for the county school system with hopes of going full time (and getting some medical insurance for myself!) Life is topsy-turvy at best right now–uncertain, unpredictable, financially on the edge of ruin.  Looking at preliminary tax numbers, we earned less last year than all but our first year of marriage, almost 23 years ago. That is depressing.

More than that, though, is that this season has lasted so very long.  When the Handy Man lost his job five and a half years ago, I was so optimistic that something would surely come along soon. And then it didn’t, so he went back to school. And the position for which he trained didn’t come along, so he took something else that paid less, but at least it paid something, in exchange for the promise that when a position in his field of preference opened, he would get that opportunity. Until it became clear that he wouldn’t.  And then he lost that job. Thankfully, our friend was able to use him right away….part time.  And so we continue to wait.

We have had several job opportunities come to us for the Handy Man–people contacting me to let me know of an opening where they work, or with someone they know, or something they saw. And each time, if it was a job that matched the many varied skills of the Handy Man, he applied.  At the end of December he had an extraordinarily promising interview–they sent him home with insurance information and asked for his license for a background check.  It was a job in the field in which he spent 16 years. It was located in the town where we would like to relocate to be closer to church.   It was the perfect job, or so we thought. Last week he heard back. Thanks, but no thanks. He did not get it. I had allowed myself to hope; I had allowed myself to consider and dare to dream of the possibility of a better job with better pay and health coverage so I could finally take care of some health issues I have. I was crushed. On so many levels, I was utterly crushed.

Can I just be honest here?  This one hit me so very hard.  I have prayed and prayed and PRAYED for a job for my husband.  At first, for the first five years even, I prayed for a job that would provide financial stability.  And then my prayers shifted as I watched my husband work this part time tile job–a job that sometimes requires him to walk up and down a flight of stairs 50 times a day to cut tiles, a job that requires him to move sometimes more than 2000 pounds of materials, one box at a time, up those stairs, a job that has caused him to go down to the smallest size pants he has ever worn in our marriage.  He comes home  so exhausted some nights that all he can do is eat dinner, shower, and fall into bed. And then some weeks, when his boss doesn’t have work, he doesn’t work at all.  I would call it feast or famine, but there is never a feast. My husband is so smart, so able to do so many things. Why has God denied every good opportunity that has come to our attention?

I feel  betrayed. For the first time in this long season, I find myself waking at night wracked with anxiety.  God has always provided for us. I KNOW THIS.  And yet, I see the hours my husband has worked, and I know what pay I have coming, and I have no idea how those bills will be paid, how I will put food on the table for my children.  Yes, the provision is always there.  It is, undeniably.   I am beginning to understand why the Israelite  children complained so about manna.  They saw God’s faithfulness day after day after day. Yet, each morning they had to get up, gather just enough for THAT day (twice as much the day before Sabbath) and watch it rot with worms if they tried to gather more than they needed. Each day they were completely dependent on God, and that provision was COMPLETELY OUT OF THEIR CONTROL.  It sounds easy. Just gather today’s manna. Trust that tomorrow it will be there again.  I know I have to die to my ideas of control and security.  Again. And again. And yet again. It’s exhausting.

The last few weeks I have found myself crying–literally crying, with tears rolling down my cheeks, sobs wracking my  body–as I call on the Lord. I want to know WHY!?!  I want to know what else we need to do.  I want to know what we are doing wrong. WHY has He forsaken us?  Okay, I know He has not actually forsaken us.  I know it just feels that way.  And yet, sometimes I will feel the tears rolling down my cheeks before I realize I am crying. I am angry with God, pleading with God, depending on God…all at the same time. And yes, even worshiping Him in the midst of all the angst.

I posted on social media that I was having trouble sleeping due to anxiety. Some of my friends were super helpful–they were praying, they offered some natural remedies for anxiety, they love us.  Others encouraged us to look to the Lord .  Good advice. And others admonished me that God never promised to change our circumstance, that people in countries where Christians are killed come to Jesus without assurances that their circumstances will change.  And yes, that is true.  I just want to say that when you have a friend who is hurting, there are certain things that are not helpful. Telling them to buck up,  comparing their hurt to others–it doesn’t help.  Reminding them that all the lost people around them are looking at them and wondering where the joy is–that doesn’t help, either.

Here is my response. I am hurting. I find myself crying for reasons I cannot control. My doctor today (because, yes, I finally went for my annual checkup four months late) told me that my blood pressure is way too high. As I broke down in her office and gave her the snapshot of my life, she just nodded and said, “so you feel like life is falling apart?”  Yep, that about sums it up. She told me to take care of myself–my thyroid is not functioning well again, so we upped my medication. She admonished me to get my blood pressure checked several times a week and report back to her–if it is still high, then I have to start on mediation. In her words, I am in danger of “Stroking out” and my family and children need me.  She recognized that the anxiety and depression may be partly caused by the thyroid. And she gave me a natural supplement to help with mood stabilization.  Some of what I have been going through may be physical,  but not all of it

There is more that God has been showing me.  Last night, I was crying. Sweet Pea came into my room in need of tooth brushing so she could go to bed. As I was brushing her teeth, I began to sing, as I do every night that I brush her teeth  (her Mom is often not home from work when it is bed time.)  Last night,  from the depths of my despair, a praise medley–not of songs I have ever heard, either–came pouring from my lips as I brushed her teeth.  She did not fight me as I brushed, and I felt the Holy Spirit bringing forth worship that I was incapable of generating on my own in that moment.  I began to think on Scripture. The latter part of Hebrews chapter four through Hebrews chapter eight talks in depth about Jesus our high priest. In Hebrews 4:15, it says “For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”    And then God brought to my mind what Jesus called out on the cross in the dark hour before his death. Matthew 27 and Mark 15 both record that Jesus called out in a loud voice at around the ninth hour, “My God, My God, Why has Thou Forsaken me?”  Two things stand out.  First, Jesus still acknowledged God, his Father. Second, Jesus felt abandoned.  He was tested in every way and never sinned. He felt what we  will at some time feel, and he never sinned. Even in his agony, crying out to God, asking His Father why he he had forsaken the Son….even in that, Jesus did not sin.

And that leads me to this:  Even in MY agony. Even as I cry out. Even as I question God and beg him and ask Him where He is and Why this is happening.  Even as I demand to know how much LONGER this season will last.  Even as I cannot FEEL HIS COMFORT, even then, He loves me, and He is with me, and He does not condemn me.  I don’t have to be the perfect Christian with all the answers because I am not.  A friend told me that my hope is in Jesus.  And she is right. My hope IS in Jesus. And if He came to take me home RIGHT NOW, that would be such a huge relief.

The hard part is living this reality:  our situation may never change. The Handy Man may never get the job that will be physically less demanding and pay better and more consistently.  I may never have the assurance that tomorrow’s bills will be paid beyond seeing that God was faithful today. I may live with my health issues, unable to address them until they kill me.  The hard part is dying to all those things.

Today, as I drove three hours round trip to my doctor, I was listening to a Christian radio station.  God ministered to me through song after song after song…songs about believing even when God doesn’t answer prayer, songs about holding on when you want to give up, songs about praising Him in the storm. He knew exactly what my hurting heart needed to hear, and He made sure I heard it. This song by Skillet came on, and the words really, really spoke to me:

“Stars”

You spoke a word and life began
Told oceans where to start and where to end
You set in motion time and space
But still you come and you call to me by name
Still you come and you call to me by name

If you can hold the stars in place
You can hold my heart the same
Whenever I fall away
Whenever I start to break
So here I am, lifting up my heart
To the one who holds the stars

The deepest depths, the darkest nights
Can’t separate, can’t keep me from your sight
I get so lost, forget my way
But still you love and you don’t forget my name

If you can hold the stars in place
You can hold my heart the same
Whenever I fall away
Whenever I start to break
So here I am, lifting up my heart
If you can calm the raging sea
You can calm the storm in me
You’re never too far away
You never show up too late
So here I am, lifting up my heart
To the one who holds the stars

Your love has called my name
What do I have to fear?
What do I have to fear?
Your love has called my name
What do I have to fear?
What do I have to fear?

If you can hold the stars in place
You can hold my heart the same
Whenever I fall away
Whenever I start to break
So here I am, lifting up my heart
(Lifting up my heart)
If you can calm the raging sea
You can calm the storm in me
You’re never too far away
You never show up too late
So here I am, lifting up my heart
To the one who holds the stars

You’re the one who holds the stars

One last thought comes to me as I get ready to post this blog.  I may not always be the chipper soldier of the cross that exudes pure joy in the midst of trials. In fact, I know I am not.  I do know, though, that it is in my honesty that my unbelieving family sees my Jesus. My mother told me the other day that she knows that my strength and my comfort come from my faith in the Lord.  She said that for me, it is REAL.  She doesn’t see that because I am so strong and  handle things so well.  She was encouraging me with the truth…a truth she does not believe for herself, but which she sees as undeniably real in me, as she reminded me that God has not forsaken me.  I think it is possible that when our faith is authentic, and we are REAL about our struggles, and we don’t sugarcoat our fears….it is just possible that those are the times when the unbelievers around us see Jesus.  It is just a thought.

 

 

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2 Responses to When the answer is continually, “No”

  1. Dear Andrea – I am so sorry to hear of your travails, but so encouraged in your close relationship to God. I wish I could transport you here to LA where there are more opportunities, or Atlanta, or wherever … but I can’t. You are a great writer. Your blog post was so real and vulnerable, I could FEEL your angst. I will be praying for you and Wendell and will ask Lorraine to do the same, along with her women’s group she has been in these last few years. I wish I could offer words that could help, some way to comfort you, some way to give you hope. About the best I can do is to say, “Andrea – You are an incredible woman, an unbelievable spouse, a terrific Mom and grandma. Those that are privileged to be in your presence and have a relationship with you, and that includes God, are truly blessed.” ~ Calvin

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    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Calvin. Our hope is securely in knowing that GOD has us…however the circumstances around us may fall. Things are a little better now….the bus job has provided the needed income to allow us to live slightly above water. Maybe Wendell retires in a few years, or maybe he finds a different opportunity….or maybe it stays the same. We shall see. 🙂 Whatever happens, God has us. I would LOVE to come to LA to see you and Lorraine….maybe one day that will happen.

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