#blessed

I haven’t posted in a while, dear reader.  It is not because I haven’t thought about all of you, and it isn’t because I had nothing to say. I suppose it is because I have had too much to say that I could not actually share with the world. Despite my desire to be an open book, to be as transparent in my failures as in my successes, the truth is that there are some things that one cannot simply share with the world, even from the relative anonymity  of the internet.

The Handy Man and I have struggled.  Not to spoil the story–but simply as reassurance–we are fine now.  However, the last six-and-a-half years have been tough.  Really, really tough.  Our marriage has gone through some of the worst of the “for better or for worse” in our marriage vows.  Discouragement, anger (at God, at each other), disappointment, financial stress…all served to make our marriage difficult.  We are on the mend, I think…talking more, seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, trusting God to be God and allowing each other to be human.  Now that that is out of the way…

You know, when I first started this blog, The Handy Man had just lost his job. I was SO optimistic that God would provide for us. And in my arrogance I naturally assumed that He would provide in a way that would include a GREAT new job for the Handy Man–a career that would be fulfilling and would pay us at least as much as he had made before, if not more.  I was just so sure that God would BLESS us.  You know, we would be #blessed.

Ha.  You can read about that journey over the course of the last six years in the archives.  Sometimes we were very optimistic, other times we were despairing.  The Handy Man went back to school. Surely, I thought, this would lead to a GOOD job with GREAT pay and decent benefits.  That did not pan out.  Then, he got the factory job. Surely THIS was the stepping stone to something wonderful!  Instead, it slowly sucked the life out of him brow-beating day after brow-beating day.  He was so demoralized, yet so relieved when he was fired from that job.   So, when a friend offered him a position as a helper in his tiling business, The Handy Man took it. It was a generous offer for what it was….but it came no where near meeting our financial needs.  I watched for over a year as the Handy Man’s body suffered the abuse of a torturous  physically demanding job. And still, I had this great hope that one of the jobs to which The Handy Man applied would be THE ONE.  I prayed over them. I hoped for them. I believed  God would BLESS us.  In the mean time, I spent 15 months delivering pizzas. Then I stopped. Then God placed the school bus driver job in my lap. Somehow, He always provided, whether I was the main bread winner or The Handy Man was….or even when it made absolutely NO sense how we possible could survive. Because frequently, it made no sense. God’s grace was manifested in ways too amazing to have been asked for….how could we have known to ask for the things that happened to provide for us?  Was the blessing in the provision, or was it in seeing God provide in ways too amazing to believe?

In our culture, even among some of our good Christian friends, that pesky #blessed pops up whenever good things happen–a new house, a new car, a new baby, an adoption, a vacation, etc.   It’s enough, sometimes, to want to never look at Facebook again. But when do we ever see #blessed when we lose a job, or lose a loved one to death, or find ourselves at the end of our ropes desperately hanging on because we have absolutely NO IDEA how the bills will be paid or how we will afford to feed our kids?  In our church culture, these are not the things that we think of when we think of being blessed.

Our ideas of blessedness pervade even more nuanced things, like how we expected our families to turn out. We never think, “Oh, wow, I want my teenage daughter to get pregnant her first year of college, and we will be BLESSED with a beautiful granddaughter!”  And yet, the blessings of having Sweet Pea in our life and the ray of sunshine she is in this world would have never happened if her existence had happened as we would have planned.  Star Child recently announced her pregnancy to the online world. We have known for a lot longer than that, and after the initial shock, we are thrilled….for we have learned that the true blessing is not in having it as we wished, but that God would give us a grandchild at all. (We are expecting our first grandson!)

Laura Story is one of my favorite song writers.  “Blessings”  is one of my favorite songs, especially in light of all the things we have gone through in the last few years.

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things
‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise
We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe
‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguiseWhen friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not,
This is not our home
It’s not our home’Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

 

You see, the thing is, how blessed I am has NOTHING to do with how much money we have, or what our house looks like, or whether our family is Facebook perfect. My blessedness is not dependent on my good health or whether God answered my prayers the way I wanted Him to.  We are not blessed because we tithe or because we do enough for God. We are not blessed because we do anything to earn it.  The Bible says God blessed Abraham  because He chose Abraham, and as a result of Abraham’s believing God’s blessing for him, he was considered righteous…simply  because he believed God WOULD bless him as God had promised.  God does the choosing. God does the blessing.  I receive it all by grace, just as Abraham did.  (And yes, there is blessing in obedience, but our temptation is to believe that our obedience is what caused the blessing…what happens when we are obedient but the blessing doesn’t come? What if my obedience does not lead to a prayer answered affirmatively?  Am I then less blessed?)

I am learning–I cannot say I have learned, because, truthfully, at the next crisis moment I will be probably be right back at the place of desperation begging God to show up AS HE HAS promised. (He says he will never leave nor forsake us!)  But I am learning that to be #blessed  looks a lot less like what the world around us (and yes, even the church) says it does, and looks a lot more like finding Jesus in the suffering.  And maybe that is the point.

After so many disappointing situations where we HOPED for a certain job, but were disappointed, or where we EXPECTED God to do great things, but those great things never panned out as we thought, we finally stopped hoping and stopped expecting. We simply trusted that God would take care of us, whatever that looked like,. We trusted God to BE God…to provide, to lead, to  bless us how HE saw fit.   I know I personally just surrendered it; I took myself out of the blessings driver seat.  I stopped telling God HOW to bless us and started trusting that He would do what was best for us. It is hard to pray with no clear cut expectation…because my human inclination is to picture my expected end and have God do it like some kind of genie.   My desired path to #blessed  is not at all how God usually chooses to bless me. Usually, the blessing comes through tears. Usually, it comes through the trial–not  having avoided it.  And I am learning that I would not really want it any other way. You see, what I learn of God’s character–of his real, abiding love for me— and what I learn about myself and my absolute NEED for God to be the one in charge of my life, of how much I must depend on Him alone, these are the things that that bless.

So. I write this blog post today with an encouragement for those who are not feeling particularly #blessed.  Stop looking at the world to define blessing, and start looking to the only one who can actually  bless you. Believe Him when he says he has a hope and a future for you.  His plans for you are so much better than the plans you have for yourself, even when the path to and through them is dark, scary, and filled with suffering. His sanctifying work in you may be the greatest blessing, if you will simply stop fighting to have it your way and trust Him to do it HIS way. And remember, His way led Jesus to the cross and invites us to take up our crosses and follow him, to forsake the easy way and walk the hard path of humble, dependent surrender.

Oh, and lest I forget to tell you how the job thing worked out….The Handy Man DID finally get a good job.  He is a custodian at a local elementary school.  The pay is, well, it is just enough.  We won’t be going on any fancy vacations or buying any brand new cars anytime soon, but after the last few years, just knowing that we have a steady income is such a relief.  And, he likes the job. He likes his coworker, he loves the kids…and they appreciate and love him back.  The work is just challenging enough to cause him to need rest each night,  but not so hard it is beating him down. The path we took to get here…as difficult and as heart-wrenching as it has been…well, I would say it has made us #blessed.

 

 

 

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