This is part 2 of what I wrote back in February of this year.
But, that was not how the story went. After only a year of serving with our whole hearts at that church, Joe and I were both personally wounded by the words and actions of one of the pastors. It was as if God had led us into ministry just to see us be wounded and be made to feel like failures at our first church to serve full-time as a part of a church staff.
Though we knew the vast majority of the people of that church and on that staff loved us, the words and actions of that pastor left us feeling all alone and like God would never be able to use either of our gifts on a church staff. We immediately began crying out to God, and asking Him if we had misunderstood what we felt was His call on our lives to serve Him in ministry full-time.
For the first time in our pain, Joe and I had honest conversations of ‘is it worth this?’ ‘Are the rewards here on earth and in heaven, worth all the pain it seems to have brought us throughout our marriage? Do we really believe that God sees us in our pain and that He will rescue us?’
Those conversations ended always ended with a confident, “Yes, we believe. Help us when we lose sight of our belief.”
When I share my testimony I truly like to focus more on the triumph than the pain. The great thing about God being the Author of your life’s story is that eventually you come to realize that your life story is really God using you to help Him build His Kingdom.
All the pain and heartache we have experienced was a chance for God to reveal His glory through our lives:
The estrangement from Joe’s family has turned into a beautiful story of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Though we still feel the pain of losing three babies to miscarriage, we now get to experience the joy of having two children in our home and have had countless opportunities to reach out to others who have lost babies.
Our bank account still does not overflow with abundance. I find myself heading to the piggy bank from time to time to be able to splurge on a fancy cup of coffee. However, we can say very confidently that God has been faithful to meet our every need. I believe that our commitment to continue to tithe at our church and give to those in need even when we felt our income would not allow us to, opened up God’s mathematical blessing. Not enough income + tithe + giving =More than enough to meet our needs.
Once again this past week, I experienced the power of God taking my pain and heartache and using it for his glory.
The wounds that were inflicted by that pastor several years ago were very deep. Pain so deep that Joe and I determined that we would never again let ourselves get too close to leaders in a church. We would stay at an arm’s distance lest we find out they were more into making a name for themselves than bowing at the name of Jesus . We have never been ones that needed to be in the spotlight or have a title to serve, so we would volunteer and keep our distance.
Through serving as a children’s pastor at churches for six years, Joe discovered his passion for helping families and children one on one. Even though we were now both in our thirties, we followed God’s leading to head back to seminary for Joe to get another degree–this time in counseling. No more church staff dreams for us. This degree would allow us to do what we felt we now wanted to do: work in the secular world and volunteer at a church distanced from the church staff.
God worked true miracles to move us back to seminary, which was 12 hours away from where we were living.
At this point, I had been a stay at home mom for three years. We decided that the quickest way for Joe to get his degree was for me to go back to teaching full-time. I made one phone call to a former principal, and in less than 24 hours I was offered a teaching job before I had even filled out the application.
We had owned a house for a year, and it sold the first day it was on the market. We had been warned to expect to lose money. Instead we found ourselves getting a check in the mail after it sold.
The seminary had one family townhouse left for our little family of four to move into that August. Not only was it the perfect place for our family, it was right next door to two families who became dear, lifelong friends.
Once we moved, we planted ourselves in a church and continue to be faithful in our attendance, tithing, and service. However, this was the first time in our marriage that we were ‘regular’ members volunteering our service as teachers of our daughter’s Sunday School class. It was just what we needed at that time. We were soaking in Biblical teaching of an incredible preacher, and praying that God would heal our wounded hearts and not allow us to become bitter towards serving in a church.
In two and a half years, Joe was able to complete his Master’s in Marriage and Family Counseling.
The excitement of graduation was tainted by the reality that I had quit my job in faith trusting that the Lord would provide a full-time job for Joe. Instead, with three seminary master’s degrees between us tucked away in a drawer somewhere, Joe was supporting our family by working in a mechanic shop and driving a trash truck.
After 7 months of searching for a full-time counseling job that would support our family, God opened up a less than dream job at a maximum security boys correctional facility outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Once again we loaded the Uhaul and were excited to once again uproot and plant ourselves in a city where we knew not even one person.
As we prayed about the move, we prayed for God to lead us to the church where He was working and where He wanted to use our gifts to minister.
I will stop there for today and post the remainder of the story tomorrow. I warned you it was the long answer to why I am stepping down from my job. Part three is the most exciting part. . .