Thursday, April 29, 2010
After Grad School I lived in Georgia for a year and taught at a small private Christians School called Springs Academy. That was a great season, but I was far away from family, and in 2004 I returned to good old Southern California. I worked at a gym for a year and in time became the volunteer youth pastor at my church. The gym was enjoyable while I was there, but after awhile, even as a manager, I decided that I wanted to kick my brain into a higher gear. About that time, in 2005, I drove past this building at 100 Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica. The thought crossed my mind: "That's a cool building... I bet that would be a cool building to work in." Little did I know what lay in store for me!
You see, I had this list. It was a list of all the things I was looking for in a job. It was a list that my family tried to tell me was somewhat ridiculous, to put it nicely, but somehow that never affected the way I chose to think about it. I knew that the Lord knew my motives for having this list, and that He was fully capable of providing all I was asking for. I simply wanted to serve His Kingdom more effectively, but also make a necessary living.
So here was my list: 1) I didn't want to work more that 3 days a week; 2) I wanted to make at least $30k starting out; 3) I thought full benefits would be nice; 4) I wanted to be able to take off regular time to go on mission trips. Not ridiculous at all, right??!!
So I started asking around about available positions, and ended up speaking with a man from my church who helped with the financial matters there. I didn't know what he did, but I knew he was a successful business man, and had a heart for missions. After thanking him for his service to the church, almost on a whim, I shared with him what I was looking for in a job. I asked if he might possibly have anything available. He paused for a moment and said, "Yes, I actually think I do!" He gave me his assistant's name and number, and suggested I call her the next day.
As I walked away from that conversation, I realized what I had done. There was absolutely no way I could seriously go into an interview and ask for the things I was wanting! I was struck by how much of a slacker I would come off as! So, with this new revelation, I prayed and thanked the Lord that He could do whatever He wanted, but internally noted not to mention any of this in the appointment I set up with the personal assistant for the following week.
My initial interview was pleasantly casual, and I really enjoyed my interviewer, who was also a believer. When we sat to discuss business, the first words out of her mouth were, "So I hear you're looking for some flexibility." She proceeded to tell me that they needed more help, but didn't have enough work for another full time position. She said they'd like to hire me to be in the office full time, but only to do about 3 days of work a week. The rest of the time I could do what I needed to for the ministry, or anything else. Then she offered me a salary 1 1/2 times what I was hoping for, and said she didn't think full benefits would be a problem. Just for kicks at the end she said, "Oh, yes, and if you need a month off here and therefor mission trips, that shouldn't be a problem... and it won't affect your salary. I have some traveling I need to do as well, so you can just cover for me while I'm gone and I'll do the same for you."
Within 3 months I was starting my new position, and wouldn't you just know it that we officed at 100 Wilshire Blvd!
With a blessing like that, I thought I would have been in that position for a very long time. But in less than a year, my move to Texas was percolating in my spirit, and I got to start looking for a job all over again!
Those who live in Texas may be familiar with the bumper sticker that reads, "I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could!" Well, when it comes to Missouri, my husband's state of origin, the exact oppostie could be said: "He was born in Missouri, but he got out as fast as he could!" Jason did not like Missouri!
That is why it was such a miracle when he approached me on March 27, 2010, as we were preparing to cater a wedding, and said, "I've been kicking around an idea... please tell me if you think I'm crazy." He mentioned that he was considering calling a friend of his in Missouri who owned a restaurant that had offered him a job as an Executive Chef 6-8 months earlier. At the time we had turned it down, because we didn't think the timing was right, and because Jason hated Missouri, and was not planning on going back.
When Jason presented this idea to me, my jaw almost fell off of my face! I had often thought about returning to be closer to Kiera, but wasn't sure spiritually it would be the right move. Jason's upbringing in a church that taught him that promiscuity was ok, among other things, left him with the feeling that there was nothing spiritually healthy in Joplin at all. That was a big factor that kept us away. But after 2 years of travelling once a month to visit Kiera, we started branching out and exploring the spiritual enviroment a bit more. I was actually incredibly pleasantly surprised at what I found!
Several months ago we visited a church out in the country that I really enjoyed, and told Jason that if I had known about this church when he was offered the job, I might have thought about it a little longer. Jason wasn't as fond of the church, but he certainly thought it would do for our monthly visits. Once we seriously started considering the move, we began looking even more diligently, and found a small church closer to the center of Joplin called Calvary Chapel, Joplin. They have a radio station that I started listening to online (www.kitgradio.com) and have really enjoyed. We were then able to visit with them last month while we were in town.
We stopped by Saturday to see if anyone was around, and they were. Apparently a handful of them make lunches every Saturday to take to the Salvation Army. The Senior Pastor was there, and we were able to spend a decent amount of time chatting with him and others, and received a tour of the building. Kiera, meanwhile, was playing with another little girl in the children's church area. When we showed up for church the next day, this little girl ran over, grabbed Kiera, & quickly took her back to the others, introducing her as her new best-friend! The Sunday morning Sermon was on Psalm 25, and addressed decision making & hearing God's voice. We felt strongly that we had heard the Lord's voice, and that this would be our home.
The miracle is, not only are we moving to Missouri, but we are super excited about it! Jason will be doing what he loves, and we will get to be near Kiera and other family!!! So the next item of prayer is the right job for me. This leads my mind back to all the amazing job provision stories I've lived up to this point, and that is likely where I will turn next in my writing.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
My marriage has truly been a gift from God to me, but I'd be a liar if I said married life has always been easy. And anyone who has ever been married would know it! :) With that said, Jason and I have been blessed to have a handful of wonderful individuals and couples in our lives who have walked with us and helped us through the bumps along the way. Most recently, we have joined Marriage Fight Club, and been surrounded by other couples from Trinity Church Dallas who are willing to walk honestly and transparently so all our marriages can be what they were truly designed to be. Our motto is: Divorce is not an option. Misery isn't either. Fight for your marriage.
In a day and age where our culture tells us we can choose to quit a married just like we can choose to quit a job, this group has been an incredible breath of fresh air. This small group is keepin' it real and has been a great match for our personalities! We don't know if we'll be able to find anything like it in Missouri, but we can sure hope!
As I've mentioned, my brother's name is Justin. Growing up, people always called him Jason, and I never understood how these two name's could be so easily confused. Now, after marrying a Jason I am offering humble apologies in my mind to all those I judged so rashly. :) I too am now guilty, which can create some wonderfully awkward moments at times! Regardless, last night my two "J's" had much in common. They both made my birthday far better than I had expected it to be!
You see, we have a tradition in my family, and that is to spread our birthday celebrations out as long as humanly possible! This year, Jason and I began at Christmas, when my folks bought us a fabulous camera, which would be spread out as ALL our gifts for the following year. Then in February, we ordered me the Power 90 workout videos, which was technically my gift from Jason. Then, we visited Missouri at the beginning of this month and Jason's folks treated me to a wonderful dinner at Mythos, and bought me a kickin' new belly-button ring! All that said, by my birthday, there really weren't many gifts left to receive!
The week before my birthday Jason did surprise me by saving up scrap metal and cashing it in to buy some massage oil... that was a super-bonus-points to husband surprise for sure!! So when I came home from work yesterday, I knew I would be getting a massage, but I wasn't expecting anything else. Jason had texted me during the day and asked me to come home as quickly as possible. I assumed it was because he was tired and didn't want to back out on the massage, but still wanted to get to bed early. I understood that, since after all, Tuesday is a pretty awkward day to have a birthday... especially when I don't get home till 8pm and he leaves for work at 5:30am!
All that to say, when I got home, there was quite a bit more waiting for me than I had expected! I opened the door to see my handsome, red-headed man dressed in his Sunday best with the table set for a wonderfully romantic dinner! Star-gazer lillies in a vase enveloped by a large teddy bear took center-stage beside the glowing candles that illuminated the beautiful and tasty gourmet meal he had prepared. Peaceful music of ocean waves breaking on the seashore prepared me for my candle lit and aromatic massage later in the evening.
Dinner was Beef Braciole with basil, red pepper and provolone cheese, topped with a marinara sauce, Sauteed New Potatoes sliced with Italian herbs and garlic, and a Crab Apple stuffed with garlic, basil and tomato feta cheese. YUM!!!
Before we left the dinner table, Jason brought me a gift that had come in the mail from my brother. I opened it to find a book I had given Justin for Christmas several years ago called, "Between Me and You, Brother: A few questions I've been meaning to ask." J had filled out every page and sent it back as my gift. And what an amazing gift! Jason and I sat down and read every page! I was a puddle of tears before we were done, and was filled with gratitude for these two incredible men in my life!
I guess Jason and Justin have more in common than I thought! And I had a FABULOUS birthday!
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Several years ago I began a profound, prolonged experience with the love of God, and I thought today would be an appropriate day to write about it. The senior pastor at my church was speaking from Ephesians 3, and encouraged us to pray that we would feel God's affections for us each day. Not just to know that He loves us, but that He in fact truly likes us! I decided to pursue this course of action, and prayed this prayer quite regularly.
Not so long after this, I began seeing the number 427 everywhere. It was on my receipt at the grocery store, the time on the digital clock, the length of my phone calls, the number on the side of cars at antique car shows... well, you get the idea! It was everywhere, and I wanted to know why.
Today of course is 4/27, and it just happens to be my birthday (31, baby!!). I started seeing all these "427's" several months before my birthday several years ago and it made me very excited about the approaching celebration. I figured God had something really great in store for me that year, and I was eager to find out what it was. Well, the day came and went, and while I celebrated with a few friends the night before, my actual birthday that year was the most low key birthday I had ever had. I worked all day, and went apartment hunting in the evening. I wasn't sure what to think about that, so I went to prayer and asked the Lord.
My answer didn't come immediately, but it did come. You see, I figured I'd stop seeing the "427's" after my birthday, but they actually kept appearing. Within a couple of weeks the Lord spoke to my heart and said, "Laurel, you know that feeling you get on your birthday, even when it's the most low-key day? That feeling like you're special and loved and important?" I thought about it for a moment and of course knew exactly what He was talking about. "Yes, Lord," I said in my spirit. "Well, that is why I'm showing you 427 everywhere. It's the answer to your prayers to feel my affections. Everytime you see it, I want you to be reminded of that special & loved feeling you have on your birthday, and know that's how I feel about you everyday."
Even now, years later, when I pray more consistently to feel the Lord's affections for me, I still see "427's", and when I stop, so do they. It's crazy, but it's true. He loves me... but even more, He likes me!
I love the heart shaped cake at the top of this entry, particularly because it has a slice out of it. I'll take a bite out of that kind of love anyday!
Monday, April 26, 2010
...and woman, I might add.
I have to say, I love lions!! This likely started when I was in high school. There was a period of about 6 months where three different times people prayed for me that I was "Lion-Hearted." That really resonated with my spirit and was a significant encouragement to me.
Later, when I was in college, I was serving with the Jr High ministry at my church. I came back from Christmas break and the whole youth room had been redone, and the Lion was the new Jr. High mascot. In my heart I knew that this was where I was supposed to be serving. Several years passed and I felt it might be time to move on. I was thinking about serving with the 3-year-olds for a bit of a change of pace. When I mentioned this to the gentleman who oversaw the children, he said, "Well why don't you come back with me and take a look at the rooms. We've just changed things up a bit, and the 3-year-olds are in the Lion's room." In that moment I knew this was the appropriate transition.
The Valentine's Day before Jason & I got married, I gave him a stuffed Lion that I had. I mentioned to him that the Lord uses Lions to confirm to me where I'm supposed to be, so I thought it might be nice if he had one. Awwwwwwww... That, of course, was purely a confirmation of my own making, but I'd heard enough from the Lord at that point to feel safe. :)
Anyways, most recently, as we've been planning for our move to Missouri, I was reminded of the Lion principle again. A couple of our friends were thinking about moving with us, and one of them was considering taking some courses at the local university: Missouri Southern State University. I pulled up the website to check it our for her, and the face of a Lion (their mascot) faded in, with the words scrolling across the page: "Join the pride." I couldn't help but feel like we're heading in the right direction. Check it out if you want: http://www.mssu.edu/
Then, when we were visiting Missouri last month, we went to look at apartments. Jason had installed a theater room many years ago in a luxury apartment complex and wanted to go take a look. It was beautiful, with awesome accomodations, and was incredibly peaceful! My initial instinct was that we didn't need all that. Jason's initial instict was that it was perfect for us! Isn't that how marriage goes! Then I looked up and saw a fountain... I noticed it like I was seeing it for the first time... The water streaming down to the pool below was flowing out of the mouth of a Lion. The verdict is still open on this one, but I couldn't help but wonder if the Lord just may want to bless us with this wonderful living arrangement. I think Jason may be growing to love Lions too.
So, yes, I mentioned that we also have thought about names for boys. These names have changed more frequently than for the girls, but are worthy of discussion none-the-less. :)
At first we really liked Justin, since that is my brother's name, whom I adore, and the name of the Christ figure in The Circle Triology, by Ted Dekker, which my husband adores. (I am also a fan.) But then we decided that this name was just too ordinary for us. Anyone surprised after reading my last entry?!
Drake is what we came up with next. I learned that this name means "Dragon," and realized that some Christians would have a problem with that. Personally we do not, for several reasons. First, I think as Christians we're just a little too religious sometimes, and this would be one of those instances. Hope that doesn't offend anyone, but I've certainly been guilty of that myself on many occassions. Romans 14 has helped me immensely in lightening up and allowing other people to have their own opinions. :) Also, Jason is a big fan of "Dragon Lance," another series of fantasy fiction books. He explained to me that in these books Dragons can be good or bad, and have the potential for either... kind of like humans. [Btw, reminds me of another great Ted Dekker book called "Three," which expounds in a VERY unique way our human capacity for good & evil all rolled up in one skin.] Ultimately, in this context, I feel a Dragon is a great metaphor for personal responsibility and showing the importance of the choices we make. I feel that would be a great teaching tool for a child. This is why I love the name Drake, though I'm absolutely certain my brother would tell me I'm overthinking the matter! Nothing new there. :) Regardless, we have moved on... at least for now.
Next, and current, is the name Judah. We love this name for the Biblical significance it holds, as well as for the fact that it can be shortened to Jude... and that's just cool. "Hey Jude" is a pretty sweet song as well. There is so much that could be said Biblically about the name Judah, but I will have to do the full study before I expound. Right now, the fact that the Lion is the symbol of the Tribe of Judah is enough for me... but that's a whole other story!
Again, speaking of children, we do want more of them. We have names picked out for boys and girls, just because it's fun! I've been naming children and cars and just about everything since I was in 6th grade! The name of this blog is actually inspired by the two names we've chosen for girls if we have them.
Journey is our first choice, and came to me somewhat randomly one day. When I shared it with Jason, he immediately approved. Honestly it had nothing to do with the power ballad rock band formed in the '70's, but that was an after-thought plus. Dad, after all, is an avid music-lover. We also quickly settled on "Ilia" as a middle name, which happens to be a teenage girl Christian screamo band. (See picture above.) Kind of a unique combination. :) www.iliamusic.com - I was introduced to them the first time after Jason prayed that I would enjoy screamo music with him. I initially told him he couldn't pray that because it was against my will, but apparently prayer is more powerful than I was giving it credit for that day, as I quickly became a fan. There's something about chicks singing like that that just intrigues me... especially because they love Jesus!
Fathom is our choice if we have another daughter. No middle name picked out yet. This name came to us when we went to go see the Batman movie "Dark Knight." "Fathom Productions" flashed across the screen, and the following thought flashed across my mind: "That would be a cool name for a girl!" Not a moment later, Jason leaned over to me and whispered, "That'd be a cool name for a girl!" Were we made for each other or what?!
I love these names because we are all on a Journey in life, and for one who struggles at times with life-sucking perfectionism, it's a welcome reminder. And on this Journey, I want to continue to live in awe of our awesome God and His personal ways. His ways are unfathomable, but I still seek to Fathom them.
"...to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God."
- Philipians 3:19
Speaking of children, as I said, I have a beautiful step-daughter named Kiera. I'm not fond of the term "step", but I have found it helpful at times for understanding my own role in her life, which is that after we have her with us for awhile, we do have to give her back. By nature I am very maternal, so even though she is not my flesh and blood, giving her back was hard at first. It has, however, make me all the more thankful for her biological mom, who intentionally shares her time with her daughter so that Kiera can grow up knowing her Dad as well. We are fortunate.
When Jason & I got married, I felt the Lord speak to my heart regarding my past in youth ministry, and my future as a step-mom. I have worked in youth ministry since I was 15, and I was feeling the Lord calling me on to new things. The transition was not easy, since it was such an integral part of my life for so long. But I felt the Lord speak to my heart and say, "All of your time in youth ministry has been preparation for this. You have loved other people's children your whole adult life, and now you will continue to do this as Kiera's step-mom." I was floored & immensely honored.
Tomorrow is my 31st birthday and a new adventure is on the horizon! Jason (my husband of a year and a half) and I are moving to Missouri. Amy Adwalpalker, one of my good friends from college, says she always writes my address in pencil, as she has had to change it more frequently for me than for any other friend. Personally, I think this is fabulous, but simultaneously I do hope to settle down someday. :) Fortunately, I plant roots quickly, and wherever Jason & I are together is where we call home.
In and of itself, our move is a miracle, and I will get to this story in time. In fact, this story and other like it, are the reason I'm venturing forth into the world of blogging.
It wasn't so long ago, maybe a month, when Jason brought up the topic of blogging. He was reading the book, Crush It, and was discussing starting a blog about food, one of his deepest passions in life! He wanted to help me unveil my own passion, but I wasn't quite ready. Then, a few weeks later, a friend approached me after a prayer meeting where I have shared some stories of the Lord's work in my life. He asked if I had these stories written down anywhere, and suggested that I consider writing a book. I didn't take his brain child too seriously at first, as it seems that everyone is working on a book of their own these days. Nonetheless, the thought has not left me.
At this point, I'm not seeking a publisher outside of the button at the bottom of my page, but I have grown quite eager to chronicle the stories of my life. First and foremost this exercise is for me, as the almost constant teaching of Scripture is to remember... to remember what the Lord has done... and I am certainly a creature who is prone to forget. Second, I am writing for my children - for my step-daughter Kiera, and for the progeny of my own flesh who are yet to be born. Clearly, an equally present theme in Scripture is to teach our children what the Lord has done in our lives, so they will know that He is alive and will be encouraged to seek their own experiences with Him. Lastly, I write this for anyone else who cares to get to know me better & to be encouraged along the way.
May your heart be quickened to greater life as you join me on this unfathomable journey!