Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The God of Hope

I don't think either one of us imagined that we'd be living in California for 30 days without jobs or a place to live, but this is our reality. The job hunt is slow and hard; I'm sure that is true for a lot of places.

We have been truly blessed by the Sparks family, who have housed us for the past month; they have been very generous and gracious to us during this difficult time. As Christmas and the New Year approach, they need to have their space back for family and other events coming in the near future. And although we couldn't have expected them to house us forever, we weren't prepared to leave by mid-December.

Honestly, we felt abandoned, not by the Sparks, but by God. We have been praying for housing and jobs since before we moved out here; we have worked so hard to network and send out résumés in order to find work. We were certain God had led us here. Why were we still without jobs? Why are we still searching for a place to live? What are we missing? Why hasn't God answered our prayers? Where is God? All we could do at this point was pray again, trust again, and try to find a place we could afford to rent on our savings.

Then just a few hours later . . . my external hard drive crashed! I had been working on a few projects like my wedding album, my professional website, photographs, my résumé and work samples. Everything was gone. The day's events began to ware on me, and I broke down. Now what? Do I just pick up and start over? I felt defeated.

A few days later, Mrs. Sparks gave us a very sweet Christmas gift and a card with Romans 15:13 written on it. The verse reads, "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Wow. That is what I need to know—God is a God of HOPE. I took this verse and prayed over it and meditated on it for days. God has enabled me to be filled with joy, peace and hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. My God is the God of HOPE not despair, sorrow, or trouble.

Last Saturday, a small group from a local church came to the house to have a retreat where they spent the afternoon in silence praying and fasting. Chris and I decided to join them in that, knowing we too had much to pray for. This silent time was really great for me. I spent more time going over verses that speak of God's promises and His character. I came out of the time of silence knowing I needed to trust God more. He is faithful to His promises.

On Sunday evening, I was invited by a friend of Mrs. Sparks to attend a Women's Christmas Dinner with Point of Grace. I went, needing to get more into the Christmas season and had a wonderful time. And yes, even though Point of Grace is quite "old," I was blessed by their music.

I had never met the lady I was sitting next to, but before the event had even started, I had told her our whole story of how we came out to California and what our next step needed to be. By the time dinner was served, she had called her husband and told him our story and asked us if we would dog-sit for the next three weeks while they are out of town!

I was in shock. Then I remembered Chris' prayer that morning, "God, you know we need a place to live, would you provide for us, even today." It was amazing how God timed that out. So . . . next week, we move! We know this is only temporary, but it gives us three more weeks to find the right place to live. We are so thankful. It is amazing how God opens the hearts of his children to help others in need. I hope Chris and I have the opportunity to pay it forward someday. We are blessed.

*Thank you all who read this blog and pray for us. We know God hears your prayers and He is faithful to answer . . . sometimes we need to wait a day, a week, a month, or longer. But He is faithful and good. Luke 1-2 is a great passage about waiting on the Lord for his promises—Zacharias had to wait nine months in silence! *

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Life's Lessons—Two Weeks In

We have been in California for two weeks now and it seems like nothing has changed. Our job hunt so far as come up dry. But, I guess we can't expect to find our dream jobs in two weeks or less, can we? So, in light of this unchanged status, the following blog will contain random bits and pieces of our lives.

Sugar is bad for you!
I found a new physical therapist to help me stay on track in the healing process of planters fasciitis and she had more to say to me than just "Don't run." She asked me questions about myself and then asked, "Are you stressed and worried a lot?" (laugh here) "Of course I am!" Apparently stress is a HUGE factor in the inflammation of tendons. So, doctors orders #1: No more stress. Then she asked me about my diet. . . honestly, I was good until the day after my wedding. When I was no longer worried about fitting into that dress the worries about food kind of flew out the door. So, doctors orders #2: No more sugar and lighten up on the carbs.  Number 3 came in the form of specific exercises to strengthen my back which will help my feet in the long run.
NOTE: If you have a favorite stress-reducer that doesn't include ice cream, please pass it my way!

San Francisco Treat
Last Saturday Chris and I ventured into the city for the second time. The subway is called the Bay Area Rapid Transit—or "BART" for short. We took the BART into the city (about a 45 min. trip) and went to the Ferry Building, which held the biggest Farmer's Market I have ever seen. The samples we tasted were amazing—a pear tasted more like honey, the dark chocolate was so yummy, and the dark roasted coffee was just what Chris needed to keep going. Restaurants also set up booths selling their specialties for the lunch rush. It is not hard to find the best ones—they always have the longest lines! So, after waiting for about 30 minutes, we dug into our Mexican dishes.

Then we headed over to the Presidio, a park near the bay, with the intention of walking across the Golden Gate Bridge. However, the bus stop was a long way off from the bridge so by the time we got close to the bridge it was a bit late to start that adventure. But, we did enjoy the afternoon in the Presidio. 

(During our first trip to the city we walked along Market Street which is where all huge department stores are--including H&M. Then we went to the Fisherman's Warf which I really enjoyed--full of cute shops, a great view of Alcatraz, and a entertaining scene of seals playing near the shore.) And then we took a stroll through a few different neighborhoods dreaming of what it would be like to live there.)

P.S. I really enjoy this city! (which is a huge answer to prayer for this little farm-town girl)

The Word
During the past week, I have been meditating on Psalm 121:

"I lift up my eyes to the mountains, 
from where shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, 
who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip,
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will 
neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper, 
he will be your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day, 
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will protect you from all evil; 
he will keep your soul.
The Lord will guard your going out and your 
coming in from this day forth and forever."

This has been very encouraging to me at this point in this journey. The Lord is my keeper, he will keep my soul (nothing else is as important), he will protect me, he will guard me, my help comes from him . . . There are so many great promises in this passage--I have to cling to them. Each day I realize more and more that I am not in control (and neither is my husband). But the LORD is!

Oh, how we need to remember that the LORD is in control of all our lives! 
(that's probably the greatest stress-reducer yet!)

Monday, November 9, 2009

The 1,350 mile "step" . . .

We did it! We took the first step—a 1,350 mile step to be exact. My husband and I are now in San Francisco, California (well, Castro Valley technically). On Saturday (Nov. 7), a few of our friends helped us pack up everything we owned that could possibly fit in our two vehicles and on the way we went. The journey from Colorado to California took two days and went really well, I'd say uneventful—unless you count me getting lost in Reno as an event, which I guess it was. We were very blessed with the good weather, great gas mileage, and having no car problems. (Everything stayed on the truck too!)

It has been exciting and very confirming to see how God has led and blessed us thus far . . . 
Chris and I started praying about where we were suppose to go in late August. He knew his position with the Navigators would be up at the end of October and wanted to start working in the film industry. This meant we could move to New York, Chicago, LA, or San Francisco. As we prayed for guidance, we visited a few of these cities and basically used the process of elimination (with the Holy Spirit) until San Francisco was left.

During this time, it seemed that whenever I had a doubt or a fear God would specifically address and encourage me. For instance, in early September I had an idea that was totally based on my own comforts. I told Chris that maybe he should move out here first and I would follow once he had a job. Both Chris and God did not like that idea. The very next day I lost my job. Drastic I know . . . but this totally went in line with God's plan for us. We needed to do this together.

The second word of encouragement about personal comforts was from Chris's brother in-law. We went to a small group to hear him and his wife speak about their lives overseas. He said, "I think one of the idols we have in America is comfort, and if your life is entirely comfortable, then you are probably not living a life of faith." His words confirmed that we were not crazy in considering this very uncomfortable move and motivated us to continue pursuing God's plan for us.

Then I started thinking about packing and how we were going to get all of our stuff across the country. There were many options—moving trucks, shipping freight, selling/giving it away. I was praying God would help me loosen my grip on my possessions. As I read the account of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis and it was clear. We were to leave our familiar city and take what we could carry. And although this word was given to me early on, we thought we could still take a small U-Haul, but at the last minute we decided even that wasn't right.

Another example is when Chris and I were in LA, seeing how difficult having a community seemed, I was questioning the idea of moving away from our close friends and tight-knit church community; would God be asking us to move away from something he created for us. The very next Sunday, the pastor at our church spoke on experiencing divine moments. His first three points hit me like a brick: 
1) You need to take the initiative
2) You need to let go of your blessings (aka: community)
3) You need to trust God, it will be hard

I think it was the very next week when Chris's dad called and said, "Chris, I want you to know that as I've prayed, even though I don't want you guys to move, I feel it is what God is calling you to do. But I want you to know that the Holy Spirit has told me it will be hard."

And then through the Navigator network we had a place to stay Castro Valley. A very sweet couple has offered us a place in their home until we can get on our feet. In all honesty
 I feel like I'm at a retreat center—the house is big and open, surrounded by trees, and very welcoming.

We are blessed. At the time, it seemed like God was being quiet. Looking back, it is very obvious that he was guiding us the entire time and still is. We've taken that first step and we are trusting that he will guide the next one just the same. He is a faithful God.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why "Moving Mountains"

I never thought I would ever have the inclination to blog . . . but here I sit, wanting to share my life with the world through words. Or at least try. So, why did I title my blog "Moving Mountains"? For several reasons . . .

First, my husband and I were just reading through a chapter in Mark the other day and came across this verse where Jesus says: "Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you."

As we have been praying for certain things for our future we were struck with this statement and began to wonder what true faith was. Mountains don't move easily, living in Colorado Springs and seeing Pikes Peak every day certainly reminds me of that. But then why does Christ use a mountain as an example of faith? Does he really mean that we can do the impossible through him by faith?

Secondly, at this point in life, Chris and I are packing up our one bedroom apartment and moving to California . . . by faith. We don't have jobs, we don't have a house, we don't know what will come next; we just know that we need to move. But as we continue to pray, believing we have the things we request, we have seen God provide in interesting and powerful ways.

Lastly, to remind myself (and perhaps others) to live by faith and seek God for the impossible. aka: moving mountains!

I hope to record those faith stories here in the days to come! (Watch out for moving mountains!)