"God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him in the midst of loss, not prosperity." --John Piper

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Long Journey (Part 7b) Gone...

I missed a story along the way, one that I believe is too important to omit. So I will go back in time for a moment...

It was during my first ministry. During our time there, my wife became pregnant. From the start it was a difficult pregnancy, with intermittent bleeding. The doctor advised her to stay off of her feet as much as possible, which she did. This was the first (and only, actually) pregnancy of our marriage.

It was on a Sunday morning, between Sunday School and the worship service. I was preaching that morning, as we were between "preaching" ministers. My wife came up to me and said, "I need to go home, now." While at that point, I did not have a doctor's diagnosis, I knew what that meant. The baby was not going to make it. I did what I felt I had to do. I let her go home, asked some people to pray, and went on with the show. I still don't know how I did it.

About an hour and a half later, I was taking her to the hospital. My diagnosis was confirmed. The baby was gone. We had a few visitors to the hospital that day. Mostly elders and their wives. Everyone said the same thing, "It was probably for the best" or "maybe the child is better off now" or "at least you never knew the child." It was all well intended, but it was not very comforting.

And then life went on. No real mourning, no discussion, the next day was just Monday. At least, that is what I convinced myself.

Looking back at it now, I wonder what would have happened if I had said, "I need to leave right now." But I didn't. I wonder what would have happened if church was a place were life was lived as it really is instead of how we think it ought to be. I wonder how things get so far off sometimes.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Long Journey (Part 16) Living Up to the Ultimatum

It was the fourth session where things came to a head. It was this session where the counselor suggested that he see her on her own, because there were some things he wanted to work on without me there. He even told her that it did not have to be with him, that he could recommend a female counselor. She said no. She knew she had issues, had been to counseling before, and it didn't and wouldn't do any good. So, no way.

The ride home was quiet. When we got home, the kids were ready for bed. We sat in the kitchen and talked. But it all boiled down to one thing, nothing was going to change if some counseling was not pursued. And she was adamant that she would not be going back to any counseling, joint or individual. I had already stated that if we did not do something to fix our issues, I could not continue to remain in this relationship. Our marriage was over. It was more sad than angry at this point. I don't think she believed I would stick to it, but I did not feel as though I had a choice. I was not only thinking about me, but about my son as well.

I left that night. I gathered a few things and stayed in a motel. The next day I made arrangements to stay with a friend for a while until I decided what to do.

Next: Deciding what to do.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Long Journey (Part 15) To be or not to be?

So, I was driving a truck for a living instead of Youth Ministry. Not at all the path that I thought my life would take, but I was learning an important lesson, even though I didn't realize it at the time. And that lesson is that I am NOT in control!

We did get married. And once again, lessons to be learned.

At first, it was such a wonderful arrangement. She was loving and patient, and appreciated our relationship. Even though my job took me away from home a few days a week, that was better than what it had been when I drove over-the-road and was gone for weeks at a time. And the more I worked and moved up the seniority ladder, the better my schedule became. After 18 months, I was promoted to a supervisor position. This meant that often I was home every day. The only issue was, I was the back-up when someone could not make their run, so sometimes I had to leave unexpectedly and for up to 4 days. But thankfully, I had another supervisor, and he loved going out more than I did, and often picked up those runs.

It was shortly after this job change that things also changed at home. Suddenly, there was a lot more anger in the house. My wife became extremely jealous of my son, and even of my ex-wife, who I had virtually no contact with, other than when I picked up my son. Accusations started to fly. I suggested that we seek counseling, but she would have nothing to do with that.

Than one day I came home and she had a bottle of pills in her hand, and was threatening to kill herself. I took the pills. They were aspirin, and I think it was just a ploy for help. She confessed that prior to meeting me, she had been on drugs for depression and anger, and that she had stopped taking them because of how they made her feel. That explained a lot.

I told her that we needed counseling. In fact, I made it an ultimatum. I was not going to continue to put my son through this kind of mess and do nothing about it. Fortunately, my workplace had a program in place where we could begin counseling on their dime. First 5 sessions at no cost. She agreed to go, at least for 5 sessions. I thought this was a step in the right direction.

Next Time...Living up to the ultimatum

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Homeless Shelter might close, but we have an E.A.!

We recently had an elder's retreat.

Friday night was spent discussing our newly created Executive Administrator position. He will join a staff of a Preaching Minister, Pastoral Care Minister, Children's Minister, and Student Minister. (Our church runs just under 600). Our Worship Minister recently resigned, so we are looking to replace him too. What? No Singles Minister? No College Age Minister? No minister to people with middle initial Q? How will Jesus be proclaimed to all the masses? (No pun intended, we are not Catholic.)

Anyway, I tried to encourage us to think this decision through. Others felt that there was an urgency since a part of the duties of the new EA were bookkeeping, and our bookkeeper (Minister of Finance?) just resigned.

No prayer, no discussion of merit, just talk about how this new position would make our lives so much easier. Motion passed. 8 in favor, one abstention (guess who) because he felt that further thought and prayer should be put into this matter. Have I mentioned that the person they were hiring was one of the elders at the retreat! And a good friend of the minister too!

I found out the next day that our local homeless shelter is in danger of closing due to lack of funds. But we are okay, because we have a new Executive Administrator and will soon hire a new Worship Minister. Jesus must be pleased.

And I am so looking forward to the next day of the retreat!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Long Journey (Part 14) Leaving the Road, Sort of

After 6 months of driving I had paid off my school obligation, so I started looking for something that would get me home more often. I almost took a job with Burlington, but at the last minute they wanted to change it, so I stayed for the time being. About 2 months later, I was home for a couple of days and applied at a company in Indianapolis that did food service. A much more physically demanding job, but better pay and more hometime. I was offered the job at the interview, and just needed to quit my current job and get the truck back to Arkansas. Not as easy as I thought!

I was on a run to Birmingham. I had called in and told them I needed to get back to the terminal after this run. When I called in after delivery, I was told that my regular dispatcher was not in, and they wanted to send me to Pennsylvania. Wrong direction!

I was told that was where I was to go, and I said NO! I was told I didn't have a choice, and I told them I did, and it was to get in the empty truck and drive back to the terminal like that. I was told that they would keep my last check if I did. I told them that if that was the case, I would leave it where it was and they could come and get it, then I would take a bus home. They got me a load to Oklahoma, not far from the terminal.

I made it to my new job by Friday, which is when they wanted me. That turned out to be a good move for me. I spent 18 months as a driver, 18 months as a supervisor, and the final 2 years as the department manager. (They had been through 6 department managers in the 3 years I had been there when I took the job, so lasting 2 years was not bad.)

It was nice to have a life again, meet people, see my son on a regular basis, and so on. I met someone during this time. She had 2 kids, I had one. We were both Christians. I thought this was perfect! I could still show my son what a real family should look like. We made plans to get married...

Next Time: To Be, or Not to Be?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Long Journey (Part 13) The Story Continues

When I last blogged about my journey, I was leaving the ministry and getting a divorce. It was not my choice outright, although I had contributed to the outcome by focusing more on my job than on my family. But I did not force her to have an affair, I wasn't even aware of the affair at that point, and I was not the one who was pursuing the divorce. But in a no-fault divorce state, that doesn't matter.

I remember the day she came back from her parents in Florida. I was informed that she had filed a restraining order, and that the police were on the way to serve it. I only had a few minutes to gather some things and leave the house, unable to return until who knows when.

My first thought was to spend the night at my office at the church. I had left her the checkbook because she had my son to take care of. Instead, I ended up in the next town over at the house of a man who was a friend, fellow minister, and a man of God. He took me in for that night, and into his family for several nights after that, about 2 months actually. That was how long it took me to decide what to do next.

Divorce is costly. In the area I was in, the best I was gonna to was $7 an hour in a local factory. So I signed up to Truck Driver Training, and learned to drive a big-rig. Life on the road. 15 days of training and a new career. It was an answer to prayer in many ways and a curse in others.

Driving a big-rig is a lonely job. I lived in that truck for weeks at a time. I was fortunate on trips through Indiana, if I was close enough, I would stop and see my son and maybe even spend a day or two in my friends basement, sleeping in an easy chair with my son on a mattress on the floor.

Driving was limited to 60 hours a week (give or take) due to hours of service limitations. Weeks are 24 X 7 = 168 hours. So that left about 100 hours a week for sleeping, eating, and existing. A lot of that time was spent with a Bible and a journal. I wish I still had those journals, but maybe it is best that I don't.

God is a lot easier to cling to when there is nothing else to hold on to.

I grew a lot during that time. Not enough, but a lot. I still had a lot to learn, and God was going to teach it to me. Often it was going to be the hard way, for some reason I get that a lot. I think it has something to do with my pig-headedness.

Next time: Leaving the Road, Sort of.

Friday, May 7, 2010

My bulimic blog...

If you have visited my blog more than 3 times, you may have noticed that it tends to vary a lot in format and content. And that is because it is my personal, private space that I go to for expression. And that tends to take a lot of different formats.

You would also notice that I go through long (sometimes 2 months or so) periods of not posting and then sometimes post every day for a period of time. Same reason.

And occasionally I go through and purge old stuff, like I have just finished doing. I figure it makes it easier for me to find the things that are meaningful, and get rid of some of the junk. And there is some junk on there as I read old posts.

So I think I am a blogging bulemic, bingeing and purging along the way. And I am okay with that.

As I read through my old stuff, I found that I like the stories the best. And I have a ton of them (I will be 50 later this month, so I guess I should.) I also like the pics. So I have kept a lot of those, and hope to add more as the days go on.

My life is busy...I teach elementary kids, have 2 of my own still at home, married, elder at our church, and do what I can to show God I love him by serving Him in various ways. Blogging is fun and helpful, but not always a priority. So don't look for much to change here, I am not trying to save the world. I just want to impact my little corner of it.

Speaking of which, we are having our first elder's retreat this weekend. So much to talk about. Any prayers offered on our behalf would be greatly appreciated!

Sorry for rambling...but that is generally how my life works.