Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Change in Direction

So, I've been hinting all week that there was a change in direction coming in my life, and I'm finally ready to make it broadly public.  I wrote the following update email for a number of friends who support me in prayer, and I'm posting it here as well, for those of you who have also become friends along the journey, and because it's a new and major thing in my life.


Hi Friends!

Tomorrow marks 4 weeks since I lost my job, and it feels a bit of an understatement to say that they have been surprising and powerful weeks.

When I last wrote to many of you, I had just lost the job and was heading out on an unexpected road trip across the continent with my dad.  During the course of that trip (which, by the way, was a blessing in terms of time with my dad, but also just quiet time to rest and be restored), we stopped at a fabulous bookstore in Michigan that is connected to a few of the large Christian publishing houses and sells slightly damaged books that can't be shipped to stores at extremely discounted prices.  (Just as an aside, I really think that heaven will look and smell like a bookstore!)

While at this store, I purchased a book with the title, "The Echo Within", written by a man named Robert Benson, whose books have had a profound influence on my life in the last year or two.  I spent many of the remaining hours of our trip reading through this little book, written on the topic of discerning the calling voice of God in one's life.  It seemed a timely topic given my state of unemployment and the open ended question of, "what comes next?"

One passage in particular stood out as I read (though if you ever page through my copy of the book, you'll find I've marked many, many passages.)  In this passage, though, Benson writes:

I like my ducks in a row.  I like my t's crossed and my i's dotted.  I like, as the old revival song says, my old accounts to be settled.  I like for things to go the way we drew them up on the blackboard, to go according to plan, to be right on the money.

These are things I have to be careful about when I am trying to listen for the calling voice of God.  God does not seem to be particularly interested in whether or not my ducks stay in line. (Benson, pg. 141)

I read that passage and had to laugh.  I am the sort of person that Benson is describing himself to be in that first paragraph.  I like my ducks in line, and, as I read this passage, all I could think was, "I don't have any ducks left!"

Let me explain quickly.  I am referring to "ducks" in the sense that all of the sorts of physical, "I've made plans and have my life in order," stuff of life that I counted on has changed.  The first half of 2010 has been full of challenges, and I've seen the seeming crumbling of everything in life that I had counted on as firm and fixed.  Just briefly, these are among the major changes and events that have shaped the first six months of this year:

  • In early January I slipped on some icy stairs at a train station and fell down a flight of them, badly wrenching some muscles in my neck and left shoulder.
  • Three weeks to the day after I fell down the stairs, I had a car accident on my way to work, totaling my car, and re-injuring the muscles in my neck and shoulder that were only just beginning to heal.
  • Days after the car accident, I received confirmation that my roommate and good friend would need to leave Canada due to visa restrictions.  I would ultimately within the next month lose the blessing of sharing a home with a dear friend, as well as the apartment that had been a place of refuge, that I'd loved best of all the places I've lived since moving out of my parent's home a number of years ago.
  • I made the decision to move into my grandma's basement at that time.  It was a decision that I still believe was based in God's leading, but has turned out to have rather immense consequences.  I had no idea how many ramifications would come from that one decision.  While I was aware that there would likely be personality conflict issues to overcome, I couldn't have predicted the dramatic family and financial challenges that Grandma had been doing her best to keep hidden, nor could I have predicted the overwhelming spiritual darkness and demonic activity that I encountered in her home.
  • Two months after moving into grandma's, I was given a very good price on a car to replace the vehicle that had been destroyed in January.  I purchased the car, insured it, paid for a few minor repairs, and then, two weeks later received a call from my insurance company informing me that they had dramatically misquoted me, that my actual premium would be 5 times higher than what they had quoted - a number I was unable to afford.  I quickly sold the car, and came to the realization that because of my driving record, it will likely be at least two years until I am able to own a vehicle again.  I will be taking public transit for the next two years.
  • And then, on May 17th, after three and a half year with the company that had employed me, I was told at the end of the day that my services, effective immediately, were no longer required, and lost my job and only source of income.
  • The final straw, and one that I find actually immensely humorous if only because it really does seem that God was making a point, is this:  I love the band U2, and it's been a long-time goal of mine to see them play live in concert.  This year they are touring in Canada, and were playing a show in Edmonton, and I had tickets to the show, to fulfill a sort of life time dream.  While I was in Ontario after losing my job, I received a phone call informing me that Bono had undergone emergency surgery, and the concert to which I had tickets had been indefinitely postponed.  It was a humorous last straw as I realized that a calendar that had been quite full only days before was now entirely empty.  The concert had been the last scheduled event on my calendar, and now it was gone, too!
I don't have any ducks left.  And, it was in that "duckless" space that I was pushed into silence, into a place of really listening for and considering what the "calling voice of God" that Robert Benson wrote about was saying.  I paused, too, to consider that at nearly 27 years of age, I was feeling the desire for a job that would be more of a career than just the next in a series of "I'll do this until I figure out what I want to be when I grow up" jobs.

And, in that place of (admittedly somewhat forced and desperate!) praying and listening, one idea began to stand out.  Since I was a child, the books and television shows that have been my favorite have always been the ones with overtly medical themes.  As I talked with trusted friends, and listened and prayed, I was reminded of that enjoyment, and a career that had always been a passing thought quickly became the thought that just WOULD NOT go away.  It's a rather difficult thought process to explain, because so much of it was deeply internal, but I have a deep peace as I tell you that I've decided to pursue a degree and a career in nursing.

There are some very practical ramifications of that decision.  The University of Calgary offers a two year route to obtaining a bachelor's of nursing and R.N. designation for students who already hold a university bachelor's degree.  The next entry into this program is in January 2011.  However, there are some necessary pre-requisite courses for this program that I did not take during the course of my undergraduate degree (somehow you just don't tend to study anatomy and physiology or statistics in a degree focusing on European church history, and, while the suggestion of a friend that I tell the nursing program that I'd studied the "Body of Christ" made me laugh and continues to make me laugh, I didn't think the nursing admissions people would go for it!).  These pre-requisite classes must be completed by the end of August.  What that means is that in the next two months, I need to complete an anatomy and physiology course that is normally taught over 8 months, and a statistics course that is normally taught over 4 months.  Both courses will be done via distance learning, and I consulted with the professor who wrote the anatomy course, who assured me that it would be possible to finish the course in this accelerated fashion, though it will be time consuming.  On a practical level, this means that my plan to seek full-time employment beginning immediately has been set aside.  I will be looking for a part-time job, just to have a bit of income coming in, and will be studying full-time until September.

I'm incredibly excited at this sudden new direction my life is taking, and would ask for you to continue to pray for me as I try to be diligent and disciplined in my studies over the next two months or so.  It will be a busy season, and my desire is to really excel as I study.  Please pray, too, that an appropriate part-time job would present itself, so that I would have at least a small source of income.  Pray for me to continue to be sensitive to God's calling voice in the midst of this new season.  (Ideally, I'd like in future for it not to take my whole life coming to a halt for me to really make time to pause and listen for that calling!)

I'll be honest in saying that while I have grieved the loss of a job that had provided well for me over a long period of time, I have come to truly see God's leading and provision and blessing in the midst of what has been a very unsettling time.  Health wise,, I'm realizing that my job had carried with it a much larger burden of stress and fatigue than I was aware of, and I've felt healthier and more rested in the last four weeks than I have in several years.

More than that, though, while my circumstances seem entirely discombobulated (admittedly a challenge for a person who likes their ducks in a row!), I sense the presence and leading of Jesus in a way that is deep and profound and that I can't quite find words to really describe.  I know a deep peace and joy as I look toward the future, despite the uncertainties that still seem to exist, and for that I'm deeply thankful.

This note is long, and I'm going to close here.  As always, I'd love to hear from each of you and know how I can be praying specifically for you.

With much love,



Anonymous said...

Replying by email, of course, but just wanted to say that that settledness in where you're at is so evident in your words and I'm so happy for you!


Lisa said...

thanks friend! I feel so oddly settled in this, and I'm loving that because I know it's such a gift and so not of me...

Anonymous said...

Sounds great! Be richly blessed in this new season in your life!!

Jenny said...

Wonderful news, Lisa!
So glad that you feel this calling and have peace about it.
Very exciting!

ally said...

Oh wow, Lisa... i've been without much internet access for the past month and a half and so only just now had the chance to read this... It's bittersweet, and yet it's so obvious that God has been in all of this. Your continual trust is such an inspiration to me. Shalom.

Lisa said...

Thanks Jenny, Johanna, and Ally!

kirsten michelle said...

Wow, Lisa. WOW. The year has been full of change for you indeed, and I felt punches to the gut when you described how, in the course of six months, you became "duckless." (Love that, by the way. Going to need to use that.) I've had years like that myself. Ugh. And the U2 concert -- seriously!? [tears!!]

But more about you. I sense such a deep trust in you as you walk this path -- not in a way where you know how everything is going to turn out, not in a way that says, "Aha! It suddenly all makes sense to me", but in a way of deep knowing that cannot necessarily be rationally explained or qualified.

Blessings to you on this path. I can't wait to see where it takes you.

Lisa said...

thanks for stopping by! And yes! U2... sigh. at least the tickets will still be good for whenever it is finally rescheduled for :)

And yes, the trust I'm learning these days is not a rational one. I need to write a post about that I think. I'd been thinking about trust quite a lot recently, and your posts have only stirred those thoughts. I may have to pick up a copy of Manning's book, too... but, in any case, I was telling someone just tonight that there is no rational reason for me to feel settled and that this is deeply right. I have no income, a horrible living situation, nothing has changed... and yet, it just feels so right, in that deep inner place where your heart just knows God.

blessings to you as well, and prayers for you and your husband and for Ewan as you make your own journey of trust in these days.

lois said...

Lisa, i'm smiling here! :-)
You are taking your next step of faith. Keep trusting, keep listening and keep going!! Take courage. Blessings. x x

Lisa said...

Thanks Lois!