Who’s carrying your burdens?

1 Comment

Give your burdens to the LORD…..Psalm 55:22 NLT

I met with my counselor on Tuesday this week. We explored why I’m still struggling to decide whether I continue an endeavor or cut it off.  I’ve been ‘wishing and washing’ for more than two years, not able to make up my mind.

When I started my YouTube channel, English without Fear, in March 2018, my goal was to replace my classroom teaching salary through providing compelling, intermediate-level English stories that could benefit both English-language learners and teachers. I produced videos and materials for free to build a following, hoping eventually to convert some of them into paying clients

When the Lord suddenly moved Mike and me to Huntsville, I left my classroom job teaching French.  Due to Mike’s salary, there was no longer a need for me to work.  My purpose for having started this YouTube channel and website evaporated. I kept it up, however, out of a sense of pride for having begun it and for the identity it gave me. I also viewed it as a type of voluntary contribution to the language acquisition community. But my feelings toward it vacillated.

At the end of my counseling session, Teresa challenged me to pray in a way that had never crossed my mind.  She suggested I ask the Lord, ‘What would YOU have me do with my life, since you have planted me here in Huntsville?’ That’s a much broader, open question. It actually excited me.  Maybe there’s a new adventure God would have me take up, something I’ve never imagined, but one that he has been preparing me for all along. Up until now, I’ve only prayed for wisdom about continuing to invest time and energy in this ESL tool I started back in North Carolina.

Recently, God reminded me of the verse at the beginning of this post.  Hence, I’ve been thinking of Sherpa guides. I can imagine climbing a perilous Himalayan peak, tightly tied to my guide.  Using only climbing poles, my back is weight free. If the ascent challenges me, my guide takes the lead. Other times, I walk beside him, securely attached to my moving stronghold.

Isn’t that a picture of how our Christian life is to be? No anxiety should burden us if we keep casting each one on our guide, the Holy Spirit. Paul picks up this reality in his letter to the Philippians. Because the Lord is near, we are privileged to keep handing over all worries.

Wouldn’t it be a stupid sight to behold, a mountain climber loaded down with all his heavy baggage and struggling to keep up with the Sherpa guide who burden free hiked along?

Yesterday morning when I journaled, I wrote to Jesus, asking him to show me what he wants me to do here in Huntsville. I asked him specifically, ‘What do YOU say about…?’ and I listed all the ‘chosen’ activities I do during the week.  Then at the gym, the Holy Spirit brought to mind James’ advice:

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. James 1:5-6 NLT

I thanked the Lord for this promise and reminded myself that if I trust him to provide wisdom, to respond to my prayer, then I don’t need to keep thinking and deliberating.  Especially if he truly is my divine Sherpa guide on whom I have off-loaded this issue that has perturbed me on and off for 2 years!

I’m excited to see where he is leading me, what he is going to open up for me. If I count on him to keep being God and to continue his faithful pattern of how he cares for his chosen sheep, then I can rest in his promised provision of wisdom and insight.

I’m retired, now what?

1 Comment

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Romans 11:36 ESV

I’ve been churning and angsting these days, trying to pinpoint my organizing principle, my ‘why’ for how I spend the time God allots me each week.  I retired from classroom teaching 28 months ago.  For decades teaching and other work occupied the ‘big rock’ position in my jar of time. The others hours in a week filled up the space around that central commitment.

Having actively participated in the work force all my life has made adjusting to ‘no more big rock’ a source of stress. When you don’t work for money, choosing wisely how to spend time is more difficult.

By grace, Mabel and Tom Kenney visited last week, bringing me a tool in the form of four questions. At one point Mabel had been at a similar crossroads in her life when a friend and fellow pastor to Tom suggested a way to think about new commitments. The first question pierced my heart: ‘What is it that no one else but you can do?’  As my thoughts flew to skills, Mabel shared her answer, stunning me: ‘No one else can be Tom’s wife!’ This had nothing to do with talents or life experience, but with God’s providential choice of her primary relationship.

“I and no one else am Mike’s wife!” How freeingly simple! Loving, tending, guiding and enjoying this man of mine is my primary calling.  With that direction, it was easy to consider my role with each of our family members. My time connecting with family is of highest value.

The second and third questions Mabel shared had to do with what we just absolutely LOVE and DON’T love doing. Priorities and activities began to fall naturally into a hierarchy of value.

Reading Paul’s proclamation from Romans 11 this morning gave me a new idea.  I laid verse 26 over my current struggles and rewrote it this way:

 FROM the Lord is this churn over priorities and time.  I am getting THROUGH it with him and it is TO him that I offer my efforts, my stumblings, my back-and-forths, so that he GETS the glory when he has completed this segment of the painting, the tapestry that is my life.

What helped me this morning after that written affirmation was to make two lists.  My dad used to deal with decisions about time and activities by dividing them into the ‘have-to-dos’ and the ‘nice-to-dos’. So, I formed two columns, writing down all the Maria-scheduled events of my week.  Bible reading, study, prayer and journaling claim first position of all my chosen commitments.  Then follow appointments for health maintenance such as exercise class, regular chiro adjustments, sleep, stretching. Home and food prep have their assigned days and times. Next come particular times during the week when I meet by Zoom with Hispanic friends for mutual Spanish and English progress. Then there are those ministries I participate in weekly at church and at our local pregnancy resource center.  Zoom calls with Mike’s mom show up twice a week. And once school starts back up, Noah and Vera will each have a weekly slot for their Zoom Spanish and French lessons. Last and certainly not least are two dear friends with whom regular interactions both support and feed my soul. Finally, reading in Spanish each afternoon while Mike takes his shower and gets cleaned up for dinner rounds out my list.  Those twenty minutes feed and settle my soul after a ‘full day of work’.

Then there are the ‘nice-tos’.  I starred and highlighted just one, writing this weekly blog.  Everything else falls below that, if there is time.  Activities like the weekly video for my ‘EnglishwithoutFear’ YouTube channel, writing vignettes about second language learning as well as life stories to pass on to my kids.  I do like to write.  The occasional walk and talk with a friend fit into this category of ‘if there is enough time in the week, let’s do it.’

When company comes or we travel, the schedule changes, of course. But most of my days are spent at home and starting with the ‘what can I do that no one else can’ served as the impetus to see and order all these activities.  I feel relief!

Then the Lord added his heavenly perspective. Regina called me this morning less than 2 hours after I made my list and gave me a section of Isaiah that she was praying specifically for me.

In a time of favor I have answered you……I will ….. give you as a covenant to the people……saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’ They shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture…..Isaiah 49:8-9 ESV 

I saw immediately how I am one of Jesus’ heralds of life and light and hope. I have good news for prisoners of darkness and hungry sheep.  Feeding myself first in the morning and then daily self-care give me the ballast and energy to minister to others through my presence and through my writing.  This is enough.  I am content.  Thanks be to God.

%d bloggers like this: