Did you get to be a child in your childhood? (Gina Butz)

Today’s post is from Gina Butz: a writer, mom, campus minister, world traveler, and fellow Redbud.

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13 years ago, I was exhausted. The mother of two preschoolers living overseas with a husband who was in increasing demand, I was coming to the end of my resources. We had just moved to Singapore, which meant I lost the local maid who had kept me afloat in our previous location. At the same time, both our kids decided that naps would no longer be part of their daily schedule. It was like I’d lost six hours of every day. Did I mention exhausted?

Six months in to our time there, my husband and I participated in an intensive coaching program. Part of our preparation for the time was to write out a life map, detailing the highs and lows, influences, and significant moments of our lives.

While meeting with some of our coaches during the program, one of them told me that when I shared my life map with our next coach, I had to ask him this question,

“Did God give me a place to be a child in my family?”

I thought it was a strange question, but I was willing to comply. I was sure the answer was yes, anyway. How could it be otherwise?

So after sharing my story, I threw out my question, “So, did God give me a place for me to be a child in my family?”

He looked at me with tears in his eyes, and gently said, “No.”

I was furious. Not at him. Not at my parents. Straight to the source – I was irate with God. He was the one who didn’t give me a story where I was a child. He didn’t give me that place that I needed. What kind of God would do that?
I marched back to my hotel room and raged against Him. When I finally stopped enough to hear Him respond to my, “Why?” his reply was, “Because I wanted you to be Mine.”

What followed was months upon months of searching out what this meant. What does it look like to live as His child? And how had I not been doing it?

I grew up as the 2nd of three children. My older sister is mentally challenged, which functionally made me the oldest. I took my role seriously. I became the kid you didn’t have to worry about, the one who took care of herself. After all, it was easier for everyone that way. In many ways, I wasn’t a child in my family because I chose not to be, but it was God who orchestrated the background in which that was the most natural response. How could I have known how that would change the way I related to God, to myself, to others?

I was exhausted 13 years ago in part because I had been an adult for so very long, trying to be put together, to be the person no one had to carry, the one who was strong for everyone else. I lived in fear that failure would surely make me unlovable, and in contempt for the child in myself who desperately needed to fall apart and be held.

My search began with reading: Abba’s Child, by Brennan Manning, and The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen for starters. Over time, I read so many books in my quest to ground myself in identity as His beloved child that I started a journal where I collected quotes from all of them. On the days when I found myself feeling insecure, unknown, tempted to look elsewhere for the security I needed, I would spend hours poring over that journal, repeating to myself, “This is who you are. This is who you are. This is who you are.”

Over time, something shifted internally. It felt like I was discovering a solid place in the core of my being. As Henri Nouwen puts it,

“There is a place in me where God has chosen to dwell. It is the place where I am held safe in the embrace of an all-loving Father who calls me by name, and says, ‘You are my Beloved child, on whom my favor rests.’”

I would love to say I fully embrace this position as His child, but I still struggle. It is so easy to wander from that truth. Like an orphan, I can doubt my place in His family, and run back to my own resources, wary of trusting others. But He keeps calling me back to this solid place inside of who He is and who He says I am.

I am so grateful for that question 13 years ago. It awakened me and invited me to a deeper, more true identity than the one I’d been living.

Gina ButzGina Butz has served in full time ministry for over 20 years, 13 of them spent overseas. She and her husband are raising two third culture kids and an imported dog in Orlando, Florida, where they serve in Global Leadership for Cru. Gina considers it a good day if she can create something with her words or her hands. She blogs at www.ginabutz.com about being wholehearted, and loves to connect with others on twitter @gina_butz

V is for Vocation (Some thoughts on Calling)

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I’m thrilled to have my first piece over at The Mudroom today. This month they are exploring the themes of vocation and calling. I thought I had something to say on that topic, but a funny thing happened on the way to writing it… I got stuck at the dishwasher. Take a look:

If V is for Vocation, then F is for Fineprint. Let me get the disclaimers out of the way: I hold two graduate degrees, and earn exactly zero dollars a month. I am a full-time Mom: a packer of dishwashers and kisser of boo-boos and driver of carpools; roles I never imagined myself in and do not consider myself particularly gifted at or fulfilled by. So what on earth was I thinking when I volunteered to write about calling and vocation?

I had noble intentions of summoning my years in College Ministry: time spent with students talking about how their majors—from entomology to economics—reflected some part of God’s good world, and how their joyful service in those made a difference. Part discipleship, part career counseling—these were conversations I excelled in: hour-long vocational pep talks over countless cardboard cups of coffee in the Student Union.

My plan was to do a little reading: brush up on Beuchner’s definition of how we find our vocation where our deep gladness and the world’s deep need meet, spend some time mulling over brilliant Venn diagrams depicting the intersections between what the world will pay for, what we love, what we do well and what is needed . . .  and after all this, I would write a charming, peppy, insightful piece calling us all to a deeper self-awareness, and Christlike purpose.

This was the plan, and one I was ready to execute but for this one blindsiding problem: the glaring vocational question marks raised by my own life…. (read the rest HERE)

Thanks to the team at the Mudroom for the invitation and the prompt: you got me thinking!

Help: I Think I Made The Wrong Choice

You're worried you've made a

Dear Bronwyn,

What do you do when you think you’ve followed God’s leading, but then it just sort of falls apart and no longer feels right or makes any sense? I know God’s plan does not involve everything being easy all the time and things don’t always make sense right away. I just feel so insecure about the choices I’ve made. I am constantly asking myself did I hear God correctly? Was that even God speaking? What if I had chosen differently?

The situation is this: after I graduated, I took a job nearby. I had prayed for a dream job elsewhere and wanted it so badly, but when it was offered I didn’t feel I could take it because I had already committed to another job. I also just didn’t feel “right” about it. I can’t say it’s been a disaster, but this job has proved extremely challenging, and recent management changes have been eye-opening. I feel like a fool for choosing to stay here and being loyal to an employer that I realize doesn’t care much about me as an employee. A big part of all of this was keeping my word and commitment, but now I’m questioning if I was subconsciously trying to be a martyr and choose that hard road because I thought it would make God happier with me. I’m on the other side of the country from my family and friends, and I am constantly asking myself -why am I here? What does God want from me?

Please help,

Second-Guessing.

Dear SG,

Those are such good questions. What I can’t do is say: Yes, you made the right decision to stay, or no, you didn’t. What I can say is this: I can really sympathize with where you’re at. We have had seasons of SERIOUSLY second-guessing some decisions in our lives – most notably the decision to come to the USA because so many things went CATASTROPHICALLY wrong that first year and we kept on saying “God, really? Is this your way of saying we shouldn’t have come?”
Here’s what I had to keep saying to myself in the midst of that uncertainty: James 1 promises that if we ask for wisdom, He gives it, and we must believe and not doubt that that is the case. So, in the face of much doubt, we HAD to believe that God had, in fact, given us wisdom in that decision making, even if the consequences of the decision did not appear to be panning out well. I believe you prayed over accepting your current job, as well as praying over turning down the “dream” job, and that God gave wisdom to you. Second guessing is not going to help you here.
My advice to you is that, rather than figuring out whether the past was a mistake, consider what you should do now. Again, James 1 applies – trusting that as you think and pray this through, God WILL give you wisdom for the next step. Maybe he is calling you to faithfulness for another few months. Maybe you should reach out and reapply to that dream job (which will no doubt have its own challenges mind you – our expectations for what work ‘should’ be like often need tempering),  and just work to keep lines of communication there. Maybe there are other alternatives God has in the wings and you need to “jiggle some handles” around you just to see what doors might open. Maybe all three of those options need to be pursued. (staying faihtfully now, but being open to a change of plan).
Thinking about what may have motivated your previous decision and analyzing what happened in the past is important for understanding the factors at play and being self-aware, but I don’t know that over-analyzing it is going to help. Regret certainly isn’t. We do need to think through our past, and learn from it and confess where appropriate, but we are also called not to dwell on the past: “forgetting what is behind, we press on…” I don’t think this means ‘forget’ in the sense that we treat it as if it didn’t happen, but that we don’t put our main focus on the past. Instead, we focus on present day faithfulness with a view to God’s promises and purposes in the future.
Know this though: These months of you being faithful and loyal are not wasted. God rewards his servants who serve Him and His world with upright hearts. He will redeem this time, and who knows what wisdom and truth He will yet pull from this experience in the years to come. Lord knows, I’ve been surprised so often by the ways in which the “questionable decisions” and sticky circumstances land up being used in wonderful and unexpected ways in the future.
I”m sorry you are in a hard space right now – it must be SO HARD to be there all the time second guessing yourself – but I don’t believe it is wasted, and I KNOW that regret/worrying about whether it was a mistake is not a helpful way for you to approach this climate. Call some praying friends around you to help you figure out what your options are, and see what step God shines the light on next.
With love and prayers for God’s wisdom and comfort to you,
Bronwyn.
Photo Credit: Will Montague – petal shadows (Flickr Creative Commons) – edited by Bronwyn Lea

Why we ditched the ‘young marrieds’ groups

I’m delighted to be joining the team of contributors at StartMarriageRight.com! Here’s a preview of this week’s post…

In a way, getting married felt a little like going away to college: new living arrangements, new things to learn, new social schedule, and lots of invitations to join new groups. In particular, we kept on getting invited to join groups specifically geared for young marrieds: camping groups, cooking clubs and bible studies – all populated by excited newlyweds just like ourselves.

At first, young marrieds groups seemed to be just the ticket, exactly the kind of thing we needed and wanted in this new phase of our lives. However, we decided to forego the young marrieds groups, and ten years down the line we are so glad we did.

Here’s why. Young marrieds groups, by definition, excluded two groups of people that we desperately wanted to stay connected to: singles and older married couples.

Click over to keep reading at Start Marriage Right….