Can I Have Your Attention Please?

“But God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it.” Job 33:14

As you may know, our family moved to Michigan this past Wednesday. My husband accepted a promotion at his company, which required him to relocate from Pennsylvania, where all our family and friends are, to a new state (that’s colder, I might add!). We’ve been seeking God’s wisdom and counsel, and we had numerous signs that this was the right choice to make. Still, this has been one of the hardest weeks of my life, if not the hardest.

We left our home in PA, where we brought home all three of our babies. Before leaving, we went room by room and each said our favorite memory in that space. We laughed and cried at different moments our family shared together – whether it was making crafts at the table or cooking together in our kitchen or all snuggling in our master bedroom early in the mornings. When the boys were buckled in our rental van about to head to the airport, I burst into tears and told my husband how much I was going to miss this house. He nodded and said “Me too.”

We arrived and our apartment is fine, but it only had three towels and five of us needed to shower or bathe. It was supposed to have Internet and cable hooked up, but there was a snafu with his company and nothing is working. Even the light switches don’t work and many of the lamps didn’t have light bulbs. I was experiencing so many sweet messages from home – texts, phone calls, face time – and so much disappointment here. I began whining, as you can imagine. Tired, emotionally exhausted, not knowing where anything is or how anything works… missing my gym where I could get my aggression out while my boys were watched while they were getting exercise. Had we made the right choice?

This is where I had one of those “dark moments.” I literally thought about walking away. Saying goodbye to my spouse and even to my kids if necessary and getting a one-way plane ticket home, where there were “normal conveniences” like a telephone that works and 9 x 13 casserole dishes to make a meal.

I was texting back and forth between a friend who told me that she had had a rough week and felt like leaving it all, sort of jokingly. I knew she wouldn’t leave – she loved her family enough that she had already laid her life down for them. And in my responding to her, I knew that God was telling me the same thing. It was okay to have the feeling but to make the conscious choice to stay.

That night I had a HORRIBLE nightmare. I dreamed that it was actually my kids that we were saying goodbye to, rather than the house. They were foster kids about to be adopted by another family and I had to leave them. I was looking at my husband with desperate tears saying I couldn’t – I WOULDN’T – let them go. I woke up. I was disoriented. Where were we? Why wasn’t I in my own bed in my own house? I woke Shawn up in my panic (it’s 3 am, mind you) and through my sobbing tears, I told him that this was IT! I had had enough. I wanted to go home. This stupid vacation was over and I wanted my own space where everything was in its place and we weren’t missing a majority of our belongings. I cried and fussed for over an hour while he held me. I told him about my nightmare and how I had thought about leaving. I confessed I wasn’t doing well despite Michigan being a very nice state with very nice people.

We finally got back to sleep about an hour before the kids came over to snuggle with us and wake us up. I got my Bible out like I do every morning, absolutely hungry for what God had to say. During this time of transition I’ve been reading from Job. I’m not sure if it’s been comforting to hear of his distress or not. See, I know that Job didn’t deserve his calamity. I, on the other hand, am not as blameless or upright. I deserve far worse than what I’ve received! I asked God to speak to me, and here are some excerpts of what I underlined: “But God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night when deep sleep falls on people as they lay in bed.” (Job 33:15-16). Can you say YIKES?!?! Look what I had dreamed. I was still feeling sick from it… but God had my attention.

Continuing: “He whispers in their ear and terrifies them with His warning. He causes them to change their minds; He keeps them from pride. He keeps them from the grave, from crossing over the river of death” (Job 33:17-18).

Did I need to get over my pride? Yes, I’ll admit. Did He need me to change my mind? Absolutely! Could I ever even think of leaving my kids? No. I would die for them. In many ways, I have died to my own life to give them what they need. And I could do even more…

Continuing a couple verses later in Job: “But if a special messenger from heaven is there to intercede for a person, to declare that he is upright, God will be gracious and say, ‘Set him free. Do not make him die for I have found a ransom for his life.’ Then his body will become as healthy as a child’s, firm and youthful again. When he prays to God, he will be accepted. And God will receive him with joy and restore him to good standing. He will declare to his friends, ‘I sinned, but it was not worth it. God rescued me from the grave and now my life is filled with light. Yes, God often does these things for people. He rescues them from the grave so they may live in the light of the living” (Job 33:23-30).

You and I both know that we DO have a special messenger from heaven interceding for us! Jesus shed his blood to declare that we are upright – God can set us free because there is a ransom for our life. I am here to say just like these verses, “I have sinned and it wasn’t worth it! God rescued me!!!”

I was thrilled to read these passages – that God would seek me out, talk to me where I am and what I was dealing with.

After my devotions, we ate breakfast as a family and went to a church by Shawn’s work. I prayed, “Even if this isn’t the church you have for us, may we worship You here and hear Your word.” The church was great. The children all enjoyed their classes, and worship included the song “I need You, oh, I need You – every hour I need You. My one defense, my righteousness, my God, how I need You!” I sang it with new fervor. The only way I’m going to survive this move is with God. The only way I’m going to survive this life is through Jesus being my righteousness – for I am a sinner in every sense of the word.

The sermon was on Proverbs (which I LOVE the wisdom found in this book – even Job 28 talks about wisdom being worth far more than wealth). The worship pastor was the one speaking, and he said that each day we have little decisions that we make. Little decisions in each moment shape our day. Decisions we make each day shape our week, which forms our months, which then turns into years. Who we are is a function of our choices – even times when choices seem trivial, they are shaping our future. Are we praying with our kids? Are we reading the Bible as a family? Are we eating meals together and talking? Are we choosing to forgive? Are we choosing to love? Or instead are we choosing to fight? Are we choosing to be bitter? Are we choosing to hurt our spouse or our children? He spoke about those verses in Proverbs that say a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping and it’s better for a man to live on the roof of his house than with a quarrelsome wife. Better a meal of herbs with happiness than feasting with strife. What choices are we making for our house?

At the end of his sermon, he asked anyone who God was speaking to to stand up. I groaned. This was our first service there, but I had tears running down my face most of the sermon. I stood – better to obey what God asks than have the approval of men. Several others in the congregation stood, too. Then he asked everyone to stand (thank God!). He prayed. I prayed. Shawn & I were impressed enough with the church that we went to the “meet & greet” room – something Shawn usually avoids at churches we visit. We met the people there. The woman heard we had just relocated and asked if we had left family behind. Then without warning, she hugged me. I cried again (hey, once the waterworks start, they are difficult to stop). They gave us information on the church and were so genuinely nice. We registered our kids for the Vacation Bible School that starts this week – a choice to get them involved in church immediately.

The kids had a great time! And on the way home, I apologized for being the quarrelsome wife. Shawn & I had a good talk. We still both believe we are supposed to make this work (and other than a sloooowww process of approvals from his company, our house in PA is basically sold anyway!).

Then my devotions that I read to the boys during breakfast this morning was titled “God On the Hunt” with the verse from Joel 2:13, which says “Come back to the Lord your God. He is kind and shows mercy. He doesn’t become angry quickly. He has great love. He would rather forgive than punish.” (The devotional is by Max Lucado called “Grace for the Moment” for kids). The devotion underneath the verse read: “How far do you want God to go to get your attention? If God has to choose between your eternity in heaven and your happiness on earth, which do you hope He chooses? What if God moved you to another land? (As He did with Abraham.) … God does whatever it takes to get our attention. Isn’t that the message of the Bible? God’s never-ending, all-out pursuit of us. God on the hunt. God in the search. Peeking under the bed for hiding kids, searching in the classrooms and on the practice fields for those who are lost. Looking for you because He wants you with Him forever.”

Ah, my heart was struck again! How far does God have to go to get my attention? I had a pretty cushy life in PA – friends, a gym where I spent a lot of time, a house that allowed us to have money for other adventures, family close by, babysitters I could call, etc. But, was my heart where it needed to be? Was I trusting in my own abilities or was I fully depending on God? Was I obeying His commands or had I put Him in a compartment of my life that I took out when it was ‘convenient’? Forgive me, Lord, for losing sight of the important things, or majoring in the minor!

Moving here has given me a new perspective: I can do nothing apart from God’s grace. If He is willing to save me, even though I have sinned, my heart and my choice is to fully obey, fully commit, fully trust, even when circumstances have been literally shaking in my boots. I choose to trust. I choose to be a partner to my spouse. I choose to stay and care for my children. And I choose to make better choices each day in how our day will be structured – what will we focus on? How will we make memories? What will fill our time and thoughts? Lord, help us! We need YOU!

I realize this post has been long, but what about you? What choices are you making each day? How are those choices affecting your future and the future of your family? Does God have your attention? He is speaking…

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your grace. Thank You for bringing us to a place where You have our attention. Thank You for loving us enough to shake things up. Thank You for choosing our eternity rather than our momentary happiness. Thank You for knowing the whole picture and having our best in mind. Thank You for being slow to angry and quick to love. Thank You for punishing us when we need it, but also disciplining us to learn to be better. Thank You for teaching us through Your Word, through Your church and even through times of worship. May we listen and obey! May we follow what You say! Please forgive us of our sins. May we focus our lives and attention on You. Help us make distinct choices for every day that shape our future into a path that leads others to You. Allow our children to know You and grow close to You. May we center our lives on you rather than You working into our busy schedules. Thank You, God, for being all-knowing and all-powerful and yet patient and loving with us. We love You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

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