We used to say we worked in decades. We spent 10 years in Downey, Scottsdale and Illinois. Now I have spent 10 years on staff in Fullerton. The church has changed its name and pastors more than once during that time. I have changed offices, job responsibilities, had a ridiculous number of “bosses” and said goodbye to too many colleagues in the last ten years.
I have often wondered what life and ministry would look like as we got older and if God would use me in junior high ministry all my days or if He would create a new trajectory for me, as He did for Jim at Trinity and Biola. Life is often not what we expect and I suppose that is part of the adventure. I was sure that God’s call on my life for full time ministry of any kind was over when we moved back to CA because of the cultural and familial constraints that face women in this profession. I hung up my ministry hat, quit my PhD program and after a season of grief I poured myself into the ministry of parenting and marriage to the best of my ability. While I will not say that my current job at church is ministry, I do try my best to minister in my work every day. Even though I am not able to use my gifts, strengths or experience, I am not able to volunteer in youth ministry, I am not often asked to teach or counsel, and I am never involved in generating ideas or programs, I am still grateful that God opened the door for me to work in the shadows and it still feels redemptive in being able to minister to those who are doing the ministering.
Most people don’t get to spend their work life doing their “passion”. They work a job to make money so that they can live their best lives. Few people spend their lives in a career that reaches their future goals and plans. Most people miss the privilege of enjoying the daily moments because they are wishing for something better or different or more. I think that is because we believe that we have a right to be happy, or at least to pursue it.
When we first went to Scottsdale, ministry was hard and we found ourselves praying that God would hurry to teach us what He had for us and get us out of there! But, when we started year two, everything changed. Well, our situation was the same but our attitude changed. In our hearts things were shifting. We were reading Jeremiah in our devotions together, where the Israelite people wanted God to rescue them out of their situation and He told them they were going to be there a while and to settle in and live life where they were to the full. We realized that we needed to be willing to stay where we were, even if that meant forever. We learned that God was more concerned for our character than our circumstances and that joy is a choice. We realized that our circumstances were actually a gift. Ministry grew sweet and we loved our time there. We learned to look for the blessings and we built relationships and grew deep roots so that when God moved us from Arizona to Illinois, we realized that He had sheltered and watered us well in the desert.
So, is life what I had hoped for? Of course not. But then again, I can’t hope that big! Ten years ago I started a job at Fullerton Free Church. I thought it would be a good fit until I could relaunch into my career path. Today I still have a job and I am still grateful for it. God continues to my needs and maybe someday He will open a way back into a ministry career. In the meantime, I am still applying the lessons learned in Scottsdale and then again in Illinois to bloom where I am planted. Rather than looking for my niche in the world, I find myself asking God to help me see the world in my niche; To live as though my circumstances are a gift and to choose to be content and joyful every day.
And Happy Anniversary to me!