2014 was definitely a year of the unexpected for our family. When I was thinking of chapter titles, for the book we want to write, I thought “A Year of Rest” would be a good title to sum up this last year. We had felt God prompting us many times to rest in him and to be still and trust him. And we did, AFTER we got angry and frustrated or threw ourselves on the ground and sobbed until there were no more sobs (the sobbing fit was me, Aaron was the angry one. 😉 ). Thus, I have to admit that “A Year of Rest” would not be the most accurate of titles to describe this last year. Maybe, “How to Freak out When God Doesn’t do What You Think He Should” or “How to Pout Like a Three Year Old When You’re in Your 30’s” or “The Art of Looking Like an Idiot”.
In spite of the struggles, and seemingly hopeless situations, we wouldn’t change anything that happened because of what we have learned. All of this craziness has opened our eyes to the people we were and it wasn’t anything close to the people we’re meant to be. Oh, we were nice enough, but we’re meant to be more than nice enough. We had to go through a complete stripping process for God to be able to reveal the plans he has for us as individuals as well as how he will use us to encourage others. It really will take a whole book, or two or three, to share all the things we’ve learned and how they’ve changed us. These are just a few of the things that come to mind:
God is meaner than we thought, and better than we can imagine.
Because I’m married to one of the biggest fitness nuts ever, I translate a lot of life’s lessons into health and fitness scenarios. For example, we go to God wanting him to be our workout partner, and we ask him to join us for nice little walks. For a time that’s great, you can’t jump into a hardcore fitness routine if you get sore and winded from a short walk. Fitness is a continual process. Once you have been walking for awhile, you will need to increase the resistance in order to reach your goals. It is at this point that you need a personal trainer, not a workout partner. God wants to be our personal trainer. He already has all the knowledge for what steps are necessary to transform each person. We need to trust that whatever he’s asking us to do, or to give up, is necessary for our transformation. As with any personal training, at times you’ll think all of it is ridiculous and you’ll want to quit. You’ll look at all the people doing and having things you can’t and it’ll make you mad and frustrated at that ridiculous trainer. But, if you’ll stick to it, through your anger and pain, the results will amaze you and everyone around you. You’ll come to a point where that personal trainer becomes your hero and you thank him continually for being “mean” and requiring things of you that you didn’t think you had.
Stepping out in faith has results that are not immediately positive.
We had a completely different story written in our heads for what would happen when we moved to Tennessee. We thought that since we were trusting God to direct our steps everything would fall into place. Sure, we’d have the typical life struggles but we’d find our place in working for him and encouraging people and we’d be fulfilled in that. We didn’t realize that to get to that point we had to have our world completely crumble. I think it shocked everyone watching our story, as much as it shocked us. We told God when we got to Tennessee that we’d write everything that happened in our life so that people could read about the great things he does and rejoice with us. So far there hasn’t been much rejoicing. It’s tough to live this out, but it’s also tough for our friends and family to watch. That is something that we had never taken into consideration. It has caused a crisis of faith for many. People don’t know what to think. Could the Sanders really be walking in faith if all these terrible things are happening to them? Did they really hear from him in the first place? Does God really do these kinds of things? Our life has caused us, and many of our friends, to look deeper into the character of God to figure out what on earth is going on.
Help and encouragement come from unexpected sources.
Aaron has mentioned before that if he’d have made a list of people that would be our source of encouragement and help he would have been way off. We’ve been pleasantly surprised at who God has used. Friends and family, that we had no idea had a relationship with God, have sent us texts and emails letting us know they’re proud of us and they believe in us or they’ll send encouraging Bible verses. People that we’ve talked to less than a handful of times will come to us and say they felt like God wanted them to give us a certain amount of money. People that we’ve never met have given money to people we do know and told them it is for us.
Letting people help you is hard and incredibly humbling.
Allowing others to help us has been very difficult. For most of our married life we had been the ones able to help people. If we were out to eat and someone offered to buy our meal, we could politely refuse and be able to take care of it on our own. If someone needed help with groceries, we could be there for them. If someone needed somewhere to stay, we could offer our home. To be the ones in need of assistance, is one of the most humbling things we have ever been through. To be in a place where we need to allow people to buy our groceries, or give us a place to live, or buy gas for our van is a little overwhelming. It has also been an eye opener for us. By never allowing others to help you, you are robbing them of the blessing of being a help. A few times over this last year we’ve had a little bit extra and have been able to use it to help someone else. It was an amazing feeling! If you’re always refusing help and letting others know “you’ve got it” you’re preventing them from experiencing the joy of giving to others.
We have the most amazing children. Ever.
We started our journey a little differently than most people would. The kiddos have been included in every big decision and we ask for their input, feelings and God thoughts on each one. We have never done anything unless everyone is in agreement. We decided from the start that this is as much their story as it is ours, so they should have a say in it. We’ll often ask, “What would you do if you were the daddy or momma?” They know when a bill is overdue and our bank account shows less than 2 digits or when we’re discouraged and feel like giving up. They also know when we’ve been given enough to cover all bills and have some left over to go to Chick fil A or when we’re feeling amazingly hopeful and encouraged. Countless times we have sat down as a family and Aaron and I have admitted to wanting to throw it all in and go back to living a safe, predictable life. These precious little blessings of ours will say, “Why don’t you give God a little more time and see if he’ll say anything or send someone to help.” We never cease to be amazed and encouraged by their faith.
Aaron is awesome.
I guess that isn’t really a new thing I learned, I’ve known it for 18+ years now, but it has been reaffirmed time and again over this last year. His faith and confidence in God has given me hope and helped me through times of despair. When I’ve been completely overwhelmed and had no energy left, for anything or anyone, he has simply held me and let me cry. When I get really discouraged and start speaking negatively, he gently reminds me of our commitment to speak peace and goodness into our life. There isn’t anyone in this world I’d rather be with for this crazy ride.
I pray that you all had a wonderful 2014 and that 2015 brings you great joy, the finding of your purpose, the fulfillment of dreams and that you will allow God to show you pieces of his character you’ve never seen before.