Sunday, February 19, 2017

Joy that comes from letting go

This week I have felt especially joyful. I don't know exactly why this week moreso than other weeks but there's a whole combination of things that have led us to where we are right now. A lot of things that felt really really hard at the time but have proven to be so worth it just to get us here.

A lot of changes have happened in the 6 months. When the mortgage went up on our house and things just kept breaking and finances were super tight, I knew the Lord told me to sell the house. Though I was super sad at first, my outlook turned around quickly. What a huge blessing that I could have it under contract after only 2 days of showings and that I could make enough off of it after only owning it for a little over a year to be able to pay off a lot of debt. In the exact perfect timing we found this condo for a price that was literally the ideal price and what I thought would be unlikely to actually find. I was online at the exact moment that post went live and the first one to call on it. I only started my search 1 day prior and wouldn't have started any sooner cause I wanted to get through inspection and stuff first to make sure that other house offer was going to be solid before finding a place we liked cause I didn't want to sign a lease or move forward until I was sure the house sale was definite. The condo is in the exact development I was hoping for - with several friends down the street and tons and tons of kids for M to play with. We LOVE it here!!! Even more than I thought we would. It even has an extra bedroom so I can have my office as its own room which has seriously been a huge stress reliever. When we bought our other house and I said my office was in my bedroom - a friend told me there were studies that showed that having an office or work station in the same room you sleep causes stress. Once we moved here, I definitely noticed it was helping me have better boundaries to just close the door and not work so much in off hours. I'm the kind of person that gets stressed out if the house is a mess and I swear my desk/office area is never really very clean cause I just jump from one thing to the next to the next and can never quite totally get it all clean and keep it that way. So having it as a separate room and closing the door - and keeping the rest of the house picked up - also helps with stress.

Not owning a house is less stressful for sure. It rained really hard for the first time a few weeks ago and I realized my first response was to look up and see if there were any leaks or water coming in. After 10 years of home ownership (2 different houses), that was always my first thought when it rained. I had this sigh of relief come over me - if there was a leak - I would just call the landlord and I would not have to pay for that. I do want to own a house again someday but not until I have money saved so that when leaks or breaks happened, I would have money put away to pay for it and wouldn't have my first response be stress of how I would afford it. For now, renting is great with me.

I miss our dog like crazy. I still dream about her. Mihretu and I still talk about her daily. And we definitely did not want to say goodbye to her. Yet at the same time, the stress of those first few months and all the anxiety she had, my fear of leaving the house and not knowing what I would come home to, trying everything under the sun to help her adjust, and so on - it was really stressful and almost all consuming. We didn't want to go to the beach or Busch Gardens or really anywhere that involved us being gone longer than like an hour or two max. That's no way to live. And it certainly wasn't good for her - she was so stressed out and anxious. It was heartbreaking. I hated admitting it wasn't going to work. But I do believe that was the right decision for her and for us. And a huge amount of stress has lifted off.

I haven't really talked about this that much because I haven't even really known how to put it into words until now but my job was causing a lot of stress too. I take responsibility really seriously which I think is good in many ways but can also mean bad boundaries, overworking, stretching yourself way too thin and taking on more and more and more until you literally cannot take on anything else or you'll implode. Seriously, non profit work is rewarding and awesome and when you live and breath and believe in it - it really matters and when something matters, you pour yourself into it. Sometimes to the point where you pour out so much, you haven't taken time to fill back up. I hit that point late last summer. Burnout but aware enough to recognize it and to know that I needed to set better boundaries, speak up and try to get some help in areas that I was not especially wired to fill nor did I have any capacity or time to be able to fill. Last spring, we brought on Shelly as a fundraiser on a very part-time basis because fundraising is an area I just am simply not gifted or experienced in. I had no idea then that God would raise her up into a leadership position and place us side by side in leading GBLI into a new season and in turn providing some long needed relief for me and some great fresh direction for the organization. Shelly became the CEO Jan 1st of this year and boy am I grateful. I think this change was the biggest stress reliever of all in my life. Let me be clear that no one was piling work on me. I was doing it to myself. I'm not great at delegating, I'm just not. I've gotten better over the years but I'm more the "get it done" person so I have tended to just keep taking more and more on as I've seen a need in various areas. Also we only have so many resources to work with so it's not like you can always bring on all the staff you need to fill all the roles that need to be filled so it's pretty common for non profit staff to wear many hats. About 6 months ago, I started really evaluating how I'm wired and what brings me life and what doesn't. And it became very clear to me that I am more of an internal operations kind of person. I can be a visionary but I also am the "nuts and bolts of how that vision comes to life" person. Internal operations is a very different gifting than external relations. I like aspects of both but when I'm really running in how I'm wired, I thrive on making things work behind the scenes. I like spreadsheets and budgets and creating power points and checking things off my check list. I like updating the website and creating all of our design materials. I like trip coordination. I've handed Uganda coordination off to seriously 5 different people in the last 7 years and every single time, it ends up back on my plate. It just came back to me again and this time I'm thinking I'm not even going to try to hand it off. And as I've started to get back into it, I'm remembering how much I love trip coordination - it's very concrete and you can have a checklist and check everything off it for that week. You get to talk to prospective team members and interact more with team leaders and team members who just came home from a life-changing trip and I find that fuels me too. The things that Shelly is taking on and running with are all freeing me up to run with the things I like to do and are part of my updated job description. And I feel such a huge weight lifted off me. I'm still crazy busy but it's a different kind of busy. I feel revived and grateful. And I think a lot of the joy I'm feeling is because I'm no longer carrying more than what God wanted me to. And there is freedom in finally realizing that and admitting that and being willing to hand some stuff off.

So I'm sharing all this because I wonder who is reading this who might also be carrying more than you can handle well or more than you are really supposed to be trying to carry to begin with.  I had gotten to a place financially and just from a stress standpoint that something or a lot of somethings had to give. For my sanity. For my health. For my joy, my parenting, and for my walk with the Lord. I just felt tired and burned out. And I cried out to Jesus. And one by one he stripped things off of me. Somedays it felt like a bad thing - like He was just taking things away from me. But I kept praying and seeking. I felt like He was saying "I know it feels like I'm taking things away but trust me and you'll see - it's going to be better. I'm trying to free you up so I can bring you joy and blessings." I get it now. And I trusted Him enough to believe Him then, even when I couldn't quite see it.

Reader - what is He asking you to trust Him for? or with? You might not be able to see it now but He does have a plan, and He is worthy of our trust. Always. I pray you will step out in faith to follow Him even in the hard. You won't regret it. 

LOVE our Ethiopian family

We just returned from Ethiopia and oh boy - my heart is completely wrecked. Mihretu and I traveled on our own last March (2018) over his ...