Tag Archives: Travel

And So The Story Goes, Part 2

Three years earlier I had gone through a time of intense prayer and fasting to determine what future God had for me.  I felt God speak to me very clearly that I was to go to seminary because He was calling me to full-time ministry.  This thought had never occurred to me before and it took some time to wrap my mind around it.  The school I was interested in had a distance education program, so I assumed that was the way I was to attend there.  I would not consider leaving Nashville. 

My job required me to travel extensively and I was often out of town Tuesday through Saturday for weeks on end.  With the hours I worked and the demands of travel, I wasn’t able to focus on school work.  I spent several years applying for other jobs, trying to find something that would pay a little more so I could afford school and stay in town.  With nearly every job opening, I made it to the final cut only to lose the job to someone else.  It was very frustrating and I couldn’t figure out what God was doing.  When I got engaged, I truly hoped that we would go to seminary together, which made a lot more sense to me than going as an unmarried female. 

When my engagement ended and everything else fell apart, I knew that God was telling me to GO to seminary – in Virginia Beach.  He was going to get me there, even if He had to kick me out of Nashville by force.  We moved around a lot while I was growing up: I went to 2 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and 2 high schools – and then I changed colleges three times in four years.  All this transition made stability and security very important to me.  I don’t like to move.  I wanted to live in Nashville for the rest of my life.  Leaving didn’t appeal to me, except that I knew a change of scenery would probably do me some good. 

There was also the huge financial issue of going to school.  I still had debt from my undergraduate degree, plus credit card debt.  I’d worked hard to reduce it significantly, but it wasn’t gone.  I had no idea how I could pay for graduate school, but I applied anyway and prayed hard for financial aid.  I asked God to prove Himself and if He really wanted me to go, I would get a 100% scholarship.  The financial aid letter came back with news of a 20% grant.  I was beyond disappointed, but I knew the minute I read that letter that God was not releasing me from the call.  I had to go.  God led me to the book of Proverbs and showed me many times how Solomon commanded us to get knowledge, get wisdom, and get instruction – and that it was worth any price.  With fear and trembling, I decided to take out student loans.

One thing I had learned well in Nashville is, “It’s all about who you know.”  I knew our church’s senior pastor was friends with the dean of the school.  I tried to set up an appointment with the senior pastor to ask him to let his friend know I was coming to the school.  But our senior pastor was in the middle of writing a paper for Oxford and couldn’t meet with me.  I was devastated, but God reminded me that I knew Him and He is the One who opens and shuts doors. 

My mother and I scheduled a trip to Virginia Beach in July to check the area out and look for a roommate, housing, and a job.  The university hired writing coaches, so I applied for that job.  In the interview it came out that I was a professional meeting planner.  The person interviewing me stopped the interview and took me to meet her co-worker who was trying to hire a graduate assistant to help him plan student workshops.  My background and experience were perfect for what he needed and I got hired.  I was one of the only students who went to school with a job already lined up.  It was such an encouragement to me. 

Not only did that job suit me, but I was put in a cubicle in a large room with other people my age.  We all got along great and had a blast working together.  I used to go in on my days off just to say hi to the friends I worked with.  It also led to a secondary job as the newsletter editor for the university.  Almost everything about that job was a blessing to me and I relished the good atmosphere after what I had just left.  It was healing to my soul.

I had a hard time finding a place to live because housing is so expensive in Virginia Beach and my cat was not exactly a positive thing to perspective roommates.  I prayed and prayed about what to do, not wanting to leave Moses the kitty behind but unable to find a place to live.  Several days before I was to leave for school, I got a call from a woman who rented me a room in her house close to the school and let me bring Moses – all for a really good price. 

After being out of school for six years and struggling with severe depression in college, I was also terrified that grad school would be too hard for me.  I wondered if my brain still worked like it used to or if I’d have to study 2 or 3 times harder than everyone else.  I worried that my professors wouldn’t be interested in teaching a girl.  I was full of fear.  Thankfully I had a few friends who encouraged me and believed in me.  They listened faithfully and repeatedly told me that I could do it.  After all that God had already done to pave the way for me, two weeks before classes started I panicked and seriously considered not going after all.  Through the prayers and encouraging words from my friends, I finally accepted that this was the time I was to go and nothing was going to stop me.  Once my mind was made up, I dove in and gave it everything I had.

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Little Lessons over Coffee

When I was 24 years old, I got a wonderful job that included traveling all over the country hosting training seminars for pastors and church leaders. I loved that job. I loved flying, planning seminars, and negotiating contracts. I loved meeting church leaders. I loved being in charge of an event.

One thing I did not love about the job was the hours. I’m not a morning person. I don’t understand people who just roll out of bed with a big smile. Weirdos. I’ve tried all kinds of things to make myself more of a morning person but nothing works. When the alarm goes off, I always think there should be more time to sleep. Always.

So you can imagine my feelings when I discovered part of my wonderful job included being the first person at work in the morning. We fed the participant’s breakfast and it was my job to make sure the breakfast was ready to be served in the most time-efficient way to feed 200 people in 30 minutes.

I had to find a coping mechanism, so I decided to give coffee a try.

The only way I could drink the industrial strength hotel coffee was to lace it with lots of sugar and cream. I could be coherent after my first cup and effective after my second cup. I realized this coffee solution might work at home too. I bought a coffee pot and some fancy, flavored coffee. I was delighted to find that lacing fancy, flavored coffee with sugar and milk made it delicious. I quickly developed a habit.

Once it became a habit, I felt a little guilty about it. I don’t like to be addicted to anything, so it always kind of niggled at me every morning as I made it. I should stop this. It can’t be good for me. But I enjoyed the taste and the alertness it gave me. I didn’t stop drinking it, but my guilty feelings over it increased. I felt like it wasn’t good for me and I even felt like God wanted me to stop drinking it, but I didn’t listen. I have an over-active imagination at times and surely God didn’t actually care if I drank coffee. I told myself to stop being ridiculous.

I’ve always had a battle with something I shall here call “upset stomach.” I’ll spare you the details of “upset stomach,” but it was my constant companion from the age of 13. I could never pinpoint what caused this problem and decided it was just my cross to bear.

“Upset stomach” got worse in my late 20s. It caused me to pass out in the public restroom at work one afternoon. Then I read a book that had a description of my version of “upset stomach.” This book called my strange malady an anxiety attack. Anxiety? Me? I wasn’t trembling or fearful. I was strong and brave. But the symptoms were listed right there. I told my therapist about it the next day. She had me call my doctor and ask for a prescription for Xanax. She said to take half a pill when my stomach started getting upset and within 15 minutes it would be calm. Xanax, the wonder drug, put an end to “upset stomach” running my life. I used it sparingly and made 10 pills last for two years.

At the end of those two years I found myself in the middle of one of the most stressful times in my life. Things came to a head when I had a convergence of stressful situations in one afternoon.  I found myself hyperventilating in the back of someone’s car and it got worse from there. The next day I asked for a refill on my prescription. This time the 10 pills lasted one year. I began to have anxiety over the anxiety pills.

When those pills ran out, I didn’t get my prescription refilled. I went the “library” (Barnes and Noble) and picked up every book I could find on anxiety disorders. I scanned the books, looking for natural ways to relieve anxiety. I read that people with anxiety should not consume stimulants. It makes the symptoms worse. NO MORE COFFEE? Hmmm… That can’t be right. I don’t really have anxiety anyway: just the symptoms. (I can be slightly hard-headed at times.)

I learned some valuable things about how to deal with anxiety from my research, notably that my insistence that I wasn’t afraid or anxious was causing anxiety to come out in very aggressive ways. As I learned to deal with anxiety in a healthier way, my stomach got better for a while. I was still drinking coffee though, and eventually it got worse again, then better, then worse, and eventually much worse. During another very stressful time in my life, I found myself sick constantly. I couldn’t keep anything down. While I thought this might be a great weight loss plan, it was interfering with my life so much that I finally gave in. I stopped drinking coffee. Amazingly, my stomach issues stopped completely. I couldn’t believe how good I felt.

After a few months, I missed my hot delicious morning drink, so I decided to try decaf. I was pleasantly surprised to find it tasted just as good. I thoroughly enjoy a morning cup of cinnamon vanilla nut decaf with 2 teaspoons of sugar and a splash of half-n-half. Pure heaven… Guilt free!

During this Lenten season, I’m fasting from desserts. Not sugar, just desserts. The first morning of my fast when I made my coffee, I felt that little niggling feeling as I reached for the sugar that I was not to use it. Ridiculous! This is the good stuff and I’m not using much! But the feeling was still there, so I decided to only use one teaspoon – a little compromise to appease The Voice… I’ve heard that same voice every time I’ve made coffee since then. I reach for the sugar and argue with The Voice that there’s no way I can enjoy coffee, DECAF coffee, without a little sweetener. Surely one teaspoon won’t hurt anything.

My fast was extremely successful the first week. I didn’t cheated one time. The second week it was mostly successful. The third week it was mostly, technically successful, but the old food challenges suddenly raised their ugly heads again. (So I’m fasting from cheese, but not hamburgers and fries!) I thought the food challenges were over for me, but apparently they’re not. Sigh…

This morning as I went to make my coffee and reached for the sugar, The Voice came into my hearing very insistently. “This little rebellion is why your problem with food is back. Do not put sugar in your coffee this morning. Trust Me. You will enjoy it without the sugar.”

Fine! I thought as I slammed the sugar container back on the shelf. I won’t put sugar in my coffee and I’ll hate it and stop drinking even decaf! Is that what You want?

“You will like it,” The Voice said.

I poured my plain, decaf coffee into the travel mug and walked out the door sullenly. I started driving to work and took my first sip of the coffee I was sure would curl my toes. It tasted very nondescript, almost like hot water. I took another sip. The same. By the time I got to work, the coffee I was drinking had come alive in my mouth. I tasted aspects of the flavor I’d never noticed before. It was delicious.

I tell this little story on myself not to freak you out that God wants you to stop drinking coffee or eating sugar. I have issues with anxiety that make it difficult to function properly with caffeine in my system. I have issues with food that make it necessary for me to fully submit to God in that area. We all have issues in some area of our lives. I tell this story to address the issue of obedience.

How often do we continue walking headlong into misery because something God wants us to do doesn’t make sense to us? My own pride has kept me in chains for too long. Even if it hadn’t been God’s voice asking me to stop drinking regular coffee, what would it have hurt for me to stop drinking it? Even if it hadn’t been God’s voice telling me to stop putting sugar in my coffee, what harm would it have done for me to taste something I didn’t like? Instead of just trusting it was God’s voice I was hearing, I stubbornly clung to my own “common sense”.

I believe my issues with food are gone now. I believe that after today I will no longer struggle to comfort myself with food, I will no longer feel like I deserve an indulgent snack because of stress in my life, I will no longer avoid feeling lonely or hurt or rejected because I’m stuffing it down with pizza and cheeseburgers and whatever else I can find. I will no longer have a split personality toward food – enjoying healthy, organic food one moment and running through the fast food drive thru for food made of grease and sugar with no dietary value the next.

It is a new day – not because I stopped putting sugar in my coffee today, but because I started being obedient in the smallest thing.

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