Have you ever been in one of those situations? The kind that you have to trust God to take care of you and get you through the insanity that is being presented to you? The kind that you could literally never get through on your own, even on your best day?
I have. In fact, I’m in the middle of one of those situations right now.
This year is only barely halfway through, and yet this year has been filled with so many moments I didn’t see coming. I never thought I would be paying for grad school out of pocket. Sure, I knew if I needed to get my Master’s degree then I would have to pay for it; I just assumed I would pay it back, not pay it up front. And let me just tell you, this one thing has caused so much stress and strain, but it has also tested my faith.
Don’t get me wrong! I’m beyond blessed to have made it through an entire year of graduate school with zero debt from it. Literally only the Lord could be responsible for how He has orchestrated that. Literally. Only the Lord. And I praise Him every day for helping me get this far.
I never thought I would be planning a wedding during a long distance engagement, while I was in grad school. Now, I know this was all my idea and I’m the dumb one who did this to myself. I take FULL responsibility. Well, half. I’ll take half of the responsibility. I’ll put the other half on Brandon. …Poor guy… Anyway, that has a whole other set of craziness that I will not delve into at the moment.
I never thought I would be living more than just paycheck to paycheck. I don’t even currently make enough to support the expenses I have right now. Not to mention that the Lord has called me to step down from one of my jobs, so I will have even less money coming in each month. Yes, this is kind of my fault, but I think it’s more God’s plan than anything else.
I never thought I would be letting go of so many things I held dear…
Remember how I said that the Lord told me to step down from one of my current jobs? Yeah… In my head, that wasn’t supposed to happen until I moved and got married and all that jazz in May of 2018. However, as I have often found in life, God had a different plan.
So, here I am.
Tomorrow is technically my last Sunday on staff at the most incredible little church. I loved being a part of this church family even before they somehow decided that I was the person they wanted to work with their kids. After I took the job as children’s ministry director, my life changed forever. Literally.
Each child in that ministry is like one of my own. They have taught me and continue to teach me so much more than I ever knew I needed to know. They showed me such unconditional love, such agape love. They accepted me so fully and allowed me to be a part of their lives. They have a piece of my heart and I pray that I did right by them. I pray that they saw me as a servant and vessel of the Lord, not as a woman seeking praise or favor. I pray that they learned something and felt God’s love in a way that they will never forget. I pray that they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are valuable, chosen, loved, and prayed for extensively. I hope I was able to light up their world just a little bit with the love of Christ. I just hope they know that they are loved so thoroughly by so many different people and by a God who died to know their name and carry their burdens.
I hope… I pray…
I have been thoroughly blessed by the people in my church. They have supported me when I literally had no clue what in the world I was doing. They encouraged me when all I could see were my flaws and failures. They have kept me positive when all I knew was the negative. They are literally the best people on the planet. I thank God for them every single time I remember them. I know the Lord put them in my life to help me not only survive, but thrive in my growth and experience while working with the kids in my church. I couldn’t have done it without them. And that’s the honest truth. Thank you for everything.
The number of people who volunteered time and time again to help me serve the kids is astounding. All of the volunteers I worked with had a heart of gold and the love of Christ shining from within them. They have served beautifully and relentlessly. They blessed me beyond anything I had ever known. Children’s ministry isn’t for everyone, but those who serve the little ones are such a blessing. They have taught me so much about loving on God’s precious little children. Thank you for your time and heart. I pray the Lord blesses your socks off!
My friends and family who have supported me through each and every crazy, insane, chaotic step of this journey… You. Are. Phenomenal. Thank you for not giving up on me and walking away from my waves of negativity or tornadoes of chaos. Thank you for supporting me and showing me nothing but love. Thank you for talking me down when I was so riled up. Thank you for your endless prayers and countless texts and phone calls. You have blessed my socks off. (Literally! I don’t have any socks on right now! You blessed them right off!!)
I don’t even know where to begin with the prayer bunnies… Literally. There are NO WORDS that could ever express my gratitude and love for each of you ladies. Knowing that you are always there, ready with a prayer for me when I need it most as well as when I forget just how much I need it. I pray the Lord blesses you beyond all measure. I know each of you has so many crowns awaiting you in Heaven. I also know that you will relinquish every single one of them before the throne of the Father, even as you have done on this earth. You have turned every blessing that He has poured out on you into the sweetest incense of praise. May the Lord drop prayer bombs of blessings on each of you.
Now, to the absolutely phenomenal and incredible woman who is taking my place. You’ve got this. The kids will accept you and love you with more love than you ever thought you could receive. They will welcome you with open arms and they will teach you things you never knew you didn’t know. You will be incredible. Seriously. Don’t freak out. You’re more qualified for this job than I am! God used me and blessed me for the time He wanted me there, but it’s your turn now. God will use you so fully if you allow Him to (and I know you will). The kids will test you and they will drive you insane sometimes, but you know that. But let me just say, the insanity and chaos is nothing compared to the love and joy and even peace you will find while ministering to those sweet kids. You’re awesome and you’ve got this because God’s got you and He is putting you in this place for His good, pleasing, and perfect will. And you know I’m not going anywhere yet!
The Lord has been so good and blessed me through all of the insanity I’ve faced throughout my life. I know He will be with me during this next year and the year after that and the year after that. I know He will be right beside me and before me and behind me. I know He will help me plan my wedding and pay for grad school. I know He will walk me across the stage at graduation and down the aisle at my wedding. I know He will place me exactly where He wants me for my clinical fellowship year. I know He will help us choose our first home and help us organize our things within that home. I know He will help us love one another through the first difficult year of marriage and every other crazy year after that. I know He will give me the perfect job with great coworkers. I know He will be there every single step of the way.
I can hear the Lord now: “I’ve helped you through so much in the past. I’ve shown you My love. I’ve taught you My ways. You’ve never been in need before. Why in the world would I stop providing now? Why don’t you just trust Me. I’ve got this.”
I know God is using this insanity to help me see things more clearly. Being perfected, molded, and purified aren’t pretty and they are also pretty painful. However, with that in mind, it is necessary to go through the refiner’s fire if I wish to be used by the Lord. So, into the fire I go. Knowing the Lord walks before me and beside me and behind me, each step of the journey.
So here I am. Trusting God to provide all of my needs.
Thank you all for your prayers, supports, and intercessions. I feel them more and more each day. You are all incredible and I pray the Lord heaps blessings upon each of you.
Hi, my name is Gentry and I am a sufferer.
If I could look you in the eyes and ask you if you have ever experienced a moment of suffering in some way, shape, or form, I’m sure that you would hurriedly respond with an emphatic, “yes!” The truth is, we all suffer in some way. Another truth is, we all suffer in different ways.
The thing is, it all sucks. Suffering is never fun. Ever. But you can’t go through life judging other people or looking down on other people because they suffer differently than you do. God’s got us all where we are for some reason, don’t disparage that. And even if our suffering is our own fault, God can still redeem it and use it for good.
Currently, I just so happen to be in a season of suffering. It’s ironic that a little over a month ago I helped teach a Bible study on suffering at our church’s summer camp. God does have a sense of humor, you know. The lesson focused on defining suffering, understanding why we suffer, exploring how you personally suffer, discovering how the Bible suggests that we handle that suffering, and experiencing the result of suffering. I know. That’s a lot of suffering.
The thing is, while I’m sitting in the middle of my suffering, I have two choices: I can whine and groan and become angry at God because He let this happen to me, or I can choose to suffer well. It’s my choice. It’s your choice. While at camp, I jokingly told each kid to “suffer well” as I handed them a bookmark after each session. The bookmark has three pictures on it, each having a verse or quote written on it. Here’s how our suffering bookmarks read:
“Suffering produces Endurance. Endurance produces Character. Character produces Hope.” -Romans 5: 3-4
“After your season of suffering, God in all His grace will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” -1 Peter 5:10
“Don’t get the feeling that we signed up for suffering when we received Jesus. Beloved, we live in a fallen world where every human being suffers to some extent. The difference is that our suffering need never be in vain.” -Beth Moore
Great words of wisdom, I know! It’s one thing to sit on the swing at camp and teach those kids about suffering. It’s a whole other thing to sit in the middle of suffering and read those words and do your absolute best to believe them.
While I taught those kids, I was suffering to some extent. I was achy all over (a lovely never ending side effect of a chronic and progressive genetic disorder like VEDS), the sun was hot, I had a million and one things running through my mind and no time to even think about all of them (a camp in two weeks I was directing, a VBS in a month I was still writing curriculum for and didn’t have enough help for, relationships that weren’t going as smoothly as I’d hoped, etc. etc. etc.), and my heart was heavy for some people I knew who were going through a really rough time.
Sure, I was suffering then, but let me just tell you: that moment in my mind seems like a walk through the park compared to what I am dealing with now. I mean, I’m sure that’s how it always feels. Once you move on from that season in your life, you can see the good that came from it but you also aren’t in the midst of it, so it doesn’t seems anywhere near as bad as it did in the moment. That’s how it usually works for me, anyway.
The suffering I am currently experiencing is something I’ve never gone through before. I’ve been diagnosed with a chronic and progressive genetic disorder, I’m in a long distance relationship, I’m a children’s ministry director, and I’m about to start graduate school as well as another job. I’ve been through a lot. And those are only the things I’m dealing with at this moment! But this season of suffering is something entirely different. Why? Because I can’t seem to wrap my head around why in the world I’m dealing with this so intensely right now.
I feel alone. Left behind. Abandoned. Not good enough. Distant. Helpless. Unheard. Unreachable. Misunderstood. Betrayed. Hopeless.
Should I feel a single one of those things? No. And I know that! That’s what I don’t understand! I know that I’m not alone, left behind, or abandoned because Hebrews 13:5 says that He will never leave me. I know I am good enough because Jeremiah 29:11 says that the Lord has a plan for my life that will prosper me and give me hope and a future. I know I’m not distant because Psalm 34:18 says that He is near to the brokenhearted. I know I’m not helpless because Psalm 121:2 says that my help comes from God. I know I’m not unheard because Psalm 66:19 says that He has heard. I know I’m not unreachable because Psalm 139:7-12 details that God is everywhere. I know I’m not misunderstood because Romans 8:26 says that the Holy Spirit prays for me when I don’t know how to. I know I’m not betrayed because Romans 8:31 says that God is for me, not against me. I know I’m not hopeless because Romans 5:3-4 says that my suffering will eventually produce hope.
I know all of these things to be true. So why do I feel these things?! It is so frustrating to me! I know God is good and He still is, even when I’m in the middle of my sufferings. The problem I’m having is, I thought we had a deal.
But we didn’t. I had a deal. I thought that He understood my desires and wanted to give them to me. At least that’s what Psalm 37:4 says. And it’s true. He does know my desires and I believe that He does want to give me the desires of my heart. But I know that He wants His will for me even more. Because it’s better. His plan for my life is infinitely better than I could ever imagine in my wildest dreams . If you gave Hollywood all the money and brain power in the world and told them to make a movie about the best life that could ever be lived, they would fall drastically short of what God has planned for me.
You see, God never agreed to my plan. He agreed to His plan long ago and He’s still lovingly and patiently waiting for me to jump on board instead of riding the railing. If I’m being 100% honest right now, I was beyond convinced that He was going to move me to South Alabama to do my graduate studies. I was certain that He would provide a scholarship for me at Montevallo when I didn’t get one at South. I was sure that He wouldn’t lengthen the time that I have to spend waiting a month just to say goodbye again to the only guy crazy enough to love me. I was confident that He wouldn’t add physical pain to my already overwhelmed being. I was positive that He wouldn’t let me get so far down in my own plan, believing that it was His, that I had to be jerked up by the roots in the most painful way just to see that I had planted myself where I didn’t belong.
I had it all planned out. But that’s where I went wrong.
He didn’t move me to South Alabama, regardless of the signs I thought I received from Him. I didn’t even get a hint of a scholarship at Montevallo. He has definitely lengthened the time that I will suffer through only seeing my boyfriend once a month throughout this long distance relationship. He has let physical neck, shoulder, and back pain pile on top of all of these things. And He surely allowed me to walk my own path, thinking that I was walking His. But praise be to God that He saw fit to jerk me up by the roots and carry me back to where I belong.
It never has been and never will be my job to plan my life. I thought I had learned that lesson a long time ago, when I was 11, but I guess I still have some learning to do in that department. God is sovereign and He is in control. He already has it all mapped out for me. All I have to do is surrender my plans, focus on Him, and follow wherever He leads me. I mean, it’s really not that hard when you think about it. We always want someone in our lives to just tell us what to do in order to have a good, full life. Yet, the moment that the almighty, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God tells us that He’s got it all planned out, it’s better than we can hope for, and all we have to do is follow Him, we get our calendars and planners out and start marking down dates and making an agenda. How silly we must seem to Him. And yet He loves us dearly and patiently allows us to mark our calendars, knowing that He has something completely different planned. How much more baffling that He allows us to choose between our failed attempts at planning our life and His complete and perfect plan.
I’m sure I put myself in this mess that I’ve made by trying to do things my way, but I also know that God can take my mess and make it a beautiful part of my life that brings glory to Him and Him alone. I know that my suffering doesn’t have to be in vain. I know that God is good, even when life isn’t. I know that even when I feel alone, I am only a prayer away from the Almighty. I know that as soon as I learn to quit crawling off the altar, my life will become a fragrant living sacrifice to the Lord.
So for now I take it one day at a time. I wake up, spend time with the Lord, ask Him to guide my day and guard my heart and mind. I work. I live. I love. I suffer. And in the end, I know that I will find my hope in Him who gives all that I will ever need.
“You’ll get through this. It won’t be painless. It won’t be quick. But God will use this mess for good. In the meantime, don’t be foolish or naive. But don’t despair either. With God’s help you will get through this.” -Max Lucado, You’ll Get Through This
Once again, here’s the link to the first part of the story: Our Story. Now, get ready, because this one is a long one…
Let’s flashback for the catchup! I just completely made a fool of myself by texting a guy I knew for a week and basically telling him that I liked him, but didn’t want to pursue a relationship with him because we lived 249 miles away from each other. Probably not the best idea I’ve ever had, but oh well! What’s done is done and it’s gotten me this far, so I guess it was a decent decision. On the plus side, he did say that he liked me and agreed with my way of thinking. So now let’s move into another one of my brilliant ideas about three months later… It’s known by only one word: October.
October actually started in September of 2012. Brandon and I continued to text each other throughout the next few months and it was wonderful. We never saw each other in person during those three months, but our relationship grew slowly as we talked to each other each day. We weren’t “dating.” We were just “talking.” Know, let me define those terms for you quickly: “talking” occurs when two people like each other and want to get to know each other better, but have not moved past the getting-to-know-you phase of their relationship; whereas “dating” occurs when the guy actually asks the girl to be his girlfriend. I am perfectly aware that there are a million different ways to define those two words, but that is what they mean to me and how I will use them in the future.
So, we were happy “talking” and texting each other every day. However, the Lord didn’t let me stay in that comfort zone for long. He wouldn’t let me have peace about our relationship at that moment because Brandon was not going to church at that time or being fed spiritually at all and it really bothered me. Why did it bother me so much? My faith is really important to me and keeping Christ first in my relationship was and is the most important thing to me. So when Brandon wasn’t living up to the “strong spiritual leader” that I thought he should be, I started to freak out.
So I did what any girl would do. I prayed and fasted for a week and asked the Lord to show me how He wanted me to handle the uneasiness. I was ready and willing to tell Brandon that we couldn’t continue talking. But that isn’t what God told me to do. Instead, the Lord asked me to take a break from Brandon and really focus on Him for a month. That month was October.
On the night of September 30th, I called Brandon. I had made lists and written out the reasons why I wanted to do this. I spent hours praying about it. I knew that I had to do it and I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. But I also knew that the Lord would walk through each and every step with me and I knew that it would be a positive experience for both Brandon and me. I’m not the girl who dates someone just to date them. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have waited until after high school to even start “talking” to someone. My goal in dating is to find the man that God is preparing to be my husband, not sample a bunch of different people.
I had told Brandon that we needed to talk, but it had to wait until that night. He had figured out earlier that week that something was off and didn’t leave it alone until I told him that I needed to talk to him about something. That week also happened to be when he told me that he loved my laugh. Now, that may not be a big deal to many people, but I hate my laugh and I had jokingly told God that the boy who told me that he liked my laugh was going to be “the one.” Remember, I was joking.
The conversation went something like this: “Brandon, I really need a spiritual leader in my life and I’m not sure that you are that person for me right now, but I know that you can be in time. I won’t marry anyone unless Christ is first in their life and we keep Him at the center of our relationship. I’m not going to date anyone just to say that I have a boyfriend. My goals in dating are to find my future husband.”
Brandon then proceeded to talk a little about his life. He went to a private Christian school for a while, which is where he had gained the majority of his knowledge of the Bible, and then went into public school soon after. His family was not one that went to church often and he had been forced to go to a few churches that he was not a big fan of. His spiritual growth ended when he left the Christian school and did not pick back up until 2012, when he went to Chula Vista for that week of camp. He encountered God again at camp and wanted to know more about how to better his relationship with the Lord, but was not sure how to go about doing that. And that brings us to his current state on that night.
It was not easy to talk about that stuff. I see things one way because I was born and raised in church and I have volunteered in different ministries since I was ten or so. Brandon sees things a completely different way because he wasn’t raised with God always providing the answer. He never knew that he could rely solely on Christ for anything and everything. It was a major difference between the two of us and it greatly impacted our relationship.
After that little conversation, Brandon thought that was all I had to say. He told me that he was worried that I would suggest we start dating. Yeah. He really thought that. Which I guess is totally valid because I am the girl who texted him to tell him that I liked him after knowing him for a week… Anyway, I didn’t suggest that at all, but I did tell him that we had one more heavy thing to talk about… The break.
I kept my cool as I explained how the Lord had been tugging on my heart and how much I had prayed about this. My voice was steady as I explained that the break needed to last for the whole month of October and that it included no talking on the phone, texting, Facebook messages, or any other communication of any kind. I was fine as I explained how it would be beneficial to both of us: we could better focus on God, make sure that He was at the center of our life as individuals, and to show God that He was our top priority.
The moment that I stopped talking and everything had been laid out there while I awaited Brandon’s response to this impossible request, I shattered. The tears flowed steadily down my cheeks and my voice cracked from all of the tension.
Now, by this time you’re probably thinking that I’m crazy. I would definitely agree with you. I’m completely bonkers. But when the Holy Spirit nudges you to do something, you don’t just sit there and say, “No.” (Unless you like having your world fall apart because you decided to disobey God…) You get up, you put your big girl britches on and you say, “Okay, Lord, but You’re gonna have to help me through this.” And He does. He always does. And He certainly did that night.
Through the innumerable tears and the silent sound of breaking hearts, Brandon did not respond like a normal 18 year old boy would. He did not walk away from me. He did not turn his back on our relationship because it was about to get extremely difficult. He did not question my motives or try to change the parameters of the break. Instead, he admitted that he was scared. He was worried that not communicating at all for a whole month would ruin our relationship and tear us apart. He was scared of losing me and I was scared of losing him too. He was worried that at the end of the month we would find that we weren’t right for each other; that we weren’t good enough for the other.
I asked him, “What is the worst thing that could happen during this month? Even if the Lord tells us that we aren’t supposed to be together, it’ll be better to know now rather than after we’ve gotten our hearts more involved. Besides, we could still be friends. We would just need to draw a line and stay far from it.” I’m aware that those are some of the worst things that I could have said to him, but I was also saying it to help reassure myself.
His response silenced me: “That’s it. I don’t just want to be your friend.”
Of course I didn’t want to just be his friend! But above all else, I wanted the Lord’s will to be done. No matter what that was.
We set our parameters for October and talked about slightly lighter subjects until midnight. His one request was to be able to hear my laugh one more time before October started.
When midnight came, we didn’t say goodbye. Goodbye is too final, especially when a month of absolutely no communication follows that. Instead, we said, “I’ll talk to you later.”
Although the night was filled with so much dread and many tears, there was a peace that followed the sound of the phone call being disconnected. I had done what the Lord asked and I knew with every fiber of my being that He would walk with me through whatever craziness I encountered in that month. And let me just tell you, there was plenty of crazy during October…