Sunday, July 24, 2011

Waiting Again

by Sarah

In case this is your first time reading our blog, let me catch you up to speed. We are facing changes in three areas:
  • New job
  • New home
  • New baby
We've been living in a constant state of flux, wondering which of these three areas would unfold first.  Would we find a job, move and have a baby?  Would we move, have a baby and find a job?  and so on.  (Take note that the math teacher in me is being held in check,  not divulging all of the different permutations this situation provides.)

So all summer we've been waiting.  Waiting for a job.  Waiting for direction.  Waiting for August 3rd when our baby would be born.  Waiting... waiting...waiting.

After the disappointing news of not getting a job we had hoped for, we regrouped and moved forward.  We decided to stay in the area and to pursue moving into a house some good friends of ours had offered.  Suddenly, we had focus.  THIS was something we could pour our energy into.  We had packing and painting to do.  We were eager to get things in order before the baby's arrival, and we thought we had plenty of time.

We were wrong.

Tuesday morning, July 19th, (yes, that is 15 days before my August 3rd due date) my water broke.  I had not even packed a bag.  After so many days of Steven and I being together all the time,on this day, he was about 30 minutes away, working on the house.  I was a little panicked, but it all worked out.  A few hours later, we were thrilled that, at least in one area, our wait was finally was over.  Levi James had arrived!

We are flexible people.  The early arrival of our son did not throw us off.  It is inconvenient that the hospital is 35 minutes from our home, but we expected the inconvenience to only last a couple of days until I came home with the baby.  We could handle a couple of days of driving back and forth and solving the puzzle of where the children should go and when.

Everything changed when Levi had to be admitted in the NICU on July 21st, the day we were scheduled to come home.  I was discharged; he was not.

Now our situation is not as dire as some other families; we did not leave wondering if our son would live or die.  His condition was relatively routine; he just needed more time to be ready to go home.  Even still, leaving that hospital empty-handed was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.  As I was wheeled to the front doors, I literally struggled to breathe.

Levi has now been in the NICU four days.  And again I'm back to waiting.

We've spent the last four days making multiple trips to the hospital (which hasn't moved any closer to our home) each day.  Everyday we have to figure out the questions of when should we go and what should we do with the other kids.  There's other stuff in life that needs to be done (laundry, grocery shopping, packing to move), but nothing seems as important as being at the hospital with Levi, waiting by his bed, watching him sleep.

And so we wait.  We're waiting to hear that his bilirubin has come down.  We're waiting to hear that he is digesting food like he's supposed to.  We're waiting to hear that he can come home.

When I examine how I'm walking this one out, I see that I have not learned my lesson of how to wait peacefully yet. This is much worse than waiting to hear about a job or about where we might live.  And some days, I'm certainly not the picture of faith.  But, what else can I do?  I cry and I pray.  I trust God and tell him how much I want my baby to come home.  And then I just wait.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Married Up

by Steven

Did you see the movie, Meet The Parents?  Remember Greg Focker's (Ben Stiller) nervous attempts to overcome all his insecurities in the face of his potential in-laws?  Though I found the movie to be hilarious, it was painful and frustrating to watch Greg be so misunderstood and unfairly measured.  However, this post has very little connection with that movie, but I needed an opening paragraph.

Let's try again.

You know the expression, "married up"?  It implies that one partner married a person who is better than they are.  "Better" might mean further up the line in the realm of good looks, money, intelligence, social standing, or simply in an overall sense - better.  Well, I believe that my wife, Sarah, definitely married up when she married me.

At least, that's how she makes me feel.  In reality, everyone else knows (including me) that I'm the one who married up.  Sarah has the beauty and grace of a princess, the intelligence of a genius, and the wealth of a...  Okay, I'll admit that we both were pretty even in the area of financial assets; lower middle class sums up both our histories.  The point is, my girl is downright stinkin' great.

When Sarah and I went to Missouri last weekend for my interview, it was a very unique circumstance.  For other types of jobs, the spouse isn't part of the sizing up process.  Microsoft and Toyota do not care if the executive's spouses get along with your spouse.  What does it matter to Bell Corporation if your wife is amiable and favorable toward the company?  But when a local church hires a pastor, they care very deeply about such things, and should.  So when Sarah was invited by the church to join me last weekend, it wasn't just so that I would have a cuddle buddy at night.  They wanted to interview her as well, even though they would only be hiring me.

During the process, something wonderful shone - something that I was already well aware of, but don't always get to see with such clarity.  Last weekend I got a great view of how good Sarah makes me look.  And that made me appreciate her as my spouse in a fresh, new way.

Some may not like to think this is true, but our spouses reflect us.  The way they interact socially with others, their sense of humor, the manner in which they dress, eat, walk and speak - to some extent it all says something about who we are.  Being aware of this, I had no hesitation or the slightest apprehension about Sarah being with me on my interview.  In fact, I figured that she would make me look better than I really am.  What confidence she gave me, knowing that nothing about her would be embarrassing to me.  Moreover, I knew that however she represented me, it would be true to who I am - who we are.

Perhaps that is the number one reason why, in spite of not getting the job, I can walk with my head high.  That is, I know that I was represented by the two people on earth who know me best- me and my lovely wife, and we represented myself with authenticity and integrity.  The fact that the church didn't hire me is really beside the point.  Knowing the high quality and character of Sarah makes me feel like I married up, all the while she keeps treating me like she's the one who married up.

And that's one of the very cool parts of our marriage.  Both of us function under the illusion that we married up.  She found a stud beyond her pedigree and I found a babe way out of my league.  And 'til death do us part, we have each other.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Killed By Anticipation

I was never fanatic about paintball, as some are.  But I did enjoy playing it when I could - years ago.  I loved the thrill of hunting down my enemies and the satisfaction of "killing" them before being shot myself.  In this game of Hide and Seek that my friends and I would engage in, there was one aspect I never got accustomed to, one part of the game that racked my nerves.  That is, I hated waiting.  Sure, I enjoyed searching for opposing combatants.  I even enjoyed finding and maneuvering into the perfect hiding place.  But once I was in position, I couldn't stand the wait.  No matter how hidden or covered, I always felt so vulnerable.  After mere seconds I would get antsy and restless.  I thought for sure that the enemies knew my spot and were just messing with my head for a while before they would sneak up and splatter me with paint.  Yep, that was my downfall.  I would usually end up stirring and eventually leaving my place, only then making myself a real target.  Oh well, it was only a game.

Of course, in real life I don't like waiting much either.  Especially when I feel that I'm just waiting for something bad to happen - like being shot.  Game Over. 

Most recently, however, I haven't been waiting for something bad to happen.  I've been anticipating something great to happen.  This job that my wife and I interviewed for last weekend was a very exciting prospect.  For us, this potential opportunity has been so much more than just a steady source of income (although that was a part of it).  I have never seen a church like this one.  The staff culture, the values and vision, the high caliber of excellence mixed with mercy were just a few of the qualities that appealed to my wife and I.  We thought we were a good fit for this small-group pastoral position.  Moreover, it was in the St. Louis area of Missouri (close to much-loved family) and the timing couldn't have been more perfect.  But lo, it was not meant to be.  I received a phone call this morning from the Executive Pastor expressing his gratitude for our willingness to go through the extensive interview process, "but we've decided to go in a different direction," he said.  And with those words, I knew that what seemed to be a God-door had just closed on our noses.

This news is very fresh and still stings so I will spare everyone from rants and useless venting.  Nevertheless, I wanted to inform those who have been tracking our blog of the results of our weekend, but also express some thoughts and feelings that I hope transcend the initial letdown.

First, we know that God is good and faithful.  We are still His children and He is still our Heavenly Father who is in control; He is the Lord of our path. 

Second, we still admire the church that happens to be the source of our immediate disappointment.  We said all along that we were learning stuff from them and that with or without a job offer we have no regrets.

Last (for now), we know that we have so many great family members and friends that have been praying for us and are walking through this season with us - even feeling our sorrow today in light of this morning's news.  For you, we are so grateful to God.  Thanks for your love and friendship.

So here we are again- waiting.  And though it certainly doesn't always seem or feel like it, we know that God is waiting with us; He is near.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Weekend Interview

When we first moved to Dallas two years ago, neither Steven nor I had a job. Since Steven was busy with school, I began applying for all sorts of part-time jobs.

The first job I applied for was an editing position that would utilize my education as an English major. I was surprised that at the first interview I was required to take a three-hour test over word usage, grammar, punctuation and sentence structure. When they called me for a second interview, I could only imagine the level of testing and writing that might be required and decided that job was not for me.

About the same time I applied to be an online website researcher. This interview process entailed several weeks of testing. I would complete one testing module and then receive an email that said, "Congratulations!  Please click on the following links for the next tests we would like for you to complete." I would complete those modules only to be asked to do some more. After about 4-6 weeks of testing, I finally got the job.

Since the online researcher position only required about 10 hours a week, I also applied to be a tutor. It was only 3-5 hours a week, but it paid well, and it gave me a chance to teach. The application process, however, turned out to be extremely long. Some parts of the process were expensive: for example, I had to get a Texas driver's license which required us to re-title our car. Other parts of the process were tedious: I needed a back-ground check which was simply a matter of filling out a form and getting fingerprinted. However, I inadvertently wrote my social security number incorrectly, so my 1-week wait time on my background check took six weeks.  In the midst of it I wondered, "Is this 3-5 hour a week job worth all of this?"  Finally, however, after two months of processing, I was finally able to start tutoring.

So, I'm not really unfamiliar with long hiring processes. However, all of those experiences are dwarfed by the process we have gone through more recently.

As you may have read in previous posts, we first applied for a pastoral job a couple of months ago, I think in April. It started out with familiar steps: application, a few follow-up questions. Those were stages one and two. Then Steven was asked a series of important "churchy" questions (stage three). Next he had a phone interview (stage four). And finally we were invited to come for a face-to-face interview (stage five). Of course the church is sifting through many applicants, trying to find the one who is the best fit for the job and the church family, so it takes some time. And it's not something anyone wants to rush into, so I understand that taking your time is important. My patience has been tested with the volume of stress in our lives right now, but I get it.

So last weekend Steven and I drove 630 miles for the interview (we just didn't tell the doctor). Through this whole process, we knew that this church does EVERYTHING with excellence, so we expected no less with the weekend interview. We were not disappointed.

This interview was different than any other interview I've ever been on or even heard of. First of all, the other two candidates for the job were there as well. You might think that there would be lots of competition and tension between the three couples vying for the job, but there wasn't. We found that we all get along quite well. They are great couples. In fact, we're now Facebook friends so we can keep up with each other. But still... you have to admit, that's a little different, right?

We were all put up in a wonderful hotel, and we were given the royal treatment all weekend. Every need we may have had was met before we needed it, and even our personal preferences were catered to. The attention to detail was remarkable.

I think it's really hard to interview for a church because when you're part of a church, it's not just a job. It affects every part of your life and your family's life. It's more important in church staffing to make sure it's a good fit than in any other occupation, I think. So I've often wondered how you can do that when you haven't had a relationship in the past, when you don't know each other at all. Now I know because this church did it so well.

Steven was given a list of assignments to prepare about a week before we arrived. These assignments were an opportunity for them to "see him in action." He had to prepare a message and speak in front of a group, lead a small group discussion, teach a basic doctrine class and lead a brainstorming session. We also were put in several interview settings where eight different people were given a chance to ask us interview questions one-on-one. We also ate and spent time with different church leaders, and they even provided social times for us to just hang-out. And finally we were able to serve in different areas of the church during service times. After all of that, I think they know us pretty well!

We don't yet know if we are the ones who are the best fit for the job or not. We hope we are, but we met the other candidates, and we know what high-caliber people they are. But there are a few things we do know.

We know:
  1. Whoever the church chooses for this job is high-quality.  The other applicants are fantastic.
  2. We were completely transparent and real. If they choose us, we know that they got as real of a glimpse into who we are as we could give.
  3. Steven gave his best. In every assignment, he gave his all, and we're happy with his preformance. We don't look back with regret on any answers that we gave or any comments that we made.
  4. If we're not offered the job, it's because we weren't the right ones for it. There are no regrets or second-guessing. If this isn't for us, God must have something different in mind that's an even better fit. If we don't get it, I'll admit, I'll probably cry; we would love to have this job. But at the end of the day, I know that God has a purpose for having us go through the process, and we'll be okay.

So, now we go back to waiting, but only until tomorrow. We're praying for the pastors and staff as they make their decision, knowing that God will certainly direct their thoughts, discussions and final choice. Our fate isn't in their hands, though. We know who's got our backs... and our fronts... and our every side.