Thursday, June 25, 2015

How God Shows Up In The Struggle

Hey Friend,

My co-teacher had left the room to make some copies and so it was just me and a room full of rambunctious four year olds.  I loved working at the preschool.  There is nothing like the arms of a preschooler wrapped around your neck and their mouse-like voice telling you with every ounce of sincerity, "I love you Miss Bev". 

Their smiles gave me hope when many days seemed just plain hopeless.  Their unconditional love spoke volumes to me while another source of love in my life had died.  Their antics and imaginations distracted me from the reality that was my life. 

My husband had left and was having an affair.  He had done the same thing ten years earlier, but we had reconciled.  But, here I was back in the hell of separation and staring a divorce squarely in the face.  Those of you who have experienced this know the pain I am talking about.  There really aren't words to describe the soul-grinder of divorce. 

To further complicate things, when stress rises, my anxiety disorder (OCD) tends to flare (nothing like the enemy kicking you when you're down).  That particular day I was exhausted, stressed, and uncontrollably anxious.  Thoughts swirled in my head that I couldn't push out.  I felt that awful rush of anxiety swell from my feet to my forehead.  Feeling hot and flushed and with tears welling up in my eyes, I knew I had to open the door and just step outside so the kids wouldn't see me crying. 

My director just happened to be walking down the hallway when I stood a few feet outside the open door.  I thought she was coming to give me a hug because she knew what I was going through.  Instead she chided me, "What are you doing outside the classroom?  You KNOW one of you has to be in the room at all times!" 

To make a long story short, a day later I was let go...fired.  I had never been fired in my life.  I had always been the good, overachieving employee.  Never the one who got fired.  It's still a blurr how I drove home that day?  I know the tears distorted the view of the road.   How could my life get any worse?  My husband was gone, my source of income that I needed to make ends meet was now gone, and hopelessness was quickly closing in on my heart. 

In the depth of my pain, I tried to pray, but all that would come out was a guttural, "Jesus help!"  My daughter was off at college and my son hadn't come home from high school yet and so I sat there, all alone, in the midst of my despair and sobbed.  My self-sufficient side said, "Tough it out".  The aching part of me said, "Reach out".  One by one I tried calling my "go to" people - my mom, my best friends, my counselor, my mentor - no one was picking up their phone.  In an unusual move for me, I pulled up Facebook.  Maybe one of my good college girlfriends, or friends in other states, would be on? Someone?  Anyone?

The only person on Facebook at all, in the middle of the afternoon, was Dave - a high school friend of mine.  What's he doing home in the middle of the day, I thought to myself.  Shouldn't he be working?  Maybe he's working from home?  I stared at the screen some more.  Then in my very best English major grammar, I typed something very profound..."Hey". (In the south we say "Hey" instead of "Hi").  No response. Ok, that was stupid, I thought.

Just as I was about to close out of Facebook..."Hey", flashed up on my screen.
After a few pleasantries, I just blurted out, "I got fired today."  The quiet, unassuming guy I knew in high school responded in a way so keeping with his gentle character...  "Would it help to talk?"  he replied.

That was just about five years ago.  On June 2nd, every year, we celebrate "Hey" Day.  This June 2nd was our first "Hey" Day that we celebrated as a married couple.  It turned out that Dave was home that day because he, too, had been let go - one of the casualties of a big company merger.  He, too, had been through the pain of infidelity and divorce. 

When both of us thought that life couldn't stoop any lower...God gave us each other.

There in the depths of our struggles, God showed up in a big way!

"I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you."  (John 14:18)

Not every trial can be wrapped up with a rainbow at the end.  Sometimes struggles are just that - struggles.  God allows them so that He might shape and build our character as well as draw us into His love and build our reliance and dependence on Him.

Struggles take us to the end of ourselves where the loving arms of Jesus are waiting.

It takes perseverance to build character, and perseverance is built through trials

We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.  (Romans 5:4-5)

Just recently I met with one of the area's top foot surgeons only to get the disappointing news that further surgery would probably not help with the chronic nerve pain I have dealt with for close to two fact it might make it worse.

I was grieving the loss of a long held hope that a stellar surgeon may be the "fix" for my foot that I was looking for.  Still despairing one morning, I dragged myself to the gym to do the weight machines (at least the ones I could still do). 
In front of me, on a stationary bike, was a woman with a shriveled left arm and her left leg in a bulky brace.  With her good right leg she made the bike wheel spin.

Cheerily she chatted with the fellow biking beside her.  She was encouraging him about his post-surgical workout effort (yes I was eavesdropping lol).  I moved to a different weight machine and almost, as if in sync, she moved to a machine just in front of me that exercised only your arms. Though I sometimes have a slight limp, her gait was painful to watch.  Her left side, crippled from a stroke, contorted drastically as she made her way with her cane to the arm machine.  With her one good arm she made the machine go round and, as before, she chatted cheerfully with the woman beside her.

In that moment God showed up and gave me Wanda. 

I knew I had to meet her.  If anyone could have felt sorry for herself, it was her, but yet somehow she rose above it.

It came as no surprise, when I met Wanda, that she credited God for her strength and she simply said to me, when we parted,

"Bev, I just do what I can do."

Even while I was typing away, writing this post and reliving some very painful memories...God showed up.

I lifted my head from my laptop just in time to catch a beautiful yellow finch perched delicately on a pink and watermelon colored hibiscus flower in my yard.  He sat there for awhile and let me just take in the array of colors.  This was the first time I have seen this sunny yellow fellow in my yard. 

Just like Dave, just like Wanda, just like this little bird, God continues to faithfully show up in my struggles. 

In small ways and in big ways, the Creator of the Universe tells me that He sees me...and He cares.

He is "El Roi" - the God who sees.

Look around.  Has God shown up in your struggles?  If you are struggling right now - look around - is God showing you that He's there...that He sees you and that He cares deeply about you!

Dear Lord,  Thank you so much for being El Roi - the God who sees me.  Thank you that you show up in the midst of my pain and you do not leave me comfortless.  Open my eyes to see how you love you delight in me.  Enable me to turn to you in my pain and simply let you hold me.  And, when I am well, help me to continue to rest and abide in you.  You are my Redeemer and Healer.  I praise you for your goodness and lovingkindness toward me.  To You be the glory.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Be blessed...

Redeemer Christian School Update:  Just a reminder that only $10/month will get one child off the streets and out of evil's path and into the school where they can find love, refuge, and hope.  Would you prayerfully consider sponsoring one child? 

Also, the one computer used by the Director and teachers has died.  They are preparing lesson plans and tests the old fashioned way, by hand.  This is tedious and time consuming.  We are setting up a special needs fund and a new computer is first on the list.  Would you consider a one time donation toward a new computer for the classroom? 

If so please send contributions to: 

Bev Rihtarchik (put RCS in the memo line)
103 Silver Lining Lane
Cary, NC  27513

**Note: RCS is not yet a formally registered 501c3 organization for tax purposes.  Legal fees needed to go through this process are cost-prohibitive at this juncture.  The children have been our first priority.