March 1, 2015

Feeling Misplaced

Have you ever felt as if you didn't belong someplace? I mean, like you are simply the "odd man out" and no matter what you do or say, you simply do not fit the expected mould or characteristic? This is how I feel today, well in truth, it is how I feel every single Sunday morning. Let me explain...

I woke up this morning, bound and determined, to get out of bed and head over to Scottsdale Bible Church. SBC was my home church for nearly 10 years. I loved this church, and it formed a large part of my life (from Worship to Children's Ministry to Awana, etc.) It was the church I attended with my ex-husband and his parents. In fact, when I first moved to Scottsdale, SBC was the church where we first visited. We didn't go any other place because my ex's mom worked there and it was the "expected" place for worship. Of course, it was a mighty fine church, with great music and worship, and very fine preaching. Their children's program was excellent, and for all intents and purposes, it was a strong Bible-teaching and preaching church.

In 2007, we left SBC to go to a smaller church close to our home. Our son was going into 7th grade and we didn't want him to go to the larger youth group at our home church. We also needed a break from the in-laws who were controlling our every move, demanding our time, and making our life more miserable day after day. We needed a break from our mandatory "Sunday lunches," and changing churches was a good way to break that cycle of control. For a time, we attended SBC on Sunday's and then did Mid-week at PVCC. We often had to meet the parents for breakfast or for dinner on Sunday's so it seemed the only thing that changing churches did for us was give me some distance during the hour and half we sat together during the service.

PVCC was the church (now called Paradise) where my parents attended, and it was literally around the corner from our home. It wasn't a good fit for us, but it was homey and friendly. We started attending there full-time in 2008, and for the most part, stayed until this past January. I told my ex's parents that the change was permanent because my parents needed to spend time with us, and wanted to worship with us. This was a true statement, of course, but it didn't smooth the ruffled feathers. Instead, it simply inflamed the jealously that already existed between my parents and my ex's parents. But that, my friends, is another story for another day...

In the ensuing years, my ex and I split up and then divorced. For a long time, we attended PVCC together. My ex wanted to support our son's worship efforts, and so we would attend church and go to breakfast together. During last summer, my ex stopped attending PVCC. It coincided with our divorce being final, and the fact that I stopped paying for breakfast (I am sure the later was more to the point). He started to attend SBC around this same time. My son left PVCC as well and started to play with the Worship band over there on Sunday mornings. I stayed at Paradise because my parents were there, and I had met some of the core people who attended. I was also ministering through media communications from 2013-2014, and the church was in severe crisis, so it just didn't seem right to walk away when they (the church) were suffering in this way.

However, I had become very dissatisfied with the way the church was being reorganized. I didn't like some of the changes the church made, decisions that were made without the body approving them. The call for a temporary pastor was fine, but some of the other decisions seemed to be made without much thought for what the congregation wanted. As a result, I made the decision to leave PVCC in the New Year and make a fresh start at a new church.

I returned to SBC in December for their holiday services. I found the transition from PVCC to SBC difficult, but with the focus on the Lord's birth, I found I enjoyed the festivities and celebration. I didn't realize how difficult the transition would be until that first Sunday in January when I drove into the parking lot. I got out of my car and I looked around and felt so out of place. The church looked similar, but had significant differences in structure, organization, and leadership. I attended the service that my son performs in, and while I enjoyed the music, and the preaching, I felt out of place again -- awkward -- as if I was in the wrong place.

I continued to attend through the month of January and into February. I wanted to support my son's ministry efforts, and I did enjoy the preaching and the solid worship. I just felt like everyone was staring at me. I know they weren't, in fact, I didn't recognize one person. I saw some of the older people, people I knew from leadership 10-15 years ago, but no one knew me. I was a "persona non grata."

Around mid-January, I saw my ex and his girlfriend come into the venue where my son plays. It was a shock to me, truthfully, but I dealt with it. The first time it happened, I was caught off-guard. He didn't see me nor did he say anything to me, and I was relieved to go unnoticed. The second time it happened, I found myself transfixed on their position in the sanctuary. I couldn't take my eyes off of them, and it caused me great discomfort. I tried to pray about it, I asked the Lord for help to get through the service. The next Sunday, I went to a different venue (they have several places to worship on Sunday), hoping that would solve the problem, but I while I didn't have to watch them, I knew they were there. I felt it, and just knowing about it, made me uncomfortable.

Toward the end of January, I stopped going all together. My parents encouraged me to return to PVCC, but I didn't want to go back there. I had plenty of school work to do, and I had an abundance of papers to grade so I just told myself it was OK to miss church since I was so busy. My heart knew better, of course, but I was at a loss for what to do and where to go.

This morning, I woke up late (as usual), but I had time to get myself ready to make it to either church. Instead, I sat down at the computer, and I started to blog about my experience. I know I should be at church right now, praising the Lord, listening to good preaching and teaching messages, and growing in my relationship with Him and with others -- but -- I am stuck, just stuck. I am in between here and there, the old place and the new unknown place. I cannot make myself move, and I feel like I am stuck between a rock and a very hard place right now.

I prayed about church this morning. I know it is important to attend somewhere, and I know that it doesn't please the Lord to put off celebrating with my brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet, I don't know where to go or what to do right now. I have this dead feeling inside of me. I feel it whenever I begin to think about going to church on Sunday's. I wish I had someone to go to church with because that would make this process easier. I could meet someone and we would sit together.

As I sit here and blog this morning, one thing is for sure. I am in growth mode, change mode, and so long as I am in this transition phase of my life, nothing is going to "fit me."

I was talking about this with my good friend the other day. In fact, we were discussing a number of things, and one of the topics was my need to be settled, to have a home. I appreciated his keen observation of my need, and I felt that he understood my heart on the matter. I have blogged about this need before as well, but suffice it to say, the desire I have for a home of my own is very strong. And, I don't mean a home without my parents or without my son. No, I simply mean a home where I belong.

As a child, my greatest need was to belong to a group, a family, a unit. I had a family, I still do, and I love my brothers and my parents. However, growing up, I always felt like such an outsider. I didn't fit into my family's personality type (collectively they are extroverts), and I didn't get along with everyone all the time. I spent most of my childhood alone. It was okay because as an introvert, I preferred to be alone. Still, I think being an introvert and feeling pushed aside created this deep need inside me that desires to belong, to be a part of something special. In school, I was always overlooked. I was the child not invited to the parties. I was the adult who was passed over for the lunch invites. I was the one who was left standing on the sidelines. I was always being forgotten (at stores, at the mall, at the movies, etc.) I was always left behind.

I learned to get along by myself, and once I came of age, I made sure that I always had a way to get home. But even then, my home never was my home. It was someone else's home and I was just a guest in it. I still feel that way, I still feel like I don't belong in our home. I am just passing through, just passing by, just visiting a spell.

I think the reason why I have put up with these feelings for so long is that I always had to "put up with them." No one seemed to care about me, so I realized that in order to not be left behind, I had to speak up and go along with the crowd. If I said "I don't care for Thai food," the group wouldn't say "Oh, well, let's go someplace you want to go then." Nope, they would simply go where they wanted to go, and I will be left to fend for myself. It has always been this way, always, always I am left on my own.

Perhaps this is why church is a struggle for me right now. My home church, PVCC and SBC, were places where I thought I "fit" but in reality they were places that other people chose for me. I went along with them because I didn't want to be left out, left behind. Now, I see that so much of my life has been about what other people wanted for me. I compromised in order to "fit in." I didn't want to stick out as that "odd" person, so I conformed to the expectations of others.

We read in Romans 12:2, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." The Apostle Paul warns us of conforming to the world's standards. He posits that if we conform to what the world says or wants, then we will be unable to discern the will of God in our lives. We will not know what is good, acceptable and perfect. In short, by conforming to the world's views and opinions, we lose our ability to judge rightly, to discern truth, and as such, we are no longer able to understand the plans the Lord has for our individual life.

I think this is vitally important to remember, especially in this day and age when the world is pushing so hard to make us conform to views and opinions that are contrary to the Word of God. Even in practice, we must heed this warning because we can find ourselves as believers conforming to the expectations of people who do not desire the Lord's will for our life, but rather desire that we perform, patronize, and prostrate ourselves for their own selfish wishes, wants, and will.

I know this is truth because this is how I have lived my life for nearly 53 years. Yes, I have been a people-pleaser for so long that even now I struggle to stop seeking to please others.

A number of years ago, I read a book by Joyce Meyer that touched on this subject of people pleasing. It was a great book, and it did help me see that I have spent the majority of my life as a people pleaser. I remember reading about how we can be attracted to individuals because of our need to be approved. I know that in my case, I was attracted to my ex-husband because he appeared to be a man in control of his life (of course this wasn't true). He was a controlling person, and I felt that I needed someone to take control my life way back when we were dating. He always made the decisions, and I went along with his opinion on everything. I never disagreed with him, even when I really did disagree. I let him win, all the time. I always did whatever he wanted. After a time, I began to resent his winning, his control, and his way of rejecting me when I stopped pleasing him. This resentment fueled my inner child, the wounded child that was pushed aside and left behind for not "pleasing" or going along with the family.

Once I came out of that cycle of pleasing behavior, I found great freedom, great relief. I found my life again, and I embraced the life that the Lord had in store for me. I am where I am today because I broke (well, the Lord did) that cycle of pleasing men in favor of a life of pleasing God. But the pattern, the people-pleasing pattern, runs strong in me, and lately it has flared up again. I re-read an article that Joyce Meyer wrote and the truth hit home for me. I moved back into a home with my parents out of a sense of duty and obligation. I chose to live with them so that they wouldn't have to downsize to an apartment and give up the life they had lived for so many years. In short, I sacrificed my own well-being in order to please my Mom and Dad. Neither of them wanted to move into an apartment. I took the role of co-dependent and I took on the responsibility of caring for them financially so that they could remain in a home.

Yes, it was nice of me to do this, and yes, I benefitted from the arrangement to some extent. Early on my Mom thought I would be saving money, but the truth is that I am not saving money at all. I am still living on the same amount of need that I had when I was in the town home. Yes, we are in a nice home, and that home is comfortable for us all. My Mom does keep the house and make meals and do laundry. My Dad does fix things, as he is able, but I gave up a lot of my freedom, and my peace to move in with them. Now, I want to move away, to take a job in another state, and there is part of me that feels obligated to remain here, to give up my freedom and the chance at a beautiful life simply so that my parents will not have to move into an apartment like all their friends.

It dawned on me today that this is what I have been doing since we moved in together in 2013. Prior to our moving in together, I lived on my own with my son. Our life was well in hand, and we had everything we needed. We were very happy in the town home, and we were self-sufficient there. Then we moved to help care for my parents, and generally, the whole tenor of our life shifted. At first, it was okay. My parents were very thankful for my help, and they were appreciative of my contributing to their needs. However, as time has worn on they have become more difficult, more demanding, and of course, their health needs have become more pronounced. Now, I feel stuck. I feel as though I am in a place where I needn't be any longer. Had I remained in the town home, rather than here, I would be considering options for my life. In fact, I would not have followed this path to GCU. I would have stayed at CVS or Nursewise or taken some other full-time job in order to maintain my lifestyle. I followed this path, and I am thankful for the experience, but I have come round to see that this path has been temporary only. I cannot move forward on this path so I am now faced with finding a full time job where I can support myself and my son.

It is funny how the Lord gives us time to come to terms with choices we have made in our life. I don't feel that my moving in with my parents was a bad choice at all. It was a fair choice, and I made it. I think in the long run, I will be thankful for the time I have had to spend with my parents. But the flip side, perhaps, would have been a better choice. If my parents had moved to an apartment, like they were thinking of doing, my issue of moving to another state, finding another job, etc. wouldn't be an issue at all. They would either stay where they were or they would move with me. More than likely, they would stay where they were living because of their network of friends. Now, they may have to move again, and that is a challenge for all of us. Yet, I believe that the Lord wouldn't have allowed me to move here without an exit strategy. I believe He knows what needs to take place, and so long as I choose to please Him and not my parents or my son, I will be provided a way out, a good way out.

At the least, that is what I am praying for today.

Lord,

I need an exit strategy today. I need to move to where you have a job for me. I believe that job is in AL, but I don't know this for sure. However, I am willing to go to AL because I believe this is where you want me to go. I need you to orchestrate this move, to do everything necessary so that I can leave Phoenix and take this next big step of faith in your long-range plans for my life. I am trusting you to provide a way for me today, and I know that you will take care of all the details. You are in control o my life, and I thank you for the confidence that you give to me whenever I forget that truth. Please, Lord, have your will, your way in me this day. Amen. Selah!

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