Sunday, October 30, 2011

Good Things

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matt. 7:11)

One of the many things God is teaching me right now as I embark on my life in Wilmington, NC- for however long he wills it- is that God really does mean for me to delight in him. And he hears the littlest of my prayers and even answers them "yes" far more often than I expect or think he should. Sometimes my requests seem silly to me- or maybe superfluous would be the better word- but then God will answer them somehow as I had only dared to hope he would, and I think he does it just to make me smile. He wants to remind me that He is all powerful, that He does not "reward" me based on my good behavior, but gives to me to increase my faith and to increase my reasons to praise him in everything I say and do so that he will be glorified all the more. He gives to me so that I will take delight in him just as he tells me he takes delight in me.

Even typing this last paragraph shows me how little I understand God's nature, and in that lack of understanding, I'm helped to see the enormity of God's love as Paul describes in Ephesians- "high, wide, long deep, immeasurable, beyond understanding..." and to desire to better know the gift so eagerly and lavishly given to me.

So, here's the fun part- the little things (and a few big ones) that God's done recently to make me smile- at least some of them. I hope they make you smile, too.

1. The Girls
Olivia, Erika and Lindsey have developed something so special during their time in Wilmington- love for each other that really stands out. I am so impressed with these girls and grateful for how God is moving and has been moving in their lives. They are all a part of separate households- but their love for one another is profoundly effecting their roomies and friends. We are currently planning a study with two of those friends for this coming Tuesday. Please pray for these girls!
Some of the UNCW Bible Talk (from left to right) Katie, Genevieve, Erika, Lindsey, Olivia, Me, and Alexis- who we are praying will join us in the fall as a freshman!

2. The Job that Brought me to Wilmington-
God has given me a great part time job that is in my field and is stretching my character! I'm teaching musical theatre two blocks a day at the Cape Fear Center for Inquiry and I'm learning classroom management- among other things. The clip is of some choreography the kids made up.

2. A BED-
After spending a few nights on Lindsey's very comfy couch I was feeling the need for a space of my own to start lesson planning not in the main room of a college girls' house where late night movies are watched and good times had. I had not been sleeping much at all for the all the thoughts racing in my head, and I was already in a sleep deficit from my unusual all-nighter that I pulled to complete my job application and the 8 hour road trip. Add to that an urgent need to stay elsewhere because of roomies' friends coming in from out of town and Olivia and Erika being unable to house me for my first Wilmington weekend- and you get a girl so tired she can barely think, but who is still really happy and grateful and eager to see God pull through with some solution for weekend living.
God provided yet again extravagantly. Olivia suggested I call Jeff Reynolds, the preacher at Jacksonville, to see if I could stay with someone from that congregation for the weekend. He immediately thinks of one of the single sisters, Michelle, whom his wife, Isabel, gets on the phone to call. When Michelle answers, Isabel is shocked to find out that Michelle is currently on her way to Wilmington already to do some once-a-month errands!

She passes on the number to me and a few hours later, Michelle picks me up from Lindsey's and takes me to stay with her at her place- where I have a room- and a BED all to myself and a full Saturday to pray and plan my first lessons. WOW. It was great- and the conversation and prayer with Michelle was even better. What a joy new relationships are. And, I did sleep, by the way!

2. The Sound of Music-
The girl in the middle of the video, Lily, asked me if I would be auditioning for the role of Maria in the Thalian Association's upcoming production of Sound of Music. I hadn't heard about the auditions at that point, and I was doubtful that I'd be cast if I auditioned because Maria is a strong mezzo role, and I consider myself a low alto. But, I went to auditions eager to meet people in the community and hoping to at least be cast as a nun so I could start reaching out in the community. The audition was not great- and I'm not just being self-critical here. The song was OK but my focus shifted, I wasn't sure what I was doing with my hands, and I had to repeat some lyrics because I sang the wrong phrase the first time around. But they called me back.

While at auditions I met a new friend- Alyssa- who is recently married to a marine and located in Jacksonville, where the girls and I commute to church for now. We hit it off pretty well and she came over for dinner the night of callbacks and afterward we got ice cream together. I'm looking forward to continuing to build a friendship.

 Callbacks went really well until we got to the singing portion...Let me just say..."The Lonely Goatherd" aka "The really high yodeling song that Julie Andrews makes sound so easy..." Yeah. My throat was really dry at this point and some of those notes didn't come close to coming out- and this is in the lower key of the Mary Martin version. Lonely Goatherd- Move Version  Alyssa and I left not sure what the director, sm, and producer were thinking.

Deborah, the director, called me the next day to offer me the part. I was surprised- but very excited! And here's the big smile...Maria and I are very similar- at least in this stage of my life. She was in a major transition,figuring out God's direction for her life, finding herself teaching music to some fun and slightly crazy kids, and retreating to nature to have time with God and to find clarity. Like Maria, I'm a mountain girl, but here I am at the beach. Happy to be for now- but it's a very different sort of charm. Today in rehearsal we blocked the famous title song and Deborah instructed me to envision the hills all around me, and I just thought, "huh...God's giving me mountains. Even though they aren't real, I am now required to think about and envision the mountains several days a week until mid December." Why wouldn't God provide what helps me so much to draw near to him?

3. My apartment-
After applying for, getting and starting my job and looking for an apartment in the space of one week, I was able- thanks to my parents- to take over a lease that someone was breaking. They needed an immediate move in, so move in I did- while the power was still off and all I had was my suitcase and a couple boxes of teaching supplies. I was so happy to be in my own place where I could work on lesson plans and not be a burden to the college girls. The day I moved in, I prayed that God would provide something for me to sleep on- and he did. The guy who was moving out of the apartment just happened to have an air mattress in the back of his car. Now, ironically, he didn't have a cap for it, so I tried unsuccessfully to concoct a plug and then went out to buy silly puddy to do the trick. It did for a bit, but stretched out eventually, letting the air out with a high pitched squeak. It was not the most peaceful first night in my place that I had anticipated, but God did provide me with something to sleep on, even though it was completely flat after a couple hours.

4. The Ladder-
There's a great nook in my loft that I saw upon move in and really wanted to utilize but needed a ladder in order to do so. I was not going to buy one, so I half-prayed, "God, it would be so cool to have a ladder so I could use that space for quiet times." Lo and behold what I found a week later in the dumpster!

5. A Local Art Show-
I've been starting to peruse the local arts magazine regularly for updates on theatre, music, art, etc... and ran across a call for artwork for a local show at the health food store, Carolina Farmin'. The themes for the show were farming, baking, and anything to do with the Cape Fear area. I just happened to have some photography that fit the bill, so I ordered some prints from Walmart and put together the following and three other pieces (which I forgot to take pictures of...sorry).
I sent in my application with the fee on the day it was due, but was informed the next day that the slots had been filled. I had only created the above and one other at this point. But a couple days later, I get an email from the coordinator saying that she really liked my work, an artist had dropped out, and she could squeeze me in. Wohoo! Now I had to finish those other two pieces...

But, as I was doing all this in a bit of a rush, I forgot to read the fine print that said all the works had to be framed. As you can see, the above...well... isn't quite. I was going for rustic and rough...and economical. :) My other pieces were framed to a passable extent- one is a picture of a rustic cabin mounted on a fabric covered canvas, one a bit of a shadow box with old-looking pictures of the beach and the pier set into 1/2 of a resume box covered with muslin, and the last is duo of pumpkin pictures in the only legitimate frame I had.

So, I assumed this piece, the one that was the most related to farming and the one with the images that had caused the show coordinator to take me last minute- wasn't going to make the wall. When we were pulling them out of my trunk, her first thought was- "Yes, let's leave that one because it's not framed" but then..."But I just love those pictures, so let's bring it in anyway..." Yay! And then she put it on the table while figuring out where to hang it an the marketing lady came over and said, "Ooh, I love the way that's one's matted." Yay again! Such a small thing...but a nice thing to smile about.

And that doesn't even begin to cover everything exciting that's been happening...meeting strangers who suddenly want to hang out, drive with you to a neighboring town and have lunch- and pay for you because it was recently your birthday and then follow your blog and meet your church family in Fayetteville where they're from..

..getting to know the community and finding out about the needs of the area...running into someone who used to be a part of our immediate fellowship in the 80's and knows a bunch of people you know but thought we'd died out- and getting to fill her in a little...oh! and getting to look forward to living with the amazing and talented Liz Carter (below)
 and her German Shepherd/Australian Cattle Dog Mix in one of the two apt. complexes in Wilmington that will take that breed- that just so happens to be 2 minutes from work, have a fitness center and provide laundry facilities in each apt- all for much less. Can you say, "sweet! and why on earth do I deserve this??" Oh yeah...that's right! I don't! God just loves me, and for some reason beyond my grasp, he's choosing to lay things out before me very smoothly at the moment. I'm sure that won't always be the case, so I will do my best to remember all these things now for whatever more complicated and tough times will surely come in the future, but wow is it exciting for the time being!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you who prayed for me to get here, for my job interview, for housing to work out, etc...etc..., to all of you who are praying for Wilmington and for God's Word to do its powerful work here. Please continue to pray. We desperately need your prayers. I NEED YOUR PRAYERS. And I am growing daily more convinced of God working through prayer- so please, continue faithfully extending your requests to God for us. Thank you.