Hope

Since I’m still unemployed in Chicago, it’s been very difficult for me to not put my hope in finding a job. One of my ongoing struggles has been to not place my hope in people, friendships and relationships. This past week, God has really reminded me that when I place my hope in anything except Christ, I will end up disappointed, and often very broken. After all, everything other thing I can place my hope in is temporary. Only faith in God is eternal. My first couple days I was in Chicago, I kept thinking that my summer would officially start once I got a job. Lie. Two and a half weeks later I still don’t have a job. It would be so easy for be to get frustrated and upset at this fact, but there has been so much refinement and growth in the past three weeks to get caught up in the fact that I don’t have a job. God has rooted through lots of sin issues and pointed out where we’re going to go this summer, if I would have been getting up each morning and going to a job, this growth may not have happened.

Isaiah 40:31 reads, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” This verse is yet another reminder of the gift I have been given through placing my faith in Jesus Christ. When I place my hope in the Lord, I receive strength that is contrary to my flesh; I am given energy to continue to go, even my body, and the world are telling me that I need to give up. Most significantly in my life recently has been that when I place my hope in Jesus, I know that everything is being worked for my good (Romans 8:28). So yes, I have wandered the streets of Chicago for 2.5 straight weeks looking for a job without one, but God is using this to grow me, to refine me and to show His love for me. Without hope, I would not be able to believe this.

My prayer is that I continue to place my hope in Jesus; that I be able to see situations that way that He sees them. And my prayer for you is that you start to place your hope in Christ – He is worth it. When we place our hope in Him, our entire identity becomes about Him, not ourselves. When we place our hope in Him, it’s Him that we’re living for, and to me, that’s the only worthwhile thing to live for.

Ah-Ha Moments

When I thought about coming on project, I imagined quiet times everyday that would make me cry. The painful refinement, a lot of “ah-ha moments” – the ones when things finally make sense, and constant visible growth. Two weeks later, I haven’t cried, I haven’t felt the painful refinement, but today at church, I had one of those “ah-ha moments”. Let me explain. I have certain behaviors that lead me very easily into sin issues. When I’m in a group of people – especially mixed gender groups – I tend to compete with the girls. I like to be the center of attention. It’s not always overtly obvious, but that’s usually my heart’s desire. This tendency gets me in trouble. If I’m not the center of attention, resentment builds towards the person who is. In the past, I would then usually gossip about this person, thinking it made me look better. Oh goodness. In the past year, I’ve seen growth in this area. The gossip has decreased, but the feelings still exist. Those feelings can hold me captive and put me in bondage.

Today, at church, we were singing the song that includes the lines, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand”. For some reason, I started to have one of those “ah-ha moments”. When I constantly compare myself to others, I sink in the sand – I sink into entitlement, pride and self-centeredness. However, when I stand on Christ, or choose to believe what He says is true about me, I choose to believe the best in others. I see others as greater than myself – I’m not the center of the story, He is the center of the story, I’m simply a small part. Further, God doesn’t just want me to stop gossiping, or not vocalizing these feelings, He wants me to completely break free of the desire to compare myself to others. He wants me to remember that even when I’m not the center of attention, or if I’m never the center of attention again, He still loves me. He calls me His daughter, He loves me, and He is pleased with me.

I don’t really like this verse, but it always seems so applicable to my life, including now; Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. The renewing of our minds is what transforms us. In my current struggle, as I ask God to change my mindset, and renew my mind, my behavior and feelings will start to be transformed. If I just fake it, true transformation does not occur. This is a continual, never-ending process. When I get down on myself, I ask God to remind me where He’s brought me from, and He reminds me that no matter where I am in this process, He is well-pleased with me.

It’s Not Really About Me

I came into summer project in Chicago with a pretty set view of what I thought my job would be. I thought that I would get a job in the first week, I’m marketable after all, and that this job would most likely be in retail. Fast-forward less than 2 weeks, and I was fighting with God about going to an open interview at a Dunkin’ Donuts. Yesterday, a Dunkin’ Donuts in the city was having open interviews. I still don’t have that retail job I thought I would, so during my time with God, I told Him how I was feeling. This job searching process has brought out every ugly emotion and sin issue I have. Entitlement. Jealously. Pride. Guilt. Self-centeredness. I acknowledged all of them throughout the past 10 days, but I had done nothing about them. I kept going out each morning trying to do it all on my own. I was feeling so conflicted. My flesh said, you’re too good to go to an interview at Dunkin’ Donuts; you’re working towards being college educated, you’ve worked in retail and you’re better than the people who work there. However, as I brought all these before God yesterday morning, I was reminded that it isn’t about me. What I want and what God wants are often very different. This summer is about me relying on God more, finding my identity in God more, and trusting God more. Yes, I can work a retail job, I’m good at working retail, God knows that, but He also wants to grow me. He wants to teach me.

So, I swallowed my pride, I submitted to the Lord, and I travelled with a group of other jobless project kids to the Dunkin’ Donuts on Washington. On the way, I communicated with one of the girls how frustrating this job search process has been. I’ve made huge steps of progress in the past 10 days, God has completely changed my heart, but 7 days of filling out applications, talking to managers and making follow-up phone calls is still frustrating. I explained that it’s especially hard because I left a job that I loved at home. I left a job that I was good at, at home. I left a job with people I was able to share my faith with at home. She said something that I’m continuing to process through; she said that coming to project is “one of the times when you have to decide if you’re willing to count it all as loss.” She was referring to the verses in Philippians 4 when Paul says, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,” (v. 7-8). I know that God wants me in Chicago this summer, but am I willing to set everything aside to get to know Him better? This is my job back home, but also my pride, my entitlement, my jealousy, my guilt and my self-centeredness. Am I willing to die to myself this summer in order to follow Christ? Yes, I’m willing, but without the Holy Spirit, it is impossible. My prayer is that I may be able to cling to Christ and release anything else from my grasp; that I may seek to place my identity in God more, and not in a job or my friends. I pray that Christ may be magnified in my life because it really isn’t about me.

Job update: The manager at the Dunkin’ Donuts did not show up to have the open interviews yesterday, but I received a phone call yesterday afternoon from J.Crew, and I have an interview there on Friday afternoon. Please pray that I remain diligent and faithful in my job search, no matter how Friday goes.

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The Waiting Game

I have a tendency to underestimate how much work something is going to take me. I’m also extremely impatient. Thankfully the Lord has grown me in the area of immediate gratification. I’ve made significant improvement in looking to others and earthly things before approaching God. However, I still want immediate gratification from God. I want growth now. I want less pain now. And currently, I want a summer job now. Midway through the second day of my Chicago job search, I wanted to break down and cry. I felt frustrated, worn down and defeated. As I sat down in Starbucks – when you’re job searching in Chicago, these become your best friends in 90-degree heat, I looked up wait in the concordance of my bible and immediately went to Isaiah 30:18. I read, “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” As I meditated on this for a little bit, a couple things stood out to me.

1. The Lord waits to be gracious to me. The NIV says, The Lord longs to be gracious. This is what my heart heard from God, “Caitlin, you are dearly loved by me, and I could snap my fingers and get you a job, but you need to be patient. There’s growth in this process that I desire you to have; be patient with me, I’ll be patient with you, and it will all be okay.” God is a god of justice; I know that He is faithful, and knows me better than anyone else, therefore I will trust that His timing is perfect.

2. Blessed are all those who wait for him. I hate waiting. I’m probably one of the most impatient people on the face of the earth.  I hate when meetings start five minutes late. However, in my walk with the Lord, there has been waiting. Waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for the right time for confrontation, and waiting for the healing. The waiting isn’t easy, but in waiting for God’s timing, He will bless me.

3. One of my favorite verses is Romans 5:3-4, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” I so easily jump in my mind from the suffering to the character and then to the hope. I forget that endurance is an important aspect of growth and hope in Christ.

Thursday I will hit the streets of Chicago following up on job applications I’ve filled out and filling out even more. My prayer is that instead of growing in frustration, I grow in faith. That I continue to place my hope in the Lord, where I will never be disappointed. I pray that I will be able to stay patient (or be patient) and set my eyes of Jesus through it all, no matter the outcome.

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