In the course of a persons life we can be certain one will be faced with times of great pain, discomfort and testing.
There has been no shortage of that in my life. My husband Tim and I have been on the longest, seemingly never ending journey through medical school and now residency.
It seems as if once we jump one hurdle, within five feet of our shoes hitting the floor we are met with our next. It always requires a new kind of strength and determination. And if I'm being totally honest, I don't always 'feel' ready to make the leap nor do I 'feel' mentally or physically strong enough to land it without shattering all the bones in my body.
This run we have been on seems to keep going with no end in site (not a good or bad thing). The hurdles are lined up and once we think we see the end, we quickly realize it is simply a mirage.
The first step in any race is the preparation before you ever step foot on the track. It requires painful training and vision of what's to come. It doesn't mean you have every step of the race figured out, just a willingness to put in the work and get started.
1. You need a plan (if you're married that plan is not void of your spouses input).
For us, the preparation came without a complete picture of where we would be running. My husband was active duty in the Air Force deploying all over the world as a Persian Farsi Linguist. He knew a bachelors degree was the first step, even though it didn't make much sense how it would even be possible.
2. Be prepared to take a risk and be obedient to running the first lap.
If you've ever worked out, you begin incredibly motivated but as soon as you realize how hard it is the excitement dwindles. Often you aren't seeing immediate progress and you are tempted to give up.
Let me be the person that says, "keep going friend, keep going!"
There were so many classes that he had to drop, retake and simply couldn't start because of his rigorous schedule. Set backs can be discouraging and painful but don't let them knock you off course. Keep running.
3. Plans change and we must trust God when nothing makes sense.
Our 'plan' was to finish the bachelors degree build a house and attend Dental School in the state we had grown to love. Tim walked across the stage with a degree, we put a down payment on our new house and we were headed toward applying for the next step. One night we took our two kiddos both under the age of three to see the progress on the house. As we sat in the driveway of our freshly poured foundation... we knew.
We knew God was up to something and was asking us to take the next step. We were asked to leave our home that was being built, get out of the military, which meant no insurance, no stable pay check, I could keep listing all the reasons why this made no sense. We moved back across country and started the next phase of training.
4. Don't expect things always to run smoothly or assume it will be easy.
This step was terribly painful. Tim had to start taking terrible jobs just to pay the bills and he didn't 'enjoy' the work he was doing. But God was faithful!
We still were pursuing Dental School and kept it in our sites. Pregnant with our third baby, no insurance and an incredibly tight budget. We chose to give birth with the assistance of a midwife. This was our attempt to save money but it was God's way of stirring our heart toward His best.
5. Listen for God's voice and look for Him in all areas of your life.
It was time for our sweet girl to make her grand entry and she would wait on no one. With no time for the midwife to arrive my 'non-medical' husband delivered our girl. God used this experience to speak into our future. Tim knew that night he would again change gears and pursue medical school. For the next two years Tim took all the prerequisites.
6. When God is involved, everything runs perfectly.....NOT!!!
When we are doing the will of God it must mean it will be easy, right? You couldn't be further from the truth. He provides opportunity for us to completely trust Him. We had four small kids when Tim began medical school and boy did we feel at times like we were losing so much. During four years of medical school we had to move out of our home because we were going to be foreclosed on, survived on welfare, and the charity of other people. There were extremely dark days. Days that we didn't know how much more we could take (or lose), but God was asking us to keep running and I am so thankful we did.
7. You need people. You can't do it all alone.
The moment you think you should do it all on your own or convince yourself 'that's my job,' will be the moment you feel completely defeated. With a husband in medical school, having to work full time and raise four of the coolest kids, we recognized our need for others. My mom and younger brother live(d) with us and we worked (and still do) as a team to pursue God's best. We relied on the strength of others and were committed to not hiding away, even when we wanted too.
8. Believing "it will all be worth it in the end" is a lie from Satan... Because there is life in the journey.
There have been so many times when I have wanted to curl up in a ball and let the years just pass me by. Residency moved us 2,300 miles away from home, away from a loving community of believers, and into the lap of loneliness and constant change. There couldn't possibly be anything good that would come out of (at times) 80 plus hour work weeks and no friends. Or so I thought..... The first year of residency I felt like Moses (the Israelites) walking in the desert after leaving Egypt. We now had five kids, my teenage brother and a partridge in a pear tree and not much else. We took a $45,000/ year pay cut to start residency, have $200,000 in student loan debt and we were dirt poor...
...But life was still happening and it was happening regardless of us pursuing what Gods best or not. There have been so many hidden treasures and incredible joy. As a family we have experienced the joy of working as a team and living out the vision God has showed us step-by-step.
9. See the blessings in the journey.
God has been incredibly faithful. He has taken me to my near breaking point. All to pick me up along the way and remind me who I belong to. He has provided in incredible ways both financially and spiritually. For the first time in almost 13 years of marriage I became a stay at home wife and mom. I do not enjoy all things domestic but God was up to something and didn't forget about my heart all of these years. He moved us clear across the country (I believe) simply so I could attend one of the best Bible colleges. He also stirred my heart to write and step into the gifts God has given me personally.
It's a wonder I doubt His perfect timing and His best in my life so often.
10. The race never ends but we always seem to clear the hurdle.
Clearing the hurdle is that point in the jump when you are suspended in mid air, legs stretched to their max and praying your feet land solidly on the ground. For me this is the point when I don't know how we will pay the bills, when we will squeeze in all the demands of life or how all that is thrown at us will work out. The hurdle has been cleared with each leap of faith and God has been faithful as we have obeyed His voice.
The journey doesn't end... We don't eventually arrive... We are constantly having to trust God... He wants us to dream and step out of the boat, walking hand-in-hand with him.
Your life is going to happen. It's happening now. It's happening as you sit and wait... God wants you to be obedient regardless of what you think it will look like in the end. Tim and I have been running this race for almost 15 years together. When God gives you a dream it doesn't happen immediately. It takes one step of obedience at a time.
We must stop measuring the will of God by whether something is hard or easy. It's very rare you will ever accomplish something of value that doesn't require sacrifice, perseverance and a tremendous amount of faith in our creator.