Misinterpreting God’s Directions

Welcome! If you read last week’s column, you might remember that I am at a crossroads. I’ve been blessed to be a stay-at-home mom for 14 years. But I feel God is moving me in a different direction. When I wrote last week’s column I felt sure God was leading me toward pursuing an online master’s degree in theology. I pumped myself full of hope. The idea of earning a master’s, then teaching theology online, thrilled me.

But after talking to an admissions counselor, I learned I’d need to earn a doctorate in order to teach. Forget it. I can’t put my life on hold for ten years studying to be a professor only to have a stubborn dissertation director refuse to confer my degree because I forgot one footnote.

I can’t afford the price of the education, either. Both the financial burden and the time away from my family would cost too much. Even if I took the entire degree online, I’d have to more or less hole up in my room to study and write for the next ten years. And who’s to say a job would be available afterward? There are too many “What ifs?” in the equation.

But none of this even matters. After spending a long time praying, journaling, and listening for God’s voice last Saturday I realized God didn’t want me to pursue a master’s degree.

I was crestfallen. I spent the whole day completely depressed. I ended up with a debilitating stomach ache on Sunday, too. Anxiety and depression go hand in glove, and anxiety always makes my stomach burn. So I had a really bad weekend.

While the crushing disappointment of a door closing in academia left me feeling hopeless all weekend, I’m thankful God set me straight before it was too late. I feel peaceful knowing I’m not going further into debt working toward a degree God doesn’t want me to earn.

Have you ever misinterpreted God’s will for you? Have you ever enrolled in school, started a new job, or ended a relationship, believing it was God’s will, only to realize it was your own will directing your actions?

Sometimes it’s very hard to discern the difference between my heart’s deepest desire and the voice of God. Sometimes I want something so badly that I convince myself it’s God’s will, when it’s actually mine. Then I get into trouble.

This happened 14 years ago. I came within nine credit hours of earning a Master of Arts in rhetoric and composition in 2003. I went to grad school on the advice of several professors from Thiel College, my alma mater. It made perfect sense. I love literature, I’m a good writer, and they felt sure I had what it took to succeed in graduate school. The trouble is, even though the plan was logical and well planned, I never asked God’s opinion on the matter. I never prayed for guidance.

Graduate school was a colossal disappointment. I hated the coursework, the classes, and disliked teaching freshman composition. When I felt God leading me away from graduate study, I was only too happy to quit. I had my daughter ten months after I dropped out of grad school. I know it was God’s timing.

This experience taught me a big lesson. Since then, I haven’t made any major decisions without spending a lot of time in prayer beforehand. I don’t jump into anything. God is omniscient. That means he knows everything. Everything! And I have to trust his guidance and will if I’m going to live the life he’s called me to.

I still believe my life is taking a turn. I feel sure I’m going to begin working outside the home soon. But God has given me peace about this. Yes, it’ll change my schedule, but it won’t dominate my life the way grad school would. The work I’m considering won’t interfere with my family’s dynamic, either. It won’t keep me from attending church or require continuing education. God’s plans are always perfect, even if they don’t align with my heart’s desire. God is teaching me this lesson. Maybe it’s a lesson he’s teaching you, too.

Last Wednesday, Fallowfield United Methodist Church members prepared apples for the 2018 Crawford County Fair pie project. Yep – you read that right. We finally wrapped up the fair project at the end of August. We’re already back to work. But we’ll have a long break. The pie committee won’t have to do much between apple season and blueberry season.

We peeled, sliced, and froze eight bushels of Cortland apples. My job was making applesauce. You’ll never believe this, but we make applesauce from apple peels. Two men peeled all eight bushels using hand-cranked apple peelers. They produced long, thin strips of peel, which we boiled in a couple inches of water until they were soft. Then we cranked the peels through a Squeezo Strainer. We made two and a half gallons of unsweetened applesauce. We’ll use this in our elderberry pies next year. Shh…we stretch the elderberries by using five cups of berries and one cup of applesauce for two pies. We use six or seven cups of fruit for all other two-pie recipes. We cheat a little with elderberries because they’re so hard to find.

Fallowfield United Methodist Church is planning a harvest party on Sunday, October 22, from 4 to 7 p.m. We’ll have a hayride, hot dogs, chips, and homemade cookies. I imagine we’ll be drinking apple cider, too. It’s always a fun day. But the weather is always a wild card. One year it’ll be blowing snow; the next year it’ll be sunny and 70 degrees. That’s weather in the Atlantic community for you.

Have a wonderful week. Blessings!