It’s OK to be Yellow Goo (The Death of Signarama part 5)

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“What in the world do we do now?”

When one season ends before you expect it to, and nothing turned out the way you thought it would…transition is inevitable.

What will our future look like?

Who are we supposed to be?

What do we do now?

It can feel very sad and scary to face transition.  Yet, transition is just what is needed to form a butterfly from a caterpillar.  When all our plans fail, it could be that God’s plans are better, but we just can’t see that yet.

Signarama had died.  Chris was no longer a business owner, but rather a loader at UPS.  We weren’t able to buy that house we were hoping for or take that family vacation we had dreamed of or even budget how we would pay our bills from week to week.

Driving to Little Buffalo for a family fun day, we were trying to stay hopeful for the future.  I put in a CD of Lance Wallnau, and once again God orchestrated the perfect encouraging word for us.  Lance was talking about transition!  He pointed out the fact that when a caterpillar is in the cocoon, it dissolves into a mass of cells…essentially a glob of yellow goo.

It is not a caterpillar.

It is not a butterfly.

It may not even know what it will become, yet the imaginal cells are floating around trying to locate matching imaginal cells.  When one future antenna cell meets another future antenna cell they begin to form…

You guessed it…an antenna.  Slowly it becomes the very specific butterfly that God had imprinted into its cells from the beginning.  Yet in the yellow goo stage it looks nothing like that butterfly at all.

AND THAT IS OK!

It is ok to have absolutely no answers or clarity during the yellow goo stage.  Trust is more important than clarity.  We can trust that God knew what our butterfly would look like when he created us.

“I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust.  So I will pray that you will trust God.” – Mother Teresa

It is a funny thing to be 40 and not yet know what you want to be when you grow up!  Then again…the possibilities are endless, and rather exciting to consider.

The next time I was snuggling with Annalise and having a quiet time, I asked God a question just for fun. I knew that He didn’t have to answer me; that clarity wasn’t important, but I was curious about what was on His mind.  So I asked it.

“Can you give me clarity on the next step?”

“The Lord had done great things for me, and we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes oh Lord.

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.

He who goes out weeping, carrying seeds to sow,

 Will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with him.” Ps 126

What a wonderful picture!  Even though we had sown in tears and could see no harvest, WE WILL REAP WITH JOY!  When God speaks a word like that to your spirit, faith and the atmosphere of the future surrounds you in the present.  You feel certain that it will happen right away.

Tomorrow!

Or maybe next week!

Undoubtedly the breakthrough is right around the corner!

The very next day, God prepared me for the possibility that it may not happen right away. I was reading the book, The Cross and the Switchblade.  I had never read this famous book before, and I was loving it!  Right around 1960, David Wilkerson was a small town pastor who had made one little change in his life.  He decided to turn off the TV in the evenings and spend that time praying instead.  One night during his prayer time, he glanced at a Time magazine he had in his office.  On the front cover were the boys in New York City who were going on trial for murder.  They were part of a gang and had murdered another boy.

“Go to New York City and help those boys,” he heard God say.  He knew nothing about the city or about gangs, but he felt compelled to be obedient.

His church sent him on his mission.  As he drove to the city with a friend, they asked God for a verse.  The verse they received was the very verse that God had just given me!  How exciting!  Surely God was going to do amazing things to show these boys His love!

David ended up being able to be in the courtroom for the trial.  At the end of the day, afraid that this window of opportunity would close forever, he called out to the judge with a request to speak to the boys.  The judge had no patience for David’s outburst, yet David persisted.  He ended up being dragged out of the courtroom by security.  He left the city and went back to his friends and family in shame and disgrace.  What was worse, the media had snapped a picture of him being manhandled by the police and put it in the newspaper.  Now everyone could see his colossal mistake.  This did not appear to be “reaping with songs of joy.”

David could not stay away from New York City, however.  The young people living in the violence and drugs of the gangs were in his heart, and he had to minister to them.  He encountered these teens, but he had no way to connect with them, no way to establish rapport and cause them to trust him.  When one of the teens recognized him as the man in the paper who had a run in with the police, they suddenly let him in.  His ministry had finally begun!  The very thing that had plagued his mind as a stupid decision was the very thing that gave him a breakthrough!

He was able to bring many of them to Jesus; getting them off of drugs, discipling them, and training them to disciple others.  This ministry has grown into Teen Challenge which has helped thousands of drug addicts find Jesus and freedom!  That is certainly “reaping with songs of joy” an abundant harvest!  I am sure it has grown into much more than David had ever imagined, but it didn’t happen immediately.

“OK God, messaged received!  I can’t imagine the wonderful things you have prepared for us, and I might not even get a glimpse of them for a while.  I will trust you,” I prayed.

It was frustrating to stay in the confinement of our cocoon of transition.  It felt like a prison, and we knew we weren’t really free after years of striving after that freedom.  We weren’t financially free nor had Chris found his dream job.  I thought about Joseph when he was in prison.  The Bible says that Joseph had God’s presence, His unfailing love, and His favor while he was in prison.  Prison wasn’t evidence that God had left him or was displeased with him.

Our prison was serving an important role in our lives.  It was keeping us safe while God put our butterflies together.  Just imagine if that “caterpillar-turned-yellow-goo creature” was freed of its cocoon too early.  It would never become the stunning aerial masterpiece it was meant to be.  It would simply be a puddle of yellow slime, formless on the ground.

Some weeks later my mom brought over a bunch of clothes she had purchased for Ashlyn.  We sat together on the sofa and “ooooed” and “ahhhhed” over the pretty clothes.  After the fourth or fifth shirt embellished with butterflies, I blurted out, “This is the year of the butterfly!”

It was just a trivia comment, but my own words hit me in the chest like a prophecy.

Maybe this would be the year of MY butterfly!

For my birthday a friend gave me a very thoughtful gift, and on the packaging was a butterfly.  Another friend created a piece of art with names and favorite scriptures of many friends.  Next to my name was a butterfly.

So as I dream of the butterfly that will emerge this year or next year or in 10 years, I will embrace the yellow goo of today…

And trust that God knows exactly what He is doing.

 

Too Small a Thing (The Death of Signarama Part 2)

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I honestly think that our failures are more useful than our successes.  They certainly provide us with the opportunity to humble ourselves and acknowledge our need for God.  God doesn’t waste anything, and failure is a treasure trove of learning if we will take the time to seek out that treasure.  It is painful to come face to face with our shortcomings, but oh so worth it!

As we were heading toward the end of Signarama, I took every available moment to seek God.  I needed to hear His voice because it seemed like our circumstances were contradicting everything I thought He had told me.

I thought He had told us to buy the business.  Despite my fears and uncertainty about it, He had given me supernatural peace.  I thought that He had promised to prosper Signarama.  I thought that He had promised to use it to bring us the wonderful provision that He kept talking to me about.  Through the four years of running the business, we experienced ups and downs, but mostly downs.  Yet through it all, I had felt the peace of God.

Now that we faced our own inability to keep the business going, I questioned whether I had heard God correctly.  Could I even hear His voice at all?  How could I ever be sure that I knew what His will was?  How could I avoid making the same mistakes in the future?

Annalise was just a newborn, nursing about 8 times a day for an hour at a time.  Nursing this sweet little girl was my full-time job.  I still had to take Ashlyn to therapy once a week at HealthSouth.  Ashlyn’s therapist gave me my own little office to set up camp during the hour and 45 minutes that we were there.  I could nurse, read, and pray in a quiet, private room while Ashlyn did physical and speech therapy.  What an amazing gift!

Each week I would get cozy in a chair with Annalise and a nursing pillow.  I would set out my Bible, journal, and pen on the little rolling desk. All my other children were in school or at home with my two teenage babysitters, and I had uninterrupted quiet times. I would ask God all my questions….and He would speak!  How precious those times were!

One day I was mourning the loss of our dream.  Chris always said during the pain and struggle of business ownership, “It just has to be worth it!”  I always felt that it definitely would be worth it…eventually.  Business people kept telling us that after 2-5 years we would really see the profits.  Eventually, if we had the right team of employees in place, Chris would be able to work less but make more.  He would have the freedom to pursue other investments, to spend time with the family, and to take vacations.  Signarama would be an investment that would bless us for the rest of our lives, and perhaps one of our children would want to take it over when Chris retired.

Yet, we couldn’t make it to the point of earning a profit.  We were facing the reality of losing everything we had put into it and moving backwards in our goals and finances.

It had not been worth it at all!!!

                God gave me the scripture Is 49:4.

“But I said, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.”

Isaiah was describing exactly how I was feeling!  I continued to read.

“Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.”

Could there possibly be a reward in all of this?  We just had to trust God that He was holding our reward even though we could see nothing good in failure.

When I talked to Chris about all of this, he told me that he had been meditating on the same scripture!  God certainly was trying to tell us something.

Another day at HealthSouth, I asked God, “Was it your perfect will for us to buy Signarama when we did?”

He gave me Is 49:6.

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

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God had spoken this to Isaiah right after he had lamented about spending his strength in vain.  Isaiah was being obedient to give God’s words to the Jewish people, yet he didn’t see any fruit.  No one was listening to him.  He was probably threatened and harassed for his message, and he couldn’t see what good could possible come from his pitiful ministry.

Yet God surprised Isaiah by telling him that his vision of bringing his people back to God (a vision that seemed totally unrealized) was way too small.  God was telling Isaiah that he would also bring the light of salvation to the non-Jews all over the world.  How could Isaiah have imagined how far his words would reach and how many people would be impacted by them?  For the past 10 years I have lived in the book of Isaiah!  The words of God recorded by that discouraged prophet have been a life line to me!

I bet Isaiah never imagined that a little mom and housewife in Pennsylvania would be forever impacted by his ministry.  Yet here I am, writing an article about him!  I bet most of you reading this have also been blessed by Isaiah.

I was very comforted by the thought that God was going to use our lives in ways we could not imagine, despite of, or maybe because of our failure.  Still, we were praying that God would do a miracle right now that we could see.  Resurrect our business, bring in the finances to keep going, bring us to the place where we could make a profit and recoup all our investment and more!  The days went by and no miracle came.  Why was God saying, “no” to our pleas?

After my time with God at HealthSouth, I began listening to some CDs that had been recorded at a recent conference at my church.  I came across a quote from Lance Wallnau that spoke directly to my heart.

“God says no to what you want simply because He has something better in mind.  If God isn’t answering Joseph’s plea to be released from the confinement of his prison cell, it’s only because Joseph, prophet, man of God, blameless as he may be, has a smaller perception of what prophecy fulfilled looks like than God has.  In other words, he was willing to settle for a whole lot less than God had in mind so God had to keep him in a place of contradiction until the timing was right for him to be released to the greater thing God had.”

Could this be what was happening in our lives?  God had promised prosperity, we had pursued prosperity, and we had failed.  God’s promise was still true, but His plan was even greater than we had originally thought.  Was Signarama “too small a thing?”  Did God have something much greater for us?

We purchased Signarama because we wanted something better for our family than struggling from paycheck to paycheck.  We were in pursuit of the American Dream; that if you worked hard with skill and determination, you would achieve a better life for yourself and your children.

“Is Signarama a picture of what we could do with our own hard work?” I asked God.

“We were with child, we writhed, but we gave birth only to wind.  We have won no victories on the earth.” Is 26:18 was the answer that I received.

Perhaps God’s dream was higher than the American dream?

“How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.  I thought you would call me ‘father’ and not turn away from following me.” Jer 3:19 was the scripture I got next.

This reminded me of the book I had been reading, God with You at Work by Andy Mason.  Chris and I knew in our heads that we were God’s children and He was our Father.  Yet reading this book had made me realize that the way we thought and lived our lives were indications of an orphan mentality.  Truly being a son and daughter the way Andy described it was so foreign to my thinking that I could hardly understand it.

He said that the key to doing business in a kingdom culture was behaving like sons.  To live in our inheritance that Jesus already won for us rather than working so hard for payment.  To cease from striving and self-effort and to do all our work out of rest.  To not seek God to attain His blessings, but to seek Him for relationship simply because we love Him so much.  Then we would be able to watch the amazing things that God would do on our behalf.

People in the world are successful in business all the time with no relationship with God.  They have innovative ideas, work hard, and achieve great things while having no understanding of God as their father!  Why could WE not succeed even though we had sought God every step of the way and asked for His blessings?

Perhaps it was because we have also prayed crazy, outrageous prayers such as:

Give us more of you!

Give us YOUR dreams and visions.

Don’t let us fall short of YOUR plans for us.

Don’t let our lives be ineffective.

Let us impact eternity.

We want to see and participate in signs and wonders.

Bring all of our children into their destinies.

Prayers like that mean that a financial success out of our own hard work was “too small a thing.”  God has something bigger for us like he had for Isaiah and Joseph.  Something that requires us to actually become the people He intended us to be.  That can only happen by seeking Him more and more each day.  By being uncomfortable to know that we need Him.  By seeking His kingdom first.

We can never achieve this by working hard.  We can never step into our sonship and inheritance by working hard.  Signarama was all about working hard.  God cares about us too much to let us earn success from our own hard work.  He wants us to become a son and a daughter and to see real success happen out of rest.  Success that He brings about with His amazing power – not our own abilities or intelligence.

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I still don’t understand this whole “sonship” thing.  How can I just accept His unconditional love for me? How can I just live in my inheritance?  You mean I never have to work hard to earn it?  I never have to prove anything?  God delights in me just the way I am right now, failures and mistakes and all?

You mean I never have to worry about provision because God ALWAYS provides for His children?  I don’t have to seek after these things but can seek His kingdom? This I just don’t understand.

But at least now I KNOW that I don’t understand it.  I can ask God to show me and help me.  I have the death of Signarama to thank for that!