Anyone who serves in ministry has probably experienced what I have experienced in the last few weeks. Despite the fact that things are going along pretty well, there are a couple of people who are displeased, and they are making their feelings known pretty vocally. It's like trying to do your work with a couple of yippy little dogs biting at your ankles- you can't concentrate on what's important until the dogs are finally put outside.
Discouragement builds. I begin to question why I am putting forth so much effort. It's not at all that I would want any special recognition; I just want to be allowed to do my work in peace.
This sort of feeling comes along cyclically, and I've learned that it is a good time to step back and try to hear God, to allow Him to lead me out of the thicket with His voice, to show me what my next move should be. As we left for Oklahoma last Thursday, I spent some time in the car praying and jotting down questions that I had for Him, so that I could look for the answers He would give me. Most of all, I was looking for encouragement, any encouragement on any subject, because it's easy to begin to doubt your self-worth when dealing with constant criticism.
Certainly, I did not hear all the answers to my questions yet, and that's okay. It's not for me to say how quickly God should speak. But I did receive encouragement, and a lifting of spirits, in two very tangible ways.
First, after a wonderful weekend of just playing with our grand-daughter and enjoying relaxed conversation with our son and daughter-in-law, they handed us an envelope as we left to go home. In it were two recent photos of the baby-very sweet. But even nicer was a note they had written to us. My daughter-in-law wrote, among a few other things: "Thank you for loving God and pouring yourselves into your children. I benefit daily from your investment in Paul....I enjoy being part of your family. Thank you for how you have made me feel welcome in your family."
Now, that would have been blessing enough. But there was also a note from Paul. He was our most challenging teenager. I won't go into details- it's his story to tell- but I'm glad he lived to be grown, because I wasn't sure that would happen there for a while. He wrote: "Thanks for all you've done for me and us over the years. I'm glad that it's important to you to stay in touch and visit. It means a lot to us and I can tell Malorie is loving it too. Looking forward to lots more visits..."
Parents are told to parent without any expectation of thanks, and that's what we did. But we got the thanks! I can't tell you how meaningful that is.
When we got home, I received another nice encouragement. Someone who has become a blog-friend chose to set a challenge for herself, based in part on some things she had read on my blog. Totally unexpected. I write kind of whatever comes to mind; who knew that would be an influence on anyone? So I felt blessed again.
I continue to wait and pray for guidance, but with David the Songwriter I say "Praise be to the Lord, for He has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped." (Psalm 28:6-7)