News - Calling: The Place God Wants Me - Wholly Dependent on Him

Calling: The Place God Wants Me - Wholly Dependent on Him

Christiana (Gilmore '05) Kirkham

 

Christiana KirkhamJeremy ’05 and Christiana (Gilmore ’05) Kirkham both felt God calling Jeremy away from his job in finance. Leaving meant relinquishing great pay and benefits, but the couple knew from experience that when God tells you to do something, “you’d better do it.” Christiana believed the door may be opening for a dream she had harbored to come true: that God had called Jeremy out of business into the ministry, and they would serve together. Her idea, however, was not God’s idea, and thus began the lessons she would embrace about God’s call.

Throwing My Tantrum

A few months after he quit, Jeremy had the opportunity to teach as a permanent sub in a middle school. It was evident, from the start, that teaching was his calling. He LOVED it! I had never, in all our married life, seen him so happy. I, on the other hand, was miserable. I wondered what God was doing. I'd had it all planned out. Jeremy would be a pastor, and I would get to be a pastor’s wife, serving behind the scenes, doing whatever was necessary to help out.  But, God’s plans were shaping up to be very different than mine. I cried. I brooded. I complained and grumbled. If I were two years old, it would have been called “throwing a tantrum.” For a couple months I felt as though I were living under a dark cloud of gloom. (Picture a cartoon character with rain cloud right over head.)

God’s Whispered Response

When I take daily time to read my Bible and pray, God will speak to me daily; but I have to spend that quiet time with him. There have been a few special times when God has broken through my crying and shouting with a quiet whisper. This was one of those times. He must have been fed up with my tantrum. He spoke my name.

“Christiana. Maybe I didn’t create you to be a pastor’s wife. Maybe I have something else planned for you.”

After that moment, I shut up.

God had spoken to me, but I didn’t feel relief, or happiness. On the contrary, I felt lost, without a purpose. One Sunday, we had a special speaker, Paul Dickson, at church. He spoke about how we are like rocks and God is like the sun. Depending on where God has us placed throughout our lives, affects our shadow and the impact we make. I can’t explain it as eloquently as he, but I was deeply moved. I went forward, crying, seeking prayer for something I didn’t even understand.

An Outsider's Insight

Paul has the gift of prophesy and after service Jeremy and I went to talk to him. I explained how I was feeling, about the loss of my dream to be a pastor’s wife. And his response was that God didn’t intend for me to live in Jeremy’s shadow. (Not that a pastor’s wife lives in the shadow of her husband, but for me, it was my escape. I was using it as an excuse to ignore God’s calling on my life.) Paul said, perhaps it was me who was called to be a pastor. I must have had a look of terror on my face, at those words, because he reassured me that being a pastor doesn’t necessarily mean being up in front.

Earnestly Searching

From that point I began to seek God earnestly. I read my Bible, devotionals, and personal development books. I retook the Strengths Finder test. I took a spiritual gifts test. I started reading our copy of The Purpose Driven Life, which we’d had for years and I had never opened—all in the hopes that I would get the answer to my question, “what is my purpose?” And, as so often happens with God, I didn’t get my answer right away.  I kept reading and praying, telling God what I would like to happen, but then ending with, “not my will, but yours.”

As with any journey, there were still the ups and downs. One Sunday, a while back, I was feeling down. It was during worship and I was feeling a little “woe is me.” I was complaining about my lack of purpose, not being able to have any more babies, etc. And then, BAM, God gave me a vision.

It was a strange sensation, something I’d never experienced before or since. For an instant, I felt like I had been transported somewhere else. I was sitting outside, surrounded by kids. There were kids of all ages and ethnicities. I remember feeling full of love for all those kids. And then I was back in church, with worship still going on around me. Tears came to my eyes, and all I could do was thank God. He knew, in that moment, I needed encouragement, a promise to hold on to.

Bad Axe: Thrill and Terror

About a year ago I began to look for “Church jobs”, “Christian jobs”, “non profit jobs”, and anything that had a purpose attached to it. (I do want to clarify: I love my current job at Light and Life Preschool. I love my coworkers, our parents and especially the kids. All I knew, then, was that God wanted me to search.)

I remembered that the Free Methodist Website had a job listings page so I decided to check it out. One of the jobs listed was for a children’s ministry director in a little town in Michigan, called Bad Axe. When I read the job description, I felt a stirring of excitement. It sounded like something I would love to do, you know, once I had more experience. I sent the job description to my parents, who pastor in Northern California, asking for their input on what I could do to prepare for a job like the one in Bad Axe. Probably on a weekly basis, I would check the FM website to see if the job was still listed. I would feel a sense of apprehension; worried the job would no longer be available, but then excited that it was still posted. I really wanted to apply but was so very scared.

And then, this past December, on my way to work at about 5:30 am, I got pulled over by a cop! True story. I’ve never been pulled over, gotten a ticket, or been to blame in an accident, ever. The officer asked me if I knew my registration was out of date. I did. I was sitting in my car, crying and shaking; I’m sure he felt bad for me. I can think of a couple of reasons why this motivated me to apply. One: All the adrenaline coursing through my body made me feel bolder. Two: The prospect of having to pay a fine on top of other bills made me realize I needed to make a job change. Jeremy and I had been talking for awhile about me needing to find another job that paid more, but nothing else appealed to me except the job in Michigan. While the incident motivated me to apply, it really had very little to do with my final decision.

So, I wrote up a cover letter and worked on my resume and sent it to the pastor. Honestly, I didn’t think anything would happen. But then, I got an e-mail back, and then I got a phone call, followed by a skype interview. And then, the church wanted to fly our little family out to Michigan! It was a surreal experience. Flying to a place we’d never been, not knowing anyone, pursuing a job that I felt simultaneously thrilled and terrified about.

You know how you build up expectations when you are excited about something, and a lot of the time you are disappointed because what you imagine is bigger and better than what is possible? (No? Maybe it’s just me.) This was not one of those times.

Claiming Peace, Rejecting Fear

We arrived late Friday night/early Saturday and were picked up by a couple we had never seen before (not even on Facebook). Saturday was spent driving around looking at the town, the church, and meeting people. By the time I went to bed I was worn out and pretty much in tears. I was so overwhelmed. The people were wonderful, but I was terrified of their expectations. What if I couldn’t do the job? What if I failed? Jeremy, being the wonderful man that he is, reassured me that no matter what I decided he would support me 100%. He fell asleep and I laid awake tossing and turning, my stomach in knots. And then in the quiet, I heard “Be strong and courageous.” And God reminded me that fear does not come from him. And a line from 1 John “perfect love casts out fear,” came to mind.

So I repeated, “fear does not come from God,” over and over. I prayed the verse “Be anxious about nothing, but in everything, with prayer and petition, present your requests to God and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” I claimed the peace of God over and over and over again until I felt it and was able to fall asleep.

Sunday felt like it would be a make-it or break-it day, for me. I had expectations of what the people would be like, how I would feel. And . . . it was more wonderful than I could have imagined. The people were warm and welcoming, and I couldn’t help but fall in love.

Surpassing Expectations

Throughout the trip, Jeremy kept asking me, “on a scale from 1-10, (10 being you want to do it) how are you feeling?” By Monday afternoon I said “10.” I wanted to do it! I knew I had been praying pretty much non-stop about it, since December, and I knew the church and its leadership had been praying. I couldn’t imagine not saying yes. I wanted to be able to let the pastor know, before we left, that if they wanted us, we would love to come be a part of the Bad Axe Free Methodist Church. Honestly, I would want to move there, even if I didn’t have the job. The church leadership still had to meet, and make a final decision, but it was with great excitement that we returned to Phoenix on Tuesday. Our daughter, Eliana wanted to just come back to check on our dogs and then go back to Michigan; the feeling was mutual.

The Sunday after our trip, I got the call inviting me to take the position of Children’s Ministry Director. I will admit that I was a bit apprehensive up until then. Maybe they would change their minds. Maybe they wouldn’t want to wait 4-5 months, for us to move there. But they were willing to wait. I am over the moon excited!

God Equips

There are still moments of doubt/panic. And then God reassures me. I keep hearing/reading “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips those He calls.”

I can’t do much from Phoenix, so I’m praying. I’m praying for the church, for the leaders, for the kids, and for all those who are not yet a part of the church; and I’m thanking God for the work he is already doing.

Sunday, after I got the phone call, I was reflecting on that moment, three years ago when Jeremy quit his job. I got teary-eyed thinking about how his call to quit his job was just as much for him as it was for me. If we had not taken that step of faith, trusting that God would work things out, we might not be here. Granted, it’s not what I had planned, but what God has planned is so much better. I have to be wholly dependent on God, and that’s right where He wants me to be.

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This story was published on February 03, 2017




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