GOD WAS DOING A NEW THING
BUT I COULD NOT SEE IT
It was August 1993. My husband Julius had already come through several near-death incidents. His emotions were spent. The church he pastored was struggling financially, although, thank God, the mortgage was paid in full. Nevertheless, his medications—including chemo and radiation—were running in excess of $3000 per month—not covered by our insurance. The church was helping us pay them. Our premiums had been raised to $1000 per month in the Church of God National Health Care Plan (New Life paid the premiums) then we were told the premium would expire in 3 months. A local Baptist pastor (Dr. Jenkins) who had befriended Julius volunteered to take us into their group health care plan temporarily. This helped considerably, but Julius was concerned that the pastor was about to retire and that the new plan administrator might not want to keep a non-Baptist in the group. Thus he surmised the way to insure coverage was for me to get a teaching job.
I had seen the fruit of our Christian School in my own two children and their success at the university. Closing the school was a major blow to me as I had been the principal (without pay–by my choice) since it began in 1983. The church had been declining in attendance since Julius was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in December 1985). He worked tirelessly on the tractor clearing the property, cutting down trees, leveling the ground to make the property appealing. Several young men and some faithful members could be seen helping him almost every day. The members remodeled the inside of the standing building as well. Pastor Lee Jordan made the architectural drawing for a new church building on that property. None of these things resulted in growth. Now, being the practical person Julius was, the only solution he could think of for our finances was for his wife to go back to public school or college teaching.
His decision put me on an emotional roller coaster. “If the walls could talk…” they would tell you how I lay on the floor crying out to the Lord to deliver me from having to go back into the public school. It was a selfish prayer, and the Lord chose to ignore it—because He had a plan for me.
I began calling the community colleges and high schools in the Detroit area. There was only one vacancy in my subject areas and that was at neighboring Inkster High School, and they were not taking applications. I left my name and phone number and mailed them a resume.
It was the end of August and time was running out. One morning after our family prayer time, I felt the Lord impressed on me to call Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville. I had taught there for two and a half years before we moved to Michigan—17 years earlier. My phone call was immediately put through to the administrator who pulled my records from the archives and nearly begged me to come as they were desperate for a high school teacher with my certification. I was hired over the phone.
An hour after that phone call, the car was packed and I was headed to Louisville, leaving my husband and son behind to take care of making transitions in Michigan—sell the house, transition the church, find a new doctor, etc. Our son, 15, was attending community college and living at home so he would need to find a place to live or transfer colleges. The plan was that I would return home for Thanksgiving at which time we would pack up and move south. (Hint: Man makes plans but God determines his steps…Prov. 16:9).
The seven-hour driving trip from Detroit to Louisville seemed like a few minutes. There was nothing playing in my car—no music, no radio, no cassette. I was just praying all the way—trying to make sense out of what was going on, searching my heart and examining if any of my own actions and behaviors to blame for my predicament. (The devil will always give you a list!) Julius was to call friends, Morris and Phyllis King, in Louisville to see if I could stay with them until I found a place for our family to live.
The principal waited at the school for me. As we talked, one of the teachers came into the office. When the principal introduced us, she threw her arms around me and said, “I prayed you all the way from Michigan!” She took me to my classroom and gave me a quick orientation. It would be an easy, comfortable assignment for me. I’ve enjoyed every teaching job I ever had and this would be no exception. It all “seemed” to be God’s way of working out our financial situation. But not every open door is of God, and I had no peace in my heart or mind. I shared a little of my circumstances and asked the principal to give me until 8 AM the next day to give my final decision. He agreed.
Julius and I talked on the phone for an hour and a half the night I arrived in Louisville going over all the pros and cons. After saying it looked like God was working out this opportunity for me, he said, “But you’re the one who’ll be working and you have to make the final decision.” At least, I thought, no matter what I decide, I won’t be disobedient to my husband. That gave some relief.
My friends, Morris and Phyllis, took me out to dinner at a lovely, peaceful, outdoor restaurant on the river. We came back to their house and talked…and talked…and talked. Finally, Phyllis (a psychiatric nurse) suggested I take a Valium so I could sleep. It was the first and last time I took Valium—and I didn’t sleep.
I lay awake tossing and turning and praying and reasoning with the Lord until 3:30 AM when He spoke very clearly to me: “Get up, go home, and pour the sidewalk.” (A couple of weeks earlier, the city had sent a mandate to the church to pour a boulevard sidewalk, but the finances were not there to do it.) Peace enveloped me. Sleep came. When I awakened the next morning, I felt refreshed and settled with just three hours of sleep.
I went to the school and told the principal how sorry I was to have given him false hope but that I must go back to Michigan. I shared my story with him—how I came to Louisville out of desperation, but now I had to go back home out of obedience.
Of course, that was before I had a cell phone, so I left the school and went back to the Kings’ house to call Julius and return my belongings to the car. The Kings had left for work before they knew my decision so I left a note for them. Julius still didn’t know my decision either because when I called, he was not home. I took grapes from the frig to eat on the way back to Michigan. Just before closing the door, I remembered Julius had planned to visit Gus and Diane to share with them what was transpiring. I called them and he was just arriving. Although he had been pretty settled that I would take the Louisville job, he seemed relieved when I told him I had declined it. Then he told me, almost matter-of-fact-like: “Inkster called you this morning (Friday) at 8 AM to come for an interview Monday.”
I jumped. I shouted. I praised the Lord all the way back to Michigan. At exactly the moment I was obeying God and apologizing to the principal that I had to decline the job, Inkster Schools called. I knew in my heart I had the job. I knew it was a divine call—not just an ordinary teaching job. I was so excited for Monday to come. Of course, the rest is history… but the story is not over yet; you must read to the end!
I was hired. I felt at home from the first minute I walked into that high school classroom as a “child of the King” and an “evangelist” from the Most High God. I was on a mission in the midst of a community nicknamed “Little Saigon” and infested by gangs. My Bible stayed on my desk and by the end of first semester, my students and I had become acquainted. At some point, they asked to have prayer meeting in my classroom every day before school. When those teenagers prayed, the room shook, and God heard. They helped me more than they could ever know to cope with my husbands physical and emotional needs as he dealt with the cancer. I looked forward to getting up and going to work every day. I loved and still treasure those seven years at Inkster High School—and our family’s financial needs were met during that time.
Seven years. God’s number of perfection. At the end of my seventh year, a private company was hired to manage the school district and the new company wanted to bring in young teachers whom they could train in their methods and curriculum; so they offered buyouts to a certain number of teachers, by seniority, who had taught there at least seven years and would turn 60 by June 30th. Friends, I turned 60 on June 9th and by God’s grace was numbered among those honored. The by-product was retirement in the state teachers’ system with a monthly stipend of $500 plus Blue Cross/Blue Shield health benefits for the rest of my life. I did not see it coming, but when God issues an order, He follows through.
But here’s the rest of the story: Remember, that night in Louisville at 3:30 AM the Lord told me: “Get up, go home, and pour the sidewalk.”
When talking with Julius that morning and giving him my decision, I did not tell him about the “sidewalk.” It didn’t seem important. As I headed back to Michigan, he visited with Gus and Diane for a while, then later in the day he went to visit an elderly church member, Eileen Honeywell, to cheer her up and pray with her. At some point during their conversation, Eileen said to him: “Didn’t you say in church that the city wants you to pour a sidewalk?” He confirmed they did. “How much will it cost?” He had done research and knew it would be about $800 for the cement and men from the church would do the work. She instructed her daughter right then to write a check to the church for $800 to pour the sidewalk.
The Lord spoke to Eileen and she obeyed and gave. Before I even got back to Michigan that day—within hours—the Lord had fulfilled His word. (Eileen has gone on to meet the Lord, but this week I sent this story to her daughter Sheila who responded: “I really enjoyed your story. I remember the day very well as your husband had a shocked look on his face when Mom asked me to go and write him a check.”)
One more important part of this story. Initially, I thought my husband’s request for me to take a public school teaching job was selfish and not fully trusting God. In retrospect, I’m sure it was difficult for him as well—and God turned it into good. Julius had the opportunity to see how the Lord blessed me and how much I enjoyed the school; he was appreciative of the insurance benefits. I was able to express my gratitude to him for seeing the situation more clearly than I. He died in my sixth year of teaching thus did not live to see the rewards God brought to me for retirement.
The Bible says, “Obedience is better than sacrifice…” (1 Sam. 15:22). God rewarded my feeble obedience by totally directing my steps—even the detour via Louisville—during what was one of the darkest seasons of my life—a time when I was struggling to make sense out of everything that was happening in me and around me.
Thank God He doesn’t answer prayer based on how good or faithful we are. He answers prayer because He cares about us. He says:
“For I am about to do a brand-new thing.
See, I have already begun!
Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness for my people to come home.
I will create rivers for them in the desert!”
I pray you see this happening in your life as vividly as I see how God did a new thing in my life. It is a continuous process. He made a pathway through my wilderness and now He is creating for me…rivers in the desert. My heart and soul rejoice in the God of my salvation!
*This story began in August 1993 and ended June 30 2000.
(c) C. Yvonne Karl. Published in The Alabaster Box, Vol.22 No.08 2007. firstname.lastname@example.org