New Beginnings

Jeremiah 29: 11For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

I love the challenge of starting something new. I have a creative side so no matter if it’s a new project, a new phase in life, a new thought with potential or a challenge when someone says I can’t do it because it’s impossible, I’m up for it.

Little did I know that God would use this personality trait for one of the hardest challenges I would ever encounter. He knew what this journey would entail for He is my Creator and always equips His children for His purpose. I will admit that sometimes He pushes me from my comfort zone into trusting my next step to His Hands thus growing my faith in Jesus. OK, so maybe there was also kicking and screaming involved.

Through the years and during the young stage of my life, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. My hearts desire was to have a family of my own and to become a teacher. I have always loved learning and still do but didn’t know at the time how this would work out in my life. God was faithful and as part of His divine plan, I have a beautiful family of fifteen and have had a career in education. God has lead me through many different career venues to prepare me for a task He had planned for me before I was born.

Psalm 139: 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

I loved my jobs from classroom teacher, to coordinator for an adult education literacy program on a statewide education television network, and then as coordinator for a state education cooperative training teachers and administrators in technology, media and distance learning. These jobs were fun and pushed me to learn new ways of teaching and learning. Each of these jobs provided training for a special task the Lord had for me later on my journey of life even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

My husband had retired from public life and founded a company.   We had discussed my retirement (to be eligible to draw a retirement check) and set a timeline. He wanted me to retire and knowing me like he does, knew when the time came I would be reluctant. My thoughts on retirement as I got closer to the expected date were wishy-washy at best. “I love my job” to “I can’t wait to retire” and back again. I didn’t worry about being bored because I have always found new projects to occupy my time. I was happy and content doing exactly what I was doing on my current job…establishing and growing a distance-learning center for high school students.

The Lord had been drawing me close to Himself. During a woman’s conference Beth Moore asked 17,000 women this question: “Is Jesus your passion?” Her question slapped me in the face and I knew my answer was “NO”. This brought on an examination of my heart that led to more love and focus on Jesus. More so than I had ever felt. It was a turning point in my life.

I was already teaching women’s Sunday School class and loved it. I soon found myself serving in different ministry positions with a growing desire to serve the Lord and to be obedient to His leading. I dug deeper into my Bible studies, had deeper meaning and purpose in my quiet time and prayed with a passion I had never known before. My faith was growing and my dependence on the Lord was increasing.

Then came the time of testing. God would refine me like never before.   Would I be obedient? Would I stumble and fall? Would I be able to stand under the weight? I didn’t know the answers myself. But I do know that personal faith can only grow through testing, trials and struggles. It is during such times that you discover if your faith in God can be trusted.

My Mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease soon after my Dad passed away. I struggled with the sadness of the disease removing her memory. The Lord was faithful and I came to realize that since my Mom was a Christian and the Holy Spirit lived within her, even now-especially now, He would never leave her or forsake her but would carry her on to glory in His timing. Even though this illness was hard, I wanted to continue working at least until the date set for retirement.

The testing continued but this time through a work experience. It was a bizarre, unusual incident that brought me to my knees. I still do not know exactly what happened. During the course of establishing the distance-learning center, the teachers that were teaching career and technical courses had to meet all state requirements for teaching from two different departments. One was approval from the career and technical department and once that requirement was met, it was sent to the general education licensure department who would approve it and issue the teaching certificate mailing it to the teacher.

One of the teachers received her license through the mail and then somehow the certificate was lost. (still don’t know what happened). I requested a replacement and was informed that they never issued a certificate and accused me of forging the lost certificate. The matter was then turned over to the state police who questioned me but the investigation never went any further.

My heart was crushed. I was an emotional wreck. I am a rule follower and a people pleaser. I had never even been to the principal’s office as a child for acting up in class. I never got in trouble at school. I never cheated off of someone else’s paper. And to have someone accuse me of something I didn’t do, hurt me deeply.

The Lord used this incident to put me flat on my face before Him and quite frankly weeping and grieving to the core of my being. But what I know is my faith in Him was the only way I made it through. I was trusting now on an even deeper level. He would see me through every day. With His loving grace, He showed me a definition of faith. Finding Assurance In Trusting Him=FAITH. Meaning that through the trials in life, assurance comes by trusting God will provide for you. I knew He loved me with an unconditional love and whatever the reason for this, He was in charge of my life. This too was in accordance with His plan for me.

As is always the case, we see more clearly on the other side of trials. Knowing me well, my Creator knew I was headed in the direction of staying in my job rather than retiring as decided. It is not an accident this happened during the year I had planned to retire. As the date grew nearer, I knew it was time to leave this job behind. God was preparing me for a task He would show me, a task that would change my life forever and touch the lives of many other women as well.

 

Sandra Hardage

 

Prayer Journal Entry: August 11, 2007

“It is still very hard to understand how something like this has happened.  This has been going on since February and I’m not sure how much longer it will continue but I do know that no matter what the outcome, You have prepared my way!  I have learned so much from this experience, I have never been as close to You as I am now!  I have heard You speaking to me in that still small voice within me…giving me comfort and peace.  I have page after page of journal entries of encouragements, words of love and promises that looking back I am awe stuck.  Thank You for the love You have for me!  How richly You have blessed me with Your assurance and grace.”

 

Footnote:

New Beginnings” was written on 12/13/17 at 2:45 am.  I had been praying for time to write these blog posts.  This is an example that God answers prayer:

Matthew 7: 7Ask and it will be given to you”

Ask: In prayer I asked for time to write. Given: Time in the middle of the night!