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Manna… or something like that…

Last week I wrote about provision and the obvious reminder being played over the loudspeakers at the JCP for the last year and a half. (In case you missed it, check it out here.) Today, I’m going to expand on that.

In Exodus 16, God lays out his play for providing for His wilderness-wandering children. Every day, there’s gonna be this bread-ish stuff called manna on the ground. Gather what you and your family needs and ONLY what you need for one day. (Except for the sixth day… #BecauseSabbath). Don’t take more than you need because God has got this under control. You don’t need to plan ahead for what you’ll eat tomorrow. But, if you know anything about the Israelites, you know that they weren’t so great at listening and following directions… (not that I have room to talk, but we’ll get to that later.) So… they tried to keep some “just in case” and here’s what happened:

Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. – Exodus 16:20 ESV

The exception was that on the sixth day, they could gather for TWO days because of the Sabbath. In order to properly observe the day of rest, they could not even gather food for the day. And, even though any other day they kept back extra it spoiled, on that day, it did not.

So they laid it aside till the morning, as Moses commanded them, and it did not stink, and there were no worms in it. ” – Exodus 16:24

Reading this passage about manna reminded me a lot of God’s provision in my life. I have gone from a predictable, consistent paycheck from a full time job to working two jobs, one of which has hours that are constantly in flux. While my AmeriCorps position provides consistent income, it constitutes less than half of what I need to pay my bills, pay for gas for the car, coffee, and continue eating food outside of what I scavenge from my parents. There have been months where I have just made that cut-off and there have been a few months with a little more breathing room. But never, in over a year and a half have I been unable to pay my bills.

But it’s more than just provision. My hours are my “manna.” The schedule comes out on Thursdays and I look to see what I have for the following week. I add it to the spreadsheet that I keep that includes how many hours I need to meet the basic budget. Sometimes, in January and February which are slower months, I panic when I see the schedule. Even though I know that it will all be ok. Because I worry that the next week might have even fewer, I take any hours offered when someone calls off, which is God’s provision for those lean months. Unfortunately, that mentality often carries over once hours pick up and I’m getting more than I absolutely need to begin with.

And that’s when things start to get wormy and rotten. See, I have one day off a week from both jobs. It’s Sunday. I often tell people when they ask if I’m working on Sunday that it’s because “Sundays are for the LORD.” And that’s true. I do things at church on Sundays. But Sundays, like the Sabbath, are more for ME than they are for God. They’re a day for me to rest, recharge, and connect with God through church and small group. Sometimes, hours I’m offered are on Sundays. I, for the most part, do not take them, unless group is canceled or I don’t have to work the following day at school (or JCP).

Sometimes, when I’m feeling greedy or like hoarding the manna, I pick up shifts for no good reason, including Sundays. And it almost always backfires. For example, a few weeks ago, someone was giving away a Sunday afternoon shift. I had no plans in particular that day but I still had church and group. I took it anyway, knowing it would mean a busy day and that it would mean 13 consecutive days of work between both jobs. And, knowing that I had my quota of hours for the month already in 3 weeks in. See, greedy hoarder. Well, that week I ended up with a double ear infection. I couldn’t hear out of either ear for a day and one ear for over a week. Yep, I had to call in sick, something I’ve only done twice in the entirety of my employment, canceling out the “extra” hours I picked up.

After that week, I’ve tried to be more mindful of what I need versus what I think I need. It has helped that nobody has called off for hours I could pick up lately but still.

What’s your manna? What are you hoarding just in case? Is it money? Is it time? Is it your talent or an ability? What are you sacrificing in order to gather extra and make sure you have more than enough? Maybe you’re not hoarding anything but you’re having a tough time trusting that the manna will be there waiting in the morning. How can this passage in Exodus help you trust Him more?

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I Love the Way YOU Hold Me

For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you. – Isaiah 41:13 ESV

I started working at JCPenney in November 2015. It has taken me literally 19 months to figure something out. Before you start thinking I’m a terrible employee, I’m not. I’m good at my job, most days. Not to brag but they kind of want to clone me. That would probably be a mistake. But whatever. No, the thing I figured out has to do with the JCP Playlist, the 17 songs played on repeat throughout the day. Mixed among a myriad of Pop/Rock (including my lip syncing go-to “Hello” by Adele) is “Hold Me” by Christian artist Jamie Grace.

I get why it was included. It could easily be sung about a boyfriend or husband, someone who holds you, is by your side. Someone you can’t stop thinking about. Someone who makes each day special. But if you read about the song, Jamie Grace herself says that the song is about relying on God:

“Love is all about trusting in God to hold you no matter what you are going through. I’ve had a lot of experiences in my life of needing to trust in God to hold me. He’s the only one who is going to be there. That’s what the song is about, knowing that God is there to hold you and the joy that comes with that knowledge and understanding.” (BEHIND THE SONG WITH KEVIN DAVIS

Anyway, it’s one of the songs I hear at least 4 times a week at work, probably more. And it is a message that I need reminded of every day that I’m there. And every day that I’m not there, if I’m being honest. When I first started working there, I had been let go from a full time job with benefits that payed decently well for our area. I had paid time off. Insurance. Anyway, I lost that job unexpectedly and started at the JCP shortly thereafter. I stressed about getting enough hours to pay my bills. I stressed about being a failure. In January 2016 I took a second job at a local school as an AmeriCorps member. I have a small classroom and I do homework help with small groups. I stayed at JCP to supplement that stipend. I stressed about my bills, but I have paid them all on time. i stressed about having to work constantly but I have consistently had one day off a week and sometimes a couple at a time. Through all of the uncertainty, it’s been hard work but He has held me.

In a few months, my AmeriCorps contract is up and I will be back to one job. I could stress about hours. I could panic. While I am at a loss as to what I’m going to do with my life, I know that He holds me. I know there is a plan. We were talking about God’s provision at small group the other night and how I can face the upcoming change in employment status with greater confidence by looking back at where I’ve been and remembering that I’ve been ok and often more than ok. Although, if anyone has career path suggestions, I’m open to them. I don’t know what I want to spend the next 40 years of my life doing and some insight would be great! 🙂

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this song ended up playing at my workplace. And every time it plays, now that I’ve figured it out, I’ll take it as a reminder that I don’t have to worry. I am being held.

Here’s the song, in case you’re unfamiliar.