Just Give Me a Sign

Faith & Spirituality, Random Musings

“Why did you move to Oregon?”

This week, I’m not really sure.

If you would have asked me a few weeks ago, before we left, I would have told you we were chasing down a God-planted dream. We felt led out west, I’d say confidently. Anything, anywhere, we told God. And He answered. There must be some reason.

The money was less, but it offered so much more. He will provide.

We accepted. But then I lost my contract, a decent chunk of our income. It was too late to recant.

He will provide.

We drove seven states in three days. Over mountains and through some of the prettiest country this land has to offer. I was so excited.

We actually did it. This thing we’d be thinking about, praying about, dreaming about, happened. We were here.

Then, that was it. We were just here.

And it doesn’t look anything like I had imagined.

We left family, friends, our neighborhood and church all to follow, to obey. So where was the spark, this illumination where God lined everything up to be just like it was, only here?

In this perceived silence, doubt sings her hopeless song.

 

We made it to church yesterday. After deliberating since we got here about where to even go (introversion and less than desirous decision-making skills + no lightbulb moments), we decided to just go back to the church we had tried on our house hunting trip.

It wasn’t our church. It didn’t feel like home. I like everything to fit, make sense. So while my brain tried to get everything to line up, I simply prayed for a sign. Any sign. Just let me know you hear me.

The sermon was on Peter getting out of the boat to follow Jesus. “Where did we get the idea that for things to be God’s will, it should be easy, with everything working out just so?” The pastor continued, “What if we started thinking and truly believing this, ‘I am exactly where God wants me to be right now,’ to shape and mold and develop me.”

What if instead of trying to figure out what’s next, I accept right now. Instead of ceaseless striving, I say, enough. Maybe instead of operating from a position of trying to help God, I become low, allowing Him to rescue me.

My youngest runs out, hugging me, “I love it here! They sang all of my favorite VBS songs! Can we come back next week?”

And so I’m realizing that perhaps it was not a sending, but the going that God had planned all along.

And through it all, He will provide.

On Twelve Years

Faith & Spirituality, Love, Marriage

This past Sunday, the better half and I marked twelve years of marriage. Twelve years. That’s 4,380 days and nights. Plenty of time for the messy, the hard, the hurt; but also through it all, the sheer unyielding work of God binding souls to Him and together.

This gritty job of being married stands one of the most sanctifying experiences of my life and continues to be so. Because when you marry at 20, raising your empty champagne glass, toasts covering terror, you don’t want to be holy, not really.

But God calls us to holiness. “It is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy'” (1 Peter 1:16). And I’m learning, I truly am, that the holiness God desires in me is not the holiness I seek to achieve through my own efforts, but rather the holiness that is produced through the Spirit’s work in my life, further refined in the struggle, the pain, and the hardship.

The man I fell asleep beside last night is not the boy I married. I am not the same girl I was 12 years ago, either. And I am so grateful, because that girl was self-reliant and proud. She has a tendency (even now) to keep the escape hatch open, one foot out the door, in case things get a little too messy and raw and uncomfortable. But the nature and ultimately the beauty of marriage is in the forever, the moments of pure joy carved out of the struggle, moments when God and one another are all you have to cling to. And in admitting the pain and imperfection, the death to dreams and hopes deferred, you still fight. Praise Jesus for giving my husband the long haul mindset that I lack.

Because if I had bailed when it got tough or steeled my heart against my husband, I would have missed out on the holy. Through my husband’s love for me I get a front row seat to understanding Christ’s love for me, for His bride. And there is so much grace, grace upon grace, in marriage. There has to be.

My husband is my champion. He is patient and kind. At my best and my worst, he loves me through it all. He helps me to confront the things in my life that hold me (and us) back, often spiritually. He inspires me to be the best version of myself. The real version. Not the one I think I have to be to please and impress the rest of the world.

And when we do brush up against one another, it is good. Being married is not about my way or his way or trade-offs, but doing what’s best for us, together, with forever in mind. This is not compromise. This is death to self. And it is not futile. It is noble. When we both die to self, there is a glorious new becoming, not of two better selves, but truly one.

And in twelve years of this becoming, I’ve realized that our love story, this gift of being myself with the one I love most, this is marriage.

Happy anniversary to the enduring love of my life.

Abide In Me

Devotionals, Faith & Spirituality, Writing

We entered into a season of waiting this summer. Resting and preparing our hearts, waiting on what God has next. As a generally impatient person who likes to be in control of her own destiny, novelty turned into agony.

I tried to question His timing. Was there a lesson I was supposed to learn? A sinful behavior I was burying? Something I was supposed to do or say?

But through it all, Jesus was whispering in my ear, “Abide in ME.” And I tried to abide, but some days anxiety got the best of me, and doubt, and even fear. Maybe I was wrong about this whole moving thing? Maybe, like Abraham, my time of waiting would stretch from seasons into years.

I had this dear sweet picture in my head of abiding, where I thought abiding meant resting. Sitting on my laurels and catching my breath. But it doesn’t. Abiding is a deliberate act of acceptance. When I abide in Christ, I accept His will. His timing.

The Greek word for “abide” in John 14:5 is ménō, a primary verb also used to mean dwell, sojourn, remain, continue, endure, stand, be present, and thine own. Abiding in Christ, then, is four-fold.

First, it implies place. When I dwell in Christ, it is as a shelter. I flee there and seek to remain. There, in the safety of His embrace, I am held and kept continuously. “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’” (Psalm 91:1-2).

Second, abiding in Christ involves time. When I abide in Christ, He enables me to continue. I last in Christ. I endure in Christ. I survive in Christ. I LIVE in Christ. Without this abiding, my life line is cut. I can make it only so far for so long on my own. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).

Next, abiding in Christ refers to a state of being. Together, we remain as one. Remaining in Christ is not easy, though. The world would love to be the object of my attentions and my affections. It’s easy enough. I give in to a little anxiety here, spend all my time pursuing my hobbies, and voila! Pretty soon, I am trying to be the master of my destiny all over again. Abiding in Christ and allowing the Lord direct my steps is key. “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Lastly, abiding in Christ references an awaiting. When I abide in Christ, I am waiting. Not only waiting to ride out the storms of this life, waiting for what comes next, but looking patiently forward to Jesus’ return. “It is good. The Eternal One is good to those who expect Him, to those who seek Him wholeheartedly” (Lamentations 3:25).

Abiding in Christ requires accepting Christ as my own. Through my faith in Him, I am a child of God, “putting on Christ, like putting on new clothes” (Galatians 3:26-27).

And so as I abide, I dwell in Christ. As I endure, I stand firm in Christ. And even as I remain in this present moment, I am fully waiting in Christ, whispering into those stars of promises fulfilled, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

The Ending

Faith & Spirituality, Writing

Endings have always, always been hard for me. I struggle with letting go, with saying no. I hate when good books end (especially when a series draws to a close) and time and distance and life endlessly battle my status quo. Yet, in this long goodbye, this season of leaving, I want to be one who embraces the ending. Because without endings there are no new beginnings.

Sometimes, though, the endings are so sad. And my own life feels so small. But even in those moments of sadness and smallness when we can’t see past our own circumstances, God is still very much good. And very much love. And very much for us. The poet Kahlil Gibran penned, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”

And so in this last night in our home, I am pondering all of the memories made and love and friendship shared. Sorrow embraced, not ruefully, but in gratitude for all the life that has been lived here as I look forward to the joy which lies ahead. It’s happening now, and I am oh-so excited to see it.

Eternal One: “Don’t revel only in the past,
or spend all your time recounting the victories of days gone by.
Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now, even as I speak,
and you’re about to see it. I am preparing a way through the desert;
Waters will flow where there had been none” (Isaiah 43:18-19, VOICE).

Our First Apartment

Faith & Spirituality, Random Musings

So we signed a lease for our very first apartment this week. What is generally a monumental step of independence for young adults and met with much rejoicing, well, sucked. Not going to lie, there were tears. It was just so beige. So impersonal. So not how it was supposed to be. There’s carpet.

But when you sell your house (in FIVE DAYS!), because you feel God is leading you on an adventure of His making, sometimes there is a middle. A layover of sorts. And in every middle, you can be assured there is a reason. Coincidentally, before the ink on the lease (or my tears) even dried, I read THIS. And oh, did I just get it. I didn’t necessarily like it, but I got it.

The writer shares Isaiah 45:2: “I myself will go before you, and I will level the mountains. I will shatter bronze doors; I will cut through iron bars,” before going on to say, “When I am not patient I do not trust God, and I end up running into mountains that God has not prepared me for yet.

Just because there is waiting doesn’t mean it’s not part of God’s plan. We’re not waiting on a job or a house or anything other than God. We are waiting on God Himself to make clear our path. Kind of a game changer, right?

Romans 8:26-28 {MSG} states: Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

Even when I feel tired of waiting, and ready to give up, God’s faithfulness endures. Thus my response must be:

  1. Pride I’m not above living anywhere God calls me. “So let’s go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is—not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus. This “insider world” is not our home. We have our eyes peeled for the City about to come.” {Hebrews 13:13-14, MSG} Where I live this side of heaven matters not.
  2. Praise – For God is good, no matter my earthly circumstances, and deserving of my worship. The quick sale of our home, the way He goes before us, leveling mountains. All things will be worked out for our good and His glory.
  3. Practice – It’s all good and well to say I have faith until I actually have to step out. Selling our home without seeing what’s next was *ahem* scary, but faith requires action and trust requires continuing to move forward. My faith is lived out when I’m open to what He’s called me to. As a Christ-follower, all of our life is to be lived out according to His leading. There is Kingdom work to be done no matter where we are, both situationally and physically.
  4. Presence & Preparation – In this season of waiting it would be so easy to give in to fear and anxiety, but God has given me such a gift in the layover. The work of preparing the house to sell is over, apartment living has its conveniences. I need to take advantage of this resting place and abide in God’s holy presence so I am ready for what comes next.

So, in this waiting, in this in-between:

“Let us hold strong to the confession of our hope, never wavering, since the One who promised it to us is faithful.” {Hebrews 10:23, VOICE}

And I will not doubt that God will deliver on all He promised, in His perfect timing, for our good and His glory.

Taste & See

Faith & Spirituality, Poetry, Writing

PicLab

Setting forth in the direction He’s called,

Ready to dance among the stars.

The weight of the world lifts at last

As I follow with my whole heart.

Feel the sunshine on your hair, girl?

Those raindrops on your tongue?

Smell the sweet, cool air of mountains?

Sand tickling toes as you run?

Traveling this road of promise,

Paved with only the greatest of loves,

I feel and taste and smell and see

The goodness of my Father above.

The Morning After

Faith & Spirituality, Girl Power

Last night, the unspeakable happened…I had to go buy bigger pants. Instead of attempting to starve or over-work myself out of the sweats, I actually just went and bought pants that fit. Any guys reading this will think, “Well, duh.”

But the woman’s psyche is far more interesting.

Fitting room conversations play out like this, “My gosh, what’s happened to you?! Maybe if I didn’t eat those cupcakes (noodles, wine, doughnuts, insert your preferred poison here)… I didn’t realize it was THIS bad.” There is often a degree of sweating involved as well, each little bead a tiny bubble of distress as panic sets in.

But truth be told, I kind of like the me that wears bigger pants. She’s a nicer person, a healthier person. She doesn’t judge her friends by what they do or don’t eat. She doesn’t reassure them that they are not defined by a number all the while smugly keeping her own running tally of calories, next workout, and meals skipped in her head. She doesn’t spend every waking hour worshipping at the alter of appearance, control.

Now that I’m in my 30’s, I’ve noticed this lovely softening, not just of my body, but of my heart. When I am less hard on myself, I am less apt to judge others harshly. When I spend less time obsessing about food and exercise, I spend more time just living and enjoying my one wild and precious life.  When I am able to view myself as my Creator sees me, I realize that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And I want to take care of His creation.

Not by starving myself, but by fueling myself to live up to my fullest potential. If I am to do the work I’m called to and run my race well, I need to take care of myself. Which comes so much easier when you love yourself.

Sisters, let’s link arms on this: You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are beautiful. You are loved. Those soft spots on your bodies and your hearts are marks of a life well-lived. Spots your hubby loves to grab and your babies caressed as they nursed to sleep. Spots where you were hurt or faced impossible odds, but yet here you stand. This body has carried and sustained you from the moment you were born. And it will be with you until you take your final breath on this earth.

Let us be women who shamelessly love ourselves, not out of vanity, but because our love of selves shows appreciation to our Creator God and spurs on our love for others, showing our daughters, our friends, that pant-size IS a number, but heart-size is immeasurable.