Disclaimer: After reading this you might never want to come over. I hope that’s not the case, but guests, you have been warned.
As someone who has extremely sensitive skin and is randomly allergic to everything, it’s not rare for me to have hives or some other general malaise as a result of something I ate or a new beauty product I’ve tried. (By now, I should just know better.)
So, when I woke up with a few itchy bumps, I think, no big deal. A few more show up, and I’m wondering about that new body wash. (At this point, I should tell you that I am also a recovering hypochondriac (well, mostly recovered).) So, perfectly in-character, my next reaction is to jump to the worst possible conclusion. We MUST have either bed bugs (the horror) or fleas (egads, no)!
So, instead of waiting a few days, nixing the body wash, and continuing with my day like a normal human, what happens? Full scale eradication. Mind you, we have still not spotted a single bed bug or flea, (but methinks they are really, REALLY good at the whole undercover thing). Entire house on lockdown. Laundry hot washed and sealed. Every surface vacuumed. Dog medicated, bathed, and thoroughly combed. Google, my new best friend/worst enemy, assures me that the (still sight unseen) pestilence are busy working their way into the baseboards where they are multiplying at a rate that would make bunnies blush.
Y’all. The struggle is real.
And in the midst of comparing my little itchy bumps to the horrifically graphic images on the inter webs, I remember the story of Corrie Ten Boom, her sister Betsie, and the fleas. In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie recounts their family’s role in hiding Jews during WWII and their subsequent imprisonment in a Nazi Concentration Camp. Their barracks, overrun by fleas was a constant source of aggravation, but Betsie urges Corrie to remember the instructions in 1 Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus” (5:16-18).
Corrie, at first, refuses to be thankful for fleas. But later, it becomes apparent that the guards never enter their barracks because of the fleas. This allows the sisters unprecedented freedom in holding church services and sharing the gospel with over 400 other inmates.
So as we begin this month of thankfulness, the girls and I spent our morning meeting by reading the excerpt from The Hiding Place. I urged the girls to think of the fleas in their own lives: Where have you faced frustration or pain; where did you struggle? How did God use that in the end?
In my life, real or simply perceived, I must thank God for the fleas, for they draw me closer to Him. And as we created our Tree of Gratitude, the leaf containing one word, FLEAS, was placed at the top.
“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.
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.
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.”
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).
I guess that’s how I think of you, friends, not the impersonal signatures on the line, other party to a transaction that this process lends itself to. But I want you to know that I consider you friends, because I have been praying for you, for the family that will make what’s been our home, truly yours. And it’s so hard to not consider you friends when I picture all of the joy and heartache, struggles and triumphs that are to be shared among us, not in the same moment in time, but within the same walls and under the same roof.
As you know, it is an old house, and she comes with her own unique charms and challenges, but we just want you to know that overall this house has been such a good home to us, and we worked so hard to make sure that at hand off, it becomes a good home for you as well. And in the process we learned not just about houses, but so much more about ourselves, and about each other.
Love flourishes most when you are steadfast to one another, but open to growth and flexible yourself, and there is no greater test for these qualities than when you decide to fix up an old house! (You haven’t truly lived and loved until date night involves painting while listening to a mystery novel on tape. Trust us…)
But there came a point when we realized that we were being prepared for something new, called to something else. And when that call comes, we must all decide whether we’re going to cling to our current ideal of home, comfortable and warm and oh-so known, or trust and follow. Because I’m learning, and it’s such a painful lesson at times, when I cling tightly to the known and things of the past, my hands aren’t open for the blessing to come.
And though it’s bittersweet, we leave you with this house, this home, where babies and a marriage grew up. Where life happened, and nearly ten years worth of laughter and love soaked into each and every room, turning this house into a home. Where we leaned into and held tightly to each other, because there is nothing else in this world worth holding on to.
We hope you enjoy bonfires in the backyard, coffee on the front porch, and delighting in the wildness of the world right out the windows. We hope the hummingbirds return to the rhododendron this year and the garden continues to produce a ridiculous amount of tomatoes. We hope you love walking into downtown for ice cream or dinner or to catch sunset at the beach.
May you find a welcoming space to continue this legacy of love and happiness, turning this house into a home for your family. Make it your own, for there is always room for change and growth. Memories and life await.
We wish you all the best!