Fear

August has been a whirlwind of a month. It started lakeside with some of my most favorite friends. We spent Saturday night catching each other up on our lives. The real stuff, the nitty gritty, not the Facebook/Instagram versions of who we are. We got real. We shared some dreams and some frustrations. I told my best friend that I wanted it to be Lake Weekend every weekend; she kindly reminded me that it wouldn’t be real life, and that we all have a threshold for vulnerability. That weekend really set the tone for the past couple weeks. I felt like I left the weekend with more questions than I arrived with, even though my heart was incredibly full.

No one told me how difficult grown up life was going to be. It’s hard, gut wrenching work to wrestle with your life’s calling, to discern the difference between good and right and to live in the present, taking into account when bills are due. Add in actually living life and it’s enough to make me want to throw in the towel on adulthood. Note: I’ve tried throwing in the towel, but everyone keeps telling me that it’s impossible. I’m learning about some of my big-time insecurities that I’ve spent the last 7 years trying to ignore. Scary fears that have been causing me to walk with a limp and not even realize it.

Last week, while reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly (shameless plug), I asked myself the questions: What are you afraid of? What are those fears preventing you from doing? I think the first question is fairly easy to answer, but it’s that second one that pierced my already fragile, tender heart. It’s a good thing to put a face on our fears. Our teachers and parents have been telling us to do that since we were in elementary school. But, putting a face on a fear doesn’t mean it is not still crippling. It was asking that question when I realized just how much I’ve let fear rule my life. I’ve let fear dictate the path and set the pace. Have you ever tried to run at someone else’s pace? It’s hard, even if it’s slower than you normally run; it’s uncomfortable and sometimes more tiring. Fear’s been doing that to me for as long as I can remember.

I keep asking myself where do I go from here? This weird, uncertain, really raw place where I sometimes cry in my car. Who do I become once I’ve stripped away fears that I’ve let define me for the majority of adult life? Who am I, really? And, can I sort all this stuff out by Monday morning since it’s the start of a 60-hour work week?

I wish there was a ten-step plan to work through on my own timeline, which would obviously be the next week, not the next few years. I also wish it were easier, or just less painful. But there’s not ten-step plan and there’s no quick fix, although I try to prove that shopping solves some of the problems.

I think the first step choose to be brave. Brave has to mean different things in different contexts. Brave for the Apostle Paul was returning to Jerusalem knowing that persecution awaited him, but that he could not be disobedient. He was brave because he obeyed and he showed up in an uncomfortable situation.

I’m not marching into persecution and three years in prison, at least that I know of, but I still think brave right now for me means to keep showing up. Showing up for my friends. Showing up for my jobs. Showing up for myself. Being present in this moment knowing that this moment is enough. Knowing that I’m enough. Learning to run at my own pace. Just let me figure out what my pace is first.

 

A Month

I’ve had A MONTH. A month with no breathing room. A month where I feel like I gave way more than I got. A month full of uncertainty, no rights and no wrongs. A month of a lot of moving, but not much progress. A month that has thrown me back on my butt.

The scary thing is how well I can do these months. Months without time to process, without time to cook a real meal and months without time to even watch Netflix. I can power through just about anything. Eventually I go numb. A couple of weeks ago, I canceled my evening plans to give myself a night to breathe. I spent good time processing on the treadmill and realized just how much bondage I am in… to being busy. Seriously, it’s like a new addiction. Thus the numbness.

When I choose busyness over a slower pace and space, I miss out on so much. I am so preoccupied with what comes next that I forget to stop and say a prayer of thanks for what is. I miss out on the opportunity to see the people around me for who they are, and not just how they fit into my schedule. The most dangerous thing that happens is that I start to define myself based on what I’m doing and not who I am. Why is this one the most dangerous? Because if I’m measured based on what I do, I fail every time. Defining myself based on doing and not being puts me on the throne. It forces me in performance mode. It changes how I view God.

I want to be concerned about being so that the doing flows naturally. In a society obsessed with what you do for a living and what you’ve achieved, I want to be defined solely by who I am and what I stand for. I want my 5 year goals to be about characteristics I want God to develop in me, not things to check off the list. I want to get lost in the truth that God says I’m enough, and not exhaust myself trying to prove to the world that I am.

It’s time to slow down. To exhale. To rest. To remember that I have enough and that I am enough.

One Year Post-College

Exactly a year ago today, I graduated from college. Cue the tears because college was an amazing four years, and I still can’t believe it’s over. In the year since I graduated, my view on how special my college experience was has not changed. I hold the four years I spent in Bloomington, spending way more time with friends than at the library, hanging out every Thursday night in Woodburn 100, and the sweet friendships I developed on IU’s beautiful campus so close to my heart. But, that season ended a year ago. My life has gone on.

In the Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens says, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Maybe he was prophesying the last year of my life. Since May 2013, I’ve lived in three different cities, worked three different jobs, spent more money than I care to admit on clothes, moved into my first apartment where I was responsible for paying rent, paid off an eighth of my student loan, bought a car (ask me how I feel about car payments), ran a half marathon, hosted some sweet parties, experienced the most difficult transition of my life to date, applied for 50+ jobs, attended four weddings, threw some fun parties, had only a handful of weekends with no work, and joined a church. This year has brought some of my highest highs, but also some of my lowest lows. When you’re eating ice cream out of the tub on a Wednesday morning at 10:30AM while watching your second episode of West Wing for the day, you know you’ve hit a new low.

But the things I did pale in comparison to the most significant lesson I’ve learned.

Over and over again, I cried out to the Lord, “It wasn’t supposed to be this way.” Depending on the day, I sometimes continued, “But I’m happy at the way it’s turning out.” Some days I could do anything but cry into my pillow. It was a year of life not meeting my expectations. I had a pretty little picture in my head of what this year was supposed to look like. Needless to say, it has not looked like that pretty little picture. It hasn’t been neat, orderly, or pretty. It’s been messy, hard and beautiful. I jokingly refer to the person I was last spring as “young and dumb.” I just didn’t know any better. I saw what other people’s lives looked like, combined that with my own desires and then just expected.

But I take beautiful over pretty any day. This is not the first or the last time that life will not meet my expectations. Marriage is not a walk in the park. Parenting is not endless dandelion bouquets and Mother’s Day cards. The question is, what will I do when life fails to meet my expectations? Will I sulk and allow it to make me bitter? Or will I run hard in the arms of a God who continually exceeds my expectations?

The wisdom and intimacy I’ve gained with God by walking through the peaks and the valleys with Him this last year is far more special than any picture I had in my head of how my life was supposed to look.

Timing

I’ve been thinking a lot about timing recently. About how God’s timing is perfect, and yet I still don’t seem to trust it.

Story time: King David and King Solomon, both huge players in the Bible. During David’s reign, he fought a war, making protecting the kingdom his number one priority. Despite David’s mishaps, including committing adultery, fathering a child out of wedlock and then sending the woman’s husband to the front lines of the war to die, David finds favor from God. When the time arrives for David to die, the Lord calls Solomon, David’s son who was fathered out of wedlock, to take over the throne. Let me take a moment to point out, Solomon is the result of David’s sin. David’s selfishness and entitlement led to Solomon being born, and yet, the Lord used Solomon for His glory. If that doesn’t inspire hope, I don’t know what does.

Anyways, David dies and Solomon begins to rule. Almost immediately, Solomon receives instruction from the Lord to build a temple. Solomon writes to Hiram, a king of a neighboring kingdom,

“You know that because of the wars waged against my father David from all sides, he could not build a temple for the name of the lord his God until the Lord put his enemies under his feet. But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster. I intended, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God, as the Lord told my father David, when he said, “Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name.”  (1Kings 5:3-5)

Despite David’s indiscretions, he loved God. Open up the book of Psalms, and you need not look any further. David wanted to build a temple for the Lord, but instead was stuck fighting a war. By the time Solomon comes into power, he can and does build a glorious temple that reflects the greatness of God. Building this temple took Solomon 7 years.

This story hit home for me when I studied it. David would have looked like a fool if he quit fighting the war to build a temple. Solomon would have looked like a fool if he went looking to fight instead of building a temple. They were uniquely qualified for what God gave them at the time.

I recently accepted a job in Indianapolis. I actually interviewed for the job the end of May and was not the first choice candidate and did not originally receive it. In the meantime, I’ve stayed at home, applied for countless other jobs, worked at J.Crew and rested, learned and healed. If I had gotten this job back in May, I finding somewhere to live would have been difficult, and I would have had no money, and still been so fragile. Instead, 6 weeks later, I can be confident that moving to Indianapolis and accepting this job has been all God and all God’s timing. The roommate situation fell into place, as did my chance to fulfill my management commitment to J.Crew. I keep resting, learning, healing and growing.

God’s timing was perfect in the biblical times, and it continues to be perfect today. I can choose to rest in His plan, purposes and His timing.

Here

I like to plan. I like to know what comes next. I like to be able to prepare myself for what comes next. I like these things so much that I can cling to the plan, and lose sight of everything else. In this season of my life, I don’t have a plan. I know I’ll be in Cincinnati through August, and then I don’t know, heck, I don’t even know what I want. That’s a lie. I know I want to walk closely with Jesus, I know I want to bring the Lord glory, I know I want to get involved in good church, and build community, and I want to serve. None of these things involve a career, or getting any closer to a long-term plan.

The funny thing is, I have no doubt in my mind that I’m right where God wants me.

I wake up each morning and I ask Jesus what He has in store for the day, and I get to let Him lead because I have nothing left to lose. The Lord is reminding me each day, multiple times, that His way is better than mine. If I can learn how to let the Lord lead me daily, perhaps I can start to understand what it looks like to let the Lord lead me in the big stuff. If I can be faithful here, in the small things, I can hope and pray that I can be faithful with the big stuff someday. And maybe, just maybe, a lack of knowledge of what I want is exactly what God wants. In super fruitful times, I can forget how sovereign God is, but in seasons where I’m unsure which way is up, His involvement in my life is impossible to ignore. Moments of encouragement and moments of confusion are undeniably of Him. I’m starting to see that His plans for my days are better for me than how I would have planned it myself. Are there some days when I’m angry and disappointed? Yes. I’d be lying if I said no. But, it’s also on those days that the Lord convicts me and refocuses my perspective.

It is here, in this weird transition season of uncertainty that the Lord has challenged me to surrender even the beautiful dreams I had of doing vocation ministry to Him. It’s here that God is rooting through unresolved insecurities and unrepentant sin patterns in order to lead me into further relationship with Him. It is here that I’m learning that no matter what I achieve in this lifetime, even the good stuff, compared to Christ, is a loss. Because Jesus is the ultimate reward; a relationship with Him is the most valuable thing I could even want. Living in God’s plan, fully alive to His leading, is the ultimate goal of my life. Being obedient to Jesus should be the only thing on my bucket list, and the only thing that motivates my decisions should be – is it what God wants for me?

Would it be nice to have a plan at least for the next year? Yes. But compared to the fellowship I’m experiencing with the Lord now, there’s simply no comparison. I am right where God wants me because He is good, and He knows what’s best, and He, not me, has a plan.

Skinned Knees

I bit it big time walking into my house on Friday night. I skinned my knees, my foot, my palms and even chipped my nail polish somehow. I was embarrassed and in pain. Thankfully my roommates rushed to my side and did all that they could, but they couldn’t take the pain away. At first I couldn’t wait for the wounds to stop bleeding, then I realized a lack of blood didn’t mean a lack of pain. My roommate came into my room to tell me a story and I was so focused on not crying and I was in so much discomfort that I had trouble listening to what she was saying.

Even as I laid down on top of my bed with Neosporin on each of skinned knees, my wounds were still tingling with pain, and I couldn’t bring myself to focus on anything else. I was felt paralyzed and shaky; every movement I made hurt because I hurt. Thankfully, I’m recovering, my wounds have scabbed over and I’m not shaky anymore. I can move without thinking about being in pain. However, every once in a while, something hits my palm or I bang my knee, and as a result, I wince. Because it’s not fully healed, and it reminds me of the hurt.

Earlier in the week, I met with a counselor through my church. He talked about emotional wounds. Unlike my beat up body, emotional wounds cannot be seen. There are events in our lives that leave wounds, each person has different ones, but we all have them. Unfortunately we aren’t always aware of these wounds until they get skinned open again or if it gets hit. For me, a lack of stability in my life is like banging my already skinned knee. Right now, I seem to bang that knee a lot, and then I remember just how much it still hurts. It’s not always paralyzing, I can function normally most of the time, but not always. I’m still healing. Unlike physical wounds, emotional wounds take lots of time to heal. If only emotional healing was as easy as putting Neosporin on my knees.

I’ve found a lot of comfort in David’s words in the Psalms lately. He’s a messed up and faithful man with honest words; words that meet me in a season full of uncertainty and instability. David talks about waiting for God, and being confident that God will show up. Not because his life doesn’t suck at times, but because his life’s circumstances did not determine God’s goodness. There’s healing to be done in this season. God has me here to teach me something crucial about His character. So here’s to emotional wounds healing like skinned knees. Lord, I want to have the same faith as David, that despite uncertain situations, You are so very faithful all the time.

The Land In Between

When the God led Moses and the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, they were in the Sinai Desert for forty years. This was the land between slavery and promise – the land between. As the pastor at church yesterday preached, I felt both called out and given hope about this land between. I am in a season of questioning, sadness and sometimes frustration. I see where I want to get, its just taking patience to get there. As the pastor preached, I felt like my mind continued to be blown. He said the land between is fertile ground for 1) emotional meltdowns and complaining 2) God’s provision, mercy and generosity 3) discipline 4) transformational growth.

This past week, and a couple other times this summer, I’ve gotten so bogged down in my emotions and my current reality that I forgot some important truths and turned to complaining and being a complete brat. I’m just like Moses in the book of Numbers when he says that He’d rather die than face more of what he was dealing with. I’m not that big of drama queen, but I’ve felt like telling God, “okay, enough already, I’m done with this.” If I get caught on the deserty part of the land between, I leave no opportunities for God to show up, provide for me, grow me and transform me. The transition from slave to heir is not an easy one. For the Israelites, it took at least forty years. God must refine us so that we can be taken into the land of promise without it destroying us.

As I reflect on my last year, there’s been quite a few months spent in the land between, and lots of valuable lessons learned there. Last July I wasn’t aware of most of the bondage I was in. I was a slave to friends, to money, to ideas of a relationship, to academics and to expectations. Because God loves me and wants me to experience the fullness of what it means to be a daughter of His, He has brought me to the land between a number of times in the last 12 months. It is in this place that once I get past the desire to complain and give into my fleshly desires for comfort that I receive the opportunity to see God show up and provide for my every need. It is in this place that I become more disciplined and more trusting of His goodness. It is in this place where I can be transformed. Just as Romans 12:2 says, transformation is necessary for discernment of God’s will. The more I am transformed, the better I will be able to walk in God’s ways. The more I am transformed, the more I am able to obey God and love Him, and that is worth the patience, discipline and trust it takes to stay in the land between.

A Daughter, Not a Slave

I am a sinner in desperate need of a Savior. Such a sinner that sometimes I can be so lost in my sinfulness that I forget that God desires other things for me. Tonight, as I read through Galatians’ 5, where Paul describes the desires of the sinful nature, I underlined all the desires I have acted on or fell victim to in the past week. The following were underlined – impurity, idolatry, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, and envy. Wow. Talk about being convicted of sin. I so largely fall short of perfection. It would be so easy to let my thoughts stop here, feel guilty, hopeless and wonder how God is ever going to use me. Yes, I am a sinner, and I frequently chose my fleshly desires over the life Jesus died for me to have. I am not proud to admit this, but it is the reality of this world and a reality of my imperfection. Thankfully, the message of Galatians 5 is not our utter sinfulness; it’s the freedom we have from sin in Christ.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. (Galatians 5:24 NLT)

The beautiful thing about having a Savior is that He died for my sin. With my sin, He took the passions and desires of my sinful nature with Him. The passions and desires were not just put to a graceful death, they, like Jesus, were brutally killed. I so often forget that my ties to my sin have been crucified. I no longer have to live in slavery to my sinful desires. I no longer have to live in slave to impurity, idolatry, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissention, division or envy. Instead, I get to live in the freedom of the Spirit, bearing fruit as a result. The fruit of the Spirit is not of me, it’s not something I can manufacture by obeying the law or striving to be a good person – it comes from submitting to the Lord and walking in the Spirit. For me, it’s a constant decision. Some moments my flesh feels so strong that I cannot possibly overcome the sinful desire to be jealous or fight with someone else, but in these moments, I’m forgetting the power I have because I belong to Jesus. Because I am a daughter of God, I have the power of the Holy Spirit, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and the same power that performed miracles; it lives in me! It is what fights my sinful desires. The question for me becomes, do I acknowledge this, or do I live believing the lies that I’m still a slave and not a beloved daughter with an inheritance that “can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:4)? In this power and in this inheritance is freedom. Freedom in my brokenness.

Freedom

I’m passionate about freedom, largely because I’ve really started to walk in freedom this year. I became a Christian a year and a half ago, but it took a whole year to realize that because I am in Christ, I am free. It was a painful process. As is any liberation. I first had to realize that I was not free and deal with some major sin that had me in bondage. This is a continual process, one that is in no way, shape or form complete in my life, but this year has been one of significant bondage breaking and some freedom walking.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

Christ has set me free so that I can walk with Him, focus my eyes on Him and find my hope in Him. He has not set me free so that I can continue sinning, although my flesh will sin. When I allow other people’s negative comments to affect me, I begin to walk my way back into slavery – slavery to negativity. When I allow my schoolwork and grades to stress me out, I begin to walk my way back into slavery – slavery to accomplishments. When I begin to worry about my summer job and how much money I can make, I begin to walk my way back into slavery – slavery to money. All of these actions, while done on a daily basis in my life, break God’s heart. He wants me to experience the fullness of His love and through that love walk in freedom to love and forgive unconditionally. When I am bogged down about people’s expectations, my accomplishments or money, I’m failing to live acknowledging God’s provision and unconditional love.

Freedom means that I am not a slave to this world; I can lift my eyes to Jesus and remember that my current circumstances are not eternity. Pain and hurt will not exist in heaven. I can hold my chin up high and walk confidently because nothing on earth is big enough to shake my God. God can handle it all, I need not worry, I can walk towards Jesus and not worry about anything by serving Him with my whole heart. Freedom means that I get to place my identity in Christ. As long as I’m fully surrendered to Him, I am free from other’s expectations (don’t confuse this with healthy Christ-centered community that has accountability). Freedom means that I can mess up, that I’m not tied to legalism, that I can throw off anything that prevents me from fully serving Jesus. I cannot experience 100% freedom on this side of heaven, but until then, I will stand firm in Jesus Christ and the freedom He died for me to have. I will rely on God to give the strength to walk alongside Him, even when it’s hard. I’m free to mess up and to listen to Jesus’ voice when everyone else is saying something different louder. Christ set me free so I can experience Him and that’s exactly what I intend to do.

Scars

Scars are scary. A wound heals, but leaves behind a little reminder of the pain. When a wound is fresh, it hurt, it bleeds, and there are visible signs of suffering. It is usually the direct result of a mistake, a sin, or someone’s poor decision. When a wound is healing, there is still pain and discomfort. By the time a scar arrives, the bleeding is done and we think the healing is complete, however, as I’ve learned, there’s usually much more healing to be done. Wounds are easy, the pain can be explained, but with scars, the pain is internal and often not visible to anyone else.

Several events in my life have left me with scars. They were dramatic when they occurred – they bled and physically healed. The physical healing process was painful. At times it required humbling myself, confrontation, fasting or intense prayer. In the past, I have tricked myself into thinking that because the wound could not bleed again the pain was gone. Lie. Scars remind us of the pain. Scars can also serve as a protection from God. In my life they have said, “this level is healing is done, but the process is not over; there is still more to be done, but in due time, when you can handle it.” The scars can still cause pain. Some hurt is never completely resolved until heaven. Yes, we are constantly being made new by the power of Christ. Yes, God does not want us to carry around burdens. Yes, Jesus has freed us from sin by the power of His death. But, some of the pain remains. It hides. It may not, and probably does not, affect us on an everyday basis, but in due time, God reminds us of the scars. He reminds us of our sin, our mistakes, or other people’s decisions. He does not do this out of desiring us to hurt, but instead to lead to the next level of healing.

Scars are scary, but they are nothing to be afraid of. God can easily contend with our sin, mistakes, or other people’s decisions. He desires to heal us completely, and to lead us to Him and His never-ending love. He will redeems our scars and we will be remade, but part of that requires a process and much patience. Some pain is so deeply rooted in our identity that as we lose ourselves more in Christ, the scars and pain become more apparent. Scars are reminders of where we have come from and also where we are going. We are coming from a world where we must carry our own sin, mistakes and often the sin of others, into a place where the God of the universe frees us from these things. He desires for us to live in freedom – freedom to experience the fullness of life. Often times the scars are just to show us all the healing the Lord has done in our lives. He is the ultimate redeemer and healer. He makes all things new.