We say it every year, but where has the time gone?? Here we are on the downward slope to 2019 and in a lot of ways it feels like 2018 only just got started.
2018 has been a big year for me I guess, which I did kind of expect going into it. I’m in a much different place, literally and figuratively, today than I was a year ago. The beginning of 2018 had me sending off applications to grad school in central Illinois and to child life internships across the Southeast. I prayerfully sent them off, assuming that God would send me off to one of those destinations in Fall 2018. But in the Spring, I realized that this path – even though I thought I had heard the directions from the Lord so clearly – was not going to be coming to fruition. I still felt a change stirring within me and I felt the pull to look for other jobs in other cities. So, in April/May the path aligned so smoothly for me to accept a new teaching position in Raleigh, NC. It all fell into place so well and I found myself spending the summer preparing for a move from Charlotte to Raleigh to live with my sister.
Summer 2018 held a lot of expectations, I admit. I created this vision of what my new life in Raleigh was going to be like as I basked in the sweetness of feeling like I was so in tune with God’s calling for my future. And I think I was in tune, even though now that I am looking at the end of 2018 and life doesn’t look anything like I thought it was going to back when it started. In hindsight, I don’t think that I necessarily heard Him wrong but I think God, in His infinite wisdom, definitely nudges towards other things that are going to serve us better. Rather than send me to Illinois for grad school – where I know absolutely no one – He sent me to Raleigh to live with my sister, where I already knew a fair amount of people, and to a job where I already knew one of my co-workers from college. I know God provides protection to all, but it feels particularly true about my walk with Him.
I’ve realized in recent weeks, as I’ve come to acknowledge this feeling of being slightly “off-kilter” and something just feeling off, I’ve realized that at some point I mixed up the feeling of being expectant and having expectations. Somewhere along the way, I shifted from being expectant and hopeful of what God was going to do through this change and transition to creating my own expectations of what He would do.
Two very different things.
To me, the state of being expectant is to release control, leave room for vulnerability, and approach life with open hands that are ready to accept whatever comes. In contrast, having expectations means that there is a set outcome that we are envisioning, rather than embracing the mystery that comes with new experiences.
This move to Raleigh – while smooth and generally pretty easy overall – has challenged me in more ways than I even imagined it would. From things like adjusting to small group with a new set of people right down to who I am as a person, this transition has stirred up all sorts of things in my heart. Typically, as a Type 9 on the Enneagram, when confronted with hard things I have the tendency to want to escape from the difficulties and sort of tune it out and ignore it. And I think I did that for a little bit in these first couple of months here. But when when there’s a sore spot in your life, particularly in your spiritual life, it gets hard to ignore real fast. It’s been this weird state of things where it’s not like things here are horrible by any means – I do enjoy being here and what I get to do. But I also am realizing that who I was before when living in the safety net of my hometown – the habits I had, and the rhythms I kept – aren’t necessarily all going to seamless transfer over to a new city. And that has been really jarring for me, to be honest. I didn’t necessarily expect that.
As someone who is generally pretty self-aware, particularly where my personality and tendencies are concerned, this is where this season has been so interesting to me. See, I know the areas where I struggle – I can sense it. I know my Type 9-ness well enough to know that I am going to struggle with things like choosing to be present and open, choosing to work through tension spots and choosing to feel things instead of manufacturing a false sense of peace just to avoid dealing with hard things in the moment. Never have I felt more like a textbook Type 9 (I just love the Enneagram) than I have in this current season. But sooner or later, just simply knowing your tendencies isn’t quite good enough. Awareness and action need to go hand-in-hand.
And this is where I’m at, I believe.
In this space going from knowing where the tension spots are to choosing to take slow and deliberate steps forward and doing the hard and oh so fruitful heart work that God needs me to do in this season.
I heard it said recently that “You can’t always choose what crosses your mind, but you can choose what stays there” and man, does that just get me right in the feels. We can choose who and what we focus on. We can choose to remember the Truth that has been told to us and said about us by the One who created us. We can choose to remember God.
If there is one thought or sentiment that has permeated this season for me it has been these two words.
How quickly do we forget Him amid the everyday struggles and the ordinary time?
In the liturgical calendar, between the Epiphany and Ash Wednesday (the start of the Lenten season) and then again from Lent to Advent, there are two chunks of time that are known as Ordinary Time. Growing up in a church that followed the liturgical calendar, I heard ordinary time referenced often. But now, as an adult, I’ve come to see how the liturgical year so beautifully reflects the ebb and flow of our lives.
There are seasons for celebrations, for big steps and for grand plans. There are seasons of hustle and bustle and maybe for some, these seasons don’t necessarily look like celebrations but more like pain and loss. But the big seasons always come to an end and life starts to feel, well, normal again. We enter into ordinary time. We sing songs about how God is the God of the hills and valleys and how He is greater than the highs and the lows but so often we just shove all that to the side when we no longer have to cling to that truth as tightly. Except, the enemy wants us to feel like we don’t need to cling to God. It’s exactly what he needs to start wiggling his way in.
Preaching this to myself too, full disclosure.
Ordinary time doesn’t mean complacency. It doesn’t mean absence of God or that we don’t need to draw near to Him when things are calm. Today, I choose to remember God as the one who has created this bit of white space for my soul to breathe. There is beauty in the ordinary and hope in this stillness. And this, friends, is good news as we near the second week of Advent – a time of expectant waiting and preparation for Jesus.