Faith

Fear and Truth

As I look back and reflect on the path that this blog has taken, I can’t help but smile at little at the randomness of it all.

Admittedly, I’m probably not the best blogger because of that. I guess you could consider this a “lifestyle blog” but most days it just seems like a peek at the inside of my brain – random, discombobulated thoughts floating around with no true sense of focus or direction. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but still.

Community, Rhythms, and Other Thoughts on Moving

I’m not entirely sure when the shift happened, but there was one. In 2015/2016 as my faith and my relationship with the Lord planted roots and grew deeper, a lot of my posts reflected that. When I go back and re-read them, I remember how I felt the Holy Spirit giving me all of those words and just feeling like I needed to share them. I remember being in the days and weeks after my grandmother and aunt were called home to Heaven less than 48 hours apart from each other and just feeling like I needed to write down the things that were being revealed to me in the wake of all of that. The words that the Holy Spirit gave to me would serve as a beautiful piece of my story – a story marked, yes, by grief and loss but also of tremendous hope and healing.

But at some point, the journey shifts from grieving and into healing. And in my case, when I began to enter that phase, I realized that I didn’t feel led to write near as often. It’s been an adjustment and honestly a bit of an “identity crisis” of sorts.

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Hopeful Expectation

“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” Hebrews 12:1-3, MSG

It’s been seven months now since I moved away from home. Not that Earth-shattering in the grand scheme of things considering that I just moved 2.5 hours away and I’m at least in the same state but hey, for me, these seven months have been jam-packed.

This move has been easy. It’s been smooth and natural and in many ways, it was a long time coming. But it’s also been hard. Difficult in ways that I don’t even fully know how to articulate to another person. This journey has been rocky and revealing and messy but I’ve been stretched in some ways and strengthened in others and so this journey also feels holy to me.

Hard and holy.

Two words that have been a recurring theme in my mind lately when I think of my life and the soul work that God has been doing in this season.

This time last year, I was going through Blue Letter Bible’s Chronological Bible plan and was reading of the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness towards the promised land. I resonated with the story, I thought. I had been journeying through a season of preparation for 2.5 years and felt like I was like the Israelites in a way and moving closer and closer to the “promised land” that I had been envisioning.

Admittedly, there is a slight sense of grieving over the story that didn’t come to fruition. But what I know of God and this life that we are doing together is that my grief for what could have been doesn’t negate the feelings of hopeful expectation for what is to come in this new story. And on this Ash Wednesday, that is what I am clinging to.

Hopeful expectation.

Lent is a season that is becoming increasingly precious to me with every year that goes by. It’s more than just 40 days of giving up candy or soda – as it so often was when I was a child. It’s an opportunity for reflection, fasting, and prayer. A chance to draw near to Jesus in the days leading up to His ultimate sacrifice. The words in the verses above – “Because he never lost sight of where he was headed” – stick out to me, especially today on Ash Wednesday. How many times have we lost sight of where we were doing and what we are working towards?

It is my prayer that this Lenten season would be an opportunity to re-orient myself and lean further into Him. That it would be a sweet reminder to not lose sight of where I’m headed. For me, the Lord is leading me to fast from sleeping in so that I can reestablish margin and space for spending time with Him in the mornings. And although the decision of what I’m fasting from didn’t really come until yesterday, I think it’s been a long time coming and a beautiful continuation of what the Lord has already been doing in my heart this past month.

And so I am here at Ash Wednesday in hopeful expectation and eager longing for what is to come and what the Lord is going to do through this season.

Remember God

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.

 

Remember God

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….

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Clarity

Earlier this year, I shared a little about how I was reading through the Old Testament and how it really resonated with me and the journey I felt I was on as I began this year. Much like Moses’ journey with the Israelites into the wilderness, my walk at that time was very much in a transitional and “in-between” place. Not yet to point B but not all the way back at point A.

When I wrote of this back in March, I felt that I knew the general direction that God was taking me. I’d spent the past 2.5 years working towards a career as a child life specialist – preparing myself to move into either full-time grad school for two years or into a full-time child life internship for four months. But then, the plans changed. These two things that I’d a spent so much time praying over and preparing for were no longer in my immediate future. To be perfectly honest, as someone who plans for every possible outcome, I wasn’t completely prepared for this one. My answer to people who asked me what I planned to do if neither grad school or an internship panned out was “I’ll just stay here and keep teaching,” but there was a part of me that really didn’t think I’d need to consider option #3.

I think most of us have been in places like this. Surprised, anxious, and a little confused as to how we ended up here when we expected to be somewhere else entirely. It certainly isn’t a fun place to be in the moment, but when viewed in hindsight it is one of the most beautiful of spaces. Uncertainty forces us to face head-on this unpleasant reality that we are human and that we have a limited view of the world around us. It forces us to make a choice, even though I think we often fight against the obvious one. It’s the choice that we make to look to and rest in the One thing that is certain in this world. The One who created the world and everything in it and therefore knows exactly what we can’t see or decipher.

I don’t share my stories with you because I’ve figured out the secret to all of this and have navigated the uncertainty and fear that have been near-constants in my life perfectly. I truly have not. Many of my prayers in the wake of these changed plans looked and sounded a bit incredulous. I had to spend some time reconciling with God this new reality and why He didn’t give me some sort of heads up that He was switching things up on me. This was about two weeks of my life before He shared some powerful words with me.

Disappointment shouldn’t make me desperate and hard seasons shouldn’t put me in denial. Denying myself of hope, of joy, or of just simply the opportunity to trust my Creator fully and completely is exactly what the enemy wants. The enemy wants us weak and fearful and so easily crumbled when things don’t go our way and life gets tough.

Somewhere along the way within my story this truth become sort of the backbone of who God is shaping me to be, I think. He still has to stop and remind me of it along the way, as He did recently, but with every new page of this story it becomes easier to choose God over whining or desperation. Sometimes I think faith is like a muscle – we have to put it to use and actively work to strengthen it or it just becomes wasted. The person I was before God transformed my heart and my life through a season of loss and uncertainty was someone who saw disappoints and hardships as anything but the perfect opportunity to give it over to God.

There’s been several moments over the past few months when I felt like other people didn’t quite understand why I was doing what I was. Why I only applied to one grad school program and a small handful of hospitals for their internships programs. Why I was prepared to move to a small town in Illinois, where I knew absolutely no one, if I had gotten accepted to graduate school. Why I moved away from option #3 to pursue option #4 – realizing I needed a change of any kind and applying to several job openings in North and South Carolina. The simple answer is that I was just simply doing what God told me to do, even though it didn’t make complete sense to me either. A slightly longer answer is that I’ve learned that loving and following Jesus often means moving boldly forward, even (especially) when you don’t actually know what He’s moving you toward.

But just as God carried the Israelites through the wilderness and into the Promised Land, He has carried me to a place where I can finally say that I do know what the immediate future holds. And He so beautifully paved the way for this to come to fruition.

In early May, I accepted a teaching position at a new elementary school in Wake County, NC and I will be moving to Raleigh in July/August 2018. The area is a familiar one with many extended family members nearby, but also my older sister who has lived there since college and who will be my new roommate! These past few weeks have truly been humbling as I think about how God wove things together, answered prayers, and provided clarity that had been lacking for more than two years. Humbled and overflowing with gratitude as I pray and prepare for this new chapter!


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