Faith

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!

The Big Plan

I struggle with what exactly to say here that isn’t super dramatic or super cliche. But lately that’s what the pendulum that’s been swinging in my mind.

On March 23, I learned that I did not get accepted to grad school in Illinois. And in the past two weeks, I have learned that I have not moved forward in the selection process at 4 of the 6 hospitals where I applied for an internship. Even typing that leaves a sort of sour taste in my mouth and I’m realizing that I haven’t really spoken the words aloud very much just yet. Maybe it’s a little bit of embarrassment or maybe just disappointment, but yeah. My thoughts have been swinging back and forth from the super cliche “God works all things together for good”-type of thoughts to the super dramatic variety that has me questioning everything from how could I have misunderstood God to do I even still want to pursue this career. (I hear myself being dramatic, don’t you worry. I’m working on it!) Now, that’s not to say that I don’t think that God actually works all things together – He totally does and I believe that He is doing that here too – it’s just a verse that is used so often in comforting others that it has started to become a little cliche at times.

I think there is a certain sense of mourning, a transitional period, when this vision that you held and felt so strongly turns out not to be the path forward at all. It’s a little jarring, to be honest. For months, I felt so called to Illinois for school. Even my family felt strongly that this was where my next steps would take me. I applied to six hospitals also, sure, but I felt so sure that grad school was in my immediate future. But I am reminded of the words found in Isaiah 55, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (v. 8-9, ESV).”

While it’s easy to think that we know something because we are humans and small-minded, we serve a God who is so much bigger than what we can imagine. A big God who dreams big dreams for us. I think we (meaning me) can get so caught up in knowing the next step and knowing exactly what is coming our way when that is just simply not how life works. Just recently, in a perfectly timed message I might add, Bob Goff shared on Twitter, “What if we found out that God’s big plan for our lives is that we wouldn’t spend so much of our time trying to figure out a big plan for our lives? Perhaps He just wants us to love Him and love each other.”

But truthfully, even as cliche as the typical,comforting verses can be, I still wholeheartedly believe them to be true. As disappointed as I feel and as foggy as the road ahead appears to be, I know in my heart and soul that God is not done. I know that He is good and loving and faithful and that the future is beautiful, even if I no longer have a vision of what or where it will be. A dear friend of mine says often that “if it’s not good, than it’s not done” and this isn’t done.

I still have a few more weeks to potentially hear back from the two remaining hospitals where I applied for their child life internships. These next few weeks will be full of prayer and active listening to God. Lately, it feels as if I’m being directed to make a change in my work environment so that is something I am praying through as well. As someone who plans and thinks (usually overthinking) every detail of something, I think this is why this season and this experience is so jarring. But I can’t plan everything, no matter how much I think I am capable of it.

The big plan for our lives can only be directed by the One who can see the big picture, and that places me (and all of us, really) in the most steady and capable hands.

Courage

In the past few weeks and months, I feel as though I am finally coming to a place where I feel like I can hold the things in my life – my career, my stability, my relationships – all with open hands. A place where surrender is the initial response, rather than this clamoring for control whenever a change occurs or something bad happens. But it’s not as though the journey to this place has been easy – or that I’m necessarily great at surrendering to God’s will all the time.

It’s been a hard fought road to get here. And I’m crazy grateful for the growth, the bumps and the bruises, and the faith that has led me to this place.

When my life was turned on it’s head by a two year season of sicknesses, losses, and significant anxiety – my surrender was only born out of necessity. When life began spiraling out of control, I hadn’t stepped into church in months and was honestly the furthest from God I think I’d been up until that point, but I was in desperate need of something to cling to. I couldn’t control the things that were happening around me and I couldn’t make these terrible things go away but through the nudging and whispers that only God could give, I gradually found my way home to Him.

I’m not the same person that I was back then, but still I fight every day to remember exactly how that season of my life felt. I fight for that, not so that I can wallow in sadness but so that I can be revived each day by the pure joy and peace that God granted me through all of it. Because if I don’t remember how I felt, if I don’t remember the promises that were whispered to me as I stood in the front yard of my grandmother’s home, just 48 hours after she went home to be with Jesus, as the paramedics attempted to resuscitate my Aunt Shelia – than I will forget them. And to forget them is to forget the absolute miraculous way that God moved in my life and in my heart that morning.

We have to remember the way it felt to be utterly and wholly broken before we ever knew what it felt to be healed, fully and completely.

Which brings me to today. The present. If there’s anything that God is using this current season of my life for, it’s to teach me and show me the redeeming qualities of both presence and stillness. The gift of stillness has come primarily through the practice of mindfulness and meditation in recent weeks and has been incredibly grounding. God has shown me the gift of presence that has come in the form of both my active presence in my daily life in this season as well as the presence of specific people that God has sent to me in recent weeks. My cup surely runneth over these days….

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