2011: Trial By Fire

“Amidst my list of blessings infinite, stands this foremost, that my heart has bled…” —Streams in the Desert, October 1

I turned twenty-one in 2011.

When I reflect on this year, I am humbled when I remember what our family went through. Like the above quote from Streams in the Desert, our hearts indeed bled profusely that year.

From April 2011 to October 2011, there were six life-changing events, of varying degrees.

In April, I broke up with my boyfriend, and while God supernaturally protected my heart, it was still emotional and upsetting at the time.

In June, my brother’s back injury reached a crisis moment that forged the faith of our family.

In July, my Grandpa committed suicide.

In August, my brother moved away to college, so for the first time in 18 years, we weren’t living under the same roof.

I also met my future husband (!!!)

And I began my senior year of college.

In October, one of my friends was killed in a car accident.

That is A LOT to process in a six-month time, and honestly, I’m still dealing with emotional wounds from that season eight years later.

But oh how did the Lord pour out his spirit on us during that time. All of those events, particularly my grandpa’s death, brought me to spiritual ground zero. Like plowing a field, this season tore through the soil of my heart, but the churning of soil was in preparation for a big harvest season just around the corner.

My only thing I could offer to the Lord was a sacrifice of pain.

Interestingly, I had written this a year prior:

Friday, September 3, 2010

“‘I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.'” 2 Samuel 24:24

What does this mean in my life? What, if anything, has really and truly cost me? What has God given me to sacrifice?”

Apparently, this subject of sacrifice stayed with me until the next day.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

“Truly, what does it mean to sacrifice something that costs me?”

This verse came alive that year as I learned to bring my pain, my memories, my ideas of normal, my illusion of control as a sacrifice to the one who is sovereign, the one who is Lord to hold it all together.

I mentioned earlier that it prepared me to meet my husband. Not that I had to endure trauma in order to earn a husband, but because of what I went through, I was humbled. And the circumstances of how my husband and I met, I needed to be in a humble place because it required a step of faith that I honestly don’t know if I would’ve been prepared for a year prior.

And it’s a lesson I’m still learning. To sacrifice pain, memories, control at his feet.

They are costly offerings indeed, and while the rest of the world may not know the personal cost, the Lord knows what each of our trials costs us individually. And they are precious sacrifices in his eyes.

2010: Entering My Twenties

As I celebrate turning 29 today (no for real, this is the year I really do get to say I’m 29!) I’m also publishing the first post of my twenties flashback series.

So let’s start at the very beginning (of the decade). I turned twenty in 2010.

If I could sum up that year in one word it would be transition.

Transition:
1a : passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another: CHANGE
b : a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another

Two of the biggest transitions were school and church changes. I transferred from Rose State to UCO to finish up my communications degree and our family put down roots at Cornerstone Church after a three-year period of church upheaval. Also after years of unknowns, my dad moved to his current job.

That year marked leaving my teens behind and entering adulthood…and all the little victories and growing pains that go along with such a change. Things that used to be fixtures in my life were in flux. For instance, it was the first year since 1997 that I wasn’t regularly involved at the dance studio that I had grown up at, as I wanted to take the year to attend as many of my brother’s senior year basketball games that I could. My friend group was shaken and stirred and I learned tough friendship lessons that year as God moved people out of, but also into my life.

As if to underscore this feeling of transition, that year’s entries spanned three journals instead of my customary one. Please take in stride the slight drama of my young adult journals (shoulder shrug emoji).

Thursday, April 8, 2010

“I feel your hand laid against me (in a good way) telling me to go slowly, ease up, tread water. I’m in limbo, I am detached and have no desire to be otherwise for a while. Let me coast —in You— for a few more weeks.”

As my stages, circumstances, and friends were changing constantly, God proved in a new way to be the Constant One. (Michelle Tumes, anyone?) Precious, precious hours were spent with him that year as we looked at my life together as teacher and student, father and child.

Yet when I look back through those entries where I felt searching, detached, in limbo, several cornerstone prayers and goals of my life were etched on paper, some for the very first time.

In May 2010, I wrote that I wanted to write a book of devotions for girls, a goal I did reach six years after that point with the first Bloom book.

I was single at the time and my prayers for my husband and desire to honor God with my life took on a deeper and more poignant tone. Little did I know that prayer was a little over a year away from being answered.

There were several entries that were later turned into blog posts and other material that I’ve used for freelance projects. Words that just needing a little aging in between the covers of my journal.

Through all of these transitions, my confidence and trust in the Lord were growing as I saw him meet bigger and bigger needs.

Monday, May 17, 2010

“Oh, what do these next days hold?
Chances to be still or chances to be bold?
Will it be a chance for something to end, or a chance to begin that appears in my next hand?
I wait, I wait to be bold in the stillness and to begin again.”

Those transitions at age 20 felt monumental (and in some respects they were) but really, I was just building muscles to face even bigger transitions in the years to come. While I laugh now about my entries on scholarship applications, talking to guys, and my school plans, they were stepping stones toward a deeper trust in God’s sovereignty.

For those who are entering your twenties, be prepared for those seasons of transition because if you aren’t already in such a season, you will be soon. Instead of focusing on dotting every “i” and crossing every “t,” look with fresh eyes on what God is revealing about himself to you through the ebbs and flows of friends, work, school, and family. Pay attention to themes that he is highlighting in the verses you read, sermons you hear, and the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit who speaks to you in the corners of your heart.

Through all the periods of transition, He is the constant one, worthy of our trust.

Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. (Psalm 54:4)

Lessons from Autumn

When I think of fall, I immediately think of cozy. Curling up on the couch watching a football game with a bowl of chili…settling into a good book with a cup of coffee or chai tea…yummy candles and warmers filling my house with sweet and spicy scents…going for a walk in the cool evening with my hand snugly fitting into my husband’s, all of these things spell F-A-L-L in my corner of the world.

Deep down, beyond the cups of chai and cozy blankets, our souls long to be comforted, don’t they? That may look different for different people, but we all crave it. We go through seasons of intense toil which grow us, shape us, and prepare us for other challenges on down the road. It’s good and right and what God intended for sure.

But thankfully, God also promises his children seasons of rest and comfort.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Psalm 107:28-30

As the sights and sounds of fall build and swirl around you like the rust-colored leaves across a sidewalk, take a moment and think about this: what are you seeking from the Lord? Are you in need of the comfort only he can provide, but you’re not even sure how to voice what you need? Trust me, you’re not hiding anything from him.

He knows what’s really going on the back hallways and basements of your heart. Pour your heart out to him. Open those doors to the musty rooms and dank passageways. You won’t be left empty, for he is faithful to fill and comfort you. Our emptiness isn’t a disqualifier, but a starting point that leads us to him.

On the flip side, could you be the extension of the Lord’s comfort to someone in your life right now? Sometimes a hug, an encouraging word, or watching someone’s kids are as soothing as lighting a pumpkin-scented candle. Listen to those around you and see who the Lord is leading you to comfort.

As you set out pumpkins and plant pansies, press into the Lord’s comfort in new, fresh ways. And never stop looking for ways to comfort others.

 

Check out my Fall Playlist on Spotify.

Wielding Waiting Wisely

I’m not the first person to notice our society is terrible at waiting.

Wielding Wating Wisely

Drive-thrus that take longer than Chick-Fil-A: horrible. Waiting four seconds for a YouTube video to load? What is this, the stone age? And now YOU’RE THROWING ADS IN THE MIDDLE OF MY VIDEO? Barbaric.

I’m 27, so that makes me old enough to remember what it was like to anxiously check the phone  (aka landline, aka this phone that didn’t leave the house) when we got back from running errands for messages. I remember being super lazy and not rewinding the VHS tapes because LAME. And I can tap into the annals of memory to hear the dial-up sound of logging onto the internet. I also remember that there were some days the internet just didn’t work. You read that right, kids. Some days, it just didn’t work.

However, I’m also young enough to realize there’s no going back. Even though there are days I long for a simple Samsung flip phone, I know that technology is only moving forward, not backward.

Waiting for Growth

Strange how the immediacy of knowledge, entertainment, and updates seeps into our walk with God. Refreshing Twitter takes .5 seconds, but gaining wisdom? A lifetime. Watching a YouTube video takes four minutes, but learning discretion does not. Try decades. Waiting for your snap to post is not really waiting. Persevering as God molds you into his image, that’s truly waiting. Becoming who he wants us to be is more like cooking a roast in the crockpot vs. microwaving leftovers: the slow, steady, simmer produces depth and richness a microwave simply can’t.

Stop a minute and ask yourself, “What am I waiting on?” More importantly, how are you waiting?

Waiting on God to answer prayers, that in limbo season between promised and fulfilled can be fruitful and special, but so often, we make waiting out to be static, to be nothing. We devalue delays.

The Value of Waiting

However, God places great value on delays. Moses wandered in the desert for 40 years with a bunch of complainers (aka PEOPLE LIKE US) and never even got to walk in the promised land. Abraham was an old man before he was a dad. Noah worked on the ark for at least 100 years before the flood came. The list could go on.

Waiting is not a malady that strikes God’s people, but a natural tool for growth, but we treat it like a disease.

Wielded in God’s hands, waiting holds great power for our growth. We are refined. Our trust muscles are strengthened. Dead parts are trimmed away. Painful, yes. But fruitful? You bet. In the midst of a such a season, we must continually ask for God’s wisdom to wield waiting wisely. What does that look like?

  • It means doing less, not more.
  • It means asking different questions of the Lord: not “Why am I going through this?” but “What is that you want me to learn?” or “How do I grow closer to you?”
  • It means feeding your soul on the word, sitting under wise counsel, and reflecting over past trials.
  • It means serving and encouraging others.

Wielding Waiting Wisely

I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Psalm 130:6

Whatever you are waiting for, there is an opportunity to wield your delays wisely. We need more examples of intentional waiting. We have enough examples of impatience and frustration to last a lifetime. So let’s make a different choice. I promise waiting hasn’t gone out of style.

I promise your wait won’t be wasted.

What are some of the ways that you wield waiting wisely?