Saturday, May 9, 2020

The Response

This has been stirring in me for weeks. It is written in response to the current state of our world. If you’re interested, keep reading.

Hear me out for a second.

I am about to make a few bold statements in love. 

{Disagreeing is to be expected. Engaging in kind, life-giving conversation is welcomed. However, attacking anyone else in the comments will not be tolerated.}

There are many bandwagons people are jumping on right now- politically, socially, and personally. There are lines being drawn in the sand, megaphones being shouted into, and information of all kinds being hurled around like a violent storm. People are scared. People are confused. And people are searching; searching daily for truth surrounding the current state of our world.

Should believers in Christ seek to uncover truth and dispose of twisted lies? Always.
Should believers in Christ engage in political and social discussion and use their platforms to share information? Absolutely.

But never at the expense of swallowing up the message of the gospel whole.

What is most important here? Uncovering a conspiracy? Eating inside your favorite restaurant and going the mall again? Yelling from the rooftops about how our “christian rights” are being taken away and how we deserve to gather in church buildings again? (which by the way, this is so far from the persecution some of our brothers and sisters are actually facing around the world.)

Forget the building. We are the church. Let’s actually be it.

We are all hurting in different ways. We all miss normality. Some of us are mourning the loss of loved ones, navigating sickness, or missing out on graduations, weddings, and planned events.

Listen for a second, though. A lot of us are stuck fighting a selfish fight that Christ would never fight.

Here is where all of this is becoming extremely convoluted and twisted. We are misunderstanding the goal. We are confusing our goal to participate in righteous, justice-fueled discourse with the actuality being selfish, prideful, argumentative quarreling.

Let’s talk about Jesus for a second. He certainly flipped society of his  day directly on it's head. He did the unexpected. He healed many, he loved many, he taught all sorts of new concepts, and do you know what else? He was right at the center of politics. He was the subject and the cure for constant differences of opinion. Politics surrounded the story of Jesus. His life ended with a political execution. Jesus submerged himself right in the midst of the hard conversations. He fought were was right and true. He was zealous and passionate in all of the right ways, fueling Him to share redemption with all He encountered.

Do you know what Jesus didn’t do, though? 
Fight for SELF.
He didn’t stand on a platform and rattle off a string of language about “His rights”.
Did he care about justice and the right treatment of others? Yes. This is all throughout the gospels.

I am not saying we shouldn’t be bold. I am not saying we should all have the same opinions about COVID-19 and what all of this means. I am not saying we should duck-out of hard conversations and cease fighting for truth.

What I am saying is this:

despite the differences of opinion, despite the potential conspiracies, despite the evil acts, despite the hardship, despite the obvious need to uncover truth and expose evil-our response as believers in Jesus Christ should ALWAYS be the same.

In the middle of the chaos, confusion, conspiracies, political and social disagreements- the answer and the cure remains unchanging. Our hope in the gospel and rapid desire to share salvation with others should be spreading like wildfire even more than ever before. 

Our response needs to be steadfast because He is steadfast. 
Christ is sure, secure, unwavering, unshakable, and never moving.

Our response is Micah 7:7-8-

7 But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
    I wait for God my Savior;
    my God will hear me.

8 Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
    Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness,
    the Lord will be my light.

We will look to the Lord and wait on Him always. We will have confidence that He will hear us and we will have faith that the enemy will not prevail. We know that when we feel defeated, through Christ we will rise. Darknesses encompasses every corner of the earth right now, but the Lord is our light in the midst.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

I Didn't Know. My Birth and Postpartum Journey

This was written at 7 weeks postpartum. 

I guess I didn’t realize that I was running straight into motherhood with a list of carved out expectations. Those expectations kind of subtly lived in the back of my mind, just waiting to broadcast themselves when the time arrived. Without consciously trying to, I built a portrait of what I thought birth and the newborn days were supposed to look like.

I didn’t know I’d be in prodromal labor for almost four days.

I didn’t know I’d need pitocin to start dilating.

I didn’t know the birthing tub wouldn’t be available on while I was at the hospital.

I didn’t know I’d experience entirely back labor.

I didn’t know I’d push for three hours and my son’s head would get stuck.

I didn’t know I’d be rushed into an emergency c section.

I didn’t know they’d have to do a double incision because of the position he was wedged in.

I didn’t know I wouldn’t get to hold him immediately after birth because he was having trouble breathing.

I didn’t know that everything would be fuzzy, hazy, and confusing in the first moments after birth.

I didn’t know I’d be so sleep deprived from the prolonged labor that I’d be hallucinating and not able to remember certain moments.

I didn’t know my baby boy would be separated from me as they examined and cared for him while I was wheeled to recovery all alone.

I didn’t know we wouldn’t have a golden hour and skin-to-skin right after birth.

I didn’t know I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed for 16 hours, making it very difficult to care for my new baby.

I didn’t know about the post c section pain I’d be feeling- that it would be painful to get up and down and carry him around.

I didn’t know I’d have to take pain medication afterwards just to feel coherent and somewhat alive and that I’d be stressed about it entering my breast milk

I didn’t know my nipples would get blisters and bleed into my baby’s mouth; that I’d wince in pain every time I nursed and not look forward to feeding him in those early days.

I didn’t know I’d have to use a nipple shield to even continue nursing him.

I didn’t know that my baby would lose 10% of his weight before we left the hospital.

I didn’t know that in his first week of life I would nurse him round-the-clock with seemingly no break, not even able to get up off the couch, then to find out at his one-week appointment that he hadn’t gained any of his weight back. Not even one ounce.

I didn’t know we’d be told that we’d have to supplement with formula.

I didn’t know I’d cry in the store parking lot- hot, messy tears as I researched different formulas on my phone, feeling like a failure of a mom.

I didn’t know my baby would almost never seem satisfied after nursing (despite a perfect latch, decent supply, and on-demand feeding) and almost always have to be given formula following nursing.

I didn’t know he’d still be slow to gain despite supplementing.

I didn’t know he’d struggle intensely with gas and reflux and that I’d be awake in the groggy, stale morning hours holding our son for hours just so he could sleep comfortably.

I didn’t know I’d develop post-partum anxiety.

I didn’t know I’d feel paralyzed to my core with terror as I reminisced on the trauma we experienced.

I didn’t know I’d be haunted with hollow lies about my mothering.

I didn’t know panic attacks would be lurking in the shadows.

I didn’t know the shame I’d feel. For everything.

I didn’t know I’d begin to push away community, craving isolation, yet despising loneliness at the same time.

I didn’t know I’d irrationally fear anyone touching or holding my baby.

I didn’t know my son would contract a random, fluke virus at 6 weeks old and have to be re-hospitalized for almost a week, despite my meticulousness of a hands-off policy.

I didn’t know my husband and I would have to helplessly look on as our tiny baby cried violently as the doctors and nurses drained his little body with endless testing.

I didn’t know I could hate needles more than I already did. I would have taken them all for my baby.

I didn’t know his fevers would unexplainably stay elevated for days and giving my 6 week old tylenol would become a lifeline for him to remain comfortable.

I didn’t know an IV plastered to my baby’s arm would intrude on our rocking and cuddles.

I didn’t know his fingers would swell an aching red from being contained inside of a mold so the IV couldn’t move.

I didn’t know he would lose interest/ability to nurse efficiently because of his sickness.

I didn’t know his flawless body would be speckled with bruises, scabs, and scars from the testing.

I didn’t know I’d blame his sickness on myself. “If only I had been able to exclusively breastfeed him like a “normal” mom his immunity would have been better”

I didn’t know that even after his fever broke (praise God), he still wouldn’t eat or sleep like he used to when we got home from the hospital.

But you know what else I didn’t know?

I didn’t know I’d cry uncontrollably as I watched our baby boy sleep; that I’d count his slow, rhythmic breaths.

I didn’t know I’d pray long, monologue prayers over him, my heart bursting as he nestled his tiny body into mine.

I didn’t know I’d love the smell of his soft brown hair.

I didn’t know I’d love the way the afternoon sun danced through the window of his nursery as he cooed on his playmat.

I didn’t know I’d obsess over his exact stretch when he woke up from a nap, all curled up in a perfect little ball.

I didn’t know I’d stare into his eyes and thank God for the gift of being his mama.

I didn’t know his smile would cause my heart to overflow and change the trajectory of my whole day. 

I didn’t know I’d want to drink-in all of his facial expressions and new discoveries; that I’d feel honored to be by his side as he experienced the world.

I didn’t know he’d bring so, so much joy to our family. 

I didn’t know I’d need to take motherhood, not one day at a time, but one minute at a time.

I didn’t know that sometimes I’d pause and ponder on our tattered and broken journey and take a deep breath as I saw beauty.

I didn’t know that our story would be beautiful. It is beautiful. And I wouldn’t change it.

I didn’t know that despite all of my burned expectations and messy circumstances, that I’d embrace our story and feel stronger than I’ve ever been. Strong for my baby.

I didn’t know he would cause me to experience the love of the savior in the deepest way I’d ever known.

I didn’t know my heart could ever be this broken, yet also this full.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Pages From My Journal #2

Another excerpt from an old journal.

September 2017

"Let me live to tell the people of this age what your strength has accomplished. To tell about your power to all who will come."-Psalm 71:18 [God's Word Translation]

We are constantly wandering around with our eyes closed in pursuit of "purpose". Searching and seeking, we are desperate to find our "calling" and understand our place in life. Contrary to the messages you may be hearing, your purpose isn't something you need to dig deep to discover. It isn't hidden or difficult to find. It will not take years to uncover, after a long movie-esque experience of soul-searching. 

Your purpose is this: 
-To know and love God
-to listen to His voice
-And do whatever He commands

Knowing and loving anything else will leave me feeling empty and hollow. Listening to other voices around me will steer me off course. Doing what the world commands will only separate me from my savior.

"With joy you will draw water from the springs of salvation."
-Isaiah 12:3

I don't want to  welcome a spirit of bondage, enslaved to fulfilling the purposes the world tells me I need to pursue, but instead I long to embrace the purposes God has aligned for me as His daughter. I am desperate to find springs of comfort in His living water, considering His desires for me to be my delight.

As I learn to embrace His purpose for me, I desire to know Him deeper, letting go of the sweet whispers of distraction all around me. Craving His presence and allowing His spirit to overtake me, I am able to love no matter how I am loved back. A desire will pool inside of my soul to share His love with everyone around me, regardless if my flesh thinks they deserve it or not.

But how quickly I can let all of this slip away. I get in the way. The biggest thing that prevents me from plunging headfirst into His purpose for my life is me. I am selfish, so easily distracted, full of worry, lacking faith, ruled by emotion, swayed by society, and altogether broken. 

I need a savior.

I cannot accomplish His purpose unless I recognize my deep need for Him. My brokenness and sin is precisely what should be prompting me to draw near to His living water yet again. He leads me back to Him each time. In my wandering and forgetting, He reminds me that His mercy, grace, and compassion never run dry. His love is steadfast even when my love for Him is shaky. His love stretches wide, even when I am on fire for a flash-second and then get pulled away by false comforts and fulfillments. 

He has asked of me to honor Him with my words, my actions, my relationships, my possessions- to pursue Him in all that I do from sun-up until sun-down. That is my purpose. I have nothing to offer Him, yet He offers himself to me moment by moment.

Will I choose His purpose or empty pleasures around me?

Jesus, I desire to trade these ashes into beauty and wear forgiveness like a crown.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Pages From My Journal

A New Series, featuring a collection of my old journal entries.

So many journals that were once blank and brimming with possibility, now sit on my shelf filled with truth, and pain, and joy, and life. Writing has always been my secret weapon; the key to unlock what I didn't even know was there. Some journal pages are filled with prayers and conversations with God, while some are filled with dialogues only with myself. Certain pages are lined neatly with quotations or verses that inspire me, while others are filled with messy scribbles or attempts at some form of expression in the midst of chaos. God reveals things most clearly to my heart through writing. It has always been this way. It is difficult to explain what happens when I write. Some people hear God's voice in the quiet of their heart or through the creation of art, but for me it is through the familiar marks of a pen hitting the paper. Even as a little girl, some nights I would stay up late writing stories or nonsense that happened in my day. This is still the case, but I find myself communing with God in this sweet quiet time more than ever before. I have quite literally over a decade's worth of journals to sift back through now. There is something comforting about re-reading old memories or allowing myself to regain encouragement or inspiration from past insights written. In the midst of the stacks of my old and tattered journals, lives failure and hope, confusion and encouragement, discovery and life. As I read back through the pages, I am finding remnants of old journal entries I feel God is stirring in my heart to share. One by one, in this series, I will share excerpts, devotions, and thoughts from my old journals. I hope you are encouraged and challenged along the way. 

May 27, 2017

I want desperately to be a woman that yearns to be in your presence; that doesn't assess her worth based on performance or even service, but draws her strength and peace from your eternal well that never runs dry. I want to be a woman that is content to be your daughter, to always be getting to know your heart more, constantly desiring less of myself. Jesus help me to be a woman who never gets bored of your word, who never grows tired of communing with you in prayer.

Jesus, it's amazing that even in the gospels you turned NO ONE away. You healed and loved all who came to you. You were passionate about moving around and sharing the word with all people, regardless if it was convenient or comfortable. Help me do this in my daily life. How can I not long for you? How can I not long to be with you? You bring peace where this is only chaos. You shed bright light where theres is only darkness. 

Your love covers many sins. Without your love, your peace, your forgiveness- what hope is there? What purpose is there?

Help me to not chase after empty fulfillment, false promises, or distractions that push their way in front of you. Even in circles of other believers it is getting harder and harder to truly lay aside fleshly desire and wordly pursuit and wholeheartedly strive after you. 

I want to be a woman marked by my pursuit of you- of what's truly important. I desire to fix my eyes on you, placing my whole confidence on your truths and commands, never looking back to count what I've lost and never forcing burdens and worries back in my own arms. I don't want to turn away from you.

"The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds on earth. However, when it is planted it comes up and becomes taller than all the garden plants. It grows such large branches that birds can rest in it's shade."
-Mark 4:31-32

As illustrated in this verse:
When truly seeking after Jesus, one eventually becomes a HUGE light, though once very small. Regardless of how small it started out, the light and peace can become a huge resting place for hurting and broken people, in need of Jesus's love too. The believer with strong roots grows tall and can provide cool shade for others, more than any alternative source of hope or comfort could ever provide.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Rethinking Motherhood

My husband and I fell in love young. I was only seventeen years old and a brand new believer, not having grown up around the gospel. My husband, Simon, was eighteen when we met. He had grown up in a believing home and was just beginning to become serious about his faith and form his own viewpoints and thoughts. In our early dating years, he patiently pursued me and gently lead me towards Jesus as I grappled with questions and curiosity. The foundation of our relationship included lots of in depth conversations about the gospel as I began to understand the lavish love of our savior. We also dreamt of our future family often. Throughout our dating, engaged, and young married years (we married at just barely twenty and twenty-one) we’d chat for hours about what our children may some day be like, what we’d like our family values to be, and our hopes and dreams as lifelong partners and eventually parents. God had placed a passion in both of our hearts to shepherd little ones and grow a family. This desire was straight from the Father; before coming to faith in Him, I didn’t overly fantasize about being a Mom someday or caring for a family. After meeting my husband, though, and falling in love with the savior, I knew with each passing day that I desired deeply to raise little ones and God blessed my husband and I both with unity and passion in this area. 

After getting married, we decided to leave our family completely in God’s hands, meaning we trusted him wholeheartedly with when He decided to bless our new family with a baby. This was truly a test of trust for us and we mutually felt like it was something God specifically called us to do. We had many conversations wrestling with this concept, still sometimes trying to take back the control and “plan” our family ourselves when the “timing seemed right.” Ultimately, though, we felt convicted that if God had called us to trust Him in everything, big and small, than how could we deliberately choose not to trust that He alone had the perfect time for our family to grow? This was difficult to swallow. I also realize not everyone has this same viewpoint and I am in no way trying to shame anybody for choosing to walk differently. I am simply sharing the road that God called us to in our early marriage and the prompting He placed on our hearts. We felt strongly that God was wanting full obedience in this area, despite the unpopularity of the decision, many reasons why it’d be easier or “safer” to choose another way, or the wide availability of other options for growing a family.

Naturally, after finding unity in this decision and fully surrendering our marriage and family to Him, we assumed we’d quickly see the humor and that I’d become pregnant immediately. We figured we’d become a family of three rather quickly since God had asked us to obey in this area, but this was not at all the case. Month after month passed and I was not pregnant. I’d often convince myself that I was, googling an array of early pregnancy symptoms and trying to make them fit. I bought so many pregnancy tests, both afraid and hopeful about the potential possibility of becoming a mom. Negative tests piled up in our garbage can and worries piled up in my mind. By this point, I had completely welcomed the idea of being a mama. I daydreamed about sweet lullabies, sticky fingers, and soft cuddles. As the days passed, though, I began to place the idea and the role of motherhood on a pedestal without realizing it. I had vivid images in my mind of being a stay-at-home-mom/ full time writer and having a flock of teeny ones in my care. In my daydreams, I’d cook homemade meals, homeschool, nurse babies, go to the park, teach my littles about Jesus, and write in my spare time. These desires were good and pure, but they became impure and selfish when I placed all my stock in them and forgot to praise Jesus for exactly where He had me. I had forgotten that the moment I surrendered my trust in Him alone for the timing of my family,  it meant I had to completely let go of any pre-conceived notions of what I thought it was supposed to look like. My blueprint wasn’t supposed to matter, but somewhere along the way I started to worship my idea of family and my idea of motherhood. I was finding discontentment in my daily life, although the richness and joy of Jesus was all around me. God was using me to pour into other women around me in my community and in my workplace and to strengthen the bond with my husband. Some days I missed it. Some days I convinced myself that contentment would come when my life looked like the moms I saw on instagram.

Almost three years had passed and God had not allowed my husband and I to have a baby yet. My mind swarmed with thoughts constantly. “What if we’re never able to have a baby?” “Is something wrong with us?” “God, I thought we were supposed to trust you?” I was even diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome and I had a doctor so bluntly tell me it would be very difficult for me to have children, if ever. I never suspected that our marriage would take this shape after we felt the tug to trust so strongly from God. But He wanted us to trust despite what it looked like and despite what was happening. After long sessions of prayer, my husband and I began to consider foster care and adoption. We both felt strongly about being parents and shepherding children and our eyes were opened to the great need in our community for loving families to take in children. We began to draw parallels between adopting and caring for lost children and the way God adopts us into his kingdom and cares for us. The decision to pursue this road was bittersweet, because I began to realize that God could really use us in this area, but at the same time I was mourning the possibility that we may never have children of our own. I had thought about being pregnant so often and birthing my own little one, that the idea of it never happening was altogether devastating. I battled these thoughts. “God, why would you so distinctly ask us to trust you with the timing of our family, but then never allow us to become pregnant?” I’d cry and get upset some days and other days I’d snap out of it and realize the rich gift available in being a foster or adoptive mama and how God could be calling our family to that route. 

In the mundane moments, God began to shift my perspective. I started to pray for our future little ones, whether they’d be our own or precious gifts God may allow us to foster and care for. It was a slow process, trading my desires for God’s. One day, though, I was writing in my journal and I stopped and said “no”. I cried out to God and said “no”. With tears streaming down my face, I said “no” to all of it. I said no to the discontentment in my heart. I said no to the idol of ideal motherhood that was holding me captive. I said no to the lies from the enemy about my health and the phrase a doctor had spoken over me. I wrote these words in my journal, “God, I am okay with it if you never allow me to be a mama to my own children. Please give me the strength to be faithful and obey whatever you may have for me.” That was at the end of October. In a few short weeks, my husband and I would be moving to a bigger space so that we could begin the process to become foster parents and prepare a home for the potential children that may be placed with us. Settled in our new space, we were days away from filling out paperwork when a positive sign showed up. As we looked at the pregnancy test in utter shock, we realized the miracle that God had done. Just when I had finally accepted and welcomed whatever God’s will may be, whether that included a baby of our own or not, He had allowed us to conceive. It was a beautiful representation of His timing. I firmly believe in my heart that God desired for me to reach a place of blind acceptance and total obedience of HIs plan, before allowing a little one to enter our family. He wanted me to be content regardless of the circumstances and He wanted me to lay down my ideas of motherhood before entering  into it.

We still plan to foster and adopt someday, but God has made it clear that He wants us to focus on welcoming our little boy into the world first. I hope and pray I can use the experience as a new mom to someday love and cherish other children in need, too. I am currently 24 weeks pregnant with precious Theodore Samuel and I am praising Jesus for this miracle with each passing day. This sweet boy growing inside of my tummy is not by chance. God has placed him in our care in this time, in this season, for a specific purpose. I already adore being his mama and by the grace of God, I am taking it day-by-day and allowing His truths to penetrate deep in my heart as we prepare for this next season. Now is when God is preparing us to be parents to baby Theo. No other time, but now. Despite being very sick up until about 18 weeks (insert one trillion green face emojis), I feel the presence and purpose of God as He carries me through this pregnancy. In the beginning, some days I struggled to find joy and felt guilt when I had to search hard for it as I threw up several times and couldn’t eat for what seemed like eternity. After surviving on green olives and mashed potatoes for essentially a decade, my appetite is now back, my energy is back, and I’m praising God for carrying me through once again.

I don’t know what our family will look like in one year, five years, or ten years and I don’t care. I will lift my hands and find joy in what it looks like today. I’ll sing about His strength as I fold sweet baby boy onesies and I’ll say a prayer of thanks in my heart every time I feel my baby boy leap in my womb.

“Many are the plans of a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” -Proverbs 19:21

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Tangerines on the Nightstand

I am brand new at this mom thing. Brand new, meaning my little one is still tucked safely away inside of my tummy. And while I know I still have so much to learn about motherhood, I feel like my pregnancy journey is already christening me into the unpredictable, beautiful chaos of being a Mom.

I have pregnancy alter-egos. I swear my body wakes up a different person everyday and I never know what type of day it is going to be.

 My alter-ego #1 is energized and wonderstruck, ordering over-stuffed chipotle burritos and java chip frappuccinos. When I wake up in this world, I feel beautiful and dazzled to be pregnant. Give me all of the tutu onesies and cute maternity tops that tie above my belly. I'm doing all of the prenatal yoga, I'm organizing everything, and I'm making smoothies with spinach for breakfast (Who even am I?) I'm reading pregnancy books and journaling and doing so many productive things. I can't be stopped. I'm on top of the world, I'm starving, and I'm crying tears of joy.

My alter ego #2 wakes up in a parallel universe; a universe in which I can't even hold down the tangerine I left on my nightstand. All food sounds repulsive, all movement feels like I'm doing acrobatics on a boat after I ate too many nachos (I'm barfing at the thought!). On those days I can barely get out of bed without throwing up, much less plan my next plate that should be brimming over with all the colors of the rainbow. The thought of prenatal yoga makes my stomach churn. That chipotle burrito? Don't even mention burritos. In fact, don't ever bring up Chipotle again. I am not mentally or physically prepared for beans and guac. Not now; not ever. All I can do to make it through the day is lay down, maybe sipping some lime water (I said maybe), and groan as I watch 7th Heaven reruns. I'm either throwing up all day (or on the verge of it every second) and rolling my eyes at one more suggestion I get saying I should "try some saltine crackers." I have eaten probably five boxes of saltine crackers since being pregnant and they have not done a single thing for my nausea. They aren't going to become a miracle cracker for me anytime soon.

I feel like I am living out two completely different pregnancy experiences rolled into one. It is almost like clockwork at this point. I'll have a day that is nothing but the green, sick emoji on repeat and then without fail I'll wake up the next morning and be living in my alter ego #1 world, skipping around and wanting chocolate covered strawberries. The only thing that gets me through the indescribably queasy days is knowing that more than likely a breathtaking day will follow.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the fact that my days range from tangerines making me throw up to being able to down a whole Chipotle burrito on other days, but the contrast seems to be a lot like what I hear motherhood is like: dazzling and out-of-this-world on some days and exhausting and mind-numbing on others. But whether it's a dream day out of a magazine or a scene out of a horror movie, every day is so worth it. There is light following the darkness. New hope will come after the disastrous mess the day before and I am sure that is a constant encouragement in all stages of motherhood.

Thank you, little one, for preparing me for the roller coaster of motherhood that is to come. I am honored and blessed to carry you everyday and I would do this pregnancy alter-ego thing for you ten times over. Everyone says it will subside soon and maybe it will; but maybe it won't and I'm ready for anything.

I'll keep putting tangerines on the nightstand and anxiously await whether or not I'll throw them up in the morning.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Dreams & Desires

I am definitely a dreamer and a thinker. Not just sometimes, but all the time. The wheels in my head are constantly spinning and they won't stop- I'm always coming up with a new idea, painting a picture of what's next, or creating a fresh vision. This dreamer mind-set stirs up so much anticipation and excitement about the potential in situations or the possibilities in life that are yet to come. It's charming and spontaneous, perpetually striving for more and new and better. You know what, though? It's exhausting, too. It's this confusing blurred line. Which is it? Am I simply trying my hand at taking advantage of every moment given to me, not letting a second go to waste, not throwing away any gift or opportunity God has presented? Or have I actually entered into an ugly, never-ending competition with myself that will never be satisfied or completed? Am I challenging myself to creatively dream big dreams in a healthy way or am I weighing myself down with crazy expectations and only concerning myself with what could be? Honestly, I don't know. I'm asking God to deeply search my heart and draw out any toxins getting in the way of what He is truly calling me to.

This season of life is full. It is already brimming over with relationships, situations, and responsibilities that I know God has carefully selected and crafted for me in this time for His purpose. Yet, I feel like I'm always seeking more; I always feel like I could do more, I could reach more, I could be more. The truth is, there are a lot of days I wake up and I feel immediately overwhelmed in a (good or bad?) way when I think about all of the tasks, plans, people, visions, and dreams before me. My plate is already overflowing and I keep dreaming up more. I reason with myself that some of it is healthy, that it's all for God's kingdom and there's nothing wrong with infinitely dreaming, but sometimes I feel like it turns into expecting this long list of things I think I am owed.

I know that Jesus sees and knows my heart, but it is so easy to get lost in a sea of jealousy, wanting what someone else has or even just getting stuck in a fantasy and forgetting what is important. Before I continue, let me put a disclaimer out there: I am about to be completely transparent, handing over the key to deepest parts of my heart. Let me be honest, some of it (maybe and probably) all of what I am about to say is selfish, but this is the reality of what I have to work through with Jesus. I open up my selfish and awful heart to Him, spouting off ridiculous ideas and scenarios I've created in my head of what I think would be best, and He realigns my perspective, completely turns everything upside down, and shows me what I am truly promised when I enter into relationship with Him- not what I've somehow convinced myself I am promised.

I want a decent sized house with a writing space for me, a music room for my husband, and a green, lush yard with lots of space for gardening and growing all of my own fruits and vegetables. I want five little ones running around-maybe more. I want my own kids, and foster kids, and adopted kids, a playroom for them, and a homeschool room with cute little chalkboards and art and science experiments. In between the chaos, I want to write. I want to write books, blogs, articles- anything and everything. I want my home to be a sanctuary for my husband, for my babies, for family, for friends, and for broken and lost people God puts in my path. I want my home to be bright and inviting, a space I'm able to decorate with joy and cook healthy meals. I want to always have all the bills paid and have lots leftover to give away, without a second thought. I want to have lots of guests over and drink lots of coffee. I want sticky fingerprints on my refrigerator and a thousand little kisses each day. I want to travel and experience God's creation and people in all different part of the world, spreading the gospel with every step that I take. I want to be a wife and a mama to many and an encourager and a leader.

But you see, those are my dreams. Do I think some of them are from the heart of God? Yes. Do I think some of them have gotten clouded and mixed up, so that its hard for me to decipher which are mine and which are God's? Yes. I know that God did not create me to simply expel out a list of desires that I want and wait for the check mark to appear when they happen. Even if some of them are good, I am missing out on so much while I wait for my dream-world to happen. Not only that, but NONE of those things are promised to me. I am not owed ANYTHING, apart from the unearned, radical salvation, love, and grace that Jesus so freely offers. I am not promised security. I am not promised wealth. I am not promised a dream job. I am not promised that the bills will always be paid. I am not promised a home. I am not promised children, or a spouse, or a family.

My security, my hope, and my foundation are Jesus. 
He is my portion.
He alone is what I have been promised.

Everyday when I rise, Jesus is the only stable thing that I can count on and be sure of. I have to keep relearning this over and over again. I know this truth, but it is particularly challenging, especially in the age and generation we live in, to stay focused solely on Jesus. I wish it were easy to wake up each day and lay myself wide open as a blank slate for Jesus to use, completely disregarding my own so-called needs and wants. I wish it weren't so tempting for me to fall into the blurred line of dreaming so often that it turns into discontentment. It is hard. And it is sometimes downright painful to live in this world of credit scores, down-payments, and brushed-over Instagram posts. How on earth are we supposed to stay the course? There is nothing wrong with dreams and desires, especially for God's kingdom and especially when God's desires become my desires, but there is something terribly, horribly wrong when my yucky heart thinks I am owed everything that I have dreamed up.

"There is nothing outside of a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him."-Mark 7:15

We focus on the world and everything around us needing to change, but in reality we need desperately to change. The darkest sins come from lofty and greedy desires stemming from the depths of our own hearts. Yes, some of that is influenced by outside sources, but ultimately it comes from within.

"For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?"-Mark 8:35-36

It is so agonizing to not lose your life to the pressures and influences around you and from your own heart and mind. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we are "saving" our life by dreaming and doing and accomplishing and being independent and unmovable, but its quite the opposite. In the pursuit of contentment, we lose our souls and forget what is actually promised to us.

My home could be taken away today. I might never be able to have children. My writing may never reach trillions of people. My loved ones might die. There might be nothing left in my bank account.

But I still have Jesus. 

Maybe you crave comfort, security, and stability like me. Somehow, in some way, though, pieces of that will slowly get chiseled and/or ripped away. Then what? Are Jesus' promises somehow void?

We all have access to the true peace and contentment that Jesus brings, but we are all running away. How long can we run? Instead of flocking towards Him like we read in the gospels, we are running away from Him, breathless and scared.

"And wherever He came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well."-Mark 6:56

I want to be desperate to touch Jesus like that. I want to yearn after Him. I want each day to be a new chance to accomplish His will and appreciate the beauty that He is building, not that I am building. I want to be obedient to His calls and plans, pushing away my own. I want to radiate joy when it doesn't make logical sense. I want to be generous when I have nothing; love when hate is the theme all around me.

And then....when I look back on my life, I will know it has been a true masterpiece, because the creator of life itself has crafted every twist and turn.

Let's journey together, because I am far from fully grasping this. Reach out to me with your honest thoughts!