Planning the Unplannable

blog

 

For months i’ve been fighting against unknown territory. I’ve been fighting against things not planned and not laid out in bullet points.  Trevor and I have been on the edge of something new, but just far enough from the edge to make us crazy. We have not been pushed over the side yet and we don’t really know what’s at the bottom. We’re not quite sure where we are headed and lists aren’t helping us at this point. We know God is moving us into something, we feel it, the air around us is thick with promise, but my head is going to explode planning the unplannable.

I’m with the majority of people who like to know what’s going on every second of  every day. I like to know the plan before the plan exists. I wasn’t always like this. Three years ago, while I was overseas doing missions, I was the ultimate go-with-the-flow girl. Over there you aren’t given a chance to be anything else. If you had plans, they most likely would be ruined, which is why we had to learn not to make plans and just let whatever was going to happen, happen.

My hands are clenched so tightly around control: clenched around this perfect list so it looks like I have my life together, or create the illusion i’m doing something special. Ultimately, by trying to have so much control I’m not listening to God or his plans. I’m focusing on what I can see and what I can make into nicely color-coordinated schedule. I want to let go of this false control. I don’t want to lose my sh*t every time something goes wrong or we’re running late (gasp!).

If you’re in our close circle of friends you may know how hard this season has been for Trevor and I. It’s hard to explain without making it sound like we’ve hated every aspect of our last two years in Kalamazoo. We’ve had good days while living here and I’m so glad we have met the people who have chosen to invest in us, but most of the time has been us fighting hard against this shallow community.

I have avoided talking about our experience with church because I don’t want to step on toes, but i’m not sure it’s the healthiest response. Our first year in Kalamazoo we deeply invested our whole-selves into a local church. We served in the youth group. I interned in the office. Trevor performed in a play.  We did everything extracurricular we could enroll in and volunteer for. From our experience; if you wanted community you had to invest in the people and in the church. We invested, we planned parties at our apartment, we did everything we knew how to do to build community. Now, before I go on, Trevor and I have fully owned up to any wrong on our part. We turned down some opportunities that we probably should have taken. In hindsight, we believe we did everything we could to become part of this community without burning ourselves out. After a year with no real interest from others in reciprocating investment in us other than attending Sunday’s services, we decided to leave that church. There were also checks in our spirit about the gospel they were preaching but I think less is more on that subject. Since we’ve left, I’ve seen multiple things happen that have confirmed for me leaving was the best decision. One being, not a single person from the church has tried to reach out and see how life has been going for us. After a year: nothing!

Even moving churches we have yet to see any form of intentional relationship building. One of my friends from out of town said to me recently she believes Kalamazoo is “spiritually apathetic.” After two years, I can see it. Despite the great lack of genuine community out here, we have made a few authentic relationships at work and through our new church. Even so, our community is dry.

For me church isn’t the building: it’s the people. Church will still exist if every church-building burns to the ground. The Holy Spirit lives inside of a believer. I have had the unique experience to personally see what genuine community is and what church should look like. I don’t think I will ever see it again until Heaven, but I want to at least try. Trevor’s and my heart are so invested in intentional community and no matter how many people deny our invitation we are still going to give it out. I will continue to invite people into our home even if only one person shows up. I will continue to invest in the ministry of a church-building because I believe it helps broken people see Christ.  I’m aware there is no such thing as a perfect Church; i’m not looking for that, believe me. I’m looking for a church that talks more about their weaknesses than their strengths. I’m looking for a church not afraid to cry, not afraid to admit when they are wrong. I want a church that doesn’t cover up failure.

This new thing God is doing is getting closer, but we are still in the unknown. This unknown is giving me inexpressible joy. Joy that only comes from a God who is planning my life more beautifully than I ever imagined. I know we are moving out of this season. I know he is bringing us into a new place of rest and understanding.

I think I grasp so hard at control because I can’t control what is hurting us. I can’t control the way people invest in us. I can’t control the fact that my husband doesn’t have a community of men. I’ve wanted some sort of control and I made it my mission to make our lives seem fine with a I-don’t-need-you-anyway type of attitude. The truth of the matter is we were hurt and some days we are still hurt. I think a lot of the time when we are hurt we cling to what we can control instead of an unchanging God. God isn’t a broken church or a lacking community. God isn’t a yes than a no. God never disappoints and never fails.

My heart is for community, and I know God’s is too. He’s been teaching me a lot about saying “anything.”  He’s been teaching me a lot about “yes” and about “no.” He’s been teaching me about how to show up broken, but to allow him to do it despite all of the mess. Trevor and I have come to the conclusion that we don’t really want what we thought we wanted. We’re praying the prayer, “God, we will do anything.” We are saying yes to things that help us see Jesus and no to things that are too much, too soon. We are learning to take breaks and to breathe. We are learning that God is in the resting, just like he’s in the going.

The new thing is coming, and I’m excited. I’m excited because I know I didn’t plan this. It’s not on a color-coordinated schedule. A plan unknown to me, but held by an unshakeable God. I know whatever it is, it’s out of my control and I think i’m finally ok with that.

Just be better.

IMG_4169

I have been in this mindset lately of “doing better”.  My heart has been restless because if I could just be better, do better than I could have peace.  I have been scratching desperate prayers into my journal so that God will change me.  If I just learn to control my emotions I could be perfect.  If I can stop eating sugar I could be perfect. If I could stop hurting my husband by my constant selfishness I could be perfect, and then I will finally be a woman who has it all together.  I will have it all together and I will be worthy of love, I won’t have to keep saying sorry; I won’t have to keep asking for forgiveness.

My sweet Savior listens to my desperate prayers and directs me to words he spoke to the same striving disciples almost 2,000 years ago. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. His gentle voice beckons my weary soul; come, my beloved, you are striving for love you already have.  You are striving for perfection that only I can claim.

My own brokenness laid out, my need to control left at the feet of the one who pulls me close and tells me who I am.  No matter how hard I strive to have it all together, I will not get there.  I am not meant to be there. I am meant to lean in to the whisper.

“I have always, essentially, been waiting. Waiting to become something else, waiting to be that person I always thought I was on the verge of becoming, waiting for that life I thought I would have. In my head, I was always one step away.” Shuana Niequist

Jesus didn’t come for me to be perfect; he didn’t come so that I would strive to be perfect.  He came so I could see that I wasn’t perfect and that I desperately needed him to save me.  He waits and listens to my prayers and my mixed up heart and still loves me.  He is perfect, he has the control and he knows my name.  That is all I need, to know he hears and he knows.

Craving honesty

You know what’s hard? Friendships. You know what shouldn’t be hard? Friendships. Since moving to Kalamazoo it has been so hard for my husband Trevor and I to find real community. I have learned what kind of community I desire while being on the race. The six people on my team have changed me and the way I look at friendships. My whole squad has. Those fifty-five people have loved me in a way rarely found in this world.
We are so concerned with saving face, with making sure the people around us think we are cool, or smart, or good enough. We are so obsessed with what the people around us are thinking we never go deeper into the relationships we have. We don’t want to be “found out.”
Trevor and I have just finished Scary Close by Donald Miller. We read it with open hearts and pen in hand. We’ve underlined multiple paragraphs and our hearts are better because of this book. I was crying ten pages in because Donald was speaking so close to home. I have lived my life trying to impress the people around me. This is why I get so exhausted being around a large amount of people for a long period of time. I’m exhausted from acting.

“Human love isn’t conditional. No love is conditional.
If love is conditional, it’s just some sort of manipulation masquerading as love.”

I want to be honest with the people around me. I want to be very bad at small talk because I want to know the people I’m talking to. Donald brings up so many personal things that echo my own inner self. He is vulnerable and because he is vulnerable, he allows his readers the same freedom. I’m confident Donald’s book will change something in this world. It’s changed me, and it’s changed my husband.

“If Honesty is the key to intimacy, it means we don’t have to be perfect and,
moreover, we don’t have to pretend to be perfect.”

We concern ourselves with thinking people around us are going to find out we don’t have it all together. We can never let anyone know we don’t always have quiet time in the morning. We can never let anyone know we’ve messed up with our boyfriend once or twice. We can never be honest about anything, because then, somehow, we will be less loveable. These are lies. Lies I’ve believed for some time now.
I’m thankful though, for people like Donald and a select few of my friends—for Trevor, who want honesty and who crave it. I’m thankful for people who will not let me leave without really knowing how I’m doing. I’m thankful I know people who are fighting the lie: the instinct to hide. I don’t want to hide anymore. I want to be known and I want to risk my heart on people who matter and who challenge me.

Do you crave the same thing? Look around you and ask yourself if the people in your life make you a better person. If they don’t, you should branch out and look for people who are not necessarily comfortable but ask you hard questions, and allow your heart to be honest. This world is in need of some breathing room. It’s in need of people being themselves and being themselves unapologetically. You are meant to live this life free from the pressure to be perfect.

find the beauty.

Image

 

I love driving this time of the year in my town, it’s such a simple thing that I always forget I enjoy until it comes back around.  Twinkle lights are up and the chill in the air makes everything seem quieter.  Norah Jones hums softly in the background as I let my heart swirl in the softness of it all.  The holidays start to roll around and my mind always goes to a softer place, a place where things really aren’t that bad.  I know it’s the “Christmas cliché” to be jolly and thankful during this time of the year and people get their panties in a bunch because they want people to be thankful at all times of the year, which I agree with, but have you lived life?  Have you listened to the news? Do you live inside your own mind? Sometimes it gets so clogged with agenda’s, and bad relationships, and sucky bosses, and natural disasters, and babies that cry, and sometimes you forget life is meant to be enjoyed, that being thankful isn’t a burden but something that actually allows the weight of the world to lift from your aching shoulders. 
I think the pantie bunchers are right, but I also think it’s good to be reminded, to be quieted and softened so that you can hear the bells, or Norah Jones, or sometimes just a friend.  Sometimes your mind needs to be cleared out of all the “me, me, me’s” and it needs to be replaced with the “look at how beautiful your grace is, Lord, look at how much you love me!”  Wonder is something I’ve noticed I’ve lacked lately.  Wonder of God, and wonder of the small things throughout the day that actually would allow my day to look a little brighter.

Image

I put a candle in my room, It’s called “Christmas morning latte”, I’ve never been in a family that has latte’s on Christmas morning but I enjoy that my room smells like I am.  Every time I walk into my room my heart lifts a bit and somehow I’m reminded that life is ok, that I’m not the center, and it’s ok that I want to take a very long nap. I’m a smell person, people remember moments and events by food, or a song, or maybe even the colors; I always remember things by smells; The way someone smelled, or the smell of a house, or even the smell of the road we walked on.  I can be brought back to that moment in an instant as soon as I smell whatever aroma is passing through.  This candle tickles whatever memory sensor of mine and reminds me of peace and stillness. I’m able to think without my own self getting in the way, and I’m able to relax and see things beautifully, which is so important to me.  I’m able to let The Lord whisper his plans into my ear and I hear them, I hear his soft voice and my heart is full and happy and I smell the candle and the twinkle lights in town are glowing and Norah Jones is singing and my sweater is soft on my skin, and my eyes are open and I’m able to see. 

Image

Life is beautiful, even in the chaos, in the typhoons, in the family breakage, in the baby cries, in the horrible days at work, in the news of cancer; there is always a light, a hope, bigger than me, bigger than you.  This hope has called you His, let that be beautiful enough to carry you through.  

The oak of righteousness

Image

 

Brisk air. 
Hot coffee. 
Fresh lungs.
Tired brain. 

Image

I come quiet before the big oak standing firm before me, knowing it has seen far more than I ever will. 
I know as I sit down on the fragile bench that my voice will not be heard. 
My head will release all that has been screaming inside and it will finally become still. 
My hands open as my heart realizes it has been set free, yet again. 
The stillness of the cool air and the smell of fresh earth reminds me of the strength of new life. 
Before I met the breath of the trees, and the cologne of the leaves, I never understood how people could worship through nature, until I met the eyes of birds and the sounds of glory.  I walk through endless bodies of trees and realize this is what it feels like to know the beauty of the father. 

 

Image

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified
Isaiah 61:1-3

Image

 

I am the giant oak that allows his glory to be seen. 
I am seen and known by The Father and he sows the earth around me. 
He allows the cold air to strike my branches but never allows me to tip. 
My roots are strong and my core too wide. 
My leaves, and beauty may fall to the ground, but they always grow back. 
I am never left alone, I am Righteous and I am known. 

 

 

 

Who is He telling you, you are?