Planning the Unplannable

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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.

I’m going to stop telling myself “I’m enough”.

“After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick.  Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.  Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”  He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.  Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number.  Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”
John 6:1-14

 

I’m constantly preaching to myself, and making sure I believe that I truly am enough. I am enough for my husband and for the ministry I’m in. I’m enough for my friends and for my family. Who I am is enough.

I’m starting to question that.  I’m wondering if allowing myself to believe who I am enough is not causing me more stress and anxiety.

If I am enough than I could do all the things I’m supposed to do.  I could fulfill all of my husband’s wants and needs. He would never need to do anything else because I am enough.
If I am enough my family would understand my love for them and know that I am always there for them even when I’m far away, because I am enough.
If I am enough than I would always know that my body is beautiful and I would never believe lies about myself, because I am enough.
If I am enough than I would always feel competent at my job and know that I’m making an impact because I am enough.

All of those things leave me dry because I’m trying so hard to be “enough.” I’m trying to live up to expectations that are unrealistic.

When Jesus feeds the five thousand they have five loaves of bread and two fish.  What does he do? He says “give me what you have”.  After everyone eats, all five thousand of them, they have leftovers.  They have more than enough, they are overflowing.

I am starting to realize that I was never meant to be enough.  Jesus is asking me to give him what I have and he will do the rest.  He is the one that is enough, not me. I can be the person Jesus has called me to be, but, it will never be able to fill the people around me because that is not my job.  My husband is supposed to fill himself by going to the Lord, my family is supposed to rely on the knowledge of Christ to get them through the day, my friends are supposed to trust the heavenly power of Jesus to bring them to redemption.  I am not the savior of the world, Jesus is.  I can work my hardest at my job, but at the end of the day I am not the one who carries the ministry, Jesus is.

I think it’s time for me to let go of being enough, maybe it’s time for you to let it go, too.  I’m ready to trust Jesus again, I’m ready to have twelve baskets full of leftovers from my fives loaves of bread.  I’m ready for Jesus to take the small amount of hope and joy and love that I have in me and multiply it to extend to thousands of people.  I think it’s okay if we let go, I think it’s okay if we disappoint people and say no sometimes, because we don’t have to fill everyone all the time.  We can just be and know that Jesus truly has fulfilled every desire inside of us. It is exhausting trying to always enough.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:6

I can let go of being enough, and know that I’m not and that is okay.

Grace in the unknown

I’m walking into a new season.  A season I didn’t expect, but kind of really like.
As I walk into a new season, April is starting and so is spring.
The snow has melted and sun peaks its head out of the clouds every once In a while.
I’ve placed my sweaters in a box and my coat hangs unused in the closet.
This season is beautiful because it’s full of grace.  Grace that is being retaught and relearned.
I woke up this morning to a dreary, gray, rainy day.  I couldn’t help but smile.

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You see, rainy days, especially rainy spring days, are my favorite kind of days;
Rainy days remind me of grace.
They remind me that God never forgets to refresh, to restart, to renew.
They remind me to rest and remember to cuddle.
They remind me to love and be loved.
They remind me that I am never forgotten and I am always taken care of.

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God takes time to refresh the earth.
To quench its thirst for him.
I like that idea, because He’s doing it to me.
He’s reminding me of how cared for I am,
and how much he knows and I do not. 

The father has torn my plans from me.
I’m not surprised because that’s what he does.

I was planning on moving to Ireland in August to be a part of the ministry that is happening in Coleraine, Northern Ireland.
I am no longer planning that endeavor.
Instead, I’m walking into a much scarier place, home.

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I tend to find security in unwavering plans.
God likes to remind me that He is in control of my plans, not me.
My plans for Ireland were good, and they were glorifying to Christ.
Staying home is also glorifying to Christ.
One is not better than the other.
But something He is teaching me is that sometimes it’s easier to keep moving
and never look back instead of standing up to your past and not letting it define you.
He’s teaching me how He redeems and defines me. 

So, in this new season I’m going to curl up on the couch and listen to the rain.
I’m going to watch as God refreshes the earth just like he continues to refresh me.
I’m going to learn as people hand me grace and remind me of my Savior.
I’m going to listen as I hear the promises that are engrained in His word.

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I am taken care of, and I see His grace clearer than I’ve ever seen it before. 

 

Unrealistic expectations

 

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Sometimes I have moments, moments that are raw, ugly, and scream-filled.  I cry and yell out to the Father and my heart swims in frustration and confusion.  Attacks come from all angles, and my heart is overwhelmed with all the things I should be doing or haven’t done yet. My one desire is to be looked at by someone and somehow they know I love Jesus.  I want my love for Christ to be so evident that is seeps from my pores.  I want the radiance of Christ to be my shield.  I want my actions to be above reproach and I want my conduct to represent the Father.  
But I never seem to get there, I always seem to fall short, to look more like the world than Christ, and in moments like these it frustrates me to the point of yelling, screaming, and crying to the Lord.  Begging him to make me look like Him because I hate this world and what it turns people into, I hate all its flashy lights and it’s materialism that I so easily get so sucked into.  

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I want to be a good friend, someone who is intentional and caring and allows each person grace to be fully themselves, but somehow I fall short of that as well.  I don’t make the calls I should, or I sleep instead of Skype.  I move along in my life sometimes forgetting the people whom I love in states far away.  I never write the letters I intend to and most calls go unreturned.  My heart is for them, but my actions do not represent that.  
I want to be a good mentor but time is never on my side and neither is my heart.  How can I teach when I myself am still learning all too much for me to comprehend.  
I want to be a good sister and daughter but my selfishness moves me further and further away from their hearts and I end up hurting them instead of serving them.  

All of these things I cannot do adequately, and I always feel less than good enough because I’m always falling short, always falling short of the expectations I have put on myself, and there it is, the issue.  I have placed expectations on myself that are unrealistic and detrimental to my whole being.  If I were living according to grace I would not feel overwhelmed or less than enough because It would be Christ in me, not myself.  

I cried out to the lord to give me grace;
“You already have it, beloved.”

ah, yes, of course I do.  It has always been mine but I have been so blinded by my own expectations of how perfect I should be I couldn’t see the grace staring at me from across the room, held by the prince of the peace I have been lacking.  

Today I let go of my own unrealistic expectations of myself and the anxiety that has crept into my veins causing each moment to resemble walking on egg shells.
I want to be like Christ, and that is not a request he will deny. I am not perfect, but He is. (Matthew 6:33)

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Joy.

//Before you start reading anything, watch this video. //

Recently, i’ve become a lot like Kayden when it comes to God. Everything that happens, everything I do, my heart races and my hands flap and my mouth is wide when I scream “WOW”.  The name of Jesus has become the sweetest name i’ve ever known and every time I hear it one of two things happen; I have tears pool in my eyes begging to escape down my cheeks or a smile stretches far across my cheeks to the point of ridiculousness.  Both of these things cause me to look a little bit crazy, but most of the time I am not aware of anything else around me.  It doesn’t matter where I am or what’s happening around me; If I see his goodness or sense something I didn’t before my whole body reacts.  Everything is turned into a blessing and thankfulness is a constant thought in my head.  My heart overflows and most of the time I have no idea how to react so, like Kayden, I run in circles and flap my arms, because what kind of response do you have to a King who provides for your every need and loves you to the depth of your being and beyond? There is no appropriate response, so if you see me flapping around, just let me be, and maybe you can flap too.  

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A couple months ago the hymn “Come Thou Fount” played in my spotify playlist and I think for the first time my heart responded to it.  I started to pray that God would tune my heart to sing his grace at all times.  I wanted my heart to be tuned into who he was, I wanted to always react to Him.  I also started asking God to show me the things I was doing that were not appropriate for a woman of faith.  Of course he started pointing out certain aspects of myself I always did but never really thought about;  My constant complaining about work, or the way I do not think before I speak. The laziness I hold in helping my mom around the house, or the grudges I had deeply rooted that I never got rid of.  I could go on and on about all the ways i’m not perfect, but instead of going head first into fixing these issues I just ran faster into Jesus.  I’ve slowly learned over the years that I cannot fix myself, and if I want to be a woman of great faith than I must look to the God who is that faith.  I cannot make myself stop complaining because it’s a heart issue.  I cannot bring myself to stop being lazy, It’s a heart issue.  I cannot stop myself from holding grudges, It’s a heart issue.  
Every thing I do that isn’t lining up with the Spirit is because my heart is in the wrong place, and how do I fix my own heart? I don’t.  The only one capable of changing hearts is God, so I must run faster and faster towards him and when I spend time with him, I learn to be like him, and when I learn to be like him, my heart softens to the things around me and I am able to see myself through his eyes and he is able to walk me through all of the things I want to fix to glorify him.  I don’t want to be a woman of faith to impress people, or to get a husband, or to be better than my friends.  I want to be a woman of faith because it glorifies God, because it lets out a sweet aroma to others around me that lead them back to him, because I feel most beautiful, and most myself when i’m wrapped up in Him. 

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This joy didn’t just come out of the blue.  it’s always been there, it’s always been there for me to grasp, i just needed to tap into my Father.  To tap into my beloved, to come to him, to love him, to want him.  This joy is nothing I have mustered, because If it were up to me, i’d be angry and annoyed all the time.  Trust me, I still get frustrated and I still complain, but I catch myself, and I’m aware and then I realize how beautiful my God is.  How beautiful is grace is, How amazing his rain is.  
My joy is not contingent on my circumstances because my circumstances are not my God.  
My God is beautiful, powerful, awesome, and bold.  
He is dangerous and terrifying. 
My heart overflows with his goodness. 
I am His. 
He has called me his. 

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As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
when I awake, I shall be satisfied 
with your likeness. 
//Psalm 17:15

 

 

It’s simple, really.

I really like to complicate things. 

I wrap myself up so tight that I can’t breathe. I punish myself and seclude myself.  I allow mistakes to define me and I never allow myself anything that is defined as “simple.”  
I think the world has complicated the bible.  
I think I have complicated Jesus. 

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For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
//Romans 7:15-25
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law ofthe Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 
//Romans 8:1-4

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I am not condemned for the mistakes I make in this world, and neither are you. 
I feel my body unwind a bit as this sinks further and further into who I am.  
Jesus’s death and resurrection has cleansed me of any punishment, nothing needs to be added to the cross. 
It was against everything I’ve known to believe I needed to add something to myself, to Jesus, to be cleansed and forgiven. 
Somehow I picked up a slave mindset and punished myself daily for even the slightest of offense.  
Grace has never had to be purchased by me.  It was a free gift so I may be free in my Abba’s love, who gave everything for that to be so.
 
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The gospel is simple, and so is life. 
I think complicating things helps us try to justify ourselves or help us feel like we deserve Christ.  
We neither have to justify or try to earn our acceptance into the kingdom. 
That is never going to make sense, so we/I need to stop trying to make it so complicated. 
Simple is always better, simple is always what brings revelation.  
I am free, and I had forgotten how good that feels.