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.

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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. 

 

The oak of righteousness

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

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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. 

 

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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

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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?