On Grieving and New Chapters.

Dearest Hannah, You have graduated from college, and are now in the in between. And let's be honest -- while you have accomplished much, the in between hurts like hell. It feels like all your limbs are being pulled in opposite directions, and you are young and the world is so very big.

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The idea of the quarter-life crisis would never have caught on without people like us. We feel every ounce of the weight of our decisions, and we are young, the world is big, and we can do literally anything we want, but we want to live our one life well.

Blessedly, I had a wedding a month after my college graduation. I emptied myself of energy in preparation, not even allowing my mind to consider what had just happened. It was a cushion for the shock that came in the days after I walked across the stage. A putting off of the inevitable.  After the honeymoon was over and the dust settled on what had become my life, I grieved and grieved hard. If you hear nothing else, hear this: it is okay to grieve.

I spent five months at home before I found a job. Those five months were some of the most difficult, because much of my time was spent alone. My husband had a full time job, and we were in a town where we didn't know anyone.

And then I met you. As much as two people can bump into each other via the internet nowadays, we did. I will always count our meeting among the gifts -- tangible proof that the Lord knew just what I needed.

I had the pleasure of watching you transition to your final year of college, a year that I know has left its mark. You decided, as if out of the clear blue sky, to change your major. Senior year of college, and I know you must have been feeling like your life had been hijacked.

When we're introduced to Abra(ha)m, scripture says "the LORD had said to Abram, 'Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you.'" I think God is still in the business of calling us out of our comfort zones, plucking us from all familiarity and planting us smack dab in the middle of the unknown. 

There's an old proverb that says the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I've learned that great leaps of faith are often disguised by these steps.

And I've learned that at the end of the day, God pulls us out of our comfort zones so we can experience the true meaning of comfort: that the Lord provides all things. I've learned that in the seasons of loneliness, His presence is near, and when we feel empty, He is only preparing to fill us.

I've learned that there are questions. Should I get married? Should I apply for a masters degree? Where should I live? Who am I? And I've learned that He holds the answers.

I've learned that He goes before us, and that everything is held together by His grace. When it seems like our comfort zone is so far out of sight, the Comforter is drawing us closer. When it seems like we're faced with all the questions and none of the answers, we have unadulterated access to the Giver of all wisdom.

We simply have to take the first step. And the real secret? God told Gideon to go in the strength that he had. There's no formula, no code, and blessedly, no scantron. We just move. We put one foot in front of the other, open our hands a little bit more, and a little bit more...

to grace.

 

The Dare to Live the Truest Thing {Five Minute Friday}

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My heart is blessed as I look back to the very first five minutes I spent nervously sewing together syllables on starting out small and living the truest thing. If you had told me back in August that this cup of words would be overflowing, and that my heart would be transformed through this gathering of women, I scarcely would have believed.  I know now that Hannah's invitation to the party was the Lord's tangible provision.

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A moment of confession? I'm not much for having consistent quiet times, but the Lord will often bring to mind a verse or story that I think about throughout the day. Frequently, I find myself asking Him what He is trying to speak into my life through that particular piece of scripture.  Lately, I have been meditating on the story of Gideon.

Gideon was the smallest man in the weakest tribe.  When the angel of the Lord came to him, he was found hiding, crouched down in a wine press to thresh wheat. And all at once, I realize how much of my life, my one and only life here, is spent the same way: in fear of being discovered by that which knows and desires to exploit my weakness.

We have an enemy who revels in stealing, killing, and destroying, and the target is our joy. And he knows so well that if he can just gnaw away at our joy, our strength wanes in tow.

But our hearts are never hidden from the call of the Almighty. He has a way about Him, always reaching into our most vulnerable and dark places.

The angel said to Gideon, "the Lord is with you, mighty warrior."

Um, excuse me, I think you must have the wrong person, Lord. Surely, if you knew me -- if you knew about my anxiety, my depression, my addiction, my baggage,  how I hurt that person; surely, if you knew what other people were saying about me, you wouldn't be calling me mighty warrior. 

We all have our stuff that keeps us from getting out of the boat. Stuff that we think disqualifies us.  Gideon replies that he cannot possibly defeat the enemy, as he does not have the strength.

The miracle of grace is that our baggage is not the banner waving over us {Click to Tweet}. The Lord tells Gideon to go in the strength that he has. He tells Gideon that He will go with him.

And there it is, in front of my eyes in scripture: a dare to live the truest thing I know. The call to step out of the boat in faith, knowing that his voice calms the swell of the waves.

Because the Father's joy is to make a way where there seems to be none, to come to the smallest, the least likely, and accomplish the unthinkable. Gideon went in the strength that he had, and defeated the enemy.

I wonder what strength I have. Is it the strength to say a kind word when I am feeling frustrated? The strength to be patient with the unhurried daycare worker when I am late to a visit between a mother and her child? The strength to speak life into that mother's heart, even though it seems as though the deck has been stacked against her?

Sometimes it takes all the strength I have to get out of bed and come to this job again. But then, I realize that we, too, have been given the ability to reach into the pain in the lives of the people around us and come alongside them.

The most appropriate response to the gift of grace is to give -- give beyond what we think we can, knowing that the Lord will supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory.

This, this, is how we overcome.

 

Sharing words and shaping culture with some of the most gracious women on the planet today at Lisa-Jo's place. I guarantee, you don't want to miss out on this party.  

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Five Minute Friday | She

Proverbs says "she is clothed in strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future."  I think about this woman everyday. In the midst of what often feels like a lack of safety and balance and inner peace, I envy her security. How can I become like her? I chide myself for often forgetting that the answer is laid out so perfectly. Because the fallen world wants us to become tangled in its spiral, trivializing ourselves with all of the ways it offers to fill our voids. Perhaps the secret is that its really not a secret. 

The answer is right there. To be clothed in strength and dignity is to be clothed in the joy of the Lord. To consider each and every moment joy, knowing that everything that happens here is an invitation to become more like Christ. To be clothed in strength and dignity is to welcome the trials, hungering for perseverance and character and hope to be planted deep within our dusty hearts.

To be clothed in strength and dignity is to begin to understand how Father God sees us. When He made us, He was happy. At the foundation of the world, He said that we were good. A wise friend says "never doubt what a king speaks over you." But of course, we are fallen, and it becomes all too easy to identify ourselves by our sin.

There is a beautiful theme throughout scripture of the Lord giving people new identities, and perhaps the greatest part of these new identities is that they are entirely contrary to their old ones. Abram, whose wife was barren, became Abraham. The Lord promised him descendants as numerous as the stars, and it became so. Simon, who denied even knowing Christ in the hour of redemption, was renamed Peter, and Jesus said the church would be built upon him.

So I must choose everyday to respond well to this gospel, to wrap myself in joy. I have been given the glory of a new name, a new calling: to be clothed in strength and dignity, and to laugh without fear of the future, knowing that when Father God looks at me, He sees the righteousness of Christ in me. He sees victory.

Hallelujah, to be clothed in riches such as these.

Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker and over 300 beautiful women today for Five Minute Friday.

A Marriage Prayer

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Lord, thank you.

Thank you for the past two months, the past four years. Time spent putting down roots -- laughing, crying, dancing, cherishing roots.

My heart is full.

But Lord, as we continue to grow, I know there will be times of emptiness. You promised that there would be trouble as long as we are in this world, on this side of glory. Help us to remember that You have not given us a spirit of fear, and that two are always better than one. Help us to remember that everything that happens here is for the purpose of making us more like Jesus.

Help us to remember that love, most often, has nothing to do with how we feel, and everything to do with our commitment, our will, the strength You have given us. We love because You first loved us. You have shown us the perfect way.

Father, we want Your Word to be at the center of this marriage. Forgive us for the times when we lean on our own understanding, and help us to forgive each other in the midst of the frustration that ensues. Remind us of Your character -- slow to anger, rich in grace and mercy.

I pray for our purity, because I know it will be challenged. I pray for our eyes, for our minds, and for our hearts, that when we are tempted to wander, we would remember the promise we made to each other in Your presence. I pray that we would honor and respect the men and women we interact with, and that we would be intentional about creating healthy boundaries in our places of work, recreation, and worship. And Lord, I pray that our intimacy would continue to grow.

Lord, You have charged me as a wife to respect my husband. Help me to consistently search for ways to encourage and build up my husband. Give me the grace to find joy in serving him. Help me to not be discouraged by laundry and dishes and things that often seem mundane. Forgive me when I take the small things for granted, and remind me that this life, this marriage, is truly a ministry that can be used to magnify Your goodness.

You have given the husband the charge of loving his wife. God, we both know that this is not always an easy task. I am anxious and forgetful and headstrong, but love covers a multitude of faults. Love not only bandages the wound, but heals it. Lord, I pray that You would strengthen Craig in Your love, and that his love for me would be an overflow of that. I pray that he would find the grace and safety in me that is required for him to be vulnerable.

I pray that we would be patient and kind. Help us not to be jealous or boastful or self-seeking. Help us not to dredge up past grievances. Give us the grace to always be truthful. Lord, let our love be a place of protection, trust, hope, and perseverance. Only in Your strength.

Above all, continue to remind us that our marriage gives only a glimpse of how the Bridegroom loves and yearns for his Bride.

Thank You for my husband, for his smile and strength and wit and constant willingness to serve and search for the best.

Help us to keep seeking Your face and expanding Your kingdom-garden.