Not Easy

Well, I’ve come full circle. Again. I have a project due tomorrow for the first year teacher’s program at my school and I am cleaning, organizing, and blogging in a feeble attempt at procrastination. This reminds me of college so much, except that I am listening to rain instead of Mumford.

I’m also coming full circle in a different way. This summer, I will be moving. Again. With a doubt, I am overjoyed to be moving. I landed my dream job with an amazing support system. I have a potential housing situation lined up. I will no longer be living 3.5 hours from my amazing boyfriend… I am so excited about what is to come.

The existence of excitement does not preclude the existence of fear, exhaustion, uncertainty, uncomfortability, insecurity, or difficulty.

In fact, excitement and uncertainty have often gone hand in hand for me. Excitement and exhaustion are two words that describe my overseas travel impeccably – often at the same exact moment. Excitement and fear define my first year of college in a nutshell.

So here I am, putting on my big girl panties and moving to another state. For a boy. For a job. For a better living situation.

I know, without a doubt, that this is what God has for me. I know that it is good. It know that it is His plan. I know this because it has worked out perfectly in only the way that He can work things out. I know this because the guy who lives there loves me with safe, sacrificial, challenging love that blows my mind. I know this because God has proven himself again and again. I know that it is God’s plan for me to move to this new state and city and community.

Regardless, I am still afraid. I am still tired, uncertain, uncomfortable, insecure, and preparing to face difficulty. “Being in God’s will” (whatever that means) does not mean that everything is peachy. Following God does not make your problems disappear.

This morning in church, my pastor explained that with good couples, one partner has strengths where the other has weaknesses. The opposite is true as well. In moments of alignment, they complement each other. In moments of misalignment, they complain: “We’re so different from each other! Why are we even dating/engaged/married?!?” But that’s just what makes couples work. We’re supposed to be different from our partners. They complement us.

If we take difficulty (like the example of the complaining couple) to mean that we’re in the wrong place or God is punishing us or we should leave, we’re understanding difficulty inappropriately. Sometimes we are in the “wrong” place, and God makes that clear to us while calling us to a new place. But we should not run away from difficult situations. We should work through them, only leaving if proven necessary. That’s why we should not break up relationships or get divorced over difficulties. We should work through them and figure out the real issues.


One reason I am afraid is that I don’t do “new” very well. I am a hardcore introvert who loves dependability. That’s one reason it’s hard to be around a lot of people. Other people often do things that are unexpected, and that leaves a lot of newness and inconsistency to deal with in a group setting.

However, I have realized that I need people. Shocking, I know.

I was reading an article from Donald Miller that discussed introversion and extroversion. One person commented: “…it takes me several days of complete solitude to recover [after a big social engagement]. I used to apologize for it, but now I just plan for it.” I think that summarizes the introvert’s needs perfectly. It would be wrong of me to constantly apologize for the weird things I do because I’m so introverted. However, it would also be wrong of me to pretend I didn’t have a need for “recharge” time. Like the commenter said, I should plan for those things and give myself grace to work through them.

It is great to acknowledge and utilize an understanding of personal traits like introversion and extroversion, but we cannot let the labels dictate our lives. Introverts cannot eliminate community time any more than extroverts can eliminate solitude time. It’s necessary to have experiences that shape and stretch us, and both community and solitude are essential for spiritual growth. My old youth pastor used to tell me that ministry (and a lot of life) is 80% what you want to do and 20% what you don’t want to do.

As I think about moving and making new friends, developing relationships, seeking mentors, exploring a new city, and learning a new job, I know there will be difficulty. I know that a lot of the tasks I must accomplish as I move are challenging for someone who is 98% introverted like me. But life is not about “easy.” It’s about becoming more like Christ, which is anything but easy.

I’m ready for it. I know I will feel afraid but I also know that God is with me. I know I will feel insecure, but I also know that he has brought me here. I know I will face difficulty, but I also know that this is where he wants me. I’m ready for this new adventure because I am taking my adventures one step at a time.

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

The Seasons and The Stages of Life

I have a love-hate relationship with the season of winter. Mostly hate. To be honest, I despise it. It’s 3 months of literal death and figurative torture and just plain miserableness. David writes that a “hope deferred makes the heart sick,” which I’m pretty sure has something to do with school not being canceled despite a chance of winter precipitation. In addition, three of my favorite things (Flowers, Skirts, and Sunshine) are not typically possible during the winter. I think Christmas must be winter’s only saving grace… Thankfully we don’t live in pre-Aslan Narnia, where it is “always winter but never Christmas.” Think of that!

What makes it worse is that I spent last winter (one of the Southeast’s most ridiculous winters in terms of precipitation) in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where our temperatures were in the 100’s by late February. I spent this winter in “Famously Hot” Columbia, where our lowest recorded temperature was still in the double digits. (Now that I think about it, we might have had 9 degrees Fahrenheit early one morning.) Even though it was not actually that cold this winter, compared to my friends in New York or Canada, and despite not missing a single day of work this school year due to weather precipitation, I still hate winter.

I wonder if I have some kind of seasonal depression. Possible, but not super likely. Maybe I’m just not looking hard enough for the joys of winter. Every season has joys, right? (Springtime definitely has more… Don’t tell Winter I said that.) Winter is the time for remembering the birth of our Savior, which should be joy enough. Winter also has the beauty of scarves and hats: wearing the things I’ve knitted. Winter has the sweet warmth of hot chocolate and peppermint mochas. It has gift-giving and two weeks off work. It has bonfires and boots. It has familiar songs and childlike joys. Winter is when we watch Elf, one of my favorite movies. Winter is the time of year when I get to break open a new planner… What joy! Winter houses fresh starts on New Year’s Day and free chocolate on Valentine’s Day.

Without everything dying in winter, how would we be able to celebrate new life in spring?

Switchfoot sings that the “shadow proves the sunshine,” which is completely true. If flowers didn’t die, animals didn’t hibernate, and temperatures didn’t dip, what joys would spring bring? How would we know when to celebrate?

We’re still four days out from the official “First Day of Spring,” but our high today was in the 80’s. Why am I complaining? There are joys here today and there were joys last week and last month and two months ago. Winter is just a season that is here today and gone tomorrow. It is the cycle of life, the passing of calendar months, the rhythm of hearts…

The rhythm of hearts. The rhythm of my heart.

See, It’s been a bit of a winter recently. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” like I wrote at the beginning. Unmet expectations are easily cause for complaint, depression, frustration, irritation, and all that is unbecoming to a child of God. When I’m looking for everything to go according to plan, I find myself standing in a blizzard wearing a skirt and sandals.

This is not what I had in mind, God. 

God chuckles. He’s got me right where he wants me. He’s been planning this all along. This was my Emergency Plan U, but it has always been His Number One Plan A. God doesn’t have backup plans. He doesn’t need them. Everything already goes according to his plan.

This is not what I want, God.

Oh, but it is. And God knows that. He knows that my ultimate goals are to know Him and be known by Him. He knows that my ultimate goals are to become more like Christ through everything thrown my way. He knows that my ultimate goals are to love with abandon because that can be my only response to His incredible love shown to me on the cross. Technically, this is what I want. As gold is refined through the fire, so am I refined through difficult circumstances. How can I be more like Christ if I do not have moments of suffering? How can I celebrate spring if I do not have moments of winter?

This is impossible. I can’t do this.

God chuckles again. I feel like pouting. But he reminds me, like a good and gentle Father, that he is with me. He turns my face to his, like a patient lover, and lets me see into his eyes that are full of love. He is holding me, guiding me by the hand, whispering in my ear, and sometimes dragging me (see below) along the journey. He is not finished with me yet. And He is not going anywhere. He does not send me anywhere that he did not go before me and behind me. He will never leave me alone.

Footprints Parody
Taken from http://www.diethobby.com/blog.php?ax=v&nid=878&topic=Footprints

I get a kick out of that every time.

Anyway…

Friends, winter does not mean that God has left. It doesn’t mean that He is silent. It doesn’t mean that we’ve done something wrong and now God is giving us the silent treatment until we confess the right thing.

Winter means that we are in a season of figurative or literal death. Death of unmet expectations, deferred hopes, or a very good part of our lives. Or it could be the death of a person dear to us or the end of particular season of happiness. It’s just that: a season. It will come and go. It has a reason for being here, but it is temporary.

I have been working on a new 10 year plan recently. It’s part of my personal getting-over-supposed-seasonal-depression program. I know I will have plenty more winters in the next decade. But I also know I will have springs of new life, summers of carefree happiness, and autumns of remembrance and contemplation. Because of that, I’m going to dream big. Anything can happen in the next ten years. And I’m praying I have many more decades to go after the next one. So I’m not going to settle. Winter has a way of making us settle, telling us that chapped lips and wind-burned faces and cold toes are normal and are going to last forever. God, on the other hand, beckons us to see crisp summer morning hikes and warm April breezes and sandy toes instead. Let yourself dream big, friend.

Maybe there is more to life than winter. Maybe there is more to a year than December through February.

Maybe spring is on the horizon just as summer break is inching closer, day by day by day…

So today, I’m going to eat my mint M&Ms leftover from Christmas and dream big. I’m going to look for opportunities to love today while preparing for more opportunities to love tomorrow. I’m going to buy more skirts and soak in more sunshine and smell more flowers. I’m also going to not hate winter. It made the sunshine that much more beautiful today.

All things work together for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose.

Welcome to 2015

Just before 2013 dawned, I heard about a program called OneWord365. Instead of creating a list of New Year’s Resolutions, program participants are encouraged to spend time reflecting on one word over the course of a year. I selected the word grace as my 2013 OneWord. It was bumpy, it was tough, it was crazy… But I learned a lot and had an awesome experience.

For 2014, God hit me in the face with the word discoveryI knew I would be undergoing many changes, such as spending three months in Chiang Mai, Thailand; graduating from college; moving, looking for jobs, and looking for a church/community. There were also many new changes I was not expecting: a new, wonderful, amazing boyfriend (my first); working out my relationships with close friends (including a decision to not move in with them); feeling my heart torn between three cities and three families; finding a friend/mentor in the sweet girl who had my job before I did; starting a new ministry opportunity through her and her husband; and having a new “re-calling” to overseas missions. Much of 2014 is not what I expected. I often feel tossed by the wind, unable to grab hold of anything firm and stable.

But I forget that God is my solid rock. Oh, how I forget that so easily! Maybe 2014 is a transitional year. Maybe it’s supposed to feel out of control… And not a good out-of-control, either, but often a frustrating, disappointing out-of-control. Often, I feel alone. I feel that I have more on my to-do list than hours in a day. Yet, I also occasionally feel bored. I feel dissatisfied. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe God is reminding me that this is not my home. My home is an eternity with Him.

The word I’ve chosen to focus on throughout all the days of 2015 is LOVE.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

I know, I know… It’s cliche. Everyone else has picked “love,” too. A couple nights before New Year’s Eve, I literally could not stop thinking about it. It was all I could to go to bed with “love” on the brain. It wasn’t emotional or sexual love, either. It was selfless love… Agape love…

1 Corinthians 13:13 says that faith, hope, and love are the three things that remain when all is said and done, but that love is the greatest of the three. John 3:16 states that the reason we have the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ reconciling us to God is because “God so loved the world…” He LOVED us. That’s why we’re here. We are called to LOVE others, because “by this everyone will know that [we] are [His] disciples” (John 13:35). The word “love” shows up in the NLT Bible 759 times, more times than faith (507) and hope (190) combined.

One reason I’ve chosen love is because it is difficult. People are sinful and selfish and annoying and rude and close-minded. It is difficult to love anyone! In addition, love is not a feeling, but a choice. I have been dating an amazing guy for six months. It has been awesome, difficult, and wonderful. But if I relied solely on my feelings for him, there would be times I would want to give up on this relationship. Feelings change. However, I am learning to rely on what I know to be true instead of what I feel. I know that this guy is after God’s heart. I know that he wants what is best. I know that he has a servant’s heart. I know that consistency is practically his middle name (it’s actually Stephen, but you get my point). I care deeply about him even when he forgets important things or even when we struggle with boundaries because I have chosen to care about him. Love is not a feeling, but a choice. It hopes and perseveres and sees potential. And the cool thing is that he does the same for me.

So, welcome to 2015. I know it will be another year of transitions and changes and moves. I know it will be another crazy year. Too crazy for words. But I know that God is my solid rock on which I find my footing, and I know that I will be intentional about choosing love this year and learning how to love well, as Christ loves the church.

Dissatisfaction: Trusting God in Un-Ideal Circumstances

When I went to buy a Christmas present for a relative today, the cashier asked me to take one of those phone surveys by calling the number at the bottom of my receipt. He seemed quite excited about it, and I figured it couldn’t hurt. I dialed the number as I walked out of the store. It seemed as if the automated voice told me over and over again: “Press five for extremely satisfied… Press four for satisfied… Press three for neither satisfied nor dissatisfied…” And so forth. It went on and on.

I realized during the phone survey that I am not satisfied with my current circumstances. Nothing is working out the way I had planned, even the good stuff. Like, for example, the fact that I am teaching six year olds after just graduating with a degree in Secondary Education. I never expected to hold so many hands and stick so many Band-Aids and settle so many disagreements over erasers or line leaders as I have so far this year.

It’s December ninth, almost seven months since I walked across the stage to receive my college diploma alongside a couple hundred of my peers. For many of you, me included, life since graduation has not been exactly what we’d hoped. Some of you haven’t gotten the jobs you expected. A few haven’t gotten any job at all. If you do have job in a field you chose, colleagues or working conditions may not be up to par. If you’ve moved, there’s an added level of finding your way around a new place, locating the good grocery store and a local Bible-believing church. Many of you are in un-ideal living conditions, such as living with your parents if you wanted to move out or living with new roommates you aren’t quite sure you actually like. And then there’s the whole money issue, like when your car needs a new battery the same month you have to go to the doctor and get a prescription filled on top of student loan payments and car loan payments. Awesome.

It is easy at this point to give up. To give up because you are tired, because things are not working out like you’d hoped, because your plans are not coming to fruition. Or, at least, to give up on the inside. You may still go to work because you need the money, but you may give up on being cheerful at your job. You may still cook dinner for your roommates on your assigned day, but you aren’t open to having good, honest conversations with them. You may still go to church, but you aren’t soaking up the lessons from the sermon or connecting with the body. You may show up to your service commitment or help someone out of obligation, but you may not be letting it change you. You may still have fleeting moments of awareness and hope and joy but, in general, life falls flat. Life stinks. A lot.

Let me tell you this, friends: This is only temporary. This spot you’re in right now may not be ideal, but it will not last forever. On one hand, you should be open to and serious about the next step for you, whether that is applying for a new job, enrolling in graduate school, pursuing and officializing a relationship, whatever. On the other hand, keep in mind that there will always been greener pastures. There will always be a next step you are looking towards. Therefore, consider that even though your current circumstances may not be ideal, God is working in them.

The book of Genesis is full of barren women and childless couples who felt like they were in a holding place of un-ideal circumstances. Consider Abraham and Sarah, who didn’t have Isaac until they were ancient… Literally. Also note Isaac and his wife Rebekah in chapter 25: Isaac prayed for Rebekah to have children when he was forty years old. She didn’t give birth to their first children (twins) until he was sixty. That was twenty years of prayer and work and effort and wondering. However, the Bible doesn’t say that Isaac complained and gave up and blamed God for not getting what he wanted. It says that Isaac “pleaded with the Lord on behalf of his wife” (v. 21). He pleaded; He didn’t doubt. And God did great things. In Isaac and Rebekah’s case, we don’t know what God did in the meantime. However, we do know a lot of Abraham and Sarah’s journey and all the adventures God took them on between calling them away from Abraham’s family and bringing Isaac into their lives.

This quote has stuck with me for a while: Never doubt in the dark what God has revealed in the light. Dear friends, have you gotten to the point where what you knew to be true in more ideal circumstances has fallen by the wayside now that you are in un-ideal circumstances? Go back to what you know. See, God doesn’t change. The way we perceive him changes, but he himself does not change. Not even a smidgen. Therefore, all the truth he revealed to you when you were sitting in chapel service after Bible class after prayer meeting in college is still true. All the truth he revealed to you when you sat by an ocean in a foreign country with your journal and your acoustic guitar is still true. Go back to that. Read your old blog posts or journal entries, Skype with a friend who went overseas with you, or revisit old places where you heard God clearly. Remember that he has not changed… The truth is the truth wherever you are.

Just as a great guy loves his girl and shows that love through his actions and his attitude whether she is near him or far away or whether she is a joy to be around or an emotional wreck… So God loves us (even deeper and more unconditionally). You have already been made holy, righteous, and redeemed before him. He loves you regardless of your current circumstances because your current circumstances do not explain or define his attitude towards you. They are, however, where he has put you for the time being. And he works in them, too, every moment of every day, even when you can’t see him.

What if God chose these un-ideal circumstances for a reason and put you in them for a reason? Sounds a lot like Esther, huh?

If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?

– Esther 4:14, NLT (emphasis mine)