I asked 28 to surprise me, challenge me, and scare me and I spent many days of the past year asking myself why the heck did you do that? This past year absolutely scared me. I had days of feeling loneliness in such a deep and scary way. I also experienced the deep and beautiful feeling of community and family and the way we can love each other into wholeness. 28 definitely also challenged me and surprised me. I grew in ways I could not have foreseen, and have been pleasantly and not-so pleasantly surprised by the events of the year.
So to 28, I say “BOY BYEEE!” But really I will look back at you with gratitude for all the hard lessons and big growth. I will not look back for long because I am walking forward into new days, one day at a time — one step at a time. Walking forward with confidence in who God is, leaning fully on His consistent character, His overwhelming grace, and His perfect peace.
So 29, I promise to let you be exactly what you are supposed to be. As the last year of my twenties, it will be tempting to make you what I think you are supposed to be; to make things happen quickly, to figure things out, to get all my young adult ducks in a row. But I am going to take you one.dang.day at a time, letting life continue to surprise me, and maybe in that offering freedom to people coming behind me.
One of my favorite book quotes is this one from Tsh Oxenreider in her book At Home In the World. During their month visiting China, she wrote herself this reminder:
“You’re in China, which is hard. But you can do hard things. You won’t be here long. Lean in to the struggles; give thanks for the easy times. Hard doesn’t mean wrong. You’re on the right path.”
Hard doesn’t mean wrong. I cannot tell you how many times I have repeated this phrase to myself in the past year.
We tend to glorify the easy; if something comes naturally we assume it is right. So then with that logic, if something is hard, it must be wrong. I disagree with this on a theological level. It’s sort of like the “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle” pseudo-verse that I still can’t locate anywhere in the Bible. And, from my semi-short life experience, I have already seen numerous ways that He has, in fact, given me more than I could handle. It’s just that He actually holds those things for us, and walks with us in them, and with that we actually can handle them. We just can’t handle them alone. He tells us that life will be hard – in this world you WILL have troubles! So we do ourselves and everyone around us a disservice if we think He won’t let us walk through hard things. Then when those hard things come it just makes us bitter towards Him instead of what it is intended for, which is to invite us to trust Him more.
When you look back on your life, are the things that have shaped you, most impacted you, changed you for the better, were those the things that were easy? When I look back it’s the challenges, the frustrations, the hard relational moments, the stepping into the unknown that changed my life and made me who I am.
I am in a season of transition. Fall, if you will. Leaves are detaching from the branches and I am feeling a little bare. So many things have changed in my life, some are really beautiful changes, and some are incredibly hard. We think fall is beautiful because the change is slow and dramatic, but then all of a sudden the first snowfall comes and all the leaves are on the ground and the trees are left exposed. Winter comes far too quickly. There is so much change. I don’t like it. Every year I write about how hard fall is, yet I never learn to be ready for it. In these seasons I am hungry for truth and guidance; I am almost desperate for it.
Through this I am learning that Scripture is exactly what we need and rarely what we want. Really. One morning I woke up with a craving for Scripture. I thought, “I’ll read this and it will tell me what I want to hear. It will confirm what I already know (that I am right and everyone else is wrong).” Guess what? It did not do that. It taught me that it should be my glory to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11) and that those who love purity of heart and gracious speech will have the King as their friend (Proverbs 22:11). Scripture told me that I don’t get to sulk in my anger, that I don’t get to gossip and try and make myself feel better. Scripture called me to a higher standard.
You are capable of so much more than you know: Another life lesson learned in Uganda.
Throughout my entire life I have struggled with fear. I have always known fear, a close companion that turns out was actually a really crappy friend. But only in the past few years have I really become close friends with Courage. As we know, we cannot focus on the things we don’t want to become (i.e. if you spend your life saying “I don’t want to be like my mom,” you most likely will be just like your mom. It is all you have thought about or pictured.), so we choose courage instead.
Courage has become a constant for me; a discipline, a habit, an everyday teacher. While I was in Uganda, I started keeping a “courage list” because I was conquering so many things, both little and large, that scared me. This list included (but was not limited to):
Traveling to Africa (I’m kind of a nervous flyer…)
Riding a boda (a Ugandan motorcycle taxi type thing)
White water rafting the Nile
Preaching in a Ugandan prison
And each time, I survived. And was stronger and braver for it.
I wake up with that familiar pit in my stomach. Anxiety sits on my stomach like an overweight toddler, waking me up from my sleep. And then God’s voice says: Who are you inviting to sit at your table?
Oh wait, Fear and Shame, how the heck did you two get a seat here? You didn’t. You actually weren’t invited. You show up uninvited all the time. You come in like loud, obnoxious children – acting like you own the place. The worst kind of party crashers.
But this is my table. My mind. My heart. I don’t actually want you here.
When we ask for a situation to be fixed, He says I am with you. Not always what we are looking for, but always what we need. He knows that Presence is what heals, not answers.
I’ve been obsessively reading The Circlemaker by Mark Batterson recently. He talks a lot about God’s promises throughout the Bible, and how circling them (literally, with a pen, and figuratively, with your soul and mind) can fuel your faith and encourage your prayers. For whatever reason, I opened up to Deuteronomy the other day. Not […]