30 Days of Celebration: Answered Prayers and Airplane Seats

30 Days of Celebration: Answered Prayers and Airplane Seats

I have always dreamed of adventure. I have prayed humongous prayers, increasingly unaware who I was dealing with, that God actually hears them, that He actually answers them. I am realizing now that dealing with God is not like making promises to a kindergartener, and it’s not like asking favors from a friend.

I write this as I sit in seat 22B, parked in Atlanta, Georgia, the plane about to take flight to Columbus. After 3 months of chaotic transition into my new, I am taking a weekend to visit once was, my friends from college. I am a stranger to loneliness and independence, I am learning. I thought I was independent, but I have consistently been recalibrate these days, learning more about myself than I ever thought I would. All I know is sitting in the Atlanta airport, settling into seat 22B, I don’t think I have ever felt quite so alone.

As I was packing my bag for this little excursion, I came across a letter that had fallen on the ground along my bedside table, forgotten. I picked it up and stuck it in my carry-on, remembering its contents, and as I sat in the airport just minutes ago I unwrapped its well-worn ridges and let the familiar scrawl speak words to my heart.

It is a letter I wrote to myself, half a year ago. An assignment from a friend to pen words to our future selves, one I had forgotten I did. But a few months ago, it came in the mail to my new South Carolina address, and the words inside hit me like a hand grenade then just as they did today.

“Dear Maddie,” I wrote, “I was asked to write a letter to myself in 6 months. I want to put to paper not the woman I am now, but the woman I hope to be when I read this.

Today I cried and prayed, kneeling at my futon, as I consider where I will be. Thought I don’t know where that will be, I know what I want. I want to leave comfort. I want to be satisfied by Jesus alone. I want adventure and to do what I’m scared to do. I want to be the foreigner and student of a new culture and land.

Who will I be in 6 months? I hope I’m brave, that I have gone after the calling placed on my heart, no matter how crazy and big. I hope I learn something new every day. I hope my brain keeps healing and I can be more present.

I hope I’m traveling. And singling. And reading a really good book. And crying a lot, because life is about living all.

So much will happen in these next few months. What will these years hold?

My advice: GO.

Begin again, everyday, and never, ever, let fear drive.

From the cornfields of Ohio, Maddie”

I felt the tears leave me, as they so easily do, incomparably overwhelmed that I have done just that. I have followed the calling placed on my heart. I am traveling. I am doing things, daily it seems, that require bravery and faith, more than I have ever had to muster up before. I am a foreigner and student of a new culture and land. And these things are, by far, the hardest things I have ever done.

So many days, I would willingly give this new life up and rejoin the old, the one that’s gone. Days I feel the change will swallow me whole, or at least change me into some unrecognizable version of myself that I’m not ready to meet. Days I feel like a stranger lives in my head, caring about things and thinking of things the old me just wouldn’t think about. And if I’m honest, it kind of freaks me out. Change has a way of doing that.

But I was reminded, as I sat cross-legged at gave A34, that I am walking in answered prayer. I asked for a faith-growing season, and I have been given one. In fact, I have been given more than I could have ever imagined, not in a million years, and surely not 6 months ago as I thought through what these months would bring.

So I have a choice. I can wallow in the loneliness, in the buckets of faith and bravery expected from me daily. Or I can celebrate it all: the change working it’s way through me, the newness, the adventure, the stories. The people I sit next to on the flight, the friends waiting for me in Ohio this weekend.

My story, the one I don’t deserve and yet have been given in abundance. 

30 Days of Celebration: What Is

30 Days of Celebration: What Is

I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly complaining about what I don’t have. Or, the way my life doesn’t look.

If I’m spending exuberant amounts of time with people, I complain that I don’t have enough alone time. If all I have is alone time, I complain I don’t have more time with people. When I lived in a dorm, I wished I had more room. Now that I have more room, I wish desperately to be back in a dorm. When I don’t have a job, all I want under this blue sky is a job. Then when I have a job, I dread it. I don’t want to go and I find everything wrong with it to complain to my friends.

So, today, I’m just going to celebrate what is.

Like I mentioned earlier, I’m a part of a really great faith and leadership development program through a church in South Carolina. Through the program I’m given a host home, a job, classes I get to take, friends that are doing the program with me.

And it has struck me lately that I have been finding every opportunity to complain about just how “hard” it is. And it is that, certainly. Moving across the country on a week’s notice and changing everything about your surroundings is no joke, nor is a major life stage transition. Never let anyone “should” you about how that makes you feel.

But I make the problem so often of equating hard with bad. Hard’s not bad. It’s just hard. In fact, difficult things are often the greatest things that can ever happen to you and me. So today I celebrate the difficulties. I celebrate learning how to cope with a major transition, learning how to stand on my own two feet and know who I am without all the familiarity. I celebrate the growth in my faith as I put trusting in God to an actual test.

Instead of all the newness being bad, I choose to see it as good. I already have a million memories from this time, and I will surely have more. Dinners around long tables, boat trips, movie nights, laughter with my host sisters, runs around the block.

Part of my job is going out to an after school program every Wednesday and holding a bible club for the kids there. I can already tell it will be the most difficult thing I do every week, and easily the most rewarding. The kids are vibrant and energetic, and I can tell we’re going to have an incredible amount of fun. It will be unpolished and hectic most of the time, I’m sure, and I think the best time spent always is.

I accept the craziness of my life right now. I accept the grief-filled moments of college being in the past. I accept my usual inability to grasp what is on my plate for today. I just meet myself here, exactly as I am. I let today be what it is for me, not what I hope it would be.

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:16

Today is one of those days, ordained for me. I’m not gonna skip the page, skim the letters, flip to the back. I’m gonna read it, soak it in, celebrate the characters, anticipate the plot twists, underline the good parts. I know that’s what God does.

So why don’t I?

30 Days of Celebration: Change

30 Days of Celebration: Change

I’ve had a lot of change in my life these past few months.

New town, new house, new job, new friends, new church. From Ohio to South Carolina, dorm room to host home, student to employee. My roles have changed, my social circles, the rhythm of my days.

You know those magic tricks where people grab the table cloth from under a table set with dishes and cups, and they pull the cloth out from underneath it all in one fell swoop? That’s what my life has felt like these past few months, and although I would have liked to hope that I would be that one table that successfully kept all the plates and bowls upright, I feel way more like the one where the dishes go flying everywhere.

Turns out, I’m simply an amateur in transitioning through a major life change. I try to pull the rug out without any damage, but it quickly becomes evident that it’s impossible. Change is just that way. You and I can’t expect to change everything about our surroundings and what we do and who we know and not expect to feel a bit of a loss of ourselves in the process.

It’s a painful detachment.  For the first couple of months here, I felt a loss of identity and I began grasping desperately at everything that used to remind me who I was. But it was all gone. My role at college, the people I knew, the roads I walked. I didn’t realize at the time how much I built myself around it all, but I had. And when it was ripped from me, I felt like I was ripped from me, too.

It’s an odd feeling, like you’re a stranger to yourself. But it’s an opportunity to get reacquainted, not with the version of yourself that desperately needs reassurance and familiarity, but with your very essence. I have had to ask myself: who am I really? When you strip it all away, what is left?

 

I celebrate today because of what I’ve found.

I’m a child of God. A weak, unworthy, self-righteous, entitled child of God. One who does not deserve that title in the slightest, yet holds it.

I have found that I don’t have to depend on what I do as long as I know who I am. I celebrate because this change has been a refining fire in me, burning out what can’t last anyways. Teaching me what’s of eternal value. Showing me how to meet myself where I am today, to be a friend to myself, and not expect more than what I can offer at the moment.

I celebrate because God has met me here. Sometimes it’s hard to see in the moment, but at the end of the day I am in awe of a perfectly timed conversation, a peaceful heart, a new ability to be still. I am living a season I know will be dazzling in the rearview mirror, even if the present can feel pretty cloudy.

But that’s ok. I celebrate the clouds.

So here’s to change, the scalpel to the soul. Here’s to letting it do it’s work in me. Not fighting it. Just letting go.

30 Days of Celebration: From The Inside of a Cloud

30 Days of Celebration: From The Inside of a Cloud

I went hiking with my sister-in-law yesterday, up into the mountainsides of North Carolina.

We set out just after noon and began to drive, expecting a clear day with good views. But as we got higher and higher, suddenly a deep fog began to cover the road. And that fog quickly turned into complete cloud cover, to the point that we could hardly see the road in front of us. We were totally submerged in a cloud.

One of her favorite overlooks was just up the road, so we decided to stop, to take some time and let the cloud move past. We got out of the car and walked to the overlook, and it was something I have never experienced before. At the railing, where you should have seen a view, you could see absolutely nothing. It was just cloud. A wall of clouds. It was surreal, really.

Hardly anyone was there, because the views were hidden, so it was like a special little haven, a moment in time that seemed to be reserved just for us. And it was beautiful.

I think what I loved most about it is that since the view was hidden, suddenly you found yourself noticing things you never would have noticed normally. The tree we were standing under, the dew on the leaves, the color of the rocks. Suddenly the things near me were in stark color, because I wasn’t distracted by the “better” view. The cloud was actually serving to give me better vision, not worse.

And it hit me, because I often feel like my mind is in a cloud. I can’t see what’s next, I can’t see the whole picture, and it’s all just a little too foggy for comfort. But God reminded me yesterday: clouds are a good thing.

Sure, you don’t see what you came to see, maybe. But you see new things, things you never knew needed noticing. Sometimes I think I get so swept up in the big picture, the “lookout”, the views, and I miss what is right in front of me.

I think sometimes God is merciful to put a cloud around us, because He knows we can’t handle the views quite yet. He doesn’t want us to worry, and so He plants a beautiful cloud right where it’s supposed to be so that we simply live in the moment.

And you know what? That cloud was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. It was special, and different, and it created a moment just for us. And so today I celebrate the cloud over my life, the one that makes me feel like I’m blind to what’s next. I choose today to celebrate it, to thank God that I don’t have to know what’s next, that the “clouded over” version of me is a beautiful one.

And I choose to see what I never would have seen normally, if I was so preoccupied with the view.

30 Days of Celebration: A Single Red Leaf

30 Days of Celebration: A Single Red Leaf

Life is lived in the little, so today I celebrate Fall.

It’s November, and my first one in South Carolina. And let me tell, you it’s BEAUTIFUL.

I was driving yesterday, and talking with my friends about that incredible moment of driving down a street full of fallen leaves. And when you drive through the leaves, they spray up everywhere, you know? And the golden light shines through the flaming trees, with leaves of every color.

I think it is ridiculously awesome that leaves change color in the fall. I mean, how often do we really stop to think about that? One of my favorite quotes about the goodness of God is from Shauna Niequist in her book “Cold Tangerines”. She says:

Right now, around our house, all the leaves are falling, and there’s no reason that they have to turn electric bright red before they fall, but they do, and I want to live like that. I want to say, “What can I do today that brings more beauty, more energy, more hope?”  Because it seems like that’s what God is saying to us, over and over. “What can I do today to remind you again how good this life is?”

I think we try way too hard to see the goodness of God, when it’s really just staring us in the face. Our morning coffee, crafted from the beautiful Creation God made. The smiles of our friends, made in the image of God, beautiful. None of it deserved, all of it given. There is absolutely nothing any of us did to deserve this world we live in, and it is an act of humility to thank God for it.

Because bright red leaves can be so easily overlooked, if we think we deserve them. We will just demand more. But when we realize that every ounce of our lives are given to us, suddenly a single red leaf becomes Christmas morning. Why does it turn red?? How does that happen?? Why does that happen??

Beauty. Just beauty. And then those leaves fall, in a moment that could be seen as death, and yet God brings more beauty as the car in front of you drives into them and they spray up like a fountain, creating life out of death, showering you with wonder.

Because that’s what God does, creates life out of death. For a single red leaf, and for me.

Happy fall, everyone.

30 Days of Celebration: When It’s Too Much

30 Days of Celebration: When It’s Too Much

I am well aware that I have been spending my days on an unlikely adventure.

I haven’t been updating my blog much lately because it has been so crazy, but I think it’s time to CELEBRATE the story I’m in.

I graduated college in May, and you can see the latest post for my feelings on that. It was hard. Unlike some people, I didn’t really know where I was going or what I was doing. I had interviewed one place, and so my eggs were kind of all sitting in that one basket. I was heartbroken from leaving all that I knew and loved. I like to think of myself as this adventurer, but in reality I’m still just a kid who gets scared and wants to crawl into her parents’ bed when things are too hard.

So, of course, God decided to take me on a whirlwind.

I didn’t get that one gig I had hoped for. Square one. I thought of a few options here and there, walked through my summer unsure. I have never been one to crave career, per se. Remember, I like to think of myself as an adventurer?

So I decided to actually pray about it. And do this weird thing called walking by faith. (To be clear, I stink at it. Really bad. But God is faithful anyways.)

Just when I felt at the end of myself, I got a text from my brother who lives in South Carolina. He invited me to come and stay with him for a week or two and try to find work down there. And when I say I felt at the end of myself, I’m not kidding. It wasn’t very triumphant. I cried and called him and said “I’m in”. And that was that.

I visited South Carolina just 2 months ago, aaaand… nothing. No jobs. I had applied a lot of places, and nothing came through. At least, nothing that would pay the bills. And so I waited, and waited,

and waited.

And two days before my trip was over, I decided to try one last time at the places I had looked into. I was mainly applying at churches, so I drove around with my resume as a last attempt. And at the last minute I decided to go ahead and visit a church someone had mentioned the week before, one I had never heard of and never would have looked into.

I figured, worth a shot? I was desperate, remember.

I walked in, they swiftly told me they weren’t hiring, but then just as I was about to walk out, they stopped me and told me that they do have an internship of sorts that might interest me. They said it was called a Fellowship, which is basically fancy speak for a church taking recent college graduates under their wing and teaching them how to be Christians in the workplace.

I had never heard of it. I decided to take the contact information for the director, just in case.

But let me remind you, this was mid-August. Surely a program like that was starting real soon, and the chances of me getting in would be slim to none.

But desperate, remember?

So the next day I decided to just contact the woman who ran it. Why not, right? I was still staring down no job, no housing situation, and a swift plane flight back to my parent’s place. I sent an email out – “Hi I’m Maddie! Let me be in your program??”

And 10 minutes later, got one back.

“Hi Maddie! You are actually way too late to apply for this program. It starts next week.”

Cool.

But… we actually had someone drop out just days ago. We have a spot open. Give me a call?”

And so I did. And I applied, interviewed, got accepted, and moved within a week.

 

I write this, 2 months later, still baffled that this is my story at all. And do you know what’s craziest about the whole thing? I am tempted, every single day, to not celebrate the story I’m living. Because let me tell you, packing up and moving and changing everything about your life in a week is not easy. It’s just not. The Lord lead me here, surely. I can’t begin to tell you how any of this is possible without the hand of a loving God. There’s just no way.

But just because God leads us somewhere, doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, it will most definitely be hard. But I celebrate today because hard doesn’t mean bad. Hard is something worth celebrating, because it grows us. It teaches us a lot.

I could go into so much detail about what I’ve learned in these 2 months already, but that will have to be for another post. For now, just know that God really is faithful. The things you think will tear you apart, won’t. The times that death will surely win, it won’t. Maybe physically, yes, for none of us can stop that. But spiritually, death has no say. The Bible talks about being upheld by the hand of God, by walking through fire and not being burned, by not being overwhelmed by the rivers.

And I’m here to tell you, it’s true. For every ounce of earthly disappointment and trial, spiritual growth is ten-fold.

And today, I celebrate that. I celebrate the headache I’ve had for 2 months because I can’t keep up with all the change. I celebrate the tears of leaving what I love. I celebrate the mornings I can hardly get out of bed because it’s just too much for me.

Because, yeah, it is too much for me. And yet I’m not crushed. It’s the hand of God.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

30 Days of Celebration: Time is a Thief?

30 Days of Celebration: Time is a Thief?

I wasn’t ready to graduate college.

I know that some of my classmates that day were practically tearing the doors down to get out of there. They couldn’t wait to graduate. They highly anticipated whatever was next, so excited to be done with dorm bathrooms and cafeteria food.

And I’m happy for them, I really am. But I wasn’t ready to leave.

My friends describe me as a wholehearted person. Whatever I do, I do with all of me. The “one foot in, one out” concept is pretty foreign, because if I’m doing something I’m going to have both feet in, getting mud on my hands, scraping moments out of minutes. I’m going to invest in the people there and the places there. I’m going to scrapbook my adventures. I’m going to fall in love. It’s what I do, it’s the way I was made.

So leaving college, after 4 wonderful years of tears, laughter, adventures, late nights, relationships… it felt to me like being left at the alter. “Really, college? After all this time we spent together? Nothing?”

Left, high and dry. May 5th came and went, and there was nothing I could do about it. I celebrated a little, and I cried a lot, because college was never about the degree for me. I wasn’t there to get it over with. I was there to be there, and I wasn’t ready to stop being there.

But Time had its own say.

Graduation day came whether I wanted it to or not. It came and went. And it’s taken me some time to realize how much I began to resent Time because of it. It’s like the final slap in my lack of control. I can’t stop Time.

I can’t slow it down, can’t control it. It will pass, and with it is change, whether good or bad.

I’m beginning to realize that it is exactly the things we can’t change that we need to celebrate the most, because they were not made in our design. The older I get the more I realize that I didn’t make this world, and I don’t rule it. But I was made to live in it, and loving the Creator means loving the Creation.

And today that means loving Time.

 

Time is a gift. In the beginning, God made 7 days to be in a week. He gave us rhythm, and rest. He designed our bodies to thrive within the constraints of Time.

Time brings long, wonderful nights of sleep.

Time brings the change of seasons, both in nature and in my life. It makes the leaves change and the snow to come and the spring to reign.

Time has a front row seat as people meet and fall in love, as broken pasts are healed, and I see God viewing time as an adventure. It’s like the turning of a book page in a really great novel. Why would you stay on the same page forever? To turn the page is to usher in what’s next, the adventure waiting for the character.

And why would God not turn that page in my life? I want Time to stop because I fear change, but God doesn’t. My favorite verse in the Bible lately is Psalm 139:16 –

all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

What a shame it would be to not see those pages lived out! Thank you, Time!

 

Today I choose to live my life like I really am seen and known by a God who loves me. I choose to believe that He really does have good plans for me, that He really does see me. And I know it to be true, because He made me. He who made my life will see it through.

And Time will pass, but that’s ok. It’s good, because with it brings growth and love and change, all things hard but beautiful.

Trading Religion for Relationship

Trading Religion for Relationship

I’ve heard it said that noise is the enemy of our generation.

Maybe every generation. Probably. But I know that it’s a prison guard in my life.

As I type this, I sit alone. And it’s quiet. And I have spent the entire day in solitude. And I am extremely,

deeply

uncomfortable.

I don’t know exactly when I lost the art of solitude and silence with God. Maybe I never really had it. All I know is that my relationship with God has always functioned more like athlete-coach than father-daughter. I approach God like a soccer player on the sidelines. My “quiet” times are like drills and pep talks, and then I hit the field as I drive to work and go through my day.

Which works fine. Until I’m sick. Or injured. Benched.

And when God the Father wants only for me to come to Him, curl up with Him, I don’t because I see Him as God the Coach. I’ve failed Him. I’m weak.

I think this is why I fear solitude. I see it as myself on the end of the bench, my coach a million miles away, focused on the other players. So solitude is a dreaded time, a punishment, a time for me to focus on how to get back in the game.

A lonely time.

A time when I realize how much of my value I put into being an athlete. Because if God is a Coach, then that’s what I am to Him: an athlete. My injuries symbolize a loss of identity. No space for weakness, no room for rest. No value in stillness. Life becomes a game I can’t keep up with, and God becomes a Coach I don’t talk to. Because I don’t want Him to see me like this.

 

I came to South Carolina 2 months ago injured.

Not with a broken leg necessarily, or an open wound. More like unable to hit the field due to utter exhaustion. My mind was exhausted, my spirit was exhausted. The season after graduation had run me dry because every morning I woke up expecting to be an athlete and every morning I saw a weary face in the mirror. Dreams were dashed, loneliness was real, anxiety was present. The pressure of knowing where to go bore down on me as I got rejected from internships and confused about what to do.

I couldn’t be an athlete. I just didn’t have it in me. So who was I? My whole life I have focused, full of energy, on what I did for my Coach. But I never spent time learning who I was to my Father, off the field, off the bench. Who am I when I’m not accomplishing anything? Who am I when all things familiar are stripped from me, and I find myself forced to learn solitude?

 

I’m a daughter. That’s who I am. I’m a child of God.

Jesus did not call me here to South Carolina to train me up for the field. He called me here to give me Himself. He doesn’t base our relationship off of what I can do for Him. He just loves me for who I am because He made me who I am. Performance anxiety has no place in the Christian life.

Let me say that one more time, if even just for myself.

Performance anxiety has no place in the Christian life.

I have spent my whole life being a stage Christian, and I am weary for it. I am a Pharisee, but I scream for relationship. Religion leads to burnout, but intimacy leads to vibrancy, because there is no performance needed.

Today I did nothing of value. I saw no one, influenced no one. Accomplished nothing. Walked around deeply uncomfortable being only with my Heavenly Father. But what do you expect? I can only be who I am made to be. That is, a daughter. A child.

I don’t want to be religious anymore. I don’t want to come to God as an obligation, and I don’t want to view Him as a drill sergeant. I don’t want to place my identity into what I do or what team I’m on, because those things can be ripped from me in an instant.

I think that is why God is great to show us our weaknesses, to bench us. Because He knows we can’t keep up the athleticism forever. God isn’t the coach who drills us but the Father who scoops us up and takes us home in His minivan, buying us ice cream on the way home because He is so proud of all that we are, even when we fall. Especially when we fall.

And that is why solitude is vital. Because all God wants is to know me, and to know you. But we fill our lives with so much noise. He wants our severe honesty. He wants our love, and has poured out His love by the bucketload. I feel today as if I know very little about being in a relationship with God, but I’m learning.

I’m getting a taste of daughterhood, little by little.

 

Losing the Illusion of Control

Losing the Illusion of Control

I used to think that life with God was like sharing the wheel of a semi truck.

You know. Sometimes you feel Him driving, and you’re sitting right there, watching out the front window with Him. He’s commentating on what’s going on, pointing out the places He’s bringing you, and training you up for what’s next.

But then sometimes it feels like He just lets go of the wheel and tells you to start steering. And you know He’s still there, but you also know that you’re gonna crash the truck if it ‘s all up to you to get it where it needs to go safely. So you clench your shoulders and grit your teeth and just try to survive because you think that He gave you the wheel and it’s your job to drive.

That’s how I’ve felt since graduating college. I spent 4 years with my driver’s permit, walking with Jesus and learning from Him about how to spend my days well, about how to love Him and others. And then I graduated, and I started to believe that it was suddenly my job to drive. I felt all eyes on me, the pressure of doing something with my degree, the world huge and the highway wide, and I felt my muscles start to tense.

Not helped by the fact that it became increasingly evident that I didn’t have any control of my life anyways. I felt like the wheel was supposed to be in my hands, and yet it consistently stayed out of reach.

I had my eyes set on an internship I was hoping to do this year. I didn’t get it. So I set my mind on a year abroad. The pieces didn’t come together. So I thought I might go back to college and do a year of grad school. But the wheel was always out of my hands. I was reminded consistently that I wasn’t the one driving. And what do you do with that?

If I’m not driving, who is?

 

I used to think that life with God was like sharing the wheel of a semi truck. But now I know that life with God is actually like sitting in the back seat of His minivan.

You see, after all my striving and begging for the keys, Jesus brought me exactly where I was supposed to be. A Fellowship program with a church in South Carolina had a spot reserved for me without anybody but God knowing it, and I never would have found it if it was up to me. I didn’t even know it existed.

But I didn’t have to! I’m just sitting in the back seat of my dad’s minivan. I’m only anxious when I forget that.

I’ve learned that Jesus doesn’t ask us to be in control of our lives. I’ve spent substantial time being upset with Him about my lack of control, but He has been faithful in easing my heart down. He reminded me of family road trips as a kid. My family would take one every summer- pack all the kids in a minivan, drive days on end, pitch a tent in the national park of your choice. It was awesome.

One trip in particular sticks out to me, and that was the year we went to Zion National Park in Utah. I was probably 9th or 10th grade, and I’m sure there were a million details that went into making that trip a success. Hotel bookings, budgeting for gas, renting a camp site, checking the weather. But I couldn’t tell you a single one, because I didn’t spend a single moment trying to do my dad’s job. You see, that was always up to him. He was the details guy who figured that all out. I trusted him to get me where I needed to go, and there was no anxiety in me as I jumped in the back seat of our family minivan that summer.

Why don’t I view God’s plans for me the same way? He’s the details guy. I’ve spent a lot of time not believing that, but I am learning that it’s true. It feels so wrong and pointless sometimes to kick back and read my favorite novel, but from the backseat of a minivan, what else is there to do but enjoy the ride?

That is, if you trust the driver.

It took me landing in the middle of a state I was not planning on living in, in a program I didn’t know existed, living with a host family I had never met, to realize that I was never driving the car. Never. But what a gift that is, because the world’s best driver is.

I’m not going to understand where He takes me, how He does it, and why I’m here. Not all the time. Very rarely. But it’s not my job to understand. It’s my job to enjoy the ride.

And my favorite parts are the pitstops. The times when He stops the car, and takes my rested up, content self and points out a person that needs to be loved. Or a flower that needs to be smelled. Or a really, really good book that needs to be read. And we do it together. Father and daughter.

Sometimes the pitstops are really painful. He teaches me about suffering or walks me through illness or humiliation. Sometimes it straight up feels like He dips me in hot tar or takes a scalpel to my soul. But He’s still driving the car. He’s still in control. His plans for me are still good, those stops merely necessary moments in the story He is writing.

And every day, it comes down to trust. Trust, trust. Always trust. Like a little child.

And every day is a choice to lean into it or not.

The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps.

Proverbs 16:9

 

You Gave Your Life To God. Don’t Expect It Back.

You Gave Your Life To God. Don’t Expect It Back.

I never got a boyfriend in college. Or high school.

And I don’t say that to evoke some sort of pity from you. Really. It’s more of a fact, and one that I’ve found peace for.

But I do say it to be real, because even though I’ve never met the right guy, hardly a day goes by that I wish I will. You know… you turn a corner one day and see him and suddenly everything changes. (Maybe I’ve read too many pre-teen novels for my own good..)

Overly fantasized or not, the reality is that so many people find that person, and their lives are changed forever, and they get to live the rest of their lives with their very best friend. And for many people, this adventure happens in college, and I would be lying to say I didn’t hope it would also happen for me.

But it didn’t.

Not that I didn’t try, of course, and my close friends could tell you story after story of ridiculous things I did to try and make Boy A or Boy B notice me. (Don’t even ask about the unicorn onesie incident…) But after the first boy I liked married my roommate, and the second boy stuck me straight in the friend zone and asked me for advice on the girl he actually did like… things started to get a little discouraging.

I distinctly remember thinking that there was absolutely no way I would get through four years of a christian college without at least one guy falling in love with me. Right? I expected the world to at least give me that. (And maybe it did. But if so, I was painfully unaware.)

I would speak to juniors and seniors and learn that they were still single, and I would gawk at the romantic black hole I had walked in to. How were those people still single?! They were beautiful and wise and dedicated to the Lord. Who wouldn’t want that?

But I have learned that I put way too much stock into romance and dating and sappy Instagram posts. It embarrasses me to even think about it now, but I was indoctrinated by the culture that surrounded me. Even at a christian college, and a good one, far too much time and energy was spent on who liked who, and way too little time on the God who made us all.

 

It’s a little unsettling how much my mindset has changed since graduation a month ago. I think I was changing for years during college, but it’s like I never actually had a chance to see what it all meant for me. I was stuck – in a good way, at the time – in a decision I made as a 17 year old to attend the school I did. And I loved it, don’t get me wrong, but part of me now thinks I may have loved it too much.

Let me explain.

I was comfortable there. I cared about getting a boyfriend far more than bearing my cross. Following Jesus was a hobby for most of my college career – something I would do when I had free time but nothing worth giving my life up for. I would come for Him when I had something to gain, like comfort or proof for my beliefs.

And how sick is that? He died for me. A bloody, humiliating event. God turned away and He took it all.

I think, my whole life, I have been indirectly taught that you can have Jesus and everything else too. But can you? This post feels jumbled, but maybe that’s because I am. I feel like I just stepped off the Tilt-A-Whirl at the fair, like my head hurts and what I thought was gravity just dropped out from under me.

The reality is, I gave my life to Christ when I was 5 years old. And I had absolutely no way of knowing what that would mean for me, but God did. He took my little heart, and He began to mold it and form it and I will never forget the Saturday night my 7th grade year when I realized I wanted to live for God. I knew that night that my heart burned for Jesus, but I will admit I thought nothing of sacrifice.

I thought I could have it all and Jesus too.

And now I’m trying to figure out how I justified it all.

The rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked for life, for a place in His kingdom. And Jesus didn’t tell him to go to a comfortable christian school, marry a christian woman, have cute little christian kids and find a comfortable job to support it all. He tells him to “go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me”.

I want to be careful here. I am not, in any way, insulting those who met their spouse at a christian college, had kids, and now work to support the family they have built. That is incredible and beautiful. What I am questioning, however, is the word comfortable.

And I’m questioning it because I see it in myself. I never dreamed of sacrifice, and consequently didn’t partake in it much. I don’t spend my life loving orphans and widows, as scripture clearly commands. I can’t even remember the last time I told somebody about Jesus who had never heard. I am sickened, sickened by what I have considered important.

Why did I never consider that I didn’t find somebody to be with at college because Jesus didn’t plan for me to find someone there? I gave my life to Jesus long ago, why do I keep expecting it back? “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet lose his soul?” (Mark 8:36).

I think back to all the heartache of the past year. I think it was me losing my soul. Vain desires were rotting me. Jesus took away – withheld – so that I would face sacrifice with a hungry knowledge that this world ain’t gonna cut it. Sacrifice is the only obvious choice if I am to gain Christ.

And I must gain Christ. My soul needs Him. I don’t want to gain this world, for I die a little every time I do.

Jesus is so different than I imagined. He expects me to give it all up, everything He has given me. And yet I know – I know – that if I do, life will be there. He kept me from falling in love because He has love waiting for me – buckets and buckets of love.

But I must follow Him to find it.