30 Days of Celebration: Rainy Days

30 Days of Celebration: Rainy Days

It’s raining today in South Carolina. I woke up to it, and most definitely wanted to stay in bed because dang it’s cozy.

Rain is funny. It is so out of my control. I don’t choose when it rains, how hard it rains, when it stops raining. It can be humbling. Sometimes it doesn’t rain when you want it to or it does rain when you desperately wish it wouldn’t.

I was seeing a certain counselor a few years back for a season, and I will never forget one of the sessions we had. After pouring my heart out to him, explaining my fears and hopes and difficulties, he walked up to the large notepad in his office and wrote one word:

Control.

I was taken aback. He began to explain that so many of my emotional problems centered around this issue of control, and my deep fear of losing it. I left his office that day honestly feeling like he pegged me all wrong, but as time has gone on it is eery to realize how right he was.

I crave control, as so many of us do. Which is ironic, because like I said in an earlier post, I’ve never even had it in the first place. I had a wise mentor once tell me that I will never have peace until I trust that a good God has everything under control, and that He is watching out for me.

Rain is a reminder for me. It’s a reminder that I’m not in control, but that Someone beautiful is. I love rain- the smell of it, the way it hits the road and sticks to spider webs and creates fog. It makes my hair wet and creates puddles that I splash in.

One of my favorite memories is one in Africa the summer after I graduated high school. It was storming so hard that the water went out in our guesthouse, so we washed our hair in the rain. And we laughed and celebrated the power that didn’t belong to us.

Rain makes things grow. Grass, trees, flowers, and me.

Today it made sounds on my window as I read my Bible, the pitter patter that matches the rhythm of my heart. It’s awesome, this world we live in. So greatly outside of our control, but so intensely beautiful, down to the single rain drop. I am learning that I don’t need to be in control of the forecast or my own life, but it takes trust. A lot of trust. Because the fog from the rain makes my future pretty hazy, and I need to learn that that’s ok.

Today I celebrate the rain.

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: Brokenness

30 Days of Celebration: Brokenness

One of my absolute favorite things about Jesus is the fact that He’s not afraid of brokenness.

Not His brokenness, not my brokenness, not the world’s brokenness. None of it. He’s just not afraid.

2 months ago, I was told to take some time and journal what I feared the most. Whatever it was that scared me more than any other thing. I was at a lake house at the time, so I settled into an outdoor reclining chair overlooking the water, and it wasn’t hard for me to choose my thesis.

Brokenness. I feared brokenness more than anything else.

I was scared of being broken, of appearing broken. And so I put all of my energy, all of the time, into trying to fool people that I wasn’t, indeed, broken. Which is a joke, of course, because none of us can make it through life unscathed.

In fact, the very idea of needing to appear perfect only highlighted the deepest level of brokenness in me.

But I have learned something in these 2 months, and I am sure I will continue to learn it everyday. Jesus loves broken people. In fact, the more broken the better. Jesus said that He didn’t come to call the “healthy”, but the sick.

I think of the prayer in Proverbs 30:7-9.

Two things I ask of you…

Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me,

lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?”

or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.

It is a prayer for brokenness. The writer is basically saying, “God keep me broken enough so that I will know I need you, because any illusion of wholeness apart from you will keep me away”.

Psalm 34 says that God is near to the brokenhearted. He is never closer than when we are broken, so why do I fear it? Being real with what breaks us is a gift, not only to us, but to everybody around. I think sometimes the very best gift you can give someone is letting them be broken in front of you, because you get it.

Every one of us gets it.

And it brings God near, so I’m thankful for it.

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

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