Wednesday, May 11, 2022

plants watered upside-down, and the big move

During covid, I decided (as many of you did) to expand my horizons and start new things/get back into some lost hobbies. I started playing video games with Casey (i.e. watching him play and giving advice), watercolor painting, taking care of plants, cooking and baking more, and playing piano/singing with Casey more. We also got a bird feeder and have become an 80 year old couple who gets up to watch the birds on Saturday mornings, and I don't hate that at all. These things were all so good for my heart and continue to be. I must say, my favorite newfound hobby is the plant-caring-for and bird-watching.

Now, you have to realize, only in the past couple of years have I been able to keep plants alive. Before, whenever I would buy a plant, no matter how sturdy it was, I would kill it, usually by over- or under-watering. In June 2020, after much encouragement from Casey and my friend Hanna, I went to Lowe's and bought a Pothos. While we were getting it settled at home that afternoon, my sweet old neighbor (who was the plant KING, he was amazing, his patio was full of lush plants and so beautiful) came over and offered a cutting of one of his favorite plants. He swore that it was impossible to kill and that it would survive anything, so I accepted it and planted it. After some googling, I *just* discovered it is type of Pallidia plant sometimes called 'Purple Heart'. From there, my little plant collection has grown. I propagated my Pothos shortly after moving to Cleveland- and IT WORKED! So now I have the big Pothos plant and two little ones, my Purple Heart, and I bought a Croton plant last summer that is still thriving! 

At the end of April 2021, I wanted to go for something more adventurous, so I got my first tomato plants. I was pumped, bought some giant terra cotta planters and tomato food and all that jazz, and jumped in. While I was asking around for any advice about tomato plants, my mom gave some advice that became much more meaningful than plant advice. She said, "Since your tomato plants are in pots, you need water them upside-down, to be sure to water the roots. Put a tray under them and water the tray over and over until the plant stops soaking it up. That forces the roots to grow deep in search of water, and your plant will be stronger." That just about smacked me on the forehead. It immediately felt like a metaphor for my faith. 

Over the past year or two, I have been in a new/different/odd place in my relationship with Christ. For a long time, our relationship was easy. I didn't have to work at it much. I had desire to be in the Word and communing with other Believers, and it just... happened. But sometime in the past couple of years, that shifted. It felt like I was in the weird teenage phase of my relationship, where I wasn't 'rebellious', but I found myself suddenly questioning things that had always felt certain. Similar to, "Wait... do my parents REALLY know what is best here? Do they understand the nuances of this situation? Should I lean fully on their judgment or take it with a grain of salt?" Except my questions were, "How do I know I can lean fully on God's guidance? What does it look like to be fully His? Is it possible to be fully His and ________?" (so many things can fill in this blank) So, to use a 'forbidden' buzzword, I believe I'm deconstructing. I see so many things taking hold of the Church in America that make me go... That's not Jesus. How do they think that's like Jesus? And so many things in my heart that make me go... That's not Jesus. How did I think that was like Jesus for this long?

In the midst of these questions and the watering of plants, I realized, I am being watered upside-down right now. He is growing my roots deep. And it doesn't look pretty on the outside, it doesn't feel like a freshly-watered pot, and many days I have felt dry on the surface, but I am watered deep within. I think that's a good thing? Sometimes I'm not sure that I'm doing this right, but I am trying, and I am looking for Him wherever I can find Him, and I am saying Yes to Him when he starts to change me, and I think that's right. 

There are many days I have asked Him, "Am I on the right path? Please move me if I'm not." I am so afraid of getting decades down the path and suddenly realizing I went the wrong way. Is it enough to just trust that He is a Good Shepherd and will lead and guide me, and my feeble idea of control is absolutely laughable? 

Somewhere in here, the birds fit in. They absolutely love our feeder and will empty it in 8 hours. As I watch them, and look at the plants on my patio, I am reminded of Matthew 6 and filled with hope. The birds do not prepare or plan ahead, and yet God cares for them and feeds them. The plants do not toil to be clothed, but God makes their coverings beautiful- for something that is here one day and gone the next! "How much more so" just keeps coming to my mind. How much more so does He prepare and provide for me and cover me. There, on my back patio, He has given the cure for my worries. 

And now, Casey and I find ourselves moving to a new back patio. Back "home" to Hub City. And while we are overjoyed at the Lord providing this, it is also extremely bittersweet. There have been loooooots of opportunities for worry, and God has been providing so much peace. Peace that, as Philippians 4 promised, passes my understanding. I literally find myself trying to objectively process the fact that we are moving, starting new jobs, living in a house, leaving our Cleveland people... all the changes... and going, wait- shouldn't I feel more worried about this? This is not like me. But thanks be to God for this peace that feels illogical!

Let me rewind a bit:

When we first found out we were moving to Cleveland, I was not happy. I shed a lot of tears and felt a lot of rebellion in my heart, but thanks to some wise and encouraging friends, I found the ability to exhale a prayer: “if this is it, God, change my heart.”

And He so absolutely did. 

Against all odds, I love this place. At first, it was just “oh my gosh, Cleveland is so small!”, but so many things that weren’t Cleveland’s fault have given reason for us to not love it. We have been far from our families, with few friends, in a small town. We experienced the darkest days of grief here. We lost three of our favorite people in less than two years- two of them within a month of each other. The walls of apartment 4102 have echoed our cries and seen our buckets of tears. We have been so fluent in tears during our Cleveland time. And yet…

I have loved this season. Casey and I are even more of a weird little team who spend 90% of our time together, and it shows. I love the people that Cleveland brought us, especially PDS. It was a miracle to begin with, me finding PDS at the time that I did, but it has become more of a miracle each day. My heart is knotted up in it, and leaving is gonna be excruciating. I fully believe Mary Kline, my teaching partner, is literally a gift from the Lord to me. There are not words good enough to express how much her guidance and partnership has meant to me. In fact, I feel that way about most of PDS. It is something I do not count lightly, the way they accepted this stranger so quickly, the deep love I have for the place I’ve worked and the people I’ve worked with. I know how uncommon it is to find that. I know the discomfort of working in a place where you feel like you have to keep your guard up. And let me tell you, it has been an absolute oasis to be in a place that is so much the opposite of that.

Somehow, oasis seems to be the word sticking in my mind during this move. When I drove away from my job interview at my new school and began talking to God, I said through happy tears: it feels like I have been in a desert this whole time and just stumbled upon an oasis. Kinda doing a double-take, like... wait, I was in a desert this whole time?!?

And while I am so thankful for the Lord's presence with me (and Casey) in the desert, in the spiritually dry and lonely and exhausting, I keep leaking out more happy tears at His provision of WATER. Set-your-Pothos-in-the-water-bowl-and-let-it-soak-up-everything-it-can water. We were watered upside-down in this season, and it was necessary and good and brought some beautiful lessons. I can't express my gratitude for that enough. And simultaneously, I am deeply thankful for the change of season happening before my eyes and looking forward to the new lessons and gifts it holds.

So. goodbye Cleveland. There are so many things I will miss: La Michoacana mocha ice cream and nutella pops, 50 nights of lights, Zoe Coffee, Uncle Jo’s mac and cheese, going out for Sunday lunch after church, being literally 5 minutes (or less) away from anywhere I need to go, seeing people we know in Kroger every single time, the winter snows, and stunning sunsets. And you sure know I won’t miss it, but I will never forget the insane mosquito season. 😂 I will, however, miss the dragonflies in July/August and my wonderful little slice of heaven in room 406 at PDS and my #dreamteam partner. 

this plant was in a funeral arrangement from a loved one,
and it became our classroom plant this year. I marvel at the irony
(or accuracy?) of the planter: let love grow. 

my sweet lil patio plants last summer (pre-bird feeder)

So thank you, my God, for being One who walks beside me in Cleveland and Hattiesburg just the same. Thank you for these plants and the ways you teach me about me through them. 

Thank you for planting me, for planting Your Word in me (Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the Word planted in you, which can save you! IF YOU DON'T THINK JAMES 1 THROWS DOWN, WE CANNOT BE FRIENDS haha but really).

Thanks for the eleven- and twelve-year-olds that speak James 1 to me and over me multiple times a day-- that's a gift I don't think I even grasp the depth of yet. 

Thank you for this heart of mine that cares so deeply and holds on so strongly to those I love. Thank you for the beauty of a broken heart as I leave people who have affected every bit of me.

Thank you for constantly reminding me "how much more so".

Thank you for holding all my tomorrows and tenderly walking me into each one- that is the best of it all.

Friday, January 01, 2021

looking back, and looking ahead

I have felt for a long time that I have things I need to say publicly, mostly for my own processing, but for so long, the words have not come. Maybe my mind has been too full of other things.

Today, January 1, 2021, somehow still feels hopeful, and it makes me a little annoyed. It doesn't seem like it should feel hopeful. In many ways, 2020 was truly revolting. Put aside the typical, "Covid, quarantine, wearing masks all the time" that all of us faced, and I still see so much hurt and brokenness when I look back on our year. For probably a few weeks now, I've been thinking, "I don't have anything to celebrate from 2020." Quite melancholy of me, but when you have two family members die within a month of each other at the end of the year, those thoughts come easily.

This morning as I spent some much-needed time adoring the Father, I finally allowed Him to reach my heart with truth. There is so much beauty that can come, and will come, from this pain. Though Casey and I are deep in grief, and will be for quite some time, that does not mean there cannot be beauty and life and hope and peace. 

I must admit, it is occasionally really difficult for me as an Enneagram 4 to keep myself from wallowing in the depth of my emotions. It feels nice to wallow and be really, really sad sometimes. It feels relieving, somehow, to find myself "in the depths of despair", as our dear Anne-girl says... Just to fully embrace it and live in it. And while I think there is a time and place for that, I must remind myself that most of my emotions are (at least) two-sided. While I am hurt, I hope. While I am sad, I have joy. While I am afraid, I love. Not allowing myself to feel the sunny side of those deep, dark emotions is robbing myself of the gifts God has for me in the valley. 

While I grieve Mrs. Leigh Ann, I think of how hilariously she would react if she had seen what we made her Christmas tree look like this year, and I have to celebrate how special she made Christmas. While I miss her, I have to reminisce on our final Disney trip together last year and how we belted Disney songs in the car on the way there, and how we took turns pushing her wheelchair through the crowds and took advantage of how they would always send us to the front of the line on rides with her. While I wonder what our future will look like without her, I have to remember how much hope she had for our future- our careers, our future kids, our family vacations. 

While I grieve Mamaw Scitzs, I remember baking and decorating Christmas cookies with her last year, and that she gave me recipe cards in her handwriting of her cookie and icing recipes, and how that will be my favorite gift she ever gave me. While I miss her, I recall our many nights playing cards and trivia around the kitchen table, and how warm and loving her hugs were. While I wonder what parts of her I am carrying on in our family, I think about how she loved singing and serving and cooking and we all adored her for it.

All these things, every memory of them that swirls around in my head, reminds me of the complexity of life and emotion, and what a gift it is to loved by someone for every minute they know you. 

I told God recently that I knew there were gifts to be found in the darkness, but I did not feel like searching for them, so He would have to show them to me if He wanted me to find them... and I think He is. When I look back over this year of isolation, I think about the many phone calls and facetimes and virtual family game nights we would never have had without it. When I look back on a year of change, I think of the gift that was a beautiful church and city and friend group that I treasure now more than I did when I lived with them. When I look back to my hopes and goals for 2020, I slowly realize that I can check off every single box. 

I didn't know then the darkness and hurt that the year would bring, but God did. In our year of uncertainty, I became more certain of Him and His care for me. In our year of scary things, I said yes to Him and found He took the fear away every time. Sara Hagerty says, "The fight against fear is a lifetime commitment to growth in communing with God. Trust is birthed and grows as we face our fears and turn to Him... Fear wants to steal what God gives. Fear can be a barrier to communion, or our communion can dispel our fear". It's difficult to face many of my fears coming to realization, and to somehow keep hoping for the next step. It would be easier to give in to the fear and harbor it. However, every time I have harbored my fear this year, it has become a barrier in my life. But when I turned to look at Him in the midst of my fear? "The things of earth {grew} strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."

If you, too, have had a year of loss and hurt and fear, I hope you turn to Him. He is the best at holding it, not dismissing your emotion, but showing you the other side of it-- the excitement, peace, and stability it can bring when you process it and trust His leading. Today, I am celebrating some small things despite the darkness that is lurking:

- I memorized my first chapter of the Bible this year and God has buried it in my heart and used it time and again to minister to me.

- I read some really good books this year even though I did not meet my meager goal of 20 books

- I spent a lot of time with Casey and have never liked/loved him more than I do now

- I built up some friendships and maintained some friendships and lost some friendships, and all of those things feel right

- God gave us a new city, new home, and new jobs in the middle of a pandemic, and we love it more than we hoped we might

- I discovered the longwalks app and have been mindfully journalling with friends and it's been lovely

There is good around the corner, friends. Even in the pain. Even in darkness. Even in death. God is holding 2021 and leading us along.


some song lyrics that keep coming to mind:

"God leads his dear children along- some through the waters, some through the flood, some through the fire, but all through the blood. Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song in the night season and all the day long."

"after all this has passed, I still will remain. after I've cried my last, there'll be beauty from pain. though it won't be today, someday I'll hope again, and there'll be beauty from pain. You will bring beauty from my pain."

"Be still, my soul, when dearest friends depart, and all is darkened in the vale of tears- then shall you better know His love, His heart, who comes to soothe your sorrow and your fears. Be still, my soul, your Jesus can repay from His own fullness all He takes away."

"I will build my life upon Your love, it is a firm foundation. I will put my trust in You alone, and I will not be shaken."

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

bittersweet eighteen

Today marks 18 years with Jesus. I've been looking forward to this day for a long time, thinking it would feel glowy and resplendent. Strangely, it is much less dazzling than I thought it would be. Maybe if life were a bit different, it would feel more exciting and like the coming-of-age party I thought it would be. However, life is heavy right now. A lot of things feel hopeless. It feels like every day there's something new to discourage us. The world is shut down. No one is hiring anyone, at the exact time that Casey and I are looking for jobs. We have to consider the possibility of moving during a worldwide pandemic and quarantine. Casey's mom is sick and we can't visit her, just have to watch updates of hospital visits and scans and bad nights.
I probably shouldn't be writing while feeling so melancholy, but here it is. Life feels too heavy for me right now. There is too much to grieve and not enough to hope for. And these aren't even "real" trials for us yet. I feel wimpy for being so affected by so little; however, I know this is how He works my faith muscles and the only way to gain strength is to experience His power in my weakness.

For most of these past two years, we have felt unstable. Don't get me wrong, we are incredibly blessed to have wonderful jobs and friends and Church family and the best relationship as friends and spouses, but we frequently feel like a hard circumstance will be un-handle-able. I keep going back to a verse that struck me last summer, Isaiah 33:6- "He will be the stability of your times, a wealth of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge." That solidifies me again every time I get wobbly, offers my heart a strong hand to grasp hold of.

We are in a season of even more wobble, I think. Out on the end of the limb, as my parents often say. Waiting for God to come through. I know He will. I know it won't be in the way I expect or probably want Him to. I know He is always only ever good, and faithful, and steadfast.

Today, in reading Sara Hagerty's book Every Bitter Thing is Sweet (I fully embrace the perfection of reading such an aptly-titled book at this specific time), a line struck me- "As with any calling, we dip our toes in the water of yes and hope to God that this is the biggest yes we'll have to utter, the biggest move our hearts will have to make with such trust, only to find ourselves submerged years later." I have been hoping that saying yes to moving and changing jobs was enough, but I'm afraid that it isn't. The yeses only get bigger so as to deepen our trust and submerge our hearts in Him. That scares me, but I want it. In the same chapter, Sara also writes, "Instead of letting all that I lacked consume me, I was being made ready to delve into unknown frontiers of Him." If I'm honest, it's been five years since my last 'growth spurt' with God. It feels like a new one is beginning. It's always in those dark, scary times that we grow the most, isn't it? Maybe someday I will be mature enough to "delve into the unknown frontiers of Him" without a deep, scary thing in front of me... but I'm not there yet. Right now, it takes the terrifying to push me there.

I think I mentioned in my last blog that I felt a "holy unrest" in me (thank you for the PERFECT terminology, Priscilla Shirer). I realized I had grown stagnant with God, and knew He was preparing me for something, but I couldn't tell then. I still don't know what it specifically is, but I know it is this season we are walking into that He was beginning to stir up.

So, here I stand. On the cusp of something big, that I can't see or comprehend. Looking over the cliff, into the darkness, preaching to myself through song:
"In the valley of the shadow, I remember You are strong, God, You are strong."
"I put all my hope on the truth of Your promise, and I steady my heart on the ground of Your goodness."
"You don't give Your heart in pieces. You don't hide Yourself to tease us."
"You revive me, Lord, and all my deserts are rivers of joy."
"I will trust here in the mystery... You taught my feet to dance upon disappointment, and I will worship."
"There's no place I can go Your love won't find me, no place I can hide where You don't see, no place I can fall Your love wouldn't catch me."
"I am not alone- You will go before me, You will never leave me."
"Where there was death, You brought life, Lord. Where there was fear, You brought courage. When I was afraid, You were with me."
"When the night is holding on to me, God is holding on."
"I'm still in Your hands, this is my confidence: You've never failed me yet."

It doesn't feel much like an 18th birthday party. It feels dark and foreboding and like a lot of bad stuff is about to happen. Probably not the happiest bundle of thoughts to share publicly, but I know my God is a God of full-circle and completing what He starts, so I share this for the day when we can look back to the beginning and remember where it began. I share this to hopefully comfort someone else who also wonders what sort of vast unknown they are walking into, and how it will change them. I share this to reflect on these 18 years so far and remind myself that He has never failed me yet and He won't start now.

Finally, I can't get this quote out of my head. This season will certainly require all of these attributes of me, and all I can do is eek out my little "yes" to seeing how God makes me more like Him through this.
__________________ ____________ ____________ ____________ __________________
music for this season:
Good to Me- Audrey Assad
Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus- hymn
Pieces- Amanda Cook
Jesus, Rock of Ages- Christy Nockels
I Am Not Alone- Kari Jobe
King of My Heart- John Mark & Sarah McMillan
Do It Again- Elevation Worship
God With Us- Brian & Katie Torwalt

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

this is a jumble and I don't like it.

Well, it's been a year. Every time I've come here to write, I closed the tab. The words just wouldn't come. There was a time in my life, about four years ago (actually exactly four years ago), when I had nothing but words to type. Everything was pent up inside me and the only way to process was to write. I suppose I should be thankful that it's not that way anymore, but I developed an attachment back then, and I still haven't let go.
When I think about it, a little voice inside me says, "Bec, you're still a writer," but I've always had trouble claiming that title. It seems so lofty. However, I cannot deny that there are always words inside me, winding themselves around in my head, attempting to find clever ways out. Is that all it takes to call oneself a writer?
Anyway, I'm a good bit ashamed of this post, because it jumps around and isn't very coherent and is NOT the type of writing a TRUE WRITER would produce, I tell myself. But I'm really not here to prove myself as a writer. I'm here to share my heart, to be open and honest, and to hope that God uses it to speak to someone. I'm pretty sure this post will end up being a big jumble of thoughts and emotions, and I dread that, but I know I need to just DO THE THING. Please bear with me.

Life lately has been... different. Kinda funky. It's a lot of self-discovery and avoiding listening to the news and trying to not be so hard on myself.
Here, I must admit that I'm a basic white girl and am VERY into enneagram numbers right now. Which, I believe, is leading to some really beneficial learning-about-myself time.
For a long time, I thought I was a Two- caring, people-pleasing, helper. Then I started seeing a lot of Four tendencies in myself.
Then I listened to Annie Downs' That Sounds Fun podcast on Enneagram Fours and I spent the entire hour going, "WAIT, THIS IS ME! IT'S ME, I'M A FOUR!" and crying along with the speakers.
It's been so beautiful and refreshing and rewarding to hear my tendencies and personality traits explained through the lens of the Gospel, and how those traits can be used to serve and love well. I can't tell you how many times I've cried about that.

And I must say, it tastes so sweet and feels so freeing to realize that part of my Four-ness and Individualist-ness and highly-sensitive-person-ness is a TOOL that God has given me to encourage and empathize and spread words of Truth. My ability to cry at the drop of a baby squirrel is not a weakness, not something I should apologize for, or hide, or feel ashamed of. My ability to cry while listening to any slightly emotional story is a TOOL that God has given me to be able to relate to people and to love them viscerally (tbh, not sure if viscerally is the right word there, but it's the best I've got).

So, needless to say, that made me fall in love with the That Sounds Fun podcast all over again-- I already liked it, but now I have feelings for it. Naturally, I then consumed it like crazy for about a week. I listened to some of my favorite authors and musicians being interviewed- they all made me cry. I learned a lot from all of them, but my favorites were Robin Jones Gunn, Mandisa, and Priscilla Shirer (you should go listen). Robin Jones Gunn reminded me of the importance of friends and of God's sovereignty in all our disappointments. Mandisa spoke about learning to stop hiding from the parts of us we are ashamed of, and instead to speak truth to ourselves and those around us. Priscilla Shirer really got me- she said she was in a season of "holy unrest", and that resonated deeply in me.

I feel like all of me is in that state of holy unrest right now. I'm uncomfortable, almost itchy, and I know there's a reason for it. He's making me uncomfortable for some reason that I can't see yet. I feel the need to get up and do something new in this season... but I can't tell what season this even is. It doesn't feel like any of them. Maybe Winter? I can't tell yet. I just know I'm transitioning to a new season and He's preparing me for something.

(I must remind myself that it isn't a coincidence that these podcasts that I listened to months after they aired, out of order, spoke to me. Every one of them was provided to me by my Father. That makes me weepy, thinking about the fact that He cares enough about me and my worries and my heart to give me some truth in the form of PODCASTS.)

I don't know about you, but I find myself most frequently battling one emotion: fear. I think, if we're honest, that's true for all of us. I'm terrified of what He's preparing me for, of the season He's introducing. I feel very certain that it will be hard and He will require some things of me that I don't think I can do. I'm scared of that.
That's why it is so touching that God's perfect love drives out fear. His ability to show us love in these insane, earthy, human ways is meant to drive the fear out of our hearts and lead us to Him.

As much of my writing does, this will circle back to Casey, so if that annoys you, just skip this bit. When Casey and I first broke up in August 2014, I was terrified. I realized that I loved him and I was terrified that losing him would scar me, or he would never come back to my life. I remember many days of waking up scared that I'd lost this guy who had quickly become one of my best friends, asking God, "Do I have to give him all the way up?"
The answer, of course, was yes.
At that time, I stumbled upon the perfect song- All We Are is Yours, by Daylight Worship. I cannot tell you how many times I listened to that song in the fall of 2014. The lyrics say,
"Whatever you say, whatever the cost, all we are is Yours

Wherever we go, whenever You call, we give all our strength that Your name would be known."

That resonated so perfectly in my heart. As much as I wanted to still be Casey's girl, to still be friends, to hold onto what we had, I knew the only way to move forward was to offer "us" up to God. To open my heart to the possibility of a call that I didn't like, or a cost that felt very unaffordable. To prioritize my relationship with Him over Casey.
I'll finish the story quickly by telling you what many of you already know- Casey came back in my life eight months later with all the beautiful timing and truth only God could orchestrate. We dated for 3 more years, and when planning our wedding, the one song we knew we had to have included was All We Are is Yours. This time we had many of the same feelings I'd had years before: fear, trepidation, nervous excitement. I think every time you fully place your trust in God, those emotions are to be expected. We knew that we would do what He said, go where He called us, whatever the cost. But that's scary and our human minds had a hard time wrapping around the idea of His ability to provide for us at every twist and turn.

That's most of why I wrote the waiting and believing post, about our marriage, life in Hattiesburg, and all that God has brought about here: because I had been terrified, and my little heart relied on His love to get us through. And it did. We waited. We believed. He loved us. We survived. He drove out our fear. We grew. That was enough.

And it still is enough.
Sometimes I feel like life is happening so fast, there will never be enough time to soak up all the lovely moments that go flying past me every day. I fear forgetting these days. I will never be able to memorize every detail of Casey's face, but I need to have it memorized because there is a 50/50 chance that I will have to live without him at some point. There is not enough time in this future of beautiful things blazing past me. It literally makes my throat get tight, the fear of missing all the good stuff. It paralyzes me sometimes and lays in my chest, heavy and dark. Ironically, the fear of missing all the good stuff leads me to missing stuff, because I'm letting fear settle in me. I'm giving it a place to live. And I'm tired of doing that.

In those moments over over-awareness, I feel every little moment so deeply. Kids smiles. Tears. The sound of dragonfly wings. The silliest things. I want to use that over-awareness to cherish life, not to fear missing things. Since it's January 1, I strongly feel the need to have succinct resolutions, or a word for my year, or some sort of vision... but I don't have any of that.

I have things I feel God has spoken into my heart:
I will see salvation this year.
He will provide for the scary unknown that is the months of 2020 after May.
I can trust Him.

That's all I've got. No cute picture. I don't even have a verse yet. But I think His voice is enough.

songs that have been resonating lately:
-Barter (SSA arr. by Clausen)
-High Flight (SSA arr. by Karen Linford Robinson)
-Embracing Accusation (Shane and Shane)
-All We Are is Yours (Daylight Worship)
-Music of My Heart (Nicole C. Mullen-- man I miss her)

Monday, December 31, 2018

welcome to midnight.

Do you ever feel like your path with God is a big ol' question mark, instead of a straight line like it seems it should be? 2018 has been that for me. Don't get me wrong, it has been one of the best years of my life, but it has also been one of the most trying years in every way. This year has been wibbly-wobbly, unsteady, and constantly changing.

I found out my school was closing. I left my job. I got married. We moved to a new city. He got a job, I didn't. I was unemployed. My sister left the country for two years. I worked part-time. We found a church. We found out my mother-in-law's cancer came back. We had to make new holiday plans and traditions. We had our first holiday season without Lauren.

It's been a lot of change, and I've been a heck of a mess. Through it all, through all the tears and doubts and questioning God's purpose in this wiggly question-mark-of-a-path, I found He was building a new foundation of trust in Him. I realized He was building my faith muscle the only way it can be built- by working it out. He was training me in discipline and faithfulness. All those days of wondering where He was leading and what my next step should be were like the marathon-training before you actually take the steps down the road. I felt like I was running in place, and I kind of was, and maybe it benefitted me.

I feel like I've grown more in 2018 than I have in many years. Thinking back across all of these months, I began trying to sum up the main lessons I've learned this year. I won't ramble too much about it, but if you'd like more details or would like to talk about any of these points, I'm more than happy to hear your thoughts and questions and share mine as well. 

Some things I learned and grasped tightly to in 2018: 

  • I refuse to spend my life trying to make myself skinnier or smaller or less. I will not be mean to my body just because I have been conditioned to believe that big numbers are shame-inducing and fat is bad. Body positivity and fatness are such complex issues that cannot be neatly summed up, but this year I really started to live happily in my body and be proud of it and treat it well. Fat is not bad. My body has much more purpose than pleasing others. I like to work these abs out, and also feel my belly soft and squishy when it's relaxed. This year, I finally stopped wanting my body to be something other than what it is, and it has been so freeing to not constantly live at war with myself. 
  • Responding to conflict with rigidity and harshness only worsens the problem. The only 100% effective method to solving interpersonal issues is selfless kindness. Whether you're a teacher, a friend, a sister, a coworker... all the people around you want from you is kindness. The only way to soothe and resolve problems is to approach them gently and lovingly.
  • God is always always always providing and caring for His flock. Even when it feels like He left. Even when you made a decision and then realize it might have been the wrong one. Even when it is down to the very last second. Even when it has been three years, and you thought that stir in your heart had died... He is growing you. He is providing you with lifelong treasures. He is teaching you the priceless gift of learning to walk with sorrow and suffering as your closest companions. He is gifting you a present, painting you a future, and redeeming you a past more beautiful than any earthly accomplishment or item you could ever covet.
  • The best gift you can ever give anyone is to be a soft place for them to land. My favorite moment this Christmas (maybe this whole year) was sitting across the kitchen table from my mom, cutting up food for Christmas recipes, talking about our pain and being a little weepy together. You can take all the jewelry, books, tickets, clothes, and cute stuff away from Christmas, and that's enough for me. If you're left with time spent beside loves ones cooking and watching tv and talking about tough subjects, it was worth it all. In three years- heck, 3 MONTHS- I won't remember what I got for Christmas, but I'll remember sitting in the Alabama Theatre sandwiched between my brother and my husband, watching my parents hold hands, singing Hark The Herald Angels Sing and feeling like I was living in It's A Wonderful Life. The best parts of this year were when I was able to be fully myself, ugly parts and all, and was embraced and loved in the midst of it. 
I hope you found some hopeful lessons and grasped tightly to them, too. I hope you discovered parts of yourself that you didn't even know were so strong and beautiful. I hope you began to see another human's extraordinary magic (to steal Ben Rector's words) and felt the miracle of love. I hope your eyes were opened to areas of God's heart that are so much deeper and kinder than you were ever taught.

This year, I met some darkness that I didn't see coming. I felt, for a bit, like more of a burden than a light. You've probably felt that way before, too. Before this year ends, take some time to celebrate the small victories and pinpoints of light in your life. Don't give up. Let this new year be one that you look back on as the year everything changed for the better. On New Years Eve, I always think of these words from one of my favorite authors, Jamie Tworkowski. 

"Wouldn't it be nice if change took just a moment?
Wouldn't it be nice if it were that easy?
Midnight and we're new. Midnight and the past erased. Midnight and we're free.

It seems to come slow. It seems to be a surgery.
Forgiveness. Healing. Sobriety. Letting go. Starting over.
It seems to happen slowly over time. 
One day at a time, the choice made new each morning.

Will you fight?
Will you fight to be healthy?
Will you fight to be free?
Will you fight for your story?
Will you fight to get the help you need?

Change takes more than a moment, but maybe there's also something to this celebration of a moment, something to the way it speaks to us, something to the way we fear it, and dream it to be true. Maybe it's the most honest moment of the year.

It's possible to change.


I cannot close this blog without mentioning some of the art and artists who made this year lovely for me. Not sponsored, just honestly enjoyed:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Remember God by Annie F. Downs
Come Matter Here by Hannah Brencher
Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe

Magic by Ben Rector
Look Up Child by Lauren Daigle
CRAZYTALK by Mat Kearney
Let It Be Jesus by Christy Nockels

I Was Here by Beyoncé
Pieces by Amanda Cook
The Heart That Slows Down by Canyon City
Simple Gifts (American Shaker song)

Saturday, November 10, 2018

the waiting and believing

"My hands hold safely to my dreams,
Clutching tightly, not one has fallen.
So many years I've shaped each one,
Reflecting my heart, showing who I am,
Now you're asking me to show what I'm holding oh so tightly.
Can't open my hands, can't let go-
Does it matter? Should I show You? Can't You let me go?

Surrender, you whisper gently.
You say I will be free,
I know but can't You see
My dreams are me?

You say You have a plan for me,
And that You want the best for my life.
Told me the world had yet to see
What You can do with one that's committed to Your call
I know, of course, what I should do,
That I can't hold these dreams forever.
If I give them now to You, 
Will You take them away forever, or can I dream again?"

I can't tell you how many times I listened to these lyrics of Surrender by Barlow Girl during my high school years. For some reason, my 16-year-old-self felt like I was surrendering a lot by not getting to date guys I liked, or do 'cool' teenager stuff. Then, a few years later when I returned from my semester abroad in London (very much against my will... I should never have agreed to round-trip airline tickets), the lyrics resonated in a new way. Living in London and teaching there became a dream that I held dear and begged God to fulfill, but eventually had to surrender as well. Then, of course, there was the time Casey and I broke up. That was an entire castle of dreams built up that I had no choice but to surrender. Since we got back together all those years ago, there hasn't been much surrendering of dreams. Everything came pretty easily, and while my job was definitely a challenge, life didn't require much surrender. It continued like that for a long time, until this summer. 

When Casey found out he got accepted to USM's Sport Management grad program, we started praying for God to lead us to the right home, church, friends, and jobs. The home was a pretty clear and easy decision. Church has taken a while, but we've finally been going to the same one regularly (whenever we're in town on a weekend, which is not much). Friends are still a process. The job part came simply for Casey, but has felt so convoluted for me. We were blessed when Case was offered a grad assistantship- it was such a miracle, and made me feel so sure that God was preparing such a miracle job for me, as well. I had a couple really hopeful interviews, but nothing ever turned out well for me. 

Naturally, I got angry. Casey started work, then class, and I was still sitting at home every day bringing nothing to the table but occasional baked goods. I gave up on a full-time option and started trying to sub. August passed. Then September. I was waking up every morning at 4:30 trying to check subbing availability, and nothing was coming my way. I subbed two days total.  It felt like God was intentionally keeping me from steady work, and I was struggling with it more each day. We were (slash are) majorly poor, surviving only off the savings we had wisely accrued while teaching, and generous wedding gifts (prepaid rent and a lump sum of cash) from our parents. My emotions and heart condition varied from day to day. Some days I was borderline depressed. Some days I could ignore it and pretend I was ok. Only occasionally was I actually trusting God and at peace with this waiting He'd forced me into. Casey, of course, has been so loving and supportive through every bit of this, but I have struggled to accept it much more than he has. 

Finally, in the beginning of October, I was offered a long-term sub position at one of the best elementary schools in the state. It has truly been an answer to prayer, in more ways than just financially (though that has been the most pressing one). Somehow, though, I have still felt unsettled and am concerned about the rest of this year, and next school year. I worked so hard for my degree, and I love teaching Music so much, it's hard to accept that there may be a chunk of my life where I just don't teach Music. I've always felt and believed that God led me to Music Ed for a reason, and that He placed me in the schools I've taught in so far. This season has worn me down so much, and made me question even those beliefs in God's plan for me that always seemed so logical and steady before. A few days ago, 'Surrender' played on my drive to school, and touched my heart all over again. I don't think I'd even realized how much I had tied my self-perception to these dreams I've had of growing into a better Music teacher, and someday getting to be that teacher who's been at the same school for 25 years. I felt like those dreams WERE me, so I felt like this season not fulfilling them meant that I was losing part of myself, or not being who I'm supposed to be.

A few months ago (a bit after Easter), our pastor shared a beautiful analogy of how God reveals things to us, which I frequently think back to. He first shared a video of his grandchild hunting Easter eggs. In the background, you could hear the dad, behind the camera, saying, "Look over here! Do you see that egg?". When the toddler couldn't find the egg that was hidden in plain sight, the mom would go stand beside it and point down to it, saying, "Look, buddy, what's this?" until the child waddled over and gleefully grabbed the egg to show to his dad. 

You can probably see the analogy coming. He remarked that we often feel like God is hiding explanations or plans from us, when really He is standing over some Easter eggs saying "Look over here! Open this up and look what I have for you!". The 'eggs' are hidden in plain sight, but sometimes our infancy keeps us from recognizing what God has put before our eyes. 
I love the way Amanda Cook references it in her song Pieces:
"You don't give Your heart in pieces.
You don't hide Yourself to tease us."

God's delay to lead me where I think should be led says nothing at all about His sovereignty or ability to bring good to me, and says everything about how He wants me to stop questioning and trust Him. Recently, I saw a post from one of my favorite writers + instagrammers, Sara Hagerty, that felt like it was made especially for me. Every day she posts a "daily adoration" recognizing a Scriptural attribute of God. This one was based on Psalm 62:1- (You can find the full post here)

And man, if He hasn't been delaying and growing my belief these past few months. He's been leading me to surrender some old dreams that maybe aren't lifelong dreams, or maybe they just aren't for this season. He's been doing a lot of uncomfortable things- things that cause me to be vulnerable, needy, and dependent on Him and my family. I'm not going to tell you I've liked it, or that I'm happy with it all the time... but I am telling you that the waiting and believing God is a good place to be. 

plants watered upside-down, and the big move

During covid, I decided (as many of you did) to expand my horizons and start new things/get back into some lost hobbies. I started playing v...