Spirit lead me
where my trust is without borders
let me walk upon the waters
wherever you would call me
take me deeper than my feet
could ever wander
and my faith will be made
in the presence of my
-Oceans by Hillsong
How do I know that I’m following God’s will for my life? I’ve made some important decisions over the past few months that I feel God is in. They were choices that led me away from the familiar and were wrought with questioning and prayer and conversations with trusted souls in my life. What seemed to others as difficult decision-making actually brought me a sense of peace, freedom, and relief. I was led. Now, these experiences have definitely brought a different sense of peace than I’ve experienced before. Instead of feeling certain about what lies ahead, my sense of peace lies in leaving things behind. I have a peace about NOT continuing in the familiar and a desire to let go of the comfortable. This is definitely an unfamiliar path.
I resigned from a major leadership position in my church a few months ago. It was a three-year commitment, for which I was only a year and a half into my term. This was not a decision I made lightly. I’m a commitment kinda girl. But, I walked away. I ignored the people-pleasing voices in my head that told me I would disappoint others and listened instead to the louder Voice that I needed to let go and trust Him. I’ve never let go without the next step clearly in front of me. I’ve always had the open door awaiting me, where letting go of the former led almost immediately into what was next.
This part of my life’s journey is closest to what I experienced when I moved out of state over a decade ago to begin a new career, a new life. I entered into that final phase of growing up and being out on my own. I left my family, my friends, my job and moved three states away to a city where I had never been. My discernment of God’s will was more powerful than I had ever experienced. I couldn’t explain how I knew it was the next step for my life, I just had a deep inner knowing that was undeniable. Total trust. Connectedness. I didn’t overthink it or enter into fear . . . I just went.
Be strong and courageous; be not frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. ~ Joshua 1:9
This week, I let go again. I gave up the comfortable and familiar, something that I enjoy, something that I’ve ‘always done,’ something that defines part of who I am. I backed away from the music ministry at my church. I handed over my weekly commitment of making music on Wednesday evenings, something I’ve done for the past 25 years, and said I would not return. I’m not sad, I’m not excited, I’m not questioning my decision. I DO question what God is up to. I haven’t felt Him in my music-making for close to six months. It’s an absence that makes every difference in the world in how I play. The vibrancy just isn’t there. Instead of bringing a sense of peace and connectedness to Him, it has brought me pressure and stress. I have to wonder if God wants to use
my OUR music in a new way.
Gosh, I hope I’ve made the right decisions so far. I’ve had unparalleled certainty in the past, only to discover that what I thought was ‘the plan’ wasn’t. I’ve been sure that His steps were my steps and was certain we were journeying together. But, I’m realizing that maybe in those experiences, it wasn’t MY plan. . . it was HIS plan instead. When the path I choose doesn’t end where I think it will. Maybe those experiences are an unexpected answered prayer. What if the path I take doesn’t lead me where I want it to go, but instead leads to where God intended for me to be instead? If He answers my prayers according to His will, will I recognize them as answered prayers? Having the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I realize that God is always on this journey with me and my once-thought wayward discernment didn’t led me astray after all. I truly believe that God weaves my path into His plan, even when I head in a direction that veers off course. This is the promise I hold on to when the seemingly ‘wrong’ decisions of my past replay in my mind. He has answered my prayers in unexpected ways that sometimes take time to identify as blessings.
In my life, there are few ‘forever decisions.’ Most of my decisions aren’t permanent and that takes the pressure off as I live into my choices, leave things behind and continue into what’s next. I don’t know His timing. I don’t know where He’s leading me. I don’t know how He’s equipping me to serve. I’m just open and ready and floating from one new experience to the next. I don’t think He wants me to land just yet.
Do you trust me? – God
God has done amazing work in my life over the past seven months. I can’t explain it other than to say ‘I feel different.’ I know that’s not very profound, but only I can feel what I’m feeling and I just feel different. Better. More like myself. Not distracted. It’s awesome! My period of complete separation from Distraction this past summer was the help I needed to ‘get off the merry-go-round’ and trust God with who I am. God is enough and I am going to be ok without a romantic relationship, marriage, family. This is not really a profound truth . . . but it took a lot of tears and fist-shaking and confusion and confiding and trusting to embrace that simple statement. I had to trust God with my personal life like never before. If I never experience what so many others my age get to experience, am I going to survive? I will. I am going to be ok. I am going to live for what I have, not for what I yearn. God’s love is sufficient for me. It’s more than enough.
With that being said, I knew all along that it would be pretty impossible for me to shut Distraction out of my life forever. We have several very close mutual friends, so avoiding him means avoiding them in many circumstances and that just isn’t an option for me. These are some of the dearest people in my life and he is a part of them. I want him to be in my life. I feel he is in my life for a reason. And, so I let him back into my life this fall . . . slowly. A conversation here and there, then some texts and emails, then some phone calls, and then several lunches and dinners out, just the two of us.
This is when I put my ‘feeling different’ into practice. I didn’t allow myself to be swept away. I was open and honest and real with him like I was in the past, but with the understanding that he valued me as a friend, nothing more. And, that’s what I wanted. Nothing more. Just friends. I’ve had people in my life tell me to never speak to him again. That I could never just be friends with him after the road I’ve been down. But, I don’t believe that. For me, it’s separating the person Distraction is from the ideal of who I wanted Distraction to be.
So, tonight I came home from a gathering of close friends and he was there. As I drove home, I came close to tears. Why? I caught myself watching him a few times over the course of the afternoon. Not because I wanted to be with him, but because I wanted to be with the idea of him. Today, I mourned the loss of what I wanted him to be. How unfair to Distraction is that?! God truly opened my eyes last summer and I realized Distraction is not a good fit for me, he wouldn’t make me laugh (as one dear friend said), he doesn’t hold dear the things I value so much, such as my music and quality time together, he views life as glass-half-empty, not glass-half-full like I do. Being together just wouldn’t work. But, regardless, I was still sad as I reflected on our time together this afternoon. I haven’t had anything close to these feelings since the summer and it felt almost foreign to catch a glimpse of those emotions again.
Yearning for that ideal. I don’t even know what that is. It’s make-believe. What I realized over the summer was trusting God with all that I am and all that I have brought me peace. When I took control, I felt like I was going crazy. When I was in the driver’s seat, I felt out of control. Trust. Trust for today. Strength for the moment. This is what God has been laying on my heart. Trust is my word for 2014. My pastor told me that trust is in every part of my journey. It’s an integral part of my Christian faith. It’s not separate. It’s the way I view the world. It’s the foundation of my relationships. It’s at the center of the decisions that I make. I’ve been reflecting a lot on this truth because I just don’t trust very well. I don’t trust people with who I am. I hold on to things tightly with a gripped fist and call them mine.
‘If I do it the way I want to, it’s just better that way.’
‘If I open up to someone, they might hurt me.’
‘It’s so hard to trust in God’s will for my life when I want what I don’t have.’
Why trust? Why now? I don’t need to know now. My word will be revealed as I continue the journey. My words become the fabric of who I am. My life is enriched by my experiences reflecting on and experiencing them. I now live my life more JOYfully than before. I LISTEN for God in all circumstances, not just hearing Him, but engaging all of my senses in discerning His call. It’s profound that trust is my word AFTER my experiences of letting go of Distraction this summer. During that time, I trusted God like I never had before. I gave Him all of it and told Him I was finished. It felt amazing. It changed me. A veil was removed and my true self was able to shine. I pray that everyone who is close to me gets to experience this.
Do I trust God? Absolutely! I trust in this amazing journey . . . . every moment by grace-filled moment throughout 2014 and forever.
Brene Brown is a brilliant storyteller. I encourage you to escape the noise of your life for twenty minutes to sit and be and experience this TED talk.
Vulnerability. I hadn’t paid attention to or used this word much until recently. I love this word. It has such depth and power and freedom. It’s a beautiful description of how I want to live my life. It’s about being open. It’s about being real. It’s about allowing my authentic self to be seen, with no guarantees. It’s taking a leap bound by faith and trust. It’s me being 100% me. Being vulnerable means allowing myself to feel all of my emotions. Fear, sadness, joy, anxiety, contentment, want. The more I share who I am with people who are close to me, the more I want to share. I seek out others who want the same.
But, being vulnerable is scary. It leaves me exposed. Rejection, failure, regrets. Opening myself up to others can lead to negative consequences just as much as it can bring me clarity and joy. No matter how much I open up to another person, I can’t make someone else be vulnerable with me. No matter how much I encourage and show compassion and give of myself to another person, if they’re not ready to open up, it ain’t gonna happen. Finding that match, whether it’s a friendship or a romantic relationship is healthiest and most fulfilling when both people are vulnerable and share their authentic selves with each other. This describes my closest and most meaningful friendships. To share our weaknesses as well as our strengths. To be vulnerable enough to see a range of emotions in each other. To trust each other with parts of our lives that we haven’t verbalized before. I am blessed to have shared in these experiences with several close female friends. These strong bonds have shown me the importance of emotional health and trust when venturing into romantic relationships, too. I can’t make a guy open up to me. I can’t be open and vulnerable with a guy I’m interested in and expect him to mirror that vulnerability. Just because I share my heart, doesn’t mean that he will. I’ve tried. It doesn’t work. If I put my love out there and it’s not reciprocated, it hurts. But, the more I live and love and suffer loss and disappointment, the stronger sense of self I gain and the deeper and richer connection with my God I attain. Brene Brown claims that I am worthy of love and belonging. No one has to tell me that. I own that. I live into that truth. I trust that I am worthy.
I find that vulnerability comes easier in certain places in my life. Like walking into a new place for the first time. Of course I feel a bit of nervousness in hoping I don’t stand out as the obvious ‘newby,’ but for me, those feelings turn into positive excitement. I have this undeniable confidence when I enter into new situations in which I know I’m being directed to by God. When I first moved to the city where I currently live, I church shopped and visited several different congregations over the course of ten months. I didn’t just worship on Sunday mornings. If I attended service and felt led to continue exploring that place, then I jumped right into the life of the congregation. I got involved in the music ministry and reached out to Sunday School leaders. I looked for fellowship and study opportunities with others my age. To me, this felt natural and normal, but after telling my story to numerous friends, I’ve been told how courageous and bold I was. All by myself, reaching out to these congregations of strangers, and engaging with a sense of belonging right from the start. I broke down those barriers of vulnerability and joined right into the life of those churches. To me, it was liberating and exciting and completely natural to put myself into these types of experiences. I think it’s easiest sometimes to be ‘the new person.’ No expectations, just a sense of exploration and curiosity. I really enjoy it. I’m entering into these types of experiences again as I discern and explore and visit other congregations God is leading me to.
I am most certainly still a work in progress in the area of vulnerability. There are some areas of my life where vulnerability scares me. Places where my walk is more cautious and hesitant than vulnerable. Romantic relationships is the main one. It takes me a while to trust and open up to a guy, especially someone who initially shows more interest in me than I do in him. I feel this need to be the one in control. To control the pace of getting to know each other. To control how much I share and when. If I’m not the one doing the chasing, then I lose that sense of control. I’m cautious and shy and feel I’m portraying a different, much more reserved version of myself. Because of this, I’m convinced that some potential romantic relationships in my past never were because I was not vulnerable enough to open up early enough in the relationship. I think I unintentionally sabotaged those relationships because I was too scared to trust. Maybe my vulnerability now is simply naming that and identifying what I need to change. I am a work in progress…
Through my wrestling with the right words for this post, I’ve discovered that vulnerability and trust walk hand-in-hand. I only allow myself to be vulnerable when I have a deep sense of trust. Being vulnerable enough to take risks, yet trusting that I am never alone. Opening up to others to show my authentic self and trusting that no matter what, God is with me every step of the way. It’s being confident in who I am and not letting insecurities get the better of me. It’s freedom from what others think of me. It’s allowing myself to be broken so that God can make me whole. It’s knowing that no matter what decisions I make, no matter what I share, no matter what experiences I encounter, my life will be richer, more authentic, and more joy-filled because I was vulnerable.
Are we there yet?!
A common phrase. Cliche. I feel like I’m always working towards getting ‘there.’ I hear and say things like, “I’m almost there.” Or, “I’m not quite there yet.” But, I’ve been reflecting lately. Where is ‘there?’ How will I know if I’ve gotten there? What defines it? It often feels like I’ll never reach it. What if I do get ‘there,’ but don’t realize that I have?
What does ‘there’ look like? I’ve reached so many of the ‘there’s’ I’ve traveled towards. But at the same time, I feel as though I’m consistently walking blindly down an unfamiliar path. Getting ‘there’ seems impossible. Life and feelings and circumstances keep changing. My only constant is that God is with me and He loves me; everything else is a moving target. I want more. I want what’s out there.
I think God defines what ‘there’ is. It’s His ‘there’ that’s really all that matters. I think we’re wired to consistently work towards something, wrestle with something, want for something. I trade one want for another want. I move from one struggle to the next. I’m realizing that this is what life is. These are the lessons of trust and faith and grace.
“He knows we keep chasing other loves until we love him most. We keep spinning. We keep searching, restless. We keep missing all he has for us. He’ll always feel far away, drowned out by other louder rivers, until every other thing fades away and he becomes the only thing.”
Jennie Allen, author of Anything
Maybe I am ‘there.’ In certain aspects of my life, I have a great sense of accomplishment. I’ve been living in sameness for awhile; the pinnacle of what I’ve been working towards for many years. I have followed God’s direction and lead an extremely blessed life. It was through discernment and listening for His direction that I’m in the profession that I am, in the place where I live, and part of the church family where I worship. Working for these accomplishments has been hard work and a wonderful journey. But, even though I followed God’s lead, it’s been a journey where I’ve had things under control. I took God along with me, but didn’t consult Him very often. I praised Him and prayed to Him, but didn’t fully relinquish control on my path. It was a challenging journey, but a safe one. It was not impossible for me to handle on my own. It included challenges I could manage and burdens that did not overwhelm me. I’ve praised and sang and prayed and discerned and have lived into God’s will for my life. But, have I given Him everything so that he can do anything with my life? I don’t think I have.
We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Kinda takes the pressure off. God expects me to mess up. He wants me to mess up. He wants me to need Him. He knows I will never get ‘there’ on my own. Maybe that’s His definition of ‘there’ – – – to understand and acknowledge that I need Him. Perhaps, that’s when I truly get ‘there.’ I always believe that God has me right where He wants me. And, in this moment, I feel that I’m at a crossroads. Either I continue living in the sameness with ME in the driver’s seat. Or, this is a chance to not just take God along for the ride, but to truly hand over everything that I am, was, and will be.
I’m beginning to wake up from this slumber. I’m opening my eyes to a world that’s the same, but one in which I step into with shiny new shoes. I want to come out of this time of inward reflection and begin to breathe in the world around me. God wants me to focus on the journey – – – being present, showing love, receiving grace, living in joy – – – and to realize that I’m ‘there’ if I give everything to Him and trust Him with everything that I am.
For the life to which I was accustomed held me more than the life for which I really yearned.” – St. Augustine
A friend and I made a toast early in the new year. We toasted to unmitigated risk taking in 2013. This was a practice I carried over from 2012 when I had decided to become a bolder, braver version of myself. Risk. Moving out of my comfort zone; moving out of the routine; not continuing with the same old same old. I did and it was liberating. My risk taking hasn’t involved jumping out of an airplane or taking a hot-air balloon ride (although, these are two events that I must cross off my bucket list someday). Oh, but there was that mud run. A dirt-filled 5K + this girly girl = definite risk. No, my risk taking centers mostly on trusting others. Sharing who I truly am. The real me, without reservation.
Within the past year, I put my heart out there by telling a friend that I have deeper feelings for him than friendship. This was a huge risk because our friendship would forever change. It could fracture; it could blossom. It would certainly be different than before. It was a risk I wanted to take. I didn’t want things to remain the ‘same old same old.’ I wanted to tell him. I trusted him with who I am. I risked and things didn’t go my way. I have no regrets. God will always work my choices and circumstances for His glory. This experience, along with testing the waters of online dating, were two risks that helped me open up more to the opposite sex. I found online dating to be more reflection than risk. It always seemed so scary to me, when in actuality, with the light shining on it, became an outlet of self discovery. I would have missed this tremendous period of growth had I not risked.
Did I feel like I was in a bit of a rut and needed some excitement in my life? Did that prompt my sudden interest in risk taking? Perhaps. But, I’m not taking risks willy-nilly. I glean insight and direction from the Holy Spirit and move out of my comfort zone with faith-filled confidence. I run in the direction in which God leads. I am a different person today than I was a year ago. I have blossomed in confidence by allowing others in. It’s almost like I’ve uncovered another layer of myself. It’s a form of surrendering.
Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” – John 5:8
I believe that I’ve been my own inspiration for taking more risks. Taking a risk means making a change. Do I stay in the shade, or step out into the sunshine? Do I live in the sameness, or do I want to be set free? God doesn’t want me to stagnate. God is always on the move and He wants to take me with him. It’s necessary to move out of the familiar to grow and stretch and learn. I think I have always welcomed change and growth in school and work, but not in the areas of love and friendship. In those areas, I’ve always been cautious and timid, especially when it comes to sharing my personal life with others. I have a close circle of friends who know me….really know me. They know that I’m not this happy-100%-of-the-time-everything-is-perfect-in-her-life woman whom so many people believe me to be. I’m flawed; I’m broken; and I am humbled. But, I started opening up to more people several years ago and found that I learn so much from others when I share with them. The bond that forms from this shared trust is sacred. Taking risks by opening myself up to others has reaped beautiful blessings of deeper connections with others and within myself.
This blog is a risk. Yes, I hide behind some anonymity, and aside from a few close friends and family members, no one knows that it’s me. But, I am unapologetically myself in these entries. What I’ve gained from reflecting on joys, naming my struggles, and sharing in conversations with those who connect with my words, is the very reward of taking risks. I love the visual of a spotlight pointing down over top of my head. The light illuminates me and a small radius around me, but a step in any direction means stepping into darkness. Taking a risk is a faith-filled step into the darkness; into the unknown. The result is uncertain. It’s not always rosy. But I’ve learned that even if I take a risk and things didn’t turn out the way I had hoped, it was better to have risked and lost than to not have risked at all. The gain has been immeasurable. The gain is me really living.