A God-shaped hole

We were driving to my house late one night. I could feel the dull ache of my heart as Alex talked about working overseas. It was a feeling I was familiar with. At some point, I had just gotten used to it.

But when I volunteered, it would fill up. For that brief amount of time, I felt whole again. Alex and I, along with a team of college students, spent many Saturdays filling food boxes, babysitting foster kids, playing with children in Mexico and wrangling a gaggle of sassy refugee children. It helped me feel okay, when I would otherwise wrestle with an ache so deep I didn’t know what to do with.

I had never told anyone that before. Until that night. I waited for Alex to say something about how I just needed Jesus. He didn’t say that. He said he felt that same ache in his heart.

I remember what it was like to fall for him, blissfully. I had never met anyone before who made me feel so connected and understood. I trusted him, respected him. I asked him for advice. I followed his judgment. I don’t follow a man unless I like him. I’m simple in that way. So when he suggested that I go on a mission trip to Ireland, I obliged. Soon, we discovered he would be going too.

I was ecstatic.

Now, I won’t lie. That trip was awful for a lot of reasons but there were moments where God counseled me through the missionary family we stayed with. I saw what my life could be. I saw this quiet, powerful life on mission. I saw dirty dishes and old clothes. We ate expired food too precious to throw out and warmed ourselves by a portable stove.

My mind goes back to the church we visited, housed in a storage unit with no electricity in the middle of nowhere.

And my heart didn’t hurt once those almost two weeks. I was doing what I was made to do.

We came back and I confessed my feelings to Alex. And he cried. He told me he loved me. He loved my heart for the gospel. He loved the passion I had for the hearts of other people. But he couldn’t be with me.

I didn’t understand. It’s been five years and I still don’t understand. Why isn’t my heart for the gospel enough? How could you love someone and not want to be with them?

Mind you, I am okay that it didn’t work out. I just have questions that will never be answered.

I never did become a missionary. God closed every door I tried to open. At some point, I thought He had taken away that ache in my heart but recently, I’ve come to realize I had just numbed it with complacency, food and shopping.

Somehow, God has to fill this hole in my heart. He did it for Alex. Someday, He’ll do it for me.

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When the story changes

Ten years ago, I was fresh out of high school, ready to take on the world. I had a dream to go to business school and start a business…or a nonprofit. I wasn’t really sure. By the time I was out of high school, I had already invested three years of my life in the nonprofit sector. I had worked with sexual assault survivors, lobbied for disability rights, been invited to hear the President speak, served on a committee to promote the arts and mentored young teens.

I was trying to pay attention to what God was showing me. Everything pointed to the nonprofit sector. And business school seemed daunting and out of my element. Conversations with trusted allies later and I was on the path to social work.

Ten years into nonprofit work and I was falling apart. Women were coming in crowds to my office with stories of sexual assault. They sobbed over their experiences. The worst was the women with intellectual disabilities who would describe their rapes in detail and shake because they couldn’t understand what had happened to them.

There were girls who were suicidal and women who did not believe they were worth being loved by a man. I was not a counselor in any sense of the word. I was ill-equipped to handle the grief and loss being thrown at me.

I was seeing a counselor myself at the time who, after months of listening to me wail about my life, suggested that I find a different profession.

I was indignant. My identity was wrapped in social work. I cared so much. The nonprofit world needed more of people like me.

But eventually, I quit. I searched for jobs in other fields. But God said no. He brought me back to the nonprofit world. I was grateful for it. The work suited me. For a while anyway.

Have you ever found a beautiful dress that was in your size but still didn’t fit right? I love online consignment stores and recently, I bought this dress that was in my size. But when I tried it on, it was really hard to put it on. The fabric didn’t stretch at all; the zipper split several times; it was itchy and a little too hot. It fit eventually but when I looked in the mirror, it wasn’t the most attractive thing I’ve worn. But I was stubborn. I had bought this dress, in my size, and I was going to wear it all day.

I didn’t feel pretty.

I didn’t feel ugly.

I just felt like another dress would be better.

Sometimes, I feel that’s how nonprofit work looks on me. Like it fits but there’s other work that would look better.

I could do this work for the rest of my life and it would feel like wearing that dress. It fits but that doesn’t make it right for me.

When I had this dream for a business, I actually wanted to get into fashion. Not designing clothes because I can’t draw to save my life but I wanted to be a personal stylist/shopper. Especially for women with disabilities. Depending on the type of disability you have, clothes can be tricky. Fabric can be tricky. I have multiple disabilities so I’ve had to play around with clothes for a while. I always feel a little shallow when I say this but I actually love fashion and clothes a lot. I think it’s important to be as comfortable as possible while still looking good. Especially when you have a disability, comfort is everything.

When I first found out I might have cancer, I looked at my life and was like, what the heck am I doing?! My life has been going nowhere for quite some time and it’s because I’ve been too scared to rock the boat. All of the sudden, I was very clear about what I wanted. Marriage, a family and a job where I could have a lot of fun. But with a possible cancer diagnosis looming over my head, I felt immobile to move forward.

And then I found out I don’t have cancer.

I get to take this epiphany and run with it.

“‘Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.”
Jeremiah 18:1-4
I don’t know what I’m being shaped into becoming but I’m excited to find out.
Photo credit: Robert Linder

 

You, me and the dog

I heard a pastor once say that the best sermons are the ones that convict the speaker as much as the listener. So this blog post is as much for me as it is for you. Bear with me while I process out loud.

A few years ago, I asked God to remove the temptation away from me to date anyone other than my husband. This wasn’t a ploy to manipulate what I wanted from God or even protect myself from unnecessary heartbreak. This was a desperate attempt to rid myself of some awful sin in my heart that was destroying my relationship with God.

And He responded. I haven’t been asked out since. Oh, but I have pursued many a man. I have prayed over every man I have ever had an interest in. And with every freaking man, I thought God had told me this man was the one. I found signs everywhere I looked that confirmed this prophecy. Each time, my heart grew sick with waiting and analyzing and hoping and honestly, pretending I had given it to God when in reality, I was holding on to my logic and reasoning. Especially because my spiritual gift is prophecy, I was convinced God had told me who I would marry.

God was patient with me, right up until the third time, when in the middle of my obsession God firmly told me, This isn’t your job.  As a woman, it’s not my place to pursue and while I am a firm believer that a woman should make a move if she wants, God doesn’t want that for me. He just doesn’t. I’m a raging control freak and if I didn’t get it under control, I could never honor my husband in submission.

So I started to let go and experienced a lot of freedom. I prayed for my husband and myself. Most recently, I asked God to remove the desire of other people from both of us. I wanted freedom for myself but I also wanted to be safe with my husband. I don’t compete for a man, not anymore. The hardest thing about this prayer is watching my desire for someone I have wanted forever slowly go away. There’s still a part of me that wants that man but each day, it becomes a little less.

I’ve fought with God over this man probably more than anyone else. I’ve asked God why I can’t have my choice. I would choose him a million times over. Shouldn’t that matter? Shouldn’t my choice matter? But God has been very clear with me. The second I asked God to take away the temptation of other men was the moment I relinquished my choice. I surrendered that to God and He honored that sacrifice.

I have fought that and even at times, regretted it. I questioned how God could love me and let me leave the choice with him. But I realized I had already done that with my job.

Two years ago, I had been struggling to find employment. I had applied for job after job, getting close but not getting hired. There were jobs I interviewed for that I thought was my dream job. They were everything I thought I wanted and I grieved not getting those jobs. I got to this place where I asked God to bring the right job into my life. I was done searching, done looking. I clearly didn’t know what God wanted. And He brought the job into my lap. I didn’t even apply for it. I actually remember not wanting to interview for the job. It was in the same line of work I had done before, where I had gotten burned, and I was wary of going back. But I trusted God through this and I got the job. This job has blessed me more than I could have ever imagined and I’m ultimately grateful I left the choice with Him.

It has only been recently that I have begun to see the treasures in letting God take my choice from me. Not everyone would agree with me. Love is a choice and we honor God through that choice. But for me, I would rather choose God a million times over and have Him give me His best rather than be ordinary by either choosing my spouse on my own or by allowing my emotions to dictate how I make decisions about my spouse.

God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him – Jim Elliot

The best advice I could give you is to let go of how you think your life should go and let God direct your path. You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture credit: <a href=”http://www.freepik.com/free-photo/close-up-of-couple-holding-hands-in-black-and-white_980072.htm”>Designed by Freepik</a>

 

 

 

 

 

You have more time

Two years ago, I always felt like I was running out of time.

Like the whole world would fall apart if I didn’t change immediately. I read scripture constantly, prayed continuously, read every Christian self-help book I could get my hands on and went to counseling. And I saw a tremendous amount of healing. But I still wrestled with anger and jealousy, regret and grief. But I kept going. That cadence in my relationship with God would surely change me.

Do I even have to tell you how badly this ended?

I ran, I fought. I was running out of time. Well, if I wasn’t different week-to-week, I must not be a daughter of God. Or at least, I must not be doing enough. I should take more notes in church. Maybe if I worship better, pray more. Serve somewhere. Then surely, God will change me. Because it’s how hard you pursue God that determines how quickly and consistently you change. Not God’s timing. Maybe if I had a boyfriend, finally committed to someone. That would show growth, right? That would show change.

Don’t get angry. Don’t sin. You must obviously not love God deeply enough if you commit the same sin over and over. Everyone knows that.

I don’t think I have to explain how badly I had to fall in order to learn the basic truth of grace. To learn that God determines the rate of change in our hearts. I can’t earn that.

You always have more time to change and grow, because God is the one writing your story. I only started to see real change in my sin when I said no to my efforts and yes to grace. It’s not about being lazy or being complacent. It’s that beautiful, wonderful moment when you acknowledge where you must end in order for God to begin. And turn away from anyone who tries to tell you differently. Don’t add salt to the gospel. It is perfect just the way it is.

Follow the wires

I’ve spent most of my life in the chaotic. I’ve never had a boring or steady year. My life has been plagued with suffering, illness and big leaps into the unknown.

For the first time in my adult life, the dust has settled. The calm has come.

I thought I knew what I wanted. Maybe it was peace. Maybe it was more. I had this dream of planting a church, digging deeper into the bride of Christ. I wanted to be like the famous Christian women I had followed since I first gave my life to Christ.

I’ve applied for more ministry jobs than I care to admit and been just as evenly rejected from them all. I’ve cried deeper and harder over my lost dreams than any rejection I’ve received from a boy.

I’m a career woman to my core.

I thought if you had a dream, particularly a worthy one like planting a church, God was already on board.

Sometimes, you’re wrong.

I started to learn that ministry is what you do with your life, not where you do things. I didn’t need to work within the four walls of a church to be a minister of reconciliation. Or use my gift of prophecy to speak into the lives of others. I didn’t need a job in ministry to advocate for people on the fringe.

I started to ask questions of God that scared me. Questions that rattled against all my dreams, dreams I had carried since I was eight and told my mom I wanted to build a church. I wanted ministry more than I wanted to listen to the call God had placed on my heart.

That call looks a whole lot like diving deeper into the secular world, using my sphere of influence to share the Gospel with people who might not hear it otherwise. Because I’m good at building bridges with people who want nothing to do with the church.

We live in a society that tells us to follow our dreams at whatever the cost. I’m beginning to understand that it’s more important to follow the wires that form you. Be the person you were created to be, even when it comes at odds of what you (think you) want for your life.

I may never plant that church. I’m beginning to see that I may not be wired to do so. But I was created to do something wholly unique for my life, carve a different path than what I anticipated.

And that’s okay.