Wait.

My friend and I decided that we wanted to see the glory of God more often. So we did what any red-blooded Christian does: we prayed. 

We saw nothing. We experienced nothing. We didn’t know what was wrong. 

Like I said earlier, I’ve been reading through the Psalms. Today, I stumbled across Psalm 19. 

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.Psalm 19:1-3

The reality is that God reveals His glory. Each day echoes His sovereignty. 

So we made a new plan. We bought jars and nice paper and decided that each day, we would write a different way we had seen God’s glory that day. Noticing the little things should lead us to bigger things. 

My first revelation of God’s glory was deeply personal. 

A few years ago, I made a bold statement to a guy I really cared about. He didn’t respond. I made the assumption that he was just mulling things over. I found out later he never cared. 

Nine months after I initiated the conversation, we finally spoke. He was cold and cruel but I got the answers I wanted. 

Up until today, I had looked back at that time as wasted space. It never made any sense why God had allowed that to happen. 

I broke down in tears this morning in church, overwhelmed with gratitude that God had made me wait. It taught me patience. It taught me how to respect a man’s space. It taught me what it means to be a woman who operates under grace. 

That displays God’s glory pretty vividly. 

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Psalm 8

I’ve been going through the Psalms, in no particular order, and today, I rested on Psalm 8.

O LORD, our Lord,how majestic is your name in all the earth!You have set your glory above the heavens.Out of the mouth of babies and infants,you have established strength because of your foes,to still the enemy and the avenger.When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,what is man that you are mindful of him,and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,all sheep and oxen,and also the beasts of the field,the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

I used to be the type of person who went in guns-blazing. I was honest and bold to a fault. 

I told everyone what I thought. 

I was vulnerable with my time and energy.

I always told the guy how I felt. 

It wasn’t that I was brazen or cocky. I thought that God would always respond the way I thought He would. But nothing ever did work out the way I thought it would. 

I got chastised for being too honest.

The time and effort I put into things never produced fruit. 

The guy always said no.

It wasn’t until I got to this Psalm that I realized that I live paralyzed by fear. 

Because I forget God is mindful of me. 

The definition of mindful is “to be conscious or aware of something.”

God is conscious and aware of what I need, what I want. He answers prayers I don’t pray and blesses and takes away. 

He allowed people in my life who were hypercritical of me to teach me how to communicate with grace. 

He closed doors and stifed opportunities so that I would walk through the doors He willed.

Every guy who said no was a blessing in disguise. It saved me from committing to the wrong man, which for as loyal as I am, I definitely would have married the wrong man by now. 

The truth is I cannot say I serve God and accept only the good things as blessings. The bad things are meant to edify me too. I cannot live in fear of following the leading of the Holy Spirit because I am scared of what God will allow to happen in my life.  

What am I, that God should care of my comings and goings?

Enough. 

I called one of my best friends around 9:45 pm last night. Sobbing.

My heart hurt so bad that prayer wasn’t enough. I knew I needed a friend to speak truth into my life.

She listened to my laments quietly before responding.

“Jesus has got to be enough. He has to be.”

She was right.

***

A few years ago, I had a chance encounter with a woman with a background similar to mine. She was in her late 40’s, early 50’s, the wife of a church elder and a mother. She had been to counseling for the abuse she had endured and someone suggested I talked to her.

I was sharing my struggles with her when I said, “I just want to get to a place where I’m a whole person.”

She shook her head fiercely. “You won’t be whole this side of heaven. You’re just in the process of being made whole.”

She went on to say that even though it had been almost 3 decades since her abuse, she still struggled.  And she had found a man who loved her anyway. She had found someone who pointed her back to Jesus. She was a loving mother and had a successful career.

I saw what my life could be and I was relieved. Realizing that there was no pressure to be fully healed in order to have the life I wanted was the relief I needed.

***

My friend went on to tell me she reached a point where Jesus was enough. She had struggled with loneliness for such a long time when God finally asked her, Am I enough?

I sat there, listening, everything in me breaking. My heart was crushed. What if God made me wait longer? What if I just keep tripping over feelings and lost hope?

Will Jesus be enough?

***

I demanded an answer from God. I wasn’t interested in a sign or some prophetic message. I wanted Him to speak through His word. What was He doing in my life?

He showed me Genesis 32. In the story, Jacob makes his way back home when he gets word that Esau is headed his way. Jacob stole Esau’s inheritance so Jacob is sure Esau will kill him upon arrival.

 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted. – Genesis 32:11-12

Despite God’s promise, Jacob sends gifts to Esau to protect himself. Before he meets with Esau, Jacob wrestles with God and prevails. In Genesis 33, Esau greets Jacob with forgiveness and compassion. God honors the words He spoke in Jacob’s life.

Everything in me is terrified right now. I’m scared of giants I can’t see. But God is faithful.

***

I hung up the phone with my friend, her question ringing in my ears.

Is Jesus enough?

He is. He really is. He’s enough through every heartache, every disappointment, every lost dream. He is my greatest comforter. He knows me and loves me anyway. He’ll love me more than any husband or friend will.

He is enough.

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.

That one time.

So I’ve been working through some significant church wounds and last night, I was hit with an old memory.

Most people know that I’m the type of girl that makes the first move. I’ve always tried to make it really easy for the guy. I can handle a gentle no. Rejection is a part of life. What I can’t handle is what happened two years ago.

I had been attending this church for a few months, making friends, getting settled. My community group leader was someone I had known for about seven years. He seemed like a stable guy, level-headed. He seemed to value people and had a gentle heart.

I started to develop feelings for him. Usually when this happens, I make a move pretty quickly. I like to know soon if things are going to go anywhere.

So I told him I liked him. If I’m honest, I fully expected a no. I just wanted to be sure.

He didn’t say no.

He asked me to leave the community group. He said he couldn’t lead effectively knowing that there was a girl in the group that liked him.

I was taken aback. I thought that was a really extreme way of responding to my feelings. I went to the pastors, fully expecting them to say it was wrong.

They didn’t say that.

They said I needed to leave the community group. He was a leader and they said that I had made him uncomfortable. The lead pastor said that they needed to look for the interests of the leader.

I had been making friends in the community group. I was finding my place in the church and suddenly, because I had been honest about my feelings, I found myself kicked out of my community group.

It shook me. I never imagined that something like that could happen. I’ve always been really upfront about how I feel but I’ve realized that experience still has me shaken up. I don’t think I can make the first move anymore. I make a big talk about female empowerment and initiating with a guy but what happens if he treats me like that again? With that other guy, I could have never suspected that he would behave that way. And for a church to support that kind of response, what’s to say that won’t happen again? Every church comes across healthy until they’re backed into a corner.

I love my life. I don’t want to risk everything falling apart because I put myself out there again. That leader eventually had me removed from the church. He was vindictive and cruel. And it all started because I told him I liked him. He was someone I didn’t recognize and I haven’t really trusted my perception of people since.

I guess I’m just waiting for a guy to take the pressure off me. Trust me, if I spend time with you, talk to you, ask questions about your life or your past, I like you. It’s really not that complicated.

Faith

I knew a woman once who told me this amazing story upon our first meeting.

She and her husband had two children and were living in California when they heard of a ministry opportunity to serve in a Muslim country. In order to pay for this opportunity, they would have to sell everything they owned and relocate to this country. So they walked in obedience. They had a plan; they were sure of what God would do.

It was not until they had sold everything they owned that they discovered that the ministry organization only wanted the husband for the first year of ministry. So he went to this country and the wife, along with her two children moved in with family in Arizona. The plan became that they would join the husband in a year. It was during this waiting period that I met this woman.

She was a breath of fresh air as she told me this story. She was sure that God wanted her family to serve in this ministry. She did not mention until years later that she was struggling financially, was without the support of her husband and sleeping on couches with her children. Her family never made it to this country and her husband eventually returned back to the States.

It was years later that she told me she would never make a mistake like that again. She had acted in faith and put her family and marriage in jeopardy. She projected this fear on me repeatedly, as I struggled to make decisions. And I fought her every step of the way. Something was off, it seemed wrong.

She hadn’t acted in faith by selling her possessions for this ministry. There was nothing faithful about what she had done. She had done something with the expectation that she knew what would happen and when it turned out she was wrong, she concluded that she had been misguided. And she was right. By assuming she knew what God would do, she placed her faith in her understanding of the situation, not God. If she had sold her possessions without expectations of a particular return, she would have been acting in humility.

*On a side note for my readers, it is never biblical to sell all your possessions without first making sure you have enough to live on. God does not ask foolish things of us.*

I’ve been thinking about that story a lot lately. As I’ve been learning more about faith, I’ve been contemplating what it means to look at the assurance of things unseen. What it means to act in faith.

It means saying you’re sorry without expecting forgiveness.

It looks like forgiving even when reconciliation isn’t a possibility.

It might be joining a church in spite of the fear that you’ll just get hurt again.

It means opening up to a guy when you’re not sure it’s going to go anywhere.

It looks like taking a job that’s out of your comfort zone.

I’ve tried not to judge that woman. She went through a lot in a short amount of time but I don’t agree with the conclusions she made about what she should have learned about faith through the choices she made. It was really sad. She trusted more in her logic and reasoning to protect her than understanding that what she lacked was humility. I have walked in faith and had horrible things happen but I don’t regret doing so. God doesn’t have to give me what I want in order for me to trust Him. I don’t stop following the leading of the Holy Spirit. If I only walked in faith when I was sure that I wouldn’t get hurt, well, that’s no faith at all. That’s just me and self-preservation.

I don’t want to get to the end of my life and regret the choices I didn’t make. I have rarely regretted the pain I’ve gone through because of choices I made in faith but I have regretted all the times I told God no.

I don’t talk to that woman anymore but I hope she’s learning what faith really is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The number 3

When I worked with children, one of the young girls drew me this picture. She said I was standing on solid rock, with a cloud hanging over me and a chocolate-frosted donut to comfort me. It has become a metaphor for what my life is like.

***

I’m not the biggest fan of Facebook but I do like how it shows you memories of things you have posted on that day on past years.

Yesterday, it popped up this post I had written late that night two years ago. I had been job  hunting for three months since moving to the Valley and three months before that in Tucson. I had gone to a job interview at a nonprofit and had been rejected for the position, only to discover that it was because the interviewer saw that I was a better fit for a higher, better paying position.

It blew my mind.

The problem was that it shouldn’t have. And not because it was a given that God would provide me with an awesome job. A job He spoke into my life months before it happened. There were snapshots of what this job would look like and be like and my heart would leap with excitement. Because I knew God would be faithful.

There were three jobs I thought would fulfill this promise, three times I doubted God’s faithfulness when it fell through. I remember the final time. I got so close. It seemed for certain it would work out. The job had so many things about it that matched what God had whispered in my heart. I was devastated when it didn’t work out.

No, it should not have blown my mind that I got this job.

Because God asked me to apply here. Several times.

It meant picking up and moving to the Valley. It didn’t make sense. So I resisted. I never told anyone because I was sure I was wrong. And oh man, when I finally did apply for a job there and they rejected me, I was so confused. What did God want from me? I sobbed my eyes out because, for a brief moment, I stopped trusting God.

And then I got the phone call that changed my life. I was asked to interview for a higher position. I got the job. And because God had asked me to apply, I should not have been surprised when I got hired.

Recently, I was asked to write down my testimony for a pastor. I saw a pattern there I had never noticed before.

Everything in my life happens in threes. Three days, three months, three years. Three schools, three jobs, three promotions.

God has clearly been trying to get my attention for some time. I started to research what the number 3 means, according to the bible. I learned the number 3 signifies God’s sovereignty, His ability to complete things in our lives.

The more I look at my life, the more I see the number 3. The more I see God’s consistency.

That blows my mind.

During that dark period in my life when I was waiting for employment, I heard a message from a pastor where he challenged us to ask God to “do it again”. What he meant by this is that we all have hallmarks in our lives where God has answered big prayers. I remember thinking back to the day I asked God to bring me back to Him. Three days later, He did just that, turning my life upside down so that I could get the help I needed to rise above my abusive past. I figured God could “do it again” and give me a job that would not only provide for me but be something I thoroughly enjoyed.

Three months later, He did just that and I’ve been so grateful.

So why does this matter?

Because almost three years ago, in October 2014, I asked God if I would ever get married. I was ready to walk away from the idea of marriage if it meant that God had something better in store for me. And He was faithful. He spoke into my life and said I would get married.

And man, have I questioned it. I’ve been like Sarah, laughing at something so far-fetched. I’ve been like Abraham, seeking to fulfill this promise on my own. I’ve run to exactly three guys, each time wondering which guy would fulfill God’s word on my life. I’ve made bigger messes than I know what to deal with.

I wrote about the last guy a few weeks ago. I questioned whether or not I liked him. Some may argue with me but I think if you’re questioning your feelings for someone, they’re probably not the right person for you. I have been in love exactly one time in my life and even when he would drive me crazy, I still wanted him. I never questioned whether or not I wanted to be with him and while I’m ultimately grateful it didn’t work out, it taught me a lot about what it means to choose someone, for someone to be more than an option you choose because it makes the most sense.

Last week, I started to get excited about my future spouse. It’s been very reminiscent of the end of my job search, these moments when my heart would leap for joy. The closer I got to receiving this gift, the more excited I got.

That’s how I feel about marriage. Even as I type, my heart is skipping beats.

Here’s the thing: For years, I have listened to other people’s stories in the hopes that somehow, I could predict what would happen in my life if I encountered the same thing. Each time, I was sorely disappointed. Before I wrote out my testimony, I had never considered the way God works in my life, that it is uniquely different than other peoples’.

I feel really foolish for writing this but I know it’s coming. I remember how foolish I felt waiting for a job. It didn’t seem like anything would come through. I began to look for any job because I figured God would provide but to expect Him to give me what He had supposedly promised, well, that was asking too much. I feel like I could settle for any guy that God gives me but I know He’s bringing His best.

It’s scary to believe that God will do what He says He will. Because what if you heard Him wrong? What if this is just your wishful thinking? I thin k we all have things in our life that we believe God has spoken into our lives, that if we told someone, they might caution us to be careful.

What they’re really saying is God doesn’t love us enough to reveal things to us.

And yes, it is God’s discretion to conceal a matter when necessary and reveal bits and pieces of something when appropriate.

My advice?

Believe God loves you enough to guide you and when it turns out you’re wrong, because that will happen, follow Him anyway. Be the little child that takes God at His word always, without condition. I knew a woman once, who upon being disappointed that she had taken God at His word and things did not go the way she expected, she stopped trusting God. She questioned every time the Holy Spirit told her to do something. She lived in constant fear that she would hear wrong again. This stopped her from fully being obedient to God. And that fear was pushed onto me for a long time.

But I never wanted to live like that. I wanted to be so faithful that I could fall down over and over and still trust God. This is what waiting for my husband has been like, falling down, getting rejected, failing over and over and still trusting that God would keep it at His word.

My prayer is this: Do it again.