Pursing our Calling

In the Christian realm, we spend a lot of time thinking about and trying to figure out what we are "called" to do. It can be a real source of anxiety, stress or pressure either to figure out what we are meant to be doing or figuring out how we are supposed to go about doing that thing. We see other people seemingly effortlessly gliding into their ministry spots while we may feel like we are fumbling around in a dark room.

I am no stranger to all of these ideas and have spent many hours crying in frustration over the when's, the why's and the how's, trying to figure out how to possibly manipulate the Lord to get exactly what I was envisioning. I like to learn the hard way, let's face it. After many tears, struggle, humbling and anxiety, here are a few of the conclusions I have come to that the Lord has emphasized greatly in my life.

1) It's God's Idea

It's easy to forget that God made up callings, was the one who gave us our gifts, the one who knit us together in our mother's womb with our personalities and quirks and has been with us through every lesson and experience. He didn't do all that so that He can hide what we are meant to do behind his back and hold us back with his other hand on our forehead while we desperately try to take a peek, saying "guess, guess!" 

On the contrary in Ephesians 2:8-10 it says 

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

While He was knitting us together in there, He was also preparing these things that we were going to do in Christ. All of this originated with Him, and He is a really good creator and we can trust His plans will be way better for us and more effective through us when we do it His way.

2) Be Yourself

Maybe you feel called to make toe rings for children in Timbuktu and will create jobs or use it as a way to tell them about Jesus. Maybe you are the only one in the entire world that wants to do that, that God has set aside for that ministry, but even as specific as that is, probably not. We are the body of Christ and many of us have been gifted with similar gifts and abilities. It's easy to compare that shop, that speaker, that mother, that musician, that missionary to yourself, draw comparisons and reason there is no room left for you. Wrong.

Don't let the Enemy lie to you and get you to hold back on your contribution to the Kingdom of God because you have decided you don't measure up or it's already been done or being done. There is only one you, with your personality matched with your gifts, with your experiences, your family, and friends and the sphere of influence that you have. The only thing we have to steer clear of is trying to be a replica of someone else, rather than the one and only us.

The best way to be us fully is to spend a ton of time with God, to learn and receive our true identity from Him, and let go of all the labels we have accepted from others or slapped on ourselves along the way. We need to also stop binging on what others are doing and see where we measure up or spend time wishing or thinking about how we can be more like them. They are already them, the position has been filled, we need to be us. God is the creator of this whole beautiful universe that we live in, don't we believe He can be as creative with each of our lives, that His call for each of us is as different as our fingerprints and that is what makes it so exciting and beautiful. 

We often look to people who do what we feel similarly called to and wonder how we can be more like them and do what they may have done, but we see we don't have what they have in resources, connections, people, the list may go on and on. But we don't need any of that to do what God wants us to do, God has given us everything that we need to do what He wants us to do and anything we still need He is more than capable to give us. We can ask Him, receive from Him and run in our lane, doing what we can with all we already have in our hands.

Our callings are not somewhere out there, they are right in front us, asking us to work the field we are currently in. The Lord is looking for us to be faithful where we are to see if He can trust us with the next things.

3) Choose, Learn and Let Go

As Beth Moore says often "You can not do everything to the glory of God." Pursuing our calling means we can't be chasing the approval of man. This is where being in intimate relationship with the Lord is so important. People have a million good ideas for what you should be doing for the Lord, but many times we have to choose what is most important over what is immediate. 

Learn who you are; your personality, your spiritual gifts, your passions and the experiences that God has given you to serve the body of Christ. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? You may think something is awesome, important or valuable that an extroverted person would thrive in but as an introverted person, you feel drained and overexposed in. That is OK, God made you that way. We can spend so much time making ourselves into a version of ourselves that may please other well-intentioned people but feels like we're trying to shove our round peg into that ministries square hole. Are you a shepherd and love to care for people's hearts but you are forcing yourself to serve in keeping track of the money? It's not that you can't do, you might even be good at it, and you can certainly help out when the need presents itself, but if you are only filling in because you feel guilty if you don't, it may be possible you are taking the spot of a truly administratively gifted person's place because you think you're the only one who can do it. It is so important to listen to God and follow His leading, each of us an invaluable part of the body of Christ that can't function correctly without all its parts. 

We are not mini-Saviors, people don't need us, they need Jesus. And as awesome as we are, the Lord has been getting His work done for centuries where we were nowhere in site and He got along just fine. If we are always so busy doing everything we will never have time to be focused on the most effective places the Lord needs us to be. We can let go of being the go-to person and allow others to step up into who they have been created to be as well.

4) Get Comfortable Waiting

Maybe not everyone has to wait, but many do. Look at Moses, Abraham, Joseph, or David. Many times God places a dream in your heart that keeps you driving forward but He has to do a great work in us before we might be ready to do a great work for Him. We can't lead people where we have never been.

In Ezekiel 3: 1 it says "And he said to me, 'Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.' and in Ezekiel 2:7-8 it says "You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. BUT YOU, son of man, LISTEN, to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people open your mouth and eat what I give to you."

When you eat something it goes into your body, your body has to process it and it get's into you before it ever comes out. Many times the Lord has to make sure something is in us before we are ever able to give it away. He has to make sure we will listen and obey Him, no matter what might come against us, because we will be opposed.

It's in the waiting the Lord teaches us character, how to fight, how to trust.

5) Don't cheat on the Lord with your calling

"Therefore since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful and worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." Hebrews 12:28-29

We know God is for us, is our friend, and our Savior, but He is also God of all, King of Kings and Lord of Lords and we should fear Him in reverence and awe. He doesn't come to make our life easy and to grant all our wishes, He comes to consume us like fire. He is a jealous God and He is not OK with us loving or living for anything other than Him. Even good things can become "god" things to us and we end up worshipping and living for what we will do for the Lord more than we live for and love Him. As much as He wants to help us be effective in His Kingdom and use our gifts, He will never allow it to be of more importance to us than Himself.

Often times we are chasing so hard after the dream, the goal, the vision we neglect our relationship with the Lord or we simply love what we're after and are looking for all our validation from it, rather than Him.  We have two callings, one is what we do, but our first call is to the one we love. Him alone. He isn't just after our service, He wants our hearts.

The Lord is attracted to desperation, a heart that is so aware of its need for Him and is loyal to Him and loving Him above all else. 

"Let not the wise boast in their wisdom or the strong boast in their strength or the rich boast in their riches. But let the one who boasts boast about this: That they have understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercised kindness, justice, on the earth. For in these I delight." Jeremiah 9:23-24

 

We can trust our hearts and our paths when they are completely and constantly in surrender to Jesus. We keep giving our plans over to Him and let Him give them back as He sees fit. Jesus and not what we are called to do is our greatest aim in life, because everything we seek we find in Him.

 

What lessons have you learned or what things have you struggled with while pursing or trying to figure out your calling? Add to our ongoing learning and insights in the comments!

 

 

 

 

Weight Loss and Jesus

Since January I have been on, yet again, another weight loss journey. I have lost 22 lbs so far. This is not my first attempt and its not my first time having success. It is a mountain I have been marching around for years now. I am always hesitant to share or talk about it, because failure hurts. It is something you can see, something I wear.

It wasn't until several years back I started realizing it was more than the fact that I carried extra weight, it was something I was refusing to give God access to. I liked to compartmentalize areas of my life, God is in control of this area, this one over here, giving some access here, but this weight and eating area what does He care about that? But if you know Jesus at all He is never satisfied with some, He didn't come to sit in his designated holy room, He comes to take over it all. To love you in it all, even the parts you despise about yourself. The parts that we don't see as presentable and cry over because we don't know how to make ourselves better about.

When I realized He wanted into all of that it I started seeing and then confessing how little I had control over it. I would work hard, lose the weight, and then eventually relax into my "regular" way of eating, gaining it all right back. 

My fear of failure or my fear of not knowing what to do with success when I got it always ended in self sabotage. It was frustrating and I felt like finding real long lasting answers was impossible. I wanted God to wave a magical wand over me and I would wake up with a skinny persons metabolism and way of thinking about food. That's not what happened.

I knew this was what the Bible referred to as a "stronghold" in my life, something I was unable to free myself from. I began to fast and pray over it asking Him to set me free, and owning the fact that food controlled me and not the other way around. 

But the thing was it wasn't like in a mean hurt my body way, it didn't feel like that anyway. It looked and felt like celebrating and letting lose and treating myself because I deserved it, comforting myself because I was stressed or tired and it felt exhausting just to make myself stay engaged. Letting go and eating what I wanted felt like freedom. Restricting felt like prison. 

How confusing, how could something that held me captive feel so much like freedom?

I recently watched a video on Facebook, I couldn't tell ya now what it was about in context but what was said has burned into my brain. Freedom is found in discipline and routine. Rebelling feels like freedom but it actually traps us in unhealthy patterns, keeping us captive. I had felt the Lord tell me several years ago when I was seeking Him for freedom over this in my life to simply track my food and work out 30 min a day. A simple routine, a simple choice to show up. I can waist time on the most frivolous of things like social media or television, I guess half an hour of my day isn't too bad? Not much effort for freedom.

But our brains have those deep patterns and grooves of thinking, we always go back to them if the Lord doesn't literally renew our minds. The Enemy doesn't want us to be free in this area any more than he wants us to have freedom in any other area. Convincing us God doesn't care about it, we were meant to just be "bigger", we can't say no to all those foods, or that it's too hard or impossible are thoughts he has been barraging some of us with for years. This is our go-to thought pattern. How we think about anything in life will determine where our life goes, ever single time. Eating and health is no different. I began to realize that God not only cared about my eating and my weight, He wanted me to become reliant on Him for my freedom, to walk it out by faith. 

So, how do I get all this spiritual, ideology stuff into my real life, effecting my real body? I started to pray. I was honest with the Lord that I just didn't feel like it, I didn't know what to do, I was trapped and afraid. I tried to be as real as possible with Him about how stuck I felt, how hurt it made me feel, what failing over and over again was doing to me. I needed Him to do for me what I could not do, I needed Him to show me what would work for me, what was something that would be effective long term and not just a quick fix or a band wagon. I needed Him, even in this.

I began to research and came across intermittent fasting, which I had already done in my spiritual fasting for a few years during Lent so I knew I could do it. I found that many used counting macro nutrients along with fasting. I immediately felt like this was an answer from the Lord, like He was showing me a way to tackle this that matched who I was and even how I ate. I can get more into the specifics of how all that works if anyone is interested, but the long and short of it was and is that as I started following this way of eating I felt freedom and not that sense of hatred that I have experienced so many times before. This was different than anything I had ever done before, eating more calories of foods I liked and doing less cardio and lifting more heavy weights. No one in my immediate circle of family or acquaintances were doing it, it felt like God lead me to it. I tracked my food and decided I could commit to 30 minutes of working out a day, in my living room. It would just become a part of what I did; spend time with the Lord, work out, clean the house, take out dinner, put in laundry, pick up my son from school, just part of the routine.

The real test will of freedom comes in the ability to maintain it for the long term. I have lost this pretty significant amount and am feeling proud of myself and more comfortable in my clothes, but I still have a ways to go. I notice myself wanting to relax and wanting to disengage, become more loose and eat snacks and fast food all the time rather than just occasionally. This is where the battle begins, because the Lord has taught me in many areas of my life that I have let my feelings boss me around long enough. I may have well said of myself instead of "I walk by faith" that I "walk by feelings". Feelings have nothing to do with faith, I don't have to feel like I love my husband to stay engaged and fighting for our marriage. I don't have to feel happy with my kids to make them dinner. I don't have to feel like taking a shower or brushing my teeth, but I do it. We do so many things in our lives that we don't feel like doing because we know they are best. 

What did my son learn in school today? Is he a genius? Can he graduate college? Can he run a company? So if none of those things can be accomplished by one day, even a week, not even by the end of first grade, why bother? It takes to long, its too much effort, stop going. If we looked at schooling like we look at eating and weight loss we would be labeled a true nut job. We know that every day is a small block that leads to the greater picture. Without learning letters, they can't learn to read, they can't write essays, they can't one day become a journalist. It all starts with showing up a little bit every day.

This is what the Lord is showing me. It's not about me having to do two hours of the most grueling workout I can come up with every day of the week in order to see improvement or eventually find freedom, it's about showing up a little bit every day, keeping track of what I am eating and saying no to McDonald's just for this day. Those little choices don't make me skinny, fit, or free the next day or maybe not even the next week, but they are building towards something slowly. In our culture of instant gratification we have lost the art of slowly chipping away at something even when we don't feel like it, even when it's not fun, even when it doesn't bring us instant success.

God cares, and we don't always know how to invite Him into something so personal and often painful. He has shown me that He loves me no matter what I weigh, I am His precious daughter, but its the pain that the weight causes me that bothers Him. My weight has effected every area of my life; my energy for my family and even my responses to them because of that lack of energy, my relationship with my husband and not trusting his love for the body I have labeled "gross", and my self esteem and the words I say about myself, like I have felt so rejected and judged because of the weight that I have used it to hide, to hold back, to withdraw from who I really am, from life.

That may not be your story or even your struggle, but dare to let Him in. He loves us, He wants us to be free.

But, who will you be? Character is a choice not a response





Tonight my son got in trouble for hurting the neighbor kid because he wouldn't do what he wanted him to do. As we explained to him that this was unacceptable behavior and that we would not tolerate it he just re-emphasized over and over again that he was just so mad. He even felt justified on some level because he thought in some way that he was trying to obey us, do what was right, but in the end it only put him in a position of losing privileges and possibly a friend.


Whether we are taught it or it is something we just sort of pick up is this idea that if someone doesn't see something our way, do it like we want them to do it, that they are saying something is wrong with us. We learn to somehow internalize it, take it personal and until we think others are doing or seeing things our way, we feel jaded. Sometimes we lash out in anger towards them. My son at six is just all of us in little kid form.

For years as I struggled with my depression so much of it was based in my negative self talk. I thought it was my personal responsibility to make sure that everyone liked me and that everyone thought that what I was doing was what I "should" be doing. No one ever asked me to apply for this job, I took it upon myself. 

"Should I say that?", "should I post that?" "will they still be my friend?" "will they still like me?" and I never really knew, so I just became paralyzed. I became so worried about what others thought, I started losing sight of what I thought, what God thought.

So much of this all took place in my head, in secret arguments only I was present for, but they were really getting it in there. No man was left standing once I let them know what was up. And that was yet the other extreme, that I would become angry at them for holding me captive to their opinions. Sometimes that anger would seep out all over the place, all over people who were, many times, just innocent by standers. So I either felt paralyzed or furious, there seemed to be no calming middle ground. Why wouldn't they just let me have my opinion, let me do or say whatever I wanted. Who cares what "they" thought? I did, I cared a lot. In either extreme the reality was, I was the one left powerless but I was never to blame.

I would always here people say things like "don't give your power away" or "people only treat you how you let them" and it sounded all well and good, but what did that even mean? As I started learning more about boundaries, it very slowly started to become clear. And I mean, as slow as a snail, slow. Because it's hard to let go of blame. It's hard to let go of trying to somehow control, even if only in your own mind, what everyone thinks of you, how you are possibly being perceived. I was addicted to approval, of being liked, but the thing about it was, as addicted as I was to it, I never really got it. Over time and falling flat on my face over and over (still happening by the way) I began to realize that I only have control over what I think, over my feelings, over my behavior.

What a concept right? I choose what I think, I choose what I feel about myself, I choose how I respond to people. I was so busy trying to figure out whose fault it was that I was feeling this way that I never considered I was the one ultimately in charge of everything that was pouring out of me. Coming to the conclusion that no matter what others think of me, I know the real me. No matter how much I try and show them how much I love God, how much I am trying to serve and honor Him, how much I have prayed over a situation or thought through a decision tediously, if they still choose to think that I am a less than, ungodly, hooligan, then they are also exercising their choice. 

We all have boundaries; physical, emotional, relational. Just like our property lines, what happens within where I live is my responsibility. A great quote I have heard is "keep your side of the street clean" meaning, what is happening on their side of the street is up to them, but I choose what my side looks like. No amount of judgement, disapproving look, thoughts or comments from the other side of the street need matter, because they don't have authority to care for my side, only I do. 

I began to ask myself, what does God think, what about my husband, my mom or my sister?What about those couple friends that I know really love me in-spite of all my flaws, what do they think? If they have concerns, I will listen, because I know they love me and I have grown to trust them. Outside of that, no one else really has a say. 

"Who do I want to be?" is the same as asking "how will I keep my side of the street?" I began to ask myself this question and slowly but surely I am answering myself. 
(I told you I have got this talking to myself thing down)

I want to be the type of person who supports and believes in other people.
If someone else has a dream, a call, a heart for something, I want to believe for them big. Follow them, share them, support them, applaud them, even if they never do it back, because that is the kind of person I want to be.

I want to be joyful.
I want to giggle and enjoy life, look for the little things and be silly and laugh at myself. Believe me, I am way too serious for my own good, so I want to be  more of someone who can find the humor in every day life. Someone who is a joy to be around, that is the kind of person I want to be.

I want to be passionate.
I have long loathed my passion and intensity as I looked at myself through other people's eyes. "A little too much, aren't we Ashley?" I would hear the mocking voice in my head say. You know who are too much kind of people; people who care, people who change the world, people who have burning hearts and are compelled to no longer sit silently in apathy but push through to the more. I am not sorry anymore that I love things like taking pictures and social media. I love art and writing and journaling and coffee, and I love Jesus. I will not be more tame and share less of my passion for any of those things because if I did, I would be lying. Someone who is exactly who they were made to be and is unafraid to follow God into those passions, that is the kind of person I want to be.


I want to be loving.
Even when people reject me, push me away, refuse to believe in me or root for me in any way, I want to love them anyway. I want to love people who disagree with me and think differently. I want to talk with respect and patience to the woman checking out my groceries like she is a human and not like she owes me something. I want to move through life with peace and go around sprinkling that junk around like confetti because the Lord knows we need more peace and patience. Someone who doesn't easily let someone else's foul mood  pull me in with them, because it's theirs and not mine. Just because I feel it, doesn't make me responsible for it. I want to be free to decide differently and choose love because that brings me more joy and peace, that is the kind of person I want to be.


I want to be resilient and authentic.
I make a million mistakes daily. I am always worried I am not a good enough house keeper, mother, wife, friend, and Christian. Instead of being crushed under my "not good enough's" and all that condemnation, I want to be honest and real and confess, "I messed up, I did it wrong, I failed" and then try again. I want to admit that I am still in process and get it wrong all the time, but never ever give up, no matter how many times I miss that mark again. Someone who is OK with not being perfect in anyway and let's people in on the secret that it is somehow OK to be still learning what it means to do be godly, loving, passionate, joyful. To be both fully aware that I am not yet fully changed and it's OK to be growing closer every day. **Shhh, it might be a secret but no one has made it to perfection yet, not even knowing how much they need to be. Not a one!***


Other people's choices of how they behave in real life, or online, does not dictate to me who I am going to be. I get to decide every day. I may get invited to join them in some drama or mud slinging, and let's be honest, I might just show up now and then when those old songs sing frustratingly in my soul. But I hope that as the Lord helps me to renew my mind little by little and teaches me over and over again to take my thoughts captive, that I become more and more free, just as He died for me to be.

The Burden of Being Broken Pt. 24:My Brokenness, His Burden

This is part 24

Start from the beginning

HERE

I could go on and on about this season, one major hit after another. How I lost my front tooth and as I write this I still do not have it. About how Daniel finally got a job when we were living with my parents and two weeks later they let him go. About lost friendships and broken dreams, to record it all would take too many words, too many pages. Everything that I wanted to find pride in, everything I wanted to find identity in, slowly stripped away, literally until all that was left was God and I.

"What now, Ashley? When I have said no, when you can't find your identity in all the things that you once claimed as you. Who are you now? What will you do?" There are so many questions that we have rumbling around in our souls that we often times can't bear to face. All the why's all whens all the questions that if we let out might strangle us.

Who are we, really? What do we really believe? Who or what do we really trust?

Another Nichole Nordeman song that speaks to this is The Unmaking...

"This is the unmaking

Beauty in the breaking

Had to lose myself to 

find out who you are."

There are two types of people who follow Christ, ones who are fine simply being out of Egypt, knowing that they are going to heaven. The pain that they carry, those questions, they seem too much to face, to let Him into and so, they remain. 

But then there are others who say "whatever you want Lord" and they let Him into all the parts that scare them. They are willing to stand bare and dare to let their brokenness be exposed. To trust Him enough to show them where they are holding on when they need to let go, where they are relying on themselves rather than Him, all the places where pride and striving keep them back from all that He has for them.

Jesus came to bind up the brokenhearted, to set captives free, to bring into light those sitting in darkness, to give a crown of beauty instead of ashes. (Is 61) But we have to see and admit our darkness, our captivity, our ashes in order to be saved. We can't say, "but I sort of love my ashes, my ashes define me, I am familiar with my ashes, my ashes have been with me for so long." He is asking for our ashes, even if they feel precious to us. Will we be brave enough to hand them over?

Depression still comes knocking on my door. The liar still lies to me and tells me because I have this burden occasionally that I can never be anything more than broken. But Jesus, He is my Savior, and He continues to save me again and again. I can tell you for sure, that what I once was, how I once thought, I am not that girl anymore. Day by day, little by little, He has renewed my mind, He has set me free, He has made me new.

I thought that my brokenness was my burden to carry. Such a heavy weight on my shoulders. I had to fix myself, I had to have more faith, I had to figure it out, get people to care, worry and stress. But grace is not just for salvation, grace is saying "I can't Lord, help me" over and over. 

Moment by moment sometimes, if necessary. 

In Psalm 55:22 it says to "cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you". It was never mine to carry, but I thought I was being a good Christian by trying. But all the trying in the world got me no where. He let me feel the weight of that burden, of that brokenness, until it broke me. As I sat there helpless and lost, trying to crawl my way through that darkness, I realized nothing I was doing was relieving and helping. As I was slowly able to let go of what I thought was my godliness, I realized that I was trying to save myself or I wanted anyone else to save me. I was furious at myself and others for not being able to do it. And then, He saved me, again. 

Where are we willing to follow the Lord into? We always imagine He might call us to other countries or to people groups different from us, but what if He calls us to face our own brokenness first. What if we can't really help make disciples in this world or love others well until we let Him teach us what it looks like to follow Him and let Him teach us and grow us up in Him. We learn what love looks like because we have been desperate for it ourselves. We learn what grace is and how to receive it from Him and then how to give it away. And we can never ever look at people and expect them to be a little better like us, because we have let God reveal how very dark our hearts are without Him.

If God has you in a season of being broken, I know you are in a hurry to get out. The Lord is with you and He is doing a work in you that is far beyond anything you can currently comprehend in your pain. Trust Him. He is not in a rush for you to hurry up and fix yourself. He knows just how long it will take and He wants you to learn to trust Him for every moment, bring to Him every question, and realize that freedom comes when we can bring whatever it is that is our burden and lay it on Him. He wants to carry it for us, to take it from us and instead of our grief, give us joy. 

His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Matt 11:30

Be brave as you stand in your refiners fire, He is right there with you. And when you come out you will be as pure gold, one that the refiner can see His image in.

The Burden of Being Broken Pt 23: How much more?

This is part 23

Start from the beginning

HERE

September 11, 2014

One day at a time, one step at a time....

I am not sure even where to start this post, but I know writing is cathartic for me so I want to get something down. 

Right now, this day, this moment, for all the moments and seasons we have walked through and so many of them being hard in their own way, I would venture to say this one is hardest. 

The simple truth is that I know life is hard for everyone. I think I tend to want to compare to this friend or that friend as if we are somehow on the same playing field and I am getting an unfair go at life while they sail through untouched. Even those people, no, even if it looks that way, its not really that way, because life is hard for us all. Mostly because, this is not our home.

When I was younger, in my teens, I told the Lord I wanted to live on the edge. I wanted to have a life where I always needed Him. In my mind that looked like being a missionary, living in a foreign country, raising support, something like that. My mom told me I didn't know what I was praying for, she was right. How can you know when you are a teenager what adult life can carry. But here I am, in this constant need of the Lord, not in anyway I would have pictured, but isn't that just the way the Lord works, never how we might have imagined.

Every single day either I tell Daniel, or he tells me, "one day at a time". I will have a good strong day or he will, many days I can tell we just both want to escape but we have these two life filled, joy filled, energy filled boys to bring us back to the moment and remind us how much we are needed.

Here it is, the simple facts of our life right now. Daniel's dad has stage 4 colon cancer that has moved to his liver, the truth is he may have very little time left. This is so overwhelming and hard all on it's own. I don't think I need to explain or describe this because anyone who reads this has lost someone they love or can imagine how gut wrenchingly painful it would be to anticipate the death of a parent. I know he is not my dad, I haven't spent the years with him like Daniel has, but when you are married and are one, you carry their grief, pain, fear, anxiety, hope, and all that in you as well. Even though death is a part of life, it is still so hard to watch and walk through.

Daniel and I have been married for almost 6 years and I don't know his dad super well, but I can say he is a character. I have no doubt my boys will have some of his characteristics. Every time you see him he would have on his stop watch and whistle, he was a coach, always a coach. He liked to lay in front of the fireplace at their house to keep warm and Daniel would give him a hard time about wearing sweatpants under his jeans. He could talk non-stop to Daniel on the phone about football, he just loves to talk. 

'

We were able to go visit him a few weeks back and it was a great time, a special time. I realized how much I am like him. Being understood is important to him, like it is to me, and he likes to say what he is thinking and feeling and it touches him and he's emotional. He can be cantankerous, but I think that comes from the deep way of feeling and all that. 

He said meaningful and important things to us, sometimes it was if the Lord was speaking to us through him and he didn't even know it. About abiding in the Lord, and that was the only way to get through days, moments, in the pain. About the importance of reading God's word and being connected to Him. Some of the things he has said in these last few weeks are immensely profound and all I know is that going to be with the Lord, watching this process from a distance, feels more beautiful than I have ever seen. How he says he understands now what real love is, what is important and what is a waist, about the power of God and how intimately He speaks to him in comfort and love.

A week before we went out to California, we were suddenly blindsided by Daniel losing his job, fired. If you know my husband at all it really seems like an impossibility. He would never miss a day of work unless I really needed him to for me, a hard worker, steady, all of that. I thought he was joking at first because I just couldn't believe it. Yet, at the same time back in March we were fasting, fasting for new opportunities and change and for God to show us which direction we should go next.

We always think we know what that means, what we think God will do, but He reminds me often "Umm, excuse me, but the last time I checked it was you who do my will and not me who does yours." And so here we sit with no job and no money and no idea what is next and yet somewhere deep in my gut I know this is His answer to our prayers. Daniel didn't like where he worked, it was horrible for our family life and time, it was slowly killing his soul, and this is an answer. Not a comfortable answer, but I do believe it is one.

So here I sit on this September morning, nearly half way through the month already. We have given our notice on our condo because we won't be able to afford the rent here on our unemployment. We have no idea where we are moving to or what job he will get. He has probably close to 100 resume's out and we have only heard back on maybe 2. We need a steady base income because although he has experience in sales, he is not salesman, so all commission job won't work for us. 

It's scary because his old company hasn't gotten back to the unemployment office and so we don't know when we are going to get "paid" again and things need to be paid and bought. He has a couple possible leads on jobs but who knows when we will know?

On top of this October is my worst time of year for my depression. Every year, since we have moved to Denver, I have had an "episode". I am not anticipating one, but it makes me nervous, why now? Why this time of year? My medication costs a lot, and now we don't even have insurance. 

I guess all of this would make anyone want to curl up in the corner and ask to be woken up when it's all over. I don't understand why God is doing this, why all at once, why these trials feel so frequent in our life. I asked him if we could have a drama free year pretty soon? I mean some drama is expected but these HUGE life altering dramas, man, they really rock your core.

I just want to stand, and trust and you know, that only can happen one day at a time. I want to know how it all ends, I want to know how it all works out, and the stay at home mom in me, wants to know where I will be putting up my fall decorations and where Ashton will be starting Kindergarten next year. 

If you want to follow Jesus, those roads, they might not be the ones you skip down among the daisies. Learning to trust Him, I don't think it happens when life is easy. It's these moments when I literally feel like I am walking in the dark and it really hurts, and one step at a time you hold His hand and you take the next step and you don't know where you are going. You don't know how it's going to turn out, you don't know how you are going to deal with or handle the pain as you go, but the only thing you do know is that the hand you are holding is trustworthy. That He loves you with this immense large love, that He wants what is best for you even when it feels and looks like the worst, and there is only one way to learn how to walk in this faith and trust and that is in the darkest dark, that He is going to get us to the other side where light is waiting to shine on us again, even if only to the next trust walk.

There is a Nichole Nordeman song that I love that says 

"It may be miles and miles before the journey's clear, there may be rivers, may be oceans of tears, but the very one who shields your eyes from understanding is the hand that will be holding you for miles."

How much more Lord? How much more are you going to ask us to walk through? We feel as though we have nothing left and yet you ask us for more. One day and one tear wiped from our faces at a time. One fight and frustration over the stress and pain of no money and great loss.

As we walked through this dark time I saw my husband now struggling immensely. Losing his job and his father, our independence and any ounce of pride we had left as we moved in with my parents. One kid sleeping on the couch, the baby in the closet. Hundreds or resume's sent out for jobs, maybe one or two interviews or calls back if we were lucky. Our marriage was so fragile in this place. We felt like we were under a never ending succession of crashing waves. The feeling of frantic panic, wanting to catch a breath. Nothing.

Then one dark day Daniel got the call early in the morning, his dad was gone. I don't remember much of that day. My parents were out of town, we were mostly quiet, but I remember it rained and poured all day long. I felt like God was allowing the sky to cry for Daniel, for such a great loss. These moments, these days, these seasons where there are not words or ways of explaining, just a knowing of the weight of loss. When you are simply knocked on your back and there is no room for performing or pretending, it's just you and God, in your frail humanity and saying again, "Save me, help me". The greatness of the awareness of ones own frailty and what love and trust look like right in the middle of that.

We made our way out to California again for his funeral, and I kept struggling with my brokenness and with my own pain and depression, but all of that was insignificant in the grand scheme of all that was happening. All that Daniel now had on his plate

. What were we going to do? How much more Lord?

We decided to reach out to one of the pastors at our church and he was so encouraging, but one thing that He said during that time we met with him was "enjoy it", enjoy this season of not knowing, of waiting. Of course anyone's response would be "say what?" He just said that instead of worrying just be, wait on God's provision. It didn't feel responsible not to be freaking out about it. But the Lord does tell us not to worry. And as we have looked back on that time since and what that pastor told us we now see that God actually allowed Daniel to not have to work while his dad was passing. He didn't have to answer to those employers who were constantly on his back, he didn't have anywhere to be, or have to be away from us, He was on a God ordained bereavement. We were able to go out to visit his dad when he knew he wasn't doing well with no time restraints and we were able to turn around and go right back out for the funeral to be with the family. 

We had a place to live rent free and our unemployment money. Even though it was one of the hardest things we ever had to walk through, we see now how gracious and loving God was being even in the middle of it. This idea once again that there are so many moments and times in life that make absolutely no sense to us, all we know is that we hurt so bad. We scream "make it better Lord, make it better" and He asks us to trust that even when He doesn't make it immediately better, that He is giving us something even greater, Himself. Little do we realize that He is in fact everything we need.

When He asks you to walk through fire and He brings you through, you realize that the whole time He was there. He was using it to refine you, take a little more doubt, a little more anger, a little more self reliance and pride. We made it, and you look back and realize He was there all along. 

"Knock with caution at the door", they said "beware of what you're praying for". So I'll stand with my whole desire, in the middle of this forest fire, until there's nothing left to show and new life begins to grow."

Nichole Nordeman

To be continued...

The Burden of Being Broken Pt 22: Stepping in Faith

This is part 22

start from the beginning

HERE

Several months had passed and my knee slowly began to loosen up and seemed to be getting stronger. Then I was presented with an opportunity to sign up for a marathon, with my mom. My sister-in-law would also be training for it in another state and running it with us.

My mom and my relationship was slowly improving and I saw this as a full circle opportunity. Running had always been a source of contention for me with my mom. Even after I ran my first marathon I still know I was doing to prove something, so to have this opportunity to do this together seemed like a God opportunity. A part of a redemption story. I had no idea, however if I could run on that knee.

So I just tried. I started trying to accomplish at least three miles, at the end of that run I knew I could do that at least. And this process became a huge lesson in faith for me that has stuck with me ever since. That this day by day, this moment by moment stepping in faith really practical example. I didn't know if I could run 26.2 miles in 3 months, but I knew today I could run three, and that was all I needed to know.

I wrote a couple months into that training....

July 16, 2014

"

I have found God is so faithful to me and although I am not learning probably nearly as much as I could be He is still speaking to me so clearly, I know it because it's the same message every where I go.

This idea that faith is activated as we move into it, not as something we sit around and wait for.

It's really a practical thing that God is ingraining in my heart that is not lost on me in my training for a marathon. I started training for this thing on faith completely. I dislocated my knee twice at the beginning of this year and honestly, it never would have entered my head to even THINK about training for a marathon while I was sitting in that ER room or in those physical therapy sessions.

Many things shot up in the beginning, my knee was really very sore for the first few weeks, but I just ran through it hoping I wasn't making it worse. My husband applied for a job in California which meant we might not be here for the race, but I paid for it anyway. I remember on one of my earliest runs just talking to the Lord, like, "OK here we are, you and me, and I need you to get me through one small run at a time" the word "Audacious" was brought to my attention. The AUDACITY to believe that I am under a year from having my second son by c-section, running on a recovering dislocated knee, well over weight seems illogical, but isn't that what faith is all about? 

And so, one foot in front of the other, one run at a time, I finished them. My knee stopped hurting, training worked out, we didn't get the job in California, and last weekend I prayed again that I would be strong to the end, and I was.

Not to sound cocky, as you all know I don't perceive myself to be some elite runner, but it's like I have this confidence in the back of my mind. To put it in a phrase, "it ain't no thang". HA! But I really know it's God, how else could it not be? And here we are working on me, again. Him showing me things, prodding me, encouraging me, teaching me.

This idea that He already has everything I am asking from Him, but I have to step out. 

I couldn't train for a marathon if I hoped God would just instill the ability in me as I walked up to the race on August 17th. I have to try, start in the little runs and work up to the bigger runs.

He is trying to take these same principles and ask me to trust Him in other ways, in other areas of freedom that look impossible, in dreams that I am afraid to step out in because I don't want to fail.

I think one of my greatest fears is being wrong about myself, that I am not capable, but God doesn't ask me to be capable, He asks me to step and trust. So whatever I know to do next, do that thing.

Waiting is active. I am waiting to be ready to run a marathon, but I don't just stand around to do that, I get my butt on the trail and do my part and expect God to meet me there with his power, and He has.

"Taking a step of faith" is an old phrase we like to throw around but it's true, sometimes we just have to step out. And most the time, it's not about these big career changes or life altering events, it's the little mundane things that God wants our whole hearts in that we hold onto certain we can never change them, that it's just "who we are".  But God is not satisfied with that. The Holy Spirit is here to sanctify us, change us, and ultimately give us the freedom Jesus died for us to have.

I can say with all certainty that I am changed because of God's work in my life. I have a freedom now that I didn't have before, but here is the thing, I believe I have had it for some time, I just didn't walk in it. I instead listened to all the lies that filled my head constantly. I became their slave bowing before them like they were my task master, believing the accusations against myself and others, that in fact no one was coming to save me, there was no freedom to be had.

But then, I chose to step, I got UP.

I told that bully that I allowed to live in there to shut up and start literally taking those thoughts captive, I mean lock them down. They weren't going to run my mind, and therefore my life, anymore. 

I didn't know it was going to get better, I just knew I couldn't stay in that place, and so I stepped.

This is what God is showing me again. There are some things that we don't know for sure in life will work out the way we dream or envision. We don't know how it will get worked out, smoothed out, put in place, and we can not know any of the ending without having a beginning. 

Faith is stepping out not knowing where you are going, where it leads, what happens next, but it's trusting He is good and He wants to show up for us!

"

And sure enough, when that day came, I was able to run that 26.2 miles, my mom and I had done nearly all our long training runs together and things were healing more and more between us. In the middle of storms God always provides small glimmers of progress, of hope, of where His hand is moving amidst all the ways He has yet to move. We just have to look around and acknowledge them.