accepting an unwanted storyline

These days, I am trying to form a new habit of looking for redemption despite a lack of resolution.

We live in a less-than-perfect world, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. It’s not hard to find disappointment or discouragement, both in the world as a whole and in our own worlds, the day-to-day realities we individually face.

In my story, the brokenness I am facing is infertility. For you, it might be unhappiness in a job, or a rocky marriage, or recent loss of a loved one, or a difficult move to a new city, or the weighty uncertainty of what the future holds.

And, perhaps even more difficult, these struggles reveal our lack of control in our lives. The inability to work hard and, as a result, make things okay is frustrating, especially in a society which communicates that hard work typically equals success – anything from a promotion in your job to a cleaner house to a skinnier version of yourself. There are so many tangible things that are successful as a direct result of our effort and our skills. But when it comes to the big life issues, it doesn’t work the same way.

So what do we do, then?

How do we deal with the dissatisfaction we face in life? How do we live in the middle of brokenness and find contentment in what we cannot change? How do we trust a God Who is able to cause change, but Who often doesn’t meet our expectations, since His ways are not ours and His thoughts are not ours?

If we really believe He is working all things together for good, but if we accept that we won’t understand His methods of bringing about that good, how can we find peace while still in the middle of the story?

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. –John 12:24

This paradox has grasped my attention. Death is not the end – death produces life. And not only does it produce life, but it has the potential to multiply life.

In this season of infertility, how can I see it as fruitful, yielding life despite the lack of such within my womb?

How can you reshape your perspective to see not just the trial in front of you, but what it is producing in you? How could this be part of God’s story, even if it’s not the storyline you hoped for?

And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. Romans 5:3-4

Suffering and affliction is the beginning of the route to hope. Crapdangit.

Our God uses pain to produce hope, and as much as I kind of hate this process, I am learning that it is necessary. Without pain, why would we need a hope to cling to? If the world worked the way we wanted, would we long for the Lord? But as it is, we falter and faint until we lean on the Lord’s strength, finding our needs met in Him even when (especially when) they aren’t met by our tangible reality.

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame. Joel 2:25-27

The locust has eaten the years – but the locusts were first sent by God. He gives locusts, then He gives relief and He gives life. How do we handle that He is the One Who both sends the locust and Who rescues us?

As of now, I am perhaps left with more questions than answers. But I have been pondering this concept for the past several months, and I want to find the life in the midst of death, the fruit in the midst of barrenness, and the hope that pain is producing in me.

It’s a beautiful absurdity, that God takes such an unlikely path, and while I confess being over the pain and the confusion, I am grateful that the brokenness doesn’t mean hopelessness. In fact, the more I find myself despairing over life circumstances, the more I am grasping for hope that deliverance is soon.

And in that grasping, I am gripping onto God instead of a change in my circumstances, as I more fully recognize His control and my lack thereof.

in the quiet

It’s been just over three months since we packed up a Uhaul, a truck, a CR-V, a motorcycle, two bikes, and a dog, all to move two and a half hours south to my growing-up town. The transition itself has been like a party with the music turned up just a little too loud – fun and exciting but also exhausting and deafening and slightly chaotic.

There are days when I feel settled, and days when I feel homesick, and days when I feel generally confused at how I actually feel.

But overall, we are beginning to stabilize into a “normal,” and we are very thankful for new friends and a new house and new jobs and this town. We are thankful for how God has shown up in the midst of the transition and how He has begun to quiet things in a sweet, settled way. It’s a lot of work to have almost everything change, the major components of your life running ahead of you and hollering for you to catch up. I think we are finally catching up.

While the majority of the details in our life changed, though, there is still something that hasn’t, and I confess being more than a little sad about it.

That’s the way it always goes, isn’t it? You ask for something, and the Lord works and moves in all of these incredible ways – but instead of focusing on the things He is doing, we find ourselves asking “Why?” in the area He doesn’t seem to be acting in.

Are you shaking your head at me, or with me? Is it just me, or you too?

I’m never content. I’m more like the fickle, needy, selfish Israelites than I am comfortable admitting. God provides manna and quail, but I complain about wanting water (Exodus 16-17).

So what do you do when the thing you are hoping will change, doesn’t?
How do you handle the silence when what you are craving is the beat of the drums and the rhythm of the guitar?
How do you believe that God is at work when things are quiet, when He is quiet?

He’s not absent. He’s very much here. But when it comes to my prayers for change, my unfulfilled desires, He gives no indication and no promise of what’s to come. He listens and comforts, but honestly, He isn’t providing any answers.

I don’t feel abandoned. I don’t sense distance or His disapproval. But I am struggling to reconcile the why. And the when. My head knows He is good, but my heart is hurt by what I am experiencing as a lack of action on His part, despite Him being all-powerful. If He’s able to do anything, why doesn’t He do something?

Honestly, I think I have begun to give up in my prayers. I don’t know that it has been a conscious decision or a choice stirred by frustration or bitterness. It’s been a slow decrease, a weary reaction, a little at a time until I begin to think that prayer wasn’t accomplishing anything, anyway, so why keep it up? Maybe God’s just not going to answer it, or maybe His timing is to make me wait, so my prayers are useless right now because He’s going to do what He wants. That’s His prerogative, but I’m sick of getting my hopes up.

As I type that, I know it’s not true. I don’t actually believe that. But it’s how I feel, and I think I need to admit more often what I am feeling so that I can see it and remind myself of what actually is true.

Really, that’s the only thing I know to do right now. To repeatedly and continually fill my mind with truth about God and His character, asking Him to develop in me true hope that is fulfilled in Him and not in my requests being answered.

  • HE SEES ME IN MY PAIN. Genesis 16:13 – So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”
  • HE IS GOOD, AND HIS ACTIONS ARE GOOD. Psalm 119:68 – You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.
  • HE GIVES PEACE. John 16:33 – “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
  • HE IS THE FULFILLMENT OF OUR DESIRES. Psalm 145:16 – “You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.”
  • HE BRINGS HOPE FROM OUR PAIN. Romans 5:3-5 – “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
  • HE IS OUR COMFORTER. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. “

Even in the quiet, He is there. Even in the quiet, He is at work. His ways are not our ways, so maybe what looks like still and stagnant to me is part of the process to Him.

Maybe He has pulled me into the quiet to teach my soul the art of contentment, the joy found in Him alone. Despite my kicking and screaming and desire to get up and leave. Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, having no stability or place to call their own, but they had God, Who called them His own. Is that enough for me – to be His, and not be looking for what to call mine?

autumn’s easter celebration

While I’ve been somewhat silent on the blog front, I haven’t stopped writing. I’ve been storing up words and phrases, piecing them together and keeping the pretty little things like a child storing pebbles in her pockets. The purpose of this collection is more for my own personal joy than for putting into prose and publishing here.

I am savoring fall bit by bit: the fog frosting the fields, the fragments of pink scattered across morning sky, the street lights dimming one-by-one and reminding me of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Lamplighter.”

I’ve been reading a lot, too – mostly rereading, I suppose. Emily Dickinson and John Donne collections have been thumbed through and lingered upon, even as a spiritual discipline of sorts to spark my prayer and my praise. My annual adventure through Avonlea with Anne continues to captivate me, and my heart thrills to anticipate how “September [will slip] by into a gold and crimson graciousness of October.”

October is the most delightful month, in my opinion, and as today is October 1, I am savoring each and every glimpse I catch of God, more treasures to add to my pockets. The crisp morning air collides with warm afternoons to produce both layers of clothing and layers of thoughts about the coming changes. There’s a spiritual depth I find here, and my heart is more sensitive to the Lord as the world around me slows and cools from summer’s simmer of heat and activity.

There are moments when I instinctively feel that we should celebrate Easter in the fall. I wrote last year about how odd yet beautiful it is that we celebrate death during the autumn months, as opposed to the life (or coming life) celebrated throughout the rest of the year. And I get that Easter in the spring is sweet because new life is springing up, and it correlates with the joy that Christ is risen.

But I have a hard time celebrating death in March or April. I don’t want to focus on that part of the story when life is teeming all around me – yet that is a critical part of Easter’s celebration.

In fall, I am more able to process the change that death renders, the somber air of what’s taking place in the changing world around me as it lets go of the life it has previously been growing. It may seem like a backward step, like a defeat – I am sure Christ’s followers felt defeated as they watched their Messiah take His last breaths. But His dying is what produced everlasting and ever-fulfilling life.

In fall, I am struck with how God uses pain to produce hope in our lives.

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

Last year I mused on finding beauty in death. This year, I am wrestling with the fact that hope is produced through our suffering.

I am not so sure I like that pattern. At least, not as extended as it has felt in my life. There are days when it feels like the suffering never ends, so where is the hope in that?

But I suppose God’s timing is never our timing, and His plans are never what we would choose – thus, our hope must be in Him and not in our trials ending. This world is broken, so there will always be something that’s not working right.

In seasons of discouragement, I find myself looking for stories of others who have walked well through their own pain and who have come out on the other side still able to say, “God is good!” I soak in their words. I think, “I want to write like that! I want to have that perspective in the midst of my own confusion!” I try to decide what I should say about my own circumstances, but when I sit down to write, I draw a blank.

I more often find myself agreeing with my dear heroine Anne of Green Gables: “It’s all very well to read about sorrows and imagine yourself living through them heroically, but it’s not so nice when you really come to have them, is it?” And I suppose part of the difficulty comes in not seeing the full picture yet, as many of the writers I am reading or the women I am talking to are now able to do.

Why must the Lord use suffering to produce hope? It can feel like a constant battle to let this hope remain in my focus instead of the trial that continually blocks my view.

Yet hope does not hide until we are out of the fire. Hope must be present when we can’t see what’s ahead, because we can be confident in a strong God Who is able to handle our uncertainty. Hebrews 11:1 states, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

As leaves redden and crinkle, as days shorten, as layers pile up, we do not lose hope. We do not despair at the coming winter. Instead, we savor the delightful but ever so brief middle ground of autumn, knowing that winter will come, but so will spring.

And in the midst of trials, may our hearts cling to the hope that prevails in Christ – a better hope, as Hebrews 7:19 proclaims. Because of His death, we have life. Because of His sacrifice, we have an intimate relationship with God, Who is producing good through the sin and brokenness in us. He has not abandoned us. Rather, He is purposeful in our seasons of sadness, and He promises to continue that work in us until it is completed (Philippians 1:6).

Happy October 1 – may you find yourself celebrating this season with a joy that goes deeper than pumpkin spice and flannel shirts. May you identify with Christ’s death and rejoice in the life He gives, even if things here on earth continue to disappoint.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:19-23)

stuck on the tilt-a-whirl

Change is a tilt-a-whirl, hurtling you not just up and down but spinning and lurching and side-winding. Unpredictable motion means you can’t stay on your toes to anticipate what’s next – it wipes you out, leaves you wondering when the ride stops and how you got so stuck.

And that’s how I would sum up the past eight and a half weeks, for those of you wondering how our transition to Conway has been.

As with any carnival ride, the tilt-a-whirl has its fun moments. Otherwise, it would have disappeared from the fairground circuit. There’s the excitement and the almost-sick-but-surprisingly-delicious feeling in your stomach when you come up in the air just so. There’s the blur of colors of the world around you, t-shirts and trailers and cotton candy kaleidoscoping your vision. There’s the eager anticipation of what the next turn will entail.

But no one wants to stay on the tilt-a-whirl. After what seems like a 45-second ride (despite that 20 minute wait), you get off. Your jelly legs adjust to life on firm land. And you scamper off to check out another machine, which will carry you in a different pattern of motion.

Stuck in perpetual and unpredictable motion. Hello, moving to a new city and starting new jobs and making new friends and moving twice and missing what was left behind.

I’ll cut the metaphors and tell ya straight – it’s been a wild ride. (Okay, that wasn’t planned and now I’m done.)

There have been some exciting and affirming moments throughout our time in Conway. We have felt welcomed at church and within a small group. It’s sweet being close to my family and specifically getting to see my sister daily as we now teach at the same school. Once we finally closed on a house and moved in, that feeling of “home” came quickly, even in the midst of boxes (that are almost gone!).

As a side note, while moving is plain irritating, and moving everything you own twice in six weeks is not recommended, we felt so loved by the number of people willing to give up an afternoon or an evening to help us load Uhauls and unload Uhauls and rearrange furniture, even in the rain. We ended each endeavor exhausted but ever so grateful for the presence of people, many of whom didn’t even know us very well.

But there have also been some really discouraging realizations as it sinks in that practically every part of our life is something new, something to learn and grow in. It’s been like our first year of marriage: difficult not necessarily because of continual conflict or annoyance with someone else sharing my space, but mentally and emotionally exhausting from constantly encountering a new situation to work through or make a decision for. All of life has changed, and Eric and I are trying to reset any semblance of normalcy.

And on the days when we fail to grab hold of the Lord and truth about Him, we are running on empty, individually and in our marriage.

Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. (James 1:17 HCSB)

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

Because I, Yahweh, have not changed, you descendants of Jacob have not been destroyed. (Malachi 3:6 HCSB)

While the change in my circumstances might tempt me to doubt God’s path for my life and ministry, and while it has changed the trajectory of where I thought He was using me, I am comforted that He does not change. He is the giver of good gifts, even when I don’t understand His ways and selfishly wish for other gifts. He fulfills His promises to me to be with me and to equip me, just as He fulfilled His promises to preserve the nation of Israel.He remains on the throne, and He has the authority to move me in any which direction He chooses.

Because I trust His goodness through a kaleidoscope, despite the tilting and whirling of life.

He walks beside me, guiding me through the blur and into a deeper dependence on Him.

waiting out the storm

For Ridley, it’s been more than a terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad-day. It’s been that kind of week.IMG_7022

 For starters, he had to move away from his home in Fayetteville – the one with the screened in porch where he could nap in the sun, and the front porch where he could watch for kids on their skateboards. I don’t think he quite understands yet what’s going on. He arrived to a new house, and out of the nine nights he has been here, a thunderstorm and/or fireworks have driven him to panic just about every night. Two pit bulls in the yard behind him jumped the fence one day and, whether in play or in aggression, cornered him against the back doors. They haven’t been back since, but every time he goes out into the yard, they menacingly bark at him, taunting him I’m sure.

Last night was bad. Thunder started around 3 a.m., and he just couldn’t seem to find a safe place. He fidgeted constantly under the bed, so we put him in our bathroom. He scratched at the door, so we put him in the guest bathroom. He tried jumping into the clawfoot tub, but I guess couldn’t get in, so he knocked things off the sink counter and made so much racket that I couldn’t take it any more. He has a rug in the hall that he loves, so I tried just letting him roam the house in hopes that he would settle on his rug, but he scratched and jumped at the door so much that by 5 a.m., I just got out of bed to sit with him. I wasn’t getting any sleep anyway – the owner of the pit bulls leaves the dogs in the yard even in storms, so one of them was (understandably) whining and barking.

I got out of bed, started brewing some coffee, lit a candle, and settled into the couch, assuming that Ridley would snuggle at my feet and sleep while I spent some time journaling.

No such luck.

All he wanted was to go back into the bedroom and wake up Eric. Never mind that Eric can’t stop the thunder and the rain; Ridley simply wanted to paw at him and pant in his face. So I tried everything I could think of to keep Ridley away so that at least one of us would get some sleep.

I fed Ridley breakfast, one of his favorite parts of the day (dinner being the other). He ate quickly then went back to scratching at the bedroom door.

I put kitchen chairs in front of the door so that he couldn’t scratch. He wedged himself under the chairs, finally scooting them aside.

I blocked him in the living room with me by closing the French doors to the dining room then scooting the armchair into the hallway opening. First he slipped past the chair, so I pushed it back in further till it was too wedged to move. Then he climbed on top of me (sitting in the chair) and attempted to jump over the back of the chair into the hallway.

Finally, I grabbed my mug of coffee and just sat in front of the bedroom door, knees to my chest, physically blocking his paws.

It’s been an hour, and I am still sitting here. In the past ten minutes, the storm has quieted. The sun is starting to come up. And Ridley has finally laid his head down in my lap to rest, his breathing still quick but not as anxious.

Throughout the storm, I tried to explain to him so many times that he just needed to wait it out – storms have an expiration date. They don’t last forever. We were protected and safe in the house, but there was nothing Eric nor I could do to make it stop. He’s been through so many storms before, and I tried to remind him that he had always been fine in the past. But of course, his sweet dog brain can’t understand what I am saying. Even if he could have, he was too panic-stricken to slow down and listen to my voice. He didn’t seem to understand that I got out of bed super early just to sit with him; he kept rejecting my attempts to soothe and cuddle him.

As I was sitting here, I confess that I was having my own little freak out with the Lord.

I am excited to be in Conway, and I am excited for what the future holds, but, to be honest, it hasn’t been an easy week, even beyond the lack of sleep most nights.

We moved into the sweet old house we were planning to buy, but hit a snag in the process and are no longer able to buy it. The sellers have been gracious to us, and they are allowing us to rent it while we look for another house (and while they look for another buyer). However, I am ready to start making Conway home. And having half of my life in boxes sure doesn’t help. I woke up this morning so frustrated with the Lord – frustrated that this house situation worked out the way it has. Frustrated that we haven’t seen anything else on the market that we are interested in. Frustrated that the market is so different down here, much slower and with fewer choices. Frustrated that Ridley has been daily anxious in this house. Frustrated that the pit bull behind us has been barking almost every night.

So I sat in the hall against the door frame, my butt growing numb against the hardwood floor, knees to chest to balance coffee in one hand, free arm trying to corral Ridley, and tears streaming down my face.

I told the Lord I was so over it, that I couldn’t understand why He had pulled me away from an incredible community and a dream job and an awesome house in exchange for this. I told Him I was upset. I told Him, while I know He doesn’t owe me, that surely He would reward me for all I had given up.

And suddenly, He showed up. And, as it goes when He reveals truth to your heart, I felt like a child being both scolded and comforted at the same time.

Just as Ridley was anxiously pawing at the bedroom door, I was pawing at the Lord. I was freaking out at the storm raging outside, and all I wanted was a new house in hopes that everything would be better. I wasn’t appreciating His presence as He tried to comfort me. My only lens for relief was short-sighted, and I was panicking without regard to reason or to truth.

That’s the way it normally goes when we encounter storms, isn’t it?

The thunder rolls in to warn of what’s coming. The rain starts to beat on the roof, and even though we are protected and dry thanks to our security in Christ and our hope in His power, we think the world is ending. Irrationally, we begin clawing at anything and everything. Even when God attempts to hold us close in comfort, we start clawing at Him.

Too often we pray for peace, we pray for rest, but we reject it when the Lord provides it. We assume that peace means resolution, that everything is okay. Often, though, peace has nothing to do with our circumstances and everything to do with the state of our heart.

God came down in flesh as Jesus to sit on the hardwood floor with us, to be that peace for us, even though He didn’t have to. He suffered more than the numbness and soreness I will feel when I am able to get back up. I am sure He would rather have stayed in heaven’s perfection (just as I would rather have been snuggled under the covers to enjoy the rain). Yet, because of His love for us, He experienced life as a man so that He could provide peace for us with God once for all.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

He didn’t come so that we would never experience hardship again. He came so that, as we walk through the storms that are sure to come (both as a result of a broken world and as a tool for our growth), we could experience a relationship with Him to carry us through the storms and ultimately make His Name great.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid… I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 14:27, 16:33)

So as I still sit here on the floor, Ridley’s head nestled in that little space behind my back, I, too, will slow my breathing, stop my clawing, rest my spirit in my God as I wait out the storm.

I’m thankful He’s more patient with me than I have been with Ridley, and I’m thankful that He is able to calm the storm – but He is also able to let the storm rage and calm me as we wait through it together.

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Philippians 4:19-20)

I’m praying that the truth of His love and peace invades your own storms and that you are also able to wait it out, finding that His presence is enough.

God, in a southern summer and a bittersweet life

These days, Arkansas humidity lies thick all around.

The first metaphor that came to mind when I was trying to think about how to describe it was adding too much flour to your gravy. How appropriately Southern, right?

And while I can – and will – complain about the heat and the humidity and the stickiness that develops behind my knees just moments after I walk out the door, the truth is, I appreciate the humidity. My definition of “summer” is inseparable from the dampness of my shirt clinging to my lower back, the way it can be only 75 degrees in the morning but require a tank top due to the stifle of the warm air, and the scent of the bushes lingering in the midst of it all.

Summer’s humidity is imperfect. I’m not saying I enjoy basking in sweat. I can tell a (happy) difference if I travel outside of the South, and I can sit outside just a little longer in places where the air thins out. But, when it comes down to it, humidity feels like home to me. I can’t imagine not having the feeling of walking out from our air-conditioned kitchen to the force of dense air on the front porch.

A couple of weeks ago at church, the definition of the word “blessed” was given, and it stuck with me: “God’s gracious favor to give one a happy and content (satisfied/fulfilled) soul that is not rooted in external or changing circumstances.”

It took me back to the difference between happiness and joy – where joy is also not dependent on your circumstances but an understanding of the truth of God despite your circumstances.

If you think about when you most often see those words used, though, it’s in connection with something good happening in someone’s life. To their credit, the person is usually trying to give the glory to God because of the happy thing or fortunate circumstance – they are stating that their life is good because of God’s hand of providence on them. And, if I am being honest, I do this a lot myself. I talk about the joy of something to recognize that God is the One Who has given me that friendship or the blessing of my relationship with Eric because He is the One Who makes my marriage strong.

But do we use those words when life isn’t going well? Can we recognize joy and blessing when there is confusion and even sorrow?

How do we experience a satisfied soul when life itself leaves much to be desired?

The older I get, the more I have opportunities both to celebrate and to grieve. And in the midst of the juxtaposition of the bitter and the sweet, I start to understand a little more that the satisfaction of the Christian life is never dependent on your circumstances.

David understood this. How often the Psalms portray the devastation of life but the constancy of God! How often David proclaims that his good is found in the Lord!

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? …But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. –Psalm 13:1, 5

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” –Psalm 16:2

Paul understood this. Despite how many times he had been jailed and beaten and taunted, he displayed an unshakeable confidence in his God and a consistent joy in the midst of persecution.

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. –Philippians 1:21

…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. –Philippians 4:11-13

I think, for me to grow in my understanding of this, I have to continually grow in my knowledge and experience of God. The more I look to Him instead of my circumstances, the more I will be able to find joy and blessing even when life isn’t going the way I want. As I more consistently root myself in the truth of His character, the more consistently will my soul remain satisfied even when life is inconsistent.

The truth of His character – that He is intentional in His timing, especially in our transition from life in Fayetteville to a new season as we move to Conway. While we may not be able to see it right now, it’s no mistake that this move is coming right when Eric and I both thought we had our jobs and our community and our ministry figured out.

The reliability of His sovereignty – that He is in control, even when the future seems to have more question marks than plans.

The sweetness of His goodness – that He loves me and cares for me and is patient even as I freak out and question what He’s doing.

I have not only accepted that humidity is unavoidable in a Southern summer, but I have grown to appreciate it. It’s something I can count on each year as May turns to June. Since I can’t change it, I might as well learn to savor it.

And while I would prefer to not walk through pain or disappointment, I have learned to count myself blessed because of the nearness of God no matter the sorrow or celebration. There’s a certain joy in God’s certain character as we walk through an uncertain life.

the darkness, and the One Who is bigger

I’ve been rereading The Chronicles of Narnia this month. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read the books, but each time I do, I learn something different about myself and about God. Different lines or phrases pull me closer to the heart of God, give me a deeper desire to know Him and to long for eternity.

“This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me [Aslan] here for a little, you may know me better there [in your own world].”

And the part of the saga that grasped my attention this week came from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Towards the end of the journey to the end of the world, Prince Caspian and the crew on the Dawn Treader (including Edmund, Lucy, and Eustace) are sailing towards a dark mass that they thought was land but turns out to be an overcoming darkness. While they are rowing through the darkness, they hear the voice of a crazed man begging them to take him on board, so they pull him up and he tells them to row away as fast as possible, for they have reached the Island where Dreams come true – not daydreams, but dreams. As the crew tries to change direction and row away as fast as possible, each man begins to experience different dreams coming to life: they hear noises, sense presences, and start to feel mad and desperate themselves – until, of course, Aslan.

How many times have I felt myself being pulled by “the dark,” the voice of fear and the creeping sensation of doubt taunting me in what I cannot see? Or how often do I give in to comparisons and self-pity, not realizing the tight grip they gain around me as I give them room to come near?

A lot has happened for us in the past month. We realized there was a good possibility Eric would get a job he had been interviewing for in Conway. Then he was offered the job and set July 1 as a start date. Then we worked like mad people one weekend and listed our house for sale by owner, just to see what kind of interest we got. Four showings and two offers happened in the first two business days on the market (and the other two showings were trying to work with their banks so they could put together official offers). So I quickly had to learn next steps for selling our house on our own when we accepted one of the offers. Then we drove to Louisville and back for a wedding of a dear friend. Two days later, I drove to Lawrence, KS and back for a quick 24 hour trip to visit more friends. The day after, we went house hunting in Conway.

The word I would use to describe the past month is exhausting: emotionally, mentally, physically, relationally. And it won’t stop for awhile, between wanting to see friends here and say goodbye, to potentially going down to Conway again for round two of looking for a house, to packing up our things, to my brother’s wedding at the end of this month, to my sister’s wedding at the end of the next month, to a third wedding for one of my college girls in which I am a bridesmaid…

Despite so many things on the calendar, there’s also a lot of uncertainty in the immediate future. We don’t know where we will live in Conway. We don’t know how long we will need a temporary housing option. We will be starting over to make friends. We have ideas of what my job will look like, but there are some other options out there and nothing is set in stone. Eric’s job is pretty much the only certainty at this point (that, and my parents’ excitement to have us in Conway), and even his job contains some unknowns when it comes to how to transition from a corporate workplace to a church staff.

So yes, the darkness, and the voices from what I can’t see taunting me? That’s very real for me right now. The panic that builds in my mind is paralyzing when I start to worry what will happen if we can’t find a house we want to buy, or – worse – if we buy a house that we don’t really like and we feel stuck. Or, for some reason, having to rent for a year feels like the end of the world. But panic is like that – it is irrational, and it takes over all common sense.

When we give in to worry, our current, momentary situation feels bigger than we can handle. Our present troubles outweigh our view of an eternal God.

“We shall never get out, never get out,” moaned the rowers. “He’s steering us wrong. We’re going round and round in circles. We shall never get out.”

When it comes down to it, I know that there’s always uncertainties in life. But there are some seasons where it is heightened more than others, and I am there now.

Lucy leant her head on the edge of the fighting-top and whispered, “Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now.” The darkness did not grow any less, but she began to feel a little – a very, very little – better. “After all, nothing has really happened to us yet,” she thought.

The what-ifs can drown out the reality of how “okay” you are right now – unless you re-fix your perspective from the darkness to the truth of God that is not dependent on circumstances. God is God no matter the presence of darkness or light. And just as Aslan whispered “Courage, dear heart,” to Lucy before they were out of the dark, God whispers “Courage, dear heart,” to you and to me, even if we still have to walk through a little more of the unknown.

Like Lucy, I need to fix my eyes on the One Who is bigger than all of those fears and concerns. Instead of allowing the darkness to overcome me, I want to look for the Light, no matter how small it may appear at first, and I want to fix my gaze there. Salvation lies in rowing straight for that light, not in looking around at the darkness and trying to visualize what’s hiding there.

All at once everybody realized that there was nothing to be afraid of and never had been… “I reckon we’ve made pretty good fools of ourselves,” said Rynelf.

There’s still lots of things that I am tempted to worry about – friends, finances, a place to live, a continued desire to start a family even in the midst of all of this – but when I find myself drifting toward the darkness again, I want to instead more quickly re-fix my eyes on the One Who is bigger than all of those questions and concerns – and the One Who is even sovereign over all things.