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What Do We Do When We Don’t Get What We Want?

August 2, 2018

We moved back from Florida last October. It wasn’t the easiest transition – most aren’t for me if I’m honest. At the time I was almost 8 months pregnant with Caden. I was excited for what our move back to Atlanta meant for our family, but also sad to say goodbye to an amazing community in Florida.

Questions swirled in my head between our decision to move and it actually taking place. Were we missing it, I wondered. Was this total madness doing all this transition at the same time, I thought. (Yes, yes it was.)

But those lingering questions were silenced by an outright flood of God’s kindness, all by way of the house we rented. Because this isn’t just any house. It is a tangible reminder in our massive whirl of transition, and many moments since, that God is so kind to his people, to my family, to me.

It was three years ago when I first walked into our Atlanta bungalow. At the time I was 7 months pregnant with our first child, Eloise, and so hopeful that this was the house we would rent. I found it minutes after its posting on Zillow, a sure sign it was meant to be ours. An open house was scheduled for a week later, but I immediately emailed the agent asking if we could get in early to see it.

I loved it. My pregnancy hormones were high and I was certain this little house was the perfect place to nest our growing family.

I quickly received a reply back to my request telling me I’d have to wait until the open house, at which point they would review all applications and make a decision.

The day of the open house came and I went to check it out with my friend, Cindy. Walking through its doors only confirmed how much I wanted to rent it. Mark and I were living cozy in a two-bedroom condo and the idea of space, a backyard, and even a designated nursery sounded amazing.

I submitted my application, prayed like a wild woman, called up my favorite prayer warriors to join me, and waited.

A few days later I was in Ohio for a friend’s wedding when I got the call. There were too many applicants, the agent said, so they chose the couple with the highest gross income.

It wasn’t us.

In the grand scheme of life, problems, and letdowns, this isn’t huge. This is a house that we wanted to rent and we didn’t get. I totally get that.

And yet…

My disappointment was real. I felt crushed by the news. This house made sense, I reasoned with God. It ticked all the boxes of what would bring ease and comfort, so I reminded him. Plus I just felt it – deep in my gut – that we could make it our home.

But even with my heartfelt petitions, which there were many, it was a bold no.

I knew with a baby coming soon that I needed to move myself out of that disappointed space, and fast. Disappointment is natural and meant to be felt, but it’s never a destination. It’s an honest and raw stop along the journey, and a place where most of us find ourselves more times than we’d ever prefer. But we’re not meant to build a foundation or start making home there.

So I did the only thing I know really works when I feel most disappointed. I drove back to the house, (creepily?) parked my car in front of it, and prayed over the family who would move in there. I could still visualize our family in that house, but I had to come to grips that this wasn’t our gift. I determined the best way to redirect my attention and energy towards what was ours in that season was to thank God for the family who would make it their home.

Because channeling prayers and words of blessing into what God is doing – even and especially when it is not the outcome we envision – is a powerful way to steward disappointment.

Words of thanks and honor are some of the best tools when we find ourselves most disappointed. They propel us out of where we are. They ensure we don’t camp too long on the ground of what isn’t, but instead keep moving ourselves ahead by celebrating what actually is.

So with some tears streaming, I thanked God for the family who would call that place home – and for all those families who would come after them too.

Amen, let it be.

Fast forward two years to last August when we knew we were moving back to Atlanta. Anyone who lives here knows how difficult it is to find a rental property when you live in this city, let alone when you’re doing all the work from another location. Mark was prepping me that our best option was likely for us to move into an apartment complex until we got our feet on the ground.

I cried. It wasn’t what I was hoping for, but I also knew I’d get over it and we’d make the best of it.

The next day I did a quick search, something I hadn’t done in a while, to see what rental properties were listed. There, posted an hour earlier, was the exact house I had desperately hoped to rent two years prior – back on the market, available right when we needed, and priced at exactly what we agreed we wouldn’t go over.

Mark called the company to see what the chances were we could rent it and found out two things. One, they were having a hard time scheduling an open house with the current family. Nothing had been set yet even though they were ready to get it rented. And two, they were only willing to rent to people who had seen the property in person.

So because we had seen it and wanted to rent it, they let us put our application through before showing the house to anyone else.

And that house is now our home.

I often catch myself smiling when I walk through its green door, and not a week goes by that I don’t pull into the driveway and say “thank you” one more time for it. It’s a quirky little place that’s been wonderfully gifted to our family. So I never want to forget what God has done for us. How kind he was in a season of transition. How perfectly he planned things beyond our vision. How he taught me about blessing others in the midst of my disappointment.

Because, totally unbeknownst to me, I prayed for our family who would call this place home exactly two years later.

Obviously the timing wasn’t what I wanted. But because it wasn’t, and because there was waiting, wondering, and disappointment along the journey, it means so much more to me today.

The story changed and so did its meaning.

It’s not just a place I was hoping to nest my family when we first became a family of three. It’s where we sowed prayer and blessing even when we didn’t think we’d ever step foot through its door again, and yet God did what we couldn’t imagine.

He gifted back to us something we thought was gone, done, and over. Still he heard. Still he moved. Still he gave.

This home is a constant reminder to me. I walk through its door and remember again how much it matters what we do and how we respond in those in-between and not-yet moments of life. Because they determine what comes next, days, weeks, and seasons ahead.

What we sow today, we will harvest. Not a single prayer, word, or tear of honesty, hope, or courage is ever lost.

I wrote to a friend of mine last week and processed through some of my reflections on my current life. I tucked these words into it that I am convinced of today:

The fact that it hasn’t always been this way makes me so grateful for what is in this season. The absence in seasons past paved the way for deeper thankfulness and awareness in our present.

May you and I keep challenging ourselves to carry a vision beyond all that it is or isn’t today. Because how we choose to respond and what we choose to speak, no matter what does or doesn’t happen, makes all the difference.

Life

3 Choices to Make When Life Doesn’t Look as You Imagined

June 12, 2018

Let’s be honest. For a lot of us life isn’t playing out the way thought it would.

Consider what you pictured life to look like when you were xx years old and most likely it is nothing as you imagined (and definitely for the better on many counts).

So you find yourself, like most of us, living in the tension of dreams unmet and hopes still delayed.

And in that place it can be tempting to swing one of two ways. The first is to decide you are powerless to change anything so you may as well ride life out as a passive pawn. You don’t do much pushing or wrestling, but a lot of letting things be and waiting for change to come when, how, and if it will.

Or you determine you will do everything possible to fix yourself out of the tension, essentially trying to force the intersection of your reality with dreams and desires. You may strive or hustle as hard as possible to change whatever hurts most right now in an effort to eject yourself out of pain or disappointment. Or you may abruptly change everything — job, location, and community — in hopes that a self-induced transition will bring breakthrough with it.

But there’s another choice available. To engage with our frustration, disappointment, or dissatisfaction with life as it is right now. To leverage it as a means to grow our character and become who we are created to be in the middle of the process.

Because the answer is not merely to disregard today or do all we can to fix our way out of it. But instead to be changed in the midst of it. To live in the tension of longings unrealized. To stay awake and alive where callings and dreams haven’t yet met reality. And there to move from needing to fix frustrations and disappointments to learning from them.

Because what isn’t is one of the most powerful teachers for us to grow and become right where we are.

And if we decide to remain in the tension of what is yet to be, there are 3 choices we can make:

1. To make peace with life as it is.

It’s a good practice for us to come to an honest (and frequent) place of making peace with today, especially when it is not everything we want it to be. A habit of gratitude mandates we look at what is before us, accept that it is not all we wish or want, and still receive it for what it is. I’m pretty convinced this is integral to maturity. Because to a certain extent, what frustrates us today is something we must simply get over by remaining thankful for what is — especially when it is not everything we desire it to be.

2. To realign ourselves.

When we take time to consider what is most dissatisfying, it uncovers areas of fear, control, or where we’re off course. So we must dig deeper into why we are so frustrated with where we find ourselves.

Are we anxious to move ahead because we are afraid we will be forgotten, overlooked, or bypassed?

Are we unwilling to allow God to unfold his process in his timing because we are determined to have things look a specific way?

Is God’s leading or nudging being overshadowed by what we (or others) think we should give our time, talents, or attention to?

Taking time to sit in the reality of what is and ask ourselves pointed questions reveals where we need to realign ourselves.

3. To reignite with fresh conviction to become right where we are. When stewarded well, the tension can fuel us with passion again. Because we can resolve that even still it is worth it for us to stay and believe that here God will move. We change and become when we refuse to allow frustrations to detract us from faithfully stewarding today or from believing for what God will do ahead. Pressure causes us to grow. Tension forces us to strengthen. So frustration can refocus and reignite us to give ourselves to what matters most.

The ultimate choice we can make is to decide that no matter when, how, or if we see those dreams come to be in our lives, we keep engaging. We keep believing and growing right where we are. Because the possibility for what God can do in and through us is worth the present tension, and it requires us to live well what is today.

Right here and right now is where we can tap into a faith that is not determined by what we see with our eyes or how we feel in the moment, but by God who is with us in all of it.

Life

Let’s Play Catch-Up

January 11, 2018

Well, after 18 months I am back.

I never intended to take such a long hiatus but then, as you know, life happens. Demands pile up. And so many memories are being lived out that it can be tricky to stop and actually write about them.

Last year started out with a resounding word of breakthrough for our family. God was so clear in this, nailing it home for me 3 times in those first 11 days of 2017. But breakthrough is funny because in theory it carries loads of excitement and possibility, but in actuality it means the entrance of unexpected twists, turns, and transitions to nicely laid plans. We shouldn’t be too surprised when upheaval becomes the passageway to breakthrough.

And so came one significant happening after another last year, to the point that I am amazed at how much our circumstances have changed since I last wrote. It’s probably the amount of transition we lived mixed with starting a fresh new year and turning a year older (34 today!) that make me ready to write and create again. Fresh seasons do that for me.

So in an effort to dust off this blog, let’s play a game of catch-up with more writings to come in much less time than the previous one found here.

The biggest news of last year is that our Caden Asher came into this world late November (and quickly, might I add). We are totally in love with his unique mixture of chill and spunk. I remember so clearly on my birthday a year ago looking at Eloise and having this overwhelming sense that everything she adds is life and goodness. All I could see in her was a world-changer and it was in that moment that I became ready to grow our family, to add more life and value to the world around. The transition has been wild and full of all kinds of challenges (more thoughts coming soon), but my mama heart is unbelievably thankful for these two littles.

Another big thing that happened was that I officially graduated from seminary with my Masters in Divinity. It’s a fancy name for what was way more about the journey than that piece of paper at the end. But I have to say, when I held that diploma in my hands in May (which as you can see from the photo was ginormous), it felt amazing. Not because I am now qualified for something special, but because I completed something that was way more difficult than I ever imagined.

Most of our 5 years of marriage I’ve spent in school. In fact it was only 2.5 months in that I signed up for two seminary classes on a whim. By the time I questioned my choice and wondered if I should quit, I was committed. And one thing about me is that, even if it may kill me in the process, I rarely quit when I have purposed to see something through.

As I waited for my name to be called 4.5 years later, I felt like I could collapse, burst into tears, or fall asleep. Thankfully I made it across the stage with my diploma in hand, so clearly sensing the overwhelming pleasure of God. Because really, this crazy season of school was all about partnership with him.

Other exciting things that have happened?

Well, we packed up our life in Orlando, I said goodbye to an unbelievable community of moms who I had done life with day-in and day-out, and we moved back to Atlanta. It’s hard to put into words all the reasons why because ultimately it was God’s whisper we heard above all the practicalities, to-dos, and common sense of the matter. We sensed his leading, so we followed.

And finally, one exciting creative project for me is that I wrote my first book. It’s been a dream of mine for a decade and this summer I actually put those words down on paper. I clearly sensed as I entered my second trimester last summer that it was going to happen then, or it’d be a long time before I’d find space and time again. I just knew it was my season. And little by little it took shape to a completed rough draft, though it’s definitely still in process.

One reason I wanted to share about my book is because it’s my goal to get it released this year in tangible form. I want to hold it. I want others to hold it. And I want to contribute an offering of hope and promise for those stuck in the middle of life’s waiting. So I’d say this is my commitment made public that this will happen, because sometimes the best way to keep moving forward in a dream is to tell others exactly what that dream is.

But the other reason I share is because I’m guessing you, like me, may have come into this year with some half-finished or barely-started dreams from 2017. And in case you think you need to start afresh on everything, instead you can take those things, as imperfect or incomplete as you may deem them to be, and keep journeying with them. I think some of the boldest resolutions are the ones where we purpose to keep going with that dream, to keep believing for it and working towards it and holding it closely because we’re not willing to give up on ourselves.

I’m guessing that’s probably enough for your Thursday, but I’ll be back soon and I can’t wait to share more.

Life

Funny Unmet Expectations of Mamahood

March 11, 2016

Expectations are funny because they’re rarely met. It’s pretty safe to say the more you’re expecting something to go a certain way the more you can prepare that it likely won’t. Because how we envision things rarely (ever?) happen as we think. So we must learn to laugh. Laughing is good. I’m doing a lot of laughing in mamahood.

Since my current life remains a crazy swirl of packing and goodbyeing (and schooling and mothering and all the other roles), I figured today I’d laugh about some unmet expectations. Because there are many and thinking back to my pregnancy season and the first few months of mamahood has been funny.

So here are three stories about things not going as expected.

First, below you will see the pretty picture of our pristine white crib. I took this photo just weeks before Eloise was born. While I had surrendered to the fact that I wouldn’t have an official nursery, I did have a crib! And I was one proud wifey the night Mark put that crib together. I watched with glowing pregnant-mama eyes dreaming about the day I’d bring our little babe home and place her into it. Just the next day I carefully picked out the sweet sheets to go on it, laid out those dreft-smelling swaddles, and snapped this photo.

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The current reality is that Eloise is 4.5 months old and has yet to sleep in her crib once. In fact, as I write this her crib is upside down in a corner of our living room waiting to be dismantled by Mark once he gets over the fact that he will have to take apart the whole thing before she ever sleeps one night in it. Expectation of beautiful crib life straight off Pinterest definitely not met.

I also remember being so excited for newborn photos to be taken just after she was born, with all her wrinkles in full site and the falsity of a sleeping, peaceful baby beautifully framed forever. I imagined holding onto this photo as a keepsake for years to come, pulling it out to one day show Eloise of her little peaceful self captured in all its sweetness.

Real life told a different story. The day we were discharged from the hospital was the day the photographer came knocking at our door to take pictures. No one tells you that your room is a revolving door of doctors and nurses for the 48 hours you are in the hospital. Or that there is absolutely no consoling a hungry baby. Or that in your exhaustion you will likely have no idea who is before you, why they are there, or what they even want from you. But there the woman was, camera in hand ready to snap some pics. But there was also a hungry baby and deliriously tired parents. And that combo made for pictures like none other.

Here you have it, our very first newborn photo forever captured.

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And then there was the fact that somehow I never considered my own recovery after having Eloise. I didn’t have complications with her birth, so I somehow thought I would instantly bounce back to normal life. I think in reality, I had no clue the level of ibuprofen I was being dished out every few hours at the hospital.

So we came home and the next morning the weather was beautiful and I was ready to get outside. I had been home from the hospital for about 24 hours and hadn’t taken any meds, so I popped 1 measly ibuprofen and told my mom and Mark that we should go for a walk. So we tucked Eloise in my wrap and headed off.

Within about 10 steps, I noticed my mom and Mark walking way faster than I was comfortable with. I asked them to slow it on down and we continued forward. I had in my mind that we would walk a nice leisurely 1 mile. Instead we went the half block of our condo complex (50 yards?) and headed home.

I didn’t leave the couch for another 3 days.

Happy Friday, friends. Next time I write, it’s from our new home in FLORIDA!

Life

Sometimes We Simply Go

March 7, 2016

Mark and I have been packing machines this past week with our season in Atlanta quickly coming to a close. As I pull things down from the walls and stuff them to the brim into boxes, I find myself wondering what in the world is happening. On one hand, I know in that deep place that this is what’s next. But such knowledge doesn’t keep my tears from falling or questions from coming.

In this waiting place, I can easily spin. I look around at everything that must be put somewhere and am anxious to just get it done, thinking if I do it all then somehow the overwhelming emotions that come with this transition will dissolve. But in reality, all the boxes packed in the world will not displace the tension I feel.

We’ve felt the nudge of transition for a while, knowing that the time for a change was approaching. We weren’t necessarily attached to a specific plan of where we wanted to go. Instead we had a 5-card hand of options, each with its picture of what life could be. They were all appealing in their own way.

But this one, we never saw it coming.

I’ve vacillated between excitement and terror over the move. When we first found out, I couldn’t wait to FaceTime one of my best friends and tell her we were moving a mere 45 minutes away. Her face was total shock. “I didn’t even know Orlando was an option!” she exclaimed.

“Me neither!” I laughed back. That was one of my favorite moments.

But then there’s the side of this that means saying goodbye to a whole life here. Leaving friendships I have done life with for a decade. People who are as close as family. Relationships I never imagined I would hug goodbye and physically move away from.

My smattering of emotions is exhausting, most of all for me.

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So in the spinning, swirling, I-feel-totally-out-of-control place, I keep doing what I know best. I quiet myself. Put on music. Close my eyes. And soak in God’s presence. I let his words be an anchor for my soul and pour fresh life over my weary bones. His whisper blows away my anxiety and calms my craziness. His promises for what awaits ignite me. His presence grounds me.

In the stillness, I listen. And the words remind me again: sometimes, we simply go.

God tells his people at Mount Sinai words I can’t shake. Time and again these last few years these words have charged me to move forward in all kinds of situations that have unfolded. There, at that place where so much life happened for Israel, covenant was made and broken, mess and promise happening together, God tells them that they have stayed there long enough. It is time to get going and move ahead.

Sometimes, we must advance without the plan, guarantee, or comfort as companions. We go despite uncertainties. And declare by our movement that familiarity and safety do not set the boundary lines for our lives.

Here’s the thing. We may get lost. We may even fail. But we still go because we know we will hear a voice, his voice. And that alone makes it worth it. We move forward not because of what will happen for us, but because of who we will encounter. Even when we are terrified or stretched beyond what we can handle, we go so we will find him.

And that’s enough.

As my head spins and my heart overflows with emotion, I remind myself again that we’re going because of the potential that we will find something real in this next season. The counterfeit is not worth the cost, but the real thing – the real God – he is worth everything. To find him is worth laying down our control, our familiarity, our need to sculpt our own life and live by our own plans.

Sometimes we look at what is being asked and say yes because it means one more season of trusting and believing and waiting and hoping. And there, he is always found.

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