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Life

How to Navigate the Unexpected (Part 1)

January 27, 2016
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Let’s imagine we’re having coffee this morning. I’m definitely drinking a latte, whole milk please. You have your drink of choice in hand and we’re sitting down in two chairs in the corner of some local joint.

You’re grappling with an unexpected circumstance in your life – because who isn’t? Maybe you’re disappointed because of what didn’t happen. Or angry at the reality of what did. Or feeling lost with no idea how to move forward from here. I just finished telling you my story from 2015 and you ask what I’ve learned to help you navigate through what’s pretty trying today.

Well, below are my thoughts. They’re not complete or perfect nor do they necessarily apply to your circumstance. But they’re what I would tell the Caroline of a year ago who felt hurt and angry and completely lost. If she sounds like a familiar friend to you, maybe you could use some of these words too.

So here’s what I’d say…

There’s an opportunity here to intentionally steward the unexpected. What I mean is that the season doesn’t have to be defined by chaos, confusion, and continued wallowing until a breakthrough comes. Instead, it carries the opportunity to take us to deeper dependency on God, community, and his promises. It could grow and shape us. But we have an active role in determining the outcome of the unexpected. Our small, daily choices matter.

Find who God is in it. Through whatever happened, God has invaded ordinary life and completely disturbed your plan. It happened and it’s okay. It will also happen again. The opportunity is for you to focus less on what happened and more on who is with you. The question is not if God is doing something. He is. Nor is the question necessarily what he is doing, because it may not be the time to understand. With the journey of faith being centered on knowing God, the best question to ask is, who he is revealing himself to be in the midst of this? Write it down, hold tightly to it, and let it be a source of stability in the middle of what may feel like sinking sand today.

Fight the urge to fix. We live in a culture that is obsessed with fixing problems and managing pain. Slogans, commercials and culture shout that all we need to do is fix what is broken. But resist the urge to do that. Because if you move too quickly to solve your problem, you may in fact eliminate yourself from experiencing the actual purpose of why you are even here. Not all brokenness demands our interference. Sometimes the wisest move we can make is to not move at all but allow ourselves to be present in our pain.

Remember that the destination does not shape, change or grow us. The process does. It will always be in the process where we will become more of the person we are longing to be because life is the process. We are easily fixated on this ideal destination we’re aiming to arrive at while all along Emmanuel, God with us, is in the unfolding process of today. So if the unexpected flung you smack dab in the middle of a messy process, it’s okay. You’re likely right where you will change and grow the most.

Intentionally give an offering of thanksgiving and praise to God. This is when we respond despite feelings and press into faith for more than what we see. This is when we say even with what happened, I will thank you for what you are doing and I will believe you for what is coming. I remember just days after Mark lost his job, we found ourselves home the night of his company’s holiday party. We desperately wanted to wallow in the loss by curling up on the couch watching Netflix to pass the hours. But instead we responded contrary to our feelings. We put on worship music, got our faces to the ground, and cried out some guttural prayers. Saying “thank you” in the midst of unexpected loss or uncertainly is a precious offering to God and one that can only be given when we have no idea where or how to move from here.

More to come later this week…

 

Photo credit: Neo_II

Life

When the Unexpected Interrupts Our Best Plans

January 25, 2016
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I remember the night well. It was New Years Eve 2014. The clock had struck midnight and we were back at our apartment with some of our best friends. We each poured our drink of choice and stood on the furniture to usher in the shining new year with declarations of what would be. With glasses raised high and voices loud, we agreed that 2015 would be the year we would see dreams come true. I remember watching Mark as he said, “This year I’m declaring a new job, a better job!”

We all let out a joy-filled “Amen!” and clinked away.

Fast forward to two days later, on January 2, 2015, when I missed a phone call from Mark. I was walking to the elevator of my friend’s building when I listened to his voicemail.

“Hey. Can you please call me back as soon as you can?”

Please. That please struck me as odd, out of place. We don’t really do pleases in voicemails. I rode down the elevator to the first floor wondering what could be up. Walking out of the building and crossing the street to my car, I called him back. I’m pretty sure he picked up before the phone even finished its first ring.

“Hi.” He sounded short, quiet in his response.

“Hey,” I replied. “What’s up? Are you okay?”

“No. I’m not.”

“Okay…what’s going on?” I figured the sooner he told me, the sooner I could fix it.

“Well, I lost my job. I just left.”

My body swelled with emotion. Opening my car door, I’m sure I made one of those totally confused faces as if to say, “I think I misheard you.” But before I could reply asking him to repeat himself he capped it off with, “I’m done. Box packed up and I’ve walked out. It’s effective immediately.”

“Whatttttt?” I trailed off. I was so confused. He had gone to work that morning in an effort to get some extra work done before we got on the road that afternoon for a belated Christmas with his family.

Both of us were totally blindsided and unable to process what in the world was happening.

“Where are you?” I asked.

“I’m just driving now, not sure where to go. I may call some people to see if anyone’s free to meet.”

Good, I thought. Trusted voices to help us navigate this news sounds like what we need. However, no one ended up being available and Mark headed to mass at a local Catholic Church, one of the only places open for visitors on a Friday afternoon.

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Today I laugh thinking back to that day, not because it’s funny but because it’s such evidence that our life is scripted by a hand much greater than our own. And the plans God has are so intentional. We never saw that day coming and it took us a long time to come to grips with what had happened.

I also laugh because we had just spent the last five days going through Michael Hyatt’s “Best Year Ever” and Mark losing his job less than 48 hours into our new year was definitely not part of the plan. 2015, our year for a fresh start after a tiring 2014, had taken its first hit before we had ever written the dang number on a piece of paper.

Later that same afternoon I told a friend, “This right here is the irony of faith.” What I meant was that despite the best dreaming and planning, things rarely play out their course the way we’ve plotted. Dreaming is a beautiful practice of awakening our faith and soaring higher than reality would allow. But while dreaming ignites, it does not guarantee.

So often in faith, to reap the greater harvest, the best-year-yet kind of manifestation, the pathway is humility, getting on our knees, letting things die, and finding ourselves more dependent than ever before.

I know that our story is not unique. All the time the unexpected disturbs. Despite best intentions, things do not go as pictured. So the question is, what do we do when God completely interrupts what we’ve carefully planned and hoped for? What’s our response when the answer to our prayers takes us in the exact opposite direction of where we’re trying to head? And how do we deal with disappointment, frustration, and total confusion?

Stick around this week. We’ll talk about how to navigate the unexpected when God interrupts our best plans.

 

Photo credit: Marcus Spiske

Life

Finding Your Voice Again

January 22, 2016
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Mark and I woke up again last night around 2:30 in the morning to the voice of our daughter jabbering away. While hanging out in her little crib next to us, she’s formed this new routine of chatting in the darkness of the night. We often grunt out of exhaustion and the fact that she hasn’t received the memo that it is time to sleep. But there’s also a part of us that smirks with amusement because she is so. dang. cute.

What I love most about it is that our three month old has found her voice. And she’s using it.

It’s amazing to watch her learn to talk in a new way. Those first two months her voice was used for one thing and one thing only – to make sure no one was left unaware that she was in immediate need of milk or a diaper change.

But something changed these last few weeks and she’s found that her voice can also be used to converse. No need for permission from others (or daytime hours) to commence.

As I’ve watched her find her voice and use it for something new, I’ve felt the whisper of God reminding me to find my own voice again. In seasons past I was one to stand on furniture and declare with volume and certainty the great promises of God. I was also one to look often at myself eye-to-eye in the mirror and speak words of identity and life.

But in the last season I allowed my voice to trail away, not purposefully but subtly. As the days drifted by my voice went quiet to those prophetic areas of speaking life.

Maybe yours did too?

When our voices go dormant, it’s easy to spin and swirl by the words of the world around us. We can feel so stuck, exhausted, or plain lost. When we find ourselves there, the best thing we can do is use our voice again to whisper to ourselves who we are, what we are promised, and who we are resting under. Especially when we don’t feel any of it.

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Our voice anchors us. When we speak words filled with hope and life, we’re reminding ourselves of what is promised and weighing ourselves down by his truth. Those words ground us.

The opportunity today is that you and I can actually speak words that stir fresh hope and focus into our lives. We can remind ourselves of our confidence, purpose, and passion. That God is not done, he is still working, and we have not missed it. And then we can trust those words, rest into them, and go about our days secure that we are exactly who God says we are.

Fear often keeps us so tense that we hold in the only breath we have, resulting in no life in and no life out. But speaking forces us to exhale. When we release what’s inside, especially over ourselves, we breathe. And by doing so, we remember again that each day we live by inhaling his presence and exhaling his truth.

So it’s Friday. If you find yourself swirling with confusion and doubt, breathe. Begin speaking over yourself what you know to be true, any and all promises you can pull from Scripture. Or if you need help, below are some words to start off today different from others, filled with anticipation for what could be and settled that you are secure as you are. Take a deep breath, forget the swirling lies, and use your voice to speak what is true.

I promise, today will be different because of it.

 

Friday’s Promises:

He delights over me and loves me.

I have resurrection power living in my bones. There are opportunities today to bring life to myself and others.

He trusts me. And I know him.

God hears my prayers and will answer them. He will not forget.

I am bold, strong, and fully equipped to do what he is asking me to do today.

God knows what he’s promised and he will fulfill. I can rest and journey on the pilgrimage.

Today has purpose and it matters to my story.

His plans are active in my life.

I will taste and see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

 

photo credit: Donnie Ray Jones

Life

Pressing Restart

January 19, 2016
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Happy 2016, my friends.

It amazes me that over a year passed since the last time I wrote here. Never did I think as I pressed “submit” on my blog in October 2014 that so much life and time would be lived before I was back to my writing corner.

It was definitely never my intention. I kept thinking I would get back into it once life supposedly calmed down and the distractions weren’t so omnipresent. But the respite I was holding out for never came and, in fact, more challenges piled on. Pretty soon my writing habit became a distant “way back then” more then a weekly to-do on my list.

I could beat myself up about it, but that’s not too helpful to my future. Instead, I look back with a lot of grace for myself.

It’s okay to reflect on what didn’t happen and remind ourselves that we just plain did our best. Maybe 2015 wasn’t all you hoped it would be. Maybe you entered this new year kicking yourself wondering why you didn’t jump on that dream sooner. But I have a lot of confidence that you did what you knew how to in the moments that came your way.

Dreams and visions are nice, but then there’s life and life has a way of interrupting what we’ve neatly packaged. Sometimes life is a welcomed interjection adding excitement and joy to what felt mundane. Other times it totally sideswipes plans and before we can blink we’re on the ground with skinned knees wondering how we fell from that nicely manicured path we easily envisioned for the upcoming season.

The challenges handed this past year were plenty, though they were never dire or hopeless or even remotely as hard as they could have been. But for me they were a mountain range of obstacles that left me feeling exhausted most days by the upward trek and sharp rocky edges to afford myself space to write and process.

But that’s okay. Sometimes you just have to live the season in the most present way you can and then one day you may wake up and feel a little air in your lungs and decide to create again. That’s my today.

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I can too easily think I have to manage, excel at, and balance it all. And after spinning my mind totally upside down believing I’m supposed to live that way, an unexpected challenge smacks me upside the head and says, “No, no my friend – the world in fact is not on your shoulders.”

Challenges carry a kindness in their own way. They startle and unravel us, sure. But they also keep us planted, ensuring we don’t start moving so far into believing we can handle more (or all) than the demands of the current day. Challenges require our presence. They also tend to stir up our thankfulness for all that is gifted.

Sometimes a full plate today is the grace that keeps us from believing we’re responsible for tomorrow.

So during my hiatus, I learned to carry what’s necessary, lean on some faithful friends, and trek step-after-step, eyes on the ground, believing a better day comes.

And it did. It’s not easy or perfect today, but it is better and I am breathing. Out of that breathe and all those steps that brought me here, I am writing again. I am whispering some very hope-filled words over myself that say, “Your dream isn’t dead.” Coming out of such a season, I am feeling compelled to open my voice, tell some stories, and maybe exhale a few fresh words.

So stay tuned. Or better yet, put your email in the subscribe box and you’ll be the first to know when the next story releases.

 

photo credit: Diego Torres Silvestre

Life

Restoration’s Breath

June 6, 2013
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The final Tuesday of the spring, my apartment was once more filled with the familiar chatter and unquestionable thirst. We all sat around in a circle, spending the first portion of the night simply remembering. It had been 3 solid months since we first began this Mark journey, and I thought looking back over the ‘god dids’ of the last months as such an appropriate ending, so naturally stirring faith into the atmosphere. Woman after woman shared, remembering for themselves what they had learned, what God had done, and what unexpected occurrences took place along the way. I did my best to capture that beautiful series of thankfulness in my head, so hopeful I will not soon forget.

I started this journey out last fall, at the urge of the deeply wise and challenging Michael, who said it was time to start something new and do something different. At first, I reasoned with him and myself about why the timing was wrong, wondering all the while who would actually want to do this, or be willing to drive the hour trip to make it a reality. And of course, I had that glaring question in my mind’s eye, the one that perpetually asked what possibly could I have to offer to those who did actually show up.

When I put it out there, the response was overwhelming, far beyond what I figured. And from that first gathering in mid-October, this small group began colliding each week in apartment 331.

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For the first couple months I spoke on what I was sensing in the moment, with little connection between weeks. I was feeling out the waters of what could work and what definitely did not. It was trial time at its finest (and definitely still is). When the holidays began approaching, I found myself dreaming of a journey back into the simple heart of Jesus with nothing fancy but nothing shallow – depth of word and resounding of voice. And so, on January 22, this journey through Mark and the life of the anointed one began.

If I could say one simple thing on this season, it is that He met my desire in such a beautiful, messy way and led me down a scary path that fulfills sweet promise in my life. Truly, I am utterly thankful.

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One of the greatest surprises of the journey was the weight of that which I found myself carrying. I figured this to be an easier project in that there was an outline to move forward with (chapter to chapter). In reality, halfway through it I found myself feeling a weight as I never imagined. I remember calling my friend to process and her question back to me was, “who exactly do you have covering you in this?” With a reply of, “no one specific,” an important lesson was learned: when you are nudged by God into something, you are by the very nature doing more than you ever could do on your own strength. And so, find people and ask for prayer.

For those who journeyed the whole way, or just a short blip, thank you for coming along. And to the lovely friends who joined me week after week, thank you for your cheering, challenging, and contributing. Already, I find myself dreaming for this fall and ways to continue to change, grow, and develop this further.

By the time you read this post, I will be landed at my summer home in Pemba, Mozambique. You can expect many updates in the coming weeks on all that’s occurring during our stay this summer. Until then, enjoy this final segment from our journey through Mark.