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are you still there? do you still think to stop by, despite the fact that every time you have over the past month, it’s been desolate and dusty?

 

this past month has been nothing less than a whirlwind, as nothing in my life has gone unchanged. from my location to my job to my friends to my calendar to my love life, everything’s completely different. part of that is exciting (i’ll let you guess what part that is!) and part of it is terrifying.

 

last week, when i’d just started the new job and i was only days into my new life here in grand rapids, i got overwhelmed with being homesick and questioning the decision i’d made to move here. i wondered if this was really where i was supposed to be, because it didn’t feel good and things were hard. i moved here for community, and i didn’t feel that swaddling me like it did in cincinnati. i wasn’t finding myself surrounded by inspiring, on-fire-for-God people like i’d hoped and prayed. i was having a hard time adjusting to my new job and all the new demands and figuring out whether i’m good enough at it.

 

in short, i was doubting that God had really brought me here (had i been tricked or led astray?) and if he had, i was rushing God to fulfill those promises. i cried a lot about it. then i started reading this book that Michael and I are going through together (like our own two-person book club, which i absolutely love!) called anonymous. i posted about it on here before, but–because God is always and forever so good–it happened to be that the part i was at in that moment of distress and questioning, was exactly what i needed to hear.

 

i was reading about Jesus’ temptation in the desert and how the devil first tempted him by appealing to his appetite. the book points out how food and eating is a good and natural longing. but it turned into a temptation, a lure to disobey God because Jesus was in the midst of fasting and was waiting on God until he finished. though hunger is not innately a sin, when we rush past God to grab at it, it can become one. that’s exactly what i was doing: wanting a godly community and wanting to be fulfilled by my job are both good desires. and i believe they’re both desires God wants to fulfill–but that’s going to be in His own time, not in mine. for now, while i’m waiting on those answers, i must allow Him to be enough, rather than rush past Him onto His provisions and creations and blessings.

 

it makes me disappointed in myself how i can treat Him that way and forget His goodness and all the ways He’s blessed me and answered me so many times in the past. but i know that’s what makes me human. that’s why the Old Testament is so full of phrases like “God of Israel” and “God of Jacob” and “God of Abraham”–because we constantly have to be reminded of what God’s done for us in the past and what he’s promised to bring about in the future.

 

so now things are good. i’m trying to be patient and allow God to work and lead and guide me as those promises come to pass. i’m trying not to get distracted from the reason he brought me here. i’m trying to keep the focus on him and not on my schedule or my to-do list. that’s been the hardest part, hands down. i really need to watch how i spend my time and make sure he’s getting the chunk he deserves. so if you can be praying for that for me, i’d really appreciate it.

our little mariemont home is barely even a shell of the cute, brick townhouse it once was. where there used to be pretty pictures on the wall, there are just empty nail holes. where there once was a colorful rug, there are just crumbs on the floor.

tomorrow begins the move that takes me from my and Holly’s little storybook home back to the ‘burbs. part of me loves it and part of me hates it.

i love it because i know that this baby-step move is setting me up for something bigger. i’m in essence trying to “clear the decks”–basically clear every hurdle i possibly can so that God can work and I can follow with ease. i don’t have things like leases getting in the way. and even though I know that God can work around those things and make them work too, I also know I’m responsible for stepping out in faith and that’s what this is. i expect that he’s going to take me where he’s pointed. i just don’t know when. so i’m readying myself for that.

but i hate it because it’s so discouraging to pack everything up and go back to where i started from. part of me wonders why it was even worth it to move in the first place. but i know it was. i know i learned a lot and that it broadened me and positioned me for more. (besides, if i’d never moved to mariemont, then Sally and Robbie would have never met and fallen in love! mariemont dance party, represent.)

i guess now it’s time to collect those lessons and insights and replant them; take them with me as i go “home again” and see where they lead me now.

so until then, everything’s started to get stacked in cardboard boxes, labeled with papers that say things like “fragile! drinking glasses” and “tchotchkes and ceramics.” it’s funny to gather up all you own and fit it into boxes and see it all balanced one atop another. it really makes it all real…

p.s. tonight shane claiborne is in town speaking. come!

on (my) tattoos and piercings
as you probably know, when it comes to big decisions, i’m not one for spontaneity. sure if it’s, “let’s go get ice-cream!” or “let’s go on a vacation!” then i’m all for it, because you can’t go wrong with either.

but something that there’s a chance that i might someday regret isn’t something i take lightly. hence why i’ve been so patient and spent so long kicking around the idea of a/my tattoo. but things changed last week when–in the midst of “where am i headed?” and “what’s going to happen, life-wise, next?!”–i got the out-of-the-blue urge to get one of those monroe piercings. i really, really wanted it even moreso than the tattoo. like, i was ready to get it on friday if i didn’t know myself better.

i don’t have anything against piercings; what i’ve always held as important in decision-making is intention behind the choice. so, i came to see that with this urge for a pretty little beauty-mark diamond was how quickly it came on and how forceful it was and how it consumed my thoughts, because it really did. everyday i was thinking about how i would look with one; i’d imagine it on other people and how it would change the way they look, etc. that preoccupation was a red flag to me–that there was something deeper going on.

if you’ve ever read the screwtape letters (OK, or the Bible for that matter), i believe in that stuff–that the reason why all our movies have a good guy and a bad guy, where there’s always some sort of struggle between the two is because that reflects the greater story that’s taking place in our world. that there’s a God and a Devil and that the bad guy in this story is doing everything he can to bring down Good. i remember when i read the Screwtape Letters, one thing that C.S. Lewis pointed out was how one of the devil’s greatest tools is using inaction and distraction to bring us down–while we may not be committing great sins like murder, if we’re still not doing good,  then what’s the difference? he’s won.

so i realized that this piercing preoccupation was just that: a distraction that was keeping me from focusing my thoughts on what God had in store, future-wise. i know it sounds silly because it was just a simple piercing, but in context it stood for so much more: as i pondered getting it, i was really doubting that God would accomplish what i knew he already told me he would. (because the last thing the piercing would say is “professional” and could really stand as a stumbling block as i consider that path.) i had to realize that if he encouraged me to pursue this path, then why wouldn’t he provide that? why would i jeopardize or disregard that?

it was a matter of regaining/reasserting my faith in the future. and since that realization, the overwhelming preoccupation has melted away and now i’m back to considering that old tattoo of mine. the one benefit i see in this is that at least it has a purpose other than pure vanity (which was all the piercing had to offer) and would be a gentle and daily reminder of the state (and source) of my life. here’s the general direction i’m thinking, although the elements would be better integrated, of course. but i’m digging the idea of calligraphy + ornamentation:

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

ok so today at dinner we were talking about how these guys were going to a yankees training camp to try out for the team because they were amazing baseball players. well they show up to the first day 15 minutes late, and they just waltz in. evidently the coach walks up to them and tells them, “you know what? you need to turn around and leave because you’re late and you’re never going to have another chance at ball again.” just like that–for 15 lousy minutes.

then there was the story about this kid who took a dare to show up at a school basketball game drunk, for $20. he takes it, gets caught and then… ends up losing a FULL RIDE to harvard. harvard calls him up and says, no thank you. a loss of an education at the premier school in the country all for a lousy $20 and some bragging rights.

as i’m hearing these stories i’m nodding my head, like yep, i totally know where that coach and where that school admissions counselor was coming from. because when you’re laying the reputation of your school or your team on the line, you have to be selective; there are enough kids out there who can get by with “good enough” (whether academically or athletically). but the real test is how dedicated are they to your cause? do they have the heart to pursue it with all their might and all their soul? and in these two cases, those kids dropped the ball and revealed that they didn’t take these causes seriously enough–they didn’t appreciate the prizes they held and let them slip from their grip to shatter to smithereens with one stupid decision.

and i think about the guts that school and that team had to say “no” right on the spot, at the first sign of danger. rather than go, ah shucks and give them a second chance and hope they’ll shape up next time. they realized that if you can’t get it right from the start, why even attempt it? nip it in the bud at the first sight. demand the best because you know you deserve it–be willing to demand that.

which got me thinking about me dating boys. and why can i see that it’s OK for a school or a team to do that, but not for me to do likewise when it comes to my heart/dating? why don’t i have the guts to stand up and say, “no you blew it. you didn’t call me back/you didn’t treat me with respect/you didn’t make an effort/you hurt my feelings/you didn’t take responsibility for your actions/you didn’t trust me.” instead i turn to gush and waver and let it all slide. which doesn’t demand greatness or achievement. instead it encourages mediocrity for the mere fact that it allows it.

and the reason i do that is because i’m afraid of the “what if”–that they won’t do it again or that maybe he is the one. i’m afraid that if i mess up–if i cut the cord on the first sign of danger–that perhaps i’m pulling the plug on the one. i don’t trust God enough to know that he’ll make plenty sure that if it’s the right one, that he’ll MAKE the relationship pan out rather than fall through the cracks. or i get afraid that to do so is to overreact and be deemed an inconsiderate, unyielding snob. however, shouldn’t i indeed demand excellence when it comes to my most crucial attribute?

today betsy got baptized and even before she stepped into the pool, i was already crying watching mere strangers get dunked and come up anew in their relationship with God. and i thought, this is why i’m glad i have a tender heart. this is why i’m glad that i haven’t gotten jaded or bitter or callused over the various things that have happened in my life. i’m glad i get hurt easily because that’s what allows me to love easily. which is even more reason to guard my heart, because it is fragile–and that is a good thing. but not something to allow to be abused. excellence ought to be demanded.

today could not be any more confusing, any more shape-shifting, any more clumsy. i can hardly think straight long enough to formulate a fluent train of thought, everything’s so mishmashed and disjointed. i think that’s what happens when everything gets turned upside down and you don’t even know where to begin. that’s how i feel.

but despite that, today has reignited my love for my friends, who make me fancy mashed potatoes and cookies with frosting and who come to hang out because they know i need it. of course i never doubted that; i know how blessed i am with my friends. but it feels good to feel loved and to know it, without a doubt, deep into your bones.

part of me is really sad and part of me is really relieved. and unfortunately i don’t think this is the time/place to go into such things. so i apologize for the enigmatic-ness of this entry. but it feels good to admit that everything isn’t ok. that sometimes things suck.

and so i’m reminded of a sermon jonathan did a long time ago–i’m guessing around Easter–when he talked about how, like Jesus, there are going to be Fridays in our lives. but, as with his ressurrection, SUNDAY will always triumph. so long as we love God and embrace his will, Sunday will always come and we will be rescued.

right now a Hey Mercedes song just came on, and it seems fitting: “it’s such a beautiful day to be sad.” because today after church, it started raining, big cold heavy wet raindrops. and i had to walk around in them. but i didn’t run or try to cover up because it was comforting–that i was sad and the weather didn’t laugh in my face, but instead consoled and let me continue that way, to ride the wave out and embrace it and sink into it.

before that was my favorite Smoking Popes song where it goes “no more smiles, it’s just teardrops falling to the ground. now it’s around here, i don’t love you anymore. and i’m sorry about it, when did my heart change its mind? must have been near the changing of time. no more smiles from now on, they are all gone. i’ll never understand what went wrong.” and the third song in this little string of consolations is an Andrew Bird one, titled, “Don’t Be Scared.” which i think is a good note to end on. because Sunday will always come. and i know that even though things suck and i don’t know what they mean or where they’re coming from, that that is a comfort. and i have nothing to be scared from. God has carried me this far, so why would he let go anytime soon? He won’t.

the idea of doubt is weird to me. because if you talk about god, even though i don’t understand him and i know i still have miles and acres to traverse and learn about him, i still know that He is good and He loves me and He will watch out for me. i don’t really have a hard time grappling that. or at least i don’t think i do.

but i’ve realized, lately, that when it comes to matters of the heart, i do.  i have a hard time giving my heart over and trusting in it. i think it’s a flip-of-the-coin thing: in the good in the bad, i know that God is doing what ultimately is best for me, even through the struggles and hard times. so i know that they will come and that they will strengthen me. but i think that i almost expect them too much. that even though i trust they will be for good, i expect them to happen. and so i set myself up for them and keep a watchful eye, almost willing them to happen.

i’ve realized that i do that with paul. and, admittedly, it’s dumb. we talk at least once a day. he holds doors for me and smiles at me and listens to me. he opens up to me. we hang out multiple times a week (this past week, we hung out, for some amount of time, on sunday, monday, thursday, friday and saturday). so should i doubt? but inevitably i do. with thoughts of “well he doesn’t do this like he used to” or “this has changed.” it almost seems inevitable for me to think that he’s always on the brink of leaving or losing interest. and i suppose it’s probably a lot of  insecurities, but i also chalk much of it up to selfishness.

because in my doubting, what does that say to him? your word isn’t good enough? your past actions aren’t good enough?

i try to think of relationships–friendships, romantic, etc.–in light of God. and so i think about how in the Bible they always refer to him as “the God of Israel” or “the God of Abraham.” they reference the things he’s done, almost as a reminder and testament of his nature–what he’s done in the past and so what he’s certain to do in the future. and yet, you watch time and time again how the israelites turn their back on god and stop trusting him. i mean, they’ve seen him provide for them and lead them out of deserts, and yet they still waver. which is why i think those reminders of how he’s proven himself in the past are so important; as humans we need those reminders. because we’re so easy to stray.

and so i have to learn to trust and let past actions speak for themselves, and quit being wrapped up in looking out for myself–and expecting that i’m the only one who will do that. it reminds me of the whole adam and eve story, when eve’s convinced to eat the fruit, because satan convinces her that god is holding out on her. and so she doubts god and all the promises he’s made and all the past blessings he’s poured out. she wavers and decides to take matters into her own hands. she turns her back on god and sins. i have to let go of that need to control and be on alert for those things. i’m sure i’ll never really overcome that (i think that’s kind of the curse of being a daughter of eve), but still. i want to trust instead of doubt. which otherwise i feel like comes so easily.

i think it’s hard with paul because there’s a lot at stake. of course i know that if it goes south, there’s purpose in that and that it’s just another step along the way. and i can handle that–i’ve been there before. so what am i so scared of?

but then i think about how God fashioned us after him, how he planted little pieces/reflections of himself in us. and i wonder if this, this need for reassurance, is a manipulation of Him. because you look at how Jesus shows us how to pray in the Lord’s Prayer. the first thing he does is praise God. he tells God that he loves him. and God loves that, God wants to hear that. he knows everything about us and everything in our hearts and everything before it happens, but yet he still likes hearing it. just like i do. and in church today we were talking about doubt, and Jonathan quoted the verse in Mark 9:24  where a man tells Jesus, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” he believes but still has unbelief.

so that’s not me making excuses, it’s just me exploring and prodding. and trying to learn.

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