when the land is not flowing with milk and honey.

my friend kelly has been posting words of truth on her blog.  she’s posting for 31 days this month and has been writing mostly about being in the wilderness.  she’s been camped out in exodus for the last week and so i’ve been thinking about my own wilderness season.  i can relate to most of what she’s saying about feeling lonely, the pain and practice of waiting and what it feels like when god takes you the long way around.  except here’s the problem.  i feel like i’m not supposed to feel any of those things because i have apparently entered my proverbial promised land.

in the months leading up to my move i had a perfect picture of what life would be like here.  i wasn’t completely naive to the fact that it would still be transition and there would be bits that would feel hard.  but the job.  the job was going to be everything i’d ever hoped for.  life would be good.  students would be in and out of my apartment constantly, my staff would always want to be together.  we’d drink coffee and talk about the deep things of our hearts for hours on end.  i’d be the cool one who took trips to fro yo at midnight and retold war stories from my time abroad.  i’d find friends easily, join a small group, help hold babies on sunday mornings.  ministry would be vast and easy.  the sun and would shine, the birds would chirp and i’d finally see the abundance i’ve been claiming.

i expected to bring the glory clouds and manna from the wilderness with me to the promised land.

instead, i live alone and miss having roommates desperately.  ministry looks like fire drills and discipline meetings and 80s skate nights.  most of my staff doesn’t like coffee and we have not once traipsed about town for fro yo.  i send emails and plan meetings and give feedback.  i’ve traded the manna for caf food and the glory cloud for a permanent indention on  my couch.  i spend most evenings alone and watch more netflix than i care to admit.

i like my job.  i am grateful for it.  but life looks different.  outside of leslie knope and my co-workers [who i am beyond thankful for] i don’t really have friends.  i’ve struggled to find new community.  the boxes are all unpacked and my apartment is decorated but i don’t always feel settled.

when the israelites crossed the jordan into the promised land they rested for a hot minute, thanked the lord for bringing them so far and set remembrance stones for what he’d done.  then they set up camp and looked at the walls of jericho.  the walls they’d have to go tear down.  the walls they’d have to march around until they finally fell.

they were in the promised land but they still had to fight for the inheritance of it.  

no one ever told me this part of the story.  i had no idea what i was getting myself into.  and instead of marching around my own walls with belief that they will indeed crumble i’ve been camped out, staring at them; looking backwards to the wilderness.  i’ve been missing the manna and glory clouds and people i was wandering with.  the truth is, i don’t want to fight for anything anymore.  i don’t even want to acknowledge walls are in front of me, let alone march around them and believe they’ll fall.  i just want the milk and honey to flow.  i just want to pitch my tent, hang up my hammock and enjoy.

but that is not the option.

the option is to, one more time, face the thing in front of me.  the walls of loneliness, bitterness, wondering and second guessing.  the walls of discontentment and negativity.  the walls of what ifs and if onlys.

my jericho walls are not an indication of defeat, but a chance for the lord to prove himself faithful again. 

so i’m standing up.  i’m getting out of the camp i’ve stayed in and moving towards the land that has already been given but has yet to be won.

setting the table.

i’ve been away from home for several years now.  i’m pretty much on the twice a year rotation for visits.  so it shouldn’t shock anyone that life kind of moves on without me for the fifty weeks that i am not around.  parties are had, birthdays are celebrated and grandpa grills burgers just because.  it never fails that whenever the time rolls around for me to come home i’ll be on the phone with my grandma and she’ll be talking about an upcoming event, one i’ll actually be around for.  so i’ll say, “don’t forget – i’m coming home.”  it’s my implied “save a place for me.”

i don’t have to say it.  there’s always a place for me.  there’s always room at the table.  and lord knows there is always plenty of food.

Imagei’ve been invited to sit around many tables in my life.  from an early age i’ve always found myself in adopted families or with incredible groups of friends.  young life.  college.  the world race.  and now, georgia.  in this past season i’ve found myself a table to sit at.  i’ve been invited into something unique and special and sweet.  it’s been laced with tears and disappointments but it’s a table i’ve laughed at, screamed at, apologized and grew up at.  it’s one in which i’ve found myself celebrating, grieving, wishing, wondering, and praying.  i’ve been blessed, challenged, and sent out around this table.  i’ve dined with fancy napkins and plastic cups alike.  people have come in and out for different reasons or time, myself included.  but the table of grace, community, friendship and life exists here.  it’s a place i want to stay.

but i know it’s time to set my own table.  it’s time to be the creator of the space that invites people in, offers rest and life and encouragement and challenge.  it’s my turn to wash the napkins, dust off the china and get to work.  i’ve been partaking of a table for so long that this new task can, at moments, seem overwhelming.

but then i remember my place at the table doesn’t go away because i’m eighty miles further up the road.

around this time last year i was trying to make a decision about whether or not to go overseas for another season.  i was hot and sweaty running around at training camp.  my mind was spinning because it was not the plan.  i picked up the phone and through tears i asked for a blessing.  i needed to ask “if i do this – will you save a place for me?”  and through tears on the other end, i got exactly what i knew i would.  i don’t need to ask this time around.  partly because there is no conflict with this decision, but mostly because i know i have it without asking.

life is about to look different.  it’s something i’m not entirely sure that i am ready for.  but i know it’s right.  so i’m packing boxes and renting trucks and soaking up every minute with these people that i can.  i’m taking deep breaths and allowing my eyes to get wet.  i’m talking with people who i haven’t met but are soon to become new friends.  people who will come around a new table.  i’m pulling out every good thing i have to offer and preparing the table that is sure to be flooded in the coming weeks and months.

get ready, south carolina.  we are about to have one hell of a dinner party.

the next step? south carolina.

here’s how the general story of the last 18 months of my life goes.

i interviewed for what i thought was my dream job.  convinced i would get it.  so convinced, that i quit my current job.  i didn’t get the job.  but i left my job anyways because, well, it was time.  then i was asked to squad lead.  i said no.  but then i said yes.  it was the best decision i could have made.  i came home for christmas.  visited some friends and family.  went to hawaii and south africa and became very tired of plane rides.  i moved back in to my apartment and worked at finding a job.  job searching doesn’t pay very well.  i started selling jewelry.  i kept looking for jobs.  jobs that would allow me to do some things i’m good at along with some things i enjoy.  learned that people are bad at responding to emails and in the corporate world will rarely do what they say they will do.  applied for more jobs.  thought i had a certain one in the bag.  readied myself for that.  didn’t get that job, either.  cried a little bit.  drove to south carolina.  fell in love (with a job prospect, not a man – just so we are all clear).  begged.  hoped.  believed.  cried some more.  waited. waited. waited.

accepted.

celebrated.  thanked jesus for new opportunities and the lessons i’ve learned in the in between.  debriefed those people i came to love.  sold some more jewelry.  gave notice at an apartment.  and now, i’m just waiting again.

andersonin july i’ll be making the move to anderson, south carolina where i will be a resident director at anderson university.

i am beyond excited for this opportunity and could not be more thankful for the open door.  i interviewed on campus in april and came home thinking to myself, “if i get this job, everything else will make sense.”  i cannot articulate why, exactly.  but it feels like such a good fit for me.  i clicked well with the staff, loved the area, and was so impressed by the university as a whole and what the lord is doing.  i feel so blessed to be a part of it.

in the past season i have learned much about waiting.  waiting with patience and expectation.  waiting for the very best thing and not the first thing to come along.  my prayer has been that i would continue to be a person who waits well.  who trusts with full assurance but accepts with humility and grace.

it’s been a joy to share these last years as a world traipsing missionary with you.  i hope you’ll join me on the next adventure.

goodbye desert. hello promised land.

for me, the traveling has finally come to a halt.  four months on the field and then eight weeks of traveling to san francisco to missouri to georgia to ohio back to georgia on to hawaii back to georgia and then seventeen hours to south africa and back to georgia again. i was tired.  after south africa i kind of crashed.  i was sick and jetlagged and just needed to rest for a minute.  i’ve only been home a week and a half, but already feel much more alive and recuperated.

in my resting this last week i’ve been sitting at home.  a lot.  it’s nice to be back in a place that feels familiar and cozy and safe.  sleeping in my own bed again.  sitting on my own couch.  sipping coffee and letting candles burn. my house is empty during the day as my roommates go off to their jobs. i need myself one of those jobs, so i’ve spent a lot of time searching, filling out applications, re-doing my resume (over and over and over), sending emails, waiting for emails.  i wait a lot these days.  and push refresh on my inbox incessantly.

waiting. hoping. praying.

in my waiting and hoping and praying i’ve had my itunes keeping me company.  some of my favorites are about to release a new album.  i pre-ordered it because i’ve got enough things to wait on these days.  it’s seriously been on repeat for six days.  one song in particular is settling on me.

endlessocean

“you’re faithful. you’re faithful. you’re faithful.
and i’m thankful.
goodbye desert. hello promised land.
i’m shaking off the dust of hopelessness.
and i’m starting to believe again.”

 

one more time, these are the things i’m choosing to say yes to.  today, the declarations don’t have me standing on furniture and screaming (although i’m never opposed).  instead it’s in the quiet, peaceful, resting place that i can feel the “yes” becoming more and more a part of who i am.

purpose in the in between.

as soon as she walked in she reminded me of my eight year old self.

i was skinny, awkward, unsure and shy.  i remember begging my mom to take me to church because in my head somehow it computed that if we went the things at home would somehow calm down.  i knew there was peace to be found in such a place, even at such a young age.  i was too scared to go off with the other kids and so i would sit with my mom and i would just cry.  every week i would sit in the pews at that baptist church with tears streaming down my face.

church pewseventeen years later it was all i could do not to cry during worship two weeks ago.  there was much pain in her eyes.  a lack of trust that has been built through disappointment and abandonment.  there was such a nervous energy and a desperate longing for someone to notice it.  i could see the tears welling up in her eyes.  she didn’t know it, but the lord was working and moving and tenderizing her little heart.  just as he had done to mine.  for all of the hard things in her eyes, i mostly saw hope.  hope that she doesn’t even know she needs.

for almost an hour all i could hear the lord say was “there is purpose in the in between.”  we’re constantly moving from beginnings to endings.  and so much of our lives are the in between of something.  for me, two saturdays ago, an ending came to something and i saw purpose in such a long in between.  there has been purpose in seventeen years of crying in churches.  seventeen years of becoming softer, more trusting and less walled up.  moving from someone who could barely speak to someone who has had to learn the art of just keeping my mouth shut.

the purpose often looks like a process.  in this case, it has looked very long and messy as much of my processes do.  but if it got me to the point of seeing her, hugging her, knowing in my spirit that “i get it” then that’s enough.  not because it has to be enough but because, for the first time, it really is.

as per usual, there are lots of in betweens happening in my life.  i’m in between jobs.  in between seasons of my life.  in between relationships looking certain ways.  i’m somewhere in between being a complete mess and being completely put together.  i’m in between having no answers and having it all figured out.  in jesus name, i’m somewhere in between being single forever and having found the perfect one.

there’s always an in between of something.  probably lots of somethings.  but there is purpose in it.  and today, that reminder is enough.

how about you?  what’s the in between you’re in today?

unanswered prayers.

at the risk of sounding cheesy and cliche and potentially making someone gag at my christianese :

have you heard that country song about unanswered prayers?  i couldn’t tell you who sings it, but the line has been on repeat in my head for several days now.  “some of god’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

last year around this time i started looking for a new job.  i felt like i needed to begin exploring options outside of aim, outside of what had become really normal and comfortable.  i looked and looked and prayed and cried and looked.  and finally i found it.  it was the perfect job at what seemed like the perfect school.  it was far enough away that i would be on my own, but not across the country from my community and my people.  it was the ultimate blend of discipleship and administration. it was flexible.  it paid well.  it would offer me a chance to continue my education.  it was exactly right.  and i wanted it.  i really, really, really wanted it.  more than wanting it; i was absolutely, positively convinced that it’s what the Lord had for me.  every door opened up.  and i knew that in august i would be starting a new job in a new place.  and i was thrilled.

and then the door slammed right in my face.  

and i didn’t get the job i had dreamed about, hoped for and begged for.  i was upset, confused and spinning.  i had no idea what i was going to do.  and then i showed up to training camp.  and you all pretty much know what happened there.  the lord said that if i wanted a gift, i could have it. so i said yes.  mostly because i really wanted it.  partially because i didn’t have a better option.

i can promise you that the last three and half months have been one of the best gifts the lord has ever given to me.

it’s been an emotional and exhausting few days as i’ve wrapped up and said goodbye to my squad.  i’ve handed things over and worked really hard to not enter this transition kicking and screaming.  i’ve been sitting alone in the beijing airport for the last twelve hours and as weird as it is to be boarding a plane again, my heart and my spirit are really at peace.  if i’m overwhelmed by emotion it’s just because i am so very thankful for what this season has been.

thankfuli’m thankful for the ways i’ve come alive.  for the passions the lord has reignited in me.  i’m thankful for the way my kids have opened themselves up and let me be a part of their own processes and journeys.  i’m thankful for the fun i had on busses and beaches and malls.  i’m thankful for honduran street kids that reminded me that kingdom living doesn’t have to be complicated.  i’m thankful that i got to be a part of walking people through freedom…even if it was in the middle of the night.  i’m thankful for conversations and tears that came in my tent, for every coffee date i had and for furniture to stand on when i taught 23 timid people how to do declarations.  i’m thankful that they aren’t so timid anymore.

i’m thankful for people at home who love me and support me.  for instagram likes and blog comments and emails and facetimes and text messages.  i’m thankful for the ways he showed up when i needed him most.  i’m thankful for a new season of rest and celebration and provision.  i’m thankful that i’m more settled in who i am today than i was yesterday. or two weeks ago.  or six months ago.  and i’m thankful that as good as this was – it’s not the best thing or the only thing he’s ever going to give me.

i’m just.  yes.  thankful.  that he works all things together for the good of those who love him. and that despite my begging and hoping and praying – he had something good in store for me, even in the midst of my disappointment and confusion.

and at the moment, i am most thankful that even though i’m not there anymore, i get to cheer and pray and encourage and remind and blog stalk and visit the 23 kids i fell in love with. that now i just get to sit back and watch what they do and what the lord does.  it’s been a privilege to be a part of it.

a story to tell.

i love knowing where people come from.  hearing people’s stories and understanding how god has worked in their lives is one of my favorite things.  i’ve had the privilege of listening to a lot of my squad share their lives with me.  at eighteen and nineteen years old, these people are no stranger to heartache, pain and regret.  they’re also no stranger to grace, redemption and second chances.

a few of them had asked me to share my story with the squad. ha. no thanks.  it’s just not something i have a habit of doing.  i usually give people the version that goes something like, “i was born.  life was hard.  i found jesus.  the end.”  but, i knew it was something i probably needed to do.  and as much as this thing is about me helping them find freedom – i also wanted a little more of my own.  so i put on my big girl pants and stood up and told the story.  i told the parts that have previously only ever been discussed on a certain red couch.  i cried a little bit and maybe said a bad word.  or two.

i told them about how when i was twelve or thirteen years old i would cry myself to sleep and the only thing i could think to pray was “why me, god?”  i didn’t understand why my life was happening the way it was and i certainly didn’t understand where god was and how he could possibly be good in the midst of such hard circumstances.  i told them about how i spent a lot of years feeling forgotten, abandoned and alone.  how i spent so much of my life choosing to be defined by what was going on around me because there was no settledness within me.

but then i told them about how god has worked.

about how he’s slowly but surely, through a lot of processes and screaming and declare-unto-faithing turned my bitter, confused, angry “why me’s” into “why me’s” that could basically be interchanged with “thank you’s.”

thank yous for the way he continues to redeem the people and situations in my life.  for the experiences i’ve had, the people i’ve met, and the things i’ve seen.  thank yous for how he’s always brought me people to fill the holes.  because he was always there.  thank yous for the ever increasing understanding of who i am.  for the voices that remind me over and over of the things that are true.  thank yous for the ways he continues to use me for the kingdom and the reminder that it’s really not about me.  thank you’s for the scars i carry and the tears that have washed me.

today, i’m thankful for each of those “why me’s.”  because they brought me here.

walking away from the red couch.

my emotions are on high alert today.  the conflicting excitement of what’s about to begin in the next twenty four hours mixed with the fact that i have to say goodbye.  just, well.  there have been some tears.  and maybe a cuss word.  or two. or twelve.

for me, it’s the goodbye of such a sweet season.  because when i come back, everything is sure to be different.  i’m not on hiatus from a routine and rhythm.  something is ending.  something new is starting.  and in four months it’ll be back to square one of figuring out the next thing.  my church is moving to atlanta.  my friends are getting married.  my apartment buddies are leaving and moving all about.  the office as i used to know it doesn’t really exist and won’t be waiting for me.  my job and position have been given up.  i have no idea what i’m walking in to or what awaits me on the other side.  but i feel, with full force today, the stuff i’m walking away from.

i promise this is going to sound absurd.  but one of the hardest things for me to walk away from is a red couch.  not so much the couch itself, but what it’s represented for me.

this red couch isn’t mine. it sits in an apartment just above me and i visit on occasion.   i’ve shared meals on this couch, laughed on this couch, slept on this couch and cried on this couch.

oh my word, how i have cried on this couch.

this couch has heard my dreams, my disappointments and my secrets. it has been a place of both truth and comfort, a place to grieve and a place to find hope again.

it’s been a safe place. a place to exhale.  a place to rest.

but, as good and sweet and necessary as the rest has been, i’m not meant to rest forever.  sitting on that couch too long makes me restless.  hm.  that’s funny – getting restless is maybe the prophetic word that it’s time to “rest less.”

it’s definitely time for me to go.  time for me to walk into some stuff, out of some stuff and away from some stuff.  there’s such joy in seeing some promises fulfilled.  but, man.  it hurts.  it hurts to walk away from things that are so good.  so comfortable.  it’s tough to make the decision that does’t always feel nice.  at the moment, i’d rather just stay on the couch.  

except that i wouldn’t really.  

i know this is right.  i know that i need to be away from the couch for a minute.  and today’s best reminder of God’s love and care for me is His gentle reassurance that the red couch will be waiting for me when i come home.