This year, I’m flying stand-by.

I spent the new year doing one of the things I love most: traveling. As I boarded a plane on New Year’s Day, I felt this sense of adventure marking the new year. I’d spent my morning dreaming with God into a new year of my life, and I  couldn’t stop thinking all day long about this idea of being on a never-ending journey with Him.

I found it kind of ironic, as I sat waiting for a plane in Dallas, that I’d been thinking all day about all the destinations I wanted to reach in my life this year. We all do it, we set goals and expectations of how we’ll keep on track with our five-year plan.

And don’t get me wrong — this is so important. We should absolutely be keeping before us the things we desire to accomplish. But I think I’m so quick when I dream to just keep my eyes on the final destination and miss the journey that gets me there. Or, perhaps worse, get completely lost because I’ve never actually looked right in front of me to see the path that’s leading me in the direction of that destination.

So we sit down on January 1 and we look back at the last 365 days of our lives, and we get frustrated that we didn’t magically appear at that place we’d been dreaming of going. But we didn’t submit to the journey and find the stops along the way that would ultimately take us there, so here we are, still daydreaming in terminal D when 50 planes have come and gone that we could have boarded, but we didn’t think that was the route we wanted to take.

Am I the only one who does this?

I’ll be honest, I have dealt with some disappointment with God in my heart this week. Dreams that haven’t quite come to life as much as I’d hoped they would have by now. Dreams I’ve had to completely die to and lay down, not knowing if or when I’ll ever pick them back up again. Relationships that have changed, and I’ve grieved, as new seasons of life and growing up force us to narrow our lives.

All week while I was in Charlotte (which was rife with revelation I’m sure I’ll be sharing in posts to come), I just could feel things shifting, and it made me uncomfortable. So I started asking myself hard questions.

Why am I so afraid of taking the necessary risks to get where I want to go? And not just where I want to go, but where I feel like God has clearly spoken He wants to take me. What am I afraid of having to leave behind in order to get there?

In the decisions I’m making in my life, am I partnering with God to advance the kingdom and His purposes for my life, or am I partnering with the enemy in his schemes of fear and uncertainty to hold me back from those things?

I started thinking about all the stories I love to read in the Bible. I wonder how short God’s word would be if we only were given the starting point and the final destination of all those people. Isn’t the story that develops along the journey the point? I started thinking about how maybe I’m not all that different from all of them.

Adam and Eve, the wanderers first sent out from the garden, because otherwise they’d live forever in misery. A necessary journey for the eventual redemption of God’s people.

Abraham and Sarah, obedient in God’s call and promise to bless their offspring forever, all the way down to the Savior himself. A promise they received well into their older years, still submitted to the journey. Obedient wanderers.

Moses, willingly wandering through the desert for years and years, leading God’s people even when they despised him for it. He never even got to see the promised land himself, but his journey set up generations to come to inherit the promises of God.

Esther, a stranger made Queen, wandering right into royalty and courageously standing up to a king she had no business being in the same room as. The result? A free people.

David, shepherd boy made king. Wanderer of wanderers — his adventures are some of my favorite to read of. Heart set on a pilgrimage, wavering at times but knowing deeply the value of praising and glorifying the King along the way.

Jesus, born in a manger by two kids who had themselves been wandering. Scripture says that even the Son of man did not have a place to lay his head. And I get the feeling he didn’t care. He was on a journey, and His was the greatest of all — the one that will ultimately take us all home.

Paul, traveling as he planted churches, thrown in and out of prison, and facing adversity knowing that his mission was his destination, not any physical place he’d ever settle in.

This list is only the beginning of so many others. Since the beginning of time, we’ve all just been on a journey. Hearts on a pilgrimage, willingly going through the valley of weeping, and in to the places of springs, until the day we kneel before God in Zion. (Psalm 84)

So yesterday, as I sat in the airport all day at the end of a two-day flight cancellation adventure, I thought, “Yep, this seems about right.” There I sat on a stand-by list, hoping they’d finally call my name and take me home.

And this is how I want to live my life this year. Completely out of my control. Boarding to the next destination when He calls my name, and finding rest in the journey when He doesn’t. Responding only to His voice: the passport to a most extraordinary excursion.

Shepherding flocks, throwing stones at giants, and fighting in the wilderness.

Beauty is pain: this is what they tell girls when they have to endure things like high heels and eyebrow plucking. It’s funny, though, because this is just a worldly version of something God actually made for a purpose.

Beauty is pain. That’s why we go through refining fires in our lives — because our lives are a constant process of sanctification, always being purified more and more, so that the day we leave this earth, we look more like Jesus than we ever did before. This sounds like a perfectly logical analogy to draw and believe as truth, but truthfully, I am not good at loving the fire when I’m in it. I’m actually kind of terrible at it.

I feel like I’ve had the same conversation with so many of my peers over and over lately, about how being in your twenties is just kind of hard. All of us know where we want to go, but none of us are there yet. I heard Christine Caine speak on this a few months back, and she called it the space between the anointing and the appointing.

So here we are, a bunch of not-yet-King-Davids, tending sheep and throwing stones at giants; making music and writing poetry. Learning how to slay the bad guys, and fight ferocious lions in the wilderness, and shepherd flocks day and night.

It’s kind of a rollercoaster, this season of life. Some days are the “I just killed Goliath” victorious, exciting, celebration-worthy days. But most days, if we’re honest, are the “what the hell am I doing in this field with all these sheep when God said I was supposed to be king” sort of days. Right? Or is that just me?

The more I live in this season, though, the more I’m realizing that there is purpose in this place. A couple of months ago, Noland and I did a 10-day media fast, to just sort of quiet our lives and hear God on some decisions we were making. During that time I was doing a lot of reading through old journals and boxes of letters, and one of the letters I revisited was one my dad wrote me when I went off to college.

He was releasing me to take risks, because they yield high reward. He encouraged me to embrace the conflict and drama that come with living a great story now that I was on my own. And at the end of the letter, he left a really cheesy list of “Dad Proverbs” to guide me. I was playing college soccer at the time, so one of the things he said was, “Practice so hard that games feel like a vacation.”

Those words jumped off the page as I read them in this season. Isn’t that what your twenties feel like? Preparation for something? Surely this isn’t the real deal yet … but it sure does hurt.

Maybe it hurts now so it feels more natural later. Maybe this is the pre-season of my life’s fight. My endurance is stretching, my toughness is growing and my muscles are developing. Game day is coming, and it will certainly be a fight — it’s the fight — but what I’m working for now will pay off when the real fight comes.

Maybe life never gets easier, but the hard processes we go through prepare us for the real opposition. Suddenly the wilderness feels like a place I’m OK with going.

But I am an Israelite, wandering through the desert somewhere between Egypt and the Promised Land, complaining about the journey instead of celebrating my deliverance.

I’m impatient and insecure, with a tendency to take my eyes off Jesus when it gets hard, and searching for worth and purpose in people and things, or, the true plague of our generation, a news feed of two-by-two inch photos on the screen of a hand-held ashera pole: the idol we’re all easily bound to if we aren’t careful.

So if I go back to the way He led the Israelites, when He told Moses that He would cause His goodness to go before them, I can rest in the fact that this is my destiny. It’s all of our destiny — for His goodness and mercy to follow us. And pass by us, and go before us, and lead us into whatever is next.

And that’s enough! The uncertainty, the wondering, the wandering — it will always be the way following Him goes. He’s consistent in nature, but unpredictable in the ways He moves. I’m reminded that this is the adventure I’ve always loved.

We have to love the mystery because He has called us to see the invisible and do the impossible. We are made to call forth the not-yet, and walk into the not-seen.

I don’t think this ever changes on this side of Heaven, but maybe as we grow we just start to explore deeper into the unseen until the world isn’t our default anymore. Maybe our twenties are just hard because it’s the first time we’re really learning that it’s not about us, and there’s more than what we think we see or want.

You know what’s interesting to me? That 70 percent of the earth’s surface is under water. A majority of the surface area of creation, in the unseen. He put us on a planet with mystery all around us, and still we want to fight it instead of embrace it!

And yet the invitation is to walk on it. Oh Lord, let me be the disciple that jumps out of the boat, walking on an element I have no business walking on except that you’ve invited me to join you there.

Let me not write off the hard seasons of my life, wishing them away instead of learning every little thing you’ve placed me here to learn. Thank you that you train my hands for war and equip me with strength for the battle. (Psalm 18)

Today I will shepherd the flock in front of me, throw my measly little stones at scary giants, and learn to fight in the wilderness. For tomorrow, I will lead nations. You said so, and I trust you. Because you call me out to walk with you on the water, and you said I would do even greater things than that.

When you give a 3 year old a donkey tail

Hey everybody. Sorry I’ve been MIA for a little bit. There’s a new job (which I love), and there’s craziness of life and there’s uncertainty that breeds insecurity that says, “what am I doing with this blog anyway?” Well, I’m still not entirely sure if you really must know, but that discussion is for another time. Today, I have a story. So refill your coffee, cuddle up on the couch, take a quick break and lean in if you’re at the office — this is a good one.

Noland and I were driving back to Waco from Houston on Sunday, and we were talking about the mystery of trying to hear God’s direction in our lives and be obedient. We laughed about how there are probably a lot of things we “miss” and God probably just laughs at us, like, “That’s not exactly what I meant by that.”

In the midst of our mysterious conversation, our resolve was this: there’s something about having a heart that’s genuine in wanting to fully obey the words of God in our lives, so that if miss it, it falls under the umbrella of grace. God loves us, and He loves when we want to give everything to follow Him … thus, He works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. I think what Paul forgot to add to that statement in his letter to the Romans was, “but sometimes He sits and laughs at what you just did for a while first.”

As Noland and I processed all of this together, I was reminded of something funny that happened to me in high school. My junior and senior years, I volunteered in the children’s ministry at our church, teaching a class of three and four year olds every other Sunday. It was a blast. I loved it so much that I moved up with my kids my senior year so I could keep the same ones. They taught me a lot about Jesus those two years.

If you’ve ever worked with three and four year olds before, you know that their little attention spans are just that — little. So we would make story time as interactive as possible to keep everyone interested. One Sunday, my co-teacher and I had the genius idea of letting the kids play different parts in the story. So story time came, and I began to pass out costume pieces. 

There was this kid in our class, Devon, who I loved so much. He was so stinkin’ sweet. He had these big ole dimples when he smiled. He was precious. Devon was going to be the donkey in our story that fateful Sunday morning, so I handed him his ears and tail and I turned to a little girl to help her with her costume.

Practical life lesson learned: don’t hand a three year old a donkey “costume” without giving VERY clear instructions on what to do with it, AND helping them execute said instructions. 

So about 30 seconds go by as I have my back turned to Devon, and I hear one of the little girls scream and point at him. I turn around, and no joke, this is what I saw: Devon, who knew exactly where that tail was supposed to go, has pulled down his pants and was squeezing it right between his little 3 year old butt cheeks. Hands on his hips, smiling ear to ear. I couldn’t even get mad because he was so proud, genuinely believing that was exactly what he was supposed to do. Devon was ready to be the best donkey the Strong Tower Bible Church children’s ministry had ever seen.

This was one of those moments frozen in time where if it was Saved by the Bell and I was Zach Morris, I would have turned to the camera to talk about what I should do next. Since there wasn’t a camera, though, and the only thing frozen was Devon standing there tall and proud, I turned to my co-teacher and said, “I’m gonna need you to handle this one.” I walked into the hallway and died laughing. I couldn’t contain it.

Obviously the tail was thrown away and it was explained to Devon that while we are so proud that he knows where that tail goes, that wasn’t what we meant, and it’s not OK to pull our pants down in class. How could I be upset, though? I handed him his costume, and he did exactly what he thought he was supposed to do with it! And he wasted no time doing it. I hand him the tail; 30 seconds later it is right where it goes.

I think sometimes I’m Devon in this story in my own life. God hands me something and I do it all wrong, even though my heart was to be obedient. But God doesn’t punish me, he just gently corrects me and points me in the right direction, and he probably laughs really hard sometimes in the process.

I want to release you to take a risk in obedience. If your heart is to please God and be obedient with the next thing He hands you, He will work it all together for your good, and for His purpose in your life.

There is grace for you, even if you have your donkey tail squeezed between your butt cheeks.