Lost in the adventure of building something incredible

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On Monday night, Noland was leaving for a few hours for worship rehearsal at church, and I had a list of things I needed to accomplish while he was gone. There were to-do lists to make for work the next day. There were blog posts to schedule. There were wedding showers to prepare for, bridesmaid shoes to be purchased and bachelorette parties to plan. Lately it hadn’t seemed like I had enough hours in the day to accomplish everything I was supposed to.

In swept my coping mechanism: independence. “I’ve got this under control.” (Always my famous last words.)

I started feeling overwhelmed at the fact that I had so much to do, and frustrated that at 8 p.m. on a Monday that had started at 7 a.m., I was pretty much still working. I started thinking, “At what point does life reach this place of ‘I have to do all of this on my own'” — and  to-do lists and unfinished tasks are constantly hanging over my head, and I’m not sure when I got here, but I sat there on my couch and drifted into a daydream of my childhood.

Seventh grade. We lived in Tennessee at the time, on a big lot that backed up to a forest where the Little Harpeth River ran through. I was at that age when your friends were just whoever lived in your neighborhood, and I happened to be the only girl. So me, Jake, Jack, Andrew and Neil went exploring. We found a rope swing that might as well have been buried treasure, and we made it our summer project to build a treehouse there.

It. Was. Magical. 

By the end of the summer our treehouse had three stories, and hammocks hung from every level, and we’d swing into the river to cool off, play games and then get back to work. When we got hungry, we’d go sit on my back porch (my mom let no one near the house covered in all that mud), and eat Goldfish and drink Capri Suns.

Recalling all these things, I could swear that I could still smell the honeysuckle. I could feel that cold river on my skin, and the callouses on my hands from hammers and scrap wood. I could hear Andrew cracking jokes, Jack and Jake arguing about something ridiculous and Neil complaining about getting too dirty.

I was envious of care-free, 13 year old me. And I started thinking about all the things I loved about building that treehouse that summer. I loved dreaming something into existence from scratch. I loved that it was ours, and that really as long as our parents would let us, we could be out there ruling what seemed like the whole world. I loved that it was hands-on hard work, but the most exciting adventure I’d ever been on. I was accomplishing something great and having the time of my life.

At this thought, I laughed, because it was almost as if God had drawn me into this day dream of memories to remind me that my life isn’t really all that different from those days right now. I have a job that I love, and that I really am getting to pioneer and dream from the ground up, and have a lot of creative reign over. I work hard and I get to play hard. And, wouldn’t you know it, I work with a bunch of boys. (I suppose we should call them men, though.)

The part I seem to have forgotten, however, is that I’m allowed to (encouraged to, rather) come home and just keep being a kid after I’ve been hard at work. God still welcomes me home to the back porch, barefoot, dirty and all, and refreshes and cares for me. I’m not supposed to stay out there and stress about what still needs to be done. I’m just supposed to come running home to be with Him.

So right there in my living room on Monday night, I put down my to-do list, and I built a fort. A fortress, rather. A sacred space to just be a kid in His Presence. It’s been there all week, and we have laughed, cried, and shared secrets beneath that roof of blankets. 

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How quickly I become a calloused, independent adult, blinded by my to-do lists when all He wants is to be with me. How easily I stress over a job that mirrors one of my favorite childhood memories. He has given great gifts, and I am on an extraordinary adventure. I just fail to see it when I forget to look at my life through the eyes of a child.

So I’m returning to my child-like mind. Lost in the adventure of building something incredible. Confident that I need not worry, for He is building something in the unseen so much greater than what I’m doing.

I’m a renewed believer in happily ever after, because the ever afters will always be held by Him, and everything He holds is good.

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Along for a ride that terrifies me

skydive

A few months back, Noland said something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. We were talking about learning how to truly abide in Jesus, and Noland said, “I think our life is kind of like sky-diving. You know, you sit there and they tell you everything that’s going to happen. They show you where everything is and how it all works, and you’re racking your brain to remember all this important information, but at the end of the day you just strap yourself to someone who actually knows what they’re doing, and jump.”

These are the words I’d been looking for to describe this season of my life. I think all last semester, I was kind of in that “right before you jump” season. I felt like God was giving me a lot of vision for where we were headed and what the coming months and years would be for. But nothing was really moving forward yet.

He told us where we would be church planting. He began to speak promises into that place. He brought a new job out of nowhere that looked hopeful to turn into something worth quitting my other part-time job for. He began to open other doors with my writing and some of the dreams on my heart. He just kind of started telling me all these secrets about what was going to be happening a little later down the road. He told me a little bit of what I would need to know, but really, He just told me to hold on to Him real tight. 

Then the first of the year happened. All of a sudden I was in a rickety, rattling plane at 15,000 feet, being nudged forward by the one I was connected to, and it was time to jump. (And now I was really thankful that I’d been holding on to Him tight.)

And you know, sometimes God is gentle with pushing us off that ledge, but I kind of feel like He just jumped right out for me this time, and brought me along for the ride. It was like, January 1, Happy New Year, ready — set — FREE FALL!

So here we are, somewhere between jumping out of the sky and landing back on solid ground. I have none of the control. And these last few weeks I feel like I’ve just been praying over and over, “God, I know this season is going to be refining. I know you’re asking me to take some risks and embrace some challenges. And if I can just stay in Your Presence, I know I’m going to be OK.”

And even though every day I’m fully aware of the scary reality that I’m falling from the sky with no indication of when this all slows down, I’m also fully aware of His Presence that is right here, the whole time. The reason I’m here in the first place is because this is where He is. Let’s be honest — I never would have jumped without Him.

I get anxious about my schedule, and somehow He multiplies the time. I get anxious about our finances, and money literally appears in our mailbox. (Thank you, kind stranger, if you’re reading this.) I get afraid of the future, and He gently reminds me that I need only to concern myself with this present moment, with Him.

I suppose this craziness can’t last forever, and eventually He will eject the parachute and we’ll slow down. Just in time for Him to show me an aerial view of where we’ll land. And as I visualize this part, it hits me: I know how to do that stuff down there. My feet are used to walking on that ground. What I didn’t know how to do was risk in jumping out of that plane on my own. 

He’s doing the part that I can’t, and He’s taking me along for the ride. Because that’s what He does. He invites us in.

And suddenly I am His partner in doing the impossible. So it’s worth the risk. Worth the uncertainty. Worth the totally out of my comfort zone, want to cry every day, what-the-hell-am-I-doing-here roller coaster. 

I think I’ll stop with all the anxiety and just start enjoying the ride.

The Author of time and space is on a mission, and He’s asking me to join Him. It’s kind of worth dropping everything else I’m holding on to.

Control free and carried everywhere.

Honduras Photo

I love this photo. It’s from a trip I took to Honduras three years ago, to help my grandparents prepare for a new school year with the educational program they founded there. My interaction with this kid marked me forever.

He was by far the smallest one in this preschool we’d visited. I found him standing in the doorway, looking out at all the other kids on the playground. I could tell by the sheepish look on his face that he wanted to go out there, but he was afraid. In my very broken Spanish, we exchanged the few words I knew to ask him if he wanted me to take him.

I got down on my knees next to him and pointed at the playground.

“Vamos aqui?” (We go here?)

He pointed at the swings, and grinning, he responded, “Si! Alli!” (Yes! There!)

I picked him up and we sat down and began to swing together, and for hours, we didn’t move from there. He was having the time of his life. He knew what he wanted, but he was afraid and didn’t know how to get there. All it took was someone who could carry him. And as soon as I offered, with no hesitation, we went running straight for that swing.

This photo is framed in my living room, and lately it’s speaking to me every morning when I sit down to spend time with God. I’m learning that I want to be more like that kid.

Confession: I like to be in control. I don’t like to ask for help. (Isn’t that what Google is for? So we can consult the internet in secret without actually admitting we didn’t know something?) I tend to have a slight case of “I can do it better” syndrome.

An independent spirit plagues me if I’m not careful. 

My husband will probably be the first to tell you that I tend to be a backseat driver. I’m bossy in the kitchen. (That may never change — I’m Italian. It’s fine.) I prefer to have control of the TV remote. I am always DJ in the car. (I also have a mild case of “my music taste is better than yours” syndrome.)

I’m sure you’re catching my drift, so I’ll stop listing all of my flaws now. My point is that one of the most uncomfortable things for me to do is hand over the control of something that I feel entitled to do myself. Ugh… entitled. That word. I really am a millennial.

So as 2013 came to a close, I could sense this challenge from God hovering over every single area of my life: Are you going to give me all the control, or not?

Here’s how it all played out:

Scenario One: I had a part-time job as a nanny, and I was working part-time for a new publication here in Waco.  This publication was growing faster than we had anticipated, and if the business side of things didn’t develop at the same rate, we weren’t going to make it. So I was asked to take a risk in going full time and helping with marketing and ad sales (on top of doing the writing I was already doing), to help see this thing thrive.

Another confession: sales and all things administrative are totally out of my comfort zone! Every day when I go to work I feel like my heart is in my butt and I want to either vomit or cry (I haven’t vomited yet, but believe me, there have been tears). But I believe in this publication, and I felt very clearly like God had opened this door for a reason, so here I am, completely out of control and out of my comfort zone, which is I think exactly where He wants me.

Scenario Two: My most treasured friend is getting married in April. She lives in Charlotte, and actually, we have never lived in the same place. Being so far away, it’s been a lot harder than I anticipated to hand her over to this man I feel like I hardly know. 

All my protective best friend questions echo in my mind: Is he good enough for her? What about that one thing he did or said — should I be concerned about that? Is this a red flag? Why do I want to punch him right now?

And then, whispering through all those thoughts, another reminder from God that I’m not supposed to be in control: “Did you ever think that maybe it’s not so much about you trusting this man you don’t know, but more about you trusting me?” Ouch.

This list of places in my life He’s been asking me to relinquish control of could go on. Last week I told a story on my friend Elizabeth’s blog about how the holidays taught me it was time to let go of my right to my time with my family, and time to trust God that He knows what He’s doing with His plans for my future.

He even gets to hold the control of when, where, and how I’ll raise my own family one day. Not even my own children will be mine.

He will entrust me with what I need and what I can handle when it’s time. So I don’t have to be overwhelmed that I feel ill-equipped for my job, or sad that I feel a loss in leaving my family, or anxious about handing my best friend over to a stranger, or afraid of how and when all the ideals of my future will play out.

If He’s called me into something, there’s grace for me to do it. If something I’ve been believing for hasn’t happened yet, it isn’t time. His timing is always His grace, and His grace is always timely.

And the gift along the way is always His presence. It’s the only thing that matters, really. And I’m brought back to that photo on my living room wall, in the arms of the one who can carry me to the places I fear going alone, but know I deeply desire to go to.

Every morning I wake up and I stand in the doorway of a new day, looking at the place I want to go, but fearing it. And He kneels down, and He points at that thing I fear, and He says, “Do you want to go?”

Yes. There. Will you take me?

I don’t know how to do anything He’s asking me to do in this season without Him. It’s scary. It’s hard. It’s vulnerable. And every day He’s carrying me, and every day I’m having the time of my life. Even in my fear and my inadequacy. 

He’s in control, and I am free.