Girls will be girls. (And they should.)

A few weeks ago I was talking to an old friend. We were catching up on life, sharing the deep dark scary places of hope colliding with unbelief in our hearts — you know, doing what girls do. I told her about the scary things I sense God speaking into this new year of my life, she told me the risky prayers she’s praying and hopes she’s hoping for a spouse.

We processed together about what it looks like to live in the tension of believing God for specific things but holding them open handedly — knowing He is all knowing and all sovereign and all GOOD — but also knowing that He speaks things and we hold on to them, knowing that He who promised is faithful.

As we were talking, both of us in tears over the things we know God has promised that still feel so far off, she said, “I sometimes wonder if I’m just being a girl to be believing such specific things about my husband. Like maybe it’s not God, maybe it’s just me being a girl.”

I started thinking in that moment… wait a minute. But you are a girl.

I started thinking, maybe there is something to us “just being girls” in the ways we believe Him for specific things. Maybe it’s what He made us for.

I started thinking about how women are made in the physical to carry life inside of them — in secret, in the unseen — until finally it’s birthed. I started thinking about how that seems to be so much more true of what God made us for in the spirit.

To nurture dreams. To carry vision. To grow and care for and raise up the next wave of purpose and destiny in His kingdom in the secret, hidden places… until they’re birthed.

When I read my Bible, I realize how true it is that God is really into birthing the impossible through women.

I look at Sarah, barren for so many years, receiving a promise that she would mother kings of nations — eventually leading to the King of Kings. I look at Hannah, with the same story of barrenness, eventually giving birth to Samuel, who would anoint David as king. I look at Esther, the least likely to be a queen, taking her appointed-by-God seat that would end up being the key to delivering an entire people group. I look at Mary, young and virgin and probably terrified by the angelic visitation that told her she would mother the Son of God. Yet she says, “I am your handmaiden. Be it unto me as you have spoken.”

God wasn’t handing out second class promises to these women. He wasn’t just giving them positions of favor or the babies they wanted because it would make them look better — although back then, it certainly would up their status in the community if they could bear children.

He was birthing the very destiny and purpose of our entire existence through them.

Jesus, our Rescuer, was eventually going to come from all of those impossible pregnancies and the outrageously risky belief of women who heard God speak and said, “I believe you.”

There is something of the plans and purposes and destiny of God and His people that He made only women to carry.

All of these thoughts raced through my mind as my friend talked through her, “Maybe I’m just being a girl” bit… so I stopped her.

“Hey, you are being a girl,” I told her. “And that’s exactly what you’re supposed to be.”

And maybe we get it wrong sometimes. Maybe we run after something that wasn’t God after all. But I think I’ve resolved in my heart that I’d rather contend for what I’m pretty sure I heard God say than sit around wondering if it was really Him.

For me, blind obedience & risky belief trumps safe unbelief every time.

I don’t know what you’re dreaming about. I don’t know what keeps you up at night, heart beating fast and mind racing with thoughts of what God might do with it. But I know that if He spoke it, there’s reason for you to keep believing. There’s reason for you to carry and grow and nurture that dream and destiny until the day He decides it’s time for its birth.

And maybe you’re like Noah, building an ark in the desert and everyone around you thinks you’re nuts. But if God said so, then that flood is coming. And sister, you better be ready when it does.

“Write down the revelation
    and make it plain on tablets
    so that a herald may run with it.
For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
    it speaks of the end
    and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
    it will certainly come
 and will not delay.”

(Habakkuk 2:2-3)

Moving Back to a Wasteland of Dreams

#StainedGlassDec Guest Post by Ashlee Zoch

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I’ve known Ashlee since I was 4 years old. Truthfully, I can’t remember ever not knowing Ashlee. Our parents are best friends, and we like to jokingly say that we were raised by a tribe — which isn’t far from the truth. Though we haven’t lived in the same place in about 17 years, I can’t remember a summer or a Christmas that I didn’t see Ashlee and her family. She’s a friend who sticks closer than a sister, a kindred spirit and fellow dreamer, and she has been making me better since 1993. I love the story you’re hearing from her today, because these words come with authority. I’ve watched her walk willingly into the uncertainty of new homes, new jobs, a new marriage (to name a few) — and thrive even in the desert, because that’s just who she is.

***

If you would have told me 5 years ago that I would find myself working in my old high school, in my old hometown, teaching American Literature, I would have punched you. Hard. More realistically, I would maybe have thrown a few expletives your way accompanied by awkward, angry giggles.

In the words of T-Swift, I was “feeling 22.” Living in Austin, Texas and fresh off the diploma high the University of Texas had given me, all I wanted was to be someone important. I never admitted that out loud, mostly because it felt so embarrassing to say, but I craved it. I wanted my life to be a story worth telling, and I wanted it to be written the way I had envisioned.

To move back to Kingwood (a suburb of Houston) would admit early defeat. It would mean my life had ceased to be a narrative, and had become a magazine. Typical, cliche and b-b-b-boring.

Because, at 22, I firmly believed I would be making art with my voice or my words; that I would be changing the world with my theatrical aspirations and helping children overcome the injustices they faced. I believed that I knew (despite lack of money, a true job other than a travelling PE teacher for Pre-school, and a lot of sass) how God was going to use me. I believed none of those things I dreamed of could happen back in Houston.

The summer following the euphoric feeling of graduating, I visited my family back in Kingwood. Some important facts you should know:

I am the oldest of four. I have one brother and two sisters, all with an average of 2 and a half to three years in between.

My family is like a circus, my father is the ring leader and my mother is the main attraction. Loud, boisterous and always drawing a crowd; the Olejniczak family never disappoints with entertainment.

I spent a majority of my childhood and adolescence as a second mother to my sisters, and an actual sister and friend to my brother.

So, as I sat in the kitchen watching the 3 ring circus start to begin, I became hyper aware of the relationship my two sisters had formed. They had inside jokes, the same friends and were relating the way sisters do.

I had nothing to contribute.

I was the other ‘Mom’, feeling the distance of my kids grown up, and I had missed four years of time to bond. There was jealousy rising up inside me, and sadness. I shared with a good friend over a camp fire my feelings. She let me finish, and then said something I didn’t want to hear, “Maybe God needs you to move home.”

Don’t you hate it when God speaks really loudly through really respectable, loving people? I hated it, because I knew I couldn’t ignore it. I had to move where I believed my dreams would die. My hometown.

When I returned to Austin, a few things happened in a month.

I was offered a Theater teaching job in a community thirsting for healthy outlets for their children that was located 30 minutes from my parents house.

I was fired from my travelling PE job.

I moved back into the circus: my parents house.

Ironically, I had to momentarily share a room with my youngest sister.

My 22 year old self was shell shocked — what just happened? This is not what I wanted. This isn’t what I dreamed of! I have no idea what I’m doing!

God did something very profound in the two years I taught theater. I struggled and failed a lot, but I also found my dreams shifting and morphing into beautiful shapes that I was learning to be proud of. I wrote my own musical called, “I AM”, which may be the most important piece of art I have ever done. Literally, it was divine inspiration.

After a year of seeing students struggle with identity and feeling powerless, this idea was given to me in the middle of worship at a Young Life retreat. I was going to write about their lives, let them sing songs they believe in, and have people clap for being themselves.

Students danced and sang with purpose, their purpose. They found purpose. The crowd was teary, not because I’m spectacular, but because they witnessed the reflection of God’s beauty in kids who had felt hopeless.

In the midst of my creative endeavors, I was mentoring high school students through Young Life, including my sisters. God was weaving our lives into a more unified rhythm. I got to go to a Young Life camp with both of them and witness them ask hard questions about who God is, but see their hearts soften to the consuming love of God. My sisters were being my friends.

In two years, the place I had written off as a dream wasteland became a garden of old desires blooming and new ones growing.

How could I have tried to write my own story? The Writer of Writers gave me a narrative I didn’t expect, in fact, He gave this protagonist a good swift kick of humility to see the beauty in what I defied: home.

Home became not just a place, but a word that held all of my important relationships. Home encompassed my best friends, and soon to be husband. Home became the place I fell in love with Jon Zoch and got to marry with all of “home” to witness it and celebrate. What I had decided was a place of failure was actually a place of fulfillment.

And here is where I find myself, in the midst of the new fruit that bloomed in the wasteland. I was called to leave teaching theatre and go to my old highschool, in my hometown and teach American Literature in the place my sisters were. The original call to go there was loud, obviously purposeful and clearly for the sake of ministry. Like I said, don’t you hate it when God speaks to you through loving and respected people?

After a year of seeing the purpose, the scenario changed. My role with YoungLife changed, so my role at the school changed. One sister graduated, leaving another in the wake of being (for the first time) the only child in the house, and my administration found my teaching team to be the one to increase in work load.

My hours, my exhaustion, my boundaries with students all increased. The purpose, the desire all seemed to have erased. Fragments of my prayers became, “Can I leave yet?” and “This isn’t me, and you know it!” or “I can’t do this”.

I should make this very clear: I would quit now if I could.

Why am I here? You already know the answer. Because God told me to. Because there is and was reconciliation in all of this. There is beauty in the hardship, and despite me understanding the purpose I know my God is a God who fulfills dreams and then some.

God has made my desires, my brokenness and my selfishness into a beautiful piece of art before. I have to point back to when it was good and believe where I am at IS good, even if my flesh screams ‘no’. I have to hold on to that when my day to day life feels so empty. I have to remember when it felt full.

So, my narrative isn’t just about what I didn’t expect, it’s about what I didn’t know. If you would have told me 5 years ago that I will get to write a musical, be friends with my sisters, get married to my favorite person, and actually love my hometown: I would have sighed a sad sigh of disbelief.

Because, 5 years ago, I had no idea that God was writing a story far beyond what my little dreams encompassed.

For when the narrative gets rocky, I can point back to the beauty and point forward because I know it will come.

Ashlee Zoch

ASHAshlee loves a good cup of coffee, a run and adventure. She the queen of apartment 14 in Houston, TX; married to her favorite human and is constantly finding beauty in grace and forgiveness. She is slightly obsessed with Thai food, female comedians and boots. Her blog, ‘From A to Z’ encompasses what inspires, encourages and challenges all of us.

Autumn Leaf Dreams

Living in Texas has stolen a little bit of the joy that used to be autumn, but still something in my spirit shifts when this time of year comes. Somewhere deep in my soul I think I know what F. Scott Fitzgerald meant when he wrote, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

There’s something about cooler weather after a long, hot summer. There’s something mysteriously beautiful in that handful of weeks where the trees turn to vibrant shades of red and yellow — like a grand finale of nature’s artistry showing itself off right before the stark, bare winter begins. These are the weeks my heart most longs to be back in the hills of Tennessee.

So my favorite month came, and it appeared with vibrant hope and deep expectancy. I sat on a beach in Southern California on October 1 and I dreamed into a month of new possibilities, new mercies rolling in like the tide to the shore. I had a good feeling about this October.

A week later, back home and in the middle of another round of fertility, the doctor called. I had gone for my monthly blood test to see if my body had responded positively to the fertility drug I’d been taking. Every month so far that phone call came with disappointing news — until this one. I was sitting in a meeting in church when my phone rang, and recognizing the number as my doctor’s office, I grabbed it and ran out the door to answer.

“Your progesterone levels came back, and they indicate an excellent ovulatory response to the clomid,” she said. “If you miss your period, take a pregnancy test and call us with the results. If your period comes, we will try another round.”

I got off the phone and right there in the middle of the church parking lot I cried joy tears, thanking God for breakthrough. Finally, a hopeful conversation. A chance we could have conceived at last. This could be our month.

Oh, Lord. We’ve already been through 18 of them. Let this one be our month.

In that week the days felt like an eternity. I watched the calendar and I wondered how many days past 28 I should wait before I consider my period late. Day 29 went by… 30… 31… 32… I thought, “I’ll give it one more day.” So I gave it that one more day and sure enough, I started bleeding.

Hope deferred. Again.

I wept.

And then I worshiped.

Something in my spirit rose up against my flesh and knew that God was still on His throne, worthy of honor and glory and praise, no matter what. Only ten days ago I had wept joy tears for the breakthrough in my body’s response this month — and how quickly I had let disappointment steal that joy.

Maybe these are the autumn moments of our souls. Where we’re getting ready to shed and to die, but somewhere along the way as we enter that place of brokenness and surrender, there’s a fleeting few moments of our most radiant beauty. 

Our souls shine bright with those vibrant reds and yellows … and then those colors fade and suddenly we’re bare. Not for lack of a life source, for surely those trees are still rooted, but to make way for a healthier, fuller tree in the spring time. Momentary deaths that yield multiplied life.

This is how our God works. He takes death… and He turns it to life. He takes impossible scenarios and makes them possible, defying every plausible mathematical and logical explanation. He breaks a few loafs of bread and he feeds thousands with it.

He breaks it and it multiplies.

Death yields life and brokenness produces multiplication, and suddenly the pain in our lives makes a whole lot more sense.

Maybe our tears in those moments water the soil of our souls. Perhaps the pain is softening the ground in which He wants to plant something. And maybe, even when the painful season of preparing the soil is over and the faith-filled uncertainty of the season of planting has passed… we still wait for the harvest.

That waiting space is not void.

Father, forgive me. How many times have I missed what you had to give to me in the waiting season because I was so fixed on receiving the harvest?

Maybe autumn is only a beautiful gateway to the place of being stripped and exposed so that we can live again.

Maybe brokenness is the state in which He most prefers us — ready to be multiplied.

Maybe life does start all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.

But maybe that life only starts when we’ve been willing to die first.

So it all goes back on the altar. My dreams. My hopes. The deepest desires of my heart — even the good ones that are from God and for God. All His. He will resurrect them in their time. They fall like the autumn leaves to their death now, but only to yield something even more beautiful when He brings the spring.

And me? Well, my hands are free when I’ve laid it all down.

I always preferred to travel light.