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.

Four things nannying taught me about God’s heart

Nanny DiariesFor the last year and a half, I had the privilege of helping a really great mom raise her kids. She entrusted me with her three most valuable possessions for about 20 hours every week, and truthfully, they blessed me way more than I think I ever could have blessed them.

There were a lot of things I dreamed about doing once I graduated college, but being a nanny was not one of them. It’s not exactly the most glamorous job. Sometimes I used to pretend I was like Jesse from the Disney channel to feel a little cooler about it. It was refining, it was exhausting, and I learned so much about myself and about God during that season.

Last Friday, I spent my last day with the Haynes kids. I hugged them all goodbye in the YMCA parking lot, and as soon as I turned around to walk to my car, I lost it. I still haven’t gotten the image of that precious little 8 year old boy with tears in his eyes out of my head.

All weekend I thought a lot about all the things God did in me during that year and a half. Because of those three kids, I have known a kind of love I didn’t know before, and I realized in processing it all these last few days that there are some major things I learned about God’s heart for me because of them.

1. My disobedience is offensive to Him. 

There’s a difference between babysitting on a weekend and nannying four to five days a week, literally helping someone raise their kids. The difference is that you have to actually parent them.

I figured out pretty quickly (and called my mom to repent for my disobedience growing up) that it is offensive when I’ve asked them to do something, and I know they hear me, and they don’t do it. I was never mad at them or unforgiving of them, but the whole time I was learning to check my own heart every time and ask God, “Are there places in my life I’m doing this to you?”

It was convicting. The answer was often, “Yes.”

1a. Even after I’ve offended Him, He still thinks I’m awesome. 

One of my favorite things about disciplining the kids was the conversation we would have about whatever their offense was, and how it always ended with a hug and a, “I’m not mad at you. I love you.” When I’m slow to obey God’s guidance and leadership in my life, we have a conversation about it and He corrects me. But it always ends with me knowing His affection for me.

2. He loves that I need His help.

There was this one day that one of the boys had taken his brand new bike for a ride around the neighborhood with friends. He was late in coming home so I walked down the street to where I knew he was, only to find him standing there, covered in mud, crying hysterically. 

His wheels were so coated in mud they wouldn’t even turn. To a 9 year old, this is truly the end of the world. I was trying so hard to hold back laughter. I had to explain to him that this isn’t a big deal, we can fix it, and he wasn’t in trouble. (He was still crying, saying he didn’t mean to be late and he didn’t mean to ruin his new bike.)

Well, since the wheels weren’t going anywhere covered in all that mud, I had to throw his bike over my shoulder and carry it home as we walked back together. And as he wept, I was still laughing, trying to calm him down and tell him it was going to be OK.

I think God and I have similar moments. Something happens that I didn’t see coming, and I feel like I should have been able to avoid it, so He comes walking over to meet me and I’m just weeping and in panic mode. I think in those moments He laughs at my silliness and says, “Sara, it’s going to be fine. You need my help, and I love that about you. This draws us closer to one another.”

3. It blesses His heart like crazy when I take Him at His word.

I will never forget this conversation I had with one of the kids last summer at Hawaiian Falls (a water park here in Waco). The boys wanted to go on this big, fast slide, and their sister was a little bit scared. She wanted to do it, but she stood there at the bottom, unsure of whether or not to actually climb all those stairs and come down the slide.

OK, so part of me only wanted to talk her into it so I didn’t have to sit at the kiddie pool all day, but this was a really special conversation.

I said, “Hey, Jesus lives in your heart, right?” She nodded yes. “Did you know that Jesus and fear can’t live in the same place? So you can just tell that fear, ‘No,’ and Jesus will carry you through whatever you’re scared of. It’s pretty easy, and it’s really fun!”

That was it! She believed me. We rode that slide 10 times that day. She knew I was telling the truth and she didn’t question it. That conversation has marked my relationship with Jesus ever since. Every time I’m scared of something, I just think, “Wait, Jesus and fear can’t live in the same place. You’re right, God. Let’s do this.”

4. He knows all the details of my life, so I don’t have to concern myself with them.

As I was getting ready to hand my job over to the new nanny, I was going through all the details I needed to train her on. Noland was asking me what all I needed to teach her, and as I explained it all to him he stopped me and said, “Are you gonna be ok? You’ve been loving those kids in the tiniest details of their lives for a long time.”

In my last few days, I couldn’t stop thinking about that. He was right. I knew everything about them. I knew when they got up and when they went to bed, how and when they got to and from school, what they wanted for lunch every day, when and where all their practices and activities were. I knew their favorite colors and favorite games, their best friends and their favorite snacks. 

And because they knew I was taking care of all those things, they never questioned it. This is the way God wants me to be with Him! He knows when I sit and when I rise. He discerns my going out and my lying down; He is familiar with all my ways. (Psalm 139)

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared in this new season of my life. I’m in a new job that I don’t really feel comfortable in. I feel way under-qualified for the position I’ve been given. I get stressed about figuring out the details of my life on my own.

And I keep going back to this thought that truthfully, I’m just supposed to act like those kids did with me. Allowing Him to care for me without asking questions or doing the planning myself. Believing Him when He speaks and knowing that His presence will always drive out my fear. Being obedient to His call and knowing I need His help in every little area of my life.

The children will be the ones who inherit the Kingdom. I want to be one of them.

95 percent grit, 5 percent glory. Worth it.

Wow. When did August happen and where did July go? I’ve kind of left this place abandoned this last month. I could blame weddings and traveling and full-time nannying on top of freelance work, but if I’m honest I think it was fear that kept me away from writing much lately.

Fear of disappointment. Fear of stretching myself too thin. Fear of not having the capacity to be church planter/writer/wife/sister/friend/(and one day) mom. Fear of not knowing how to properly navigate my dreams and God’s will. 

Fear of inadequacy, really. And an unbelief that God could actually be big enough to carry it all.

It seems silly when I think of it that way. That the same God that holds all of creation would not be able to hold my measly little life together. It seems arrogant, actually. It holds a mirror up to my pride, and it’s kind of gross.

If I could choose one word that marked the month of July this summer, it would probably be “meltdown.” It was like God pushed down on the gas pedal and I was moving faster than I could count the cost. So I did what felt natural and I cried a lot.

It all became real, this whole “let’s go plant a church somewhere” thing, and I started thinking about the reality of willingly going into the desert with God, and leaving my family in Texas, which meant bringing babies into the world one day a whole lot of miles away from my mom.

And what about my other dreams, the ones that involve stories I believe in and lives I dream of seeing changed? Or the dream that one day I do want to have kids, and that seems like a full time job alone. Like the kind you have to give everything else up for.

Just like the kindness of God always is, doors have been opening in so many directions. There’s an encouragement from Him to go for it, and a lie in the back of my mind that I’ll never be good enough. But what is good enough? What is it that we’re really measuring ourselves with? Accomplishments? A name? A number? A paycheck? A relationship? I’ve been asking myself a lot of hard questions lately on where I’m getting my validation.

Is it worth it to venture off to another land on a quest that seems way too big for my shoes?

Is it worth it to take risks with writing and hand over my heart to somebody I don’t even know, never knowing what might happen to it?

Of course it is. The King of the universe invited me to. When did I stop valuing an invitation from God above everything else, and how on earth did I grow the audacity to say, “what’s in it for me?”

Gross.

Somehow we get caught in the mundane and we get bitter, and we want somebody to pat us on the back and tell us we’re doing a good job, or, best case scenario, put our name in lights. 

I was thinking about the life of Jesus the other day, and how what we read in the gospels really leaves a pretty big gap. Terrible journalism from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Come on, guys.

But seriously, we know about his birth, and we know a few minor childhood details, but then everything picks back up at his baptism and his ministry. We’re told mostly about the three years that capture the essence of what Jesus was sent to this earth to do. What about those other 30 years, though?

I don’t know any better than you do what Jesus was doing during that time besides being a carpenter. But I’d be willing to bet He was really faithful in that. I bet he did his job well. I bet he had a great attitude. I bet he lived every day knowing that God would call his name when it was time, and until then he did exactly what was in front of him.

And I bet it was worth it, too. Because an invitation from the King means being in His presence.  

So yesterday, I brought myself back to His presence. And when I did that, I left my fears behind, because fear and Jesus can’t live in the same place. And I left my pride, too, because pride is ugly and nobody wants to be ugly. 

After all of that, a fearful July and (so far) an uncertain August, here’s what I’m sure of: God has given me the keys to new territory with Him in this season. He wouldn’t give me the keys if He didn’t intend for me to unlock something new.

What’s in it for me? The same thing that was in it for Jesus: more of Him. For all of us. 

I’ll take the mundane, the insignificant, the uncertain and the scary if the exchange is more of God. Even if I endure 95 percent of a mundane life for 5 percent of “this is what He made me for.”  

95 percent grit and 5 percent glory and even then, Jesus never did it for his glory, he did it for his Father’s. I wonder what would happen if we stopped rejecting invitations into the mundane, glorious adventure of every day life and started being faithful to what’s in front of us. I wonder if eventually, we’d find those few years of “this is what I was made for.”

And maybe those few years don’t happen all at once, but in fleeting moments throughout our lives. Tiny glimpses of eternity, of the otherness we were made for. So then maybe our desires for our lives should be other, too. Less about what’s in it for us and more about the invitation to use a gift God has given us, no matter the outcome on this side of Heaven.

I bet it would be worth it.