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)

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That time I didn’t know he was carrying me: revisited.

In the spirit of seasons of waiting, I’m sharing a story from six months ago again today. In the midst of learning how to fight for big things together in prayer, my husband and I have both been so refined this year. I can’t wait to build on where we’ve come since then in posts soon to come, but first, a look back at one of the most pivotal moments of this faith journey we’ve been on with God this year.

January 2014:

Marriage is the most awesome, most difficult thing I’ve ever done. Figuring out how to do life in unison with another person is a serious learning curve.

You have personality differences, communication differences, organizational differences, anatomical differences (sorry, just thought it’d be funny to throw that one in there. I didn’t have brothers growing up. Living with a BOY was new to me a year and a half ago).

Here’s the one that I think has been the weirdest to try and connect on: the way Noland and I communicate with God is different.

We spend time with God differently in the mornings. We’re spiritually gifted in different ways. His prayer life looks different from mine. We read scripture differently. We see things of the kingdom through different lenses.

Sometimes that’s a huge blessing, because we tend to point out things to one another that we wouldn’t have seen on our own. But sometimes it’s hard, like when we’re believing for big things together, but we don’t necessarily fight for those things in the same way.

Prayer is communication — a conversation with God, right? So let’s talk about how Noland and I communicate.

He’s a linear thinker. He goes from here ———> to here ———> to here.

I’m all over the map. Up, down, left, right, do a few somersaults, stop and smell the flowers, moonwalk … and we’re there.

Noland processes things externally. He needs to talk things through. His brain lives outside of his body.

I process internally. I need to get some space, write some things down, connect the dots, and then talk about it.

Then you throw in our emotions, because communication is emotional!

Noland is steady. Even if he’s about to explode internally, he has this cooling filter that all his words go through to calm them before they come out. It’s quite remarkable.

I lack said filter. My feelings are coming out the same exact way they look on the inside. Blood, guts, tears. It all comes out.

So when we’re praying through the things we feel like God has promised, the things we’re believing for in our life, it looks different.

Noland speaks things forth in such a way that makes you think they must have happened already. He’s already thought logically through the whole thing. So nonchalant. For him, it’s as simple as, “ask and you shall receive.” He’s confident and cool, and he’s so good at that part that sometimes makes me feel anxious to say out loud, “Your will be done.”

He always says to me when I get anxious about our future, “Sara, God doesn’t give us second best. We get the best. He knows.”

Well, I’m a little bit more of a shout-down-the-gates-of-hell prayer warrior. Still just as confident as Noland that the things God has promised will come to pass, and just as eager to partner with God to see those things happen. I just pray for things with a little more volume and a lot more tears. I feel them through every step of the process.

So as we’ve been believing for some big promises in our life this year, we’ve had some conflict about whether or not we’re on the same page with the things we’re praying. I’d get frustrated because he didn’t seem as emotionally involved as me. He’d get frustrated because he felt bad for not seeming to feel things as deeply and emotionally as I do.

It was hard! It’s not fun to feel disconnected from your spouse. I had to reconcile with God that I knew Noland was believing for the same things I was.  I had to reconcile that I still believed, although he didn’t carry them like I do, that he cares for them like I do.

This had gone on for months. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, when I was in Charlotte. When I have to work away from home, I use our iPad, which is connected to Noland’s phone on the iCloud. So I opened the iPad late one night to make a few notes of what I needed to do the next day for work, and I found something.

It was a note Noland had made on his phone, that popped up on the iPad when I turned on the wifi. I saw in the sidebar something titled, “Prayer for Sara.” Obviously I opened it.

In this note were 10 different prayers. Each of them was a paragraph long, beautifully crafted and quoting scripture throughout them. He was asking God, on my behalf, for some of the deepest longings of my heart. And he was asking Him using God’s own words. (And now I’m feeling a little convicted that, although I pray for him daily, I have never prayed such beautiful prayers for Noland.)

I’m weeping. I mean, like, ugly crying, in my friend’s living room alone.

All this time I’m wondering if he’s carrying God’s promises the same way I am, and all this time he’s simply carrying me. Alone, in the secret place with God, I’m the one he’s talking about. And I never would have known it had I not stumbled upon that note.

I read it over and over. It was the best bedtime story I’d ever heard.

I thanked God over and over, and I repented over and over for ever believing a lie that we weren’t fighting for the same things.

Never again will I be uncertain or insecure about us being on the same page in our prayer life. Those words Noland always speaks were ringing in my head as I fell asleep that night in North Carolina.

“God never gives us second best. He knows.”

I had never been more certain that I had been given the best.

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The gift of waiting

Six years ago I met a boy. I had zero romantic interest in him, but we became the best of friends. We loved all the same things… soccer, live music, pizza + beer… the list could go on but these ones carry most of my memories of friendship with him.

We spent more afternoons at my favorite coffee shop in Jonesboro, Arkansas than I can remember between 2008-2010, sometimes talking and sometimes just sharing a table while I studied and he planned worship sets. We took as many trips to Memphis as we could to see our favorite bands play together. We talked sports and there was never anything more than a high five going on between us every time we left hanging out.

Then 2011 rolled around. He had a girlfriend at the time, and I remember beginning to think that I missed my best friend. Somewhere over those few months of our friendship having boundaries for the first time, I started to wonder if maybe I could like… really like him. Obviously this felt horribly risky, so I decided to just pretend those feelings weren’t there for a while.

I remember talking to some of our friends one night and saying, “Guys, I don’t know what to do. I feel like when I think about the girl he needs to end up with, and I start to describe her in my head… she sounds a lot like me.” There they were, out on the table. My feelings. Exposed. I felt naked and afraid. And I knew it didn’t even matter at the time, because he was dating someone else. Even if I did have real feelings, he certainly didn’t reciprocate them.

I didn’t know what to do. So I fasted. For 21 days I was asking God over and over, “Lord, if these feelings are from you, I trust you’ll take care of me, and if they’re not, I don’t want to feel them ever again.” …well about day 5, he broke up with his girlfriend. My prayer took a slight turn to simply saying, “OK God, I think I want him. Can I have him?”

At the end of those 21 days, there weren’t words written in the sky, there wasn’t a burning bush or angelic visitation… but I remember feeling like God had given me this deep sense of peace, and I remember feeling like I kept hearing the words, “Just keep being. I’ve got you. I have the best for you.”

So for about a month, nothing changed. Besides that I felt like my best friend was back — and that was good. So good. And then one night in March of 2011, he called and said he wanted to come over and talk to me. He told me he was sorry that he had missed a season of my life when he was dating someone. He told me I was his best friend, and he loved spending time with me. He told me he couldn’t really imagine time with anyone else being better than time with me, and that he felt like he was growing feelings for me that were bigger than us being just friends.

Side note: OK, I wouldn’t probably recommend that all relationships go this way, but our years of friendship prior to this conversation made this next part not weird.

So basically we talk all of it out, and decide: (a) I think I want to spend my life with you; (b) we should probably date first; (c) we don’t feel like it’s time for us to date right now.

He told me he knew that with his fairly recent breakup, and him being on staff at our church, and me being in leadership in our college ministry, that it just didn’t feel peaceful to jump right into dating someone else. So we waited. For months I’d been working through these feelings in my own heart, then we finally had the conversation I’d been waiting for, and it ended in knowing we needed to keep waiting.

I remember him telling me, “I don’t know how long it’ll be until we feel like God says it’s time… it could be two months or two years, but I want you to know that you’re worth it, and I am going to wait.”

(Obviously I’m crying at this point.)

And then we went almost three months without really talking or hanging out. (Cried plenty more times during that time period) We just… waited. We knew we shouldn’t toy with the line of friendship/more than friendship, so we just stopped spending time together unless our friends happened to be all hanging out.

It was hard! I had gone through this whole process of believing for something, and then being told I could have it — but not yet. God’s promises are funny like that. Sometimes He shows us what He has for us and then He invites us in to the refining place of waiting and contending — not because we need to earn something but because He wants to stamp us with His image in those places. There’s a piece of His heart to be found in the waiting.

I think in that season the piece of His heart I found was that He’s for me, no matter what. He was stamping on me a belief that His promises are true, and the things He promises are worth fighting for.

Three months later we started dating, and this weekend I get to celebrate two years of being Mrs. Noland Gilmore. As I’m looking back on our second year of marriage, I’m reminded that it’s been marked by the same thing that started it all: waiting.

It’s been a year of the two of us contending for something that we’re not sure if or when it will happen. It’s been a year of learning to carry each other in ways we haven’t had to before. It’s been a year of unfulfilled promises.

But today, I choose to celebrate. Because every day I wake up next to a promise fulfilled. And that makes me want to keep fighting for the ones I’ll see come to life in the future.

Cheers, my love — to all the promises we’ve yet to see fulfilled. What glorious days ahead of us!

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And cheers to all the rest of you — those things you’re contending for are worth it. Keep going.