Surrendering your “not enough”

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Something shifted in me when October rolled around. My heart feels settled in Utah. I would even say my heart has fallen in love with this place. Transition feels like it’s finally leveled out, and I think in my head I thought that would look like going from crashing waves to smooth waters. I wanted to feel like I was sailing into the sunset when the chaos of major transition finally ended.

Instead it feels a little more like raising a white flag after a long, ugly war.

In some ways I feel like I’ve turned around and realized the last six months have left a wake of destruction and loss behind me. Innocence buried beneath piles of rubble called disappointment. Hope dragging behind me like a severed limb. Joy somewhere back in the trenches, left behind in a moment of crisis, because who has the arms to carry that in a time like this?

This isn’t the way I wanted to look when we planted a church. Wounds still healing, bones still aching. Heartbroken over innocent life lost. Exhausted from fighting a losing fight. My friend Erika would say I’m “out on a limb and looking haggard” in this moment of my life.

We’re running really hard in our ministry, and honestly it’s been incredible. I’m constantly amazed at the way there’s just always enough grace for us to keep going. God is growing His church, and He’s been kind enough to carry us through it.

But I still feel broken. Most days I feel like not enough.

I wish I was better at giving the best of myself to my husband, instead of some days feeling like he just gets whatever is left of me when the day’s over.

I wish I wasn’t still so overcome by grief on some days that I don’t want to do anything at all. I wish I could lay my head down at night, just once, and not see the face of the son I thought I’d be raising right now.

We didn’t even get to meet him, but I swear I know his face. Perfect caramel skin. The most charming smile and tight curls. Green eyes & awesome cheeks. I see him every night when I close my eyes, and I wish I could go back to those trenches we fought in back in May, and do something to change the outcome.

Instead I’m back on the old, familiar shore of uncertainty — raising a white flag.

Oh, Lord. I do surrender. I wish you’d taken this cup… but I want to be a woman who, like Jesus, is familiar with suffering and acquainted with grief. Pressing in instead of running from pain. Your will be done.

I feel like He’s reminded me often of the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in this season. You know, that moment of impossibility when He looks at the disciples and says, “You feed them. You have what you need. Bring it to me.”

It’s almost offensive, you know? Standing there, looking at something that you know you can’t do, and He just tells you to do it anyway. So you bring Him those loaves and fish, and He blesses it, and then it multiplies.

He blesses our not enough, and it multiplies.

Friends, this is why we keep showing up. Even when it hurts. Even when we know we don’t have enough. Because when we keep showing up, we just might see a miracle.

But there’s a surrender that has to take place. There’s a crossing over from “I’m going to make this happen” to “God, I don’t have what it takes, but you do, so here’s what I have. Do with it whatever you see fit.”

And then all of a sudden, even with our buried innocence and our limb-severed hope and our joy that was lost in the trenches, He restores all things. He restores them because He is them.

He’s the anchor of hope. It’s in His presence that there’s fullness of joy. When all seems lost, He restores all because He is all.

All we have to do is raise our white flag.

I’m so certain that I am not done grieving what we lost this year. I can sense God still doing a deep work in my heart in grief and sorrow and suffering. And honestly, I want to press in to those places because I know they’re places of authority He’s forging in me.

But in the same breath, I want to be a woman who keeps showing up, blessing and handing Him my not enough, and watching Him multiply it. Because when God’s people need to be fed, He shows up and makes it happen. We get to release ourselves of carrying the weight of that. All we have to do is show up with what we have.

At the end of the day, those 5,000 people were fed when the bread and the fish were broken.

So, here I am. Broken. And He just keeps multiplying things every time there’s a need.

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Dear Envy

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Envy (noun) 

1. A feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities or luck.
2. A life ruiner. (from the dictionary of Sara Gilmore)

I could feel Envy begin to sneak in and try to befriend me. I even listened to her at times. This is her favorite season to invade someone’s life: in the space between the conception of dreams and their actual birth. It’s the place where our belief and faith tend to be in their shakiest state. Everything growing inside our hearts that we’re believing for is still in the unseen.

She loves to comfort you in this time and whisper her soothing lies in your ear until you begin to think they’re truth. I was guilty of listening to her.

“Look at all these people around you, your age and in your same season of life, doing and being everything you wish you could. Why hasn’t God done what He promised? He must have forgotten you.” 

“I know you’re tired, I understand you. It’s OK for you to let hatred and bitterness grow in your heart — you deserve it. He hasn’t paid attention to you. You’re alone. I’m all you have. Let me be your comfort.”

We’ve all felt it, that feeling when you look at someone else who seems to have what you want, and your heart sinks and you feel resentment rise, because you still feel like you’re exactly where you started, however many months or years ago. 

Well, I got sick of Envy trying to coax me into friendship with her. So I wrote her a letter.  

Dear Envy,

I know you think you belong here with me, and I know I’ve left the door unlocked for you to come in and make yourself at home. It’s time for you to go, though.

You made me think we could be friends. When I felt distant from God, you swept in to try and take His place — like a jealous ex-boyfriend, trying to capitalize on a weak place between me and my first love. You never cared for me, you only care that I’m not happy without you right here next to me.

You are a thief of joy, a ruiner of relationships and a wedge between me and my Father.

You told me He forgot about me, and for a second I believed you. You said He wasn’t coming, and that I should just embrace the fact that I’m on my own. You encouraged me to be angry and resentful, because I had fought hard and gotten nowhere, and I deserved to be mad about it.

You’re wrong. He loves me, and He has promised good things, and just being in His Presence, in the absence of anything else I have ever dreamed of, is worth it. 

You, on the other hand, are miserable to be around. You thought you could convince me that in the absence of what I want, you’re my best companion. I’m not convinced. I hate your company. So pack your bags and get out, because I’m locking the door this time and you won’t be coming back in.

I will not entertain any more adulterous thoughts of spending time with you. My heart is His, and He has welcomed me home as He always does, even though I allowed you in for a few days. His promises for me are true, and I would rather dwell in His house forever with nothing else on this earth to my name than spend one more hour in your presence.

Go back to hell in the company of all the misery you belong with. I’m staying here, where you aren’t allowed to trespass. I’m a princess here, so you have to go when I tell you to leave.

Goodbye forever,

Sara

[Seals envelope. Burns contents of envelope. Walks away, free.]

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.