Drowning in fear, grieving what’s to come, and learning to be brave.

This has been a really sweet season of celebration with my family. My older sister got married in March, my younger sister gets married in August, and we’ve spent a lot of time together planning and partying. 

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Now that it’s almost summer time here in Texas, we’re spending more weekends together at my grandparents lake house, we’re celebrating anything and everything just because we can, and I am realizing every time we’re together that these days are numbered for me. Noland and I will move to Utah sometime in the next year, and as excited as I am about all that God has promised ahead of us, my heart is often full of uncertainty, fear, and a little bit of grief.

There are moments I spend with my sisters where I wish we could freeze time and sit there forever. Moments where we sit around the dinner table long after plates and glasses are emptied, telling stories we’ve all heard a thousand times, laughing as if it were the first time any of us had heard it. Moments dancing in the car and still borrowing each others clothes for weeks at a time until we meet up again to swap back. 

There are moments with my mom that I hold onto more dearly than I used to, getting our nails done together or driving to one another’s city to spend one night hanging out, just because we felt like it. A friendship we’ve developed in my adulthood that I’m growing to really love. Of course, in this season of wedding planning for my sisters, most of our conversations are out of the necessity of, “Sara I need to you show me how to do this one creative thing.”

There are times spent with my dad that feel like precious stones — moments I want to stow away in a special box or set in a bracelet to wear all the time, keeping them close and in sight so I never forget them. Encouraging words he speaks into the deepest places of my heart, big bear hugs, and a kiss on the forehead that usually comes with an, “I’m so proud of you” — immediately bringing tears every time. I don’t want to let go of those moments.

Maybe it sounds silly to you that I feel this way, like I’m planning a funeral for my family that isn’t dying, but the reality is that when change happens, there usually is a funeral of sorts. A season ends so a new one can begin, and somewhere in the transition we all grieve a little bit. And that in-between space can often be a dark, uncertain, fearful place.

A few weeks ago, we were at the lake with my family for Easter. All day on Saturday I was thinking, “God, what is this day for?” I know Friday we remember what Jesus did for us on the cross, and Sunday we celebrate His resurrection, but what do we do — what do we feel — on that day in between?

I felt like He very simply answered, “Here is where you hope.”

That space between death and resurrection invited all of us in to hope against hope, knowing that the third day would come, and with it, new life. This gap is worth standing in because Jesus saw that tomb as worth laying in. He saw us as worth laying in it for. So we enter into these “spaces between” in our lives, and when we do that we enter into a space of knowing Him in a place that only He has ever truly known.

So we don’t have to fear this place, after all. He’s been here. He’s been here and then he walked right out of here, raising not only himself but all the rest of us to new life. And that’s why we can hope that all will be well. Ann Voskamp says all is well, because there’s always a well.

There’s always a well. How quickly I forget this, and go wandering through the desert not remembering that even in this place He intends to refresh me.

But I’m still scared. I’m scared of being far away from my family, as my sisters’ lives settle in Texas, close to my parents. I’m scared of their kids knowing each other and knowing my parents in a way that my kids won’t have the opportunity to. I’m scared of being “that sister/aunt/daughter.” 

I’m scared of all sorts of failure. Feeling like I’ve recently failed in my job has made me wonder about all the things I’ll fail at in the future.

I’m scared of being a mom one day, and I’m scared of my body not being able to make me one.

I’m uncertain about how all the things Noland and I have felt like God has promised us will play out. I’m uncertain on some days about whether or not I really even believe them all wholeheartedly. 

This year has felt like somewhat of a winding road with God. I’m pretty sure we’re still headed exactly where He said we would go, but it hasn’t looked at all like I thought it would. 

Have you ever driven through the state of Arkansas? Worst highways in America. I feel like I need new tires at the end of it every time. But even though it’s bumpy, and the scenery isn’t the most beautiful, I still know I’m getting somewhere in the end. That’s kind of what traveling through this season of my life has been like.

So when the road is bumpy, cloudy and unclear, and it’s riddled with fear and uncertainty and curveballs that feel more like meteor showers, I can know that He’s already been here. I can rest in the truth that He’s a good shepherd, and He promises that His goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. (Psalm 23:6)

I had a friend remind me of this truth this week, and she said something in an email that I’ve been reading over and over ever since. “His goodness & mercy will be more amazing and more beautiful to you because you saw them chase your heels through valleys deep and chasms wide.”

I love that mental image. Goodness and mercy aren’t just following me in a “lingering behind” sort of way. They’re chasing me. They can’t wait to catch me and remind me that they’re here, and that they’ll be here forever.

This morning I woke up and I could already feel fear trying to steal my day, so I sat before God in my living room and I wrote out everything I’m scared of. I told Him I didn’t want to get up off the couch until He took this fear from me and reminded me of what’s true.

Of course, the very next song that shuffled on my iTunes library was “You Make Me Brave.” I sat weeping at His kindness to remind me of this truth as the bridge played:

“You make me brave, you make me brave.

You call me out beyond the shore into the waves.

You make me brave, you make me brave.

No fear can hinder now the promises you’ve made.”

The shore feels safe, and some days I want to be mad at Him for inviting me into a place that feels unsafe. But He’s here. When I feel like I’m drowning in fear and uncertainty and doubt, He’s here. He called me out here. 

And even though I feel like the biggest mess most of my days, I know He’s forging something in my spirit here that I’ll need later. I think when He lets us linger in these places for a while, it’s because there’s a piece of His heart that He intends to impart to us in this place. So I don’t want to leave until He’s done. I want to walk out of this place with His heart.

I’m afraid of failing, I’m afraid of leaving my family, I’m afraid of how, where and when I’ll start my own … but I know He’s here, and I know He makes me brave. 

His Presence is the promise, and I want to be a daughter that continues to say yes to the invitations he lays on the table, even when they lead to uncertain, tender places in my heart. 

At the end of the day, and at the end of myself, I know that all will be well if I can just be near Him. I’m resolved that it doesn’t matter where that is or what it looks like, or even who or what I’ll have to leave behind.

Lord, just let me come wherever you’re going. Keep reminding me that you make me brave.

Shepherding flocks, throwing stones at giants, and fighting in the wilderness.

Beauty is pain: this is what they tell girls when they have to endure things like high heels and eyebrow plucking. It’s funny, though, because this is just a worldly version of something God actually made for a purpose.

Beauty is pain. That’s why we go through refining fires in our lives — because our lives are a constant process of sanctification, always being purified more and more, so that the day we leave this earth, we look more like Jesus than we ever did before. This sounds like a perfectly logical analogy to draw and believe as truth, but truthfully, I am not good at loving the fire when I’m in it. I’m actually kind of terrible at it.

I feel like I’ve had the same conversation with so many of my peers over and over lately, about how being in your twenties is just kind of hard. All of us know where we want to go, but none of us are there yet. I heard Christine Caine speak on this a few months back, and she called it the space between the anointing and the appointing.

So here we are, a bunch of not-yet-King-Davids, tending sheep and throwing stones at giants; making music and writing poetry. Learning how to slay the bad guys, and fight ferocious lions in the wilderness, and shepherd flocks day and night.

It’s kind of a rollercoaster, this season of life. Some days are the “I just killed Goliath” victorious, exciting, celebration-worthy days. But most days, if we’re honest, are the “what the hell am I doing in this field with all these sheep when God said I was supposed to be king” sort of days. Right? Or is that just me?

The more I live in this season, though, the more I’m realizing that there is purpose in this place. A couple of months ago, Noland and I did a 10-day media fast, to just sort of quiet our lives and hear God on some decisions we were making. During that time I was doing a lot of reading through old journals and boxes of letters, and one of the letters I revisited was one my dad wrote me when I went off to college.

He was releasing me to take risks, because they yield high reward. He encouraged me to embrace the conflict and drama that come with living a great story now that I was on my own. And at the end of the letter, he left a really cheesy list of “Dad Proverbs” to guide me. I was playing college soccer at the time, so one of the things he said was, “Practice so hard that games feel like a vacation.”

Those words jumped off the page as I read them in this season. Isn’t that what your twenties feel like? Preparation for something? Surely this isn’t the real deal yet … but it sure does hurt.

Maybe it hurts now so it feels more natural later. Maybe this is the pre-season of my life’s fight. My endurance is stretching, my toughness is growing and my muscles are developing. Game day is coming, and it will certainly be a fight — it’s the fight — but what I’m working for now will pay off when the real fight comes.

Maybe life never gets easier, but the hard processes we go through prepare us for the real opposition. Suddenly the wilderness feels like a place I’m OK with going.

But I am an Israelite, wandering through the desert somewhere between Egypt and the Promised Land, complaining about the journey instead of celebrating my deliverance.

I’m impatient and insecure, with a tendency to take my eyes off Jesus when it gets hard, and searching for worth and purpose in people and things, or, the true plague of our generation, a news feed of two-by-two inch photos on the screen of a hand-held ashera pole: the idol we’re all easily bound to if we aren’t careful.

So if I go back to the way He led the Israelites, when He told Moses that He would cause His goodness to go before them, I can rest in the fact that this is my destiny. It’s all of our destiny — for His goodness and mercy to follow us. And pass by us, and go before us, and lead us into whatever is next.

And that’s enough! The uncertainty, the wondering, the wandering — it will always be the way following Him goes. He’s consistent in nature, but unpredictable in the ways He moves. I’m reminded that this is the adventure I’ve always loved.

We have to love the mystery because He has called us to see the invisible and do the impossible. We are made to call forth the not-yet, and walk into the not-seen.

I don’t think this ever changes on this side of Heaven, but maybe as we grow we just start to explore deeper into the unseen until the world isn’t our default anymore. Maybe our twenties are just hard because it’s the first time we’re really learning that it’s not about us, and there’s more than what we think we see or want.

You know what’s interesting to me? That 70 percent of the earth’s surface is under water. A majority of the surface area of creation, in the unseen. He put us on a planet with mystery all around us, and still we want to fight it instead of embrace it!

And yet the invitation is to walk on it. Oh Lord, let me be the disciple that jumps out of the boat, walking on an element I have no business walking on except that you’ve invited me to join you there.

Let me not write off the hard seasons of my life, wishing them away instead of learning every little thing you’ve placed me here to learn. Thank you that you train my hands for war and equip me with strength for the battle. (Psalm 18)

Today I will shepherd the flock in front of me, throw my measly little stones at scary giants, and learn to fight in the wilderness. For tomorrow, I will lead nations. You said so, and I trust you. Because you call me out to walk with you on the water, and you said I would do even greater things than that.

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.