Crazy What??

Today I had a moment. A "God, are you sure it's okay for me to be really honest with you?" moment. I came back to visit the place I have known as home for almost the last 10 years of my life - and I feel so happy. I was driving down the road to my favorite coffee house, driving down a path on which I have done some of my best thinking, and I got choked up with how much I miss this place. How much I miss me. And I feel guilty. I am married to who I believe to be the best husband on the planet, and I love him in a way that takes my breath away. I enjoy his love even more. I know in my heart that he is home for me. That I would go anywhere with him and we would go anywhere together for the sake of God's kingdom. But it is so hard to feel like the real me, the joyful me, when it feels like the girl with the dreams and passion, vision and motivation remains here, in a different city. When I drove here yesterday it was like I could breathe deep and feel safe in the place where God grew me so much.

So as tears welled up in my eyes I silently said to God, "I miss this so much. You know how much I wish I lived here, right?" And it felt like such a peaceful reply came from Him saying, "Yes. I know you love it here - and that's okay. I know the plans I have for you." Then I thought I'd take it a step further. "Could I be so bold to ask you if we can move back here?" And I felt him say, "Trust me. I love you. I hurt with you. I know how you feel, what you desire, and how much you want to serve me. I know you love your husband and are grateful for your life with him. Trust me."

And I have peace. Not that I am done crying while I am here, but because for the first time in a long time, I felt safe being honest with God - and He was right there waiting, so faithful in His reply. It is so difficult for me to admit, but in light of being given such a beautiful gift as the one of marriage to the man of my dreams, I have felt so terrible for missing what I once knew. I have felt guilty for feeling like a fish out of water when it comes to marriage, for wanting my old life, for missing my brother and my friends so much, for sitting in Bible Study thinking, "I feel far from a Proverbs 31 woman." I feel horrible for being sad while my husband would do anything to love me in a way to make me feel safe and that brings me joy.

I have been weighed down by the burden of analyzing each of my decisions in the past year. Did I make the perfect choices at the perfect times? Did I fail at following God to the best of my ability? And you know what I realize? God is not interested in my perfection. He wants me. All of me - the ugly, the beautiful, the crazy, the peaceful, the weak, the strong, the sorrowful, and the joyful. He is waiting. He has so much more than I can possibly see in front of me...as evidenced by this beautiful, amazing man I waited so long for and am so privileged to call my husband. Yet He continues to have to teach me this, over and over.

Have you ever had an out-of-the-blue, unexpected whoosh of excitement in your heart in the midst of a really difficult time that feels like unexplainable hope? Those moments when your heart is randomly light, your mind takes a break from figuring out life, and you feel excitement about the unknown?

Last night I went to dinner with two of my beautiful friends, both of whom walk their own journey and experience their own unique pain, and we talked about these very moments. Those that I have termed, "adrenaline rush of trust" moments. When, for a brief instant we let go of all that hurts, all that is hard to figure out, all the ways we feel we have failed or others have failed us....and we surrender. Often these moments are brief because they scare us; we feel out of control, afraid of the unknown, afraid to trust anyone else with the only life we have, and we take hold with a painfully unnecessary grip once again. Yet God remains, seated on His beautiful throne of grace, with a loving, gentle smile on His face, arms open wide, waiting.

You know what's crazy? It is not the fact that we can be joyful when we want what we don't have, when we have what we don't want, when we are stumbling through life feeling like a complete mess. What is crazy is that we often feel like we are waiting on God when He is actually waiting on us. Those brief moments of realizing this truth...those are the moments I call crazy joy. When it's not about what we can do or should do or should have done. It's not even about feeling happy. It's when we realize God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and He loves us more than we could imagine, for no reason other than we are His. He is waiting for our tears. He longs for our honesty. And He can handle it. Give it to Him. He will do more than you could ever ask or imagine. He will give you a joy that is not from the world but is only from Him. A crazy joy.


Live the Dream...and Dream Again

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be married. I can picture the countless hours and days I spent grappling with such a deep desire and the ultimate reality of wanting to surrender it completely to God. I prayed and wondered, cried and dreamed. I always knew there was a great reason for my deep desire, but in the meantime, would have to pray for peace about what God had for me prior to that longing, if ever it was to be.

On the day before my 25th birthday I had a minor melt-down. I was trying to proactively make a fresh start to the next stage of life by tackling the monster task of cleaning my bedroom. Now, I am messy. And it's only recently that I've been willing to admit that. If I've learned anything in the last year it's that I have a pattern of denying reality in order to protect the ideals I create...or perhaps the ideal that I want my life to reflect. Let me just say, that's a little dangerous. To say the least. Life on earth is not ideal. It's not meant to be. We are created to long for so much more...because there is so much more. Yet we often think we can label that longing so we have something to strive for, wish we had, or believe that if indeed that longing were to be filled, then we would be happy.

So on that particular day, as I became overwhelmed by trying to "clean up" the part of me I don't like, I made the ever popular choice to procrastinate and focus on the side of myself I do enjoy - my journals. For more than 15 years I have filled page after page with my life in my own words. Prayers I have prayed, experiences that have shaped me, lessons I have learned, all written with the freedom of my romantic ideals and unreasonable enthusiasm. Successes, struggles, and serious dreams were the plot of my story. In those pages, written directly from me to an audience of One, I was okay. All that was and is me was lovable, desirable, meaningful. As I read about my life year after year, one desire screamed mercilessly from the pages. I wanted to be a wife and a mom; it was the calling I was certain I was created to live out. Yet it had not come to be. That day I realized I had lived for years making choices with the mindset of "in a couple years when my life looks like...." And I was afraid. I had no confidence in who I was because I always thought I needed something, or someone else to be fully me. It hurt me to face the reality that it all didn't turn out like it was "supposed to." I cried. I questioned. I prayed. I didn't clean my room. And my mom drove for three and a half hours the next day so that I could avoid the one thing I was afraid of the most. Being alone.

That night, as I put pen to paper once again, I met God with a new resolve. I committed to no longer living my life in fear. Somehow I had begun to live under the belief that I was not living up to my ideal, but everyone around me was. I believed I could not survive if rejected, and I was not valuable if not pursued. As I became ruthlessly honest with God and myself, I received the truth that my worth could be defined by no one and no reality apart from my Creator alone. If I were to sit in the middle of a disgustingly messy room, I would be worth it. If I were to stand at the altar to commit my life to the man God had planned for me, I would be worth it.

That day began an incredible journey of getting to know the deepest part of me. Essentially, that's the day I really started to grow up. I began the maturation process of realizing God could easily, in a moment's notice give me what I wanted, what I thought I really needed, if in fact I was willing to risk waiting for the so much more. He could say yes to me in an instant; or, with an even greater love he could say no to me over and over again in order to honor the one even greater desire within me. During the same years I had prayed fervently to be sought after by a man on earth, I had prayed first and foremost that God would use everything He created in me to the fullest potential; that He would not allow me to waste an ounce of it, but would instead only allow in my life that which would make me better for Him.

So for two more years I lived. But I lived free. Free to hope for what might be, free to let tears fall for what sometimes was, and free to let my heart beat faster as I let God in more and more, to love me in the way I had always longed for. I went back to grad school to be a teacher and it was hard. When I hated it I cried out that it wasn't what I really wanted anyway. I reached a place of brokenness that had me crying out to God in my car, "Please help me know how a man is supposed to treat me. Because I don't know." I experienced a new depth in my friendships and purpose as a person. And my faith was rocked to the place where I was forced to ask myself if I wanted to live a life fully surrendered to God as long as it was safe, or was I willing to truly let Him have it all and with great sincerity say, "Where he leads, I will follow." My heart stirred for adventure and I became willing to go. As I interviewed for a job thirteen hours away from life as I had known it for nine years, God led me through a process that would create the adventure that is now my life.

I have been married for two and a half months. One year ago I had no clue God was preparing the man He had for me in Louisville, KY. Five months after Kevin and I met I left everything I knew and loved without hesitation. Four months later I stood before God and the man I had prayed unceasingly for and committed my life and who I would be as a wife to both of them. For six months I have lived in a place that is foreign to me, with people that are foreign to me, playing a role that is incredibly foreign to me. Twelve months ago I was so busy I couldn't see straight; I was student teaching kindergarten, driving all over Cincinnati on a daily basis, and in full-time grad school. Now, I'm waiting daily for calls to substitute teach, trying to find a full-time job, and discovering that even if you scrub the floors really well one day, it has to be done yet again the very next week. Seriously, I worked so hard I thought that floor would stay clean forever!

My husband has held me while I've cried, as I miss the life that was, but am embracing the life that is. I have obsessed over details of a near perfect wedding day. From the curl that was too tight to the lipgloss I forgot, unimportant realities have been what I have chosen to fixate on, beyond any sensible reasoning. That is, until last week when I realized I won't let go. I refuse to believe that the day I have longed for, prayed for, and dreamed about for most of my life is over. Not to be had again. I am faced with the realization of life beyond that beautiful day. I am also convicted with the truth of what I must have deeply held inside me all of these years; that there was some sort of finality in my wedding day.

Oh, no. This is not the truth. While there is certainly finality to the forever of our commitment, I must face the bigger, better reality. This is only the beginning of simply a new forever. I just haven't spent as much time thinking about this forever. It is new to me. It is crazy, unpredictable, and immeasurable. No one can tell you what it's like before it happens, and it's a learn-as-you-go, pray every day, unending lesson in unconditional love and grace. I've never been in this place before and I'll never be here again. Yet this is the adventure I prayed for. This is the plot of my fully surrendered life. And for that reason alone, it is good.

When I am ready to be fully honest with God, myself, and my husband, I will admit the difficulty in letting go, I will admit the human futility in my holding on, and I will embrace everything that amazing day was, loving and letting it be the beginning of the story I now live.

During the five years between college and Kevin, I lived with my older brother who became one of my closest friends. He had a front row seat to the process of life I have previously described. So on November 16, when he helped officiate the ceremony that would unite me with the man of my dreams, he very much shared with me the depth of my gratitude and joy. Now whenever I see him and share how I'm doing or what adjustments my new life brings, he always follows up his goodbye with, "Live the dream." And I know what he means. He knows how deep and long I have dreamed for this life I now live. He sees that now that it's here, ready or not, fast and furious as it may have came, it is time to live, as fully as I know how, the dream that came true, in a way that is more than I could have ever asked or imagined. And I see that what must come next. I must not dwell on the past, but instead live right here, right now. The adventure continues, the surrender requires constancy. I must learn to live as passionately and fully as I know how, embrace this gift, and realize that the cleaning will continue forever. But as I live and love, learn and let go, I must also move forward. In order to first and foremost honor my Father who can do so much more with my life than I ever could, I must not only live the dream, but I must dream again.