wpid-DSC03407.jpg

Abiding with Jesus

The Unedited Version of the Last Year: Extravagant Grace, Wordless Prayers, & the Best Work {Part 2}

 

I left you yesterday in the rawness of real life for a reason….oftentimes, well scratch that, this IS where we have the most profound encounters with the Living God. In the steep terrain of life we learn who He is, His character, and His voice. I still don’t know why that is. It’s so mysterious to me why God chooses to use these difficult, broken times to catapult us deeper into His heart. I don’t understand it, and sometimes I wish it wasn’t so.

But God’s invitation always comes. Everyday, He invites us into an adventure. Winding paths that seem to challenging for us to traverse. But God knows the treasures that lie just outside of our comfort zones.  In the midst of desperate cries and looming fears God does His best work in us and through us. It is these times that prepare us and shape us for the joyous and breathtaking beauty that always comes.

I shared with you yesterday about this past year of change, and all the grief, depression, tears, and loneliness that ensued because of it. Today I am excited to share about how God unashamedly got right down beside me and so gently and perfectly navigated me through this part of my adventure. I pray that my honest words will breathe hope and life into your heart today. You are not alone! 

Over the past year God taught me how to…

1. Give myself grace again and again and again…a million times again!

With two kids and a new culture to fit into I definitely needed time and space to figure out who I was and what I was doing. I had never been here before {and that’s probably true for you too- even if you aren’t in another country, you are still in a new season of life}.  I needed to be kind to myself, to let myself have the days where I just wore sweatpants and carried a tissue in my hand. There were {and are} many days where I felt like I didn’t perform well enough for Jesus, my family, my children, or my friends. I am an expert at punishing myself for my shortcomings. But giving myself grace meant not recounting my failures, not rehashing the day, not worrying about what other people said or thought and ultimately not performing anymore. And thankfully, His grace just kept coming and coming and coming! {Lamentations 3:22-23}

Which leads me to the next thing He taught me…

2.Be patient with myself.

A new season in life (becoming a mother-whether for the first, second, third, or fourth time it doesn’t matter, getting married, moving, changing jobs, etc) makes us feel like we’ve been uprooted or transplanted. We can feel lost, confused, purposeless, in shock and many other emotions. But just as any plant takes time to grow and develop healthy roots again, so do we. Don’t expect results overnight, we are more fragile than plants and need to be patient with ourselves as we grow into our new home. For me, this was patience in finding friends, learning new routines and rhythms with my life, and discovering who I was and what God called me to do here.

3.Stop looking back.

God uses my love for running as a metaphor for many experiences in my life. He made it very clear to me that just as it’s dangerous and plain silly to look back in a race, so it is in these times of change. There is a healthy looking back that is part of grieving, but then there is the habitually kind that leads to a loss of focus and passion. I was looking back nearly everyday on all the things that used to be- the ease of life before my second child came, the familiar routines I had in America, the friends I had found, the dreams that had been birthed in my heart. The glancing over my shoulder out of fear had to go if I were to run with renewed faith here in the Netherlands.  

4.Take the next step.

Even when there is no motivation, inspiration, energy, or enthusiasm…take the next step. No matter how small or insignificant it may feel. In the seasons of heaviness, where it’s hard to find our feet and our feelings want to take over, I believe that God’s first priority is teaching us how to walk freely and lightly again- to live with purpose and seek His kingdom. Going through this past year has been slow and arduous at times. Every step requiring grueling effort that I didn’t feel like I had. But that’s precisely the times when you and I become familiar reaching out for His hand. Oddly enough, the Art of Adventure Journal came to fruition as God’s grace strengthened me little by little to take the next step. Friends, some of your best work comes in the bewildering moments of life.

5.Gather my team.

I will not forget that evening. I sat down to my desk and wept as I typed messages to the ladies who God had laid on my heart. Women that I knew I needed. Although, both far away in distance, their responses to my honest cries for help made it feel like they were right there with me.  Their responses shocked me. They told me the tales of when they were young moms, away from family, struggling with their responsibilities as a mother and a wife, devising plans of how to escape it all. These women whom I looked up to and respected, who I thought had it all together- didn’t. They were on my team. They knew and understood. I don’t remember their exact advice, because it wasn’t their wisdom that changed me. It was their- “I am with you, I hear you, I get you” that brought a hush over my spirit that night for the first time in a long time. Who do you need on your team?

6.Pray without words.

I couldn’t pray for months. A few sentences into prayer times and I’d be grabbing the tissues and wiping the snot off my face. My words weren’t coming out right and the fog of the season made it difficult to even think straight. But God didn’t need my perfect prayers. I read the other day that we should see prayer not as communication with God but communion with Him. God revealed to me the lost art of praying without words. At times all I knew to say was, “Please Jesus, help me.” And that was enough because prayer isn’t about length or elegance but honesty. A heart positioned before the Lord in humility and brokenness is prayer at its best, words aren’t always necessary.

7.Keep giving out.

Just as taking the next step fills us with hope, so giving out to others fills us with health. It might sound a little selfish to see giving to others as benefiting us, but it’s true. God designed relationships to be life-giving for everyone involved. One of my favorite quotes by Jennie Allen is, “Too much time given to ourselves, makes a soul sick.” This resonates with me because the biggest lie I believe is that when I feel like a mess, when I’m lonely, or depressed… I should stay home. I can tell you this- that plan has never ended well! Choosing to meet up with people for coffee and encourage someone else in what I was learning {even if it didn’t feel like much!}, opening our home for dinners with friends, or simply making breakfast for my kiddos was {and still is!} healing to the core! Loving people, giving our time and energy to care for them, looking outward to the needs of others may not be what we want, but it is always what we need. We were created to love, this is what the adventure is all about!


This is the God we serve! A God who is always working, moving, and fighting on our behalf. He never gives up on us. And we shouldn’t give up on ourselves or anyone else for that matter. Will you join me in looking closely at our lives, paying attention to our hearts and the tears we cry and the longings we feel, savoring even the seasons of trials and hardships, in order that we may travel deeper into His heart?

May you live fully in the story of His redemption and love.  May you awaken  to the reality of God in your midst. Speak about it, write about it, live it, and tell it, and as you do others will also recognize the invitation inside of their hearts. He is there, everywhere, we just have to notice. He is always reaching out His hand saying, “Come with me on this wild adventure. I promise you won’t regret it. I promise I will never leave you.” 

 

I would love to hear what you’ve learned about God through the
sometimes treacherous terrain of this adventure!