Rough Road Ahead

A few weeks back as we were traveling home from vacation, I saw a road sign stating “Rough Road.” Now, we were in South Carolina so that’s pretty much all of their roads. (Not sorry Palmetto peeps, because your roads are the worst, and that’s saying something from this Nashville gal) As we bumped along a bit I took a mental note of that sign, thinking more about it in response to life than to the physical conditions of the road.

Two years ago today, I was fired from my job with no explanation or reason as to why. Thinking back on some still fresh memories of that day and subsequent days, the road ahead that picture of the “Rough Road” sign came to mind once again. Because I started wondering if we’d appreciate knowing that a rough road was ahead in our lives.

If we could be warned of rough patches on the road of life ahead, would we want to know?

Would it make it any easier to bear? To live through and be on that road, knowing it was coming? I’ll be honest and say that no, it wouldn’t. In fact the knowledge of impending bumpiness makes it harder in many ways. We start to work in our means, (we do that anyways alot of the times) but we try to control the situation, the consequences or the people involved. The warning allows for preparation yes, but preparation on whose part? And what does that prep look like in our lives?

When rough roads approach us in life, do we grip the wheel and just endure it while we are on it, or do we lean in to see if there’s a change of course needed, or if we need to pull off and rest a bit in how we’ve been traveling that road? A rough road gives us the ability to see what’s lying underneath where we’ve been trodding, revealing to us what we are made of and on what/who we are relying. The signal of a rough road gives us false senses of reliance upon ourselves to avoid it or be able to get through it quickly.

Would I have wanted the warning of being fired? I have to say now, two years later, that while a warning of what lies ahead would be nice, I know that in it all I found that I was more trusting of God, not knowing how the road would wind and move, but I had to trust that it would move me more towards Him than anywhere else.

It was a rough road, and one that required healing, provision and trust beyond what I could muster up for myself alone. A rough road ahead doesn’t so much need a warning sign as it does a belief that the rough road is a part of our journey home.

Failing Well

This week I am rereading a book I blew through several years ago as a book club I participate in is reading it this month. The topic of failure came up and it got my mind to really dwelling on that topic, something I am not too comfortable with if I am honest.  

You see I prefer succeeding, and don’t we all right? Failing at something, whether big or small, can chip away at ourselves. At our reputations. Our egos. Our mattering. Our perceived failures, or outright ones for that matter, should be bringing us in closer to God. To chipping away at the veneer of who we’ve built ourselves to be instead of who He designed and created us to be. 

Here’s the bigger thing, we all are a bunch of failures. (Encouraging right?) 

Paul tells us exactly that in Romans. We have all sinned and fallen immensely short of God’s glory. It’s staggering how big of failures we are when it comes to getting God’s glory. We can never meet His perfect way, and we display that failure every single day. (I really am not writing an uplifting post huh?) 

But God (my favorite two words in the Bible) gave us faith through Jesus Christ, right smack dab in the middle of our failures so we could see that He meets us right there in them. He recognizes we fall short and comes right out after us, just like the prodigal son’s father. And so now we look at failure as a means for grace, for God to display His patience with me, for learning on my part. 

 “It’s more about how God helps us dust ourselves off so that we can swing for the fences again.” (P.28)

Just like the author of the book I am reading, I too am learning that I would rather fail at the stuff that matters than succeed at the stuff that doesn’t.

Redeeming the Past

Do you ever wish you could go back and fix something with the knowledge you have now? I bet something popped to mind didn’t it? Some decision (or lack thereof) that was made on your part that took you off into one direction that you ended up regretting, apologizing for, and paying the consequences on for far longer. Maybe you even have more than one…

Recently I had a realization that I had been working towards my own redemption in a way. That I was pursuing something far out of where God wanted me to be solely as a means of redeeming my past, as someone who was let go from their job. It really took a rattling moment of clarity to see that I had been pushing at something so very hard that I knew was not meant for me any more. I was attempting to prove I was in fact worthy, true, a hardworker, diligent in my responsibilities and of value.

For almost two years I have been trying to redeem my past in my career-one that I am finally accepting was not for the long-term but rather for a season of life. It was what God was using to further my growth and development and to use in His grand story, not my own. Over and over again though I kept feeling the pull of lies that I had something to prove, that I had value to earn and worth to contribute. I wanted to be the one to fix it, it was my reputation and name that had been marred. It was my heart that was hurt and wounded, that I needed to put back into place to mend.

I didn’t really say all those things, but my actions sure did lay it out before me and before God. I kept saying I had chosen to move on from that career path, and yet there I was once again interviewing, applying, seeking out redemption by my own definition and in my own power. Y’all you may not even realize you are in it too, but it happens. When we go about attempting to redeem ourselves, our stories, our pasts we tell God we don’t trust Him with any of our life. We don’t believe He’s capable of redemption even in our past, let alone our current state or our future.

If we are His children, then we are redeemed. All of it. Every last bit of us is redeemed, even that ugly part we hate to acknowledge or that moment we look back to with such regret and heartache, He has redeemed it. He has forgiven us when we bring it to Him, and He uses it mightily. Y’all, He wants us to stop striving to work out way into worth and value, to stop pursuing redemption on our own. He got this along time ago and we cannot stop forgetting that truth. We choose the lie that our value depends on us, instead of what He has told us about ourselves and about Him. We deceive ourselves that we are actually god and that we can redeem any bit of ourselves on our own.

He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.  We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him. 

Colossians 1 reminds us that we already have redemption, and it’s not in ourselves but in Him. It always has been and it always will be. It’s not defined by our actions or striving, so why do we try? Why do we pursue these attempts instead of reveling in His awesome ability to redeem us and our pasts to be used for His work…which is so much better than my measly workings in my own vain attempts. He came after us in the darkness of our prideful striving to move us into fellowship with Him. We are of value, we have worth. We just forget that every bit of that is found in trusting Him.

It doesn’t come from us, and it never will. But in faith and trusting Him we find that redemption is given freely, always there and ever working for our good and His glory. So I can stop trying to make a name for myself because I already have one, His.

 

 

 

Becoming the Woman He’s Praying For

Recently I was looking back through the archives here on the site, pulling some content to expand on for my book. A couple of falls ago, I wrote on praying for your future husband. As I looked through several of those posts, I realized I hadn’t really been paying much attention to that part of my prayer life in the last few months.

Part of the reason (or maybe all of it?) is as I have grown older I am coming to terms with my singleness, that perhaps it’s just not in the story of my life to be married. As hard as that is to type, it’s harder to face head/heart on. If I am really vulnerable with y’all here, I don’t think it’s truth though. I believe firmly God does not give us hearts of companionship with another if it’s not meant to be part of the story of our lives. I think we often supplant the need for His Presence with that of a person, pushing into relationships or elevating dating/marriage to the level of our relationship with Christ (that’s a whole other chapter in my book…).

As I started to kind of pull through the mess that was my heart, God’s will, desires and my writing on the topic I started to lean into a really hard question, and it’s where I land today:

Am I becoming the woman that my future husband is already praying for?

If he is praying for me, just as I am praying for him, would it not seem to fit that I would be pursuing the difficult, leaning into God, working through producing fruits of the Spirit? Before I get too far into this, let me also say that we shouldn’t base our growth as a Christian, as a person, on anyone’s desire for who we should be to them….Not in the least y’all, so don’t start down that twisted path of becoming someone you were not created to be. No, what I am pointing to is if my prayers for him are for him to become who God has created him to be, then I should be focusing myself as well on living into God’s will and design for my life.

Maybe the question needs to look more like this…

Am I becoming the woman God has been desiring me to be in order fulfill His will in my life?

I shouldn’t desire to fulfill a standard of a man, but when the man whom God has created for me to be his partner is fervently praying for me to be in God’s will, for protection from the enemy, to grow closer to God? How can I not desire those same things for myself? When I look at the ways to pray for him, am I also praying and seeking those same things for my own life?

Maybe it’s not about praying more for a spouse but being intentional to pray for that person to be who God created him to be, and then also praying for you to be the woman who God created you to be…After all, He’s still in the business of answering prayers if we listen and pray in His will, seeking wisdom and relationship with Him above all others.

By Faith Alone

I am a planner, it comes naturally I think. I like to map out things and plan trips. I think that’s why I enjoyed event planning and teaching, it gave me the opportunity to plan and prepare. If it were an Olympic sport, I’d be the Michael Phelps of it.

So you can possibly get some context to my discomfort when I read these verses in Hebrews recently:

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he was going.

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He received the promises and he was offering his unique son,  the one it had been said about, Your seed will be traced through Isaac. He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead, and as an illustration, he received him back.

You see Abraham had no way of knowing. He just didn’t. God didn’t reveal some divine knowledge to him about the place He was telling him to go. He didn’t give him a map and say, “Here’s the land where I want you to go, this is what you can grow there, here’s the supplies for building homes. You’ll need a winter jacket and several military grade weapons to protect yourselves from the giants who lived there.” He didn’t have foreknowledge of God putting a ram in the thicket of bushes.

No, God told Abraham to go…and so he went.

God told Abraham to sacrifice the son he had waited decades to receive…and so he went.

Abraham had faith in God. He trusted without the details, without the knowledge within himself. He simply trusted (as if we ever allow it to be that simple). It didn’t involve anything but going on Abraham’s part. He went because God called him to go.

I try to overcomplicate matters, no I do overcomplicate matters. I want the GPS directions, a full detail spec sheet on the situation and a debrief on the plan to address a situation, along with a full guarantee of my safety, security and comfort. Plain and simple, I don’t trust God with what He’s asked me to do, what He knows is ahead I simply do not have the faith that He’ll see me through it. I want to look at the end goal, and how I am okay in it all. He looks at me and desires to have me move towards being more Him-like in the process. I want answers and He wants obedience.

Abraham obeyed in full faith when he couldn’t see beyond the step in front of him. How is my faith and trust in God when He asks me to do the same? He’s not asking any more of me than he did of Abraham…He’s asking for faith in Him, belief that He is faithful and good, trust in that His Promise is sure.

Maybe you’re like me and want the answers and the full Google maps directions with travel times before you will say yes to God. By faith today, let’s just take the step to go. Without the knowledge of anything else, without the security of answers, but with God.

That Year in Birmingham

In a couple of weeks I’ll be headed to Birmingham for an event. At one time, just after college, I called Birmingham home for a year. I have been back once, for a little over 24 hours, in those 13 years since I packed up a that Uhaul trailer with my dad and grandfather and booked it back to Tennessee.

In planning my trip back down, I couldn’t help but recall the first time I went to B’ham as a freshly-educated college grad knowing I had a job in baseball. One week in I was crumpled on the floor of my kitchen telling my sister it was a mistake to be there. That I had somehow made a terrible decision, living five hours from anyone I knew, and I wasn’t possibly going to be able to make it in this city that didn’t offer me much.

Part of me cringes at that memory because of the emotion of it all, remembering how bleak my outlook was and how incredibly alone I felt in that city. The other part of me rejoices though, because I am 13 years wiser from it. God drew me there, whether I wanted to recognize it or not, for a purpose and a reason. He led me there, to get me right here. He did some significant work in me over that year that I can only see in hindsight, and allowed me to work out who I was in some difficult moments.

Throughout my time in B’ham I made some poor decisions, I will own that entirely. My way, my will and my attitude won out on several occasions but I am also able to see how I needed to work out that in an environment where it was me dealing with Him without distraction or other voices bringing solace. Being there allowed me to see where He was not leading me and I was taking my own path and my own way. It brought me back to Him in a way which if I had remained in Knoxville I would not have seen nor chosen.

In so much hurt and grief we cannot possibly see how it’s for our good while we are in it. We cannot see how being alone in place, a place we don’t like and the circumstances aren’t how we would craft them could bring anything remotely resembling His good for us out of it all.

But it does.

It did for me. I am pretty sure it will for you too, if we let go of our expectation of the situation, our will and our way and accept the work God is doing without knowing what it is. The end result isn’t the point, it is what you are going through that’s refining you and making you who God intends you to be in His image, as His reflection and not your own.

The whole process, in the circumstance, in the location, in the job, in the relationship…all of that is the point. Sometimes it takes a whole lot of distance of years or miles to see it. To see how one of the worst and hardest times of your life was also one of the best parts of your relationship in Christ, with God through the Holy Spirit.

But we have to allow it. We have to accept it. We have to be willing to go through it, even in the ugly, even in the lonely, even in the longevity of it all. It’s never about us. It’s about the work He’s doing, we just have to receive it.

I Will Trust In You

Trust is a hard thing to define. Yes, we have what Webster’s defines it as: a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. But it’s not tangible, it’s not firm in our hands. Often times we misplace it.

Or maybe that’s just me.

That I will put trust in someone and find it’s not founded. Or that the trust is abused.

Then I realize most of all I am not always trusting God, trusting Christ with my concerns and trusting the Holy Spirit to lead me. Oh I say I trust in Him fully, I look to verses like Proverbs 3:5,6 which are great screen art and wall hangings….

But am I truly believing them and living it out? Am I trusting in Him with all my heart and not relying on my own understanding? Y’all, I have to admit I try too much to rely on my own understanding. I don’t acknowledge Him in all my ways, instead I go my own way and ask Him to bless that instead.

It makes a mess of things, a heart that thinks it knows best and a mind set on doing it’s very best in a situation. When I look back over the 18 years of my life as a Christian, I can see that placing trust in Him has been good, it’s been reliable. Yet I still want to think I know better for myself instead of the God who orchestrated the Creation of the world. The Savior Who brought my redemption into reality. The Spirit which resides within me daily walking with me in every single moment.

Frankly I am telling Him that I trust myself more. That’s a hard one to admit, even harder to realize that’s exactly what I have been saying for a while. That my own obstinate mind is far superior in the understanding of life than His. Oof. While I wish I didn’t do that, often times I do. Maybe you do too. (Or maybe you are better at this trust of Him than I am) So I try my own way, in my own understanding in a given situation. I step out of follower position and attempt to lead out. Leading from a place of misunderstanding, pride, limited view and disobedient will to show that I trust in me.

Oh I tell Him I trust in Him, I will tell others and listen as they tell me to “just trust God” in it. But I trust Him on up to this point and no further. It all stems from an ego of fallen nature. My family line of trust that points all the way back to Eve, and I just can’t quite shake it. I inwardly laugh at promises He gives because I simply don’t trust in the God Who has been faithful in every single thing He has said.

So I have to step away from lip service of trust and live in it. Live in the trust I so desperately want to call my own and place within me, and lay it down before Him. I have to give my trust over to Him and understand that He is worthy of all my trust. He is reliable. He is my strength. He is Truth. He is able. I have to keep giving it over to Him when I want to place it back in me, believing I know better or can do it all on my own.

It’s not about just saying “I will trust in You, Lord” but about living it out breath by breath, prayer by prayer, step by step and day by day.