when the land is not flowing with milk and honey.

my friend kelly has been posting words of truth on her blog.  she’s posting for 31 days this month and has been writing mostly about being in the wilderness.  she’s been camped out in exodus for the last week and so i’ve been thinking about my own wilderness season.  i can relate to most of what she’s saying about feeling lonely, the pain and practice of waiting and what it feels like when god takes you the long way around.  except here’s the problem.  i feel like i’m not supposed to feel any of those things because i have apparently entered my proverbial promised land.

in the months leading up to my move i had a perfect picture of what life would be like here.  i wasn’t completely naive to the fact that it would still be transition and there would be bits that would feel hard.  but the job.  the job was going to be everything i’d ever hoped for.  life would be good.  students would be in and out of my apartment constantly, my staff would always want to be together.  we’d drink coffee and talk about the deep things of our hearts for hours on end.  i’d be the cool one who took trips to fro yo at midnight and retold war stories from my time abroad.  i’d find friends easily, join a small group, help hold babies on sunday mornings.  ministry would be vast and easy.  the sun and would shine, the birds would chirp and i’d finally see the abundance i’ve been claiming.

i expected to bring the glory clouds and manna from the wilderness with me to the promised land.

instead, i live alone and miss having roommates desperately.  ministry looks like fire drills and discipline meetings and 80s skate nights.  most of my staff doesn’t like coffee and we have not once traipsed about town for fro yo.  i send emails and plan meetings and give feedback.  i’ve traded the manna for caf food and the glory cloud for a permanent indention on  my couch.  i spend most evenings alone and watch more netflix than i care to admit.

i like my job.  i am grateful for it.  but life looks different.  outside of leslie knope and my co-workers [who i am beyond thankful for] i don’t really have friends.  i’ve struggled to find new community.  the boxes are all unpacked and my apartment is decorated but i don’t always feel settled.

when the israelites crossed the jordan into the promised land they rested for a hot minute, thanked the lord for bringing them so far and set remembrance stones for what he’d done.  then they set up camp and looked at the walls of jericho.  the walls they’d have to go tear down.  the walls they’d have to march around until they finally fell.

they were in the promised land but they still had to fight for the inheritance of it.  

no one ever told me this part of the story.  i had no idea what i was getting myself into.  and instead of marching around my own walls with belief that they will indeed crumble i’ve been camped out, staring at them; looking backwards to the wilderness.  i’ve been missing the manna and glory clouds and people i was wandering with.  the truth is, i don’t want to fight for anything anymore.  i don’t even want to acknowledge walls are in front of me, let alone march around them and believe they’ll fall.  i just want the milk and honey to flow.  i just want to pitch my tent, hang up my hammock and enjoy.

but that is not the option.

the option is to, one more time, face the thing in front of me.  the walls of loneliness, bitterness, wondering and second guessing.  the walls of discontentment and negativity.  the walls of what ifs and if onlys.

my jericho walls are not an indication of defeat, but a chance for the lord to prove himself faithful again. 

so i’m standing up.  i’m getting out of the camp i’ve stayed in and moving towards the land that has already been given but has yet to be won.

setting the table.

i’ve been away from home for several years now.  i’m pretty much on the twice a year rotation for visits.  so it shouldn’t shock anyone that life kind of moves on without me for the fifty weeks that i am not around.  parties are had, birthdays are celebrated and grandpa grills burgers just because.  it never fails that whenever the time rolls around for me to come home i’ll be on the phone with my grandma and she’ll be talking about an upcoming event, one i’ll actually be around for.  so i’ll say, “don’t forget – i’m coming home.”  it’s my implied “save a place for me.”

i don’t have to say it.  there’s always a place for me.  there’s always room at the table.  and lord knows there is always plenty of food.

Imagei’ve been invited to sit around many tables in my life.  from an early age i’ve always found myself in adopted families or with incredible groups of friends.  young life.  college.  the world race.  and now, georgia.  in this past season i’ve found myself a table to sit at.  i’ve been invited into something unique and special and sweet.  it’s been laced with tears and disappointments but it’s a table i’ve laughed at, screamed at, apologized and grew up at.  it’s one in which i’ve found myself celebrating, grieving, wishing, wondering, and praying.  i’ve been blessed, challenged, and sent out around this table.  i’ve dined with fancy napkins and plastic cups alike.  people have come in and out for different reasons or time, myself included.  but the table of grace, community, friendship and life exists here.  it’s a place i want to stay.

but i know it’s time to set my own table.  it’s time to be the creator of the space that invites people in, offers rest and life and encouragement and challenge.  it’s my turn to wash the napkins, dust off the china and get to work.  i’ve been partaking of a table for so long that this new task can, at moments, seem overwhelming.

but then i remember my place at the table doesn’t go away because i’m eighty miles further up the road.

around this time last year i was trying to make a decision about whether or not to go overseas for another season.  i was hot and sweaty running around at training camp.  my mind was spinning because it was not the plan.  i picked up the phone and through tears i asked for a blessing.  i needed to ask “if i do this – will you save a place for me?”  and through tears on the other end, i got exactly what i knew i would.  i don’t need to ask this time around.  partly because there is no conflict with this decision, but mostly because i know i have it without asking.

life is about to look different.  it’s something i’m not entirely sure that i am ready for.  but i know it’s right.  so i’m packing boxes and renting trucks and soaking up every minute with these people that i can.  i’m taking deep breaths and allowing my eyes to get wet.  i’m talking with people who i haven’t met but are soon to become new friends.  people who will come around a new table.  i’m pulling out every good thing i have to offer and preparing the table that is sure to be flooded in the coming weeks and months.

get ready, south carolina.  we are about to have one hell of a dinner party.

the next step? south carolina.

here’s how the general story of the last 18 months of my life goes.

i interviewed for what i thought was my dream job.  convinced i would get it.  so convinced, that i quit my current job.  i didn’t get the job.  but i left my job anyways because, well, it was time.  then i was asked to squad lead.  i said no.  but then i said yes.  it was the best decision i could have made.  i came home for christmas.  visited some friends and family.  went to hawaii and south africa and became very tired of plane rides.  i moved back in to my apartment and worked at finding a job.  job searching doesn’t pay very well.  i started selling jewelry.  i kept looking for jobs.  jobs that would allow me to do some things i’m good at along with some things i enjoy.  learned that people are bad at responding to emails and in the corporate world will rarely do what they say they will do.  applied for more jobs.  thought i had a certain one in the bag.  readied myself for that.  didn’t get that job, either.  cried a little bit.  drove to south carolina.  fell in love (with a job prospect, not a man – just so we are all clear).  begged.  hoped.  believed.  cried some more.  waited. waited. waited.

accepted.

celebrated.  thanked jesus for new opportunities and the lessons i’ve learned in the in between.  debriefed those people i came to love.  sold some more jewelry.  gave notice at an apartment.  and now, i’m just waiting again.

andersonin july i’ll be making the move to anderson, south carolina where i will be a resident director at anderson university.

i am beyond excited for this opportunity and could not be more thankful for the open door.  i interviewed on campus in april and came home thinking to myself, “if i get this job, everything else will make sense.”  i cannot articulate why, exactly.  but it feels like such a good fit for me.  i clicked well with the staff, loved the area, and was so impressed by the university as a whole and what the lord is doing.  i feel so blessed to be a part of it.

in the past season i have learned much about waiting.  waiting with patience and expectation.  waiting for the very best thing and not the first thing to come along.  my prayer has been that i would continue to be a person who waits well.  who trusts with full assurance but accepts with humility and grace.

it’s been a joy to share these last years as a world traipsing missionary with you.  i hope you’ll join me on the next adventure.

goodbye desert. hello promised land.

for me, the traveling has finally come to a halt.  four months on the field and then eight weeks of traveling to san francisco to missouri to georgia to ohio back to georgia on to hawaii back to georgia and then seventeen hours to south africa and back to georgia again. i was tired.  after south africa i kind of crashed.  i was sick and jetlagged and just needed to rest for a minute.  i’ve only been home a week and a half, but already feel much more alive and recuperated.

in my resting this last week i’ve been sitting at home.  a lot.  it’s nice to be back in a place that feels familiar and cozy and safe.  sleeping in my own bed again.  sitting on my own couch.  sipping coffee and letting candles burn. my house is empty during the day as my roommates go off to their jobs. i need myself one of those jobs, so i’ve spent a lot of time searching, filling out applications, re-doing my resume (over and over and over), sending emails, waiting for emails.  i wait a lot these days.  and push refresh on my inbox incessantly.

waiting. hoping. praying.

in my waiting and hoping and praying i’ve had my itunes keeping me company.  some of my favorites are about to release a new album.  i pre-ordered it because i’ve got enough things to wait on these days.  it’s seriously been on repeat for six days.  one song in particular is settling on me.

endlessocean

“you’re faithful. you’re faithful. you’re faithful.
and i’m thankful.
goodbye desert. hello promised land.
i’m shaking off the dust of hopelessness.
and i’m starting to believe again.”

 

one more time, these are the things i’m choosing to say yes to.  today, the declarations don’t have me standing on furniture and screaming (although i’m never opposed).  instead it’s in the quiet, peaceful, resting place that i can feel the “yes” becoming more and more a part of who i am.

unanswered prayers.

at the risk of sounding cheesy and cliche and potentially making someone gag at my christianese :

have you heard that country song about unanswered prayers?  i couldn’t tell you who sings it, but the line has been on repeat in my head for several days now.  “some of god’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

last year around this time i started looking for a new job.  i felt like i needed to begin exploring options outside of aim, outside of what had become really normal and comfortable.  i looked and looked and prayed and cried and looked.  and finally i found it.  it was the perfect job at what seemed like the perfect school.  it was far enough away that i would be on my own, but not across the country from my community and my people.  it was the ultimate blend of discipleship and administration. it was flexible.  it paid well.  it would offer me a chance to continue my education.  it was exactly right.  and i wanted it.  i really, really, really wanted it.  more than wanting it; i was absolutely, positively convinced that it’s what the Lord had for me.  every door opened up.  and i knew that in august i would be starting a new job in a new place.  and i was thrilled.

and then the door slammed right in my face.  

and i didn’t get the job i had dreamed about, hoped for and begged for.  i was upset, confused and spinning.  i had no idea what i was going to do.  and then i showed up to training camp.  and you all pretty much know what happened there.  the lord said that if i wanted a gift, i could have it. so i said yes.  mostly because i really wanted it.  partially because i didn’t have a better option.

i can promise you that the last three and half months have been one of the best gifts the lord has ever given to me.

it’s been an emotional and exhausting few days as i’ve wrapped up and said goodbye to my squad.  i’ve handed things over and worked really hard to not enter this transition kicking and screaming.  i’ve been sitting alone in the beijing airport for the last twelve hours and as weird as it is to be boarding a plane again, my heart and my spirit are really at peace.  if i’m overwhelmed by emotion it’s just because i am so very thankful for what this season has been.

thankfuli’m thankful for the ways i’ve come alive.  for the passions the lord has reignited in me.  i’m thankful for the way my kids have opened themselves up and let me be a part of their own processes and journeys.  i’m thankful for the fun i had on busses and beaches and malls.  i’m thankful for honduran street kids that reminded me that kingdom living doesn’t have to be complicated.  i’m thankful that i got to be a part of walking people through freedom…even if it was in the middle of the night.  i’m thankful for conversations and tears that came in my tent, for every coffee date i had and for furniture to stand on when i taught 23 timid people how to do declarations.  i’m thankful that they aren’t so timid anymore.

i’m thankful for people at home who love me and support me.  for instagram likes and blog comments and emails and facetimes and text messages.  i’m thankful for the ways he showed up when i needed him most.  i’m thankful for a new season of rest and celebration and provision.  i’m thankful that i’m more settled in who i am today than i was yesterday. or two weeks ago.  or six months ago.  and i’m thankful that as good as this was – it’s not the best thing or the only thing he’s ever going to give me.

i’m just.  yes.  thankful.  that he works all things together for the good of those who love him. and that despite my begging and hoping and praying – he had something good in store for me, even in the midst of my disappointment and confusion.

and at the moment, i am most thankful that even though i’m not there anymore, i get to cheer and pray and encourage and remind and blog stalk and visit the 23 kids i fell in love with. that now i just get to sit back and watch what they do and what the lord does.  it’s been a privilege to be a part of it.

uncomfortable rides.

david, katie, brian and i have been staying with team willow in chanthaburi, thailand.  we’ll be here for almost a week before we head back to bangkok and i have to get on a plane and say goodbye next week.

yesterday we drove in the back of a truck for about three hours so that we could attend a celebration for a church that was opening up their new building.  we were greeted with smiles and ushered to dinner where we were served a nine course meal.  of course we were asked to sing a rousing rendition of “lord i lift your name on high.” people took pictures with us and of us and we were given gifts; screen printed hand towels.  we enjoyed ourselves and were thankful to be a part of something so special.

and then we had to get back in the truck.  and we had to drive three hours home.  and it was freezing cold.  it was the most uncomfortable i have been in a really, really long time.  eight of us laying on top of each other, huddled together trying to stay warm.  those hand towels came in handy as little blankets that helped block the wind.

so, there i was.  really, really uncomfortable.  except, in the middle of it, there was also some sweetness.  there was a starry sky.  a cuddle sesh with some of my favorites.  extra squeezes when we went over bumps.  there were laughs and screams and sighs of relief when we finally made it home.  for all of the uncomfort, i couldn’t help but be thankful that this was life.  because how many times will i get to sit in the back of a truck in thailand?

and then i started thinking about how uncomfortable the next several weeks are about to feel.  leaving the people i’ve fallen in love with.  figuring how to fit back in to certain molds…again.  feeling like i’m missing out.  making adult decisions and adult plans for my life.   it’s hard and doesn’t feel good.  but.  there is sweetness in it, too.  there are stars in the sky and christmas celebrations to be had.  there are cuddle sessions with other favorites that are long overdue and coffee that’s brewing.  uncomfortable?  you bet.  but there is sweetness and goodness to be found in the midst of it.  and i’m determined to find all of the gifts the lord has hidden away.  even if i’m looking for them through tears.

bittersweet transitions. and new squad leaders.

as is par for the course with most of the transitions in my life, i find myself currently sitting somewhere between the bitter and sweet.  i felt the same sentiment of a few months ago when i was scared to death to leave my friends, my routine, my comfort.  although this time i’m sitting in the middle of thailand; sweating to death and hoping to not see white rice again for a long while.

i’ve begun the process of transitioning out of this squad.  we picked and announced new squad leaders a few weeks ago.  we’ve raised up new team leaders and put people on new teams.  we’ve traveled to a new country.  we’ve settled into new ministry locations and have begun to embrace a new culture.  i’m learning how to share a role with two more people.  more than share it, i’m learning how to give it up. hand it over.  set it aside.  it’s no longer about me finding my footing or figuring out how to be a squad leader.  now it’s my job to see them do it.  push them into it.  watch them succeed.  bend down so they can stand on my shoulders.

there’s not a doubt in my mind that katie and brian will be amazing.

brian, who’s affectionately known as chino, is such an incredible man of god.  he’s got more passion than anyone else i’ve known.  his heart for the lord and his heart for people inspires me to be better. the way he pursues the lord with everything inside of him is both a conviction and a comfort.  when he prays, i tear up.  every single time. brian walks in a gentle kind of strength that he’s not even aware of.  his humility and willingness to serve those around him will gain him respect that he cannot imagine.  he chooses the stuff in front of him because he wants more than anything to look like his Father.  brian has surprised me around every corner with the way he jumps into things, the way he motivates and challenges people, and the way he always goes above and beyond.  i am sure that squad leading will be no different and i cannot wait to see what surprises both brian and the lord have in store.

and then there’s katie.  katie, katie, katie.  a fierce little lamb.  if the lord hand picked any one person for me on this squad it’s her.  she’s been both a little sister and a friend.  she’s said yes to everything the lord has put in front of her, especially when it was the hard thing to do.  she is covered in more strength, peace and crazy faith than she even recognizes.  the way she walks with the spirit and calls people into who they are inspires me to do the same.  she leads from her identity in a way that i’ve rarely seen and only recently tapped into for myself.  she isn’t concerned about positions and titles and merit.  she just wants more of jesus and everything that he has for her.  she’s gotten much more than she bargained for and she’s handled it with grace, honor, faith and maybe a few snickers along the way.  i am thrilled that she gets to be the one to stand on my shoulders and lead this crazy crew.  there is no one else i would rather be cheering for.  and you better believe i’ll be cheering.
and yet. for as much as i love these two and as confident as i am in their ability to be amazing leaders over the next six months, i don’t want it to be over just yet.  it’s probably a mix of things.  the fact that i have not even a semblance of a plan for what to do when i go home.  maybe it’s because i forgot how much i loved being overseas or how right all of this has felt.  it’s probably partly due to the fact that i still don’t always believe for good things on the other side and i’m afraid that if i’m not needed i also won’t be wanted.  maybe i don’t want it to be over because it’s just been so sweet.  and jesus has been so close and i’ve felt more like myself than i have in so long.  maybe its just because i never like change.  i always struggle through transitions.

and that’s okay.  it’s how i’m wired and it’s who i am.  and i know, with full assurance, that the lord can handle my struggle.  so i give it up.  i lay it down.  i set aside.  i push and promote and bend down for the people i believe in.

and while it’s hard and bitter and kind of makes me want to cry. i also can’t help but be thankful for the people who have done the very same thing for me. and that’s the sweet part.