Love Does

An Unexpected Grace

“When we face a crisis, we can become angry or fearful for our own well-being, rather than looking to see what God intends to do through our circumstances.  If we remain self-centered we will miss so much of what God could do through our experiences, both for us and for those around us.”    – Experiencing God Day-by-Day  [pg 177]

Dear 2020, You broke me.  As an Enneagram six, I have a well developed propensity to project worst case scenarios for every day situations.  I have a deep need for safety and security.  Sixes are great people to know, because when disaster does happen we typically know what to do – we’ve thought this through a bazillion times before and there’s definitely a plan.   {They made a whole TV series about people like me}

Deep down, I just want to be a seven.  Sevens have more fun.

Obviously I want to have fun… in the safest way possible.

But in all my SIX glory, nothing in my brain could have predicted what we now live as the year 2020.  I would have laughed in your face if you told me this year would hold a pandemic, a tornado, a wildfire and murder hornets all before May.

I don’t mean to throw anyone under the bus, but, I can’t help but think it all started back when some guy named Popeye messed with God’s chicken sandwich.  🙄

I digress.

The year started out swell.  I saw great potential in all the possibilities before me.  I even dipped my baby toe into the pool of imagining writing something bigger than I could handle.  And in a matter of days the first tidal wave of disappointment came crashing in, realigning my priorities and focus.  I shifted quickly and before I could even catch my breath the world came to a screeching stop.  Just like when a car slams on brakes, all my carefully laid plans went flying in the air.

In the first month of the new reality if anyone asked me how I was, my answer was always – I’m dying. In the second month I began to be convicted of those words and chose to stop declaring the inevitable.  I started to recognize the need to release expectations of what I thought life – or even a day – should look like.

There was a lot of grappling.  A lot of questioning.  A lot of asking God, did you see this coming? I couldn’t reconcile how if he knew what was coming, why didn’t he prepare me –  or better yet, rescue me?  {obviously I mean us}

I recognize that in all of these situations the underlying feeling is a level of vulnerability that I do not like.  Vulnerability that is forced – not chosen.  I am comfortable with the vulnerability of the heart that I choose to enter. I do not like the feeling of being exposed and vulnerable when I have no choice in the matter.  A complete lack of control to change the outcome.  Cash me out.

As I frustratingly reflected on those days I bumped up against a familiar belief system – I did everything right, why did everything go so wrong?  If I do things right, have things in order, have my heart in the right place and engage with courage and love… then the result should be good.

AAAAHHH…  if 1+1 doesn’t equal 2… then what is the point of even living?  I can’t predict, control or even come through if the formula doesn’t work.  And as I follow that belief I realize there are so many layers being uncovered…

I didn’t do drugs.  I didn’t abuse or neglect children. I’ve never committed a crime.  –  Yet I live with the reality of these things every day.

If all my good efforts can’t keep me safe, if I can’t control all the other people I love to make good choices… then I cannot engage in a reality that doesn’t give me a fair shot.  It feels like everything is risky beyond what I can mitigate.

All I can do is surrender. 

I don’t have the energy to reconcile it. I must simply choose to believe that God is near.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me…

Slowly I begin to recognize a disconnect around grace and how I view it.  If everything was in order like it should be, then I wouldn’t need it.  And if all my people would manage themselves in an orderly manner and meet my expectations, I wouldn’t have to extend it.

I painfully see that my willingness to extend grace is sabotaged by my own ability to receive it… and this breaks my heart. I realize I don’t want grace, I want mercy… I want relief from the circumstances that force me to receive grace – I want control. It is a vicious cycle.

So here I am in 2020 learning like a baby taking first steps, to accept grace, to extend grace and to let go of this belief that there is some measure of being worthy of grace.

That’s the bottom line of grace, it’s unmerited.

As I slowly emerged from my pit of despair and self-pity I see the glimpse of his goodness.

There’s a peace that began passing my understanding.  A steadiness in the chaos and a new rhythm in our home.  We began to rest like we never have before.  Sure, there was some bribery in the early days as I tried to train the girls to sleep past 6:30.  After all, what was the point of even getting up??? We had NOWHERE to go.

Seriously though, a calm settled in that was not familiar, yet I have always longed for it.  Our emotional margin began increasing and our meltdowns decreasing.  We had longer stretches of stability that became comfortable and cozy.  I began to see a shift from us simply surviving to unexpectedly thriving.

Once I paused to reflect I slowly realized, what had turned my world upside down brought our family right-side up.  As our world became smaller, these girls felt safer and the fruit of it all tastes a bit like healing.

Isn’t grace amazing?

I couldn’t believe it.  I wouldn’t have chosen it.  I honestly thought we might not survive it.  But here I found myself not wanting to change it.  I’m not ready to go back to the old pace and race –  let me stay here a bit longer.  Let’s see how much God can do with two fish and a few loaves.

I’ve spent weeks picking up the pieces of a year that seemed shattered, only to find they paint a different picture.  Where I currently sit, it looks like quiet waters and green pastures, we may have passed a valley that feels like death but there’s restoration on the horizon.  It’s a promise I’ve held closely.

My sister recently asked me, what does that say to you about God?  I paused to consider what I’m experiencing before answering, I’m overwhelmed by his kindness to me, his care for my family, his provision in this season and how he has turned something so scary into something so sweet and unexpected.  As the words came out, I felt my eyes filling with tears remembering the words I wrote over and over and over last year –

“Yes, I believe you are good, but this does not feel kind.”

It takes my breath away.  Truly.

A wilderness journey of me owning at the depths of my being that I question his kindness was nothing less than his pursuit to reveal his heart – that I may fully know.

We are reclaiming this year.  There’s been a turning point for me.  I do not discount the losses, the pain or the impact it has had.  This season feels like a balance of tension between major disappointments and savoring God’s goodness – holding both at the same time.  But I have to cling to the hope that we’re entering new territory.

Sweet friend, do not lose heart.  ❤

Much love, from a broken girl.  {formerly known as a six}

 

Love Does, My Story

Is this real life or am I dreaming?

When pain and suffering come upon us, we finally see not only that we are not in control of our lives, but we never were.

Tim Keller, Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering

Two weeks ago I joined a call with our Board of Directors, our Executive Director and our Battle for the Heart Coordinator (aka my sister) as we grappled with reality and many unknowns, seeking to hear one another and make a decision about three events in three weeks, one of which was scheduled to begin the very next day.  We didn’t want to make decisions out of fear, but we wanted to be aware of what was at stake in the decision we were facing.  I would be lying if I said we all agreed…

But we all committed to a decision and moved forward in unity. There is strength in unity.

I am a leader.

Leaders have to make difficult decisions in how we will lead our people.  I’m grateful I don’t carry this weight alone. I walk with men and women, most of whom have many more years of experience than me… yet they invite me in to speak, to listen, to grow and to lead in the safety of community.  Leadership isn’t my natural bent.

My reality in that moment was also that I had four little girls in the backseat who had just been released for spring break.  They barely had an understanding of what was occurring in the world around them and the decisions being made even on their own behalf.  Life as we know it was changing.

I am a mother.

It’s a story line that also feels surreal. Sometimes I look at these three beautiful faces and I’m undone by this call to love and shepherd their hearts.  I didn’t grow into motherhood the way most do, I was thrown into it with rapid fire.  I’d say I just began to find my groove, our normal was starting to appear survivable.

As we began to face the reality of social distancing and school closures, every bit of structure I have built to give myself a sense of control has been dismantled.  I keep looking around for the wife that will help absorb the disruptions and I realize –

I am the wife.

This may very well be the only role I joyfully entered thinking, I have what it takes. Obviously that is because I had no idea what marriage really means.  That poor man of mine, he is perfectly patient, loving and has given me space to grow into the woman God created me to be.

Like many of you, we are navigating a life that looks much different than before.  There are fears, uncertainties, risks and rewards… so many unknowns of the long-term impact of the days we are living.

Each day I find myself wondering if this is really real.  Do you remember the movie The Truman Show that was sort of an experiment in reality television where the show’s creator seeks to capture Truman’s real emotion and human behavior – but the main guy, Truman, doesn’t know everyone else is acting and the world is watching his every move.

I feel like that. Like I’m about to bump up against the bubble of the set of this not-real reality and then a voice will say, it was all set-up to see if you would survive, good job Abby, you didn’t die.

But this that feels so surreal, is actually real and I can’t find my footing.  Yes, I navigate well enough to make it through each day, but I can’t figure out what next week is supposed to look like.  The past two weeks tell me that new information will change what I think is the next best thing.  This is incredibly disorienting for a control freak.

And everything feels tender, vulnerable, unsafe and upside down.  The fact that there is a literal pandemic adds a whole other layer of pressure to my need to get things right… because obviously, if I don’t – failure leads to death.

I fully own that my feelings are all over the place. I feel frustrated, disoriented, vulnerable and in some ways like everyone’s safety is dependent on me.

I long to surrender, to release the weight of the world, to see God’s faithfulness, to experience his nearness and to be a channel of his love to my girls, my husband and those in my sphere of influence.

I want to walk this path well… I want to glean every bit of growth I can from it.

In the moment, I’m totally overwhelmed by expectations that are not realistic. I’ve tried to give myself grace to do what I can do and release what I can’t… but then I get this email that I’ve been expecting about how I’m supposed to facilitate “continued learning” – which essentially means home-school the girls since we do not know when they will ever go back to school.

And I feel like I would have a better chance of surviving the lion’s den than be given this task.

And it’s oh so painful to wade into these familiar depths once again… where surrender to the call on my life feels impossibly hard and unfair.  I fumble and stumble into the way of humility because my illusion of control has been dismantled and I learn once again the only way forward is in utter dependency… which feels so vulnerable.

It’s crazy as I consider…  The ones who want to help me can’t reach me. The ones who need me can’t help me. The ones who could release me don’t see me. And the one place I feel like I would be most likely to succeed… is the hardest to release.

I look to the left and to the right and realize, I’m not alone. The joke is not on me. We are collectively navigating this new normal, filled with uncertainty and unknown.  I feel a bit safer in the collective and want to be a voice that says, we are going to make it!

So I lean in to surrender.

I ask God what he is up to… in me and through me.

What is he saying?

And what does it look like to engage each day with courage, beauty and love?

I long to reveal his glory that others may see… he is good.

Sweet friend, you are not alone. This place we find ourselves, the collective vulnerability, as Brene Brown calls it… this is what gives us strength, breathes courage into our very lungs, gives us purpose to love one another in ways that seem counter-intuitive to our old life. For some it simply means staying home. For others it means showing up at the front lines.  For me… it means making space for this new reality where motherhood overlaps with ministry.

I shared with the girls one day last week, when we were basically all in tears, sweet girls, this is not normal and I am so sorry.  Life is not supposed to be this way.  It’s ok for this to be hard, we have to work together and we will get through this.  Let’s try to have fun in the midst of it.

It was a pep-talk even for myself.  But their response was priceless, What?? You mean we work for Wellspring now?!!??  😂

So let me introduce you to my new assistants, DSC_6666

They are super sassy, very disruptive, highly creative, love worship and are waiting for a paycheck.  [Don’t be surprised if I put them on donor development calls.]

I am humbled.

I grappled last night with what it means to be the woman God created me to be in this new normal.  We are all facing this – and the only thing we can control is how we choose to respond.

For me, I choose to believe his heart is good, this journey is purposeful, the destination falls nothing short of his promises… I have to believe… he is near.

Let me the voice that whispers to your heart of hearts, you have what it takes…. do not lose heart.

Much love,

a broken girl