get after grateful

I know we are already knee deep into December, and while I’m wholeheartedly invested in this Christmas season right now, I don’t want to go any further without sharing about some of ways God moved in my heart in November.

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This year – for no one other than myself – I set out on a mission to post on Instagram at least one thing I was grateful for every day of November. But instead of just listing off the major highlights, I wanted to do it in real time. I wanted to truly consider what I could be grateful for throughout each day  – whether big picture, overlooked details, or anything that fell in-between. And I wanted to thank God for it all no matter the state of my day.

What inspired me most in this pursuit was Rach Kincaid, who years ago started using the hashtag #getaftergrateful to create a community of people living lifestyles of thankfulness and to recognize Who we are thankful towards – not just when life is good, but more importantly, even when life feels hard or painful or tiring.

What I really like about this hashtag is how it carries on even outside of Thanksgiving. Gratitude is a discipline and habit that can be practiced all year round. I’ve seen Rach place that hashtag on posts with the simplest of moments or details from any given day. I’ve even used it a time or two myself previously doing the same thing. But to help enter into this holiday season I wanted to be really intentional about fostering a spirit of thankfulness, no matter the circumstances of my life.

So I dove into this little project with open hands, and loose expectations. I kind of made up my rules as I went but here’s the main premise of what I set out to do:

  1. Focus on the day itself. What throughout each day stood out as something that I either felt grateful for, or could choose to be grateful for?
  2. Be transparent. Be honest about the day. If it was a good day full of good things, praise God. If it was a hard day full of challenging things, still praise God. I don’t want to come across as someone who has their life all in order (well let’s be honest, my enneagram 1 self would love for that to be the perception of my life, but it’s just not true and I don’t want to deceive anyone). And so I wanted to be real about the beautiful and about the mess.
  3. Don’t limit myself to just one thing each day.
  4. Repeats are ok. Because I’m often grateful for things for more than one day a month.
  5. Post a picture from the day. Use my camera for more than just pictures of my dogs, and capture the little things that represent the happenings of the day.

Now that might sound like a lot, but like I said, I had loose expectations. Some days I didn’t follow those guidelines, and I was totally okay with that flexibility.

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So in hindsight, here’s what I got out of it all:

  1. The goal of posting each day of the month ended up causing more discipline with my gratitude. Now I’m not saying that sharing with the world every day what you’re thankful for is necessary for a lifestyle of gratefulness, but this small scale challenge held me accountable to really think through my day, and what I could thank God for despite my feelings. Some days that meant recognizing opportunities for community in a season of dryness. Other days that meant choosing gratefulness for the Harry Potter series for some mental relief. This semi-structured plan of 30 straight days gave me the chance to pause at the end of each of those days and consider the simple & complex things that I could thank God for.
  2. Gratitude is not just something that we FEEL. It is also an attitude we can CHOOSE. We all have those days that we don’t feel like anything went well. Days where we are worn out or frustrated or hurt. And we don’t feel like thanking God for those things. But whether it’s reasoning behind those feelings, or something small and unrelated that happened outside of that, we can still choose to thank God for so many things in our lives. I wasn’t thrilled the day that I had a lingering headache and a terrible knot causing me back pain, but I was able to still choose gratefulness for the relief that a fridge full of leftovers brought about because I didn’t have to cook. It’s a choice to name the good stuff instead of dwelling on the bad.
  3. The things that came up numerous times helped highlight threads of God’s blessings and answered prayers. Day to day we might not pay attention to the intricate ways God is at work, but when we piece it all together and take a look back, we can see how He may have been actively involved in the quietest parts of life. For example, coziness and Sabbath were frequently mentioned throughout the month, and I see now how God encouraged me towards spending my time that way to balance me out before a more lengthy holiday trip to our home town – which usually means busyness and a bit of unsettledness at times for me with the lack of routine.
  4. Sometimes blessings can speak for themselves. Other times it takes some uncovering to really see how a blessing is impacting me. Some days I would list off basic details or events that I was thankful for and call it good. Other days I really dove into why I was grateful for something. Both produced a posture of gratitude towards God for me.

So why share this all with you? Because I want to urge you towards a lifestyle of gratefulness – not so you can ignore the hard stuff, but so that you can see God through it. No so you can just be happy about your life, but so that you can recognize who you are thanking. You don’t have to share on social media (unless you think that might be a cool practice for you – then go for it!), but I encourage you to foster the discipline of choosing gratefulness, rather than waiting for it to come your way. You never know what you might get out of it.

So go on, get after grateful.

long time no see.

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I’ve sat down to write this post numerous times in the last 3 years. Even greater is the number of times I’ve thought about writing this post, and then never following through with it. I’ve wanted to come back to this online space for awhile. To be honest, I never intended to really leave it. But when my days got more full and time seemed to be less available, my priorities needed some sorting, and this was an area that I could afford to cut out – at least for awhile. Being present with our community in North Dakota felt like a greater calling at the time, so I chose to invest more in that, and I don’t regret it one bit. Now, though, a lot of time has passed, and a great deal has changed. And for the past months, I’ve been feeling an even greater prodding to return. A prodding that didn’t just come from my own wishful thinking anymore. It seemed to come from outside of myself. It has felt, most often, like a push from God. A push to once again share the story and the knowledge He’s given me for more than just my own benefit. A push to start using the gifts He’s given me for His glory again.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. Each time I’ve inched towards dipping my toes back in the water, I’ve psyched myself out. I’ve let fear or insecurities choke out the intentions. Like a flame within me re-igniting, only to be blown out before I even gain footing. In some ways I think it’s been the fear of other’s opinions. Putting yourself out there in any capacity can feel risky, and the internet – to me – seems like a much bolder platform in comparison to chatting with someone in person. But even more, I think my fear of failure has been the most influential culprit. The fear of not doing this well. Of not doing it right. I’ve given this a go once before, and it was short lived. What makes me think I could maintain this space this time? But it’s time to listen to God more than I listen to the fear. It’s time I stop wondering and start doing. It’s time I stop putting off action until everything is “just right.”

I have ideas. I have hopes. I have some loose plans. But the realistic side of me also doesn’t want to put the pressure on myself to do it all. Because I know how easily my personality defaults to perfectionism. So mostly I want to approach this space with grace. No one but myself is putting the pressure on me to live up to whatever my brain has determined is the blogging standard. While I want to be consistent, there is also nothing threatening to condemn me if I’m not.

So here I am. Finally pressing publish on a post that has been reworked or reworded or reevaluated countless times in my head. Finally taking the leap to make a return here officially. Finally listening to the calling that I believe God has been inviting me into. Only time will tell what comes of it. But my ongoing desires and the Holy Spirit’s leading can’t be ignored any longer. So for now, in whatever capacity I’m able to manage, I’m back. Excited. Scared. Hopeful. Expectant.

weakness, not perfection

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I have a hard time with vulnerability. Like, real vulnerability. The kind of vulnerability that sheds light on my deepest weaknesses, heaviest burdens, and darkest sins. It takes the right time, place, and person for me to really open up about those things, and even when I do it’s likely weeks, months, or maybe years, after I’ve already been dealing with the weight of it.

You see, somewhere along the line I started to believe the perception that a mature Christian should be able to get through the tough stuff – that someone who is following Jesus shouldn’t be so easily tripped up by the little things. I believe this lie that I should be able to handle things on my own. Most of the things I have dealt with, or do deal with, in life do not seem that big compared to the people I know (& don’t know) that go through so much hardship and struggle, so much pain and heartbreak, so much heaviness. And so I don’t want to burden people with the things that I’m facing.

At the root of it, my natural tendencies towards perfectionism lead me to believe that as a Christian I’m supposed to be all put together. I’m supposed to live a life unlike those of this world. I’m supposed to live a life redeemed by Jesus and so I should show how I rise above it. But a problem enters in when I don’t have it all put together. When I’m hurting or feeling weak. When I’m dealing with my own sins. And I’m too prideful to ask for help. Because then I hold it all in. And it piles up and entangles. And then I can’t even make sense of it when it does comes bursting out. So my persona of perfection is shattered, and I’m left feeling broken and confused.

I wrote about all of this in my journal back when we first arrived to North Dakota in October. I was flipping through the other night and re-read the words that I wrote, and they still resonate. I added some additional thoughts in the margins, and out of nowhere I was reminded of the concept that God is made perfect in my weakness. So I opened my Bible and found the Scripture that went along with this. This is what I read:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecution, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. [2 Corinthians 12:9-10]

This is Paul speaking to the Corinthians in response to some people within their community that were boasting of their accomplishments, their heritage, and their experiences. Paul was so agitated that the only way he knew to get through to the people who were hearing these things was to boast back. So he told of the hardship he has faced while following Jesus. Then he started to speak of this heavenly vision or experience (he said himself he’s not sure what it was) that he had. But he stopped himself and explained that he was not allowed to share the details of it so that no one may think more of him. And a thorn was put in his flesh to keep him from becoming conceited. He pleaded with God to remove it three times, and God’s response was what I read in verse 9. And Paul went on to explain his understanding in verse 10. [You can check out the entire context in 2 Corinthians 11:16-12:10]. I dug deeper into these words and looked into our study bible and found this explanation:

“Paul was not allowed to speak about his heavenly revelations, but he quotes Christ’s declaration to underscore that his earthy weaknesses (not his revelations) would be the platform for perfecting and demonstrating the Lord’s power.”

So I began to think about if I don’t boast of my weaknesses, how will people know my need for Jesus? And if I don’t boast of my weaknesses, how will people know God’s grace in my life? If I don’t speak of the things that are messy and hard, people won’t know God’s transformative work in my life. They will only see that I’m put together and maybe that I’m a “good person.” And He is therefore robbed of that glory that He deserves.

If we boast of ourselves, we ask for eyes to be on us. If I emphasize all that I have done, I’m not pointing to Jesus, I’m pointing to myself. And in comparison to Jesus, who the heck cares what I do? I am nothing without Christ. I accomplish nothing of worth apart from Jesus. My greatest triumphs in this world are meaningless and worthless unless they give complete glory to God. My grades in school, my past accomplishments in sports, the job that I have, the amount of my salary, the size of my house, the quality of things that I own, the health of my marriage, the car that I drive, the number that shows up on the scale – none of it means anything a part from Jesus. There’s a reason God never really permitted for me to be number one at anything. Yes, I’ve finished at the top of the line up in many things, but never quite first place. And I understand why now. If I had done so, I would find all the more reason to boast in myself. Any bit of seniority I’ve ever had has gone to my head. And it has ultimately seeped through the fingers of my grip. Leaving me empty, with nothing. Because the only thing worth holding onto is Jesus. When I do that, I might receive blessing alongside of it (or maybe not), but regardless both of my hands should be gripped on him. Both of my eyes should be focused on Him. The words that I speak should speak of Him. Because nothing else matters. Period.

Folks, I’m a mess. I make mistakes. A lot. I have so many flaws and quirks that still need refining. I choose to reach for things that steal my affections from Jesus. Daily. And all with the knowledge of the things that stir my affections for Him. I turn my back on Him even when I know that nothing is sweeter than throwing myself into His arms. I hurt people with my words. Sometimes to their face. Most times behind their backs. Sometimes unintentionally, sometimes unconsciously, but the scary part is many times on purpose. Only Jesus and I are aware of just how much, and how quickly, my mind and heart turn towards judging and criticizing others, but you can trust me when I say it’s a lot. I fight my natural tendencies towards pride on a daily basis. And then when I recognize the pride, I fight the tendencies to lean into insecurities. I hold grudges, especially against those that hurt me in ways that I hurt others. I expect perfection of others, but then don’t hold myself to the same standards. I’m a walking contradiction. At the root of it all, I’m terribly selfishness. Terribly, terribly selfish. Who I am on my own taints the picture of Jesus that I claim to represent. And to be honest guys, all of this doesn’t even begin to cover it.

So the moral of the story: I need Jesus. Desperately. And that is why I get chills and my eyes fill with tears every time I sing of his amazing grace in my life. I need that grace. Daily. Hourly. Minutely. And it is ONLY by that grace that I have been redeemed and washed cleaned. I’ve been purchased and my sins have been pardoned by the blood of Christ and His resurrection. It has nothing to do with who I am or what I have done. So I need to stop holding onto my idea of my own perfection and embrace my mess so that God may be glorified, not me. It has everything to do with Jesus. And so it is HIM that I praise. It is only in HIM that I can boast. And so I boast of Him today to you, in the hopes that you may know that He is capable of doing the same thing in you that He has done in me.

the war on insecurity

An installment in the series From Comparison to Contentment focusing on appearance.If I asked you “what in your life do you compare the most to others,” what would you say? As much as I don’t want to admit it, one of the first things that comes to my mind is my appearance. And I might be so bold to say that our appearance is one of the most dangerous things for us to compare, because it can affect us so deeply. It can be an intimate part of who we are, so when we mess with our ideas of it, we can cut ourselves to the core. That’s what happened to me.

About a year and a half ago I found myself in a downward spiral of insecurity and self doubt based on my disappointment in the details of how I looked. It came upon me like a quiet fox, sly and sneaky. So much so that I’m not even sure how I reached the point that I did. Many days I found myself looking in the mirror disappointed with the imperfections that nobody pointed out but me: The dark circles under my eyes; the unpredictable red spots in the undertones of my skin; the make up that not only didn’t cover up the problems I saw, but also seemed to make matters messier; the hair that laid flat and never did anything that I planned for it to do; the hair that also never grew as quickly as I wanted it to; the weight that I had gained and the clothes that didn’t fit the same because of it; the outfit that I settled on because I already tried 5 other options and I was running late, leaving me flustered as I had to rush out the door. All this disappointment in how I looked led to disappointment in who I was, and teary eyes more days than I’d like to admit.

Mornings like these felt like they ruined me. I’d feel defeated. I’d angrily throw another top onto the pile of already rejected outfit choices. I’d irritably rub my eye make up off after messing it up for the second time. I’d become short with my husband because he was the only “reasonable” thing I could lash out my frustration on. Poor Adam. He witnessed many meltdowns that I couldn’t explain, and therefore he couldn’t understand. He did his best to reassure me that I’m beautiful, but I just failed to fully believe it. He hugged me and held me as hot tears rolled down my face, with me sputtering about how I was just having a bad day, because crying over what outfit I couldn’t decide on felt unreasonably childish and dramatic. When really on the inside I was thinking, Why can’t I just be prettier?

Sadly, I think that thought runs across every girl’s mind at some point or another. Women young and women old; we’re trained to measure ourselves in comparison to others. And when we feel like we’re not stacking up with the rest, we settle on the lie that we’re not pretty enough. Here I was at 22 struggling with insecurity more deeply than I ever had in my life. Aren’t these the kinds of things that teenagers deal with? And so I felt like my struggles were amateur. That I should be more than capable of handling them. That I shouldn’t need to reach out to someone else and let them know how I was hurting.

But the isolation of my feelings left me feeling weak. I pushed on and did what I could to combat it all. And some days I’d do just fine. Some days I’d do great. But some days I’d be hanging on by a thread. You see, when we turn inward and rely on ourselves to solve our problems, sometimes we might have victories. Sometimes our battles are just the right size for us to handle. But other times, many times, they require a much stronger army. We’re in need of the support of others that can come alongside us, support us, cheer for us, pray for us, fight with us. It wasn’t until I remembered that truth that I started to see some light.

Even more than that, though, in our battles we need a victor. One that knows our hearts and knows our struggles and loves us the same. One that loves us deeply, passionately, and desperately no matter where we are – in the mess or in the clear. One that sees our hurts, and our mistakes, and our shame, and our sins, and still willingly lays His life down for us so that we might be set free. And so it was Jesus that ultimately pulled me out of my pit. He was right there all along, offering me a hand. It just took me awhile to finally grab hold of it. But as I did, He held onto me. He’s been holding onto me. He’s been stealing my attention away from my appearance and fixing my eyes on who He is. And as He’s been doing so, I’ve been fighting back.

For too long I hoped that make up would help rid me of the imperfections I see in my face, but my inabilities and lacking knowledge led to more frustration and disappointment. So I packed it all away for a month, which turned into two months, which turned into most days, unless I choose to use it because I want to, not because I feel like I need to.

Instead of staring at the parts of my body that were holding more weight than they ever had before, I started to do something about it. I slowly, but surely, started making a habit of working out, and I started making small improvements in my diet. And I’ve worked to stick to it. It’s been a process, but I’ve been rejoicing in the progress.

My clothes were too often making me unhappy and frustrated, so I overhauled my closet and got rid of the things that I didn’t love. And I’ve changed my outlook on what is necessary to have hanging on the rack.

I’ve learned/I’m learning to take care of my body in the best ways I can because this is the home that God gave me on this earth. He knitted me together in my mother’s womb and He looked at me and saw that I was good. I am – you are – a product of God’s handiwork. There is no flaw in that. He only desires that we see that too and allow Him to use us as a vessel for His spirit in this world.

So for the past year or so, I’ve been handing over my insecurities. I’ve tried to focus my heart more on what God has planned for me in this life, and that in turn has left me distracted from wallowing in self pity. Are there days that I look back? Oh yes. It’s a process. But again, I rejoice in the progress. Because Jesus didn’t give up His life for me so that I could sit around in a jail cell that is locked from the inside. He gave up His life and as a result set me free. Free from the chains I put on myself. It’s an ongoing, everyday decision to embrace who I am, as I am, and stop wishing I was this or that. I try to do things to better myself and take care of myself, but more than that I make my overall aim to be Jesus. So that I may be defined completely by who He is, what He’s done, & is doing, in my life, and how I can honor Him. And that, to me, sounds a lot more like contentment.

a picture is worth a thousand words

I think it’s true. There are so many things that can be said about a picture. Pictures have memories, and stories, and emotions attached to them. They can stir up something in us. At least I know that’s the case for me. In high school, and through a lot of college, more often than not I could be found with my camera at hand. Nothing fancy – just a point and shoot. But I always had it. I kept it around to capture the memories so that one day I could look back and remember as much as possible about my life. & then share those memories with others. That is the inspiration for this new series. I want to take hold of the opportunity to share memories, and stories, and emotions with you. Because it all makes up my story. It all makes up who I am today. The truth is, this series could go on forever. I have a whole lot of pictures. So I’m planning on this being an ongoing occurrence here at The Pruim Life. I look forward to digging through some oldies, but oh so goodies to give you a greater glimpse into my life. So here’s the first installment.

the pumpkin olympicsThe Pumpkin Olympics

This picture is one for the history books in my life for more reasons than I ever could have dreamed of on the night that it was taken. Let me tell you why…

This was a Wednesday night in the fall of what I think was 2004. It was the first and only time that I ever attended the junior high youth group as a student at my would-be church. You see, in my junior high years, my parents were getting my brother and me plugged back into the Lutheran church that they had attended once upon a time, so I spent most of my Wednesday nights at confirmation classes. But this one random Wednesday night that was probably in my eighth grade year, I didn’t have confirmation class; and for some reason I didn’t have school the next day either. As a result, I made plans to sleepover at my cousins’ house. Before I went to their house for the night though, we went to their church (which I had already visited on occasion for the Sunday services) for some of the student ministries. Jordi was helping out at the children’s ministry and Matt was going to the junior high youth group, so I had the choice to either help out with Jordi, or tag along with Matt for the event of the night: the Pumpkin Olympics. The picture shows the choice I made. Since I didn’t know anyone, I stuck to Matt (the brunette boy next to me in the photo) like glue as the night went by, which meant I was on an olympic team with all boys. That didn’t bother me. In fact, I remember secretly thinking to myself that I felt super cool for being the only girl with all the boys. I also remember during one of the events saying that I wanted to be the representative of the team to shot put a pumpkin because “girls are strong too”. They were troopers and let me do my thing, but I can humbly admit now that I was not, in fact, as strong as the boys and did not throw the pumpkin very far. I remember the youth pastor, Jason, drop kicking a pumpkin for the “opening ceremony” while wearing shorts & knee high socks. I remember having to roll a pumpkin across a field with my head – ya know, the kind of thing that only junior highers do. Otherwise, the rest of the details of this night are a bit of a blur.

But despite the haziness, this night was still monumental. Because God had so much in store for me as a result of it that I was completely unaware of at the time. Let me just point out how:

I didn’t know that within the two years following these pumpkin olympics, this non denominational church would become my home church. I didn’t know that my life would drastically change as a result of attending and getting plugged into this church in high school. I didn’t know that this night would be a wide open door in my path to meeting Jesus for real.

I didn’t know that years after this picture was taken I would be a leader in the same ministry that I was attending as a student that night. I didn’t know that I would serve under the leadership of the same youth pastor that wore shorts and knee high socks & drop kicked a pumpkin. And I didn’t know that he would not only become my own youth pastor my senior year of high school, but that he, and his wife, would also become mentors and dear friends.

I didn’t know that down the road I would regularly see most of these boys every Sunday at the high school youth group, instead of this junior high one. I didn’t know that literally half of these boys would become such good friends that they are still a part of my life to this day. In fact, I didn’t know that two of the boys in this picture would stand in my wedding – one of them being the best man.

Because my favorite part of this story is that I didn’t know that I met my husband on this night. Yep, that adorable blondie in the orange sweater is my now hubby. I didn’t know that neither he nor I would remember that we met before we thought we met. Because our first real memories of meeting each other happened later on within the next year of this picture being taken. In fact, no one believed me (minus my cousin) that I even existed on this night until Jason found this picture in his archives years later and I could prove every doubter wrong.

You see, this picture is incredibly sweet to me because it is the perfect representation of Christ’s provision in my life – in all of our lives. At a mere 13(ish) years old, I had no clue that this picture, this night, would represent so many giant factors of my life as an adult. Every time I look at this, I can’t help but smile at the ways that God has worked things out (after I laugh to myself at how ridiculous I, my husband, and our friends all look in all of our awkward junior high glory).

This picture is full of memories. It’s full of then-future, now-present meaningful relationships. To prove it to you, here’s a shot from our best man’s wedding this past October. The junior high version of the three on the left can be found above.

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& here’s one of me and present day Matt

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Sometimes God is at work in our lives in ways that we don’t realize until we look back after time has passed and we see his hand prints all over them. The picture from the pumpkin olympics is full of God’s invisible hand already at work in all of our lives. & boy am I glad to have this keepsake to always remember it by.

when God’s will doesn’t match up with my own

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This weekend Timehop reminded me through a Tweet I posted last year that we were embarking in a significant season of transition. “The walls are getting whiter,” said year-ago Kelly. I remember it well. I was preparing for our apartment to get packed up by movers. And my heart was experiencing all kinds of emotions. Let me give you the back story:

A year ago we received the news that our world was being flipped upside down faster than we expected. Our anticipated September move to California for Adam’s training was moved up to May. Not only that, but we would need to leave the day immediately following his graduation. Not only that, but we received word of this all just shy of a month before we would need to leave. Talk about overwhelming.

Now May was the initial time frame for our departure when we first found out what Adam’s job would be in the Air Force. At first we were prepared for it. We were excited to know that his career would start right off the bat as he finished up his undergrad years.

Then somewhere in-between it was pushed back to September. This was disappointing news for about a split second, but the more we thought about it, the better it seemed. September meant that Adam would have a brief period of rest after 4 years of late nights and hard work. September meant that we could spend the summer getting together with friends and family that we hadn’t seen much of throughout our newlywed year. September meant we had plenty of time for goodbyes before we turned the page. September meant that we had a few extra months of life in Carbondale. September meant we had a few extra months of time at Vine Church, where we were growing, learning, investing. September became perfect.

And then in typical Air Force fashion: a last minute change of plans. They pulled a major “just kidding” on us and pulled our leave date back to May. No more time off for Adam. No more time to see loved ones and say goodbye. No more time left with our friends or our church in Carbondale. April to May quickly became a whirlwind of a month. Adam had to scramble to accomplish all the minor tasks to prepare for going active duty – all while finishing up his final semester of college. I immediately had to put in my two weeks notice at work, and I scrambled to get my cases in as much order as possible so that I could transition everything off well for the caseworker that would take over them. We prepared our apartment to be packed up strategically for a cross country move. We planned our road trip across the states – being sure to make it to our new base in time, while still making time to see some landmarks along the way. We made space in the midst of the craziness to host some last minute visits from some family. We said goodbyes. Many goodbyes. Many difficult and rushed goodbyes. Adam graduated. He commissioned. And we were off. Just like that.

In a span of 4 years for Adam, and less than a year for me, Carbondale, Illinois became our home. There’s nothing overly extravagant about the college town on paper, but it has become a place that I will forever love to return to. It was the setting for the start of our life together. It was a town filled with so many unique adventures – most of which we didn’t have time to explore. It was where we could get the world’s greatest fruit slushes at QQ Bubble Tea and the best chicken fried rice at Thai Taste. It was a place where our faith grew exponentially in the midst of new challenges and lessons. And it felt like it was being ripped away from us far too quickly. Why did we have to leave so soon? Why couldn’t we stay just a little bit longer? It’s not like we were getting too comfortable or becoming stagnant there. We were growing. We were serving. We were being challenged. And yet the Air Force and God still bid us onward.

The ONLY thing that kept me moving forward, and resisting every urge to cling to it all and never let go, was that God assured me countless times that this was His will for us. He orchestrated it all. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t want it – at least not yet. But whatever the circumstances would bring – both good or bad – it was his desire for us to move onward. And therefore, that is what would be best for us. It’s a scary thing to admit complete trust in God. Never in my life did I have to cling so tightly to His promises to get me through. I tried, for His sake (and His glory) to point to Him in it all. To let people know that although my heart wanted something else, I was still going to follow God where He wanted me to go. Granted I probably repeated that so often to people because I was trying to convince myself more than I was trying to convince them. But He knows far more than I do. And He knows what I need to be sharpened and refined.

It’s been almost a year since we left. I remember the emotions of that time like it was yesterday. The fear, the disappointment, the excitement, the nervousness, the instability, the peace. It was nothing short of overwhelming. And I remember when the novelty of it all wore off. A short way into our time in California we were missing Illinois like crazy. It was much easier for me to focus on the hardship and the aches that my heart felt than it was for me to focus on God’s plan. Another move later and I still find myself doubting and asking “why?” I still question this even when my heart is far more at ease than it ever was in California. Although I still haven’t figured out the direct answer, God keeps bringing me back to the truth that this has all been a part of His will, and this is what is best for me, for us, and for His glory. And I learn to accept that (keyword: learn). I may have to continuously reaccept it, but it’s where I keep getting brought back to.

Because we are exactly where God wants us to be. We are in a place we begged and pleaded not to go to, and yet it has turned out to be far greater than we imagined. I still miss Carbondale. I still miss home. But it becomes much lighter when I give the weight of it all back to Jesus and rest in the assurance that we have purpose here. More likely than not, purpose far beyond ourselves.

As someone who trusts that God is who He says He is, I can confidently and firmly believe that His will is better than my own. Even if I don’t see it now, even if I don’t see it in 20 years, even if I don’t see it ever in this life, He knows far more about what is best for me in this life than I do. My vision most often is shortsighted and selfish. His vision is all knowing, all wise, & all encompassing. He sees beyond me because He knows it’s not about me. Therefore when He calls me onward to something (or tells me to stay put), I want to trust Him that despite what good or bad may come that it is best for my well being and for His glory. He never promised Christ followers an easy life. He never promised anyone an easy life for that matter. He never told us that we deserve great things – we came up with that mindset on our own. But what he has ensured us of is that in our sinful nature and natural rebellion of Him we deserve eternal punishment. But He took care of that on the cross and opened the door for us to have the undeserved and unearned opportunity to find freedom and grace in Him. And as I have come to accept that and believe that, I turn towards Him with a heart of repentance, respect, and love. In doing so I’ve accepted that we are all broken humans filled with flaws due to our sinful nature that need to be refined in the fire of the Holy Spirit. Refinement is a hard pressing process. It means difficult things are inevitable. But refinement can help rid us of the things in our hearts and lives that don’t belong. It can chip away at the dark pieces within us to make more room for Jesus.

And I don’t know about you, but I want more of Jesus. He’s the only thing that has ever been, and will ever be, worth giving up everything for. In doing so, that means giving up my own will, and following His – even when it doesn’t make sense, and especially when it doesn’t match up with my own.

letting life happen

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Well March came, and March went. And April has come and we’re already a week in. And I’ve been nowhere to be found on this space. To be honest, there were a couple times this month that I sat down to put something together for a post, but the publish button never got pushed. And it’s not that I haven’t had anything to say. It’s just that I’ve been simply living.

Nothing extravagant has been going on (minus our recent vacation to Mexico, but I consider that an exception). I’ve simply been working, maintaining the house, working out, building relationships, and spending quality time with my husband and pup. And this past month, that was enough for me to manage. Everything was steady. It was simple. It felt peaceful. And so each time I sat at the computer and typed out some of my thoughts, all that came out was words expressing my desire to just be living life and utilizing the time in my days to the best of my abilities (I can thank the gorgeous weather at the beginning of the month for that inspiration – where that weather is now I’m not so sure). It’s not that blogging isn’t worth my time. I love having this space and I look forward to seeing it grow in the time to come as I find new and better ways to invest in it. But this past month it was nice to take the break and just let life happen. To take the moments as they came and experience them fully. To not overwhelm myself with too much on my plate, especially with my new job. To enjoy the simple evenings of sitting next to Adam on the couch or tossing a ball around with Boone. To take advantage of the few spring weather days we’ve had so far and get outside more. To soak in the opportunities to invest in relationships, both near and far. It was all worth it.

As we’re already a week into April, I’m excited to get things rolling again around here. I have a month’s worth of life to catch you all up on. I have overdue words to share with you. I have a new series to continue in. But I also am giving myself the grace and the wiggle room to deal with life as it happens. I’m not a full time blogger, so I feel comfortable giving myself that slack at this time. But know that I care about sharing the words that I do with you here. And therefore I don’t want to give you second rate stuff. It’s just that sometimes the quality I aim for takes a little more time. So be patient with me. And trust that there is more to come soon.

Until then…