What have I done?

Heart Lessons

It’s been 6 months since I last wrote, because honestly, I haven’t known what to say. But this morning’s thoughts sort of wrapped things up. ‘What have I done?’. This adventurous life of following God’s purposes is mostly amazing. And then there are very honest moments, like this past week, where big decisions have to be made that highlight just how differently His thoughts are from our own. It was time to decide whether or not I was going to re-up the lease on the house we’re living in. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’d decided that we’d be in this home one year, and next steps would be crystal clear by the time we moved out. Well, here we are. And there’s no more clarity to be had. If anything, things have changed even more.

I felt a pause in January of this year (after my last post) to halt my new business and wait on next steps. The business I’d formally launched only 10 months prior. Only 6 months after we’d moved to a different house, in a new town, with a new school and church. I didn’t love that directive, but I’ve come to know His voice well enough to know that if He asks me to do something like that, it’s for a purpose. He is sharing what He wants me to accomplish in the downtime, but there truly is no rhyme or reason yet as to how all of this will come together to provide a stable income and future for my little family of 2.

So, I asked to see His plans.

Yes, I did. And when He didn’t reveal how these floating puzzle pieces all neatly come together, I sat down and attempted to draft it on my own. It was a disaster. Firstly, I didn’t invite the Holy Spirit to guide the process. I was angry and full of despair, and while the Power Point template was beautiful (that’s right, there’s a Power Point) it was a disheveled mess of consciousness, half based on my volatile emotions, and the other half somewhat based in truth. Secondly, my intent was not to understand, but to control. I don’t want to write a check for a year’s worth of rent without a fully vetted plan.

I was negotiating the level of risk that I was willing to take based on how much information He was willing to share.

The issue is not one of provision. He has provided. The issue is that I think He owes me more than He is giving me. Kids are inquisitive, but let’s be honest, much of their asking ‘Why?’ over and over is because they want to control the smallest of things. It’s in our nature to seek control. The only difference between that childlike response and mine was that this guilty party was much taller and had some pretty fonts and graphics.

Let’s be honest, we don’t want to see the back-end support. It would stress us out. Have you seen the motherboard of a computer? Or the inner workings of a rollercoaster? For the layman, does that help you enjoy the finished product any more? No. There’s a reason that they don’t offer behind-the-scenes tours before you get on the thrill ride or purchase your laptop. We wouldn’t begin to understand it, and we’d be so distracted with unnecessary information we wouldn’t even enjoy the experience. And, we’d likely derail things in the process, pushing buttons we had no business touching.

By saying ‘What have I done?’ I’m taking credit for having gotten myself here. Like I somehow assembled the components of my machine. I like to equate my relationship to God as my business partner. He and I signed an agreement a few years ago, and we do work together. Now imagine walking into a business meeting to review a project that’s at mid-point. There are no actual results to be reviewed, but you storm in, declare everything a failure, and without having actually owned the process, fall on the sword and say that everything is your fault. How would that make the project leader feel? Do you think you are communicating trust? In Him as the owner, or in the project itself?

Well, I am the project. And He is the project owner. And despite my very confusing mixed messages, I do not want Him to hand me the hardware and walk away. We’ve come too far and He has proven Himself too incredible to stop now.

So, let’s change our language from ‘What have I done?’ to ‘What would You have me do?’.

The tendency will be to focus on the past (done) and linger there, lamenting over what we think has gone wrong, rather than His current will (do) and the good that will inevitably come out of the finished product. Choose the now.

Don’t Ignore the Pangs

Heart Lessons

Hindsight truly is 20/20. Which is beyond annoying, because for most of my life, I’ve had 20/15 vision. It’s only recently that I’ve had to get glasses, and it was a 20/20 prescription. But I digress. If you read my ‘about’ bio, I’m a planner. I know what I want, and I go after that. While I do not look to offend, it’s never been my goal to have people like me or approve of me or my achievements. Something in my belly just drove me to always do my best. That drive usually meant that my head was down, blinders on, charging forward. This left little time for frivolous things like introspection or vision mapping. I knew myself and my capabilities, had a good understanding of what scripture said about me and general guidelines on how to live, and a sound support system around me. I. Was. Set.

Here’s the kicker. Side note….anyone care to venture WHY it’s called a kicker? This is my uneducated but experienced guess, but I’d wager that it’s because it legitimately kicks you square in the face. Life doesn’t give a single crap about drive or plans or even, wait for it, focus. And that stupid, stupid saying ‘God never gives you more than you can handle’ is absolutely, positively, the farthest thing from the truth. The book of John says that we WILL have tribulation. James tell us to count it joy WHEN we meet trials. What He says is that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Christ. Which means that we cannot do it without Him. Which in turn means that there WILL be things that we cannot handle. Now the part about Him giving those difficult things to us rings true. He did not reign down chaos on my life. It just means that He will strengthen me when it does.

Okay, rant over. When those things began to collapse around me, I started looking back. There’s that blasted hindsight. And what I began to see clearly with my 20/20 vision were milestones that were created by pangs; deep aches in my heart. I’m not talking about a lovesick pang or deep want for a cool vacation home. I’m talking about the discomfort that comes from a thought that gnaws at you. Maybe it spawns from something disturbing you read or saw in media. Maybe you remember dreaming or thinking about it as a child.

Maybe, in the midst of your own upheaval, you had sudden clarity that the blaze burning down your life was, in fact, a controlled burn that was ridding you of brush that obscured your vision and path towards something different.

I had clarity on my first pang when, at the age of 35, my ‘geriatric’ uterus failed to produce a baby. Much of those years are a blur, with flashes of injections and failed pregnancy tests and office visits to discuss probability of conception. Then a failed private adoption. Then foster care entered the picture. I was having a difficult, but necessary, discussion with my then-spouse about the concept of adopting a foster child and he shared his very honest thoughts on the challenges we would face with a child from that background. His feelings were not wrong, and mirror that of so many others. But something knocked the wind out of me. At that moment, I somehow clearly read that pang as a deep compassion for these children, and righteous indignation rose up in me on behalf of the helpless. There was that controlled burn. The brush of infertility and disappointment was gone momentarily, and I could clearly see back to thoughts as a little girl. I couldn’t process stories about abused children. News stories or movies would haunt me for years. It became so crippling that I decided at one point that I, myself, must have been abused for it to incite such a paralyzing reaction in me. No. Those pangs were intentional. God knew that I would face infertility. God knew that I would be needed with a foster care nonprofit. I ignored, heck, ran from the pangs. I never thought to lean into my Father and ask Him what they meant. Yes, this was Him ‘working all things together for good’, as is His way. But it was also the product of decades of a carefully sown burden.

The next pang is still disconcerting to me, even now, likely because I am living in the throes of its wake. For all of my career, I’d very blissfully enjoyed being a dedicated worker for large companies. There was something so energizing about the bustle of corporate life, watching things come to fruition via large teams, each owning a small part of the puzzle. I loved being a very qualified owner of my puzzle piece. Then something truly annoying happened. After years of watching coworkers come and go, I suddenly found myself pining over their coming entrepreneurial adventures. They were taking big leaps, leaving behind their medical benefits, 401K contributions, and 9-to-5 pace. My verbalized response was always ‘Wow! Good for them! But I love the structure of working for someone else.’ But something was growing inside me; a disconcerting need to make a similar leap. Towards what, I had no clue. Again, what sort of frivolous distraction would it be to consider a change. Or, dare I say it, starting something of my own.

Here’s the thing. My God is frivolous. He relishes the thought of hashing out these notions and going to deep, painful places that will unearth what these pangs are leading you toward. And sometimes, the something it’s leading you towards is simple; Him. But if anyone knows about my low threshold for risk it’s Him. We’ll unearth more about that in another blog, but He waited so patiently for me to even consider a drastic career change. He loved me through the infertility and adoption, losing my father to cancer, and losing my marriage. He knew that trauma would bring new perspective and with it, a more adventurous spirit. And a heart that heard Him more clearly. So as those pangs for a career change grew louder and more annoying, I finally took it to Him. ‘What is this nonsense?’ I would yell in my car. And I would hear an audible laugh. In my daily journaling He would download a staged plan: you’ll be leaving soon; then, it’s time to leave; then, I want you to join the foster care nonprofit (unpaid, mind you). And eventually, the most shocking revelation of all; a friend would share her dreams of starting a decorating business and I would hear Him again, ‘I want you to do this.’ And I did.

In total transparency, there were MANY tear-filled conversations between me and God where I truly attempted to negotiate my way out of all of this. And He would always give me the option of staying the course, because in His complete love for us He is incapable of controlling us. But I would always go back to the pangs, and His careful orchestration of timing and providential guiding hand.

To continue ignoring the pangs would lead me one place. At the end of everything, we will stand in front of Him, and give an account for what we did and did not do with these burdens. Even now, I weep at the thought of saying ‘I knew and I did nothing.’ I cannot. I will not.

There are new pangs brewing. I now recognize that sting well enough to tearfully take it to Him, ask Him what He would have me do with it, listen to His response, and obey. There are some that I hold to so tightly, for the thought of them not coming to fruition is too painful a burden to bear. But even in my reticence, I trust that they were planted by Him, and He is faithful to finish what He started.

Lean into your pangs. You can trust Him with them.