Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Year 7: Drawn Closer

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for this last year in my marriage.  Thank you that during a time when, statistically speaking, many couples experience a lull or dip in their marriage whether drawn from exhaustion, child-rearing, chaos, mismanaged funds, or unrealistic and un-aligned expectations, I feel closer than ever to my husband.

Thank you for drawing us into and through totally crazy and irresponsible life choices that only make sense to us because we know they are guided by you.  Thank you for a passion within our hearts to whole-heartedly and recklessly pursue your will for our lives.  Thank you that the ultimate goal we have is unabashed obedience to you.  Thank you for drawing us in.  Drawing us in to callings, unknowns, and drawing us out of comfort zones.  Thank you that through the growth and refining of each of us as individuals you have drawn us closer to each other and bonded us as one even more.  Thank you that each year the lines between Jake as an individual and me as an individual blur a little more and the wholeness of us as one shines brighter.  Thank you for giftings that individually are a force but aligned with you and each other are a tidal wave.

Thank you for the difficult moments, the difficult conversations, the difficult breathes, the difficult transitions and the difficult losses.  Thank you for meeting us in our weakness and allowing us the opportunity to be held by you while also holding each other.  Thank you for our ability to turn upward toward you and inward toward eachother.  Thank you for the unity we had at year one but have cultivated even further in you each year we celebrate.  

Thank you for speaking to us.  Thank you for speaking to both of us so we know that what we are doing is not of ourselves but of your will.  Thank you for joy and excitement amidst sadness and grief.  Thank you for loving us each so much individually that you gifted us the opportunity to be each other's here on earth.

Most of all, thank you for Jake.  Thank you for his heart.  Thank you for his strength.  Thank you for his leadership.  Thank you for his life.  Thank you for speaking into him and guiding him as he leads our family.  Thank you for the passion he has for serving you and the example he sets for our sons.  Thank you for his heart to reach others and lead a new generation of men toward you, toward honor, toward humility, toward serving, toward strength, toward genuineness and toward leadership through service.  Thank you that he is a man after your heart more and more each year. 

Lord, in a year where the enemy could have so easily tried to manipulate and abuse our hearts toward one another you were ever present and constantly protecting us.  You have refined us and aligned us in such powerful and incredible ways all while maintaining and increasing our passion for serving alongside each other and loving and leading our family toward your will. 

You are faithful.  I am so grateful.  Thank you for loving me so much that you gave me Jake to love and be loved by.  Thank you for the opportunity to do life with him these last seven years of marriage and the three years of dating before that.  I pray for so many more years together.

Use us.  We are yours.  Let your light shine through our love.  I pray you are honored and glorified.  Thank you for your presence in our lives, in our marriage and in our family.  May your love be more fully known as a result of our love for one another by our sons and others.  May we live our lives more to build your kingdom than our household. 

To you be the glory.  Amen.  

Thursday, March 1, 2018

24 Hours: Serve & Survival

I have recently overheard myself, in multiple different conversations, telling people that we are living and existing within the 24 hours that God has given us.  We are surviving one day of service at a time -- that is how we are pressing forward.

I have an aversion to making plans.  I have written about the fact that I don't set resolutions and I don't like long-term planning with regards to my personal life, ambitions, or goals.  I simply don't make plans anymore that stretch further than the next few months.  Sure, I'll plan a vacation, and yes, I'll plan a night out with friends, or make business plans for the next few weeks but when it comes to our personal family life - nope.  Not going to happen.

I wasn't always like this.  I remember that well into my mid-twenties I had a full blown timeline of what my life would look like, how things would play out and the path I would walk to get those things.

Then God started to turn my world upside down when all of the most important, impactful, life experiences and relationships were not playing out according to my plan.  I mean, what kind of nerve did the Lord have messing with my timeline like that?

The first thing that the Lord really took the reigns on was my relationship with Jake, which in turn led to changes in career choices and basically lifestyle choices (moving me from Chicago to rural Illinois).  We, as in the Lord and I, made it through that one but after we got married, the Lord still had other plans.

At 26 we began to try for a family, then we walked through infertility for two years until we had our first baby.  In my plan, I was going to be "done" having my three or four kids by 30 years old.  We didn't have our first child until I was 28.  We planned to have our second 1.5 years after our oldest was born but you all know that story - surprise! Natural pregnancy right when our oldest turned 1.  

We won't even get into the job stories here since most of you know my crazy jump out of a very successful, secure, career into the unknown story.  I will also mention that my husband in the last 6 months also had a surprising career change, which is essentially a change to his dream job so that's a huge blessing.   

But ok, we are starting to get the picture.  Life is not within our control - the Lord has other plans.  You'd think we would learn our lesson by now.  Nope - we wanted a third baby.  Ok, we will try naturally.... 6 months later, a pregnancy.  14 weeks later - a miscarriage.  SCREECH. HALT. STOP.  KNOCK THE WIND OUT OF OUR SAILS.

I've had enough.  The Lord has walked us through these lessons time and time and time again and yet, we still try to take control into our own hands.  So here we are.

In everything that has taken place over the last 18 months between career changes, to finance changes to family changes, the Lord has shown up but it has not been easy.  Especially after the miscarriage, I am serious when I say the wind got knocked out of our sails.

Lately, it feels as though nothing is promised or guaranteed other than God.  He is teaching us that nothing is more important than the impact we will have within this next day, within the next 24 hours of life that we have been given to serve and surrender.  This day - these moments - these minutes and these daily interactions are exactly where we are supposed to be serving the Lord and showing his love and his grace, whether it be to 2, 5 or 5,000 people. 

I am blessed in that I have three days at home with my sons and two days in my office.  In my mind, I have been granted incredible opportunities every day to serve with purpose and surrender.  I will also note that just because my work life "balance" is a definite privilege, no matter my location or my husband's, we choose to serve and live these next 24 hours with full surrender to God's will and plan.  Sometimes this is hearing God clearly speak hopes into our lives and visions for our future through devotionals and the word.  Other times, that looks like intentionally playing with and paying attention to our sons and serving their hopes, dreams, aspirations, and drawing out and nurturing the qualities that the Lord has placed within them. Other times, it looks like an intentional conversation over coffee, or in a duck blind, with a close friend.

It is within these moments that we feel the Lord guides our steps the most.  He directs our steps in relationships, in parenting, in work, and in pursuit of His will.  While we hear Him and seek His will - we still don't "make plans" we simply take the next step that he has called us to in that 24-hour window.  Some of these steps, we know are toward something greater, but we don't know the full picture.  Instead of trying to force our vision into the Lord's reality, we simply exist within the moments that God is moving us and ministering to us.

Some may call this survival mode after loss but in my opinion it is more like SERVE-ival mode.  Our ultimate goal now for our marriage and ultimately our family is no longer a number of children or acquiring things, but simply to serve in whatever capacity the Lord calls us to.

I pray that this speaks to some of you that find yourselves more in the no planning camp like me.  It is ok to simply live within the moments that God has given you.  After all, I once heard that the Lord only gives you your future 24 hours at a time.  Now we are choosing to make the most of the 24 hours that we are given instead of rushing through or wishing them away.  One of the definitions of serve is to be of use in achieving or satisfying.  There can be beauty and hope that exists in the right now - as long as you put in the effort to find it, God will be faithful to show it to you.   

Here's to living in SERVE-ival mode.  Serve God. Serve your marriage. Serve your family.  Serve in this day. 

Psalm 139:16  
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.