Category Archives: desire

In The Middle

I’ve been thinking a lot about puzzles. Not because I love them. In fact, they frustrate me.

I’m thinking about them because I feel like I’m IN THE MIDDLE of a puzzle. A puzzle with 2000 or more tiny little pieces with bright colors, but jagged edges.

There are bulk sections where the pieces fit snuggly together, and even a confident frame of edge pieces, but there are definitely sections – gaps – that are begging to be completed. At least that’s how it feels.

There are puzzle pieces strewn about all across the table, and some rebellious pieces on the floor.

And I feel like this puzzle is my life. And perhaps it’s yours, too.

When you have a glimpse of the bigger picture, it’s just a matter of time and diligence to methodically place the pieces together. It takes time. Patience. Effort. Trial and error. Missing pieces. Pieces that get stuck under the chair leg. Losing the box top at times because a toddler runs through the room and decides to use it as a drum.

In life, I think one of the most challenging places to be is “in the middle.”

  • In the middle of waiting for a dream to be fulfilled.
  • In the middle of waiting on loose ends to tie together so you have clarity.
  • In the middle of a storm waiting for it to pass.
  • In the middle of the desert knowing that if you just keep walking, you’ll reach that oasis.
  • In the middle of waiting for that doctor’s report.
  • In the middle of trying with everything you’ve got to see if you can salvage that relationship.
  • In the middle of giving all you have to build your dream and hoping that one day it pans out financially.
  • In the middle of begging for God to heal your body or your marriage.

Whatever that “in the middle” place is for you, remember this: God is right there with You. In fact, more than that, He created the image on the box. He created that image – His – within you.

So today, if you feel the frustration – the overwhelm – the disappointment – the anxiety – of being “in the middle,” speak this over your heart: He is with me. He will never leave me or forsake me. And because of that I can trust His plan even when I don’t see how it will all come together.

“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.” ~ Deuteronomy 31:6 (MSG)

The middle won’t last forever. It won’t. It can’t. Because God is always at work… even when You can’t see or believe that He is. He’s working.

And you see, not only did He create the image on the box – the same one He’s put within you – but He also puts the pieces together. One by one. He knows exactly where they fit. He’s the Master Puzzle Maker. He never leaves the gaps. He never loses a piece. He’s never confused. He’s never frustrated. He’s working on His timeframe to complete the puzzle with you, for you.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ~ Romans 8:28 (NIV)

One day, you’ll look with joy and surprise and realize that through all the frustrations and waiting and gaps, the pieces have finally come together. And the gift is two-fold: you now see a beautiful puzzle and you’ve learned so much by watching the Master Puzzle Maker work His craft and glory within you.

x Bethany

Missing Out On The Fear Of Missing Out

The “fear of missing out” is real. For an Enneagram Type 7 like myself, it taunts and teases me, pushing me into a corner, where I feel like a toddler puffy-cheek pouting in timeout.

You see, I want to taste and touch and experience every aspect of life. Because of that, choices overwhelm me.

What should I wear today? (Ultimately it’s based on comfort and color and practicality.)

What do I want to eat? (It’s better not to ask. I usually don’t know, although I’ll never say no to chips and salsa.)

How should I prioritize my day? (There are 8000 things I want to do in one day, so I eventually – somewhat painfully – just pick one.)

These choices are small. But what about the bigger decisions of life?

This past week, on the heels of July, which was split with a ministry adventure to West Virginia (Camp ROYAL) and family vacation in Colorado, I landed in August with 7 (yes, S-E-V-E-N) big decisions on my plate.

Ugh. The exhaustion of constantly having to prioritize what’s most important or what’s best to put aside for a season. Does this resonate with you? (Shall we pause and enjoy a cup of tea instead?!)

True confession: I’m terrible at editing… not just in writing, but, more importantly… in life.

So last week (and part of this week), I’ve been discerning decisions about two part-time job offers or running full speed ahead with vision I have through freelance ministry endeavors as well as whether or not to attend two work conferences, one spiritual retreat, and a 40th birthday trip for a friend.

Here’s the problem: it ALL seems thrilling. And guess what? I DON’T WANT TO MISS OUT.

On Sunday in the aftermath of some of that decision-making, the sermon at my church was about fear because, as my pastor said, “It’s a form of focus.” I sat through the sermon and jotted lots of notes, per norm, feeling slightly high and mighty and grateful that fear isn’t something I really struggle with. And then, after the sermon, during worship and a time of reflection, I got the gentle Jesus slap to the face.

IT HIT ME. THE FEAR OF “MISSING OUT” IS A REAL FEAR. And it carries too much weight in my life. So it IS a struggle. Sheesh.

As I sat there wide-eyed in self-analysis mode, running my brainwaves through the trails of all the events and conversations and questions of last week, I realized that the fear of missing out was hindering my ability to make wise decisions. Somehow it had floated itself to the top of the surface as a PRIORITY in my decision-making processes.

NO NO NO. NO MORE!

Here’s why: Because in that moment, standing in total shock of this revelation and in a response of dazed surrender, I realized that WHEN I’M WITH GOD, I CANNOT BE MISSING OUT.

See, if my goal is to be in His will, to be WITH HIM, aware of His Presence… that requires that I go where He is… where He is leading, guiding, directing, releasing.

And even more than that. HE IS IN ME.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
~ Psalm 139:7-12

So I literally cannot be missing out… because if I am with Him, and He is with me, I am missing nothing. The opportunity to my right or left is NOT better if He is not leading me there. It’s not more fun. It doesn’t have nicer people or ideas that will bring clarity or revelation. It’s not better than where I am right now.

It CANNOT be if He is NOT with me there. And because He is with me, because He resides in me, where I am is where I need to be.

There is no missing out for you or me… except on one thing: the fear of missing out. I’m happy to bid that one adieu.

x Bethany

Sometimes Singleness. [thoughts from the thick of July 2013]

Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 5.39.12 PMSometimes.

Sometimes singleness is a drag.

Sometimes singleness is one of the most thrilling, freeing adventures of my life.

Every day is a choice. Some days it’s harder to choose ‘adventure’ over focusing on the things I don’t have in my life… i.e. husband.

I just spent the last 10 days serving with a phenomenally talented group of artists & musicians at 6,000 feet in Littleton, Colorado. We led worship, hosted a Kidz Worship & Arts Camp, & sang with our cover band, “Rumblestone,” at festivals & in a juvenile detention center.

Something about turning your back on your normal routine long enough to allow God to take you to an open space (mission trip, vacation, etc.) is very healing for perspective. I was yet again reminded of the goodness of God, and more importantly that this life is not about me. It’s about Him & therefore it’s about serving others.

But I always find it strange to come off the adventure of fresh perspective & ‘good feelings’ from a mission trip & step back into a current reality that has lots of challenges. Right after my trip, I immersed myself into the social scene of spending 1 1/2 days with 3 of my best childhood friends & their sweet kiddos. They are all incredible wives & mothers (& well, people, in general). But despite this fact, I always struggle to focus on the fact that life isn’t about me when I’m surrounded by friends & peers who seem way further ahead in life than me.

My broken-record mantra to people usually goes something like this: “I don’t have a house, a husband, a car, or a job (currently!); I own clothes, shoes, & my computer. Oh… and I get to travel the world on adventure with God.” I find myself speaking this phrase to people as a matter of admitting that I know culture declares I’m ‘behind the curve.’ But I also say it so that my ears can hear an audible reminder that my life is amazing. It is the ultimate adventure. And when my surroundings taunt me with ‘you are missing out on life, Bethany,’ God gently reminds me that He IS life… living in me.

*I’ve literally been ‘behind the curve’ in my attempts to blog this summer, so take this as a belated post. I will write more soon that’s more apt & accurate to my shifting season of life.

The Kiss of Alan.

Yesterday was a massive (or mahoosive [slang for ginormous as I learned from an English friend!]) day for my future. In day-to-day things, it was a ‘normal’ Sunday. But actually I hate living for ‘normal’ Sundays. In fact, I hate living for ‘normal’ any days. And well, this was not a ‘normal’ day in the end…

Back to the mahoosiveness of yesterday… it was a day in which I saw God begin to visually outwork His Promise over my life in the particular area of calling. If you know me well, you’ll know that I’ve been on a geographical journey for the past 8 years of my life. And with each country & each continent, with each season & step, God has revealed His plans for my future bit by bit. I’ve had glimpses here & there & opportunities that have affirmed the seeds & passions rooted deep within the soil of my heart.

But 14 months on the other side of Bible college, He has finally positioned me in a place where I am sowing further & deeper into these purposes, & He is reaping opportunities for me to use my gifts – the ones He so graciously & lavishly has poured into my life. That ones that my heart desires to gift right back to Him.

So Thursday afternoon I was asked if I could preach Sunday at a nearby village church. I knew I wouldn’t have much time to prep over the next few days, but trusted that God would bring me through what might feel like a fire. He did ever so graciously.

After I spoke on our “God who breathes life into our dry places, even when turns our backs on Him,” I was approached by a very elderly man who was permanently hunched-over & weary. He slowly extended his hand to me & I bent down to catch his gaze. He said, “My name is Alan & I want you to know that my eyes were closed the whole time you were preaching, not because I was sleeping, but because I wanted to soak in every single word you said because every single word was powerful. So, thank you for preaching today.” Then with his toothless grin, he lowered his head again & kissed my hand.

I held back tears, said my goodbyes to the church members, & got in my car to hear God whisper to me: I AM ALAN & I AM KISSING YOUR HAND.

What a joy & privilege… what a humbling blessing… to be the mouthpiece of God… to declare words of life, so that He can breathe His life back into the dry & dusty places of our lives…

Another journey has begun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter of Disbelief

The unabating sounds of doubt & disbelief have threatened to steal my focus and rob my peace of mind, much like the incessant sound of the thumping trash can lid blowing outside my window.

The sounds of doubt & disbelief have reared their ugly heads in this season of change, but I have vowed that they will not crowd out the dreams and visions in my heart. They will not shift my aim nor distort my focus. Because out of the winter of disbelief comes a spring filled with potential that blossoms into opportunity and despair that fades into drive.

My winter season began as I left a 2-year engagement with an authentic community of faith-speakers, dream-builders, and hope-proclaimers. This Kingdom culture got under my skin and nestled its way into the deepest fissures of my heart. So when I ripped myself away (even though the timing of my departure was right) and landed myself as a changed person plop in the middle of a lifestyle and culture that I once knew so well, it shook me to the core.

And though there have literally been days where the past 2 years (let alone the previous 6 years of ministry abroad) have felt like a dream. There have been times where I’ve had to read through journals and text with my friends overseas to be reminded that these experiences were real, and more importantly, they were God-orchestrated and prompted.

But as I write this today, I have a deep sense that just as the trees outside are budding and blossoming in celebrations of winter’s end, my dreams, hopes, and visions are also budding and blossoming in celebration of life coming from death, hope springing forth from doubt.

God is brilliant at reminding us that there is a season for everything. For every winter, there IS spring. And SPRING IS COMING…

Ecclesiastes 3

1 There is a time for everything,
   and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 2 a time to be born and a time to die,
   a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
   a time to tear down and a time to build,
 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
   a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
   a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 6 a time to search and a time to give up,
   a time to keep and a time to throw away,
 7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
   a time to be silent and a time to speak,
 8 a time to love and a time to hate,
   a time for war and a time for peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And if you’re not careful, just like the winds of a ferocious storm will prematurely shake all the good fruit off an apple tree, so too will the winds of change snap your branches and send your fruit crashing to the ground.

Beyond Barren.

Dark night. Cold water. Treading in the profound sea of uncertainty. My thoughts close-in around me, my voice shattered by silence.

But the following words ring as the utmost truth in what seems like an endless cycle of yearning and longing:

“Sing, barren woman, who has never had a baby. Burst into song, shout for JOY, you who were never in labor; because you’ll have far more children than all those of her who has a husband,” says the LORD. “Clear lots of ground for your tents! Make your tents large. Spread out! Think big! Use plenty of rope, drive the tent pegs deep. For you will spread out to the right and to the left.” ~Isaiah 54:1-3a

This Scripture fills my soul with life and hope, because I know that the words of the Lord do not return empty and void. What He declares will come to pass. (Isaiah 55:11)

Because…

Out of our nothingness, comes His everything. Circumstance isn’t the block upon which our faith is built; we stand on the rock. And even when the road ahead is extremely difficult to discern, we know Who we’re following, and we know that He knows exactly where He is going. And He knows exactly why He’s taking us there.

Out of my desperation, comes His fulfillment. My personal revelation has been: “the greater the preparation, the greater the influence.” A pastor once said the same thing to me in a different way: “the taller the skyscraper, the deeper the foundation.” All that to say, when we are toiling the grounds of dust and desolation and feel like our lives are going nowhere, God is reminding us that He is building us. He is preparing us. He is growing us. Because the more we are like Him, the more people He can love through us. At times, the refining may seem unbearable, but it fails in comparison to the glory that will resolve in the end. (Romans 5:2)

Out of emptiness, comes His abundance. When it looks as if everything is meaningless, useless, and purposeless, He gently whispers that He is working beyond our understanding, planting seeds of His hope and love into the lives of others. And through the seeming barrenness of our lives, He is harvesting cold hearts and breathing new life into them over and over again for the purpose that they might find life abundant (never ceasing to run out!) in Him.

And so…

I refuse to allow the temptation to focus on what I do not have guide my days.

I refuse to settle when I’m called to stand.

I refuse to break, when I’m meant to be molded.

I refuse to keep silent, when I’m destined to shout.

AMEN!