Category Archives: fulfillment

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

This is NOT what we discussed, God.

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I’m not really sure the exact moment it happened. I just know, somewhere along the path of the past 2 years, it did. I woke up to reality. Sleepy-eyed, I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “how did I get here?” This is NOT what we discussed, God.

I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve read articles & watched movies about this very thing… this “coming of age” moment when you realize that your life has already happened. And yes, it continues to happen. Every day. But when you have this wide-eyed realization that if you just keep letting life happen TO you, it might slip past your fingers and trap you in the grips of apathy & lethargy. I want to be more intentional than that.

I’ve spent the last decade of my life riding on the coat-tails of the Holy Spirit as He has paraded me across nations to experience life and culture and a broken world in need. And I relished every single moment of that. I thrived on the excitement of being a part of His bigger story for His bigger purposes. I had wild eyes and wild hair from all my travels.

And now, well now… life looks a little bit different. The years are catching up with me.

It’s been a really emotionally tough 2 years on many levels. This time in December of 2012, I was closing my suitcases on yet another adventure; my English jaunt had changed me & impacted me so deeply. I sowed tears of goodbye as I was prepping to leave such a relationally & spiritually rich season of life.

I came home to Texas ready for a new adventure, which headed south very quickly and turned very sour only after 3 1/2 months.

The rug was pulled out from under me. My dreams were caught-up in a tornado and taken away from me in an instant. Everything I knew for my future came to an ugly, painful halt.

If I’m completely honest, I’m still recovering from those pin-prick moments of pain. Every once in awhile I still feel the torment of that time & wonder if I’ll ever be the same after having gone through that hell.

This is NOT what we discussed, God.

And here’s the thing: God is still redeeming that season of my life… He’s slowly working to restore what I feel I lost during that time. He’s good like that. He takes the lost and brings restoration 10-fold.

And I would be a total ingrate if I didn’t recognize all the incredible blessings of the things I DO and have had in my life. These 2 years have been spent at home amongst friends, family, and loved ones. It’s been a time where I’ve experienced true love and learned so much about God’s grace and purposes. It’s been a time where I’ve learned that my every breath depends on Him, which has whittled away at my independent spirit. But that’s exactly what God wants to do. He wants to teach us dependency on Him. We think we got this; we think we can go it alone. He knows we can’t. He knows we need Him.

I desperately do.

Because at the moment, I remain in this cycle where the world seems like it’s crashing down on me… so many areas of my life feel violently opposed to one another. So much in my heart and head. So much confusion. So much love. So much lost. So many areas of my life seem like they are spinning out of control!!!!!

This is NOT what we discussed… This is NOT what we discussed… This is NOT what we discussed, God!!!!!!!!!!!

And there it is… right there….

This is not what WE discussed, God.

EXACTLY. It’s not about what we discussed at all. Because we didn’t discuss anything. I told Him everything.

In my 20s, I was very clear with God about what I wanted my life to look like. I want this excitement, I want that adventure. I want it at this time, in this way. I want this Promise fulfilled by such & such date; I want this dream to come to fruition by the time I’m 34. What a blatant effort to control things. I don’t know how NOT to try & control things.

Here’s my confession, today: I’m done. I’m weak. I’ve got no strength left to fight for what I think I want, for how I think my life should look, for when I think things should pan-out for me. I’m finished. I’m throwing in the towel.

I’m open to whatever He has for me, for however He wants my life to unfold. Whatever geography. Whatever purposes. Whatever He unveils.

I’m going to stop looking for greener grass on the other side of the fence. I’m going to stop looking for the next best thing and believe what’s in front of me IS the next best thing, because it’s God’s thing for me so it must be the best. I’m going to stop focusing on what I don’t have and choose gratefulness for what I do. And I’m going to let the raw emotions of today catalyze me into a fresh year of new strength, new vigor, new stamina, and new receptivity to His plans for my life.

Lord, help me loosen my grip on the reigns of my life. You are in control. Lead on.

This is NOT what we discussed. Thank You, God, because now I’m ready to hear what You have to say… 

The East Wind.

IMG_1679One of the circular patterns of learning in my life always happens around this little (yet violently powerful) thing called ‘control.’ I wouldn’t exactly label myself as a ‘control freak,’ but like many, I definitely have my major control ‘tendencies.’

The category of my ‘life/future’ is the biggest see-saw area, in regards to this topic of ‘control.’ Recently I was told that I’m like Mary Poppins, blowing in & out of people’s lives with the unpredictable change of the East Wind. So on one hand, I see myself as very easy breezy. But on the total opposite hand, I am magnetized towards that which I (think I) can control.

And here’s the striking thing; I repeatedly keep having to learn the SAME lesson: I AM NOT IN CONTROL.

So who is?

God.

And though this may be a subtle revelation, it is by no means a small one. It actually affects every single beautiful & wretched fiber of my being.

Say it with me, “I AM NOT IN CONTROL.”

Something about this revelation thrills me. (Though, yes, that may sound opposite to what I should say.) I find it extremely freeing, releasing, & empowering.

Case in point, very recently I’ve been in a situation where all aspects of my life have stared me in the face like insurmountable tasks chuckling at my incompetencies & failures. My dreams have been dangled before my dazed gaze, taunting me with screams of “you’ll never accomplish me; you’ll always fail!” Questions of ‘what if’ have filled my ears resulting in unbearable noise.

All this to say, lately I’ve been trying to control my life yet again. I’ve put myself under loads of pressure to make decisions for my future, not because circumstances dictate them, but because my piddly little self needs to figure out a way to control something right now. And when everything around me seems like it’s spinning, I tighten my grasp and yank things into order.

Well, at least I try.

And after all the exhaustion this has caused in the last several months, I awoke today to a reminder that I AM NOT IN CONTROL.

You see, after a string of heavy conversations with those nearest & dearest to me recently, I decided to ‘throw in the towel’ of trying to control. I took a self-proclaimed hiatus from decision-making. I declared that I wanted to learn to live in the now & not worry about my tomorrows (dreams), learning to enjoy & be content with what I have.

It’s like a flip switched in me. All the blur in my head cleared away.

And this morning, I received a phone call from someone who represented the very dream that I had been trying to control.

So what’s my point? LET GO.

I finally came to the realization that I needed to ‘let go’… I needed to just live & be & love & enjoy life in the exact place that I am. My motive was simply to stop fighting to control, because I absolutely had no physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual strength left. I was compelled to stop grasping my dream so tightly because in reality, I was choking it. And I was choking the very breath out of my own life.

So I did. I let go.

And just 2 short days later, the dream presented itself again in an unexpected, unpredictable way.

I’m not saying that all my challenges at the moment are solved; I’m not even saying that my dream has now come true. I’m simply saying that when I ‘fessed up to the fact that I AM NOT IN CONTROL & when I finally let my stingy fingers loose of my dream, it came back.

It came back like the East Wind.

He Is & Always Will Be: Thoughts from the Spring ‘Fire’ of 2013

ImageMany of you know that I went through a difficult & challenging season in the Spring of 2013, where I experienced a deceptive & dangerous ‘gospel’ first-hand as a staff member of a mega-church.

I don’t believe in bad-mouthing institutions (I use that word intentionally because this was one of those ‘church run as a business/institution’ not as a church kind of situations).

I DO believe in speaking the truth… & the following is what I felt God was saying to me through my experience there. It’s a strong reminder that the Church is about HIM & must always come back to JESUS.

 
“WARNING! Do not align your hearts to the deceptive culture…
that says wealth is your reward for serving Me…
that says comfort is the means to life…
that says Jesus is the way but requires loyalty to a leader…
that says we support orphans but we stay in luxury hotels because dirt under our fingertips ruins our manicured nails…
that says ‘Spirit, come’ & then the clock runs out…
that says we see God but we don’t bow our heads to pray for even 3 minutes in a 3 hour meeting…
that says take a step towards Him, but make sure you are wearing the right shoes… 
that says we welcome you, but only special people can come in & sit at the front…
that says we are the church, but you can only be a part if you do it our way…
that says be a part of us, but first sign your name & serve our leader…
that says Jesus’ words bring life, but we quote our leader more than the Jesus because he’s quippy & creative…
that says we’re here to build the Kingdom but the only empire to be seen is the one that stands empty 5 days a week & shines with the glitz and glamour of high-dollar…
that says it’s all about ‘the reach’ but only to fill empty front-row seats to present a good ‘look’ for the TV cameras… 
YOU SEE, THE CHURCH IS ABOUT ME. I WILL NOT TOLERATE A MAN-MADE EMPIRE THAT ROBS MY GLORY, THAT DISTORTS THE TRUTH IN A GREY JOYLESS VEIL, MAKING ROBOTS OUT OF MEN. JESUS IS MY GLORY. WE ARE & ALWAYS WILL BE. THE SANDS OF TIME BLOW AWAY, BUT WE REMAIN. WE ARE THE BRIGHT MORNING STAR, SHINING OUR GLORY FROM AGE TO AGE. WE REQUIRE SOLD-OUT HEARTS & LIVES, NOT EMPTY WORDS. EMPTY WORDS BRING DESTRUCTION; ONLY OUR WORDS BRING WORDS OF TRUE LIFE.
Reflecting on 2013 today, I find myself utterly grateful for God’s grace & redemption this year…
That despite the fires & trials of life, He is & always will be. 
That through the storms of life, He is & always will be. 
That through the deceptions (though well-intentioned), He is & always will be. 
That when I feel lost & floating, He is & always will be. 
That when I have no idea what’s around the corner, He is & always will be. 
That when life looks different that what I imagined, He is & always will be. 
That above ALL ELSE, He is & always will be. 
That God always speaks truth because He is & always will be. 
I am ever grateful for His truth, His guiding, His providence. Praise be to God & may His Church glorify HIM and no one else.
“Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands & step out into the Irresistible Future with Him.” ~ Oswald Chambers
Here’s to an Irresistible Future with Him in 2014! Be blessed.
Bethany x
 
 
 
 

  

I am the Limbo Queen.

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As a child of the 80s, I spent many hours under the roof of a place called “Skateland,” celebrating my friends’ birthdays & sometimes my own. This place smelled of old skates, popcorn, & sticky fingers.

Put my chicken legs in a pair of roller skates & my permed locks looked like a blur speeding by as I raced around the rink. I loved skating. There was something about the thrill of negotiating sharp turns on wheels & managing to stay upright.

But as much as I loved the speed, I loved ‘Limbo’ even more.

You know what I’m talking about: the ‘rink rats’ (a term my friend who formerly worked at a skating rink lovingly calls himself!) would gather us all into the middle of the rink & pull out the ‘Limbo’ pole (usually decorated with pink & purple pom-poms for girl parties). They would then blast the “Limbo Rock” by Chubby Checker & those of us little limber people were on our way to winning the prize: free ice cream at the skate bar!

Genetics gave me chicken legs & a skinny frame which, admittedly, worked in my favor for winning ‘Limbo.’ I was pretty bendy & could avoid that pole like a hot potato. I had a knack for doing that insane roller-split move that seems incredibly impossible to my not-so-limber self these days.

In any case, I usually ranked in the Top 3 if I didn’t make it home covered in ice-cream goo from winning the prize.

As much as I love the thrill of negotiating the turns of life these days (while managing to stay upright!), I had a conversation last night where I was jokingly told my career/profession was ‘being in limbo.’ I guffawed at this, but thought ‘Yes, if that was a profession, I’d be the Queen.’ (And I’d probably take the cake, too, but simply because I love cake. Especially birthday cakes. Especially at skating rinks. I digress…)

But seriously. I am the Limbo Queen.

Despite the fact that I grew up in a very stable environment (same house from 2-24 years, parents with an incredible marriage, a family that was fun & hilarious, grandparents who were very involved in my life, friends from childhood to now, etc.), I have spent the past 10 years living in ‘limbo.’

Many of you know that my travel/international living resume includes the following (with stints in the USA dotted in between):

  • France -03-’04
  • Switzerland – ’05-’08
  • South Africa – ’08-’09
  • Australia – ’09-’11
  • England – ’12-’13

All that to say, I’ve consistently been on the move, pondering what, when, & where is next. Wondering when that pole just might fall on top of me, or when my flexibility will fail me & I’ll come crashing to the ground, wheels spinning & ankles hurting from trying to bend in places that don’t bend anymore.

People talk about seasons of transition like their long-lost relative they haven’t seen in awhile. My seasons of transition are more like my best friend that I see & talk to every single day.

I am in a constant state of transition. I am in a relationship with Limbo.

I am the first to tell people that I ‘thrive in the unknowns of life.’ But lately, the ‘unknowns’ have been smacking me in the face, as if trying to wake me up from some sleepy day-dreamy daze. I’m opening my eyes slowly, one at a time, because too much light, too quick, stings at first.

Because normally for me, the ‘unknown’ comes in a package that is beautifully wrapped with the flag of another country.

The ‘unknown’ for me right now is a place that I actually ‘know’ pretty well. My hometown, where I grew up. Where I spent my foundational years doing just that, living on a foundation of stability.

And yet, it feels very ‘unknown.’ I’m in a season where there are lots of NEW things in my life, lots of uncertainties, lots of choices, lots of paths. And it is all happening in a place, that in some regards, feels more ‘unknown’ to me than any of these other places before.

So, like I said, I am the Queen of Limbo. And I still like it, but sometimes I just wish that the song would finish, the pole would drop & someone would win that free ice-cream already. I really hope it’s me. And I hope it comes with birthday cake.

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.

That I Might See…

This season is one that is trying my patience (waiting on God, not to wait, but to change & stifle my impulsivity in the waiting) & with that, convictions are slowly solidly emerging as the boundary stones in my God-given field – protecting purpose & color, fruitfulness & providence.

Upon waking my spiritual eyes are weary, but as my eyelids flicker away the dust of foggy vision, I begin to SEE what’s ahead of me. Not because it’s clear & precise, but because I SEE the hands that are holding me, the hands that are guiding me, & the hands that are tightly cusped in mine as we stroll deeper into the meadow of divine blooming.

In these moments my mind turns to reflect on one of my favorite themes in life: seeing beauty in everything. On the human body, the eyes draw my attention first. I’ve always said that beauty is found in the eyes. Culture labels some as ugly. Look into their eyes because that is where beauty abounds.

This theory can be applied to our ‘ugly’ circumstances. Sometimes life throws us a curve ball, things are tough, things are challenging, things are not as you thought they might be.

OPEN YOUR EYES.

Blink until the dust dissipates & peer into His. Peer into His to see the beauty, which swallows the ugliness.

For God is a God of redemption. He specializes in making ALL things work together for the good of those who love Him. That’s not a promise for an easy life, but the gift of seeing life as He sees it.

He’s working on my sight today. He’s been working on it for a long time now, but somehow today, my eyes are celebrating that I see light & not darkness, that I see purpose & not worthlessness & that I see Him, rather than just seeing me.

See.