Starting Again

Seven months! That’s how old Maleia is today, and how long it’s been since I’ve written anything. Babies aren’t predictable. Why isn’t that in the instruction manual? Oh wait, there isn’t one? Oh yeah, that’s why I have no idea what I’m doing and why I haven’t written in so long.

Now that I’ve unburied myself a bit after having Maleia, I’ve been poking my head up and looking around. I have a little more space to breath and to notice what habits I’ve formed since she’s joined us.  And I’m convicted that I’ve become addicted to my phone.

I think it’s taking time and energy away from being a more productive and engaged mom, spouse, and friend. I waste so much time on it because it’s easy. Maleia isn’t engaged enough to crawl, sit, stand, walk, or talk yet, so our home is quiet (except for 40% of the time when she’s screaming about something). To fill that quiet, I’ll grab my phone to look at pictures, go on Instagram, check Facebook, refresh my email, scroll through forums, and browse websites for the latest baby items that all of a sudden I feel the need to own.

Maleia already knows how much I value my phone because she watches how often I stare at it. She’s already reaching for it to play with. I treat my phone is like it’s another person that gets to take up space and conversation in our home and family.  If Maleia learns her values from us, right now she’s learning the value of technology, and specifically, the value of not being present with people. When I stare at my phone instead of interacting with her, she’s internalizing that my phone is more valuable than her, and years from now, she’ll believe her phone is more valuable than other people too.

How heartbreaking. I talk about the value of being present with people, but I’m not living it out in my own home. I want to change that. I want her to know she comes first, and real people come first. Technology (for the most part) isn’t necessary to live a full, enjoyable life. It can be good and helpful, for sure. What would I do without Amazon and Google? And I will never stop taking thousands of pictures of our children and family either. These are necessities. But life is not lived well when it’s spent looking at other people’s lives digitally. Most of the time, I’m looking at posts and pictures that don’t add value to my life. It takes me down trails that lead to feelings of being less than, other than, or not enough. Too often it makes me feel discontent.

Maleia will grow up with more technology than any previous generation. She’ll have more opportunities to engage with it from the start of her life than we did. I’m afraid she’ll miss the opportunity to learn how to be creative, to fill quiet spaces with stories, games, people, and play. Life is better when we’re present with the people and spaces in front of us. It’s good for the soul to be bored and undistracted. It gives us opportunities to create, think, and breath.

This is a hard decision for me. I’ve considered deleting all of my social accounts in the past, but I hesitate to disconnect myself from family and friends who live far away. I wonder, though, how much more I’d reach out to engage in real relationship if I’m not engaged digitally? A real relationship isn’t dependent on liking each other’s Instagram’s and Facebook posts. It’s based on real conversations through phone calls, face-time talks, texts, and face-to-face quality time. In the end, I think I’d place higher value on having a deeper relationship by disconnecting from these digital, shallow relationships.

I’m still considering what this will look like. Should I keep my phone charging in the kitchen so I’m not tempted to look at it all the time? Will I totally disconnect from social media, or limit myself to 20 minutes at the end of the day? Unplugging, to any degree, will be a positive change. I’m sure I’ll go through some form of detox because I’ve been living like my phone is necessary. I carry it around with me 95% of the time, even throughout our small apartment. How sad.

Maleia will grow up learning from our natural ways of living life. The words we say, shows we watch, our habits, our way of forming relationships, the people who fill our home, how we deal with boredom, the places we go, what we eat, how we pursue our passions, how we live out our faith. Through these, our home culture is formed. In this space of home, of safety and nurture, she learns what to value. She learns everything here first.

I know we’ll make mistakes as parents. We already have. Being a parent is choosing to give ourselves over to a lot of raw feelings like fear, pain, loss, anger, regret, and unknowns. It’s constantly vulnerable. Vulnerability is so hard, but it’s work worth pursuing. It’s where love begins and where it grows. My hope and prayer is that through this change of leaving my phone alone, our children learn the value and necessity of community lived in real relationships with people face-to-face.

On the 1,000th try of breastfeeding

Never in my life have I both so loved and been so frustrated at any one thing.

Never in my life have I sworn so many times.

IMG_4164

Never in my life have I so quickly gone from the highest high from achieving a breastfeeding success, to an absolute low of utter frustration that, once again, my 2 week old daughter is in frustrated tears because we can’t get a good latch, or because, well, who knows. She’s a baby. I have no idea what she wants. I’m new here.

It’s both a blessing and a curse that babies eat like 8 times a day. Because there’s always an opportunity to try again and work hard to make it better the next time. But after hundreds of attempts, I dread the idea that the upcoming feeding could once again unfold into just pain and cursing and anger.

IMG_4269

Any other time, when someone or something hurts me, I’d avoid it. It’s hard to not project those feelings onto Maleia. I love her so much, but I dread these nursing sessions. Breastfeeding has been so much more challenging than I expected. I thought it would be natural and easy. I thought I was prepared, at least.

I’m learning perseverance. Right now it’s stressful and confusing, and I don’t know when it will get better. I’m exhausted. I constantly want to give up and just use formula, and I know that would still be okay. I wouldn’t feel like a failure, but I want to give this my best try first. I’m learning how to love this little person day by day, and this is part of it. Some of this love is natural and easy, and some I’m having to grow in. This extra challenge makes me want a break from her sometimes, and it’s hard to not feel guilty over that.

I’m so thankful for the people in our life right now who can come over and show me what breastfeeding is supposed to look and feel like. And we’ve been overwhelmed with blessings by family and friends who’ve provided food for us, checked in on us, and helped us during this time. We’re so thankful. These weeks are long, hard, and confusing, and that helps so much.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

I know this post is short and doesn’t have an ending, but we’re still in the middle of this story, so say a prayer for us, and we’ll see you on the other side.

Our Story of Possible Miscarriage

I want to share our story with you. It’s not spectacular or dramatic. In all honestly, it’s very ordinary. But it changed us, and that makes it important and worth sharing.

While we were visiting Dallas in April, we thought I had started to miscarry. I thought I was about 7 weeks along, but we weren’t able to see a fetal pole in our first ultrasound. My hormone levels were high, we were told, so this wasn’t a good sign. Then we found out my hormone levels weren’t rising like they should, and in the week following our first ultrasound- which happened to be the week we were in Dallas- I started to bleed on and off.

Over and over, my doctor told us “This pregnancy doesn’t seem to be progressing as it should. If you start having any pain or heavy bleeding, please call us.”

FA3FF4CD-BA48-46BB-911E-40C87F5203E2Almost every day, ever hour of our time in Dallas, we swung between feelings of despair and hope, devastation and joy, disappointment and peace. I’ll never forget walking through the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens and receiving a call from my doctor that my second round of blood work had come back, and hearing for the fourth time, I would most likely miscarry. Walking through so much beauty in the gardens, the Lord gave us the perfect place to reflect on how life is precious and beautiful even when it’s tiny and surreal.

All week, we anticipated the worst. As we looked for a new apartment, explored our new city, and ate to our heart’s content, we spent a lot of time alone together. We cried, we prayed, and we mourned. We asked God to protect this life knowing the outcome wasn’t in our control.

We knew, either way, this baby had already changed us. “Whatever happens, you are the best gift we have ever been given. We will love you for however long we have you and more.”

IMG_2438I spent countless hours that week researching hormone levels, types of miscarriage, what it feels like to miscarry, and how to prepare for it. I can still picture us laying in our hotel bed, tears on our pillows, reading about others’ miscarriage experiences and trying to convince myself that it could still be okay. 

Finally, the day came to head home. I had scheduled another ultrasound as early as possible, so we woke up at 3:30am to catch an early flight home to Chicago. 

We rolled into the OB’s office rumpled, somber, and exhausted. As we prepared for the ultrasound, the ultrasonographer and ob-gyn, again, prepared us to expect a miscarriage. “Let’s see how much tissue is left, and then we can talk about your options.” We expected to see and hear that the baby was gone, or would be soon. We held our breath to hear confirmation. It was the longest 10 seconds of my life.

As soon as she started the ultrasound, we saw our baby and heard the heartbeat. We wept. Right there, with the ultrasonographer.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

What a beautiful gift.  We watched our little one wiggle around, and thanked the Lord. Relief and joy. (And a dash of anger at all the precaution, if I’m honest.) Despite the early warnings, we were told that everything looked healthy and normal, and that I should take it easy for a few weeks. After all of our anguish, it was hard to believe that everything could change in a matter of seconds. We are so thankful.

From the moment we found out I was pregnant, I thought about all the what-if situations.

I thought about all of the women I know who have miscarried. Some who continually miscarry without explanation. Others who have lost their little ones late into pregnancy, or hours after birth. Parents who have watched their children go through extensive medical treatment and care in their first years of life, and into their childhood and adulthood.

No age seems safe. There’s no time we can point to and say, “After this, you’ll never have to worry again.”

I don’t pretend to know the pain of miscarriage and loss. But knowing that we are stepping into something so unknown is scary. I know that, while everything continues to look healthy, something could still happen because we live in a broken world, full of sin.

Good or bad, part of me needs to remain rooted in that reality.  That I can’t control the outcome.  That my baby isn’t mine. Nathan isn’t mine. My own life isn’t mine. Nothing is mine. It all belongs to the Lord.

I can’t expect it to be perfect. We don’t wish for things to go wrong, and it’s devastating when they do.

While we celebrate this gift, I also grieve with people who endure those unplanned difficulties of miscarriage, loss, and complications. I’ve written, rewritten, deleted, and drafted this post at least five times because I struggle to balance joy in our blessing while others grieve their losses.

I ask myself, how do I handle the excitement of this new life, while also mourning with them?

Through our story, I’ve been more deeply learning about the hope of the resurrection. The hope of Jesus, that permeates even the most difficult of situations. That while we live in a broken world, full of sorrow, Jesus continually draws us into eternal realities of heavenly living. Always present, always loving, always full of grace and justice. Jesus is where we turn in hard times and in joyous times.

Loss feels so unfair, and it changes us forever. Grief can follow us for our lifetime, and flow like a current beneath our everyday life. There’s anger, fear, sadness, a deep longing for justice and peace. The forever question of why? Why does it have to be this way? 

And as we wrestle with the overwhelming, ambitious weight of grief and suffering, we ask Jesus to return quickly. That he would come and restore peace and take us home. That our lives would turn, exclusively, and entirely, to him in eternal worship. And while we are still here, on this earth, that we would mimic what will be: forgetting ourselves, forgetting this world, and gazing only on God. 

He is our hope. He is our comfort.

I need a greater faith to believe his truths. I can write, think, and say whatever I want, but actually living out these realities is much harder.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. I embrace all of these feelings of fear, love, joy, excitement, sadness, and pain, and turn to Jesus. While I celebrate this gift, I also mourn with others, and I mourn sin and brokenness.

God, may you be more real to us than ever. May we worship you more deeply. May we pray more fervently. May we be changed into your image more every day, and express your gospel in our words, actions, and perspectives. Thank you for the gift of your life and your love.

Dear My Pregnant Self, Remember This

Dear my pregnant self,

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

In this time of change, I’m here to remind you of a few important things. These reminders are for today, and for every season that you feel like you’re falling apart. Claim these truths about your identity and your life.

Grace is needed. You’re going through a lot. Let yourself come undone, knowing that it might look ugly and unattractive, but that it’s real life.

It’s okay to cry about it. Your emotions are all over the place, and that’s normal. Balance the crazy by recognizing what’s irrational, but don’t allow yourself to emotionally shut down because those feelings don’t make sense. Cry over that spilled milk, and then laugh about it later. It’s healthier that way.

Remember that it won’t last forever. This is just a season. Mostly, it’s preparation for what’s coming next. Don’t stop being honest with yourself and with others. Keep yourself in community and hold yourself accountable through good friends and family who will encourage you and push you in the right direction.

Let yourself be vulnerable even when you feel ugly inside and out. There is freedom in honesty. It ushers repentance and forgiveness, and reminds us that we are all broken sinners. Don’t pretend you’re perfect. Embrace those hips, the extra weight your gaining everywhere, and the fact that your baby bump just makes you look like a giant lump. Embrace the fact that cooking dinner is 100% more difficult, and don’t believe the lie that it’s pathetic. Enjoy taking those 2 extra naps a day and don’t feel guilty about it. Embrace the fact that your life is changing, and you’re walking in shaky, unknown territory. You might look like a fool sometimes, and it’s okay.

Remember that life is worth enjoying, and you are worth the effort to take care. When you’re nauseas, tired, and irritable, and don’t feel like yourself, remember that you are still loved and cared for. Remember that you’re not in this alone and you don’t have to apologize when you ask for help or when people offer to help. Know that you and your spouse have a lot of growing to do together, and that you are for each other and with each other. It’s perfectly okay to embrace those extra things that make pregnancy and motherhood easier for you, even though so many other women tell you they aren’t necessary.  Be comfortable, and enjoy. Continue to live life to the fullest, and do it for Jesus. Because of all the hormonal changes, low mood and/or depression in pregnancy is common. Take care of yourself. You’re worth it.

Remember that your story is unique and you can’t compare yourself to anyone else because it’s unfair to you both.  Everyone’s pregnancy is different, and everyone handles it differently. Just because your friend had a 30 minute labor and lost so much weight postpartum that she’s actually skinnier now than before she got pregnant, that doesn’t mean that will be your story. You’ll be sorely disappointed when it’s not. Be humble in your expectations. Don’t keep one eye open to how everyone else is doing. Focus on you, and don’t rope yourself into unfair games that leave you feeling less than and inadequate.

Remember that Jesus loves you and lives in you and is sustaining you. Right now and forever. Remember that he’s already died for your sins and covered you with grace upon grace. Remember that you are in the process of being sanctified, and you’ve come a long way, and have a long way to go. Remember that your faith looks different now than in any other time of your life, and it’s good.

Remember that there’s more to you and your life than just being pregnant. Don’t neglect your passions and skills. Keep doing the things that you love, and adjust as you need to as the baby grows and joins your family.

Remember that you’re not the only pregnant woman to walk this earth. For all your friends who aren’t pregnant, married, or dating, or even remotely in the same vein of life as you, remember to ask people how they’re doing and take genuine interest in their lives. Don’t let pregnancy dominate your relationships. It’s not all about you, and you still need another people.

Lastly, remember that you can’t control. Cherish this time. There’s no age that is safe from loss and tragedy, and this life inside you is an incredible gift.

Dear My Pregnant Self, Be Kind

Dear my pregnant self,

You’re coming apart a bit.

I’m here to remind you of a few things, and to break some news.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Have you noticed that you’re irritable? Physically uncomfortable? And that your thoughts rapidly spill out of your mouth without being filtered? Your emotions swing side to side, and it’s hard to control them at times. Don’t worry, it’s normal. Any pregnant woman will tell you that.

But remember, you’re still responsible for your words and actions. 

You feel like you’re losing control over your body. You’re gaining weight like crazy, and in the most unflattering places. When people comment on your baby bump, you think “No, that’s just too many fries and fruity pebbles.”

You’ve been debilitatingly nauseous and unable to do much of anything. The only food that doesn’t make you feel sick is sugary and full of carbs, which make you gain weight faster and feel worse. You sleep, sleep, sleep, and avoid working out. You don’t know your body anymore, and it’s harder to take care of.

Oh, and not only are you pregnant, but everything else in your life is changing. You just moved across the country, and have worked through a to-do list that was longer than your college senior thesis. You’re still tying up loose ends so you don’t get slammed with fees, notices, and extra bills, and you’re bank account reaches a new level of low.

You had to say goodbye to some of your best friends, not knowing when you’ll see them next, hoping that you’re able to maintain healthy long-distance friendships. You miss them already. You’re starting over in a new community, finding a new church, and praying that you fit in at your new place. Your family is far, far away and finding a new, healthy rhythm in those relationships will take time.

You just graduated college, and you’re working through career moves and changes. You’re deciding whether or not to look for a job, and wondering what you’d even enjoy doing. It’s confusing.

Well, I’m here to remind you, friend, to be kind to yourself and to others. Despite the pressure, there are no rules that say you have to be perfect and together. And just as importantly, remember that your words and actions are still impactful.

You’re still called to love others, and to represent Jesus. How you handle all these changes matters.

Rely more on Jesus as your weaknesses become even more evident in difficult times. Trust that he’s with you still, and that you’re still loved and worthy. Continue to ask for forgiveness when you sin against others, and strive to be changeable, teachable, and humble in your pursuit of becoming more like Jesus. 

We’re Finally Here!

IMG_2984

For all those who are wondering, we made it to Texas!

We are slowly unpacking boxes, and are living in a bit of a mess. We love our new place, and are finding ways to make it our own. Two flights of stairs will be good exercise for us too, despite our out-of-breath grumbles to each other.

Thank you, our parents, for helping us move. We promise to hire someone next time and spare you.

Nathan’s new team has been so welcoming and amazing. Last night we went to a minor league baseball game with most of the families, and enjoyed the company and conversation. (Don’t ask me who won, I have no idea.) All of them have several kids, and are older than us. I’m glad to have people around us to guide us into parenthood and to help us adjust to life here. We’re excited to get to know them.

We’ll be trying new churches for a while. We’ve received many recommendations and are encouraged we’ll find a good fit in time.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

We’ve moved into a new community before, and are no strangers to the process. We’re used to living farther away from family, but the major change will be that we can’t just drive down for the weekend every so often.

We know it takes time to find friends, and get plugged in. That part is really sucky, but we’ll get there.

As for me, I’m still checking items off our moving to-do list. BabyH is doing well. I’m at the stage where none of my clothes fit me, but I’m not yet big enough for maternity clothes. I’m still really nauseas without medication, and am tired often. I’m hoping these both start to dwindle off in the next few weeks, as I’m now starting trimester 2. Luckily, there’s a free gym and tons of pools in our apartment complex. Thank goodness for that. It’s freaking hot here.

Here are some ways you can pray for us:

  • For Nathan’s new job. It will be a huge change, in the best way. Pray he adjusts to it well, and thrives. And that we would find a new rhythm in our relationship too with this change.
  • For my job. I can start looking for a job now that we’re here. Pray for direction and provision, if this is the right step for me.
  • For good doctors. I loved my obgyn in Lake Forest, IL. And my chiropractor, and our car mechanic, and my grocery store, and so many other services there. Pray we find places/people here who will take care of us well too.
  • For a good church & quick friends. 

13497775_1305880089422474_3486318636895234896_o

Now that we’re settling in, you’ll be seeing more posts from me. This is one way we can stay connected to people we love who live all over the country. Be sure to follow me to stay updated, and so we can keep up with you too!

 

 

Our Texas Adventure

We’re moving to Texas!

2015-12-07 12.55.29

Nathan has loved his time at Moody Global Ministries, and will be sadly leaving at the end of April. Moody has been a place to gain experience, to be challenged, and to discover his love for marketing and for helping non-profit organizations. We are elated for him to continue moving forward in these fields.

After I graduated, we had a lot to work through as we thought about our future together. What are our individual dreams and goals, and how do they fit together? Where do we want to be in 5 years, and how can we get there? Big questions to answer. 

One of the many reasons why I didn’t pursue a full-time job after I graduated in December was to give us more freedom. I didn’t want to tie us down while we figured out what we both wanted to pursue next. I needed time to rest and rejuvenate anyway, so this was a natural next step for me. I felt that we had been at Moody for so long because I was finishing school, and wanted to give Nathan the space to explore his passions and find a great, new opportunity that he would really love.

13238923_1362420673771974_7234375861577129534_n

As we looked at our lifestyle, it was glaringly apparent that it wouldn’t allow for us to live out our values and long-term goals. Nathan still had to commute by himself 2.5 hours a day. While he handles the commute much better than I ever did, it still meant early mornings, short nights, little time to be with people here, and no energy to pursue his other passions. It also strained us financially as we pay off our student loans. Spiritually, we both felt it would be healthy to take a step back from this environment.

Nathan looked at several opportunities, and finally accepted a job offer last month. This means we’ll be moving to Dallas in June!

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

We are sad to leave our Church family and friends here, and will miss our home. We love the people we’ve met and the memories we’ve made. This place has been so good for us in the toughest and best times of our life together. As we say goodbye, we could not be more excited for this new adventure.

How You Can Pray For Us

  • A new place to live. We are taking a trip to Dallas on April 15-20 to find a place to live. We’ve had a tough time finding options that fit our budget and size needs. We’re hoping to find something while we’re there. Ideally, we’d love to rent a home or townhouse. Pray we find a great place to live that’s close to Nathan’s new office.
  • A smooth transition. This is a huge change, and we’re ready for the challenge. I’m sure the closer we get to moving, the harder leaving will become. This will be the farthest we’ve ever lived from family and all of our closest friends.
  • Good friends & community. We’ll be looking for a new church, and new friends to connect with. Pray we can find a church we love right away, and be able to start serving quickly.
  • Direction for me. This means I can start looking for a job, or pursue other options that I’ve been dreaming about. Pray for continued vision for what’s next for me, and for the energy and motivation to pursue it. I’ve been thankful for this season to support Nathan as he pursues a new opportunity, and now I can be more active in my goals too.
  • Provision for Moody. Pray they would be able to rehire his position quickly, and that they will be able to find people to continue support their vision. Moody is doing great work, and is always in need of knowledgable people to keep propelling them forward.

We’re looking forward to lots of sunshine, to exploring a new city, and to see what God has in store for us here. Come hang out with us before we leave at the end of May!

Wandering with Jesus

“God’s will is not for you to be confused or lost.” This is what a friend told me as I described how I’ve been feeling lately. I’m not responsible for much these days, and in some ways it’s amazing. Like being on vacation full-time. But I’m not sure it’s always good for people.

I think there’s something about the human spirit that needs something to take care of. We are a people who like to produce, create, and maintain. Without that, we feel a sense of purposelessness. We are created to work. A garden, kids, pets, job responsibilities. Something to keep us occupied, busy, and moving forward. Right now I don’t have any of those.

I’m still in limbo with what’s next for me. I’ve been unwinding and rebuilding over the past few months (Read this post to find out why!), and I feel like I’m ready to take on something new. I’ve rested. I’ve been silent. I’ve listened. I’ve taken care of myself. I started working out, eating healthier, and created healthier habits. I’m reading books again and am starting to explore new avenues of interest.

There are still bits that I’m working through from this last year, like mild anxiety and depression, but as I look back on what I was writing about at this time last year, I see a stark contrast to today. I feel like a different person. I’ve come so far and fought so hard to get here. I’m so thankful to be here.

I’m ready for the next “big thing.” Maybe that’s too eager? I have a feeling that there’s still a lot of waiting ahead for me. Which is, in all honesty, annoying. I just want answers, but God has been very silent.

What I have been learning, though, is to trust Him more. I feel a more desperate need to pray in the mornings and lean on Him for patience, strength, and endurance. I feel more need to pick up my Bible and soak in the word for encouragement, joy, and peace. I have seen God come through my casual, everyday conversations with people, and the things I write about. These, friends, are good signs.

In this continued season of waiting, I think this is what I’m being called to. To persevere in patience and prayer. To learn how to trust God deeper with my hopes and dreams.

It’s hard, friends. Oh my, is it hard. When I think of the future, it looks like a giant black, bleak, never-ending tunnel of nothingness. But I’m being called to claim something different, and it’s stretching my faith. God knows my heart, my skills and passions, and what my future holds. He knows what is best for me, and is inviting me to lay all that I am and all that I have at his feet. And just trust. 

I’ve noticed that a lot of people my age experience similar feelings: post-grad/early adulthood angst. “What do I do with my life?” “How do I get started?” “Is this really what I want?” We want to make a difference in the world. There’s so many opportunities out there that it’s easy to get paralyzed by fear and indecision.

Maybe these questions will continue to follow us at any age. To anyone who can relate, use this time to be silent with God.

Even if he isn’t clear about his will for you and when opportunities seem to be waving goodbye, he is still good. He still loves you. You still have a purpose, and you still matter. There’s still much to learn.

Soak in this time to draw near to God and trust that he is preparing you for what’s next. It may be months or years away from now before you feel like “This is what I’m meant for!” And that’s okay.

Take every opportunity to grow, to be sanctified, and to learn about who God is and who you are in him.

In times when the future seems unclear and when you don’t know which way to turn, stay close to Jesus and find refreshment from him alone.

How do you respond in times of uncertainty?

 

 

Pursuing Passion

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what this means. What does it look like to be passionate? How do you take those small ideas and make them into something grand and meaningful? Can your passions change?

I’ve got post-graduation blues. Meaning, I’ve had Big Dreams that I’ve been pursuing for a long time. I decided to attend school to fulfill them, and this is the plan I’ve always communicated to people when they ask what I’m studying and how I want to use my education. “Well, I want to _____ for _____ and I can’t wait! It’s going to be amazing.”

Now that I’ve graduated, I feel a little lost about my future. I’m unemployed – whaddup –and still not sure what kind of job would fulfill me. I’m not ready to jump into ministry, counseling, or social work after coming off of a draining year.

What I have wanted to pursue, now doesn’t seem to fulfill or excite me in the way I expected. And other things that have been small passions in my life are becoming more dominant.

My passions are changing. And right now I’m in the ambiguous arena of figuring out how to pick up these new ones, and decide what to do with the ones I’ve carried for so long.

1. Hold plans loosely. Making plans keeps us moving forward. Setting goals helps us make the most of our time here, and can pull us out of difficult situations to propel us into a better, more fulfilling future.

But it’s easy for us to put all our hope in those plans and goals. And when things inevitably change or look different than what we expect, we get disappointed and angry at God, ourselves, and people around us. I don’t mean that we shouldn’t pursue our passions, nor that we shouldn’t make plans for our lives.

But as we plan, we should walk faithfully with Jesus and keep our lives in his hands instead of our own. As we plan, we give up our desires and seek his instead. As we pursue our passions, we use them to glorify him more.

He sees our future and knows what’s ahead. Even when the future holds dark places, we must walk through it with Jesus or we won’t make it through well. We won’t be changed for the better, softened to love more, strengthened to challenge each other, and marked for his kingdom. Let us make plans, pursue our passions, and give them to Jesus. 

We do this by being in prayer. By committing our skills, abilities, and passions to be used for his glory. This means sharing Jesus with others in our network of influence. It means being vulnerable about our difficulties, our sins, and our weaknesses, as well as our victories and joys with each other so that we can grow together. It means making wise choices for our future and our families. It means committing to a spiritual journey to become more like Jesus.

2. It’s okay when our passions change. I used to make fun of sayings like  “changing life seasons” or “chapters”… but now I don’t care, and I thinks it’s a really great marker for how life really feels.

Life inevitably brings unexpected things our way, and that may mean we have to make changes in regards to what we pursue. This might stem from financial blessings or difficulties, illness, loss, moves, jobs changes, marriage hardship, or mental health decline. Whatever it is, different seasons of life bring unique sets of challenges.

For me right now, it’s that I graduated college and now have no idea what I want to do next. I’m still passionate about people, but I don’t know if counseling is the field for me. I’m interested in missionary work, but this doesn’t seem to align with both my husband and my future together, at least for now.

My biggest dream is to someday have a home with a big garden, kids running around, and hosting missionaries, students, bands, friends, and family in our home to bless them with a retreat from hardships they might be going through. Obviously, this one will take a long time to establish. With time, we’ll get here, but for now this one is just out of reach.

Instead, what I’m finding is that I’m falling in love with something new. Writing and reading. To be honest, I think I’m a terrible writer. I know I have a lot to grow in and work on. But I love it.

A long, long time ago, I used to devour novels and biographies. I used to write poems and stories, and journal about the things I was learning. As I entered school, these fell to the side because I didn’t have time or capacity to pour into these outlets.

Now that I have time on my hands, I’m doing them more. And as I pursue these, I fall more in love with them. My passions are changing. It makes me confused about the future, knowing it will probably look very different from what I was expecting. It makes me question what kind of job I should be looking for, at least until I see where this pursuit takes me. But all of that is okay.

3. Cultivate Newness. I think cultivating passion starts with chasing those things that make you happy. What makes you excited and invigorated. The things that you keep coming back to. Big or small, “if it’s still on your mind, it must be worth the risk.”

That’s where you’ll find me. Chasing those little things, learning as I go, wading into the uncharted and unknown, with lots of room to grow. Happily pursuing the things that I love and creating new passions that might offer clearer direction moving forward.

While I still want to pursue those Big Dreams in the long run, I also won’t be disappointed if my plans change and I don’t end up getting there, specifically. And I won’t be upset if God takes us in a different direction and sends us into something completely uncharted.

May we seek to align ourselves with Jesus and find the deepest joy in pursuing what he has for us.

What are you passionate about? How do you incorporate Jesus in your plans and goals for the future?

 

What to Say When You Feel Like Nothing’s Changed

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different?” – C.S. Lewis.

If we are truly human, we are constantly changing. Whether it’s subtle or monumental, we are affected, moved, and challenged by the things we encounter every day. This will affect future decisions and encounters we face, like a collection of rules and standards by which we live.

For me, change is difficult to recognize. I often plow through weeks at a time without stopping to reflect on how I’ve grown and changed. Often, I get down on myself for where I am in life because it feels like I’ve been the same person I’ve always been.

In a practice of remembrance and vulnerability, this morning, I am articulating just how much I’ve changed since graduating a few weeks ago.

1. I let myself experience emotion.  This past Sunday morning, I was driving home to pick up Nathan and attend our church’s 2nd service. Without even a polite hello, tears started overflowing my eyes and spilling onto my face. I spent the whole drive home wiping the tears aside, and trying to explore what was happening in my soul. I couldn’t think of anything that sparked these tears, but surely there was something.

When I got home, I threw a blanket over my head, laid on the couch, gave myself 10 minutes to cry it out. After the tears dried up, I was able to articulate that I have a lot of fear about what’s next for me. This transition is not easy, and there are so many unknowns that I’m overwhelmed.

My body was responding before my mind was able to articulate it, and by letting my body release it, I was able to process it emotionally and work through it.

This has happened several times. The first day after my last college final, I stood in the shower listening to a version of “Good, Good Father” and cried for 20 minutes, praising the Lord for his goodness to us and weeping over the sadness and anger I’ve carried with me over the last few years.

Emotions are cleansing for the body, soul, and mind. I’m done with stuffing them away. Instead, I’m giving myself the capacity to feel, no matter how strange, confusing, or silly those feelings might be. With time, they won’t be so fresh or unexpected.

Through this, I’m allowing my soul to be sanctified, cleansed, redeemed, and made into something new, prepared for something new.

2. My capacity for spirituality is increasing.  I’ve vigorously avoided spiritual conversations. I anticipate avoiding the Christianity section at Barnes and Noble for a while, and the Wish List of commentaries and theology books I created on Amazon will remain untouched.

If you read my post Overloading Our Souls, then you know I’ve been overwhelmed by the “spirituality” of my college’s community. It has been poison to my desire for seeking spiritual things. Sad, I know. But it’s true.

Even though there’s a lot of hardness towards spirituality, Nathan and I have been praying before meals again. And we started praying together before bed again: for each other, for our family and friends, for our present and our future. Each word is a drop of fresh water on my parched soul.

Part of living life as a student means you don’t have a lot of time. For me, it meant I couldn’t give very much to our church or community at home. Back in high school and my freshman year of college, I actively led bible studies, met with people on a weekly basis for discipleship and study, and volunteered in our community. Since then, I haven’t been able to be as active.

I’ve felt the contradiction in learning about how a Christian should speak, live, and give, while simultaneously not having the time or capacity to give anything at all. I’ve been so worn out and beaten down that I haven’t had anything to offer (or so I felt). It’s a backwards lifestyle. Not very fulfilling either.

Now, I want to pick these up again. I want to volunteer, I want to participate and be engaged in our church home. I want to meet with others for prayer, study, and building relationships. I miss worshiping in a body of believers.

The very thing that my soul has ached for is what I’ve been pushing away. But I feel this heavy burden dissipating, and my soul is picking up the pieces of wholeness to learn how to thrive again.

3. I have more energy.  When’s the last time you worked out? For me, it was…. 4 months ago? Or is it 6 months.

Not only have I not had the time, but I’ve had no energy to even leave our house in the evenings. When you only have 2 hours at home in an evening before you go to bed and it starts all over again, you hoard it like a wild, hungry dog that finally caught the stupid squirrel it’s been chasing for weeks. (Gross….)

We ate extremely unhealthily this semester because we got home so late. Dinnertime was “what’s the fastest thing we can make that still tastes moderately okay so that we can shove it into our bodies immediately?” So, we lived on pasta and rice dishes most of the time.

With all the stress and overwhelming nature of this semester, I wasn’t sleeping very well. I spent many nights tossing and turning on the couch until 2-3am, only to wake up at 5:30 for a new day.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

I was chronically exhausted, with no outlet for my physical or emotional tension. But I feel this changing.

This week I went to our local fresh market and bought enough fresh produce and meat to stuff our entire fridge for the week. I actually have time to prepare healthy meals for us that will make us feel better.

While I’m not as active because I’m not out and about as much, I feel more rested. I’m not aimlessly shifting between classes, commuter lounges, the campus coffee shop, the library, and a thousand other places I went to for peace and quiet before I could go home for the evening.

Lately, I don’t have as much physical anxiety. I’ve been able to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. I’ve let myself sleep 9+ hours because I think I’ve really needed it. And while I still have to pry myself out of bed, I feel so much healthier.

And you know what’s hilarious? Me trying to do yoga. As someone who has recently gained about 15 pounds, with little to no strength in any part of my body, doing yoga in my living room consists of me falling over 70% of the time, and the other 30% of the time is me scoffing and laughing at how wonderfully inflexible I am.

But it’s something that I’m working towards: being more physically active. Just this morning, I thought about taking a run around the neighborhood sometime today. I will definitely look lame and it only last like 5 minutes, but it’s something.

I’m getting things done. On Monday, I spent the whole day doing things. I spent an hour scraping off 4-5 inches of solid ice from our car’s windshield (seriously, it was ridiculously difficult) and replacing the windshield wipers. I cleaned the kitchen, planned weekly meals, went grocery shopping and to SAMs, cooked dinner, put away all our christmas decorations , reorganized our second bedroom closet (a huge project), and did the dishes. That’s more than what I’ve done all semester. It might seem trivial, but to me, it was a mark of change.

4. I want to read again. When you have to read 100 pages of a ridiculously uninteresting text book in one night, you have no desire to pick up another book. Your mind was murdered by boredom.

Lately, I want to read again. Books, magazines, blogs, research, newspapers. I’m finding myself more inspired, challenged, creatively sparked, and fulfilled as I’ve done so. I love it. It’s so good for me.

These random pieces of reflection are so meaningful to me. I hope I never return to the state I was in just a few months ago. Deteriorating, withering, suffocating. Instead, I’m embracing change and striving towards healthiness and wholeness again.

This sacred remembrance shows me how much I’ve already changed, and how much more I have to go. It pushes me forward into the future, with clear foundations to stand on.

Thank you, Jesus, for this change.