Chris and I were fortunate to spend last week in his home state of California, and I'm going to do my best to tell you how God unpacked my mind and my heart while we were there. It was an intense week, but so incredibly good.
Over this summer, Chris had the opportunity to complete two clerkships at two wonderful law firms. We were completely shocked and in awe when he received an offer from not one, but both firms - job offers for when he's done with school, and he would even be getting to work in the department he's most interested in. We had been praying for God to produce fruit from these clerkships, but in the deepest corners of our hearts, we were hoping for just one offer so we wouldn't have to pick. Naturally, God had other plans in mind :) We are so fortunate in that both firms are in the state of Texas, and actually both in the metroplex - but they are very different workspaces in very different cities. We've been completely unsure of which way to go.
The firms have given us several weeks to decide officially, but we wanted to go ahead and have a firm decision made coming back from this trip. I'm going to go ahead and tell you that that did not happen, and I know God's intentions are good in that.
The first few days of our trip were very go-go-go... we had so many things we'd talked about doing and we quickly realized there was no way to do all of that. On day four (over a scoop of ice cream, because vacation), I asked Chris what he really wanted to do this week. He said he had been wanting to entertain me and give me a good time - always a sweetheart, this one - and I told him that I honestly was carrying a huge burden of stress that I hadn't fully told him about. We both decided we needed pure relaxation the rest of the week. Hallelu! We decided to spend the following day resting, fasting, and being specifically prayerful for the decision on our shoulders and for this blog.
Side note: Fasting is a new concept for both of us, and we were really looking forward to learning and humbling ourselves in the process. I feel really good about us continuing to do this routinely, as it was wonderful for us to physically align our needs with God as the first priority. We just finished reading Celebration of Discipline, which has a chapter on fasting that was incredibly enlightening (you can even read the whole thing here, for free). If you're curious, I'd recommend you read it - or you can shoot me an email and I'll do my best to answer your questions :)
First I'll give you the update on where I've been... and a look into my lack of posting recently. Since July, I've been walking in a lot of fear and doubt about this blog. The past year has been one of immense spiritual growth for me - learning to lean into God in the every day moments of my life like I've never done before. I've learned that we live to 1. walk closely with God and by doing that, 2. share the truth of the Gospel. Learning what that means on an every day level in my life has been completely freeing. I knew I wanted to serve God but couldn't begin to figure out what that looked like outside of a soup kitchen - He was gracious to show me that serving Him happens in everything we do, and it's easiest to start serving in the skills and places He's gifted us uniquely.
However, during a conversation with a close friend, the devil started whispering lies to me - lies that I originally thought were subtle cues from God for me to step back, be quiet, and learn about Him more before speaking again. I was worried that I didn't know enough about God to talk about Him publicly. I felt that people would see me and see "naive white girl with money" and they wouldn't see Jesus. I was afraid of being told I was wrong for things I said, so instead I said nothing. I thought I was being humble but all of this is pride, pride, pride.
I confessed to Chris during our first day on the beach how I was feeling and after saying it all out loud, I was finally able to realize that I knew those feelings were wrong. They weren't from God. Thursday we spent the day in prayer and solitude (together on the beach, but not really talking). It was incredibly restorative and healing. I read all of Anything by Jennie Allen that day, and found God speaking to me through about 99% of the book. I was an underlining fool. Some of my favorite things I learned were these:
- I am a screw-up. Living my life in acceptance of the fact that I am going to mess up, that I am going to fail, and I'm going to need grace is such a more truthful and more beautiful picture of the Gospel than me living in the mindset of trying to be a "good person". I have a nasty habit of walking the defensive in this area of my life - living in a way that says subconsciously says, "I'm a good person, so I think I'm doing really well in my life" instead of being humble enough to say, "Actually, I fail in that area too - sometimes daily, sometimes hourly. Here's what I've been learning in that." And when I live in acceptance of my own brokenness, in my own sin - when the weight of that sin pushes me to my knees - that's where I can let go of my selfish pride enough to make room for God in my heart. That knowledge I need to have of my sin driving me to my knees? That's right where I need to be... on those knees, praying.
- I hate sin. I don't hate people. I've wrestled with this one for a long time... I've lived several years of my life in fear of specific people because I don't want to let them down, or I don't want to hear them tell me I'm wrong. Instead I build up walls to protect my heart. A really broken thing that I do is make people into idols - I set heavy responsibilities on their shoulders in the ways I've sought acceptance and praise from them. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Jennie has a line in her book where she says, "It helped me be more able to forgive when I realized we never are really fighting people... forgiveness becomes easier when I realize people are not my enemies". The war I'm fighting is against sin - and the devil is so good at using the people we love most (and the people we dislike) to hurl lies at us. When I think of how afraid I am of people, I can only imagine how afraid someone could be of me. I'm certain that any good that comes out of my mouth is from God and not me, because I am not that eloquent with words in tough conversations... I'm so thankful for the grace God gives me every day where I let sin overcome me, and I pray that I can become more gracious to others.
Lastly, God used this book and the time I spent in solitude with Him to remind me of where I was before July... and to answer some questions I have had for Him for awhile now. I've had a really hard time grasping fear of God... and grasping how He and I can have such an intimate relationship, but He is also so incredibly mighty. I've had a "coffee date" relationship so far, which has been so wonderful and intimate and I feel like I'm talking with a dear friend. But I also want to know of His might and power... so that I may more fully understand the gravity of what He can do, how He can protect me, why I shouldn't be afraid of others, how I should be afraid of Him.
If you haven't spent time in California, I'll let you know that the waves can be incredibly huge. There's lush wildlife everywhere, all kinds of colorful birds, and huge, steep cliffs. The sun is so vivid and bright, and the sky the brightest blue. I grew up spending summers in the Gulf of Mexico, and while the white sand and emerald waters are gorgeous, I hadn't felt the weight of God's creation until this trip. In the mornings, I would sit on our balcony and watch green birds chase each other and sing to the day. I felt God telling me, "Just as I delight in these small birds, I delight in you, daughter." I saw the waves and felt their icy cold and was fearful to get in - I felt Him shouting, "Look at how majestic I am! I am so strong and mighty, and I can swallow up any darkness in my path." I thought of many of the epic stories I love - nerd moment for a minute - Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter. I know the Bible falls right in line with these epic tales that are so close to my heart and stir my soul. I felt Him whisper to me, "There is a great war going on. You are invited to participate. And the victory is completely mine."
Late one night, I was telling Chris about how I felt like God has flipped a switch on inside of me. Like I had been listening to a song for awhile now, and really loved listening to it, but only now did I learn that it's actually a masterpiece, and it was the first song to be composed this way, and here, look at the notes and their artistry, the theory... it's all so complex and wonderful. I read out loud the passage in Hebrews where great Christian men are described in detail - and that still they did not receive in full what they had been promised. That they wait for return of Christ, knowing that they wait in order for more of God's children to be involved, for the promise to be completed in full. I felt how incredibly small I am, how short my life is, and yet how full of light it could be if I choose to participate in this war against darkness. I got teary telling Chris I was worried we would go home and I would forget and go back to living a life of safety and contentment. I felt wrecked in the best kind of way.
I know words like this are big and epic and don't feel real. For me, this blog feels that way... I fear being so exposed. I fear you thinking I've lost my mind. I fear you thinking I'm after my own fame. I fear writing something that's only from me and not at all from Him. I can fear a lot of things (I'm really good at that), but mostly I just want to fear God. I want to walk closely to my friend, my Savior, my King. I don't want to live a normal life. It's rarely easy, and it takes a lot of trust in Him, but it is so beautifully meaningful. I don't want to miss out on participating in things that last forever. I'm done writing in fear or in shame. I'm ready to write, praying God gives me humility, and asking you for endless grace as we walk together. I don't know what it is about me writing this down or speaking it out loud, but when I do, it feels a lot bigger than me. I feel pretty confident that what's happening is in no way my own doing, and I see evidence of that when people approach me or write to me, expressing how helpful or encouraging That's Pretty Ace has been for them. While the skills given to me are a gift, I am the dispenser of that gift, and I want to live in a way that's open-handed enough for God to use me to recklessly save, heal, and love. It's not legalism or duty... it's joy.
And as I've said before, I'll say again - let's share joy together.