Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up.
Expect God to get here soon.
Psalm 31:24, The Message
The past six months have been a whirlwind of excitement, new adventures, mountains and valleys. At the end of December we bought our first house; a completely unexpected, unasked for, unmerited gift. Looking back on our experience from mid-December through today, I’m not even sure where to start. How do you put words to God’s great grace in your life?
Years ago, Matt and I sat down and reflected on our life in Los Angeles. Over the course of our marriage we have often discussed our goals, our dreams, our wants verses our needs — what it looks like to raise a family, and even more what it looks like to raise a family fifteen hundred miles away from family to the north and seventeen hundred miles from family to the southeast, and to do it well. We’ve talked about sacrifice and we’ve talked about calling, and in the end of our beginning we decided that we would forego the American Dream, in lieu of something much bigger, but it has not been a decision for the faint of heart.
On Sunday morning as I drove down to Eagle Rock (the area of east Los Angeles where our church is located), I looked out on the LA skyline … there have been plenty of times when I’ve longed to live where I didn’t have to look at a sky permeated with pollution, suffocating all the blue and replacing it with a miry brown, but this week I looked at all those buildings with brown hovering above and I just thought, His plans are so much bigger than mine. Living in a concrete jungle was not my dream, but so often — when we let Him — He replaces our ideas with the dreams He has for us. Dreams of ways He can and will use us.
Only four weeks after we moved into our home, a waterline in our kitchen broke, resulting in damaged walls and floors. My house that had been renovated only months before we bought it was being destroyed more and more each day, as the removal of water damaged surfaces revealed mold and then asbestos. Three different demolition crews had to come in to make sure that everything was handled and disposed of properly. There were days when we couldn’t walk from one side of the house to the other without circumventing it on the outside. We decided to live through the mess at home — our home — with all four kids and the dog.
Over the course of six weeks (and some of it still continues), we dealt with the insurance company, demolition and mitigation crews, mortgage company, three different plumbers, and a contractor and his suppliers and workers. To say our life was upended and crazy is an understatement.
In the middle of it all though, I had this overwhelming sense of peace. I just kept reminding myself that “Even the winds and waves obey him!” (Matthew 8:27), and if He could know and answer an unspoken prayer by providing this house, then He could work out all the details of the expenses, meals for six in a non-functioning kitchen, and could invade every room of this house with His peace, and He did.
Today, that is where I find myself. Completely blown away by His goodness, overwhelmed by His grace, and inspired to live bravely because of the way He shows up and cares for me, and yet so often my inspiration gets pushed to the side as I get overwhelmed with an obstacle, challenge or change in life.
A few weeks ago we left Texas after an unexpected and unplanned trip. We had all been feeling tired and worn after the mess of renovation and the end of the school year. We needed a break. What a refuge that land has become for me over the past sixteen years. There is something about the wide open spaces on my in-laws’ ranch and the way a thunderstorm can roll in and dance across the pasture. Maybe it’s the clean air or the humidity and it’s definitely the company, but I always feel so refreshed after spending any time there at all, and yet when I leave, I am inevitably sad.
Even with our new home and our great church and school communities, it is still hard to live so far from family. And I want my kids to feel free to express all the emotions that ebb and flow with our coming and going, and so I am open with all that I’m feeling — allowing joy and pain, happiness and sadness to mingle in a hot mess in our mini-van as we drive through the Big Thicket of east Texas.
Tomorrow I will go to work for the first time in six and half years and I am so nervous. Years ago in one of my seasons of fear, Matt asked me what my ideal living situation would be. I said “I would love to live in a suburb of a large city and have my kids in private school, but that will never happen.” Every time I think I’ve figured Him out, He comes in and blows the doors off the hinges of the limitations I’ve placed on Him.
I keep reminding myself of God’s provision of our home in a quaint suburb outside of Los Angeles, of His grace in giving me this job; of the way that He has seemed to orchestrate our life so that the kids and I will all be on the same campus during the school week, but I’ve been surprised by my thoughts and emotions and doubts as my first day has gotten closer and closer and is now here. Am I capable of being a working mom? Will I be able to keep the house clean and the uniforms washed and ironed? Will I have to give up exercising or cooking most of our meals? What if I break the dress code or let someone down? Will we be able to continue to afford our home and private school? What if I just can’t do it all?
I am learning that sometimes just living in the dark corners, sharp edges or in the unknown is brave.
Coming back to the home He’s given in the place where He’s called is brave.
Not having all the answers, but choosing to put one foot in front of the other and to do my best where I am planted is brave.
Letting go of the supposition that there cannot ever be crumbs on the floors, dishes in the sink, or unfolded laundry, and choosing instead to be fully present with the people you love is brave.
It was so loud when our house was daily being torn apart and put back together. For six weeks there were always men in the house. Each time I thought I could escape and go to a store or drop a kid off at school, a new face would appear at the door and I would end up being late or a no-show. On the second day of all the chaos, I remember thinking “How are we going to do this? How am I going to make it through this? But in that moment my mind was flooded with promises:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
“So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?'”
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
They say that the eye of the storm is still, and as the ins and outs of daily life became tumultuous I found myself growing more and more calm; not because I am naturally a settled person, but because I became completely convinced of God’s great, great love for me. When something else would go wrong or an expenditure was growing, I found myself thinking “If even the wind and waves obey him, then bring it on!”
I want to live brave like that, not only in the huge upheavals of life, but in the daily moments when things get rough … when I’m running late, when the kids aren’t listening, when the house isn’t pristine, when I haven’t had a second to myself in days, when I feel unheard or unknown. I want to live bravely knowing that the Creator of the universe is for me and with me, and not one thing I go through throws Him off or surprises Him. I can be brave in all things, because I am not the author of this story, and no matter what the situation He will show up.
Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
If you’d like to read more on being brave, read Allison’s post, and follow the links through the blog roll.