- Stand Still -
This was the promise:
“….Don’t be afraid. Just stand still, and watch the Lord rescue you. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm…” The promise I have desperately clung to for the last 212 days.
This was the fortune:
“…You will be rewarded for listening in the next week…” A fortune opened on Tuesday, July 29th, the day before I was headed home to NYC.
The following chronicles the events of the next week, a week I wont soon forget…
- The Calm Before The Storm -
Between bouts of turbulence and handfuls of Cheez-its, I scribbled down a rough outline of some of the things God had been teaching me that week. Titling it ‘When God Drags You Through The Wilderness,’ I considered for a moment if it would make a good blot post someday…
As the turbulence picked back up again, I quickly jotted down the things I had found in Exodus 13-14.
God saying,“…I know you thought you were in the clear, but it’s going to get BAD! … And then its going to get WORSE! Even more surprising, I planned it that way!”
I continued, paralleling the Israelites cornered by the Red Sea, the idea that, “the circumstances you are up against are equally hopeless as they can be potentially miraculous.”
The seatbelt sign dinged on just as the turbulence sent my ginger-ale spilling over onto my notebook. Furiously I scribbled one last sentence into the corner.
Barely legible it reads, “What God has led you to, He will walk you through…”
Tucking my journal away in my carry-on bag, I could have never anticipated that 8 hours later those thoughts hurriedly written on a soda-splattered sheet of notebook paper, would be the only things holding my crumbling world together…
- Complete Devastation -
Only God knows how close I was to giving up on everything; the complete devastation, and shocking revelations that had been awaiting me once the wheels touched the tarmac the night before.
It’s all such an intense fog; my Dad pleading with me over the phone to get some sleep, my thoughts held captive by …who would get the bedroom set? …the TV? … Sweet Jesus, the toaster? …. the two Tylenol Pm’s that had finally put my tormented thoughts to rest.
I had only one question left for God, “…How did I get here?”
His response was exactly like I had written on the plane, “…I know you thought you were in the clear, but it’s going to get BAD… and then it’s going to get WORSE. And I planned it that way!”
I put the weight of my head in my hands, “…You planned THIS?” I questioned, surveying the wreckage left of my life.
My thoughts then turned in disbelief at the events on the calendar for the following day…
… How was it possible that the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth could have such horrific timing?
- Don’t Give Up -
The events scheduled for the weekend of August 1-3 have been on the calendar since October of last year …Long before my life imploded!
It began as a favor for a college friend; a speaking engagement at a summer camp that would have us traveling down to South Carolina: the land of sweet tea, barbecue, and our favorite church in the universe. Interestingly, a church we had never actually been to! But this would be our chance, and we were ecstatic to think that once the camp was over, we could make the few hour drive to one of their services (along with 30,000 other people) after being touched by so many services online over the years.
Come December though, the plot thickened.
The pastor of that church in South Carolina – the church we were already SO excited to be visiting the following summer – was (coincidentally) on vacation in NYC of all places! Even more exciting was that he was looking for someone to give him and his family a tour of the city, and the duty fell effortlessly into my husband’s lap!
Even better, was that this well-respected public figure and my husband hit it off so well they agreed to meet once a year, every year. To say we were ecstatic was an understatement, and whether we ‘happy danced’ in the kitchen is something I will neither confirm nor deny! :) In every sense of the word, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
When asked when they should meet first, my husband thought of the camp he was scheduled to speak at (…the camp that was in the same state as the church, if you remember) so they both marked their calendars for the first weekend of August.
Weeks later though, the camp got cancelled, leaving just this chance opportunity.
It seemed perfect, almost divine…
….And for that, I was enraged at God!
This trip that had us giddy with excitement, this opportunity that magically just fell into our laps months ago, also had us scheduled to leave TODAY, and just hours after we had been faced with unbearable heartache! Anyone looking in would agree, this dream opportunity seemed unfit for two people living in a reality that resembled more of a hellish nightmare.
As I continued to question God and throw punches at His horrendous timing, a text came in from my friend. A devotion in which God addressed my greatest concerns head on,
“As you journey along your life path with me, refuse to let your past define you or your expectations of what lies ahead. The future is in my hands and I can do surprising new things with it. Your gravest danger is giving up; ceasing to believe I can do wondrous new things in you and your world. [For I have said] I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
I felt the weight of what God was asking, but questioned if I possessed enough strength to listen. I was beat to a bloody pulp, on my knees in surrender, my circumstances crushingly hopeless…
Again I was reminded of what I wrote on the plane just days before; that just like the Israelites up against the hopelessness of the Red Sea, “ the circumstances you are up against are equally HOPELESS as they are potentially MIRACULOUS….”
I thought of the curious fortune, the promise of “ A reward for listening in the next week…”
God had my attention. And in the end I would give in to what He was pressing me to do and go to South Carolina, but not without a final proposition: He had only till the end of the week.
And my demands didn’t stop there-
As I packed my bags I outlined two requirements to my husband for our impending trip; that if given the opportunity we would be honest…
… And for the love of all that is holy, that we NOT celebrate our wedding anniversary…
- The Defeat Of Unworthiness -
Somewhere along I-95, between pit stops and Starbucks runs, somewhere after the bustling city skyline faded into the rearview mirror (and with it the horrific events of the last 48 hours) somewhere along the endless stretches of trees and Cracker Barrels paving the way towards a dream opportunity we in no way deserved, my most incapacitating insecurities started to surface.
….What were we thinking? ….Who were we kidding? God was done with us …and seriously, who could blame Him?
Even during dinner with the Pastor and his family later that night, the thoughts never let up. It felt like a circus; wrangling monkeys… and elephants…and the roaring feelings of unworthiness that were being blared over the megaphone. Despite the outstanding performance, lighthearted conversation, and hugs goodbye, only we knew the chaos going on behind the red curtain….
The last thing I remember before closing my eyes to go to sleep that night, was asking God to hold me; to calm my restlessness, and to speak louder than my greatest insecurities….
…. almost instantaneously I drifted off to sleep…
- The Power Of His Providence -
Sitting in our seats at church was everything and more that I thought it would be, and yet I couldn’t get past how unfit – how incredibly undeserving – we were to be experiencing it.
Again I pleaded with God to speak louder than my inadequacy. I knew how hopeless my marriage and my future looked, and how unworthy we were of this dream opportunity, but I desperately needed to know what He thought…
Moments later, the Pastor spoke these words that I will never forget,
“…You may feel too messy, and like you don’t deserve to be here, but here you are! And it’s not coincidence, it’s providence!”
Instantly the tears welled in my eyes, remembering this weekend that had been put on the calendar long before I could understand it’s purpose. There was no controlling the tears streaming down my face as I thought of how close I had been to giving up… the strength I could barely muster to continue listening to what God was asking of me; to trust Him, even if only for one. more. week. I placed my hand on my heart thinking of all the times I had wondered if the Lord saw the state of my broken heart, the times I wondered if He would do what He promised and fight the raging battle before me.
I looked to my husband and found him wiping tears from his own eyes, and it became apparent we were right where God intended for us to be; broken, messy, and standing in awe of a God who continues to bless his people, even when we are most undeserving.
It wasn’t pretty, but like the pastor said, it also wasn’t coincidence… it was providence!
That day I rushed out of the service, my fingers dialing my mom long before I could even make it out to the parking lot. Some time later and after I’d given my mom the play-by-play of the last few days, my husband opened the car door in a fury, speaking fast, and demanding that I drive!
I looked up to find him pale, and stumbling to sit down and catch his breath…
“…Th-ey’re… gonna… offer me a job…”
“Mom, I gotta call you back.” I said dropping my phone to my lap before I could even finish my sentence.
- Be Honest -
Nearly everyday I am reminded of the influential man that sat across from us that day eating Chic-Fil-A and discussing a mind-boggling job prospect like it wasn’t THAT big of a deal.
Every day I see his inspiring quotes being retweeted, and his motivational blog posts being shared on Facebook, and I am reminded of all the years we had spent watching his messages online from across the country, how him and my husband (coincidentally) got to meet in NYC…
But above all else, I remember this moment in time, when between sips of sweet tea, we told him our marriage was crumbling.
He had asked, and unfortunatly for us, we had promised to be honest.
I can remember my husband and I smiling nervously at each other, for a moment fearing the outcome if we were “exposed”… nodding in the direction of my husband, I gave him permission to answer honestly, and listened as he spoke words of brokenness, and burn-out, mistakes, and a desperate need for restoration in our family.
My eyes watched the man across from us, listening intently to my husband as he spoke.
He never flinched.
And I realized something powerful, that God doesn’t flinch either….
God sees what we are up against and upon the surveying the wreckage that is left of our lives, He exposes us for the mess we really are. And yet upon hearing our sob story, our slip-ups, and greatest shortcomings, He looks on us with love and sees the potential greatness in us even still!
Oh, what a great day that was! Calling friends and family with praise on the tips of our tongues; praise of a new job (…a DREAM job nonetheless!) but even more, praise thanks to a new revelation that came just days after our world came crashing down;
That God was not done with us yet!!!!
- The Lord Himself Will Fight For You -
The last 6 months have been best described as waking up each and every morning wondering, praying even, that it was all just a horrific nightmare…. but on the morning of Tuesday, August 5th, exactly one week from the fortune promising, “a reward for listening in the next week,” we woke up for the first time in 6 months wondering, praying even, that our reality wasn’t just a DREAM!
…And on our wedding anniversary nonetheless!
A day that will go down in history as the best anniversary we never celebrated!
The day God confirmed that we are a mess, but that He was not done! That while the damage is devastating He is a God who makes pathways through the wilderness and rivers in the dry wasteland. He doesn’t flinch at what we are up against, and even when our past is most agonizing, He is able to do surprising and wondrous new things in our future! No matter how brutal or hopeless, The Lord will fight the battle before you as long as you stand still, stay calm and NEVER GIVE UP!
My friends, there is SO much more I wish I could tell you, and so much more hard work ahead of me and my family, but the most important thing I want you to remember is that What God has led us to, He will walk us through.
He is not done-
….So NEVER underestimate what God can do in a week!