God’s Not Done With You

bethesda snow

Would you bow your heads to pray.  

That was my cue to exit the church service before anyone could see my fragile state, or worse – try talking to me on my way out. I drove home in a fury, and as soon as the tires touched the driveway I bolted from the car into the house. Once the door closed behind me, I fell to the floor in a heap of tears.

Just as my knees had given out, so had my spirit.

On the ground, I raised my hands to signify my physical surrender to my circumstances. I couldn’t go on like this anymore. Adamantly I pleaded with the Lord for relief. Knowing there was no end in sight, I literally cried out in distress.

Is this what my life had amounted to?

“Just left something for you on your doorstep.” said the text message. Confused and shaken I quickly picked myself up fearing that my sobs and hysterical pleas had been heard by someone nearby! Relieved to see no one there, I opened the front door to find a book on the step. As I bent down to pick it up, a piece of paper fell delicately from it’s pages.

In disbelief I read the title of the loose sheet of paper, “It’s Not Over Till It’s Over.”

Comparing this mess called ‘Life’ to a long movie, the author writes these words,“…as the curtain falls and I think to myself, this is a strange way to end. I look again and see God pointing to the screen as if to say, ‘This my child, is not the end, but an intermission…’”

Just seconds after being in a fit of tears , the author’s next words, almost felt like they were instructing me in that exact moment. Like they knew…

“Can I encourage you to sit down, take a deep breath, stretch, and regroup? The story’s not over yet. Perhaps you are just at an intermission. We shouldn’t put a period where God put a comma.

Holy mother of Abraham Lincoln… that just happened!

If that wasn’t God speaking to me, I don’t know what is!

As I sat on the steps of my front porch taking in the depth of those words, I was reminded of yet another powerful story that I had heard years ago…

Alter Weiner, a Holocaust survivor, described the unimaginable circumstances he had endured in the 35 months he spent in concentration camps.

He spoke of how by March 1945, that he was so emaciated and weak as a result of starvation, that he could no longer work due to his frailty. The Nazi’s saw no purpose in a Jew who couldn’t work, and so he was sent by train to a neighboring concentration camp where he would be killed.

He described standing in an endless line with other battered and beaten Jews – all hopelessly watching groups of Jews ahead of them being ushered into gas chambers, their lifeless bodies emerging moments later as they were carried away to be cremated.

Feeling the weight of his reality with each step he took – stepping closer and closer to his imminent death.

In his book, “From A Name To A Number” he explains being both utterly terrified yet filled with a deep desire for the pain and torture to cease – even if it meant his life having to end to do so.

He couldn’t do it any longer.

“I was standing in line for the doomed, waiting to be gassed and cremated. I sniffed the offensive odor of burning flesh. I felt downright scared. The thought of being so close to death sucked the life out of me.

Then a German civilian approached me. My heart stopped. He shouted at me, “Get out of line, young boy!  You can still work!”

You can imagine the tension in that moment: not knowing whether you should shout for joy at the thought of another day, or if in complete frustration you should cry out to God for punishing you even longer! After all, he was saved, but only to be sent back to another concentration camp!

But Alter’s story was no where near over yet…

Amazingly, less than 8 weeks later  – in just two months – Alter’s concentration camp would be liberated by the Russian Army! He would be set free from the torture, and suffering he had endured over the years at the hands of the Nazi’s.

While Alter stood weary and hopeless in that line just weeks ago – coming so close to death that he could literally smell it – he most certainly believed he had reached the end.

And yet, it proved to have only been an intermission.

I wonder how many of us could identify the same desperation and emotional emaciation in our own lives. Our circumstances leaving us so frail and weary, that we are no longer recognizable to ourselves.

I know I can’t be the only one who has found myself a midst a raging storm in my life .

One so long and so hard that I have fallen to my knees, arms outstretched in surrender as I pleaded for the winds that were threatening to overtake me, to cease.

If that is where you have found yourself today, then please remember :

This is not the end, it is only an intermission…

The story is not over yet!

Your Liberator is coming for you!

In Isaiah 41:10 its says, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

The Lord is making a series of promises.

I am with you…

I will strengthen you…

I will help you…

I will uphold you…

I think we could agree that the idea of Christ being ‘with us’ is a nice thought – kinda makes us feel all fuzzy inside – but if we are really honest, hasn’t the Lord also seemed so silent at times?

It’s like He is passively holding out on us, while in desperation we wonder:

When will His strength come?

When will His help deliver us?

And why – in this very instant – isn’t the Lord choosing to make His presence known by rescuing us from our current heartache like a prince on his stallion? Like now!?

Yet I have found that when the flood waters have risen; when the heat has been turned up to the ‘oomph’ degree; when the burden has become too heavy for me to bare on my own -THAT is when God has brought the deliverace that I have so desperately needed.

The Lord speaks about this in Isaiah 43:2-3

When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.
 For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

In our darkest days, these verses can offer an undeniable comfort. The comfort in knowing that even when we have fallen to the floor in a fit of tears with no hope of ever having the strength to get back up again, when we find ourselves so badly bruised and beaten that we are almost positive we have reached the end – even amidst the most unimagenable of circumstances – that the Lord our God will meet us there in our pain, and never leave our side!

And we will not be consumed!

Dear friends, I pray that each of us would come to fully grasp the fact that we are not alone, and that He is not done!

Wait expectantly on the Lord…

For your Liberator is coming for you!

Krista Signature

** And make sure to check back here next Tuesday for something really special.  My husband has agreed to take over the reigns, and share his heart on the 1 year anniversary of  a tragedy that broke our hearts and tested our faith in a way nothing ever had before! You wont want to miss it! **

All Things

One of our favorite nearby parks.

One of our favorite nearby parks.

The past couple of weeks have been odd.

We had a difficult conversation with someone we love very much.  There were tears and emotions were high, as passions and convictions collided.  The very next day, the same conversation with a different person.  Oh Lord why can’t we just smile and nod?!  Why must we talk about the uncomfortable?

A week later, sobering news about someone we love dearly.  The same day, shocking news about another loved one.  And then the news that’s not really news at all– unchanging conditions of yet another deeply loved one who’s sick.  We wait.  We pray.

06272013 collageThere were joys, though, too.  Pizza from one of the area’s most renowned pizzerias.  A visit from Grandma and Bev!  Weather that calls for a crisp, cold glass of chardonnay.  Summer salads.  Cold water.  Date night (albeit at home) with my man.  A sermon that lifts up my husband who’s had a weary couple days.  Dinner with new friends!  Walks around the park.  Life group with new friends who edify and sincerely ask and pray and share food and genuinely welcome.  06272013 pizzaThe best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever tasted (I promise, I will give you the recipe.  Soon.  I feel like I’m holding out on the world by hoarding this recipe to myself.  It is literally the best recipe on earth!).  And finally… My mama comes to visit today!  Hallelujah!

A girl always needs her mama!

A girl always needs her mama!

How can we reconcile the sobering news and difficult conversations with the beauty of summer’s bounty, new friends, and the sweetness of chocolate chip cookies? 🙂  It would seem every fiber in my being would say evil is at work in the bad, and God is at work in the good.  Perhaps it is that way.  Or maybe I have yet to fully understand.

Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you. ~Psalm 119:91

All things serve Him.

All things.

Everything!

Isn’t this what Urban Hallelujah is all about?!  All things serve Him.  All the time.  Every day.  In every circumstance.  For His glory, His purpose, His praise.  The good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful– all of it transcends us and can reveal Him.

A breakup can birth new life.

A difficult conversation can cultivate truth.

Surprising news can breed a multitude of blessings.

Sober news can open hearts.

Family visits, warm friendships and yummy food can build  a spirit of thanksgiving.

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. ~Psalm 145:3

I cannot fathom His greatness.  I have yet to understand!  I must hold fast to the truth that all things serve Him.  Even the unthinkable can bring Him glory.  His greatness is beyond my comprehension, but I can know with certainty because his word declares that all. things. serve. HIM.  For greatness that no one can fathom here on earth, but for greatness nonetheless.

Holding fast to these truths this morning.  Thanks for reading!

***The following song has ministered to my heart recently.  I hope it speaks to you too!

Rachel Signature

So You Think God Is Wrong?

image

My eyes open to the sound of my toddler stirring in her bed. I close my eyes again and picture her stretching her limbs to get ready for the day. Oh no you don’t!  I fling the weight of the covers off of myself and hastily make for the door.  Over piles of laundry – against any obstacle – I make my way around the bed. I stop suddenly when in sight of her crib, and at the risk of her seeing me, I army crawl my way along the cold wood floors towards my only chance of even the slightest motivation for the day- my coffee!

It’s funny because I have never been much of a coffee drinker.

I made it through college, and worked for years at schools – where it could be argued that coffee was more key to survival than air itself! I even made it though my daughter’s first year of life without ever having as much as a sip of the good stuff!

So why do you ask, have I finally given in to the madness?

Toddlerhood.

It’s kicking my butt and it’s not letting up, no matter how loud I plead “Mercy!”

The plus side of my daughter’s new developmental stage however, is that we have been able to immerse her into an abundance of worship music lately. (I like how when I say that it makes me sound suuuuuper spiritual, when in reality it’s just proven to be the best way to drown out the tantrums!) It’s genius really – allowing you to be both in a constant state of worship while encouraging you to lower your escalating heart rate as your child screams bloody murder in the background!

And so it’s no surprise that after a week full of ‘the need for worship music’ (if you get my drift) that I found myself bolting for the kitchen every morning – in hopes of even just a mere 15 minutes – where, with coffee in hand, I could be alone in my thoughts.

With each sip, my thoughts would turn to daydreams….

Daydreaming back to the days when I had the time to do my hair and when the wind, or incoming subway, wasn’t always threatening to mess it up…

Relishing in the happiest of memories I shared with all of my pumps – who are now uniformly lined up in my closet with no hopes of ever being worn again…

Then after a few moments on Facebook – and after seeing all the beautiful babies being born – I would then begin mourning the baby my daughter wasn’t anymore.

Wishing for a laundry basket full of little onesies in every color of the rainbow, and the feeling of having a sleeping baby nuzzled in my neck, legs curled up under their bums… For a moment, I even missed the newborn cry (but it didn’t take long for me to come to my senses about that one!)

I swear though, while enjoying my coffee just a day later, my daydreams would be about the exact opposite!

Looking forward to the day that with a little more age, my daughter would be more self sufficient!

When maybe she could help me clean up or at least carry her weight (like literally, and preferably down the subway steps!)

My heart ached also at the reality that I might never experience having another child. Not because we wouldn’t love to, but because our new life in Manhattan doesn’t allow for that… comfortably.

My thoughts then wandered to whether Gia would be socially dysfunctional due to her future solitude as an only child… I then chuckled to myself knowing that according to a large amount of American moms she already will be – considering my decision to get an epidural AND to not breastfeed her as a baby! Which makes me smile because ‘realistically’ then, I have nothing to lose!

As I continued to sip my coffee, I casually flipped through a book and came across this poem which silenced my daydreaming completely.

It was spring, but it was summer I wanted; the warm days and the great outdoors.

It was summer but it was fall I wanted; the colorful leaves and the cool dry air.

It was fall but it was winter I wanted; the beautiful snow and the joy of the holiday season.

It was now winter but it was spring I wanted; the warmth and the blossoming of nature.

I was a child but it was adulthood that I wanted; the freedom and the respect.

I was twenty but it was thirty I wanted; to be mature and sophisticated.

I was middle-aged but it was twenty I wanted; the youth and the free spirit.

I was retired but it was middle-age that I wanted; the presence of mind without limitations.

My life was over but I never got what I wanted.

This poem spoke loud and clear to me.

I mean we all live this way, right? I know I do! I was doing so in the exact moment that I came across it!

We could even continue the poem on to say…

I wanted a fresh start in a new city, but now I miss my friends.
I wanted a job promotion, but now I am working too hard.
I was engaged but then I wanted to be married.
I was married, but I wanted to be a parent.
I wanted to get pregnant 3 months ago, but…
I was a parent of one child, but I wanted another…and another.
I had a family, but now I just want some peace and quiet – even better, a hot date!

I realized that what I had originally entertained as ‘harmless daydreaming’ was not that at all… My heart was directly in the center of a raging battle of discontentment!

I had restlessly been longing for something else, something better – only further proving that my daughter wasn’t enough just the way she is.

Even worse, proving that God – who in all His mighty power was able to create the heavens and the Earth – was somehow wrong in the way He designed my life!

I knew in my heart that I didn’t believe that to be true…

I thought back to Psalm 18:30, which is a verse that has been penned countless times on the palm of my hand in an attempt to get me through some of my most difficult days. Its profoundness lies also in its simplicity.

 God’s way is perfect…

The word ‘perfect’ is undeniable!

And because of it, we can rest in the truth that when God calls you somewhere, or to do something, that you are in His PERFECT plan for your life!

Still, I found myself perplexed as I pondered this verse over and over in my head…

If I know I am within God’s perfect plan for my life, why does my heart still feel so restless, even unhappy at times?

I decided to take a look at that verse more closely.

I was surprised to find that over the years, there was a part I had missed entirely!

God’s way is perfect….He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.

The key to finding contentment in our current circumstances is as much about believing that God’s plan for our lives is perfect in its entirety, just as much as it is knowing that the Lord is available to be our greatest source of comfort – a place where our hearts can find what they so desperately need to be made whole again!

He can be… that is, “For all those who take refuge in Him”

This verse requires action. And it is our choice where – or whom – we find our refuge.

I pictured myself earlier that morning…
Realizing then that I needed to choose to run to Him – in that same desperate way at times – and throw myself at the foot of the cross, and not just the coffee pot.

Our hearts have failed in an attempt to find refuge in many other things as well. As women we have looked for it in our significant other – or lack thereof – falsely believing that true contentment will be found when someone “puts a ring on it” if you will…

In boredom, we have turned to Facebook, but then are surprised when our discontentment escalates as we begin comparing our happiness and successes to that of our friends…

On Pinterest, we have made ourselves believe that a bigger house, a vacation to go zip-lining in the Swiss Alps, making our own laundry detergent, or incorporating the’ Victoria Secret Angels work out’ is going to bring greater significance to our lives…

We could have the perfect career, have gotten married to someone far out of our league, had a family, bought the house and have all the pictures hung, and yet even still, we will be restless and longing for more!

The truth is, I have no doubt that even when I am in the ‘sweet spot’ of God’s perfect plan for my life, that even then the Lord will keep me a little less fulfilled than I would most desire – whether in my marriage, in my confidence as a parent, and in any life circumstance that comes my way – Always withholding a little of what I believe I so desperately need at the time, in an attempt to keep me in a constant awareness of my ultimate need for Him, and only Him!

As I leave you today, I would ask you to search your heart for what it is that you have aimlessly attempted to take refuge in? What is it that has hindered you from embracing the perfect way God has laid out for you?

I pray that God would help us to savor the season of life we find ourselves in – even if they are chalk full of tantrums and chaos- laden mornings!

I can promise you this: Living God’s way doesn’t always mean you will get whatever you want…
But I can assure you that you will indeed, always have everything that you need!

Krista Signature

Risky Business

06202013 chair 4

Within our dreams and aspirations we find our opportunities. ~Sue Ebaugh

One of my favorite bloggers is the Nester.  I stumbled upon her site years ago, when we’d just bought our house in Oregon and I was searching for cute DIY decorating ideas.  If you haven’t checked her blog out, you MUST.  Like now.  Although I give you fair warning: you will probably start covering chairs, painting furniture, making curtains out of tablecloths or hanging mirrors glued to poster-board.  It’s just how the creative process rolls when you start reading all her wacko-crazy-genius ideas.

One of the things I absolutely love about her blog is that she’s not afraid to take a risk.  In fact, I think she did an entire series on being risky.  Risky with the home (paint my wall that color?!), risky with friends (go on a weekend away with gals I’ve never met?!), risky with business (she makes wreaths out of plastic spoons for goodness sake) and risky with family (just today she shared that her son is going on a 21-day trip to another country with people she’s never met!).  Now, to some people, those things may not be risks at all.  To her, they’re taking a jump from what is comfortable to what might fail and seeing what happens along the way.  Not every risk turns out amazing…  But if you read her blog you know it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

I shared last week that I’m trying to live more in the present and not so much for what might never happen.  Then over the weekend we went to Long Island to visit a couple of my college friends which really got me thinking.  Meeting them was one of the biggest risks I ever took…  And it changed my life forever.

My sophomore year of college was probably one of the most stressful years of my life at the time.  I was swimming for Washington State University on a scholarship, for a coach who could make all of us girls swim as fast as the wind but treated us like we were the scum of the earth.  I was one of just a few who wasn’t going to therapy to deal with his antics…  And not because I didn’t need it, but because I couldn’t bear to think about it all for even a moment longer than I had to.  When practice was over, I tried to put it all out of my mind, even though that never really worked very well.  I swam best times my sophomore year, qualifying for NCAA’s and traveling to Texas for the big meet.  When I got back, half our team had quit and the coach fired.  I remember wondering…

What am I supposed to do?!

I thought to myself, I never thought this would happen.  I never intended to transfer to another school when I signed with WSU.  I’ve met such good friends.  I can’t start the recruiting process all over again… 

But then another thought gripped my mind even harder.

I can’t stay hereThere aren’t even enough girls on this team to be considered a team!  We won’t even be recognized by the NCAA unless we can heavily recruit.  And who knows what kind of coach will come in and what the style will be like.  It was hard before… But at least I swam fast.  I don’t think I can stay here.  Oh my gosh I can’t stay here.

I remember sitting in my dorm room with my roommate and teammate crying, trying to process what the heck a 20 year old girl was supposed to do.

So I took a risk.  I began contacting other schools, even at the end of the year when many scholarships were already accounted for.  I went on recruiting trips so I could really understand what the schools were like and what my new teammates would be like.  I prayed.  I talked with my pastor.  I  wore my mama’s ear out all in the name of ‘processing’. 🙂  And in the end, I decided to go to Florida State– clear across the country!  You can’t get much further away from Washington then Florida, eh?!

The two years I spent at FSU were monumental in my personal life.  Sure, I swam well and made the NCAA meet again and got my bachelor’s in a field I love, but it was the friendships that were cultivated that I look back on and think “I almost missed out on THIS?!”  It was worth the risk.  So worth the risk.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become adverse to taking risks.  I know, I know, I just moved to New Jersey and I know that was a risk.  I’m praying I take hold of my time here.  But what about the other things?  The things that later make us say “I almost missed out on THIS?!”  It doesn’t have to be life changing.  It can be a simple recipe (although recipes can be life changing, can’t they?!) that you’ve been meaning to try.  Yes, it might taste horrible.  But it might not!  It might make you do a happy dance in the middle of your kitchen and cause you to randomly send the recipe to someone (aka Krista).  It might be absolutely wonderful.

Silly girls!

Silly girls!

As our little girls played together and we caught up on life over burgers and beers, it was like no time had passed at all.  Wheels was still his fantastic sarcastic self, Paulus business savvy as ever, and me, well, I was in all my weirdness glory pretending the grape lattice was a castle and finding sticks with our girls.  It was as if I’d known Wheels’ wife forever– even though I’d first met her at their wedding. And as we drove home through the horrendous traffic that ensued (it wouldn’t be NJ without it!) we were all so full of joy.  I am so glad I didn’t miss out on them.  Nine years later, all married with families or families to come one day, we can shoot the breeze like not one minute has passed us by.  The only thing that could have made it better was if Amy Lo were there too (and Katie B., Leroy, Emma, Justin… The list could go on forever, really!)!

Still the same nine years later!  Just with a few more 'littles' running around :)

Still the same nine years later! Just with a few more ‘littles’ running around 🙂

It’s risky business to move, quit a job, go back to school, make a new friend.

It could turn into an epic failure.

It could turn into a beautiful friendship.  Nine years later even! 🙂

It could turn this old, stained, free kids chair….

06202013 chair 2

Before Picture– stains, rips and all. I go this chair from a swap that we did with the mom’s group I’m a part of. It was free, so I wasn’t risking my wallet on this one!

Into THIS!  I really do think Maya said “and I was missing out on THIS?!”  Haha.

No sewing required!  Just a few upholstery tacks, nails underneath and a sheet!

No sewing required! Just a few upholstery tacks, nails underneath and a sheet!

I think the Nester would be oh so proud.  It’s not perfect, but I think it’s pretty beautiful! 🙂

I’m not trying to pat myself on the back here.  Really.  I know how risky it is to really want something and go after it.  Right?!  I know!  I’ve been there so. many. times.  As you go through your day today, I encourage you to enter into this risky business thing.  It’s scary.  It’s nerve wracking.  It could change your life.  Or your next meal!  It could teach you something you never knew about yourself even.  Or, maybe, it might just change a piece of furniture in your home (haha!).

Thank you for going alongside me on this journey.  My neighbor canceled for dinner this week– so now (after much deliberation in my mind, thinking maybe I got off the hook) I must risk getting rejected again and reschedule.  Aaaaaah!  Thanks for reading.

Rachel Signature2

Never Less than ‘Fascinated’ in Manhattan

I use the term ‘fascinated’ very lightly and a little – if not completely – sarcastically.

You have heard me say that I often feel like I am living in a foreign country, and that would be because everything from the way people in Manhattan park their cars, to the languages they speak, even the water they drink is different!

I often find myself thinking,

What.
The.
Heck.

Like for example, when you come across a sign like this.
curb your dog

Coming from Suburbia you might stare at this sign with complete and utter confusion like I did at first. But in time, a man walking his dog will come by and flawlessly illustrate for you what “curb your dog” actually means.

Because in fact, what the sign is really doing is telling you what not to do -which is not to allow your dog to pee on the grass, flowers, or god forbid, the trees!

Conveniently that narrows it down to only allowing your dog “to do their thang” on nothing more than the sidewalk directly in front of the people walking behind you!

And if you are even luckier to be one of those people traveling up hill – or even at the slightest incline – you may even get to dodge pee streaming down the street from the dog doing his business up ahead!

I like to think of it as a more raw, “urban version” of the Subway Surfer game- merging the stroller quickly in and out of groups of people on the streets of New York City, and receiving double points for successfully dodging the golden stream of urine flowing down towards both me and my offspring!

And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what the streets of Manhattan often smell like on a hot day…

Like I said, “what -the- heck?!

Or the fact that in this city, it is a rarity to ever find a high chair -And changing tables, almost don’t exist entirely!

I remember the first time I had this realization while having lunch with my family at Mcdonald’s one day, and the full blown meltdown that ensued soon after – not from my toddler – but from me!

It happened.
And I have no doubt that this moment of pure regret of ever having moved here, will make it’s way into one of my husband’s sermon illustrations someday.

But don’t worry, I have since come to embrace the lack of those suburban conveniences in my life, and yet, I have no doubt that one of the better questions to ask a Manhattan Mommy might just be, “where’s the most random place you’ve ever had to change your child’s diaper?”

The answers would be endlessly amusing, I’m sure!

I also find it fascinating that it isn’t unlikely to find a man in his 90’s with more attitude than a 16 year old!

I had a run in with one of these lil’ fellas at the Post Office this last week! And was forced to make the decision to leave package-less when his cursing rants and raves towards another man in line went a little too far -even for my 2 year old, who if I am completely honest, was listening to the unedited version of the Black Eyed Peas while still in the womb!

downloadI also remember the first time I saw ( not to mention, smelled ) Manhattan’s system of taking the trash out each night –>

And the moment I became fully aware that the average mom with a child the same age as mine is going to be 10-15 years older than me! ( you would probably wait that long too if you knew there wasnt going to be any high chairs and changing tables! )

Or the moment I first realized my grocery store was both underground and had an elevator!

Even more “fascinating” was while shopping, seeing items like parsley for $3.00! A single frozen Digiorno pizza for $8.00! And a package of double stuffed Oreos for $6.00!!!

No really… What-in the-Heeeeeeezy is a stay-at-home mom supposed to do without a package of double stuffed Oreo’s hidden away in her pantry like a well guarded treasure?!? You know, just in case. And no doubt, only to be savored come nap time, so help me Lord Jesus!

photo <– Or how about the first time I saw cars parked like this!

Or the moment I walked onto the playground and found myself a midst a sea of nannies!!!

And deciding the only logical thing you can do is to play a light-hearted game of “Where’s Waldo?” like me and Rachel so often do – but instead of looking for Waldo, we look for a ‘Real Mom’!

I wish I could tell you that I was kidding…

Or that it wasn’t as much fun as it is!

Even funnier though was the time, my husband was questioning how I was “soooo sure” that the young blonde wearing sweatpants and pushing a stroller with a black haired child that looked nothing like her was a nanny…

Only to notice in that exact same moment,  that my young, blonde haired self,  was both wearing sweatpants and toting my daughter around -who indeed looks not even the slightest like me!

awwwwwkward.

But For the record, I still stand by my assumption regardless! She had N –to the– ANNY written all over her!

But unfortunately, there is no denying, that indeed so do I!

Now for just a moment, close your eyes and think back to my now infamously tiny apartment, and the kitchen that looks like it was plucked straight from the glory of the 1980’s! ( or if you were lucky enough to forget, click here and take a quick trip down memory lane! )

Now, did you know that the average MINIMUM price for a one-bedroom NYC apartment is $500,000?

Half a mill, baby!!!!!

And MY little gem of an apartment, would actually be worth even more!!

(You know you want to say it…) WHAT. THE. HECK?!?

Did you also know, that in NYC there are over 200 languages spoken?

Which means it’s not unlikely that while in an elevator you could hear 3 different languages all being spoken at the same time! And if you are like me, you will sometimes find yourself having no idea what languages they are!

Even more fascinating, according to http://www.nyc.gov, about 1 in every 39 people living in the United States reside in New York City!

That means, that here in NYC there are more people than 39 out of the 50 states!

I love those last two facts because while complaining to your husband, “why eeeeeveryone in the world has to be in line at Trader Joes at the exact same time!”, you are actually exaggerating much less than he will say you are…

Boom. Roasted.

Now before I go, I feel it is my duty to inform the masses of the “fascinating” epidemic that is sweeping the city…

Patterned pants and sparkling water!

My silly, suburban self unknowingly seemed to believe that things like water in it’s original state, and that pants – minus the vivacious floral print – could still fully serve it’s purpose…

But apparently, I am sadly mistaken!

Yet, one thing is for sure…

I Will
Never
Be
Less Than
Fascinated
In Manhattan.

image

Krista Signature

I’m here… Now what?

06132013 decide quote

We’ve been in New Jersey for six months now.

Six months!  I should have a slew of new best friends, a favorite local eatery, a preferred grocer, a church that knows my name, a neighbor that I gossip with… Right?

So.  Wrong.

I have a best friend here (thank the Lord almighty for Krista!!!), but I didn’t meet her here.  I guess Angeloni’s Italian Café could be my favorite local spot, but I really don’t know.  I’m starting to get to know people at church…  And my neighbors?  I know most of them have dogs.  That’s it.

I’m here in New Jersey…  Indefinitely…  But now what?

As Krista and I were chatting during our eventful day in the city, I was telling her how I feel in-between.   I don’t feel this place will be permanent for us, but I’m not sure how long we’ll be here.  I’ve always known our final destination is California– to go back home.  And while I’ve been intentionally trying to water our New Jersey grass, I find myself constantly thinking “but we might not be here for very long…”

Krista, in her loving, bestest friend kind of way, gently called me out on this.  By the way, if you don’t have a friend who can call you out on things, get one.  Stat.

“But then you’re living for what may never happen,” she commented.  “You might move soon.  Or in ten years.  Or maybe you won’t go back to California, maybe David won’t work at that company forever, maybe it’s all part of a bigger story.  But if you live for what may never happen, what is that?”

Seriously.  What is that?!

Then the whole crazy man thing happened, with his face literally in David’s face– for I don’t know what reason because David didn’t even say one word to him.  And just like Krista talked about, fear and panic seized my heart at that moment.  I thought to myself, “my house is the only safe place!”

Because you know, there must be crazy people everywhere around every corner waiting to yell in my face or something.

And then I think about  what Krista said about living for what may never happen– and I wonder.  I don’t want my New Jersey story to end up like this:

She moved to New Jersey.  Lived in a lovely house.  The end.

Boring!

Kind of sad actually!

Uninspiring!

Disappointing, most of all.

The next day, I went to the ‘stuff’ room and pulled out some picture frames that I’ve been waiting to hang for when we move a few months down the road to somewhere more permanent.  I decided that I was waiting for something that might never happen (even though our lease ends on November 30, so I went back and forth on this one for a while!) so I got the nails and the hammer out from the basement.  I know the perfect place for a gallery wall, I thought.

That afternoon, our landlord stopped by.  He told us we could extend our lease if we wanted and to think about it and let him know what our intentions were.

We’re still thinking about it, but the gallery wall is now up and it is a reminder that those picture frames were sitting waiting for something that might never happen.  They were living for might, could, maybe, one day…  Not for now, here, currently, today.  As it turns out, we have the option to stay here longer.  How long would those frames sit waiting to be hung and enjoyed?

06132013 gallery wal

I’m here in New Jersey today.  Now what?  How about why not?!  Why not invite my neighbors over?  Why not try out the diner on the corner?  Why not?!  Whatever I’m waiting for, it might never happen.

As I headed out with the stroller to return some movies to the library today, my neighbor happened to be outside on our shared driveway.  “Hi!”  She exclaimed, coming over and pinching Maya’s sweet cheeks.

“Want to come over for dinner next week?”  I asked.

Because later might never happen.

Rachel Signature

Fear Not

Late last Saturday after everyone else was fast asleep I found myself wide awake, tears streaming down my face, and consumed by a fear that I had never experienced in my life…

Earlier that day my family and I were exploring the Union Square area of NYC. One of the places we went to was the Grace Episcopal Church.

We stopped in our tracks right when we laid our eyes on it – the soaring steeple peaks painted across blue skies, the chime of church bells echoing down Broadway Avenue, the Gothic design & architecture that draws you into a state of reverence…It was one of the most stunning cathedrals I had ever seen!

And when we spotted a sign welcoming people in to pray, we decided to go in and check it out – even if we had little, or no, intention of actually praying! We just wanted to take a look and maybe get some good pictures!

(Gasp!) I know, we are hoodlums. But it’s probably best you know that about us right off the bat anyway! 😉

image

When we walked inside, we were both awestruck by the captivating beauty of it’s architecture.

It’s splendor almost demanded that you pray! And believe me, when a church with ceilings that tall demands you pray, you do what you are told!

imageWe walked down the aisle nearing the front, there stood an easel with an old prayer book open to a page where many others had written out their prayers before us.

I wrote,

Dear Heavenly Father,

I pray that you use us in New York City

We are willing…

Might seem like a simple prayer to you, but for me it was an offering of complete surrender – one that I had made years before when we first began our ministry back in Washington.

5 years later, I can remember the exact moment the plane lifted off and soared over the sun setting on the Columbia River as our flight left Washington and we headed for our new lives (and ministry awaiting us) in NYC. I recall looking down at all the lights twinkling below and remembering each relationship we were leaving behind, and reminiscing each moment that my husband and I were able to see God work in miraculous ways during the years we served there.

I remember rubbing my tired eyes in an attempt to disguise the tears grazing my cheeks, but truthfully there was no denying the emptiness my husband and I both felt.

It was as if our hearts were left back on the runway…

We had given everything we had to the community we lived in – walking people through their lingering questions about the Lord, supporting couples as they struggled through conflicts within their marriages, unexpectedly visiting families in the hospital, or making home visits to those who had suddenly lost a loved one. We even did the best we could to walk alongside our church last summer as we, together, faced an unimaginable tragedy.

We would have had it no other way – leaving our hearts back in Washington – but as our plane lifted higher into the air I questioned whether I had anything left to offer the people of New York.

Having spent my life in the “ministry business” as both a pastor’s kid and then a pastor’s wife, I was all too familiar with the fact that serving the Lord in full time ministry – no matter where the location – required nothing less than what Jesus so graciously gave until his very last breath. Everything.

Ultimately, I knew that God could use us in New York City just as he had in Washington.

We just had to be willing.

644108_358190154263995_579495783_nIt was about an hour or two after our visit to the Grace Episcopal Church, that we met up with Rachel and David for the remainder of our day. And while the guys were in a nearby store, Rachel and I stood outside on the street, our little girls giggling and eating snacks in their strollers, as we caught up on each other’s new lives on the east coast.

At some point during our conversation a young man approached us casually asking for 25 cents to help him go buy some liquor in the store next door.

We apologetically told him we didn’t have anything and casually dismissed his request while joking among ourselves that at least he was honest.

He disappeared for a few minutes and then returned suddenly once again only to ask again, this time a little more desperately, and for $1.00. Although we could both sense something wasn’t right, we politely denied his request and told him once again that we had nothing to give him.

We went on with our conversation, only to have him come back once again!

This time coming a little closer, a little more aggressively, and now asking for $2.00! Rachel could see him eyeing my purse…

(What happened next would shock anyone that knows me really well…)

Although I’m known for being deathly afraid of confrontation, I very calmly but boldly called the man out!

“Excuse me, you have asked us 3 times for money! We don’t have anything, so you need to leave us alone now.”

He argued with me, so again I respond, this time more sternly, “You need to walk away right now!”

I remember him saying something along the lines of how he didn’t like the tone of my voice.

“Would you like me to go get my husband? ” I snapped, as I motioned to the store he was in.

It was obvious that the request infuriated him but I continued, “If you don’t walk away RIGHT NOW I am going to go inside and go get my husband!”

His yelling became louder but he indeed started to walk away…

And then luck would have it that at that exact moment, both of our husbands popped up right behind us as they were exiting the store they had been shopping in.

The smiles on their faces and their light conversation were interrupted by Rachel’s attempt to quickly fill them in about what had unfolded, all while the persistent man stood a good 15 feet behind us, still watching every move we made.

The man then quickly ran up behind the guys, and started yelling and cursing at them – specifically at David, and directly in his face! I can remember clearly the look of terror on Rachel’s face as we attempted to walk in the opposite direction only to have him follow us and make physical threats that could only be made out of pure rage and insanity!

All this while pushing our precious baby girls in their strollers!

The man let up at some point…How long it took?? I don’t know.

And I will admit, I was the first to dismiss it humorously apologizing for all of the “loonies” in NYC and reassuring them – and quite honestly myself – that moments like these don’t happen often around here.

But once the night had come to an end and I crawled into bed with what should have been a heart filled with the joy after sharing an amazing day with my closest friends, I was instead consumed with an immense fear that I couldn’t shake. I felt almost haunted by the clear image of the man’s face.

I could hear the intensity in his voice rising, the tension increasing…

Coming closer…and closer as he spoke.

I could see his eyes on my purse…

And I found myself left with one lingering question ”Did I do the right thing confronting him?

And then thinking of my purse, or even worse, our baby girls – I pondered the even scarier question, “What if I hadn’t?

The fear within me swelled to the point that the tears flowed freely down my face.

In the darkness of our room, I felt my husbands arms wrap around me. He held his hand to my cheek, sadly confirming the tears that he sensed, and he began a prayer of thankfulness to the Lord for keeping us safe and then requested protection over my dreams that night.

I savored the solace that his touch and the comfort of his words brought – but only for a moment.

Then I could feel an almost sinister thought remind me that the constant strength I found in my husband, the same undeniable faith that I had in my “back up plan” when I motioned to the store and threatened to go get him had that man refused to leave us alone, is the exact person – the same protection – that I would be without tomorrow.

My heart began racing as I thought back to countless other times in the last few months that fear began to make its way into my heart…

I remember watching the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings, and the security measures that were instantly put in place in New York City because of it, only serving as a reminder that my new home is so often the “bull’s-eye” on the target for those looking to create a catastrophic attack against our nation.

imagesI also remember the day after the bombings, before it was revealed that there was a planned attack on New York City, my husband arrived to his office a little over a block away from Times Square where he saw swarms of police officers wearing tactical gear and holding machine guns.

Throughout the day I recall praying to the point of tears for my husband’s safety.

Staten-Island-Ferry-EscortEven last weekend, while taking the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty, take in the scenic views, and snapping family pictures in front of the city skyline we were eerily escorted back to Manhattan by the US Coast Guard boat wielding a machine gun due to “heightened security”.

I didn’t realize it, but over the past 3 months my fear had been surmounting!

If I’m to be honest, in that moment curled up in my bed, my heart did not portray the same willingness I had offered up to the Lord just hours before.

Basking in the Cathedral’s grandeur, the sunlight reflecting down through the faceted stain glass and the stillness that seemed to offer the perfect environment to embrace the Lord’s divine presence, it made it almost simple to offer Him all that I knew He deserved from me.

But in a quick moment of complete chaos, when the glamour and bright lights had faded, and the city has reared it’s ugly face, it became difficult for me to stand by my words and continue to be wholly surrendered to the city that the Lord had so clearly called me and my family to.

While restlessly tossing and turning that night, John 10:10 came to mind,

 [Satans] purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.  [The Lord’s] purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Without a doubt, I know that the Lords purpose for us is to live a rich and satisfying life – a life ‘worthy of a story‘ like we had talked about previously – but what I failed to grasp was that there are forces oftentimes working equally as hard to destroy the same plans the Lord has so intricately and amazingly designed for our lives.

Those plans are perfectly outlined in Jeremiah 29:11 when the Lord says He has “plans to prosper you, and not to harm you. To give you hope and a future.”

As I meditated on these verses, I realized that the same fear that had suddenly taken a hold of me was also threatening to steal, kill, and destroy ‘the good story’ the Lord was rooting for me to live!

I love the way Joyce Meyer’s defines fear: “Feeling fear is simply the temptation to run away from what we should face and confront. I learned that I had to stop running and stand still long enough to see what God would do for me if I let my faith in Him be larger than my fears”

No matter how great or how small the fears you are currently facing in your life right now – whether it’s fear for your safety or for the safety of the ones around you, fear that the Lord wont be able to provide for your every need, even the fear that you aren’t smart enough, beautiful enough, or successful enough – whatever it is, I pray that instead of believing the lies of the enemy and cowering down in fear by running from our insecurities, that together, we would have the courage to seek out the rich and satisfying life that only the Lord can offer!

God desires to use us in miraculous ways,

We only have to be willing…

To do for yourself the best that you have it in you to do -to grit your teeth and clench your fists in order to survive the world at its harshest and worst- is, by that very act, to be unable to let something be done for you and in you, that is more wonderful still.

The trouble with steeling yourself against the harshness of reality is that the same steel that secures your life against being destroyed, secures your life also against being opened up and transformed.                                                                                                                                                                                                                         – Beth Moore

Krista Signature