Page Turner

I am in the middle of writing a book all about story, so I am a little timid about sharing thoughts about story here.  I’m new to this “formal” author gig, and I’m learning things every day. Craft, proposals, and pitches are words I’m soaking in lately.  I’ve been working on a pitch for my book or what most call an elevator synopsis, and it’s not as easy as you might think.  I don’t want to give too much away (and this is not my pitch), but the book is about my story and your story and how all stories are for His glory.  And while I would like to stay away from writing much about story and glory, the recent events of my story have got my heart in all kinds of knots.

This year’s chapter of my story has proven to be a page turner, and we still have more plot twists coming soon.  I’m tempted to skip ahead. That’s the funny part about life though; you don’t get to skip ahead.  I’ve spent the better part of adulthood learning to be okay with some hard parts of my story.  I’ve come to know deep in my soul and my spirit that all parts are indeed beautiful and glorious.  It used to take getting on the other side of the story and several years of processing for me to be able to see the beauty, but my perspective has changed. I sit in a much different place than ever before.

When I used to spend time wondering and fretting about the next season or how to move on from a hard season, now I sit KNOWING that the Lord will be near and His glory will come ~ His beauty and goodness will shine through. This I know. Don’t get me wrong. The unknown is still anxiety producing and often confusing; but what is known is far more essential and beautiful.

So when I think about what is written in this last chapter and what will be written in the months to come, I am confident my God is near me.  He knows and has always known.

This year has been full of surprises for me and my people. I started a new schedule (which will be changing again). I never dreamed that Ross would have a new job or that I would have 2 months plus of severe myopathy.  I never considered how deeply my family would be affected by all of it (a house full of intensely emotional little women). It never occurred to me that we would be struggling with the way we meet with the Lord and His Bride.  That is just this year so far. (He wrote other stories during other years that are still unfathomable to me some days.)  This Fall will bring some more plot twists that I honestly would not have hand-picked to be a part of my story.

But this I know ~  I love and trust my Author and He is good.  He has never failed, never forsaken, never hurt.  He is full of love, goodness, beauty, kindness.

I’m pretty sure that no one get to dictate most of their story.  And I know from experience that when you try to write it yourself, He will do a red-pen lettering job that will embarrass you to your core.  (If you have never had someone take a red pen to your writing, it’s worth the brutal experience.)

There’s something else in all of this that is really important.  Not only are you a poor author of your own story, you are also a poor author of other’s story.  Their story has glory and goodness, too.  Their story is intricately woven into His glory too. I am so much more comfortable with other’s stories than ever before.  I feel little need to intervene. (Side Note: Remind me I wrote this when I have teenage daughters. Every time I say something like this, I think about having teenage girls and I want to take it all back.) I feel little need to influence anyone’s story further than what the Holy Spirit leads.  This is HUGE growth for me.  I spent most of my college years trying to write my own story; I then felt the need to control other’s so that mine would work out as I planned.  BIG fail. HUGE.  The Lord was mighty and kind to make it all beautiful, but I sure hurt a lot of people along the way.  The days are sad when I think about the parts of their story I wrote that ended up being some of their hardest parts.

I am much more content allowing Him to write this story than I’ve ever been.  Enduring pain and watching my family endure life with me is not a chapter I ever want to read again, but I know Him to be faithful and good.  The intimacy we have all known with Him and one another is something I could never craft on my own. Just thinking of the next plot twists make my heart ache, but I know that there is a story being written far beyond my own understanding.  It’s not just my story either. One of the most humbling heartaches is knowing that the Lord is writing your children’s story as He writes yours.  I wish I could spare them some of the plot lines and twists, but their story is being written by the same award-winning, best-selling Author.

I think I’ve decided that being present in the story may matter the most. Isn’t presence what produces intimacy? When I think about Paul and all of the affliction that he suffered, I am always struck with how present he was not only with the story but also with the Lord.  Have you ever driven home and not remembered how you got there until something scary happened or read a book so fast that you’re not sure what you just read until you get to a really good part or hard part?  Yeah, I’m not doing that any more.  I’m showing up for this story.  I am embracing it as much as I know how.  ‘Cause I know the Author, and He’s the best in the business.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Is there a part of your story that has been made beautiful by the best-selling Author of life?  If you are willing to share, I would love to hear your story.

Trust the Holy Spirit

He dumped me. The guy that the Lord had made clear was the man I was going to spend the rest of my life with.  What now?!?  The Lord said to wait for him.  What?!?  I looked at my best friend and told her, “I think I am supposed to wait for him.”

“Do you think I’m crazy?” I asked her.

And then she said and did something that has changed my life and my heart forever.

“Yes, I think you are crazy, BUT I will wait with you.”

Everything about that changed what it meant for me to really be with people.  And I married this man 10 years ago in August.  I’m glad someone believed there was glory on the other side. 🙂

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A little over a year into our marriage and months after buying our first home, my husband showed up at home in the middle of his 12 hour shift at the hospital.  He was on administrative leave that led to him being fired for not getting a form signed.  The Lord clearly spoke to me to be with my husband in that moment ~ to ask for mercy but trust whatever happened.  This event led to my husband making a move into the home health industry that I reluctantly helped him apply for.  I believed he was called to the hospital setting, and he felt like it was time for a change.  Not many months later the hospital that fired him completely shut down…closed their doors forever.  And now, 9 years later, my husband has just been promoted to a manager position within this company.  I’m not sure what is coming for my man who just left his comfortable scrubs (and precious love for his patients) for the business casual world. But I fully trust the Holy Spirit in my husband and believe He is leading my husband.

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A few years ago, my husband and I counseled a precious couple through their engagement.  Their story was not typical and, to some, lent itself to red flags.  People consistently came to us with that questioning head tilt, asking us if this was a good thing.  And every time, we confidently answered them that we fully believed in what God was doing and what He had spoken to them.  We trusted the Holy Spirit in them. We walked closely with them and had seen how they walked and listened to the Spirit. We trusted that Jesus would indeed work this out for good; and that, honestly, this couple would change the world.  They will.

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Recently I encouraged a mom much further along than me in her love and support of her daughter over the last two years.  Her daughter has been dating and got engaged to a man that she had very little time to get to know relative to someone who lived much closer.  She’s had questions, I’m sure, and probably some concerns.  I’m sure every mom does at this point.  However, she has loved her daughter, supported her daughter, and been a cheerleader all along the way.  She has gently voiced her thoughts, wonders, and concerns and then laid them at the feet of Jesus.

She has believed and trusted that the Holy Spirit inside of her is the same Holy Spirit inside her daughter, and He is indeed very, very good.

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These last several years we have walked with some friends, but more specifically, mentors as they have left the church.  They would call themselves “church refugees.”  And walking with them has been hard, beautiful, and completely Jesus.  I don’t say this lightly.  Their story is hard, rich, and necessary. But from the very beginning, I remember telling her, “I trust the Holy Spirit in you.”  And there have been days that I cried (hard) trying to understand all of it…wondering if I was wrong or she was wrong or what the hell was right and wrong, finding freedom from right and wrong…  And the Holy Spirit alive in me is the SAME HOLY SPIRIT in and alive in her. And I believe that He is indeed good.  This has been far from a clean and picture-perfect process.  It has been raw, messy, ugly, sad.  But I don’t believe that the Holy Spirit abandoned them the day they started to walk away and deconstruct what they had known for their whole lives; or that He just stopped talking to them because they are walking away from something “good” and “biblical”.  I believe He is most definitely with them. Still.  I believe He is actually leading them. And I also believe that He is not done.  Have they made mistakes? I’m sure they have. Have they gotten it wrong? Sure. But I really, really trust the Holy Spirit in them.  It’s the same Holy Spirit that has led me the last decade and used them to speak into my life. And honestly I cannot wait to see what is on the other side of this journey.  But can I tell you?  If I wasn’t willing to do this part (the messy, ugly, raw, sad stuff) with them, I would never see the other side.  The glory.

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There is an epidemic out there of Christians believing that their holy spirit is better than the holy spirit inside of someone else.  Or there is the thought that the Holy Spirit only speaks to certain kinds of people. That thought that some have clearly lost their way. Not to mention the thought that the Holy Spirit is only going to lead you into things that are clearly GOOD and biblical. We often try to define and say what is Spirit led and what is not.  Can I just say that God telling Abraham to go kill his son pretty much proves that God is going to ask you to do things that may indeed look insane to other people?  Would this Holy Spirit would ever lead a person out of the church?  Guess what! WE ARE NOT THE HOLY SPIRIT.  We don’t know what He is doing.  We CANNOT FATHOM it. (Ecc. 3:10)

If you believe that the Holy Spirit is indeed good, that He works all things out for good, that He makes all things beautiful, that He is more powerful than the worst that can happen ~ if you really, really believe that to your core, then you can choose to really be with someone no matter what they are walking through.  

I could write a book about how ALL parts of our story lead to His glory, but today I’m just going to tell you that they do. You can ask questions, worry, voice concerns, even disagree and still choose to be with someone in this journey.  If you have walked with someone closely, seen and trusted the Holy Spirit in them and for others, then you can confidently stand with them and trust the Holy Spirit in them. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He didn’t forsake them.  Instead we often abandon them because we don’t want to be a part of that crazy, sad, raw mess. We seem to believe that by aligning with them that we are somehow walking down a path of greater sin.

The question I have to ask you is, do YOU trust the Holy Spirit in yourself?

I want to give a clear picture of walking this out with someone.  It does not mean that we walk alongside them with no boundaries, no concern, no honesty on our part.  Just recently I sat across from a girl that I love.  She was in a friendship with guy that had been a brief romantic relationship before, and she desperately wanted that relationship to continue.  Their boundaries were extremely grey.  I trust the Holy Spirit in her, and as her sister, I felt like maybe she was missing something.  I knew going into our time together that I was going to have to speak hard things.   I ended up talking to her about the need to guard her heart because of the pain that would most definitely come if she indeed lost this guy.  Her fear of losing him completely allowed her to blur the lines.  I also looked at her and said, “You don’t have to listen to a word I am saying to you.  You can simply continue on this path, ’cause I know it’s fun.  And I want you to know, I’m not going anywhere no matter what.  But I have been where you are, and I want this to be better for you than it was for me.  Do your best to guard your heart better than this grey.”  Not even 3 weeks later, this guy was defining an incredible relationship.  I am sharing this because even if she walked away and listened to NOTHING I said, I still trusted the Spirit.  I trusted Him, and I trusted Him in her.

I recently learned the hard way what it looks like when I don’t trust the Spirit.  It was one of the hardest experiences of my life to date.  The Holy Spirit clearly spoke something to me that completely freaked me out.  And instead of hearing Him followed by continuing to trust him, I heard him and ran the other way.  Yes, He was warning me, but He wasn’t leaving me.  It was a lesson for me.  I learned that I could stay in the midst of something difficult.  I had a revelation from the Lord; the other person did not know the Lord or possess the ability to understand my revelation.  I felt like I had to abandon the whole thing…run like the wind.  I wanted nothing to do with what the Lord had spoken to me.  And it would have been a difficult situation no matter what, but I do believe that my free will to run very much made things worse and harder.  It is a lesson learned.

If you make the choice to be with someone in whatever is happening in their life (their hard, their journey), the Holy Spirit is still in you and with you too. 

This is so important. This is how we walk through hard things ~ believing He is with us and never leaves us.  This is how we can be okay with others walking through hard things.  He is with them and never leaves them.  

***Remind me I wrote this when I have all teenage girls, and I think they have all three lost their minds.  Remind me that the Holy Spirit in me is with them too.  And if He doesn’t dwell in them, it’s Him that stirs their hearts towards Him anyways.  So…it’s on Him.  And I trust Him.  And He’s good. Remind me. ***

You don’t have to go to the same church, believe the same things, or adhere to the same doctrine, to trust that the Holy Spirit is indeed on the move in and around the people in your life.  I don’t know what He’s doing. (Neither do you.) I cannot fathom it. (Neither can you.) But He’s moving.  And sometimes He reveals what He is doing and sometimes He doesn’t.  But He’s always with me, and He’s always with you.  I do believe that this can mean hard seasons full of hard conversations.  Being with people, no matter what, will always look like communicating. There will always be some kind of mess involved.  And from my experiences, there will be days you need distance and days you need a break (but you have to communicate that). There will be clear days and grey days.  And He’s still there. The unchanging, unwavering Spirit that Jesus gave us as a gift is always here. Trust Him.

Y’all. I’m weeping here at the end.  I believe this to my very core. I don’t always walk it out. But I do believe this is all true. And I believe it is so hard and so beautiful and so very, very worth it.  There is GLORY on the other side of this.  He is so worthy of our trust, and He chose to put Himself in people.  He chose to stay among us.  He is so worthy. And I deeply believe that your choice to trust Him in other people’s lives and stories means that you will see Him in ways you could have never seen Him without their stories. He is so worthy of your trust.