My own sea-change.

In her book Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist talks about a sea-change. She borrows from Shakespeare and I’m borrowing it from her now because I think it is so fitting for my time here in Hawaii – my own sea-change – happening right in the midst of living in the sea. In her book, she explains it like this,

“The word sea-change is from Shakespeare, from The Tempest: a man is thrown into the sea, and under the water he is transformed from what he was into something entirely new, something “rich and strange.” The beautiful and obvious connection, of course: baptism. We are tipped backward into the water, and raised into new life. We leave behind the old—the sin, the regret, the failings, and we rise out of the water cleansed, made new. A sea-change if there ever was one. This is the story of my sea-change—the journey from one way of living to another.”

There are times in our lives when there is a distinct change – we notice we’ve gone from one way of living to another, like Shauna says. It’s the end of one way of thinking, of being, to another, entirely new way. I can think of a couple of other sea-changes in my life. Once as I neared my 30th birthday. And now again out here in the ocean over the last two years. My sea-change has caused me to leave behind some old ways, some old thoughts, some old habits of being, and take on new. Marriage has changed me. Losing a baby has changed me. Living away from my family and old friends has changed me. Being in a new place and a new culture has changed me. And it’s all encompassed in this time here in Hawaii.

The verse God put on my heart as he drew me out here two years ago is found in Psalm 139. It reads,

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.

Did you know Hawaii is the most isolated population center in the world? I didn’t know this until recently, but you can certainly feel the truth of it when you’re on these islands. We’re 1,000 miles from the nearest island chain and 2,000 miles from the nearest continent. So in truth, I have been literally dwelling in the remotest part of the sea. And you know what I have found? He is near. Perhaps even more near than I had previously felt.

I think it’s because we live in the middle of the ocean that songs about God and water cause emotion to well up in me. Songs where they talk about his love being like a wild ocean or how he holds back the waters or asks us to walk on them with him. This lyric especially gets me , “You call me out beyond the shore into the waves.” Now I know they’re meaning that metaphorically, but I listen to that song each time I take off on a flight to this little island in the midst of thousands of miles of untamed ocean because I really feel that’s what God was doing in my heart two years ago - calling me out beyond the shore. And now I’ve been here in the middle of the ocean experiencing my own sea-change.

I’ve found that sometimes he has to draw us out so he can pull us in close. So he can change us. Mold us. Teach us. Show us that he loves us in new and beautiful ways. He might not draw you out to the ocean specifically. He might draw you out right in your own neighborhood. Your own school. Your own friend group. Your own workplace. He’ll call you to new places all the time if you let him. If you give God the space to move, he’ll certainly walk in and fill it up in ways entirely unseen and unexpected. Have you experienced this in your life? A sea-change of your own? Have you given Him enough space to move and breathe fresh life into your bones? To call you out to a new way of life? If you let him, he’ll change you from the inside out. That’s what he wants to do - to fill up all your empty places and refresh your soul. Sometimes he just has to draw you out so you can hear his still small voice.

Maybe that’s the biggest problem - we don’t take enough time to be still and listen. We’re too busy. We’re moving quickly and on to the next thing before we even have a chance to think about or reflect on the last. That’s one of the biggest things I left behind when I moved here - the work of being busy. I learned to slow, to be still, to listen. To savor the small and often unnoticed. Because God does not call us to busy. He calls us to rest. He calls us to abide. In her newsletter earlier this week, Ruth Chou Simons reminded me that, “to abide is to enter into His presence and to linger longer.” Linger with Him. Linger in the moment. Our scrolling thumbs and four second attention spans think we don’t have time to linger. We take in information at such a rapid pace, the pinball is bouncing off all corners of our brain all the time. But there’s a sweetness that seeps into our hearts when we linger a little longer in the presence of God. I’ve learned that out here.

Aaron and I will takeoff from this island for the last time in just a few more days. But I’m going home different. God brought me out to the remotest part of the sea to show me that even here he has not left me, forgotten me, or asked me do any of this alone. What patience and love and promises fulfilled I have seen while we lived here in the ocean. I go home now with a new sense of who I am and who God created me to be. I’m going home with a fresh desire to speak truth, to live boldly, to step out in faith, to be in tune with what God is asking and the ways he is moving in and around me. My own sea-change has caused me to begin a new way of living – one of reliance and trust on the One who can handle the weight of it all. Of being still and listening. A way of life where there is time to linger a little longer. And that’s what I hope for all of us - to experience a kind of change that leads to more of Him.

1122C, our first home.

Our time in Hawaii is quickly drawing to a close. It seems almost impossible to say that because one minute it feels like we just moved here and the next it feels like we’ve lived here our whole lives. But here we are, packing up our home and taking Darla all the way to Nebraska where we’ll put down some roots and make space for our baby (and finally pick out his name!) and spend time with our parents and grandparents. We always knew this day would come – we never planned to be here forever. But as our days are winding down, I feel reflective, as I usually do when something is about to end. You might remember how I felt when I moved out of my first apartment just two years ago.

So, if the walls of 1122C could talk, I think they would tell you about termites and the smell of paint and how she was nearly stripped bare before being rebuilt. These walls would tell you about a newly married couple who laughed and cried and spent the last two years learning the first few steps to the dance of marriage. They would tell you about the time I was so mad I slammed the front door hard enough to shake the frame and they would tell you the exact decibel grief reached when I knew I was losing that first baby of ours. These walls know all the words to every song on The Greatest Showman soundtrack. They know the sounds of many visitors taking up residence in her guest bedroom – the sand and the salt and the laughter that came with hosting them. These walls know how hot it gets in the middle of the day when the sun shines through the front windows and what it sounded like when Darla absolutely lost it because Aaron burned a pizza and filled the house with smoke (I think they heard her wailing a couple blocks over.) This house knows the pop of a champagne cork on our first night here and the way we’ll probably cry when we leave. Nearly two years in this house and what a little blessing she has been - even if I felt like that blessing was disguised sometimes. Ha!

I’ve been learning lately that God gives us the lessons we need even when we don’t know we need them. He takes us by the hand and patiently leads us as we walk this sweet journey of life. While I didn’t know I needed them two years ago and had no idea all that God had in store, I’m so thankful for the lessons I’ve learned here in Hawaii within this little home - the ones about being a wife and a mother. The ones about compromise and conflict and reaching resolution. The lessons about painting trim with a tiny paintbrush so as not to get it on the wood floor and how painter’s tape just doesn’t actually work because it rips the paint off with it when you take it down! I’m grateful to know more about who God is and who I am in Him. He has shown me again, graciously, that He is enough for me no matter my circumstances. That my identity is not found in what I own or how Pinterest-worthy my bedroom is or any title I possess but instead in the royal identity of being His beloved. In that, there is no comparison.

So, it will be sad to leave this house because it’s the only house we’ve known as a married couple – it’s the only place we’ve lived together. We started our lives on 2nd Avenue and we’ll always remember it that way. But we take with us endless memories and lessons and all the ways we’ve grown more into the people God wants us to be. We move on now to new things but I’m leaving really proud of us. I reflected on a lot of this when we hit the one year mark in this little house. But since then, we’ve continued to grow and learn and laugh together as we put the finishing touches on this sweet project. I don’t know what kind of future all this work has prepared us for, but all I know is that I’m ready to take that on with Aaron. I wrote on Instagram after we moved in and put some of our new wedding gifts in this house that I felt like we were kind of putting lipstick on a pig. Well we might have been doing that at first, but we turned this pig into a total babe.

IMG_2370 2.JPG
IMG_2529.JPG
IMG_8381.JPG
2.jpg

I made this little video of all our work – all the work we documented at least. I don’t make videos, as you can probably tell, but I made this one for us so that we would always remember – and more so for Aaron because I’m just so dang proud of him and all the work he did here. In case there was any question, this house is not ours - we don’t own it and never did. But we worked in exchange for rent and we worked our buns off. So take a peek if you’d like to know what we spent a lot of time working on - and what has shaped the last two years of our time here in Hawaii.

Knees to the ground, eyes to the Lord

/ Hello, it’s me / I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet /

Remember when Adele sang us those words? I’m wondering if I can borrow them now. It’s been so long since I’ve shown my face around here that maybe I need to reintroduce myself. It’s not that I didn’t want to be here. I’ve done some writing in the last several months, but they’ve been busy months. Most notably because I’ve been growing a baby! 

Aaron and I announced on Instagram a few months ago that we are expecting our precious little baby in September. It’s hard to believe that we are halfway through this pregnancy already, but the calendar says it’s true. Twenty weeks down and only twenty more to go.

A lot of things have been on my heart over the course of these first 20 weeks – many I want to share and many that will just stay in my heart, maybe forever. I have felt guilty for not coming to this space – for not taking the time to share like I have in the past – but then I read a quote recently that said, when it comes to God and our individual calling, “It’s not about production, it’s about transformation.” Transformation of heart – of life. Of looking more like Jesus. And while I have produced exactly zero posts for this blog, I can say definitively that my heart has changed. It has been strengthened and softened and forged in fires requiring deep faith and trust. Because, to be honest, I don’t know that I’ve ever been in a more anxiety-producing, full-faith-required, knees to the ground, eyes to the Lord in prayer kind of situation than being pregnant after suffering a miscarriage.

Aaron and I found out we were expecting our first little one last summer and then lost that sweet little soul only a few weeks later.  It was devastating for both of us. My soul was crushed under the weight but held fast to the promises of God. And then we waited several months before we decided to try again. My heart just couldn’t handle it – the grief and anxiety were too overwhelming at first. When we finally decided we were ready, I was certain I was not pregnant. Nothing about how I felt in those first few weeks felt like it did the first time. I had no indications that I was harboring another little soul. And even when I was two days late I was still sure I was not pregnant, but we decided to take the test anyway. Aaron could tell you how I was a wreck. There was nervous laughter that bordered on tears because suddenly I didn’t know if I could handle a positive.  

We flipped the test over and it said ‘pregnant’. And I burst into immediate tears. I want to say they were happy tears, but they were scared tears. They were tears of, “Oh no. This could go badly. I could feel that same pain again. No, I can’t do it.” Of course the joy came - the shock and the disbelief and the rejoicing again at new life. But I was still scared that I had opened myself up to that same level of loss once again. And I don’t speak as one who knows what it is like to experience infertility. I don’t speak as one who has endured months of waiting and trying and waiting some more. I don’t know what it’s like to suffer multiple losses. My heart breaks for all of those moms and dads who are still in a season of waiting. But I do speak from a place that has experienced grief and walked in that wilderness with arms outstretched to God in the deep agony of never knowing why. So my heart was certainly tender in those moments after reading that test.

Now, I’m hesitant to tell you this because you might find this odd, but the goodness of God came to me in that very first day we found out I was pregnant. As I stood in front of my closet that morning, I felt a very real knowing from God, a voice that sounded like my own, a thought that fluttered through my head that just said, “It’s going to stick and it’s a boy.” Um… what? It was such a weird thought to have, but I also knew exactly what it meant. Because in the midst of my miscarriage last summer, I always thought, “Why couldn’t that baby just hang on? Why couldn’t it just stick?” Was God really promising me that I wouldn’t have another miscarriage? And that we would have a son? Was I just hopeful and talking to myself?

In the days following that thought from him, I told God out loud, “Okay, well, I’m not going to doubt like Zachariah and have you close my mouth for the next nine months. I’m not going to doubt like Abraham and laugh at your promise. I just want to trust.” If that thought was from God, I wanted to trust. I wanted to be like Mary who said to the angel, “Let it be as you have said.” Let it be, God. Let it be. And in the weeks since we announced our pregnancy, when people asked what I thought we were having, I would say, kind of sheepishly, “Well, I think it’s a boy… because I feel like God told me it was.”

So while I’ve had this seeming promise from God the whole time, I have still battled anxiety and fear. I’ve been excited and nervous, overjoyed and overwhelmed and every range of emotions - usually all in one day. And when I felt the worries of, “Oh no, what if…” I tried to come back to that thought – that understanding that God had given me. But because He knows me and my propensity for worry, God dropped another little reminder into my heart one day.

Last fall I came across a mama on my Instagram explore feed. She had posted a picture of her sweet little girl in the hospital and I clicked the photo because children in the hospital just wreck me. Through reading her post and then subsequently scrolling all the way back through her story (as one does, obviously) I found out that her three year old daughter was suffering from heart failure for, basically, no reason. She just one day fell sick and through a couple of ER visits for what they thought was a cold, they found that her little heart was in failure and she would need a heart transplant. Just the thought of that being one of my nieces or nephews or my own child crushed my heart. So I followed her account, not because of the tragedy of it all, but because of the way this mama so fully poured her heart out in her posts and trusted that God was good through it all. It was inspiring to watch her, though clothed in grief, bring praises to Jesus. By the grace of God, sweet Rowen lived through her heart transplant and is thriving. But it was one of her mom’s posts that I later recalled in the midst of my anxiety over this pregnancy.

Amanda (I don’t think she’d mind that we’re on a first name basis. Ha!) posted a photo of Rowen and went on to explain how one of the popular verses we love as moms is 1 Samuel 1:27. It says, “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.” You’ve heard this before, I’m sure. Or seen it printed on the front of a baby book or in a nursery somewhere. For this child I prayed. Gosh, how true it is for mamas everywhere. But the part that really Velcro-ed itself to my heart is what Amanda went on to say regarding that verse. She wrote,

“So many people cling to 1 Samuel 1:27 - “for this child I have prayed”... but they don’t go into verse 28 - “so I will give him back to the Lord.” It’s because that one sounds scary. That one doesn’t sound so good at all. But the truth is... THIS is the calling of Christian parents. Gotta give them back. If we believe we are His, then we must believe they are. They’re lent to us, not Him. We are to steward them well here... to train them up in the way they should go so that they can be sent out prepared to raise their own; to pass on this strong lineage of His love... For these children, I have prayed. And the Lord has granted me what I’ve asked of Him. So I will give them to the Lord. For all of their days, they are the Lord’s.” 

So I will give him back to the Lord. The weight of it still stings me and comforts at once. This baby growing inside me is His. I can trust him with the life of this baby. It was His very idea at the foundation of the world - just like I was, just like you were. This baby has been in God’s mind from the start. He knows its days and I can trust Him to care for this baby the way I trust Him to care for my own heart. I don’t have to control this – I CAN’T control this. As much as I feared experiencing the pain of another miscarriage, there was very little I could do to prevent it. If that’s what God had for us, we would walk the road again and He would be there in it. I have had to speak this truth to my heart almost daily.

As the more calm one of our pair, Aaron also reminds me, “There will always be something we can worry about if we let ourselves.” Always. Even after I pass the 12 week mark in pregnancy and the chances of miscarriage decrease. Even after this baby is born and held in our arms. Even when it is a grown adult! This doesn’t go away. It is the outflow of giving your heart to someone else. So I will choose to give my heart and this baby’s tiny 20-week-old heart to Jesus and let Him be the author of life just as He always has been and always will be. I will praise Him for the chance to be this baby’s mom and let gratitude flow for all the days of my life.  

When anxiety starts to creep in, I have to choose to remember, “This is not mine to control or worry about. Give it back to God.” Oh, this baby is mine to care for, protect, love, shepherd, hold and rock to sleep at night. But, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” We know that verse, right? I will do what I can to help this baby grow strong and healthy, but ultimately, it is the Lord’s and not mine. I can’t knit this little body together the way God is doing even now inside me. I can’t breathe air into baby’s lungs when it is born the way God will. I can't sustain its life the way the Lord will. This baby has been given as a gift to me and Aaron and I am so grateful. But I don’t have to be filled with worry or anxiety, wondering every second if it is okay, because I know God’s in control.

This is true for all of us - no matter our circumstances. Maybe you need to give your children back to the Lord - to trust Him with their lives and release that anxiety. He cares for you. He cares for them. Maybe you need to give your own heart over to him and let him lead in your life. Release your grip on the control you think you have because you don’t have it anyway. Remind your heart daily to lay all your cares at His feet. He is good. He can be trusted with all your dreams and hopes and hurts. With all your pain. With all your struggle. He will carry it for you.

I wish I could say that this is easy, but it’s not. It’s a journey - a daily walk of faith from now until eternity. But that’s where my heart has been these last 20 weeks. Knees to the ground, eyes to the Lord. Waiting. Learning. Listening for the voice of God. Holding on through that first trimester nausea (yikes!) and doing my best to feel thankful even in those moments.

At four weeks and two days pregnant, God gave me the knowledge that, “It’s going to stick and it’s a boy.” And last Monday, at 19 weeks and 2 days, we received confirmation that we are expecting a baby boy! What a precious gift! God is so good. Through it all He has strengthened my heart and my faith and grown my belly to hold this precious baby boy for a little while longer - another 20 weeks or so. What a sweet blessing it has been so far.

baby.jpg

Hope for 2019.

When I actually sat down to think about the fact that it’s nearly 2019, the first thing that came to mind was that it feels like exactly one moment ago it was 1999. I know this is a thing adults say a lot - that we can’t believe how fast time is moving, but it’s the real honest truth that we all agree upon (for once!). In 1999 I was in ninth grade at a New Year’s Eve party – what felt like my first real party — and I was jealous of my friend’s sparkly tights and we were all sort of worried about Y2K but not really because we were only 15. So not much has changed except 19 years of life and the fact that we know our computers handled the year 2000 just fine. But I do still want the sparkly tights. I hope I always want the sparkly tights.

But the passing of time makes me nostalgic and sad but also hopeful and excited. Isn’t that the constant, sweet juxtaposition of being human — longing for what was while hoping for what’s to come? What a delicate balance.

2018 held many feelings, both sad and wonderful. You may know by now that I love reflecting a bit before moving on to something new - a new season, a new year. At the close of 2017, Aaron and I loosely followed Jennie Allen’s Dream Guide and we plan to do so again. Some things we accomplished in 2018 that we wrote on our list:  

Monthly budgeting. Check.
Meet new friends. Check.
Anniversary trip. Check.
Baby Harms. Check… for the sweetest brief moment in time!

This year: new hopes and dreams and goals – to be led into whatever God has for us and to seek it out diligently and with discipline. I know some people think discipline sounds boring because our culture is all wanderlust-y and think it’s romantic and wild to go where the wind blows and maybe that works for some people, but I’m a person who needs discipline, routine, rhythm. Our lives are only made better when we take thoughtful steps in the direction we want to go. And taking steps requires a plan. You do not fall into healthy rhythms or pick them up by accident. They require effort. Discipline. Determination.

As we look forward to the new year and all that 2019 holds for all of us, perhaps you will consider these disciplines or add a couple of them to a list you are already making:

  • Read a book — the one that has always been on your list.

  • Take a vacation or a staycation or whatever thing you can do for a moment to be caught up in new wonder.

  • Learn something new.

  • Get yourself outside every day, even if just for a few delicious gulps of fresh air.

  • Go on a date. A first date. A 100th date. A date with your spouse. A blind date. A date with yourself.  

  • Start chipping away at your debt. Little by little. One dollar at a time.

  • Surprise someone with something special.

  • Share a skill or hobby with someone.

  • Volunteer somewhere. The world doesn’t revolve around you. You will grow when you serve.

  • Practice vulnerability. It allows others the same privilege.

  • Do your best to bring lightness and life wherever you go.

  • Choose to live in faith rather than fear. If you realize you are making a choice out of fear, try to to immediately take the other option. (I am working on this!)

  • Recognize that you will never nail it every day. You can’t possibly, and that is okay.

  • Write out the prayer, Help me, Jesus. These are the three most common words in my journal this year. Help me. I can’t do it alone. And then watch how he comes through.

  • Make a playlist that always, no matter what, makes you feel better when you turn it on and jam. out.

  • Call someone. Meet up with them. Look into their eyes and connect with another person. Our souls need face-to-face communication. We crave it.

  • Forgive someone. Break the chains of bitterness that bind you to that person. This may take every day of 2019 and will likely (definitely) require the prayer above.

  • Read your Bible. Or buy a new Bible. Maybe it’s your first Bible! How great is that!

  • Create something: throw a clay pot, make a baked good, write a story, compose a piece of music, paint, draw, build. We need more creators, not just consumers.

  • Hug one person every day. Hugs are medicine. Google it.

  • Wear sparkly tights. Or red lipstick. Or the thing you think you can’t wear. Wear it with confidence. You look amazing, I know it.

Do all of these things or none of these things. Make your own list. Do your own thing. That’s the beauty of a new year. We can start fresh and begin again. But the same is true of every day. It doesn’t take January 1 to roll around for us to know we can start fresh. The opportunity presents itself every morning. A fresh start. New mercy.

I hope 2019 is filled with more than you dare dream or imagine. More love and joy and lightness of soul. But if it’s wounding you need, if it’s pruning, if it’s a tearing back of the darkness to make way for the light, then I hope that for you too. Those seasons come for all of us and they don’t feel good (I’ve been through many of my own!) but they make way for all the goodness that is to come.

My heart feels ready for this year. I’m approaching it with joy and gladness of heart. And who knows what these new days will hold — maybe my heart will break like glass and maybe it will burst with catastrophic love. Maybe yours will too. But always remember the truth: you can start fresh again the next day with a simple prayer, Help me, Jesus. And by the end of 2019, you might recognize like we have this year, the sweet truth of the words of Samuel when he wrote, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”