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.

One year in Hawaii.

One year ago, Aaron and I boarded an airplane headed for a new life together. Just five days into marriage, with two suitcases and four moving boxes, we flew across the ocean to Hawaii. I have written about the move before - about how it was hard and new and vulnerable and lonely. Aaron and I will both tell you that the first four months were long - probably because he always had to wonder if he would come home from work to find me crying on the bed (eeek!). I flew back to Nebraska at the beginning of December, but from August to December, he endured a lot of my tears and sadness. There were certainly good things too - we had visitors and took a trip to Maui. There were date nights and dinners with friends and lots of trips to the beach.

I am well aware that most people are less dramatic about moving than I have been. I sometimes wish I were one of those people - I wish I could be you - but I’m just not. I want to be - I want to have zero cares about moving to any corner of the world at any given time and not care about who I get to see everyday and who I don’t. But I can’t do it. I need my people. That’s just how I’m wired and it was confirmed for me this year. Thankfully, by the mercy of the Lord and the patience of my husband, the whole of this year, from January til now, has been much better for me and for us than the first four months. 

For the entirety of our year in Hawaii, Aaron and I have been working on the house we’re renting. You may have seen this on my Instagram stories from time to time. Well, it started out very, very bad. I walked into it the first day and felt despair, mostly because it wasn’t in a livable state with tools and dust and dirt littering the entire house. I could get past the green and brown, but it was the fact that we didn't own a couch or a bed or have a place to sit that wasn't covered in sawdust that really did me in. The second day we were in Hawaii, we spent nine hours pulling weeds and working on the landscaping, pulling out overgrown plants and grasses that were knee high in the backyard. We left tired, with sunburned backs and dirt under our fingernails. 

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The house was tented shortly before we moved to Hawaii, meaning a big tent covered the entire house and blasted all the termites that were living in its boards. The kitchen was already renovated by the time we moved in and the bathroom was mostly redone. But over the last twelve months we have painted every wall, inside and outside, painted all the trim, replaced air conditioners, built out a new closet so that our washer and dryer could be inside instead of under the house, repaired (and repaired and repaired) wood eaten away by termites. I have cleaned up endless dust piles and termite poop piles. We’ve caulked windows and doors and nearly the entire outside of the house. Admittedly Aaron has done a lot of the hardest work, like hanging new doors for every room, building out a new window in the kitchen, rewiring lights and AC and cutting out a new closet. I’ve been up on scaffolding and crawled under the house and if The Greatest Showman soundtrack was a record, I would have worn through it by now.

Sometimes the work seemed endless - and by sometimes, I mean a lot of times. But what I’ve realized recently - what God gave me a word about the other day - was that perhaps it’s not about the house. Maybe this year wasn’t about renovating a house, but instead building a foundation - creating a solid platform for what’s to come. Maybe each time we were replacing wood and walking the aisles of Lowe’s and City Mill, and building up rotted boards, we were actually building the walls of our marriage just like the walls of this house. We have worked hard and through it our relationship has grown and changed and become more sturdy. We have argued and cried and sweat and celebrated and built something from the ground up. We have endured change and joy and loss and walked each other through a lot of feelings in the midst of making this house a home.

So I think our marriage has taken shape much the same way this house has taken shape, little by little, with work from both of us. I feel like I could quote a rap song here like, “started from the bottom and now we here.” Certainly we have so much more to learn and experience. We are only one year into this thing. There will be more joy and more heartbreak and more laughing and growing, but we’ve built something so far that I’m pretty proud of. We have made decisions together (and then changed our minds ten times), problem solved together and encouraged and loved each other through all of it. 

Aaron went home to Hawaii earlier this week, while I stayed back in Nebraska, but he told me that when he walked up to our house he looked at it and thought, “This actually looks pretty nice.” And it does! It’s really cute and we are both proud of the work we've done. But it’s like anything in life - all the good things take time and effort and sticking with it. So I’m proud of myself for pushing through the hard of moving to get to the good and proud of us for working to build a foundation of something really beautiful. 

I’ve been reading in the Old Testament lately and an often repeated phrase is, “So that you will know that I am the Lord.” Or, “Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.” There is description of some hard thing in life - some difficult circumstance for the Israelites - some devastation that the Lord is allowing but it’s so that they will know that he is the Lord. That’s the point of this whole thing - all of life is to point back to the one who gave us life in the first place. That’s the purpose. So if moving and enduring the hard things is to bring me back to a place of knowing that I’m not in control  and I’m not in charge and I can’t do this on my own, well then mission accomplished. I have relied on the Lord to get me through to the next minute sometimes. And his grace and his mercy was sufficient for each moment, and then each hour and each day. He wants our dependency on him and that has grown infinitely this year, so I can label it all good. I can put a banner over it that says, “This was good for us. For me. For our marriage.” I can look at how far the house has come and know that our marriage has come along in the same way - little by little, growing into something wonderful. It has certainly been hard, but it has also been very, very good.

We're not done with the house and we're not moving back to Nebraska quite yet. There's more work to be done when I go back next week. But I'm thankful for where we've been and where we are now. Thankful for this year of growing and building and becoming. 

So, happy one year, Hawaii life. You’ve been so many things. And 1122C holds all of it in her now more sturdy frame. 

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Moments.

As most of the world knows by now, a false alert was pushed out to cellphones across the state of Hawaii last Saturday morning warning of an incoming ballistic missile. Panic ensued for nearly half an hour before we were all assured this was a mistake and there was no real threat. But I’ll be honest, Aaron and I were never worried. While the rest of the state was thinking they were about to die, we were sitting on the couch, cozy, drinking coffee, probably scrolling Instagram. And this isn’t because we’re just steady, calm people, not prone to panic and worry (do you know me at all?) -  we just didn’t get the alert on our phones. We were absolutely oblivious until my friend sent this text:

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When I opened Twitter to see that no major news outlets were reporting it, and we never heard any sirens – which were tested as recently as December – our original theory was that someone made the graphic as a joke (a terrible joke, by the way). But then a couple of minutes later, a Hawaii news station I follow retweeted Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard saying the threat was false. So that was it. There was no point in time where Aaron or I ever thought the threat was real.

But as the news started pouring out about the alert, we quickly realized how it affected everyone around us. Saturday night we were at a bonfire with friends and nearly the only topic of conversation was the false missile alert. Did you get the alert? Where were you? What did you do? Several friends drove to a military base. Others saw people running toward Diamond Head for shelter. Another watched as frantic tourists bombarded helpless police officers. 9-1-1 lines were jammed. People were scared for their lives. I know that had we received the alert I would have probably lost it. Goodbye, emotional stability! Farewell, sanity!

I don’t know how often you all think about death, but I think about it a lot. I’m not trying to be morbid or anything, but I just feel like I think about it more often than the average person. It might have something to do with the fact that I lived next to a cemetery for seven years. You can’t escape thinking about it when everyday there is a new plot of dry earth dug up near your parking lot. Last Saturday, a lot more people were thinking about their death, and probably in that span of 30 minutes, the whole of their lives and whether or not they did it right. This is so cliché – I know that. But the truth is a lot of people thought they had 15 minutes to live on Saturday. A lot of people were running for their lives, trying to figure out how to protect their children and themselves. A lot of people were resigned to the fact that it was over. And that's when you start to think about your life.

While we were home in Nebraska, we recently heard a sermon on Ecclesiastes. Solomon, the writer of this particular book of the Bible, was the richest man in the world. He had everything – you name it, he had it, and if he didn’t have it, he could get it in overwhelming abundance. Even still, at the end of it all, he looked back and thought it was all worthless. It meant nothing. All the wealth and prestige and stuff he had accumulated was garbage. So in light of his revelations, the focus of the sermon was on living for the moments that matter. Making our lives count. It's not about possessions and money and power. It's about not missing moments with our people. Not giving our lives over to bitterness, anger, addictions, feeling like a victim, being a slave to our pasts, but instead moving onward and forward and not missing the life that’s happening right now, in front of us, today. Moments that we’ll never get back. Moments we’ll never experience again.

I’ve missed a lot of moments in my life. I know I have because I was wasting my life wishing to go back and make choices over again. Wishing my life hadn’t gone the way it did. Wishing away all that I had been given with an ungrateful heart, nursing my wounds and remembering all the ways I had been wronged. I missed moments with family and friends. I missed opportunities. I missed them because of stored up hurt and anger and bitterness. I missed them because I was striving for what I thought life should be instead of living in the reality of what was. 

I wish I wouldn’t have _________. 
My life would be different if only _________.
My life would be better if __________.

Do you ever rehearse your answers to these kinds of statements? Mentally fill them in whenever you're reminded of a certain person or scenario or life event? Use them as an excuse for where you are in your life? I used to spend a lot of time on these kinds of thoughts – imagining these kinds of scenarios. Meanwhile, my real life was passing me by. In her first book, Cold Tangerines, Shauna Niequist highlights this idea perfectly – about life and moments and not living in the past. Because we can rehash our stories and look back at our choices or the choices made for us by other people and see our narrative as tragedy, or we can move forward with forgiveness and grace and love – for others and for ourselves, realizing that we'll never get our moments back again. Shauna calls this kind of thing letting them off the hook. She has a whole essay about it in her book. She writes,

“When I’m trying to forgive someone, I picture myself physically lifting that person off a big hook, like in a cartoon. I never want to. I prefer to stew and focus my anger on them like a laser pointer and wish them illnesses and bad skin. I hope that they will get fat and people will talk behind their backs and their toilets will overflow and their computers will crash. I work on my anger toward them like I’m working on a loose tooth with my tongue, back and forth… “

But there comes a point when you have to let all that go – when you have to let that go so you stop missing your life. So maybe today you need to let someone off the hook for all the ways they wronged you – and I’m not talking to you if you are currently in a situation where someone is wronging you – abusing you in some way, physically harming you – you DO NOT let those people off the hook. You tell on them and you get help. But I am talking to you if you are hanging on to the past in some way. If you’re letting bitterness and anger tell your story. If your whole life is seen through a lens of, “Yeah, but my life would be better if ______.” I’ll never forget what my dad said to me one time, “Life moves fast. Don’t wish it away.” Don't wish it away! Not parts of it. Not whole chapters. Not current circumstances while you wait for the next thing. I'm here to tell you that one minute you're 21 thinking you have all the time in the world and then you're 33 and you're wondering where time went and my dad is 58 now and he feels the same way and now I sound like that Five for Fighting song. But your life is right now. Let yourself off the hook. Mentally pick yourself up off that hook every single day if you have to so that you don’t waste your life and miss the moments happening today all around you. Let your parents off the hook. Let your ex off the hook. Let your kids or your neighbor or whoever wronged you off the hook so you can move forward and live the one life you've been given. 

Faced with our own mortality, like many felt here on Saturday morning, do you really want to look at the whole of your life and feel like you missed it? Wasted it? Watched it go by while you worked on your anger and bitterness like a loose tooth? Sacrificed your family and friends on the altar of power and prestige? I don’t. I want to get to the end and know I gave out every ounce of love and grace and forgiveness I could possibly muster. I want to make a career out of letting people off the hook. I don’t want to miss any more moments - any laughs or smiles or opportunities to be an encourager, a comforter, a hug. I want to live each day in all its sweetness and difficulty and trial and triumph. I want to feel each moment and squeeze the life out of it. Capture it in my heart, undistracted by the past, laser-focused on all that's ahead. So that when it is my time to head on home to glory, I don't feel like I missed it all.

In another essay in Cold Tangerines, Shauna writes,

Today is your big moment. Moments, really. The life you’ve been waiting for is happening all around you.... This is life in all its glory, swirling and unfolding around us, disguised as pedantic, pedestrian non-events. But pull of the mask and you will find your life, waiting to be made, chosen, woven, crafted. 

Your life, right now, today, is exploding with energy and power and detail and dimension, better than the best movie you have ever seen. You and your family and your friends and your house and your dinner table and your garage have all the makings of a life of epic proportions, a story for the ages. Because they all are. Every life is. 

You have stories worth telling, memories worth remembering, dreams worth working toward, a body worth feeding, a soul worth tending, and beyond that, the God of the universe dwells within you, the true culmination of super and natural. 

You are more than dust and bones. 
You are spirit and power and image of God. 
And you have been given Today.” 

Life moves fast. Don't wish it away. It'll be gone in a moment. Don't miss it.

New.

I wrote a whole post last week about being in a new city but didn’t feel peace about posting it, I guess because it felt a little complain-y - and that’s not even a word but I’m writing it anyway. I don’t want to be a complainer and I especially don’t want to publicly complain on my blog. So I’m starting fresh here and trying to let God speak new words to my fragile heart.

I don’t feel much like myself right now, and that’s the honest truth. I feel chaotic – like I’m trying to live someone else’s life, fumbling around and lost. I wrote on Instagram last week that it’s been a comedy of errors and if I really feel like it I could focus a whole lot on the errors – like how I messed up the self-checkout at the store and just ran away from it instead of get help, like how parking in Honolulu is a bit like musical chairs where there is always one less spot than there are cars, like how Safeway doesn’t have the things I liked at Trader Joe’s (RIP Trader Joe’s) and it’s all twice as expensive. Oh, see, here I go again complaining.

I don’t know if you’ve ever moved across the country, but it’s pretty hard. On top of that I just got married two and a half weeks ago and am learning how to be a wife and live with someone else for the first time, so I just feel like there’s an abnormally-sized portion of new on my plate and if you took anything from my last post, you know that new is not my forte. I know I’m not the first person to get married and move all at once - I’m just an ordinary girl doing an ordinary thing - but I feel kind of like Bambi on the ice trying to walk. The minute I feel a little confident, I get a snowball to the face, usually in the form of being in the wrong lane and ending up five streets from where I wanted to be. I know these occurrences will come less and less over time and I just need to give myself some time (and grace) to learn. They say you need at least six months in a new place to feel like anything feels normal so since it’s only been two weeks, maybe I can calm down. It’s just the perfectionist in me rearing its head and wanting to know how to do everything and how to get everywhere right away and stop making mistakes.

One thing I’ve had to diligently remind myself over the last two weeks is the verse in Lamentations about God’s mercies being new every morning. It’s fitting that the verse is found in that book of the Bible because I find myself easily lamenting lately. But God says his mercies are new each day – fresh and full and mine for the taking. I drew the verse in my journal the second day we were here in Hawaii. When I start to think about the fact that I won’t see my family and friends and Nebraska until December, I get a little panicky. When I start to think about how lost I feel in this new city, the lamentations start to roll off my tongue. But instead of focus on that very far away December date, I remember this verse and look at this one day in front of me and know that his mercy and grace is sufficient for today and tomorrow’s portion will be sufficient for tomorrow until all those portions string together to get me through. And when everything about me screams, “I’m new here!” at least I know his mercies are new so that no matter how often I screw up, I can start again and again until this new little life here starts to feel normal.

Speaking of normal, I went to the gym yesterday. It didn’t feel like my gym and the kettlebells smell a bit like bandaids and it’s pretty small and hot in there, but working out felt normal for me and I need that bit of routine in my life. I told Aaron I did prayer sprints at the gym and he said he had never heard of that and that’s because I made them up! All you do is set the treadmill at 10 mph and for ten minutes you sprint 30 seconds and rest 30 seconds but during the 30 second sprint, you pick one thing to pray about – just one thing. And during those 30 seconds you mentally pray every single thing you can think about regarding that one person or circumstance. And you don’t really get to choose what you pray about, you just have to pray whatever comes to your head, so that could be really any person or situation on your heart. It’s kind of like mentally shouting things out, but God doesn’t care how you come to him, he just cares that you come.

A lot of my sprints yesterday resulted in prayers about my heart and attitude, but also family and friends and finding a job. I went to a conference back in February and Beth Moore said that we have ground we’re supposed to take through prayer – we have things in our lives that we are to pray about and you don’t want to miss the blessings that will come through your prayer about something – so take that ground! Intercede for others. Maybe that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but there is one thing I know about prayer: it doesn’t change your circumstance immediately, but it can change your heart. So while I went to the gym yesterday with a bit of a bad attitude about the traffic situation on H1 west (like I actually texted Aaron, “How do people live here?”), I left with a new heart and better perspective.  And I remembered again that his mercies were new that day. Just like they are today.

Before I left Nebraska two weeks ago, my 5 year old niece asked me if I was scared to move to Hawaii. Children are so perceptive sometimes it’s a little frightening. I told her I was and she said, “Well, when I’m scared I just remember this verse, ‘Let the peace of Christ fill your heart.’” Ugh. I’m not crying, YOU’RE CRYING. How often God uses the small things to remind us of the truth and how often I’ve repeated that verse to myself over the last couple of weeks. Beth Moore also reminded us that we should be praying for supernatural things in our lives so I have prayed for supernatural peace that cannot be explained. And every time I start to feel a little scared or make another mistake or start to miss home, I remember Lux’s gentle reminder and her tiny voice reciting scripture.

The last two weeks I've found myself feeling a bit like the first half of these illustrations by Mari Andrew:

I trust that in a few more months, or by the end of our time here in Hawaii I’ll feel like the second half of each drawing. I won’t be making all the wrong turns and I’ll know the ins and outs of living here and I’ll find my favorites at Safeway like I did at Trader Joe’s. I know that new things just take time to get used to – that new rhythms and routines will come. And the thing is, every time I feel like Bambi on ice, I've got Aaron as my little Thumper, encouraging me and helping me see the fun in it all. He keeps the comedy in all my errors and straightens out my legs when I get wobbly.

So if you're feeling a little lost today - a little unsure or you feel like you keep making mistake after mistake, I guess I just want to remind you and me this morning with this short little post that his mercies are new every morning and when you’re feeling a little scared, "Let the peace of Christ fill your heart." He’s been faithful to show up each day.

Now I'm headed to Target. I think I'll have to prayer sprint the whole way.