On Disappointment and Missing Out

We stepped out our front door yesterday to catch a glimpse of the solar eclipse and we were met with a storm.

My man and I just so happen to live in the path of totality. That invisible line that everyone flocked to across the nation. He was able to work from home yesterday so we could take our sweet time watching this (apparently) historical moment in awe. I tracked exactly what time we needed to start watching, and we were so ready.

We had our eclipse glasses. We put our patio chairs out in the grass where we could have a great view. Did I mention my husband even asked to work from home? We were excited. Just like everyone else.

In the first twenty minutes of the sun and moon overlapping, we sat in our chairs, put on our special glasses, and looked up. We smiled. We both said “Wow.”

We went back inside for a few minutes. My husband was still working, you know. We set a timer to go out again in ten more minutes. At that point, the sun should have been halfway covered. As soon as we heard the beep, beep, beep of the timer, we were up again. We grabbed our glasses, headed outside, and looked up.

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Yep, nothing but a dark cloud. Then thunder. Then lightening. And it wasn’t going away. We stared and stayed outside just waiting and hoping that it would pass. It didn’t.

The street lights came on, and at 2:46 the city went dark. That was cool and all, but we still felt like we missed out.

As the sun’s light and heat returned to the earth, we still saw the storm cloud. We went back inside. Disappointed. Broken-hearted.

I made the horrible mistake of checking Instagram and Facebook. It seemed that everyone was posting their pictures, captioning that it was the most amazing sight they’d ever seen. Commenting on the power of God over the universe.

And all I saw was a friggin’ storm cloud. Y’all. It wasn’t even a pretty thunderstorm.

I know that a lot of people have a bad case of FOMO. Fear of missing out. To the point that they complain, seek attention, or invite themselves because they are terrified of missing the things that are so very important to everyone else. And what bothered me so much about missing most of the eclipse was that I did not have a fear of missing it. Instead, it seemed like there was no way for me to avoid it. I was completely prepared!

Sometimes, we can be ready and still feel like we’ve missed it. We can be highly educated and still not have that dream job. We can be responsible and mature and still not be married. We can be kind, good people and still have disappointments. We can see a part of our God-given calling and still not understand it.

When the people around us have that dream job, dream marriage, dream life, we have a choice. We can be jealous and grumble. Or we can accept that our lives look a little different. God’s timing isn’t social media perfect. Your life that is seemingly out-of-wack is perhaps the better story for you.

I don’t know why God chooses to give us the smallest of glimpses when we’re begging to see the whole picture. Maybe it has something to do with trust. Maybe it is designed to rid us of jealousy. Perhaps it is a push to kick the FOMO habit. I think the greatest reason for the Lord’s “delay” is that He knows what we need, when we need it.

We may feel and actually be completely prepared for that job, marriage, or calling. But it also may not be what we need at the moment. We can keep planning, keep preparing, but be sure to listen when God says, “Not now” or “Wait” or doesn’t say anything at all.

My man and I plan on traveling in 2024 to the next North American eclipse. We may end up missing it again.

This I know: God loves us all. God has good plans for us. God is purposeful in His design. Everything will be okay.

Living Loved in Ordinary Times

It’s a few days after Resurrection Sunday. Between Easter and Christmas, it’s harder to celebrate that Jesus has risen from the dead. We’re starting “ordinary time” on the church calendar. After Pentecost Sunday, we’ll be right in the thick of the ordinary.

It sounds so mundane. We talk about having an ordinary day, doing the same old tasks like every day before. Whenever a friend travels or starts a new job or does anything out of the ordinary, we praise them. This is good and right, but if you’re anything like me, I tend to be a little jealous. I want newness, too. Having an ordinary day can be so boring.

But there is nothing ordinary about a resurrection. Somehow that shocking info wears off after a few weeks or even a few days.

I am fascinated by what happens between the resurrection and the ascension. Jesus keeps disappearing in the middle of conversations, moving in and out of rooms like a ghost. There is nothing ordinary about that, either.

One of my favorite stories from this time between the resurrection and the ascension is Jesus’ conversation with Peter. It is only mentioned in John’s gospel account, but I believe this one moment had the most impact on Peter and his understanding of God.

Remember back before Jesus was crucified when Peter denied that he even knew Jesus? People kept saying, “Aren’t you one of his disciples? I’ve seen you with Jesus.” Peter said “no” three times. Even worse, Jesus told him this was going to happen. Jesus knows everything. So when Peter denies Jesus over and over again, he is completely overcome with guilt. He runs away and hides.

Even when Peter is told there is an empty tomb, he just goes back home. Then when Jesus appears to the disciples, Peter is quiet. I know Scripture does not say this, but I just imagine Peter shying away from Jesus. I picture him standing in a corner while Thomas is touching Jesus’ wounds. I think that maybe Peter fully believes that Jesus is God, but his shame keeps him from getting too close. He may love Jesus, but he certainly does not feel that he could be loved by Jesus.

So Peter goes back to the ordinary. He goes fishing. After all, this was his livelihood until Jesus came along. With Jesus quite literally popping in and out of Peter’s life, what else would Peter do?

Unknowingly to Peter, Jesus is waiting for him and the others that went on the fishing trip. When Peter and the others pull up to the shore with their full nets, Jesus has breakfast waiting for them.

I imagine Peter sitting at breakfast, still trying to avoid eye contact with Jesus. While all the others are enjoying their breakfast with the Lord, Peter’s stomach was probably in knots. Then, Jesus says, “Simon, do you love me?” I bet Peter hung his head a little as he said, “Yes, you know I love you.” After all, Jesus knows everything. Jesus asks again, and I imagine Peter looking up at Jesus with a bit of confusion. “Yes,” Peter says again, “you know I love you.” Jesus asks a third time, “Do you love me, Peter?” I picture Peter looking Jesus square in the face with complete confidence, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.” For each time Peter denied, Jesus forgave. In forgiveness, there is love. Through Christ’s forgiveness, all is made right. Peter does not have to be ashamed. He is fully forgiven and unconditionally loved.

From there, Peter preaches and heals and proclaims the Gospel. Never out of guilt, always out of the knowledge that he is loved.

In this ordinary moment—over a fire with friends and food—Peter is loved. I assure you that Peter had other ordinary moments in his life. I bet he went fishing again the next week.

Somehow, we have forgotten that extraordinary love doesn’t stop the ordinary days from coming. This love enhances the ordinary. The ordinary days and weeks and months are sacred because we are so very loved.

I struggle with being ordinary. I think it has something to do with that youthful mentality of impact: the notion that I am not doing enough until I have the right job with the right house with the right community with a whole lot of influence. Since I do not have those things, I can feel useless and unloved. My ordinary days can easily turn into a mess of tears and self-loathing.

No, dear one, this should not be. The ordinary is enough. You are loved at your worst, your best, and on your average, ordinary day.

When we know that we are loved, our ordinary days and tasks are transformed into life-giving moments. I am free to wash the dishes a little slower, fold the laundry with greater attentiveness, cook with a little more gratitude. I can do all of these mundane things, knowing that while they do not define me, they can also give me life.

I can celebrate that I have beautiful plates to wash. I am blessed with nice clothes to wear and a nose that can smell clean fabric and hands that can feel warmth. My little family has good food to eat, and we do not have to worry too much about finding our next meal. I have my own little sphere of influence here in my home. When I know I am loved, the ordinary becomes purposeful.

Peter did incredible things while proclaiming the Kingdom of God. I am convinced that those extraordinary moments in his life were defined by this one ordinary breakfast on the shore. Peter was loved.

We are loved, and that makes all of life sacred.

Drawing Near and #WhyImStillaBeliever

A week or so ago, I was tagged in a Facebook post asking me to share why I am still a Christian (#whyimstillabeliever). I must admit that it instantly made me afraid to share. Not so much because I am ashamed, but because my thoughts are always so jumbled when it comes to those sorts of questions. I have a hard time explaining truthfully, and clearly. Like most stories of faith, mine is ever-changing and slightly messy.

I grew up in church and never really knew the feeling of being without Christ. I had no idea that I was not a Christian until someone (probably at church) told me so. I was all good with the God thing and the believing thing and the being loved thing. My “salvation prayer” was more of a full surrender prayer to me. I was only eight, so I remember the moment only vaguely. I decided to pray on my knees one night before bed. I had no intention of asking for forgiveness, but I did. Then I continued in a teary-eyed mess telling Jesus that I would absolutely follow Him for the rest of my life. That’s the part I most remember: declaring over and over that I had to follow Him. I needed him, not only for forgiveness, but for guidance the rest of my life. I was determined to be dedicated.

I was the type of youth that never strayed. I followed Jesus, not out obligation, but because I sensed a deep need within myself. I had no desire for parties or much of anything that was “secular.” In fact, I rarely listened to anything other than Christian music (I am forever grateful to my best friend for making sure that I had at least some knowledge of other music choices. I still listen to many of those songs from our Friday Night Mix CD).

Somehow in youth group, I never felt like it was quite where I belonged. I loved (and still love!) my precious church girls, but I remember us gathering in each other’s living rooms or in my little red car and talking about how we wanted to learn so much more. We were ready to go deeper in our faith. I participated in the adult Bible studies and even wrote some of my own in the sanctuary of my bedroom. I never felt like the typical teenager. I was told in high school that guys would not date me because they were intimidated by my faith, but they all thought I was kind. No joke, I was told that I was the type of girl a guy marries, not the kind they date in high school. Needless to say, I was so ready to be with people like me. The ones who wanted Jesus, needed Jesus more than anything else.

Enter college. I finally found my people. I met so many incredible people who were head-over-heels in love with Jesus. They changed my life and my idea of community and discipleship. Those years led to a crazy amount of growth in my faith and my understanding of God. I was finally studying what I loved in my Christian Studies major and I was surrounded by people that were passionate about the same things. I am forever grateful to the professors and friends that made college such a sweet time in my life, and I am so sorry for being horrible at staying in contact. Please forgive me.

There was one friend in particular that I believe confirmed my believe and helped me continue in faith. She died five years ago yesterday. It was her twenty-first birthday.

Ariane was the type of person that had so much passion, it was contagious! She was never the best student or cared very much about being the highest-ranked academic. Truthfully, she never needed that to believe in Jesus. She just needed Him.

The morning of her death, I sat with her at our school’s chapel service. We laughed with each other and enjoyed listening to the row of guys behind us sing “Happy Birthday.” She was as joyful as always, excited for this new year of life.

A mere three hours later, she was dead.

I am forever grateful that I was not in the classroom when she passed out. Instead, I’m left with a fond memory of sitting together, just the two of us, enjoying the morning.

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I find it compelling that most of these #whyimstillabeliever stories include grief or heartbreak. I think that is incredibly telling of our need for healing beyond ourselves. In grief, we find that we cannot pull ourselves out. We need something, someone apart from us. When we are broken and most vulnerable, we are more willing to accept what we do not understand logically.

I find it hard to answer the question of why I’m still a believer. Honestly, I hate pat answers. Always have. I find it hard to believe there’s an easy answer to such deep questions. I’m afraid my answer will be too simple for some, maybe even too simple for my own liking.

The truth is, I’m still a believer because there’s just something about Jesus. His radical love, his ability to sit with the hurting and broken, his compassion, his teachings, his healing. It all compels me to draw near to Him.

I’m sorry to say that I have never been convinced by apologetics or my Sunday school teachers. I do not mean to offend. The simple fact is that I am at my best when I am following Jesus with abandon.

If you were hoping for my deep, logical response, you must be sorely disappointed. I have never been great at debate or convincing. I do not think fast enough for that. Which is why I write.

Yet I am convinced that trying to figure out God and why we must believe in Him somehow misses the point. There is a mystery to God and it draws me to Him all the more. So I still believe.

 

Share your story with me in the comments below. I would love to hear about why you’re still a believer or why you struggle to believe. I get it. Our journeys are messy and often confusing. I’m totally with you.

Why I Quit Writing and Why I’m Starting Again

Way on back in 2012, I sat in my dorm room probably doing homework. Maybe I was procrastinating on Facebook. Who really knows?

I got a message from a sweet friend telling me that he was sitting at his work study job, which he found incredibly boring, and stumbled across my blog. At the time, I had been blogging for maybe three years and hardly had any traffic. My posts were fairly short and always spiritual. I was encouraged by my mom to start blogging (thanks, mama!) just because she believed I had something valuable to say. So I did it partly for fun and partly because it just felt right.

That sweet friend of mine told me he read half a dozen posts and found my writing “very real and practical.” He even admitted to getting teary-eyed. He thanked me for my openness and for being an encouragement to him on that mundane day.

When I got his message, I was overcome. It was the first time I ever truly felt that my words were important. The first time I believed I could make an impact on people. Which of course is what every overly-devout Christian teenager could ever hope for, am I right?

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A year later, I was just starting grad school and a whole new world of transitions were taking place. I no longer lived in that close-knit community of people who were so like me. Not to mention I was figuring out how to thrive in school when I was already feeling a bit burned out (I can only handle so many 20-page papers, y’all). Of course there was also all of the worry about finding a job that I enjoyed and a husband to share life with and a church that I could REALLY get behind.

Somewhere in the worry, I lost all motivation to write. I stopped journaling (except when it was required of me for class). I stopped jotting down ideas on my sticky notes and church bulletins. My blog fell apart.

I told myself it was because I was too busy. To begin with, I was taking classes that required a great deal of writing. I was already thinking theologically for my professors. I was busy with groups of friends and figuring out how to make a new place nice and tidy. Let’s be honest, I was also entirely fascinated with TV. I had never binge-watched anything before in my life until graduate school. Seriously, I went through New Girl, Sherlock, and Downton Abbey like my life would be incomplete without those characters.

I told myself I wasn’t writing because I was busy. Really, I was just afraid.

Afraid that no one would care to read my thoughts. Even more afraid that someone would challenge my thoughts in a harsh way. Afraid that my words would inadvertently hurt someone. Afraid of rejection. Afraid that my words are not good enough, that I could never compare to someone else.

I was afraid despite encouragement from my professors and my mom (thanks, mama!). I was given opportunities to write for my church and an Advent devotional for my school. Some people must have believed in me, but I could never quite believe in myself.

Despite my fear, I couldn’t shake the yearning to write. For me, writing is therapy. I think more clearly and creatively through writing. The simple truth is that I NEED to write. I feel it deep in my soul where all of my passions reside. I cannot go through one more day of meaningless television and cleaning and cooking without writing something, anything.

Somehow, I think that writing for myself is not enough. I believe that there are other people crippled by fear. I think many people want to be honest and have a safe place where they can express their true beliefs. I am convinced that we all need encouragement and grace in this crazy life. I pray this little corner of the World Wide Web can be that kind of place for someone. That sweet friend of mine convinced me that it’s possible. As we sat at our kitchen table last night, that sweet friend-turned-husband convinced me again.

I hope that you can breathe easy here. I want us to discover truth and light here. Let us not live in fear, but trust that there is purpose and peace through God.

Peace to you,

Anna

 

I would love for us to connect. You can share your fears and doubts here, but don’t feel pressured if you’re not ready. I am all about resting in God, and I hope you can do that here. Join in the conversation through the comments below or feel free to contact me.