Saturday, May 27, 2017

Out of the Box Summer

A couple weeks ago, I finished my first year of my PhD with straight A's. I went straight from finishing my college semester to focusing on finishing my school year as a teacher, which meant grading 86 research papers and teaching one more book in the remaining three weeks of May. Happy to say I finished the last of those papers today and besides another day and half of classes, I am free!

Well, free of my full time job for a few months, but not free from the ebb and flow of life. Next week will lead me straight into planning the rest of my daughter's graduation party: ordering food, making decorations, and putting together picture collages. She's a full time college student next fall and our relationship will begin to change. I don't know how to navigate it all quite yet, but I'm desperate to find a decent balance of parent she still needs and the friend I will eventually fully become.

The party at the end of June will give way to a few days of taking care of our friends' two boys while they are away on a trip. Bringing my two younger kiddos as back up, of course. Triple teaming them ensures we all come out alive and happy! Haha! I am looking forward to getting to know the boys better. The past year has definitely taken a toll on my connections to my close friends' families and I feel I've missed some milestones.

A week later, my husband and I are off to Israel for ten days. This is a trip of a lifetime for more than one reason. First of all, it's a pilgrimage for us - to walk where Jesus walked. I am expecting big things - to come back refreshed, fulfilled, and ready with a new word for my path. Second, my husband and I have never been on a trip together, not even a honeymoon. Although we'll be traveling with a mix of friends and new acquaintances, our kids won't be there and the evenings will be ours to do as we please. I get nervous when my kids take simple trips away, so this will be a challenge even as it is a dream come true. Third, besides Canada, we've never been out of the country. Besides a one hour flight to Chicago, we've never spent any significant amount of time on a plane. This is the Middle East! The flight is nonstop eleven hours one way! This trip tests everything I've said I would never do, because leaving the comfort and familiarity of home challenges me on every level - physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Yet, even in my most nervous moments, I feel the desperate tug to go. 

Two weeks after returning from Israel, my children and I are meeting friends just outside of Myrtle Beach, SC where we all rented a beach house for the first week of August. My husband just started a new job and they so graciously gave him unpaid time for the Israel trip (which he shouldn't have received), so he won't be going on the beach trip with us. I travelled once before without him, chaperoning our church's youth group to Ocean City, MD. But this feels crazy. The trip was meant to be one more family trip, as our oldest daughter's schedule will change more drastically as a full time college student next year. So in that vein, it makes sense to be upset my husband won't be there. But, this is how in a box I have kept my life: I can't fathom that I am driving my kids all the way down there husband always does the driving. I'm going to have family vacation photos without him in them? I can't fathom that I am spending an actual vacation without my husband...he's my comfort in my out of the box situations.

The week we get back from the beach, I go back to in-service days for teaching, my students come the following week, and my next PhD semester follows the week after that. And the crazy begins again...not that it's stopping over summer to begin with.

I typically don't like this much busyness...I likes gaps of break time between events. But this year is different. These events are all amazing and special in some way. They are all extremely personal to me for different reasons, but also for the same reason - I have to step out of my box and trust God. It's almost like someone planned it out for me - a summer of out of the box living. All of these events usher in endings that also serve as beginnings. One thing is sure - I won't make it to the end of the summer the same person I began it as.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

When a Girl Chooses to Realize...

In November I wrote a post called "Set Apart,"in which I discussed how my journey into my PhD often felt like because I had to give up things, or things changed on me, that I was being set aside. Yet, through prayer, Bible reading, and great encouraging Christian writers (namely Lysa Terkeurst in this case), I knew there was more to it. That I wasn't being set aside, but set apart for God's greater purpose. 

Here, now, with my first full year of my PhD officially wrapped up (and the second semester easier than the first), the feeling of being set aside continues to pop has become much more personal and has been an impossibly hard thing that, mixed with my insecurities and worry, has tried to take me down. Besides feeling left out, there is nothing quite like looking in on something from the outside when you used to be the one on the inside. Especially when you didn't realize quite how on the outside you had become. I know there will never be a time where we are completely free of such trials and challenges, but I'd hoped to have made an inroad on this particular challenge by now.

It's glorious to think that in the midst of heartache, God has a purpose and calling for it. To think that the things we feel left out of may just serve to set us apart so we can prepare for a new purpose. But in the moment it just seems in the world can this feeling mean good things on the horizon?

Today, as I experienced this yet again, in the midst of an otherwise happy day, Lysa TerKeurst's original phrase came to me in the aftermath of feelings:

"There is something wonderfully sacred that happens when a girl chooses to realize that being 'set aside' is actually God's call for her to be 'set apart.' This is true.
To be set aside is to be rejected. To be set apart is to be given an assignment that requires preparation.
Embrace the preparation. And remember you are set apart, beautiful one. Chosen. Adored. And reserved for a high and holy calling."

I've read those words so many times - I have "set apart" tattooed on my arm to remind me for goodness' sake! But let me tell you, you can tattoo yourself into a rainbow of beautiful, catchy phrases and reminders, but it will mean nothing until God sinks it into your heart. 

As I drove away with a wrench in my heart, replaying the hurt, Terkeurst's words running through my mind, it hit me. The key words in TerKeurst's phrase aren't "set apart" - the key words are "when a girl chooses to realize..." 

The set apart piece is God's truth - it is what it is. But I have to choose to believe and trust in that truth to activate it in my life or I will go nowhere with it. If I do not stand up and literally choose to believe and trust, the hurt will continue to hurt and the next time will feel worse, and the time after that will be devastating. And the moment will come again - there's always a next time. Choice is the key - choosing to stop, take a deep breath, state what you know to be true, and pray. The next time, the hurt will be less and it will be easier to choose, and maybe a few times after that the situation will cease to wreck my heart at all...because I will know that I am not set aside, but set apart. 

So today, with the stinging still in my heart, I am choosing to believe I am not set aside, but that I am set apart. I trust that, that place I used to inhabit, but now feel set aside from, will come to serve a fresh and new purpose in the future God is shaping for me. And if not, that I have served that place and people well in the time God chose for me to inhabit it.

He who has eyes to see, let him see and he who has ears to hear, let him hear.

#setapart #higheranddeeper #koinonia #eucharisteo #nothingtolose #everythingtogain