In the Wake of the Valley

I actually wrote this some time ago, but find myself wading through these emotions…again…in the face of another challenge of change. It’s curious that change, instability and loss–no matter what the cause–evoke such similar emotions. Be it a death, a move, a deployment, an addiction, a fear, unmeasured loss, an illness, we humans are so predictable–our God is not.

But then, perhaps He is. God tells us over and over that He is the same yesterday, today and forever. A little known verse, in a little known book, Hosea 6:3 speaks of God’s constancy. Find hope:

“Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

I’m staring down the muzzle of a move—another move. I’m married to a career military officer and this pluck-up-and-go routine is becoming familiar, though never easier.

Swamped and drowning under a load of pending stress, I fled to the only place I know for comfort—my back porch, Bible straddling my knees and my journal opened, pen poised. I flipped to Psalm 16, my go-to passage for transient times. I needed to hear God remind me that my only good is found in Him, that I have chosen Him as my portion and cup and that the shape of my life is pleasant. My inheritance is beautiful.

Those words help to put in perspective the loss of one home, the seeding of another. They warm me from the inside, calling to mind the fresh beauties that God has unearthed in each place we’ve lived.

In North Carolina, He introduced me to the first best friend I’ve ever had. Then, He seasoned my life with a few more, a vibrant church body, a fun job, three years of firsts. When He led us to Georgia, He pressed my soul more deeply into Him than I had experienced before. I felt pressed down under a weight of loneliness, the seed of my life sinking heavily into fertile soil.

Next, He led us to Washington. Exquisite! In the northwest, God brought me my second best-friend of all time. He colored the horizon deep blue every morning and punctuated it with Mount Rainier, glowing effervescent pink. He fed me with Honeycrisp apples, fresh, flaky salmon and blood-red wine. He tightened the bonds of my marriage and snipped the frayed ends in that relationship. He taught me to write there. In Washington, I worked at a busy Starbucks and everyday, He peppered my hours with smiles, momentary confidences and encouraging winks.

After that, God led us to Virginia, barely outside the bustle of the beltway. Full circle, He walked my best friends across my path again. He opened the first window to give me a peek at what He intends as the hallmark of my life—He blessed my pen and my page. He swept me quickly through a church body where He cultivated leadership skills and deep humility through failure.

And then He brought us here. I’m in Georgia again, and again staring down the muzzle of of a move. I understand the boundaries; I see the pleasant places where God has led me. I am overjoyed to know that God is all my good, He is my refuge and preservation. But my heart still aches. Goodbyes still hurt. The stab of loneliness that lingers for a while in each new location can for a moment feel like shadow of death.

Psalm 23 also talks about the places God leads us. David opens with peace, following his Lord beside quiet water, green pastures and in paths of righteousness. Suddenly, there’s a sharp turn. Though David still follows the Good Shepherd, he finds himself in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

I wonder if that was a valley filled with loneliness as he dodged the pursuit of King Saul who was bent on David’s demise. I wonder if it was a valley filled with fatigue, tired of defending himself, tired of living on the run. Whatever it was, it broke his heart.

As we keep reading, David staggers out of the valley. While there, he found protection in God’s rod and staff—used to continually guide and direct even in the darkest of places. In that terrible place, David remained confident of God’s election, expressed as God anointed his head with oil. And on the other side? As David walked out of the shadows, the cast of his own shadow breaking with the foreboding one behind him, goodness and mercy flowed after him.

I folded my journal, the page still blank and stared at the pretty little, yellow-topped weeds in my backyard. I have walked through shadowy valleys before. Reflecting on each, I can see the wake of goodness and mercy widening behind me.

What Will I Do If I Ever Grow Up?

Kylie trudges along on her back, scooting her bald spot across the carpet, rubbing away the downy baby fuzz. Her mom watches carefully, shielding the corner of the hearth with her body.

For six months, every day has been a new beginning. From the first breach of the womb, to the first explosive diaper, the first bath, the first trip to the nursery. What will she be when she grows up? Glimpses backwards at photos of Mom and Dad spur expectations for the future.

But I make no plans. I’m still wondering what I will be when I grow up. What will I do with the rest of my life?

My husband is in the Army. When I pledged myself to him, ten years ago, I could only see two years down our timeline. Those same two years have traced a loop five times. And I still wonder, what will I be when I grow up?

I have unpacked a new home in four states. Each time it felt like getting my own room for the very first time; childhood swept over me from behind.

Barely tall enough to ride a roller coaster, I wanted to be brave. Four plain walls to paint any color I wished. The first night in my new room, I woke up fumbling for the bathroom and walked straight into the closet. I lay awake for hours, keenly aware of new creaks and groans exhaled by the walls. I am still that way, grown up.

In state number three, unpacking felt like Christmas. Excitement buzzed between my husband and me as we pulled brown paper packages from crudely labeled boxes. With each subsequent move, there was even a “first Christmas” ornament.

Pulling out of my driveway and yielding at an unfamiliar intersection was learning to walk all over again. Round-abouts posed threats similar to trying to roller skate the day after my first baby step. I got lost and confused, cars buzzed by me at grownup speeds. Every landmark looked the same, like being surrounded by dozens of adult knees, all clad in denim.

My heart cringes with sympathy for those poor families sent overseas. I struggle to simply learn my new city’s slang. Once, I ventured a comment about the civil war in a coffee shop in southern Georgia. I was nearly run out of town on a rail, unaware that it was really “the war of northern aggression.” I do my best to mimic the vernacular of the natives; I am often rewarded by chuckles and a lesson in diction.

Crossing the stage at my alma mater, I believed I was done with new school jitters. Now, bi-annually, I subject myself to that same drama as I search for a new church and gym. I try to walk confidently down crowded halls, pretending I know where I’m going. I don’t want to be singled out as the new girl and introduced to the women’s ministry leader or the locally famous personal trainer.

I stalk bulletin boards, scanning them for post-its about groups, clubs and classes where I can show up anonymously and make friends on my own terms. I wonder how I should dress for the worship service? Is this a casual khaki environment or your mother’s Sunday best?

Perhaps the greatest challenge of each new home, is finding a new hairdresser. That decision alone has the power to effect every first impression. A highlighting mistake or failed permanent out weighs the worst “baby’s first haircut.” Even a bowl cut or months of unexplained baldness pale in comparison to green hair. The effects of my worst experience lingered through the next move.

My life feels like a broken record. No steady career lengthens my resume. Few accolades for community service can be garnered in 24 months. By the time I’ve mastered these rudimentary skills it’s time to leave again.

Kylie is almost walking now. Things that were once experiments are now old habits. Soon she will say, “Momma,” and then graduate to big-girl words like, “dog,” and, “Mississippi.” That is the way life is supposed to be: you scale the step ladder, climb the tree, and one day the corporate ladder.

Me? I am still wondering what I will do when I grow up.

Mentored

Let me share with you some wonderful wisdom from two of my mentors. This is unadulterated, straight from their emails. The thoughts are a little scattered, but they are sincere and meaningful nonetheless.

Often we picture mentors as older and wiser. Don’t forget the people you are walking with. Usually our struggles come in surges and we are rarely caught under the same wave simultaneously, so we are able to lift each other to crest of the wave behind us. The Bible warns us against looking only to our peers and forsaking the counsel of those who are older and wiser, but we can learn and should treasure the companionship and empathy of our friends.

I love you Faithful Four!

 

 

Totally goes along with what I did in my bible study today. In the book of Matthew when Peter gets out of the boat and ten begins to doubt, Jesus rebuked him, but put HIS hand out and grabbed Peter! Matthew 14:31 “Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?'” The latter part of this verse is often quoted but the first part is even more powerful. “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand” What you shared Chrissy was a very nice supplement to our lesson today and I passed it along! 🙂 Praise the Lord that even though we doubt, He first grabs us, then rebukes us!!!!
I thought you would like this verse: In the book of Jeremiah, God called him to serve as His prophet. He spoke these five words which I know work in my temp situation as a single mom and I think can help you. I have them taped to my fridge. “Now, get ready. Stand up” Jeremiah 1:17. In other words…we are where we should be and it’s make it or break it time. I choose to bring it and I know you do as well!
Love to you all! Deployment sucks big time, but amazingly enough, despite flooded garages, canceled insurance, electric company mess-ups, Preston’s wanting his daddy, neither one of my kiddos sleeping, and full-time school…I can honestly say that I am happy!!!
Deuteronomy 33:27  Underneath are the everlasting arms.God–the eternal God–is himself our support at all times, and especially when we are sinking in deep trouble. There are seasons when the Christian sinks very low in humiliation. Under a deep sense of his great sinfulness, he is humbled before God till he scarcely knows how to pray, because he appears, in his own sight, so worthless. Well, child of God, remember that when thou art at thy worst and lowest, yet “underneath” thee “are everlasting arms.” Sin may drag thee ever so low, but Christ’s great atonement is still under all. You may have descended into the deeps, but you cannot have fallen so low as “the uttermost;” and to the uttermost he saves. Again, the Christian sometimes sinks very deeply in sore trial from without. Every earthly prop is cut away. What then? Still underneath him are “the everlasting arms.” He cannot fall so deep in distress and affliction but what the covenant grace of an ever-faithful God will still encircle him. The Christian may be sinking under trouble from within through fierce conflict, but even then he cannot be brought so low as to be beyond the reach of the “everlasting arms”–they are underneath him; and, while thus sustained, all Satan’s efforts to harm him avail nothing.

This assurance of support is a comfort to any weary but earnest worker in the service of God. It implies a promise of strength for each day, grace for each need, and power for each duty. And, further, when death comes, the promise shall still hold good. When we stand in the midst of Jordan, we shall be able to say with David, “I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” We shall descend into the grave, but we shall go no lower, for the eternal arms prevent our further fall. All through life, and at its close, we shall be upheld by the “everlasting arms”–arms that neither flag nor lose their strength, for “the everlasting God fainteth not, neither is weary.”

How to Get Happy

“The joy of the Lord is my strength!”  Can’t you just hear a chorus of young Bible school voices singing off key?

Funny, it just struck me today what that song really means.  I re-read the verse the way I actually believe it, “When I feel strong, then I am joyful.”

“I’m so proud you.  You are so strong to be happy and functional when your husband deploys for a year,” numerous people have encouraged me regarding my husband’s Army career.  However, God’s joy makes me strong, not the other way around.  The feeling of complete satisfaction in Christ enables me to feel strong in difficult circumstances.  So where do I get this joy, so that I can have strength to endure deployments, deaths, economic downturns, weather-related tragedies, fears and physical pain?

Jesus said, in John 15, that we must obey His commandments in order to abide in His love.  He said these things so that we could have His complete joy.  So, this joy comes from Jesus and I stay connected to Christ by obeying Him.  Then, if I have His joy – I am strong!

Obedience = Abiding in Jesus = Joy = Strength

In the entire equation, there is no addition.  Nothing added to Christ can complete our joy, make us strong or give us salvation.  Christ and Christ alone has accomplished all that concerns us.

“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.  Do not forsake the work of your hands.” Ps. 138:8

“O Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works.” Is. 26:12