trusting God

leading us deeper

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What is God doing in my life right now?

Closed doors and a lot of uncertainty.

It raises in up in me all kinds of demons of fear and not feeling good enough.

 

I’m learning to lean into the uncomfortable of not knowing.

To give myself grace when I feel completely lost.

This quote brought me much comfort this weekend, and I pray it might to you as well.

The spiritual life does not remove us from the world, but leads us deeper into it. Henri Nouwen

Be encouraged that God hears your prayers, knows you, and loves you well.

 

Do NOT give up.

Do not give up

One evening this week my whole family had crashed asleep by 8:30. I sat up writing in the dark. I am a quiet girl, but it is funny what happens when we are left to ourselves. The doubt began as a little trickle and by 10:30 I was typing and crying at the same time. It’s the same mix tape that runs through my heart.

Everything I offer is not enough. I am not fully and completely good at anything. I am letting everyone around me down. I keep having dreams about owning multiple houses with countless rooms, so many I can’t keep them all straight. I keep forgetting that I am enough. We are all enough. It is not what we accomplish.

For three years, my one word has been kneel. I keep forgetting to do that. Then it comes quietly, don’t give up. Do Justice. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. Kneel.

Those things I can do. Again and Again. I know that the tape will play again, it never really ever fully goes away, but it also doesn’t matter.

I won’t give up. I will keep clinging to what I can do, even if imperfectly.

 

Again and Again.

 

love makes you more.

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Next weekend, I will have been married for twelve years.

When I was nineteen, I began work as a counselor at Camp Geneva. I was extremely shy and nervous. The staff had two weeks of orientation before welcoming campers. Day 1: Staff that were returning from the summer before presented the skit, if I were not a counselor. (If I were not a counselor, I know what I would be… If I were not a counselor a ex. teacher, doctor, lifeguard I would be.) Somewhere down the line a guy with his body and head covered in a rucksack turned around. If I were not a counselor a pole I would be… pole, pole, pole, he said in monotone. In my nervousness it was the first time I had smiled in hours. Somehow, he made a pole funny.

The first week we welcomed campers, the pole was assigned to be my prayer partner. I had that whole summer to watch his steadfast nature, wise heart and kindness. He also made me laugh, a lot. Somehow, I was blessed the next summer to work with him. That summer his brother died in a car accident. On a Friday, he left for Iowa. I went to the dining hall to call my Mom (there weren’t cell phones much then). I was heartbroken for him. Later that night I sat on the beach and prayed for him and his family. Yes, this guy was maybe not just a pole to me.

It took another year to work up the nerve to tell him I liked him. A year of going around to where he was and looking at the ground and my brother yelling at me for being so backwards. One spring day, I called him to go running, I left a message and ran away from my apartment in case he actually called back. He did. The first time I told him I loved him I ran through a red light, honest.

 

Once at a family gathering one of his cousins mentioned that she bet we never fought. I guess, because we are both a little quiet. The truth is marriage is not easy. We can both be incredibly stubborn. There was the mashed potato container I threw all over the kitchen floor and the plate in the living room. One plate can break into many, many pieces.

Also, there are many not-romantic moments after you’ve been married awhile. We were in youth ministry and spent a lot of time pushing around carts of mountain dew.  One camping trip I got sunburned and the lidocaine cream made my eyes swell shut. Also, you get the flu. Then we had kids, and sometimes you can’t remember your own name when you’re both changing a diaper in the middle of the night and poop is flying everywhere. You have to wield plungers in front of each other, clean up vomit and realize you can’t really stay awake until Saturday Night Live anymore.

Also, there is sad. Sometimes you feel so much pain together. 

 

I have always loved this verse:

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Kris means this verse to me.

He has always made me stronger. He urges me to live a life worthy of the calling I have received.

He loves me in my weakness, but he does not leave me there. I can’t really think of a better gift.

He believes in me, even when I don’t believe in myself.

He knows I’m neurotic, but he encourages me to move beyond being stuck there.

That is Jesus. My relationship with Kris, helps me understand Jesus’s love more. 

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Who encourages you to be more than you are? Who in your life helps you know Jesus more?

Competing Voices

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by: Robert Louis Stevenson. 

 

Have I read this classic? No, I have not.

I am familiar with the tale from the Phineas and Ferb episode The Monster of Phineas-n-Ferbenstein. Where the villian Dr. Jekyll Doofenshmiritz drinks a potion to turn into a monster.

Also, the great Veggie Tales episode The Strange Case of Dr. Jiggle and Mr. Sly. 

Mr. Butterbun and a disco dancing gourd keep things a little less scary. Seriously, look at that book cover. All I know is that I read Frankenstein in high school and experienced sheer terror from a book, and I don’t want to go there.

 

I have been struggling with competing voices in my head this past week:

You are a terrible writer. 

One day at a time, you’re making progress and allowing God to use you.

There are thousands of things to read and do why would anyone stop here?

If you encourage one person you are making a difference.

Your daughter just called you the worst parent in the world, yeah take that. 

Think about all the ways you cared for her today. God will help you navigate these waters.

How many cookies are you going eat? You have no self-control. 

Take care of yourself, you’re worth it.

Look at that Mom, she is so put together. You’re wearing the same clothes as yesterday. The laundry is piled up. There is cereal all over the floor of your car. You are a messy mess of a person. You are the awkwardly awkwardest of human beings. You are a nervous person who likes to retreat… 

 

When do we take that competing voice of discouragement and unrealistic expectations and crush it?

As I grow older, I feel it fade more and more. If it ever leaves me completely, I will not miss it one bit.

 

That’s the voice of the enemy in our minds. He wants us to be…

dissatisfied

discouraged

distracted

 

I have wasted way too much time with this voice in my head.

Discipline changes us. I’m working on disciplining myself to not listen to this competing voice.

competing voices

Dear God,

let the voice of the enemy fade.

Allow your voice to cover over it completely.

Do you have voices in your head? (That kind of sounds creepy.) You know what I mean. How do you kick them out? 

 

His Hands are Holding You

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Last week my Mom passed on a pile of letters I had handwritten and mailed to her over my college years and summers at Camp Geneva. I read all these letters, a chronicle of God’s faithfulness in using me despite my not-put-togetherness.

The letters also record some incredible uptight files of worry. Holy wow, I was one intense young person.

 

I have been pondering those letters in the useful perspective of retrospect for the last seven days.

Yesterday a line in a song we sang at church summed it all up (By Your Side, Tenth Avenue North.)

Please don’t fight these hands that are holding you. My hands are holding you. 

 

A fight, that is what my worry has always been about and continues to be about.

I am fighting these beautiful, strong hands that are actually the only thing capable of holding me up.

Why has [    ] not happened yet? Why do I not say the right thing every time? Why can’t I get my kid to quit singing songs about diarrhea? Maybe what I wrote was not perfect. Maybe I am the worst friend, daughter, wife, Mom ever. 

 

I’m thirty-four and this thread keeps repeating itself throughout my journey. I’m fighting against the one who created me.

 

Kneel. 

I seek to give up that fight.

 

Do you ever fight the hands that are holding you? How do you rest in God’s strength?

Be Still: Jennifer Novakoski

Photographs By: Jennifer Novakoski of je{n}ova.photography.  You can follow updates of Jennifer’s work through her facebook page.

A friend allowed me to capture the beauty she radiated during a heart wrenching time. She carried twin girls that God called home all too soon. At 20 weeks this courageous couple learned they were carrying conjoined twin girls who shared a heart. They carried their girls to term and documented their journey.

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Thank you to Jennifer and to this remarkable family for your willingness to share your heart. 

To be still and trust in God during such a time…

You are an encouragement and a testament of God’s provision in time of heartbreak. We thank you for being real and for showing us such absolute hope in Christ, our lives are changed by your story. 

The Triple Dog Dare

“The Triple Dog Dare- the coup de grace of all dared, the sinister triple dog dare.”

The Christmas Story was a family tradition growing up. My own kids watched for the first time last year and they were hooked. This movie never gets old to me. My brother and I watched it on the 24 hr. TBS loop when we were kids.

The, as Ellie calls it ‘leg of lamp’, ovaltine, the Red Rider BB gun, the pink bunny nightmare, and Scut Farkus with the yellow eyes…

 

Flick completed the sinister triple dog dare. “Stuck, stuck, stuck!!”

I hate roller coasters, they are too out-of-control for this sometimes-uptight girl. When I was in junior high on a youth group outing, I succumbed to peer pressure and went on the Sea Dragon. I don’t know what I was thinking because that ride meant I felt the sensation of falling over and over and over again. I shed real live tears and I felt like I might not make it off alive. It might have been how Flick felt… what in the world did I do?

 

I’ve spent a lot of my life living small.

I don’t like the sensation of falling, or failing, or not being in control.

The trouble of all those fears accumulated means you probably are stuck in one place.

 

Ephesians 3:20

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,

 

There you have it. If God asks you to complete a triple dog dare, you already possess all the power you need to complete it.

It’s God’s presence in us; that all-consuming, powerful, bring-you-to-your knees power. He gives that to us.

He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

 

There is no reason to live small.

(Disclaimer: When you claim this promise; you may experience the sensation of falling, failing, and not being in control. That is called LIVING and it is everything.)

 

For you Christmas Story fans, check out this website: The Christmas Story House and Museum!

The Relief of Crying

When I was in college, I sometime didn’t have large chunks of time to journal. I liked to write my prayers so when the days did not allow it, I would make sure to at least write down five things I was thankful for. Reading back through those entries are so much fun. Here are some funny memories:

Thank you for~

  • giving me that English 305 title, The Shaping Nature of Constructed Roles, I have no idea, but I got an A.
  • the funny youth retreat, were kids drew marker goatees and created a mosh pit for Jesus music.
  • protecting my finger while I was cutting up those thousand oriental vegetables for stir fry. I’m thankful I only needed a band aid and not the first aid kit. (I was an oriental vegetable cutter in college at a café.)
  • that the lady I am supposed to be counseling in the generalist practice book’s name is Mrs. Wonderbread?!

 

My eyes read over one thanksgiving that caused me to pause:

Thank you for the relief of crying.

Have you ever had that moment, where well-contained tears finally find escape?

Afterwards, the relief feels palpable. Your heart feels like it was cleansed and you breath sighs deeply.

 

Jesus went to wash the feet of the disciples, serve them in the most humble of ways. Peter told him never would he allow him to do this for him.

Jesus replied, “You don’t realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

In those moments of not understanding, we can trust that somehow God knows.

He longs to hold us close and he gave us others to hold us close.

 

You don’t always have to be strong.

 

Thank you God,

for the relief of crying.