On the Road to the Greatest

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

I love driving. I will make a 7-hour one way round trip in a day. If I were completely honest, I would drive just about any amount of hours one way for a round trip if I felt the destination was worth it. Typically, I do.

Generally when I am behind the wheel of a vehicle, I am on a mission. That mission may be to track across country nineteen hours for one of my dearest friends weddings, or to run to the grocery store to grab whatever necessity it seems I am out of (generally ranch salad dressing, if being completely honest).

I love driving.

Which is good, because I spend a great deal of time in my car. He even has a name- Hobbes is pictured above, and yes there are Calvin and Hobbes reading materials (aka comics) in the backseat.

Hobbes and I have been on several missions. Some which I volunteer for, some which are mandatory (aka work) and some which, well quite frankly I just want to go on.

But sometimes I just jump in the car and drive, with no physical destination in mind. No physical mission.

I am searching for something, trying to get somewhere but Hobbes, in the traditional sense, is not going to get me there.

I have sung worship songs at my loudest and cried to God my hardest behind the wheel of my car. (PSA: always safely, maybe pulled over, but safely, promise).

I have driven in circles as I spoke to God in circles.

I have gotten lost on back roads while trying to back God into a corner.

I have driven the roads I know best while I felt God had left me wondering in completely unknown territory.

Where are we going?

I will tell you when its time.

I think its time.

That’s great, but it’s not time yet. 

Next turn, next exit. Trees, hills, highway.

I have heard him speak at sunrise as I drove through the mountains.

I have watched His glorious handiwork welcome in the twilight.

I have followed the brightest star on country roads and watched cities turn their lights on as darkness tucked them in.

Yes, I love to drive. I love being on a mission. And sometimes that mission, is just to lose myself on one road and find God on another.

And now while I am undertaking whatever the mission is at the moment, I can relentlessly declare hope everywhere I go- literally.

Faith, Hope and Love.

And the greatest of these is love.

Hope is the bridge between faith and love.

> Faith in the impossible, established in hope.

> Love continuously overflowing, through the gift of hope.

Perhaps that gift of love can be declared in hope. Using your turn signal, paying for the person behind you in the fast food line and always having a snack on hand for those who may need one (like myself, I admit I often need a snack).

Declare Hope. Or DCLR HPE.

So much more than a blog or a phrase. So much bigger than anything I could ever write.

Declare hope it is a state of mind it’s a lifestyle, it’s what we do, it calls us to action.

Faith, Hope and Love the greatest of which is Love.

And relentless Hope, through genuine Faith, always leads to immeasurable Love.

What we all have to decide, is if we will take up the mission, and hit the road?

*Side Note: The credit for the license plate spelling goes to my Mom.

One of the days we spent together in January I was discussing that I had thought about getting a personalized plate and I wanted to use Declare Hope in some way. She looked up as we were writing options and she said the above. And we immediately knew it was perfect. We were right.  Thanks Mom.

*Photo Credit: Thanks you too Dad! For putting on the plates and snapping the picture, even if it was bit damp out!

 

Here’s to 28

“Lord, you understand me; remember me and care for me. Avenge me on my persecutors. You are long-suffering- do not take me away; think of how I suffer reproach for your sake.” Jeremiah 15:15

28. Another year. Remarkable in its own right, the feat of the passing of time.

And what a year it was. A few weddings, a couple of road trips, graduate classes, youth group, birthday parties and childlike laughter. Friends and family. Driving through the Scottish Highlands. The sight of the Appalachian mountains and the vision of the picture beyond hope and yet lovingly delivered of Jamie and Jesus.

The places we’ve been and the wonders we’ve seen, both abroad and on home base. All the works of His glorious hands. From mountains and campfires to paintings and papers.

Dreams that were laid to rest and dreams that were born. Startling loss and miraculous healing. Running the race and being carried through the storm.

So much has changed and yet so much remains the same. The more I learn the more I realize I don’t know.

I don’t know where I am going.

I don’t know where every path will lead.

Sometimes I don’t know what to say.

And oftentimes I don’t know if I have it right. These places I am and these things I am doing and the priorities I am placing.

So the big question is… What do I know at 28…

I know that not knowing can be overwhelming.

I know that not knowing can be scary.

I know that not knowing is unacceptable to a world which depends on the security provided in an answer.

Most Importantly, I now know that not knowing is actually okay- as long as your eyes are on the One who does know.

The One who is not surprised by your weaknesses.

The One who is unphased by your doubts, fears and hard questions.

The One who loves you completely and uncompromisingly.

The One who understands you.

One big thing I learned this past year my friend, is that I had one more unaddressed fear to face. Honestly, it had never came across my mind as all out fear. But as I sat and discussed with God the events that had passed and events yet to come, it was as if a light was turned on.

As you know, I kicked the word fear out of my vocabulary back in year 26. Aside from the fear of the Lord, there is no room for it in my life. And knowing that, calls for a celebration of its own.

But, there was still one more fear to address. Can you guess it bud? It’s one that I hadn’t realized didn’t exist before God called you home. With you here, there was no room for it. With you gone, it came quickly and in full force. To be honest, it really didn’t have to come at all because I know it was already there at the door, waiting for its moment to make its appearance. Your friendship and love kept it at bay, in the darkness I fell in  following your heavenly birthday it began to dig in its roots.

The fear of being misunderstood.

I have always used a lot of words be it speaking or writing. And this is partially because I enjoy “using my words”. However, God has shown me that it is also partially because at times I fear that my words won’t appropriately convey my meaning. That they will fall short or be misinterpreted. Sometimes it keeps me from saying anything, or from saying the “whole” truth. The fear of being misunderstood.

It’s an actual fear. And this past year I was given the official diagnosis.

As I was praying and words were flowing too fast and thoughts running at full speed, I caught the statement “God, please understand” as part of the mantra coming from lips. God please understand.

They won’t understand why I feel this way, they won’t agree with this next step or know why I have to take this chance. Oh God, please, they don’t understand. They don’t see it and my words are not sufficient. Am I wrong? Are they right? Can you give me a clue? Like a little one… like playing the hot / cold game? I have been wrong so many times. Am I close? I think I have it, but what if I don’t? What if I don’t get it? What if I am wrong and fail? What if I am not understanding?

And then above the noise running through my mind I heard the silence, and the silence whispered, I understand you.

Not scathing or annoyed. But lovingly and reassuringly. He didn’t calm the storm or fix all the things. He didn’t even tell me I was right or give me a little clue.

But He told me everything I genuinely needed to know- He understands me.

And He still loves me.

And maybe I will fail. Maybe it is all in vain. But maybe it’s not.

At 28 I have realized that I am not supposed to know everything, all I have to know is Him.

And my friend, that has been a game changer.

You knew my heart and that made all the difference. God created my heart and that makes all the difference.

So going into 28 I am happy to let you know I no longer fear being misunderstood.

Your light is still continuously right beside me and your legacy continues to shine.

We still love and miss you, possibly more than ever, but when we see you again, there will be no more goodbyes.

In the meantime God has a plan I don’t understand, but He understands me.

And I know He will teach me the lessons my heart needs in His own way and in His own time, no matter how bad I would prefer a cheat sheet now.

I am still going to use a lot of words, but only because I enjoy “using my words”.

You always said I would write a book. I think 28 may be a good year for that.

Here’s to 28 my friend (give mom all our love),

God, let the shenanigans continue, I may not understand but I know You and that is all I really need to know.

The Impossible Dream

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”

Proverbs 16:9

He doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

Thank God, because I am a lot of things but in most endeavors I am not qualified.

And qualifications aside, they never stop us from dreaming. At least I do not believe they should.

I cannot recount the amount of times my dreams, goals or plans were outside the realm of “possible”… well I could but that would require more words than usually associated with blog posts, mine of which already run long.

In all honesty, according to someone’s scale somewhere, I am probably not qualified to write blog posts.

Unfortunately for them, I have always dreamt big. Always wanting to reach a little further than recommended. I can’t give you the exact date, but for as long as I can remember two quotes have continuously shaped me. They are not incredibly profound, at least not at first glance. They are not necessarily compromised of many words. They’re short and simple really.

“We walk by faith, not by sight.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – Norman V. Peale

Three sentences, twenty words and in my head they might as well be direct orders. With the faith they depict in the God I know, there is simply no additional conversation needed aside from which direction. Point the way, I am all in all the way.

Granted that doesn’t mean I always get my way.

You can ask my father, I have never been exceptionally talented at directions. So it’s no surprise that more often than not I think I’ve got the final destination all figured out – putting it in cruise control, full speed ahead – and then there happens to be a curve I didn’t quite see coming. Or curves. Much like the Appalachian Mountains really.

One of those curves hit this past week. Last Wednesday actually. I must say, God had been preparing me for it, but Lord knows it was still sharper than I had calculated. My heart tensed, momentary confusion and disorientation set in and a crashing reality flashed before my eyes.

And then Jesus took the wheel, He slowed it down and we took a moment to pull over. Because this wasn’t just one of those slight curves. You know the ones on back roads you mildly underestimate but still can manage to glide through with really no incident aside from the two extra heartbeats a minute.

No, this one changed our whole direction, it turned us onto a road I had known existed but wasn’t on my map as the way I had pictured us taking. No, this wasn’t my way at all. And we needed to take a minute, Jesus and I. Mainly because I needed to be still a moment and reassess what absolute truths I knew in contrast to what I no longer knew. Three truths emerged:

  1. God is good and He loves me and He has a plan.
  2. His plans are better than our best. Period.
  3. I still believe and have full faith in all of the above.

Quite frankly, I have a lot of plans. And a lot of different ways to get there. But ultimately it’s not my plan, it’s His. He is the way, the truth and the light.

He is the way.

So we are on a path which I hadn’t planned and which He had prepared. I am still all in, all the way. And I am still reaching further than “possible” allows, because with God anything is possible and I still dream one day to do the impossible.

**Thank You Sam Beasley on Unsplash for Photo

Foolish Faith

I knew He could and I had hoped He would.

I wouldn’t be shaken, I didn’t care how impossible it looked or how dark it felt. There was no other option but hope. No other outcome was to be entertained. Victory was the only possible answer. Miraculous, unbelievable, odds defying victory.

Deep down though I knew, though I didn’t want to say it, that God’s definition and picture of victory did not always match my own.

Yes, His visions of victory had included parting the Red Sea, driving out Israel’s enemies and tearing the veil in the temple.

However, His visions of victory had also included 40 years in the wilderness, Nehemiah standing amongst ruins and Jesus hanging from the cross.

And it hurts. God knows it hurts when our visions of victory don’t coincide with His.

And the lies begin to run through your mind, each one a blow directed to destroy your already broken heart, each one intent on tearing you down and stealing what truth and light you knew or at least thought you had known…

Why didn’t He show up?, What did I do wrong?, Were my words not studied enough?, Were my shortcomings too great? Or my faith too small?

The reality is that He did not show up because He was always already there. He heard our prayers and our declarations and our faith and He drew us closer. Because He knew it hurt and He knew we didn’t understand. And that we wouldn’t understand.

And so after only two months, Mom lost her earthly battle to cancer and instead won a heavenly victory. Not exactly the victory we had prayed for and even now a win which feels more like a loss. But though I don’t understand it and although it hurts beyond description… I know that it is a victory which is greater than I can fathom.

That is the only explanation, my best answer- I simply don’t get it and all my faith is still in Him.

Many thought my faith was foolish then. Foolish optimism. To be looking at what was an impossible escape and still proclaim God’s ability to intervene. To declare life where surety of death was indisputable.

I can only imagine what some think of my faith now. A faith which from all outwardly appearances lost its battle. A faith which seemingly fell short in the end. Such a faith could surely not survive, not now, not after such a disastrous loss.

However, it not only survived but is yet growing.

A faith which even now, amid heartbreak and loss, declares the righteousness of a God whose promises are for our good and whose love is steadfast. A faith that says yes God could have intervened but He stayed His hand… because His was a greater purpose than we could ever comprehend. And that in the greater picture, this heavenly victory will cause a ripple effect and continue to change the whole world, one heart at a time.

Foolish optimism, realistic faith. God’s victory didn’t look like the one I had imagined, hope for or prayed for ceaselessly. In fact His victory looks exactly like my definition of defeat. And it really sucks.

But my faith didn’t end with my mom’s earthly life. A faith which she had instilled and encouraged in me.

How can I be sure that He knew what He was doing? That He cares? That He was prepared for this when to us it is so sudden and so unexpected?

The small things. His small assurances.

Fun fact about me: I love libraries. I love walking through the aisles of books and always pray I pick a book that may be my next favorite. And as little and insignificant as the prayer seems, one carelessly and arbitrarily thought, He hears it and He answers it. I know that now.

Often I end up checking out a completely random book. I will grab something I’ve never heard of, something I am not sure I even really want to read. (Note: I have a to-read list on Goodreads nearing 1,200 books so I do not necessarily need to pick a completely random book ever… but I do).

I picked up such a book in November 2018.

For some reason I pulled that book off the shelf. And for some reason I brought it home and literally continuously renewed it for several weeks until… for some reason I finally decided to lay everything else aside and read it.

And for some reason I’m marveling at how He did that while also surprisingly not surprised.

The small assurances. When He whispers in that still small voice from the most unexpected of places at the most unexpected of times.

Not while everything feels it is collapsing in or when you’re crying out to Him, I’ve learned in those moments He simply holds you. Amid destruction He carries you to unshaken ground and He holds you. He doesn’t say anything, because there is nothing to say. It hurts. And nothing will make that better this side of heaven. Nothing will fully heal the loss until we are all reunited in the place where there is no more death and no more tears. He provides the comfort we need to keep our hope burning, though it may barely be a flicker.

And then when it is time He stokes the fire. That book I checked out in November, I finally set everything aside and read it. Tucked inside it’s pages was exactly what I needed to hear. Several things I needed to hear in fact. Including that which is included in the featured image of this post…

“Earthly hearts cannot always fathom divine reasoning.”

You are right God. And that’s okay. We were never meant to.

Meanwhile, He has also reminded me that after 40 years the Israelites made it to the Promised Land, Nehemiah did rebuild the wall and Jesus… well Jesus overcame the grave for all of us and in Him no goodbye is ever the last word but merely a until we meet again.

It still hurts. God’s still good. And although I have several books to read at home, I’m still going to the library.

** Bonus Quotes from “Such a Time as This” by Kate Breslin**

Because they were exactly what I needed and may be exactly what someone else needs too.

“I do not doubt Your message God. But I do wonder when…”

“Why had she assumed God would speak to her in some great audible sign, like a thunder-clap, lightning or burst of fire from the sky? Had anger and bitterness made her deaf to His whisper?”

“A strong belief in God is like forging steel; it must be repeatedly tested in fire, then cooled in the waters of His mercy before becoming resilient enough to withstand evil.”

** This last quote was written down with the others, but it was a couple of days later that I really felt its full effect. Story to follow in upcoming post.**

“Papa told me a boy only fails when he does not try,.. I think it must be the same for a girl.”

 

 

To Be Continued

It’s been a month since my last post and what a month it has been.

Having taken some time to sort through all that’s happened, I cannot say I understand anymore than I have before.

But I still understand the foundational truths that God is good, He loves us and His purposes are best.

And still clinging to those truths is a win! Prepare for upcoming posts my friends ❤️

What was true in the light is still true in the dark and we will declare hope be it on the mountaintop or in the valley ⛰🙌❤️