As I move in to start my third year at Moody today, I am completely overwhelmed by God’s provision and plan. It truly feels like just yesterday that I was lying wide awake in my parents’ home in the suburbs, anticipating the journey of a lifetime to begin as a 20-year-old starting; a four year journey that I knew God was placing me on. How much has happened since then… It’s overwhelming to process ALL that’s happened and has changed in the last two years, and even to process the last eight months. So let’s just start with the last eight months…
Excitement, fear, new passions, clear direction, confusion, loneliness, belonging, freedom, adventure, faithfulness, community, church searching, new jobs, so much moving, living out of a suitcase. I can’t even begin to explain. The last eight months have been the most radical, testing and formative months in quite awhile.
For three months I lived in Israel and God started a fire in my soul for this land and the people of God. A month following, I backpacked Europe with two amazing individuals (who I am SO blessed to be moving in with again tomorrow…if we can live together all around the world, Moody is a piece of cake 😊). Living in Israel was indescribable. My heart was captivated and forever will be by the land, but supremely by the God who created this place. I understood the Gospel with more depth and beauty than I ever thought possible. My heart longs to return to this place, but supremely and ultimately for the New Jerusalem!
After returning to the states after four months, reverse culture shock hit me. I saw and experienced things that I can’t explain. The world is so diverse. I really struggled to be back here, and still do. So many things hurt. After returning home, I lived with my parents for a bit less than two weeks.
Then the moving began. I have moved four times in the last four months. In the beginning of May, I moved to an apartment in Chicago with one friend who had also gone to Israel, as well as a few other girls we had never met. This was kind of a crazy, wild thing to do, especially for me. I’m a planner. It was an extremely challenging season for me. But I learned….a lot. I spent three months living in Humboldt Park (yes, I am alive. No, it wasn’t terrifying) and learned the importance of opening my eyes to the people around me. It was three months of discomfort, loneliness, soul-searching, bike riding, concerts in the park, new friends (thank you Jesus!), churches, and a new job.
In early July, my parents sold their house in the suburbs, thus I had to move home to help them pack up and get out of there. Moving out of the house that I spent 20+ years in wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. It was weird, but I think over the last couple years it’s felt a lot less like home. At the end of July, my parents moved to Wisconsin and I headed up there to live with them for a few weeks shortly after that. They moved in to a familiar place that’s been in my family for 20+ years, deep in the woods. July and August were: moving three times, rest, reflection, traveling a ton and living out of a suitcase. I’ve essentially lived out a suitcase for the last eight months.
I didn’t anticipate the last two months of all this moving and living with my family to be so restful. In times like these, I tend to be restless and frazzled. But as I reflect back on this time, I am extremely grateful that God worked all things for good. I really had no idea what God was doing with me this summer but looking back I can truly see His perfect plan. I’m grateful it included time with my parents.
Aside from all this blabbering about the last eight months, the real point of this blog post was to reflect on the lessons that I’ve learned.
1. Obedience is always worth it. Following the Lord and His plan isn’t always a walk in the park. There have surely been times in this last season that I’ve been disobedient, doubting the Lord and that He is for me. I’ve walked the other way. And it never leads to anything good. Disobedience leads to fear and trusting in my own plan. It leads to trusting in the temporary and not the eternal. It leads to trusting in myself, the created, rather than the Creator. But obedience, though it may be hard and grueling at times, always always always leads to blessing and growth. Disobedience is a joyless road but obedience is a joyful spring. I may have made some decisions this summer that were disobedient. I didn’t listen to God. I feared that I made wrong decisions and that God, then could not redeem them. Obedience is not a one time lesson but a continual way of life, following Jesus, His leading and His word.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8
2. Community is essential, but not supreme. If I’m honest, one of the hardest things I’ve walked through this summer was lack of community. Of course, after going through four months of living with amazing people and having encouraging, challenging and Christ-like community all the time and then living by myself, just working, not really knowing many people here anymore, it was hard. I struggled a lot. I truly believe that since I’ve been a believer, the Lord has supplied and blessed me with amazing community in every season. This season, however, I began to doubt that. I’m not the most extroverted person in the world but I love people. I’ve always believed that because God is a communal God, being a community in Himself, we need community. It’s how we were created to live. While I still believe this is true, I have learned it is not supreme. Yes, we need to be seeking out healthy community that builds us up and spurs us on, but if it’s not constant, if it’s not what you expected, it’s not the end of the world. Our community needs to be in Christ. Our community needs to be rooted in Him. If we seek comfort and joy and the solution to our loneliness from other people, we will be disappointed. True comfort and joy can only be found in Jesus. We must find our Helper, our community, our All in All in HIm!
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand. -Isaiah 41:10
3. Things are just things. Aside from a few weeks out of these last eight months, I’ve lived out of a suitcase. My things have been packed in suitcases or boxes for a long time. Especially when I was in Israel and traveling, I honestly struggled a lot to be content with just having a few things. But after being with just the essentials for that long, I learned so much. I returned to the states and got rid of a lot a lot of stuff. I truly felt suffocated by all that I owned. Anyway, this year, I’ve really been learning that things are just things and it is SO freeing. Appearance, clothing, makeup, money…it’s all just stuff and it doesn’t matter! Honestly, this has been a big lesson for me and it’s so freeing.
Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity! Ecclesiastes 1:2
4. Take advantage of your single years. If it is the Lord’s will for one to get married, most likely, they will spend a lot more time married than single. We can draw several conclusions from this but one of which being, your single years are so vital and so formative. So travel, see the world, spend time with Jesus, wake up early and pray, place your confidence and satisfaction in Him, etc. The Lord has taught me SO so so much about all of this in the last four years and I am so thankful. Jesus has shown me the absolute necessity of knowing Him and loving Him ultimately, above everything and everyone. I’ve desired marriage for my own gain and not for His Kingdom, but what the Lord has been teaching me lately is that the point of all relationships, marital or friendship or anything, is just for Him. The whole goal is to make the other person love Jesus more; not to serve them (YES, that comes along with desiring for them to love Jesus wrong, so don’t misread me) but to strive to help them to love Christ more. That’s it! I could write a whole book on singleness and the beautiful, formative and life-giving journey it has been for me, but for now I guess those are my words.
I’m sure there are more things I’ve learned in the last few months, but as I’m sitting down for this quick reflection, these are the ones that pop out to me. I cannot wait to see what the Lord teaches me in this coming season. It’s going to be so different but I am so expectant. A year ago, I never anticipated all that would happen and all that Jesus has done and I know I will be saying the same a year from now.
Lord, as we begin a new season,
Teach us to love you ultimately
Help us to make you Supreme
Walk with us when we are weak and tired
Be our All in all, our refuge, our strength
Keep us from doubting you
Keep us in Your will and Your perfect plan
May we strive to do all things for Your glory
Knowing that You are God and You are good