Embrace the Wait

Embrace the Wait

Waiting, the awkward in between, down time, transition time, interm

Transition. The only thing that never changes is change, right? What about when you know a change is coming and you’re stuck waiting for it to happen? What do you call that?

The Wait.

That’s where I am. Waiting. Yet, I also think that is where I have been most of my life. When I was a kid, I was waiting to be 12 to get my ears pierced. Then, I was waiting to be 16 to start driving on my own. Then, I was waiting to graduate and go to college. Then, I was waiting to graduate again and do what I really wanted to do, go to grad school. Now, I am waiting yet again, to fulfill this God-given dream and calling, something that will take years of day in and day out work and dedication, not just a sign on the wall to say I’m done.

I would say there are two types of waiting: Passive and Active.

When I was a late teenager and young adult, I would passively (often anxiously) wait on my date to come pick me up. This meant everything stopped and the only thing I did was wait. It was a very unproductive time. NOTE: There is a difference between being still and being passive. Passive waiting is impatient and hurried while not getting much at all, and being still is not necessarily about waiting, but about calming the mind, body, and soul enough to find peace and hear God. You can be still while you wait, but the passive wait will consume you.

The other kind of wait is active. This means that in the midst of the waiting, I am still doing, still being, still LIVING. For me, that means I am still taking every opportunity to listen, grow, and develop myself, even if it may not be completely applicable for my longer term goals that I am waiting to achieve.

An active wait means that my heart is engaged and seeking what God wants for me in the midst of the time. Especially in suffering, we want it to pass as quickly as possible, but James tells us to embrace trials because we know what they produce. That sounds like an active wait to me- wanting to get the most out of an experience, even suffering, because we know it produces character!

Waiting in the Bible

Probably one of the biggest examples of the passive wait is the Israelites in the Bible. They waited YEARS to get into the promised land and for many, the waiting consumed them and they impatiently turned to complaining and other gods as a result.

On the other hand, Jacob worked 7 years waiting to marry Rachel, and then another 7 after he had been duped. That’s 14 years of waiting, and yet Genesis 29 shows us that the wait seemed like only a few days. He knew his reward and not even the most grueling of waits could get his spirit down.

You may be saying, well I don’t know my reward. If I knew I would for sure get that sexy spouse or job, or [insert other goal here] in 7 years, of course it would make the wait pass by easily, at least I would know it would happen!

What about when we don’t know the outcome?

One of the biggest pictures of waiting is Jacob’s own son, Joseph. He was given a vision that one day he would be great and all his family would bow down to him. However, he did NOT have a timeline or a conceivable way for that to happen. When he was almost killed and then sold into slavery, it seemed like the opposite would happen, yet he ACTIVELY waited. He became the greatest he could in the worst of circumstances each time. He did not let the wait reduce him to complaining and wandering aimlessly, instead, he put in the work and used his gifts right where he was.

Regardless of the kind of wait, we know the process should be filled with HOPE because we have a reason to HOPE in God.

What are YOU waiting for?

HOW are you waiting?

Psalm 130:5-6 ESV

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning.

Psalm 27:14 ESV 

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

 

Embrace Grieving

Embrace Grieving

As you may have heard from my last post, I recently graduated! It is an exciting transition for me with much anticipation towards what is in store for this next season of life. However, what many of us forget as we all make great transitions in life, is that we still experience endings. In order to begin, often something else must end.

These endings can mean we experience some sort of loss and can bring unexpected grief and emotions for which we may not be prepared. Towards the end of my last semester, I started to experience just that. Had I not experienced it before, and had a wise counselor (yes, counselors go to counseling too) speak into my life about grief, I may not have been prepared for the conflicted emotions and thoughts that emerged.

Someone does not have to die for us to experience losses in our life. Loss also does not always mean something negative happened.

Just as we all lose our baby teeth, losses in life allow for new opportunities and growth.

Over the past weeks and months, I have been in a sort of grieving process of this season of life coming to an end. It was a long and cumbersome season where I worked long days and studied and went to school in the evenings. I had a big breakup during this season and also fell in love and got married in this season. God was so faithful throughout the process, even though it was not always enjoyable. Somehow, even though I looked forward to and longed for this day to come, there is a part of me that grieved. I made friends during this season, and I also did not spend as much time with friends as I would have liked.

Grief can be a motivator. When we grieve, we recognize our feelings and the good and the bad, but we don’t have to stay there.

There comes a point in time where we have to recognize and accept that things have changed, or are changing.

“We add to our suffering when life changes and we behave as if it hasn’t.” Mark Nepo

We can do something in the future, as a result of what grief has taught or is teaching us. My grieving has shown me that my word for the year – EMBRACE- was the perfect word. I will always be in some kind of season working towards some kind of goal. That does not need to stop me from embracing moments with the people I love and creating memories. I can pay attention- LISTEN- to what is happening around me and in me, and move forward in peace.

 

Are you in a transition season of life?

 

Is there something that you have not yet grieved?

 

Is there something changing in your life that you’re trying to act like it is not happening?

Embrace Calling

Embrace Calling

Since I was a teenager, probably around 7th grade, I have wanted to be a counselor. It switched a couple times over the years, but I always came back. Now, 12 years later at age 25, that dream, that calling that I felt on my life WAY BACK then, is becoming a reality. On May 5th, I graduated from Grace University with my Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I remember in high school, a visitor at church spoke the prophetic word of counselor over me, and I cherished that moment, thinking how could he know- it must be God.  

At a staff meeting a little while ago, two people got a similar word and said that it was a word for more than just one person.

They said that the things you have been persevering for, will finally come to fruition.

At first, I didn’t think it really applied to me, until I got that little nudge that said, “that’s YOU.” It is me. This long awaited goal, 12 years in the making, is about to be realized.

Now that I think about it, I have no idea what I would do now, if I set a 12 year goal. Somehow, because I took it in small chunks, it seemed like a breeze. Plus, life happens while we are setting and achieving goals.

Life happens in the midst of realizing our dreams.

God gave me this dream. In some ways I had absolutely no idea how much work or how long it would take to get to this point. It definitely did NOT look the way I had envisioned it looking. I didn’t know I would stay in Omaha this long, or even find a church family and job to help me through grad school. I had no idea that I would get married towards the end (I thought it would be way sooner… and then thought maybe way later).

Nonetheless, I persisted, and God carried me through. Through heartache, numerous jobs, friends, living arrangements, and travels. Through doubt, wanting to have some kind of quick fix, or to stop accumulating school bills. I’m naturally an achiever, but this was a long term achievement, one that will even now extends long past graduation. I wanted to achieve things NOW– in the workplace or finances or family – yet everyone else around me had already begun living their focus. Mine was still a little farther off.

I’ve heard it said that “comparison is the thief of joy.” (Theadore Roosevelt), and at times, I let those comparisons steal my joy. When I was up late doing homework, seeing other friends or acquaintances going out. I was working hard and paying school bills on top of regular life expenses, when others were working towards buying houses or new cars.

Your season may not be the same as another’s, and your calling is absolutely unique to you and who God has created you to be.

Do you have a long term dream or goal?

Has something been placed within you long ago that is slowly coming to fruition?

What are the baby steps you need to take to get there? How can you EMBRACE CALLING in your life today?

Embrace “Otro Oportunidad”

Embrace “Otro Oportunidad”

“Otro opotunidad! Otro oportunidad! Otro oportunidad!” the children chanted as their classmates got one more chance at the game they were playing. I had never heard the phrase chanted, though I knew what it meant. Another opportunity, one more chance, one more try. As I chanted it for the next round of children to try again, I couldn’t help but think how that is often the chant of my heart. Give me another opportunity, one more chance, let me try again.

I recently returned from a missions trip to Mexico. It was not the typical go to a different country and build something kind of missions trip. It was more relational in a way that I completely loved and embraced. We got the opportunity to learn from, meet, and encourage the believers in Mexico. We also had the chance to share some of what we are learning and doing back in the US. It was all around Better Together and I LOVED it.

It pushed me to get out of my comfort zone, test out my Spanish skills, try new things, and live differently than I had before.

As our leader for the trip would always say, “Not better, but DIFFERENT.”

His goal for years has been to help the church get out of their seats and into the streets. To live out what it means to tangibly love your neighbor in real life. This normally means getting out of your comfort zone.

It’s something I’ve been learning my entire life, and now, as a lighthouse leader, it is something I pray often. Give me another chance, God. Let me be a light this time.

So many times I have missed the opportunity only to pray for another, or offer an encouraging word. One more time. One more opportunity.

In the counseling office, I’ve started to learn not to hold back. Working with transient populations can do that to you. With you one week and gone the next. Some sessions end up being their last, and I miss an opportunity to encourage or speak life into their situation. I’ve learned to build them up throughout the process, not just when I see progress. I don’t know if I will see them next week, so I share the words today.

My mother raised us to live each day as your last and to never miss an opportunity to say I love you, always trying to end on a positive note. My sister and I joke that we do it almost obsessively sometimes.

If only I lived that way with everyone that I encountered, instead of just my loved ones. To speak that word that God lays on your heart. Give the hug, share the smile.

What can you do today? What does someone need from you?

God is giving you another opportunity each time you wake, each time you step out of that door, or go to the store.

1 Peter 3:15 NLT

Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.

The beautiful thing about God is that you cannot mess up his plan. When you fail, he gives you another opportunity. Your mistakes or missed opportunities are NOT bigger than God. BUT he is inviting you to be a part of his work.

My Hope Story- 3 Years Ago to Now

My Hope Story- 3 Years Ago to Now

If I looked at my life 3 years ago, at this time I was in the midst of chaos and panic. My new fiancé at the time had just told me he felt a block in his heart for me, on my birthday, which I felt was the worst possible timing.  We had experienced problems on and off, but always had hope that we would eventually work things out. We were both committed and loyal, yet often it seemed that we were trying to force it to work. The entire Christmas season was a roller coaster of emotions, something I had never experienced. The holidays (and my birthday) had always been a time full of love, security, hope, and generosity. That year, it seemed like my heart was being ripped out of me over and over again.

I wrote in my journal, “Why is life so hard? Why do I have to wallow in self pity like I do? Why can’t i be free and happy like I used to be? Why is it so complicated and hurtful?”

Later that year, I would go on to take a break, and eventually break off the engagement and relationship, after having exhausted all options of help and repair. It was one of the hardest and most weighty decisions I had ever made. I wrestled with fear of what others would think, say, or if I would ever be able to love again. I didn’t know if anyone would want to be with me if I had already called off an engagement with another guy. Yet I knew I could not continue to live the way things were going for another few months, let alone an entire lifetime. When I finally made the decision and followed through, it was like a weight was released from my shoulders. I finally felt like my free and happy self again, after so many months of despair.

Little did I know, was that in about 9 more months, I would experience more freedom, and eventually I would go on a date with the person who would be my husband- right around the same season where I felt it all first fall apart the year before. THEN, a year later, I would be marrying him. And now, another year later, and 3 years total after that desperate season, I am almost a year married, and finding it hard to believe that life can really be this good again.

I KNOW there will be depths yet to come (such is life), BUT I also KNOW God follows through on His promises. He is GOOD (ALL THE TIME), and will not leave me alone, even at the depths of the most confusing of moments. I know a breakup is not the most hopeless of moments, but as Victor Frankl says,

“… suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative.”

What are you suffering through today? Can you remember a time when you had greater suffering? What about greater hope?

Can you imagine where your life could be just 1, 2, or 3 years from now? We do not know what the future holds, but we know who holds our future.

There is HOPE!

Irreplaceable People, Unexpected Love

Irreplaceable People, Unexpected Love

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Things are replaceable, people are not. -Tow Truck Driver

So thankful that my person and I are alive and well -a miracle and blessing from our father. And that replaceable thing we drive around in, well God took care of that too.

This weekend didn’t turn out how we expected or desired with a whole tire coming off the car twice- once on an expressway. Somehow -both times- we managed to get to safety without impacting anyone or anything else. God gifted us with people- irreplaceable people- who were willing to help strangers in our time of need. He sent those to check on us and offer rides or help and more to temporarily put the tire back on the car.  It was a miracle how it all unfolded–we are still marveling at it!

At first I cried because I was so scared. Then I cried because so many cared!

With it being the weekend before Valentines, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate love than by experiencing God showing us his love in so many [unexpected] ways. We missed a marriage conference and fellowship with some friends, but we gained a greater understanding of what it means to rely on God, submit to him, and appreciate the things that have eternal value.

I feel our marriage has deepened in a way that only God could have allowed and our faith in him strengthened. He is good and he looks out for his children.

Praying you feel His extravagant and sometimes unexpected love this season.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.  “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.’” John 10:10-11

Discipline and Creating New Habits- Part 2

Discipline is hard. Lately I have been experiencing the grueling realities, but also some of the surprising blessings. Also, I have been too enveloped in becoming more disciplined and developing other habits, that my habit of blogging was pushed aside. Balance is also hard.

Nonetheless, I will press on because I know it is worth it!

In part 1 of this series, I discussed Hebrews 11 and 12, and just the other day, I had to reread the words again. I have been reading through the Bible, and am currently in the first half of the Old Testament. As I read Hebrews 11, it was amazing to read the highlights of everything I have just been reading for the past couple weeks. I also noticed something at the end of Hebrews 11 that I had not noticed before.

These, though commended by God for their great faith, did not receive what was promised. That promise has awaited us, who receive the better thing that God has provided in these last days, so that with us, our forebears might finally see the promise completed. Hebrews 11:39-40

Our great acts of faith, that belief in something not yet seen (vs. 1), may still be unseen in our lifetime. Our goals and dreams of something better may not be accomplished in our lifetime. Thankfully, we know that God is the one ultimately working in us and through us, and he will complete his good work. At the same time, we have been created with a longing for eternity, and some of the things we set our sights on will not be accomplished until we reach that completeness in Christ. Here on this earth, we will never be fully mature and complete. However, in this life here and now, we can still prepare for that eternity. If we hold eternal values and seek eternal goals, we possess that eternal mindset. Sometimes, however, our values that we hold and the values that we want to hold do not always align.

Understand your values and set your goals accordingly. 

Recently, I got a chance to meet with a friend while I was in Chicago. She discussed how important it was in a marriage relationship to know and understand your values because it helps your spouse better understand why you do things the way you do.

I think the same could be with our goals, passions, and desires. When we can understand our values, we are better equipped to know why we have the passions that we do, and set goals according to both of those, using values in conjunction with our passion and strengths. Sometimes, the values we hold are not always the values we want to hold. We can set goals to create habits to form ideal values within our lives, that were not there before.

You can find a list of 400 value words here, or you can look up another list.

While it may take some time to go through the list, you will gain a better understanding of yourself and might learn some new words in the process. At first glance, you may find about 20 words that you may think are your values. Now whittle that down to five. Those are your five current values, and ask yourself if that matches up with what you want to value or what you would like to think you value. This requires us to take an honest look at ourselves, with our current habits (including money-spending habits and time-spending habits) and see if all of the things we are currently doing matches with what we currently value.

In the last post, I ended with Hebrews 12:12-13, and today I will end with it again, but for a different reason.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

Aligning your goals and habits to match with your desired or intended values helps you on your way to straightening your paths. One step in front of the other, and we will do this together!

This post was originally part of a two-part series, which will now be a three-part series. I would love to hear of the steps you are taking to create new habits in your life to align with your desired values! You can comment on this post or you can email me at elstewart12@hotmail.com.