Why We Can’t Avoid Pain

Why We Can’t Avoid Pain

As I write, I’m sitting in the waiting room of my kids’ pediatric dentist, trying to distract myself from picturing my five-year-old daughter under general anesthesia down the hall. To say my mama heart is aching is a massive understatement.

Brooklynn is getting her front tooth pulled out today because she bonked it on a concrete step 3 ½ years ago, but it only recently died and became infected. Even though my brave girl is thrilled to finally lose her first tooth, this mama is terrified to send my oldest babe back for such a major procedure alone.

The hardest part is knowing that when she wakes up, recovery is going to be hard. There is nothing worse than realizing I am powerless protect the one I love from discomfort and pain.

I’ll be honest, there are few places I hate more on earth than the dentist’s office. I know many wonderful humans who work tirelessly to make high-maintenance patients like me feel comfortable, but I just can’t help how anxiety builds when I’m trapped with my jaw open, trying not to gag while well-meaning strangers ask me questions and shove various apparatuses inside my mouth. I feel helpless and vulnerable, unable to fend off the discomfort I know is just part of the cleaning process.

Yet I also know that regular dental visits, unpleasant as they may be, are necessary to prevent more serious (and exponentially more painful) procedures down the road. There is simply no way to escape the thing I want to avoid—I can either face my discomfort or ignore it until pain eventually overwhelms me.

The fact is, pain is an unavoidable part of living. I can’t protect my sweet kiddos from it, and I can’t evade it myself. No one makes it through life without experiencing hurt on some level, no matter the source. It’s not a matter of if pain will come, but when.

Our response to pain—whether we ignore it, numb it, or face it bravely by getting the help we need—will affect how much it hurts and how long it will take to heal. Just because my kids don’t want me to touch their scrapes and cuts doesn’t mean I should listen to them. In fact, they’ve each experienced tender infections after refusing to allow me to clean and bandage their wounds.

If I’m honest, I do the same thing.

At my husband’s request, I finally visited the chiropractor for the very first time last week to address the debilitating back tension and headaches that had been plaguing me recently.  I was floored by the doctor’s analysis—between pinched nerves and immobile vertebrae and a spine, shoulders, and hips that are significantly out of alignment, he told me he was surprised I could walk normally without crippling pain.

It turns out I have a pretty high pain tolerance. I often ignore pain, working through it until I can no longer function. This gets me in trouble sometimes.

It’s easier for me pop a couple Tylenol and grunt my way through a headache than to make an appointment with a chiropractor who could fix the problem at it’s root instead of just medicating my symptoms.

It’s easier for me to raid the pantry or pour a glass of wine than to tell my husband I’m feeling sad and need him to listen to my potentially irrational feelings.

It’s easier for me to buy a new outfit I can’t afford than to look in the mirror and ask myself why I’m struggling to live content in my own skin.

It’s easier for me to pretend I’m strong enough to manage my life than to ask my friends for help or prayer when I feel overwhelmed and have nothing left to give.

It’s easier to look for a new house, a new job, or a new anything than to examine the deeper reasons for my perpetual state of discontent.

It’s easier to stay busy and say yes to every invitation than to risk allowing loneliness sneak in if I slow down enough for my heart to speak.

It always seems easier to ignore the pain that threatens to take over my life, but I’m actually only prolonging the hurt.

I’m finishing this post from home now, where my healthy little girl is resting and proudly admiring the newly acquired hole in the top of her smile. Even though I had worried and prayed all morning about all the potential complications her little body might encounter, thankfully the tooth came out with no issues.

I was not prepared, however, for the intensity of emotion we both experienced as Brooklynn woke up from anesthesia. I didn’t know that confusion and fear are normal and expected.

My heart pounded as I followed the hygienist down the hallway to a recovery room where I could hear my daughter wailing in panic. I ran into the darkened room and immediately wrapped my arms tightly around her terrified body, soothing my own fear as I held her close.

Brooklynn didn’t know where she was, but she kept grabbing frantically for my face. Looking into my eyes momentarily calmed her, until new waves of emotion hit with uncontrollable force. I held her in the dark, stroking her hair and rubbing her back for half an hour or more before she finally stopped crying. There was nothing else she needed but just to be held, to know she was safe, to hear me say I was with her and I wasn’t leaving. 

Sometimes sitting with someone else in their pain is harder than bearing our own. Yet, if we are willing to hold on, comfort is just a cry for help away.

Maybe the quickest way out of a heart that hurts isn’t to avoid pain, but to move bravely through it to the other side. Love gives us the courage to keep walking.

Mom and Dad doing our best to match Brooklynn’s excitement about getting her tooth out!
A post-dentist Unicorn Frappacino makes the most beautiful breakfast treat. (Plus, the straw fits nicely through her new smile-hole.)

Why Love Costs You Everything

Why Love Costs You Everything

The tears wouldn’t stop. The harder I tried to breathe deeply and contain my sobs, the louder my cries became, exposing the vulnerability I was trying to hide. I felt out of control—my emotions betrayed my body as I tried unsuccessfully to regain composure.

I leaned against the bathroom wall, unable to hold myself up under the weight of such deep hurt. It had been triggered by something unrelated to what he said, but once the dam broke, weeks of unreleased aching came rushing in at once. I knew I needed help but wrestled with guilt over how much it would cost him if I asked. But I couldn’t get control of my body; I couldn’t compose myself, no matter how many deep breaths I took.

“Do you need anything?” he questioned gently from the other room, where my tears were keeping him from sleep. His words were careful, probing tenderly and guarding my heart against potential defensiveness or shame for keeping him awake at such a late hour. Something about his invitation to need him gave me permission to admit I couldn’t handle my heart alone.

 “I need you!” I sobbed, longing pouring honestly from my lips. He came right away, wrapping those muscular arms around me as tightly as he could. My body shook harder for a few moments as his strength allowed all my weakness to come out of hiding. Then slowly, my breathing calmed and my muscles relaxed, melting in the assurance of being held.

“I’m here,” was all he said, over and over. And those were the only words I needed. Knowing he was with me, physically and emotionally, made me feel safe. He proved that I am loved, not because I can hold myself together, but because love is big enough to hold me even when I fall apart.

 Love gives me permission to lose control and still be held.

Yet, allowing myself to be loved when I feel the most unlovable may be the hardest thing to do. Nothing feels more vulnerable—it’s almost too risky to be loved more than I deserve. What if he changes his mind? What if I need too much? What if this time I push too far?

 Receiving the kind of love I need means allowing myself to lose control.

Being loved means surrendering to the risk of being seen as I am, not as I want to be. It means allowing others to step into my mess and help me clean it up, even if they get a little dirty in the process. Being loved means speaking aloud the deep needs I work so hard to contain, trusting that those who love me are willing to pay the price to meet my needs, no matter what it costs them. It means accepting that even when I do my very best to love the way I should, I will still never be able to love perfectly. Neither can anyone else.

Being loved is costly. It costs my vulnerability, the willingness to let someone see the very worst of me and trust they will stay close.

Being loved costs my control, releasing myself from the pressure to perform perfectly and earn the love I’m given.

Being loved costs my fear of rejection, since I cannot receive love fully if I’m enveloped in the armor of self-protection.

Being loved means allowing someone to give me what I cannot give myself, even when I have nothing to offer but my neediness.

That night in the bathroom was a breaking point that opened the way for grace to rush in. As I admitted my need for help, I also invited my man to offer his strength in my weakness. And it reminded me that there is no shame in needing another to pull me out of my pit—there is actually more love than I could imagine, when I’m brave enough to ask.

It’s hard to be loved. It will cost the one who loves me everything they have, and it will cost me everything I’m tempted to hold back. But love is the only place safe enough to give and receive without pretending. And love is worth everything I can give.

 

Featured image by Kandice Halferty Photography

 

 

 

 

How I Became an HGTV Stalker

How I Became an HGTV Stalker

This week, I discovered that an HGTV pilot show is being filmed in our very own town! (Deep breaths…I’m TOTALLY calm.) Right now, in Ellensburg, a local couple is renovating a house as camera crews document the process. I’ve gone from dreaming about planning a trip to Waco, Texas to meet Chip and Joanna Gaines to driving past The Porch House and introducing myself to Cathy and her team in just a matter of days.

ALL MY WILDEST DREAMS ARE COMING TRUE. I’ve always loved home design and decor, ever since looking through floor plans with my mom when I was a kid, “playing mind games” as we dreamed about building a new house someday.

I love how HGTV allows regular people like me to dream about ways we can make our own worlds a bit more beautiful.

There really is something hope-producing about taking an old house, especially one that’s run down and seemingly past repair, and fixing it up. I love watching people like Cathy and her husband, Garret use their vision, creativity and massive amounts of hard work to transform four dilapidated walls into a beautiful home.

Don’t we all love beautiful things? Beauty in any form causes me to crave more of it–whether it’s in the form of breathtaking nature, a compelling story, loving moments between kids, or a room that says, “You are welcome here.” Beauty is meant to inspire, to invite us in, to make our hearts sing.

It turns out that imperfect things are the most beautiful. Imperfections are proof that something is real. Authenticity is always more lovely than artificiality.

That’s why I love home renovation shows. I used to dream about becoming an interior designer, even helping a handful of people make design decisions for their own homes at different points. Then I realized my gift is less in the artistic design process and more in the appreciation of good design. I sure know something pretty when I see it, but please don’t ask me to create beauty out of nothing! I can’t handle the pressure.

Even though I’ll probably never fulfill my dream of becoming the next Joanna Gaines, I can’t get enough of her story and stories like hers. Reading about her and Chip’s journey in The Magnolia Story inspired me to start dreaming again, giving me permission to risk and ask “Why not?” when obstacles arise.

I’m so thankful for the advent of reality tv and how it invites us in close as normal people live their lives for us to watch. It’s heartening to know we don’t have to fit a certain mold to live our dreams–we just have to be ourselves. Thanks, Cathy and Garret, for bringing a good old-fashioned dose of inspiration to our world! We need more people like you to give us permission to embrace our real lives and become our truest selves.

Out of curiosity, did anyone notice that my blog has changed names several times in the past few weeks? That’s because, just like me, this site has always been a work in progress.

I started this blog a couple years ago, fighting against every perfectionistic ounce of me that wanted to wait until I knew what I was doing to start writing. Oh, how thankful I am for my friend who told me just to start, perfect or not. Isn’t that just life? We’ll never try anything if we wait until we know what we’re doing.

So, like the new name says, I’m releasing perfect. The more I publicly declare my intention to live fully today (instead of waiting until someday when I get my life together), the more I live freely as my real, imperfect self.

There is nothing this heart desires more than restoration. What if, like an old, dilapidated house, restoration is possible for the broken down, imperfect parts of ourselves too? I think it is. Scratch that, I actually know it is–because I’m living it. (But I can’t say too much here. Spoiler alert: I’m working on a book about my whole story! It’s a beautiful, life-giving process just to write it all down. I hope there will be a chance to share it someday!)

In the meantime, I will do everything I can to promote  “Rehab Crazy,” but not just because I love HGTV. And not just because our town really is a hidden gem full of old historic homes and amazing people with inspiring stories. My true motive in becoming an HGTV stalker is because watching people living their dreams gives others the hope they need to chase after their own.

Check out more of Cathy and Garrett’s story on their blog, thegritandpolish.com

Featured image used with permission and originally appeared here.

Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want

Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want

Waiting is hard. No matter who you are or what you’re waiting for, it’s hard. Just ask any kid on a road trip how they feel about not being there yet. Or, if we’re honest, ask any adult how they feel about waiting in the grocery line, waiting for the weekend, waiting for vacation, waiting for a promotion, or waiting for retirement—waiting is hard.

No matter our circumstances, we are all waiting for something. I’ve been waiting since I became a mom for my kids to go to school. Don’t judge me—I know it sounds horrible, but it’s an honest confession.

Yet, I also remember back to pregnancy and how excruciating the waiting felt as I longed to meet each of my children, both entering the world comfortably past their due dates. And now as I parent two preschoolers, depending on God’s grace most days to enjoy the beautiful gift of this exhausting season, the approaching fall beckons me with new hope as my kids (and I) joyfully anticipate preschool and kindergarten.

We are all waiting.

Regardless of what we are waiting for, there is always something ahead that promises greater fulfillment. We somehow believe that when the next thing comes, then we will finally be content. But the truth is, even when we finally receive the thing we await, waiting begins again for a new “next thing.” Whatever season of waiting we are in, our lack of control will either drive us to despair or invite us into dependence on God’s grace.

During the past several years I’ve spent as a stay at home mom, I’ve discovered the joy of pouring my heart onto a page through writing. I don’t know if I would have ever discovered the gift of purposeful reflection writing affords if I hadn’t been thrust headfirst into this slower-paced life with babies. Needing a place to use my brain and process what was happening within my heart, writing has become a creative outlet that both keeps me sane and fills my soul.

As I searched for ways to improve my craft, another writer suggested an online course called Writing with Grace with Ann Swindell. My entire approach to writing has been transformed by her powerful teaching, which has given my words new purpose and freedom. (Unsolicited advice: Anyone who wants to grow in their ability to use writing to bring life to others should check out this incredible class!)

Because of my deep respect for Ann’s teaching, I jumped at the invitation to participate on the launch team for her new book, Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want, releasing on April 4th. This book is for anyone who has waited, is waiting, or will wait—in short, this book is for everyone.

Ann artfully weaves together my very favorite story in the whole Bible—the story of an unidentified woman who suffered from bleeding for twelve years despite giving all she had to doctors who couldn’t heal her—with her own story of waiting to be healed. Ann’s writing is vulnerable and courageous, revealing the raw places in her own heart where waiting has cost her dearly. This book reminds us all that hope is real, hope can’t be taken away, and hope is worth waiting for.

Ann invites others to experience the fullness of God’s grace in the midst of their waiting. She honestly explains, “Waiting is hard because it thwacks against our hope and makes us wonder if the promises of Christ are real. It makes us wonder if Jesus is really good…In all of those places, waiting asks us if God is still good and if he really sees and loves us.”[i]

But there is hope for those who are willing to bring their desires and struggles to the One who made us and knows us and loves us more than we could ever dream. Because “hope is the antidote to despair, and it’s the only way to live through prolonged seasons of waiting without losing our faith or our sanity.”[ii] As someone who has felt a bit crazy during periods of extended hopelessness, I can testify with assurance that hope is indeed worth fighting for.

Nothing thrills my heart more than helping others find a place to experience the grace of God for themselves. This book is one of those places. Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want is a story for all of us, because each one of us is waiting for something.

And the best part? If you order a copy (or two or three) by April 3rd, you can get some amazing pre-order goodies for free! So go ahead, give a copy to the ones you know who need it most. You don’t have to wait to share hope today.

PRE-ORDERFREEBIESAVAILABLE-NOW

[i] Ann Swindell, Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want, 212.

[ii] Swindell, Still Waiting, 212.

When Life Bursts Through

When Life Bursts Through

The snow finally just melted in our town for the first time since the end of November. To say it’s been a long winter is a bit of an understatement. My kids squealed with delight to discover grass on the lawns in our neighborhood, exposing its sad condition after many months of bearing a frozen topcoat. Sometimes it feels like endless winter is about to bury me too.

Over the weekend, the sun peeked out for a couple hours and we braved the chilly air so the kids could ride bikes in front of our house. I was sitting on the porch step when my son brought me something he had found in the dirt. “What this, Mommy?” he asked in his sweet little three-year-old voice.

I looked closely at the odd-shaped green thing he showed me, rounded on one end and flat on the other. Then it hit me—he was holding a bulb in his tiny hand. After months without any signs of hope, new life was sprouting through the dirt! After what feels like a never-ending season of dormancy, I’m spotting the first signs of new life in my heart, too. Hope bursts through just when it seems like the waiting will never end.

Seven years ago, I was in the middle of one of the hardest seasons of my life. Anxiety had reached an all-time high, to the point where my body and mind were so overloaded I had to take time off of work to learn how to function normally again. Those two months of sick leave ushered in a season of rest that lasted longer than I’d ever anticipated; I haven’t worked full-time since.

Moving to a new town and learning (ever so slowly) to embrace my life as a stay at home mom forced me to stop spinning all the former plates of achievement, professional competence, and busyness that had produced such anxiety in the first place. These past seven years have been my training ground for the pace of life I actually want to live.

Instead of accepting stress and busyness as a normal rhythm of life, my babies have given me the gift of unproductivity. They’ve forced me to slow down, teaching me through their constant neediness that growing deep roots cannot be rushed. Growth is supposed to happen slowly—there is no shortcut for time.

Never has the picture of the vine and the branches meant more. As Jesus instructs those who want to know him, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” If I want to grow, I must hold still.

I must remain. Remain in the place where I believe God’s love is real. Remain quiet enough to hear his voice whispering to my heart. Remain in the words he spoke for his friends to write down. Remain in the truth that I am loved. Remain in acceptance, whether I feel like I deserve it or not.

As I remain quiet and still, the vine nourishes me with its life. Hope floods my soul, just as nutrients flow from the vine to it’s branches, causing them to grow. I don’t produce the growth myself, I just hold still long enough to let love grow in me. Quit resisting, quit striving, quit squirming under the discomfort of being loved just as I am, not as I should be. A life filled with love can’t help but bear fruit.

I’m different today than I was seven years ago, and I only have one explanation for the change: Love changes everything. The work of holding still and learning to remain in God’s love has changed me from the inside out.

I’m not afraid of failure anymore, because I know I am loved. 

I don’t have to strive to prove my competence or worthiness anymore, because I know I am loved. 

I don’t have to worry about what others are thinking or saying about me, because I know I am loved. 

I don’t have to say yes when I don’t have the capacity, because I know I am loved.

While I was getting my haircut, my hairdresser and I were talking about how different we are than we used to be, especially before we both had kids. She told me something that has stuck with me: as new follicles grow over time, they replace what has fallen out so that every seven(ish) years we have a whole new head of hair. My hair is different than it was seven years ago. I am a different woman than I was seven years ago. Love has changed me, from my head down to my toes.

Life is starting to burst through. Just when the winter felt like it would never end, a new shoot of hope pokes its way through the ground. Love is growing–a new season begins today.

If God Is Real, Then What?

If God Is Real, Then What?

What happens when women gather together to love one another face to face? God shows up.

Last weekend, 75 women smashed into one room to ask the question: IF God is real, then what does it mean for our lives? We gathered from different backgrounds, different churches, different stages of life with one goal: to know God and make him known.

As part of the planning team, I watched from behind the scenes as God answered prayer after prayer to make IF:Ellensburg everything he wanted it to be. It felt like sheer grace to watch firsthand as he invited women to experience deeper love from him and through one another, love so overflowing it can’t help but spill out everywhere.

Our team was stretched beyond our capacity, to the point where our only choice was full dependence on God’s power and provision. As Jennie Allen, the founder of IF:Gathering, reminded us all, “God moves through those who happen to realize they’re not qualified.” Yup. It’s true.

Here are seven lessons I don’t want to forget from the process of planning our IF:Local:

  1. Giving leadership away makes it grow.

If you want to control the outcome of an event, it doesn’t make any sense to release it to the hands of thousands of women across the globe. Unless your goal is for those women to come alive and depend on God to make himself real to them—then you must simply trust those women to lead in their places. That’s how Jennie Allen and the IF:Gathering team lead—they give leadership away.

As a leader, my temptation to micromanage comes from a desire to control every aspect of how things turn out. But maybe leading isn’t really about creating a successful event or product—maybe leading is more about giving others the freedom to struggle and grow and learn how to fly.

  1. Doing hard things makes us stronger.

The more I exercise, the stronger my muscles grow. Similarly, the more I stretch my capacity for stress, the more I choose love when I would rather have my way, the more I walk forward into unfamiliar and uncomfortable places, the stronger my faith grows.

Our journey as a team was never easy, but we are stronger because of it. As we prayed together, made time to connect with one another, submitted to one another, and worked hard side by side, we grew in our capacity for love together. Our muscles are stronger because we persevered together toward our goal, and the satisfaction of crossing the finish line was deeper because of how much sweat was required along the way.

  1. Choosing to live as your truest self is costly—but worth it.

I feel most alive—most like the truest version of myself—when I’m using all my gifts, my time, my energy to love God and love others well. But love requires action, and loving with everything I have will cost me all I have to give.

Love is sacrificial, it builds others up and submits for the sake of oneness. True love requires death—death to self, death to being right, death to control, death to getting my way. Loving others like this allows me to draw nearer to Jesus, because it’s how he lived, how he loves us even now. Love like this proves God is real as he gives us the power to flesh out the kind of love that could only come from heaven.

  1. God multiplies whatever we give him.

Whether it was wondering if we would have enough journals and pens or enough food or even enough space for the women who just kept signing up the week before the event, I panicked every time I tried to figure out how we were going to make it all work. But over and over again, God showed us how he takes what little we have and makes it more than enough.

He multiplied our limited time. Our lacking energy. Our insufficient sleep. Our miniscule courage. Our hopelessly inadequate resources are more than enough for the One who made it all. He fed five thousand men and their families from five loaves and two fish, for Pete’s sake! And he multiplied what we gave for IF:Ellensburg with abundant generosity—we even had journals to spare.

  1. We all have something to teach and something to learn.

One person on our team taught me how to use my iPhone to remind me to complete certain tasks–I could never have kept my head on straight without her practical wisdom. Another gal taught me that the best leaders are the most humble servants. Another showed me the value of thank you notes and gifts of appreciation.

Our team was truly a picture of the body of Christ as it was meant to be. Each part was necessary, and each one had a unique and crucial role to play for the good of the whole. We need each and every person to function at our full potential. (Yes, even that one.) Learning from the gifts of others helps us see the pieces of God he has placed in each person.

  1. Producing more fruit requires more pruning.

Pruning doesn’t make sense if you think about it—why would cutting the branches off our fruit tree lead to the growth of more apples? It’s counterintuitive, but pruning removes branches that aren’t useful to the tree so energy can be spent growing fruit instead of holding on to dead wood.

God works the same way. He prunes those he loves to make us more fruitful, cutting off habits and attitudes and whatever in us might suck life away from our true purpose—loving God and loving people. More than a few of my dead branches were chopped off during this planning process, and despite the discomfort, I am freer and more productive as a result.

  1. I would rather have deep friendships than a big platform any day.

The reason IF:Ellensburg even happened was because a handful of women loved one another really well. Our commitment to cheer one another on, stand by each other’s side, and name the ways we see God at work in each others’ lives naturally resulted in inviting other women to do the same.

I used to think I had to write a book or have a huge blog following or do something big and seen and important to make an impact that matters. But I know Jesus because of friends who love me in real life and who prove to me over and over again that God is real and his love is free for the taking.

In the words of Jill Briscoe, may we all have the courage to “Go where you’re sent, stay where you’re put, and give what you’ve got…all the way home.”

 

All photos taken by Jacqueline Olivia Griffin (Facebook.com/jacquelineoliviaphotography)

Waiting on an Unknown Future

Waiting on an Unknown Future

Have you ever said no to something when you really wanted to say yes?

I said a hard no this month. There was a new opportunity I really wanted to pursue, and I desperately wanted to say yes. It was something I love doing, something I could justify spending time on, something that would benefit me and others. It had the potential to build my confidence, putting me in a role where my gifts and personality would thrive.

But there was a cost—a high cost to be paid with my time. Doing this new thing would fill up my schedule and my mental space, requiring lots of attention and energy, especially as I learned the role. It would leave no room for the other things I want to pursue, the things that make me my truest self.

Saying yes to that thing would mean saying no to anything else that comes along. I knew I had to choose between something good now or the possibility of something better down the road. As appealing as the opportunity was, I’m just not ready to say no to what may be waiting right around the corner.

Holding space for the unknown may be one of the hardest things for me to do.

My husband and I are planning a much-anticipated vacation together this summer to celebrate our ten-year anniversary. Spending multiple nights in a tropical location without kids? Yes, please. It feels easy for me to keep that week free from appointments and commitments, because time alone with my husband is a rare and precious gift. Why would I say yes to anything else when a romantic getaway awaits?

When I’m deciding between doing something good now and waiting for something better later, holding out for the better thing is a clear choice. But the choice doesn’t seem as clear when the future is unknown.

My soul feels restless. I don’t think it’s the snow, although being stuck inside with my kids for multiple consecutive weeks because it’s too cold to get fresh air is enough to make a person batty. It’s more than just cabin fever—something is stirring deeper inside me. There is this longing, an ache to reach beyond my current reality and fulfill my purpose in the world.

My mind spins most days, dreaming about this cause or that purpose, a new organization I want to support, another need in the world or my community that stirs my heart. I’ve learned not to move forward with every passion-filled impulse that crosses my heart—I would exhaust myself in a second and be unable to sustain enough commitment to make any difference if I said yes to every opportunity.

I’ve said my fair share of yesses born out of impatience and paid the price. This time I’m mustering every morsel of self-control to wait for the opportunity that makes my heart come alive, where the cost is absorbed by the joy of knowing the timing and opportunity are right.

“What purpose does restlessness serve?” someone asked me, as I shared my struggle. I paused, pondering the implications of the question.

“I guess it could go two ways,” I answered. “Sometimes feeling restless motivates me toward action, nudging me toward change.” I paused. “But sometimes it just steals my peace and contentment with my present life.” I considered my words, filtering through examples of how this has played out in recent days.

“Yes,” he agreed. “Restlessness can facilitate change on the inside or the outside.” Hmm. And I had assumed it was a sign something was wrong. Could my desire for change be the catalyst I need to do the hard work growth requires? Could restlessness be my motivation to get myself ready for the next opportunity that comes?

As much as I love to dream about the future, maybe my restless heart just needs to be rooted today in the place where I’m currently planted. Maybe the process of growing deep roots really serves to protect me from blowing away in the winds of change when they come. Maybe I need to spend less time longing for something different and more energy investing where I know I’m called today.

Can I confess that the thing I so desperately wanted to say yes to involved teaching an exercise class? As closing this door forced me to find another way to strengthen my body, I’m already discovering the beauty of choosing what’s best over what’s good. Saying no has birthed greater motivation and joy in exercising alone at home than I’ve ever experienced. It’s also given me more time to pray and prepare and dream about what’s next—all because I chose to hold space for a better yes.

Hard as it is, I choose to wait on my unknown future. I don’t simply want to fill my time, which is the surest way to an empty soul—I want to fill my heart to overflowing. As St. Augustine wisely observed, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”  May God give me the grace to hold still long enough to let His love pour in.

 

Photo credit for featured image: Caroline Knott