Richer, Fuller, Better
I am not a runner. I did not grow up participating in any physical activity and, in fact, avoided it at all costs. I was the artistic child – I took art classes, sang in choir, performed in plays and musicals, headed up the photography club, and ended up getting my degree in graphic design. Physical activity was not on my list of "things I enjoy doing." And yet, when I was newly married, my sweet husband somehow convinced me that I could run a 5k... and then a half marathon. And I did. And it was wonderful.
This isn't to say it was "fun" or came naturally to me. What ended up happening was that I would commit to running a certain distance and not worry about how long it took. I would tie my shoes and hit the pavement, always outside, usually in scorching hot sun, but sometimes in the cold or even light rain, and take off running. Literally. I would have to remind myself to slow down. I would see things I might not have otherwise. I would smile at people going the opposite way, even if I felt like inside I was dying. I learned quickly that I like to run alone, and I like to listen to music. Specifically worship music. And in this, God would speak.
Since moving back to Dallas, I've been taking the opportunity to run on Monday's while Grace is in school. It's not about making sure I get a certain amount of cardio a week or going a specific distance... it's purely for my mental and emotional health. It's my gift to myself. I find so often that my conversations with God happen most naturally with the rhythm of my feet hitting the pavement.
I haven't heard Him in a long time... years, maybe. I used to hear Him all the time, all day long. Whispers of truth to my soul. When you go through a desert season and you feel like He's so distant... I'd take anything for a drop of water, to hear a single word from Him. Last Monday, I was running (back at White Rock for the first time) and telling Him how confused I was that I wasn't "better" by now. How is it that I started the path of healing last March, yet I still feel so heavy? It's been over a year. My marriage is completely changed for the better. My life's circumstances are rich. I am at peace with being a mom, with not working. Yet I still felt lonely and detached from the friends in my life. I still felt such heaviness from grief on my soul. Why wasn't I seeing the fruit in my heart?
When I began the process of healing, I kept having a vision of a garden. At my lowest point, my garden was a once-overflowing beauty that had been burned to ash. I couldn't imagine rebuilding, and I didn't want to. I was angry and confused. And all God was asking was for me to show up. I could sit in the empty garden and just twiddle my thumbs all day, but was assured that He would be there with me. All He asked of me was to keep showing up every day. That would be enough. Eventually I began to hope again, and I know the work in the garden began. It was so hard... like walking through fire. But a fire refines, burning away impurities and leaving only the good. Surely after all of the goodness I had seen happen in the past year, I should be seeing beauty and fruit all around me?
Instead, on this run, God whispered to me that we were only getting started. My perspective shifted entirely... He made it clear that I hadn't let Him in all the way yet. This past year, we'd just been working on the soil. (Yeah, the garden was that bad.) But now, the soil is rich and ready. It's time to plant. It's time to start seeing the fruit.
The next morning, I was driving to my mom's house, and suddenly heard God's voice so clearly. The clearest and loudest I'd heard it in so long... I broke down in tears. I was a sloppy mess. His words were this... "these years, while your kids are young, are for you."
It's so easy for me to see that I have to lay down and surrender my life for these years of babies, toddlers, and small children. That my dreams and desires go on the back-burner. In some ways, that's true and so good. In many ways, that is Satan trying to hurt me. Yet I have immense peace that I am not called to work in this season and simply be present as a mom for Grace. I'm also tempted to detach from her... I know one day she will grow up and be her own person. That I shouldn't idolize her, that I should let her grow into herself. Again, in some ways this is true and good... and in many ways, it is Satan's lies.
Hearing God speak that truth so clearly broke me. "For me." "The soil is rich and ready." I felt the sweetest joy over the rest of that day with Grace.
The next morning, a Wednesday, I woke up extra early to get in some good introvert time before the rest of the house awoke and so that I could really dig into my quiet time and talk some more with God over what He'd said. I had noticed a couple of things "off" from the day before – mostly a really bad breakout on my face – and tried to count the days of the month correctly. I absent-mindedly took a pregnancy test, certain it would be negative and confirm I had miscounted, that I wasn't late.
But it was positive.
I hit my knees in prayer on the bathmat... "Lord, this child is yours. You have authored them; You have numbered their days. Whatever you have planned for them, I am your servant."
I remembered the words spoken over me the day before... "these years with little kids are for you." I remembered the vision I had on Monday... "the soil is rich and ready." I stepped into the kitchen and saw the song lyrics I had written and taped to the fridge that Monday as well... "Make me Your vessel, make me an offering, make me whatever You want me to be. I came here with nothing, but all You have given me... Jesus bring new wine out of me." And here I was, His vessel. Here He was, bringing new wine out of me.
A week later, our offer was accepted on a house. The first and only one we ever looked at. One we could stay in a very, very long time. Basically, God pulled up to my empty garden with an 18-wheeler of plants in the back and told me to get out of the way. I'm standing in the midst of immense beauty, and I honestly don't know what to think of it all except shock and joy.
There's another song I've been loving lately that echoes back to my vision of the house we had to burn down and rebuild in order to restore our marriage. In the song, it says, "Walk around my house, and turn it upside down; Your love pursues me. My heart will be satisfied, I will hope in the Lord. Open up my windows and unlock all the doors; blow right through me. Let Him be known for who He is, the God of love." For so long, I felt that He was turning my life upside down, and I was angry with Him for it. I grieved what I once had – sometimes I still do. But now, I see Him, doing exactly what He did in Scripture, turning over tables in order to restore justice and peace and allow beauty to flourish. Here He is, showing up in my life again, turning my life upside down to remind me that He is still pursuing me. That I will only be satisfied in Him, that only He knows what is good and right for me, that He loves me as His beloved daughter.
Chris and I often say that our life before the hard clerkship years wasn't better. Even though it was good and sweet, and we were growing so much in our faith and our marriage. Our life after the fire came... is richer. The depth of emotion is deeper. Our appreciation of each other and what we've been given and who God is is so much much deeper. Our life now... it is richer, fuller, better than the life we would've had if we hadn't gone through the flames. And the new plants in the garden are proof of that. It may look pretty to you... but it is richly beautiful to me. These roots are planted deeper, in soil that is hearty and strong. The fire may come again, and the flowers will wither and fade with the seasons. But for now, we rejoice in the spring in our hearts, and all God asks of us is to show up. To smell the fragrant air. To enjoy.