have to, get to, desperately want to.

These past few weeks have been good but different, and while at the moment I want to say I’m in a little bit of a spiritual funk, thinking back.. I’ve spent more time with Jesus lately than I have in a long time. I’ve been fired up, passionate, and intentional about my conversations and my time. Overall I’ve felt good, but right now I feel -for lack of a better word- blah. All day long I’ve been trying to put my finger on it. Why do I feel this way? What is going on? And two words kept coming up over and over again: have to.

Moving here, Mike and I had (have) high expectations for ourselves. Moving away is a fresh start, something brand new. We can be whoever we want to be and we don’t have to worry about everyone knowing everything about our pasts. We loved our lives in Maryland, don’t get me wrong, but we wanted (want) to be better versions of ourselves here. We want to get into healthier routines and habits and be more intentional with our relationships and growth in God. There were so many conversations about that – who we were going to be down here, what was going to look the same, what was going to be different. It didn’t take long for my constant need for control to take over, which leads me to the two words: have to. 

I have to be a better wife to my husband: I have to trust him more, I have to let him lead, I have to stop trying to control him and his relationship with the Lord.
I have to be a better Christian: I have to find a church home and get involved immediately, I have to make friends there, I have to never miss a Sunday. I have to volunteer, I have to listen to old sermons. I have to have at least thirty minutes of quiet time each day. I have to pray without ceasing, I have to worship more.
I have to be a better friend: I have to have intentional conversations daily. I have to challenge and encourage them. I have to be available. I have to be on – positive – happy. I have to make friends from all different areas of my life.
I have to be a better human: I have to work out daily to be healthy. I have to start losing more weight so that I can have a baby one day. I have to stop eating dessert, I have to start eating all my fruits and vegetables. I have to set huge goals for myself and make sure I meet them.

I have to keep up with a cleaning schedule for my home. I have to help out around the house. I have to work work work and get out of my student loan debt. I have to stop spending too much. I have to find a place for us to live.

Have to. Have to. Have to. The list could go on and on.

Seriously. In my mind, I have to do these things. This is my chance to be better. What I realized is that setting these things up as “have to’s” in my life was setting myself up for failure. Of course I haven’t done all of those things consistently. The plan totally backfired and has since turned me into a controlling, bitter human being that feels like a total failure. Constantly disappointing yourself over and over again is not good for your heart and soul.

So yesterday I was thinking to a sermon by Francis Chan and I was a little distracted by my thoughts and I suddenly heard him say something along the lines of, “And we get to do that. We get to change for Jesus.” GET TO? I literally don’t know if I’ve ever had that mindset. What a shift in perspective. We do have to do these things for Jesus, we GET to do these things – and what they lead to is pretty amazing.

I have get to be a better wife to my husband: I’ll trust him more, I’ll get to experience and learn about the way he leads, I have to stop trying to control him and his relationship with the Lord, He will grow in his faith the way God want him to, not me.
I have get to be a better Christian: I get to find a church home and get involved immediately, I get to make friends there, I get to have a place I want to be every Sunday. I get to volunteer, I get to listen to old sermons to learn something new. I get to have at least thirty minutes of quiet time each day, I get to pray without ceasing, I get to worship – how incredible is it that we GET to do these things? That we can be this close to a God that loves and created us. That we can feel His presence. That we can learn from Him. This is BEAUTIFUL, not a burden. What was I thinking?
I have to be a better friend: I have to have intentional conversations daily. I have to challenge and encourage them. I have to be available. I have to be on – positive – happy. I have to make friends from all different areas of my life.
I have get to be a better human: I get to work out daily to be healthy because my body allows me to do so. I get to start losing more weight so that I can be in the best shape for my children and my pregnancies (maybe).  I get to set huge goals for myself and I get to experience a sense of accomplishment when I meet them.

I get to keep up with a cleaning schedule for my home, that some people may not have. I get to help out around the house as a way to show my gratitude for such great friends that took us in. I get to work work work BECAUSE of my student loan debt that led to my college degree. I get to stop spending too much and learn to save and budget for my family. I get to find a place for us to live, a place for us to call home.

It’s a game changer. Even typing it all out was therapeutic for me. I am not naive enough to think I’ll never have a “have to” thought again. I probably will again later today. But this is a start. A shift in my thinking and every time I say “have to” I will be reminded of this lesson that I need to learn over and over again.

So here’s what I desperately want: I desperately want to know what it feels like to completely surrender to Jesus and give up my control. I desperately want GRACE to be my gut reaction – to others and to myself. I desperately want to live a life that glorifies God, that points others to Him – and not just in my blog posts. I desperately want to be closer to Jesus – and I want to WANT to do the hard things in my life, knowing that they will lead me somewhere great. Most of all, I desperately want to accept that the struggle is part of it. That these are the moments that shape us.

So Jesus, change my heart. Hear my prayer: change. my. heart. I desperately want to be more like You.

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spiritual warfare or life in a broken world?

I’m writing this from a hospital room. It’s 11:19 PM and my husband is trying to get some sleep in the hospital bed while I sit on a recliner next to him. We’ve never been in this place before – neither of us have had overnight hospital stays since we were children. Let me start by saying that everything is okay. I’m going to have to get Mikes approval before posting this because he doesn’t share a lot on social media and would hate to have everyone fawning all over him telling him to get better. Clearly he’s the opposite of me – a classic overshare-er(?) and someone who loves the encouragement and support of everyone around her (aka, attention. I’ll call it like it is). Anyway, Mike was admitted to the hospital earlier tonight. We were actually on our way to the beach and decided to stop at an urgent care because we thought Mike might have an infection from a cut on his foot, but it had only just gotten red today and we didn’t think much of it. They drew his blood and then told us to go to the emergency room immediately. I never want to hear those words again. Here we learned that it is an infection but it had spread so quickly and he had so many other symptoms (fever, body aches, loss of appetite) that they wanted to monitor him overnight to make sure it gets better. They are not worried, but taking precautions and wanting to make sure he’s headed in the right direction as these antibiotics kick in. So here we are.

I’ve gone through a range of emotions through all of it, naturally. Fear, panic, anger, and doubt among them. My sister was the first one to say, “It sounds like cellulitis” so I googled it and of course the first thing I see is “could be life threatening.” And we all know from my last post that I am NOT good in a crisis. Although I have to say I handled this much better than the car issue.. #progress. Once everything settled and we knew he was going to be okay, it almost felt comical. We talked about how North Carolina hates us and how much has gone wrong in the last month. The house falling through, losing out on job opportunities, Mikes car breaking down, now this. Not to mention the financial strain of it all. It hasn’t been an easy transition by any means. Don’t get me wrong, SO many blessings and so many answered prayers amidst all these trials. But the trials keep coming.

I don’t talk about satan and spiritual warfare often. Not many people do. But earlier in the week I had just talked about it with a friend of ours. Of how real spiritual warfare is, and how satan does attack. Side note: I’m taking the extra time to backspace and retype satan every time because it keeps wanting to give satan a capital S. I read a blog once (I think from Jon Acuff, but I could be wrong) where he said that every time he was talking about the devil he would type satan instead of Satan because a lowercase letter is like the middle finger of grammar. I loved it. And that’s where I’m at right now. Anyway, no one wants to talk about satan or spiritual warfare. And I don’t blame us. It’s confusing and misunderstood and quite frankly almost impossible to wrap your head around.

But it’s real. Ephesians 6:11-12 says “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” These forces are literally waging a war against God and His people. Against me. Against Mike. And it might be uncomfortable or feel weird to address it, but it needs to be addressed.

I listened to a sermon by Francis Chan earlier tonight and he talked about how some people call spiritual warfare on anything that goes wrong. His exact example was, “Ugh, my shoelace came untied. It’s gotta be the devil.” I loved what he said about it because there IS spiritual warfare but there is also just life. Life in a broken, sinful world. It’s so hard to tell the difference, but quite frankly, I don’t think it matters. If what is going wrong is a product of sin or brokenness, it’s still a foothold for satan to grab onto in your life. Obviously, little things happen and I don’t think a constant “we’re under attack” is necessary for everything that doesn’t go our way. What I do think is necessary is an awareness of this war against us and what we can do to fight back.

I’m passionate about this right now because if I didn’t have these conversations with friends lately, or if I didn’t read a post shared with me on Facebook about the devil, or if I didn’t receive a text from my aunt tonight saying that the enemy is working against us.. then I don’t know if I would have been aware of what might be going on here. Of what the enemy is trying to do – or what he will try to do using these circumstances.

Immediately tonight, I started to doubt Gods goodness. Seriously.. it was IMMEDIATE. And I LOVE God and feel like I know Him well. That didn’t matter. We were on our way to the beach, to see friends that we’ve cancelled on multiple times before. We just took care of the last crisis. We just figured out my job situation. We JUST got back up after being knocked down. Why would God do this to us? Why is the happening? Why us, why us, why us? Again, I have no shame in admitting my flaws.. if God is so good, then why are all these things happening to us? You guys, isn’t this exactly what satan does? I mean, it’s biblical! This is exactly what satan did to Eve. He made her doubt Gods goodness. “Would God really tell you to not eat from the tree?” When we doubt God, satan grabs on to that. He uses it against us. But because I’m aware of this tonight, I won’t be doubting Gods goodness in this hospital anymore.

Another aspect of it all is the worry. If I’m worrying, then I’m not worshipping. If all I’m worried about money – then I’m going to start to look for opportunities with a mentality that’s all about finances and not necessarily about what’s right for our relationship with Jesus. And it’s not just about money – if I’m constantly worried about Mikes health, then I’m not focused on God and His promises. Even if I’m worried about things that are totally normal like careers and our home and our future, it becomes a distraction from God. And satan can grab hold of that. Now that I type it all out – isn’t worrying the same as doubting Gods goodness? Maybe not completely, but they are definitely up the same alley. If I have a constant worry about our future, there has to be some seed of doubt in there about Gods goodness and His promises to me. And satan wants to water that seed.

This might seem like a drag of a blog post, but I’m fired up about it. In a good way. I feel empowered in this awareness and this epiphany that, hello, I’ve always known the enemy is against us but this is the first time in my life that I am really feeling it. I feel empowered because there are so many things we can do to fight it. We can pray. We can talk about God and cling to His truth. We can read the Bible. We can comfort and encourage one another. We can help each other back up. We can give satan a grammatical middle finger. We can stay up until 2:00 AM writing a blog post from a hospital room as our own way of publically saying, “Get behind me, satan.”

It feels good. Because God wins.

My last thought, and I just might lose you here (if you’ve stuck with me this long) is that there has to be a reason that we are being attacked. And that excites me. What are we going to be a part of down here that satan wants to stop? How is God going to use us that seems so threatening to the enemy? Does that sound conceited? Maybe it does, but it’s my thought. And again, it excites me. Clearly, something big is happening down here and I’m eager to be a part of it. I’ll even go as far to say that I think it’s more about Mike than it is about me (it was his car, his health.. but then, we ARE one, so who knows) and I can’t wait to see how God uses my sweet husband. We did move here with the promise to be more intentional for Jesus. In our careers, our marriage, our friendships. We are committed to finding a church and getting involved. We are committed to foster care and loving the least of these. We are living with our mentors – the very people that taught us who Jesus was and showed us what it looked like to follow Him. We are talking about God more here than ever before. It makes sense that satan would want to shut that down.

Too bad he won’t. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

So we missed out on the beach and we are stuck in a hospital room. God loves us and sent His Son to die for us. We are here with a purpose and will be used to bring people closer to Him. Tonight doesn’t change that.