When Everything Falls

There was quite a lot of devastating news traveling around last week (not even counting Downton Abbey…) and my heart has been weighing a bit heavy ever since.

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I was driving the other day and heard the song “Held” by Natalie Grant. The song always makes me tear up because it’s about a very young baby who passes away. There’s one line in the song that just seemed to hit exactly what I had been feeling:

This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We’d be held

The promise Jesus gave to us was not that we would not suffer. Rather, the promise was that in the midst of suffering, we would be carried. We would be held in the hand of a God who not only knows all but who has actually felt the ultimate pain when He died on the cross.

When tragedy strikes someone who isn’t a Christian, I get anxious about what might happen in that person’s heart. You see, if that person takes a leap of faith and cries out to God in prayer, it can be devastating when He doesn’t answer the way he or she expected. That person might then turn away from faith forever, feeling scarred by his or her seemingly useless prayer.

It can be so scary to step out into His grace. We are so used to taking care of things ourselves. We want a guarantee that if we reach out to God that He will answer exactly the way we hope.

Just yesterday I was searching my email archives for something and ran across an email exchange with Tyler on March 29th of last year. It was the day before we found out he had a tumor and we were emailing like we normally do throughout the day. Tyler wrote that he had done some research on the likelihood that the mass was a cyst or a benign tumor and that he was just believing it would be nothing. We both wrote that we needed to remember to put the champagne in the fridge to celebrate his health. There’s even an email from me with just a bunch of star emoticons.

It’s bizarre to read those notes knowing what happened the very next day. That we would walk into that doctor’s office after days and days of prayer from our closest friends and family and squeeze each other so hard when the doctor said the words “malignant tumor” because we didn’t want to cry in front of this stranger.

It’s strange to look at that email thread and then remember that the champagne stayed chilled in the fridge for 3 months while we kept waiting for the good news. While we kept praying. While others kept praying.

God didn’t answer our prayer that the mass wasn’t a tumor. Or that the tumor wasn’t cancer. Or the prayers that the cancer wouldn’t need chemo or that there would only be one round of chemo.

Tyler did get healed (thank you, Jesus!) and I know that is a happier ending than a lot of people get. But we didn’t get all the things we asked for, did we?

If you haven’t experienced God’s grace or been carried by Him through a storm or felt His sweet gift of redemption, not getting the answer you want might feel like a total letdown. Why follow a God who doesn’t give you what you want?

The thing is, when Tyler was sick, God answered prayers for grace, strength, peace, comfort. He also met us in our darkest hours and the time we spent with Him there was so precious. Reading Psalms together, listening to worship music, just being still. He was present.

It was still hard, don’t get me wrong. We dealt with a lot of fear and had a lot of difficult moments. There’s just no doubt that God showed up for us in a big way.

I don’t write this so that you’ll never ask God for healing or to be taken out of suffering. Jesus is Healer! I believe that and have seen His touch heal people in my own life. We should bring all our worries to Him and ask for miracles.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

But let’s remember that our relationship with God is not “transactional”. We desire to be in communion with Him and sometimes that means enduring a trial together. When I’m going through a hard time or I know someone is struggling, I pray that we would understand that Jesus will be there and He will be enough.

The Bible does not say that if we become followers of Christ that we will not endure any suffering or experience any pain. Quite the opposite, in fact, Jesus says:

“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

Take a leap of faith in your prayers, my friends, and take heart! He is waiting there with open arms.

Pathways in the Wilderness

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“But forget all that—
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:18-19

God moves in ways we can’t even imagine. Here’s to new beginnings in familiar places :) My heart already feels a new peace.

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Prepare My Heart

It’s the first Sunday of Advent, the season of anticipation and preparation for the birth of Jesus. I have fond memories of lighting our advent wreath and reading through devotionals from my mom.

I love this time of year, as many of us do. The traditions, the festive decor, the food (yum!), the music. It’s so easy to get caught up in the gifts and the parties, almost finding ourselves surprised by the real Christmas story when we go to church on December 24th.

I don’t want to be surprised this year.

After spending time in the Psalms leading up to Thanksgiving, I didn’t quite feel ready for Christmas when the Black Friday sales began and radio stations started playing Christmas music. Over the past week I’ve felt drawn to the book of Isaiah, one of the prophets in the Old Testament who prophesied the coming of Christ:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
Isaiah 9:6-7

It’s like God was whispering to me, Don’t lose sight of My heart this Christmas.

I haven’t found an Advent devotional yet and I don’t think we’ll be lighting any candles since Tyler and I will be apart for almost every Sunday night of advent. While I’m longing for these traditions, I’m also welcoming the opportunity to have quiet, unstructured reflection this Christmas.

As we prepare for His coming, we anticipate a lot more than presents and a holiday meal. The birth of Jesus brought a new hope into this world and each year we have the opportunity to open our hearts to His grace and salvation.

I’m not sure what God will reveal during these next few weeks but I know He wants to speak to each of us. I pray that God would prepare our hearts for the joyful gift of Jesus, so that we might live with a renewed sense of purpose in the coming year. I pray that we would find stillness in the chaos and that when we find ourselves singing “O Holy Night” on Christmas Eve, that we would truly understand the meaning of “a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.”

Blessings to you this Advent season!

He Directs Our Steps

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Psalm 37:23

I’m thankful that God answers prayers in His own way and His own time because His ways are so much higher than our ways. Thank You, Jesus, that I do not have to direct my own steps.

Two years ago, Tyler and I felt the longing to move home to Maine. An opportunity came up that seemed to be the perfect ticket and timing to make the move. We felt in control: the opportunity would have given us both plenty of time to wrap up details in Boston and get settled in Maine.

It didn’t work out.

I remember exactly where I was sitting when I found out and the exact feeling in the pit of my stomach. We were pretty devastated.

Thankfully, God had exciting plans for us in Boston. Jobs that challenged us, friends that enriched our lives so fully, and an incredibly vibrant church community.

We found a great apartment to move into when we became Mr. and Mrs. and began to settle in and enjoy our life in Boston. We were even thankful that the move to Maine didn’t happen.

Right before Tyler’s diagnosis, we felt like God was calling us to be bold and take risks. We thought maybe our next move would be somewhere far away – California? London? We felt open to wherever God was leading us.

And then cancer entered our vocabulary and we couldn’t stop thanking God for how He set us here, in the land of the best medical care with secure and supportive jobs and a very special community of people who loved us. Even our apartment was a gift – conveniently located just a few minutes drive from where Tyler had chemo.

Sometime after, or maybe in the midst of, Tyler’s treatment, we felt that longing again for Maine. It was different this time, we saw our home state differently. We saw the beautiful land and the kind, warm people but we also more clearly recognized the great potential our precious Maine had for growth and change.

We talked about moving in a year or so, when the school year was over and our lease was up. There we went again – trying to plan each step.

We assumed it would take a long time to find jobs in a state that has a fraction of the opportunities of Massachusetts. Tyler found an interesting company that ended up contacting him on LinkedIn. I told him there was no harm in exploring it, truly believing that it was not going to pan out.

A week later, he had a job interview. Less than a day after that, he had an offer.

Our heads began to spin. This was not our plan! What about our current jobs? Our friends? Our church?

I became painfully aware of how tied I still am to being in control and making my own plans. What if I don’t find a job right away? I felt myself shrinking back from the opportunity.

At the core if it, we knew Tyler had to take the job. We had prayed specifically over the last few months that we would be open to taking risks and stepping out boldly when God called us.

So here we are. He has called and we have answered.

Yes, Lord, we will follow You down this path. We will trust You to work out the many details and loose ends. We put all of our hope in You for the future You have set before us in the wonderful state of Maine.

Although there is definitely pain in leaving Boston, we are so joyful to begin this next chapter. We will be close to both of our families (including my Gram!) and my hour and a half commute on the lovely MBTA will soon end, leaving me more time to serve and spend time with loved ones.

Boston, you will always be special to us as the city where we learned as students, grew as professionals, fell in love, got engaged, and the place where we discovered how powerful community can be.

Thank You, Jesus, for our life here. We pray blessings on this city and all the people who have made it special. Thank You for ordering our steps and being present in even the tiniest details.

We grieve the end of this chapter but look forward to welcoming our Boston family into our new life, just a couple hours away.

Maine, we’re coming home <3

An Unknown Future

“What do you do?”

It’s one of the first questions we get asked when we meet someone new. For better or for worse, vocation is how others place us into context: where do we spend the majority of our time? What have we chosen to pursue with our talents? Ask any college senior what his least favorite question is and he’ll tell you: What are you going to do after you graduate?

I’ve always had a plan. Ask my friends and they’ll probably tell you, Becky knows where she’s going, she always has.

I decided early on in high school that I wanted to go to the University of Richmond. I had my application in before the first day of senior year (early decision, of course) and was one of the first in my class to know where I was heading after graduation.

My plans after college weren’t quite as concrete when graduation rolled around but I knew I was going to work abroad and then get my Master of Public Health. I already made a plan with one of my best friends to move back to Boston. I turned my application in for grad school on the very first day submissions opened and found out while living in Tanzania that I had been accepted to my first and only choice: Boston University.

When graduation came for the third time, I thought again that I knew exactly where I was headed. I even had the organization picked out. But doors started to close, one after the other, and I soon found myself questioning whether I was even going to stay in public health.

Three years later, I am working in a good job at BU. I have a wonderful boss who is an unbelievably skilled manager and we work with a truly incredible team.

But let me be honest with you, because as I said in my last post, we really have a lot to gain from each other by sharing these deep truths about our hearts:

I have no idea where I’m headed.

How is that possible? With a master’s degree and a history of planning and goal-setting, I should be steadily chugging along toward professional success. But I just don’t know anymore. Despite my limited experience interning and volunteering with a few organizations, the 8-5 grind is not what I thought it would be.

Or I guess maybe I’m not what I expected to be.

Somewhere along the way, I’ve let my heart become jaded. It’s not that I don’t recognize the importance of my work or that I don’t appreciate the challenges within an organization. i just find it too easy to become discouraged or disenfranchised with the system.

And then I start questioning where I fit into it all. Even back when I was planning and working toward specific goals, I never felt confident in what skills I had to offer. I’m not a finance person, an artist, an engineer, an athlete, a data whiz, a scientist… I thought for a minute that maybe I could be a teacher but that doesn’t really seem to fit either.

Even in my current job, what do I put on my LinkedIn profile? Am I in higher ed or public health? Do I consider my work student services? Curriculum development? Program management?

And where do I go from here?

There’s so much pressure these days to have it all figured out. I’m not looking for a new job right now but don’t you feel like you need to know what is coming next? Someone said in a meeting the other day that everyone wants to be a generalist yet employers are looking for specialists. I see students scrambling to get skills so that they can get jobs. I actually asked a student once if she even wanted to have that skill. Do you REALLY want to do that skill in your next job or are you grasping at it because you just want a job?

We are expected to change careers, not just jobs, several times in our lives. So where does that leave us? How do we plan? Aren’t our careers supposed to be fulfilling? Don’t we have unique gifts and abilities that we have a responsibility to share with the world?

This isn’t one of those posts where I tell you that guess what, I finally figured it out! I have not. And that’s part of the reason I signed up for Threshold this year because it’s really overwhelming to try to figure out what I want to do + what the job market is looking for + what my experience prepares me for. So I’m giving it to God to see what He has to say about it because ultimately, I want to be what He calls me to be, whatever that entails for me in my career(s).

And I’m sharing this with you because even though it’s risky to put it out in public where my co-workers will see it (and I know some of you will read this – maybe even my boss!) and it’s difficult to admit that I don’t have it all together (as I’d love for you all to believe)… I’m willing to bet that I’m not alone on this.

Am I right? Anyone else? Bueller? Bueller?

So that’s my #ShareSomethingReal for today – what’s yours?

Share Something Real

You might not realize it but in our digital-connected age, cyberbullying has become a major problem. And kids aren’t the only victims. My sweet, courageous friend Amanda has opened her heart to the world, sharing her story of weight loss and the bullying she experienced in her teenage years. Partnering with the KIND Campaign, Amanda has reached thousands of people around the globe, inspiring many others on their own journeys to better health and a more positive self-image. 

In her brave openness, Amanda has once again been the victim of harsh cyberbullying. Today, the Maine Sunday Telegram published an article on Amanda, bringing her story to the front page of thousands of Maine households. I’m so proud of Amanda’s courage and faith in a world where people will someday choose kindness over cowardly hate. Please read her story here and feel free to share widely. 

The Gospel emphasizes how God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. By sharing our vulnerabilities, as Amanda has done so beautifully, God can minister to others, reaching deep within us to those dark places that we try so hard to keep hidden.  

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

It’s so easy to make judgments about people we don’t know. It’s even easier to judge those whom we claim as friends and loved ones. And the more we judge, the more we build walls around ourselves, closing out opportunities to connect with each other in more meaningful ways than the superficial relationships so many of us cling to. 

Has anyone ever shared something with you that made you take a huge sigh of relief and say, “me too”? I know this is the experience thousands of people have had reading Amanda’s story. She isn’t touting her perfection and easy success, making the average person feel incapable of ever reaching the same goals. She shares every bump, obstacle and negative thought. She isn’t pretending. And because of this honesty, her success becomes truly inspirational in a practical, I-can-do-this-today, kind of way. Go read her page and you’ll see people leaving comments about how they have taken the leap into publicly sharing their story because of Amanda’s example.

She’s not perfect. And neither are we. So why continue hiding behind our carefully constructed Facebook identities and Instagram-filtered lives? The more we hide, the more it becomes easier to judge and become those destructive cyberbullies spreading hate. When we step outside of our walls, we open up our hearts and that’s when God can really begin His work. 

Let’s take a risk this week and share something real with each other. Choose something that you think others don’t know about you (hint: it’s probably the thing you try the hardest to hide). You can tell one person or hundreds. I’ll post mine on the blog later this week. If you’re into hashtags and such, use #ShareSomethingReal if you choose to share via social media.  

If you’re scared, don’t be. Just remember what God has done through Amanda and draw on her example for courage. You never know who He might minister to through your honesty.

Miracle Day

We did it!

Three months ago, Tyler finished his last round of chemotherapy. The doctors said it would take him six to twelve months until he felt normal again.

Today, we ran a half marathon. 

For anyone who is struggling to see the end of a trial or who feels like they will never rise out of where they are today, we dedicate this day to you. We praise God for His faithfulness and ask Him to bless this accomplishment as a promise to you. We pray for better days to come and that you will know what it’s like to soar on the wings of eagles.

We also dedicate this day to all of our friends and family who have supported us along this journey and to those who helped double our fundraising goal for the Cancer Community Center of Maine. One of the best moments of today was around Mile 5 when we heard “Is that Tyler and Becky?!” It was Jennifer, the Development Director from CCC who was volunteering at the race. She recognized us from reading this blog (Hi Jennifer!) and what a boost it was to give her a big hug knowing the work we had all done together for CCC. Donors, your generosity is going to make a difference in someone else’s life. THANK YOU!

Tyler’s mom said to us this morning that today is a miracle day. I don’t think either of us could have imagined in the middle of chemo that we would ever run 13.1 miles. But we did it: pouring rain, sore muscles, and all. 

So take that cancer. Take that enemy. You cannot defeat us or steal our joy because we serve a Miracle Maker!