The Best Laid Plans: Trusting in the Better One!

 

I feel like I spend more time focusing on why I haven’t been writing, then taking the time to reflect on what I have been doing during that time. This time the why is more important – on a personal level – then perhaps it has been in the past.

When I last wrote, we were facing more dead ends as a family than we thought we could handle sometimes, and it was time for a refresh…to step back from the things that we were focused on, to focus on what mattered most. Stick with me, it’ll make sense in a few.

You see. We felt like we were facing our own personal crisis as a family. We thought God us brought us back to PA for a specific purpose…then that purpose seemed to be slowly slipping away. Our kids were facing troubles at school. John’s job that brought us here was literally going away (quicker than originally planned), and we were frustrated. Instead of looking forward and leaning on God’s perfect plan, it was easier to look with longing back on where we came from, when things seemed easier. Instead of trusting and dwelling forward, I – personally – was dwelling on the mountain views and friendships we left, on when it seemed easier to follow God’s plan, to live missionally and to focus without “distractions.” I began longing for what was, instead of trusting in what was meant to be.

I needed a reset, and that reset took longer than I’d like to admit, and more bending and softening of my heart that was becoming harder than I’d like to think was possible.

I needed to dig into the promises of Scripture and of past lessons God had taught me. I needed to paste those scriptural truths around my house so I couldn’t avoid them or put them in the back of my mind. I needed to go back to the basics, to spend time with the creator who loves me more than I can imagine, and to beg him to align my heart, my will and my dreams with his. I had to listen to sermons and how they applied to my own life, instead of thinking of others I thought might benefit from the words being shared on Sunday mornings. I like to think this would have happened even if the dead ends didn’t, but, I think we’re more resistant to change than we like to think sometimes.

Anyway, this process was painful and took time, but maybe it never should have gotten to that point. I’ve realized it should never have ended in the first place. We should live in that place continually, because otherwise our own desires come to the surface far too easily. My longing for my own far off country (if you’re unfamiliar with this concept, check out what C.S. Lewis had to share) doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but, I need to frame it in God’s eyes, not allow it to distract me from what’s important.

Throughout it all, God’s purpose and plan has prevailed. Our friendships have deepened. The open door we prayed for for John’s job came and he jumped on it, without any down time or unemployment whatsoever. God has pointed out a new direction for our family (No. We aren’t leaving!) and we are trusting him with excitement as we watch it play out.

Most importantly – from my view – life seems simpler again. I’m not caught up in the “what could be’s,” and the “what I want’s.” Instead, I’m living day to day with a prayer that our lives and our path as a family aligns with God’s will and his plan, his perfect plan that includes what’s best for us, even if it’s not exactly the way we would have dreamed it on our own.

Has God used times of dead ends to reset your heart, your dreams and your purpose?

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Closures and Detours

 

 

 

It’s funny. I had a completely different post scheduled to go out tomorrow. Maybe not completely different, but, with a different direction, a different outcome, even though the theme was the same. It had a beautiful shot of the mountains, and a message that was uplifting and gratitude centered; maybe I’ll share it sometime! In either case, it clearly wasn’t what it was supposed to be after the events that followed my writing it. That image up top? It’s actually completely fitting.

It’s hard to know where to start sometimes, to figure out who knows what, and what needs to be shared, so now? Now I’m just writing what comes to mind.

In my last post, I wrote a lot about where we’ve found ourselves this year. That the (appealing!) offer to move out west wasn’t where we felt led and that the waiting continues; that is still true. Only lately, I’ve started to wonder if maybe we’re waiting wrong…if we’ve still been waiting “conditionally,” even if that’s the opposite of what we’re trying to do. Isn’t life complicated sometimes?

Let me explain.

This year, we have had more “no’s” than “yes’s!” We’ve had health issues as a family and scares that we didn’t expect (see my last Facebook post. Many of you have and left amazing message, both private and public after I shared it! Thank you!). We’ve also been blessed through each of them, we’ve had both literal and figurative “mountain tops,” but, often, they’ve been mixed in with the hard things. With confusion, with fear, with pain and with other things we wouldn’t have exactly planned for ourselves.

Through it all, we have known and still know very clearly that God is a part of this process. That nothing happens that is out of his sight, out of his plan or out of his control. With that knowledge comes a great deal of comfort and acknowledgement of blessings! So, we’ve continued to give it to him. Or, so we thought.

Today, out of the blue, after picking up items purchased during a recent shopping spree, the transmission on our car blew. I’m talking stop you in the middle of the road, what do I do now, all my kids are in the car and I’m on a conference call, blew. My first reaction was frustration (as it would be for most people!).

As I sat there slightly panicked (I was turning in the middle of an intersection), a song that John and I had just been discussing on the way back from NC this weekend, started playing – “Control” by Tenth Avenue North. In case you’re not familiar, a few of the lyrics include:

Here I am
All my intentions
All my obsessions
I want to lay them all down
In Your hands
Only Your love is vital
Though I’m not entitled
Still You call me Your child

I’ve had plans
Shattered and broken
Things I have hoped in
Fall through my hands
You have plans
To redeem and restore me
You’re behind and before me
Oh, help me believe

God You don’t need me
But somehow You want me
Oh, how You love me
Somehow that frees me
To take my hands off of my life
And the way it should go
God You don’t need me
But somehow You want me
Oh, how You love me
Somehow that frees me
To open my hands up
And give You control
I give You control

(I know I use song lyrics a lot; but, I have found that they often speak to me more than other things.)

Anyway. As the song played, two guys in a pick up happened to show up in the middle of nowhere intersection to push me off to the side. My parents, who happen to have a spare minivan that fits our family, showed up. We were able to call AAA and we’ll figure out the options later. It worked out perfectly, almost too perfectly.

Which got me thinking.

Have we been praying for closed doors in order to more clearly see the open ones? Yes. Have we been noticing the little things a little more lately, and staying grateful constantly? Absolutely. But…has there been a little more to it? Sure thing.

I think our prayers and desires have still been filled with our own hopes and our own desires for what we consider success. Things that might not align with the hearts we’re supposed to have, or, the plans that we’ve claimed to trust in that are bigger than our own. They’re still ours, even if we don’t want to all them that.

I’m not saying our own hopes and dreams are wrong, or that we aren’t supposed to find success. Maybe we are, who knows! But, when our prayers are twinged with those things, and filled with “buts,” are we really praying for hearts that are bigger than our own could ever be? I don’t think so. Are we really giving God room to work? Or still trusting in our own means of finding success? You be the judge, but, I think through all of it, I’m starting to see where I stand.

So what’s next? I have no clue. But, I am determined to truly give over control, trust and hopes until they better align with the plan that was put in place long before I was ever a thought to anyone in this world, because only then can true blessings become clear…the fact that we don’t have to have it together or have a plan can be freeing…it doesn’t need to be terrifying.

As I was rushing home in the borrowed minivan to beat my oldest’s bus to the bus stop, I came to this sign…on the road that had been open and fine a few hours before that. It came full circle and I laughed/cried/a-little-bit-of-every-emotioned. This is the road we prayed for, and while the road closed signs seem awfully frequent right now, there’s always been a detour. And sometimes, I think that’s where the blessings happen. What a beautiful picture (the hypothetical one…not the one I snapped on my phone before the car behind me started honking!).

What detours have you experienced lately? What blessings have you found through them?

 

Venturing into the Unknown: When the Answer is “Wait”

I haven’t shared a lot about what’s been going on for our family in the past few months…mostly because I wasn’t sure where to start, at least not with much clarity or direction.

The lack of direction has not necessarily improved, but, perhaps, the clarity has.

Back in January, John found out some major changes were coming at work. His team would be changing and, for the most part, moving overseas. His position would be dissolved. We didn’t have a timeline.

At first, it was okay! There were other options. We thought answers would come quickly…we thought we’d know more in a week or so (hah!). So, we committed it to prayer and waited for what we thought would fall into place quickly…only then it didn’t. We continued to pray for open and ::key:: closed, doors.

Friends, the “Waiting Place,” isn’t new to us. Just three years ago, around this time, God made it abundantly clear that we were to uproot our family and move to Asheville, NC. We grew and out lives changed dramatically. It then became clear again when it was time to come “home,” to the place he chose for us. (I’ve included links for those of you who may not have been a part of that journey, though many of you have!)

Well…back to now…possibilities that in the beginning of our new “unknown” seemed sure have become not just closed, but slammed doors.

But, one felt a little different.

A clear, open door presented itself, a dream job, if you will. A dream job across the country. A great possibility. A sure thing.

We committed it to prayer like we have all other things. We were nervous and heartbroken about potentially leaving family and friends here, yet, unspokenly, excited about the adventure, the newness we loved during our last relocation.

But (see the pattern…there are many ‘buts’ involved in this one!), it didn’t settle. That clear leading we felt during our last two moves just didn’t come. We prayed and asked others to join us. We fasted.

Through scripture, conversations and answers in the quiet, we did receive a clear answer, but, it sure wasn’t what we hoped for. It was a loud and resounding “no. trust. wait.”

Guys…this is scary. It got even more scary when the very day we received this answer, we also received another slammed door, our last potential “sure” option. This answer? The one we received? It meant (and still means) moving forward without a direction – at least not one we can see. It means trusting again in a plan that’s so much greater than ours.

Today in church, we felt even more clarity as we sang the words:

“We won’t move without you.
We won’t move without you.
You’re the light of all and all that we need.”

And our pastor shared thoughts like:

“If I really follow God, what will that mean for…family, career, etc?”

And:

“Do not fear. The moments of our greatest needs and fears and weaknesses, God shows himself great.”

It spoke to us.

We don’t know what’s ahead right now. When we end that thought right there, it’s a little terrifying.

But there’s more to this story. Somehow, inside, we feel a great sense of peace.

I talk a lot about how we are to trust a plan greater than ours. Right now, we’re being forced to live it out. In some miraculous way though, we feel comfort in this. A real “peace that passes understanding.”

The future? It’s in a state of complete unknown, which I guess it always is for everyone, right? We don’t know what the next hour will bring, let alone the next month or year. But, we are committed to praying it through and walking forward with confidence; the one who made the stars is telling us to wait. To stay. To trust.

So…here we are. And somehow…that feels right. There’s nothing better we could be doing.

Are you being asked to “wait?” Can you find comfort in that?

 

Grateful for My People

Have you ever sat back and just reviewed the things happening in your life and around you, and thought, “Wow. This is wild.”

I have had a lot of those moments lately. The most recent one (and not the first time it’s happened) was this morning.

Let me back up. I’m not a people person. To those who know me well, this is a surprise. But, as every personality test in the history of personality tests has indicated, along with what I know to be true, I’m an introvert. Once I get to know someone my walls come down and I feel comfortable enough to just be. But, until then, I feel awkward and never quite know what to say. I worry that the words I did say came across wrong or I find something else to dwell on. In this, I know I’m far from alone, though I’m pretty sure not enough people talk about it.

ANYWAY.

God has used this trait to show me his goodness, especially lately. Through our family’s moves and various experiences – from corporate careers to freelance lifestyles to wherever I’m at right now that’s a little bit of both, some really amazing people have come into our lives. The best part? Many of them have stuck.

I’m surrounded by people who give me the opportunity to experience things in life that I never would before. To laugh with. To tell stories with. To run to when I am not even sure how to sort out whatever situation I’ve found myself in. To work on big projects with that are so every exciting. To grieve with over life situations that don’t make sense on this side of heaven. To get counsel that I can trust. To live with. To experience with. To grow.

We aren’t meant to be alone.

As much as I’d tell you that I’d rather spend my time with my face in a book sitting on a porch swing or hiding in a remote coffee shop, I’m not sure how true that is any more. Do I need alone time to recharge? Absolutely. Would I rather hang out with a few good friends than run out to a big event the next town over or to a (cringe) “networking” event? Absolutely.

But, this morning, as I reflected, I got to thinking that the people that I’ve (not so randomly) crossed paths with have shown me that there’s more joy when we’re in it together. I feel filled to the brim with blessings right now, and most of those focus on the people I get to do life with. Those who I am stuck sending desperate “I MISS YOU when can we get together” texts to, who understand when life happens and I completely forget that we’re double booked, to those I embark on new business opportunities with and those who can drop in from somewhere within walking distance to catch up over tea. Even those who have become long-distance friends whose Facebook photos make me smile and reminisce.

I’m blessed beyond measure. I’m bettered by those who have been placed in my path and I’m grateful for each of you. Carry on 🙂

Unashamed Love: A View Shift

By the standards of this world, and to be honest, our own expectations, 2018 hasn’t been off to what would generally be a “great” start in the Pyne household.

I don’t need to go into details; this isn’t that kind of post. But, suffice it to say there have been more questions than answers, more “sickness” than “health,” and a few unexpected situations that weren’t quite a part of our plan for the new year. I know I’m not alone, in fact, I know every person reading this has faced their own similar seasons; it’s a part of life.

It’s easy to get dragged into them though, isn’t it? Easy to feel like you’re spiraling into a place that you’d rather not be, easy to focus on the “what could have been’s” than the “here and now’s.” It’s easy to miss the bigger picture, the picture that is always good, even when it feels otherwise.

I’ll back up for a second.

I’ve shared a lot about our journey because I think many people can relate. As such, many of you know that we’ve faced uncertainties in work, in where we’d be living (mostly based on that work) and in other areas before. In fact, just last year, not so far from this time, we were relocating our family from Asheville, NC up to PA.

I remember one Sunday, the Sunday before we’d be leaving, we sang the song “Unashamed Love” by Travis Cottrell. The words meant a lot to me, and that night, I sat in our bedroom, and packed away our things, playing it on repeat. Basking in the truths of the words, I felt at peace for the first time in a long time. We were following the plan that had been laid out for us, even though it included a little more heartbreak than we expected.

We moved, life moved on and we continued moving forward! We experienced new adventures, joys and great things.

Funny though, a few weeks ago, the same song played on the radio again, right at a time when life started to feel a little uncertain again (I don’t think things like this are a coincidence). I added it to my playlist, and this morning, it played again. I felt the same peace that I did last year around this time and started reflecting on it…I’ve included the video below for those unfamiliar with the song; I’d encourage you to check it out if you have a chance!

Anyway, all of that background information is to say this: things in this world will always be uncertain. We aren’t supposed to know it all; as a super-planner, this is something that’s hard for me to wrap my head around. I like my ducks in neat little rows that I have control over. I like to know the long and short term implications of decisions and to understand what’s happening tomorrow, next week, next year and ten years from now.

But that’s not what’s meant to be.

Instead, we are called to lay aside the worries of our own hearts, the fear that comes from the unknowns and the need to plan it all out. We are called to bask in the greatness of a father’s love that we can not even begin to comprehend, and to move forward in peace, even when everything around us is screaming out for less-than-peaceful notice. We’re called to love unashamedly, to trust in a plan that truthfully has nothing to do with our own and to find confidence in the fact that we aren’t meant to have control over the things of this world.

We have a hiding space. We have a refuge, a fortress, a strength that’s not ours. When our perspective shifts in that direction and we start actually believing it, great things happen – even if we don’t see them. What truths can you bask in today?

 

When Blessings Become Focus-Central

If you’ve spent any time around me, AT ALL, you know I’m a planner.

When I say that…it’s more than a word. I remember being so excited for syllabus week during each college semester. I’d come home with my new semester plans for each class, hand write them in my big giant planner and schedule library time to start serious research sessions for each paper (I was a writing major) that was due over the following weeks. At home? I can’t do clutter…my mind can’t keep up. I spend a solid chunk of every day making sure there are no piles of “stuff,” that the crumbs are off the floor – there are a LOT of crumbs! ha – and that family events, from meals to events and vacations are organized and written in the calendar. Planning is an integral piece of who I am, organization and order often rank top and center.

In recent years, especially since kids, this has started to change. I think our God has a sense of humor, and that it manifests in the fact that I have four kids fairly close in age. Sometimes, chaos reigns supreme and we’re forced to just go with the flow. I’ve learned to accept it, even seeing it as a welcome break from my standard plan-controlled life.

But in other areas, I’m not so easy going.

Over the past year, Johns and my professional lives have been busy, to say the least. From his international travels, crazy work hours and pursuit of an MBA, it’s been interesting, to say the least. But then, things started changing for me as well. A regular opportunity became more of a full time opportunity. I’ve begun work on my own book. I’m taking part in another writing project that I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of. I have a little passion project that I get to be a part of.

Through all of it, I’ve tried to keep part of my focus on anticipating my kids’ needs, spending one-on-one time with them, building it up and ensuring they get to chase the dreams that they’re starting to develop on their own – which is amazing to watch, by the way!

When life feels “crazy,” it’s easy for me to snap. I think a lot of you can probably relate. While it’s my goal to stay level headed and to keep a sense of order in our home, when I feel like things are “out of control,” I start to spin. I become short tempered. I feel like the water is moving in and it’s a downward spiral from there.

I think, though, that through this season in life, that there’s a specific lesson that I’m supposed to be learning. Once I caught wind of it, things started to change in big ways.

It’s no secret that ever since our move to NC, and the following move back to PA, complete with added children and many unknowns, God has been working in our lives. He’s been working on opening our eyes and making sure that we are open to following his plan…even if it feels “crazy” on this end.

See…these opportunities that I’ve been presented with, they all center on something I LOVE to do, something God has blessed me with: writing…creating. Even better, these opportunities are with good people, people I truly love spending time with, learning from, creating with and growing with. I find that instead of feeling bogged down or tired after a trip for work or a day filled with more work hours than planning, I feel invigorated, I feel proud and I feel ready to keep pushing through.

Maybe this is standard for some of you. But, for me, as a planner who likes anticipating what’s around the corner and maintaining a sense of “peace,” this is new to me.

I think for me, it has a lot to do with this ongoing initiative to look for and appreciate blessings. I think we, as a culture, are trained from a young age to find stress in what surrounds us. We inherently look for and focus on the negative, not because we’re negative people, but because that’s what we are trained to do. After busy workdays on television shows, most of the characters meet at a bar, or pop open a beer with the need to put there feet up and unwind themselves from a day that has wound them tighter than they think they should go.

Are there days, situations and ongoing life events, losses, illnesses and dire situations that warrant this kind of unwinding? Absolutely; I want to be clear that I’m in NO way undercutting this. I don’t think, however, that that’s supposed to be our norm, or that those are the situations that tend to consume most of our thoughts. I don’t think we’re supposed to live in that space.

I think that, when we can focus on what and who we’re designed to be, and the gifts, abilities and other positives that stem from that, and when we purposefully remain open to whatever lies ahead and thankful for all of it, that those “stresses” can instead be re-framed as blessings, things to be grateful for.

I don’t know what that looks like for you. For me, it means that when the whirlwind inside seems to start picking up speed, I stop, I shut my eyes and I  remind myself that I’m surrounded by things I’m passionate about: my family, work that I get to love, beauty outside, the ability to remain active and more. I also remind myself that it’s okay to break the bigger picture down into smaller chunks, and to work slowly toward end goals, that I don’t need to have it all wrapped up tomorrow.

This life is a journey. One filled with highs, lows and lots of in-betweens. But, I think that when we focus on the stress, on the harder parts, that they become our focus. I think we’re made for more than that.

 

Embracing a Not-So-New Decade

For those who don’t know me well…I have something to share. Probably something many others can relate to.

I fought turning 30, and leaving my 20’s behind like nothing else.

Maybe it has something to do with wanting to hang on to the sense of freedom I thought I felt during that glorious decade that included college, starting a new life and having fun. Maybe it’s something else. But, regardless of what it is…I’ve been celebrating the “anniversary” of my 29th birthday for longer than I’d like to admit.

But the other day, after talking with a friend and just putting some thought into where life is right now, I realized something: the 30’s…they’re great!

It all started when I decided that I’d rather be comfortable in what I was wearing than worry about whether something was on trend. I opted for bright patterned leggings with a knotted t-shirt dress and sweater. To top it off? i decided to keep slippers on in the house for the day. Don’t worry…I’m not eliminating all other clothing for yoga pants; but, if I wanted to…why not?

I then put a little more thought and contemplation into it…and realized something really great: for the first time in my life, I’m starting to be able to think about my own passions, what I enjoy and what I want to put my time into…instead of focusing on everyone around me and worrying about how every step I made would be perceived by those around me.

Things I’ve realized:

  • Yes. I love the beach. The ocean will forever call me. But…I enjoy a quiet mountain escape in a cottage with no internet connection just as much.
  • It’s okay to wander.
  • I can read 3000000 historical fiction novels and fall behind on current news topics; it’s okay!
  • I don’t care about whether my yoga poses are Instagram worthy; I enjoy the practice for myself.
  • If my kids show up at school in sweatpants, that’s okay. Certain things just aren’t worth the battle.
  • I can enjoy what I do for a living without worrying about the rat race out there. There’s something to be said about that.
  • I don’t have to feel guilty about needing a little time to myself. It’s not selfish, it’s restorative.
  • My Christmas tree is still up and we’re nearing mid-January. I think it’s a time to continue the celebration, not pack it away…I’m not on anyone else’s deadline.
  • I’d rather spend money on travel and experiences than “stuff,” and want to share that passion with my family. Memories are more important than ever.

Most importantly, perhaps…I’ve realized that it’s okay to just live. To follow what I believe, to pursue things as they come and to slow down, breathe and take it all in.

A few years ago, as I sobbed over leaving my 20th decade, I wish I could have felt this feeling. It feels like me…and it’s wonderful.

If you’re nearing a big change, a new decade, a new pace of life…don’t fight it. You might just love what’s around the corner!