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?

 

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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!

Grace that Falls Like Rain: Starting Year Ten

When people ask how John and I met, when we started dating, or more about our “story,” they’re often shocked. We’ve known each other forever. We started dating in high school. John proposed while he was still 19. We got married in college. Started our family right away.

We get mixed reactions, ranging from “aww” to very uncertain “wow’s!” The truth is…the way we did things doesn’t necessarily reflect today’s normal. And for us…that’s okay. We’ve struggled and we’ve celebrated. We’ve grown up together and have learned how to face this life together.

Today, as we celebrate nine years married, and get started on living year ten, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting.

For our wedding celebration, way back when, we had a slideshow made to the song “A Page is Turned,” by Bebo Norman. It’s a sweet song, perfect for a wedding slideshow…which is why we picked it. But, today, one of the verses of that song means so very much more to us; in fact, it brings us to tears whenever we hear it:

“A page is turned in this life, he’s making her his wife,
And there is no secret to the source of this much life.
When the grace that falls like rain, is washing them again,
Just a chance to somehow, rise above this land.

Where the God of second chance
Will pick them up and He’ll let them dance
Through a world that is not kind
And all this time, they’re sharing with the one
That holds them up when they come undone
Beneath the storm, beneath the sun
And once again, here you stand
And once again, here you stand
Your day has come”

We thought back then that we knew what this song meant. That we were made for each other. We were THRILLED to jump into everything married life had to offer and we did just that.

But then…like many married couples, real life hit. We experienced lay-offs. Health concerns. Complicated pregnancies. Long commutes. The loss of loved ones. Cross country moves. Life got real. It got hard.

But, there was also a lot of joy. In our nine years, we’ve gotten to welcome four amazing new lives into this world…lives that we created together. We’ve traveled and seen many parts of this crazy world. We’ve made lifelong friends with whom we’ve celebrated great victories and mourned absolutely heartbreaking losses. We’ve watched pieces of complicated puzzles come together in ways that were better than we could have ever dreamed.

Most importantly, we learned to trust. We learned how true the words of the song above really are. We learned to follow and to embrace grace that truly falls like rain.

In our early stages, we were both Christian. We believed in our savior and used our mouths to claim we were ready to follow his leading for our lives. But, our understanding, our beliefs, were shallow. They failed to reach what mattered most…our hearts.

But somewhere along the line – I think mostly because of the hard parts – we learned to follow. We gave up control and learned about what faith and reliance really are. Most importantly, we found out that our efforts, desires and plans would fall short every time if they were not inspired and directed by our Savior.

To some, this probably sounds hard to swallow. Who wants to learn through hardship? But, I don’t want to focus too much on that. You see…when we learned to rely upon God’s plan for our lives…the struggle and the conflict that we faced so often early on actually lessened. We found a joy greater than anything we could have worked for, accomplished or achieved on our own. We felt the power of saving grace and are still brought to tears when we think about what that has meant to us, on a personal level.

We are grateful. We are changed.

As we look forward to the next year and beyond, there’s a sense of lightness that comes with just following and looking forward to the surprises that might be in store, instead of dwelling on what we “need” to accomplish, work for or push toward.

It might be hard. It might be easy. It will probably be both. But no matter what, I’m grateful for the foundation we have that’s so much more than we could have imagined; and I can’t wait to face it with the one that was created for me.

Happy nine years, John!

Using True Gifts

Christmas is a magical time. Enjoying the peace and promises of the season, time with loved ones and reflection is truly amazing, isn’t it?

As the season begins to wind down and we start to look ahead to the new year, I’ve been focusing on taking it all in and making the most of this season.

If your house looks like mine, it’s probably a little fuller than normal. Between Santa, grandparents, friends and other exciting events, we have toys, clothes and other gifts scattered everywhere. In a way, it’s fun. I love watching my kids remember a present, break into it, have a blast, then move onto another. The process keeps repeating itself. They’re having fun and spending a little less time in front of the television (unfortunately…no less time arguing 😉 ).

I’ve been thinking about how it all applies to my life. How can we make the spirit of Advent last a little longer? I think it does start with gifts…but not the gifts found under the tree.

I don’t know if any of you watch Nashville. I’m a guilty watcher. I’ve always been drawn to music and certain songs have always stood out to me. One of them is from the show’s soundtrack…it’s called “It Aint Yours to Give Away.” Maybe you’ve heard it…maybe you haven’t.

The following are a part of the lyrics to the song:

What if you’re just a vessel
And God gave you something special
It ain’t yours to throw away
It ain’t yours to throw away

As I drank a cup of coffee the other day, watching the tree and bundling up against the freezing temperatures outside, this song came to mind.

We may not all be gifted with money, extraordinary musical abilities like the actress in this show or anything that feels super exciting, but, we’re all gifted just the same. None of us is alike, none of us has the exact passions or drives as others.

It became a convicting thought for me. One of the gifts that I’ve often taken for granted as something I just enjoy, is writing. I’ve loved putting my thoughts to paper forever; in fact, it’s often the easiest way for me to communicate or make a point. Ask me to speak in front of 100 people and the results may be less than applaud-worthy. Ask me to sing, dance or perform an amazing task, I’ll fall short (though I’d have fun trying). Numbers? Science? Forget it. Writing, however, is my happy place.

As such, as the year gets underway, I’ve decided to create an Advent devotional for next year. I get to keep the season going while using something that I feel I was given as a gift. Maybe it’ll just be a fun project, but, maybe it will be more. Right now, I’m following in what I feel led to pursue.

More than just me; I believe we’re all provided with little gifts. Maybe you know sure as day what yours is. Maybe you’re less certain. But, I’d encourage you to think about what you enjoy, where you find your heart and your head when you’re not focused on everyday tasks, what you long for, to acknowledge it as a gift and to pray about how God is leading you to pursue it as this advent season comes to a close. Let’s keep the season going, even when the world says it’s time to move on!

When Thoughts are Jumbled and Words Aren’t Enough

 

 

I woke up this morning thinking about how the day was going to go, getting my ducks in a row and thinking about the to-do list I keep in my head.

Then I opened the news (something I do every morning), and was stunned. Last night, while many of us slept, tragedy unfolded on the west coast. I’m sure you’ve seen the details, and I’m sure you sat in shock as you read or watched first hand accounts from those who’s lives were interrupted by complete and utter chaos and terror.

My hearts go out to those who saw the unimaginable, those who lost loved ones and those who must begin the long journey to recovery. Like most of us, I just can’t wrap my head around this and other acts that seem to dominate the news cycle in recent years.

This year we’ve seen tragedy at home and abroad, we’ve watched natural disasters unfold in real time, we’ve searched for ways to reach out, to connect with those we’ve lost touch with and to provide tangible assistance where it’s needed most.

I’d encourage everyone to continue in these efforts. Small acts of kindness, prayers, “reaching out,”…they all make a difference.

We won’t have answers, we won’t be able to understand the “why,” and that’s hard, especially when we value control. But, if you’re looking for something extra, something to hold on to as you start your day, as you try to find ways to help and as you think about the world your kids are venturing into, I wanted to share scripture that I am holding onto, that I found during devotions this morning.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” 1 John 14:27.

As I read this, I realized it really is the whole picture. It’s easy to resort to fear, maybe to anger, when it feels hard to find something to ground ourselves to. But, we’re called to find peace, peace that can only come from one place. We aren’t to live lives of fear.

I think all of us could use a little of this, especially on days like today, how about you? Look for ways to be a light, to reach those who need it most, and move forward in real peace that’s promised. This world? It will be filled with trouble, with tragedy and with hurt – we see it every day, but peace is promised.

Praying for those in Las Vegas. Praying for peace.