365 Days Later…the Verdict is In

For the first time this summer, I found an hour to take a quiet swim. It’s a blessing that my condo complex has a pool—and on top of that, the pool is long enough that I can do miniature laps.  My swim started off gloriously…the sun was shining and I was at peace. But about 10 seconds into my swim, I realized there was a problem. One end of the pool is shaped in a semi-circle; adorned with about 20 high-powered jets. I think the builder was trying to create the illusion of a hot tub without actually separating it from the pool or changing the water temperature. So here is the problem with that—when 112 pounds of me swam toward that end of the pool, the water pressure from the jets was too strong. I found myself having to work VERY HARD to push past the current in order to make it to my destination (i.e. the end of the pool). For the first lap, I thought to myself “oh this is interesting” and just fought my way through it with all of the strength I had. But by lap 10, I was tired of working so hard at that end of the pool, so I decided to succumb to the power of the current. I took my eyes off the destination, stopped moving…and for a split second, I was at peace. It felt amazing to let go. But what happened next is that I never made it to the end of the pool. Instead, I was thrust to the side of the pool and crashed very hard into the wall.

I got back on course and managed to pull out about 100 full laps with no further disaster. But as I swam, I began reflecting on the last year of my life; realizing that it was just about one year ago that I left my life in Seattle behind and moved to Washington D.C. Suddenly questions echoed in my mind—questions many have been asking me, such as “how is your new life?” and “was it worth it?” Well…this last year has been the most unbelievable year of my life.  I chose the word “unbelievable” deliberately—it has been both unbelievably difficult and unbelievably life-giving.

Rough Water

My new life definitely threw me some curve balls—a difficult transition (see my other blog entries :-)) missing my friends and life in Seattle, the sadness of starting a new life alone, and so on. Also, on many occasions I attempted to go my own way—out of selfishness, laziness or exhaustion. Whether that came in the form of abandoning my spiritual disciplines, neglecting friendships, breaking my vow to embrace work-life balance or other unmentionables, that always meant I made some poor choices that provided relief and satisfaction (for about a nanosecond) until I found myself crashing into the wall (i.e. suffering the consequences). But ultimately, God was always faithful when I turned to Him for help (even though “help” didn’t always look the way I had envisioned, but rather what was best for me). One of my favorite stories of God’s faithfulness was immediately following a prayer in an airport where I begged Him to rescue me from something I was going through. A few minutes later, a man sat down next to me on the airplane who “just happened” to have recently left MS because of a calling too, “just happened” to share a story that was precisely what I needed to hear and “just happened” to reach over and pray for me with the sweetest prayer I ever received in my life. (side note: if you are reading this and thinking “boy I wish God showed up so clearly in my life”, the most loving response I can give you is to slow down and open your eyes, dear one. :-))

Smooth Sailing

On the flip side, some things turned out better than I imagined.  The move to D.C. has provided the opportunity to see my nephews and the rest of my east coast family more often. God blessed me with a place to live that was more beautiful than I thought would be possible. And I’ve met some incredible people that have inspired me. This includes a Christian doctor who is helping me heal physically while challenging me emotionally and spiritually. Others include new role models in the workplace—in the form of amazing women of God—that have helped me throw all of my misconceptions about Godly women in leadership (ex. that you can’t be feminine, strong, nurturing, effective and respected at the same time) out the window. And I’ve met incredible men who have shown me (through how they faithfully serve at work and love their families) what I should be holding out for in my (possibly) future husband. I had the opportunity to go on a wild adventure in an RV during the month of July as part of an IJM awareness campaign. And let me just say something about IJM—it is the most incredible place I could ever dream of working—I still can’t believe a place like this exists on earth, and thank God every day for leading me there. It is a true privilege to serve along such talented, courageous, disciplined and faithful people who are wholeheartedly committed to recuing innocent people from dark, evil places.  

Sweet Lessons

But as I reflect on this last year, I’m most joyful about the things that I learned. At the more superficial level…I can honestly say living on significantly less hasn’t changed my level of happiness at all—I never find myself craving things of material value that I can no longer afford (and I try to always remind myself that I still am blessed with more than most in this world). If anything, I’m sad about how irresponsible I was with my money in the past; as I definitely took my eyes off what was important at times. I’ve also (though admittedly I’ve kicked and screamed the entire way) learned the painful but good lesson that every second I spend focused on what I don’t have (ex. someone to come home to), I’m missing out on opportunities to embrace what God might have for me in my singleness. I’ve discovered the benefits of starting my day off with a deliberate request for wisdom from above (James 3:17). And at work, I’ve recently realized that if I can actually let go of some things I held so closely in previous leadership roles (striving to demonstrate my value, the need to mask weakness/vulnerability, believing I could do it all myself, neglecting prayer in my decision-making), every second I spend in leadership for the rest of my life will bear more fruit (Galatians 5:22-23).  I’m also quickly learning that doing God’s work isn’t always easy or safe—quite frequently, it is the opposite—but it does bring immense joy to the “doer” and the “receiver” (Joshua 1:9).  I’m learning to recount every reason to be thankful each day as there are many in any circumstance. And most importantly, I’m just starting to understand this complex feeling and Christian duty called love—and that there are opportunities every second of the day to neglect it or give it. The irony is that (as pointed out recently by a good friend) when I actually stop focusing on me, I experience more joy.

The Verdict

It turns out that experience in the pool provides a nice metaphor for life. There are beautiful moments where you can swim along with ease. But there are also moments where the water gets rough and you have a choice to make. But it turns out that you don’t only have two choices—to give up because it is too hard or muster the strength to push through. There is a third—to keep your eyes fixed on Him, let go of any misconceptions that you have to do it all alone and of your own strength, ask for His strength…and swim in the current of Christ. I haven’t mastered this concept yet, but I am joyfully pursing what living life in that way looks like.

So the verdict is in—it’s been the best year of my life. Not because it has been easy (it hasn’t). Not because callings always guarantee happiness (they don’t). Not because my life is perfect (it isn’t). But rather, because I’m finally allowing myself to really experience His very present love—where before I thought of it as present but impalpable. Because He has given me a thirst to be more holy. And because He has set my heart on fire with a desire to love like He does. I don’t know exactly what that means for my future, but I do know it’s going to be an extraordinary and life-giving ride.

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~ by amylucia on September 11, 2010.

3 Responses to “365 Days Later…the Verdict is In”

  1. Amy, you are such a wonderful writer. You would make a great speaker one day as you have so many life lessons that are flowing through your fingers as you type wisdom and encouragement to the rest of us. I laugh as I read your writings as I can relate so much to following God’s calling even though I don’t want to. I don’t want to live in NJ and I don’t want to work with the homeless anymore – over 8 years now, and I really really really don’t want to fund-raise for 75% of our income, but…. God has called us to do it, and actually in the end…. it is wonderful in ways that the human mind can barely comprehend. Yes indeed callings do not guarantee happiness but they do bring unspeakable, deep abiding joy in the midst of the challenges that makes you know that it will all be alright. He’s got our (yours and my) back. So very proud of you. Love you tons, your cuz, t:)

  2. Amy, you’re awesome! Ah, how I loved reading your verdict! Thank you for sharing that. I can definitely agree with you about life getting more exciting and joyful the more that I back off from myself, and seek God more. The past year has been, for the same sort of reason, the best year I have had yet. God is Great! Keep your eyes on Him indeed Amy. It’s a pleasure knowing you!

    David

  3. “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord…Many, Oh Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” Psalm 40. Looks like you’ve made a beautiful attempt to declare his wonders for you and I smile at the beauty. Love you Ames.

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