You can read Chapter 1 here.
This is a (sort of) brief account of the year following "the big No". It was an intensely spiritual experience for me, where I wrestled with God, and my ideas of God, for a good year. Just FYI of what's ahead.
After "the big No" I went in to a funk. I was putting up a reasonable front, but I was mad at Lucas, mad at my in-laws, mad at the friends who gave us this idea in the first place, and (what I hoped was secretly) mad at God.
I just felt like it was unfair, and I was at a loss as to what the next step was. While we tried our best to "keep living" during the wait time, it's hard because you are moving towards a goal, and you don't want to start long term things that you won't finish. So I felt stumped.
We moved to a townhome, helped Lucas' parents, went to church, got together with friends, worked, kept moving... but I was so mad. There was this underlying frustration in me all the time.
There is a verse that has struck me since my early teens... it says "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4.24) I know there are more profound and theological explanations than the one that sticks to me, but I remember since an early age, having the word truth jump at me. And the thought that if God knows my spirit, my thoughts, my deepest secrets, there is no reason to come to Him with anything but the truth. And that is how I have always prayed. In my private times with Him, I am usually brutally truthful (yes, I tend to filter it in public... just keeping it real here), and even though I was mad, I kept the conversation going.
I prayed. I cried. I ranted. I begged. I can honestly say that someone listening in on that year of prayer would not have thought me the most spiritual of persons. I openly spoke of my feelings, my insecurities, my sadness... and openly asked God to please, please, please help me stop wanting this.
Because even though I knew that "this might never happen", I still wanted it so much. I wanted it for myself, for us as a couple, for the children we didn't even consider having yet. I wanted.
And I poured out my heart.
There were many songs, many conversations, many bible reading moments, many friends that ever so slowly, every day, helped me get less mad. Helped me learn to love a little better. And helped me slowly (think turtle through peanut butter slow) let go of grip I had on this dream.
Two moments were pivotal for me.
The first was at home. We had an office on the second floor of our house, and I was listening to "The Story of your Life" message in the Your Move series by Andy Stanley, (which we later watched together) and he talked about a simple question: "What story do you want to tell?" Everyone will tell a story. The years go by. Whether you do it intentionally or not, life is happening, and you will have a story to tell. In a month, in a year, in a decade, in a lifetime. What story do you want to tell?
We talked extensively about this... and reached the conclusion that we wanted to tell the story of love. We wanted to, to the best of our abilities, aid Lucas' parents in this moment of their life. We wanted to support them however we could. And after turning this around, and examining it from every angle, talking to every person we could reach for for advice, we concluded that we would build a house, with an apartment for them, and do life together.
That was BIG. Cause it case you missed it, that is a huge emotional, financial and space commitment. But we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. That is a whole other story.
But even through that I was still struggling. I'd come a long way, but I still couldn't let go of the deeply rooted belief that I had somehow received a promise, a desire, a vision, whatever you want to call it from God. I didn't know how to put my finger on it exactly, because there was never a moment of "You will therefore move abroad" in a booming voice or anything as cinematographic as that. It was just something that felt ingrained, it felt like part of my makeup, part of who I had always been. And I couldn't get past the nagging feeling that this was a promise. And it was broken. I felt bad because as a good christian girl I had learned that you don't question this kind of stuff, God does NOT break his promises, and if you think that, then you had understood wrong in the first place.
And that brought me back to begging, honest, prayers to find a way to stop this want. But I couldn't. Life got easier, making long term plans (like a huge house), planning for kids, etc got easier. But the want? It was still very much there.
At that time I was attending an english service community that was part of a large church in our city, and one morning, instead of preaching himself, our pastor played a sermon by Judah Smith, called Partially Fulfilled Promises, which he preached shortly after his father's sudden death. These 40 min brought me to my figurative knees, and literal tears. He talked about promises, real promises, and not seeing them happen, and then he talked about Hebrews 11:13, which says "These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth." He says "maybe I'm crazy, maybe I shouldn't ask these questions", "what do you do when God's promise drops dead in your lap". Now, I know that my pain was nothing compared to his, but he's talking about promises, not pain, and that's what got to me. About how not seeing a promise fulfilled does not make God less God, or His promise less of a promise.
Anyway, he finished with the thought that the promises aren't so much about the promise, but about the one who makes it. That the promises are pointing to Him.
And that... that shifted me. That shifted my prayers, my worship, my day to day actions. That made me realize that I had been so focused on this, and for so long, that I missed the point. This was not about me, it was about Him.
And this sounds crazy in my head, it sounds crazy when I tell it, and it sounds crazy to type, but in an instant, I let go. At the end of the sermon, we all finished the service with a prayer, as usual, and I remember tears running down my eyes, and my exact prayer. I said: "God... I give up. I give up trying to do this, and I give it to you. Even if this means I will never leave, and that my kids will, and I will visit them. So be it. I'm ok with that. This is all yours."
I can count on one hand the "come to Jesus" moments I've had in my life, but this was one of them. And it changed everything.
(Chapter 3 coming soon. Chapter 1 here)