Like Waiting for a Slow Pitch and Getting Supersoaked

Coming into this season looked more like a dive than a step.

Oh and by dive I mean cannonball. Maybe even a belly flop. Either way, I closed my eyes and hurled myself into the deep ocean of unknown.

James Vaughan

In our adolescent summers, my brother and I lived at the pool. First thing each morning, we put on our suits and rode our bikes to the Afton Village Swim Club.

We swam and swam, begrudgingly getting out for those dreadful ten minutes of adult swim. The only thing that could redeem that awful land prison: ice pops for a quarter. And it meant I could flirt with the lifeguards without feeling guilty about distracting them from their jobs. But mostly the ice pops.

At lunchtime, we went home to cook up Asian-inspired cuisine of Ramen noodles, then raced back to the pool, staying until after dark. We walked home with wobbly sea legs, limp from all that paddling and diving and splashing. The street lights wore shiny halos on those summer nights due to the copious amount of chlorine in my eyes.

We played a lot of games during the long pool days of summer. One in particular always stands out to me. 

One person jumps from the diving board while the other throws the ball, a foam NERF ball—it was the nineties. The point is to catch the ball mid-air and be awesome.

Whenever my turn on the diving board arrived, my brother always happened to get exhausted, and would rest at a conveniently placed float on the northeast end of the pool.

Ready, set, ju—and along came Chris floating by, “asleep” on his float.

“Faker!!!” I screamed with heels raised and toes pressed into the board as if to project my voice and further prove my allegations.

“FAKER!” I screamed louder. “Fak—” a piercing stream of water shot me in the face.

A cackle from below proved my brother had, in fact, not been sleeping on that float, but hiding a water gun until he got just the right angle to shoot me.

Vulnerable and exposed, no weapon, no shield, he got me.

I thought I did what I supposed to. Thought I was playing the game, and boom. H2Oed in the face. In front of the cute lifeguard, no less.

Recently, I crawled up on that diving board again, only this one is less real and more metaphorical.

I thought I’d been playing the game by the rules, doing the right thing—what was expected. I took risks, but by faith. One step in front of the other. I would get to the edge, take a deep breath, jump in the air, catch the ball thrown at me, and land safely into a pool of applause and fulfilled dreams and promised land, right?

Turns out, I got to the edge of the board, took a deep breath, took another deep breath, started to take the plunge, and instead of catching the soft, cushy NERF ball, I got plastered in the face by a Supersoaker and landed in a pool of unmet expectations.

Diver2

How many times do we expect because we have done all the right things, God will toss us a nice slow pitch, and instead it feels like he fakes us out with a shot in the face?

But God is not faking.

God, in the best way (that also happens to be painful, ugly, and messy), is reminding me of my desperate need for him.

At some point, I got to thinking I had a pretty good thing going.

That’s not to say I’m perfect. But I thought I heard the voice of God, thought I followed his lead. I thought I loved well, served well, prophesied and preached well. So where is my slow pitch and pool of promised land?

I’ve realized I don’t think he ever actually promised me a soft, cushy NERF ball. But he did promise he would be there. And if I would just climb the ladder, walk down the board, and jump, he would help me swim. And that’s what risk and trust is anyway.

It’s ditching entitlement and carrying gratitude.

Sometimes it’s splashing in the baby pool, getting familiar with the water. Other times it’s getting thrown right into the deep end, in the middle of it all. No matter, I believe he is not wasting our time or withholding promises. He is not tricking us into believing he is one thing when he’s another—we’re usually the ones pretending to be something we’re not.

He is father, redeemer, hope-fulfiller. He is kingdom creator and heart-seeker.

My head is barely above water most days, but I haven’t drowned yet. And I don’t expect I will, if I keep my eyes open to what he’s doing in the now, instead of complaining about what hasn’t turned out like I expected.

I haven’t drowned yet, and I don’t think you will either.

One day, our faith will be sight.

 

 

(photo credit: James Vaughn)

Advertisements

Saving the Last for Last

Before Jennifer Lawrence became the girl on fire, I read the Hunger Games series. And I reread the books just before the release of the first movie.

Around the same time the Hunger Games film came out, a friend lent me a book. “If you loved the Hunger Games, you will love Divergent,” she assured me.

Another young adult novel about teenagers holding the fate of a postmodern dystopia in their hands? Oh you mean a poor man’s Hunger Games, right? Got it. 

Everything in me wanted to skip ahead and get to the meat. Forget all the preliminary mumbo jumbo and setting the scene stuff,  I wanted to feel the emotions, and know the end of the story. I wanted to know the characters in the new book the way I knew Katniss and Peeta.

Recently, I moved to a new city and started a new job. I am slowly trying to create a life here.

Scratch that.

I am not slowly trying to create a life here. I am in all-out, super-speed, lightning mode to create some kind of life here in Austin.

I got a job, joined a small group, volunteered with an organization, found roommates, and located the nearest Trader Joe’s ASAP.

When I came to Austin, I had a handful of friends already living here. Since being in the city, I have made quite a bit of acquaintances, and find my schedule quickly fills with shows and groups and coffee dates and dinners.

But I am still lonely.

For awhile, I couldn’t figure it out. I have plans every night of the week, when did I have time to feel lonely? Between work and church and CASA and pure-Austin living (read: live music, coffee shops, food vendors, and the outdoors), I don’t even get enough sleep.

I began to doubt my decision. Because surely if it were God’s will it would feel better and not so lonely. At least back there I had my people. At least back there people really knew me.

And I realized I am judging this season’s beginning off another season’s end.

Like starting a new book, I didn’t care about character development or plot lines because it wan’t the Hunger Games and these aren’t my people and they haven’t had my experience. I wanted to feel at Divergent‘s beginning the way I felt at Hunger Game’s end. And it just seemed like too much effort to get through all of that again.

“I just wish I could speed this whole process along,” I lamented to a friend. “I just want to be known the way you know me.”

I want to pick up the remote of life and fast-forward to the good parts, just skip ahead a few chapters.

The community I had in Georgia was a rare, beautiful, messy, hard-fought gift. When I really think back on it, all that mess we went through together created the camaraderie we shared. We didn’t go from shaking hands to sobbing on the couch together in an instant. Life happened in between. Real, raw, messy life.

The moments when it all fell apart were the moments I had people come alongside me, and believe with and for me, and when the time came, we celebrated the heck out of each other. In feast and famine, we loved each other the best we knew how—but it was the famine that made the feast taste so good.

Some of the great friendships of history—Woody and Buzz, Milo and Otis, Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins—birthed out of a journey trekked together. Upon meeting, they shared no instant bond,  some of them even disliked each other.

To wish away the time is to skip over the cultivation process—the gestation of new life, the fermentation of good wine. I want to surrender to the process and live fully in the in-between. I don’t want to skip ahead to the end, I want to save the last for last. And live the best today and everyday.

There is something about experiencing life together, the good and the bad, that brings us closer. If you ask me, it’s vulnerability.

“A year ago that’s the last thing you wanted, to go deep,” my friend laughed at the irony of my sorrows.

“See what you people did to me!” we both laughed into the screens of our facetime call.

Experiencing the journey is what makes reaching the destination beautiful and worth it. I am not going to miss out on that.

When Waiting Looks Like Celebrating

The clock read a quarter ’til five and still nothing. No phone call. No email.

Surely she would have heard something by now.

Nothing.

Then, my phone buzzed and those four little words with huge meaning flashed across my screen: “I got the job!” I let out a sigh of relief and a silly grin spread across my face.

“She got the job, she got the job!” I hollered to my roommate. We hopped up out of our seats and made some movement I will for now call a “victory dance.” Nearly a year and a half in the making, we were witnessing a tree of life bloom before our very eyes.

For this hope, this job, we had been on our knees and on our faces; for this dream we raised our glasses in eager expectation. We sat on couches and in cars, across from each other at tables and in coffee shops sharing our prayers and declarations for this hope and longing. And in four little words the longing ceased. She got the job.  IMG_4149

Six, nine, 12 months ago, it seemed nothing was going as planned and I honestly wasn’t sure how God was going to pull this one off.

I am not sure why I had to lose my beloved Grandbud, it all seemed too soon. I am not sure why rejection upon rejection came, it exhausted us all. But I woke up everyday — with my cup of coffee in hand — declaring that he in fact would bring redemption, restoration, and relief from the spinning. Believing and praying that sense would somehow be made of it all and even if sense never came, we would have faith in the purpose. Yet part of me still wondered how out of reach it all might be.

I came to a point where I expected to be disappointed.

Today, we could all name at least a handful of hopes we’re still longing to see come to pass for ourselves and for those we love. I have friends who wish to be married, yet sleep alone. Friends weep in longing for children, yet they still carry empty wombs. Friends dreaming for big things manage to hit every road block to keep them from ever accomplishing their goals.

Yet today, we could also name some people and things worth celebrating — the jobs, the promotions, and the save-the-dates and birth announcements filling every last inch of our fridges. I can’t deny the juxtaposition of the celebrations and disappointments.

I was determined to not be disappointed. In the swirl of it all I found myself wondering where I fit. 

I tried earning my right to fulfilled dreams by being good enough or holy enough to gain God’s favor. It didn’t work.

I tried playing victim, hoping God would take pity on me and give in. He saw right through the act.

I even tried taking matters into my own hands because God must have gotten busy fulfilling other people’s dreams and forgotten about mine. Or maybe he was too tired by the time my turn came around and just wasn’t feeling up to the task. Yeah, not so much.

Then God reminded me: as much pain and disappointment as I have witnessed for others and experienced myself  in the past 18 months, I have also had the privilege to celebrate some ridiculous things with these people I do life with down here in the Peach State.

The same people I stood beside and supported as they packed up their desks — saying goodbye to one season without knowing what the next season would hold — I later celebrated with as they moved to new cities, started new jobs, and stepped into the people they’re becoming. Somehow, that’s made the disappointment lighter, the hope stronger. I am realizing God’s favor  is not a rat race or a lotto— there’s enough pie to go around.

Know I don’t write this from the other side telling you I got everything I’ve ever wanted because God finally showed up. I don’t write to you now because I have my perfect pin-board life with a zillion blog hits, the dream job, and Adam Levine came to his senses and proposed after having a come-to-Jesus moment.

No, I have none of those things.

I write to you still in the waiting.

I am not telling you if you just hope hard enough the dreams will appear. I cannot tell you where the magic lamp is hidden.

But I can tell you it will never look the way you expect. Often times, we miss out on the best in search for the good. That’s why as much as the waiting Sucks with a capital “S”, we wait on the Lord. And part of that waiting is celebrating with those who celebrate — the way Elizabeth’s baby lept in her womb when Mary came to visit with some big news. We are all pregnant with promise and I believe that promise will deliver in due time.

Until then, we press on in what we know — which is who he is, not necessarily where we are headed.  God’s not wasting a moment of this season and neither should you.

There is no use in taking a short cut when it comes to becoming the person God created you to be.

Take the small steps of faith that end in great treks of life. Fulfillment happens in the waiting, in the journey. I don’t plan on missing out on the best in search of the good. And today’s best is celebrating the victories in the lives of those who have celebrated with me.

photo (1)