Thursday, November 30, 2017

Looking Back on 29 Years

It's the "eve" of another birthday, and I've just returned from an evening of shopping at a mall just outside of Chicago. As I sit here and sip on a warm Dunkaccino from Dunkin Donuts, I'm left to contemplate. I stand on the brink of another year of life, adventure & joy, and I also look back on the last twenty-nine years of my life and the experiences I've experienced that have shaped me into the woman that I am today... a single, independent woman living in the big city of Chicago, working for a commercial airline, serving people & going places around the world that I would've never dreamed possible. Life has brought me to a place I never would've visioned for myself, but in this moment, I find rest, contentment and peace, knowing that I wouldn't want to be anywhere else but hereright nowbecause this is where God saw best to send me. And you know what? I love it.

Maybe one day (twenty years from now), I'll look back on these words I am writing, and laugh at their naivety and my inexperience. But for now, I'm going to look back, rejoice and be thankful for these twenty nine years of traveling through this earthly country.

First of all, I have learned that my parents did what they humanly thought was best for me. Lets just be honest. It's scary to be "us." It's scary to be human, especially in this dark, twisted world we live in. On top of taking care of ones-self, imagine taking care of a spouse, keeping, cultivating and growing your marriage and taking care of three kids on top of all that. (And for my parents, four more kids came later!) Though my parents are imperfect people who gave birth to an imperfect daughter, I am thankful that they sought to raise me in the best way they knew how.

I am grateful for the hardships, trials and the struggles I endured growing up, because they made me a stronger and more mature woman. Infact, while I was growing up as a girl, people would sometimes remark how much more mature I was than most people my age. I think it was in part, because of the suffering I walked through. I am thankful in spite of growing up around so much legalism and a false-gospel, the Truth is more sweet to me today, and the more that I taste it, the more I find myself relishing in it's freedom. God Himself said, "You will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free." Thanks be to God for such a gift!

I am thankful for the boys who broke my heart. Not because of what they did was okay, or pleasant to go through by any means (infact, many times I wanted to die from the heart break), but each heartbreak deepened my understanding of my value in Christ. My value as "His beloved, chosen and precious one" did not decrease or get tainted, in-spite of my brokenness. I learned how to be a Warrior, and to get back up again, even when my emotions screamed otherwise. I'll never forget when my former Pastor paused and pursed his lips contemplatively, and then said, "It was his loss, Leah."

I am grateful that my dream of becoming a Mommy never came to pass, because Jesus knew that I had a restless, adventurer's heart, and He knew that I needed some time to "spread my wings and fly," before I'd ever be ready to cradle a child. Jesus knew I would need some time to heal old scars & wounds (that bore deeply from my own childhood), before I'd ever be ready to parent a little soul.

Singleness has been a gift. I can sleep in till noon if I wish, I can skimp around on oatmeal and pb & j's, or make a fancy dinner for one if I wish - but never out of necessity for my husband or family. I can jump on a Boeing 787 to London Heathrow if I want, without a worry about a "family budget" to hold to, or a family to take care of. Speaking of which, I attempted the impossible (or atleast the impossible in my mind) this year ... I traveled to England by myself for 5 days. In retrospect, it was the best thing I could've done.

I'm learning that age is just a number. No one ever reaches an age where they can say they've finally arrived or attained a certain level of perfection. Each age and each number is just another year of growing and becoming a better person than we were last year.

No matter who you are, or what you do, there will always be someone out there who dislikes or hates you. There's nothing you can do about it, other than to move on from the hurt and remain confident in who God says you are.

Happiness is an "inside project." Getting that perfect career job, getting married, gaining a husband, having a baby or buying your own house cannot bring true joy & ecstasy, no matter how much you think it might. The moment you pin your hopes and expectation on them, they will fail you, because they are incapable of bringing perfect happiness.

This is my last year of living "in the 20s." It's almost an odd & discomforting thought to think about! Some people make a list of "30 things to do before turning 30," and I haven't made such a list yet, but I'm contemplating it. One desire that springs to the forefront of my heart is a desire to be so rested in my Savior, so unshakably confident in Him, that I would not doubt His ability to provide for all my needs - my true needs - and that my emotional stability would not waver, though I have no one else in all the world to depend on, but only Him.  

London, England

"Lay your life down. Your heartbeats cannot be hoarded. Your reservoir of breaths is draining away. You have hands―blister them while you can. You have bones―make them strain. They can carry nothing in the grave. You have lungs―let them spill with laughter. With an average life expectancy of 78.2 years in the US (subtracting eight hours a day for sleep), I have around 250,00 conscious hours remaining to me in which I could be smiling or scowling, rejoicing in my life, in this race, in this story, or moaning and complaining about my troubles. I can be giving my fingers, my back, my mind, my words, my breaths, to my wife and my children and my neighbors, or I can grasp after the vapor and the vanity for myself, dragging my feet, afraid to die and therefore afraid to live. And, like Adam, I will still die in the end.”

― N.D. Wilson

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

In Quietness & Confidence Shall Be Your Strength

It's remarkable to think that I have been living in Illinois for three months now.  In some ways, it seems so much longer than that, especially considering that during the month prior to "the great move," I was living in Denver for a few weeks during flight attendant school. So in a sense, it's been 4 months since I lived in our grey home on Arbor Drive.

Along with the rush & excitement of moving to a new city & a new part of the country, soon followed with an overwhelming sense of loneliness and homesickness. I found these feelings to be unsettling & surprising, as I've always been the adventure-loving one of the family, always eager and ready to go and do and see. I've been to 9 countries, and was gone for a month at a time on some of those international trips. I lived in Texas for 9 months over 2009 & 2010, and I lived with other families in Northern Colorado for a year's time in 2012 & 2013. So what's up with all these feelings of homesickness?
  • This time, there is no "coming home" to look forward to. This is home.
  • There is no unpacking of a suitcase. Only re-packing for another trip.
  • There is no one to come home to, to talk to, to cry to and find consolation in when LIFE or a multitude of thoughts seem to swallow me up.
  • As much as I try to overlook it, the mold on the bathroom ceiling & the newspaper covering the windows of my apartment rental make me shudder sometimes. "This is all you can afford right now, Leah," I remind myself.
  • My hair frizzes like it's never done before (from the humidity) and my skin has freaked out  going dry - to super oily - back to dry, as it tries to figure out how to adjust to humidity and midwest weather. (Ah, girl problems.) ;-)
  • I can no longer jump into the car on a whim, and head to the nearest Target for a shopping spree. I have to ride the city train or walk everywhere I need to go. (And need to consider my new/broke flight attendant budget.) ;-)
So many changes.

Along with the changes and the new job, I have found it difficult to find a church home yet. Because I haven't been able to find a church home yet, I haven't been able to make any new friendships with other Christian believers, and this, I think, adds to the loneliness.

With the free time that I have, I haven't been reading the Word or encouraging books like I ought to be doing... so, no wonder I've felt 'high & dry' lately. Just in the last week, I've been reminded of my great need, and how I must cry out to my Savior for His sufficiency in my weakness. As with any relationship, to develop a sweeter, closer relationship with Jesus requires intentionality. Oh yes, it's all HIS work in me, and it is HE who hold on to me till the very end, but I can't grow closer to Jesus if I feed off of those things which discourage me or draw my heart & it's affections away from Christ. I am asking Him for a heart that RETURNS to Him, and follows Him... regardless of the cost (loneliness, unwanted singleness, being laughed at, having shattered hopes & dreams, experiencing poverty, etc.) Jesus said if we would follow Him, we must take up our cross... and the cross always entails loss. "For me to live is CHRIST, and to die is GAIN." I live through His life, and gain more of Him by dying to Leah's selfish ambitions and agenda.

So in the seemingly dark or foggy times, I am learning to live by faithnot by my ever wavering emotions. This crazy life of faith is not for the faint of heart, and often times doesn't make sense logically. And yet, even still Christ calls me onward to battle. By grace alone.

The Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "Only in returning to Me and resting in Me will you be saved. 

In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you were unwilling." —Isa. 30:15

Sunday, April 2, 2017

And the Lord Said, "I Will Do A New Thing."

Tonight as I hear nothing but the hum of the refrigerator and the occasional plane taking off overhead my third floor apartment, I am reminded of how quickly a life & it's circumstances can change, and a passage in Jeremiah 32:41 that says, "I will rejoice in doing them good."

This concept has been somehow difficult for me to rest in. Yes, God is good and does wonderful things for other people... but for me... really? A few Autumn seasons ago, I sat across a friend's kitchen table and she asked me, "Do you really believe that God intends GOOD for Leah?" I swallowed hard, and if I had been honest, I would've had to say, "No, but I want to."

Even now, I will testify that it is hard to see the goodness of God when our life and our dreams fall apart and scatter into a thousand pieces around us. This is good for me, Father? To weep and cry in such anguish that you fall to the floor in helplessness, asking God to stop the pain, asking God for a way out of this suffering ... this is good?

It is in these moments of despair and hopelessness that I have cried out to my Father on a number of occasions, asking Him to make my heart believe His promises when all else would tell me that they are not so. It is in this moment, as a Princess Warrior, I must take ahold of faith and lay aside my momentary emotions and feelings and stand on the promise & surety of His Word. God never lies. He is never unsure, or hesitant. When God says something, He will do it.
One day, the darkness seems to fade, we blink & find ourselves in a new season of life - a new home, a new career, new friends.

Change has seemed to come upon me so quickly, I can hardly grasp it all.

On March 22nd, by God's good grace & faithfulness, I graduated from flight attendant training. What a thrill & sense of accomplishment this was! It was like a dream come true, though a dream unrealized 'til then. It is definitely to be considered one of the happiest days of my life yet.

Five days later, on March 27th, I packed 2 suitcases & 2 carry-on bags with my basic necessities & moved to Chicago, Illinois. How could this be? Just a few weeks prior, my plan was to stay in Denver, Colorado. Surely God planned for me to come to the big city of ChicagoFor what "glorious" purpose, I know not. All I know is that He sent me here, and right now, this is my place of ministry.

Two days after moving to Chicago, I flew my first flight as a flight attendant to Cancun, Mexico. I secretly had been hoping that my first trip would be to an International destination, and it was! I haven't flown since then, but quite honestly, the rest the last few days has been welcome.

Throughout this whole moving process, I've often been reminded of a line from a a movie called, "Last Flight Out,"

"My safety is of no concern.
There's no better place to be,
then in the center of God's willunless it's in His presence."

My prayer is that the Lord would be my Rock, my Protector and my Provider as I learn to live in a big city that can, at times, be dangerous & unknown territory for a single women of small frame. When the loneliness creeps in, I pray that He would draw me close & remind me of His unfailing kindness. He's given me everything I need to serve Him in this place.

"[He] set my feet upon a Rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust." Psalms 40:2-4

"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:19

Monday, February 6, 2017

Even There

"...even there, Your hand will guide me, 
Your right hand will hold me fast."
Psalms 139:10

Tonight, my mind is wandering to the "even there's" in life. 

We all have them. 

Those places we're currently, or have been afraid to enter or experience for fear of what those places would feel like, how we might feel isolated or incapable of walking through, or maybe it's just having to experience an "out of the box" situation that we never dreamed we'd face. But there it isstaring us in the face, blocking the very path of life we travel on & we realize that we must go through it fully, in order to proceed forward. The more we stall for time, the more it rears it's ugly head in sight & it chokes and consumes our very life and joy. Perhaps for some of us, it is walking through "the valley of the shadow."

Even there.

I am currently proceeding forward in a journey that I never expected I'd journey in. Not a bad one, not an evil one, not even unpleasant ... but unexpected. 

Let me tell you a story.

While this is certainly not to demean or disrespect people with views such as these, you might say I grew up with the "homeschool graduate mindset," or so we'll call it. In such an ideal world, one would graduate from high school at 18 (and for some, it was more virtuous to finish school at 16), and fully devote all of your time afterwards, preparing for marriage & the duties that marriage life would bring. (Extra bonus points for the young ladies if they knew how to sew their own clothes, sew quilts, hoard away things in a hope-chest for their future life & can fruits and vegetables from the garden.) THAT was the ultimatumatleast in the social circles I was in. In such an ideal world, you would be married around 20, start having babies & make a cute Mom blog that would have an enormous subscriber's list and readership. 

Is that a bad dream? By all means - no, however that was the loftiest dream I held as a young person. For my friend, Ashleigh, that was God's story for her. And I wanted it to be my story too. 

But God had another plan in mind.

I went to work outside the home at age 15, and have been working a paid job ever since. (Because, you know, we all have to to buy deodarant and toothpaste... and things like that.) I stopped sewing, and I've never canned a thing in my life. All those guys I had crushes on while growing up as a teenager got married to other people. When I was 19, I met someone whom I thought was the man God wanted me to marry and our interests and everything seemed to match up - but it wasn't meant to be. Over the last 10 years of my life, I have endured more heartbreaks than I wished. I have had men tell me they never liked me like "that," and I've said goodbye to friendships that once, seemed special. Ah. Those tear inducing, heart throbbing and painful circumstances that are always so difficult to know how to walk through in a Christlike manner. 

Was all that in my life dream? Absolutely not. To be the lady no one wanted. Who wants that? I didn't. But God allowed me to walk down a road I never penned, because He wanted to make me into a more beautiful woman than I ever dreamed for myself.

Fast forward to the present day. 
Now less than 2 years away from turning 30 years of age, I can't help but consider what  God does have in His story for me. A recent while ago, I began  to realize that my financial needs were increasing in the foreground, and started to consider  the possibility of looking for a salary wage, career job to support a single woman. Last year, the realization hit when I saw that working as a Starbucks barista would not be sufficient enough to LIVE off of. For me, having a salary wage, career job was (for many years) thought to be ungodly (especially in homeschooling type circles), because Titus 2 says that young women should be taught to be keepers at home. But that chapter also mentions "loving their husbands & children," and I didn't have those. God brought me to a place of rest, and I realized that perhaps for right now - for this season - God's actual BEST for me might look like that which I never dreamed of, or thought would be okay. Maybe His very best for me looked like having a career job.

I am currently about to embark on a new journey & walk of life as a flight attendant. As I study & prepare to head off to training in a couple weeks, I am filled with so many emotions. Excitement (I'll get to see so many places & experience new things!), and fear (What if I get attacked by a rapist - like that story Dad told me about? What if I'm the flight attendant on board another terrorist attack flight? What if...?) 

While this next step is by no means a bad thing, it is very unknown to me. It's uncharted territory, it's a mountain to be climbed. The thrill of the adventure will be accompanied by losses, failures, successes and hard work. Through it all - even there - I am confident that God is leading me forward.

So what is the point of this blog post? What is the point of my wandering thoughts tonight? I guess realizing that even in my own perceived "bad" and "good" places, God is not bound to my perceptions. His will and plan is so much more glorious and big. He can be glorified wherever He calls me ... because He called me to that particular place.

Even there, God's hand will guide me. 
Even there, His hand will hold me fast.

What's your "even there" tonight? 

Let your heart rest assuredGod is there, and He holds you.