Have you ever had a day when it seems like God has just tied a big, red, bow on an area of your life and finally you feel settled, as if that time period is all wrapped up, and now it’s time to move on to something new and different?
Maybe you’re in the process of waiting for that day to come. Let me assure you, friend, it does, and it will. The process rarely looks anything like we expect and it’s impossible to predict exact outcomes in this life, but when you know — you know.
That happened for me this past weekend. I attended a writer’s conference in Charlotte, North Carolina for an online group I’m a member of called hope*writers. I have been blessed and encouraged in this group, and have learned more about the writing life in the short time I’ve been with them, than I have in all the rest of my years combined, which is a substantial number, but whatever, moving on. If you are interested in writing, I highly recommend this group — in fact, I have shared my hope*writer story publicly, and you can watch a brief video of it here, if you’d like.
Several things happened this weekend. Most of them I could predict:
- I would be uncomfortable meeting and mingling with people I’d never met, but then, I’d be SO GLAD I DID BECAUSE THEY WERE AMAZING!
- I’d learn more about the writing craft and hear about methods and schedules and formats that would be immensely helpful
- I would be inspired and encouraged by hearing the stories and experiences of other writers
- I would leave with so many new ideas that inspire me to stay the course
- I would gain clarity on the next right step for my writing journey
- I would enjoy seeing North Carolina again — the fall season, the cooler temps
But then, there was a whole parallel story that I did not expect and it shocked me to the point of almost feeling overwhelmed. One of the great adventures of this life is that God often works in ways that we don’t see coming.
I landed at Charlotte-Douglas airport, found my rental car, and was intently following GPS to the hotel when I had my first indication that this weekend might hold other, unexpected lessons for me. I was feeling excited and nervous, knowing that I’d need to quickly check-in, take just a few minutes to freshen up, and hit the highway again to make it to the first conference session on time. And then I saw it. The large green sign that said Johnston Road exit.
It’s probably been there for years. It’s not a big deal, (why is this a big deal?). These signs are all over the highway, directing travelers to destinations. But, when I saw this particular one I wanted to cry because that’s when I realized the last time I was here was just after the birth of my 2nd son and I have not been back since then. This sign was the first familiar thing I recognized from all those years ago, and the memories came flooding back.
In the summer of 1998 I was six months pregnant with my 3rd child as I moved to Charlotte with my husband and twin toddler daughters. I was excited as a native Floridian, wondering what it would be like to live someplace where I could experience four distinct seasons with the changing weather and foliage. I knew no one in this new place, we were transferring with my husband’s job, so I was nervous too, about leaving family and friends behind, and forging ahead into the unknown. In the end, our time in Charlotte was brief — a mere three years before moving right back the Sunshine State — but it was a blessed time of growth and building friendships that remain to this day, albeit online. I loved our time there and it was a sad day for me when we left.
I drove through our old neighborhood and hardly recognized the streets. Ours was a new housing development on the south end of Charlotte when we first moved in. The tree in front of the guestroom of our former home nearly completely covers the window now. I remember for so long it was just a skinny sapling, sticking up like a fishing pole from the ground, and I used to wonder if it was dead or if it would ever grow. It grew.
Our favorite ice cream spot, Maggie Moo’s, was just across the street and has long since closed, but the McAllister’s Deli we went to after church on Sundays is still there. There are new roads and new names on those green signs, but a lot is the same, too. Just like me. Just like my kids. Just like our family. Changed, but still the same. We all grew.
I wish I could’ve told that young Mama I was:
“Hey — listen to me. It’s going to be amazing! There will be hard days, and days you’ll wish you could’ve just skipped altogether, but mostly, it’s going to turn out wonderful because God hears your prayers, and guides you through, and makes all things right in the end. It doesn’t matter what you know or what you don’t, as long as you are committed to learning; and most of all listening, and following what God is doing in your life. And, all your kids will grow up to love Jesus — you haven’t damaged them beyond repair. You’ll see. Trust God.” That’s what I would’ve said to the Mom I was.
And it suddenly occurred to me — that’s what I can say to the Mom I am now. Not regarding motherhood, because even as I type these words, God is tying a big bow on that season of life as I know it. Which makes me sad. But here’s the hard truth — things that are alive, grow. That’s what they do, It is proof of life. And so, although I am not fond of endings, or separation from the ones I love most, I accept it, because I want them to grow. And, there’s new beginnings after the endings.
The parallel between the young Mom I was then, coming to a new place with excitement, but also much trepidation, not knowing what to expect, but choosing to forge ahead in faith and with courage, struck me as so similar to my situation now, coming back to this place I love, learning something new, excited, but nervous, too – not knowing what to expect or what I hope to accomplish — only that I want what I do to matter.
So much life has happened in twenty years! In the short time we lived in Charlotte, our family expanded to include four children, with both my sons having been born there. I remember the babies they were so many years ago and sometimes, when I look at their faces or their expressions I can still see those sweet boys. But they are grown men now. They are living independent lives and following their own dreams. It is exactly as it should be. I have often wondered at the fact that parenthood is the only work that, if done well, you end up working yourself out of a job. There are no promotions in parenthood. Perhaps one perk of an empty nest is that you can eat cereal for dinner 5 nights in a row if you want. And, that’s not a bad trade-off. But, you don’t ever truly retire from this job either; I am very glad of that, but am still working to make sense of my new job description.
I can be settled. I can be as sure as anyone can possibly be in this uncertain world, because of what I have learned. All the things I didn’t know in my younger years, I have now lived by faith and found God to be unerringly faithful. I am new to this writing life, I am forging ahead into I don’t even know what – I just know I want it to matter. And as I look back and see what God has done in my life, in the lives of my children, and in my marriage through the years, I can smile through the tears. Because it all mattered — every moment — not one thing was wasted. He is faithful. He can be trusted. He is able to do the things I can’t, and maybe, that’s the whole point.
Are you waiting for God to put a big red bow on something in your life right now? Are you wanting to move on and not sure how? Are you longing to feel settled; to finally know what you are doing will matter in the long run? No red bow for you yet?
I’ve been there.
I wonder…would you settle, for now, for a scarlet thread? A thread of hope while you wait for the bow? There is a story in scripture of a woman who had this hope. She was not someone who, from outward appearances, should’ve really had any hope at all. In fact, many would’ve thought she had less of a reason to look forward to the future than most people. Her name is Rahab and you can read her story in the book of Joshua 2:12-21. She is mentioned again in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:20-26. Perhaps the least likely to have a sincere faith, yet she shows that she does, indeed, have a living and active faith by what she chooses to do. Her faith was evidenced by her choices. It is the same for us. We do not have to have all the answers, we are only responsible for being obedient to what we know at this point in our journey.
I was so encouraged this past weekend to be able to look back and trace the hand of God over my life and the lives of my children and husband. My friend, just do what you know to do, trusting God to show you the way in the things you do not know. We can be confident in this as Philippians 1:6 reminds us that, “He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Be encouraged!
He is faithful to complete what He has started in you, your job is to cooperate with Him in the work He’s already doing in your life. Trust Him and move forward with faith and courage as He guides your way. There is no more faithful travel companion, no matter where your journey takes you!
Until next time,
Grace & Peace,