Stuck, Settled, and Still Uprooted

field Debate the legitimacy of picking one word for your year at its beginning or end, it's okay. Words are beautiful and vast and also complicated and what you think you might be asking for at the start may turn out to be something altogether different at the end. God is sovereign enough to create many words and also sovereign enough to sum all of creation into one: good.

As for me, at the beginning of 2016, I asked for "settled." Upon reflection on the first day of 2017, though, I felt the year turned out to be more "stuck." And upon further reflection, I'm coming to realize they are not such different words after all.

Years have a way of doing this to us, don't they. Flipping our expectations around and giving us nothing of what we asked and everything of what we needed. I felt stuck all of 2016. Stuck moving to D.C. Stuck at the mercy of my husband's employment. Stuck at home. Stuck in premature commitments we made. Stuck without a church. Stuck without our community. Stuck in the mid-Atlantic region. Stuck in work. Stuck in life. Nothing in our lives seemed to move forward, everything felt like it moved backward or not at all. It was the longest year of my life, and at the end, looking back, all I could see was an untouched field, ignored, unkempt, and overlooked.

As I said last week, God is doing something in that fallow field though, but it doesn't seem to be happening. It doesn't move the field forward. It doesn't use the field. It doesn't catch the eye of bystanders or passersby. The fallow field is settling into itself, dirt into dirt into dirt into dirt. At the end of the fallow year what started as a tilled and sifted soil, has turned hard, solid, packed into itself, stuck and settled.

I asked for settledness in 2016 and, from my perspective, got nothing but more uprootedness, less surety, more change and less certainty. We literally have no idea where we'll be living in a few months. I feel stuck here and stuck for all of life today. But God, in his goodness, makes what seems stuck settled. Not that we are meant to stay here for all of time, or will never leave, or in two months won't be packing up the moving truck for the third time in less than 20 months, just that, what God did in 2016 was settling. He sifted the field of our hearts in ways we never desired and wouldn't have asked for if pressed. He packed truths so deep down in our hearts we could stand on them as firm as stone. He did not plant or water or bother too much with anything else, He just let what seemed stuck settle.

As Nate and I talked though the coming year—with no idea where we'll be living, working, communing—I felt the Lord reminding me that we can make plans, but it's in Him we ultimately hope. And the words, "Hidden Roots" kept coming to mind. Oh no, I fussed, I've had enough with the hiding. I want to flourish! grow! bear fruit! do something! But again and again, as we worked through heart-revealing questions and answers, those words came to mind. Before we see the sprouts, before we see the fruit, before we see the harvest, we know the roots are growing, being nourished, flourishing, unseen, unnoticed, overlooked still. A freshly planted field looks the same as a fallow one to everyone but the farmer.

I have no idea what at the end of 2017 will be revealed to be God's best for our lives, but at the onset, I know he is asking for more of the same: hiding in him alone, our refuge, our strength, our vinedresser, our farmer, our keeper.

If you feel stuck today and have for a while, consider, too, that perhaps God is settling some truths down deep in you. Ask yourself what they might be. What have you learned this year that you could have not learned in a year of much forward motion? What have you learned about God in the stillness of your year? What have you learned about yourself when social engagements, ministry, being in the public eye, might not have given you a chance to learn? What have you learned about your home? Your marriage? Your singleness? Your church? Your habits? All of this "stuckness" is teaching something if we'll look closely enough.

When Hopes and Fears Clash

I hope your Christmas holiday brought many reminders that our hopes and fears are met in Him. This is an easy season to polarize, isn't it? Either all we feel is fear or all we feel is hope. Yet, when we let ourselves be still for a moment, those hopes and fears crash into one another and every optimist becomes a realist and every pessimist becomes one too. If we're children of God, our reality is that all these hopes and dreams and fears and sadnesses converge in one grand truth: that He is enough. Should we never have a home, never have a child, never have the job we want, never be out of debt, never be well all the way through, never go home, never be whole, never be brave, never be quiet, He is enough. This past month I've realized something about life for me now. Since I was nineteen, for seventeen years now, I have been mostly autonomous. I made the choices I thought were best for my life. I dove into schooling, church life, roommate living, vocation, vacation, schedule, and more. I ate when and what I wanted to. I woke when I wanted to. I moved when I wanted to. My existence wasn't selfish—I tried my best to submit myself to pastors, leaders, friends, community—but it was in many ways self-directed. This is a beautiful aspect of singleness and one that is inordinately useful for the growth of the kingdom of God. Paul wasn't wrong when he wrote of the undistractedness of singleness. Godly singleness is a time ripe for so many endeavors and adventures, and I'll never stop being grateful for all those God gave me. Marriage, also like Paul said, is full of distractions and I find the primary one to be our lack of autonomy.

Before marriage it sounds delightful to be united with a partner forevermore, to go to sleep next to and wake beside, to cook dinner for and budget with, to pray with and laugh with, to build traditions alongside and create a home with another person. It sounds delightful and it is. It has been nothing short of a gift. But it is also a thousand little deaths, primarily that my dreams, hopes, plans, desires, and time are in the mutually submitted and mutually sticky position of being inextricably linked to another person sinner man husband, and his to mine. Nate's hopes sometimes clash with my fears and my hopes with his fears. When this happens it would be easy to manipulate my way into getting what I want or for him to exercise dominion over me in a perverted attempt to lead, but a godly marriage this does not make. And so, a thousand little deaths we die.

If your hopes and fears are met with clashing and smashing ideals in every direction, if every time you feel the inkling of hope, it meets with another's fear or maybe your own, if every fear you have is pulled into the vulnerable arena of another's hopes, I am praying for you today. I am praying all of those hopes and fears are met in Him today, not in the gain of what you want or the getting of what another wants. In Christ alone.

Here are some things I've enjoyed this week:

This interview of Brett Lott on Cultivated.

This piece from Jeffrey Overstreet on Watership Down.

This article from Gina Delfonzo on Graham Greene, Glennon Melton, and Jen Hatmaker.

This conversation between John Blase and Winn Collier.

This response from J.D. Vance on the success of Hillbilly Elegy.

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We taught ourselves Pinocle last week. No telling whether we're doing it right. What other two person card games are there?