Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The View From Here

This post originally appeared in Do South Magazine.  
If life is a series of mountaintops and valleys, January has always been a valley month for me.  It’s bleak, forlorn, and bitter cold.
It is the evictor of December, of Christmas and festivities, of family time and long breaks from school. January starts well enough. It comes with glitter, champagne and kazoos. It makes big promises with midnight kisses and sparkling plans for new resolutions. But too often, all it has to follow up with is runny noses, colorless trees and a produce section full of gourds and out-of-season fruit shipped from somewhere warmer than here.
No, I have never cared much for January.
Last year was a hard year. It was a year of transitions. It was the sort of year you couldn’t pay me to relive, but even despite the struggle of it, I am thankful for it. I was saved in the fourth grade, baptized by water the day before I turned nine. I’m what you could call a lifetime Christian, a generational church-goer. But 2014 will forever go down as the year God got my attention.
It was during last spring, after two decades of walking with, dancing around and even running from my Savior, I met Him face to face. A tornado came crashing through our lives, destroying homes in Mayflower and Vilonia, Arkansas, and a family we loved. I sat on the front row of the saddest funeral I’d ever been to, crying not just at the loss of my sons’ two best friends but at the sound that was coming from their mother, April, who survived them. We were plunged into a valley. A deep and dark one, flooded with sorrow and littered with debris.
God does love a good resurrection story though, doesn’t He? It was out of that valley that my life was repurposed. He showed me direction, told me to scrap the plans I had and follow His plan instead. And I obliged. It was from the depths of that valley that God carried me to the highest mountaintop I’ve ever experienced. He showed His grace and the promise of His hope.
I think, too often, we try to classify the seasons of our life as good or bad by using the wrong scale. Whether a person is living for Christ or not, they will undeniably face trials and tribulations. Pain is not an indicator of a hard time. It is a promise of living in this broken world. The only difference in facing the unthinkable with Jesus is that we can have the hope to look past what is temporarily shattered around us and focus on what is set up in eternity. These are the moments that God takes us to the mountaintop. These are the moments that we get to see the view from where He sits.
But we don’t get to stay there.
Oswald Chambers wrote, “We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or for the other beautiful attractions in life — those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life, and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength. Yet our spiritual selfishness always wants repeated moments on the mountain. We feel that we could talk and live like perfect angels, if we could only stay on the mountaintop.”
Which brings us to now. Normally, I would spend this bummer month nursing my post-holiday blues. But this year, I know better. I have learned, at last, to appreciate the lulls in life, the Januarys. It would be easy to live on top of the mountain where faith is a given and the view is clear. But if we stayed there, our faith would become weak like an unused muscle. If we never had to strain our eyes through the fog of the valley, we would lose the ability to trust His path even when we can’t see the end destination. I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever want to lose that.
It’s funny the things that God brings us to, the way He uses our weaknesses to show His glory. This year, I will get the opportunity to speak to thousands of women.  The first time someone told me I should preach, I laughed. When God first started to show this purpose to me, I thought I was going crazy. “Surely not, God,” I thought. I am the girl who threw up before giving speeches in high school Oral Communications class. I am the introvert that takes five minute bathroom breaks during parties just to sit on the floor and feel like I can breathe again. But then another person said it, and another. And deep down I knew I would have to. Then the calls started coming in. Multiple conferences around the South asking to book my friend April and me to share our story from the tornado, our testimonies and our faith.
The thought of being in front of a crowd still makes my hands go clammy, but I can’t teach people that God always provides and then not believe it myself. If He is enough to get April through that storm, through that funeral where we said goodbye to her sons, He is enough to get me through the anxiety of speaking. This is an instance of walking into the fog, knowing God will lead me through. The only part I have to do is be willing to reflect Him.
On top of the exciting speaking engagements, this year our family will grow as we welcome our sixth child. His name will be Benjamin and I am counting down the weeks until we get to kiss his soft hair and smell his baby skin. Our little farm will also be growing. Garden plans and beehives and goat fences will be underway this spring. Chickens will start to lay and I may just wake up in the mornings and cry on the porch as I look out at this little dream of mine coming to fruition. We will continue to homeschool, to worship, to build up what we have been given. I can’t be sure exactly what 2015 will hold, because the view isn’t clear from here, but I am positive of one thing. We will be running the race set out for us. Holding strong in the ordinary every day.
Sometimes it’s hard. And most of the time I’m tired. There are days I feel so dried up and so far away from God. But He’s always there, waiting to be sought by me. Occasionally, I get a peek from the mountain. Occasionally, I am affirmed by people who have been blessed by words God gave me. Occasionally, I see His fingerprints or get glimpses at the intricacies of His plan. But a lot of the time, I’m standing in the fog. And that’s ok.
For the first time, I’m alright with January. Because even though the view from the valley is limited, I know there is so much to look forward to.