A Birthday Reflection

Last year around this time, I left the River Rock Retreat feeling rested and refreshed.  I'd spent a weekend with God, thinking over my plans, my ideas about the future, and my direction.  It seemed like this easy, calm season was ahead of me.  I'd made it through 9 months with my first child, and I was looking forward to getting back to some new normal with our family...maybe even starting ministry opportunities or relationships.  Little did I know, that while I was drinking my coffee in the crisp spring air, God was knitting together something wonderful in my womb.  Two babies that would change all of those plans for the next year, and put 12 months of my to-do lists on hold.

"The heart of a man plans his steps, but the Lord establishes his path."  Proverbs 16:9

If you count by worldly standards, 27 was the year of my life that I got nothing done.  This past weekend I was back at the River Rock Retreat again, and it seemed like not much had changed (but everything changed).  My "plans" were put on hold while I endured a very exhausting and nauseating first trimester, followed by an over-sized second trimester, followed by a physically limiting and risky third trimester, followed by a NICU stay, months of sleep loss, lots of baby bouncing and now...here I am again.  That was a whole year of my life?

It's tempting to feel like that was lost time.  In my 27th year, I didn't make it out of the house much, I didn't do a lot of cooking, I had a tough time cleaning my house, I wasn't very involved in church ministry or my bible study.  I didn't travel as much as I wanted, or keep in touch with my friends very well.  I did gain a lot of weight (and I didn't lose it all).  I did lose a lot of sleep and care for children hour after hour.  I did see the inside of our four walls 6 out of 7 days a week.  What does this add up to?

When I look back on this year (one of the most challenging of my life to date) I'm amazed at what God did through my limitations.
Limited by exhaustion, I was free to trust God for strength.
Limited by physical weight, I was free to give God my spiritual burdens.
Limited by bed rest, I was free to see how God would use me when I had low mobility.
Limited by my fears, I was free to rest in God's grace for the moment that gives peace.
Limited by sleep loss, I was free to run to God who provides all I need.

He taught me that my perceived limitations and weaknesses are really just giant opportunities to display his power and grace.
He taught me that my plans are just thoughts I have, but I shouldn't count on them because my future is in his hands.
He taught me that his strength is a vast and deep well, giving me the ability to face challenges I never dreamed of.
He taught me (as he pulled me away from the comfort of my relationships) that being obedient to his calling on my life is what matters, not impressing or gaining approval from others.
He taught me that I'm at my best when I'm totally poured out and unable to rest on my own good works, when I need him desperately.

At last year's retreat I stood on the bank overlooking the river with fears and hopes about the woman I wanted to become.  I wasn't really committed to using my gifts and passions for the Lord just yet...but I wanted to have the courage to do it.  I wasn't really committed to his call for our family yet....but I wanted to be fully open to his plans (even if it meant sacrificing a lot).  I wasn't really committed to taking precious time daily and hourly to spend learning and pouring over God's word...but I wanted to leave my agenda behind with reckless abandon, having a bold heart for truth.

When I stood there again on Saturday, my eyes welled with tears, realizing that while it might appear that I didn't get much done last year, God got a lot of work done in my heart.  Each and every one of those things I hoped and prayed for, he answered abundantly.  I thought he might do it by some spiritual magic - like I would wake up one morning and suddenly be this woman who has reverence for the Lord.  But he wanted to do it through trials, struggle, hard circumstances, and sacrifice.  I wanted to get there without any work, but he wanted to get me there through the work.

I still have ideas about what my 28th year will look like, but I'm hesitant to dwell on them too much.  Just like the year before, I am guessing that between now and next spring's retreat, many things will happen that I didn't predict or plan for.  Isn't it kind of exciting?  That when we give our lives fully to God he does bigger and better things than we would have laid out for ourselves?  If it were up to me, my life would be pretty safe and happy, but God keeps bringing me risky and scary challenges that I can only face with his power.  Looking forward to another year and more of God's amazing plan for my life, even when it's challenging.

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