2018: There Is More
“It will be a very hard year, but by December, you will have reasons to praise God. I saw you standing up and saying ‘I trusted God in 2018 and look at what He did.’” April, 2018
I sat next to our dying Christmas tree, and pushed down the simmering fear once again….the umpteenth time this month…the gazillionth time this year. My faith was hanging on by a thread, and not like a nice sturdy thread. Like the little thready-things that keep your loose tooth in place just before your kid brother finally pulls that sucker out with a door knob and floss. That kind of ‘hanging on by a thread.’
It was mid-December, it had been the hardest year I could remember, and I felt like I was starting 2019 by staring into a firing squad.
I received the encouraging word (above) from a pastor back in April. Out of the blue, this pastor, whom I knew had a strong prophetic gifting, wrote to me. Pastor had been praying for me, and felt compelled to send me what God had shared. 2018 was going to be brutally hard, but by December, I would have great reasons to praise God. Well, 2018 had been brutal.
Financially, I was taking big risks (calculated, but big), and living off of what I had saved. Professionally, I was working to the point of exhaustion, but not seeing the fruit, which fed into the financial anxiety. Emotionally, I was drained, mildly depressed, and looking at the holidays like a hurdle to leap over before the calm of January. Physically, I was beyond stressed and tired, and my health insurance was running out by the end of the year, so like Jane Eyre I was ‘keeping in good health [so as to] not die.’ Spiritually…..well, spiritually, I was the best I had ever been thanks to God running me through all the paces in 2018, which meant I was weepy and surrendered, but knew Him waaaay better than I had before.
So, one life-area out of five isn’t bad. Still, the feelings of failure were seeping in like a sump-pump leak in a cellar. I could smell the fear, and wondered if it was all my fault after all.
One pre-Christmas afternoon, my bank made a mistake and drained my checking account just as some charges were about to hit. My account overdrafted. I got the call, and I just sobbed to the bank and back. Sobbed. Like a child. Now, it wasn’t my fault, but it gave me a scare because there wasn’t much in that account, so there had been no buffer. It was just a reminder of how totally not in control of my life I was. 'The bumper sticker on the car in front of me boldly stated ‘Victory in Christ’ and I was like ‘wahhhhhhh I know, God, I know….wahhhhh!’ but I wasn’t feeling victorious. I was feeling like a vulnerable, pushing-29-year-old, single, financially insecure loser of a millennial. On the way home, I begged for His help. ‘God, I have done everything You’ve asked me to do this year. And that doesn’t mean You owe me a dang thing, but I don’t understand why things are so bad right now when I’ve been obeying You.’
It’s true. In 2018, I tried to live with surrender before God. That meant jumping on a flight to Japan for a mission trip that ended up being pretty confusing and expensive. It meant leaving a paying job, going full time with my own business, leading worship for the first time when I was pretty sure I shouldn’t sing and had no training. It meant giving up alcohol and being honest with people about what alcohol had done to my life. It meant dealing with the crap in my heart instead of trying to drown it.
It was a lot of yes’s, and I wouldn’t trade one of those yes’s, but there had been a cost to each of them. I’m not bragging about the yes’s, I’m being real with you in case you are sitting on the fence about saying yes to God….there is a cost. It isn’t stained glass, doves and Hallelujah choruses. My 2018 yes’s looked like snot, complaining, hours of sobbing hiccups and prayers, and a lot of worship music. It cost, but not nearly as much as I cost God.
So, I guess I was sitting there wondering where the blessings were for all those yes’s. That’s a problem: expecting a payout for obedience to the God of the Universe who died to save your soul.
And here it was, December, and I figured my yes’s had landed me in a hole.
I sat in the living room, looking at our Christmas tree, which was honestly a fire hazard at this point, and prayed. ‘God, I don’t get it. This is the part where You swoop in and save the day. This is the miraculous fireworks and pillars of smoke part where everything makes sense. You even told me that I would have great reasons to praise You this month. Where are You?”
He speaks quietly when I’m being ridiculous. It’s just His way. ‘Sweetheart,’ He said, ‘Israel waited hundreds of years under Roman oppression for a Messiah that would sweep in like a warrior king and clear house. I was a baby in a barn. Salvation doesn’t look like what you think, but I show up perfectly nonetheless.’
And…..more snot, sobs, and hiccups from me. It’s sobering to realize that you aren’t that much different from the King Herods and Pharisees of the Bible. You’re waiting on your own picture of salvation that fits your mold and your dreams, but salvation shows up perfectly to humble you.
‘Will You save me? I sniffed.
‘I already have….’
He has. There have been quiet miracles this year that showed up at the tail end of my yes’s.
My confusing expensive trip to Japan gave me a crazy rich love for Asia that hasn’t changed in spite of all that happened in between. I fell SO hard in love for a region of people I never thought I’d ever meet. I learned to lean on God while wrestling with Him on the floor of my little Japanese hotel room, and saw Him wring a new strength out of me that I never thought was there. Like Jacob when he wrestled with Jesus, part of my heart walks with a limp now, but there is something new that was birthed out of it.
I met people through my months of working my business that have blessed my spirit. They teach me new things every day. Their faith makes me stronger, and their hard work presses me on. When I needed money, it showed up. Bags of hand-me-downs were given by relatives. Gift cards and lost dollars appeared in old purses. I prayed for a place of my own, and that same night I received a call asking me to house sit for 5 months. Miracles happened! They came wrapped in humility, but they still came. Maybe I was too busy waiting for trumpets and dramatic entrances to notice the quiet miracles at first, but it can’t discount or discredit the fact that He showed up when I needed Him most.
There is More
I’ll never forget my flight home from Japan this past June.
I pressed my forehead against the airplane window so the cold could soothe my headache. It had been two days of traveling, two days of staring into space wondering what the heck had just happened, but on the last leg of the flight home I had peace. ‘God,’ I prayed ‘I don’t ever have to know why we did this. It can be a mystery. I’m just grateful for the good things that happened.' Even if I don’t know why until Heaven, I’m ok with that.’
‘There is more.’ He whispered.
‘There doesn’t have to be more. I’m fine with this.’
‘There is more.’
‘Really. I can be ok with this.’
‘There is more.’
Two days after I got home, my beautiful Korean-American sister texted me to ask how the trip was. In early 2018, when I first started saying ‘Hey, I think I’m going to Asia because God is telling me to’ most people looked at me like I was losing it, but not this girl. She was a resounding ‘heck yes you’re going!’ So now that the trip was over….how was it? I didn’t text back to tell her it had kind of blown up in my face. All I said was ‘I fell in love with Asia. I feel so blessed to have seen what I have seen’ She texted me back three words.
‘There is more.’
And yes, dear reader. I cried again. There is more. There has been more, and there is more to come. I lived the second half of 2018 with that phrase tattooed across my heart (not literally…I don’t like needles). God’s not done. There is more.
It was the day after Christmas, so Mom and I began the process of removing the fire hazard posing as a Christmas tree in our living room. The tree stopped taking water weeks earlier, and as I slipped ornaments off of the branches, needles fell to the floor like snow. Under our feet were piles upon piles of needles, and our cute little tree was now beginning to look like a naked stick. As I reached up to remove the important ornaments on the highest branches, I stopped.
“Mom….the tree has new growth….”
Off the dead branches sprung vibrant green sprouts. Actually, they were covering the whole tree. They had been disguised by the bright LED’s, the ornaments, and ribbon, but under all of the glitter this dead stick was sprouting new life. Everyone in the house examined it; this isn’t supposed to happen. Brittle twigs don’t sprout new life. Dead is dead, but apparently not this year.
“That’s a sign, thanks God!” Mom said.
There is more. It’s not over. He’s not done.
Here it is, December 27th. And in the midst of the not knowing, the confusion, the bruises, the bank account that seems to be governed by God and not me, and the snot/sobs/hiccups, I can say this.
I trusted the Lord in 2018, and look at what He did. He has not failed me. He has provided before I even arrived at my need. He hears my every thought and concern, and is faithful to love me when I choose to behave in a way that is unlovable. He asks me to do big things knowing I am weak, selfish and scared, but carries me across to victory. He is security, justice, mercy, love, and fidelity in spite of me and everything I do/have done/will do. His resources are mine because of what Jesus has done, and I will not want for a single good thing from my Father’s hand. I am not poor in anything; I am rich with the wealth of Heaven. None of it needs to make sense. I just need to say Yes.
And there is always more.