Moments That Span Into Eternity…

So how do you write about something you wished never happened? How do your describe something that felt so dark, but in reality was actually illuminating? Where do you begin?

I guess I’ll start from the beginning…

imageSunday, July 8th around 8:45pm – First Day of ETV Summer Camp 

It was a typical tent-discussion with a handful of 9th and 10th grade boys following the first message from camp…”What’d you like? What didn’t you like?” etc., etc. One comment stood out from the rest…It came from a boy entering the 10th grade named Caleb Justice. In a conversation about the relevancy of God and the Bible, Caleb spoke up and said, “It doesn’t surprise me that God’s word still makes sense to us today [after being written some 2,000+ years ago]…I mean, He’s God and that’s just what He does…”

It’s amazing how enlightening a single statement can be. Words have a way of doing that…to inspire…to reveal truth…to stick. Caleb’s words stuck. I left that conversation thinking about the nonchalant, “no duh”-type of way that Caleb spoke about God.

“What else did I expect? God always works. He never fails. Every year at ETV, He does something amazing. Yeah…this is what He does.”

Little did I know that God would begin to work in ways I could have never imagined. But this wouldn’t be the kind of work that was easy or brief. This was to be a work that would involve pain and loss. A work that work that would require faith and courage. A work that would require sacrifice…

Monday, July 9th around 11:00am – Arriving to the Lake

My main responsibility for the week was to oversee all of the lake activities – we had a great week planned with multiple boats for students to go tubing & wakeboarding, we had water polo goals for the shallow water, countless water floats for the students to use and enjoy, and we even had fried chicken for lunch (which is way better than the usual ham & cheese sandwich with no mayo)! So it was set to be a great week!

For months I had been preparing for the week of camp. I had several areas of responsibility that I was overseeing for the week and I wanted to make sure that I was as prepared as possible to lead and serve well.

One of my areas of responsibility was the Lake Team…I know, I know – tough gig, but somebody had to do it 😉 Like I told the ETV Leadership Team, “If somebody needed to suffer in the sun and make sure the lake was covered, I would be willing to ‘take one’ for the team.” So I did 🙂

I planned for a great week at the Lake with lots of fun activities, but I learned quickly that you can’t plan for the unexpected. Within a matter of hours everything would change.

Looking back now – a full year later – it seems as if this was a “small” microcosm of what to expect over the next year. Life is full of so many twist and turns – almost all of which are unexpected. It’s as if we set our plans only to appease our minds and give us some sort feeling of control.

It’s interesting really – with so much being out of our control, we fight and struggle for every little bit of control that we can muster. Now I’m not advocating abandoning plans, or saying that plans don’t have purpose, but it’s foolish to think that because we plan things will unfold the way we expected. If there is anything that I’ve learned in this life it’s that few things go the way I plan.

Proverbs 16:9 says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

Only God knows fully our exact steps and the direction of the paths we journey. All that we experience and all that we go through are part of God’s plan and His purpose.

This is the foundational truth that I’ve held onto over the last year. It’s what has brought me peace amidst turbulence. And it’s been the light that has guided me through darkness.

And darkness was certainly looming…

Monday, July 9th around 2:30pm – “The Phone Call”

The shore was silent…the music had stopped…the “vibe” was changing…not a problem. I would simply get my iPhone, restart the playlist, connect it back to the stereo dock, and the beach party would resume. As I reached for my phone, I realized that I had an incoming call – it was the Camp Director, Mathias Califf – unassumingly so, I answered the phone. What was said to me was not what I expected – how could anyone ever expect what happened next…

Mathias: “Hey, do you have a moment?”

Me: “Yea, what’s up?”

Mathias: “Listen, Greg (Goosetree) just called me and there is a situation happening at the waterfalls. I don’t have all of the details, but Caleb Justice slipped off a rock into the river. Brett McLean went in after him but neither of them have come up yet and it’s been about 5 minutes.”

Me: “What do you mean? Did they get carried downstream?”

Mathias: “I don’t know man. I don’t have all the details, but it sounds pretty scary. I’m on my way there now, so I’ll call you as soon as I have more information.”

Paralysis can be defined as a state of powerlessness or incapacity to act. I’m not 100% sure that this is what I experienced, but it definitely captures how I felt in that moment. I suddenly became overwhelmed by a flood of emotions…fear, uncertainty, disbelief, hurt, and even anger. Each emotion reared itself, making me well aware of its presence.

Yet, amidst all of those feelings I had a sense of hope. Uncertain hope, but hope nonetheless. “Maybe they’re just around the bend…They should come up any moment now…When Mathias calls back, everything will be ok…There’s no way that this could happen at camp.”

It was that small measure of hope mixed with the other wild emotions that led me to prayer. I mean prayer like I never prayed before. It was a desperate prayer. A prayer like I’ve only prayed maybe once before. I longed for the best, but I feared for the worst.

It makes me wonder – in that moment I begged of everything from God…I believed in His ability and in His power maybe more than I’ve ever believed – so why is it that we don’t seek God in this way even in the smallest of matters?

To pray with that same level of burden, to believe with such a deep sense of conviction, to trust with the highest degree of reverence – this is what I’ve learned. That in all things God desires for us to seek Him in this way – even when the outcomes are not what we desire.

Monday, July 9th around 3:00pm – “Cruel Reality”

The phone rings. Mathias Califf calling. Swipe to answer.

Me: “Hello…”

Mathias: “Hey Ricky…man, I don’t even know how to tell you this…”

In that one, half-sentence I knew…more was said, but it didn’t matter. As cruel as it seemed, reality set in. Things would be forever different. 

Mathias: “Do you want me to call the parents? Or is that something you think you should do?”

Me: “No, I think I should call them. I think it would be better for them to hear it from me.”

That 30-minute window felt like eternity times three. It’s funny how we can want something so badly – in my case this phone call – yet when we receive what we “wanted” it ends up not being what we wanted at all.

As soon as those words were uttered my heart sank. This game of life had dealt it’s cruelest hand – death.

Brett McLean and Caleb Justice
Brett McLean and Caleb Justice

As reality set in, I couldn’t help but feel as if someone was playing a cruel joke on me. That day at the lake, I did my best to make sure that everyone was safe. I watched the shore to make sure no one was too far out. I kept an eye on every person – I didn’t want any accidents happening on my watch.

Yet here I was having to face a situation in which I was unable to protect one of my own students. In all honesty, I felt like a failure. Doubt began to creep it’s way in, ”If only I had been there – maybe I could’ve reached him. This happened because I wasn’t there. This was my fault…”

As foolish as it may seem, these were my honest thoughts in that moment. I don’t know how long those thoughts lasted, but it couldn’t be very long. Within moments I had to muster the courage to call Caleb’s father and break the news to him. There was no room for doubt or self-pity. Courage was what was need. Yes, courage.

Yet again it seems that this moment – when all of life seemed still – served to be a reminder of a greater lesson that God would begin to teach me.

You see there are situations that we experience far more consistently than we’d like to acknowledge that cause us to doubt. They have to do with relationships, with family, with work, with school, with ourselves – and they all cause us to doubt. We doubt who we are; we doubt what we’ve learned; we doubt what we’ve become; we doubt the process that has led us to this moment; we doubt our decisions; we doubt the decisions of others; we doubt God.

But it is in these moments, these seasons, of doubt that God is often times pulling us forward, urging us to live with courage. He’s at work within us stirring up the courage that will drive away the doubt; courage that will fortify who we are; courage that will cause us to overcome.

It is this courage that allows us to face all of life’s cruel realities, even when we don’t know how…

Monday, July 9th around 3:05pm – “The Conversation”

Search contacts. Locate Shawn Justice. Take a deep breath. Say a prayer. Dial mobile.

Shawn: “Hey Ricky!”

Me: “Hey Shawn. Do you have a minute to talk and can you sit down?”

Shawn: “Yea, sure – what’s going on?”

Me: “Shawn, I don’t even know how to say this but…Shawn, today Caleb was at the river near the waterfalls. He was on the rocks around the pool and he slipped in. Another leader was nearby and he went in after Caleb to try to reach him. It’s been over 30 minutes and neither one of them has surfaced. Shawn, I’m so sorry…”

Shawn: Pauses. Deep breath.

Me: “I’m so sorry Shawn…I’m sorry…”

Shawn: Exhale. “Ricky, it’s ok, just pray…I’ll get Sara and we’ll head up to the camp.”

End conversation.

Just typing this very conversation is incredibly difficult. With each keystroke I relive the conversation. Moment-by-moment, line-by-line, sentence-by-sentence everything comes back. This is a conversation that I’ll never forget – and trust me, for good or for bad, I’ve tried to forget. But my mind won’t…it can’t…let go.

It’s a conversation that has been re-played in my mind every week for the last year. 52 weeks. Every. Single. Week.

How do you tell the father of a 15-year old boy that his son has just passed away in a drowning accident at summer camp? Better yet, how do you respond to his sense of peace and understanding?

As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t wish this conversation on my worst enemy…

There is much to be learned from this conversation. While I’ve learned some things, I’ve not fully extracted all that is to be gained from this brief phone call. In fact, when I think of this conversation it only leads to more questions and more learning.

How does one maintain a measure of calmness when you’ve been dealt terrible news? At what point in my relationship with God will I begin to know and understand God in such a way that I am not panicked about life’s troubles? When I face an unbelievable challenge or reality – do I think to pray? Or why think at all – why not pray?

I’ve had a year to think on these things and to be honest this is still in “process mode”. I haven’t arrived yet. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’m working on it. This conversation that I sometimes wish I could let go of, has become a source for deep introspection and self-evaluation. So for that reason alone, I will continue to replay this conversation and relive possibly the most difficult thing that I have ever done in my life.

Monday, July 9th around 3:30pm – The White River Falls

Right after calling Shawn Justice, I was on my way to the waterfalls. While the distance was only 7 miles, the entire drive seemed to move in slow motion. 

Upon arriving to the falls I saw Joshua, Caleb’s older brother, who was just yards away when his brother slipped into the falls. I could hardly bring myself to look at him as I still battled feelings of guilt and failure. 

I walked towards the White River Falls – a set of falls so gorgeous, hidden in an Oregon desert valley. I had been to the falls many times before. I always stood in wonder and in awe of God’s creation. 

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It was here that I was able to gather myself for a few moments. Emergency crews were on the scene and the state park was now closed as rescue crews sought to retrieve the bodies of Caleb Justice and Brett McLean. Still I was able to sit silently, to reflect, to talk…

I found a place of solace – a place where I could approach God and talk with Him about what had occurred. He already knew, but I knew He wanted to hear it from me. It was there that I told Him all about Caleb and Brett. I told Him about how Caleb once tried to play “Hide and Seek” with me even though I didn’t know I was playing, plus he was hidden in plain sight. I told God about the time Brett and I sat in a pizza shop and laughed because we were two young guys with matching “doulos” tattoos on our left wrists sharing a vegetarian pizza.

I told God that on the surface Caleb and Brett appeared to be polar opposites, but that in reality they were very much the same – both were risk-takers; both had a passion for life and even more passion for Jesus; both had unique personalities with their own quirks; and both were comfortable being who God wanted them to be. I also told God that I would miss them dearly.

Yes, it was at the White River Falls – the place where the waters roared loudly and violently – that I was invited to talk with God.

Psalm 27:8 – “My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming.’”

Over this last year I have found God’s invitation to talk to be one of the most comforting things in my life. In God, I have found a friend that I can approach about anything at anytime. He’s worthy of being trusted with deepest hurts and our darkest fears. He’s gives us reason to celebrate and provides us with great joy. No matter my situation, I take God up on His offer to talk and many times this is exactly what I need.

Monday, July 9th around 5pm – “The Message”

After some time at the falls, Mathias and I began to talk about the rest of the day and evening – what would be the plan? Who do we communicate to? What do we communicate? How do we let the other students know that haven’t heard yet? 

With several other youth pastors unaware of what was going on, and with Mathias having to stay with the emergency crews and law enforcement, I headed back to the camp to take the lead on communicating to the students and to the volunteers. 

I’ve given dozens of speeches and I’ve preached hundreds of messages in my life – many of which I’ve prepared for hours, some I’ve done ‘off the cuff’ – but none were as conflicting as what I was about to say. It was up to me to tell about 150 high school students and 100+ adult staff & volunteers about the incidents of the day. I didn’t know what to say exactly, but I knew two things: they needed the truth and they needed hope.

So on the drive to the camp, I began to think. I gleaned on an experience that occurred just 9 days before the tragedy at ETV (which I wrote about here) and I knew that despite the tragedy, the call had to be to worship and to love.

To worship because the day we arrived to camp we celebrated God’s greatness and how good He was; and if God was good yesterday, then the truth still remains that God was still good on this day. Like David when he lost his son in 2 Sam. 12, the only appropriate response seemed to be worship. The beauty of worship is that it requires a total surrender of one’s self in acknowledgment of One that is bigger, or superior. Despite our troubles, I knew God was still in control.

And to love because this was an experience that we all went through – it wasn’t just me, everyone at camp was going to go through this…together. And since we were going to walk through this experience together we needed love. Love for our brothers, love for our sisters, love for our Creator. It was love that was to become the pillars of support on which we would stand.

So this became our “rally cry” of sorts: To worship and to love. That night we broke into groups, told stories, laughed, cried, supported one another, exhorted each other, and sang songs…we worshipped and we loved.

Singer/songwriter Reuben Morgan from Hillsong United once said, “When we are more aware of our weaknesses than our strength, it is ok to sing out of HOPE rather than certainty.”

Although two friends were lost, we all sang out of hope.

It was in this moment that I learned I could worship in any and every situation. That worship of the one true God is not dependent upon my circumstances. No…God is far greater than that. He is much more deserving of that.

Only a God so gracious and so loving could receive and accept a worship so broken yet so pure.

Monday, July 9th to Tuesday, July 10th – Reflection

The 24 hours that followed felt like I was in the twilight zone. All of it felt like a whirlwind…I remember looking at my watch exactly 24 hours after I received the first phone call and thinking how fast, yet how slow, time had moved. So much had happened in such a short span of time. Little by little I began piecing together my thoughts and looking for what God was doing in me and around me…

I’ve always been a “big picture” kind of guy. I’ve always tried to step away from a situation and see how everything was coming together and try to assess what could be. This has always come very natural to me – even when I was a young teenager.

This situation was no different. As time passed, I began to step back and look for what God was doing. He was doing something and it was BIG. All over the world people were becoming aware of what had occurred and they began reaching out and praying together. God’s people were rallying together and sending their prayers and support our way. At the camp, there was a spirit of unity and humility. God was at work and I began to see bits and pieces of what He was doing.

I went from looking around to looking within – what was God doing in me? I wasn’t sure, but I had questions…Why was I chosen to be at the center of these events? What did God want me to see about Him? This wasn’t a short-term learning experience, so how would this affect the rest of my life and my ministry?

In this last year, I’ve walked through all sorts of challenges and I’ve faced countless situations that have required reckless faith. I’ve had people tell me that they know God is going to do great things in me and that they can’t wait to see the story God has written for me. I’ve pursued dreams that I’ve had for 10 years and I’ve seen God honor that in my life.

But why?

One reason: I’ve sought every opportunity to be used by God and I’ve accepted every situation that He has presented me with.

There’s no magic here. There’s nothing special or unique about what I’ve done. It’s something that every single person can choose to do. No matter who you are, you can decide to embrace everything that God puts before you and learn to see it as an opportunity to bring honor to Him.

My Continuing Journey…

Sadly, many of us don’t choose to be used by God in this way. We choose comfort and convenience over character. We settle on contentment rather than growth. We look for shortcuts rather than trusting in the process.

It’s certainly not easy, nor is it always fun. There are many seasons where you truly walk by faith not knowing where you are going – but that is the essence of the Christian belief system. It’s Faith.

Hebrews 11:6 says, “It is impossible to please God without faith.” 

It doesn’t say that your chances of pleasing God are reduced…it says that it is impossible. Faith isn’t an option, it’s a must.

Not only is this the chief lesson that I have learned, but it is what was exemplified in Caleb’s life.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It’s not the length of life, but the depth.”

Through all of this, I have discovered that the key to depth is not possessions, pleasure, or even experiences; but rather the key to depth is faith. You see I’ve learned that faith is what leads to a life that is full of depth, meaning, and significance.

It really is amazing how much you can learn in a single day. There are some things you learn that will stay with you forever – you’ll never forget them.

Funny isn’t? How some moments span into eternity…

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God’s Not Done With You

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Would you bow your heads to pray.  

That was my cue to exit the church service before anyone could see my fragile state, or worse – try talking to me on my way out. I drove home in a fury, and as soon as the tires touched the driveway I bolted from the car into the house. Once the door closed behind me, I fell to the floor in a heap of tears.

Just as my knees had given out, so had my spirit.

On the ground, I raised my hands to signify my physical surrender to my circumstances. I couldn’t go on like this anymore. Adamantly I pleaded with the Lord for relief. Knowing there was no end in sight, I literally cried out in distress.

Is this what my life had amounted to?

“Just left something for you on your doorstep.” said the text message. Confused and shaken I quickly picked myself up fearing that my sobs and hysterical pleas had been heard by someone nearby! Relieved to see no one there, I opened the front door to find a book on the step. As I bent down to pick it up, a piece of paper fell delicately from it’s pages.

In disbelief I read the title of the loose sheet of paper, “It’s Not Over Till It’s Over.”

Comparing this mess called ‘Life’ to a long movie, the author writes these words,“…as the curtain falls and I think to myself, this is a strange way to end. I look again and see God pointing to the screen as if to say, ‘This my child, is not the end, but an intermission…’”

Just seconds after being in a fit of tears , the author’s next words, almost felt like they were instructing me in that exact moment. Like they knew…

“Can I encourage you to sit down, take a deep breath, stretch, and regroup? The story’s not over yet. Perhaps you are just at an intermission. We shouldn’t put a period where God put a comma.

Holy mother of Abraham Lincoln… that just happened!

If that wasn’t God speaking to me, I don’t know what is!

As I sat on the steps of my front porch taking in the depth of those words, I was reminded of yet another powerful story that I had heard years ago…

Alter Weiner, a Holocaust survivor, described the unimaginable circumstances he had endured in the 35 months he spent in concentration camps.

He spoke of how by March 1945, that he was so emaciated and weak as a result of starvation, that he could no longer work due to his frailty. The Nazi’s saw no purpose in a Jew who couldn’t work, and so he was sent by train to a neighboring concentration camp where he would be killed.

He described standing in an endless line with other battered and beaten Jews – all hopelessly watching groups of Jews ahead of them being ushered into gas chambers, their lifeless bodies emerging moments later as they were carried away to be cremated.

Feeling the weight of his reality with each step he took – stepping closer and closer to his imminent death.

In his book, “From A Name To A Number” he explains being both utterly terrified yet filled with a deep desire for the pain and torture to cease – even if it meant his life having to end to do so.

He couldn’t do it any longer.

“I was standing in line for the doomed, waiting to be gassed and cremated. I sniffed the offensive odor of burning flesh. I felt downright scared. The thought of being so close to death sucked the life out of me.

Then a German civilian approached me. My heart stopped. He shouted at me, “Get out of line, young boy!  You can still work!”

You can imagine the tension in that moment: not knowing whether you should shout for joy at the thought of another day, or if in complete frustration you should cry out to God for punishing you even longer! After all, he was saved, but only to be sent back to another concentration camp!

But Alter’s story was no where near over yet…

Amazingly, less than 8 weeks later  – in just two months – Alter’s concentration camp would be liberated by the Russian Army! He would be set free from the torture, and suffering he had endured over the years at the hands of the Nazi’s.

While Alter stood weary and hopeless in that line just weeks ago – coming so close to death that he could literally smell it – he most certainly believed he had reached the end.

And yet, it proved to have only been an intermission.

I wonder how many of us could identify the same desperation and emotional emaciation in our own lives. Our circumstances leaving us so frail and weary, that we are no longer recognizable to ourselves.

I know I can’t be the only one who has found myself a midst a raging storm in my life .

One so long and so hard that I have fallen to my knees, arms outstretched in surrender as I pleaded for the winds that were threatening to overtake me, to cease.

If that is where you have found yourself today, then please remember :

This is not the end, it is only an intermission…

The story is not over yet!

Your Liberator is coming for you!

In Isaiah 41:10 its says, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

The Lord is making a series of promises.

I am with you…

I will strengthen you…

I will help you…

I will uphold you…

I think we could agree that the idea of Christ being ‘with us’ is a nice thought – kinda makes us feel all fuzzy inside – but if we are really honest, hasn’t the Lord also seemed so silent at times?

It’s like He is passively holding out on us, while in desperation we wonder:

When will His strength come?

When will His help deliver us?

And why – in this very instant – isn’t the Lord choosing to make His presence known by rescuing us from our current heartache like a prince on his stallion? Like now!?

Yet I have found that when the flood waters have risen; when the heat has been turned up to the ‘oomph’ degree; when the burden has become too heavy for me to bare on my own -THAT is when God has brought the deliverace that I have so desperately needed.

The Lord speaks about this in Isaiah 43:2-3

When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.
 For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

In our darkest days, these verses can offer an undeniable comfort. The comfort in knowing that even when we have fallen to the floor in a fit of tears with no hope of ever having the strength to get back up again, when we find ourselves so badly bruised and beaten that we are almost positive we have reached the end – even amidst the most unimagenable of circumstances – that the Lord our God will meet us there in our pain, and never leave our side!

And we will not be consumed!

Dear friends, I pray that each of us would come to fully grasp the fact that we are not alone, and that He is not done!

Wait expectantly on the Lord…

For your Liberator is coming for you!

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** And make sure to check back here next Tuesday for something really special.  My husband has agreed to take over the reigns, and share his heart on the 1 year anniversary of  a tragedy that broke our hearts and tested our faith in a way nothing ever had before! You wont want to miss it! **

So You Think God Is Wrong?

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My eyes open to the sound of my toddler stirring in her bed. I close my eyes again and picture her stretching her limbs to get ready for the day. Oh no you don’t!  I fling the weight of the covers off of myself and hastily make for the door.  Over piles of laundry – against any obstacle – I make my way around the bed. I stop suddenly when in sight of her crib, and at the risk of her seeing me, I army crawl my way along the cold wood floors towards my only chance of even the slightest motivation for the day- my coffee!

It’s funny because I have never been much of a coffee drinker.

I made it through college, and worked for years at schools – where it could be argued that coffee was more key to survival than air itself! I even made it though my daughter’s first year of life without ever having as much as a sip of the good stuff!

So why do you ask, have I finally given in to the madness?

Toddlerhood.

It’s kicking my butt and it’s not letting up, no matter how loud I plead “Mercy!”

The plus side of my daughter’s new developmental stage however, is that we have been able to immerse her into an abundance of worship music lately. (I like how when I say that it makes me sound suuuuuper spiritual, when in reality it’s just proven to be the best way to drown out the tantrums!) It’s genius really – allowing you to be both in a constant state of worship while encouraging you to lower your escalating heart rate as your child screams bloody murder in the background!

And so it’s no surprise that after a week full of ‘the need for worship music’ (if you get my drift) that I found myself bolting for the kitchen every morning – in hopes of even just a mere 15 minutes – where, with coffee in hand, I could be alone in my thoughts.

With each sip, my thoughts would turn to daydreams….

Daydreaming back to the days when I had the time to do my hair and when the wind, or incoming subway, wasn’t always threatening to mess it up…

Relishing in the happiest of memories I shared with all of my pumps – who are now uniformly lined up in my closet with no hopes of ever being worn again…

Then after a few moments on Facebook – and after seeing all the beautiful babies being born – I would then begin mourning the baby my daughter wasn’t anymore.

Wishing for a laundry basket full of little onesies in every color of the rainbow, and the feeling of having a sleeping baby nuzzled in my neck, legs curled up under their bums… For a moment, I even missed the newborn cry (but it didn’t take long for me to come to my senses about that one!)

I swear though, while enjoying my coffee just a day later, my daydreams would be about the exact opposite!

Looking forward to the day that with a little more age, my daughter would be more self sufficient!

When maybe she could help me clean up or at least carry her weight (like literally, and preferably down the subway steps!)

My heart ached also at the reality that I might never experience having another child. Not because we wouldn’t love to, but because our new life in Manhattan doesn’t allow for that… comfortably.

My thoughts then wandered to whether Gia would be socially dysfunctional due to her future solitude as an only child… I then chuckled to myself knowing that according to a large amount of American moms she already will be – considering my decision to get an epidural AND to not breastfeed her as a baby! Which makes me smile because ‘realistically’ then, I have nothing to lose!

As I continued to sip my coffee, I casually flipped through a book and came across this poem which silenced my daydreaming completely.

It was spring, but it was summer I wanted; the warm days and the great outdoors.

It was summer but it was fall I wanted; the colorful leaves and the cool dry air.

It was fall but it was winter I wanted; the beautiful snow and the joy of the holiday season.

It was now winter but it was spring I wanted; the warmth and the blossoming of nature.

I was a child but it was adulthood that I wanted; the freedom and the respect.

I was twenty but it was thirty I wanted; to be mature and sophisticated.

I was middle-aged but it was twenty I wanted; the youth and the free spirit.

I was retired but it was middle-age that I wanted; the presence of mind without limitations.

My life was over but I never got what I wanted.

This poem spoke loud and clear to me.

I mean we all live this way, right? I know I do! I was doing so in the exact moment that I came across it!

We could even continue the poem on to say…

I wanted a fresh start in a new city, but now I miss my friends.
I wanted a job promotion, but now I am working too hard.
I was engaged but then I wanted to be married.
I was married, but I wanted to be a parent.
I wanted to get pregnant 3 months ago, but…
I was a parent of one child, but I wanted another…and another.
I had a family, but now I just want some peace and quiet – even better, a hot date!

I realized that what I had originally entertained as ‘harmless daydreaming’ was not that at all… My heart was directly in the center of a raging battle of discontentment!

I had restlessly been longing for something else, something better – only further proving that my daughter wasn’t enough just the way she is.

Even worse, proving that God – who in all His mighty power was able to create the heavens and the Earth – was somehow wrong in the way He designed my life!

I knew in my heart that I didn’t believe that to be true…

I thought back to Psalm 18:30, which is a verse that has been penned countless times on the palm of my hand in an attempt to get me through some of my most difficult days. Its profoundness lies also in its simplicity.

 God’s way is perfect…

The word ‘perfect’ is undeniable!

And because of it, we can rest in the truth that when God calls you somewhere, or to do something, that you are in His PERFECT plan for your life!

Still, I found myself perplexed as I pondered this verse over and over in my head…

If I know I am within God’s perfect plan for my life, why does my heart still feel so restless, even unhappy at times?

I decided to take a look at that verse more closely.

I was surprised to find that over the years, there was a part I had missed entirely!

God’s way is perfect….He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.

The key to finding contentment in our current circumstances is as much about believing that God’s plan for our lives is perfect in its entirety, just as much as it is knowing that the Lord is available to be our greatest source of comfort – a place where our hearts can find what they so desperately need to be made whole again!

He can be… that is, “For all those who take refuge in Him”

This verse requires action. And it is our choice where – or whom – we find our refuge.

I pictured myself earlier that morning…
Realizing then that I needed to choose to run to Him – in that same desperate way at times – and throw myself at the foot of the cross, and not just the coffee pot.

Our hearts have failed in an attempt to find refuge in many other things as well. As women we have looked for it in our significant other – or lack thereof – falsely believing that true contentment will be found when someone “puts a ring on it” if you will…

In boredom, we have turned to Facebook, but then are surprised when our discontentment escalates as we begin comparing our happiness and successes to that of our friends…

On Pinterest, we have made ourselves believe that a bigger house, a vacation to go zip-lining in the Swiss Alps, making our own laundry detergent, or incorporating the’ Victoria Secret Angels work out’ is going to bring greater significance to our lives…

We could have the perfect career, have gotten married to someone far out of our league, had a family, bought the house and have all the pictures hung, and yet even still, we will be restless and longing for more!

The truth is, I have no doubt that even when I am in the ‘sweet spot’ of God’s perfect plan for my life, that even then the Lord will keep me a little less fulfilled than I would most desire – whether in my marriage, in my confidence as a parent, and in any life circumstance that comes my way – Always withholding a little of what I believe I so desperately need at the time, in an attempt to keep me in a constant awareness of my ultimate need for Him, and only Him!

As I leave you today, I would ask you to search your heart for what it is that you have aimlessly attempted to take refuge in? What is it that has hindered you from embracing the perfect way God has laid out for you?

I pray that God would help us to savor the season of life we find ourselves in – even if they are chalk full of tantrums and chaos- laden mornings!

I can promise you this: Living God’s way doesn’t always mean you will get whatever you want…
But I can assure you that you will indeed, always have everything that you need!

Krista Signature