The Cabin.

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When I was younger, an abandoned house stood at the back of my family’s 265 acre property in Mississippi.  Nestled around a wooded area, this cabin had stood for over a century.  If I’m honest, I really didn’t know much about the history of the home.  I know a family lived there.  I know it was built in the late 1800’s with no plumbing or running water.  And I know my grandparents had a dream.  They had a dream of turning it into something that would bring our family together, a place where we could find rest.  A little over a decade ago, my grandfather had the house moved from the back of the property up on a hill overlooking a pond.  Day after day, week after week, my grandfather and his crew worked on the house, building what we would affectionately call “the cabin”.  You see, my grandmother had always wanted to renovate the cabin as far back as I can remember, to turn it into a place where we could gather for holidays, weekend sleep-overs, weddings, and summer cookouts as a retreat from our busy lives.  My grandmother’s dream was finally coming true.

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The cabin was stocked with a wood stove, beloved antiques, heirlooms passed down from generation to generation, and more love than you could ever imagine.  My grandfather rebuilt the cabin from the ground up as an act of love for our family.  My grandmother planted a garden in the back with the most delicious vegetables and beautiful flowers you could find.  We roasted hotdogs on the back patio, told stories, watched the stars come out at night.  We swam and we fished.  We rode ATV’s, or as we called them, 4-wheelers.  We curled up and watched movies at night.  It was one of the most magical places in the world.

Then, we lost it.

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We don’t know how the fire started.  We don’t even know when it started.  We simply pulled into the drive and the remains of the heartbeat of our family were revealed to us.  Devastated.  Upset.  Angry.  These are just some of the emotions we felt.  You can still hear the emotion building up inside of my grandmother’s heart every time we talk about it.  Things are just things, but the cabin was our thing.  And we lost it.

But here’s what I know about loss–

Loss can either bring a family together or tear it apart.  The choice is ours.  Loss makes us realize that we are not immortal.  That our every day lives are just that–here one day and gone the next.  Nothing is guaranteed for tomorrow.  Loss can paralyze you if you let it.  Not knowing where to turn or what to do next are two powerful character traits of loss.

But, loss also has the power to move us forward.  Remembering the heart behind the things we have and do, loss gives us the ability to see the world differently.  Sure, the building is gone, but the feeling of the cabin, what happened there will stay with us forever.

I don’t know about your own loss and what you’re going through, but I want you to know that God loves you and He’s walking with you every step you take.  And when fear creeps in, when you’re afraid to take the smallest of steps, remember where you’ve been isn’t the end of the story.  Focus your attention on who you’re becoming.  Don’t let this stop you in your tracks.  Recently, I read Love Lives Here by Maria Goff.  She and her family lost a family lodge to a fire a few years ago.  In her book, she writes, “It won’t be the fires that destroy our lives and our faith, it will be obsessing over not getting burned again that will”.  So, please, take that step.  It’s worth it, I promise.

My Verse for 2018.

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“So, here’s what I want you to do, God helping you–take your everyday life–your sleeping, eating, going to work and walking around life, and place it before God as an offering.  Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.  Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without thinking.  Instead, fix your attention on God.  You’ll be changed from the inside out.  Readily recognize what he wants from you and quickly respond to it.  Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to it’s level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.  [Romans 12:1-2 MSG]

As I approached the end of 2017, I prayed for a verse that would be a reminder for me in 2018, a symbol of hope.  2017 was a crazy year for my wife and I.  There were definitely more lows than highs, and I was desperately seeking a breakthrough.  Little did I know that 2017 was only the beginning of what God is doing.  I found this verse in the Message version.  Previously, I was never a fan of the message version, but as I’ve gotten older, something about it just speaks to ways I can’t describe, directly into my heart.  My goals this year have been fairly simple:  to grow professionally and spiritually, to not get dragged down by this world, and to come closer to God.

In the beginning of 2018, I had an interview for a promotion at a school that I’ve dreamed of working.  It came down to myself and one other person.  The other person was chosen.  Then, in May, I had an opportunity again for two different positions.  I didn’t receive an offer for those positions either.  Many people would wonder, “Trey… why are you telling us this?  Your resume must be horrible!”  Maybe?  Maybe not.

I’m telling you this because we all go through seasons in our life where nothing (and I mean NOTHING) works out the way we expect.  True, I think I go through these seasons more times than not, but there’s something magical that is happening here that I’ll talk more about in the weeks and months to come.  I feel like my eyes are opening wide and my breathes are deep.  I’m seeing things in a completely new perspective, something I’ve prayed for so long.

I wonder…  What if our most desperate prayers are being answered… just not in the way we expect?  What if all of these set backs are preparing us for a move into something different and new that we didn’t think to be possible before?  These are the questions I’m wondering because throughout this entire year, God has been doing something that I can’t seem to put my finger on.  And I’m in the midst of it.  I’m not sure what it is.  Dreams that I didn’t think possible have been given new life.  New desires to grow and learn are emerging.  A journey is beginning, and to be honest, I’m here for it.  I’m ready.  I hope you’ll join me.

When God’s Will Isn’t Comfortable.

Just over a year ago, I wrote this post on our (my wife and I) personal blog, and thought it would be fitting as the first post on my new website.  Doors are closing and opening, and through it all, I don’t want to stand still.  I want to experience it all.  I hope you enjoy this post from July 3, 2017.  It still rings true today… probably truer than it did a year ago.  

I used to have this belief that if it was God’s plan for my life, everything would simply fall into place and I wouldn’t have to worry about anything.  It would be a comfortable transition.  Now, there may be some truth to this statement, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned something.  Being a Christ-follower is no walk in the park!  It’s the most rewarding and genuine part of who I am, but no one ever said it was easy.

A few years ago, I was working on my master’s degree.  I was working a horrible dead-end job that I hated.  I was miserable.  It was one of those places that literally sucks the life right out of you on a day-to-day basis.  Then, an opportunity came up for a position at a local university that I desperately wanted.  I applied immediately!  I put every ounce of faith I had left in God coming through for me.  I was expectant and waiting in awe of what God was going to do.  I literally waited by the phone daily hoping for the opportunity to leave my current job situation.  I would even look for signs from God, trying to decipher what God was trying to tell me.  Then, the phone rang, but it wasn’t what I expected.  It was the chair of the hiring committee calling to let me know that Human Resources had denied my application.  I was crushed.  I mean… crushed!  I literally came home in tears.  It was just another blow to my bruised ego.  Looking back, that was one of the worst seasons I’ve been through so far, but I discovered something.  God didn’t leave me.  God was still working even though I couldn’t see it.  That December, I graduated with my master’s degree.  Just before graduation, I had an interview for the same position that had been open previously.  Just after graduation, I got the call that I had been waiting for.  Eventually, in God’s timing, it all fell into place.  Was it comfortable for me?  NO.  Was it rewarding to witness God’s provision over my life?  Absolutely!

I’ve learned that God is not as concerned about our comfort as we are.  I’ve also learned that, at least in my own life, God seems to deliberately put me in situations that require risk, trust, and faith.  Actually, he seems to do that over and over and over.  Along the way, I’ve learned a few things that help me as I run the race of life.

1.  It’s all about perspective.  I hate waiting.  I really hate waiting.  And for whatever reason, I just can’t synchronize my watch with God’s.  He works in a completely different format of time.  But, waiting is where growth happens, or it least it has been in my life.  That’s a tough pill to swallow for me, and if I’m honest, most days, I don’t want to hear someone tell me that.  Just remember, it’s not our job to figure God out.  It’s not our job to understand exactly what God is doing.  It is simply our job to live in a relationship with Him.  The rest will fall into place.  I’m so guilty of trying to figure God out.  I’ve learned, I usually don’t understand what God is doing until after the fact when I look back.  Even then, sometimes, I’m still thinking, “God, what in the world?!?!”  In the midst of my uncertainty, of trying to figure everything out, I constantly have to remind myself that it’s not my responsibility to have all of the answers.

2.  Surrender.  It took a long hard season for me to get to this place in my life, and if I’m honest, I still haven’t got it figured out.  The difference between now and then is I’m more willing to surrender myself, but I still struggle with it fully.  In my life, I finally realized that regardless of what my eyes see, God is for me and is not against me.  I have to intentionally surrender my problems to him every day… sometimes several times during the day.  It’s not easy.  We are naturally wired to make everything about ourselves, but I’m learning to step back and ask what God wants me to do, what or where God is calling me.  Sometimes the answers come and sometimes they don’t, and that’s okay.  We will never have all the answers.

3.  Be willing.  Do you know the question I hate most in job interviews?  I’ll tell you– “What’s your 5 year plan?”  This question always baffles me.  If I’m honest, it kind of ticks me off too.  The southern redneck comes out in me quick, because I’m want my response to be (in a loud and obnoxious tone), “NUN-YA.  NUN-YA business!”  Seriously though, I’m still trying to figure out if I want a cheeseburger or a salad for lunch!  And you want me to tell you what I’m planning to do with my life for the next 5 years??  You see, that’s just it though.  It’s not my life.  Who do I belong to?  I belong to God.  So, how can anyone expect me to know what God is going to do over the next 5 years?  I’ve learned, at least for me, that my plan doesn’t really matter.  Yes, God knows the desires of our heart, but His calling, His plan is so much greater (and better if I’m honest) that anything I could conjure up in my imagination.

This interview question gets to me because I have a different perspective.  It’s because I intentionally choose (most days) to surrender and be willing to serve a God that loves me and is already ahead of me.  Life is tough.  It’s unfair.  Good people have horrible things happen to them, but I truly believe that God is good.  God is for us, not against us, and has great things ahead that we cannot even fathom.