Chris & I just got back yesterday from a fabulous trip to the central coast of california where we spent five of our most formative years of life together. To say it feels like paradise there – ocean breezes and warm sunshine and nightly coastal fog banks all mixed together with some of our dearest friends (like a big pot of Utopian Stew) – would feel a bit like an understatement.
We needed the getaway. Chris DJed a wedding out there on Saturday, and the rest of the time, we just wandered and explored and caught up with old friends. Our friends Cameron and Anna graciously arranged for us to stay in an amazing little bungalow across the street from them, a bungalow owned by The Pleated Poppy, which will tell you just how amazingly perfect and wonderful and cozy it was. Completely divine!
I knew the trip wouldn’t be without its challenges, though, even before we’d arrived. It’s a complicated thing and a delicate situation, this revisiting such a memory-drenched paradise shortly after having made such a choice as we did… to stay put in Oklahoma and try to remain faithful to the work God is doing here in this place, and in us. I got a hint of how hard it was going to be a couple of weeks ago, when I was sitting alone in a coffee shop for the first time in months, journaling about life. I was suddenly overwhelmed then with the realization that life back in those days was so incredibly carefree and I was SO surrounded by beauty all the time- and I didn’t even appreciate it at all! As I sat and journaled, all I could think about was going back in time and shaking the shoulders of that young girl that I used to be and commanding her to soak up every moment of that season and that place! The regret was so real I could almost taste it in my mouth… it churned up my stomach and made me feel ill. The back-end of a brutal Oklahoma Summer seemed like a pit when compared to those rolling green hills and ocean cliffs that I drove next to all those years ago. Did I even turn my head to see?
God was so sweet in that moment though, He quickly turned my eyes from my past and pointed them right at my future… when all of this faded earth will be transformed and I will be with Him, my true home, forever. It was like He was calling all of my longing back to true North, and reminding me that the physical beauty of this earth is but a mere shadow of the promise that is awaiting the faithful ones of God. Talk about a perspective shift! He was preparing me even then for the emotions that this trip would stir up within me.
It’s hard not to doubt a decision to stay when there seemed to be an all-clear to go. I know in my head that we did the right thing, because God has never spoken so clearly to me about a thing in my life, but my heart is a brute beast and paces within me. There is so much of me that would have loved to move back to the mountains or the sea, but moving somewhere for the sake of mountains and seas is not the calling I have received in this life. It is a luxury that falls to the wayside when God speaks. I may be a stay-at-home-mom in the middle of America, but I am also very much a missionary. I go where God tells me to go, without regard to what I will feel or see when I look outside my window.
The gratitude I have for this community of people I’ve been brought to here in Oklahoma is all that I need to remind me of the good work being done in this place. When Chris and I left California all those years ago, we were deeply wounded people. We had been spiritually manipulated by a church whose name feels nothing short of ironic in hindsight. We watched so many of our similarly wounded friends reel and scatter over those following years, and some are only now coming back to a solid faith in God. Some never did come back. But we were plucked from that place of pain and deposited right into a place of healing and growth- one that I am not sure we would have found had we stayed.
Oklahoma is home. And it will be until God calls me elsewhere. It doesn’t matter to me one iota what people may think when they look at the facts of my life on paper, or conjecture on the missed opportunities or location changes we have made as a family, because the Voice that I follow drowns them out so that I can’t even hear the noise. In having chosen to live my life as an offering to God, I have also chosen to give up a few things. Namely, the freedom to do whatever makes me feel the best and whatever makes me the happiest. My life is not about me at all. God forbid it should ever become so, because the day it all becomes all about ME is the day it becomes completely drained of love and worth.
Consider these words a sermon to myself. I’m preaching truth to my heart in a season of doubt and forgetfulness. That’s why I write here… it’s a place to record and remember truth as I learn it, so I will never be tempted to forget.