My prayer life is a lot like my running life.
Did I mention slow?
However, just like my running life, my consistency equals my expectation. In 2015, my year of “adventure,” I ran a half marathon 8 out of 12 months. I completed a full triathlon one month, and another month a really horrible marathon attempt.
You would have thought that I was fast. You would have thought that I was fit. The answer to both? No. Because of that key word: consistency. During that season, Jason and I were living at the affectionately named “tiny house experiment” while our newly purchased home was under flood reconstruction. I was beginning my first run with fertility treatments (and not handling the emotional roller-coaster well). And I was in a new position of leadership at my job that I thought would be a natural fit. So, to sum it up. I was lost. The rug was literally, figuratively, and spiritually pulled out from beneath me.
What do you do when you’re lost? You hit up your Google Maps app. That first map led me to Beth Moore’s devotion, Whispers of Hope. For probably the first time in my life, I made an appointment with God on a pretty-regular schedule and began seeking Him in a way that my entire life in Christ had taught me to seek Him, but my apathy always kept me from completing.
So, by the time 2016 rolled around and we were settled in our newly reconstructed home, my appetite continued for more direction. That adventure that I had been seeking transformed into a spiritual adventure that still continues. Even though 2016 was my year of “restoration,” it was also my year of non-fiction. That restoration was literal with our home, it was also spiritual with my soul. I am now calling that “year” a “season” of non-fiction since I’m still in it. In a lot of ways, I’m still lost. I’m still searching, still running slowly, painfully, desperately, towards the will of my Father.
I love that people are becoming more open to talk about their pain with me. It’s usually strangers or acquaintances. Somehow God ordains a moment and the next thing I know we are both sharing stories of loss and desire. At a coffee shop in Clarksville. At my yearly physical in Oakwood. At the grocery store in Cornelia. It is an honor to hear these stories. It’s a blessing to fill their isolation with commonality. And it’s a responsibility and God’s calling for me to speak when my gut begs me to be silent. To play it safe.
What I don’t like is when people say “You’re so brave. You’re courageous.” Again, they don’t really know me. They don’t know that I’m a bundle of fear, nerves, and insecurities. Always theorizing and projecting how something won’t come to pass in the way that I desire it would.
This theme of courage and fear has been on the forefront of my mind for months. I’ve written about it (not published). I’m read about it. I’ve dreamed about it. And in pure Natalie fashion, I’ve pushed it to the back of my mind and filed it under “Too Busy to Deal With.”
Professionally, I’m in a really awesome season of busy. My new job has been a breath of fresh air, metaphorically and physically. These past few weeks I have been traveling around God-created Northeast Georgia popping in and out of schools helping with a skill I feel confident in, with something that I know has value, in an area where there are really too few of us to understand. Every day feels like extending a life preserver, a hand, and sometimes even a hug to individuals who just want to do right by their schools and communities. That is exactly what I desire to do as well; do right, be authentic, and extend a hand (and a hug when in person).
It was scary to leave a career and identity after ten years. It’s scary to explain to people my new job, because no one really gets it. It’s scary to enter a school where no one knows me. Turn a corner hoping to see a friendly face. Will they be glad to see me? Will I have the answers to their questions? Will I be able to support them in a way that makes their school better? Their own lives better?
Two weeks back on a beautiful Friday morning, God put my heart to rest. I left my home around 7am and drove from Habersham to Downtown Clarkesville, through artisan Sautee Nacoochee, through alpine Helen, around the misty mountains on Unicoi Turnpike where the temperature kept dropping and the sun just began to rise. I had my podcast running through my speakers playing Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History but I listen just as much for his soothing, cadenced narrative as I do for the historical implications. When my yellow Mini crested the highest peak of Unicoi Gap my podcast suddenly stopped. No signal. But I didn’t even notice. What I did notice was the most glorious sunrise. Having hiked that mountain before I know all too well what an early morning sunrise and those mountains can do. They heal. They restore. They confirm. On that misty, 64-degree morning, I began speaking out loud to my Savoir. Thanking my Heavenly Father for that very moment on Unicoi Turnpike. For His sunrise. For His grace. For His abundant mercy. And for being the very definition of whimsy; placing a broken girl on a curvy road on a mountain top where she tangibly felt His presence. It was truly a perfect day where I ran into some cherished old friends unexpectedly and met some very dear new ones.
I’ve already taken this career leap. It’s not like I was going to back out. But like most of us, we just want a little confirmation that we were on the right path. Some of us need it. God filled that day with confirmation after confirmation.
But even since that day I’m still scared. My morning prayers often filled with praise through tears. I’m afraid of being forgotten. I’m afraid of missing out. I’m afraid my life will never be more than this.
This week I have been in contact with so many students. Some of those left behind at school miss me, say they need me. Some feel abandoned. Some just at a loss of what was once familiar. Most of my graduates have already moved off to college. Some without a word of goodbye. Some chose to have lunch with me, to seek advice or just to reconnect. Those small meals have a big impact on me. They have no idea how much I love them. As best as I can. How a mother loves her children. But I know the reality is, it will never be like this again. In a few years’ time, they will have their own rhythms, their own lives, relationships and they will one day stand in front of an alter and I may or may not be in the crowd. I don’t blame them or judge them. I know this pattern all too well. I used to be “Mrs. White;” teacher, adviser, mentor, and sometimes mother. I’m now just “Natalie,” floating in and out of schools without those relationships to ground me, give me identity, and hold my heart together.
I know this is why God keeps putting scripture and truth in my sight about courage, faith, and fear. God does not desire us to live in fear. He desires us to recycle our adversity and turn it into a ministry.
The Big Bang Theory, Series 03 Episode 23 – The Lunar Excitation