…On Beginnings and Endings

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Well…when you ask for God to reveal His plan…you better be ready for an answer! In Don’t Take the Boat to Tarshish, I expressed anxiety over what God had in plan for our family. And in Leaning In, I shared more fears about the unknown. I reminded myself that fear is not from God. Instead, he asks us to put our hope in Him…leaning in and seeking His strength.  Easier said than done.

Our family of six, (formerly known as the ‘CO McMonagles’ and most recently known as the ‘NM McMonagles’) is becoming the ‘CA McMonagles’. We are moving to San Diego. I’ll be honest; I’m very sad to leave our life and dearest friends and family here in Santa Fe. I do believe, though, that San Diego is not going to be rough. I started praying for a miracle last fall…a miracle to keep us here in Santa Fe. My friend, Lois, tells me that miracles don’t always look like you think they will. Throughout the last year, I have slowly stopped digging my heels into Santa Fe and honestly started asking God to make me open to His plan. That’s a miracle in itself. So God gave me hope in the meantime. Hope is one of those fuzzy/hard-to-define words. But hope is worth grabbing and holding onto. Hope lends sanity to the everyday.

“…in a big, loud world – we hold on to Hope. Hope for the impossible, hope for the unlikely, hope for the unexpected, hope for the improbable — because hope is nothing else but the spine of faith…for Hope in [God] is the anchor of our soul.” –Ann Voskamp

An anchor to our souls…how awesome is this little nugget of truth from the Book of Hebrews?! It is in great hope that I am trusting that God has heard my prayers and is showing us miracles, no matter how unexpected the form. I have real hope that God has our family in his hands as we launch off on this great new adventure.  Saying goodbye to our friends in Santa Fe is going to be difficult. But a new start doesn’t demand closure.

“Everyone now wishes for ‘closure’. This word is unfortunate; it is not faithful to the open-ended rhythm of experience.” John O’Donohue, An Abundance of Blessings

For a girl who thought she would live in Georgia her whole life, it’s kind of surreal to think that I’m moving on to my fifth state since I left my childhood home. I’ve learned that with a move, real closure isn’t necessary. I have taken a part of each city and my dear friends in each place with me. Life truly is an open-ended experience.  Rather than an ending in Santa Fe, I’m focusing on a new beginning for the CA McMonagles. In his meditations on endings and beginnings, O’Donohue continues,

“A beginning is ultimately an invitation to open toward the gifts and growth that are stored up for us.”

Lois also recently shared with me a beautiful song that I might have listened to three hundred times in the last few weeks – Hillsong United’s, Oceans. It’s worth a listen and pretty fitting for our move to the Golden Coast.

“You call me out upon the waters. The great unknown where feet may fail. And there I find you in the mystery…For I am Yours and You are mine. Your grace abounds in deepest waters. Your sovereign hand will be my guide…”

Uncertainty is, no doubt, unsettling. Answered prayers and miracles rarely look like what we would have expected. But it’s in the deepest waters, deep in the mystery, where grace abounds. Are there places in your life where you can ask God to make you more open to His plan?  Some areas of life where allowing more hope will give you more peace in your days? I encourage you to seek the mystery in the deep.  Because the grace is so sweet.

So here’s to new beginnings…especially when they don’t have to dictate an ending. Santa Fe will always be a part of our lives. Watch out – the McMonagles, in all our chaos, are about to take SoCal by storm. There is part of me that thinks my Toyota Sienna mini-van is going to instantly turn into a jeep without a top the minute we cross the California state line. And speaking of songs…I’m trusting Katy Perry and Snoop Dog that like the California Gurls in their song, I’ll instantly become fine, fresh, fierce, tone, tan, fit, and ready – and basically just lay under palm trees sipping gin and juice all day. Who’s gonna watch the kids?!  I’m in.

 

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” –Hebrews 6:19

Leaning In

uncertainty-ahead
Living with Uncertainty…And Seeking God’s Plan, Part 2 of 2

In Don’t Take the Boat to Tarshish, I considered how and why Jonah fled from God…and how we can personally relate.  Jonah was directed by God to go to a new place, and that kind of calling can be daunting to me.  Jonah set a pretty good example of ‘what not to do’ in seeking God’s plan during times of uncertainty.  In an interesting twist of mercy, after hearing Jonah’s prayers and cries of distress, God made the whale ‘vomit’ Jonah onto dry land.  You know you’ve had a bad day when the best thing that happens to you is that a fish vomited you up.

Uncertainty can hang like a clouded haze over the future.  Anxiety and fears can overwhelm me.  But allowing anxiety about the future to take root in our hearts robs us of the joy in the now.  I write these words, not to tell you that I have conquered anxiety and doubt, but as a reminder to myself.  Fear is not from God.  Instead, God promises to be with us and grant us peace.  He asks us to put our hope in Him – to lean in just a bit more.  And in the midst of hope, He can provide strength to our feeble hearts. “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” –Psalm 31:24

As I continue to wonder about God’s plan for our family, I am thankful for our good health and the love of amazingly supportive family and friends.  These blessings, I will never take for granted.  But the uncertainty and possibility of moving away from our lives here in Santa Fe does bring me sadness.  I am tempted to be a Jonah and seek my own desires above God’s leading.  But then, I am reminded of another well-known figure in the Bible.  Joshua provided a better example for us to follow.  God told Joshua, “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

“God originally spoke these words to Joshua (Moses’ successor as leader of the Israelites) while presenting him with a new opportunity.  Joshua’s assignment was to lead more than two million people into a strange new land, claiming it as their promised territory…What if Joshua had allowed the unknown to keep him from saying yes to God?  What if he gave insecurity and doubt permission to keep him firmly within his comfort zone?  Joshua would have missed out on the blessings.  He would have missed his calling in life.  He would have missed the adventure with God.” – Leah DiPascal

Gosh, Joshua was called to lead more than two million people to an unknown land. If we leave Santa Fe, we’ll only be leading 4 young (and extremely flexible) young children to a new place within our own country. Just like Joshua, we can’t allow fear of the unknown to keep us from saying yes to God.  God’s command to Joshua to be strong and courageous doesn’t end there either. God’s commands are not empty.  God goes on to assure Joshua that the LORD our God is with us wherever we go. And from Psalm 31:24 quoted above, we are reminded this same God provides strength in our hearts as we face uncertainty and are placed in new circumstances.  Another promise I am grateful for.

Where in your life do you need to rely on God more?  Would your heart feel stronger if you put your hope in God and leaned in a bit more?  Mine would.  More than 100 times in the scriptures, God commands us to not be afraid.  I think He’s made His point.  But will we take Him up on the offer?  I need to take a bit of my own advice from Taking Up Too Much Space and remember that there is much to be learned when we step out of our comfort zone like Joshua did.  Perhaps, God is calling our family to learn that lesson again.  If not, He’s got my attention…and I’m leaning in.

Don’t Take the Boat to Tarshish

Jonah boat to Tarshish by Ruth Coleman

Living with Uncertainty…And Seeking God’s Plan: Part 1 of 2.

Back in November, our Executive Pastor, Doug, at Christ Church Santa Fe preached on the Book and saga of Jonah. The familiar story, though it sounds much like crazy fiction, draws parallels to our lives in ways I hadn’t considered before. In a nutshell, Jonah disobeys and tries to flee from God and gets swallowed by a whale who miraculously spits him back onto dry land three days later. Sure, sounds just like something that can happen to us, right? Especially here in dry, land-locked Santa Fe. I guess I’m actually focusing on the temptation to flee from God…maybe not in such an obvious way as Jonah, but we have our ways. We, despite our knowledge of a God who loves us immensely and only wants the best for us, think we can make better plans for ourselves than He does. We (okay I) fret over what the future will bring. And just like Jonah, I try to manipulate a way to bring my own plans to fruition.

Ryan and I are currently trying to determine if God has a big transition in store for our family. While pursuing the next exciting step for Ryan’s career, it’s looking more and more like a job change might need to involve a move. It’s hard enough to come to terms with that realization, but now we need to figure out where God might like to plop us down next. How does one figure out God’s plan? For me, I usually know what I want. And I also realize that God knows what’s best. But in my not-so-infinite-wisdom, it’s pretty hard to tell the difference.

In the story of Jonah and the whale, God told Jonah to go to Ninevah. Jonah took a boat to Tarshish instead. In his sermon, Doug presented several opinions on why Jonah did not follow God’s directive to go to Ninevah. I guess Jonah thought he could do better than what God had for him (sound familiar?). Tarshish was not on the way to Ninevah. It was the opposite direction…not exactly a subtle move on Jonah’s part. Was he scared of what life would bring him in Ninevah? Did he have such devotion to his people that he didn’t want to be associated with the Ninevites? Did he have idols that got in his way? All understandable reasons to me, but that last question is the main stumbling block I drew parallel to.

Jonah 2:8 says, “those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.”  That verse stopped me in my tracks. Yes, I know how much idols hurt me. And I know how much more my Jesus fills my heart. Yet, why do I allow idols to cloud my judgment? Do I seriously think they are better than the hope of steadfast love of Christ? When we rely on idols in place of God, we are basically fleeing from God…just like Jonah did.

Way too often, I take God’s own blessings and make them into idols. The blessings in themselves are not bad at all. But they will never fulfill me the way his deep and steadfast love does. We are blessed to live in a home in Santa Fe where I can look out the back door up into the mountains- I don’t want to leave it. He has put amazing women in my life who have blessed me with their friendship – I don’t want to move away from them. I love the easy and convenient pace of life in The Land of Enchantment. I really love the fact that Ryan has been in control his own schedule for the last two years. I am grateful for all of these many blessings. But I can’t let myself love them more, depend on them more, or find my peace in them more than God the Father who wants me to put my trust in Him and offers me unconditional, steadfast love…wherever we live.

I like to be in control. I don’t like uncertainty. I have learned, however, over the past year that uncertainty can be a blessing that makes me depend on God more. I am reminded that the God of our family is our One and Only Sustainer. These many blessings mentioned above – no matter how sweet – are futile if I allow them to become idols. No idol is worth having fled from His Steadfast Love. God’s many blessings in Santa Fe are amazing. But we have to keep a willing spirit if God leads us in another direction. He will provide because He is always with us. I have to have hope in that truth.

In his sermon, Doug said that when God calls us to something in life, there will always be a boat to Tarshish available to take us in the other direction. I don’t want get on that boat. So, every day, Ryan and I have to pray for God to lead our family. Only God can give us the grace to follow His perfect lead in the midst of uncertainty.

Jonah shared a pretty good lesson with us. It’s not worth ‘three days in the belly of a whale’ to fight against God’s perfect plan. Even when I think I know better. I just have to be reminded every.single.day. As far as how to figure out God’s plan…we’ll just have to pray for direction and hope it’s obvious. I’m open to any suggestions on figuring out God’s plan! In the meantime, I’ll rest in knowing that our steadfast God will continue to pursue us anywhere for all time. The challenge is to avoid the boat to Tarshish.

*Art, Jonah boat to Tarshish, by Ruth Coleman