Building Altars in the Desert
I haven’t blogged much in a while, and not for reasons you may think. Ironically, my last post, written over a month and a half ago, was titled “How Can I Be Happy When the Answer Is Wait?” Even after I wrote down the secrets of contentment in an unknown season, I struggled. So much so, in fact, that I had to stop all external reflecting for fear that my words would outweigh my actions.
In spirit of full disclosure, the last month has been one riddled with stress, and I’ll be the first to admit that I had begun to drown. I am prone to anxious symptoms, particularly when feeling large amounts of stress. The unknowns that the past year have held caused a ripple effect on our finances, emotional state, mental state, spiritual state – need I continue? And yet, the provisions were heaped at our feet, and we were astounded by the tangible love gifts given to us by The Creator. Soon into our second year of marriage, Cal started to explore the idea of transitioning into aviation. Accounting held a respectable job with steady hours, but it was clear it did not hold Cal's heart. I could spend hours telling you how the Lord made it clear that Cal was to become a pilot, but I will trust you to trust me when I say that Cal was made to be in the clouds. Because of this, I readily agreed to a giant lifestyle change. This job transition would change the very fabric of our family (both present and future), and would mean a move across the country. Cal would go from working a “9-5” job to functioning in a career that would cause him to be gone for days at a time. What would this mean for our marriage? Future children? My own career? We fought through those questions- praying, processing, meeting with community, brainstorming, and asking. And still, the answer remained the same: Cal came alive in the sky, and I came alive watching him.
Cal was to finish his private pilot’s license locally, which was the first step to becoming a commercial pilot. We knew our impending move was to come early summer, but the exact where and when were unclear. The school Cal will be attending is located in 40 cities, so we essentially had our pick our city. As nice as flexibility may sound, I was a mess at the decision. Our only timeline was when and where I found a job, since Cal won’t be making money the first six months of his training. By the time it made sense for me to start the job search, I was a mess. Anxious, distracted, and feeling the immense pressure mount, I began to wonder if we would ever find answers. I know this sounds dramatic, but we had endured a year that held no constants- the only certainties were each other and our relationship with the Lord. I wrestled with that being enough. I am driven - I wanted a career. I am relational - I wanted a community. I am a planner - I wanted steady finances. I longed to be rooted and have a home, wherever that may be.
The month that I interviewed for jobs was filled with tension, anxiety, excitement, and more pressure. I took interviews in Denver, Dallas, and Phoenix. I had wanted to live in Colorado since I was in high school, but the expense of the city was large and deterrent. We did not visit Phoenix during our apartment search, so moving there would hold a unique set of complications. I was given an immediate offer in Dallas, but we did not feel a sense of peace in that city. As I waited to hear back on all the options, I wrestled. The ambiguity, the meticulous planning of finances, the working temporary jobs and the waiting (OH, the waiting!) seemed to stretch out before me and suddenly my heart got all muddled up in a haze. I slowly stopped worshiping, and instead began asking. Before I worshipped the King in all His sovereignty, I began to first bow low to the answers I wanted that I had deemed our new savior. I found myself whispering in my head late at night, telling myself that “when this is all over, and my mind finally has some rest, THEN I will have the capacity to truly lay it all down.” Don’t get me wrong, I tried to surrender. It became almost a daily rhythm - the unclenching of fists and lifting of hands, only to find two hours later that my fists were balled up again, and my hands were lowered. It was a constant dance - one where I gave up control, only to take it back again.
I fought to stay connected, but my mind grew weary, and my spirit grew hardened. I let myself believe that God was not going to provide answers; after all, we are never entitled to them. I gave into the whispers that the Lord has bigger issues to take care of, and that ours were tucked away and forgotten.
I share this to give you a peek into the struggle unknowns and uncertainty can cause. Regardless of what it may seem, joy and pain can and OFTEN DO intermingle. While this was the hardest season of my life, it was also the most beautiful. It was jam packed full of provisions and supernatural movements; I have never seen the Lord more tangibly. And yet, this did not come without MUCH pain. It would make sense that so much provision would give way to a deeper ability to trust. There were times of deep surrender, filled with tears and hearts cushioned. And still, I was shown how weak my faith was. How easy it was for me to throw up my hands and do it my way. How easy it was to stop filling myself with truth and start filling myself with senseless noise to pass the time. How easy it was to become faithful first to myself, and then to everything else. I won’t try to spin the story in a way that shows only the beauty.
This is why I temporarily stopped writing. My heart was a mess, and I couldn’t get it together long enough to write. How to explain the state of my soul? How could I speak of the beauty of the Lord when my heart was in the state that it was? I had to come to a place of repentance before sharing.
Our answers came in a form of long answered prayers. I found my dream job in my dream state living in my dream apartment. It was supernatural. The timing was all wonky and weird, and yet it worked out perfectly. I could have never orchestrated such a symphony. And so, I built an altar. Because I know beyond doubt that the questioning will creep up again. The transition will still be difficult. We will still face a number of unknowns during Cal’s training. We will both be starting new careers, which will hold unique pressures. There will be new challenges that will arise. New prayers being prayed, and new questions being asked. Faith will be tested again. And I am determined to remember this holy space of powerfully answered prayers, because I now know how fickle my heart can be when put to the test.
Let me be clear: provision often does not equal prayers answered exactly how we ask. Usually, they are not. But sometimes, just sometimes, our hidden dreams are given to us as precious gifts. And when this happens, altars need to be built. Because we need to remember that the Lord senses - regardless of what the answer may be, and no matter the struggle it may take to get there.
Maybe you can relate the looming unknowns of life. Maybe your prayers prayed were NOT answered the way you longed. Maybe questions are still being asked after years of waiting. Hear me when I say that The Father loves His kids equally. Just because one kid’s prayers are answered sooner than another, does not mean that He hears one more than the other. Sometimes we are given the gift of clear answers, but most of the time we are not. I pray that you read this story as a testimony of the Lord’s faithfulness - not just for our lives, but for yours, too. His faithfulness is not contingent on someone else’s story of success. He sees you for who you are, and prayers will be answered in the desert place. Whether it comes as fire, or wind, or a tiny whisper.
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2.
I’ll build an altar to that.