I'm writing this exactly 17 1/2 hours after I wrote these words: "The doors are open, the shackles broken, we need only to listen for what's next" ... The words haunted me. All night I poured over them- repeating them, dissecting them, tossing and turning.
The last few months we've been committed to realigning our hearts and dreaming of having hearts that beat for the right reasons. Some of our date nights have been centered around questions like:
If your heart was where you wanted it to be...
"How would you want your kids to see you react to someone that made you angry?"
"How would you change the way you talk about money?"
"What changes do we need to make to be people of no fear?"
... And one date night, two weeks ago, entirely centered around this one:
And "What would you want your heart reaction to be if you lost your job today?
Well, today came.
I got the call at the office, that 20 days before moving into a new house, after all the big questions and conversations and excitement...
... Brian was let go.
So I left work and rushed home to meet Brian at the door and hold each other. To cry a little and laugh a little. And say with all the certainty- "I'm honored to be married to you."
We prayed and worshipped and grounded our hearts, we were stirred by the words of psalm 91, stood up in praise-empowered by the glory in our midst!
We decided to not plan "next steps", but to spend the day listening, reflecting, mourning, and thanking.
The security and relief that could follow sending out a resume was not quite the security we needed today.
We went in search of a place to listen.
As we walked down a hill on the trail, there was a little boy stuck on a rock - scared. He was kind of slipping on the slick rock and his eyes were full of fear. His dad stood in front of him, arms stretched towards him... "You're okay, you can do it. You're okay." As we passed the family, we smirked at each other, knowing the parents were fully in control and that someday that could be us. So we made our way down and heard it suddenly, the slip and fall of the little boy, a thud, and silence.
He wasn't bleeding, nothing was broken... He was angry. He felt betrayed. And following a long silence, we heard at the bottom of the hill- a shriek. A painful shriek with unexpected words clear as day.
"YOU DIDNT EVEN HELP ME DAD! YOU DIDNT EVEN HELP ME DAD!..."
He said it again and again. The biggest sting hitting us all- he always included the "dad" at the end. There was so much weight in the word, as if he was reminding the dad what his role was supposed to be.
We we do that don't we? We remind God that he didn't even help us. But just like the dad on the rock, it's not that he wasn't helping. It's that he didn't meet the child's expectation of what help looked like in that moment.
That moment sent us into rejoicing in the care and attention, the love, grace, and provision of our DAD.
I can say we will never forget the month of May 2017... It's been full of lessons, and disappointed hopes... But I am going to say what I've said the whole month because it is SO TRUE.
Theres nothing more powerful than a grateful heart.
You can only do one thing when your heart yearns for the story of redemption: give thanks and take communion.
We sat in the middle of the moving water, daring and rebellious, thanking God for his mercy. Reminded of the one who gives and takes. We felt relief that we were never in control, and we will never be asked to be. We reflected on all the places we've questioned recently about our own intentions, we challenged each other about where we find security, and celebrated the heart change we were already seeing.
So the big question is:
What's next? What's the plan? What's in the works?
No idea. Not a clue.
Our big question in the midst of dreams that die:
Oh death, where is your sting?
Boitmanns, march on.
In one week, I basically went crazy and got my life back.
I've been feeling like I'm drowning in auditory stimulation- constantly filling the silence with something on in the background. So I decided to go for it- to cut out the noise and just see what happens, no expectations.
I honestly didn't think it would be hard at all but I was forced to learn some tough lessons about myself and my daily rhythms. I don't even know if I would recommend it without explaining the symptoms of withdrawals... so here they are:
1. Extreme awareness of your thoughts and feelings about anything and everything
4. More Energy
5. An increased interest in people and anything people have to say about anything
6. The feeling that days are longer, and life is full of opportunity
7. More sleep, better sleep
8. Stronger friendships
9. Increased vocabulary (readers are leaders!)
10. Gratitude and appreciation
There were several times throughout the week I felt genuinely uncomfortable. I was really frustrated by how much I was impacted by not being able to lean on my automatic response to silence, especially in the places I spend most of my time- the car, work, and at home.
I was really challenged to listen and reflect. I was amazed by how much I had to say when I got home, how much I learned and noticed throughout the day. I started to wonder...
What would happen if I stopped trying fill my time, and started, instead, to be filled by it?
There were a couple of stories I heard that helped guid my reflection on the importance of listening.
We've been reading about the early church and how the apostles were being imprisoned all over the place for preaching about Jesus, performing miracles, etc.
In one story, Paul and Silas are just sitting in prison praying and singing, and suddenly there's an earthquake. Everything crumbles. No one is hurt. Doors unlocked. Chains are broken. They are free.
But they don't leave.
The guard wakes up and is like 'Dang, my job was to guard these guys and now they're free. Now I have to take my life in exchange for theirs'... So he takes out his sword to take his own life and Paul is like 'Hey man, no need to do that, we are all still here!' The guards life is not only saved, but completely changed because the prisoners didn't leave.
In another story, the apostles are imprisoned. In the night, just like in the first story, the doors are opened, the chains undone, they are free. And they leave the prison and go to the temple courts to teach. And peoples lives are saved and changed because the prisoners left.
What stood out to me was that their circumstances look so similar, yet the action they were meant to take so different. I couldn't help but think the answer must have something to do with listening.
I can tell you so many moments where I have looked around at my circumstances, season of life, and even logic and allowed those things to dictate my actions. But there's a freedom in contemplation, and for fighting to listen and let your actions be informed by prayer.
For me, it was a fight for time. Choosing to fight against the media-binge culture we live in. I realized I will always choose something mindless over something meaningful, so I need boundaries in the places that could distract me from hearing what's next.
It seems so silly, committing to silence for a time... but I am shocked by what I have learned. There's so much in the silence- the smells, the birds, the thoughts ... the whispers of names and the rush of memories. The flicker of a flame is a forgotten miracle until you stop.
The doors are open, the shackles broken, we need only to listen for what's next.
Brian and I began our journey to Paris on Saturday
afternoon. We drove to Houston, with a Sunday flight which gave us plenty of time to catch up with friends.
We have planned this trip for months. Every stressful moment we shared would be followed with: " just wait until we're in Paris!"
In Houston, the excitement was building. Every moment of laughter was a reminder that we were on vacation- VACATION! It was a thousand exhales and so many I love yous. We poured into conversations with our friends and we were giddy to talk about the trip ahead.
Our Paris plan was this : slow down. We picked one city, one place to stay. Our little apartment was just near the Louvre, about a half mile from Notre Dame. We were committed to holding hands, eating cheese and bread, walking everywhere, drinking coffee, and getting lost together. One of the days was specifically dedicated to sitting in one place and reading an entire book- no agenda, just Paris!
But as it turns out, there was a problem.
As as we were headed to bed on Saturday, the night before the flight, our very loved and most meticulous friend Kyle was teasing Brian about his passport picture. He noticedBrian's expiration date was July 2017. As only Kyle would know, you can't have less than a 3 month cushion on your passport expiration when traveling to France ....
Thats really all Brian could say.
But we are not panic-ers. We googled and called and there it was- unanimously. There was no way we would be let onto our flight.
So here we are in Houston- about to have our last sleep in the states for a week... And as it turns out... We aren't going anywhere.
I will admit, the sleep was not as sweet. Brian was shocked and spent hours on the phone trying to salvage our Airbnb stays and tickets. I went into encouragement mode which is basically a desperate attempt to find another adventure and get excited about it.
WE LOVE THE BEACH
OMG LETS DRIVE TO DISNEY! "...
We woke up the next morning and had brunch with friends we weren't supposed to see until we got back. Keeping a brave face, we were dropped off at our car, still determined to make the most of it.
Honestly we we were ashamed at how sad we were. This was definitely not the end of the world - goodness, it's vacation. But something in us longed for the dream we dreamed together.
We sat in Starbucks for 3 1/2 hours trying to come up with a plan but nothing was going well and with no sleep, the communication breakdown game was strong. At one point at Starbucks I went to the restroom and found the toilet clogged and attempted to unclog it WITH MY ARM- it was not urine. That really has nothing to do with the story except that the whole time I'm saying to myself "I could be in Paris."
So I came out of the bathroom MAD and ready to be positive and excited about life...
We got in the car after all of the excitement and disappointment, and headed back to Austin. Exactly 24 hours before, we had been on the same road going the opposite direction, with a totally different attitude.
I'm not going to lie, we took turns crying. Never angry at each other but really mourning the months of dreaming. Ironically, my last blog was about holding dreams loosely.
We we got into town, had a good nights sleep, found a place to get away, and we did what you do when your plans don't happen the way you expect. When your heart yearns for a redemption story.
You say "thank you".
You raise your glass.
You take communion.
Because there is is nothing more powerful, more life-changing, more radical- than a grateful heart.
And you know what? We held hands all day and read an entire book in one sitting... We'll always have Paris.
Happy stories, sad stories, dramatic, sorrowful, and joyous stories- every story is a love story... and here are some of mine.