• freedom stories

    Uncharted Freedom- Jena’s Story

    Have you ever had a plan in mind that didn’t quite go exactly as you’d hoped? Sometimes the greatest adventure in trust comes when God leads to uncharted territory. Jena’s story is a beautiful picture of learning to trust an unchanging God in the midst of uncertain circumstances. Her words remind me to ask the questions, “Do I really trust that God knows what’s best for me? Will I let Him lead?”

    Here is Jena’s Freedom Story. 

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    Going back home never felt like the right choice, but how could that be possible when every commonsense reason to return home stared at me in the face? We’d been up in Vancouver, British Columbia for five weeks living out of carry-on suitcases. Schools would be starting back up soon in Kansas City and my three daughters would have desks with their names on them. Our home and belongings sat untouched and I dearly missed my own bed. Our extended family and community inquired about our plans to come home weekly if not daily, and we missed them fiercely. When my husband came to me with the news that his company was extending his temporary assignment for at least three more months, we had a hard decision to make. Packing up, saying goodbye to him, and going home made all the sense in the world on paper, except for one factor: it felt like God wanted us to stay there.

    What kept me from booking plane tickets on the next flight home to Kansas City was the belief that for some unforeseeable reason, God sent us to Vancouver. I knew from reading the Bible that God often sent his people adrift for reasons he didn’t always reveal right away, but they consistently led to a greater understanding of his holiness and purposeful plans. Adam, Eve, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Esther, Ruth, Mary, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, and even Jesus himself left comfort zones trusting God was the one doing the sending. I’m not saying me, or our situation, was in biblical proportions, but only that we serve an unchanging God who has been known to shake up comfort zones for good reasons. In biblical examples, security and familiarity were traded in for something greater; a secure place of dwelling in the presence of God in the places he calls us to.

    If God was the captain of this crazy, unexpected voyage we were on through uncharted waters then I could use the faith that’s been gifted to me to lower the anchor of my hope right into the steadfast love and presence of Jesus. Our family could live out of carry-on luggage with minimal possessions for an unknown season if it meant seeing God move in our lives. We could walk out the harder choice of being strangers in a city where we were living with our three daughters (ages 6, 7, and 13) in an urban, corporately furnished apartment and homeschool, but only if God was doing the sending. Just because we felt it was right to stay didn’t make it easy.

    One morning I sat on the floor of our apartment kitchen away from my kids’ view and quietly cried. If souls can be squeezed, mine was wrung dry. I told God it was too hard to do life with so much uncertainty and prayed for some type of approval or green light to take my daughters and myself home. Our work assignment had been extended another 4 months, which meant my husband would have to remain in Vancouver or search for a new job. My heart was crushed for my middle schooler missing out on a normal teenage life; my younger daughters were tired of homeschooling and playing in close-knit spaces; we were lonely for belonging, and Vancouver’s winter rains soaked my faith into a puddle of weariness. In that moment on my kitchen floor, I desired more than anything to return to the comforts of home. I knew what we had there and I longed to grasp hold of something with perceived predictability and control. Like a daughter begging her father to let her do the easy thing, He lovingly assured me he was doing what was best for us. I knew going home wouldn’t lessen God’s love for me at all and we’d make it work as a family, but something deeper spoke peace in my soul that day; I realized I trusted God more than I trusted my own feelings, so we stayed.

    Homeschooling from an apartment in the middle of a city continued to be difficult, but our quantity and quality time together was a priceless treasure. My daughters’ bonds deepened through their shared awkward and new experiences. Meeting new people and encountering cultures so different from our own transformed how we viewed our place in the world. My husband’s work proved challenging yet rewarding, and he thrived in his new role. Our marriage of 17 years grew stronger as we communicated and leaned on each other for support. As a family we grew roots together in ways we’d never done in our easily distracted, suburban lifestyle. Our life back in Kansas City was truly blessed, yet it was time for us to carry the lessons and memories of those blessings into a new way of doing home. Being free from so many of the pressures of a family active in multiple sports, church activities, school functions, demanding careers, and packed social schedules (all good things in and of themselves!) meant we were free to dream about our family’s mission and goals going forward. If we wanted to raise daughters who will be women of influence for the kingdom of God then experiences like this were faith builders to that end.

    One year later, we returned to our home in Kansas City one last time so we could place it on the market to sell. After a year of living a slightly nomadic, corporate life in Vancouver, BC my husband had been offered a new position in his company that seemed to be a perfect fit, so we accepted and planned a ‘permanent’ move to the Seattle, WA area. Walking back into the home we’d left a year before brought me to a full circle moment. I could’ve laugh-cried at the relief of knowing we’d done the hard, best thing. We imperfectly followed God through dark days and clumsily threw out our anchors of hope to Jesus. There were countless tears, worries, doubts, and fears but we locked up our home in Kansas City for the last time confident that God had sent us and continues to call us into new adventures. That kind of freedom can’t be found anywhere in our attempts to stay in life’s steady pond. Getting out in the open sea, tossing our anchor of hope to Jesus, and trusting him to be our guide is faith in action. Our deepest freedom was found in experiencing his faithful presence and purpose in uncharted waters of life, and we overflow in gratitude to our Heavenly Father who knew exactly what we needed all along.

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    Jena Meyerpeter fell in love with words as a little girl tucked away in the aisles of her father’s used bookstores. Today, Jena’s love of words continues as she writes and speaks on all topics faith and family. You can find more of Jena’s writings at JenaMeyerpeter.com and follow her and her family’s adventures on Instagram

     

     

     

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    Special thanks to Andrew Neel of Unsplash for the pictures to accompany this post. 

  • anxiety,  control,  fear,  trust

    Climbing Through Fog and Walking On Water

    Photo credit: Mary Gin Shepherd

    “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

    -Joshua 1:9

    Imagine someone with control issues trying to plan their way up a mountain, where thick fog is obscuring the way forward. As a controlling planner myself, let me share with you what the potential thought process might be for our adventurer as they consider the daunting task ahead.

    Who knows how long this will take? Will I get there before dark? If this takes longer than I’m expecting, I’ll definitely be late/frustrated/anxious. What if I get lost? How will I shout out for help? Would I go back down? Or keep climbing up? What if this view isn’t worth it?

    My friends and the youth from our church did a hike the other day that literally embodied this foggy mountain climb that I’ve been imagining. (Shout out to my friends Mary Gin and Becky for sharing their foggy pictures to help tell my story). Confession: this control freak would have been a bit anxious on that particular hike.

     

    THE FEAR:

    I often claim to believe and trust that God is in control. But let me be honest; my life has often looked a lot more like a tug of war with God. A power struggle that I’m bound to lose, but I fight tooth and nail to win anyway. Sometimes, this is a very subconscious process. But regardless, I admit that I have control issues. I fear letting go, and I definitely fear trusting anyone other than myself to lead the way… even God.

    During one of the hardest seasons of my life, I grew paralyzed by a tough decision that I knew was ahead of me. The overwhelm swallowed me up and I was completely unsure of which way to turn, what the future held, what God wanted for me.

    As a type-A perfectionist and a big-time dreamer, I typically try to imagine life 10 years down the road. Then I come up with specific goals and a plan of action to get there. I like to have a plan A, along with back-up plans for my back-up plans. I think through the ripple effects of decisions and anticipate how I will handle the reactions/results that will “surely” come if I do x, y, or z. There is something terrifying about letting go of that level of detailed planning (control) and entrusting it to someone else.

    That hard season, I couldn’t even picture 2 months down the road. I truly needed God’s guiding for His will for me. Sometimes, though, when we pray for His will, we wait, and wait, and wait. We are looking for big neon signs flashing towards the path to take, or a mountain-shaking, booming voice of wisdom to point us in the right direction.

    “But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

    “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

    “Come,” He said.

    Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

    Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

    And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

    -Matthew 14:27-33

     

    THE PEACE:

    Do you ever feel like Peter, calling out to Jesus to make sure He’s really with you on your journey? When we lock eyes with Him and follow His steady voice calling out to us to Trust, we are carried forward, one step at a time. But when we start getting wrapped up in the wind and the waves around us, we sink.

    In the hard season, I learned to pray to surrender to God in smaller ways, and knew that eventually He would reveal a path. I had to slow myself down and stop running ahead. I wasn’t asking for a big reveal of where He would take me long-term, I learned how to ask for Him to show me just one day at a time how to move forward, how to walk with Him. I learned how to press into His Word and focus on His strength instead of my own, waiting for His voice to show me the way forward.

    The answers were usually very quiet, so I had to sit in stillness and wait, something I’m not naturally inclined to do. But they did come. He walked me through it. And I learned to trust Him more with each step.

    If you imagine that foggy hike again, and apply this one-step-at-a-time approach, it changes the whole adventure. You can begin to enter into a slow but steady pace (not rushing anxiously). You get a chance to connect with others on the trail and take each step with intention. You carefully climb over a big tree root instead of tripping over it and falling. You look up through the mist and take in the birds in the trees and sky overhead, instead of laser focusing on the mission to get to the top. You breathe in the air of a nearby stream and realize how sweet it is to be here, on this very journey.

     

    A PRAYER FOR YOU:

    If you’re struggling with fear of the unknowns in the future, or trusting that God has you in His hands, I’d love to encourage you with this prayer today:

    To the Alpha and Omega, Beginning and the End… Lord, You know it all, and I am thankful for Your gentle care and Your sovereign knowledge of my life and circumstances. You are trustworthy. I ask that you go before me. Still my heart. Quiet the overwhelm. Help me to honor You as I learn to wait for Your guiding.

    I know that You honor obedience, so please bridle my heart in my desire for control as I learn to obey You instead of running ahead. I lay my plans down at the altar, and pray boldly (faithfully), “Not my will but YOURS be done.” If I try to pick up that control again tomorrow, please forgive me, and gently remind me to lay it down at Your feet again.

    When I can’t see the whole path, cast Your light on just enough for me to trust you and take one step. Help me relinquish control, my will, my plans, and trust You one step at a time. I commit this (decision, situation, relationship) into Your hands. Show me the next right thing; I pray that my life and my growing faithfulness will honor You.

    “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

    –Isaiah 41:13

     

    Source: my sweet friend, Becky McLaughlin