My Anything

12:00 PMHeather

If you'd have asked me, I'd have said that absolutely I had let God have anything. Sure, I'd surrendered anything to God. I'd lived a live of obedience. 

I would have listed tons of big, tragic and hard things that I had let God have his way on.  Moments when I had to let go and let God. 

Like the very distinct moment when I came to grips with my dad's terminal cancer. The day I listened to a Steven Curtis Chapman song and said in tears, "Okay, God. Have your way here." Then, less than 24 hours later, my dad was gone.

Or how about the years of struggling with grief and coming to grips with broken and changed relationships that came in the wake of losing my dad. Or the precious hope of a pregnancy that we lost to miscarriage and the 72 hours of waiting for that inevitable event to come after we got the word.  The year of trying to get pregnant again. The shock of the nurse telling me that my second pregnancy would also end in miscarriage...and the long day of wrestling with God until he performed his miracle of sustaining that pregnancy.

All of these things. Weren't they my anything? Releasing dreams, losing loved ones, surrendering relationships, changing majors in college... all the hard moments are the ones I would point to as evidence that I had indeed allowed God to do anything. That I had trusted him with anything.

Smug in my own self-righteousness and performance addiction. 

I would have said that I chose the narrow way in high school and college and avoided pitfalls. That I had done the right things and made the hard choices and released even some big things.

I'd have argued loud and proud that I had come to a place of "anything, God. Anything you ask of me."

Except for one thing. When there's a huge crisis, I tend to be your girl. Adrenaline kicks in and I switch into mode. When things beyond my abilities come my way, yes--I surrender. When it comes to doing the right thing, I'm a rule follower ALL. THE. WAY.

But just because I revert to that, "all that's left to do is to pray" mode and just because I make good choices for the sake of being a good doesn't actually mean I have had a true "anything" moment with God.

Which is a huge epiphany that he has been revealing to me slowly, gently and clearly over the last few years.  As a restlessness has haunted me in this season of mothering children who are gone to school all day. And lifelong dreams and ideas have stalled out. And the truth of my performance love and misconceptions about God, faith, and the gospel have been coming to light.

God has graciously but firmly been saying, "Heather, anything does not mean running to me when something too big for your own abilities comes your way. And anything does not mean doing the right things for right thing's sake. And faith isn't obeying rules and checking boxes. Because the gospel is not some rote, familiar, boring story."

God has been saying don't know my rules. Know me.

Don't do the right things. Instead, think the truest things about me.

Don't run to me when you can't do it on your own. Run to me when you can, when you can't, and every moment in between.

And don't be bored and desensitized to the gospel.

Because the cross isn't some old blah-blah story. Jesus isn't some distant character in a story. And faith isn't a burden you lug around proudly to show your piety.

God has been wooing me in so many ways in order to open my eyes to things I've never before seen. Despite a lifetime in the church. God has been using so many different things to say, "Grace is a miracle. Amazing grace isn't just a song. Grace and the cross change everything. Read and be changed by the words of Jesus so that you can feed your faith. Move from deliverance to complete freedom."

Books and sermons and songs have all been part of the Great Grace Conspiracy to move my faith from ritual to deep relationship. 

Jennie Allen's book Anything falls firmly in that list.

When I read it, it was like reading my own story. Of a good girl who realizes that being a good girl doesn't always translate to being a God girl. Because the gospel is a story of being saved from a sinking ship and realizing our own dreaded condition. Realizing our own inability to be rescued by our own efforts and goodness and legalism. And grasping firmly to the life preserver of grace to say, "God, I will do anything. Anything you ask."

I gotta be honest. I didn't immediately pray that prayer that Jennie Allen speaks about in her book. For me, it looked more like this-- "Okay, God. I hear you. And I want to WANT to pray that prayer. That's where I honestly am. That's all I can offer right now. That I want to want to be able to say anything."

So that's how I prayed. Like the father of the convulsing, demon possessed son who told Jesus, "I do believe! Help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24).

That's how I prayed. I do believe in the idea of anything. Help my unbelief in being able to proclaim that I will do anything.

Gradually, I found myself ready to do something. It wasn't anything. But it was a baby step.

Let me offer this preface to the rest of my "anything" story. I've worked in the field of adoption throughout my entire career as a social worker. I go to pretty homes with lovely people and complete their adoption home study. I work with them when they bring their children home and I help them through the adjustment and transition. 

I'd have told you until I was blue in the face that I am all about orphans.

Except that the orphans I was all about were the ones whose stories are rather sanitized. They are a photo on a referral. And then they are in a forever family. And it's been rather easy to sorta leave out the hard and the rough and the truly tragic part of the orphan crisis.

Rather like my faith up until then. Clean it up, pretend the hard parts are not that bad. Live in a little holy huddle and follow the rules and ignore the rough edges. Celebrate all the lovely and the good and the plastic and how things look on the surface.

But that anything prayer was messing with me. 

And so was Jen Hatmaker and Katie Davis and David Platt and my pastor and the IF Gathering and Christine Caine and Casting Crowns and Steven Curtis Chapman and Mercy Me.

It was a vast God conspiracy. Saying go deeper. Look harder. Be more willing. Leave the burden of religion behind and learn to live on the unforced rhythms of grace. Leave your suburban ideals behind and look long and hard at the needs in the world.

So, how does one mom of three with twenty years experience in adoption go about fixing the plight of children worldwide? 

I asked. Hesitantly. That "anything" half-hearted prayer. That was rather like muttering, "Something. Okay, I'll do something." I didn't need to look beyond Facebook to see my something.

While I didn't see myself jumping on a plane to Africa to change the lives of children in third world countries, my former colleague, Cyndi, had done just that. 

Duh. Don't reinvent the wheel. I realized I could just throw my weight behind what she is doing and that would be something. 

So I planned a community clothes swap to benefit Cyndi's non-profit. It was my baby step toward anything. To take this big idea, born at a neighbor's little clothes swap with a few friends. Where I saw the potential to blow it up big and make it a fundraiser. 

I'm a planner. I'm an organizer. I'm creative. So I said, "why not?!" 

And in the course of planning, I wanted the ladies who came to not just update their wardrobe. I wanted them to really GET the faces behind the fundraising. I brainstormed this idea of making the Swap and Shop an experience. And Cyndi proceeded to share with me hundreds of photos from her last trip to Ethiopia.

That's where anything gained volume in my soul. That's where my prayer gained momentum--to release myself to anything God asked of me--not the big crisis things or big decisions--but the day-to-day routine in life things.

As I sat on the phone, viewing the photos Cyndi sent and hearing the stories behind them. The big beautiful eyes of a boy who sat on a hard mattress in a government orphanage for over 200 boys. With no working bathroom. One meal a day. Horrible conditions. The woman in the head covering with a sad smile on her face, who lives in a dump with her children. Scavenging through rubbish for food and necessities.  The mom with her twins strapped to her, who were all suffering from HIV. Because she, too, lives in the dump. And dirty needles are a sad reality for those who dig through trash to find their means of survival.

Those moments of facing the hard parts of the orphan crisis and the poverty issue and the struggle to survive around the world... it's when my heart began to move from something to anything.

That is where God planted the "anything" seed that he is still so gently watering within me. But that is where I said yes to a trip to actually meet some children in an orphanage, somewhere around the world--outside of my beautiful little town and four bedroom, two-and-a-half bath world.

My anything prayer started slowly, with many reservations, and much fear. First, I did something. And the Swap and Shop was a great success. Then, I said yes to what was next. I said yes to a trip to Belize to visit The Cove at Hopewell and work for five days. On my first mission trip outside of the U.S. With a team I didn't know, except my friend Cyndi.

It may not seem like a big deal to those of you who HAVE and WILL jump on a plane to Africa. But, it was a big deal for me. I like my little coffee, car pool, cook dinner routine. I'm an introvert at heart. So going away from home without my husband and with a team I didn't really know-- it was a big deal.

And then, Cyndi had a dental emergency and couldn't go. So, there I was--the night before departure-- going to a place I'd never been with people I didn't know. And my daughter had a nightmare that I didn't make it home alive.

Suffice it to say, ten degrees of panic set in. But I muttered that I was called to anything. Well, I was willing to do SOMETHING anyway. And this was it.

With a wobbly conviction and determination, I got on that plane. And off I went.

To encounter my truly anything moment.

I wish the pictures could tell the whole story. The profound moment of YES that this was for me. The day in Belize where I threw of all reservations and all fears and all pride and I actually did anything.

Which meant that I didn't ignore that pit in my stomach that prompted me to share all my ugly at our team meeting that morning. Anything, God? Okay, I'll tell these strangers all my baggage. 

I said yes.

And it felt good. So I thought I was done.

But our team leader saw it. He knew that my YES wasn't over. 

So he asked me if I'd get in the dirty, nasty pond to work with he and Peto, the facilities manager.

The same ponds that we all shuddered at when the kids said they swim there. The same pond where I told one of the sweet girls just two days earlier that I'd leave the pond exploring to them because it wasn't for me.

The same pond whose depth I was unsure of, whose potential inhabitants I feared (although I was promised no snakes lived there), and whose work I dreaded. 

Where was the team for mani/pedis on this mission trip?  Playing with the kids--check. Tearing out a decrepit thatch roof--check. Helping with cleaning--check. 

I'd already come all these miles from home with people I'd never met to do things I'd never done.

Jump in the pond?

It was ANYTHING staring me in the face. 

But it was my day of yes. And so, I did it. Despite my fears, I did it. Despite my reservations, I saw my anything and I climbed down into the murky waters, with my cute new red rubber muck boots.

I cannot even describe the thrill of saying yes to anything in that moment. The coolness of the water and--for once--the lack of mosquitoes. And way my heart soared with a sense of freedom I'd never known. The joy of recognizing the healing in my back, ten months post back surgery, as I dragged brush out of the pond to prepare it for the tilapia that would be brought there for eventual harvest.

A song came to mind and I'm telling you--I lived the truth of every line of it as I worked in that pond.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find you in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fears surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

These words came to life like no other song, no other lyric ever has. They welled up in my soul, as I went into the great unknown, where my feet did fail and I stumbled in the water, once going beneath the surface as the water was deeper than I could reach. 

I found him in the mystery, as never before. I said yes. I said anything.

And I felt more free in those moments than I ever had before or since.

It's my anything moment. And it's a moment that continues to beckon me on to the next step--the next anything moment. I've had a taste of how saying anything impacts you. I want more. My word for 2015 is freedom. I'm begging God to be my freedom song and equip me for more of "anything."

I don't know what that will be. I don't know what that looks like. But, I've felt the freedom that anything brings in that moment in Belize. I know God is shifting me and shifting my faith and shifting my focus.

To listen intently to the anything calls. And to say yes to them. More and more often. Looking for them and going for them. To consider that the call to anything is the call to say yes to what we were made for--to embrace the very things that we were made to do.

To know that when we say, "Anything, Lord. I will say yes"-- then we find a fulfillment like never before.

Learning to say... beyond the fears...despite the fears... I will still go. 

For me anything means learning to no longer let my fears answer for me. Anything means letting my soul instead drown them out with a resounding yes. Listen, I've lived all my life waiting for fears to quiet down before I venture forward. God is showing me the process of changing that.

Saying anything means venturing forward first--even with a hesitant yes. And trusting that faith will have the ultimate and louder word on the matter.

Wherever your red rubber boots take you.

Farther than your feet can wonder.

Anything is learning a trust without borders.

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