Life has seasons, just like nature. It has been so helpful for me to view my life through the lens of seasons. They don't last forever, and whether enjoyable or not they do pass. Around the time we got married 7 years ago, I had a year-long season of stillness. It was a humbling time when our dreams seemed like they'd never work out and God said "no" to so many things. It was also an incredible time of growth in my life, and God's nearness was palpable. When we got married, we thought our plan was for Jonathan to finish school and then head off to seminary. We'd both get our Masters of Divinity and then head out to serve God in some big, beautiful way. After a few months of marriage, regular jobs and real life, God took away that desire entirely and we knew it wasn't what He had for us...but what did He have instead? We didn't know. We longed to get of what we felt like was not much of a mission field, if I'm honest - Dothan. It's natural really. We wanted to do something BIG for God and smack dab in the middle of the Bible belt didn't seem like the most obvious place. I don't think it ever crossed my mind that God might call us to stay.
And there we were, still in Dothan, quite opposite of all our plans and dreams. No seminary. Normal jobs. Small places. No big, grand adventure. No laying our lives down in foreign places where our service could be seen and known. No, just stillness.
God taught me in the still season that quiet places have a purpose, and that sometimes dreams need breaking and reshaping. He taught me joy in the still, quiet place and surrender to HIS ways, not my idea of His ways. He is so gentle in how He leads. He is the Shepherd that makes us lie down, leads us by still waters and restores our soul before His ways lead through the valley. And then, on the other side of the valley of the shadow is the table He has prepared and the cup that overflows. The quiet place - His blessing. Leading on His paths for HIS name - His blessing. The trial - His blessing. The fruitful place of overflowing - His blessing. Seasons. In each one He is my Shepherd. I shall not want. I have seen this cycle in my life time, and time again. Through each one my assurance is knowing that His mercy and goodness follow me through it all and that I WILL dwell in His house forever. He is the reward. He is there in the stillness, there as the path forges ahead into unknown, there in the dark place, there in the discipline, there at the feast, there as my cup overflows. In every season His mercy and goodness is with me, so undeserved, and I shall not want.
It is so countercultural to slow down, to stop hustling, to pull away and rest. But what God teaches me in the stillness prepares me for the seasons ahead. It's been a long time since that last season of stillness. Things look very different than I would have imagined 7 years ago. We are still in Dothan, but we know it's exactly where God wants us. It is very much so our mission field. Ministry looks far different than we imagined, but it is real and deep - not the "public face" of what we could see as young, naive 20-year-olds. And we have adventured, just not in the way we thought. For 5 years God's path led me to learn to express God's beauty in others through my own business, and then He asked for it back. We still write "our own" music but instead of writing with dreams, we write just for Him. He's just about the only one who has heard them and that's enough.
And here I find myself again, still. Made to rest. Made to lie down. Feeling like the warm coat I have known, something that was a part of me (though not necessary) has been sheared off and taken away. He makes me still so He can restore my soul, as He did the last time. I need to title, no name, nothing to cling to that says "this is who I am" or "this is my ministry" or "this is where God is calling me." Someone asked me the other day, "So are you a stay-at-home mom?" I was kind of at a loss for words because I don't even really know. Stay-at-home, work-at-home, homeschool mom, ministry wife, business owner, photographer, song-writer, etc? I have no idea. And really, it doesn't matter. I shall not want. The LORD is my Shepherd - that is the only descriptor I need. I have Him, therefore I have no lack. I can rest, I can lay all of the passions inside me down, stop striving and just be still because HE is my Shepherd. He made me. He loves me. He delights in me, not for what I do or who others see me as or what name anyone may put on me, but simply because I am HIS. What a blessing it is to be restored back to that place, where nothing matters except that He is there, because He is all I have. There is nothing I hold in my hands now that I can say "this is what I have achieved" or "this is who I am." Just Jesus. I am with Him, and that is who I am. I am the one His mercy and goodness follow. What a grace far beyond what I deserve.
I'm sure the Jen I was 7 years ago would be shocked to know that not much has changed, and yet everything has changed. The main difference now is that I have two little hearts following my lead. All I know is to imitate my Shepherd, and to point them to Him. Full circle, I have come back to the stillness where there is no plan, nothing to hold to except for Him. And it is more than enough. I shall not want.
It is more than my heart can take to know that He sees me in the small still place, and looks at me - like I look at my daughters - with even more delight and love than I can imagine. In the still season He brings me back to the truth that I don't need to "do" anything for His approval. He holds me and loves me as His daughter. I can cease all striving, because He holds all things together, not me. I can pull away and be joyful in the stillness, because it doesn't matter if anyone else sees, HE does. I rest in His love, knowing He wants my heart so much more than anything I could produce. What a gift to be still, quiet and tucked away, coming back to the truth that I need only be who He says I am. In the season of stillness He is very, very good.