The Right Place

I began three posts, then deleted three posts.

With every delete, every new paragraph,

I tried harder.

Tried harder to get me out and put Him in;

into the words,

into the thought behind the words,

into the heart behind the thought.

I started over again fresh

and this time I’m determined.

I’ll find Him,

put Him,

drag Him,

into what I write here.

I’m angry at my own selfishness

and self-focus,

and I want desperately for God to just

become the center of my life.

I want to blink my eyes,

snap my fingers,

and magically find Him in the center of it all,

God of the universe right in the center,

where He should be, anyway.

But take a step back,

let frustration and anger settle

and look what’s left.

God already is the center.

He already is the Creator, already holds every created thing

in the palm of His hand.

He’s been in the middle of it all

all along,

I just didn’t see.

He wasn’t the one who wandered astray,

it isn’t His heart that covered up truth with lie,

wandering aimlessly and far from true.

I’m the one twirling in circles,

endless spirals flipping further and further from Him

as the day stretches long and the hours since I’ve spoken with Him

stretch longer.

I’m the one dangling precariously and haphazardly close to the edge;

I’ve meandered far from true,

far from the center,

and the box I’m trying to push Him into

wasn’t made for Him at all.

This is not about pulling Him to where I am,

chiding Him for not finding His place in the realm of

what works for me.

This is about stop, still my heart,

look up and see how far I’ve stumbled from where He is.

This is about grace and forgiveness

and I’m still learning, Lord.

This is about come back,

come back to peace,

to content,

to joy.

One of us is in the right place,

and it’s not me.

~Natalia

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Jesus In

I didn’t run around today. Didn’t sprint across campus to get to class on time, to print a paper, or to turn in an exam. I didn’t panic in front of my computer, or scamper from one thing to the next to the third at top speed. I didn’t do any of those things today, but I did quite a bit.

The Roommate and I hop a bus and enjoy a lovely breakfast of pancakes and cinnamon buns, hot chocolate and orange juice. There is catching up and talking, sharing stories and laughing, too.

Mary Queen once said that roommates get into a “rhythm of life” after living together for a while. I wasn’t in the mood or position to believe what she said at the time, but her words stuck with me and I realized recently that she’s right. The Roommate and I swing in and out of the room, the door, the campus, circling around our individual lives and hearts, but we move together, swing together in this little dorm room; we’ve learned to live together and in doing so, we found the rhythm of life.

It’s Moody’s homecoming week, the culmination of which is the flag football game of the year on Friday night. Festivities kicked off on Monday with Moustache Monday, leaving me sitting in Christianity in Western Culture, feet propped on the auditorium seat in front of me, doodling a moustache on the inside of my pointer finger.

Twin Day today, and Chy and I wear our matching dresses, the same dress purchased years before meeting, while living in separate states, with glee. Dresses, jeans, cardigans, and flats; matching, matching, match. It’s fun to take pictures, and to walk around together, but there’s something deeper here, too.

Matching clothes, identical wardrobes on Twin Day, says I know you and we go together and I want you to stick by me. But real community says that, too. Genuine community, the kind that God Himself models in the Trinity, and that we have the blessing to be a part of in the church, and in Christian circles such as Moody, true community says we’re the same in Christ and you belong here with me and I love you because Jesus loves us both.

Class next and an opening prayer and I’m once again glad that I recommended this professor to friends. I’m secretly proud of the small part I have done to spread this professor’s good reputation because I truly respect him. Grey hair and soft eyes and kindness that makes my heart ache with the faint urge to cry.

In between teaching us how to conduct music and explaining dominant 7th chords, he talks of Heaven and hope and eternal joy. He bows his head to pray over the class and words flow as if he never even stopped praying, and I wonder if there’s a God and man conversation going on even as he marks treble and bass clef on the chalkboard.

There’s a need at the pool, a need at work, and I’m momentarily pondering where academics takes precedence and when I should instead value the employment that I’ve poured myself into for six years. I’m not sure what I think about it, but I duck out of class at the break and ten minutes later, I’m standing on a train watching the same classroom building roll by.

So very many athletes and the first group leaves me drained yet somehow energized, too. I hear my instructions, my own yells ringing in my ears, and stop for a second to wonder if the little swimmers know that I care for them. There can be heart in Do and Don’t and Stay and Go, but there isn’t always, and I pull them out to explain.

Maybe they don’t get it, but I’m preaching to my heart just as well. Grace is something undeserved. Grace is that wasn’t done well, but I give you another chance. More yet, grace is I know you can’t do this, and maybe you didn’t even try to do it well, but I choose not to punish you. Grace is love, too, but I’m not sure where one ends and the other begins, so I leave that aside.

The day stretches long, but there’s a stop at home in between work and school, and a kindergartener and a first grader wrap little arms and legs around my own legs. Balancing dinner plate, I stumble around the kitchen, forty pounds of sister love clinging to my leg. They have gifts and surprises and stories to tell and they’re making me think of Jesus, even as they accidentally pants me with their hugs.

I think of Jesus because I want to run to Him just like they run to me, sticky bare feet pounding down the hallway when they hear the front door click. I want to shout His name and full-out body slam into Him, too. I want to hang on Him and talk to Him and show Him what I’ve done, and hear His voice, too.

I didn’t run around today, but I was around. I went and I came and I moved and I saw and when I sat down tonight, I looked up and looked back, and I saw Jesus in the day.

~Natalia

Tonight Because

Because the internet is down and I’m writing this on my phone.

Because I stayed up too late last night, even if I was enjoying myself quite a bit.

Because The Roommate and I are going on a roommate date tomorrow morning.

Because I spend Monday nights chatting with Mary in the game room.

Because I’m under the covers, thumb- typing quietly before going to sleep.

I have for you some pants on the ground.

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~Natalia

Well

I’m supposed to be writing a paper right now. Well, I’ve actually written a fair amount of it already. It’s for my Foundations of Education for Christian Schools class. I know what the paper’s about and I have all the information necessary to produce a quality piece of work, but I’m lacking a little something.

I’m not really motivated to write this paper.

Actually, that’s not true. I like writing and I like learning, and I’m motivated to write this paper and get it over with. But I’m not motivated to write it well.

There’s a bit of a breakdown in the mental schema wherein I have stored my motivating factors, and I’m feeling convicted about it. I’m feeling convicted because I should be writing this paper with excellence, for the glory of God.

I should be striving to do my best so that His name will be honored; striving to work well so that I can glorify Him. So that my good work points right up to the God whose name is peppered throughout my paper.

That’s what I should be feeling, what should motivate me.

But I don’t. I’m not.

I’m not driven to write this paper well because I’m not writing it for God. I didn’t sit down and type out paragraph after paragraph, page after page, for God. I didn’t spend three hours in the library and another handful of hours today, pounding out sentence after sentence, for God.

I did it for man.

I’ve gotten used to that, too.

There are professors who I love here at Moody. Men and women who pour their hearts into the classes they teach and the students they work with. Staff and faculty who build relationships, form connections, with their students. With me.

That’s who I’ve been writing for. There are professors here who I esteem quite highly, and writing for their classes, presenting in their classes, taking exams in their classes, becomes easier as the weeks, as the semesters, go by.

Because I respect them and want to work well for them. I’m enthralled with the class and deeply respect the individual teaching the material, and I’m possessed with the desire to do well, for the teachers’ sake.

Love produces quality work.

But there’s a breakdown and my failsafe motivation plan, to like all my profs and therefore to be driven to work well on all my assignments, falls through. Because something about his teaching style doesn’t match with the way I learn, and I don’t really understand what she’s talking about, and today, just recently: the prof’s not even going to read this paper until after I revise it,

so why work so hard now?

Who am I writing for now?

Who am I hoping to impress now?

And what was so recently such strong motivation begins to crumble because if I’m not trying to please the professor, why try so hard anyway?

And there’s the conviction, fresh and uncomfortable. Because I know it’s wrong. I’m pushing myself so hard, mentally reprimanding myself because I should be doing this so much better. Get it together, bear down, and write this paper well, I tell myself.

And even as my fingers type, even as I dawdle over words I should just be clicking out, I’m convicted. Because I know that when grades and assignments and friendships and homework are all stripped away, I should be doing this all for Him, anyway.

All for Him and only for Him.

~Natalia

Holding My Heart

The world is not ending,

my heart keeps on beating,

But in that moment, I’d rather not be feeling what I am.

I’d prefer to feel normal, feel comfortable, feel better.

I’d prefer not to be on the defensive,

sifting through every emotion, every interaction,

weeding out the painful, the hurtful, the hard.

I’d much prefer that.

But weeks pass and things get better.

The sharp wears to dull,

denial rolls into anger, and slowly,

both of them wash away to the soft sadness underneath.

Weeks pass and I’m learning and growing and

things really are getting better.

Right?

But words and a look and hours later,

and I’m frustrated that normal seems so very unattainable.

My way, the way I want things to be, must be the right way,

and I can’t get over that my way might never be.

I’ve set high standards for normalcy,

and the realization that we may never reach those standards

leaves me saddened, and frustrated, too.

I know how to fix this, I think.

When circumstances and wills, minds and hearts, all line up to my way,

things will fall right into place.

But wise words are spoken softly,

wisdom I need to hear.

Wisdom says let it go.

Wisdom says under the hurt and the unsure and the maybe-this-is-awkward,

under all this, through all this, somewhere,

there is reality.

Wisdom says find reality, hold to reality,

and let it go.

And I do.

A little.

I drop impositions,

drop expectations I wish others would take on for themselves,

and I find reality in Christ,

in my own heart,

and to this I cling.

But I’m planning, too.

There are words I’ve never said,

emotions I’ve not let myself own until recently,

and now; now I want to speak.

So I plan and wait and keep my eyes open for just when I’ll say.

Chances and opportunities and not right now and just missed it.

Nervous, nervous. Nervous and determined.

I know the words and I’m determined to fix this well.

But chapel hour and an illuminated phone,

contact and a conversation and God says,

I’m in this more than you think.

Nervous all over again,

but peace grabs me by the shoulders and shakes me still.

Hours later, words spoken; hearts months hurt sit across from each other

and I catch a glimpse of healed, and I feel healing in me.

And it’s over and over, and God’s so real to me,

I can feel Him breathing on my face.

Why do you doubt, child?

Why is what’s now not enough for you; why am I not enough?

Be still and know means be still and know;

I am who I say, and I keep my promises

and I’m the One holding your heart.

And when healing is meant to come,

it will come.

~Natalia

Five Years Later

There are so many, many things that could be said. I could write about reasons to adopt, ways that adoptions has changed my life, the need to adopt, and so much more.

I could write a whole book full of personal experiences and stories about adoption. I could spread paragraph after paragraph all over this space about how adoption changed my life and how thankful for it.

But when it comes down to it, I’m not going to say any of that right now.

Five years ago today, Glendy and Larissa became part of my family forever, and with that, God changed my life and that of my family forever.

Because now, there’s a five-year old who vaults herself into my arms when I walk through the door at home. There’s a seven-year old who sings songs with me, reads books with me, quotes movies with me.

Yes, adoption changed my life. And Christ changes my life every day. And He’s using these two girls and the rest of my family to help me grow.

~Natalia

Funny Thing

Leadmewhere is two years old today and, ironically (or maybe fittingly), I’m really not sure what to write about. I’m not sure if this is a somber occasion for remembering and commemorating the past two years, or a happy time for celebrating the second anniversary of my headlong dive into the blogging world.

Two years ago today, I published a post called First Step to a Good Anything is the Purpose Statement, and slowly opened the door of my life to the internet world.

It’s a funny thing, writing a blog. I know how many people read my blog; I’m honored and humbled by readers who have chosen to read, comment, keep coming back. The things you say and the way that you have responded to my writing encourage me to keep writing, to keep coming back to this page, to this heart-and-mind exercise of blogging.

Blogging is a practice in writing, yes. But even more than that, it’s a lesson in vulnerability.

I’ve grown in vulnerability over the past two years. I really, truly believe that I have. Ask anyone who has known me for a while. Ask my mother. The past two years, and especially the past several months, have seen me developing greatly in this area. Where walls once loomed high and my temper flashed a warning when hurt and hearts wandered too close to my own, there are holes in the wall now. Gaping spaces crumble a little lower with each passing week, revealing a softening heart slowly unclenching amidst it all.

But I didn’t really have anything to do with it.

God is the one who first sparked my interest in blogging, allowing me the opportunity to “practice” for a year, while living in Mexico and chronicling our family’s adventures on Little Family 6.

God is the one who supplied me with the very name for this blog, and who has led me faithfully throughout the past two years of both living life and blogging about that life.

And God is the one who breaks down barriers and changes, develops my heart. I’m not done growing, and I will never reach perfection, but He continues to work, continues to lead, continues to challenge.

Writing a blog truly is a funny thing; the personal accounts that I share can be read around the world. I’m writing, often intimately, about the very issues that lie closest to my heart, to an unknown audience.

God is using, and has for two years been using, this blog as a tool to work in my heart and my life. And maybe, just maybe, He’ll use what is written here to grow others, too.

~Natalia

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