restoring souls

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters;
He restores my soul.”

For as difficult as moving and settling in a new place is, I’m starting to feel like we’re getting our systems down  Maybe just because I’ve been so frank with friends and family about some of these challenges, they are starting to seem less daunting. The life we’re building here will be different than the one in Iowa, and that’s okay. I have been seeing a new doctor and I like him. Max’s first vet appointment was yesterday. I can get to the dog park on the edge of town without using a GPS, and I even accurately navigated myself home from downtown St. Paul when my phone battery died last week. (Still no luck finding my favorite Chebe Pizza Crust. It must be out here somewhere.)

We’ve had some positive experiences with church hunting, but we had another crazy week that spurned lots of conversations about a bad sermon. We almost left 10 minutes into the service but decided to stick it out because it was so cold that we didn’t want to have to go right back to the car after we had parked so far away. The main gist of the message was that God wants you to have a full emotional tank, which you can’t have if you are stressed out, and that the 23rd Psalm gives you license to back out of anything you aren’t enjoying. You know, because God wants you to have a restored soul. I sat there thinking about what the last six months had brought us (huge family commitments all summer, losing another babydeciding to moveselling our houseclosing a business, moving to an unfamiliar town in a new state, buying a house, etc.), about some of the big things going on this month (Aaron’s commute and new job, setting up the new house, establishing a business when I don’t know anyone, no disposable income until I’m working, puppy, a little extended sickness, no friends yet, unending polar vortex, insurance/registration/licenses/paperwork, etc.), and all of unknowns in the next six months. You know what? I get a little overwhelmed just thinking about it all to write it down. But I don’t, for a minute, question that we might not be doing the right things.

And maybe the sermon came out wrong or I didn’t grasp what the guy was saying, but I think it totally missed the mark. While “stressful living” is not a competition and you shouldn’t seek it out, it is okay to be under lots of pressure. It is okay to be really stressed out. It does not necessarily mean you’re disobeying God or that you need to change something about your life. Sometimes being “stressed” happens because you are overly anxious or irresponsible… but sometimes it’s just the modern vernacular for acknowledging life is risky, which is always true even though it’s obvious at some times more than others. It hasn’t stopped feeling very risky for us in the past few months, and it will probably continue for a bit. (I took one of those online “stress tests” and determined that Aaron and I are both at a very high risk for developing all sorts of illnesses and maladies within the next year.)

“He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.”

If we’re walking in obedience, and I do think we are, then this life right now and every difficulty or blessing that comes with it is our path of righteousness. Even when so much right now feels rough and pretty scary — though I certainly wouldn’t call it valley-of-the-shadow-of-death — the solution is not using pleasure to cover up difficulty. (What does Ecclesiastes say? “‘I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.’ But behold, this also was vanity.”) Instead we have to take comfort in what God is doing, in his presence, in his rod and staff — you know, the things used to beat dumb sheep into getting where they need to go — and in the promises of our future feasting and home.

So, yes, it’s important to make sure we pursue restoration and enjoy life in the hustle right now. For us, this means we need to find good people to be friends with, we need our funny TV shows, and we need to delight in the ruckus that is Max. He won’t be a puppy forever – which is good and bad news, I tell you. We have both already had weekend trips to visit friends, and we’re looking forward to receiving visitors here soon, too. But those things don’t really solve the problem. Instead, stressful times just reveal how broken we are and how deeply we need restoration all the time. Stress has not created this need. When life is more settled, it’s easier to let everyday routines cover that up. Stress also doesn’t get to become the defining factor in our lives, even in seasons permeated by risk and difficulty.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” – Psalm 23.

Would you believe that there may actually be some green pasture-like grasses underneath all these little drops of still, frozen water outside my front door? There is goodness and mercy in all this — even if it is obscured by the fact that the snow is almost as high as the mailbox.

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