When Believing God Loves You Feels Tricky

Remember when you were ten-years-old and the only thing you wanted for Christmas was a snowboard and then you got it and never used it? Was that just me?

I was a fourth grader playing SSX Tricky on my PS2 dreaming about the day I’d finally own a real-life snowboard and how different my life would be when I did. It wasn’t long after I opened the snowboard for Christmas that I realized riding a real-life snowboard was way different than using one with a PS2 controller. And also I lived in Ohio, where snow was unpredictable and slopes like the video game’s courses didn’t exist.

Whether it’s our elementary wish lists or adulthood desires, we think we know exactly what we want. We decide what it will take to finally feel content. And sometimes, we get those things and realize they’re not as life-changing as we imagined they would be.

Other times we receive something we didn’t know we wanted and realize it’s just the thing we needed. I can think of three gifts that were completely unexpected and made me believe more deeply in the fact that I’m important to God and he loves me. So, I’ll share those stories with you and hope you believe more deeply that you’re important to God and he loves you a lot.

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See the Good

2 things that made me tear up today:

1. I watched a homeless man at the intersection off the highway try to smile at cars stopped at the light. I can’t imagine being in his position and can’t imagine the loneliness of having people avoid eye contact with me so much that smiling feels like a vulnerable act.
2. I saw an elated little girl run off the bus with her arms open. When the bus passed, I could see that she was running at her dad.

We celebrate Sukkot as a reminder that this world isn’t our home, it’s all temporary, and there’s something better + more meaningful + more beautiful to come. I’m hopeful for Heaven, where even the beggars are seen and known by name and have an invitation to sit at a banquet table beside me. And I want to have the posture of that little girl getting off the bus— arms open, pure joy, no shame to be welcomed home by my Dad who loves me and has been waiting for my return.

We celebrate Sukkot to be reminded of the Israelites in the wilderness. So in the waiting, I’ll seek the good in everything, but I won’t stop hoping for the Promised Land.

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And Also

As I was sitting in the lobby of my obgyn’s office, a couple walked out from the back with instructions to wait on the couch until the doctor was ready to see them. They sat down across the small waiting room from where I was sitting and began looking at a strip of black and white images. “I can’t believe it,” the wife loudly whispered with a smile that took up most of her face. “Okay, this is actually starting to feel real now,” the expectant father said with a quiver in his throat. During the time we were together in the lobby, they FaceTimed friends, reminded each other that they were going to have a baby, and had no idea that I — the other person in the waiting room who would smile politely when we made eye contact — was fighting back tears.

I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience because I was feeling so many things all at once: excitement for this couple’s growing family, deep sadness for my own story, a craving for coffee while questioning if I should drive through Starbucks on the way home, annoyance that my doctor’s office put all of the patients in the same lobby to wait together, and an unprecedented desire to get out of that freaking waiting room.

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What is sukkot?

A sukkot (hut in Hebrew) nearly resembles what the Israelites might have lived in during the time they were wandering in the wilderness for 40 years before entering into the promised land. Sukkot was (and is) a traditionally Jewish holiday given by God to remember the in-between: the time the Israelites were freed from slavery but still awaiting their permanent home. Like the sukkots the Israelites lived in, this earth is a temporary dwelling place as we wait for the land we’re promised.

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The Long Game

I’m so thankful for all of you who reached out with kind and encouraging words after my post on Tuesday. In the last paragraph I wrote:

I’m writing this to let you know that I’m hurting, but I’m hopeful. I’m writing this because it’s cathartic for me and hitting publish feels brave. I’m writing this because maybe you’ve wondered when the Tilmeses will have a baby and you didn’t realize we’re wondering that, too. I’m writing this because I want to invite you into the messy middle and then you’ll share in our deep joy when we finally get to share that our family is growing.

There’s one more line I want to add: I’m writing this in case you know the feeling because I hate thinking you might feel alone.

Instagram is great, but we need to understand it as a platform that’s most-often used to share the highlights. Let’s say you’re bored at a red light, so you open Instagram to see what’s new. In twelve seconds of scrolling you see:

  • A photo of a proposal
  • The highly-anticipated college acceptance
  • An immaculate living room littered only with plants (posted by a mom with 4 kids!)
  • A kiss captured at the altar above an affectionate anniversary note (because the internet needs to know how we feel about our husbands!)
  • A birthday shoutout from a party you weren’t invited to (otherwise you would have posted the same photo for someone else to scroll by twice, duh!)
  • An elated couple holding up a sonogram
  • That stylish girl gang paired with a thoughtful caption about how life is too good alongside friends like this. 

And then the light turns green and you’re left to wonder when it will all start happening for you, the girl driving a 2012 4-door sedan.

But while you’re considering when your life will become worthy enough to slap a VSCO filter on a photo you took two weeks ago and wait for the likes to roll in, you don’t realize how long @LuvMyBoyfriend99 wondered when a man would finally show interest in her. You miss the fact that for years, @MyFriendsRForeverFriends felt like she put more into friendships than she got back (and probably still feels insecure about it).

Instagram posts can mask our pain or celebrate what we’ve long-been hoping would happen to us. When we hit “share,” we understand the emotions that we’re either suppressing (bored, insecure, unfulfilled, jealous) or showcasing (happy! thankful! content! accomplished!) in our post. But, we ignore the fact that everyone else’s posts are also masking pain or celebrating something long-awaited. Instead, we assume we’re the only one feeling lonely in our waiting.

If you’re in a season of waiting — I see you and I get you. And I want to tell you what I know for sure:

In the age of Instagram, God is all about the long game.

I’m talking about a God who wasn’t surprised by the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years before they entered the Promised Land. A God who named Abraham the father of nations and wasn’t nervous that his wife wouldn’t have a son until she was 90. A God who had a plan to redeem the world through the death and resurrection of Jesus in his thirties, but chose for him to be born a baby.

Instagram makes us believe it’s all instant. I believe in a God who understands long-suffering, calls faithfulness a fruit, and shows up in the waiting.

So the next time you’re bored at a red light, consider thinking about how God has used your season of waiting to draw you closer to him; to make you fruitful in faithfulness. Listen and let him say “I understand how you’re feeling.”

And then, when the light turns green, trust that God is all about the long game; that he sees you and gets you, the girl driving the 2012 4-door sedan.

You might not relate to my story exactly, but I’m committed to sharing this messy middle so that even one person might feel less alone in hers.

And Then

Today I left work earlier than I anticipated and cried on the drive home.

I love my job. I feel empowered in the work I do and I love the people I work with. My tears had nothing to do with my job.

I left work because I started my period and, like the last several months, I felt overwhelmed with sadness and fear. But today, surrounded by co-workers and clients, I could feel the lump in my throat; feel the water welling in my eyes. The sadness and fear felt like they had a tighter grip on my chest than I remember. I needed to cry and to be alone, so I left.

My entire life, my period has been a thing that happens once a month that I’ve felt very neutral about. I’ve never dealt with debilitating cramps or severe symptoms otherwise, and I’m thankful for that. But over the last year, my period has become the thing that my thoughts revolve around: wondering and then waiting and then praying and then prepping and then wondering and then googling and then pep-talking and then wondering and then dreading. I dread it not because of the physical pain caused by my body, but because of the emotional pain triggered by what it means my body can’t might not be able to do.

I’ve considered writing about this for a long time now. Much longer than I wish was true because the length of time I’ve considered writing coincides with the length of time this season has lasted. A season of hope and then disappointment and then confusion and then hopelessness and then joy and then pain and then sadness and then trust and then wonder and then embarrassment and then hope and then disappointment all over again.

Danny + I are so excited to be parents. We are expectant of the day we get to raise up disciples who share our last name. For five years now we’ve built our marriage on being a missional team and we can’t wait to grow that team and invite our children to run on mission with us. It’s all so exciting and, at the moment, so heartbreaking. I daydream about what I’ll do with our 4-year-old, but we’re not even pregnant yet. I’m not sure I’ll ever be pregnant. I still hold on to hope because whether we have kids biologically or through adoption, I’m trusting that we’re called to be parents. But, it’s the waiting– the unknown– that can be so lonely. Especially on a day like today. Especially when scrolling on Instagram means double-tapping another family’s birth announcement. Especially when girls years younger than I am happily tell me they got pregnant on “the first try.” Especially when get-togethers with friends now include toddlers wobbling around and infants sleeping in Solly Baby wraps. I’ve yet to feel bitter towards these things (I’m thankful!), but the loneliness is real. The loneliness is real in the wondering when it will be my time to carry a sleeping infant on my chest.

I’m writing this to let you know that I’m hurting, but I’m hopeful. I’m writing this because it’s cathartic for me and hitting publish feels brave. I’m writing this because maybe you’ve wondered when the Tilmeses will have a baby and you didn’t realize we’re wondering that, too. I’m writing this because I want to invite you into the messy middle and then you’ll share in our deep joy when we finally get to share that our family is growing.

With all my love and hope and heartbreak.