i don’t recall the above photo. more specifically, i don’t recall sitting there when my husband took this photo. the grand canyon was so breathtaking that its massive beauty swallowed me up, took my thoughts captive, and literally kept me from thinking– it forced me to be present.

being present is something i’m not very good at. i’m exceptionally good at being in the past- just ask my close friends and family, or strength finders 2.0. it’s not that i’m comfortable with my past, it’s that i’m terrified of my present.

mentally, i was always in another world growing up. always imagining a different life, a life that seemed more real to me than my ‘real’ one. i believed i didn’t belong in the world i was in, and now i know why. because i don’t, none of us do.

this year i turned 30, and as is the expectation of all 30 year olds in this worldly culture i took a mental screen shot of my achievements. scanning my bucket list to make sure i’ve accomplished the appropriate amount of “experiences”, so i can wander into the last 1/3 of my life feeling successful and satisfied.

according to culture, i have not succeeded in this.

i am childless, unless you count my fur baby, and from various social media posts i saw on mothers day there are quite a few mothers who ultimately disagree that fur baby mothers deserve recognition on the entirely fake holiday created by hallmark to make money [insert raised eye brow and pursed lips at the silliness]. my job consists of completing odds and ends for my husband’s business, maintaining the household and focusing on writing and speaking <– none of this brings in an income, and according to others, this does not qualify as a “job”. i don’t own a house. i haven’t taken an art class or a cooking class. never been sky diving/bungee jumping. i haven’t run a marathon- unless you count running around my thoughts, because if so, than i’ve ran a million marathons. i haven’t done most of the things listed on the multiple 30before30 lists you can find on the internet.

ugh- just listing all that makes me sad.

we went on a huge road trip for my 30th, making a point to see friends we haven’t seen in a while,  and places we’d never been to. i was excited. i was terrified. i expected the worse. prior to leaving, this trip was full of deserted towns except for the two guys who ate all the travelers who were stranded. and it was full of filthy bathrooms which required a hazmat suite just to enter. my imagination was running rampant before the trip. i packed our rental to the max, taking anything and everything i thought i might need. in the end though, i only needed 1 thing.

to be present to the Lord in my life, in that moment, in every moment.

going backwards, i could list a few places where i felt the Lord wasn’t with me. i’m sure we could all list out a few occasions where we wondered where He was. but then, i think about the times when something should have happened but didn’t. like the time i walked down the beach at close to midnight in a foreign country with a guy i’d just met, or the time yellowstone park had to be shut down because i was “lost” and wandering around the forest looking for my campsite during the highest season for bears to be out- entire campsites were closed due to bear sightings. i did some silly things when i was younger (insert laugh from much older me at the absurdity of me calling my younger than now self “young”)

when everything pointed towards something bad happening, nothing did. but when all arrows pointed to safety, something did go wrong. i can’t help but continue to ask the Lord why?

why, Lord. why did you let that man do that to me? why do you let anyone harm anyone?

sure, i could insert the obvious “free will” answer, but somethings tells me the answer isn’t that simple. so rather than answer it, i will continue to wait until he reveals the answer to me and get on with this blog.

getting to know who God is can be really draining, especially in a world so full of distrust, at least it is for me.  trying to understand the who, what, where, when, why, and how of God is like, for me, trying to solve a math riddle. impossible (seriously, let’s just have a funeral for X)

i knew the devil before i knew God. i knew his scheming ways. the way he covers his lies with partial truths and never fulfills his promises. but at the time, the devil was reliable. he was there. always making himself known to me. going out of his way most of the time to draw attention to himself in the moment. even going so far as to remind me of who wasn’t there.

for as long as i can remember, i ran my life with fear as my guide. and being present wasn’t even an option. i needed to be far away. i needed to disappear from the feeling of my skin and the pull of gravity. every now and then i’d catch myself being present, in a good moment. the smile would stretch upon my face, laughter would escape my vocal chords, my face would loosen, my body relaxed and then the sirens would go off. i’d retreat back into myself where even the devil wasn’t welcome most times, though i’m sure he didn’t mind. he’d stand guard on the other side of my bolted door, and wait for me to come out of hiding, just to remind me it wasn’t safe.

by the time we got to the grand canyon, i’d already faced two days of driving through ghost towns, where to my surprise there were no people who ate people. rather than leading with fear, i led myself with this motto, “the only way back, is forward.” i refused to retreat. refused to run back into myself and lock myself in. i willed myself to move forward, one mile at a time. when the enemy would whisper his lies into my ear, i’d tell him to leave and i’d check in with God.

i would check in with God. i became present to God’s presence.

too often we buy into the idea that God is going to hunt us down when we’re hiding from him. sure, it looks like he “hunted” adam and eve, but upon closer inspection he did no more than he does to us. genesis 3:9 says,

but the Lord called to the man, “where are you?” {emphasis added}

God called after adam. God went to where adam was, but he didn’t force adam out of hiding. what he did was invite adam to make himself known, to God.  i see His question as more than a just a physical one. God was asking adam where he had retreated to in his mind as well, what he was hiding from, what lie was making him fearful.

“i was afraid because i was naked; so i hid.”

so often we read this verse, or rather these verses and we focus on the punishment, we call it the original sin verse, and look at our life as penance for this moment. but dare i say i think God is trying to get us to see it from a different angle. God never abandoned us, we abandoned him. we shoved his gifts back into his face and said it wasn’t enough. we blamed him for our downfall. we believed that God was hiding something from us. and somehow, over time, the enemy has made us believe what God is hiding from is, us.

but, from the very beginning, God wanted us to check in with Him. He wanted us to be present to Him, because He is always there.

isaiah 41:10 “fear not, for i am with you; be not dismayed, for i am your God. i will strengthen you, i will help you, i will uphold you with my righteous hand.”

jeremiah 23:23 “am i a God who is near,” declares the Lord, “and not a far off God.”

acts 17:27 “that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope [reach] for Him and find Him, though. he is not far from each of us.”

for the longest time i believed the lie of the devil. that God didn’t care about me, because if He did, He’d fight harder to keep me safe, to let me know He was, and is there for me. after all, why wouldn’t the creator of me make himself known to me more than the one who is jealous of me.

but that’s just it- even this shows God’s character. the devil has an innate need to be recognized, to be seen for the beautiful and intelligent being that he was and is. i’m not saying i’m a devil worshiper, but God created lucifer to be the most beautiful, the most intelligent, the most talented. this is why our enemy is so cunning. he was the most of anything for a very long time, until we pathetic humans came around. i liken it to the way my niece acted out after her brother was born- there was most certainly times when she acted out, hoping to maintain the amount of attention she got before her brother in those beginning days after his birth.

in my darkest moments, the devil wasn’t only drawing attention to God’s apparent lack of presence, but he was making himself more known, more visible. and just like eve in the garden, we’re all too quick to ignore what we know and pay attention  to what we see.

but God doesn’t have an innate need to be seen.

God wants to be loved, but whether or not we love him doesn’t destroy Him, it doesn’t anger Him. He wants us to love Him, He wants us to recognize how we need Him. He mourns with us. He mourns for us. He mourns beside us. His presence is calming, soft, and quiet. like 1st cor 13: 4 says (i’ve written on it before)

love is patient, love is kind it does not envy, it does not boast. . . .

this trip has made me realize even more how loved i am by Him. we were unbelievably blessed on this trip. the trip wasn’t without the usual road-trip excitement like empty gas tanks, not having a spare tire, the air conditioning breaking down in 100 degree weather for a bit, and a lost husband at devils tower, etc. but through it all, God didn’t abandon us, and in those scary moments (most of them) i clung to Him.

as i closed my eyes on my 20s and reopened them facing my 30s, i have to say i was never calmer, more excited and more at peace with myself, where i’m at in life and who i am. despite my living in a state i dislike strongly, i’m happy with my life. despite not having gone surfing, or sky diving or what ever those website people declare of must dos before you’re 30, i’m happy.

my 30th birthday was full of peace and beauty as we drove through some beautiful scenery on our way home, something we hadn’t planned on doing until the day prior. we were blessed with a beautiful suite at one of the best hotels in montana and got to stay there for free because our friends know the manager. the only thing wrong with the hotel was that i didn’t get to stay there longer and enjoy more of it’s comforts. our phones were conveniently “out of service” for 3 of the states we drove through that day, which meant i was forced to stay present, unaware of the going ons on my social media, wondering who called me and who didn’t to wish me a happy 30th.

it was, a great day.

so today, as i learn how to reign in fear and find a post to tie it up to, i’m excited to finally allow God to lead me. i have no expectations. kids or no kids. money or no money. fame or no fame. ocean or no. . . well, wait- maybe i’m not at THIS point yet. 😉

the point is, i’m excited to be present in my 30s rather than waiting to achieve some level so i can move on. i don’t want to move on from anything other than fear.

as always, i leave you with this. how often are you checking in with the Lord in the moments you need Him most?