My Hubby is out of town where he has no access to the internet, so let’s dish. Do you know what a “Gear Head” is? I certainly didn’t until I was married to this man, but it is a very real thing. (Evidently so is an “Animal Hoarder” as referred to in “Fishbowl Lies.” Thanks for helping me properly diagnose my disease, Sweet Readers). Anyway, this is about him, not me. Gear Head. For example, when he asks if the kids have a “jacket” he is not, as his Floridian wife has mistakenly assumed too many times, asking if they simply have something that covers their arms and goes over their clothes. Nope. “Jacket” could refer to a “windbreaker,” “fleece,” “coat,” “rain coat,” or “snow jacket.” Evidently, none of these are interchangeable or serve the same purpose. There are levels of “jacket” and they directly correspond to temperature, humidity, and wind speed.
When we first got married, probably the most common thing heard in our apartment was, “Babe, where are your shoes?” It was a fair question. I grew up on a lake and at the beach… I got married barefoot in my parents back yard. I was indeed shoeless most of the time. “Right, sorry. Just a sec,” I would say and fetch my shoes. Now, by shoes I obviously mean one of my 15 pairs of Reef flip-flops. I didn’t own a pair of close-toed shoes and never had unless they were for a specific sport’s season. Mr. Gear Head could not handle it. Evidently, you should not go hiking in flip-flops. You should also not go “flats” fishing in flip-flops. If you wear flip-flops to float the river you will probably lose at least one. And, when the weather dips below 65 degrees, your toes do in fact get a little cold even in the cutest of flip-flops. So, I have learned that there exists things called hiking boots (I still just can’t), river shoes, snow boots, and SOCKS! Who knew?
When we moved out to the Ranchito the shoe thing got a little crazy when he declared that no one could go outside of the yard proper in anything but boots. I was pretty lax with this rule both with myself and the kids, until a huge snake tried to eat our 6 week old puppy OUT OF MY LAP in the front yard! So, guess what else there are? SNAKE BOOTS! Yes, please. Most days you will find me in a very well-worn, puppy-chewed, muddy pair of snake boots around here. Now, they are precious with my swim-suit and cover-up when I go straight from the pool to the chicken coop or garden, or with PJ’s early in the morning, but I have learned. Even if I wasn’t nervous about snakes, I would don these boots as I worked around here. There are stickers that will get you in flip-flops. Let’s just say that if I were to clean the coop out in flip-flops my feet would be, ummmm gross. Even gardening in flip-flops or watering the plants in the courtyard means wet and muddy feet. In my snake boots I know my tootsies will be protected from all of the elements (and reptiles).
Now, I love my flip-flops. I still have SEVERAL pairs. I buy at least one new pair every summer when I go home to Florida at my favorite surf shop. But, there is a time and a place, you know? I held on tight not only to my shoes (or lack of shoes), but to a lot of aspects of my so-called “identity” when we first got married and moved to Texas. Texas is a whole thing. Like I always say, I love my home state, but I don’t need earrings in the shape of it, or to eat Florida-shaped waffles. In Texas they do. In the early days, when my marriage was very hard and my home felt so very far away, I took every chance I could to buck the whole thing. This was not what I had signed on for, you know? I was not going to “lose myself” in this. You were not going to bully me with your big ‘ole Texas cowboy boots and bluebonnets and chips and salsa! Nope.
When I look back on those years I realize now that I was worshiping the god of my own expectations…. Mourning what I thought my life would look like. Rebelling against what it really was. I was refusing to change my shoes for the occasion. Here is the thing, the rebellion in my spirit didn’t change anything about my circumstances. My life was deep in the heart of Texas. I was only hurting myself. I was disrespecting not only my husband, but God who had not only brought us together but placed us here. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” The harder I held to the plans in my heart, the more I missed of the steps He had established for me.
So, what was I to do? I was very literally a fish out of water (because there is no water). Someone more eloquent than me may say something like, “Bloom where you are planted.” We are certainly all created with unique personalities and passions. We are stirred by some things and apathetic to others. We shine in some areas and tend to fail in others. We are drawn here and repelled there. But all of that is so much bigger than a physical place, isn’t it? Can’t all of that transcend mere geography? Don’t we trust our Creator to bring those things out wherever we are? Won’t He use them in the steps He is establishing?
Last weekend my mom and I cashed in on our Christmas present and took a road trip to a little shop you may have heard of called the Magnolia Silos…. Ahhhh, so dreamy! One treasure I picked up there was a little sign (thanks Jimmy Don) that says, “She designed a life she loved.”
Man, does this speak to me. Sometimes we are asked to lay down the expectations we had, what we thought our life would be, where we thought our life would be, what we thought it would feel like, or look like. Maybe it is the husband we thought we would have, the number of kids we thought we would have, when they would arrive, the bank account we expected by now, the house, the success. Sometimes we thought we would live flip-flops lives and we find ourselves in snake boots. We plan our path but sometimes the steps God has established for us are different. When we find ourselves down a new path, a different path, maybe a path we didn’t choose we still have a choice. We can take what we DO HAVE and design a life we love.
For example, we have already established that I am an animal lover (hoarder, whatever). That used to look like this:
When I go home to Florida, I still love to hang out with these beauties every chance I get. Guess what we have none of in West Texas? Right, manatees. So now it looks more like this little surprise:
Who doesn’t love a bunny in their bathtub.
I used to fancy myself a poet and would spend long afternoons at the beach or lake or some botanical gardens on a blanket writing all alone. Let me just say that doesn’t happen much anymore (ever, at all). I have to use my creativity in ways that work in my actual life. I have to bloom where I am planted. I may cook a creative meal, do crafts with the kids, cultivate a creative space outside. Perhaps writing a book is in my future but right now I have this little blog. One day I may have the opportunity to really pour into and speak to women, but right now most of my teaching comes in the form of home school days with my kindergartner, 2nd, 5th, and 6th grader. The gifting is there, the call… It just looks a bit like Latin and long-division in this season rather than Bible study. I love being outdoors more than anything but my view is different from what I thought it would be. There is no water as far as the eye can see… no moss hanging low from the magnolia trees, no mountain peaks in the distance. So, I plant some flowers, paint some rockers, hang some lights and enjoy the view that I do have. I love a beautiful event… I love every detail of it. Until very recently the only parties I was having were birthday parties for my kids. We’ve done it all; pumpkin patches to Minecraft, dinosaurs to cowboys, “glamping” to knights. I have poured over those details knowing that one day there will be beautiful tablescapes and lovely appetizers, and fabulous grown-up dinner parties.
I believe that God places things in our hearts… callings, dreams, passions, gifts. These are both in our DNA and come from our life experiences. These are real. These are important. But sometimes we think we’ll be wearing flip-flops on the journey and the road requires snake boots. There has to be something in between rebelling against the steps God is establishing, and giving up entirely on all He has laid on our hearts. Are we brave enough not to let our expectations steal the joys of our realities? Can we acclimate to our real life and let go of our own agendas? Can we adapt our hopes, pursuits, and talents for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14)…. for such a place, or season of life as this? Can we trust Him with our steps? Do you trust Him to give you all you need to design a real life you really love right here and now? God is a bit of a Gear Head too and says in 2 Peter 1:3 that His divine power, “has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” Everything we need. Right here.
My Reefs don’t do me much good around the Ranchito. No matter how much I wish they did, no matter how much I may love them, no matter how much I used to wear them, it doesn’t change the fact that they are not the proper foot attire for my life here and now. I was standing on the sidelines afraid of stickers and mud and snakes and missing out on so much awesome because I wouldn’t change my shoes. I had to lay it down, let it go. Now, you better believe that the snake boots will not be packed in a couple of weeks when we head to the beach. I don’t need them there. But here in my real life, on the journey God has me, taking the steps He has established for me, I needed to adapt, I needed to trust, I needed to figure out how to be me here. I needed some new shoes. Good thing He has got me covered.