City Kids.

Someone said to me once, "God gives us the desires of our hearts, but it doesn't always look the way we thought it would." That has never been more true than right now. I've dreamed my entire life of living in New York City, but in my dreams, I was single (or freshly married), I didn't have kids, I lived in lower Manhattan, I had beautiful friends, stylish clothes, and I worked for some well known paper, traveling the world and writing articles that made people THINK. Never did I EVER imagine that it would look like the five of us living on the sixth floor, with my parents and brother, in one tiny bedroom near Yankee Stadium. 

When my parents moved to the Bronx last year, I thought, "Well, I may never live in the city, but at least my kids will grow up visiting like I did." Haha. Oh how God laughs. We "moved in" with my parents last month. I write that in quotations because is it really moving in if everything you brought with you fits in the back of a CRV? It's cramped, ya'll. It's uncomfortable. BUT HEY -- I live in NEW YORK CITY!  

Haha. But really. It's kind of cool. I've always loved New York and I really do enjoy it, but "the bloom is off the rose" as my mother says. I don't hate it, by any means, but I'm ready to get back to Massachusetts. We're just praying that God will open a door soon for us to come home. Zach is looking for work, I'm doing my oils business and we'll be out of here soon, I'm sure of it. So I'm trying to embrace the city life. 

But like. Sometimes that's hard to do when my son falls on the playground and lands near an open switchblade. Or when I'm walking to the post office IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY and a full grown man pulls his britches down to PEE IN FRONT OF ME. I could've gone MY WHOLE LIFE without seeing that and I would've been ok with that. Or when I'm walking up the stairs to my parents apartment and there's a girl passed out drunk in the middle of the hallway. Or when some lady trips as she's running onto the subway and lands on top of Anna in the stroller and then just SITS ON HER and looks up at me like, "You mad, bro?". Or when my kids lick the subway poles. Or when I get yelled at by drunk people. Or when I have to spend stupid amounts of money on food because everything is so expensive here. 

But now that I've complained about the bad, I'll show you the good. We're really having a good time and making some memories. Can't WAIT to get back home though. Also if you live in the city can we hang, please?? 

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The Trouble With Faith

I'm struggling with my faith lately and I don't really know what to do with it. It's hard to voice your doubts and not receive a simplistic Christian-capped answer. It's hard to find people who will let you doubt without simplifying or demeaning your struggles. The older I get, the more complicated my relationship with Jesus gets. And the more hurt that comes into my life, the harder it is for me to understand God's sovereignty. And so I doubt.  I doubt openly, but internally, it goes much deeper than I've ever felt safe expressing. But without expression, doubt becomes anger and anger becomes bitterness and that's not something I want in my life. 

The problem is that in Christianity, we're supposed to hold our doubts in one hand and our faith in the other. There's this idea that one will cancel out the other. If you have faith, you don't doubt. If you doubt, you don't have faith. But without doubt, faith can't be realized and without faith, our doubts would become beliefs. What if we just clapped our hands and mushed our doubts and our faith together? I don't know how to separate them anymore. 

My entire life, I've been a black and white person. I saw the world simply and expected everyone to see things the way I did. I spoke with authority on matters I never experienced and cast judgment on people whose life experiences didn't even remotely resemble mine. The world used to be so simple to me, but the past four years have changed all of that. Struggle, pain, abandonment, rejection, betrayal, loss, having friends that don't look like me or think like me... those things will irreversibly change your perspective. Suffering draws you closer to Jesus, but it also renders your simplistic theology irrelevant.

It would be easy for me to speak and try to believe things like "All things work together for good" and "For I know the plans I have for you." But deep down, past the exterior and outer layers of my heart that trust blindly and completely, I have serious reservations that those things are true all of the time. And that's not for lack of faith that God can and will, it's just ... God can't be put in a box and our understanding of scripture is minimal and contextual and sometimes I wonder if we even understand anything about God at all. I get really uncomfortable when someone thinks they have God figured out. I don't need a God that humans can understand. But at the same time ... right now ... God just feels too big.  

He feels too big to see me. He feels too big to care. He feels too big to be concerned about my fragile, vulnerable, broken spirit. But don't get me wrong, I'm not walking away from my faith. In fact, for the first time in my life, I feel like I'm walking into it. Up until this point, my faith was sourced in textbooks and heritage and spiritual experiences. Now my faith is being rooted in my suffering. Suffering that was undeserved and cruelly placed on me. I have so many questions, and if I'm being totally honest, I'm wrestling with anger as well. And this is where belief comes in. Belief and faith are parallel,  but they are not the same. I believe that God is good. I believe that he is for me. I believe that he will work all things together for good. And that has to be enough for now because my faith is being worked out in the deepest parts of my heart and my doubts are an important part of the process. I won't run from them or hide them or pretend that they're not there. They're there. But they don't negate the confidence I have in him. I stacked all my chips on His word and I'm trusting that one day I'll understand why things happen the way they do. 

In the meantime, I'll wrestle and continue to be totally transparent in my prayers, in my writing, and in my conversations. A few months ago, I sat down across from my former pastor's wife, and she said to me, "Sometimes these situations can stifle the thing that God gifted you in. What do you feel is your God-given strength?" I started crying (which should tell you something because I never cry in front of people) and I said, "My vulnerability. I've always found it easy to be open, but I don't think I can ever be that person again. This hurts too much." And it still hurts too much. But our vulnerability is what makes us human and what makes this journey we're on a little less lonely. So this is me with open hands and an open heart telling you that I'm really struggling with Jesus right now. It's healthy and productive and I struggle and wrestle and question with hope and ... I'm healing. Slowly, in a one step forward, two steps backwards kind of way, but it's happening. 

And I know the end of this story will be the beginning of something beautiful.

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All Our Bags Are Packed.

AGAIN. 

Have I mentioned yet how much I loathe moving? I mean, I guess it's not the packing that I hate, it's the leaving. The stepping out into the unknown. The starting something new. I've done this enough times in my life to know that transition is a four letter word. I'm tired. I'm cranky. I have a bad attitude. I just want to stay in one place! But we don't usually get to choose our circumstances, so here we are, surrounded by boxes again. blah. 

Ok, I promise I'm not going to make my blog and everything in my life about oils now, but seriously. I just could not survive this emotionally draining and stressful season without them. I really could not. I've become dependent on them (in a good way, of course) and I want to smack two years ago Kristen and tell her to open the bottle of Joy that's been sitting in her bathroom drawer and slather it on her face. 

So besides all that, I'm actually in a really good place mentally and emotionally. This season that we're in right now would have wrecked me last year. But I'm surprisingly still standing and I feel balanced and clear headed and I am so excited to see what God is doing. It's weird leaving a church to do a different ministry in the same city, but it's right. And overwhelming. And terrifying. I'm rambling. So maybe not so clear headed? Ha. Sorry I have no profound thoughts or eloquent writing for you today. Maybe next week.

So here's to fresh starts, new things, picking up old things, and rubbing coconut oil on callused hands from dealing with cardboard and packing tape all day. 

This may or may not be a cry for help. ;) 

New Things.

Oh hey. 

SO many new things happening around these parts! First. The LaValley fam is headed to Georgia for an extended stay this summer, so if you're around, let's hang out! We have just resigned from our church and are putting our things in storage as we begin to prepare to start a community development work where we're living now in Western Mass. I'll share more about that as it comes, but right now it's a one foot in front of the other sort of thing and we're just trying to wake up every day and to the next right thing. It's all very exciting, but also very overwhelming and kind of cloudy right now, but we're really looking forward to what's next. 

TWO. I started using essential oils again a few months ago and my world has been rocked. Now that I've decided to start distributing and teaching classes about oils, I'm making some $$ and having so. much. fun. Come get oily with me. Former skeptic turned oil evangelist. Life is weird. I have an instagram - @oilingual and a facebook group. I just taught a class on using oils safely when you're pregnant, nursing, and with your kids, so you can catch the playback once you join the group. My next class is Monday, May 8th at 9pm est and it's all about how to use Oils on a budget. So come watch live if you're into that sort of thing. 

THREE. I know you keep hoping that I'm going to tell you that I'm pregnant, but that is sooo not happening. I'm finally starting to get my head above water with these kids and I'm not messing with that. The thought of it makes me shudder. Not that I hate the idea of another baby, buuutttt... I want a dog. We're thinking about buying a house and if and when we do, you will definitely be seeing photos of a dog pop up immediately after. Because we will not be able to stop ourselves. Anyway. There really was no number three. Except that, does anyone read blogs anymore? I've been doing most of my "blogging" on instagram, but now that we're no longer on staff at a church, I can get back to writing about my life like I used to. When Zach or I are in pastoral position, it puts a necessary (but frustrating!) filter on how open I can be about my family, my thoughts, my fears, my frustrations, my whatever, but now there's freedom again! Woo hoo! Not sure how long that will last but I'll ride the wave as long as I can. 

FOUR. That's it. Hi. Bye. Thanks for reading. Here's a photo of us from Easter. These kids are getting so big and it's really not fair.