Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Anatomy of a Hard Semester

This is probably the hardest semester I have experienced in four years of college.

We had bug problems in the dorm that I let stress me out for an embarrassingly long time. I had weird, persistent health issues. I had to totally re-define my social life as several of my closest friends graduated last semester. I relearned how to live without a roommate ... and I remembered how lonely it is. My friends and I had to overcome some issues as we're all changing fast and having to adapt to each other again and again. I had more spare time than most people, and I had to find ways to pass many hours, often alone. Graduation and my future loom ahead, and I've been trying to nail down career/ministry plans.

For a while, I really wished this semester hadn't happened. That I could erase it all, start over. Or at the least, leave this place and never look back. These trials -- though none were particularly acute -- lingered with me, ebbing away at my joy and hope.

But then things changed. Like flowers suddenly bursting open, God did two quiet, marked works in my life that brought me to the place I am now.

First, I was convicted of incredible selfishness. I felt alone, unloved, and misunderstood by even my friends. Then God woke me up to how all of my desires were revolving solely around myself. I was the unloving one. I was isolating myself. When I started caring about others again, my sense of loneliness nearly vanished. I didn't expect it to last more than a few days. "Really, " I thought, "don't most spiritual 'highs' just relapse before long?"

It's been weeks/months. Not every day has been fantastic, but there is still a huge difference in my perspective since I started getting my heart and mind cleansed by God in this area.

Second, God has been re-teaching me His love. I honestly had questioned it--not His salvation or the kindness of His actions, but the affection of His person for me. How many people have told me that love is an action? A verb? So it only seemed logical that God's love was one of action. He chose to save me. He rescued me. But caring about me? I doubted it.

Thankfully, a good conversation with my brother and some simple Scriptures helped me begin to believe again that God loves His children with both His actions and His emotions. I can't grasp that entirely. But it is good.

So. I ask myself ... who have I become this semester? How have I changed? How have these trials reshaped me?

  • I'm becoming comfortable with myself again. I know God made me individually to serve Him in a special way. I don't dislike myself the way I used to. I don't have to hide my true self or feel the need to be like my peers. I don't have to fit anyone's mold, but instead let the Potter shape me as I live under His loving gaze and gentle hands.

  • I am becoming more balanced in my needs to be with people and be alone. I enjoy the times I spend with friends and acquaintances, but I'm not afraid to be alone with my own thoughts.

  • I laugh less ... but I smile more deeply. The many trials of this semester have dimmed my happiness in some ways. The pressures I'm under are keeping me more reserved, focused, and serious. I'll hear someone laughing in the dorm hall sometimes and wonder how long it's been since I really laughed. This is hard sometimes. And sad. But before I sound too mopey ... don't worry! There truly is a smile deep down in my heart. I am in a relationship with the living God. That is enough. And the happy moments are coming back!

  • It feels like many broken pieces of me--from this semester and past years--are being healed into something stronger and better by God's grace. Pain has pushed me closer to His presence, and it is entirely worth it.
So I praise Him for this semester. I thank Him that fall 2016 was a crazy, weird, hard semester. Because He is working, and He has been kind enough to let me see a bit of what He is doing. I cannot help but "declare ... [His] works."
"But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works" (Psalm 73:28).

Mountaintop views ... in my adventures and in my soul.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tell Me if I'm Alone.

Eyes closed. Brow furrowed. Trying to find words past the haze of exhaustion, fear, and confusion that obscure my thoughts, even from myself.

Do you ever feel like you've been distracted from what you believe? Do you feel the need to re-learn everything, study every word of Scripture, pray deepest prayers to remember exactly what it is you're doing in life?

It's like a good friend you haven't talked to in a long time. You knew her once. You know you're still friends, and you still like her.  But maybe you've forgotten how to talk freely to her. Forgotten her favorite foods and which movies she hates.

That's how I feel about my faith. I believe it. I love God. I talk to Him. I read my Bible and try to serve and obey Him. Genuinely.

But ... I've been distracted lately. Divided in heart. I've forgotten how much he hates some sins and how much He loves His children.

Eww. Sin is ugly. Including my own. My lack of devotion of late is not a pretty sight.

So ... I hope I'm alone. That you haven't let life distract you from what matters most. Have you?

Please pray for me; pray with me.

Am I alone? Or is someone else here too? Maybe not in any "huge" sin ... Just focused on self more than God? Can I pray for you? Will you pray for me?

Consistent growth doesn't happen when we're alone.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Not Exactly Political

It's the day after a United States election, and the nation is reeling. I sit dumbfounded as my Facebook newsfeed fills and even among my Christian friends there is a strongly divided reaction.

I read posts filled with anger and even hatred towards Trump supporters by those afraid of what he will do. While I cannot agree with the hatred, their voices help me as I continue to grow in my understanding of the very real fears of minority groups. As I understand, I empathize, and in my mind questions stir, wondering what can be done in this country to protect them. I speak to you, the fearful, my friends--please don't let hatred win. But keep speaking. If others don't understand your side, your needs, your fears, keep speaking. Tell them.

Then there are the rejoicing posts, acting like there has been some sort of victory. Maybe even a special victory for Christians.

(Parenthetical comment time: I'm afraid to even post the above sentence because I fear it reveals the self-centeredness of Christians. Are we to seek righteousness? Yes. Are we to seek God's will and His way? Yes. Are we to put all our concerns on our own comfort and on avoiding persecution? NO. What even? Why do we make our political decisions based on "hmm, what will be good for the temporal creature-comforts of Christians?" Why don't we ask ourselves "what is God's will?" Not saying the two have to collide ... but WHY is our human comfort our main concern? And WHY do we act like our personal ease is God's greatest concern????? It. Is. Not.)

So back to talking about all the happy, "yay we won!" Facebook posts. I fear these people have put blinders over their eyes, seeing only opinions aligning with their own. To you, I say--listen to those who are unhappy about the election's outcome. Consider the fears of those who "lost" at the polls. Some fears may be comforted in the coming years, and some fears may be realized. Be a part of the comfort. Be a protector. Love beyond disagreements. And don't think that just because you won, that means you are right. Or all will be well.

Okay, here comes my ONE super political comment. Here's what happened at the election: We had two bad candidates, and one of them was chosen.

Personally, I do not think this is a day anyone should rejoice. I am afraid that in this election ... everyone lost.

I don't know how or if the pieces of this country will ever be put back together. I'm a patriotic person, but I would be a fool to say that America is in a good place. All I ask is that we pray. Together. Not attacking those we disagree with (what's with all the hatred?). Listening to each other. While circumstances differ ... we're all in a bad place right now. Let's help each other. No gloating, no vicious words. Pray.

God reigns. But whether He will now judge or show more mercy to our nation, we cannot say.

So I must pray.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

On Being Known

I've never been able to nail down my "personality type." I've tried many a test, but nothing seems to accurately read who I am.

There are two things I can tell you, though. I am what most people would call an introvert. I am also fairly self-aware. If I behave in a certain way I can usually figure out the good, bad, or ugly of why I did it.

That being said, I've been convicted as of late. I don't think introversion is wrong, but I think it can hide subtle sins ....

When I meet you at church and don't say more than "hi," I'm afraid I might say the wrong thing and then you'll think I'm dumb.

Pride masquerades as introversion.

If I don't initiate a friendship, maybe I just don't know if you want to be friends. So I let you try it. I make you take all the risk of extending yourself to get to know me.

Selfishness hides under a veneer of introversion.

Why don't I open up more and share about myself? Because I think you'd be disinterested. You wouldn't care, clearly ....

Judgment and believing the worst about people puts on the acceptable title of "introvert."

Let me repeat. I do not think that being an introvert is wrong. God made some people to need more alone time than others, and that can be used for His will.

But I do know that I cannot justify all my actions by a subjective personality label. It's time for me to be honest about my behavior. Own up to the bad, change some things, embrace the good.

So here's me. Being open. Knowable. And desiring to change and love others more like Christ.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Sky Is Clearing

Remember last time when I sounded a little bit confused about how all the pieces of life fit together?

Yeah, I still don't get it all.

At the same time, like clouds parting to reveal a beautiful starry night, some of my confusion has blown away and I may have caught a glimpse of the big picture.

For those of you who don't know me well, I'm a girl from a small mid-west town who grew up in a little Baptist church. I was homeschooled, spent many an hour painstakingly practicing piano and harp (Dear Dad and Mom ... thank you for all the patience you had with my musical frustrations!), and from a very young age I was a storyteller.

When I was a little kid, my dad graciously typed as I dictated a play script that I now see is laughably bad. I made up stories for my friends and brother as we carpooled to AWANA. When I learned how to use the computer for myself I wrote a "book" about my friends that my dad edited, printed, and bound. At the age of twelve I convinced friends to join me in writing a magazine ... an effort that extended through the end of high school and involved not only a magazine but also a blog and a website of our own.

Books happened too. I plotted stories that illustrated, in the fiction realm, the grace of God as I knew it from my own life.

Then college happened. I went to a well-reputed Christian college far, far away from everyone I knew. Suddenly my life was busier and more demanding than I'd ever known. As I looked around at all the confident, unfamiliar faces that surrounded me, it seemed that I would never be able to survive that place. I couldn't handle college as calmly as them. I couldn't coordinate all the demands on my time. It felt like I couldn't even pray. My pleas to God seemed to bounce of the unfeeling walls of that impersonal place and come right back at me.

I didn't stay long enough to find out if it would get better.

That's about the time I stopped writing. My confusion and sense of failure sapped all the energy that had gone into my stories. If I wrote about my poor, disillusioned character Jordan, I was afraid that I would become mired down in her pain and mine. So I put her aside, and tried to take care of myself.

I'm now in my last semester of college in a different place, a different major. I'm surrounded by amazing people and I've had incredible friends and adventures. But I still hesitate to sit back down and fill blank pages with the stories that used to be so vivid in my imagination.

What ever happened to my sense that writing was God's will for my life, part of His purpose? It once seemed that He had built it into me as an integral part of who I was. After four years without it, I began to doubt everything I knew about what God had for me.

Maybe writing was just a season ... my desires have shifted to serving God on rivers and mountains. Rather than spending my time sitting on a chair and staring at a screen, I'd rather hike to a cliff and watch stars.

But ... God doesn't waste things.

People, experiences, moments, seasons ... they have a purpose in His plan.

So as the fog clears in my mind, I am beginning to wonder ... what if my new desires and joys are not an attack on who I used to be but rather a complement to it?

The adventures that call me could feed and fuel the words I write. In the same way, the time I spend in reflection as I write can stretch and grow my heart to further enjoy life and serve God in all I do.

I don't know if I'll write books again. Probably. But whether God has books or blogs or whatever for me, I know that He has purposes in Who He is making me.

And while I can't see the whole picture, it's a beautiful view, and I am growing in my love of the One Who created it.

Friday, August 26, 2016


People ask me about my summer.

There’s no easy way to communicate what goes through my mind when I think about the last few months. In moments, a vivid, disjointed slideshow of memories plays out in my head. I see rapids, cliffs, and familiar smiles. My heart struggles to prioritize stories. After all, what was really the most important? The fact that I finally learned the munter mule knot for rappelling or the story of the evening my roomie and I drove to the top of the mountain and we felt like we were on top of the world? Should I describe what I know of reading water for rafting, or would people be more interested in hearing about the nights when my friends and I marveled as the sky was lit by a brilliant moon, lightening, and shooting stars?

Fears surface as I try to explain.

I fear the fact that no one can ever really understand what this summer was like unless he or she was there. I want to share these days with the family and friends I love. But since I can’t sync memories and emotions with others (which, if it could be controlled, would be SUPER COOL), I have to realize that words and pictures will have to suffice to give them the faintest sense of what my life was like. Which saddens me, because I feel as if there is a part of myself that I want to show them, but I don’t have the right tools. I feel thwarted, blocked at the pass, and very lonely for the people who lived this incredible season with me.

The fact that there is no thread that ties the memories together—no plot, no way to explain how everything fits and what everything was driving towards—makes me uneasy as to the purpose of all that I did.

It seems as if I should be able to look at the ministry aspect of my job and say, “Well, it was all for a purpose, because I shared awesome devos and I was able to encourage people….” and all the other things we maybe hope for when we step into a new area of service.

I wish I could summarize the adventure side of my job by saying, “I conquered all my fears! And I was good at everything! I got way better at interacting with people, and talking to strangers is no longer awkward!”

Well. It appears perhaps my hopes were a little too high. J

I’m coming to peace with the fact that the story is in pieces—just like a novel, the facets of our lives don’t always make sense until the true end of the story. Sometimes not even then. The song Farther Along by Josh Garrels has helped me with that.

Well, this post is getting long. Time to wrap up.

For sake of making sense of everything, I’ll risk attempting a brief summary of my memories here.

My job was FANTASTIC. I had a lot of fears going into the summer. Heights weren’t my favorite thing. I don’t love the dark or tight spaces. But I knew I wanted to grow, and I did. I’ve rappelled, caved, facilitated high ropes, trained quite a bit on the New River, and more. The fears aren’t gone, but I’m learning to live beyond them. Besides the adventure skills I gained, I had the chance to share a couple devotions with guests, and while I still have work to do in that area, I’m thankful that God has given me this opportunity to serve Him. It brings me joy to remember the moments when God’s hand at work was so clear in my life or another guide’s.

What surprises me is that many of my most vivid memories aren’t from the job. My heart longs to go back to hikes with guides, to relaxing in my hammock, going out for coffee, and laughing at the craziest things because I and the people I worked with just enjoyed being together.

And I choose to comfort my longings with the fact that no matter where I am or who is with me, there is One with me Who was there all summer long. God knows each of my memories better than I do. He knows exactly how I felt each day—that crazy blend of fear and courage, strength and weakness, incredible happiness and occasional woundedness. I don’t have to try to explain to Him and have it fall short.

So that’s it. That’s the only way I can explain right now.

It was amazing.

Waiting at a Rappel Site

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


From our vantage point on the earth, life seems like a good old West Virginia backroad--full of switchbacks we can't see around. Sometimes we wonder if we'll make it around the next bend, and the turn may be so sharp that we have no idea what is around the bend.

This summer my life has taken another turn that I didn't expect at all even a year ago. And again, like many WV roads, the view beyond the bend is stunning.

The past six summers I've been work staff or cook at a Baptist camp near my home. This summer, I'm an adventure guide in West Virginia. I'm training as a whitewater rafting guide, and I'm helping facilitate rappelling, caving, high ropes, etc. All with a focus on using adventure to teach about God.

I expected stress this summer. Some moments are that way.

I expected responsibility. Yep. It's here.

I expected to like it once I got used to it. And I do.

More than I expected.

I've learned so much these last few weeks. My brain is bursting with knots, whitewater routes, cave landmarks, rescue methods, and more. I want to share it all, but honestly I think it would be kind of boring to people who aren't here in the middle of it.

More than anything, I just want to praise God for how good He is. I see His power all around me in the New River Gorge as I see the massive beauty He created. I remember it when I hear caving guests singing praises that echo off the cave walls. I rejoice in His goodness when all goes well, and I rely on Him for my sufficiency when I don't feel like I'm enough.

And I'm so thankful that He let me turn this corner and enter this incredible adventure.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Hamster Wheel

Sometimes life feels a bit like a hamster wheel.

God teaches me something once. I forget. He teaches me again. I forget again. I'm running in circles. Running in place.

Maybe that's part of the reason I have been kind of quiet here for a while. I haven't had anything witty or poignant or insightful to say. What I've been learning is what I've already known.

Christ must be the focus of my life.

This life is just so incredibly distracting. I go to Bible college to learn how to serve God better. And while I'm there I learn to love the state where I'm living, I take on new hobbies, new friends, and suddenly all these side attractions--these perks God has allowed in my service to Him--become the main thing in my mind. I start seeking to please my friends before my God. I want to learn more about my new hobbies more than I want to study God's Word. I look for new scenery rather than new people to serve.

I've been encouraged by Francis Chan's book Crazy Love lately. I haven't finished it yet, but as I sit and read, I've realized that the life I'm living is only a pale reflection of what true Christian living is supposed to be. Christianity was never meant to be something I do or one label among many. It is to be my entire identity and purpose.

It's daunting. And the truth is, I can't do it on my own.

I'm just thankful that as I seek Him, the God I serve remodels my life into what He desires.

"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

So what's to be said about that hamster wheel? Am I really running in place?

Sometimes. But only when I'm running in my own strength.

There is victory in Christ.

Only in Christ.