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