Insert Fulfillment Here

“How are you?”

“Fine,” or “Oh, you know, I’m ok,” or “I guess I’m a little up, down, and all over the place.”

These answers aren’t untrue, but they’re just vague enough to mask what’s truly going on. So let’s try this again.

“How are you?”

“I feel the ache of waiting. It’s this expansive hollowness, a vortex that gathers my contentment, and joy, and sense of purpose into this swirling mass of confusion and pain.”

What do you do when your body starts to fail you, and God responds by asking you to pray for your own healing?

Pray for healing? That feels like such a loaded request! Because what if I pray and nothing happens? Or I pray and God responds, but I can’t even tell if I’m healed because I don’t understand what’s wrong with me in the first place? Does God want to heal me of all my ailments, or just some of them? Will this healing be instantaneous, or take place over the course of the coming months or even years? Why would God heal me and not other people I love who face physical ailments far more limiting than than mine?

And then I realize that deep down I don’t question God’s sovereignty and power – I know that God is fully capable of healing me. My questions are rooted in doubting in God’s goodness.

I know God is able, but is God willing?

Then there’s the lofty promises God made me over a year ago. Yeah, there’s been growth, sure, there’s been change, but where’s the fulfillment?

There’s a song by Elevation Worship that says, “Walking around these walls/ I thought by now they’d fall,” and that’s precisely how I feel! But maybe my entitlement is showing. Because if I held up my end of the bargain then shouldn’t I get to insert fulfillment here?

But I don’t get to choose when the seasons change. 

Just like the winter has kept its grip on Oregon far longer than any of us want it to, for the time being, winter continues to maintain its hold on my life as well. Which presents me with a choice: rage against the rain or accept it. We all know which will have the better effect on my mental, emotional, and even physical health.

So why do I choose the raging? Because it’s easier. Raging is a quick fix, a bandaid I can slap on to hide an ugly, long-term problem. It makes me feel better, but in a cheap way that doesn’t last.

I just started reading a book my roommate recommended called Hinds Feet on High Places, and in the preface the author says, “But the High Places of victory and union with Christ cannot be reached by any mental reckoning of self to be dead to sin, or by seeking to devise some way or discipline by which the will can be crucified. The only way is by learning to accept, day by day, the actual conditions and tests permitted by God, by a continually repeated laying down of our own will and acceptance of his as it is presented to us in the form of the people with whom we have to live and work, and in the things which happen to us. Every acceptance of his will becomes an altar of sacrifice, and every such surrender and abandonment of ourselves to his will is a means of furthering us on the way to the High Places to which he desires to bring every child of his while they are still living on earth.”  Wow.

Not my will, but yours be done. Can I choose it, knowing that the choosing won’t be a one and done, but that I will have to repeatedly lay down my good yet hopelessly flawed desires and plans in order to accept the unexpected and yet wildly beautiful will of the Father?

With the encouragement of God’s faithful presence in the choosing, my answer is slowly becoming yes and amen.

Further up and further in!

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Frilly, Pink Tree Blossoms

Let me tell you something about the vegetation that exists where I grew up.

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My part of Eastern Washington has trees (contrary to popular belief) but they’re pine trees, which is great in the winter when they stay fresh and green, but boring in the spring when they look exactly how they’ve always looked. Because of this, moving to college was my first real encounter with flowering trees.

Now, before I moved to Western Oregon, I cognitively knew that trees flowered, but that didn’t prevent my explosion of awe and wonder when the trees I had walked past for the entire year suddenly burst into bloom.

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That first spring of college I remember that each time a new tree bloomed, I felt like I had made a terrific discovery. Walking to work at the Baldwin’s house felt like I was passing through a wonderland.

When spring rolled around my sophomore year, I was battling a bout of depression and juggling what, to this day, remains my hardest semester of college. That year I needed the flowering trees to help me remember that my tough life circumstances wouldn’t last forever, and that new growth was on its way.

Last year, I was living in the house in which I currently reside, and around the beginning of April, my housemates and I discovered that the two trees in our front yard produced these ridiculous and frilly, yet breathtakingly beautiful pink blossoms. I professed my love for these trees at every available opportunity, and spent copious amounts of time simply staring at them out my window.

This year, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the blooming of my pink trees. The weather’s been colder, so they bloomed substantially later (17 days, but who’s counting) but now that they’ve burst into bloom, I know that, as always, it was well worth the wait.

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You might be wondering why I’ve taken so much space to wax poetic about a couple of trees that bloom, just as they’ve always done. Maybe it’s in part because I currently feel like a tree. I feel like I’ve spent a long season hunkered down to endure winter, working on internal growth (roots), but not having the resources and space I need to put forth creativity (blossoms). However, as I am getting ready to graduate, I feel the seasons shifting, and I sense that a season of creativity and new life is about to burst forth! The other reason is because I deeply believe in the importance of celebrating the good, the true, and the beautiful. No matter how busy, tired, stressed, or emotionally drained I feel, I know that a simple glance out my window make my heart swell with joy.

In the words of my roommate, “I feel like I’m living in a fairy house” – and it doesn’t get much better than that!IMGP2677

Finding Newness in the Same Old Me

Since I last wrote to you, dear readers, I have had my last first day of school – potentially ever! Isn’t that crazy? And with that last first day I have been ushered into a semester that can only be described as wholly different from any other segment of school I have yet experienced.

I think in part the weirdness of this semester comes from the fact that this summer changed me in ways that are only beginning to come to light. I like who I’m becoming, but it can be disorienting to catch glimpses of newness in the same old you.

One of the changes I’m seeing is a dramatic shift in my priorities. As I sit on the cusp of week five of the semester, I feel God urging me towards soul care – telling me that it’s ok to dig into my C.S. Lewis readings even at the expense of other homework, that it’s more important to cultivate relationships than to get good grades, and that as much as I am at college to receive an academic education, I am also here to learn about life and love and God and myself.

Maybe the difference isn’t that God is telling me these things, but that I’m actually choosing to believe them. And with all of this soul digging I’m having some beautiful revelations, some of which are worth sharing.

So, over the next few weeks I will (hopefully but no promises on how quickly or frequently) be posting short pieces on some of the snippets of wisdom God’s has been graciously raining down on me. Honestly, I’m very excited to share what He’s been teaching me because the things I’ve been learning have been breathing new life into me, and my hope is that even just one thing I share can do the same for you!

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“How Rare and Beautiful It Is To Even Exist”

Tonight I’m taking a detour from my typical posting style to bring you a light and fun blog post. Although I have many other potential posts I’d love to share with you, in the midst of discovering new food intolerances and exploring a new direction for my life post-graduation, as well as juggling classes and relationships, I don’t have a lot of brain power left over for writing a deep, thought-provoking post this month. Also, in this season of life (as in so many others), music is providing much needed inspiration and motivation. So, I thought it would be fun to share some of what I’ve been listening to lately. Besides, who doesn’t love new music?

Currently 85% of my time spent listening to music is also spent studying. Sometimes music is the only thing that gets me through the long hours of reading and writing and memorizing and…

So without further ado, here are (in no particular order) my top ten favorite study songs:

  1. The Ash Is In Our Clothes by Sleeping At Last
  2. Hello/Lacrimosa by The Piano Guys
  3. West of the Rockies by Garth Neustadter
  4. Rey’s Theme by John Williams
  5. Intermission by Coeur De Pirate
  6. When Ginny Kissed Harry by Nicholas Hooper
  7. Chord Left by Agnes Obel
  8. Wake Me by Message To Bears
  9. Tundra by Cello Fury
  10. New Day by Philip Wesley

When I’m not doing homework, I often turn to worship music. I’ve found that in this season of uncertainties, I need to be frequently reminded of the stability of God’s character and plans for me.

So here are some worship songs that have been speaking into my life this semester:

  1. To the One, Make Us Ready, and Song of the Lamb by Harvest Bashta
  2. Sinking Deep by Hillsong Young and Free
  3. Here’s My Heart by I Am They
  4. Be Still My Soul by Jason Lavik
  5. Come Away, The Anthem, and In the River by Jesus Culture
  6. When I Am Afraid by Laura Hackett
  7. Tears of the Saints by Leeland
  8. I Knew What I Was Getting Into by Misty Edwards
  9. There May Be Tears by Scott Cunningham Band
  10. Give Me A Song by Will Raegan and United Pursuit

I have also made some random musical discoveries in the past few months that are absolutely worth sharing. (I honestly think I could write an entire blog post on each one because wow, talk about incredible music!)

  1. Sleeping At Last – If you have never listened to Sleeping At Last, stop reading this blog post right now and go listen to them! Incredible, right? I could go on and on and on about why I love Sleeping At Last. Their music gives me chills, and their lyrics are profound. My favorite line comes from the song called Saturn, and is the title of this blog post. You can read about the intentionality put into each song here: http://sleepingatlast.com/blog/ It’s unreal!
  2. Hamilton – This a musical that my friend Rylie introduced me to. It’s about the life of Alexander Hamilton, (cue the history nerd-out session) and not only does it have great music and an incredible storyline, but it also courageously engages issues in our society surrounding gender and race. My favorite songs from the soundtrack are The Schuyler Sisters, Satisfied, and Wait For It.

Finally, there are two random songs I recently discovered that I’ve been listening to multiple times a day. One is called Light Ahead by Surveyor and the other is called Sons and Daughters by Allman Brown and Liz Lawrence.

What have you been listening to lately?

PS: Just in case you didn’t stop reading to listen to Saturn by Sleeping at Last, I’ll just leave this here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEnkgfe6jTM

Becoming a Junior

I am a college junior. And while I do feel the cliché response of, oh my goodness, how did I get here, time is flying, it also feels like the most ridiculously natural thing in the world. Not only am I a junior, I feel like a junior. Here’s a few reasons why:

1. For the first time I’m living off campus in the most darling house! This means that while I have the extra responsibilities of providing my own furniture, and remembering to take the trash to the curb on garbage day, I also have the extra freedoms of using nails to hang paintings on the walls, and lighting candles, or for that matter, possessing a lighter! I’m on a minimal meal plan, so I’m beginning to cook for myself. While most of my meals have been simple quesadillas or chef salad, I have managed to make homemade refried beans, and tried a new recipe for roasted chickpeas. I’m also dealing with adult situations such as paying rent and setting up Internet service. Sometimes it feels like my life is an endless cycle of calling customer service and going to the bank. Lately, my housemates and I have frequently exclaimed, “Too much adulting!” But as much as being an adult can be a hassle, it feels natural and right to be in this new place of independence.

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2. The first day of school felt remarkably undramatic. Even after four months away, going to class didn’t feel out of the ordinary. Maybe that’s because, as my friend Kaylee reminded me, it was my fifteenth first day of school, but regardless of why I felt so comfortable, I think it truly shows just how at home I feel on my campus. I know how to get where I need to be, I understand the many systems that are in place, I constantly run into people I know, and for the first time, I get to be the one to authoritatively answer the endless questions of freshmen. Being an upperclassman is a wonderful thing.

Home Sweet Home3. In this moment I feel rooted, yet scattered. The roots come from knowing I am where I belong and being willing to pour into this place, even though I suspect I won’t be here for much longer. I am invested in my university, plugged into my church, and in love with the place I live and the people I encounter on a daily basis. The scattering comes from traveling, and leaving pieces of my heart in faraway lands. Not to mention that half of the people I love most in the world don’t live in Oregon. This juxtaposition of being rooted yet scattered leaves me in a place of tension to be sure, and yet, I also feel a peace. While this time of life is transient, it’s also incredibly beautiful!

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So this semester I’m going to live into the reality that, no matter how short this season of life will be, today I am a college junior.

When the Ground Beneath You Quakes…

First off, I want to let you all know that I am still going to Nepal from June 9th through July 24th, but my trip itinerary will look very different from what we had originally planned. While I don’t yet know the nitty gritty of what that means, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God wants me to be in Nepal this summer, and I am overwhelmingly grateful that I still get to visit this land that has completely captured my heart.

Secondly, I am done with my fourth semester of undergrad (hallelujah!) and now have as much college behind me as I do before me (how did that happen?) It was my hardest semester yet, but I made it through alive, and now I get to spend the next month at home, processing the last season and preparing for the next.

There have been many times throughout these past two weeks when I’ve thought, “I should really write a blog about this” but try as I might, I can’t seem to get the words right. It’s not so much a lack of words as it is an overabundance, so this will probably turn into more than one blog post. I hope you don’t mind. There’s just so much I want to share with you.

On Wednesday April 15th at 8PM, my body was sitting in evening chapel, but my brain was running through the million and a half things I still needed to complete later that evening. Our campus pastor, Rusty, was scheduled to speak, but instead of giving a sermon, he decided to have an extended time of worship through song, and an opportunity for students to pray with the campus pastors. I love opportunities to pray with others, so when he opened up the prayer time, I walked down the auditorium aisle and asked him to pray for me. All semester my prayer requests had been for strength and endurance to get through this incredibly difficult season of life, but this time, something in me had shifted. I asked Rusty to pray for the transition that was about to happen in my life. It was an odd request considering I still had three weeks of the semester to complete, and was nowhere near ready to even think about being at home and preparing for Nepal. But I couldn’t deny the still small voice of God saying that it was transition time. Something deep inside of me knew that I had finally emerged, victorious, from the dark pit I was in for the first thirteen weeks of the semester, but that the struggle wasn’t over… it was just changing. I know that sounds vague, but at that point in time it was all I knew with any clarity.

On Thursday April 23rd at 10PM, I was following my normal routine of thinking through scenarios of what could potentially happen while I’m in Nepal while I got ready for bed. Suddenly I thought, “What if there’s a massive earthquake while I’m there?” I knew that Nepal rests on a fault line (the Himalayas are not in Nepal by random chance) but the idea of a big earthquake seemed to come out of nowhere. I played out the scenario in my mind, and then moved on, never dreaming how real my imaginings were about to become.

On Saturday April 25th at 8AM, I woke up to go on a run with my roommate Kaylee. When I checked my phone, I had two texts from friends asking if I had heard about the earthquake in Nepal. As I pulled up the news on my laptop, I began to physically shake. I was in shock.

On Saturday April 25th at noon, Nepal time, (11:15PM on Friday, Oregon time) a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the beautiful country of Nepal.

When I found out about the earthquake, a million questions raced through my mind, but the one that kept resurfacing was: did God warn me about the earthquake before it happened?

All day I turned that question over and over in my mind. On one hand, imagining an earthquake the day before it happened was difficult to explain through random chance. On the other hand, there was no way I could’ve articulated when (or even if) the earthquake was going to happen when the thought first crossed my mind on Thursday night.

I finally asked my roommate Rebecca if she thought God had warned me about the earthquake, and she replied, “I think God was preparing you for the earthquake.” Suddenly all the pieces clicked into place. Ten days prior to the earthquake God had help me enter a season of transition. At the time it didn’t make sense to think about my trip to Nepal when I still had schoolwork to complete, but then the earthquake hit… before the semester was over… and suddenly the transition made so much sense. Then, twenty-four hours before the earthquake, God put it on my radar in order to help me absorb the news when it actually became a reality.

This is where I try to put words to the depths of the Father’s love for me. You see, I am an obsessive planner. I don’t like surprises, and I don’t do well with sudden changes of plans. It’s something I’m continually working on because I know that, no matter what happens, God is trustworthy, and has a good plan for my life. However, God knows that this is still an area of weakness in my life, so, in His great love for me, He equipped me to handle this news with more trust in Him than I dreamed possible.

So for all of you who feel like the earth beneath you is shaking, I want to encourage you to press into God’s love. He knows your needs before you even have the words to articulate them. I’ll leave you with a hymn and a promise: God loves you. If I were in Nepal right now, it’s the message I would be telling every man, woman, and child, and it’s as true for you as it is for them.

God loves you,
God loves you,
God loves you!