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.

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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!

A Being In Progress

It’s amazing how one event can completely change your life. Moving to go to college is completely reshaping me. At my core I know who I am, and yet there’s so much more to me than I ever dreamed. I am a being in progress. Growing, learning, and yes, changing. Or maybe changing isn’t the right word. Becoming. I’m becoming who God created me to be.

One area I can tangibly see this transformation is in my outgoing nature, or lack thereof. I am an introvert. With all the recent hype about introverts, I’m realizing just how much I am one. I dislike the way our society tries to categorize people because humans are far more complex than any box you can try to put them in, but it is helpful to realize why I am the way I am. All of the circulating lists that depict introverts describe me to a T. I don’t like meeting new people, or being put in unknown situations. Talking on the phone scares me to death, and I would much rather give a speech to hundreds of people than have a conversation with a stranger. And yet, since arriving here, I can feel a shift in my personality.

Although there are still days when I willingly eat lunch all by myself, there are also days when I sit at a table full of random strangers. I’m learning how to have richer, less awkward conversations. I’m asking lots of questions, and discovering how to be a good listener. I’m meeting new people almost every day, and it’s hard, but oh so worth it.

I wouldn’t feel as comfortable as I do on campus if I hadn’t made a conscious effort to meet people. Instead of seeing strangers, everywhere I go I see friends. Every single person has a fascinating story, but I have to come out of my shell to hear it. We all come from such different places. Geographically we’re from Redmond and Boise, Alaska and Illinois, Turkey and Vietnam. Beyond just geography, we also come from so many different situations. Different families, schools, churches, and life experiences. It would be so easy to be intimidated by all our differences, but God is helping me see that people are worth it. Hearing people’s stories is worth overcoming my introverted tendencies.

Don’t hear me wrong – being an introvert is not a bad thing. God has uniquely gifted each and every one of us, and there are pros and cons to every personality. I know, however, that in some areas of my life I need to be more outgoing. I’m not trying to become an extrovert, I’m simply endeavoring to make the most of the rich new community where I’ve been planted. I’m catching a vision of what it looks like to shine my little light on the world, and it is good.

Shine

A Piece of Home

Three weeks ago I moved away from my home and family to the land of no sales tax and lots of rain, aka Hipsterville USA. It was the biggest transition I have ever made. Some days I legitimately feel like I have been dumped on a foreign planet, but even in the midst of all this upheaval, I have been able to find pieces of home. On one hand, home is the place you live and the people you live with, but on the other hand, home is part of your identity. It is an integral part of you that will never leave, no matter who you live with or where you go. Home is the underlying currents, those threads of your life that transcend location. Pieces of home remind you that life is beautiful, and God is good.

For me, music is a piece of home. The house I grew up in was always full of music from every genre imaginable. One of my favorite genres is seasonal music. My mom has certain CDs that we are only allowed to listen to during certain seasons. My family follows very strict rules for when we can listen to seasonal music. If we listened to seasonal music all the time it would lose both its sense of novelty, and its sense of tradition. Before I left for college, I made sure to load up my iPod with fall music. When I sit at my desk and work through my mountain of homework, I listen to the fall music and think of home. I see my mom cooking a delicious dinner while my siblings and I sprawl all over the house with our homework after a long day of school. Once my dad comes home from work, the whole family gets to be together in the glorious fall evening. I may be almost 400 miles from home, but whenever I hear Woods by George Winston, I am instantly transported to my childhood home. Music is a piece of home that lives within me.

When life hands you a season of change, what are your pieces of home?

Sweetly Broken

This summer has been challenging. Unlike previous summers, it hasn’t felt carefree or relaxing. Some of the difficulty has come from being in the middle of a transition period. In 28 days I’m moving away from all I’ve known to go to college. Most people can’t believe that it’s already August because that means summer is coming to a close. I can’t believe it’s already August because that means I’m leaving this month! But although I leave so soon, I can’t leave yet. Waiting is hard. I’ve been working towards going to college all year long, and yet I’m still stuck in the bittersweet in-between. Transition seasons are always messy and tough. This one is no exception.

I’ve also encountered other difficulties this summer. My family is still waiting for our adoption to move forward, (See Mountains) and I’ve been working 4-5 days a week on staff at a camp. My job is a huge blessing, but I feel like I’m missing out on so much valuable time with my family and friends. I know having a job is part of being an adult, but it has definitely made me realize that my childhood is over, and that is hard to process. Individually, these struggles might be manageable, but put together they’ve left me feeling incredibly worn.

Through all these trials, I’ve been trying so hard to trust God. I’ve been striving and straining, and working as hard as I can, yet I’ve been failing at every turn. Last night, however, God met me right where I was, and helped me back onto my feet.

For the past two years I’ve attended a life-changing summer camp called Collide. This year I was too old to be a camper, but last night I had the privilege of going to camp for the evening worship service. Let’s just say I’m coming to a fuller understanding of the beauty of being sweetly broken.

For the first hour of the service I worshipped, and listened, and prayed, but nothing life-altering happened. Then, towards the end of his message, the speaker talked about how much God loves us. His words hit me full force. God’s love is at the core of everything good, yet I so easily forget how much he loves me. When the worship band began to play How He Loves, tears streamed down my face. I feel like I’ve been holding in my emotions all summer. I’ve been trying so hard to be strong. I’ve been searching for a formula that would enable me to make it through this season. Do this every day, don’t eat that, sleep for this long, just say that, don’t forget to pray about this, and then you’ll be ok. It’s exhausting! When I mess up, my self-confidence takes a hit. When I succeed, I become prideful. God never intended for me to live this way. He wants me to be confident, yet humble. My strength will fail, but his won’t. My plans won’t succeed, but his will. On my own, I’ll never make it, but I am not alone. He has broken through my tough exterior with his radical grace and love, and I am free. None of my struggles have gone away, but God loves me, and that is enough.

You Are Loved