Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Cross Before Me / The World Behind Me: My 21st Year Of Life In Words

Today, I am 22.

There are so many things I want to say. So many thoughts to try and gather and convey through these words.

I can't tell you how many blog post drafts I've got in my box that I never finished or never posted since January. For some reason they never seemed quite right; I couldn't find suitable words to finish them. But I'm certain the bits and pieces that made it in to this blog post are the ones I was suppose to write and the ones you were supposed to read. I don't think I want to highlight milestones, or include pictures of me smiling and the fun things I did this year. Because I did do a lot of those things. But I'm talking here about my year as a whole, how I felt, what I learned, how I grew. The reality of my life. The stuff you actually want to hear about.

I remember thinking in May that this past semester ending hurt more than any semester I've ever experienced. I cannot sum up this past year into one word, let alone one blog post. It's almost impossible. And it wasn't really the good kind of hurt- not the, "I'm so sad to see everyone leave but it's going to be okay!" kind of hurt. More like the beginning of the end kind of hurt. The "it's time to grow up" kind of hurt. I'll elaborate more on that later. But it's a very interesting time. I believe it's the most interesting point in my life, so far at least. College is an essential time and can really mold you, if you let it. Just like the saying from The Office I know we've all heard at one point of another- "I wish there was a way to know that you're in the good old days before you've actually left them." Because there is no way to know you're in the good days while they're happening. We can't appreciate those times of growth, of joy and of laughter until they're over. Until we can reflect. Which is why I write this post today.

This past semester, and year, has encouraged me to be real with how I feel and what I think. Writing this post is good for me because I often ignore times to self-reflect and re-evaluate my life, and my worth in the Lord. The people that get to hear about my life struggles and what I'm going through are few, but I believe that's how it's made to be for me. I wouldn't have it any other way.

This year was filled with a lot of 'firsts.' Lived in my first apartment, had my first relationship, first internship, along with a ton of other things for which I am so grateful. Apartment life is really fun. Really, really fun, actually. But living off-campus doesn't automatically make you a good cook. We can all agree that I give cooking a great try though, right? ...Right. But I'm blessed by roommates who love me still. I'm thankful for late night conversations, forgotten keys, bonding moments, and watching each other all grow in our own ways. Living on my own this past year was a whole learning journey in itself and I'm still thankful to be able to experience life like that.

I also got the chance to be the graphic design intern at my church this year, and I can't even begin to explain how Freshwater has impacted my life for nothing but good. This is how I know I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing- using my creative gifts for the glory of God and for the betterment of others- when it's something I truly enjoy. And others enjoy it too. I just have to say to God be the glory because that's really all I can say. I remember our last intern meeting for the semester, a late night at Taco Bell. Dave, our college pastor, went around the circle. Named everyone by name and pointed out every individual strength they had and doing so with undoubted certainty. I loved it because I love pointing out people's strengths. Yes- interns sat around me, but more importantly, my friends sat around me and I could say I agreed with every single thing Dave said. Having my college pastor say that I was one of the happiest people he knew in front of my closest friends and fellow interns was humbling. I don't know how I came across as joyful still, despite this season of my life and quite frankly, my unbelief this past semester. 

My unbelief. I never thought those words would graze my mind enough for me to type them out, let alone be swimming in my mind. I think you may understand me soon. Keep reading. Stay with me.

My first relationship happened to be a good portion of my 21st year of life. Is this okay to talk about? What are the boundaries on that? I don't know. But I think I'm going to talk about it. Remember earlier, me talking about how I felt? How I grew? I can't accurately lay out those things if I don't talk about what I'm going to say now.

I wanted it to work out, like we all want things to work out. My natural heartstrings of optimism and general longing for happiness in every aspect of the things I do are wired for me to see with positive eyes. I need you to know that reading a book, or even watching a movie about romance doesn't really compare to actually experiencing the joys, the hardships, the euphoria, and the heartbreak that is--or can be--the world of a relationship. If you know me, I'm really good at making things look okay. I don't hardly get stressed and I'm even keeled when problems arise. This was a very new and different problem, though. Often times I chose to mask the feelings deep down, because that's the only way I could quiet them. I soon realized that I needed to deal with what was going on in my mind and my heart because that's the only way I could get through it.

You know, I think God's favorite word is through. Because that's where he leads us.

Breakups are hard, and interesting. It drew some friends away because they didn't know what I was feeling, or what to say or how to help. Or even how to ask about it. But in turn, it drew some friends closer. They said things like, "I know where you are, I've been where you've been, and you're going to be okay." They prayed with me, and for me. They watched me cry. They also watched me heal.

If you've been through this sort of thing, you know. The roller coaster of emotions that come with it. I questioned God and was frustrated with what my life was and how I was feeling. Why couldn't this just work out? Why aren't things better? How am I supposed to deal with this?

One of my favorite Sleeping at Last songs has this little line- "I once heard honest words: though nothing may ever be the same, the heart keeps widening for change."

I think I have a lot of stuff that I want to hold on to that sometimes I won't even admit- the hope of a good future, having a husband, a job that I love, the desire to be understood, and so on. I think we all do, at the core of our being. But all these things that I want for my life- they float around in my mind, clouding my thoughts and depriving me of joy because I can't reach them. This is was unbelief.

Bonhoeffer said that when Christ calls us, he bids us come and die.  Putting aside our own desires in order to follow Him. Why is that so hard? Why can't it be easy to just surrender to God and rest in his sufficiency? "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23.) And then there's me. My problem? I had yet to hand these desires and this selfishness over to the one who freely lends His hand to me. Even though I can't see it, whatever I think is the plan, is not the plan God has for my life. Even if I am suppose to have some of those things later, I only know this: His plan is better than anything I could ever fathom.

So I look back and I can say- It wasn't a waste. It wasn't a misstep. I can't see it that way.
I thank God for it. 
There were caverns of my heart explored that I didn't know existed. It's a different kind of pain, and the only thing I could do was bring that before God. I learned so much and have already begun to share that with others who are dealing with the same thing right now. And in the end, I have nothing but good things to say about my friend because I believe the Lord is teaching him and I both something through it. I'm still learning, no doubt about that. But I have this contentedness, like a breath of fresh air. Knowing that the Lord holds my future and though it may be hard, it's going to be okay. So I look only to the cross before me. The world behind me.

"I know now Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?" -C.S. Lewis.

The Lord is so good and I am so unworthy.
Remember what I mentioned earlier, that 'beginning of the end kind of hurt?' Those words- 'growing up'? A lot of real life hitting me in the face. But there are so many good memories to reflect on, too.
Like leading a family group of middle schoolers for a week in the summer, helping them see Jesus. TheWell winter retreat, living in community for a weekend with the best people I know. Dancing on stage with my friends for Mr. and Mrs. Southwest, all for Trinity (who is still the queen in my heart.) Being a part of a lifegroup who is willing to bear burdens, live out life and be accountable, all while having fun doing it. Going to numerous concerts- Avett Brothers, Rend Collective, Noah Gundersen, Penny & Sparrow, Local Natives (twice), Frightened Rabbit, Ben Rector, City & Colour, and the list goes on but it's already hard for me to believe I've been to that many in the past year. Getting to sing with the worship team at Freshwater this summer and hopefully for many Sundays to come. Staying up all night with Beka Todd, studying for finals at iHop, and getting to watch the incredible sunrise that morning. Along with so many good memories. Just looking back at photos and thinking about this year makes me happy. So so happy.

And, I still stand by these words I posted earlier this semester- The group of seniors that graduated were full of people who have impacted my life for the better. I've learned so much from them and I am grateful for every second I've spent with many of them. If anything else, they've impacted this little soul. I thank them for that and so much more. I felt like a small piece of me was graduating in May, because essentially, that was true. A lot of those people make up parts and pieces of who I am and how I got to be the person I am today. They made my 21st year of life--as well as the years before--so meaningful.

Now, mid summer, I'm starting to feel the way they were describing. 'Growing up is hard' they say. Well they are right. I think about how I'm graduating in December, but then I really think about how that is very scary. Often times I don't feel ready, when people constantly ask what my plan is and I have to say I don't know yet. This summer has been wonderful, though. Hanging with my best friends every night, working a job that I love, and spontaneous trips to KC and Nashville. Encouraging late night talks, and a reassuring hope that I am indeed on the right path. Friends that tell me when so many people are life taking, I am insanely life giving. That they see the Gospel being played out in how I communicate, when there were times I could hardly see that in myself. I am humbled, over and over again. Beneath the cross of Jesus Christ, no shadow remains for shame to hide. If my constant focus is the relentless and unfailing aspects of God's love, there won't be time for me to worry about trivial things. I look back and see that He was faithful. I look ahead, now, believing He is able.

I see these new freshman, coming for summer visit days and meeting their new welcome week friends. And I just smile. And know that I was once there, oblivious to the immense amount of growth, hardship, and unspeakable joy I would experience during college. I hope the Lord shows them that. I hope he wrecks them, to show them that he is indeed the ultimate healer and life-giver. I pray that he would do that. For His glory, and for their good.

Through and through, I am reassured of a simple truth- that God is real. He's very real, and he has a love for us that's like no other. I want so badly for others to experience this love. This joy. I want my life to point to Jesus because the gospel is all I have. Thank you for taking the time to read these words I have today and I hope you have something to take away from this.

I think I'm ready to take on life again. Not on my own, though.
So I say,
The cross before me. The world behind me. 
No turning back.

I leave you with this prayer, the "Valley of the Vision."

"Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty
thy glory in my valley."


"But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." (Acts 20:24)

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Summer Tunes / Playlist

Yo- Here are some tracks I've been listening to this summer. Bands I suggest you check out more of: Penny & Sparrow, Sylvan Esso and Dan Croll. If you think these songs cool and want to listen too, you can find them on Spotify here!