Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Thank You

Everything is different now. The way I see the light hitting the leaves in the early evening. The way I see the lady who swiftly puts my sandwich in the oven at Subway. The way I enjoy music. The way I look up at the sky. The way I listen. The way I see. Everything is different, now. Everything is clearer than before. You gave me a new pair of glasses through which to see the world.

And for that, Covenant, I thank you.

After several drafts of attempting to write the words that have been floating around aimlessly in my heart, I finally settled on this one. It still does not come close to giving the proper credit that is due to this incredible community with which the Lord has blessed me, but it’s all I’ve got.

For those who really don’t know what I’m about to say, you may think all this sounds oddly nostalgic. “Where is she going with this?” I’ll just cut to the chase, then: I will not be coming back to Covenant after Christmas. Though that statement is made with the foundational peace of the Lord which is totally surpassing my understanding, it is covered with a layer of true sadness…because I adore Covenant. I really do. I don’t think I knew quite how much until I made this decision.

After several long months filled with questions, doubts, praying, and research, I’ve decided I want to give journalism a shot, specifically photojournalism. I also want to keep doing theatre, too, so we’ll see what happens with that combination! Basically some dream jobs would be working for National Geographic or TIME Magazine, being a play critic, or being on Broadway. While none of these are very likely, they’re the direction for which I’m aiming. Unfortunately, as great as Covenant is, it simply isn’t the best or cheapest place to pursue either of these fields.

I’ve had the privilege of having a Covenant-like community around me my whole life. Growing up in a fervently Christian family, going to great churches, and attending the coolest Christian school from kindergarten to graduation, I’ve been surrounded by some insanely awesome people. Though I’ve wrestled with some doubt over the past few years, the Lord has shown me time and again that those communities were exactly where He wanted me.

But we both knew I couldn’t stay in those comfort zones forever.

Oh, I could tell you so many stories. Stories of how ever since I’ve come back to Covenant, so many messages I’ve heard have been related to the themes, “Pick up your cross and follow Me. Leave everything familiar behind. Are your actions proof of your faith? Be obedient, no matter what the cost. No matter how scary it is, following Me is so worth it.” It didn’t take long for me to get the hint...I knew I couldn’t stay.

So, I will be going to UGA in the spring. I’m still figuring out logistics here and there, but it’s actually happening… which sometimes still blows my mind. UGA is quite a different place compared to Covenant, so we’ll see what all the Lord decides to do. I have a feeling next semester is going to feel like an ice bath – painful at first, but a humbling season that is going to do some good, much needed hard work in the deepest area of my heart.

When I came back to Covenant, I fell in love with the place all over again. I already adored the people, but I began to see them and even the physical mountain with fresh eyes. The sky became even more vast, the trees more vibrant, and the view more beautiful than ever before. Knowing I didn’t have long, I began to live more intentionally than I probably ever have. The friendships I had always wanted, I made. The things I had always wanted to do, I did. In these past couple of months, the Lord has given me a glimpse of what it means to really live. That being said, I know “really living” is not checking stuff off of a list, though I did have some success in accomplishing my “Covenant Bucket List” J My friends, however, know what it means to truly live out carpe diem…it’s not just written in fancy calligraphy on their walls but actually executed in their daily lives.

Speaking of my friends… Coming back to Covenant this year, especially knowing I was eventually going to leave, my goal was to love hard and love well. Though I definitely did not do this perfectly, I hope you know how much I truly do love you. I’m not quite sure how to express how thankful I am for you and how inspiring you have been to me. You’ve shown me things I might never have discovered on my own, and have consistently displayed the love and graciousness of our God. The vastness of your skills and talents constantly blow my mind, and I cannot wait to see how the Lord uses you in the future.

All these jumbled ramblings and thoughts are all just to say: Covenant, thank you so much. Not only do I see the world differently thanks to you, but Jesus has become even sweeter to me. The way you point others to Jesus and have so fiercely loved me has given me a glimpse of Christ’s love for His people. I will forever miss laughing with you, singing harmonies with you in Chapel, dancing with you at all our snazzy events, praying with you, enoing (is that a word?) with you, performing for you, and just doing life with you. Again, I realize the semester is not quite over yet, but I wanted to give my thanks in advance. I’m so grateful for the time I’ve had with you special folks on this special little mountain.

I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good besides You.’ As for the saints who are in the earth, they are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight. –Ps. 16:2. You are my saints, and it is my delight to know you.

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Challenge

Earlier this summer, my family and I went to Las Vegas and heard a friend named Vance Pitman preach at his church, Hope Church. (He’s amazing. Check out their website for lots of goodies.) That day, Vance just happened to be starting a new series with his congregation, challenging them to read through the whole book of Psalms by the first week of September.

While I do encourage you to do this, this is not the challenge I want to focus on.

During Vance’s sermon, he talked about how lately he had been having trouble sleeping. Instead of counting sheep (does anyone actually do that anymore?), he began to go through the alphabet. You may think, “Ok, that’s stupid.” Just hold on a second! Vance didn’t just go through the alphabet; he began assigning Bible verses to letters of which they started. It became a tool for verse memorization, and one that has become very helpful to me.

Growing up in a Biblically-saturated environment, memorizing Scripture is not a foreign concept to me. Whether it was in Awanas, Bible class, or Sunday school, I’ve memorized Scripture during several points in my life. However, I have failed to make Scripture memorization a high priority in my own personal Bible study. Why? Probably because I didn’t feel like putting in that kind of effort, which really is stupid because what if I’m in a situation, like many people face in different countries, where a Bible is nowhere to be found? What if I come across someone who has never heard the name of Jesus or knows nothing about the Bible, and I don’t have one on me? The Word has to be in us, engraved upon our hearts.

All this to say, I encourage you to join this challenge with me. I’ve only gotten a few letters so far, but I can already see the difference it’s making in my heart. I pray that this tactic will make it a little easier and maybe even more fun for you to memorize Scripture. I think we’ll be surprised with what all the Lord will do in our lives through this challenge. J

Just to give you an example of what I’ve been rambling about, here are the verses I have for letters A-E.

Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth…Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life. (Prov. 4:5,13)
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You. (Ps. 63:3)
Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phi. 2:3-8)
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me. (Ps. 23:4)

Have fun and let the Lord do radical things to your heart and mind! 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Working in the Waiting

Sorry for such a long delay in posting…it’s been a crazy past few months. Not necessarily crazy because of schedules, but because of thinking…a lot of thinking. Asking the questions that every college student has had to ask at one time or another: “Where am I going? Am I where I should be? What do I want my future to look like? What do I love to do? How can I spend my time wisely?” These questions are very necessary, but also exhausting.

Not only me, but my whole family is in a period of waiting. Waiting what the future holds, waiting for our lives to finally take off in the way we had always imagined. For a while, I was really bummed that a part-time job didn’t work out for me this summer; but now, I’m actually really grateful it didn’t. The free time I have is being spent with my family, being with the Lord, praying, painting, redoing my room, and other things that are giving me a fresh mind and renewed heart. The Lord always knows what He’s doing, even if we’re left a little confused for a while. J

The Lord is now beginning to show me what the attitude of my heart should be. My soul should be full of praise, joy, and peace, not incessant worry and anxiety. Being concerned about the future is vital, I think, because otherwise we just wouldn’t care. But when our concern is paired with a lack of trust in God, then it becomes dangerous.

He’s also teaching me that instead of just wanting His answers, I should want Him. Is not the Lord so much greater and more satisfying than having all the answers? Sometimes our response seems to be, “well…no actually. I’d rather have the answers!” It’s understandable to feel this way, and it’s pretty much been my mindset for the past year. What I’ve realized, however, is that living and loving Jesus is so much more rewarding and joyful than just calling on Him when we’re confused. He is so incredibly worth loving, because He so radically loved us first.

Instead of praying for a way out of the waiting, I’m starting to pray for God to work in the waiting. (And let’s be honest, despite my slow catching-on of this, God has already been working in me without me even knowing. He’s always ahead of us. J)

If you’re like me, waiting for wisdom, answers, or even just a hint of what to do next, pray for the Lord to reveal Himself to you now. Just because you’re waiting for the future to look a little clearer doesn’t mean you should ignore what’s happening in the present. There’s a lot we don’t know yet, so we might as well spend our time wisely in the time we’ve got right now. What did Gandalf say? “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

Don’t wait to fall in love with the Lord. Get a move on that now.

Here’s an encouraging word about this from the great C.S. Lewis:

“And now we begin to see what it is that the New Testament is always talking about. It talks about Christians ‘being born again’; it talks about them ‘putting on Christ’; about Christ ‘being form in us’; about our coming to ‘have the mind of Christ’.

Put right out of your head the idea that these are only fancy ways of saying that Christians are to read what Christ said and try to carry it out – as a man may read what Plato or Marx said and try to carry it out. They mean something much more than that. They mean that a read Person, Christ, here and now, in that very room where you are saying your prayers, is doing things to you. It is not a question of a good man who died two thousand years ago. It is a living Man, still as much a man as you, and still as much God as He was when He created the world, really coming and interfering with your very self; killing the old natural self in you and replacing it with the kind of self He has. At first, only for moments. Then for longer periods. Finally, if all goes well, turning you permanently into a different sort of thing; into a new little Christ, a being which, in its own small way, has the same kind of life as God; which shares in His power, joy, and knowledge and eternity. “(From Mere Christianity)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Girl in the 405

As my first year of college is nearing the end, there are two things I want to reflect on: my room and my roommate. The Lord used Amelia and the 405 in ways I would never have imagined.

To clarify, the only reason my room has been so awesome is because of Amelia (well, the Lord through Amelia). Without her, the 405 is just another dorm room. Maybe this post is a little premature since I don’t mean this to be a goodbye; we still have a month left. Gosh…just a month. Oh, how time flies.

You might be thinking, “Ok, so what’s so great about the 405? And what makes your roommate so special?”

It’s going to be hard to put words to the incredible experiences I’ve had in this room with this girl. There have been loads of laughter, several rap / dance parties, many prayers lifted aloud, and a few occasions of weeping. (More to come on the weeping session later).

When I first met my roommate, I must admit, I was quite intimidated. I had just unloaded most of my things, chatting with my parents and my sister, when this freakin’ supermodel just saunters into the room. Blonde hair effortlessly bouncing behind her with an enormous grin on her face, she just flew in looking completely confident. I wouldn’t be surprised if my mouth dropped. I suddenly felt like such a child as I saw this girl – no, woman – walk in our new room with all the confidence and poise in the world.

Of course, thinking back on that day now, I can’t help but laugh. Not because Amelia isn’t confident and beautiful, but because I know so much more about her now (and know so much more about myself). I now know all about her goofiness, her ability to make raps on the spot, her love of lounging around in her fluffy, white robe, her love of poetry and words, her incredible admiration for the Lord, and her obsession with conquering new yoga poses.

Amelia introduced me to a whole other world that I had never really experienced before. She taught me how to live. I had grown up in an atmosphere that was so focused on the future (not that that’s a bad thing). I grew up in a routine, doing what I was told, doing my best in school, determined to get A’s, resolute to be a leader in whatever capacity I could be, and being a “good kid”. There were expectations, and I followed them without question.

Again, I’m not saying any of these things are bad. Because of the love and stable environment I grew up in, I think I’m better off for it. But, I was living by routine, by principle, by structure. Spontaneity was never my strong suit – that was always someone else’s forte.

And then came Amelia.

She asks that hard questions that most people wonder but never dare to voice. She so appreciates the little things: the beautiful, natural light that pours in our room that must be captured with her camera. The simple but lovely melody that pops in her head, so she sprints to the piano at the end of the hall to experiment with it. The flowers she finds on the side of the road that she brings back to our windowsill. The poem she stumbled upon, the song she heard, the chocolate she ate, the discussion she had, or the perfume she smelled. All these things she’s experienced and shared, whether she realizes it or not, have given me glimpses of the Lord’s goodness. The Lord now shows up in places I never would’ve expected.

We have also developed such an incredible system of servant hood. When I’m having a chaotic day, she’ll make my bed. When she’s discouraged, I’ll write her a sweet note. When we’re both getting angsty, we’ll both immediately grab the vacuum or the antibacterial wipes and clean the room. When someone needs a break, we’ll give each other back massages. My personal favorite: when we are in need of prayer, we’ll pray for each other aloud, right then and there, because why wait? 

Our view from the 405

There have been several pivotal moments in Amelia and I’s relationship, perhaps the most significant one being when we first wept together. You’d be surprised just how powerful sorrow can be for two roommates.

About a month ago, Amelia and I faced one of the “hell” weeks of the year. It was a Monday (which is already bad enough, am I right?), and Amelia had just returned from a wretched weekend. I received news that morning that one of my family members was most likely going to die that week. I was in my room alone, and I collapsed onto the floor, sobbing. After a couple of minutes of that, I was overcome with exhaustion, so like the good college student I am, I took a nap. About an hour later, I woke up to the sound of my beloved roommate crying herself. Without even opening my eyes, I could hear her heart breaking. I quietly said, “Amelia?” She turned, surprised, and chuckled a little from the fact she had no idea I was even there. I got up from my bed and hugged her. She told her story, and I told mine. Still embracing one another, we collapsed on the floor together, sobbing, unwilling to let the other go. We cried out to the Lord, tears streaming down our faces. We begged the Lord for peace, for wisdom, for comfort, and for the strength to make it through the unbearable week that was awaiting us.
After wearily saying “Amen,” we looked at each other and of course, busted out laughing; we were quite a sight to see. We laughed at our pitiful blotchy, tear-stained faces. We picked each other up, and moved forward.

I tell you that story because it’s one that I will never forget. How could I? It was such a God-moment, where we were literally shaking because we were so overcome with sorrow and desperation. Yet, we held each other, literally, and called upon the Lord with every fiber of our being.

But the Lord didn’t just show up in the 405 when we were at rock bottom. He was there in the late-night stories, the coffee drinking, the chocolate eating, the C.S. Lewis reading, the BeyoncĂ© belting, the sleeping, the waking, the weeping, and the laughing. He’s been there every step of the way, and looking back, it’s ridiculous to ever doubt otherwise.

I almost feel as though writing this post is in vain, for I am inadequate to completely convey the magic that has happened in this place. I am at a loss to properly show my love and admiration for Amelia – the Lord has used her, as cheesy as it sounds, to change my life. She has shown me the vastness of the Lord’s wisdom and beauty of His creativity. Because of Amelia, I know and love the Lord more. Because of Amelia, I know how to better love others. Because of Amelia, I have a better idea of what it means to really live

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Desert Island

Aaaaand I’m back! Sorry for the delay in posts…it’s seriously been the craziest semester ever. Am I the alone one??? Now that spring break is approaching, I have time to actually stop and look back at all that has happened over the past couple of months. I have a lot on my mind, so bear with me. Don’t be surprised if there are a series of posts updated in the next few days. For now, here’s a thought that’s been on my mind the past couple of months.  

A couple of weekends ago, my friend and I had decided to take some much needed rest and skip church Sunday morning (scandalous, I know). We slept in and then took a couple of hours to just reflect on all God has done in our lives and the journey of how we came to know Him – it was really cool. During that time, we asked each other how we could pray for one another. We both agreed that this semester we had been slacking in terms of having a daily quiet time, intentionally studying God’s Word, etc. And yes, while I do miss doing those things and I want to start doing them more often, for the first time in my life, I felt no guilt. I felt no guilt in the fact that I had not been using those resources to come closer to the Lord. You may be thinking, “Who does this girl think she is?” I’ll tell you exactly who I am: I am a child of God, saved by grace, not by my works, the Beth Moore Bible study I’m currently working on, or the worship bands I sing along with.

Please don’t misunderstand me: of course we should take advantage of the resources we have. Especially in regards to the Word of God itself – reading, meditating, and obeying it are not friendly suggestions – it’s a commandment. Same with the church – how can we be an example of Christ if we take no interest in investing in the body of believers He died to save?

But, what I am saying is that even if we had none of these things, we could still have an intimate, growing relationship with Christ, which I think is incredible. Even if I was stranded on a desert island with no devotional or small group to keep me accountable, I would still have Christ. Even if I had no church, no Bible even, I could still have fellowship with Jesus. Our relationship would still continue to grow and He would still be enough for me.

All that to say…go to church. Have fellowship with believers. Read, study, and obey the Word of God. Serve others. These are not suggestions – again, they are commandments given to us from the Lord. But, remember that Jesus did not call us to a “cookie-cutter Christianity”, which I think a lot of people fall into (including myself). We think that there is only one correct way to follow Christ and to get to know Him, and any other is a sign of being “led astray”. God also called us to creativity; take a walk in the woods and get to know Him. Play the music that He has gifted you with as an act of worship to Him. Write a poem. Go enjoy the sunshine and throw a football (preferably not alone…that may not go over well). Get creative. Recognize the talents God has given you and use them as an avenue with which to give Him praise.

What can you offer back to Him that comes from just you? If you were on a desert island, with no resources to aid you, what could you give Him? With your heart, your body, your voice, your thoughts, your actions? Give Him your whole being, and you’ll be amazed what He can do.