Another Truth

I wasn’t the only one.

My first semester of freshman year was difficult. In my mind, the most analogous illustration I can conjure is simple and frightening: darkness. There was no hope as would have accompanied being in the depths of the ocean…no dream of a current to lift me up and wash me ashore. It was just pure darkness with the illusion of peace, and the disbelief that any condition contrary to mine had a form or existence. Or, in other terms, “light:” There was none.

But something happened in December. I can describe it only as the emergence of that which I had known to be false, as sure as we know that we are not made of cats and dogs. Abba peered into my disbelief, reached into my darkness, and saved me. He taught me not to hate Him, not to believe that He desired only my sorrow and grief – which is what I had foolishly claimed to be my own truth. He taught me of love, of light, of liberation. And by January, with one leap into His outstretched hands on an ocean of faith, I walked. I walked, and my darkness became light.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)

And so began the initiation of my new, fragile existence. I no longer trusted in myself to bring joy to a dreary day, for each moment of happiness was a treasure, a deliciously miraculous moment that I knew I had no power to conjure of my own accord; first semester had taught me that. I was weak. But second semester taught me that He was strong.

He reintroduced me to joy, and joy in its fullness. Joy: I wasn’t happy because I had no fear or pain. Instead, I enjoyed a peace that passed all understanding despite my consistent fears. Despite my worries. And the “despite” is what, to me, made the smiles of second semester joy, and the grins of its predecessor mere fleeting whims.

But, as I first told you, I was not alone. In that darkness, when the less-than-glamorous thoughts of death and destruction seemed to beckon me with chilling invitation, I was surrounded by bodies who endured the same tormenting voices of “You’re not good enough,” “You are alone,” “No one loves you,” “You cannot be loved,” “You. Are. Alone.”

Her name is Martha, and she is my new friend. She is gloriously beautiful and has a laugh that is as infectious as her charm. She, to me, is a radiation of light and beauty. She is the inner spirit that mean and women alike envy to possess.

And somewhere across campus in that first year of college, she was experiencing the same things I was. I learned this as we discussed our lives in a dormitory kitchen while the rest of the world cheered on the Seahawks and Broncos. She was vulnerable there, and revealed the same wound that I’d born. “Here’s my scar,” it was as if she was saying. As if she rolled down her sleeve to reveal a heart that had been slashed in half and had somehow healed. It matched mine.

We were not alone, either, for at that same kitchen table, our friend Anna revealed an equal distress. What is it about ripping away company that seems to suck the life out of people, knocking them to the ground and revealing the idols they’d held so dearly for so long? Relationships. The worst idols to those whom they affect, for they can be both a necessity and a handicap; a delirious gift and a wretched knife.

With piercing blue eyes and the dancing grace of the passing wind, Anna is a symbol of strength. In my mind, she is power and a fortress that is not to be overtaken. She is the confidence for which young women strive, and the ginger sensitivity that constitutes love and emotion. But somehow, the darkness had gotten her, too.

And somehow, we’d all been rescued in the same way: by His timely answers to our prayers.

I wish I could have shaken myself unconscious until I rejected the concept that I was the only one. I wish that my eyes had been opened in that first semester, and I’d seen the other sisters standing blankly next to me in the soul-gripping dark, their limbs frozen in shock and fear and wonder. I wish that the “Whys? Whys?” – the molecules that clustered together into a black nothingness – had been torn and sin had been broken and truth had been restored amidst the hopelessness that was The Dark.

I wish no one would ever have to feel fear in its tangible form.

There is no beauty in sorrow and, at the time, no thanks in the upheaving. But today, I am thankful for the conversation in the dormitory kitchen that revealed one everlasting truth:

He never leaves us, nor does He forsake us. 

“Under Construction”

Here’s a little story for you.

One night last semester, I found myself overwhelmed with stress. Feeling figuratively suffocated, I took a stroll  out onto the quad in front of my dorm. It was a little past midnight, so I knew I could count on some peace, quiet, and solitude. I sat on a bench – didn’t really care that it was freezing and I wasn’t wearing a jacket – and proceeded to cry. Release. 

In the middle of my tears, I looked up to see a dorm across the quad that was being rebuilt. The frame and structure were established, and a few bare lights peered through uncovered windows. Still, the building had a long way to go.

Then I thought, “What if this was the answer to my prayer?” I was really concerned about the future, but I was forgetting one thing: my perspective was wrong. Sometimes we focus so much on our internal emotions that we forget about God’s sovereignty. He already knows His plans and how our lives will play out. He knows how He will protect us. And while He is the contractor and builder of our existence, we can only see the work in progress. We are like that building. Funny…now that I think about it, I was looking into a metaphorical mirror as I stared across the empty quad that night.

But it helped. It helped to see something that made me think, “I’m almost there. Just a little while longer.” He knows the date when His project will be completed. And while His plans for us are never finished – they go into eternity, where we will soon dwell with Him – it is encouraging to know that the struggles and confusion in this season of life will soon resolve, just as that dorm had a set date of completion.

You are a work in progress, love. Stay strong.

Prayer in 2 Places + 1 Father = Infinite Unity

A quick story for you all!

Today was so cool. The freshmen were assigned to small groups at Freshley service, and I am SUPER excited because I remember how much Abba used my small group leaders to minister to me last year. The fact that this beautiful opportunity for community gets to repeat itself…that blows my mind. There was such a unity of spirit and prayer in that Wesley chapel tonight. All of the student leaders from different ministries – small group, prayer, fellowship – were joined with one goal: to see the freshmen grow in a deeper relationship with Christ. You could just feel the imminent revival; it was rolling in the air like thunder, like crashing waves.

Afterwards, I went to the BCM building (Baptist Collegiate Ministry) to join their late-night prayer hour. Everyone was so still… People spoke out in voices of desperation, thirsty for Abba’s genuine presence on the campus, within the ministry, and among the leaders. Men and women of God – my peers – spoke with such humble authority that I wondered why I’d ever considered prayer to be boring or fake. I can’t explain it to you…there was a realness there, friends.

And I couldn’t help but think about the fact that on this Monday night, in two separate buildings, under two “separate” denominations, students were crying out for the God of our universe to intervene; to soften the hearts of His children; and most importantly, to let His Presence be known and His Name be glorified.

And He is with us, friends. Even at a university that some people write off as “godless,” Our Father in Heaven is giving us grace and urgency in prayer, petition, and worship, all for His ultimate plan.

And I am so thankful that He’s opened my eyes to see what’s going on. And that I get to be a part of it 🙂

When Anxiety Approaches… Part II

So here’s an update on life:

After I first wrote to you about my triggers for anxiety, I went to serve the Wesley Foundation’s freshmen at their first Monday night service of the year. First of all, I want to mention that when I walked into the room, I could literally feel the weight of impending anxiety being lifted from my chest. All of my triggers were present, but I sensed my Abba’s presence. He helped me focus solely on Him during the pre-service prayer session (rather than focusing on how uncomfortable I was).

During service, I was shocked to find that the minister spoke about fear and God’s presence in the midst of it. I almost wanted to laugh; although it was directed toward freshmen who were fearful of their first year in college, the message was extremely relevant to my fears of feeling lonely  and being unknown. God’s timing is just so perfect. Anyway, the minister preached from Judges 6 (the story of Gideon), and one phrase especially popped out at me.

God is with you, mighty man of valor.

-Judges 6:12

Can you imagine? In his most fearful state, the Lord spoke to the ordained – not temporary – character of Gideon. And I believe He does the same with you and me.

I’ve been blessed with great friends over the past year, and each of those relationships have developed uniquely and timely. However, because I’ve chosen to feed my anxiety about whether or not these friendships will continue to grow, I haven’t been soaking in the beauty of the present momentI haven’t been fully pouring into the well-being of the brothers and sisters whom I love so much.

This needs to change, friends. I’m going to focus on what really matters (my Abba and His ways), and He will be my guide to exuding His glory. And as a friend of mine reminded me yesterday, anxiety isn’t necessary when we have a Father who is willing to bear everything for us. And by “bear everything,” I more specifically mean that we shouldn’t dwell in fear because we should trust His heart and His plans.

So I think I need to give all of myself to Him now. No more fear, no more anxiety. Just pure focus on His plan and glory.

When Anxiety Approaches…

I feel an anxiety rush coming on, guys…

Basically, I have certain triggers; things that require special focus to quiet and calm.

First, medium-sized group situations. Basically, this is anything more than 4 or less than 50 people. I don’t know why, but these situations absolutely push my nerves and make it easier to believe every lie that the enemy tries to whisper about me: that I’m not loved, that I’m invisible, that I’m unimportant and unworthy of being invested in. It’s even worse when everyone else in the room knows each other or has a common background story together except me. We’ll get to the relevance of this in a moment.

Second, my heart. I love being known, and when people genuinely want to reciprocate deeper relationship and communication with me. Not just as a “hit and run, get-to-know-you” affair, but a “let’s do life together, even if just for a little while” kind of thing. So when I feel that I’ve found a friend, I get super excited! Like yes! This is happening!!! And then sometimes, it doesn’t work out that way. Or my friendship is returned to me because (alert, alert, lie from the enemy here) “it wasn’t good enough” or “it got boring” or “the honey looked sweeter than it tasted.”

Third, my insecurities. There are many and, ironically, they are also things I consider strengths – depending on the situation/setting.

But now, I am about to go to my first meeting as a leader on the Wesley Freshmen Ministry Prayer Team. Insecurities #1, #2, and #3 (if I will fit in with so many people who are unlike me in so many ways)….hello, there. Let’s get down to business.

I’ll let you guys know how it went when I get back 😉

He’s Yours Forever

There’s a special significance in Hannah’s story. I don’t have to try translating her sentiments into a modern context; I don’t need to explain the cultural implications of her desires. Why? Because Hannah is easily you, and she’s easily me. Let’s jump into I Samuel 1 to get a glimpse of this woman’s life.

To those around her, she was a mockery. “Peninnah would taunt Hannah and make fun of her because the Lord had kept her from having children. Year after year it was the same… Each time, Hannah would be reduced to tears and would not even eat. -I Samuel 1:6-7

Maybe you’ve been teased, even if jokingly, by your friends for years because the Lord has seemingly withheld the desire of your heart. This could be anything: your dream job, a sense of independence… For Hannah, her earthly desire was a child. For the purpose of this blog, I’ll speak about our earthly desire for a spouse.

Continue reading

“Be Present”

If I have to declare a motto for my freshman year of college, it definitely has to be this one.

Be PRESENT!

Although, to be honest, I didn’t come up with it on my own. The concept emerged from a conversation I had a few months ago with Darby, my hall-mate and friend. I was struggling with the who’s, what’s, when’s, and why’s of college life. What was my major supposed to be? Why couldn’t I figure it out? Who was I supposed to spend the rest of my life with? …Because these questions are definitely answered when discussed between two college freshmen over dining hall food.

Except, maybe they are. In that moment, Darby looked at me and said those two words that profoundly changed my outlook on life. “Be present!” Stay in the now.  Be present-minded. Don’t worry about tomorrow, don’t be anxious about the future, don’t be fretful about the past. In fussing about all the unknowns, I was becoming distracted and missing out on making the most of my current relationships and opportunities.

And even now, I remind myself of this concept often. Why should I be concerned about when I’ll meet my future husband? If God is in control of that story, then the timing will be perfect (Matthew 6: 31-34). Why should I be so obsessed about what major I graduate with? While my academic path can help educate me for a future career, it is ultimately God who determines the course of my professional life anyway. His will for my relationships, my career, and everything else are one and the same. Psalms 37:4 says “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I believe this applies not only to the things I would like, such as a husband who is super affectionate, but also to the Lord placing on my heart the things that He would like me to pursue for His glory. He will reveal to me what path I should take to bring Him the most fame. And I will accept that.

So what things do you need to let go of in order to “Be Present?” There is a balance between making wise choices based on possible consequences and choosing to release something as a burden altogether. However, you can never know where to draw that line unless you rest wholly and fully in the promises of God.

How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying His commands. …They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly. They share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honor.

-Psalm 112: 1, 7-9

My Marriage List: The Rollercoaster

I don’t actually know if “Riding a roller coaster” ever made it to my “Marriage List” (because, let’s be honest – I genuinely feared those things. Who gets flipped upside-down at neck-breaking speeds for fun?!), but a plethora of other potentially exciting things did.

Let me explain.

My “Marriage List” is a compilation of first-time activities that I wanted to reserve for the early years of my marriage. Do not go off on me about how STUPID this sounds, because I already know. (And no, “singing” the Songs of Solomon is not the kind of thing I’m discussing right now. Although, yes, you should definitely reserve that for the beauty of a covenant God-sanctified marriage.)

So here’s my list:

  1. Go to Spain
  2. Go to Hawaii
  3. Riding a roller coaster
  4. Lying on a picnic blanket at night and gazing up at the stars
  5. Go to California
  6. Get my first apartment/condo/house whatever
  7. Move out of state because of my career
  8. Skydive

And a bunch of other things that I can’t presently remember. You’ll notice that travelling is a big theme here. I have absolutely no explanation for that. The fact of the matter is that I’ve been robbing myself of a lot of experiences for the sake of a Dream Man who I’ve subconsciously assigned the occupation of fulfilling my existence. Did that sentence seem confusing? Let me break it down.

By saying “No, I won’t go to Spain alone or with friends. I’ll only  enjoy myself if the subject of my romantic affection is present,” I am implying that I cannot be whole and wholly be present without another person. That is a dangerous frame of mind to be in.

So I plan to go to Spain. If the opportunity arises, I’d like to spend a few months in California working with the Hispanic community and with victims of human trafficking. University housing isn’t cheap, so I may need to rent an apartment during my college career anyway. I’ve always said that I didn’t want to leave Georgia because it was familiar, and “what if my husband is here?” No more of that. Abba is sovereign and in charge of my love story. If He calls me to leave the state, I will. I love the stars, so I may just spend a starlit night in peaceful worship and adoration of my Heavenly Father – who created those beautiful things, by the way. And as for skydiving? …..That might have to wait for later on. Not because I want my husband there, but because I’m scared of what that will feel like. Come on, baby steps! I just rode my first coaster, silly.