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Open Heart: Pt. 3- on CHANGE

“The only thing that is constant (in life) is change.” -Hercules

 

I never knew how much you truly change in your twenties. My friend Heith used to always tell me that by the time I was hitting thirty I would be a completely different person; and I may not even recognize myself. (I was around 19-20 when he said this). And I would smile and nod- while also rolling my eyes a little. But this year proved that statement to me in just a few short months. And ever since it started; change has been extremely consistent in who I am.

I didn’t really expect to change. I didn’t believe people when they talked about how different they were “back in the day” and just assumed that they had ‘grown up’. I thought only events could change you. Besides the radical “Jesus saved me and changed my life” stories, I honestly didn’t believe that change was such a vital part of life. (Obviously circumstances and situations change, but I’m talking about personality change and emotional change.)

And then we hear stories about how “People change”. Typically, this is for the worse. Or it’s a lifestyle change. Things that you control yourself. Changing the way you eat or your daily exercise. Quitting an addiction or changing the way you treat people. These are things we control. But all the changes I’ve experienced are things that have just happened. Either because of what has taken place in my life or simply because I’m not done growing yet. A lot of it is God moving in my heart and making me into a different person- the process of being perfected that takes a lifetime. And I honestly think some of this change isn’t change at all. It’s simply me discovering who I really am; who I have been all along- which is a completely different person than I have known my entire life.

Life changes you. God changes you. My personality is different. I have always been an ‘extrovert’- and although I would still call myself one; I now see the value and the need to have time to myself. I often choose to decline things or people simply because I want solitude. This was never the case growing up. I felt like if I wasn’t doing something every night then I had no life. I couldn’t say no to anything. But now I actually value being alone sometimes- and I will do whatever it takes to get that. At this point in my life, I much prefer one-on-ones or intimate group settings over large gatherings of people. I need depth and intentional conversation- more than the shallow passing-by exchanges in a crowd. My likes and dislikes have changed. Food preferences, entertainment choices, activities that I deem as “fun”- all very different than what I enjoyed growing up. Some of these may be ‘season of life’ things; but I honestly believe that many of them are just ‘new me’ things. It’s kinda weird a lot of times and I still don’t understand it- but I can’t deny the reality that I am different.

My dreams, desires, preferences. My goals are different. Not just long-term, but even immediate goals. They all look so unlike what I’ve had before. It’s not even all spiritual stuff. I know that moving across the country and going to an intensive ministry-based school will change you for the good and affect many areas of your life. And yes, this did happen. But honestly a lot of these changes are just regular, normal life stuff. Even the way I process and think has radically developed as time goes on. I may have always been an external processor; but I have never loved writing the way I do now. I have never unlocked and fallen in love with this aspect of creativity like I have lately. I need to write. It helps me to get out of my head and put everything away so as to better live in reality. Now, I do believe that this is how God made me all along; and I just had to discover it. I never knew before what I truly was to become, but I am seeing more of my real self everyday. I am made aware of just how different of a person I am becoming as time goes on.

As you go on the journey of growing into who you are and who you are meant to be, everything changes. That’s just life. That’s how it goes. How it’s supposed to go. And once you realize the truth- everything you’re not has to get out of the way. God wants it like this. Why it happens in your twenties? Probably because those are some of the most critical years of your life when you begin to step into independence and become your own person. When you realize the “you” outside of your parents and your family and your backyard. So once we step away from all familiarity in life; that’s when God can start to show us our true person and purpose.

Take the time to re-learn who you are. Especially in your twenties. Honestly though, I believe this is a process that never ends; so we should be aware of how we change later on in life as well. If God never stops working on us and we are continually learning and growing- then we can’t expect ourselves to stay the same. The intentionality we have with getting to know our spouses and our children should be the same as the way we get to know the person in the mirror. Constantly. Re-learn who you are. We should like who we become! The changes in our life will keep reflecting more of Jesus as we continue to follow Him. If not, ask God to help.

I have only lived in Pennsylvania for a year, but everything is different. Much more than my hair color and fashion choices have changed. But I’m learning to be alright with that- and to love who I’m becoming.

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Open Heart: Pt. 2- on MEMORIES

“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”
-Andy Bernard, the Office

Yesterday I decided to go through my camera roll to delete some of my pictures and try to clear up some storage. I started all the way at the top; like- High school prom, haha. I went through each group of pictures and scrolled through the months like watching a flashback of my life in slow motion. Each picture held a vivid memory; I could go back in my mind to the exact place, time, day, and people that I was with. I could remember the conversations and the laughter. Even the pictures that were taken in hard times or bad situations still produce fond memories. I can look back on those times and see everything that God taught me and all the ways I grew through each season.

Some of the photos were old songs or jokes that I shared with friends. Some were just screenshots of texting conversations that still make me smile. And the rest are filled with people that I love. Most of these people I still communicate with on a regular basis. But there are some that I rarely ever see. That I haven’t spoken to in months. Or that I just haven’t kept up with in these last few seasons. People that I miss and love greatly. We each ended up in different places in life- going where God led us, and perhaps only being together for a season. It’s hard and I miss these people more than words- but I’m also thankful. I hate that here on earth we are bound by time and distance and space. I wish every person I knew could continue my life journey with me until the end. But that isn’t how it works here. People come and people go. It’s sometimes sad, but often beautiful; how God places pieces of our lives together for certain times. Even when places change and people move in or out- the puzzle only gets more beautiful and more bright as life goes on. And there is the exciting expectation that we will one day get to be ALL TOGETHER when we get to heaven. Not bound by time or space or distance- everyone will get to be everywhere at once. No more reminiscing, just living.

Honestly, looking back at all these pictures got me feeling very nostalgic. Part of me wanted to go back in time to when each of these memories were made and just re-live each one all over again. Then the other part of me was just so overwhelmed with joy and excitement through the realization of how amazing my life has been. How good it is now. How much I’ve done and how far I’ve come and who I’ve encountered along the way. Realizing how blessed I have always been and how it continues now. In my current season. With the people I’m currently loving and doing life with. Yes, I miss the “good old days”- but I’m also right in the middle of the greatest days of my life. Just don’t miss it as it goes by. Don’t get too busy missing the people of your past to lose the ones of your present. There are ALWAYS people in the season you’re given. Love on them.

My old college roommate texted me the other day and I was just overwhelmed with emotion. Joy- because of all the wonderful years we shared together. Longing- because we no longer have that and I miss it. And Gratitude- because through that conversation I realized how amazing my life is. It was good then, and it’s good now. She said in our conversation just a simple phrase- “I hope the Lord is continuing to bless you.” And it hit me. He is. He has always been blessing me. It took someone else’s reminder for me to realize it. Every season is its own blessing. The people it brings, the laughter, the places, the experiences.

Some of those people are divinely purposed to be in our lives for more than one season. Our family- some of the only people who will ever really understand our journey; because they have been there for all of it. But then there are those friends that God gives us- just because He is good. Those chosen few who remain. Despite the school changes, or the different jobs, or even the moving of hundreds of miles away; there are some that remain. I can’t explain why or how- but I’m so thankful for these precious few. The ones that you still keep up with even when you’re on totally different paths and doing very different things. The ones you confide in throughout the years of separation. The ones you can go months without seeing but then reconnect as if you were never gone. These people are rare and so needed in our life journey. They help us to remember where we have been and where we are going; and the work God is doing in our hearts along the way. They can encourage and love us better than any others because they know us so well. They have BEEN THERE. They help us to appreciate our friends that come through each new season because they know how much we need them.

Thinking back on all of this and just realizing these things was so beautiful for me. I could hardly delete any pictures because each one was so full of love and joy and goodness. Each picture was just proof of the Lord’s blessings over me throughout my entire life. I wanted to laugh and cry. Wanted to go back in time but also wanted time to stand still in the moment. I was overwhelmed by just how good my life had been; how great my friendships were. And how great my life is now; how beautiful these friendships are. Many of them are different, but some are still the same. And I can see God’s hand in all of it. His work in every single piece of my life. It’s honestly surreal, and something I hope each of you can experience. I hope you’re all able to be hit with these realizations throughout your life as well. Those moments that make your head spin and your heart stop. And where time stands still as you are overwhelmed by HIM.

The past is full of memories and the future is full of hope. But in all of it, I hope we don’t forget the goodness of the present. It’s people, it’s joys, it’s blessings. And as my longing for seasons of the past grows, so does my appreciation of the now. It’s a beautiful picture that continues to amaze me.

Also, heaven is gonna be so freaking awesome when our memories coexist with our reality and we aren’t separated from anyone through space or time. It blows my mind but I can’t wait.

Open Heart: Pt. 1- on LOVE

The next few entries will be mini-articles; just segments of my journals and thoughts on some of the deeper things God has been revealing to me over these past few weeks. Honestly, I could make each of these topics into a full post- but I have had so much to say and so little time to write, so I decided to condense them into a small series-type. Letters to the world from my heart. I’ll be more regular on posting these so you can keep up with them as a group. It’s something different, but I hope you enjoy.

 

“There is only one happiness in this life. To love and be loved.” -George Sand

I love love. Always have. I’m kinda actually a hopeless romantic.

Have I ever been in love? Hard to say. I’ve loved people- and loved men. Still do. Have I been infatuated- oh yes. But what about that deep, real, love? The enduring kind. That goes on even through the long, hard, times. The persistent kind. The kind where you can look at each other and just know things. The way people talk about a new crush or the way people in a committed relationship gaze into each others’ eyes. I want it. (and I think we all do.) How can you not? I look for it- but at the end of the day, it has to find me. This stuff just happens. We can’t force it, we can’t imitate it. We can’t create it on our own.

Honestly, how can we really know love until we have met the definition of love Himself? How can we fall in love if we haven’t first been in love with Him? It’s who He is. John 3:16FOR GOD SO LOVED. Maybe the 4 most important words in the Bible. It isn’t about what He did but why He did it. It was for us! It was for love. That is why we love. That’s what we look for. It’s our longing. What we seek. It’s what we truly want. I want to know love, so I can be ready when it comes. I want the real thing.

Sometimes I think I’ve found it. Found a piece of it. But I don’t know. I’m not certain. And that’s the mystery of life. It’s uncertainty. But when it’s right and it’s God you just know.  There’s peace in the mess and rest in the confusion. In the chaos. True love doesn’t have to be chased. Or worked for. Or even deserved (wow). It happens and it is and it does. It’s beautiful. And I will wait for it. Because what I’ve seen and known and have is too beautiful to sacrifice or compromise. It’s worth whatever it takes. I want the real thing. Real love.

In the shower one day (because all good thoughts come in the shower) I was hit with this thought. Maybe some sort of movement, maybe some sort of phrase. I felt God telling me something that I have learned throughout recent years that many girls (and boys honestly) do not yet know. The idea that being single isn’t scary. And that just because you’re alone, doesn’t mean you are lonely. These feelings may come but they don’t dictate who you are. I feel like I have come to realize this in entirely new ways throughout my single life- and others really should, too. No, I don’t want to be single; but that doesn’t mean I have to feel insignificant or less than or not enough while waiting on my time. I am loved– by the creator of my soul. I am enough– no matter what season I am in. And I am important– not only to my future partner but to this world and its design. I’m needed even now in this season and my life is significant. Please know this. Please believe it. Your life is not empty just because a person isn’t in it. It doesn’t start just because you get married and it’s far from over even after that. I know it’s hard and it doesn’t make the desire for love go away. It may not get easier, but it can get better. I’m here with you saying I know it will be worth it if we are willing to wait. For my girls- and my guys. Please. Let’s remind ourselves of this as we fall in love with Jesus.

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single isn’t scary

alone isn’t lonely

Where is She Now?

Numbers 6: 24-26- “The Lord bless you and protect you. The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His face to you and grant you peace.”

Most of my blogs have been about where I am and what is going on in my life spiritually. And it’s good- I love writing about that. But I wanted to let everyone know what is happening in my life personally as well! There are SO MANY good things taking place in this next season that I am completely excited about. I figured it was about time to share them with everyone!

First of all- I’m going back to college!! Most of you know I just finished my internship up here; it was a 9-month school of ministry training and supernatural empowerment. I graduated in May and enjoyed every single minute of it.  Before I moved up here I got my associate degree back home through KSU and GMC. But because college is expensive and difficult, I decided I wasn’t going for my bachelors’ until I knew for certain what I wanted to study and how I could afford it. The past few months I hadn’t thought anything about going back to college and was planning on entering into another season of work and adult life. But a few weeks ago, I was conversing with a good friend about how much I enjoy writing and editing and just discussing the possibilities that could come with it. She casually mentioned looking into getting an English degree. And suddenly, something clicked. My mind resonated so clearly with it- as if I had been dreaming of this forever. I wanted to go back to school. I was excited to learn. I found something I was good at, and not only enjoyed but was passionate about. Later, I brought up the idea to my cousin; who has an English degree and is pursuing becoming an author. And even my pastor came up to me when he heard what I was thinking- saying that his wife has a degree in English and works from home doing online writing for small companies and authors. After several conversations, I picked up my laptop and went to a café and told myself I wouldn’t leave till I had applied to at least one school. After several hours prayer and research- I decided my first step would be to reapply to Kennesaw. I had already gone there for a year, so they had all of my records on file- plus they have a reliable online program that I can do from anywhere. And since I’m still considered a resident of GA through my parents, I will qualify for all my high school financial aid and scholarships (so, no more student loans!!). Within a few weeks of applying, an acceptance letter came in the mail, and I’m now on schedule to start back to college in Spring of 2019!! I’m absolutely nervous and completely excited. I want to further pursue writing/editing for personal as well as professional use. It’s nice to be getting a degree in something that I already have some experience in! God is good, and He has most certainly orchestrated this in His timing!

The next exciting thing: I’m the official intern of Face to Face Church- Harrisburg, under pastor Mark Calkins. This is a crazy awesome opportunity that I have greatly enjoyed so far! Mark was a leader at our school last year, and I just love his father’s heart and teacher’s gifting. Learning from him throughout the year was such an honor and privilege for me. At the end of the school year, he asked if I would be interested in joining his church this fall and becoming his personal intern. I knew Harrisburg was a bit of a drive for me on Sundays (about 45 minutes) and it would be a serious commitment should I decide to accept. But after prayer and council- I knew that this was my next step. Not only was Mark someone I knew and trusted; but he was the senior pastor of his own church. I would be able to get hands-on experience in all aspects of ministry while being shepherded and empowered to rise in leadership. Because I have a heart to one day pursue ministry full-time, I knew this was the right place to start. I’m mentored by Mark on a monthly basis, I get to go to staff meetings, run social media, serve on the children’s and prayer ministry teams, and just fill in wherever else needed. I’m getting exposure to the ins and outs of working in a local church and all that comes with it. I get to see first-hand the process of church growth- what works and what doesn’t. I get to stand in with this incredible community of people as we all chase Jesus and see where He would have us go; not just as individuals but as a congregation. And it’s a beautiful journey. I’m so honored that I was asked to be a part of this, and these past few weeks have blessed me so so much!! I can’t even imagine what the rest of this year will look like; but I am thrilled to watch it unfold.

> Side note: feel free to follow us on Facebook and Instagram! Face to Face Church Harrisburg. You’ll be seeing me post on there often and follow along with all that God is doing in this church but also around the state.

work

Now- about my work life. I am still working at the restaurant I have been waitressing with since I moved here; Bird in Hand. I love my job, my coworkers are amazing, and it pays the bills! I’m so blessed where I work. However, we had a super busy summer at the restaurant, and I am honestly just drained. Waiting tables and working 10 hour shifts really takes a toll on your body! So, I got a great new opportunity this fall for another job that I am so excited about! One of my coworkers, Lauren, has been a field hockey coach for the last 2-3 years near the school where she teaches. This year, they made her the head coach and she was in charge of finding her own assistant; so she asked me. Haha, at first, I was surprised and wanted to say no- I’ve never even played field hockey! But she was explaining to me how the 2 of us work really well together, and how I have so much experience working with kids (I’ve volunteered with middle school youth several times at churches) that I would be really well-suited for the job. She was confident that I would be good at it and a good encouragement for her as well as the girls. Plus, it is 7th and 8th grade girls; so most of them have never played the sport before. We will be teaching them the fundamentals of the sport from the very beginning, so I can learn as they do! I was approved by the board and got my official badge last week. I’m honestly terrified of this job but I know with confidence that God has placed me in this position to mentor and teach these girls more about Jesus. I will not just be a coach on the field, but also a leader to them off the field, and praying over them all throughout the year. I will still be waitressing on weekends- but I’m thankful for a new and exciting job. Something temporary that I will enjoy and learn from! This season will give me more rest and free time; and also an opportunity that I may never get again! It’s a 7-week season that ends mid-October, and then I’ll be back to work at my restaurant job in time for the holidays.

coach

On top of this, I have taken up a lot of small jobs as a dogsitter!! I absolutely love it and it is such a fun, easy way to make some extra cash. I do anything from house-sitting to just daily walks; and I have a couple families I watch for regularly. I literally love it so so much, and since I don’t have my own pet it’s nice getting to play with other peoples’ without the expense or responsibility of having one full-time!! (Although I am very much considering getting a pet in the near future). Honestly, puppies are just so therapeutic for me and it’s definitely a highlight for me right now.

– If you follow my social media at all I’m sure you’ve seen tons of pictures. Here’s a few more for you.

So- this is it. There’s a lot of new and a lot of old. The summer was crazy busy but I’m looking forward to the fall with a little bit more consistency and regularity of schedule with some breathing time! I can’t wait to see what the future holds in each of these areas; God is just so faithful and good! He never ceases to amaze me with the blessings He brings and the opportunities He gives. His love is always showered upon me in the most beautiful ways. Whenever you think of me please say a prayer! I want to bring Him greater glory in each aspect of my life and work with excellence in all that I do. So thankful for love and support from all over the country as I am obedient to the Lord’s call in every area of both my present and future.

I’m Tired of Complacent Christianity

Job 5:17- “Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.” 

Last Sunday I was at a worship night with my sister. I was surrounded by wonderful, beautiful, people- all lifting up praises and glory to God. We were all unified and we were all in love. However, so many times I go to churches and see people all around me who love Jesus everyday but only worship Him on Sundays. Sometimes these worship nights can turn into one-time events and not lifestyles of praise. I was convicted of things like this in my own life this week- and I fell to the ground in the presence of God. I had to repent. Sometimes I get so routine with my own life that I forget I need to stand out. I have my time with the Lord and then I categorize that into a separate part of my day. I spend time with other Christians but forget how to love them when it gets hard. I talk about Jesus with an attitude that doesn’t always reflect Him. I had to come back into repentance. Realizing that just because I’ve ‘done all the spiritual things’ doesn’t exempt me from living a life set apart that looks like Jesus. It doesn’t excuse me from self-control, or patience, or constant joy. These things must be developed and grown and practiced as our character is refined. There’s no excuse.

“I’ve been to school, I’ve studied, I’ve read. I’ve seen it all and I’ve lived it. Yet something spurs me on. Further up, further in. Deeper with Him. I’m tired of the Holy moments on Sundays that turn into drunken party scenes on Fridays. Why do we neglect the Holy for the mundane? Why don’t we bring Jesus with us into the bars? How can Christians be so on fire- yet look just like the world when they enter it? This can’t keep happening. Where have our morals and standards gone? Are You not the same God on Saturday night that You are on Sunday? We claim spirituality and maturity allows us to make our own decisions but clearly we can’t do that. We may have nothing to lose but we have everything to give. Doing the bad thing with good people is still a bad thing. We use “community” as a disguise for the idea that ‘anything goes’. We get together with Christians only to be a part of the world around us. We evangelize to those that live just like we do. Something has to change. We have to look different. We have to do more. If your life has no direction how are you following God? He’s always moving. We have to go somewhere. Move forward or not at all. What is life if it isn’t a journey? Staying stagnant and in the same place doesn’t lead anyone.”

People who have no direction or no focus in life can’t possibly be experiencing all that God has for them. He pulls us FORWARD. His love is DEEP. His voice is clear and His direction is set. There is no way for us to follow if we aren’t moving. I just got out of a season of intense, deep, intentional teaching and learning and growing. I learned how to pursue and seek and find God like never before. Coming out of this school into a summer of work and travel and moving became a bit of a difficult transition for me. Learning how to incorporate a radical faith into a seemingly mundane and sometimes busy lifestyle doesn’t come naturally. It takes effort, intentionality, and focus. You have to be going forward and following in a direction or you will not move. My summer was definitely a transition season of lots of new things and discovering what my life would look like going forward. It was a time of rest and intentional refreshment- taking time to step back with no intentional direction. That’s ohkay and necessary for seasons, but if we live out our entire lives with no direction or focus or intentionality when it comes to our relationship with Jesus- we will miss it. Not heaven- Heaven isn’t the goal. We will miss out on the places God wants to take us and the things He has for us HERE. Now. On earth. Eternity starts the minute you say ‘Yes’ to Him and if you don’t steward that and follow after it, you miss out on the life He has called you to and created you for. Take those seasons of rest and stillness and enjoy them. Get all you can from them. But don’t let that become your permanent lifestyle. Chase God and His goodness with all that you are.

“We use Christianity as an excuse to dress immodestly, love immaturely, and act selfishly. We claim to love God but don’t know how to love others. We lack patience and self-control, yet only preach GRACE. We justify our (lack of) standards and convictions by what culture is doing and not who Jesus is.

I don’t normally write blogs of conviction and calling people out. But this applies to me as well. We have to appreciate the correction that God gives in order to live out our best lives. It’s a relationship, and it isn’t always perfect. We’re human, we mess up. And we must accept and use the feedback God gives us, even when its ugly and messy and we don’t like to hear it. No one wants to admit that they’re not always perfect or don’t have all the right answers- but that’s part of life on this side of heaven. And when God uses conviction to bring gentle correction, we should thank Him for it. I’m still growing in this area. But after the encounter I had on Sunday; I felt burdened to share this with all of you. I challenge you to ASK Him for feedback. God is gentle and loving and kind; His sweet correction of your spirit will only make you fall deeper in love with Him, and become a better you. If your Christianity doesn’t convict you, you’re doing it wrong. It’s part of the package. This is what relationship is about. Growing, learning, changing, becoming. This was a daily event in the lives of Jesus’ disciples and we are His followers!

Let’s change these things. Let’s change ourselves. Through God and His leading. There’s got to be more to life than this.

 

 

**I inserted direct quotes from my journal the night the Lord spoke all of this to me. I wanted it to be as authentic and powerful as it was when I first heard it.

 

 

I’m in Love

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” -1 John 4:8

“Home is where the heart is.” Or some would say, ‘home is where you’re from’. I like to think that home is where you put your sweatpants on. But I have never truly understood the meaning of “home” until recently. I honestly believe that home is where the heart is- and currently, my heart is scattered. In the past 5 weeks I have lived in 4 states and 2 countries. I have traveled thousands of miles and slept on at least 5 different beds. (Well, they weren’t even all beds). I’ve been in cars, planes, and boats: Air, land, and sky. And every place I went to, I left a piece of my heart.

It’s weird to talk about. And it’s hard to explain. But until you travel, you won’t understand. I’ve never been a big traveler. I love to go and see new places, but I’m not particularly fond of long road trips or travel days. However, every place I have traveled, I have loved- and I have never regretted going somewhere new. Or old. The point is, I wouldn’t call myself a traveler, but my heart says otherwise. Each place I go, I fall in love with. The people, the culture, the food (most of the time). The colors and the smells. The sounds and the language. Each piece is unique and beautiful. Traveling helps me realize how small I am and how big God is- and always gives me such a wonderful perspective. It’s hard to be ungrateful when you’re surrounded by aspects of God’s artwork that you have never seen before.

Back in April I went to Houston and San Antonio. I had never been to Texas, and it was sucha great experience! It’s similar to Georgia with everyone saying “y’all” and drinking sweet tea with their thick southern accents; yet it’s still entirely different than anything I have experienced. We were in San Antonio during Cinco de Mayo, and being able to experience that culture there was so unique and exciting. I met people that I feel like I’ve known my whole life, and our souls connected instantly. People from churches, prisons, restaurants, and homes. We may have only been there for 2 weeks, but that’s long enough to fall in love. Saying goodbye wasn’t easy, it never is. And even coming home with bugbites, sunburn, blisters, and bruises; I’d do it all over again in a second.

Then, I went back to Georgia to visit my beautiful family and all the incredible friends I’ve grown up with. This trip was bitter-sweet though; knowing that this place was no longer where I lived. I missed it, but I knew I was called to leave it for now. Plus, I have grown so much since being up in PA that everything just seemed so different. I was seeing the same people in the same places- but it was like a new place. It was weird. I was also made aware of the new reality that friends who used to be a major part of my life are no longer really involved in it. And that hit me with a whole new wave of emotions. And on top of being home- I was also trying to process all that happened in Texas. Then I also GRADUATED on May 17; so I had all the feels with the school year ending and my next adventure beginning. Needless to say, it was a bit of an emotional trip. In fact, I’m still processing everything that happened.

And after my little sister graduated High School, we all went on a family trip down to Florida to visit my mom’s aunt and uncle! It was a good get-away, and the area was so beautiful! Then we took a trip to Key West and HAVANA, CUBA!!! And I would be lying if I said we didn’t sing “Havanah, Ooh Na Na” multiple times. But in all seriousness- I fell in love again. The whole country of Cuba was spectacular. They are under Communism so it’s an overall very poor and dirty place; however, the architecture was breathtaking. All the buildings were built around the 17th century, and they drive around old antique cars everywhere. Everything has been kept in its original condition and repainted, so there are still bright colors on all the houses! Dogs and cats roam the streets so of course we loved that. And the culture… I can say it like this- The food is good, the music is loud, and the people are so kind. Everyone we talked to was just so sweet and joyful, even in what may seem like a hopeless and lifeless place. I never would have thought this, but I wanted to stay. Maybe not forever, but one day wasn’t long enough. I wanted to explore the beauty, love on the people, dance in the streets, and soak in the sun a little longer. How long does it take to truly fall in love with a place? Well- I think love at first sight is completely true. I fell in love with one look. Every new city, new horizon, new skyline- Each time I see it I fall in love all over again. I may not have had any time to process all that was going on in life and each new transition I was experiencing; but I had time to fall in love. And I did. Everywhere I went.

I’m now [finally] back in PA! Getting moved in and settled into my new home!! (: It’s beautiful and cozy and everything I could want or need in a house. My roommates are dolls, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. Except maybe Texas. Or Florida, or Cuba. I’ve never been much of a traveler and I don’t know if I’ll ever be one. After 5 weeks out on the move- I was ready to come back. Ready to have a routine, and a normal schedule. And sleep in my own bed! All that going and doing literally exhausts me. But the minute I leave, I start to miss it. All of it. I don’t wanna leave, I’m ready to go back. And it happens every single time. No matter where I go or what I do or how long I’m gone, I miss it as soon as I leave. I leave my heart all over the world and it’s kinda hard sometimes. All the people: the names, the faces. I hear them talking, I see them laughing. I miss their smiles and hugs. I’m home; yet I’m not home. Because my home is where my heart is. Which is everywhere. I’ve never known this feeling until now. Just as I’m grieving saying goodbye to a place; I go out and fall in love with another one. You don’t have to be on a long-term mission trip or a crazy travel junkie to fall in love with the world. Even on vacations and short trips, I realized how easy it is to invest myself. I’ve learned to be present. Even though I was missing Pennsylvania or Texas or even missing my home in Georgia- being fully engaged at the place that I was at allowed me to receive all that God had for me there, and to appreciate it. It showed me greater perspective and as a result; made it so easy to be thankful and to love people well.

I am daily reminded of places I’ve left behind. The weather makes me think of Houston, the city makes me think of Havana, and driving down back roads today reminded me of Warner Robins. I’m constantly remembering the people I’ve met and the ones I left.  I see faces on the street and do a double take; thinking it is someone I know. Then I remember where I am and get a little sad, wanting to call out the name of an old friend from hundreds of miles away. I love the fact that I now have connections all around the country, and that one day I will be with them all again. But until then- I remember, I think, I smile, and I cry. I pray for them all, and thank God for bringing these beautiful people and places into my life. It isn’t easy, but it’s so worth it. Even now, as my emotions go wild and my mind swirls; I might be a mess but I’m grateful.

Take Me Back

“…You are worried and upset about many things, but few are needed– indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” -Luke 10:41-42

I have been sitting on this blog for awhile and really needing to write. But this is the first I’ve had time to get down all my thoughts.

Lately I haven’t been good. There, I said it. I have been distracted, stressed, busy, anxious, messy, and lonely. On top of all that, I’ve felt numb. I dread doing my homework; and I have little motivation to get things finished. I give myself no grace for life and become easily angered. I want to just talk to someone and get it all out, but I also want to be alone. This happens, it’s part of life- I just hate when it happens to me. I thought it was going to be a short, bad day thing; but here I am 2 weeks later and still trying to navigate my way through these emotions. Or lack thereof.

I was convicted the other day while doing my Bible summary homework of how little desire I had to be in the word. How much I was dreading it and was just so ready to be done with everything. God gently reminded me of what I was reading. The power of what I held in my hand. Not just a textbook. Not just words on a page. Not just homework. I was reading the living, breathing, word of God. Not only was this a gift to me but a privilege; and here I was complaining about it.  He just whispered to me that even in those days when I felt stressed and overwhelmed- I could find Him on those pages, and enjoy the peace of His love and constant presence. Immediately I whispered a prayer, “God, help me to find you here again. To enjoy you.”

I was reminded of the bridge from a United Pursuit song I had heard several summers ago:

So, take me back

Back to the Beginning

When I was young,

Running through the fields with you.

I sang this over and over in my mind for the next few days. I didn’t really know what I was praying- but all I knew was that I needed God to bring me back to a place of intimacy with Him that I had somehow lost along the way.

These past few weeks- Tons of new worship albums have come out from some of my all-time favorite artists. My girl Steffany (we’re on a first-name basis) released her long-awaited album BLACKOUT, and Pat Barrett from Housefires put out his first EP. I was so excited at the release of these 2 albums; I had them on repeat for days. Also, Hillsong worship was putting out a new playlist that I had been waiting on. All these great songs and beautiful lyrics were just washing over me and being saturated into me. But even in listening to all of this; I felt something missing. Sitting in the youth ministry I was serving at one night, I had a deep realization-

“We don’t need new worship music, we need new worship.”

This was so new and fresh to me. I get bored so easily. I get bored when I read a book too long, when I sing a song too much, when I have to study the same Bible chapter for a certain amount of time. I’m always looking for the next thing, the new thing. I thought new worship music would be what I needed to get out of whatever funk I had been in. But songs that point me to God aren’t what I need. I need the God of the music. The God of the Word. The God of my worship. What everything is about. I needed Him, not just things that reminded me of Him. It’s not enough to stop at the things that point to Jesus- we actually have to get all the way there.

And for me, I actually didn’t need new worship- I needed my old worship back. I needed to refocus, re-center, and readjust my life to what all this was really about. I didn’t need to figure out all the ways to get to Him, I just need Him. The very next night in the book of Revelation (which, by the way, is one of the only books I haven’t actually studied deeply in the Bible) I had an incredible revelation <no pun intended, I promise>.

All I could think while I was reading it was, “Heaven is so complex. It’s beautiful, but so complex.” I think sometimes we over-simplify the glory of God.

When that hit me, it didn’t seem difficult to worship a God that was greater than my understanding and bigger than my mind. Suddenly, worship seemed a lot more real. In that moment, reading my Bible became much less dreadful and much more Holy.

Then last week, I stumbled across the song “First Love” by Jonathan David & Melissa Helser. I had heard their album when it first came out a few years back, but never really dwelled on it much except for a couple songs. So after class on Wednesday, I went home and listened to all of it again. Let me tell you- that was a divinely orchestrated encounter. EVERY SINGLE SONG was speaking to me. Some of them for the first time; and some of them for the millionth time but in a whole new way.

Starting with:

// All the way back, all the way back, all the way back, to my F I R S T L O V E.

Just reminding me again that God has to take me back. Take back my worship, take back my prayer, take back my reading, my serving, my life. Taking it back to the beginning when it was a raw, real, simple faith. Nothing more. Not complex or busy or dreaded. Simple Love.

Then their song “Outrageous Love” (something about these love songs) which I had never even heard before. It hit my heart in a place that was so real and raw and true. I couldn’t stop playing it and singing the bridge over myself as the words sunk in again and again. Deeper and deeper.

// There’s nothing I could do, that would ever make You… Love me more;

// There’s nothing I could do, that would ever make You… Love me less

What the heck, guys? This is outrageous. It’s crazy. It’s unfathomable. How on my days where I’m just not feeling it I can get mad and blame God. I can love Him less on the Mondays and the crazy work nights and the days where my homework gets long. I can whine and complain and cry. And He NEVER loves me less. And then some days I can sing to Him, I can play guitar, I can write music. I can fall deeper and deeper in love with Him as I share His heart with everyone around me. And He NEVER loves me more than He did before. I still can’t believe this. I don’t deserve this kind of love. I never have, and never will. Never could. But that’s why He gave it. It wasn’t earned, and it can’t be taken away.

Today in my Bible I read in Luke 10 the story of Mary and Martha. This is one of the shortest passages in the Bible and probably one of the most talked about, also. But personally- I’ve never gotten anything super deep or crazy out of it. Today, though. I didn’t know if I was going to make it to the next page. I stopped and just wrote down the verses word-for-word.

“Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what He said… But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made… ‘You are worried about many things, [Martha] but few are needed- indeed only 1. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”

So often, I am a Martha. I like to say I am a Mary; I pray to be a Mary. But I get distracted so easily by school and homework; by guitar and worship; by missions and serving- that I forget to just sit and rest at His feet. To just listen. To just be. Even several weeks ago I got a word and shared it with the class:

— > Your soul can be at rest even when your body is busy. Even in life when there is so much going on and so much to worry about- your spirit can be fully at rest.

I took this word and I held it and I prayed into it. I knew this was a busy season but that it didn’t have to take away my peace. I believe God is still teaching my soul how to rest; it’s not something you can learn in a day. Doing things for God is not the same as being with Him, and I was reminded of this hard truth over these past couple weeks. I had lost Him in trying to find Him. I realized all that I needed to do was to stop trying and start resting. This is so much easier said than done. I want to be a Mary. That is my prayer. That God would take me back to just being with Him. Sitting at His feet, running through the fields, being relaxed in the midst of life’s demands. Finding my new worship; or in this case, going back to my old worship. That is my prayer.

I’m not writing this blog because I have mastered all of this and to tell you how much better I feel now; how much God has done and how far I have come. Normally, my posts end like that. But today- I’m still in the middle of my journey. I still feel numb. Homework is still stressful. I still feel lonely a lot. I get annoyed for no reason, and am often frustrated or flustered. I still feel extremely emotional and sometimes even contradict myself. I’m often confused as to why and what God is doing. I was reminded of a quote today: “Loneliness is breeding grounds for Intimacy with God.” Not sure who it’s by- but it is something I cling to. I know He is drawing me close; and no matter what that looks like- I choose to come near. I choose to be brought to Him. To re-learn my worship and to grow a heart like Mary. So, I’m not there yet, but I’m following behind Him. The journey might be long but it will be good.

Thanks for listening. I’m an external processor and this is the first time I have really gotten all this out. Even as I write, Steffany’s new song Oxygen is playing, and I feel God smiling over me. Please do yourself a favor and check out all of these amazing artists’ brilliant work! Just remember it isn’t about the songs but about the creator of the worship. Be blessed.