Hope

Doing Scary Things: A Friday Freewrite

Do one thing every day that scares you. That Eleanor Roosevelt was a wise lady. This quote kept ringing in my head on repeat over the past week. I was asked to speak at Chapters, the young adults gathering at my church. As you know, I'm a writer. I'm not a speaker. The idea scared me. Sharing my story one-on-one over coffee? Pouring out my heart on paper or in words on a screen? No problem. I love that. Speaking in front of a whole room of twentysomethings? Terrifying.

For when I am weak, then I am strong. Paul was a really wise man, too. A friend shared with me this week how meaningful this verse has been to her lately. Like she told me, we expect to read this verse and read "for when I am weak, He is strong." But in our weakness, then we are strong.

Sitting on a stool in front of a room of more young adults than I could count, I couldn't get these two lines out of my head. I had written my story out (seven typed pages of my thoughts and verses and quotes), I had rehearsed, I had called friends to run it by them so they could give me feedback...I was anxious and nervous. This isn't my cup of tea, this isn't my forte. 

But when I am weak, I am strong. When I step out of my comfort zone into the places where He is calling me, He will make me brave. Even when my hands are shaking and my face is flushed and my stomach is churning, He can use my words.

Hannah Brencher tweeted yesterday, "If you don't think God can work in spite of how you're feeling then you aren't giving him nearly enough credit."

The talk I gave wasn't about me. It wasn't about my story or my experiences or my accomplishments. That talk was about sharing God's goodness, faithfulness and love. That talk was about sharing what I know to be true-- that God redeemed my brokenness, that Christ is our cornerstone, that life is better when lived together in authentic community.

Even though what I was feeling was nervousness and uncertainty, I knew God was still at work. In the twenty minutes I was speaking, I could feel that. I felt His peace and His presence. I knew that this thing that had seemed so scary to me was something that God was using to work in my heart.

We sing You make me braveWe sing You called me out beyond the shore into the waves and You make me brave. The shore, the solid land where I felt safe, would have been sitting in my chair at my table in the audience listening to a preacher share a talk-- confident with their words, comfortable on that stage. But He called me out beyond that shore into the waves. He called me to the place where I couldn't trust my own strength. He called me to step out in faith into an area of weakness, and in that, He made me brave. He made me strong.

I've said throughout every Story Seeker conversation and coffee date this summer that every single time I tell my testimony and my story, I feel God putting more of the broken pieces of my heart back together. I feel Him healing me more and more every time I put words to my story and speak them out loud.

When we keep things quiet, when we hide things away in dark places, those things become like monsters in our closet. We become afraid. These things start to have power over us. We live in fear that if we ever were to open that door, they surely would overtake us and attack us. But when we call these things by name, when we speak of them out in the open, when we tell others what these things are and how they've affected us, we find we have power over them. Light always overcomes darkness. When we shine a light on the things that have hurt us or changed us or broken us or tried us, it exposes what is true and overcomes what seems dark.

When we are weak, then we are strong. When we do the things that scare us, when we step beyond the shore into the waves, He makes us brave. He has overcome the world and He has made us conquerors.


You can find more Friday Freewrite posts here

Grace upon grace.

I'm convinced without a single doubt in my mind that life is found in community, especially churches. My church happens to state that boldly as a tagline-- a good place to find life. Amen. Since settling back down in Richmond, HOPE has been a place I've found life, community and incredible friendships. This girl is one of those dear friends.

As an introvert, I prefer hanging back on the edges of social settings, testing the waters and surveying the dynamics before I dive in. I also really appreciate when other people seem to be similar. In groups, in circles of chairs, around tables, I'm drawn to the people who are quiet, reserved. I know that although they don't speak first, when they do speak, it will be more than worth the wait.

This girl was one of those people. Around the circle, she was the one I was drawn to. The things she shared were eloquent, powerful, full of truth and love. She spoke and I soaked it up. I wanted to hear more from her, wanted to hear her testimony and just dive in to her story and hear all about it. Her wise words, her sweet demeanor and gracious spirit drew me to her and I knew I wanted to be good friends with her.

When the incredible duo Johnnyswim came to town and I had an extra ticket, I called her up and invited her to join me. We got dinner at new local restaurant beforehand and started getting to know each other better, telling little stories of our families, childhoods, high school years and current jobs. It was an amazing night (if you haven't heard their music, you need to) and I loved sharing it with her. It was the first time we had really hung out together, but she felt like an old friend and I loved that.

I launched this Story Seeker project back in June, and she texted me right after and told me how excited she was for me. She said, "I have a serious story of God's crazy grace and goodness in the midst of hard times, but I'm still in the middle of it...is that the kind of story you're looking for?" and I responded with a huge resounding YES.  That was exactly the kind of story I was looking for. Stories that are messy, that aren't resolved, that are covered in God's fingerprints and His love. I couldn't wait to hear her story and share mine with her, too.

We finally found a time in the middle of our busy schedules to meet up for coffee at my favorite Starbucks one weeknight, and we curled up in big leather chairs in a back corner. From the moment she started telling her story, I was drawn in. She was real with me and held nothing back, not even things that must have been gut-wrenchingly hard to say out loud. My heart felt so much love for her as she spoke, laying this incredible story out for me in a way that pointed straight to the cross and to grace.

Hearing her heart for the world, for a country far away from ours, for a completely different people group reflected the heart of the Father beautifully. She radiated hope and peace even when she shared hard things, and it was so clear that she is day by day abiding in the Spirit and leaning into His perfect truth.

We ran out of time that night for me to share my story with her, and I can't wait for the night we get to curl up in those chairs again and fill that corner with conversation. In the weeks since we met, my life has been a whirlwind of change, and I have constantly been encouraged by the most meaningful texts and words of wisdom from her when I didn't expect them but so desperately needed them. She shares with me how she's praying for me in ways that humble me in a heartbeat, she checks up on me with questions that few people remember to ask, she responds thoughtfully and with such precious affirmation...she is constantly showing me Jesus in how she is a friend to me. I'm so grateful for her.

Her story stirred something up in me that night, something that made me want to celebrate God's goodness in a new way. Her strength comes from the Lord, her hope is in Him, her trust is in His sovereignty, and she shines His light. I left that Starbucks so deeply encouraged by her testimony of God's grace. Life, full and abundant life, is truly found in community and in friendships like these.

Her three words couldn't have been more perfect-- grace upon grace. 

Here's her story.


The writer of this story will remain anonymous.

She's a 24-year-old teacher who enjoys camping, kayaking, and a good, competitive game of badminton. She's a lactose-intolerant-dairy-lovin-fiend...I live on the edge, she says. Her future goals are to get a masters degree in biblical counseling and help people realize that a broken life is made whole through Christ alone.


My story is a hard one to tell.  Mainly, because it’s what I would consider a constant work of God’s grace.  When is one’s story every finished?  Maybe when we meet Jesus, himself.  I can tell you the beginning of my story, though.

I grew up in a family with...well, let’s just say, issues.  As much as I loved them (and still do), there were some tough things to deal with.  I became a follower at a young age God put a distinct calling on me at the age of thirteen.  I felt him tugging at me; burdened for the people who haven’t heard of Christ.  

Well, fast-forward through those awkward high school years that were riddled with more family dysfunction and I’m eighteen years old and with a church guy that I’d been in love with  practically since the start of my youth group days.  Or so I thought.  He was my ticket out.  I didn’t see as that way then, but now I know why I made the choices I did.  See, as our relationship progressed onward I eventually began to feel God’s tug again.  This time, leading me away from that relationship.  It was unhealthy.  It wasn’t love that I had read about in the Bible.  But hey!!  It was way better than anything I’d ever seen take place in my family.  In my mind, I thought I was set.  

I knew I needed to listen to God, but being my stubborn self I decided to put it off--the longer I waited the more trapped my emotions were.  Then the day came where things began to get physical between the two of us, but I wanted to stop.  I couldn't lie there, blatantly disobeying God with some guy who I knew wasn’t the one.  As I stopped, he didn’t.  I couldn’t get away.  Couldn’t move.  I thought, “Is this what relationship looks like?  He said he loved me but he won’t stop.”  Then it was over and the guy left.  I felt disgusting.  I felt like I had something stolen from me.  I felt like it was my fault.  Now I had to stay with him because once that is given away--you’re bonded for life.  That’s what I thought.  It was too late to leave and break the relationship because I was intimate with this ONE guy.  God would only forgive if I stayed with him and married.  That thought was my first great misconception about God’s grace.  

We both found ourselves going to a private, Christian university and I was married second semester into my sophomore year.  I thought I was golden.   God’s forgiveness happened, in my mind, the moment that I said “I do.”  Again, another great misconception about grace.  

I always felt as if I was the only one in my marriage.  Granted, a marriage takes work--but it takes two people working.  I thought things would gradually get better, because my marriage was still much greater than anything I’d ever seen displayed.  The abuse I suffered daily was miniscule compared to what some women would face.  Unfortunately, these were the things I would tell myself.  Reality is, NO woman should ever have to put up with anything other than a husband who biblically loves her.  I just wish I would’ve applied truths to myself instead of making myself the exception.  

Still feeling that call, I began to look into mission agencies that would be a possibility for working with.  I began to talk to my husband about this idea and he said that he was up for it.  We found ourselves official college grads and were hopeful to be soon leaving with the biggest, best mission agency we’d ever heard of.  We went in for interviews and got all the right check-marks.  I couldn’t believe it!!  Four years of theological training and here I was--leaving soon to give God’s light in the darkness.  Now we needed to complete some training and  head off into the great unknown.

We were set to go with a people group in central america that were known to be difficult.  When accepting the job, we didn’t know what “difficult” meant.  During training, marriage problems continued and I began having some depression.  I ended up going to see a counselor but was too afraid to talk about my marriage issues--we would surely be turned away from the field.  During counseling I had to address a lot of problems--some even stemming from childhood.  The counselor really annoyed me most times.  Making me do stupid exercises, having the gall to ask personal questions and address hard issues.  Eventually, though, I began to respect him and get serious about healing.  Even if my husband wasn’t.  Healing began to come as I dealt with my own issues.

I previously said that the job was coined “difficult.” Turns out it meant:  dangerous and near impossible. Some of our supervisors said it was “the deepest, darkest place” in the country.  At the end of four short months, we found ourselves on a plane heading back home.  The people group ended up being very hostile to the gospel and we felt it was best to end the job until someone that was better trained could go in.  Within that four months I found a language and culture I loved, friendship, lessons learned, and my abilities were stretched past my introversion.  It hurt to leave, but I also found that my marriage was weakened.  My husband seemed absent...stressed, depressed?  I never found out.  We were back in the US, in counseling together, for two weeks of debrief.   Then we were back living with family when I found out that he had been behaving in an unfaithful way.  He left.  It happened quickly.  I was shocked.  I was hurt.  I didn’t know how things could’ve turned out this way.

I went through months of aloneness.  I tried to work things out, but he didn’t want to.  He told me that he was ever only along for the ride--that he wanted an adventure.  When things got too hard, it didn’t feel like an adventure for him.  One day he told me that if I’d be willing to give him a year or so to be by himself, doing as he pleased, and thinking things over--that maybe he’d come back after that.  That hurt the most; like he was doing me a favor--but only if he felt like he’d had enough fun to last for a while.  It was then that I walked away completely.  I prayed.  I sobbed. I deeply grieved. Grief isn’t just the tears, it is a deep pain from within that makes your whole body writhe.  I hadn’t known grief until then.  

God is good in the good times, but he's even better in the bad.  As I was living back home, single, with my dysfunctional family I thought that life would never get better. Depression had set in and I thought that God was done with me. I had failed as a missionary and I had failed in my marriage. I didn't think I was redeemable. Then I picked up my Bible; a book filled with a theme of grace. Not because I do anything to deserve Gods love, but because he just loves me. All of my striving. All of my working to achieve and maintain appearance, acceptable behavior, status, and much more...God didn't want that. He wanted a heart to heart relationship with my obedience; and I had a skewed view of that from the beginning. I decided then to be still; to cease striving and give everything to him. That's the hardest and the best lesson I've ever had to learn. Healing has come.

Within a week of that realization I moved to RVA. Within two weeks I had a full time job.  I've found friends, community, life, and my calling once again. It was never really gone--my view was just foggy. He's such a loving and good God. He gives us grace upon grace.

Start Here Book: My Review

Start Here: Beginning a Relationship with Jesus. That's the title. If I had seen this book on a shelf of Barnes and Noble, I'm not sure I would have been especially drawn to read it, because I've had a relationship with Jesus for as long as I can remember. I've already started, ya know?

But this book wasn't just one on a shelf for me. This book was written by two people I know and respect and genuinely love. One is the pastor of my beloved HOPE Church, the other is on staff there as well (and also is the mom of the three awesome kiddos I recently nannied for), and they both are authentic and solid Jesus-followers and leaders.

So this book, Start Here, came to me in the mail. And I started to read it. I didn't even get through the first page before I felt like I was sitting in Starbucks chatting with Nicole and David over cups of coffee (probably the HOPE blend we serve at church because it's really good).

The words of this book are so real. David and Nicole tell their stories in the introduction before chapter 1 even starts, and they don't do it in any fancy or elite sort of way, they just tell you who they are and how their relationships with Jesus started. It's an honest conversation from the very first lines, and I love that. It's so very real.

Every chapter starts with a story from someone (also very real) who is a part of HOPE and a part of the body of Christ. Their stories are raw, they're normal, they're still being written. All their stories started somewhere, and God has kept writing better and better chapters as they've grown.

My story started a long time ago, and I was about 7 years old when I decided to dive in to my own real relationship with Jesus. But now, at 21, this book about starting a relationship with Jesus still resonated with me. I heard echoes of my story in the words of the stories on these pages. I was reminded of so much goodness about who God is and so much truth about how He wants to know me. I was drawn in, page by page, eager to uncover more. 

It didn't matter that my relationship with Jesus started a long time ago. This book was still an authentic and encouraging reminder of what faith looks like.

This book is solid. This book is sound. This book comes straight from the Bible through the words of two people who love the Lord so evidently and are such incredible tools He is using to build the kingdom here on earth.

Bob Goff (author of Love Does) endorsed the book by saying this, and I wholeheartedly agree:

"The story about Jesus is a simple one; so is His message. This is a book that blows the foam off the top and gives His simple message uncomplicated, accurate freshness."

If you have no idea who Jesus is or what being a Christian means or looks like, Start Here. If you've known Jesus for 75 years, Start Here. If you're somewhere in the middle, pretty confused and not even really that interested, Start Here. I'll send you my copy, just say the word. If you want your own, it's here on Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, or wherever else you can buy books online.

If you want a copy put directly into your hands by an awesome smiling person, come to the Carpenter Center in Richmond on Easter Sunday with HOPE at 8:30, 10:00 or 11:00 and you'll get one there.

It's such a good place to start. It isn't scary, it isn't overwhelming, it's just real. Real is the best way to be with Jesus, so just start here.

Surprised by Joy.

You came as a baby, meek and mild, sweet and small

You're a King, Lord and Savior, ruler over all

You came one silent, starry night

You're the glorious Lord of Light

You came among the simple and lowly

You sacrificed all, mighty and holy

You made yourself small, human like we are

Your presence made kings and shepherds travel far

Lord, of all of the ways you could show us your love

You chose to descend, come to our world from above

In the best of all mysteries, of all I can't understand

Your glory, so holy, came to life in a man

A King who walked on our ground

A King whose praises forever resound

A King who met me here on my earth

A King who became near through an unexpected birth

Joy to all of us, to all to come and all who came

Joy to my very heart, despite past sufferings and pain

Joy that awakened my eyes to all You are

Joy that surprises me, opens my heart to Your call

Joy for those who had little to give

Joy from the Lord who came so we may live

The surprise of joy, may it ever grasp my heart

Sweet baby Jesus, here on earth but set apart

Praise your name forevermore

King of all Kings, Lord of Lords

Alive.

My Savior is alive.

All morning, throughout worship and the message at church, I was in awe of that. He is alive. Living, breathing, moving, working, healing, saving...alive. I've known this, it's not new to me. But I'm in awe of it still.

He is alive in beauty. I mean, seriously, have you seen the sunsets this past week? He is glorious. Beauty unimagined, and those fiery skies are just a glimpse of His splendor.

He is alive in answered prayers. He is listening, hearing, responding, providing. He is opening doors and creating opportunities and making a way for us one step at a time.

He is alive in community. He is among is when we gather, around fireplaces and crowded living rooms in small group, in spacious sanctuaries with the masses, around dinner tables and in coffeeshops. He is bringing us together, holding us together, uniting us as His body in the flesh.

He is alive in worship. He is in the chords and in the harmonies, the sweet melodies and the joined voices, in the tunes and the words and the simple and beautiful praises we give to Him. He is glorified in out worship, He is praised as we humble ourselves before Him, He is lifted high as we lift our voices and our hands to all that He is and will be and has always been.

He is alive in perfect love. He is our Father, loving us relentlessly and wholly and so deeply, filling every beat of our hearts and every depth of our souls in ways we didn't know possible. He is our Creator, the one who knit us together as we are for a purpose so specific and so intentional. We are His. Nobody could love us the way He does, endlessly, perfectly, with all-consuming love.

He is alive in victory. He conquered everything we never could. He went to the places we are scared to go, He went to the cross, He went to the grave, He went to the darkness and the deepest depths, and He came again in glory and in victory, conquering it all. He took our very worst and He became our salvation. The grave didn't hold him. Death didn't keep him. He defeated it. He rose. He has risen. He's alive, He's alive.

Let us, the body of Christ, come alive. Let us shake off the fear, the doubt, the worry, the apathy, the uncertainty, the excuses. Let us wake up, open our eyes, come alive again.

"Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

All morning, I kept repeating as I worshipped, "You are alive, You're alive, You, my Savior, are alive." And then, the worship team played this song, and I just laughed as I sang, as I lifted my hands and rejoiced in the words and the worship and the praise of my God who is so very alive.

Christ is risen from the dead Trampling over death by death Come awake, come awake! Come and rise up from the grave

Christ is risen from the dead We are one with him again Come awake, come awake! Come and rise up from the grave

Oh death! Where is your sting? Oh hell! Where is your victory? Oh Church! Come stand in the light! The glory of God has defeated the night!

Oh death! Where is your sting? Oh hell! Where is your victory? Oh Church! Come stand in the light! Our God is not dead, he's alive! he's alive!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IExdrZGQVeI&w=420&h=315]

I've been the dry bones.

I didn't think dry bones and a passage in Ezekiel would be what rocked my world this summer. Not really at all, actually. But, sometimes, God repeatedly opens my eyes and my heart to something He's trying to show me. This summer, it's been this passage in Ezekiel. Give it a look.

Ezekiel 37:1-10

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

Cool, right? Ever since Passion 2013 back in January and Chris Tomlin's new CD Burning Lights, this passage has been repeatedly running through my head courtesy of his song "Awake My Soul." Go take a listen, it's good. Lecrae raps that Ezekiel passage in a way that just gets you really hyped up, trust me.

So this passage has been one that I've repeatedly read, sung, and studied this summer. It's been applicable. It's been real. It's been God speaking into the depths of my soul. It's been a summer of a lot of transitions, a lot of hard things, a lot of discouragement and obstacles. It's been a summer where I've felt a lot like dry bones. I've felt defeated and disconnected from God and from community. I've felt like I lost my identity and everything that made me Rachel. Every time this passage has come up, I've related so deeply to feeling lifeless and brittle like those bones in that desolate valley.

This summer's big event was a big (like fifteen weeks later and I'm still recovering kind of big) knee surgery. Talk about dry bones... I'm telling ya, this passage really hits home with me.

I've been fighting all summer after the biggest surgery of my life to regain my strength and build my muscles back from being cut and realigned and worked on. My strength was taken from my leg in that surgery, and all my muscles in my leg atrophied in the weeks that followed as I was unable to walk or work on it at all. If you want to feel lifeless, try being stuck on a couch with a leg that doesn't work while on heavy pain meds for weeks on end. You'll feel pretty much like a dead vegetable. It's not fun. It messes with your head and your heart in the weirdest of ways. It made me feel weak and incapable, and I was. I was dead bones in a lifeless valley of a body that wasn't doing what it was meant to do.

So many times during this recovery process, I've found myself asking God, "Can my strength really come back? Can my knee be okay again? Can I run again for the first time in over 5 years? Can I get my normal body and activity back? Can I ever even climb up a flight of stairs normally, I mean COME ON."

At the heart of it all, I was asking God what He asked in this passage-- "Can these bones live?" Really, God, can they? I'm not so sure.

Every time I read through this passage, I've felt a little bit of life come back to my bones, I've felt breath come back to my lungs, and I've come a little more alive. I've felt the Spirit move in my soul that felt dead, and I felt Him stirring up life, breathing into me, awakening me. He didn't just heal my body, put skin and tendons back on the bones and leave them like that. He's been healing my physical body, and then He's been breathing his true breath of life into my soul, too. That's freaking awesome, and I'm humbled and in awe that my God not only can do that, but has been doing it.

David Dwight, in the middle of a sermon series on God's Questions, talked about this passage, too. He talked about how these people's hearts had wandered from  God. They were defeated, dispersed, they had no hope, and no identity. Sounds a lot like how I felt for a lot of this summer. 

But there is so much hope in this. So much life came from that valley, those dry bones. Something David said in his sermon resonated with me: like Matthew 19:26 says, "with God all things are possible." It doesn't mean that He will just miraculously relive us of all bad circumstances-- He will remake us. He promises that He will make hardships a vineyard of life, not a valley of death.

SO good. Vineyards of life. Not valleys of death. I love that. The hardships of this summer are bringing me to life, to hope, to identity in Him alone.

Abba, thank you for bringing life to the deadness in my heart and my soul and my spirit and even my body this summer. Thank you for remaking me through the hardships. Thank you for not taking the hardships away, even though I know I wanted that so many times. Thank you for being life; real, true, fulfilling, abundant life. Thank you for being hope. Thank you for being healing. Thank you for leading me to more than I could see for myself. Thank you for giving me identity as your beloved. Thanks for bringing my dead bones to life.

What I've learned in a month.

Graduation was May 4. Today is June 4. I graduated college one month ago. What?!

Since I had a major knee surgery just a few days after graduation, I didn't immediately go into a new job or internship or jet off on some awesome adventure. Because of my surgery (and the countless hours on the couch that followed), I've had a lot of time to think and reflect and pray and just meditate on God's word and what He's been teaching me. (A lot of time to watch Netflix too...but that's beside the point.)

Here are a few things I've learned in the past month:

1. I'm powerless on my own. Yes, I learned this in a very real and physical sense, as I was literally unable to move or walk or stand or do just about anything on my own. In the hospital after surgery, I could hardly feed myself, stay awake for a five minute conversation, sit up in bed, go to the bathroom, anything. I was completely dependent on the awesome hospital staff and my incredible parents. I was weak, I was unable, I was powerless. I learned a lot from this. I learned how to be thankful for the attentiveness and compassion of those who were constantly serving me and helping me. I learned humility in a whole new sense. I learned to be grateful for the little victories. I was reminded of how, on my own, I can do nothing and be nothing of any significance. I need Christ, I need His strength, I need to rely solely and fully on Him as my Rock every day.

2. I am deeply loved. I'm a huge fan of love languages. Mine's gift-giving, closely followed by words of affirmation. In the past month, I've received so many letters and cards from so many relatives and friends and small group girls, and it has made my heart so happy and full.  I received flowers from my grandma and one of my girls, and they've been lasting reminders of how loved I am by so many incredible people around this country. My mom's love language is acts of service, and she has poured out more love through serving me after my surgery than I can ever thank her for. I felt so loved by her as she showered me in her love language. My best friends have been so great about checking in on me and encouraging me and reminding me I'm strong and not alone and that I am loved.

3. God will provide. He has provided hours in the day to get all my classwork done for my Maymester courses, He has provided opportunities for me to meet with people who helped me discern more of my calling, He has provided incredible relationships with people I never expected to be close with, He has provided encouragement in so many ways, He has provided ways for me to make money this summer as I start to try to figure out what's next for me, He has provided community for me at church and in the college ministry, He has provided. Abundantly. Constantly. Perfectly.

4. Be thankful for the little things. There have been a lot of big changes in my life in this past month, and a lot of big uncertainties. But throughout all of it, I've been staying focused on the little things, and seeing God in them constantly. My knee is a big mess, but every day, there are little successes that I've held on to and been proud of, and they've given me strength to keep fighting and pushing onward. It has changed my attitude over time to be one full of joy and hope and thankfulness. God is so big, so mighty, so incredibly powerful and sovereign, and He has been wrapping me up in love and light and so, so many beautiful, wonderful little things.

5. Community is everywhere. I left JMU knowing community would be what I missed the most. I lived in a great community in my house, I had an incredible small group that I was a part of, and a wonderful small group I was blessed to help lead. I was a part of a massively awesome chapter of IV. I had a community of God-loving women at work. I was surrounded, everywhere I went and in everything I did, by strong communities of believers. In the past few weeks, I've seen community start to form and blossom here in Richmond. I've connected with so many people at Hope (who knew a huge knee brace and some crutches could be such a great conversation starter!), and found people I know I'll grow closer to this summer. I've reconnected with old friends, and gotten to know totally new people that have come to be so meaningful and important to me. Community isn't just at JMU. Community is in people. Community is the body of Christ coming together, and that happens everywhere. 

 

It's been a month since I said goodbye to my time as a student at JMU, and almost a month since my knee surgery, and I'm so thankful and so blessed that I've had this month to learn and grow and just deeply rest in who God is. I'm thankful for the lessons I've been learning, and the ways in which my heart has been growing. I'm thankful for being forced to slow down and appreciate every little thing, every person in my life, every tiny victory and new step (literally). I have no clue whatsoever what adventures are ahead, but I'm savoring this time of rest and slowness and growth before God opens up new doors.

What's God been showing you this summer so far? I'd love to hear, and I'd love to be praying for you and for what's ahead in these hot and humid months!

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