I encourage you not to stay in an echo chamber in your life. Don't stay stuck in the places where everyone around you tells you what you want to hear, what's safe to hear, what's comfortable to hear.
I'm turning 24 TOMORROW and thought I would share 24 (very random) thoughts about what I've learned about this life so far.
Once upon a time (because this is how all the best stories begin), I met a girl named Macy. I can't remember the specifics, but I knew that I had heard so many great things about her from so many people around my church, Hope. She just seemed like somebody I wanted to be friends with. Now, I've probably known her for more than a year, and I'm so incredibly grateful I get to call her friend.
This girl is a gem. She has this infectious joy and radiance about her that just lights up every room she's in. She's absolutely beautiful, completely genuine in every way, and one of the sweetest people I have ever called friend. She has a warm and welcoming way about her that makes you feel loved and valued when you interact with her-- she asks great questions, encourages endlessly, loves deeply, and is just such a delight.
You know those people that just make life sweeter and brighter and better? That's Macy. I love it.
Macy chases after Jesus in a way that is just so evident and so beautiful. Every conversation I've had with her, it's so clear that her heart is completely for Him, and that she's living every day in pursuit of what He has for her, even if it's things she never expected or necessarily wanted herself. That's true faith.
I'm so grateful for the times I've gotten to sit with Macy over iced chai lattes and just catch up. She doesn't live in Richmond anymore sadly, and I treasure the times she comes through town and I get to grab time with her! I've always left feeling encouraged and a lot less alone in whatever season of life I'm going through. She just gets it.
She's always adventuring around the country (and making me jealous), making time for the people she loves and always making the most of her trips and explorations. Even though she's a new teacher this year and I'm sure busier than she's ever been, she still took time to be part of this project and support what I'm doing here. What a friend.
I'm so excited and honored to share Macy's story with you!
My name is Macy. I am 22, a recent graduate of Clemson University, and a Social Studies teacher at Blythewood High School outside of Columbia, South Carolina. After years of saying I never wanted to return to the Columbia area, I have once again found myself here. And I love it. Navigating through the waters of post-grad, “real world” life is beautiful and scary all at the same time, but I know that wherever I am His hand guides me. This story is just a glimpse of my life, but it needs to be shared because it seems to follow and impact me throughout every season so far.
When I was four years old, I remember standing in front of my bathroom mirror, barely tall enough to see myself in it. I was wearing a turtleneck, jumper, and my hair was a wreck (some things never change). I asked myself, “Do I think I am pretty?” Immediately I heard a voice in my head that said, “No.” Unknown to me at the time, but my war with insecurity had just begun.
Insecurity followed me and planted more roots within me throughout the following years. It seemed like the older I became, the more I grew displeased with myself. In high school, this led to bad decision after bad decision in a search to find fulfillment, satisfaction, and a sense of belonging. This search mostly occurred through an obsession with relationships with boys. As long as I had a boy’s attention, I was silent about anything else that happened. I remember the first time a boy took advantage of me. I did nothing to stop it because I thought that a moment of desire from a boy would be enough to fill the insecurity in my heart. It never worked, but for some reason I kept thinking it would. I entered a season of continual sexual involvement with boys, never once finding strength within myself to fight for my worth. I’ve been taken advantage in many situations, from a room full of people to riding alone in a car with a boy. Insecurity makes us do things that we know are wrong, but appear to be easier to do than stand our ground and fight. So we give in. And we may feel okay for a moment, but that quickly fades.
When I began walking with the Lord in college, insecurity still followed me. While the impact of insecurity looked different than before, I still felt it deep within my soul. Insecurity left a constant feeling of unworthiness and dissatisfaction. If anything, it actually continued to increase and plant more roots within my soul. I am pretty open now about the fact that I did not enjoy most my college experience. I never felt like I belonged and experienced some of the loneliest years yet. It was a hard season, both emotionally and physically (ask me about breaking my foot some time). Yet, I endured. And I learned. And I grew.
Insecurity is often coupled with an abuse of the word “enough.” If I could just be skinny enough, pretty enough, rich enough, funny enough, smart enough, cool enough, then I would defeat insecurity. When Jesus went to the Cross, He took all of this with Him. The only “enough” that mattered after the Cross was that Jesus became enough. He is the only thing that is truly enough to satisfy me. The mindset that if I could just be enough for someone or something then I would defeat insecurity was not necessarily wrong. It was just flawed. I tend to fill in the position of someone or something with temporary things, but rarely turn towards Jesus for help.
The thing that annoys me about how we handle dealing with insecurity is that we treat it like a battle. A battle is a one-time thing. Insecurity is not a one-time thing. It is something that has been deeply driven into so many of our souls by sin, culture, and the enemy himself. It’s difficult to accept, but when I think poorly of myself, I actually insult God Himself. In Genesis, we see God looking down on Creation with favor. Genesis 1:31 says, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good….” Who am I to look upon an aspect of his creation, myself, and tell Him I don’t like it?
If we are going to truly fight and defeat insecurity, we have to be ready to endure the many battles that accompany this war. The sweet thing about this war is that we already know the end result. If we endure and fight, we will be victorious. Our anchor is in our Savior, not anything of this world. Our Savior is ready to bring beauty to these ashes.
Insecurity has brought me many scars. The thing I love about scars is how much we can learn from them. Scars show us the painful effects of a decision, situation, or choice while teaching us to not engage in them again. My scars hold me accountable. They allow me to be able to better help others. Do not be ashamed of your scars, they are part of your story. Insecurity may be a part of your story, but it is not your entire story. Jesus’ last words on the Cross were “Tetelestai.” This translates to “it is finished.” This means that insecurity is finished for us. It no longer has to keep domain over our lives. We can fight it.
Today's Blog-tember prompt: Write a letter to sixteen-year-old you. Any advice or funny stories?
This is about to get real, so get ready.
Dear 16-year-old me,
Oh, sweet girl. I have so many things to tell you. High school is so hard, I know. You feel alone and your heart is broken. You moved all the way across the country last year and it totally rocked your whole world-- everything and everyone you knew and loved is so far away and it's really hard to be the new girl in a school full of cliques.
I know it's hard to be in hallways full of people and feel alone. I know it's hard to hear the hateful words they are whispering as they pass you and to remember those words aren't truth. I know it's hard to see the vicious threats come through to your inbox, to realize that even church girls can be bullies. I know it's hard to rise above it, to try to be the bigger person, to let the words roll off your back when they're cutting into you like daggers. I know it's hard to feel like there is any good in your world right now.
Sweet girl, if only I could dry your tears and whisper words of love to you. If only I could go back and make all the bad go away, take the hurt away, and wrap you up in a bubble so the bullies can't get to you. They are cruel. They are hurtful. They are in the wrong.
I'm so proud of you. I'm proud of how you keep falling back on your faith, even when it feels like the whole world was falling apart. I'm proud of how you keep opening your heart, even though it has been so badly broken. I'm proud of the words you spill onto pages and pages of journals, because they are honest and true and raw and you are brave enough to write them down.
The rest of high school will be hard, I can't lie to you about that. You will get through it. You will come home crying and collapse on the couch more times than I can count, but you will make it through.
You will make new friends that you will still talk to even six years later. You will fall in love with a boy for the first time and it will be life-changing to spend two years with him. You will find your passions and pursue them, through leading worship at your church, and through the school newspaper, and through your own writing.
Those years are the hardest ones. They're full of more heartache and heartbreak than any teenager should have to endure. But those years are the ones that set the stage for a glorious story of redemption that your Creator is writing through your life. Those years are the darkness, but the light is coming, and it's going to be radiant. People will see a change in you and they will know it's only Jesus. That's a good, good thing, love. That's what this life is all about.
I know you don't understand why anyone in the world likes high school, and why any adult ever says that it's the best time of your life. Even when you're 23, you won't understand that. That's okay. High school was hell for you, but the rest of your life? Girl, it gets GOOD. Really good.
Hold tight to your faith and your family. Know that your parents are always going to be your biggest fans, your rock-solid foundation, your best friends, and your most trusted confidantes. They love you. Let them. Be good to them, even though you're moody and hurting and you want to lash out. Know that it won't always feel like life is a battle of you against the world. There are good, trustworthy, honest, kind people, and you'll meet them soon. They'll love you relentlessly and you'll learn to trust friends and community again. It will be the best thing that ever happens to you.
Hear me when I say this, sixteen-year-old self: You are brave. You are beautiful. You are beloved. You are going through hard times, but they are not in vain. You are worthy of love. You have been created by a God who loves everything about you, even when the people around you don't. You are where you are for a purpose, because it's part of a bigger story that is better than you ever dared to hope. You are hurt, but you will heal. You are struggling, but you will rejoice soon.
It's always darkest before the dawn. Hold tight. Hold on to hope. I'm so proud of you.
All my love and more,
Last year, something exploded in my life (and in the online world) called #fireworkpeople. Every week, Twitter parties brought dozens and dozens of incredibly passionate and talented women together in a conversation like only the Internet can.
Through #fireworkpeople, I've "met" so many beautiful and remarkably gifted woman that I now call dear friends-- Caity is one of them. I remember seeing her little square picture pop up in those Twitter chats and thinking "that girl is so dang pretty!" Then, I read her words. And I remember thinking, "this girl can WRITE. Holy cow." And then I got to know her and read her story, and I remember thinking, "this girl is so beautiful and brave and has such a courageous heart."
She writes words that just about knock you over with their strength and power. She writes words that give you goosebumps and make your heart swell and linger with you long after you've closed the screen. Now that I've gotten to know Caitlyn a little better, I know her words come from such a true, real place. I know that she isn't just putting words out there for the heck of it-- her words come from the very core of who she is in the most stunning way.
Reading her story when it landed in my inbox was humbling. It reminded me how grateful I am to have a space where I can shine a spotlight on the people I want you to meet. It reminded me how powerful stories are. It reminded me how unique each of our journeys is, especially in faith. It reminded me of what an incredible thing it is to put our lives and our experiences into words, and then to share those words with other people. It's brave. It's courageous. It's meaningful.
I'm honored to share Caity's story with you.
Caitlyn wants to live in a world where broken hearts are held close, the lattes never stop flowing, and she can sit with you in your hardest places. By day she works at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, but by night she’s crafting words as a creative writer. When she’s not slinging syllables to hold your heart at caitlynhummmel.com, you can find her studying in pursuit of her Masters in Social Work, sipping on delicious craft beers, and loving on her fluffy Pomapoo, Jasper.
I told Rachel I would write down my story. A scary thing to agree to do – it’s something I’ve avoided honestly because my story isn’t beautiful, or cliché, or tie up with any kind of pretty little bow. Stories like those tend to make me mad these days anyways. Although, sometimes I wish it did tie up ever so neatly like everyone else’s seems to do. But let me start from the beginning.
I grew up in a conservative evangelical household. One foot held in that world and the other waggled somewhere else where I was trying to figure things out for myself. Faith never came too easily for me – I’ve now realized this is often more to do with personality than much else. I never fully belonged in either world though and like most teenagers I didn’t really have the first clue of who I was, but what I did know? Who I should be. In essence, I should be perfect. Because clearly that is what gives you love in the one world I came from. There are hollow words of grace, but really what is wanted is a perfection no can actually muster up. And heaven help you if you don’t agree with the puritanical views pressed in these realms – especially if you’re a woman, which is not actually an okay thing to be here. (You are not lesser, just different.) But most pretend to be perfect and in agreeance with all the thinly veiled rules so they can scrape along behind their masks. I don’t blame them.
I went to a large research university and joined a sorority. Most days I wish I had never left. These women let me feel more myself than almost anyone I’ve ever met. Sometimes I wonder what turns I would have taken had I stayed there.
But then there was an accident. I got minor alcohol poisoning the night of my first formal and the embarrassment was enough to spiral me into a place where I was convinced I needed to uproot everything and change my whole life. I needed to become what I always should have been.
I transferred to a hyper conservative fundamentalist esque Christian college. I already knew the language and could blend as well as I wanted to for the most part. I bended and folded myself into every box they handed me. Submissive. Quiet. Conservative. Modest. Pure. Godly. I attempted every model and five step plan for prayer and the Bible they flashed across the screen in the daily required chapel. I learned all of the right doctrinal answers and I honestly wanted it all to work so damn bad. But it didn’t.
I could feel myself losing pieces of me as I tried to shed my own skin to put on what was demanded. The invisible rules wrapped around my throat until my lungs were dry. There was no life here only death to hide the hypocrisy.
And then one day in the middle of a clear July, I panicked. The walls felt too thin and air wasn’t reaching my lungs at all anymore. I knew I wasn’t like them and that even after coming this far I never could truly be like them. My mind stretched taut with the shame and fear, which had fueled my existence and became my undoing.
The next six months, maybe longer, I’m not sure because I threw out all the journals, passed in a dark storm of racing thoughts, living on the razor sharp edge of hyper anxiety, and then eventually the slow dive into the abyss, which is depression. Because if you aren’t one of them then what are you? Damned.
I slept to avoid my own mind. To avoid the thing they call Christianity. And it’s crazy, but I found people just like me telling this same story over this journey. The dark doubt that you can’t be it. The knowledge that you are not like the rest. The denied thought maybe you don’t want to be because after all… you know what they can inflict on those who aren’t like them. The shame and fear stitching all together.
And then I graduated. And my boyfriend of however long dumped me. I moved home anxious, depressed, exhausted. I wasn’t sure how long I could keep living like this.
I couldn’t read what they call the Word anymore without hearing all those men and Calvinistic, patriarchal, graceless voices impart their monstrous theologies. The words would make my heart thrum and thoughts race. God had been made into a monster and its awfully hard to love a monster, but you know you’re supposed to so you try anyways, and it leaves you emptier than before.
So I gave up. The reading. The going to church. All of it. And I’m glad. In the three, four years since I haven’t picked up those words or stepped into a service other than the occasional holiday to make my mom feel better. Now you’re probably thinking you never were a Christian, you clearly just got it all wrong, you’re a bitter hater of the church who just obviously did not hear the real gospel. Well, you’re wrong.
I am intrigued by and am always drawn to the radical structure flipping man who pushed us all past our comfort edges into a place where we have no idea what to do. I tell myself god is like this too. But that’s hard to remember. I’ve read more theology in the past few years than I ever did while getting a minor in it. I have moved into the progressive realm and hope to fight fiercely for the margins. The ones the church said to love, but always slammed their doors on before they could even toe the doorway. The people I have watched repeatedly get pushed to the edges by those who should be fighting the hardest for them. And I wish I could walk into a church without feeling my heart race and breathing drop shallowly. Yet still, I’ve had my eye on an Episcopalian church with the most beautiful red doors. I love that they honor all people, value the sacred, and allow rhythms to carry them through.
Three, four years. And I finally feel good, normal, like myself. I feel free more than I ever have. I know what it’s like to know the voice of my own intuition and to trust that my desires are good. I’m not done healing, but I am damn proud of how far I’ve come. How I’ve pushed and pulled until I could stand again even though I’ve fallen down over and over along the way.
I know my story is one of countless. And I’m grateful to the writers who over and over have bled on a page so that I may know I’m not alone in this battleground of deconstruction and healing. If anyone has read these words and nodded along then I hope and pray you have the strength to keep moving because it can get better friend, it really can.
If you asked me to tell you who my dearest, closest friends were, Meredith would be near the top of the list. I've known her for less than a year, but her sweet spirit, radiant joy and pure heart drew me to her and we have since become so close.
This girl is without a doubt one of the sweetest, most compassionate people I have ever met. Every time I see her, she asks me how I'm doing within seconds, with a look in her that shows me she truly cares about how my heart is and wants to hear all about my life and how the Lord is at work. Her eyes and whole face just light up when she's happy (which is pretty much always) and when she's worshipping and when she's talking about her Savior-- she emanates His light and love in a way that makes you just want to be close to her.
Back in the fall, Meredith and I spent hours talking on a picnic table outside of Lamplighter (one of my favorite Richmond coffeeshops), and I remember just loving getting to hear her story and see more of her heart. The way she talks about things makes it so evident that her faith and trust is wholeheartedly in the Lord, and even though it isn't always easy, it's so clear that she loves and adores her Creator and has put her life in His hands.
We watched (and talked for hours about) Parenthood together (RIP...), have adventured through the woods around RVA together, been part of the women's weekly gathering at church together, spent crazy amounts of time talking about our lives and Jesus and boys and art and creativity together, gone to art/poetry shows and brunch and sushi together, and so much more. This girl is just a gem. She loves SO well and is full of endless encouragement.
If you remember Anna from the very first Story Seeker, Meredith is her roommate. What a combo, right?! They're the best. They both have been the biggest encouragers of my heart and this crazy story-swapping idea I came up with last summer, and Meredith has reminded me how special this whole thing is through her excitement about it all.
I'm so excited to share Meredith's story with you.
I am Meredith. 23. Living in Richmond, VA. Went to William and Mary, which will always have a piece of my heart. Working as an Assistant Teacher at the Richmond Montessori School. I like to listen to music outside, craft, watch Gilmore Girls, and journal.
My story is simply to truly convey the fact that you are not alone. As I was sitting with what to write about after Rachel asked me, it was so difficult for me to narrow it down to one story, one theme. How should I approach it? And then, something awesome happened. God directed me to the exact verse to inspire this post. I think the reason behind Rachel reaching out when she did is so God could so poignantly instruct me that it was finally time to write out the story of how he helped me out of the darkness in my life. He was calling me to share with someone, anyone, the miracle he has given me. Of course I have shared this story with my friends and family, but I believe sometimes it’s those little moments with strangers, those random words you come across that move you to the core and make all the difference. So if I am a stranger to you, my only hope is that I could make one, just one person, feel not alone in their struggle (whatever that may be). And to share with you the ultimate healing that Jesus Christ has given my life. I made it out because of him.
The verse I so randomly yet perfectly turned the page to reads, “…God’s very own- all this so that you may show to others how God called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were less than nothing; now you are God’s very own. Once you knew very little of God’s kindness; now your very lives have been changed by it” (1 Peter: 2:9-10). So here is my effort to do just that…
“Trust in him alone.” For me, it got to the point where there was literally nothing left to do but to surrender to him as king and say ok there is no way I can figure this out alone. It hurt too much. My story is one of trust. One of slowing down, being comfortable with uncertainty, and surrendering every single thing to the Lord.
The summer after college was dark for me. I felt isolated without my community and just flat out confused about what to do next. Nothing really felt full or right. Also, I found out I had diagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Pretty soon I couldn’t distinguish from irrational horrifying fear and reality, which made day to day life so difficult. I was living and breathing fear in everything I did. I became so crippled by this disorder that I couldn’t see where the Lord was at all in my struggling. I was depressed and a shriveled-up version of myself that I couldn’t recognize. That’s when God stepped in.
Experiences and seasons of darkness often seem extremely foggy and distant from the Lord. However, what I truly needed to grasp was that even though we have veiled eyes in this pain, God does not. He sees everything as it really is, after all, he designed it to be that way. Through my story, I can honestly say that each one of our veils is never too thick for his mighty vision.
It sincerely blows my mind what lengths God will go to just to get even the tiniest amount of our attention. Isn’t it crazy that it takes such a grand gesture for him to get our attention when he has been calling us from the beginning? Looking back through everything, I can see that he never once let go of my hand and that he CHOSE me to go through this struggle with him. He loves me enough to give me the circumstance in which there was nothing left to do but simply surrender. He showed me a crossroad: either continue to coast through life in this empty fear, or choose to say I trust you and that be IT. The funny thing is I really did think I had been trusting the Lord this whole time; but he knew the truth. I think for me, he had to move me to my breaking point in order to be ready to receive and notice his work without blurred vision.
The fact that he wants to know us SO deeply and desperately wants to seek us out is something I will always stand in awe of. This is exactly what he did for me. He scooped me up, gave me a break, and forced me to restart everything, to rebuild all the pieces together in a new way. The beautiful thing about this is that the new way was all the more life-giving. I took a pause, a break, a career change. I woke up slow each morning and enjoyed the exquisite peace of uncertainty. I thought everything exploding would leave me feeling directionless, a failure, self conscious, and alone. Not at all. This uncertainty about the next step just gave me so, so much clarity on my life and what is important and not. He truly transformed me from the inside out, gave me a new perspective on life, grounded my identity in who he had created me to be, and filled my days with light instead of darkness. Then he planted my feet gently on the ground and told me to rest, trust, and let him plan the rest. I felt so at peace for the first time in so long, knowing that this confusion was in fact my path and right where I was meant to be in order to surrender. When you literally have no idea what your next step will be…sounds like a pretty good time to surrender your heart and your burdens to Jesus. I was finally free. Knowing that no detail of my day was a threat because he had already planned my day before I woke up.
I didn’t want to think that this season of darkness was put there for a reason, especially when I was in the depths of it. However, when I dug deeper behind that reason, I realized that this season was a gift in disguise.
He placed that season in my life so I could be witness to his miraculous ways and catch just a tiny glimpse of how much he truly loves us and fights for us when we cannot. The whole time, he never stops fighting. Even when it seems he has given up. I truly believe he has taught me all this to share with everyone, anyone, the healing that can come through Christ.
What have I learned from my story?
The peace that comes from uncertainty is so beautiful because it truly requires you to be yourself and start fresh. So please don’t ever think you are inadequate in an uncertain, tumultuous season.
He has taught me that nothing, nothing, nothing can separate us from his love because he lives within us and knows everything before it even happens. So as someone who is constantly living in fear of what might happen in 20 different scenarios, you can see the gravity of what this means to me.
It won’t be easy every day, but the foundation of trust makes it so much less scary.
If I can muster up JUST enough life in me to believe this, then I set myself up to fully tune my inner compass towards the one who will remove me from all my pain.
Each one of us is SO incredibly special to him, and he wants to bring each of us closer to him through our life experiences. No matter how the strife dresses itself: confusion, loss, depression, emptiness, it is there for us to overcome, not to hold us back from life. For me, this story was a necessary curveball in order to really face my need and lack of accepting his work in my life. He uses every single life situation to communicate his intentions. I know my life will be constantly turning, changing, evolving, growing, and I believe he resides in those moments most of all. However, I can now say with total confidence, when a turn or a shift in my life happens, I am excited for the work and growing Jesus will be doing within me.
He has amazing plans for how you will leave your mark on this world and how you will change lives, even when you’re feeling helpless.
So if you are out there in similar season of life, let me be your friend, your supporter. He has shown me such friendship through Christ in my struggle. He has shown me that there are people who WANT to care for you…who are waiting just to be there to care for you. Let yourself be. Let yourself take a break and SEE what promises can come from that, all the while knowing that he even had this break in mind for you. You are never truly alone.
You can find all past Story Seeker posts here. Interested in sharing your story? Let's talk!
I was a sophomore in high school and had only lived on the East Coast for a matter of months. The move from Arizona to Virginia had been an incredibly rocky one, and I was struggling to connect with my classmates who had all been friends since childhood and didn't need an intruder in their friend group. Luckily for me, another girl moved to town that year and we became fast friends. It was through her that I met Jordan, a boy who immediately caught my attention and intrigued me.
I remember meeting him for the first time at a pep rally, and him yelling after me in the chaos of the crowds of students flooding the hallways to leave when it ended. Somehow, we connected on social media and I gave him my number, and by the fall of our junior year, we were a couple. I can't think of a single memory from my junior or senior years of high school that didn't involve Jordan-- from trips to the river to picnics in our secret field to countless hours at the rink, we were always together.
If anyone around our high school or town said the word "hockey", I'm certain the first person to come to their minds would have been Jordan. He was intensely passionate about the sport, and that fire defined him. He spent hours on the ice most days, whether at our local rink at practices and games, or traveling around for tournaments. Everyone knew Jordan was the hockey guy.
I knew him as so much more, though. He was more than just an athlete, he was also an artist. He wrote lyrics to songs that were haunting-- layered with intricate and complex meanings I never quite understood, these incredible pieces of poetry that came from the deepest parts of him. He processed his life's experiences and his relationships through the words he penned and rarely showed to the world, and I always felt honored to receive them and get to peek into his soul through them. He loved his family deeply, followed hockey and current events religiously, thought about Boston and living there constantly.
We were similar in many ways-- stubborn, passionate, fiercely loyal, with big dreams and even bigger hearts. We both have pretty intense personalities, which led to more disagreements and arguments than either of us probably care to remember. We always came back together, though, the pull between us always winning over our own stubborn strong wills.
During the two years I spent with him, I never saw him seem more alive and free than when he was on the ice. It was the place he was most himself, the place where the rest of the world faded away and he could lose himself in the game. It was his first love, and he made it all look effortless. It was captivating to watch, and I, too, fell in love with the sport as I watched him play it. I'm a huge Capitals fan now because of him-- we stayed up late so many nights in high school watching games, analyzing plays, talking about the players and their stats, cheering like crazy when we scored or won a game.
I went off to college after our last high school summer, and he went off to play hockey. Our paths diverged as we chased our dreams, but we reconnected at a Starbucks in our home town a few years later. As I listened to him talk about where hockey had taken him and how it had changed him, I was amazed at his resilience and dedication to it all. We've stayed close friends over the years, and I've loved keeping up with all of the things he's doing in his new life in Boston.
I always knew he would be intertwined with hockey forever, in one way or another. He's given more to it than I've ever seen anyone give to a sport, and although it hasn't been an easy path, he has impressed me with his perseverance and endless passion.
Here's his story.
My name is Jordan and I am a 22 year old senior at Boston University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English. I play club hockey for BU and, over the course of the last year, have been working for Harpoon Brewery in Boston’s seaport district as a tour guide/bartender. Born in Hartford, Connecticut and raised in Richmond, Virginia, I adopted a fairly nomadic lifestyle shortly after I graduated high school in 2010. Since that time, I have had brief stints in northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, New York, Connecticut, and most recently the greater Boston area. On paper, my transience generally suggests that I am simply an indecisive person, while the reality is quite the opposite. Since age 8, I’ve been cursed with the insatiable passion for ice hockey, and I was resolute in immortalizing that love as I gradually carted my hockey bag up the east coast in search of more competitive opportunities.
We pick up in June of 2010 somewhere in the depths of a wealthy Maryland suburb. I am here with my stepfather, Shawn, and I have come to interview with the former Washington Capital and current sports broadcaster for the team, Craig Laughlin in order to earn a spot in his summer-long ice hockey development camp, NHDP. As he stares me down across an antique coffee table, all I can think about is how important this program will be for my growth as a player and how it’s my last real option in order to position myself for a college or professional hockey career. With high school graduation merely one week away, I know that come August, while all of my friends are shopping for comforters and MacBooks, I’ll be packing to go play junior hockey for an undetermined number of years in the hopes of acquiring an athletic scholarship to a competitive school.
Hardly anyone who knew me at the time even knew what junior hockey was, let alone what it could mean for a kid from Virginia. Plenty of folks scoffed when I told them I wasn’t planning on going straight to college and that this was my only chance to make a real run at this sort of thing. As far as they (and most of my teachers) were concerned, I was simply a good student who was throwing everything away in exchange for a temporary hobby. That didn’t matter.
Odds are, anyone who has ever played the sport before has fallen in love with it in the same way that I did, and they will all quote the same idol— The Great One, Wayne Gretzky—in saying: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” There was never a doubt in my mind that I was going to get a degree, but college is a constant option and competitive hockey is not.
The following fall, I signed a one-year contract with the Frederick Freeze, a fairly young junior team based in Maryland. I moved in with a host family for the year, and a week after training camp, I was named captain of the Freeze.
The season began in October and lasted through mid-March, and although the team saw limited success and barely missed the playoffs, we traveled all over the northeast gaining exposure to scouts and having plenty of fun along the way. I already had begun to see results from the summer development camp, having been nominated for the Empire Junior Hockey League All-Star Game and finishing the year leading the team in points.
It was the combination of those results, along with another summer of development at NHDP that landed me a fresh contract with the Bay State Breakers in Massachusetts. Having always had my heart set on Boston University and the city as a whole, signing with the Breakers seemed to be a perfect fit.
I spent the 2011-12 season living in a house with the rest of my out-of-state- teammates and enjoying every second of it. My ice time, however, took a dive after a number of difficult injuries that kept me away from the rink for a good chunk of the season. After losing in the first round of playoffs that year and not receiving any real offers from any of my desired schools, I was faced with one of the hardest decisions of my life: whether to do it all again for one last year or go straight to school and possibly stop playing.
I was eager to make up for lost time academically, but the thought of hanging up the skates was almost unbearable. So, I flew around the country to participate in various tryout tournaments and speak to coaches in the offseason, but I never quite felt comfortable with any of the options I had, so I took that to mean that maybe I had already reached my peak and there was not going to be an upgrade by fall 2012.
The discouragement made the decision for me. I attended Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut in the fall of 2012. It was tough to swallow the pill of all that dedication, money, and time failing to yield the success I envisioned. I was forced to ask myself: Aside from becoming a better player, what did all of this yield? I was now stuck in the rural countryside of Connecticut without any hockey in my life.
For the first time in school history, QU had a competitive Division 1 team; so competitive in fact, that they were the best team in college hockey all season long and ran all the way to the NCAA National Championship. Needless to say, dumb luck played a key role in preventing me from trying out and walking on to the team that year. On top of all that, the school did not offer a club-level hockey team as a substitute, so no competitive hockey was readily available for me, dampening my spirits even further.
And while I thought the discouragement was painful, the shame was even worse. For someone like me who prides himself on such passion and his dedication to it, self-accountability is paramount.
It became difficult to look in the mirror and avoid feeling as though I had betrayed everyone who had supported me throughout. Fostering this kind of guilt forces you to admit to failure. A guy can only take so much of that feeling before changes must be made. I began to understand why hockey players never seem to stray too far from the game after retirement. I had to get it back.
I applied for transfer to Boston University in order to get back to the area and the hockey I loved the most. When I finally received my acceptance letter, I had already been in contact with the coach of the club hockey program, who inspected my resume and encouraged me to tryout. I made the team a few months later and I felt more comfortable playing for the Terriers than I had in all of the 14 years of prior hockey.
The irony of that statement is that last season was arguably my least productive season on the scoreboard, and the team saw even less production in the standings. Were those factors frustrating? Absolutely. It is impossible for a competitive mind to accept anything less than perfection.
The reality of the situation, however, (and the reality I had managed to overlook as I struggled with my decisions) is that I never played the game simply to make the NHL. I play for the sound of skates hitting the ice. I play for the smooth, glistening, fresh-cut sheet. I play for the sweat, the soreness, the pain, and the pressure.
Sure, dreams were established and pursued, but for me, the means always justified the ends. If I hadn’t done what I did after high school, or after junior hockey, or after my first year of college, I never would have learned to read and react to the roadblocks I encountered in the same way I would an impending body check. I would have more regrets than I do now, even knowing full well that I will never make the NHL. I never would have learned that success is subjective and passion is impervious to goals, wins, trophies, or paychecks.
True passions—the ones that keep you up at night and burn in the darkest corners of your heart—they’re the ones that allow your dreams and aspirations to adapt to realities as they present themselves, and with that adaptation comes peace of mind.
Remember when you were a little kid and you saw a high schooler, or even a fifth grader? They seemed so cool, so sophisticated, so untouchable. And then when you became that extremely hip and knowledgeable 11-year-old, remember feeling like kindergartners were such babies?
I would love to look at my life now and think that I’ve really got it going on, that I have things figured out and I’m super secure about it, but in reality, I feel a lot like that little kindergarten kid surrounded in a crowd of people so much more grown up than me.
I’m just 21 years old. I graduated from college a year early, catapulting myself into the real world totally on my own, leaving all my friends back at school, just trying not to crash and burn when I finally landed. I felt like I was all of a sudden in the real world, like I was supposed to be that grown up, real adult, but I still felt like just a kid.
Continue reading over on iBelieve.com!
This post is in collaboration with the wonderful Erica Boden. A few months ago, I got a message through my site from Erica. She told me she had stumbled on my blog and that she loved it. Let me just tell you how absolutely heart-warming it is to hear that from a total stranger-- it absolutely made my day and encouraged my heart so much. Since then, Erica has written for Rethink and become someone I call a friend! I'm so excited to bring you this post written partly by her and partly by me.
After one year at college, how have you seen Jesus move?
How have I seen Jesus my freshman year? That’s kind of a long list. How have I not seen Jesus my freshman year? Well, that list would be nonexistent.
For starters, I see Jesus in the sky. No, not in the cliché sense of seeing and feeling The Lord physically watching over me, but I see His creation. Being from Cincinnati, it is truly not a myth what you hear about the Alabama skies—sometimes I swear to you Jesus just squeezed an entire bottle of blue food coloring out amongst the clouds.
I see Jesus in the way that my parents let me go to a college eight hours away. I see His grace in the fact that they would love to have me closer, but they trust and care about me enough to know that what’s best for me and my well-being may take precedence over proximity.
I felt God holding me during the first few weeks of confusion. He dried my tears and made me feel less alone, as I sobbed in a dorm room after watching my parents drive away. He made the days easy and the home sickness disperse. He was next to me as I stood there awkwardly when I learned I got 130 new sorority sisters; He reassured me that you do not miss out on the college experience by not going out every night. On the occasions when I did, however, He was supporting me as I turned down drink after drink, half-smiling and acting like I wasn’t drained.
He’s provided people in my life who love Him, challenge me, and inspire my heart. With every leap I took, He met me halfway; every stumble I encountered, He picked me up.
When I was sick and extremely stubborn, I saw Jesus in my friends and the way they forced me to go to the Student Health Center. I saw His truth in their words and the way they shoved me headfirst in their car as I was resisting; I saw His love in the sacrificial way they gave up their Saturday, gas, love and energy for me. Jesus was found in the car rides, late-night ice cream runs, and the “thanks-for-saving-me” moments. His reliance has been found in the way that friends have graciously allowed me to borrow their cars, and His selflessness in the way they spend hours curling my hair and about ten minutes on their own.
When I busted through the office doors crying, Jesus was in the words of my favorite Dean, reassuring me that no one would die if I got a B in a course, and that nothing is ever final until it’s finished.
When Jesus said “It is finished,” you guys, it is finished. Whether it’s my freshman or senior year, my first or last breath, it is finished. Jesus finished it all and that is the truth I rest in and have seen play out, my entire year. Glory to Him for a freshman year that was fulfilling and fantastic.
After one year out of college, how have you seen Jesus move?
When I left the university everyone calls the happiest place on earth a year ahead of schedule, leaving behind a ministry I had absolutely immersed myself in and countless rich and meaningful friendships I had deeply invested in, I wondered how Jesus would top that. I wondered how I would encounter Him more than I did at that school with those people.
I graduated, and I came back to a town I never liked, a town full of ghosts of old memories and broken relationships. I expected to find people I didn't like in the stores I frequented, I expected to get stuck without a job, I expected to never find true friendships. What I didn't expect, though, was to Jesus move like He did.
I've seen Jesus in the loving hands and care of my parents after a big knee surgery, showing me that I'm never alone. I've seen my flesh fail, but I've seen Him remain constant and unfailing.
I've seen Jesus open doors I had only ever dreamed about, and I've seen Him hold my hand and lead me through them. I've seen Jesus create opportunities for me that I was never even remotely qualified for, and I've seen Him work through my weaknesses and be my strength.
I've seen Him near me, felt His closeness, and rested in His intimacy as I moved into a new apartment and found how to be independent and rely fully on Him. I've seen Him move in my heart in the stillness and the aloneness. I've seen Him work to create beauty in things that feel a lot like ashes sometimes.
I've seen Him in the beauty of a town I had almost given up on. I've seen Him in the city skyline from the overlook. I've seen Him in the fiery sunsets after a day of clouds and rain. I've seen Him in the buds and blooms and new life sprouting all around me this spring.
I've seen Him in communities that are different from any I've ever known, but that are also rich with hearts that are seeking and asking and yearning for more. I've seen Him in not just the physical body of the church, but the selfless and authentic living and growing body of the Church. I've seen Him in the attention of those who are older and wiser than me, yet want to pour in to me and walk beside me as I grow.
I've seen Him in the Easter story like I've never seen Him before. I felt more wrecked by the way He sacrificed everything for me on Good Friday, I felt more desire for nearness in the waiting of that Saturday, and I felt more complete joy and total gladness on that glorious Easter Sunday than ever before. I've seen the Spirit make Scripture come to life and my Abba captivate my soul with His truth and love.
Glory to Him for giving undeserved grace and unending love.
We want to hear from you! Comment with how you've seen Jesus move in your own story; we would love to celebrate that with you.