Here are my 52 bucket list goals for 2016!
If you follow me on any form of social media, you've been inundated with pictures from my travels over the last two weeks...and I can't even really apologize for that! Every day, I struggled to choose just a few images to share-- there were SO MANY.
In just two weeks, my dad and I drove all the way across the country, from VA to CA and then all the way back. It was a whirlwind. It was awesome. I saw a LOT and I learned SO MUCH.
Here's what I learned on our great #RADnDadventure:
- Good road trip tunes make even the most boring desert drives more exciting and bearable. When you find a North Pole radio station playing only Christmas music when you're in 100+ degree weather, CRANK IT UP and jam. It's the best. Needtobreathe's live album and the Les Miserables soundtrack are also great choices.
- There is SO much open land in this country. It's refreshing to be reminded of that.
- Every big city has a street named Broadway.
- LOTS of road construction happens in the summertime.
- New Mexico has the prettiest wild sunflowers on the side of their highways.
- Nap whenever possible. Drink coffee whenever possible. Pee every time you stop.
- We live in such a vast, diverse, beautiful, wild country. Seeing so much of it in such a short amount of time blew my mind. I'm so grateful for the freedom to travel like that without any restrictions. I'm grateful for how easy it is to cross state lines. I'm grateful for kind, welcoming people almost everywhere we went. I'm thankful for the chance to see so much of this land the Lord has made.
- There are attractive, bearded, tattooed, hipster men in EVERY city. It's a beautiful thing. There is hope for me yet!
- Being in the car for so many hours will make you feel crazy. You will get delirious. You will desperately need alone time. Laugh it off. Find time to recharge, even if it's just a few minutes in a quiet room or an evening with no plans to just journal in the hotel room. You need it.
- You really can't ever go home again. (More on this later.)
- Moving so much and covering so much ground so quickly is both exciting and exhausting.
- Family is everything. Make time to see the people you love. Cherish it. These are the people who love you endlessly, support you relentlessly, and care about you deeply, and that makes them the very best of people.
- Live music is always a good idea. When you're in Nashville, find live country/folk/acoustic music. When you're in New Orleans, find live jazz music. When you're in Flagstaff, go to The State Bar and hope that a singer-songwriter is there playing his music for you to fall in love with.
- You can go so far when you just decide to do it. My dad said this one point during our trip, and it's so true. We just went for it, and it was awesome. It has made me want to just make plans and make trips happen way more in my life. Find some time, find some money, and just do it.
This was a once in a lifetime trip. It was awesome. I'll remember this adventure forever.
Last year, a group started online that brought the most incredible women into my life (so to speak). That group was full of the most fiery, passionate, talented, and brave people I've ever come across on the Internet, and quite a few of them quickly became good friends of mine.
This girl is one of them. From the start, she went out of her way to not only encourage and pour out love, but to intentionally get to know these ladies (myself included) and connect with them in ways that were genuine and meaningful. In a sea of compliments and Twitter parties, her words held power that was unmistakeable. She stood out because of how she loved-- humbly, graciously, endlessly, beautifully.
She is hilarious (the stories she tells on Facebook about her life will make you crack up, I'm not kidding), she is selfless (she was a nanny like I was to two little ones who she poured heart and soul into day in and day out), and she is gold (she just is). Her words on her blog have floored me time and time again.
Even though I've never met her or hugged her in real life (but let's be honest, we wouldn't hug because hugs are gross), I am so grateful to call this woman my friend. She has added so much goodness to my life.
I'm so honored to share Jordan's story with you.
Hello friends, I’m Jordan. I’m originally from Iowa but moved to Nashville, Tennessee on a God filled whim about three years ago and could not be more grateful for it. I’m almost 25, and absolutely love long talks around the kitchen table about things that really matter. I dream of being a writer and a speaker who isn’t afraid to dive into these hard places but brings armloads of laughter and encouragement in too. Some people might say I have an “unhealthy attachment” to comedic sitcoms, but I prefer to call it commitment. Let’s be real life friends and you can decide for yourself.
My dad is a really awesome guy. Every ounce of compassion, every heart-beat of service that reverberates in my bones is an echo of the sounds in his. I love my dad so much and I spent a long time wanting to be just like him. His stories of the sweet people he took care of, people with special needs, captivated me as much as they broke my heart. I never got to meet these people in the stories my dad would tell me. But I grew to love the sound of my dad’s voice when he talked about his people enough that the stories of their lives led me to pursue a degree that allowed me to follow in his footsteps.
But, I haven’t known where my dad was for most of my life. My parents divorced when I was in preschool, and after a few on and off years of my sister and I spending every other weekend with him at our old mobile home, they just stopped. I knew my dad had a drinking problem but I didn’t really understand how drinking something could take him away from me. I didn’t know how those many sips left him unable to keep a job, unable to keep a license, unable to see me and be my dad. I didn’t understand how he could spend all day taking care of these funny people he always talked about, but couldn’t come home and take care of me, too. I didn’t really know what all happened.
I would often ask questions about the man my father was. I would beg for stories from my tiny years that included him. I tried so hard to learn more about who he was and who he wasn’t. On the days he promised he would call and I would sit beside a silent phone, my mom would hold me close and whisper stories about how loving he was to us when we were babies. How happy they were on their wedding day. How sad he was that he couldn’t stop this drinking, and how much he wished he could be different. We would get a card or two every few years for Christmas and our birthdays. Every once in a while he would break the silence and call or surprise us at our school as we waited for the bells to bring us inside and start our day. On those occasions he never once forgot to tell me exactly how much he loved me and missed me and prayed that things would change. I never left those surprises feeling unloved, but as the sunny glow of the brief reunion faded, the emptiness that constantly hid right below the surface would always come back. As I grew to know that emptiness more than I did his presence, I began to give into that heartbreak and see things through a darker lens.
A couple years went by after the divorce and we were a family of four again. We lived in a blue house on the main street of a little Iowa town, and I walked to first grade every morning with my best friend who lived across the road. I loved to be over at her house because I didn’t always like to be at mine. The man who swooped in with a superhero’s cape, said he loved my mom and had promised to take care of us had revealed his true colors and left us trapped in his home. He told us repeatedly that our dad didn’t want us and left so he could take care of other people instead. He hurt us deeply and tied our minds up in knots so tight, we’re still trying to untangle them all.
After almost ten years we were able to escape that blue house and I entered my teenage years in a brick townhouse. It was our first true home for my mom, sister, and I. A home that held our rebirth of joy, freedom, and laughter. But still, it didn’t hold my dad. As I continued to shake off the years of pain, my mom would lovingly point out all the good things about my personality that were just like my dad’s, and even though I still loved him, I began to fear that I would end up just like him.
For the majority of my life, so many prayers have been said to a God who I could never quite call Father. So many times I would reach out to him with a sinking feeling that I would be left hung out to dry, asking questions that I just knew would always be answered with that painful silence that had taken residence in me. I would read so many promises that the Bible said God had for me, but all I could see through broken pieces of my heart was the son he had sacrificed on the cross. A son who cried out for mercy, was met with silence, and left to die. I believed in this God, and loved him in a way that showed humbled respect, but I was wary of his heart.
When I was twenty my heart began to soften towards my creator. I began to allow myself to explore who he is but only from a safe distance. I started feeling him whisper into my ear and tell me words of love. I allowed myself to slowly give more and more of my time to him, and begin to entertain the thoughts of him as a father. I started my blog, Trusting Adventure, as a way to write out and process how he’s working in my heart and to trust this adventure he has for me. I slowly moved away from the community I had grown up in and made my way to Nashville. About a year ago, as he continued proving his faithfulness to me over and over again, he brought me to a place to call home, free of cost, two weeks before my lease was up at my apartment and my bank account would hit zero. I moved into a domestic violence shelter and had a chance to speak the same words God had whispered into my ears to women and children with the same rips and tears on their hearts that I had on mine. I continued growing with him and fearing his abandonment less and less. He never stopped speaking into my heart.
He’s brought people into my life that challenge every aspect of him that I thought I knew. He brought me to The Belonging, Co. a church whose practice of their faith allows me to be adventurous and fall much deeper into my own. He brought friends in who love me and care for me like family and speak scriptures directly into my heart. He’s opened doors and walked with me through them and closed them after leading me out. He spoke through my people that twenty-four would be a major turning point in my life and he’s sealing a season of hurting, a season he never intended for me but used and flipped around completely for my good, on my twenty-fifth birthday.
I still struggle to really, truly call God my father. I’ve held a lot of disappointment towards him and have held so much of my heart back from him. Recently the Holy Spirit moved in me to forgive my dad. To release him from the blame of the years in that blue house. To honor the living God who is working in him and love him for everything he is instead of hold what he wasn’t in my hands. I’m so lucky to take after an earthly father who is a beautiful picture of selflessly loving compassion, I couldn’t be more thankful for the ways my heart mirrors his. But I’m even more blessed to have a father in heaven who so sweetly shows me the joy he carries for my dad and has never once abandoned me or left me alone. Day in and day out, when I call out for him, he answers. When I choose to trust in who he says he is, he blows my mind with his love. When I need his guidance, he lavishes me with wisdom. And all those times when I remember how my father fell short and the pain I still hold from him, when I run away from the truth of who my creator is, he sends his son. The son that for so long I believed was abandoned on the cross. Jesus comes and helps chip away at the hardness surrounding my heart and reveals it’s true, tender nature, speaking life back into it. He reminds me of how his father wept with the agony of what he had to do, and how his very love brought life back to his son’s body, all so I could breathe that same life someday too. And then, even when I’m basking in the power of his love he does more. He fills me with his Holy Spirit so I’ll never again have to feel that empty, aching, pain of being fatherless again.
"I love you" never means the same thing twice. So this is me, saying "I love you" in the form of little letters to the ones that hold slivers of my heart, in all the different ways those three little words take form.
Dear You, all four of you, our family has come out of your love. On both sides, you anchor us all, my parents, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins. That you once lived next door to each other on Flint Tavern Place is one of my favorite stories to tell. That my parents met because you four were first friendly neighbors is such a sweet story. That all four of you are alive and well and making your seventies look younger than ever is such a blessing. That all four of you never cease to remind me I am loved is such a gift. I'm so grateful for you. I'm grateful for every memory throughout all the years of my life made better by your love for our family.
Dear You, I can picture all of your faces now. I can just vaguely remember what it felt like to hug you, to hold your hand, to call you mine. I said I love you, and I know that I meant it, but I know that it was different than what I know love to be now. But I'm thankful for you, for all of you. For the months I spent by your side over the years, for the things you opened my eyes to, for the ways you helped my understanding of love to grow. I'll always be fond of all of you. Little parts of my heart will always be yours.
Dear You, for three years (and ever since), you have been an anchor for me. You loved me at my messiest, held me accountable, drew me back to Jesus time and time again, and made my life brighter and more full with your boundless joy and endless wisdom. You once told me I was a mirror, and I've never forgotten those words. You speak so much truth into my life and I'm so deeply thankful for your friendship and how it changes me.
Dear You, I'm proud of you. I don't say that enough. Ever since I can remember, you've been right there next to me, making everyone laugh with your antics, stealing the spotlight (and also my candy), making life infinitely more fun, and reminding me to just live a little. You'll always be little to me, even though you've shot up to be so much taller than me. You're smart, you're hilarious, you're talented, you're loyal, you're full of fun facts, and you make our family better in every way. I'm so, so proud you're part of us.
Dear You, you three make working feel so much more like fun. That I haven't ever met two of you face-to-face seems hilarious considering how close we all are. It's been a joy to be part of this team from the very beginning, even when it was hard too. You all are so talented and driven, and the work you do really is changing the world little by little. I'm proud to call you friends and co-workers and brothers in Christ.
Dear You, where would I be without You? Who would I be? I don't even want to think about that, don't ever want to go there. You saved me and You keep saving me. You loved me and You keep loving me. You redeemed me and You keep redeeming me. You gave me life and transform what it looks like day by day, breath by breath. My little heart full of love for You will never be enough, but I want to pour it all out at Your feet every day in every way anyway. Every bone in my body and every beat of my heart sing out "I love You, I love You, I love You."
Thankful: feeling or expressing gratitude; appreciative.
I'm thankful for freedom. For the kind that comes from living in a country where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are protected and defended daily. For the kind that comes from being washed in the blood of a sinless Savior who died to release my chains and draw me close to His side forever. For the kind that lets me worship, lets me write and speak and publish, lets me love, lets me live as I do.
I'm thankful for grace. For the undeserved gift of extravagant, amazing grace that washes over me and floods me and changes everything about me.
I'm thankful for family. For all the people that have known me from my first breath and support me unconditionally. For the memories, the traits and the traditions we all share. For the times we can all be close even though we all live far.
I'm thankful for community. For a church that is vibrant, alive, welcoming, growing. For my small group and how we've grown as believers, people and friends over the past year. For my circle of friends who laugh with me, eat with me, adventure with me, do life with me. For the Rethink guys and The Rising team and all of their persistence and dedication to changing the world through their words and their art. For the #fireworkpeople who light up every day with beautiful encouragement and passion and fire.
I'm thankful for change. For a different life and different goals and different dreams today than I had last year, because that means I'm growing. For new circumstances and new challenges, because they mean that life is moving onward and I'm not stuck.
I'm thankful for technology. For being able to make friends all over the world through Facebook and Twitter and blogs. For a platform I can use to share my heart through my writing with anyone.
I'm thankful for creativity. For museums full of art from centuries past to remind us where we came from, what we saw, what we found beautiful and meaningful. For websites full of words that challenge and inspire and connect us. For crafts and for dance and for murals and for music.
I'm thankful for joy. For giggles from children discovering new things in this world. For laughter shared with friends that brings tears to our eyes and aches to our stomachs. For a deeply rooted freedom that bubbles over in trusting faith and lasting happiness and unwavering belief.
I'm thankful for forgiveness. for redemption. for healing.
I'm thankful for unity. for shared meals. for solitude.
I'm thankful for the unexpected. for provision. for protection.
I'm thankful for Jesus. for the resurrection. for salvation.
I'm thankful for life.
I'm thankful for love.
In the spirit of Throwback Thursday, here are some snapshots of my summer adventure to California. I spent a week back on the West Coast (aka the best coast) at the end of August for The Yellow Conference and after spending a few days in LA, I got to visit my great-aunt and uncle in Ventura. I have always absolutely loved their incredible house overlooking the valleys with views out to the water...it's heavenly. I could spend forever there, I'm pretty sure.
Last week, I shared a story from one of my favorite couples about their first year of marriage. Today, you'll hear from another one of my favorite couples about their fifty years of marriage.
The couple sharing their story today have impacted my life from the very beginning in incredible ways. They have raised a family I am so proud to be a part of and left a legacy of love that I aspire to have myself someday. They are my grandparents and I'm so blessed to have them in my life.
Even though I grew up in Arizona, far away from Northern Virginia where my grandparents live, so many childhood memories include them. We saw them at least about once a year, and they always made me feel so loved, cherished and special. I remember sitting with my grandma on the couch in their living room and the sound of her voice as she read to me, I remember how all of the play kitchen toys smelled like cinnamon and allspice because she gave me empty spice containers. My grandpa always has his pockets full of peppermints to pass down the aisle to every one of us at church, he always shakes everyone's hand and introduces us proudly to his friends-- he knows and loves everyone. He always greets us with our first and middle names in his booming voice and always asks for a hug or a kiss, and won't let you get through the front door without one.
I remember picking blackberries near their house as a kid with their miniature schnauzer tagging along, exploring the creek in their backyard and catching crawfish, playing rowdy games of pounce around the kitchen table when everyone's in town, watching slideshows of all their old pictures and laughing at the hilarious haircuts and fashions throughout the years, driving my grandma's new convertible when I was 16 and so jealous she had a cooler car than the minivan I got to use, countless cookouts on their deck with the best food, Christmases with a live tree and more presents than we ever asked for and Grandpa's seemingly bottomless Santa sack of extra gifts for everyone.
They took me on one of the best trips of my life after I graduated high school-- 8 days in France that I'll never forget. They helped me buy my first car, they gave me a generous gift of spending money during my summer in London, they gave me old couches when I got my first apartment on my own...they are the greatest gift givers I know, and I'm so deeply thankful for their generous and selfless hearts.
My grandparents make everyone they meet feel loved. Whether through sending Christmas cards to friends they haven't seen in years or cooking feasts for the ones in their home or giving gifts or finding quality time to spend with each of us, I know we all know without a shadow of a doubt how deeply they love and care for us all, near or far.
Every time our family gets together (which thankfully is so much more often now that we live within two hours of them), I love hearing the stories of my grandpa's years in the Air Force and how my mom and my two uncles grew up living in different places around the world. I love hearing about my grandma's childhood on a farm in Ohio and how she and her twin dated the man the other is now married to.
My grandparents are uniquely different as individuals, but together, they are a strong and loving couple and they just recently celebrated fifty years of marriage. We celebrated with a huge party with all of our extended family flying in to town and all of my grandparents' friends gathering to mingle and dance and laugh for hours together. Seeing that ballroom full of people that know and love my grandparents made my heart swell-- they have made lasting impacts on the lives of people young and old all around the world in their lives and through their relationship, and it was such a beautiful thing to see.
Just recently, they went on an RV road trip for two weeks to relive the honeymoon road trip they took 50 years ago, and wrote this story while they were adventuring around New England. How cool is that?!
Their marriage is one I look to and admire, one I hope my future marriage might come close to matching. I love them both so much and am forever thankful to be a part of the wonderful family they've raised.
Here is Kay and Ken's story of their marriage.
In the beginning of our marriage we were just getting used to sharing space with someone else and learning what it was like to accommodate to another's needs and wants. Suddenly you become a twosome and not an individual any more.
Even though I am a twin and grew up sharing home, family, friends and everything else with someone, being married was different. With my twin I felt completely comfortable, like she knew me inside and out, like I knew her. We had always been together, even in the womb, but living with a man that I had only known for a year or so and had limited time with was so different.
We grew up with different patterns of living, different interactions with family members and had different life experiences and tastes. Now, as newlyweds, we needed to learn to adapt our individual lives to someone else. We had to learn how to compromise, give a little, not always do things our way. We had to learn how to appreciate where the other person was coming from, We realized our tastes in decorating our home, the foods we liked to eat, the way we wanted to raise our children and the things we think are important were different from each other. We had to get to know and get along with each other’s group of friends. We also had to make new friends together that we both could enjoy. We became each other's best friend.
Being newlyweds we had to learn patience with each other, how to know when the other person needed more attention, love, and understanding. We had to learn how to share our living space and tolerate differences in what TV shows to watch, what movie to see, what to do in our spare time.
But now, after fifty years, we have adapted totally to each other. We can tell what the other one is thinking, and we sometimes are thinking the exact same thing at the same time because something triggered a similar reaction or thought. We know how to be patient with each other, to know when to give the other one their space, to accomodate to each other in so many ways that we don’t even realize we are accommodating.
We have learned to like similar things and to accept that we won’t be doing certain things we may have done ourselves because we know that it is something the other one wouldn’t enjoy. We do this because we want to please the other person. If we didn’t learn to compromise, adapt, have patience, and most of all love the other person the way they are and not try to change them, our marriage would have fallen apart.
Marriage is a two-way street, both partners need to do these things and find out through trial and error what works for them and their marriage.
In the beginning, passion is strong and it takes little to spark the fire. After fifty years together, the passion has died down a little but the spark is still there and can be rekindled at any time. Each marriage is unique in itself and will require different adjustments to make it work.
There are always ups and downs, good times and bad, in all marriages. But we have learned what works for us and we are happy, fulfilled, still in love and have celebrated 50 wonderful years together.
When we got married we promised to love each other in sickness and in health, for better or worse until death us do part. That is a promise we both took seriously and have kept and will continue to keep.
Happy official birthday! I'm a big letter writer, so since we're friends, I thought I'd write you a little birthday note.
I love so much about you, America. I love that you came to life because men fought for freedom and for the things they believed in so much that they did radical things and made crazy moves. I love that you're still alive because men and women are constantly fighting for freedom and the things they believe in. I'll never fully be able to comprehend all of the sacrifices that have been made to keep me safe and free, but I'm deeply grateful for the people who have made and will continue to make them.
I love your beauty. I love the way massive clouds of dust roll over the desert city I grew up in, I love the way saguaro cacti were scattered around every rocky mountain, how mountains surrounded my world on every side and the heat of the day turned into the most vibrant and fiery of sunsets every night. I love the lush greenery of the east coast, the majestic waterfalls of Yosemite, the rolling fields and forests of Yellowstone, the scathing heat of the stark and barren Death Valley, the immensity and peacefulness of the oceans that surround you on two of your edges. I love that I can drive just a few hours and be in a whole new scene that feels nothing like the last. I love your bustling cities, each with such an enchanting personality, all with little pockets representing the countries our ancestors came here from. I love your small towns, your untouched stretches of land, your historic old town main streets and even the suburbs where families are growing up together.
I love that every one of your fifty states is uniquely different in character and I can't wait to explore every one of them. I love that the sounds of the voices around this nation are as diverse as the colors of our skin, that even the ways we speak a common language are different depending on where you are.
I love that everywhere I go, I meet new kinds of people. I don't see a melting pot where everyone is blurring and blending in to one kind, I see a mosaic where all types and kinds and colors come together to unite as the American people.
I love that you are a nation under God. Even when battles rage on and controversies divide us and politics seem to stir up debates daily, I see God at work in this nation. I see God moving, stirring, rising up a generation of passionate believers and kingdom-builders.
I love that you stand for independence, for freedom, for strong beliefs and work ethics, for big dreams and equality. I don't always agree with the decisions made to rule over your people, and I don't always think people in power make the right calls, but I'm grateful to live in a country where I can share my voice and my disagreement and choose to live and worship as I please without fear of death or persecution.
I'm thankful for the life you've given me, America. The times I've spent in other countries have opened my eyes to the very best things about you and also the things I wish we could improve, but I know I'm glad to call you home.
You're full of good people, America. You have a lot of people who live and die for you, and I like that about you. I've spent time in countries where patriotism and pride were hard to find, and even if it's not my style, I love that people are crazy about you. Your people are a rowdy bunch, but they make this place great.
I hope this next year of your life is a wonderful one. I pray that the Lord would wake up eyes and move in hearts and spirits and that the body of Christ would come alive in undeniable ways across this country in the coming months. I pray that your leaders seek You above all fame and power and success. I pray that we work to protect the beauty of your land so it lasts for future generations. I pray that we give glory for the best things about you to the One who made them all. I pray that we would truly be a nation united under God, a nation seeking peace and love and freedom, a nation of all different people living together in harmony despite the things we disagree on.
Today is a day to celebrate freedom, and I'm reminded today that it is for freedom that Christ set us free. We are free in Him, we are free in the USA, and that's something to celebrate.
Happy birthday to the land of the free and the home of the brave. Happy birthday to the United States of America, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. May that be true every day.
Love, one proud American
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!
I recently graduated from JMU. (Yes, a year early. No, I don't know what I'm doing with my life yet.) It was such a bittersweet celebration of my time at such an incredible university, of the past three years and all the memories and moments that made them so special, of friends and family, of reminiscing on the past and looking excitedly and expectantly forward to the future.
My grandparents came to my graduation since they live only a few hours away, and at lunch after the ceremony, they handed me an envelope. I opened it, found a sweet card, and then a folded up piece of paper inside. I opened it, and my grandpa instructed me to read it aloud.
I began reading a funny poem in the form of a dialogue between my grandpa and my grandma. As I read, I realized what the poem was for. Here's the background story.
Last summer, I studied abroad in London. I had been saving up, but my grandparents graciously offered to pay for my plane ticket so I could use the money I had saved while I was in London. My grandpa also surprised me (the famous gift-giver that he is) with a credit card with $1,000 on it for me to spend while I was there. And yes, I spent almost all of it. The plan was always for me to pay back the plane ticket, and to pay half of the credit card back while the other half was a gift. So, all in all, I owed them about $1,800. For a broke college kid, this wasn't fun or easy to pay back, but over the past year, I had started to make a dent in it.
Back to the poem. The closing lines (in rhyme, of course) told me that my debt was erased. And not only that, but that they would give me back the money I had already paid them toward it.
As you might imagine, I was floored and humbled and speechless and in awe. This huge weight that had been on my mind for almost a year, nagging at me and looming over me, was all of a sudden gone. I had no more debt to pay.
The whole rest of the day, all I could think about was grace. What a perfect picture of grace this gift was. I had been working so hard to pay them back, trying to save (and failing), taking extra shifts at work when I could, trying to budget and be smart about how I was spending my money. I was working so, so hard to pay it back and make the debt go away, but I wasn't even coming close. And then, in an act of such selfless and undeserved love, it was erased. I know it wasn't easy of them to do it-- $1,800 isn't pocket change. There was a cost to the gift, but they gave it because they loved me and they knew I couldn't work hard enough or long enough to pay it back. And not only did they erase the debt, but they took it a step further, returning what I had already paid back to me. They gave me more than I deserved, more than was necessary, more than I could have imagined. They knew I didn't have much money saved up, and they gave me a way to make that happen, too.
I'm still so humbled by their generosity and graciousness. I'm humbled by the picture that this gift was to me of the abundant grace and love my Savior poured out for me on the cross. I'm humbled by how undeserving I was, but how selfless their love for me was, how perfect and how merciful. I'm humbled by how my Savior not only died for me to pay for the debt I owed in my sin and my shame, but how He took it one step further to bring me into eternal life with him, what He knew I needed but would never have been able to make happen on my own. I'm humbled. I'm thankful. I'm overwhelmed and full of gratitude.
I'm in awe of my God of all grace (1 Peter 5:10), and forever thankful for my grandparents and this gift so full of grace.