life

To Own the Skin You're In

what a challenge it is

to own the skin we're in

to stand up tall, shoulders back, head held high

to say, this is me, this is the space I claim

to not shrink back, to not shy away

but to rise up, unapologetically

what a challenge it is 

to own the skin we're in

we bow out,

we pull back,

we say

sorry

sorry

sorry

in shame,

in fear,

in insecurity

what a challenge it is

to own the skin we're in

but you

are beautiful

radiant

rare and unique and irreplaceable and outstanding

you

are skin and bones knitted in your very own way

light and life and fire

what a challenge it is

to own the skin we're in

but it's our home

our only one

let's fling open the windows

and let the air in

let's swing the door wide

and let the love in

let's shake the dust off

and own this home

these hearts

these bones

because

we are art

living

breathing

shining

free.

i am here. 

this is me.

Life Lately: June 19

Making // plans for a two-week cross-country road trip with Dad for August, and I am SO EXCITED. One of my goals for this year was to visit two new states, and this trip will cross five off of my list!

Cooking // tacos. All the tacos. All the time. 

Drinking // French press coffee (the best coffee)

Reading // Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin and All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (my #collaboreads pick!)

Playing // the app WordBrain -- it's addicting and so fun (and frustrating!)

Enjoying // all the goodies from my third Causebox from Sevenly-- so many fun things this time!

Liking // bullet journaling! Thanks to posts from Amber and Kristin, I've offially ditched my planner and my million random to-do lists and streamlined everything into one bullet journal that I LOVE.

Wondering // which of the apartments I'm checking out with a friend today will be the favorite...

Loving // this "Acoustic Concentration" playlist on Spotify! It's a nice mix-up from my usual "Stress Relief" playlist, but just as good for background noise when I need to get work done.

Pondering // all the incredible conversations I've had in the last week with friends and family, and trying to get everything written down before I forget. So much verbal processing happened and that's not my norm, but it opened my eyes and heart to SO MANY NEW THINGS and I'm so grateful.

Watching // Friday Night Lights on Netflix all over again from the beginning. Because Texas Forever. Clear eyes, full heart, can't lose.

Hoping // this Sunday's Color Me Mad 5K is as fun as they seem to be! Let's hope my knee holds out okay and I make it through the finish line without having to crawl!

Marveling // at the simple beauty of hydrangeas (thanks, TJ!)

Needing // to get back into my morning yoga routine...my muscles hurt and it's not going to be pretty.

Smelling // a sweet honeysuckle candle burning... smells like summer and I love it.

Wearing // lots and lots and lots of neutrals. and lots of Madewell.

Noticing // keeping healthy snacks on my desk means I'll be more mindful in my snacking. Almonds and apples are my current go-to choices!

Thinking // a lot about what family looks like and how we do family well... this post from Ann Voskamp is one I know I'll keep reading over and over.

Admiring // the newest Darling Magazine... beautiful.

Sorting // through my closet, getting rid of things that aren't my style any more or that don't fit or that I don't love...because I'm learning that I'm an over-buyer and I want to try to simplify even though it isn't my nature.

Buying // a curling wand! When we were in Texas, we took new head shots, and a new friend kindly took pity on my mess of hair and curled it...I was sold instantly. So quick! So beautiful!

Getting // TONS AND TONS of bug bites already this summer...so I finally bought essential oils that are good for repelling those little guys so I can hopefully not get eaten alive anymore!

Bookmarking // each of my devotionals every day reminds me how quickly and simultaneously slowly the year goes by. (I read Jesus Calling, My Utmost for His Highest, and Savor every morning.)

Disliking // humidity. Go away.

Opening // a new journal is like opening a door to a whole new world. That first crack of the spine, the sweet smell of new paper, the blank space just waiting to be filled...it's an experience and I love it.

Feeling // heartbroken by the Charleston shooting and devastated by the loss of nine beautiful lives. It's easier to try to tune out the news and avoid reading the articles about the tragic current events in the world around me, but this time, I didn't let myself do that. I read the articles. I watched the news. I read the tweets and the posts and the commentaries. I wept. Really and truly, I cried like I haven't cried in a long time, praying out loud to a God I know is weeping too at such a loss. May I love like Jesus-- regardless of any color, any sin, any lifestyle, any culture, or any difference at al. May I be aware of and broken by injustice, by violence, by cruelty, by racism, by prejudice, by slavery, by all that is wrong in our world. May I never stay silent when the Lord is calling me to speak, may I never turn away and pretend I don't see, may I never feign ignorance. May Your kingdom come. May Your peace comfort. May Your love heal. May Your people be Your hands and feet. May Your light shine in darkness.

Thankful: Feeling or Expressing Gratitude

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.

I'm thankful.D

What You See When You Look Up

This past weekend, I adventured to Charlottesville for the day. I have the sweetest best friend in the world who wouldn't let me feel sad about a less exciting and more adult birthday, so she drove from Harrisonburg to meet me and make my day fun. Crystal, here's your shoutout-- you are such a gem! 

We walked, we talked, we shopped, we wandered aimlessly around a crowded farmers market. We wandered up a side street where a man was playing the harmonica, hoping for change from people passing by like we were.

I glanced his way for a second, but carried on in our conversation as we kept going. As we were walking away, a toddler walked right up to this man and just stared at him in wonder. We stopped talking as we watched him, and we stopped to see how things would play out.

This little boy was mesmerized. Crystal and I stopped to watch, smiling and laughing as we watched this little boy and his huge curiosity. We could see this adorable little guy had special needs, but hey, any man sitting on a bucket at toddler eye level playing music into a mic is worth stopping for, am I right?

This man has been there before, I've seen him there on random weekend trips.  That might be his spot. I'm sure he has gotten every kind of response in the book from passersby, every jeer, every taunt, every judging glance, maybe a few coins, probably mostly quickened steps as people rush by. His skin was worn and reddened by what I can only guess was hours and hours spent in the sun, sitting on that bucket, playing familiar tunes and hoping to go home with a little more money than he came with. 

Whatever that man's story, whatever his past, whatever his present, it didn't matter to that little boy. He got right up close and just looked at him. He didn't make a sound, he didn't laugh or cry or speak, he just looked. So curious, so full of wonder.

Nobody tried to pull the kid away and try to tell him he was invading rules about personal space. Nobody tried to distract him away from the man. We just watched this boy as he watched that man. 

He moved a few steps around the side of the man, stopped there for a second to watch, then moved a few more steps so he was standing directly behind the man. Long, thick dreads hung down his back, and the boy just stared at them for a moment before he took more steps again, staring intently all the while.

The boy moved on soon after, off to spin a pinwheel in the wind and see the toys behind the store window. 

Crystal and I just laughed together as he wandered off. Those few moments seemed special, sweet, sincere. The boy didn't care what that man was thinking or feeling about what he was there on that street doing, he just wanted to get right up close and personal and watch him do what he was doing. The boy didn't know his story, didn't have judgment to pass, didn't probably even really think about what he was doing, he just wanted to go see.

I wonder how the man felt, with this child right up in his face, just staring at him. Did he feel uncomfortable? Did he feel noticed? I think if it were me, I would feel a mix of both-- uneasy that someone was getting so intimately near me, but also pleased to know someone was eager to do so.

I want to have curiosity like that sweet, small boy. I want to be full of wonder like that. I want to get right up close to things that intrigue me, and I want to just absorb them fully and explore every angle. I want to live with a confidence and a fearlessness that doesn't take all the opinions of those around me into consideration before I make a move. I want to engage with people that most of the world just hurries past. I want to stop and appreciate simplicity, beauty, art, humanity.

I'm thankful for those few short minutes, for that sweet little boy, for encountering an interaction that has lingered with me and even challenged me.


There's a viral video going around called "Look Up" -- it's a powerful story of our society and our obsession with and absorption in our phones and technology.

Seeing this video right after this weekend wasn't coincidental, it was purposeful. I've been so clearly and beautifully reminded in the past few days that real, full, true life doesn't happen behind a screen. It happens in the moments all around us, and I want to put my phone in my pocket and dive on in. 

Look up. Look around. Look in people's eyes. Look at creation. Look, and you will see. 

Favorites From This Week

Happy Friday! 

It is a beautiful day in Richmond and there's a magic in the air that comes with spring around here. Sunshine, warm weather, flowers blooming...YES. This past week has been a good one. I don't have words on my heart to write today, and I'm giving myself a little extra grace and saying that's okay. Instead, I just have pictures of things that brought me joy this week.

This is where I spend my days. I'm so thankful for a job I absolutely love, for the incredible staff of truly unwavering champions for children and families that I get to team up with, and for the constant blessing of using my talents and abilities to help change lives and make a difference in the world. I'm blown away every day but what goes on here and around the state in our offices. Check out more at  www.umfs.org 

This is where I spend my days. I'm so thankful for a job I absolutely love, for the incredible staff of truly unwavering champions for children and families that I get to team up with, and for the constant blessing of using my talents and abilities to help change lives and make a difference in the world. I'm blown away every day but what goes on here and around the state in our offices. Check out more at www.umfs.org 

 
Look at that adorable baby chick and tell me you wouldn't have fallen in love too. I'm vegan and don't eat anything animal related, but I'm seriously obsessed with the idea of raising chicks and selling their eggs. I met baby goats the day after this picture and fell in love with them too, and a future of living on a farm flashed before my eyes and freaked me out but was also really intriguing...stay tuned to see what happens there.

Look at that adorable baby chick and tell me you wouldn't have fallen in love too. I'm vegan and don't eat anything animal related, but I'm seriously obsessed with the idea of raising chicks and selling their eggs. I met baby goats the day after this picture and fell in love with them too, and a future of living on a farm flashed before my eyes and freaked me out but was also really intriguing...stay tuned to see what happens there.

 

 
  This book  is awesome. It's written by two people I love and respect a TON, and not just because of the incredible, humble ways they lead HOPE Church. They are ridiculously real about faith and life with Jesus, and even as someone who has been a Christian as long as I can remember, this book really encouraged me and opened my eyes to new things about my faith. Order one on Amazon, it's only like $8 and I promise you will love it! A blog telling more about what I loved about Start Here is coming soon!

 This book is awesome. It's written by two people I love and respect a TON, and not just because of the incredible, humble ways they lead HOPE Church. They are ridiculously real about faith and life with Jesus, and even as someone who has been a Christian as long as I can remember, this book really encouraged me and opened my eyes to new things about my faith. Order one on Amazon, it's only like $8 and I promise you will love it! A blog telling more about what I loved about Start Here is coming soon!

 
I first enjoyed the glorious place that is Urban farmhouse when my beautiful and wonderful friend Vianne visited RVA for a day. The awesome atmosphere and delicious local food was made even better by the fact that a really talented musician was playing that night. As soon as he played a Ben Howard cover, I was sold, and I made sure I went back to hear him play agin the next week. Great background music for blog writing! Check  Sean Bendula out here!

I first enjoyed the glorious place that is Urban farmhouse when my beautiful and wonderful friend Vianne visited RVA for a day. The awesome atmosphere and delicious local food was made even better by the fact that a really talented musician was playing that night. As soon as he played a Ben Howard cover, I was sold, and I made sure I went back to hear him play agin the next week. Great background music for blog writing! Check Sean Bendula out here!

 
My goodness. Yes, I'm obsessed with sunsets and if you get sick of seeing them on Instagram, you probably shouldn't follow me. That's a friendly warning, because I post pictures of them OFTEN. I just love seeing the glory of my God on display like this. What a remarkable Artist. 

My goodness. Yes, I'm obsessed with sunsets and if you get sick of seeing them on Instagram, you probably shouldn't follow me. That's a friendly warning, because I post pictures of them OFTEN. I just love seeing the glory of my God on display like this. What a remarkable Artist. 

 
This Carytown bookstore, Chop Suey, is a great place to get lost, surrounded by countless old and new books just begging to be read and explored. A vegan cookbook that had been someone else's now is mine, along with a beautiful Flannery O'Connor book. Happy, happy girl.

This Carytown bookstore, Chop Suey, is a great place to get lost, surrounded by countless old and new books just begging to be read and explored. A vegan cookbook that had been someone else's now is mine, along with a beautiful Flannery O'Connor book. Happy, happy girl.

Go on an adventure this weekend. Go somewhere new and find wonder in the world around you. Happy weekend, friends! 


    

If you have no idea what this whole “Friday Freewrite” deal is, read this post. And then come back here, and read on. If you want, you can even join in on your own blog, too. Happy Friday! 

Faith Like This

Jesus is out and about preaching. He finishes teaching and returns to Capernaum. At the same time, the highly valued slave of a Roman officer was sick and near death. One interpretation says "he prized him highly and didn't want to lose him." The officer heard about Jesus. His friends went to beg Jesus to help the dying man, saying "If anyone deserves your help, he does." The story picks up from here in Luke 7:6.

So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, "Lord, don't trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. ... When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, "I tell you, I haven't seen faith like this in all Israel!" And when the officer's friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed.

This story is good. 

You have a man who wasn't really the typical Jesus-follower type of guy. He explained who he was as a man who was under orders and also gave orders, telling his soldiers to go and they went, and come and they came. He lived by orders, by law, by commands.

This man has someone in his life that he cares about deeply and doesn't want to lose to this illness that has him wrecked. He's desperate for healing, for restoration. Not even for himself, which really makes the story that much cooler. He loves this slave so much that he wants him healed and saved and brought back to life.

And then, he hears Jesus is back in town. I don't know what this officer's feelings toward Jesus were, I don't know if they had ever even met before or been near each other. But this officer knows Jesus has power and he sends his high up Jewish leader buddies to try to get Jesus to come save his slave.

Jesus, like the compassionate and loving Redeemer he is, of course goes with the friends to heal this man. Here's where the story gets awesome. While he was still quite far from the house, the officer tells Jesus something.

Here's how it's told in the Message: 

"Master, you don't have to go to all this trouble. I'm not that good a person, you know. I'd be embarrassed for you to come to my house, even embarrassed to come to you in person. Just give the order and my servant will get well."

Guys. This is so good. This man has a need, a really big, urgent need. If this slave of his dies, he will be at a major loss. He knows he needs Jesus to heal him. Jesus wants to come and do just that. But this man knows who he is at the core, and knows he isn't worthy or deserving. He is so real with Jesus in that moment, even when he is at a point where a lot is hanging on Jesus entering in to save his servant's life. He is honest about the state of his character-- I'm not that good a person, you know. Maybe this was the first time he came to Jesus for anything. Maybe he had been living a pretty messed up life. Maybe he's realizing he is asking Jesus for a lot right now, and his track record didn't exactly earn him what he is hoping for. He's realizing his house isn't a place worthy of Jesus, even he isn't worthy of being in the presence of Jesus. He asks Jesus to just stay far away and heal his friend from afar.

Whatever his prior relationship with Jesus was like, he knows Jesus has the power. He knows that even though he is so utterly unworthy and his house isn't even put together enough for Jesus to enter and his own self is embarrassed to even think about coming close to Jesus, Jesus could still save and redeem and heal. He knows that. He believes that. He is so aware of all the shortcomings in his current situation, but he still trusts that Jesus could still make his servant well despite all the less than ideal circumstances.

Here's what blows me away. Jesus was amazed at this. Jesus. Son of God. Prince of peace and Lord of lords. THAT Jesus, who knows all and created all and loves all, was amazed at this.

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, "I tell you, I haven't seen faith like this isn all Israel!" (NLT) // Taken aback, Jesus addressed the accompanying crowd: "I've yet to come across this kind of simple trust anywhere in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know about God and how he works." (MSG) 

This man wasn't one that was supposed to believe in Jesus like that. He wasn't part of the chosen group, the followers of Christ, the known believers. But he believed. He trusted. He had real, true faith. Nothing in his life should have made that the case, but he knew who Jesus was, and he believed he could save his friend's life no matter how messed up his life and his heart was, no matter how unworthy and embarrassed he was.

Grand finale: Jesus healed the servant. The officer's wish was granted. His desire was fulfilled. He didn't lose this servant he so highly prized and so badly wanted to keep alive. Jesus saw his real, genuine, honest faith, and he rewarded it by giving him the desire of his heart.

The next verses in Luke after this are a different story, so I have no idea what happened to the officer after he saw his friend healed by the great Redeemer and Restorer. I have no idea if he became a super Jesus fan and follower, or if he continued living in the commands and orders and laws of his former life. But I am pretty sure that his life was changed in that moment. I don't know how it couldn't have been. His slave was near death, Jesus came into the picture, and his slave was made well. 

That's the story of our lives. That's the gospel. That changes us. We were near death. Jesus comes into the story. We are healed, we are made well, we are given the chance to have life all over again when we thought it all was over.

When we have bold and simple trust and faith in Jesus, he changes us. He heals us. He responds to that faith with a whole new life.

We aren't worthy. We aren't deserving. Most of us would probably be pretty embarrassed if Jesus was about to walk in our front door. We would look around and see dirt and dust and messes everywhere and we would be very aware at how unfit our lives were for a King to enter. We would look at ourselves in the mirror and feel so dirty, ashamed, so very aware at our unworthiness of being in the presence of Jesus. But when we believe that even though all of that is true, Jesus can still heal and make us well just by saying the word, he is amazed. He gives new life as a beautiful and undeserved gift of grace in response.

That story, our story, the gospel, is so very good.

 

Glory from the Gloom

It had been a rainy day. A dreary day. The kind of rain that just lingers for long hours, falling from a heavy, dense and gloomy sky. Late afternoon came, although nothing but the clock would tell you that, the sun masked by layer on layer of murky clouds.

The rain slowed to a mist, a few drops here and there, the clouds glided away to the next town, and shy rays of light started to break through. A glorious, bright and clear rainbow cut through the clouds like an effervescent path to glory. And on the other side of the sky, if you swiveled your eyes around 180 degrees, there it was.  

A masterpiece was on display. It wasn't framed behind glass with ropes holding back pushy crowds. It wasn't locked up in a museum's special exhibit. It was spread across the sky, and I was sitting in the middle of the parking lot on wet asphalt to watch it. 

 

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Glorious. Radiant. Breathtaking. Not even those words contain it or come close. Those colors don't have names. That sunset couldn't be captured in a photo. The immensity doesn't translate through a screen.  

That type of beauty could only come after the rain, after all the rain had fallen from the sky and all the darkness had consumed the day, after the clouds had hung heavy and full of the weight of the rain, the storm.

It was worth it. A million stormy days in a row would be worth it to see the sky light up like that, to see every second bring a new burst of gold, new streak of pink, new shadow of purple. I couldn't look away. I was mesmerized, captivated. I was in awe that such beauty came on such a gray day.  

Then bursting forth, in glorious day... Amen to that.

Glory comes after gloom. Beauty comes from brokenness. Light comes after loss.  

The storms, the rain, the hurt, the darkness, those aren't the end of the story. Hold on, hold tight, wait it out. Wait for the masterpiece that will blow you away. Wait for the next scene, the one you can't quite imagine or foresee. Wait on the Lord and know He is the author of a story of glory in your life.

Friday Freewrite: The Life of a Story

FRIDAYfreewrite.jpg

When I write, the start and the end are the hardest. A blank screen sits before me, a clean white canvas, a stretch of space not yet scribbled on, covered up, created. My brain is searching, flitting from corner to corner, seeking a spark that will light a flame if I could just pull together words that would be the matches. My hands are hovering, ready, waiting, knowing the words can't just come from my finger tips. They have to come from somewhere deeper, somewhere harder to reach, somewhere I can't see like I can see my hands on the keys, my fingers gripping the pen. But then I start. One word starts it. One word is the gunshot that releases the masses of people from behind that starting line ribbon. One word is the last Jenga piece before the shaky tower tumbles down and my mess of an idea pours down the page.

The middle flows. The middle comes more easily. I'm on a roll now, I've started somewhere, and it moves onward, sometimes fluidly and gracefully, sometimes choppy and rough, but it goes on. Often, I end up far from where I thought I would. The current took me down a different river, the breeze carried me off to a different city.

And then I have to end it. I've said what I wanted to say, the words are there, the page is full, brimming with some sort of stuff that I haven't reviewed or come to any judgment about. And now the package needs the bow on top. Those words are often the most illusive. What will sum this up? What will be meaningful? What will be remembered, powerful, impactful, solid? 

Maybe our lives are like this. The start isn't our own to control. We came from something we cannot see. From the joining of cells, from an unseen Creator. It's months of preparing, and then we come into this world and breathe our first shaky breath, and we're off. We're alive. We've been born, we've started life, we start running the race ahead of us. Sometimes graceful, sometimes choppy, sometimes ending up in very different places than we ever imagined or intended. Life happens fast in the middle. And then someday, life comes to an end. What will sum this up? What was meaningful? What will be remembered? What was powerful, impactful, solid?

Will this story matter once it's done?

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]

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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