A Brief Escapade To A Beautiful Environment
As a Spring Break expedition + a belated wedding celebration from Jay’s uncle, we traveled to Lake Tahoe for just a few days. Normally I am one to seek out + plan for all of the cool things I want to see or do or places to eat, yet this trip snuck up on us so quickly! I knew, however, that the views would be gorgeous and that I definitely wanted to get some time for sunny hiking + kayaking, but it didn’t end up exactly as I envisioned.
We took off dark + early (4am) to fly to Dallas, then Reno, then an hour drive down to Lake Tahoe. We picked up a bright orange Nissan Rogue to take around for the next few days, driving through snowy, Moose-track mountains around the grand ol’ Lake. The whole community was lodgy + mountain-town + vintage — so wonderful. We met Jay’s great uncle Bill for lunch at a health food cafe, then headed to his house that we would be staying at… we’ll, would be staying at. Just a couple days before, Uncle Bill got a call from some construction workers that these were the only few days they had to work on their deck that was in need of major repair. So, that means we couldn’t stay there + Uncle Bill last minute booked us an AirBnB around the corner from that house. The AirBnB wasn’t quite what I was expecting...it had character. It was a bright teal color on the outside + completely covered in snow. The rental was actually around the back + in the basement/downstairs portion of the house. It was covered in yellow + blue, birdhouses + flowers, a tile-countertop “kitchen” (similar to dorm room amenities), and a German-hills-Sound-of-Music scene mural across the bathroom. Very eclectic :). We said our goodbyes to Uncle Bill who was on his way back to Yosemite, then when I walked back inside, I caught a mouse scurry across the room :). We headed out to the grocery store to grab some items for packed lunches + also stopped by some thrift/vintage stores (including a Goodwill selling snowboards/skis for $9.99!). Dinner was pretty late but really great: we went to Artemis Cafe which was Mediterranean, so I got veggie kebabs with saffron rice + Jay got a huuuuge mousaka (he couldn’t even finish it after 3 days LOL). He also made the mistake of ordering dessert (Chocolate Galaktoboureko — basically a skillet brownie baked inside phyllo dough sheets with lots of whipped cream + chocolate drizzle) before we got our other food. So! Stuffed! But we also got to have really cool conversations with our waiter Edward about the connection between science, theology, and nature because of a comment he made about Jay’s phone case (which has some nerdy physics pun on it) + he also gave us some recommendations/info about the area. By the time we got back to the house, it was close to midnight back home in Eastern Time, which meant we had been running around for 21 hours — time for bed!
This day is April 13th: 15 years since my maternal grandmother passed away, and also the day of the funeral for my “adopted” grandmother, so my heart + thoughts were with my family. Jay + I started our morning as usual with Bible time + getting ready, then we went over to Cuppa Tahoe which was a dreamland full of cool mismatchy furniture + loooots of books, games, stationary. We definitely could have spent many hours there… well, we did spend about two. We started driving the loop around Lake Tahoe, with an intentional stop for a hike at Cascade Falls. Everything was covered in thick snow, so we just took the first open trail/clearing up the mountain. We were met by a few skiers + very steep snow climbing, and eventually realized that it wasn’t exactly Cascade Falls trail. So we started tracking our way on AllTrails, continuing up the steep hill of ski/snowboard tracks before cutting across to a mostly uncharted area (only one person's footprints had broken the snow before us). This new trail led us down the mountain a bit + then across to where we found the trailhead for Cascade Falls (we then realized that we were previously along Bayview Trail/The Desolation Wilderness). Cascade Falls was also covered in snow, so our trail markers were just other footprints + staying within rock/bush lines. This hike was fun + easy, and we enjoyed the nature smells, grand views, + “seek”-ing plants (an app called Seek). The trail was a bit more difficult to navigate as we got to the falls because it was a giant rock face covered with lots of other rocky areas + snow masking any clear direction. We eventually made it over to the falls. Of course Jay wanted to get right in the water action, so he shuffled across a fallen log that was lying across the falls. I didn’t trust my balance or footing on the ice/snow over the rushing waters + rocks, yet Jay convinced me by helping to guide me across. We hit the most amazing spot for a rest + lunch break — we were situated between two sides of the falls, on a sunny rock, nestled under a Bristlecone pine, with Stellar Jay’s hanging all around us (particularly one who liked to perch right above our heads), + the most amazing views of Cascade Lake + Lake Tahoe from above with all of the snowy mountains surrounding. The Lord is so, so good to us! We journeyed back down very, very quickly (like 20-ish minutes compared to the 1.5 hours we took getting there) + the snow was melted along the path. Once we made it back to the car we drove around the loop to Emerald Bay just for a brief stop before continuing the circle, revealing gorgeous mountain ranges, blue and green waters, and the coolest giant homes that have been built along the water + mountains. We ventured to an ice cream shop up North (banana chocolate chip + ginger for me; strawberry PBJ + Oreo for Jay), then closed the loop by re-entering Nevada + South Lake Tahoe. We took a short nap then went to “My Thai'' for dinner – it was the most culturally decorated Thai restaurant I’ve been to with lots of elephants, gold, Buddhas, pictures of the king + queen, and a full Buddha shrine (getting us prepped for the summer!). The portions once again were too much for us — Jay got duck curry + I got avocado shrimp curry. When we got back to the house, I did some schoolwork (this was Jay’s Spring Break, not mine 😜) + Jay watched Columbo (a classic).
It snowed more overnight + continued to snow more this morning, so the ground was covered in a fresh, thick blanket of white. We drove over to Frescana/Freel Perk for breakfast, but we were a bit early so they were only serving coffee/drinks, and not food just yet. We started with a green tea chai + smoothie (blueberry, banana, PB, granola) while looking at another international Christian school in Thailand that is hiring. Then once the food portion was open for business, we split a breakfast burrito that was filled with soft scrambled eggs, mixed veggies, hashbrowns, green crema + roasted eggplant salsa – mm! We then drove over to to D.L. Bliss State Park where we planned to see the water + go to a lighthouse, but the entrance was closed. We took a quick nap in the car, then ventured past the roadblock for a mini walk through the snowy woods. For the afternoon, we met up with Jay’s second cousin Kneece + her crew (Brian, her daughter Rosalie, and an Italian exchange student staying with them, Julia) at the best coffee shop in Truckee (NW Lake Tahoe). A few hours were spent there over coffee + lunch, lengthy conversations, + a quick perusal of the shops on the main street. We had to part ways around 3:45pm in order for me to make it back to the house for my online class. We last-minute had some location changes of where exactly I should do my class, but ultimately ended up at Cuppa Tahoe coffee/book shop again; This way I had the wifi for my class, and Jay got to enjoy some tea + the many, many books there. It was still snowing by the time we went home, which was a full day of beautiful, mystical (because of the foggy/hazy mountains), powdery snow unlike I’ve experienced in SC!
This morning we checked off all the check-out to-do items for our AirBnB, then went by Crazy Good Bakery for an apple walnut raisin strudel + pistachio muffin, and Artemis Cafe for a spiced Turkish coffee to gather some sweet road snacks. We headed straight for Emerald Bay for a hike, where the parking lot was completely empty – score! Funny enough though, it took us about 30 minutes to get ourselves together in the parking lot, and by that time it was quite crowded LOL. Fortunately, most people were just sticking around the main lookout point by the parking lot while we ventured down the left side onto the trail. The initial part of the trail was a super easy walk down to Vikingsholm – from what I’ve heard, a person with big money decided they wanted a Norwegian mansion/castle to be relocated to the shores of Lake Tahoe, so that’s what happened…stone by stone. Tours of the home are only available during the summer, so we continued on towards Emerald Point – a humble total of about 2.5 miles one way. This trail was my favorite – full of giant pines, redwoods, etc. following along the shoreline with Caribbean-like teal waters intermingling with deeper blues, giant rocks + an island with a stone structure, and even more spectacular was that it was all surrounded by giant, rocky, snowy, mountains! A lot of the trees had visible fire damage + tons were fallen down. We found a really great lookout point, but noticed on the map that this wasn’t quite THE point we were headed for, however, there wasn’t a defined path leading to that area… so, we ended up wandering through the forest of pine straw, fallen trees, manzanita bushes, slushy snow, with our phone’s map to guide us in the general direction. Once we finally found THE point, it was a pretty neat 360 view of the mountains and both Lake Tahoe + Emerald Bay. After returning back along the trail, the rest of our afternoon was spent wandering + exploring via car through the various neighborhoods + random roads along the loop of the Lake. We filled up on gas + dinner/tea before driving an hour back up to Reno, NV where our hotel was for the night (next to the airport for our early flight). Since we’re out West, and since it was late at night, Jay took the opportunity to try In-N-Out burger for the first time + we officially coined it as the Chick-Fil-A of fast-food burgers.
Our last day was a full day of travel due to time changes going from the West to East coast.
The whole time we were there I kept thinking (+ saying to Jay 😉) that I could live here. I mean, I did learn my way around the roads/turns within the first hour there so that’s a good sign, right? But seriously, this place packs in all of the good things: beach + water activities for Jay, mountains + outdoors activities for me, skiing + tubing in the winter, hiking + kayaking in the summer, beautiful homes + close communities… if only it was in our price range for living! Regardless, I am humbled that the Lord has worked contentment in my heart to be able to visit places such as this (a huge grace + gift in itself!), and be at peace knowing that I will end up wherever He wants me. Whether that be in a spacious mountain community or a dense city, across the world or down the street from where I am now; I am content + life is bliss knowing, trusting, following, obeying, loving the Creator God of Heaven.
Until next time!
A Condensed, yet Comprehensive Conspectus
I am currently completing my Masters with a focus in Integrative Wellness at Point Loma Nazarene University, of which I am over halfway through. For those of you who know me, this sort of program is a dream. There’s a particular area of interest, beauty, awe, passion that I have found here; every day + every assignment is lined with excitement. There’s also a peculiar coincidence + paradox I have surfaced in the journey as well. Let me elucidate…
To whomever may be drifting by these words, I invite you to consider what it is that wellness means; and particularly for my colleagues in this journey, what it is that we study. We (that is, those in this specified area of health exploration + expertise) recognize that there are several dimensions of wellness — including physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, social, and even environmental, occupational, or financial. What do we as wellness professionals and human beings seek in cultivating and nourishing these aspects of wellness? What is the underlying motivation or ultimate goal to be achieved? To live a better, more satisfying life…sure! But what about beyond that? Do you notice anything curious about the dimensions in light of that last question — “beyond” this life? Let’s take a look at each one a bit more in-depth, in reality.
Physical: no matter how conscientious, caring, and compassionate we are towards our physical bodies/health through means such as nutrition, exercise, sleep, and medical care, our bodies are bound to fluctuate in size over time, movement + function will likely become more difficult than it used to be, we will grow more fatigued than in our younger years, and we will ultimately pass on — a vapor that is here ~73 years (the world’s average life expectancy) and then moved on.
Intellectual: we spend our whole lives learning new things — without even trying. It is inevitable! What a glorious reality. However, as we begin to age, our memory weakens, our mental stamina + reflexes are lessened, we may find it more difficult to keep in step with our old routines or our previously-loved hobbies.
Emotional: this category is a rollercoaster in itself; do I need to explain? Ha, kidding. But, our emotions legitimately are bound to ebb + flow + fluctuate depending upon our circumstances, our conscience, our counterparts. Working towards emotional stability + regulation has evidence backing its efficacy, yet we cannot ultimately control external circumstances and how they truly make us feel inside, regardless of how well we process or react to them.
Social: I think we can all relate to very impactful + meaningful relationships that we have had in the past that are no longer present. That hurts — really, really hurts. Yet, when those relationships were at their prime, they offered contagious contentment, comfort, confidence, encouragement. It’s another reminder of an area that truly nourishes the person in its pursuit + practice, yet is not promised to last forever.
And taken together (since these are not always included in all wellness models, though I do appreciate their inclusion), Environmental, Financial, Occupational: Melting icebergs, blizzards in Texas, skyscrapers in place of farmland — we know well how the geographical landscape is steadily sliding into deterioration + transformation, whether you see that as good or bad, it is not under our ultimate control. Inflation, Unemployment, Unexpected emergencies — such quick occurrences can turn what we placed all of our hopes, plans, promises in, upside down + flattened out. Again, completely out of our control.
Now what’s my point? To be oh-so-very pessimistic + pitiful? No! Our lives — every aspect + dimension of them — are coherently created + diligently designed gifts given to us! We focus on all these areas in order to be good stewards of our gifts. However, did you notice that I forgot to get nitty-gritty with one of the dimensions? Well, that was intentional. Spiritual wellness, or spirituality, is a unique player in this game. Why? It doesn’t fade, falter, fluctuate, or fail. Let me repeat, spiritual wellness is steadfast + lasting. And for the people in the back, spiritual wellness is firm + forever. How can this be?! Our spirit + what our spirits are connected to are eternal things — not things of this physical, material world. Yes, devotional books + church buildings + hymnals will also fade away like all the previously mentioned. Yet, the Word of God, the Church of Christ (that is, the body of believers), + the songs of the saints will carry on into eternity (Isaiah 40:8, Hebrews 11:16, Revelation 5:9-10,15:3-4,19:1-8, 21:1-5). Have you noticed the stark trend in the aging population that are more invested in their spirituality, faith community, or even finding God for the first time? That is partially due to changing times + the era that they grew up in, but not to be dismissed is their realization that as their physical body, mental capacities, social interactions, and finances diminish, they become more aware + dependent on the Almighty God who both created + sustained them through all of their life; who is currently sustaining them when they have no else. If only we could reach that realization sooner. If only we could live a full + whole life, throughout our life. If only we could truly say that we care for + cultivate our health + wellness…
In case you may be wondering why all of the other aspects of health are bound to deteriorate, unlike spirituality, I will share a bit of a well-known story. God created the universe in perfect order + harmony — there was never pain, death, sorrow, strife (Genesis 1). He created humans to be like Him, to have a right relationship with Him + with one another, and to steward His creation (Genesis 2). Yet, those humans didn’t quite obey the perfect order that God had set in place, and this act of rebellion is called sin (Genesis 3). Sin immediately ushered in all of those dreadful things — death, disaster, depression, destruction, etc. Because of this sin, we now see why the things on Earth are bound to corruption (i.e., our bodies, relationships, planet) (Romans 5:12,8:22). But God couldn’t stand to see His beloved creation (His people) to live in this way. So, He sent His Son Jesus Christ, part of His very self, to be born + live among people on Earth whom He knew would reject + despise Him because of their sin (John 3:16, Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 53:3, Luke 17:25, John 1:11). Why would He do such a thing?? (This is where the story gets really good). While Jesus was on Earth, He lived a perfect life without sin so that He could pay for the price + punishment that was due to the Holy God on the part of OUR sin (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:22, Hebrews 4:15, 1 John 3:5). The punishment of our rebellion was death (Romans 5:8,5:12,6:23, Hebrews 2:9). Jesus Christ, God’s own Son + piece of Himself, died to wipe our record clean, but most importantly, He rose from the grave up to Heaven, signifying that the substitution for us was accepted by God (John 11:25, Romans 10:9, Ephesians 1:7, 1 Peter 1:3). Whew! (If you made it this far, I’m sending you a big, big hug). This whole process with Jesus removed eternal death/destruction/darkness + secured eternal life for those who believe that this testimony is true, committing their lives to abiding in Him (John 3:16,3:36,5:24,17:3). Bonus: not only do these believers receive eternal life, they also receive abundant life now (John 10:10, Romans 8:11,15:13) — this is what spiritual wellness is all about! We have hope, purpose, meaning, direction, guidance, peace, comfort, growth, joy, and contentment in this life because of where our spirits lie. Without a grounded foundation of our spirits, we are bound to worldly deterioration + our aims for health/wellness are in vain.
So, what is wellness to you?
Header image: Shane Watson (2021). Holiday self-care for parents: The eight dimensions of wellness. NotMyKid.org. https://notmykid.org/2021/12/12/holiday-self-care-and-the-eight-dimensions-of-wellness/
Uniting Under the Marriage Covenant
There are far too many words and pictures to share to do this occasion justice, but I would be amiss to not at least acknowledge how grateful + astounded we are at how the Lord has abundantly blessed us in this season, because He has been set first in our lives + in our marriage (Matthew 6:33, Luke 11:28, Psalm 4:7, 84:5, etc.). Here are the highlights of our special day joining as one, and our subsequent journey of life begun together on our honeymoon in Colorado.
Wedding photography by Shelby Spencer
& then the Camps went camping...
Connections Created to Confirm My Course + Calling
Stuffed between school + other summer responsibilities were a few lonely weeks that I couldn’t stand to leave free — I saw that time as prime opportunity for me to go somewhere or serve somehow, so I reached out to my pastors at church to see if they could find anything for me in their plethora of connections… and long story short, I got confirmation about a week before leaving that I would be going to a church in Georgia for the month (note: if you remember my past blogs about Mexico, Denver, my desire for control, etc., then you know this going-blindly-without-expectations thing was a huge work God has done in my heart). Since I didn’t have set expectations for what I would be doing during my time there, I had no idea that God would use me in the ways that He did; teaching me more about myself, preparing me for my future, and challenging a well-established church to look at things from new perspectives for the furtherance of the Gospel + God’s Kingdom.
Upon my arrival + having initial conversations, I vaguely knew that I would be helping with the students ministry + discipleship, as well as with college + young adults outreach, VBS planning, and really whatever anyone else needed at any point. Also, in hindsight, MUCH of my time was spent meeting with people + building relationships or serving in mundane ways, that may not all be mentioned here. The Lord was seriously working in me during the past few weeks + that is evident in the short stories that I will recount below. One major realization that I had was the way God speaks to me through making connections. Ever since I started studying the Word for myself, I have said that “the coolest thing is making connections across the Bible” — whether it be specific phrasing, paralleled themes, or just the consistency of our God from Genesis to Revelation; I loved how it all connected! As I tell about the things that I have been doing + the takeaways that I have been learning, you will see how God used connections between random events, or conversations, or readings to bridge various pieces together. (Warning: if you CTRL+F the word “connections” it will probably show up 100+ times by the end of this blog 😉).
If you have stuck through this blog post this far, you deserve congratulations! and a thank you! If you can believe it, this is a teeny recount of just the highlighted connections in each of my days, which barely skims the surface of my full day’s events. Regardless of all of the words + details, what I hope you take away from this is how incredible God is — how He moves + speaks to + teaches + touches + sanctifies us.
All of these connections confirm my calling unto Him + counsel me in the course He has for me ahead.
How The Lord is Presently Pruning + Preparing My Path
That’s the question I have been asking myself over the past month. I have a big year ahead of me; it’s turning out to be, at least. I’m finishing up my undergraduate degree and will be graduating from college in May, I begin my first full-time internship in the field that I am hoping to pursue, I begin graduate school for a Masters in Integrative Wellness this Fall, then if you haven’t heard the news of my engagement already; I am going to get married as well! There’s so many exciting events + moments + opportunities ahead, some of which I had planned for + expected, but others that I had no idea were going to be coming in this season of my life. With the combination of these factors, I am pausing to reflect + reevaluate the plan I had set for myself. Notice some key words in that: the plan that I had set for myself. Now, we know where this is going… “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). So, in light of that, I have spent a lot of this past year + especially the past couple of months in a lot of prayer. Prayer for guidance, yes, but more so prayer for my own heart — for contentment where God has me + where God is leading me.
You all know by now, or if you don’t then you can tell from the title of this blog, that I have a heart for missions. Since the moment I grasped the Gospel fully for myself, I wanted to share it with other people; I wanted others to have the same hope, joy, fulfillment that I had in a life saturated with Christ. This eager desire combined with my love of travel + learning of contrasting cultures, sent me into a search + pursuit of national/international mission trips + opportunities. My plan throughout college was that I would attend classes throughout the school year (late August - early May), then I would spend my summers out on mission. Then, when I graduated college, I wanted to pursue a long-term program through the International Mission Board (IMB). This plan was golden up until the last month of recent events, as I began to realize that the plans I set for my life were not exactly compatible with God’s blueprint of my life.
One of those “events” that I mention, came about through recent teaching opportunities that I have had. I co-teach 5th grade students every week at my church, but I have had fewer + newer opportunities to teach fellow college students. I spent intentional, invested time in study + preparation, making notes + takeaways as I would for myself in my own study. Following the lesson, I was given very literal, positive, encouraging feedback. I did not ever think of myself as a teacher, but it gave me the occasion to reflect on past experiences where this has also been true of my writing, leading, discipleship. Further, it reminded me of how this gift of teaching is so present + prominent in Jay — my (almost) other half. The purpose of our lives is to glorify God + the purpose of any relationship is for that to be manifested greater together than as one. As I began to put these pieces together, I fell even more confident of our relationship, as a God-ordained pairing, and even more clear on what it was that God was preparing ahead of me.
At the current time, in societal terms as well as my own place in life, it has been made more clear to me that my desire to go out on mission is no less fervent + clear, but it is definitely not in the precise way that I had been expecting or envisioning it.
For one, it was not going to happen immediately when I graduated college. I wanted to do long-term missions somewhere for at least a couple years, however, God had different plans. Based on how my 21 years of life had gone thus far, I did not expect to be stopped in my tracks by a romantic relationship. Fortunately, and providentially, God has used this relationship to grow my spiritual walk + my personal life (though they are not separate) in numerous capacities. I have learned more about myself, my sins, my strengths + weaknesses, my surroundings, relationships, the local church, the depths of God; it was not a season wasted, though my mind may have been tempted to think otherwise because I was not “going” out on mission.
Secondly, I learned that this does not mean that my chance for missions is completely gone away with just because it may not happen in the two years after I graduate. Rather, it may come in 5 years, or maybe 25 years, or maybe not at all. And I learned something really important through this process (the process of a lot of prayer, study, tears): contentment. My heart is content because the whole concept of missions is not. about. me. This is not a journey to grow + mature me (though it does do that), or a way to satisfy my own desires for travel or connecting with other cultures. Missions — THE mission — is to glorify the God of Heaven alone.
Thirdly, to go back to where I started, I see the Lord leading me in ways that I did not expect in my plan; yet these are not antithetical to missions. Missions has a connotation where we only think of it being to go out yourself, or to send out financially/prayerfully. However, there is another aspect: training, teaching, organizing, leading. When it comes to these preparatory tasks involved in the mission of God, we often glaze over them, or do not even think of their existence. But how important they are! If we did not organize + lead individuals, there would be no trip to send or go out on, and there would be no assistance or guidance along the way either. If we did not have individuals teaching + training individuals before they were sent out somewhere, at best they may encounter difficult situations or conversations that they do not know how to address; at worst they may misshapen + muddy the message of the Gospel itself. The more I learn about the intricacies of missions + I learn about my own giftings the Father has indwelled me with, I begin to see my mission mindset being redefined + refined.
As I am still much in the process of prayer + patience awaiting the times + opportunities ahead, I ask one thing of you: your prayers. If you haven’t caught on through this post already, prayer is a key thing here (in life). I ask for your prayer for my future; wherever it is that God leads me, that I be content, that I humble myself + my preferences, that I be patient + gracious, that I be — for all the days of my life + all the ways that I can — honoring + glorifying to the God of Heaven + Earth, the great I Am.
"One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after;
The Darkness of 2020 Cannot Overcome the Light of the Gospel
This blog was intentionally created + commenced as a travel blog to share some of my spontaneous excursions + planned destinations. However, 2020 has been a year that did not allow for many of those events to occur — at least not afar. This year has encompassed frequent flexibility + a healthy dose of discoveries. The time we have spent adjusting, we have been learning more deeply + growing beyond stagnant routines. My 2020 was a little bit like that...
As I mentioned, and as we all know, travel completely ceased + wanderlust hearts like my own were deflated when quarantine + lockdowns ensued. However, in the midst of rules + restrictions, creative minds began to construct inside tranquil, still bodies. We went back to the drawing board. We originated new ways of keeping our legs moving + our hands occupied. We dusted off parts of our brains that had been stuck in autopilot + we began to chart new territories. This occurred for me in the discovery of new hobbies such as reading (for genuine interest + pleasure rather than for school assignments!) + crafts such as embroidery, bracelet-making (a nostalgic return), collage, and what I take as a craft: cooking. But for the travel-bug inside me... it tracked + traversed foreign lands that were in my own “neck of the woods.” No way could I stay locked in a house for 2 weeks...3 months...TBD how long. I had to get outside (with proper PPE of course); even if for just a little bit or just outside my back door. Below are some snapshots from my not-so-far but new-found location getaways.
While my travel-lust was being satisfied in experimental ways, I was being stretched in many other ways, much more internally. It is not a surprise that when we face situations that are unfamiliar + uncomfortable, we experience challenges + come out changed on the other end. Have you ever felt that? I think this year provided that for a lot of us, and if you have not experienced that, 2020 isn’t over yet (LOL). I have trusted full-heartedly that God has been using this time for a purpose. We have had much time to wrestle + raise questions in the present of what that purpose may be, but now we have an opportune time to reflect in hindsight of what we have experienced, encountered, learned. For many that has manifested through a turning of eyes away from work + into the family, priorities shifted apart from external pleasures by means of money or travel + toward internal contentment through hobbies, relaxation, time with the Lord. For me, the afflictions + adjustments of this year were met with increased stress + an intentional relationship. Through both of those, sanctification.
I genuinely hope that this period has been a time of growth and discovery for people. It is times like these that make us find new intricacies about ourselves and the world around us, ask deep questions, and begin to see why difficult, dark, disheartening times truly do bring about the sweetest fruit and brightest light.
From some of the pictures above, you can see that I’ve had some really great moments + highlights from the past year. But honestly, I think the greatest highlight has shone through in the midst of my darkest. Let's set a slight scene: I was stressed. I was overwhelmed. I had the biggest breakdown of my life. My sin was no longer vague (“I’m a sinner”), but it was made evident + clear (“THIS is my sin!”). Before, I knew I was a sinner saved by the mercy of God + the blood of Jesus. I applied that to occasional sins that came up. But now I began to connect dots; God opened my eyes to see those occasions as being continual tendencies + patterns of personality.
Being close with someone allows them to see the inconsistencies + faults in us. To call them out + bring them to light, but also to encourage us to persevere + point us in the right direction to the One (only one) that can save us. The Lord has blessed my highest dose of spiritual stress with my highest degree of social support. Jay has been — fortunately for me, I think maybe unfortunately for him, LOL — at my literal side through all of the mess of myself. But that is what we’re called to do as believers in the church, no? We hear one another’s hurts + bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-2). We use prayer + the Word of God to reveal sin + to exhort one another. I have been blessed with a whole church full of obedient, loving, selfless people like that — like Christ. God used Jay in my life to point out the dirty clothes that I was still wearing so that I could fully take part in the washing + renewal that Christ was offering — not just by word or practice, but a full realization + transformation.
In our college Bible study, we have been going through the gospel of John. At the onset of this emotional overflow (the night before) we read chapter 15 — the one most people know as the “vine + branches” or the “abide in me” passage. We read through the chapter at the beginning of our time together + something captivated me. I couldn’t stop rereading verse 2: "Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit." The Lord prunes the branches that are bearing fruit… in order to bear more. He does not take the time to refine + reform a branch that is already dying or falling away. He focuses on those that are bearing fruit + He prunes them. While I was questioning whether or not my faith was real or genuine because of my sin that I had been made aware of, the Lord was pointing out to me that this pruning was not a punishment or cause for me to run away or hide. This pruning (in Greek: cleansing) was to reveal to me that I was growing in the right direction, but that there were necessary steps still needed to be done so that I could continue growing. Pruning is not easy or comfortable, but how worth it! What a glorious outcome! We must go through the discomfort of discipline + directing in order to proceed in sanctification + produce sweet fruit.
As soon as I begin to feel a tiny taste of freedom from the sins that so tightly, vigorously entangle, I am tempted to sigh in relief + throw out a quick “Oh, thank you Lord for giving me peace!” then move on. But I am quickly reminded of how weak I am + how needy I am of my Savior. Not just once in my justification by His dying for me + declaring of me, but over+over in my sanctification. I continually fall short (“fall” not “fell”; Romans 3:23) + I need continual cleansing (Jesus washed the body, but we still need washing of the feet; John 13). Now, don’t get me wrong — Jesus has already cleansed us. We see that in the succeeding verse of John 15: "Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you" (v.3), but the blood of Jesus does not only deal with the guilt of sin (present); it also deals with the stain of sin (past, present, future) which hinders our continual relationship with God. We must be unreserved + upfront, willing to come to God with our acknowledgement + plea of “Lord, cleanse me.” Not because we haven’t been cleansed before, but because we need to be continually reminded of His continual cleansing to enjoy continual relationship with Him. He is not a one-and-done operator. His love + mercies are unending, everlasting, steadfast, eternal.
So in a nutshell, I was overwhelmed out of my wits in order to recognize that I am not the ringleader + I need to REST in the One that is. I was feeling dirty + disposable + undeserving in order to discover that the Almighty God has chosen to CLEANSE me in spite of those faults, and He continually chooses to pursue me every moment of every day. I am still undeserving of this great love, but I see it in a whole new light. Not by me, but all by Christ. Soli Deo Gloria.
”Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
Let this be our hope for today, + for the new year.
Finding Contentment + Opportunity in Unforeseen Times + Places
As we all know + are well (may be too well) aware of, COVID-19 has shifted many plans we’ve had set for 2020. However, those shifted plans haven’t all been for the negative as they seem to be from the outset. And in those shifted plans I hope there have been for you, like there has been for me, some switched priorities + stretched perspectives.
I mentioned in a previous post that this year would have been full of various destinations on my list to explore + experience + exposit through this blog, including New Orleans, Dominican Republican, and a return to Denver for the summer. When all of those aims were taken down one by one, I felt disappointed. But honestly, the feeling didn’t last for long. I realized — by the grace of God intervening in my type-A, control-freak mind — that all of this COVID confusion, chaotic circumstances, corrupted courses were happening for a definitive purpose. And despite them — in the midst of them — God was still working + abundantly providing me with unknown paths + possibilities.
The first of many unforeseen events for this season of life was the start of a new relationship, which if you know me, you know that this is quite new. I won’t spend too much time here (so feel free to ask questions as you’d like), but in short, it has been an incredible blessing for the both of us that was quite timely considering our personal + spiritual growth during this time. The commencement + course of this relationship is one of those instances in which you can see God working in hindsight, but fortunately through the present process as well.
P.S. yes, the bangs were another unexpected venture; a wise + well-planned quarantine impulse decision if I do say so myself. That way, in case I did not like the outcome then I could easily be humiliated + hidden away without anyone noticing. Fortunately, I’m fond of the look :)
On to more eventful changes to my unscheduled summer: I am being certified as a Health Coach! When my college classes went online + my trip to Denver was dropped, I realized that I now had about four months open before school began back again, + I am most definitely not the type of person that could let those months stay vacant (my parents know all too well of my “I’m bored!” complaints — sorry...). So, I began pondering + probing for what I should do — another mission trip? more online classes? an internship? Well, I didn’t have to ruminate or rummage around for long because I then remembered the need I had for some certifications for my future career in Corporate Wellness (or similar field). This particular certification I’m pursuing is online + at-your-own pace — the reviews I read averaged people taking about 3-4 months to complete it — check for me! Further, they just so happened (no coincidences!) to be running a sale at the time I was looking to begin that offered the certification for half-off the original price — double check! So, now I am finished up with that material (I finished earlier than expected because it was intriguing + exciting to finally be studying something that I’m specifically interested in!!) + I will be taking that final certification exam at the start of August — I would appreciate your prayers!
In the midst of career certifications for the summer, the Lord was also still providing for my longing to serve + be on mission. My local church offers an internship for college students under Generation LINK known as Summer LINK in order to educate + equip us to be better church members, disciple-makers, followers of Christ. Throughout the summer we read through + discuss numerous books — including The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever, What is a Healthy Church Member? by Thabiti Anyabwile, Why Should I Join a Church? by Mark Dever, to name a few — serve the local body + surrounding community, lead kids ministry activities + classes, as well as have the privilege of residing with + having collective dinners at the homes of church families. All of these things have been profoundly precious to me, but as was the case with my previous summer spent in Denver, the Father has revealed a bounty of blessing beyond what I expected. I have been able to serve + love + be loved by so many souls outside of the “structured” time we have together as a group doing the internship. Couples have invited me over for breakfast or games or walks in the park, I’ve helped house-sit numerous homes (+ by house-sitting I am also implying watering lots of gardens + picking ripe veggies, as well as taking care of numerous pets including energetic puppies, cats, bunnies, a hamster, fish, etc. — all good things!). I have also gotten to put my passion of administration + organization to practice by cleaning + upgrading areas of the church building, designing handouts + filling out Excel sheets, collaborating with a couple friends to provide photographic + penned media for updates on what all we are doing as interns.
What I thought would be a major bummer summer full of disappointments + dullness, turned out to be considerably enriching + eventful. My pastor has so aptly been going through the book of Ecclesiastes since the beginning of May, + the lessons that I have learned through this study of God's Word have been particularly profound + perfect for us all to learn at this point in time corporately. For one, through Ecclesiastes + through the Coronavirus, we learn our humanity — we are faced with our time-bound, fleeting nature + the understanding that we are not in control. God determines the times + seasons of our lives; whether in prosperity or adversity, joy or sorrow, He is in control — what a relief + blessing! Further, pleasure + prosperity is a gift; a gift that we are not deserving of or guaranteed. Adversity + hardship + death on the other hand, are clear avenues for us to slow down, lean in, + allow time for transformative reflection, by the power of His guiding hand. It’s easy to slip into insecurity + impatience during times when we are not in control or when we do not have a full picture of the situations surrounding us, but by being impatient + longing for the next thing to come, for “better days”, or even for “how things used to be”, we are missing out + denying God’s presence + power, will + work today. These circumstances are flawlessly ordained + orchestrated in our lives for a particular purpose — for our good, growth, glory to Him. The Lord God knows the beginning, the present, the end of the story (Proverbs 8:23, Revelation 1:8) — why do we desire or pine for anything else? why do we not trust Him? I encourage you now as you are reading this, flip open to Ecclesiastes + read it; allow the Word of God to open up before your eyes + meditate deep in your mind. There is nothing new under the sun; what we struggle with + are confronted with today is what those of old have likewise encountered. And God has seen + planned + known it all. We are a speck in His vast masterpiece.
This season of life has been far from normal for all of us, but I think we can agree that that is what we all needed the most. Reconnecting with loved ones, appreciating the still + quiet, diving deep into old hobbies + new-found passions, being challenged to confront the things we thought were gone or done with or worked through, being pleasantly surprised with fortuitous exchanges or encounters or events.
God keeps teaching me to lean more + more into Him rather than rely on my schedules + plans. He is teaching me to be comfortable with unknowns + to love the unexpected.
I am grateful.
Centered in Christ Through Coastal Creation + Coronavirus Confusion
Prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) escalation, my roommate + I had planned to venture down to St. Augustine for Spring Break. Despite the uncertainty + unknowns including national mandates for social distancing + our university moving to remote learning, we followed through with the adventure anyway, living day by day with the evolving news + surrounding environment.
After a six hour drive down south full of conversations + laughter, music jams + podcast reflections, we arrived at our home for the week late Sunday evening. The next morning, we rose before the light + headed to the sand lying outside our doorstep. As the vibrant orange sun softened + rose into soft golden light, we flowed through a yoga sequence. Once our bodies had awoken through movement, we rested + reflected + renewed our spirits as we opened God’s Word to begin our study through the book of Micah. Weeks prior, we had flipped through + discussed which part of Scripture we would like to go through together. We both agreed that we would like to study Revelation more in depth, but figured we would start with something a bit shorter, perhaps more manageable or understandable, + a portion of Scripture that often gets overlooked. As we read + worked through the specific chapter for the day, our perspectives were made more + more aware of God’s consistency + intentionality in loving us, even in the case of punishment. It is for our good! A desire to hear + sing a praise to our gracious Father was in due order, so the first hymn I navigated to was “Here Is Love,” which consisted of lyrics so applicable to our morning’s moments in Micah as we sat marveling at the ocean. It also happened to be Savannah’s birthday, so her family came down from their nearby town of residence to spend the afternoon with us + we enjoyed a nice seafood dinner at the marina.
Our morning began with a bodyweight beach workout circuit + a continuation through our study of Micah. After we grabbed some breakfast, we headed up to Fleming Island to visit Savannah’s family for the day. I got a tour of the house + was introduced to all of their furry family members including two dogs, two cats, + a little brown bunny. Savannah + I walked down to a nearby dock admiring the surrounding homes, overgrowth of Spanish moss, scurrying geckos + rippling waves. We spent some time playing around with our cameras + doing a mini photoshoot of our unplanned matching of outfits + personality. One major theme from the week was discovering how similar the two of us are, not only in appearance but in interests, intentions, influences, ideas. It’s such a blessing to see how God has brought the two of us together in a way that was so cohesive + aptly timed. That evening, we went out to a restaurant where Savannah’s sister works so that we could visit + see her 'in action' as she served us fresh foods + dreamy desserts. However, the experience was quite out of the norm considering coronavirus changes that required many dining tables + other options to be excluded from service. When we arrived back to their family home, we took a stroll around the nature trail surrounding the neighborhood, then headed back to our place in St. Augustine Beach.
We jump-started our day with a run down to the pier along the beach, followed by another yoga flow. For our Bible study time, we ventured out into town where we stumbled upon a coffee shop to switch up the setting. Perhaps the change in setting ushered in a shifted perspective + clearer vision of what + how God was moving. The two of us sat on a bench outside for who-knows-how-long discussing, praying, praising how we were individually + collectively growing, how we were being pushed + challenged spiritually, the art + magnificence of God’s creation, His plan + purpose in placing us together, ideas + proposals for doing ministry + seizing Gospel-centered opportunities. Our overfilled + overjoyed spirits continued as we explored the old historic area of St. Augustine that afternoon. We wandered around the architectural beauty that is the Flagler College campus, perused through small local shops, + wandered into some art studios along the oldest street in America. It was here in this latter location where we met a man named Holiday (in honor of his birth date falling on Christmas Day). Our conversations floated around current status of life + career, passions + interests, stories + testimonies. As we shared, he was moved to tears by our “beauty,” our hearts, our motivations, our pursuit of Jesus. I sensed a longing behind his rounded glasses + cracking voice. I am certain our encounter was purposeful, whether for the sole benefit of meeting + interacting, or perhaps a reason greater than either of us conceive. Savannah + I continued exploring + engaging with the community, as our eyes were caught by decadent milkshakes being served up at Prohibition Kitchen. The venue inside modeled old saloon style vibes with newspaper menus + orange-gold lighting hues; although the establishment ironically was prohibited from selling any alcohol at the time due to new coronavirus regulations. Late that evening as the sun disappeared + the sea of stars arose, our toes traveled back out to the sand as we strolled, stargazed, sang, + searched for hidden ghost crabs.
Following another morning routine of exercising + studying Micah on the beach, we met up with some other students from our university who happened to be vacationing in the same location as us at the same time! The large group of us spent the whole day at the beach, including times of jumping waves + constructing a sand castle memorial for an unfortunate crab who was no longer creeping + crawling (we named him Eugene). Shortly after departing from the group to return back to our resort, we received word from our university that all in-person classes, events, trips, even graduation was canceled for the remainder of the Spring semester. Obviously our minds were a bit flooded + taken aback by the news as we proposed scenarios of what this decision means for us individually, as well as the corporate impact. The two of us decided to relieve any potential stress arising by walking into the little town around St. Augustine beach to return to the coffee shop where we talked over tea. Businesses were closing up for the night, so we escaped back to the beach where we sat in the sand looking up at the vast array of speckled stars, felt the warm air interrupt by a ripple of cool breeze, listened to the incessant building + rolling + crashing of the waves along the shore. Once again, we spent hours just resting in the presence + greatness of our God — His creation; our fragile + ever changing lives, His stable + steadfast existence; what He may be doing, what He is doing, how He is working, how He is using us, what He is teaching us, why… Man, I can’t begin to explain the depth + significance of this moment + this friendship. For such a time as this, for both of us. What a blessing.
A bit of an interruption ensued, as we diverted our usual morning routine in order to make a pit stop at the auto shop to get some work done on Savannah’s car. We dropped it off to get checked out + fixed up as we returned back to their home for an exceptionally chill day of lounging in the backyard, reading books + getting organized for online classes, playing with curious kittens + loving dogs. At this point, eating establishments have been ordered to close all dining tables/rooms while continuing takeout/delivery service, so we stopped by a taco stand in St. Augustine beach then ate out of the bed of Savannah’s father’s truck, then ended our night with a bedtime Bible study time through the next section of Micah.
Back at it again with our daybreak routine: yoga, workout circuit, Bible study. Afterward, we spent a little extra time laying in the sand + drifting off while listening to the waves + feeling the morning sun’s warmth. The move for the day was to check out the state park that was just down the road from the beach, yet when we arrived we discovered that it was closed due to the coronavirus situation. So, we instead picked up some Caribbean food to-go then ended up in the vicinity of a historic lighthouse + boat ramp where we picnicked within a small park of overhanging green trees + delighted Spring critters. After filling up on coconut shrimp + fried plantains, we explored random tidbits around town including a plant nursery, thrift store, pet adoption center, + food truck garden. We both took a brief siesta before meeting up with the family for a sunset picnic on the beach.
Sigh… Our last morning full of sand + sun + waves concluded with a workout circuit + deep stretch. As we wrapped up Micah, we reflected on our (personal + humanity's) continual rebellion against God + our blindness to His greater workings; yet the Lord’s unceasing, unconditional, unbounded love for us in providing us discipline that is showered in our own growth + His mercy, as well as the way out of our pit + the coming reward rooted in Christ Jesus. We packed up + moved out of our resting place in St. Augustine Beach, then returned back to the food truck garden to enjoy poké + smoothie bowls before embarking on the drive back home where we will be settling into yet another new + unforeseen routine amidst the ever-evolving coronavirus situation.
As far as travel opportunities + updates for this blog, I had many upcoming that have now dissipated: I was going to be spending some time in New Orleans at the beginning of April for a professional psychology conference in which I was presenting my own research; the end of May was to bring a trip to the Dominican Republic for a short-term study abroad in which I would have been able to conduct my own nutrition education program to students as an additional research endeavor; and as of a few days ago, my return to Denver, CO for summer missions was also ceased.
It's easy to be anxious + confused + question why all of this is happening, especially since it's something unlike any of us have ever encountered or experienced before. But it's also easy, with a bit of pause + prayer, rest + reflection to see God's hand in it all + feel His presence in every space. It is definitely a time of shifted perspectives + realizations of our human fragility. God is using this time of weird schedules + wrecked routines to re-establish our priorities + dependence on Him. Now is the time for us to "Listen!" as He exclaims in Micah + boldly change our lives toward His direction. The current circumstances look bleak on the surface, but I am looking forward to the continual journey with the Father despite my dim, limited view.
Stay safe, healthy, well — in mind (virtual contact is better than no contact), body (sanitize + eat clean), spirit (dig in to the Word, fill up with prayer).
Surprising Friends + Snowy Fun in CO
Whether you’ve read my previous posts or have heard me ramble on + on about it, you could rightly assume that the time I spent in Denver left a huge impact on my life. I established myriad relationships that were beyond surface level interactions + pined for continual cultivation. My mind seems to always be wandering + my heart yearning for this place + people again, so I decided to follow through + booked a return flight to Denver over my winter break — a little early Christmas surprise for my Colorado comrades.
The plan for a return was mentioned basically since our last week there in the summer, so Mary Claire + I were tracking flights + pondering plans while in the midst of school, stress, side activities. but it wasn’t as quickly fully set in motion. There was a point where the idea was completely falling flat as airline tickets were soaring + other priorities were demanding. But one afternoon following a night of disappointment + despair over the fantasized excursion, God opened a door along with a whisper: “why are you downcast? don’t you know I always provide? why are you trying to take matters into your own hands? don’t you know to trust Me?” The flight had dropped fractions of the previous expense + was structured around the perfect time frame. Mary Claire + I quickly bought tickets while they were so low, then eagerly expected + partially planned our approaching adventure.
Day 1: The Surprise
The three of us (myself, MC + her sister Harper) flew out on a Sunday afternoon, arriving in Denver late afternoon. we had reservations for a rental car which was confirmed at a set all-inclusive price knowing our age, insurance, etc. However, these kinds of things never go so smoothly, do they? When we got to the desk, we had issues paying with Harper’s card, we had to pay extra insurance (in addition to the extra cost for our age), had to pay for it under one name while the driver was underneath another; needless to say it would have been an unnecessary hassle + additional financial strain to follow through so we decided to forgo the rental car + figure out transportation along the way. So, we caught an Uber out of the airport to Josh + Sarah Cook’s house.
To jog your memory, Josh Cook is the pastor of Dwell Church which Mary Claire + I served with for the summer. We had previously contacted Sarah about our trip so she skillfully assisted us in our planning, particularly in order to surprise Josh + Josh. The original plan was for us to show up to the (legendary) Little Man ice cream shop in the neighborhood, but the rental car chaos delayed our arrival so the Joshs had already made plans to go see a movie at that time. Backup tactic was for us to surprise them after the movie, so we went to grab dinner while they were gone + settled in our things at their house while we waited. We anxiously anticipated their arrival (it was the first time either of us have pulled a surprise like this for anyone!). Then around 9:30pm that evening, we casually sat + chatted on their couch as Josh + Josh walked through the door with jaws dropped + an utter confusion followed by “what are you doing in my home??” Their reaction was eerily, accurately, precisely predicted by Mary Claire + Sarah — haha! It was super sweet catching up + reconnecting as the night came to a close.
Day 2: Roaming CO
With the rental car plan out of the way, we reverted back to our days of public transportation, which honestly was a highlight for us. We made our way downtown to explore some of the Christmas decorations + peek through the Denver Art Museum which we had gotten many recommendations for this past summer. For lunch we met up with one of our friends in Golden for Nepalese food + updates on the family, then she took us back to downtown Denver to explore the Brown Palace Hotel which was elegantly decorated with Christmas decorations + fancy finger foods delicately nibbled by posh persons in ostentatious outfits + headwear. Afterward, we wandered over to the Christkindl Market where we sampled European pastries + hot cider + met a new friend, reminding us of the connections we had made previously with the people that drew us back to return again. With our sweet tooth accounted for, we quickly hopped over to Broadway for a thrift store visit before heading back to the Cook’s home for Monday night group gathering for Dwell Church. The night was full of cooking + consuming dinner, sharing highs + lows, chatting about old memories + creating new ones too.
Day 3: Hiking + Running Club
This morning we woke up early to head out to the train station to take us up to Boulder. When we arrived, we met two professional runners from the area that Mary Claire knew (fangirled over) since she currently runs in college. They took us up on a snowy hike to Realization Point that offered phenomenal views of the surrounding city, the Rockies, + miles upon miles of Colorado in the distance. The descent down slick slopes brought a few slips, as well as some eager mule deer passing by. Following, we strolled through shops on Pearl St. + settled in a cozy spot for lunch before riding back to Denver. Tuesday evenings in Denver for us always meant running club, so that’s where we headed once again. We got to surprise some of our friends we met through the club, catch up with them, then hang out playing games afterward. The evening was not exactly what we had expected it to be, but the pros + cons were weighed with the conclusion that God appointed us to arrive in our friends lives at those particular times for a purposeful reason + resuming these kinds of relationships takes time + patience + understanding as we drift through various seasons in life, hoping to cling to Him more than we do ourselves, others, or outside sources.
Day 4: Breckenridge
Since we surprised Josh + Josh with our arrival, they understandably had plans during those days (could we put capitalism on hold?). Well, it turns out, maybe we could just a bit. Josh Cook shuffled + scrambled some meetings around in order to spend the day with us! He took us up to Breckenridge, known for its skiing. We stopped along the way for some pancakes to fuel us through winter wonderland drives, mountain town shops, and of course some snowball fights + tiptoes along frozen rivers. When we returned back to Denver that afternoon, we stopped by the post office to deliver some packages from Dwell Church. As we were standing in the queue of others sending + shipping, we encountered the sweetest elderly couple who were quick to spark conversation regarding our many tiny boxes, their celery juice cleanse, + random tidbits in between. On her way out, the lady popped open her purse + fanned out flavors of Blow Pops for us to choose from, as well as the mail clerk assisting us. The Edgewater Public Market was a new addition since our last visit, so we perused their numerous nourishment options ranging from Venezeulen arepas to lobster rolls, snacks + sliders to Ethiopian cuisine. That evening, Josh Frase had some special surprises of his own for us since he could not join us for the earlier activities. He took us downtown to go ice skating under the clock tower + twinkling tree lights until they closed, then over to taste some tacos where another one of our connections from the summer met up with us. We made our way back to the Cook’s house that evening to watch Star Wars + eventually pack up our bags to return home early the next day.
It’s strange + unusual for me to experience life in this way – to go from wanting to live life alone + never return to the same places or situations I had previously traveled or encountered, to coming back to Colorado again (and again – hello 2020) to revisit the same people + places. It takes a lot of growth + trust to see God working in a place to defy my own thoughts + desires in order to follow where I see Him leading + pushing me to delve into. It’s even difficult for me to come to terms with these changes because I have known + expressed myself to be one way for so long, but man am I excited to take on a new role for the sake of laying my own name down + lifting His up. Thank you Denver for teaching me these things + continuing to draw me back to your neighborhood + His heart.
A Reflection On The Past Year: Experiences, Thoughts, Growth
Man, 2019 has been a year of complete remodeling, rebuilding, renewing, revamping myself in all sorts of ways. I lived in Ireland for four months. I lived in Denver for two. Then somewhere in between my home-home and college-home (you know how that goes…) the rest of the time. I learned to let go of my deep-rooted, tight-gripped sin of control; trusting God with whatever unfolds. I learned to open up to strangers + to genuine community – replacing fears + insecurities with fellowship + vulnerability. I learned to dig in – to His character, His calling, His creation, His community. God has consistently paved my way. Consistently led me on a journey – one He has crafted + known since the beginning (Jeremiah 1:5, Ephesians 1:4); one He delights in revealing to me (Job 12:22, Daniel 2:22). This neck of the woods has been a mix of unknown highs + uncharted lows, comfort + difficulty, expected + unforeseen. Through it all, I’ve been learning to put behind my innate tendencies + give my full, undivided, wholehearted attention to the experience.
I spent the beginnings of the new year in a new country. I took a chance going somewhere I had no distinct connections or draw to, somewhere I had never been, with people I had never met, with really no clear direction or expectations for what I was to do when I arrived. I honestly like this sort of mystery + exploring something new; but paradoxically, the details surrounding that new territory must be mapped out in my brain. This world of unknowns was setting the stage for four months of breaking down my built up walls + loosening my clenched up fists, to humbly be brought down + fully trust my Father in every aspect of my life. Going to Ireland was for a study abroad, but more so for my own enjoyment — to travel + explore + grow in cultural experience. However, God had far greater plans + purposes than either of those reasons — far beyond what my finite mind + persistent heart could comprehend, configure, or contrive. As you may have gathered from a previous post, I struggle(d) with the desire for control — in general, but more specifically in my health/appearance, my school/success, my everyday events/time, etc. Throughout the four months of traveling alone, living in a foreign place, having unknown plans, I learned to let go of those things I was trying to control + let go of the idea that they provided me stability + security. I learned to let go of fear — fear of safety, of unknowns, of failure, of imperfection, of living up to or missing out. It was by no means an easy process. I faced many late nights + early mornings burdened, pressed, stressed out of my mind with tears streaming down my face, just to realize that it was all for nothing (Matthew 6:25-34 James 4:13-15, Proverbs 16:9) — Jesus has already promised to take ALL of that weight off of my shoulders if I just give it to Him (Matthew 11:28) — why had I not done this sooner?? Learning to remove the desire to control, to know the details, to plan all things, to have set expectations, set me on a sure foundation of trusting God completely, constantly + also set me up for the subsequent two months in Denver, and even the upcoming semester at school, and let’s be honest, for life.
The summer brought excitement, and thanks to the first half of the year, unwritten + unestablished expectations. I went into the experience in Denver with an open mind + in turn learned to open up other parts of myself. I was challenged to step outside of my normal/my comfort zone to engage with strangers. This allowed me to truly learn from them + for them to learn from me without any hesitation or pretenses. I was bold in my speech, actions, decisions. I was vulnerable about my faults, past, weaknesses, needs. As I have mentioned before, I am an introvert. It takes a bit to draw me out + for me to feel comfortable, confident, adequate to make myself known. However, I see now, through the process of this summer, that God can use me in that particular way He created me, as well as expand my illusory boundaries to open up unrevealed, concealed parts of me to further grow myself + His Kingdom.
As Fall rolled around, I headed back to campus for the first time since the previous Fall semester. I was uneasy about the transition back, mainly because I had learned + grown + changed so much that the experience would be completely different than what I was used to previously in that environment. Right off the bat, God crossed my path with numerous individuals that provided me the opportunity to form new friendships + invest in being intentional with. Further, I was led to a local church that drew me in like a magnet with the concentration of their community + depth of their doctrine. These opportunities, divine appointments if you will, allowed me to fully express + dive into the uncharted territory that was introduced from the past eight months. It also got me more interested + invested in committing time to wrestle with difficult topics, study theology, search for understanding. I’ve acquired a new found passion + urgency for these things — I keep digging, digging, digging into the Word of God with a continual supply of new findings + questions — it’s the Mary Poppins bag of life! Day by day I am acquiring more knowledge about God + His sovereignty, character, will; moving me from elementary milk to substantial meat (Hebrews 5:12-15, 1 Corinthians 3:2). Now, I must continue in this pursuit, finding a balance beyond selfishly soaking up all the information for myself + rather turning outward to love, encourage, serve, exhort my family of believers + reach out to share this overflowing knowledge, heart, passion with unbelievers who may not have access to or any experiential knowledge of picking up + tasting of this cup.
This year, God has abundantly + exceedingly answered requests.
Concluding the summer, I prayed that I would be able to form the same type of prompt, pointed, purposive, life-giving relationships with people I would come into contact with on campus. Provided.
Prior to my return to my campus from a semester away, I prayed that I would have someone to disciple + lead in the way that a mentor had done for me. Provided.
Going into this past year of 2019, I prayed for a heart change. I think, in review of all this… provided.
I prayed to my good, heavenly, trustworthy Father that what I had learned + grown into within the past year wouldn’t be left behind in Denver or in Dublin or in the cracks between here + there, but I would be able to tap into + draw from that newly dug well of Kristen — that I could let go + open up + dig in to anomalous avenues of life where He was leading.