Samuel.

This past summer I met a boy named Samuel.

The first thing that he said to me is that I could call him anything, as long as I didn’t call him Sammie. Naturally, he’s been Sammie to me ever since. Throughout the summer he began to show me his heart and I am captivated by it’s character.

Recently, Sam accepted the Lord’s gift of salvation. It was a big deal. The culmination of months of prayer, timid questions, nights of tears, late and long conversations, hearts of hurt, and moments of doubt. Sam is a brilliant man, in multiple senses of the word, and because of this, my favorite question for him is “why?” Hearing his thoughts about the world and his view of it’s orchestration makes my heart jump with anticipation of conversation. He’s quickly become one of my best friends and I am constantly thanking the Lord for the huge blessing that is his friendship.

It’s through his companionship that the Lord’s character has been tangibly revealed in some of the most powerful ways, and watching him grow from an infant into the man that God created him to be is a bigger privilege than any other. On December 7th he took the leap and got dunked. He said yes to Jesus and was baptized in front of our church family. It was a beautiful moment, charged with tears of joy, loving affection, and welcome-to-the-family pats on the back.

His mom was able to be there for it, and I swear to you that that was the most powerful moment of all. What an amazingly beautiful woman. I snuck her up to the front and she was the first to embrace him and wrap the towel around him when he stepped out of the tub. The way that Sam’s eyes brightened could have lit the entire room. I can say in earnest that I have never met anyone who loves his family more than Samuel. His eyes light up at the mention of them, and his heart pounds in his chest when he talks about them… He may hate me for revealing this, but it’s one of my favorite things about him – his ability to love.

It’s in moments like those that I am the most thankful. God is a jealous and loving God, a masculine hero and a tender lover, and he is so incredibly faithful to put people in my life who demonstrate these qualities. One of those being Sam.

It’s not because he is perfect that he has changed my heart, he has changed me because he is different. The road to follow Jesus has never been an easy one, in fact, it’s paved with heartache – and though I recognize that Samuel is still navigating, I’m excited to continue to grow alongside him.

Samuel is my opposite in so many ways – besides the glaring difference in our genders, he is quiet when I am animated, and contemplative where I articulate quickly and loudly. He is mild when I am extreme, and he is calm in the moments when I’m struggling to keep my cool.

He’s no perfect man (no one is), and he still is growing and maturing (who isn’t?) – but knowing him has been an adventure that I have been blessed to be a part of.

Seeing the mark he’s left on my  own heart in the course of a couple months, I wanted to highlight him this month in order to show you why his friendship has changed my heart… so I asked him a few questions.

Because Sam is contemplative in nature my favorite question for him is “why?” He probably gets frustrated because I ask him so much- but there’s something to be said about his willingness to satisfy my inquiries every time.  Sam has been a challenge for me. Learning to love him has been one of the most simultaneously rewarding and difficult things that I have ever done. He’s challenged me to think differently, and he’s challenged me to love in ways that I didn’t know that I could. It is a strange thing to know someone through the entire process of following Christ – the initial meeting and the process that follows afterward – and it is so difficult to navigate on my part that I often wonder how his world is being shaken.

The Sam that I know today is barely an echo of the boy who I met months ago, and that is a startlingly real representation of the Lord’s faithfulness. He is quiet and contemplative and because of that he would never let anyone know – but he doesn’t have to say the words outright for people to recognize the change in his person. It is a truly beautiful thing.

I asked him what it has looked like for him. From the outside looking in I know it wasn’t a quick process, but my perspective of his heart is based on months and not years, and the transformation of a heart very seldom happens in a matter of hours. In his own words,

“The process of becoming a Christian was… a transition over time. Being surrounded by people who knew and loved the Lord, and hearing their takes on what it meant to be faithful, started the shift in my life.”

And since that shift it has been an amazing thing to watch him grow. I know that the road ahead of him is paved with sleepless nights and hard questions, but in the months that have followed his acceptance of Jesus Christ as Messiah the Lord’s faithfulness to him has been no secret; and it is a huge thing to spend time with him listening to him give credit where it is due – from the initial pursuit of a Music education degree at the beginning of his college career to recognizing the Lord’s role in it, Samuel has been a reminder to me of what it looks like to have the unfaltering faith and hope of a new believer. In fact, when I asked him why he chose Jesus and where he saw Him working in his own life, his response was a striking illustration of his heart:

“After I started attending church regularly and regularly hearing the Word, I had some realizations. I have been having so many amazing opportunities since I arrived on the WSU campus; academically, socially, and spiritually. I came into contact with quite a few people who passionately loved Jesus: this was new for me. I was given countless chances in the School of Music to prove myself as a freshman flute player…and I succeeded. After looking at these two things, I realized that God’s plan was exactly this: what I was doing, who I was meeting…it all was by design…After realizing that God was moving in my life – bringing me to people who knew him and loved him, giving me chances to show who I really am – that was a big reason… why I chose Jesus. The man knows what he’s doing, and I figured I’m gonna let him do it.

God shows himself to me often; in my friends involved in Resonate (and even in some who aren’t), in all of my experiences in the School of Music, and in my family. Watching him reveal who I am supposed to be and who I am supposed to do life with has been extremely rewarding. I know he’s not finished yet, but I couldn’t be more excited to see just where he’s going to take me.”

The mark that Samuel continues to press onto my heart is reminiscent of Hebrews 11:1 which says: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” This is all so new to Sam. For the eighteen years that he has been on this earth, his pursuit of the Lord is barely a blip on the radar at this point, and yet, he possesses the faith of a child while pursuing the hunger of an adult – and it is inspiring.

It’s frustrating for him to not know everything all the time (he is a C on the DISC scale after all), but I think that his hunger for answers has led to his pursuit of the meat that the Bible has to offer, and it has been a really cool thing to digest with him. He causes me to think about things that I haven’t ever really had to explain, he allows me the insight that  the beginning roots of a faithful life are a baby’s grip on the gospel – and it has been insane.

We’ve had so many conversations about what it looks like to pursue the Lord, so many other conversations about how faithful He is to provide, and even others when we are frustrated – and it is fascinating to hear his perspective. Every week I make him tell me three areas that he sees the Lord working in in his own life, and listening to his praises and frustrations has been a beautiful thing to be a part of. So, in order to further illustrate his character I asked him to share what he thinks that the Lord is doing in his life and where he sees God pursuing him, and this is what he had to say:

“Since I’ve discovered and developed our relationship, the Lord has spent a large amount of time teaching me. While my college life (excuse me, my home life) is filled with faith and friends who I can talk to about Jesus, my life where I’m from is not. I recently came back from a 3-week long semester break… in the time I was in Vancouver I never really caught a break from learning. The Lord was teaching me everyday – how to handle the complications imposed by my divorced parents, how to handle the miscommunication between myself and my sister, how to continue to pursue him even when there were only a few people around me who promoted that pursuit. I will tell you one thing, I was exhausted by the end of it. I have not taken a class as rigorous as the Lord’s… Family has been one of the most complicated things for me this past year. While painful, it provides a great point of conversation between God and me. It’s sort of strange to say it like this, but as my parents relationship unraveled, mine and God’s was built up. So, thinking about everything that happened over my break, I am realizing that the Lord is teaching me right now. And I certainly have a lot to learn.

…I’d say that the Lord pursues me, at this point in my faith, mostly in my interactions with my friends…  I see him… in my interactions with family as well. My family doesn’t really know Jesus, so when I’m home around them I can tell that the Lord is teaching me. He’s teaching me how to be faithful when I’m surrounded by a distinct lack of faith. He’s teaching me how to be patient with members of my family as I have to deal with the aspects surrounding divorced parents. He’s teaching me to make wise decisions and to seek council with friends when I need help with life’s tough questions.”

And tough they are. The questions are never easy, but I am grateful for Samuel in that he wants to ask them. It has been an interesting road for Sam, the past year has presented him with more challenges than the entirety of his life combined – and yet, rather than run into the arms of more detrimental vices, the Lord was faithful to lead him into His arms, and that is something that I don’t think is ever lost on Sam – which means it’s never lost on me either, and because of that I feel his imprint even deeper.

Samuel teaches me the beauty of childlike faith. He teaches me what it looks like to pursue your passions fervently and wholeheartedly. He teaches me what it looks like to be gentle when that is the last thing that you want to do. He teaches me what it looks like to jump in with everything, even the “big toe.” He teaches me what it is like to laugh in moments that seem unlikely. He teaches me that there are still men who hold doors.

In the months that we’ve known each other I’ve introduced him to countless bands, movies, and books; and he has introduced me to a world where boys are still in the pursuit of becoming the men that God created them to be.

It has been such a blessing to pursue a friendship with him and I cannot wait to see what the Lord does with this friendship – we have so much to learn from each other, and I am excited to navigate through that with Samuel.

He has left an imprint.

So I leave you with this, one of his most treasured life mottos:

“Don’t discredit your own abilities when it comes to the things you’re passionate about.”

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Samuel Yates – Baptism from Resonate Church on Vimeo.

Affirmation & Valentine’s Day

Hey you lovely people, happy day of love!

Here we are in the first half of the day, and if you’re anything like me, you’re still in your pajamas watching YouTube videos and not thinking too much about the fact that your instagram feed will soon be clogged with gushy declarations of love. Or, if you’re even more like me – that’s exactly what you’re thinking about.

Much like a surprising majority of people, I hate Valentine’s Day. The only person that this holiday is actually good for are the card company CEOs. It’s an institution. We should rebel. Anyhow, it’s days like today that simultaneously mean nothing and everything to me, depending on the way that I’ve tilted my lens.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of affirmation. Where does it come from? Where do we seek it? What does it mean? What should it mean?

It comes to mind that Valentine’s Day is nothing more than an instrument to force you into the world of affirming – both your partner and yourself.

In the past few weeks I have been bombarded with the knowledge that there are people who have recently come to the conclusion that they hate me – only, plot twist – they’ve never even bothered to speak to me. Girls think that I am some sort of mega slut because I would rather spend my time with my guy best friends, and then there are others whose jealousy dictates that I am an awful human in general. Countless others have pegged me as a brash and intimidating girl. And then there are others who think that I am an utter airhead.

It’s really unfortunate, not to mention discouraging.

The other day I was getting breakfast with one of my best girl friends and she was telling me about how she smashed her PT test for our campus’ ROTC program, but she prefaced it with, “I don’t want to sound conceited but…” (or something to that affect), and in that moment I was suddenly hit full force with the devastating nature of the concept of affirmation that our society offers. She, honestly, had no reason to be humble, she did an amazing job and she earned her pride, she earned her pat on the back because she worked hard, but, because of the world that we live in, she was afraid to admit how great she was because she was afraid to sound stuck up.

It strikes me how unfortunate this is.

As a culture we are really, really good at being dissatisfied with what we have. This comes in the form of possessions or body shapes, anything. We are professionals in the game of unthankfulness.

Here we are, sitting in our cozy homes, on Valentine’s Day – a day whose very lifeblood is essentially based in the concept of affirmation – and we if we are single we are hating ourselves, and if we’re not we’re probably dissatisfied.

Valentine’s Day can carry a lot of weight if we let it.

For me, it was the first day that a boy ever called me beautiful. It was the first day that a boy made me feel special and sought out. It was the the first time in my life that I felt wanted.

It’s unfortunate that all of these things came from boys, but is that not what our culture has engrained in us from day one? I have always been the “friend,” the “wing-woman,” in the latest vernacular – the “duff.” It’s a role that I’ve recognized time and time again. I’m the friend that the guys use to get access to my friends, I’m the one whose told that my friends are beautiful not the one on the receiving end of the compliment. And because of that society has painted  picture for me that makes me feel utterly unwantable.

But you know what I’ve started to realize?

I don’t care. God wants me.

My hips may be wider than the average girls. My shoulders may be broader than the women on the runway. My eyes may be smaller than the models, and my eyebrows thinner. My lips may not be as full and my ears may be pointed, my waist may cinch to early and my calves stretch out farther than others. I may have a birthmark on my temple and Orion’s Belt fashioned from freckles on my arm, and my nose may be smaller than others and my hair shorter than those beachy beauties…. But you know what, I love all those things about myself.

Because that’s exactly what God had in mind when he created me.

Our culture has sadly promoted an idea that we are the judges, that our affirmation should come from one another and the media. This means that we’ve bred a society of people who either validate via tearing others to pieces or people who are all together too scared to admit that they’re actually pretty cool.

Lately though, I’ve started to realize that I’m actually pretty awesome… but more than that, I’ve been realizing that it’s okay to say it. I am smart, and passionate, and funny, and loving, and beautiful – and no amount of chocolate shaped hearts or punny cards are going to change that. 

I didn’t wake up to a “good morning beautiful” text this morning, but I did wake up to a Great God who is in ceaseless pursuit of my heart. Tell me which is better.

I may not have a “boo” to spend today with, but I do have the company of some really genuine friends, and the open arms of my Lord. That’s sort of a big deal. Bigger still is the fact that my life is going to go on, and one day I’ll be married and then I’ll have a Valentine forever – but even then, it’s not about me, and it’s not about him – it’s about celebrating the unique masterpieces that we are, and all of the things that we will accomplish together. 

Today my affirmation doesn’t come from compliments, or chocolate, or extravagant displays of affection, instead I’m choosing to believe that I really am awesome. I don’t think that God messed up when he put those extra ounces of curve in my body, or encouraged the laugh lines around my eyes, or cut himself off short when counting the hairs on my head. I think that I am the way that God wanted – flaws and all.

So for those of you celebrating Valentine’s Day alone, take some time to celebrate yourself – after all, you’re pretty dang awesome! And for those of you who are celebrating with your boos, appreciate each other and recognize that it’s because each of you as an individual is amazing that your relationship is working – not because one of you is really good at affirming the other.

Happy Valentine’s Day lovies. Party on.

Double Degrees and Collegiate Exhaustion

I’ve been drinking so much coffee these past couple weeks that I’ve begun to get heart palpitations.I swear I’m losing my mind. In the worst way, I’ve been so stressed that I’ve actually been making myself ill. And its almost shameful to admit. I’ve been forgetting things more rapidly than I should, and losing my train of thought in the middle of my sentence, and forcing myself through the day with copious amounts of coffee is beginning to make my head spin.

Like many others, my pre-University college impressions were largely shaped by the schema of cinematic and entertainment based portrayals of it.

I thought that I was going to end up somewhere where the sun consumed the sky and the campus was over-crowded with sun-kissed hotties and the warm waves crashed onto golden sand outside the gigantic window of my massive room which housed a queen-sized bed. In the times when I wasn’t hanging around in the beautiful sun, I would be in the library with my glasses prettily strewn across the bridge of my nose and my focus deeply rooted into whatever I was reading while attractive men knocked down book shelves to get to me. I pictured a world where class time and social time were hand in hand, and yet there always seemed to be more time for the latter.

My first semester of college has all but completely smashed every aspect of this portrait.

I somehow thought that I would play the role of Paige Morgan from The Prince & Me while the rest of the world played the part of the unfortunate souls in 22 Jump Street – no walks of shame for this princess.

Turns out college, much like life, is nothing like the movies.

College is more difficult than I ever imagined. It strains me in aspects of my life that were previously completely unknown to me. It leads to long nights full of tear stained pillows and tightened chests. It is the birthing ground for unrest. It is one of the hardest things that I have ever done.

For so many years it feels like everyone has been so quick to tell me that college would be amongst my greatest joys. One of the biggest highlights in the reel of my life – why then does it feel so much like I’m a fish trying to fly? I haven’t slept in what feels like weeks, and at this rate, sleep seems like a forgone luxury – I’ve got to pay my four years before I am able to reap the benefits of that sweet pleasure again.

College, much like adolescent life, is an awkward half-way between adulthood and prepubescence (Well, maybe not the latter because I’m hoping that my cohorts have already enjoyed the benefits that puberty has to offer), and I find myself in what feels like a perpetual stream of awkwardness as I navigate the waters of pre-adulthood life.

This thing called life – yeah, it’s not easy. Not in any way.

For months I’ve been working my tail off, desperately trying to stay afloat in a world that seems so determined to swallow me whole. I find that in the collegiate realm I have trouble finding the time to just simply breathe. It’s an interesting phenomena – the suffocation of an institution, in all honesty, I’m still gasping for air, and I feel like I’ve got so many more months and years full of collapsed lungs.

However exhausting it all is, there have recently been some huge developments in my own screenplay:

I’ve decided to pursue a double degree!

This was a big decision. It means that I’m adding about thirty more credits to my course load, and in order to complete all of the requirements I have to complete 150 credits total. Nonetheless, I’m incredibly stoked. This means that I am officially part of four different colleges with all of my majors, minors, and specializations considered – needless to say, the advising appointments have been long. I certify for my first degree this spring and in the next year I will be able to certify for my second.

My advisor told me that I’m ahead of the curve considering planning, and it’s been great. When I graduate the aim is to have a BA in Communication with an emphasis in Journalism and Media Production, a BA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing, a certificate from the Honors college, and a minor in Comparative Ethnic Studies. It’s a full course load, and a little overwhelming to think that all of it will be completed in four years, but I could not be more stoked to pursue each of these different passions of mine.

Which leads me to my next thought!

I will be studying abroad!

During the Fall of my Junior year I will be studying abroad in Aberystwyth University in Wales!!! Yoo-hoo! The road ahead is paved with countless applications and long nights, but I am excited to spend a semester abroad since it’s been a long time dream of mine to study English abroad.

Amidst the stress of finding a place to live next year, the preparation for my summer mission trip, and my working toward certification, everything feels like a mess. But, the exhaustion and planning are finally beginning to lead to a plan.

Just yesterday my friend Garrett turned to me and told me that he thinks that we are “slowly figuring out this whole college thing,” and in the moment I wasn’t sure, but the more that I thought about it, the more I begin to recognize my wings.

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“Sometimes when it feels like things are falling apart they may actually be falling into place.”

Photo courtesy of my friend Jacqueline.

My Place of Quiet Retreat

4-cdaLet me begin by saying that I wasn’t going to be a part of this retreat until late in the game. It was over my brother’s birthday weekend, and I’ve been planning to go back up home for months now. I was excited to spend time with my family, especially because my brother has recently become immersed in the world of creative media and we have become rather great pals in our shared passion. It has been unbelievably refreshing.

(Eli, if you’re reading this, I am so proud of the man that you are becoming, continue to think for yourself and pursue passions on you’re own because you’re pretty great and I think that you’ll make the world pretty great too. I know that high school is tedious and people are annoying, but you’re bigger than that, and I’m so happy that I was blessed with the opportunity to be your sissy.)

That same weekend (the last two days of January) my church was hosting a retreat in the lakeside town of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and they had invited me to be a part of the “leadership track” which was specifically designed to cultivate the future leaders in our church. It was meant to be a period of reflection, when we all removed our distractions and focused on the Lord and his goodness instead of the stress of college. With the invitation to the leadership part of the retreat I was given a discounted rate and the opportunity to spend the weekend with my friends in one of the northwest’s most beautiful towns.

I was torn. It seemed like no matter which option I chose I was wronging one of the parties. Long story short, after my going back and forth with myself and many phone calls and text messages to my mom, my family was gracious enough to push me to go and be a part of the retreat and then come home for the tail end of the weekend – so I guess we all sort of won.

I wasn’t sure what the weekend would hold. I have been to Coeur d’Alene before because it’s so close to where I live, so I knew a few of the things I wanted to do while I was in town… but I suppose I was unprepared for the weight of the weekend.

12-cdaWith my entire weekend booked, I packed my bags and headed out after my Friday classes, my friend Sam (who also has a blog that you can read here) kept me company on the ride up and we managed to make the trip incredibly quick – which meant that we had more than a few hours to waste before the rest of our friends, and our church, arrived in town.

If you know me at all, then you know that I crave opportunities for exploration. I had made sure to take my camera with me – armed with excessive amounts of memory cards and fully charged batteries, stoked to soak up the beauty through the lens of my rig. But the foggy northwestern day cannot be done justice by these snapshots. The beauty of the blue-tinted world is something that even the greatest camera could not capture. 5-cdaWe headed in the direction of the lake, the sun setting behind the clouds, shrouding the world in a darkness that echoed the blue of the night. The water seemed to fuse with the sky, and in the midst of the adventure I couldn’t help but pause and just soak it in. The lights reflecting off of the water, the fog hanging low – weaving itself between the trees on the bank opposite us, the serenity of a quiet town, the sound of the water lapping the shore and the steps that led into it. It was all a dream. Standing there on the edge of the lake, I wasn’t entirely sure that my reality hadn’t somehow shifted to be something entirely imagined. It all felt too picturesque to be true. It felt vast. It felt infinite. I felt infinite.

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It’s probably pretty annoying to go out with me, the majority of my time is spent gasping at the beauty of the world around me, and the process of walking even a foot takes about an hour when I have a camera on hand. Sam was patient, (thank God) and I made him pose for a few shots around the bay – and by pose I mean I just caught him when he didn’t think I was taking a picture.

1-cda7-cda8-cda11-cda6-cdaHe’s probably not too keen on the idea of me posting all of these. The truth though is that I don’t care much because I want to share the adventure, and he just happened to be a part of it. I had a pretty fantastic night. Everything about it felt mystical, I dreaded it’s end, I dreaded the descent back into reality – the world full of collegiate stress, strained relationships, and hard decisions.

So I sunk my claws into the moment and clung to it, walking the strip of dock attached to the resort and snapping pictures of everything that I set my sights on.
9-cda13-cda 14-cda 15-cda 16-cda21-cda19-cda18-cda20-cda17-cdaFollowing our dock-side adventures, we somehow managed to make it into the resort where we were met with glances that let us know that everyone else knew that we didn’t belong there – the dynamic of the high profile life is thoroughly intriguing. So, once we made it out we stumbled our way into the shops where I got to show Sam the cool toy-store “Figpickles” where I made him play me a little tune on the bells – I mean, a realistic request considering he is a music major.

24-cdaFrom there I dragged him to my favorite greek restaurant. I had been craving it all week once I knew that I would be in Coeur d’Alene, and I swear that the second it hit my tastebuds I could barely handle myself. I ordered a garlic and lemon buttered lamb dinner and Sam got one of the classic Gyros and then I made him try the baklava, because baklava is practically the greatest thing since sliced bread and since I’m gluten free now I desperately wanted to live vicariously through his tastebuds. I’m sure it was profoundly delicious.

25-cda26-cdaBut then the adventure ended and the high was gone, and for the rest of the weekend I found myself struggling to even keep a smile on my face.

I’ve recently added an English degree to my course load, and as such I’ve been taking classes heavy in writing content and one of the primary things that I’ve learned throughout the process is that writing was meant to be uncomfortable because it’s meant to be real.

So allow me to be real with you, even if it’s uncomfortable.

I feel like I’m failing.

It’s the fourth week of second semester and I already feel like I’m drowning. A couple of posts ago I mentioned that I had made some hard decisions in response to what I felt God was calling me to do (here), and then I got to spend time with some lovely and Godly women. I felt like I was done with all of it. I thought that I was finally getting my life under control, or at least managing the chaos. But then I went away for the weekend and it feels like I ignited a downward spiral.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of seasons – living your life as a process from beginning, middle, to new beginning – and it’s revolutionized the way that I think about things. It first came to my conscious through Jeff and Alyssa Bethke’s podcast, and since then it’s been a constant process; and in so many ways, getting away for the weekend made me aware of my status in the cycle, and as it turns out, I don’t think I’m as far into it as I let myself believe.

All of the heartache that I was feeling at the beginning of the semester came back in full force. My few hours of bliss exchanged for days of heartache, and it sickened me. Here I was to worship the Lord almighty and I would have rather been anywhere else.

And I guess that’s why it’s so good that I was there.

As part of a collegiate congregation, a lot of the focus of the church is exposing the students and people on campus to a God that they may have never even heard of; but as someone who has been following the Lord for years I sometimes get the feeling that I’m forgotten or pushed into the background to figure things out on my own because I have years of faithfulness as opposed to hours. And that is so hard. Following Jesus is just as hard sixteen years in as it is three years in as it is three days in. It’s difficult. Choosing Him is a daily process, and it’s so hard.

I don’t want you to think for a second that I am doubtful of the community around me, but because I am a follower of Christ I have a massive target on my back, and you can bet that the Devil is quick to fire at it. He makes me feel like I’ve lost prominence, like the people around me couldn’t care less about how my walk with the Lord because it’s old news, he makes me feel invalid for seeking support and community. He makes me feel worthless.

And in my heart of hearts I know the truth, but for the entirety of this weekend I felt pushed to the background, thrown into a corner to stew and be silent.

And it sucked.

I just wanted to be introverted, but instead I was in a massive sea of energized people and I could barely handle myself. By the time we reached free time, I had to excuse myself, the thought of spending the next few hours in the company of others when the only thing that I actually wanted to do was explode into tears made me blanch. It was humbling for me, but I had to ask to be alone.

So I drove to the lake.

I parked my car off to the side of the road, my eyes burning from the tears that I had been holding back and my throat swollen from the welling sobs. I had Housefire’s “Good Good Father” playing through my car stereo, and despite the fact that others were in the car in front of me, and runners were lapping my truck I let out my torrential downpour of tears into the steering wheel. I yelled. I cried. I journaled. I purged my heart.

I guess I didn’t realize how awful I was actually feeling until I really went to God – I feel like church retreats somehow always seem to have that effect – as I sat there in my car I realized that what I was screaming wasn’t random sounds, but the pleading of a desperate heart… “please Lord, please Lord, please Lord”… I could barely breathe… “I tried to listen… why does this hurt so much”… I turned the stereo up to drown myself out… “Please. Please.

I tore into my journal, my heart saturating the page with it’s pleas. I found myself writing out the words to Hillsong United’s “I Surrender”:

Here I am, 

down on my knees again, 

surrendering all, surrendering all. 

Find me here, 

Lord as you draw me near, 

I’m desperate for you, desperate for you. 

I surrender. 

I was on my knees. I was surrendering. And it was hard.

I think that following Jesus is a constant process of surrendering everything over, and God was sure to make sure that I knew that then. 27-cdaI sat there on the side of the lake for a while until I mustered the strength to gather my things and step out to take some pictures, but all of the ducks freaked me out and there was a young woman with a little girl headed down to the beach and I didn’t want my mascara stained eyes and snotty nose to bum them out, so I waited a while longer until I was good to drive and took myself up to the other end of the lake.

It was here that I saw that the clouds were finally beginning to part. The northwest grey was giving way to blue, and it didn’t last for long, but in that moment I needed it. I stepped out of my car, and it was cold and I was still upset, but for a few seconds I got to focus on the picture and not the moment.

I don’t want you to think that everything was magically alright, because I think that’s one of the biggest lies that our culture perpetuates – that everything is alright the instant that you are face to face with something beautiful. No, I was still upset, and I would rather have sat in my car and continued to journal and sing along to the radio, but I know my heart, and I know what I love, so I decided to make an effort and get out.

I grabbed my camera and slung it over my neck, and out there alone, in the frigid northwest air, I focused in on the things surrounding me that were bigger than the moment. I focused on being present and being alone. I focused on the reprieve that I was getting from the busy world. I focused on being silent.

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The theme of the weekend was abiding in the Lord. Establishing your roots in being silent and tuning out the world in order to genuinely respond to what the Lord was breathing into your life in the moments of intentional quiet.

Out there alone I had no one to talk to but the Lord, and because of that I focused on the creative process and found my heart slowly begin to soften. Running the risk of sounding incredibly cliche – it was in light of my surroundings that I remembered how small I am and how vast God is.

And now, as I’ve been back for a few days, I’m still working on finding my sea legs again. Thrust back into reality with a tired heart is no small task.

I’m trying to dwell on the words of Psalms:

“You’re my place of quiet retreat; I wait for your word to renew me.” –Psalm 119:114 MSG

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