Growing Pain

Something has really been troubling me lately. It all has to do with pain.

Pain in sacrifice. Pain in giving up. Pain in losing something, someone, a friend. Pain in moving away. Pain in taking a risk. Pain in making decisions. The pain of putting your heart on the line and knowing people. The pain it takes to move forward.

The type of pain that festers deep within the heart and works from the deep, inside out. Maybe pain kills slowly.

Maybe pain makes us stronger… Maybe not.

I look around and a see a lot of pain. And I see a lot more people trying to hide the pain inside.

I know and see this pain because I’m no better.

One of my roommates and I talked tonight about pain. I wondered if I’m good at hiding it. Most of the time I feel like I’m not. My roommate knows me pretty well, so most of the time she knows I am carrying around a deep pain that was a long time coming even before it started to fester and scar my heart. However, she told me that if she didn’t know the real me, she would think that I am fine because I hide it so well.

It’s never been a surprise to me that I am One: A worrier. And Two: A wall builder. Especially when it means that I can somehow try and escape the pain for a while. I worry that I am a burden by sharing my pains with others. That they will be too repetetive. This only leads to wall-building that can sometimes be unhealthy. This led me to wonder how many walls are put up on a daily basis when I am meeting a stranger on the T, when I look into the eyes of peers around me. What pains might they be carrying around with them that they feel they need to hide as much as I feel I need to hide my own pain?

How many of us are trying to replace our pain with a new thing? How many believe that replacing something or someone with a new thing or person can make it all better?

For a while I believed that replacing people could make the pain of losing those that were or are important to me go away.

Newsflash: It doesn’t. It might make the pain go numb for a while and it might make the people around us believe that we are forging a new path and feeling better. But, on the inside we just feel helpless, like nothing will get better. Like the pain will never go away because eventually we realize that it might be something we have to perpetually live with until we find our distance along the path.

Maybe distance isn’t what everyone needs.

One day, within all the messiness, mud, and pain… We will realize how wrong it is to try and evade pain and make it go away. The real matter is that pain creates cracks. Pain might create beautiful walls, but the beauty about those walls is that there are always cracks in the gravel it takes to build walls. God takes cracks and plants seeds in the space, which can then be watered. But seeds can’t be watered without dirt and hurt (relapse) every now and then.

Eventually, pain will become something we learn to live with. If we’re lucky, the wall might be broken down, so beautiful and better things can grow bigger and stronger. When things grow bigger and stronger, walls are torn down and we begin to see how God was present within all the messiness of the past hurt.

It doesn’t make the pain we feel any less, but it makes perspective a little more clear.

So…

Can pain etched deep inside the heart ever truly be evaded? Will replacement and ignorance of the things that cause us pain ever give us true freedom?

I think not. 

I think freedom comes when pain fills cracks in the walls and grows.

Hope

Here’s the deal, plain and simple:

There are things I don’t want to be doing when Jesus returns.

I would love to be sitting on my bed or sitting on the floor, reading my bible and writing in my journal for God, because that’s what a person in their right mind would want when Jesus returns… To be doing the right thing. To be doing the thing that looks right to Jesus. In my mind that looks like hiding the brokenness I have inside and acting perfect.

It occurred to me like a flood of water this morning. The only possible question I could think of inside my brain was this:

What if Jesus were to return when I am stuck on the floor, crippled and broken by sin? Honestly, what would happen?

I sat there and I imagined it. Yes, I imagined it. I imagined myself on the floor, crippled and broken and crying out to Jesus for love, allowing Satan to let me think that this is the only way out, the only way to experience love.

But then He appeared in front of me, and I felt shame, embarrassment; I wanted to hide and run away just like Adam and Eve. But His eyes weren’t scornful or judgmental. His eyes were understanding, they were crying out to me in love. He smiled at me like I was the only one He saw. He bent down and reached out to me with His hand, giving me the choice to stand up and walk away. He gave me the choice.

The image vanished from my head as soon as I realized that I wasn’t paying attention to the message, which was coincidentally about Hope and how there is Light in the Darkness.

It was an out of body experience, something I’ve never experienced before. Later in the message, something about sin was mentioned, how sin is the reason we scorn others, it’s the reason behind a lot of the bad things that happen in this world. The mention of a man punching holes in the darkness was mentioned. I imagined my sin as the darkness. How in that darkness, Jesus chooses to stand there and reach out His hand to me as a light and a HOPE.

Jesus is in the ministry of healing, He is in the ministry of looking at the heart instead of what we do out of our fleshly desires. For me, I might be crippled by sin. I am most definitely broken, but Jesus meets me exactly where I am in my own darkness.

Chapel today was ended on the note that Hope is what you get when you realize that a new worldview (or view in general) is possible. For me, I might be crippled by sin and completely broken, but the vision I got today before the business of darkness and sin was brought up showed me how true this statement is. Jesus is the hope and He is the choice I have when I find myself on the floor, at the lowest of low, looking for love.

He is the love I can find my hope in, because of those eyes.

So understanding, so beautiful, so nice for just meeting me where I am… In the risks I take, in the choices I make that are for Him and even not for Him.

Whether or not I am ready to grasp it, Jesus is there with me, all the time, whether I like it or not.

And all we need to do is meet Him halfway and reach out our hands, returning the invitation He is always offering, free of charge.

Monday

Anything that could start to go wrong does, and of all the days it could be on, it’s on the start of a week.

Monday.

It’s raining and cold, I’ve lost my room key, and I’m stressed. The normal voices in my head tell me that I don’t matter, that I’m not good enough, that what I’m doing is going by unnoticed, and that none of this is going to matter in whatever amount of time. A week. By Thanksgiving, the Encouragement Week will be gone. Art Night will have passed. And the voices tell me that none of it will have mattered. None. Of. It.

My heart knows that’s not true and that this is just a case of the Monday Blues and the disappointment of this past weekend is carrying over into the week. Comparison in my head between me and other people is awry and I just can’t see the bigger picture because my vision is being clouded by dust and rain clouds surrounding my head. It’s a battle between my heart and my head.

My head is winning. My heart yearns to win. My Heart consistently fails me.

Why? The answer must be fear.

I am fearful of embracing a life God has called me to. What if I do fail? Am I alone in these feelings?

Sometimes the only way I believe I can make a lasting impact is by writing something of importance or getting my name to be known “out there.” Wherever “out there” exists. Sometimes I think that if I can’t make a lasting impact on a lot of people’s lives, none of it will matter.

Maybe that is the root of the issue, this problem.

I look back on the experiences I’ve had where I feel good about what I’ve done, feel like I have made a lasting impact. Honduras. Camp Sebago. The crazy thing about that though, is that I look back on those experiences and I see a different Me. An Ashley in which only God could possibly work through me in order to get the work that needed to be done, done. An Ashley that became so carefree, it didn’t matter whether or not she was seen or well-known because the Spirit was alive in her and that’s all that really mattered. An Ashley that cared less about the acceptance and love of the world. An Ashley with the Spirit, her only Love that made everything worth it.

In Honduras, there was no way I’d get through numerous piggy back rides with children, letting a girl with the same name take my hair and learn how to braid with it, get through the hottest weather I’ve ever experienced, sharing the tough parts of my testimony, and the pain of saying goodbye to everyone that has had an impact on my heart without the help of God. At Camp Sebago, there was no way I’d be able to handle tough situations, ten year old girls, leading groups, and whatever else that happened without the help of God in my heart and around me tangibly. In those situations it was none of me, I was literally stripped of my own pride and had to allow God to work through me in both my strengths and weaknesses.

Why is it so easy out there and why is it so difficult to do that right here? Why is it that I can experience transformation when I am not in school, but when I get back here, I seem to take a lot of steps back in the transformation department and all the lessons I learned seem to be lost? Are they really lost? Are they still in there somewhere? Because I’d like to claim those lessons back and I’d like to get that love and purpose back.

And that love and purpose is purely through God alone.

So… I claim Him on this Monday of Suck.

Because at this point, He is the one thing that is shining brighter that anything else I know right now.

Give Thanks!

Everyone’s been in the spirit of Thanksgiving lately so I really want to list out a few of the things that make me thankful! So sorry for all these list-like blogs, I’ve had very little time to process anything of substance in order to write something coherent, so I’ve been listing it out a lot lately. Once Senior Thesis is over and once I have time to breathe, I’m sure there will be some deeper posts. However, there is some depth even in the small lists. The depth is hidden, look around for it or just ask me for some deep stuff! I’m always thanking and thinking inside my head. :]

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Family – Whether its my real family or my Christ-Centered family, I’m really thankful for every part of family that I am a part of. I am thankful for a dad who has shown me what it looks like to work hard and provide for whatever means of family I am a part of. I am thankful for a mom who has shown me what it means to be a quiet soul and listening / nurturing spirit. I am thankful for various others who have shown me what a Christ-centered marriage looks like and for those who have encouraged me by showing me what it looks like to not give up on the high standards I have for another person that I want to spend the rest of my life with. Finally, but not lastly (in regard to family), I am thankful for a Father up in Heaven who has taught me a lot in the past few years and who continues to teach me exactly where I’m at. God has been so faithful and surprisingly hilarious in the way that He has been revealing things to me. I only realize it in hindsight, but the things I have learned from Him are huge (Patience especially, which is a continual lesson in many dimensions for me).

Friends – God, I don’t even know where I would be without the friends who have literally taken me in and dealt with me through thick and thin. I put people through a lot of stress in my sassy, annoyed, and tired moments. I don’t mean to, and many people who know me well know that I don’t mean to. I deal with life in seasons and especially recently, I have been going through a season of funk and frustration because I don’t know what’s happening in the future and not knowing is hard for me. I also recently came off of a huge high season from summer, so I’m in a small and very dry valley right now, but I feel myself coming out of it… There is light, always light… It is only because of the various people God placed in my life who have willingly walked with me through the valley that I am getting out of it. I am so thankful for the people who walk beside me today no matter the high or low, who have walked beside me in the past and who show me what real friendship looks like on a daily basis. To the friends who are going to be a part of me no matter the distance life puts between us – thank you, you make a huge difference in me and in the people around you.

The Things that Keep me Warm and Dry – Seriously. It sounds crazy the way I put it, but with the amount of articles I’m seeing and with the shock of Long Island being shut down recently, I am just so thankful to have things as simple as a roof over my head, umbrellas, rain boots, socks, a bed, blankets, and warm showers that do everything they are supposed to. It is a luxury to have each and every one of those individual things and I am so blessed to be able to have each one as they are. I think about all the people who don’t have what I do and I want to do something about it. I can’t wait until I have my feet on the ground in a more stable way so I can reach out and help more.

Hugs – Always hugs. All hugs. Whether it’s a bad hug, a hug that makes me fall over, a hug that’s too tight, a hug that is awkward because of height differences, etc… But especially the hugs that are always just right. There have been a lot of those lately and I am so thankful for them. There is something beautiful and powerful about the touch of another human being that is different from anything I have ever experienced. I’ve heard it takes at least eight hugs a day in order for someone to be honestly happy and feel really good from the inside out. While touch isn’t my first Love Language (it’s definitely second or third, though), I understand why it’s some other people’s first love language. For me, there is just something extremely binding and intimate about a hug and letting someone into my personal space, so I am always very thankful when I am given the opportunity to hug someone I feel a connection with.

Mentors in my Life – Anyone who knows me knows that I get all happy when I talk about Small Group Bible Study. Last year it was Monday Night Small Group and this year it’s Thursday Night Small Group. The day doesn’t matter, what matters is the small group atmosphere and being able to be silly and let go around a great group of girls who will have a place in my heart forever. The leader of the group this year is someone I look up to and someone who has been a huge help in my growth and walk with God. I am so thankful for her friendship and presence in my life. I am also thankful for the older spiritual mentors in my life. I know these people can probably fall under the “Family” or “Friends” bracket, but in many ways they are so much more to me, and that is why they deserve their own pocket of thankfulness. These are the people who have taught me and are continuing to teach me what true leadership is all about and I am so thankful for that lesson.

The Challenges – While each season – high and low – brings its challenges, I am so extremely grateful for them because it just means that there is growth on the horizon. In the moment, the challenges are a complaint and an annoyance. In hindsight, however, they are what keep things interesting and what keep me on my toes. God knows this about me, so no matter how many times I complain or freak out at Him about the challenges or coincidences He’s placing in front of me, I know it is because of His love for me that He does what He does. He is not a complacent God and that is probably what I love best about Him. He always yearns to see us grow and while He holds on to us, He also lets us go, but only for the betterment of His Kingdom. A lot of the hard part in Love is letting Go and God knows how to do that for all of us, tailored perfectly and individually. I am so thankful for that simple fact.

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It’s a very small and simple list. But the small and simple things are what get me.

What are you thankful for?

Happy Season of Thanks!

Currently!

This post is inspired by a friend who posted something just like it. You can check out her awesome blog here. What better way to see where I’m at in life than listing out my currently’s? So, lets start this!

Currently Watching: One Tree Hill and New Girl. I’m watching both of these on Netflix thanks to a friend who has helped me out with her account. I started watching New Girl because a friend told me she thought I would like it and that it would make me laugh. I was skeptical of how much it would make me laugh at first, but it turns out no show has made me laugh more heartily than New Girl has. I started watching One Tree Hill because I’ve heard so many great things about the show. I’ll also let you guys in on a secret, I have a horrible guilty pleasure for dramatic television, no matter how corny it is.

Currently Reading: When I’m not procrastinating on school work (which consists of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte, American Novels, and any study material)… I am currently reading No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July (granted, it’s slow because of everything else). I also just recently started a book called Yes and No: How your Everyday Decisions will Shape your Life by Jeff Shinabarger. There’s also that book I started over the summer and never finished, Radical by David Platt (I’ll be finishing that one at some point!) But in all honesty, my reading list is way too long because I have this awesome habit of starting books and never being able to finish them because life takes over. On the daily, I read Storyline Blog for little snippets of inspiration on how to go about living daily life spiritually. I find this most comforting and think everyone who’s read this far should definitely check out the daily blogs that come up on it!

Currently Listening: Once again, just like reading, I’m kind of all over the place with what I’m listening to lately. If you want to creep my Spotify playlists, you can. I’m always looking for new artists to experience based upon the moods I’m in. I’ve recently been listening to a wonderful Coffee Shop feel playlist Spotify made for listeners. I have also found a love for certain One Direction songs, mostly the acoustic stuff that goes slow and gets me into melancholy moods, good for writing. I’ve also been loving the song Rather Be by Clean Bandit. It’s an upbeat, happy, and cute song I could listen to over and over without getting sick of it. It’s honestly a hit or miss with me. Anyone wanna make me a playlist? I’m gladly accepting new music at all times!

Currently Making: I’m working on my senior thesis. In my head. I should try writing the words going through my head on a Pages Document but for some reason, I just can’t spit out words when I want to be inspired to write. So there’s also this blog, that I’m constantly making and working through. I’m also in the middle of a Moleskin Notebook. Those are always a work in progress with art and writing, depending on the moods I’m in or what I’ve been challenged to think about. I am also in the middle of a show, so I’m making art in that genre as well. There is also this new Journal thing I’ve been doing. It goes together as an inspirational and devotional journal full of positivity and helpful things to remind myself of when I have or am falling into temptation. I’m making life happen. It’s hard to pinpoint just one thing that I’m making lately, because making things is a constant thing for me.

Currently Feeling: Tired. Not being able to exercise has made me extremely irritable and tired and even when I get coffee, it doesn’t do much for me but make my insides feel more awake, not my brain. I’m also feeling hopeful. My knee is no longer hurting as much as it used to going up and down stairs, but that could also be a repercussion of taking the ibprophen this morning. I am also feeling excited for the weekend ahead. Homecoming is always such a wonderful weekend and being able to see old/new faces is so much fun. I also can’t wait to cheer my team on in the middle of the woods at the Cross Country meet. I’m also excited to see family and friends next weekend, who are coming to the show in support of the art I am currently in the midst of making. I am also feeling challenged, to look deeper into who I am and why I am a certain way… To begin breaking down the walls in my own head and really continue the process of repairing that has been going on lately.

Currently Planning: Once again, in my head… A trip to Florida to visit with my grandparents over the first week of winter break. I also need an escape from the looming winter that will be coming soon enough. I hate cold weather. I love being warm. So even if it’s just a little bit of an escape the week before Christmas, it will be nice to go someplace warm and visit with grandparents who it feels like I haven’t seen in ages. The moments I can visit with family who are growing old are the moments I’m beginning to cherish the more I get older. A lot of people don’t have their grandparents and I have been blessed to grow up knowing and getting to know my grandparents, who are still very much alive.

Currently Loving: Coffee, Butter Rum Muffins, Smiling / Laughter, and Change. Coffee is a given, I love sipping coffee and reading the aforementioned Storyline in the morning. Coffee is also great when there is a lot of it and it comes cheaper than the size you’re getting. Butter Rum Muffins: If you want to know what a combination of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas tastes like; if you want to know what Hogwarts tastes like, go searching for Butter Rum Muffins. They bring the most joy to me simply because it reminds me of Hogwarts and Harry Potter, and I always associate Harry Potter with childhood and that’s always a good thing. Smiling and laughter is the one thing that keeps me going these days. Without exercise, I need something like that, and hearty laughs and people to share those laughs with is a thing that has been really great for me lately. I also don’t know what it is about fall, but change is so prevalent a theme in this season and I absolutely love it. I feel myself letting go and not caring about things that I used to and moving forward in hope for the real love that God lavishes on me each day, hanging onto and loving that most of all.

What are your currents? I’d love to know! :]

“I Open at the Close.” Opportunities, Expectations, and Perspective.

The more doors are closed in my life, the more I’m beginning to see them as small blessings in disguise. These blessings come in many different forms after the doors have closed, but most of the time when doors close, a much larger door opens and opportunity awaits. I keep telling myself this as there have been one too many doors shut in front of me these past couple weeks.

Two weeks ago, I dug myself into a pit of expectation. Expecting it to be a great week, thinking about various scenarios and how they would play out in my head.

The weekend after a Cross Country meet with a bad left knee… I would just keep running through the pain. That week, I was told to stop running and to cross train. I didn’t talk to half the individuals I wanted to two weeks ago. It wasn’t because they didn’t want to talk with me, it was because I had expected to talk with them and when it didn’t happen the way I thought it would, it was a welcome party into the pit of unmet expectations.

I knew that a good week would await me, though. Good weeks always follow awful ones.

Last week, I ran on Monday. But the pain in my knee flared up once again and I was put on hold. Other than that bump in the road, it was a really great week. But the unexpected bad things happened that I never thought would. In my head, I was looking forward to November; serving at Long Island Shelter more often once my schedule would calm down. God has a funny way of putting me in my place when I put expectations on the future, though… On Thursday morning, the chaplain of our school emailed everyone and told us that due to a failing bridge inspection, Long Island was being shut down and anything regarding our partnership with them would be put on hold for the moment being.

That same day, I learned I didn’t get an opportunity I had tried out for.

That same day, I gave three precious little girls piggy back rides around the cafeteria.

At the end of the day, I was more frustrated with the fact that there were 400 plus people without a home than the fact that I hadn’t gotten an opportunity I said “why not?” to; and at the end of the day, it was the three girls who smiled and hung out with me that gave me the most joy. I don’t think that hanging out with little kids will ever get old for me.

In the end, perspective is what it all boils down to. 

The amount of pain my heart feels when reading articles about how there are people without homes and the amount of pain my heart feels for the broken people in this world is astounding to me. The more I follow God on this journey in life, the more I see my heart breaking for the things His breaks for. And it’s painful.

One of my close friends always tells me I’m a “nurturer.” When I first heard this claim, I wondered what that could possibly mean, but over the past month or so, I’ve begun to realize that nurturing is something that is innately in my personality. It gives me joy to listen to other’s stories, it gives me joy to hang out with children, and it gives me the utmost joy when I can brighten someone else’s day or make them smile. Part of being a nurturer is to have a heart for the broken and have a heart for children, too. While broken individuals are so different from children, it’s children that I learn joy from.

I like adult things. Like coffee, like adult conversation about the world and what’s going on… And being there for someone when they need a listening ear. I am an adult so I am naturally inclined to be attracted to more adult things. But I also love kid things. I still sleep with a teddy bear and I like to laugh until I cry. I still laugh at the most ridiculous things and if I could, I would sit in the sandbox with anyone who would join me, building sandcastles and dreaming big. I do dream big… That’s a part of being a kid, having dreams about where I would like to be in the world or dreaming of how we see the world in whatever amount of years.

We can learn a lot from children.

They let the bad things roll of their backs. They plow through doorways whether there is a yes or no. They keep trying. They fall and get up again. They always look on the brighter side.

I love kids. If I could perpetually be a kid, I would choose to be one.

But I am not. So how do I implement the joy of a child into my life and those around me?

By making others happy. Whether it is Paying it Forward, or giving back to friends by spending time with them and listening, or just being involved with my feet inside the doors, not giving up on opportunities when they come my way, and just going forward with that “why not?” attitude, giving it my all. I have the ability to say a million yes’s and no’s every single day.

I would rather live a life full of saying yes and open doors. Leaving others to tell me no and shutting the doors than telling myself no and shutting the doors before even trying.

Truth is: I ran two Cross Country Races pretty much hurt. While I can’t run until I feel 100% again (and that could take a long time), I am still a part of a team and at the end of the day, that’s what matters. I said yes to being on a team and my team welcomed me with open arms whether or not I was a fantastic runner. Truth is: I went to Long Island to serve dinner once in September. Champion Man smiled so big and the joy on his face when he received food made everything worth it. While Long Island is momentarily shut down and my heart is hurting for the homeless without homes, the fact that I got one opportunity to give back to the people there in an interactive way is worth it for me. Truth is: I’m still going to go after opportunities that are open for anyone to try for.

Because why not?

If doors are open, I’m going to try and plow through those doorways like a kid would.

But if the doors are closed, it just means there is another opportunity waiting or it’s not the right time yet.

And that is okay.

The Challenge in Love

Love.

I know love is a choice.

I know it takes work.

I know it means being vulnerable.

I know it means being myself and allowing another to be the same.

I know it means encouragement in every way possible.

I know it requires forgiveness.

I know it requires communication.

I know what the bible says in 1Corinthians13:4-8: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Part of me wants to grumble because I’ve never experienced love in the way I truly would like to experience it with another person who fits me. But another part of me is also kind of happy I haven’t because love is giving me a whole new perspective lately. And I’m not talking about the love I so desperately want. It’s the type of love that comes from friends, no strings attached, no worry about anything more or less. The type of love that comes from God, the type of mercy that comes from God. The type of love that is chosen, because it is a choice, after all.

Whether it’s love in friendship, love in something more, or just loving another person I don’t know well… It doesn’t matter. It’s a conscious choice to love another human being and want what’s best for them no matter the circumstances. No matter the consequences.

In a society that tells us to feel love rather than choose it, it can get very confusing. Many people choose love based on the feelings they have. It’s why marriages and relationships go sour so quickly, because a lot of it is based on how you feel. Granted, some of it has to be based on feelings. But once a couple gets through the honeymoon phase of everything being great and dandy, quite often they are faced with different obstacles that the world likes to throw at them or they experience new annoyances that they never realized the other person had. If you’re in a relationship it’s easy to give up and break ties, but in a marriage it’s a whole different ball game.

I think the different ball game is how we should go about loving each and every person whether or not they are a spouse for life, though.

It’s not easy.

That’s why so many people run away or put up walls with those around them. Heck, it’s why I do it. I don’t want to put myself on the line for something that is extremely hard and difficult, nonetheless that I have to CHOOSE it, despite the circumstances that life throws my way. I’m not ready for that type of responsibility. Yet, as a Christian woman, I am called to go about loving others in this ball game. I’m not called to sit on the sidelines and do what makes me feel good, I am called to go all in and just love even when it’s not easy.

Here’s a nice picture to wrap your mind around: There is a God in this life. He’s the one that loves us, He’s the one that CHOOSES to love us despite the fact that we fail Him DAILY. We fail God daily, own that, understand that… And then we can talk about love. God is choosing to love everyone in this world despite our sin. He could easily walk away and yet He still looks down upon us like we are the cleanest people He’s ever seen. I will never understand how a God can do that, but He does, and maybe I don’t have to understand it, maybe I just have to accept it and choose to love Him back all the same.

Here’s another picture: I am a sinner. I run away from God daily. I choose sin over love because I am not ready for it. I desperately want to choose love but constantly fall short because it is and always will be in my nature to sin. I can take steps in order to get through temptation, though. That’s love. It’s exhausting, it’s difficult, and sometimes it’s annoying. But it’s in the weakest moments, when I am sinning, when I am feeling awful for what I’ve done, like no one will understand, that God looks down on me with love even though my back is turned on Him. It’s not until I turn back and forgive myself that I get the insurmountable love He feels for me and see the aforementioned picture.

Maybe I haven’t experienced a worldly love, maybe I have. All I know is that love is never going to be easy. It’s never going to be roses and daisies. I think I’ll know I’m in love with a person when I am willing to work at something hard and not give up, unless I am giving a particular thing up to the Creator. For now though, my hope is in God’s love, God’s Grace, God’s Mercy. It’s the only type of love I’ve tangibly touched, and it’s the only type I want and choose right now.

Because it’s a challenge.

Because it’s not easy to love a God even though I so desperately want to do it easily.

It takes work.

That’s what I like. Taking the time to work on something good is the type of stuff I love.

 

I wonder if it’s easy for God to love us.

I wonder what the world would look like if we accepted the Creator’s love openly on the daily.

I wonder how love would change the world if our hearts were open and listening.

I wonder what it would look like to choose love with another person like the Creator Chose Us.

The Wonderful Yes and the Hard No.

I oftentimes say no when I am forced to be myself. I oftentimes say no when I want to compliment someone on something simple. I sometimes say no when the idea of a new adventure comes.

The crazy thing, though, is that in the past year or so, I’ve begun saying yes.

I’ve said yes to new places and new adventures. I’ve said yes to joining a team. I’ve said yes to being me and not being worried about what other people think.

The sad thing about no is that doors close on amazing opportunites. The amazing thing about yes is that it makes you find yourself and lets other people say yes with you. It brings joy and it brings happiness.

I’m not saying that yes is something people should say all the time, because there are definitely appropriate moments to say no and that is completely okay. But saying no to the right things comes with the confidence of saying “yes” every now and then.

I am in a season full of yes’s and no’s right now. I’ve been trying to write about it for the longest time and it’s been hard for me to write out what I feel in a coherent way. I’ve been talking about it in a lot of subtle ways lately, but I’ve never been able to write about it in the right way every time I’ve hit enter for wordpress and opened an empty document. So, while I’m here trying to be as honest as I possibly can about the yes’s and no’s I’ve said in the past few weeks, bear with me as I try to let it out in the nicest way I can.

When it comes to adventures, I get very, very anxious. But I say yes to them because I know they will help me grow and learn in a way I never would have if I said no. I decided to join a Cross Country team for the first time in my life and run with a team today. Fun Fact: I’ve been wanting to join a Cross Country team since my freshmen year of High School. I said no seven years in a row before I finally did it. Yeah, let that one sink in. Seven Years. I had the best run I’ve ever had in my life today because I said something as simple as yes to something I’ve been longing to say yes to for the Past. Seven. Years. And the best  most rewarding part about it is that I got through three miles without stopping.

When it comes to talking and saying hi to new people, I worry what they will think of me. I talk to new people and say hi to almost everyone I pass now if there is enough caffeine or endorphins in my system to make me feel good. Fun Fact: I’ve wanted to be like this since the beginning of my last Spring Semester. Why didn’t I do it earlier? I was afraid of saying yes and I was afraid of showing people who I honestly, truly am because of judgement that I know is oftentimes just inside my head. Funny thing is, most people care too much what others are thinking of them before they can even get to thinking about me or you. It took a summer of saying yes to “me” and not hiding away to get me here… It also took a moment of tears and falling to the ground at the end of this past summer to finally say yes, too.

These are just a couple of ways I’m saying yes in my life today and how I got there. Now, onto the big No. Because, it is a Big No that I have never been able to cross over to without learning what I did about myself this summer.

When it came to boys, I always wanted “yes.” I always wanted to be “the girl.” I always wanted a relationship. I always wanted someone to love me in a beautiful way. I would constantly say that the deepest desires of my heart were to travel and do God’s work globally, but I believe that was just the beginning of this realization I had about me and who I am in Christ over the summer.

Lets get real: The deepest desire of my heart will always be to have a relationship with someone who I can spend the rest of my life with and do God’s work with, whether it is globally or just here in the United States where I am right now.

It’s the bear naked truth and I won’t sugarcoat it.

I believe that God grants us the desires of our hearts and I’m not going to lie and say that it is extremely easy for me to wait on God’s timing for a relationship in my life. Right now, God keeps telling me no. No to a more intimate relationship with someone else, no to hanging out with boys who even show me an inkling of interest more than friends.

I’ve always been a wall builder. It’s not that I have always wanted to say no to a relationship with someone, it’s just that it needs to be the right person and God has already been pretty clear that the right person is not inside my life right now. It’s possible that they could be, but I am not ready to meet them where I’m at right now. Quite honestly, though, I like where I am; single and with God. Focusing solely on furthering and maybe even rebuilding the friendships God has placed in my life at this point.

I’m not ready to be close to a boy intimately. I’m not ready to be more than friends. I’m not in a place where I can see a boy standing beside me as more than a brother in Christ. I always think it’s strange when a boy wants to hang out with me all the time. I think it’s strange when a boy wants to sit next to me. I think it’s weird when a boy says he saw me running or when a guy says that I look “in shape.” It gives me a boost of confidence, but it also makes me feel extremely uncomfortable because I don’t want to be noticed by guys for what I do physically to make me feel good about *myself* and I don’t want boys looking at me as an object they want to be close to physically.

I want a guy who I’m going to be able to take part in those physical things with (like running) and someone who will recognize me for my internal traits like honesty, hilarity, caring about others, and someone who’s going to put up with, help me through, and pray with me about the crap that I’m struggling with. Someone who’s going to tear down the walls I put up and not be afraid to crack them when necessary. I’ve always understood that it is a choice to love someone and that it takes work to love someone. I feel ready to work at something and love someone, but I’m also not ready for it because I’m not exactly as whole as I feel I should be to get into something as serious as a relationship (or even dating) yet.

Anyway! Enough with that rant.

Yes and No. There are times to say yes and there are appropriate times to say no. Most of the time, definitely say yes; but if you feel God leading you to say no to something you’ve wanted to say yes to for so long…

Just say no and listen to Him. Wait on His timing actively.

It could eventually lead to The Wonderful Yes the Savior offers and get you through something you’ve been struggling with for a very long time.

Like it has proven for me thus far since the semester has started.

It’s Okay to Let Go and Still be Happy

So here’s the deal: I had the best most fantastical summer of my entire life up in Maine. I learned a whole lot about myself, what I need to work on as a leader and person, and I learned a whole lot more about God’s love, taking major steps toward beginning to accept His love into my life in a much more authentic way. I got out of myself, I was happy. A lot of things that I brought with me to camp (baggage, whathaveyou) slipped away the more I got involved in the schedule of camp and poured into children that needed love.

Camp Bubble is what we called it.

Days are sectioned by one, two’s and three’s. There is one opening day and a closing day. There is a Lord’s Day. There are off days for the staff. There is this thing called JAM which stands for Jesus and Me and not eating the type of jelly you put on your bread. There are rotations, games, free time, and clubs. Basically, it’s a kid’s and kids-at-heart heaven.  It is a place in which you are forced to be loud and silly for the kids. In turn, you learn to love being loud and silly. It is a place where kids find safe refuge and we are the leaders who give them love and silliness that they otherwise don’t get at home.

Camp Bubble is a refuge of love and acceptance, both for the kids and for the staff members.

Even though we are on schedule and know what’s next… Each day is still a new day.

We do it for the kids. We do it for each other. But mostly we do it for God and His Kingdom.

I will never walk into a Walmart again without thinking about Camp Sebago because that was the hangout spot for two hour day-breaks. I will never walk into a Dunkin Donuts without thinking of Camp Sebago because it’s where we got our energy to just make it through the days we thought we couldn’t do it anymore. I will never be able to put on Tight Pants without thinking of Fred and Graham’s skit during the second week because I then impersonated Fred the week after for the Older Girl’s Skit during Laugh with the Staff. I will never be able to think of jam in the same way without thinking “Caffeine for the Day!” and Getting out of Myself. I will forever be changed by the stories of people I worked with this summer. I will never walk into a Goodwill without thinking of Charity. I will always wear a headband because camp is the place that made me realize I actually really love wearing headbands and looking like I just walked out of the best adventure of my life. I will never think of confidence as Confidence anymore., it will always be Godfidence.

Always.

I will miss Little Brother Talks. I will miss yelling hello to Jeff when I am grabbing meals. I will miss walking across a huge field to find a friend. I will miss the community.  I will miss the Unit Leaders giving us daily announcements each meal. I will miss the laughter and the smiles. I will miss Deep and Meaningful Conversations. I will miss Honesty Day (even though I only played it once). I will miss JAM. I will miss the kids. I will miss the mundane camp hardships. I will miss Staff Vespers. I will miss not worrying about what’s next. I will miss the set aside, authentic time for God.

There are a ton of things I will miss about Camp Sebago… The list could go on forever, I promise you.

My heart is separated into a lot of pieces and I am irretrievably changed because it has been effected by the many people I met from overseas, or even from within the United States. Distance makes it hard to keep in touch daily like we did at camp, though. However, I am slowly learning that I can’t hold on. I can hold onto the things these people taught me and I can hold onto the ways in which they have made me different, but I cannot look back at the memories and hope they will come back again in the same way they have happened this summer.

Because they won’t. It hurts to say it, but it’s true.

My only choice is forward.

 

“Today is a new day.”

God didn’t intend for us to look back. He intended for us to move forward to the cross.

The cross before me, the past behind me. It pains me to think about leaving behind such a great experience like Camp Sebago and the thought of maybe not returning again hurts, too. But God calls us to let go, trust Him, and move forward. Always.

So it may come as a surprise to people who see me so happy and joyful. But it’s not really surprising to me because what I learned from God this summer is that it’s completely okay to let go and still be happy.

Let go of people.

Let go of myself.

Let go of the past.

 

Let go of worrying about what’s to come.

God is in control of it all.

The confidence I have in God comes from letting go and realizing that each day is a new day. I can do what I want with the days I’m handed. I can either be sad about not being with people and in a place that I have come to know and love or I can choose to seize the day and the moments / choices God gives me in the moment and shine His light.

I will always choose to be happy, let go, and show who I am without fear each day that comes my way.

I have Sebago, and especially God for helping me get here. It’s been a long time coming.

Ache of My Heart

My foot hits the gas pedal as I back out of the driveway. I have no clear destination, God is telling me to drive, but not to a bus station because going to the bus station was my original plan; escape New Hampshire and go to Boston. It occurs to me that going to Boston is no longer an escape but a place in which I am able to roam free, no questions asked. The last time I went to Boston with a clear purpose, it was cold and rainy, I drowned myself with ice cream and learned that I am broken.

It’s hard to admit that I am broken.

As I drive back roads to Henniker instead of highways to Concord, I know I need some green paper, so I stop at TD and then reroute the tires back to The Pancake House, a small Breakfast Place that I always need to visit once when I am home. I am lonely, but I am filled by the warmth wooden structures hold. The smell of coffee and syrup fill my nose as I take a seat. I order a coffee and look at the menu even though I already know what I want. It is familiar but not the same.

It’ hard to admit that I am not the same.

Once out of the pancake house, I make my way to the highway and consider driving further south for the day. I remember I don’t know my way off the top of my head and scratch the idea. I turn right toward Concord instead. I drive, I worship. I think about taking 89 to Burlington, Vermont. I pass the exit to go in that direction. Concord awaits me. I know what I need, I know what I want, and I am singing that His love never fails in the midst of thinking about sins and how even I sin, too.

It’s hard to admit that I am a sinner.

Cars that rush pass me by on the highway. I pass two police cars that have caught individuals due to speeding. The trees and hills remain stagnant as I keep moving. It pains me sometimes that trees don’t get the gift of Free Roam like I do, but I wonder if it’s better being rooted in one place, not able to move. I’ve heard that trees get sickness. I wonder if it’s because they get stuck, too. I wonder  how they can possibly keep their strength and dignity when they have all been given a lifetime of stillness.

Sometimes I yearn to be as strong as a tree.

I finally make it to Concord. I roam Target for a while, picking up what might help me schedule things better during the year ahead; calendars, sticky notes, pens. I think about how no amount of scheduling will help me feel more prepared. I think about how fast time moves, how so much changes in even the course of a day. I think about how today might be all I have. I have no guarantee of tomorrow. I think about events from this summer. How maybe it was only to help me prepare for what adventure lies next.

Sometimes I wish I knew what was next.

I know that in less than a week I will move back to school. I know that in two weeks, I will see a plethora of faces both old and new coming back to campus. I know that I will go to classes. I know that I will run and I know that I will write and read and be in a play and maybe some choirs. I know I will join a bible study. I know I will be bombarded with questions of  “what’s next?” (my nightmare). I don’t know what happens after a single day. All I know is this moment and that everything will work itself out.

Sometimes all it takes is a little faith.

I eventually make it home after spending an hour and a half in Books a Million. I have purchased two new books even though I haven’t finished the one I am currently reading. It’s okay. As I drive home I think about writing. I think about taking a social media and technology break. I think about letters. I think about Honduras, Florida, Maine. I think about cars and trains and planes and walking and running. How I have a heart that pumps blood and keeps me alive. How my heart is rooted here for the moment but could be rooted somewhere completely different the next. My heart is aching for much right now.

I will always understand the ache of my Heart.

A pumping mobile home inside my chest, claiming love from His forever inside a world full of maybe’s and perhaps.