The Three Hour Night

Every morning He provided abundantly. But by evening, the Israelites became empty. The only way they could have food again is if they trusted God to provide the food.

I felt so depleted and wasted. I was frustrated at myself all week about poor food choices and few workouts and not being able to be with friends and not pleasure reading and an exhaustive amount of reading assignments and keeping up with a photography business and…

Lack of sleep definitely hinders any effort to get oneself out of an emotional spiral.

Thursday morning. I wake up at 5 a.m. Shower. Memorize. Rewrite. Memorize. Eat breakfast.

Ah, I made it to breakfast. I didn’t take any notes with me to breakfast because my head physically hurt. I walked out of the dining hall and looked up.

How did I miss this?!  

h o w

A Thursday night consisting of three hours of sleep to prepare for a doctrine test will probably mark the lowest point in my year at Covenant.

Fog, – the obvious byproduct of living in a cloud on top of a mountain – was rolling just behind Brock Hall and the morning sunshine reflected off the fog. It had rained the night before and even the puddles in front of me reflected gold. But the trees were blooming pink flowers – not just sprouting pink buds. Full, pink flowers. How did I miss this first (and early!) sign of spring?

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All I talk about when I mention photography in the spring is how beautiful it will be to have the pink-flowered trees on campus and the red bud trees all throughout the nearby city. What I had looked forward to most in the next season had already began and I missed the evolving transition.

That morning, nature was so still, and I was so loud inside with all the things I needed to accomplish and the goals for my health that I wasn’t meeting. In this moment, I heard His mercies are new every morning. For this tired college student, God showed His kindness in creation and somehow I had a smile on my face as I walked to the first class of the day, even though I felt wasted.

In a chapel, our Chaplain Lowe began an illustration explaining he has a big whiteboard in his office and it is covered in words. A student walked in and said “Oh my, that’s stressful.” See, for Lowe, (as he said) it’s easy just to see the whiteboard for what it is and not read from it. Similarly, he said,

God has literally written his testimony into everything around us, and if we just walk through and don’t see the testimony that’s written, we’re seeing the whiteboard without the message of the whiteboard.

We’ve established that three-hour-night was the lowest time (physically) for me. I had been walking with a mission everywhere I went, literally running myself down going from location to location and never taking a moment of rest (away from the screen) to look around at the mercy around me.

Whether physically or emotionally you’re facing a trial, you need to be reminded this God provides beyond enough to still rest and you don’t have to worry about missing out. God doesn’t always give commands that you understand. The to-do list is long… the expectations from yourself and others even longer. Yet if you believe you are in a trial and you are being tested on some level, know that it is for the purpose of refining your character, not discerning your character. In Exodus, God mentioned two things in regards to the gift of manna in the wilderness:

  1. I will provide the manna every morning.
  2. Do not keep the manna overnight.

In this way, the Israelites would have to know their food was from God because every morning He provided abundantly, but by evening the Israelites would become empty again. The Israelites wanted to gather everything and be done with it.

What makes you want to keep the manna and be done with trusting God for the next day’s supply of strength, peace, and blessings? 

This is what I am trying to answer. It’s mornings where the fog is golden and I’m reminded to look up that I know these tests lead to nearness with Him. These tests are about refining and growing.

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’16 going on ’17

 

 

'16 going on '17 // I believe we tend to think of change as failure. It's failure to stay - failure to get it right on the first try. Failure to be connected. Through all of this supposed failure, I know it's when I stop trying to accomplish my plans and dreams based upon my own calculations then the year will truly start anew.

I think it’s in our human DNA that we want to stay – we want the people to stay. What happens when you have to leave? How do you grope with satisfying your heart’s desire to stay & to be known & fully loved?

“Waiting for My Time to Come” by Colony House has deeply moved me. Their two music videos sum up the dual wait my heart faces. A little cartoon illustrates the waiting & need for heavenly renewal. The second video has the lead singer (and eventually the whole band) pushing on doors that are locked. Only when he throws up his hands in frustration does he get the idea that he should just walk through the walls without pushing.

2016 was a year of pushing. I begged God for my high school graduation to be over. I begged God for my education and for a chance to live on the mountain – for the finances to work out – for my roommates to be friends. I begged Him to find a way for me to stay on the mountain next year. One night, while standing on the edge of the mountain with hands open, face upward, Chattanooga lights glittering below and clear stars above, I cried the words, “Please God.” (I’m not being literarily dramatic in giving you that picture, the setting is really that romantic!) In hindsight, I unfortunately see I was telling God: I know what is best right now because you’ve made it very clear to me in the past and your answer must stay the same now. I know it couldn’t be any other way. Even though my heart had strayed from humility, talking to God out loud had enormous effects. The conversation flowed, and I knew this relationship was real.

Maybe 2017 doesn’t feel different for me because I’m still struggling with change as I have in years past. I still feel like I’m waiting for my time to come. I know I’m pushing on the doors and yet won’t surrender and throw up my hands. I believe we tend to think of change as failure. It’s failure to stay – failure to get it right on the first try. Failure to be connected. Through all of this supposed failure, I know it’s when I stop trying to accomplish my plans and dreams based upon my own calculations then the year will truly start anew. God is sovereign through change, and I am truly excited for what is to come.

There’s a lot of life to live – for you, and for me. I know big changes are approaching, and you know what changes are shining in your eyes. I think the overwhelming “new” feeling will return. I’ll keep waiting. Yet I beg of myself to not look down in shame, in presumed judgement, in hopelessness. Those things that make you look down in shame – open your clenched fist and stop pushing. 2017 is change, again. This year does not welcome some new, grandoise revelation, but the days are not written in my story, and they’re not written for yours either. These days remain a mystery. You are sixteen going on seventeen.

The Principles of Love Apply

Approach people as a novel waiting to be read.

After a moderate amount of coffee, planner-usage, and racing across campus, my first week of classes at Covenant College has passed. The normal thing might be to simply say “I survived.” But ‘survived’ only gives credit to the (at times) drudgery of maintaining a schedule. I did not merely survive. I was fully alive to the revelations unveiled day by day.

Chills of amazement crept through my body during large events. And then they would come when I battled something hard internally and came through thinking victoriously, the Holy Spirit winning over my muddled thoughts.

Bagpipes & steady beating of drums echoing through stone, chapel walls. Halting a meeting to pray for a hallmate’s recent loss of a loved one. Memorizing Bible verses as a homework assignment and actually feeling the weight of importance such a verse can hold. Waking up in plush, white bedding with sunlight streaming through windows. Mountain sunsets. Connecting creativity to the Creator. Being alone but not feeling alone.

The Principles of Love Apply // I did not merely survive. I was fully alive to the revelations unveiled day by day.

It’s in these moments when I realize I have a place here. I don’t feel like I deserve to partake in this natural beauty around me. I don’t see how I get to sit under such knowledgeable professors. It still doesn’t make much sense to me that I’m here in the first place.

And the tears come. My planner spills over with assignments. Relationships are (at times) tiring. I feel inexperienced at anything and everything. And it’s only been a week. 😉

I didn’t go through the last two and a half years for nothing. Application of my past history would tell me to have patience in the pain. The fog eventually clears, usually not on the morning you want it to, but eventually.

How much better it would be to wait patiently, caring for those who need love. Fulfilling the homework because that is your calling for the present time. Soaking in knowledge, understanding these four years are as fast a blink of an eye. Yearning for Jesus Christ – His promised hope – His reassurance of forgiveness and mercy. Having a keen watch over the moments that start the chills of awe.

If God grants you the desires of your heart, may you be ready and humbled to adopt the next calling because of your faithfulness in the present. Your desires may not be God’s will in the moment, but each moment is an opportunity to know God more and tests your faith in the seemingly ‘dry spells’.

You might think a lot of principles might be abandoned when you enter college. I admit I thought that way to an extent. You’re going to college to get an education. Get community. Get friends. Get the experience. Yet the principles of loving on others are still the same. There will always be that guy who could use encouragement to do what he knows he should do. There will always be that girl who needs to be reminded of confidence in who God has made her.

Look for the people. Listen to their stories.

My prayer for my first semester is simple – Lord, abide with me! May my fears and insecurities not distract from the awesome works surrounding me at every moment. May I not take, but intentionally give.

Without Borders

He handed me an envelope with a scribbled note and news story inside.

 

Thought you might be interested in this article as you start out on your journey. Who knows where your path will take you.

 

Who knows where your path will take you. I reread the sentence over and over again, mostly in disbelief. The simplicity of the sentence and confident declaration catches me off guard. I’ve started to coast. I set up my sail and let the wind take me, for I already know what will happen. I have life’s possibilities weighed and balanced. God answered some of my questions. I see clearly where I’m supposed to be.

That’s a brand new feeling for a girl who has struggled with believing in God’s faithfulness over the last almost-two-years. I have my own stories of God’s faithfulness.

So maybe I’ve been too focused on the story. Limiting the focus to the story in and of itself leaves a person wasting: predicting or waiting to see what big thing will happen next.

It’s not about just having a good story. It’s about the person in the story and their heart, their hopes, their passions.

Without Borders // It’s not about just having a good story. It’s about the person in the story and their heart, their hopes, their passions.

Stories often show evidence of something larger – someone bigger at work.

I would never expect to have an evening end so beautifully. Two friends and I sat in the car, engine running. With each of us working for three different food businesses, it was relieving to hear the same issues I was struggling with were going on elsewhere.

In an effort to refocus my own thoughts, I mentioned Bethel Music’s new song, Pieces. A few taps on my iPhone and we were listening to the sweet melody ringing with truth. The song reached the climax when the fireworks started – sparkling, colorful fireworks on display straight ahead.

 

YOU DON’T GIVE YOUR HEART IN PIECES

YOU DON’T HIDE YOURSELF TO TEASE US.

 

I think all of us felt it – the sense of awe that creeps from the ground up as we saw this magical moment unfold.

I want the fireworks to appear. I love that God gives fireworks because of His grace & love – He wants to show Himself in little moments of our lives.

What if you don’t see the fireworks? The weeks only promise 40+ hours of work, a promotion for your friend, the ability to love for someone else, and uncertainty of what happens in a month and half. There are no fireworks to be seen.

Even then, God is faithful.

You want to do big things. You want to do the big things with purpose. By answering cheerfully in this less-than-fireworks-moment, you can focus on the person. It’s back to character and inward growth – things you can’t write in 140 characters or less. God is writing a story, this is true. Let him write even when you consider it to be a diversion. This God doesn’t have borders on the path He has you walking on.

 

Do not look for God to come in any particular way, but look for Him. Expect Him to come, but do not expect Him only in a certain way. – Oswald Chambers

on Christmas lights & running 

My greatest desire is to be honest, and perhaps I was slapped in the face from the very things that I run from: insincerity for the sake of recognition and the desire for belonging.

I’ve been running.

I started when I [jokingly] snapped at a friend, saying that I would spend anything just so I could have Christmas lights in my dorm room. The friend responded with a practical response… something to do with how dollars in college get a bit harder to find, implying that Christmas lights might not be a necessity. (Unfortunate how that works, but smart in saying so.)

Brief conversation or not, my character was pricked, I felt really immature, and I knew it wasn’t just about Christmas lights. (ooh, God works in an unexpected situation. again.) I ran to pinpoint why it bothered me so much.

I felt convicted of wanting perfection, which looks like me obsessing over beautiful things (something that goes far beyond Christmas lights and spills into other areas of life). It’s an attitude towards life  where you can only do more. Be more. Succeed more. God created beautiful things and has given men & women the gifts to make beautiful things, but why do I want such beautiful things? Is it all just for a square photo? Or so I can look back and think “Look what I’ve done! Look who I’ve become!“?

Sometimes, yet I believe in more than just curating beauty through what is viewed on a screen. Thus I realized my pricked character was alerting me to a larger problem of hole-filling: me filling my life with things to compensate for what I think I lack so that I will be more desirable.

In an effort to refocus my attention on several distracting things about my character, I ran from social media. “Social” was empty on my phone. But I have nothing to show for it, I didn’t do anything cool during that time of “social emptiness”. I didn’t eat kale smoothies or plan vegan dinners in my spare time. I didn’t work out (whoops). I didn’t go to bed earlier.

I just had time to realize that I had a bunch of things I could be doing more thoroughly if I weren’t checking my phone so often. And I had time to think & refocus.

What I like doesn’t dictate the truth. Just because I’m a writer doesn’t mean that I’m entitled to do certain things. Same thing goes for being a photographer. I should never excuse poor actions because of my desired professional title or because “that’s just the way I am”. It’s scary and heartbreaking to realize I have slipped into this habit. 

I’m in this place where I so desperately want to be defined by something. 

My greatest desire is to be honest, and perhaps I was slapped in the face from the very things that I run from: insincerity for the sake of recognition and the desire for belonging.

I’ve been running to Georgia and from Georgia. I get chills of excitement when I see those traveling pictures and quotes and OH MY GOODNESS I love road trips. But when it gets right down to it, I am so stinking scared. I hate distance. Distance is lonely. Sipping a cup of coffee and lighting a candle doesn’t smooth this kind of fear.

I look at the next mountain. Now that one can’t be moved. Here’s where I’ll fall – I’ll be able to mark it in my journal with a date and time. This is where I’ll stop, and here, God will make me go on alone. 

I run. And God answers in spite of myself.