Thursday, December 29, 2011

a verse a day.

Getting away from the craziness of school and just being at home with nothing much to do always brings about a lot of time to think and reflect on where my life is at and where I'm headed.

This semester was one unlike those of freshman year. JMU was familiar territory, I knew everyone I was living with, I was already involved in things around campus, I had my same job, it was all things I had seen and done before. I came in to the semester fired up after an amazing summer and so much personal growth, but that feeling faded with time.

I got to this point of just feeling so stuck in every area of my life. Everything was fine, but nothing was really pushing me to be more or do more. I had no real motivation or inspiration.

Meeting with various friends and mentors, I started realizing a lot about the situation that I was in. Vianne and I came up with several analogies that described it all perfectly. After I dumped my sad story on her, she had such insightful advice to offer me.

She said that until this current point in my life, I've always been on the defensive, trying to overcome big obstacles that were in my path. Moving from Arizona to Richmond during high school, dealing with drama with friends, getting out of a bad relationship, trying to find a good church family, struggling with my health and my body, etc. There was always a very big, very tangible thing that I needed to work through, and in doing so, I would make progress and grow and learn a lot and take steps forward.

But where I'm at now, there are no real obstacles in my way. I've worked through all the big things in my past, I've gone through counseling to learn how to deal with my struggles, I've found groups I belong to that hold me accountable. I'm at this place in my life where I need to be on the offensive. There's nothing in my way, it's just up to me to take steps into the unknown and to step out in faith that God will lead me and guide me through it.

Once she said this, I realized a different analogy that was just as true. It's like I had been in this desert, suffering in the heat, exhausted and defeated. There's a fresh spring of cool water just up ahead of where I'm laying. I see it, I know it's there, I know it offers me comfort and joy and can bring me back to life, but I'm too lazy and unmotivated to move towards it.

I've had a rough journey, I'm finally over everything, but I'm just choosing to stand still instead of make an effort to move forward into the life God is offering me.

Realizing where I was at wasn't easy, and it wasn't pleasant. I kept mulling over everything we had talked about, angry at myself for being so lukewarm and so complacent, yet not quite angry enough to still do anything about it. I felt like since I had identified where I was it, that was enough progress for now. I still wasn't feeling any desire to move.

And then I met with Katie Gill. She's seen me at my weakest and lowest points and cared for me and supported me through one of the biggest adventures of my life. I told her what Vianne and I had talked about and explained that I was feeling stuck in my faith, and she asked me straight up why I hadn't done anything about it. It was exactly the push I needed to move out of where I'd been and make the move I'd been resisting for so long.

Had she and I met a few weeks earlier, I wouldn't have taken it the same way, but I was ready and just needed someone to challenge me and wake me up. She told me how she had made a promise with God to read a verse a day and reflect on it. It didn't seem like much as she was talking about it, but I figured that was good. I hadn't been doing anything in my quiet times with God, so a verse a day was something I could handle, and I decided it would be a good place to start from.

And so, the verse a day pact with God began. I knew after talking to Katie that this had to be something I committed to God first and foremost.

"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." -Proverbs 16:3

I knew myself well enough to know that on my own, I would fail soon after I started. So I talked to God about it, I wrote it down, and I started in Psalms.

"Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck." -Psalms 69:1

I decided not to go straight through a book, but to instead skip around, getting in to all areas of the Bible, even books I had never read before.

And I found God there, waiting for me with open arms and no judgment.

In just a few lines a day, I began realizing God was tugging at my heart and vying for my attention in ways I hadn't really been aware of before. Every verse seemed to tell me the same thing- follow Christ with your whole heart, and you will find life. There is no life apart from Him.

"He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." -Colossians 1:17

"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." -1 Corinthians 15:58

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." -John 8:12

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." -Psalms 119:105

Just one verse every day, and I'm discovering God in a whole new way. His truths abound in His word, there is application for my life in every verse, and He is always with us. Reading through these verses during the Christmas season has been even richer, as the promise that He is Immanuel, God with us, is even more beautiful and real with the world rejoicing in the birth of our Savior.

I'm moving forward. I'm sick of being lukewarm, and I'm trusting God that He has plans for my future, even though I can't see them or control them. I know that Love is here. I know that God is with me. I know that by committing my plan to the Lord, He will be present and He will open my eyes to pieces of His glory every day. I know when I show up, He shows up in mighty ways.

I never knew that one tiny verse a day would bring such big growth.

Monday, October 3, 2011

the tests of time.

I haven't forgotten about this blog, life has just been such a whirlwind lately. I haven't been able to catch my breath and slow down enough to truly think, analyze, process, and make enough sense of my thoughts to put it into words so publicly.

This semester has been challenging in so many new ways, but I'm learning so many awesome lessons through it all. Because I know you're so intrigued, let me share them with you.

1. Challenges in life may seem big, but God is so much bigger.
2. The battle of being vulnerable versus guarding your heart is so, so hard to fight, especially when you try to figure it out all on your own.
3. The body of Christ is incredible. The body of Christ on this campus is SO incredible; I've finally found a community of the most supportive and passionate fellow believers and it's a feeling I can't explain. I'm home.
4. JMU really is where I'm supposed to be, even if doubts and insecurities build up in my own head trying to convince me otherwise.

"And in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
-Romans 8:28

5. I went through all of the pain and heartbreak that I went through in past relationships not just to make me a "better" or "stronger" person, but to give me a heart for sex trafficking and human trafficking in the world today. Never have I felt so passionately about an issue. Never have I had my heart ache for injustice in the world so deeply. Never have I so badly wanted to just SERVE and be used by God.

"In faithfulness, he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth."
-Isaiah 42:3-4

6. Good things come when you least expect them. God works in such mysterious ways.
7. Home really just is where the heart is. And it's okay that mine finds homes in Arizona, in Richmond with my parents and brother, around Harrisonburg on this gorgeous campus, and around the world with my dreams for the future.
8. Being with someone that cares about me so much, challenges me to grow and be better and face my doubts, and supports me through anything and everything is showing me more and more how much God loves me so perfectly, unconditionally, and endlessly.

"In this you will greatly rejoice, though for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith- of greater worth than gold, which perished even though refined by fire- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."
-1 Peter 1:6-7

Thursday, September 1, 2011

the status of my heart.

Being back at JMU makes my heart so happy. Everywhere I go, there's beauty. Sunsets behind the tiers of foggy mountains, big old trees towering over the sunny quad, Wilson Hall standing proudly at one end, seeming so regal and prestigious. There's no shortage of gorgeous places around Harrisonburg.

There also is no shortage of awesome people. Walking through campus, there is just this sense of community that you can't escape, nor do I think you'd ever even want to. I know I belong here, I know this is home, I know these people are my family.

Anyway, enough about my love for JMU. I could go on for days.

I just finished reading "Desire" by John Eldredge. Not totally sure I'm obsessed with everything in this book, but there were several good points made that really stuck in my head and got me thinking. The whole topic of "desire" is something that is extremely relevant in this stage of my life, and something that I think culture views in a very different way than Jesus intended. I do recommend reading this book, if for no other reason than to provoke some interesting introspection into your own heart's desires.

There is a quote in the first chapter that I underlined and starred, and it really resonates with me.

"To desire is to open our hearts to the possibility of pain; to shut down our hearts is to die altogether."
-John Eldredge, "Desire"

Since being back at JMU, this whole idea of guarding my heart has been really prevalent. I'm a control freak, I'll admit that readily. Being vulnerable with my heart has never been something I've enjoyed, and I've always struggled with it a lot. It seems to always follow a pattern: I grow close to people. I slowly start to open up, let them in, share my heart. Something happens, trust is broken, and I'm left feeling exposed and foolish for ever letting my guard down.

"Because of its vulnerable nature, desire begins to feel like our worst enemy."

-John Eldredge, "Desire"

This book, and recent events in my life, have reminded me that having desires and passions and feelings comes hand in hand with the risk that pain might follow. On the contrary though, if I just shut everyone out and lock my heart up to the world, no growth or life will ever come from it.

"God is a deeply, profoundly passionate person. Zeal consumes him... In other words, his profound desire for something greater sustained him at the moment of his deepest trial. We cannot hope to live like him without a similar depth of passion."

-John Eldredge, "Desire"

If seeking to live like God is my goal, living a passionate, zealous life is necessary. It's not a bad thing that I care so much, that I feel things so deeply, that I love intensely. But there needs to be a balance between total zealous passion and total exposed vulnerability while seeking after the desires God has placed on my heart, and I'm still trying to figure out exactly what that looks like in the reality of my life.

"To live with desire is to choose vulnerability over self-protection; to admit our desire and seek help beyond ourselves is even more vulnerable. It is an act of trust."
-John Eldredge, "Desire"

My goal for this year is focused on the heart:
Learning to trust that while things in my life seem big, God is bigger. Learning how to guard my heart yet let people in without a fear of vulnerability destroying me. Learning how to have humility and hold back instead of being quick to speak and quick to anger. Learning how to passionately live for Christ and seek after the desires He has set into my heart.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

the path ahead.

Hope has changed my life this summer. Hope Church, that is. The ways God has worked through that place and those people are incredible.

At the last week of The U, a few of us shared a bit of our stories and what beatitude we related the most to, as we had studied one beatitude each week throughout the summer. I went first, and it was awesome getting to just talk about my life and how I've seen God move in it, especially through college and this summer.

When preparing for these little interview sessions, Nicole told us she might ask us "In a year from now, if you were to be back here again, what do you hope to have seen change in your life?" She didn't end up asking me that question in front of the group, but it really got me thinking. A few days after that, I had a conversation with a new friend that I met through The U as well, and he asked me what my answer to that question would be.

So, here's my answer. In a year from now, I hope that I will have sought God wholeheartedly and unashamedly and lived out my life and my faith with a boldness like I've never had before. This past year has been full of such insane growth in my faith, and most specifically in the realization that I truly need community and accountability in my life. Before college, I tried to do everything on my own and didn't want to let anyone in; I didn't want anybody to be able to hurt me like I had been hurt before. But being in IV and my small group shattered that skewed perception I had in my head and showed me that vulnerability and accountability is so precious and leads to such depth and intimacy that then leads you so much closer to the heart of who God truly is.

I want to build on the momentum that's been growing in me this year and take my faith to new heights and new depths. I don't want to just live my life for me, sheltered in my little world. I want God to move mountains through me, to shine a light through me that is powerful and wonderful and that humbles me like never before.

I'm so excited for this year; for the opportunities and experiences I know lie ahead, for being back with my small group and the ways we'll learn and grow together, for just being back on campus, surrounded by believers and strangers and just friends all alike. I'm so ready for God to take my heart and shape it and perfect it and chisel it away to become more like His, in the best of times and the hardest and most challenging of times.

Next summer, I want to look back on my sophomore year and see God so clearly and vividly. I want Rachel to fade away and God to shine brightly. I know God is writing my story; I want him to be the star. I'm just a member of His cast, and I want Him to move powerfully in me and through me this year.

"Jesus calls you to be his intimate ally once more. There are great things to be done and great sacrifices to be made. You won't lose heart if you know what's really going on here, where this Story is headed and what your Lover has promised to you."
-Epic by John Eldredge

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

the beauty of letting go.

I've been just sitting on my bed, staring off into space for the past half hour or so. There are tons of things I really should be doing, but here I am, just looking around my room at things I've seen millions of times.

As I look around, I see a lot of red, black, and white. When we moved into this house, I decided that would be my color scheme. A neutral tan color on the walls, red comforter, and black and white accents. I even took this so far as to only put up black and white pictures around my room.

When I was getting ready to move into my dorm at JMU last fall, my roommate and I decided we should discuss our room and what ideas we had so that things would match, etc. We also decided on a color scheme. Black and aqua. Believe me, almost everything I bought was one of these two colors.

Now that I'm sitting here just letting my mind wander, I'm realizing that this can be a kind of crazy and probably far fetched, yet still legitimate, metaphor for my life as a whole.

I start off with a plan. It's detailed and specific and includes every little minuscule component. It's well thought out and I'm confident in it. It feels right, it feels like me....but then time goes by. And I start to get bored. I start to see things in stores that I wish I had bought for my room instead of just the things in my color scheme. I start to envy the way other people put things together. I start to doubt my whole plan completely.

And then, I start to realize my plan maybe wasn't the most perfect plan after all. Yes, I had planned it out quite well, but I never asked for other inputs, I never considered other options, I never just let my room come together over time, believing that it would all work out if I just let go and let it. I was so set on the plan I had made for myself that I didn't even see that there were other, more amazing ideas and plans out there that I would have discovered if I had just had faith that it would all come together.

And now, I'm realizing how true this is of my character when it comes to God. I have my plan. My colors all match. But I realize that there's probably a much better plan waiting for me if I just give up my need for control. There's more to me than just three colors that I think I like. There's more to life than just the things I think I'm good at. There's more to God's plan for me than just my plans for myself.

Letting go and letting God leads to a much fuller, vibrant, beautiful, and eclectic life than the one my control-hungry self could ever dream of. This summer has been such a time of growth for me, and I've realized that giving up my plans and completely surrendering is so freeing and amazing. Yeah, it's scary. Accepting that God's plan may be absolutely nothing like what you had in mind isn't the easiest idea to come to terms with, but I know His plans are to prosper me, not to harm me, plans to give me a hope and future.

"There is hope, for me yet, because God won't forget, all the plans He's made for me
I have to wait and see, He's not finished with me yet, He's not finished with me yet..."

-Brandon Heath "Wait and See"

I'm so, so excited to see what's next in the story God has written for me, and it's more than worth it to let go of my own plans to let His reign in my life.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

the things i've learned this summer.

I'm a big fan of lists, so here's one about lessons learned this summer as I look ahead to one more month of summer before going back to school!

1. Pursuing God with my whole heart and surrendering to Him is the most freeing and exciting way to live.

2. Family is everything. They're my foundation, my solid ground, my biggest fans, my best friends, and my favorite people in the world. I've loved getting to know them in such a new way this summer after a year away from home; they're the most amazing people I know and I have such a newfound love and respect for them.

3. Working as though for God and not for man is extremely humbling and motivating.

4. The city of Richmond is an awesome place. Glen Allen...not so much. But I honestly already knew this.

5. I'm crazy about my small group. I never realized how much I just love seeing those girls every week and diving into the Word with them. I crave time with them much more now that I haven't had it in a few months.

6. Hope Church is an incredible place for fellowship and community. The U at Hope has been the best thing to happen to me this summer- having such an awesome group of people to meet with every week has kept me passionate and excited about my faith and about people.

7. God is an amazing source of refuge, strength, and confidence. Knowing I'm in His arms and in His heart is the most comforting thing. Nobody can truly harm me when I have Him surrounding me.

8. The Beatitudes are powerful. Extremely powerful. Study them, and I mean REALLY study them. Your life will forever be changed.

9. When I let go and let God, awesome things happen.

10. I don't need a boyfriend to be happy, to be strong, or to feel loved.

Monday, July 4, 2011

the fourth of july.

Today is the Fourth of July, a holiday that celebrates American independence and is all about patriotism and pride. I'm an American, yes, but I'm not one to have an extremely patriotic spirit. I think there's way more significance to this day day than is culturally common to celebrate. Hear me out on this.

I love a lot of things about this country. From the Redwood forests to Death Valley to Yosemite to Sedona to Virginia Beach to the Grand Canyon to the Shenandoah Valley to everything else in between, this land is gorgeous and breathtakingly awesome. But none of those incredible places were created by Americans. They were created by God, the one and only Creator. 

I love the people of this country, too. The diversity and beauty of Americans is so cool to me. And they were formed by God as well. I love our freedom to worship this amazing God and the fact that I can sing and shout praises whenever I please with no fear of what might happen as a result. 

Basically, here is what I've realized: Everything that I love about America, I actually love about God and what He has done in and for America.

The things I love best about this country are all the things that are directly from God, and I'd much rather celebrate Him and His glory than just the United States. This country won't last forever, but the One that made it will.

I personally want to make today my celebration in appreciation of all the awesome things our Lord is doing in this nation. I don't want today to be just a day for us to ask that God bless America, but a day that we as Americans bless God as well.

I'm going to take today to spend time with my family and thank God for the wonderful blessing they are to me. I'm going to spend time noticing the little things and appreciating the beauty of the world He has created for us to live in. I'm going to thank God for all of my freedoms, and for the ones that gave their lives to ensure my safety and these freedoms. I'm going to pray for the leaders of our country, that they would seek to lead our country in a way that is glorifying to Him. I'm going to make today a day about celebrating God and everything He is doing in America.

So, I guess when I said I didn't really have an extremely "patriotic" spirit, what I really meant was that I'd rather embody the fruits of the spirit and live first and foremost for Christ over living for my country. Having a heart for Christ and all of His creation creates a heart for this land and all of its people. I'm excited to celebrate in community with all Americans today and tonight, even if not everyone is celebrating the same things I am.

"You're the God of this city 
You're the King of these people 
You're the Lord of this nation 
You are 

You're the Light in this darkness 
You're the Hope to the hopeless 
You're the Peace to the restless 
You are 

There is no one like our God 
There is no one like our God 

For greater things have yet to come 
And greater things are still to be done in this city 
Greater things have yet to come 
And greater things are still to be done in this city"
-Chris Tomlin, "God of this City"

God's going to do big things in America, I fully believe that.
Happy Fourth of July, everyone.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

the brevity of life

More and more during this past few weeks, I've been reminded at just how quickly life can come to an end. Even in just driving downtown every day for my job, I've seen countless accidents and even more acts of stupidity by careless drivers that very easily could have resulted in fatalities. It hits me hard every time as I think about how that isn't just a statistic of a highway accident, but a person, a beloved child or cousin or friend, somebody that won't live to see another day because they've left their earthly body. That's not a concept that sits well with me.

In my quiet times, I've been reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan, and the second chapter focused on this very same topic.

"On the average day, we live caught up in ourselves. On the average day, we don't consider God very much. On the average day, we forget that our life truly is a vapor." -page 39

I'm not trying to be morbid about all of this, I'm really not. I think, though, that realizing how quickly life can end makes you realize how much more life needs to be lived intentionally and meaningfully.

"The point of your life is to point to Him." -page 44

If I could leave this earth at any second, I want to make sure I'm using my time for the glory of God and not for my own pleasure. I want to be so on fire for Him so that when I'm gone, they'll remember that above anything else. I want to be serving, worshipping, praising, glorifying, and loving Him and His people with my time and my talents while I'm alive on this Earth. I don't want to spend my days concerned with myself, stressing over little things, worrying about tomorrow, and hiding my true Christ-given identity.

It breaks my heart that so many people don't realize the importance of life and of the One who gives it until death happens. It shouldn't have to take tragedies for us to realize that life is precious and our time here isn't endless, but a lot of times, that is what it takes. For me, it's just an insane call to action to know that my life truly is a vapor. I know that God has plans for me, plans to prosper me, not to harm me; plans to give me a hope and a future. I want to live my life, how ever long or short it may be, following His will for my life, making every day a humble reflection of the glory and love of the Giver of life.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

the fear of familiarity.

I'm one of those people that recognizes faces and remembers names. Blame it on all my years of being on the yearbook and newspaper staff, I guess, but it's just one of those things about me.

Even if I've only met you once, or even just heard about you through the grapevine, guaranteed I'll still know who you are. I admit, sometimes it freaks people out a little when I can place how or why I know them when most of the time, they don't have any idea who I am. This has happened more and more lately as I've been reconnecting with people in Richmond and also meeting new people through Hope and such, and it has made me start to think a bit.

I know I'm just a human, and there are tons of people that I wouldn't recognize or know a single thing about. My realm of knowledge is only so expansive before it is limited by places I've been and people I've been around.

But then, I started thinking about God, and how He knows us. He knows names and faces of people that know Him in return (like how I know the names and faces of people I've met). But, unlike me, He knows (and more than that, He LOVES) every single name and face of every person that has ever lived or is currently living or will ever live. That blows my mind.

When you really start to think about it, it's a little unnerving. It's a little weird on a much smaller scale when somebody you've never met can pinpoint who you are just from mutual friends or mutual situations, but that usually only goes so far as, "Oh! Do you do YoungLife at JMU? My friend so-and-so did YoungLife, I think I've seen pictures of you with her!" Just the fact that you paid enough attention to remember that face and be later able to put a name to it is an impressive and rare quality. Think about how much more intimate it is to meet God and have Him know every single thing about you, every thought that's ever crossed your mind, every beat of your heart, every ounce of who you are and who you'll be. Kinda intimidating, wouldn't you agree?

Once I get over the initial awkwardness of coming to God and Him totally knowing me inside and out, nothing excluded, I start to realize just how incredible it is that He'd even WANT to know me like that. I'm just a college kid that's trying to figure life out while making a bazillion mistakes along the way, why would the Creator of this entire universe care to know me so deeply and personally? Not only does He know my name and my face, but He created me exactly this way on purpose.

"Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother's womb.
I thank you, High God- you're breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration- what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something."
-Psalm 139:13-15, The Message

So, the next time you're introduced to someone and the connection is made that you somehow know each other somehow, don't get freaked out. It's not that weird that some people just remember little details and might remember you. Plus, it's kinda nice to know that somebody cared enough to not just disregard you; you made some small lasting impact on them and you matter enough for them to create a connection with you.

Use that as a small reminder of how there is a God that knows you more intimately, beautifully, and personally than that person ever could, and He wants nothing more than for you to seek to know Him in the same way.

Friday, June 17, 2011

the beginning.

This summer, my first back at home since going to JMU, has already been a time of challenges, growth, and just new adventures. More and more, I find myself seeking a place to share and have community with people that I can both learn from and just enjoy. So, I decided that I needed to retire the blog of my high school days and begin anew with a new purpose and direction.

This isn't a place where I want to vent about frustrations in my life or gossip or spill my whole heart to the world; that's not information anybody cares about, I'm sure! This is a place where I want to share what's on my heart and what God is doing through me and in me. This is a place where I want to be able to include people in the goings-on of my life and let people catch a glimpse of who I am and what I'm doing through Him.

Beyond that, I'm just letting this be an outlet for my thoughts and ideas, and we'll see where it goes from there!

So, to everyone reading this, it's nice to meet you. Welcome :)