The yellow light flickers from the porch overhang. Bugs swarm haphazardly in the warm air. I contemplate what life would be like if I got up and just left. No warnings, no trace of me or where I’ve gone. Could I then dodge all of the looming conflicts and responsibilities that lie ahead? I suppose you can’t run from your problems forever, but right now I certainly wish I could. Just a one-way ticket to the west coast. Washington, or Oregon, where no one knows anything about me or who I am- or at least not who I was. Oh, Lord, could I really get to know you then?
A few weeks ago I was able to go on a spring break trip to the Rio Grande River in Big Bend National Park with a group of fellow outdoor lovers. I had never been farther west than Mississippi, so I was absolutely over the moon to be able to see more of the world. So I packed up my borrowed hiking bag and journeyed to the airport with one of my gracious religion professors here at PC. On the way we talked about everything from Holy Communion to veganism and I knew I had found myself a trip I would cherish.
We had been driving all of the day before to get from the airport in Odessa to the gear rental place. We had slept at the campsite nearby, featuring running water and countless other hippies, and were about to wake up and drive with the gear to the actual river, another hour and a half away. I woke up and caught the sunset over the distant sandy hills and felt myself needing to catch my breath from the beauty of it all. We hit the road with the gear and arrived at the Rio Grande River. It was green and murky, so we joked about it looking like “croc water”. It was evident however that the water was so pure that without the limestone, it would have been crystal clear. We set off paddling in our canoes and the majority of us quickly learned that re-applying sunscreen was not to be taken as a suggestion. After awhile we stopped for lunch on a rocky bank, regained some energy, and paddled until dinner time. There we set up camp and started a routine that would carry us through the week.
Each morning we began by having breakfast together (the oatmeal and black coffee was my lifeline) around our portable stove. We were able to witness the sun rising over the canyon walls while sharing our love for God’s creation over conversation. Eventually we packed up and put everything in the six canoes we had. Of course, my canoe had the portable bathroom canister… After everything was packed we would paddle until lunch so we could refuel and then resume paddling again until we hit the next bank that looked good for sleeping. Each night we would read an excerpt about God’s creation of nature, led by Dr. Bryant, and reflect. Personally I don’t think there’s any better relief from business of the world. We had no agenda, no homework, no meetings, and no deadlines. We simply traveled together discussing the divinity of nature, and I have never felt more at peace with my relationship with the Lord. I was able to worship Him throughout the trip as I saw marvelous canyons, animals, rocks, and sunsets. At one point I remember screaming internally “Lord, thank you for your creation!”
Finally we were wrapping up our trip, with the take out spot in sight. Apparently the trip had gone too smoothly because right at the last rapid my canoe flipped over. I was immediately submerged into the icy water, wearing my long johns under my clothes. Of course I panicked, dog paddling around, chasing my Sewanee water bottle down the river as Daniel, my boat partner, held the boat and all of our stuff together. Finally we were pulled in and Kennedy had to find me some dry clothes to put on. I felt like I was paralyzed with shock as Daniel started talking about how much worse it could have been (I was lucky to be paired with such an optimist- but it made me feel like a scared puppy with its tail between its legs). Finally we made it back to the rental place and found SHOWERS! I think I washed off seven extra layers of dust from body and three from my hair. There was a hip little tavern we got to eat at and man, veggie tacos have never tasted so good. We got to hangout for our final night at the campsite, playing cards and laughing about memories from the week.
I woke up with a full bladder at 6 am so I ventured out of my tent with a headlamp only to walk off of the ledge that marked the campsite. The 3 foot drop left my hips and arm bruised and scraped. Honestly, I though to myself, I cannot physically end a trip without doing something clumsy. I walked for 10 more minutes until I realized I was going in the complete opposite direction of the bathroom. Finally I turned myself around and made it. As I was walking back the sweet drizzle of rain began to fall, and I started to smile. The area had been in a bad drought and needed the rain more than anything. Soon after, we all woke up and decided to get out on the road quickly so we wouldn’t be soaked. We packed up the vans, I took the last 3 pictures on my disposable camera, and bid farewell to Far Flung Outdoor Center.
I thanked myself for taking the chance of a lifetime by going on this trip, and as I sit here typing this, I long to be back on the river.
I knew at some point I was going to write about this, I just didn’t know when. However, I’ve watched people close to me go through seasons of suffering and I hope this can be encouraging.
During my senior year of high school and through the summer after graduation I struggled with food. A lot. I ended up developing a severe fear of “unhealthy” foods and an obsession with exercising past a healthy point. I lost a ton of weight, and I didn’t realize it until a doctor told me I was in bad shape. I was exhausted all of the time. I was not present in any of my friendships or my relationship at the time. My mind was miserably occupied all day with counting calories or grams of fat, and ensuring that I ran until my knees hurt so badly that I couldn’t walk for hours afterwards. I never took a day off from running over the period of about 6 months. If I didn’t run at least 6 miles, I considered it a failure of a run and I cursed myself in my head. I didn’t even run because I liked it, I ran because I was determined to look like girls around me. I nearly destroyed my knees and hips from the endless miles I suffered through in order to slim and tone my body. I read an article this morning that was titled “Comparison is the Thief of Joy” and it couldn’t be any more true. Looking at myself in the mirror whenever I could, I was never satisfied and I longed to look like others. If I was going out to eat, I always looked the menu up ahead of time to make sure I could pick something healthy enough to satisfy my obsession. Pretty soon I had destroyed my metabolism and became so weak I would always fall asleep during the day and I was always shivering. After I hit my lowest weight ever I decided enough was enough and I needed to overcome my unhealthy relationship with food and exercise.
The road since then has been bumpy, with tons of hurdles and dead-ends. This is not to be romanticized. I had to be put on medication to fix my metabolism and gain weight. I lost tons of hair and felt like a prisoner to my own mind.I battled severe anxiety and depression throughout my first year at PC. I would pray endlessly to find no relief from my despair. It was horrible. I hated myself and sought to find an escape through self-harm and disordered eating. This is something I cringe at when admitting to people. I would love to say it was all in the past and it ended after that year, but unfortunately thats not always how it works. I still fight my anxiety and depression and found myself slipping again last month.
Unfortunately I was in the midst of a spiritual rough patch throughout this semester, growing more and more frustrated with ministry and finding myself trying to throw off continuous judgement and disdain for every single move I made, or had made years ago. I was hurt, frustrated and upset in my search for Godly truth and rebuilding a relationship with the Lord. Slowly I realized that God loves me endlessly, even during the lowest points of life. I want to glorify the Lord with my life and I won’t let anything stop me. Not food, not depression, nor those who are waiting to see me fall.
The Lord is my life, and all to Him I owe. I am happy to say that I’ve made huge strides fighting against my eating disorder. I love to fuel my body and run to stay in shape, but only to keep moving rather than to attain some kind of body type. I have found self-love, where I feel excited to celebrate the who the Lord has made me to be. I’m thankful to be intelligent and compassionate, and I know I can use these gifts to glorify God. He has always seen me as valuable, and I’m ready to embrace that identity for myself. Anxiety and depression will always rear their ugly heads when I least expect it, but with the Lord on my side, what could overcome me?
I will always be fighting, but I want to live to reflect Christ in everything I do. If you feel neglected, unworthy, or outcast, I can promise you the Lord has other plans for you. You are valued beyond imagination by the Creator of the Universe and you can overcome every season of suffering that comes your way. My happiness comes from my relationship with God, and its more fulfilling than anything this world can offer. I want to live to love and live to serve. I am making a comeback, with the one true King right by my side.
This past semester has been a whirlwind. I decided to do some soul searching to figure out who Jesus is and how I can live to better my personal relationship with Him. This post isn’t about what I believe or what I’ve found but more of a declaration that everyone’s faith is personal, and no two relationships with God look the same.
I have friends who worship God through acts of justice, and find God in the pages of books that inspire action. I also have friends who worship God through interpreting the Bible literally and who build their relationship with the Lord by following their beliefs to the best of their ability. Both of these are ok! I used to think that if someone’s faith looked different than mine they weren’t truly living for Jesus. I have humbly learned this lesson as my own relationship with God has grown and changed. I am now one of those believers who sees the sovereignty of the Lord in nature, in love, in peace, and many other places. I think its important for people to know that loving the Creator is not a stencil cut-out where you just fill in the lines. It is unique for every person and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to worship God because if we knew everything, there would be no need for faith.
So I just want to encourage other people like me who want to explore their faith to do so! This is a good process that can really strengthen relationships with our Lord! Also, if anyone is going through this now or has experienced it and has advice, I would love to hear it!
Weekend Update: Currently sitting in my dorm typing! Yesterday the hose beat Furman in basketball, and Thanksgiving is almost here! Time to find some vegan holiday recipes 🙂
Lord, thank you for our personal relationship. Thank you for this life where I can find more of You. Thank you for friends and family, and thank you for Your unending love.
“Here’s my heart Lord, speak what is true”
I have been wrestling with a ton of different aspects about my faith this semester. From the authority of scripture to what ministry looks like, I’ve done a ton of investigating, searching, and praying. I would think long and hard about one thing, and then ask various people whom I trusted about it, and then pretty soon I would be trying to figure out something else!
Throughout that whole process this semester I was doubting what to believe and was desperately searching for some answers to all of the world’s problems. What I discovered, however, is the ability to trust in God. Each new fit of uncertainty would end with finding God in scripture and experiencing for myself each of the issues I was trying to discern.
I was praying last night and I felt this overwhelming urge to “stay put” and to let go of it all. I was asking for all of these answers, and it seems like God was saying “just stop worrying”. I was reading through Acts 6 this morning, and I stumbled upon this passage talking about disciples who were trying to meet the demand of the growing church community when serving food.
“It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables” (Acts 6:2) said the disciples, as they elect Stephen, Phillip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmesan, and Nicolaus to the task.
This verse tugged at my heart, as I realized I was neglecting my personal relationship with God and ministry to try and figure out what the term “sexual immorality” meant and what sins were, etc. These kinds of questions are awesome for growing personal faith, however, I was putting the answers to these before God and thats where I realized I was hardening my heart towards Him.
I was so wrapped up in what the answers were to all these questions that I doubted God, and His authority, and relied on other people or different opinions to discern truth. When I was praying last night I felt as if I was finally able to cast off all of my worries and doubts and questions onto Him, and just say “here’s my heart, Lord”. I want it to always belong to Him.
Lord I trust you. Help me surrender to Your will and find joy in doing so.
This past weekend I had fall break and was able to visit the Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee with some campus outreach people! I had so much fun hiking and camping and thought I would share some photos I took while I was there!
That was the trip in a nutshell! It was awesome to get to rough it for a few days, but I am definitely glad to be back at PC with showers and heat and a dining hall (eek I know)!
Lord, You are such a good Father. Help me feel more of You during the chaos of student life! Your plans are sovereign and are so much better than I could ever imagine.
I am writing this post with a heavy heart. Recently, the Lord has been molding me and introducing the reality of Matthew 22: 37-39.
Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
The other day I was left in tears after hearing the harsh judgement and disdain for a professor that is teaching in ministry. The professor was being criticized for having and producing students with “bad theology”. As one of these students, my heart broke and I was overcome with frustration. This professor has been known to make students think critically about scripture and become comfortable with being uncomfortable. This professor introduces students to Christian theology of all denominations and encourages us to be in community of faith with all believers, not just the ones that think like us.
The problem I think is so prevalent today is the fact that as followers of Christ, we get so caught up on the little things about each denomination, like whether or not women can be ministers, or whether baptism is done at infancy or young adulthood, that we forget the whole point of the gospel. Jesus has paid it all for us, showering us with undeniable grace and mercy, and at the end of the day, our salvation is not based on how we worship on Sundays or whether or not we sing the doxology. The traditions we have in the church and our interpretation of various scripture may be a means to help us worship, but they don’t give us eternal life, only Jesus does. When we refuse to listen to people who differ than us, what we end up doing is walking away from Jesus. We become the Pharisees of the 21st century, and that is what keeps us from loving others well! God’s intention for the church was not for all of us to disagree and separate based on small variations of our beliefs. This divides us, rather than uniting us under Christ.
At my church back in Charleston, we did a sermon series on the Holy Spirit, and our pastor Chris Warner talked about how we as Christians sometimes impede the Holy Spirit from moving in our lives by doing the very things the Pharisees did. By focusing on small works, and trying to achieve perfect theology we don’t let the Spirit move in us! 1 Thessalonians says “do not quench the Spirit” (5:19), and we should take this seriously!
Following Jesus does not mean we need to have the same theology as the person next to us, or that we need to scour the Bible in order to determine whether it says God is actually a male or a female (believe it or not people got very upset over this debate). The key to following Jesus is LOVE. That means loving others who are different than you, loving people who drink, loving people who are judgmental, loving people no matter what their sin, because that the end of the day, all of our sin is sin. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, and sin doesn’t come with a ranking system. I know sometimes I have a hard time understanding that my sin is no lesser than anyone else’s but its true! The Pharisees believe that they did good things, and that they were better than others, but people who have a real heart for Jesus throw their hands up and say forgive me, Lord, and lead me to you!
Lord, help me love others as you loved me. Lead me to spread Your kingdom here on Earth, and find my redemption in You.