Once again, I suck at keeping up with a blog. I pretty much write on here when I have something profound I have learned and want to remember or when I have news that I want to share with a large number of people. This post is more of the latter, with a dash of life lessons sprinkled in parentheses and general tangents.
I guess I should start with a basic outline of the past two years of mine in order to familiarize those who need some background perspective. This morning I was listening to the Casting Crowns album "Come to the Well", which was my primary soundtrack during the fall semester of my senior year of college, now two years ago. Listening to the songs brought me so many memories of why August 2012 was truly the best of times. It was at that time that Michael and I started dating after meeting at camp (and earlier on the same day we met I swore off boys FOREVER). A few weeks before we became "official", I met Gretchen, a girl that I expected to be a totally annoying sorority girl but who ended up becoming one of my absolute best friends after a few months of getting to know each other over Bible readings and chai tea (ironic since the summer before I had met a Jesus-loving sorority girl and had finally decided that people in Greek life might possibly be tolerable on rare occasions--but would NEVER be my close friends). Also around this time, I joined a Navs Bible study and met this hyper girl named Libby (who I thought was slightly crazy and I didn't really ever think twice about her beyond bible study but ended up becoming my so(u)l(e) sister). I met several other people that August, but these particular people are mentioned for a reason which will be made manifest later.
(Life lesson learned in this paragraph: don't judge a book by it's cover. You never know which people will become most important in your life over time.)
A few months before August 2012, I had been in San Diego on a CRU missions trip. We spent 2 weeks doing beach evangelism and learning about the Spirit and His work in our lives. I truly believe that trip opened my eyes to God in ways that I had never experienced before and have yet to experience again. There were about 30 of us students living in community and striving to honor Christ in all that we did under the guidance of very godly and wise staff mentors. When August came around, I had a fire within my soul, ready to follow wherever God led me and desiring nothing but to know Him more. This experience set me up for a semester of being pure in heart, open and willing to be all that God created me to be. August 2012 was a beautiful time.
Also in August 2012, I moved into an apartment dubbed Grimmauld Place (or Holiday Apartments, for you boring people) with two of my best friends from the mellophone section. This action resulted in magnifying one of those friendships to a beauty I could have never imagined beforehand, and, unfortunately, destroying the other friendship. The first semester in Grimmauld Place was appropriately beautiful. But when winter came around, I began to grow bitter towards the roommate with whom things had gone sour. I was angry at her and unforgiving of the things that she would say and do. Instead of trying to mend the relationship, I let the bitterness take root. Also at this time, I began struggling with the hypocrisy I saw in so many other Christians. I felt as though I didn't belong in the "Jesus Club" because I didn't fit the stereotype of being a fashionable model of a perfect Christian and didn't openly support Sarah Palin/Duck Dynasty/Chik-fil-a. This spring semester began a season in which my faith wavered quite often, and in which the seeds of bitterness that had been sown towards my roommate began to spread out towards these hypocritical Christians that so frustrated me.
Oh, and remember those people I mentioned up top? In this season, they became absolutely critical to my life. Michael has always been and continues to be a strong support even when I'm moody and not at my most graceful. Gretchen helped me to stay in the Word and to still try to trust God even when I had no trust in His followers. Libby and I started running together and shared many meaningful conversations while putting in the miles towards a marathon. Their influence in my life deepened, and when graduation time rolled around, I felt as though I had known these people all my life instead of only 9 short months (and I promise there's a reason that they're listed in this post. This is turning into a saga of a tale. Mea culpa.).
In June 2013, I went to Russia for a month. While there, I was convicted to let go of my bitterness towards my roommate and the hypocritical Christians. But then I encountered teammates who also made me feel bitter and unforgiving even while I explored a foreign country. I continued to harbor a bitter, unforgiving spirit, but I didn't even realize my disobedience in allowing this poison to enter my life and inhibit my relationship with Jesus. I felt fine, I was happy, but I was also realizing that I wasn't where I needed to be spiritually. I was living for less than Christ died for me to receive.
In September 2013 I moved to Iowa for internship. When describing internship, I can honestly say it was one of the best experiences of my life. The hospital was amazing. The experiences were beautiful. My fellow intern was darling. Our supervisors were brilliant. I could go into detail about being an intern, but that's irrelevant to this particular saga. What's relevant is that, even though I had an absolutely beautiful experience while working, living alone in Iowa was hell. I had my fellow intern to talk with, but I spent so many nights all alone, hundreds of miles from the people I loved. My faith was already being harmed by my stubborn desire to hold onto bitterness, and all the time alone gave me too much time to think--and to doubt. I questioned if God loved me or if He even cared. I questioned my purpose and most everything about my life. I was overwhelmingly grateful to have the internship of my dreams, but I also felt torn, knowing that the people I loved most were living lives without me, that I was missing out on 6 months and felt as though I wasn't even missed. I didn't want to connect with anyone to tell them that I was struggling spiritually, but I felt like I was losing grip on all the things that I believed.
Then in March 2014 I moved back to Lawrence, pretty spiritually numb on all levels, but so grateful to be back near Michael again and to have his support and love. I met up with Libby for a run and found that she had also been having a spiritually difficult time, but was still clinging to faith. Gretchen and I hung out several times, and she suggested we begin reading our bibles together again. The week before Easter, we were reading in Galatians and there was a verse that basically talked about people depending on themselves instead of allowing God to work. Gretchen told me straight up that this was what I had been doing for so long, and to snap out of it and ask God and other believers for help once again. I began to pray honestly (for the first time in a long time), and it was then that Jesus showed me so clearly that the problem wasn't in His lack of care for me but rather in my lack of willingness to forgive and to release the bitterness I had held and let grow. I saw for the first time that all interactions in relationships are based on a love balance. When I am kind to others, when I am willing to forgive and respect them in spite of my feelings, I add love to the equation. When I refuse to forgive someone, I am essentially telling them "my feelings are more important than your need for love". I remove my love from the equation as a way to punish that person for my hurts. Often, they may not even know that I have removed love from the equation. But I know when I have deemed a person unworthy of my love. And when I deem someone unworthy, I begin to harbor bitterness towards them and begin to allow hate to enter the equation. I put my feelings and needs above their humanity until it becomes impossible to add love to the equation and allow for redemption. At this point, I am so far gone in hate and bitterness that only Jesus can redeem, restore love to the equation, and allow things to balance once again (I really hope that makes sense. I've been toying with this thought for the entirety of the summer and still can't word it as I would like).
With all of these revelations, I decided to re-trace my steps to make things right, recognizing that my actions were covered with the blood of Christ. I wrote my ex-roommate an apology/forgiveness letter, all the while asking Jesus to help me love her. She still has never responded, but I don't feel hate when I see her anymore. God keeps giving more grace so that I remember His love for me and then have the strength to love her even when I don't want to do so. I began praying about my feelings towards the hypocrites I saw and about the feelings of frustration I experienced with my teammates to Russia. It hasn't been an easy process, but every day my vision has gotten a little clearer, my love for others has increased, and I can see Christ working in my life once again. I will never be completely healed (because I am a sinful, imperfect human), but I do know that I am better now than I have been since August 2012. God is still moving in my heart, and I am excited to finally be able to wake up and worship without inhibitions once again.
During this summer, my joy has returned in abundance. I am working part-time hospice and part-time adolescent behavioral health (opposite areas, I know). I went to camp at the beginning of July and have been staying relatively busy. But even as my joy was beginning to truly blossom once again, another trial arose. I was back in communion with God, and that relationship needed a test by fire to keep me moving along through the refining process. I recognize that this struggle was absolutely minuscule on a global scale, but June 2014 rolled around and I realized I had no place to live and a lease that ended July 31. I decided that I should move to Johnson County so that I could have better job opportunities and that I should live with a roommate so I would not be repeating the loneliness of Iowa. But to make a long story short (and to not bring attention to the parties involved in this process), I ended up with several no vacancy apartment searches and fall-through roommate options--and only one week to go until the eviction on July 31 (yes this was only a couple of days ago). Up until the 2 week mark to eviction I was absolutely calm, knowing that God would bring me where He wanted me to be and that there would be enough time to move. As time grew closer to eviction, I began to feel the pressure. But instead of panicking, I started praying desperately "Yahweh, PLEASE show me very clearly and directly where You want me to be." With that prayer, I began realizing that Johnson County wasn't the right option for me. And when I went to my current apartment complex and asked about openings, they shared how that exact morning, a couple in a 1-bedroom apartment had come in to break their lease with plans to move out within the week.
So my big exciting news is this: I am moving about 100 yards away from where I currently live in Grimmauld Place. I have a 1-bedroom apartment that is within my budget range and is, amazingly, in Lawrence, Kansas. I thought it would be best to move away from my college town, but for some reason God has landed me in Lawrence for another season of life. And the main reason I cannot stop smiling about this fact is that I will be in the same town as these beautiful members of my Christian community that I mentioned earlier. I will be able to read my Bible and drink chai with Gretchen. I will be able to train for and run many races with Libby. For the first time practically ever, I will live in the same town as Michael. Even though I missed out on 6 months while in Iowa, I'm getting a free year back to be with those I love best. Even though I will be living alone, I am within walking distance of people who have been my support and encouragement throughout the past 2 years. Most importantly, I get to spend time in a place where I have received so much spiritual nurturing, which I trust will continue in this next year and allow me to be all that God desires for me to be.
Above all, I am grateful that God has been healing me from myself and still desires me, still wants me to be more like Him. I'm not sure what this next year in Lawrence will bring, but I look forward to the journey and the discovery of the plans that Yahweh and Creator has for me. I covet your prayers as I continue to seek God's heart and His plans for me. My personal goal for this season in Lawrence is to have a pure heart and to be open to whatever God desires for my life. I can't see the road ahead, but I trust that it will be beautiful and beyond my wildest expectations.
And in honor of feeling healed and finally on the right track after so long.....here is
Love and hugs,