Friday, August 1, 2014

My Fight With The Seasons

Autumn is one of my favorite seasons. I love the cliche experiences found in watching the leaves change color and sipping hot chocolate at fall's first bonfire. I love flannels and boots and having to run back inside to grab cardigans on your way to class in the morning. I love hot cups of coffee that don't make me instantly break out in a sweat because it's ninety degrees outside and I'm holding a thousand degree beverage. But every year, without fail, autumn and I get off to a rough start. I pout, sulk, and ultimately grudgingly endure it for the first week because no matter what, the first afternoon in autumn necessarily lacks the one experience that makes summer the season my heart beats for.

I'm a bit of a heat freak, which basically means I want to be in the sunshine always. I wear sunburns and tan lines with the amount of pride normal people would reserve for Gucci, Prada, and Louis Vuitton. This (of course) makes summer in Texas and South Carolina basically the best thing ever. But my favorite thing IN THE WORLD to do is walk outside into the sunlight after I've been freezing inside an extremely air conditioned building all day. The door opens and you hit a wall of heat; within seconds you can feel yourself thawing from the inside out. After a couple of minutes, you almost forget what being cold feels like in the first place because warmth, heat, and sunlight are the only things you can feel....and when you're finally warm and you walk back inside, for a couple of seconds you carry that warmth and light with you as a glow on your skin. That is the experience that makes me smile without fail every time it happens, and it's the same reason I get mad at autumn every time it rolls around.

This is all coming to mind because right now my family and our best friends are on vacation in Arkansas. The first couple of days we were here it was HOT, and getting out of the lake was wonderful because you dried off in five seconds flat....until a few mornings in when I walked outside and it was just as cold out there as it was in the apartment. The day was still beautiful, the trees were still gorgeous, and our time at the lake was just as fun as ever. But it was lacking that special something that made it "my" day.

And the reason for this analogy / long, boring story IS....

Being home this summer has been wonderful and has reminded me of the grace of God a million times over. I've been given so many wonderful people to help me work through the loss of Daniel, only a few of which are actually in the same state as me. I've made friends with people I probably wouldn't have talked to otherwise, and have never stopped being thankful for the incredible grace and patience my friends, family, and Savior have shown me. But I always feel a tiny bit awkward because there's a little list of questions I don't really know how to answer truthfully: "how are you", "are you excited to go back to school", "do you think it will be too different", and "what's been the hardest thing for you to deal with?" I never quite know what to say, and this analogy is the closest thing I can come up with.

Like shifting from summer to autumn, shifting from the season of my life with Daniel in it to one without him is going to be incredibly hard, and I'm going to be upset about it for a very, very long time. Just like autumn holds a beauty all its own, I know the Lord is going to do just as much with Daniel gone and home as He did with him here. In its own unique way, watching the grace and providence of the Lord unfold will be beautiful, as He gives friends, family, and everyone hurting the ability to get up in the morning and face the world without Daniel in it. But much like walking outside into a world without the summer sunshine, there's something about going back to school without him that means it's not longer quite "my" place. Regardless of where I am, home in Texas or back at CIU, both places lack the degree of warmth, comfort, light, and homeness that I seem to keep looking for. There's a hole in our sweet family that no one else can fill, and no matter how bright the days get they'll never be quite as special as they were when he strutted across campus. They're just missing something extra....something that felt like summer. Something that for us was so uniquely Daniel.

So for anyone whose ever asked me those questions and has watched me awkward bumble my way through "I'm...I'm fine?" there's your answer :) I can't wait to be back with the friends I've been given (old AND new)....though at this point these beautiful people really do feel more like family. They are so very precious to me. And all I can really think as summer winds to a close and August looms ahead is "well Junior sure are going to be an adventure."

Friday, June 20, 2014

Back and Breathing.

Well, it's definitely been a while. And by a while I mean February 5th, which seems like years and a different lifetime ago but was in fact just a handful of months. In the time since I blogged sophomore year has ended, the world has shifted, and as always the Lord has remained the same. 

I'm not going to attempt to sum up sophomore year, or try and put the lessons I've learned into quaint little phrases and sentences. The truth is, I'm still not entirely sure it's sunk into my head and trying to share it with you would be almost impossible. I've experienced emotions I'm not sure there are words for in English....although I'm sure there's some super cultured word in another language for it somewhere.And I'm not entirely sure the experiences that my best friends & I have gone through this year are the kind that should be shared anywhere other than between friends, on a couch, holding hot cups of coffee and watching the sunset -- because they're the kind of life experiences that come to reshape you and your outlook on the world, and there's no way to share them without sharing more than a little bit of yourself. 

So why am I blogging? Mostly because I missed it, and for the first time in almost 2 months the words are starting to form in my head in a way that makes capitalizing on that seems like a good idea. And because in the midst of great trials, I have been taught the most important thing is to remember what you knew was true when walking in faith seemed simple and finding the Lord in our midst was easy. So here it goes. 

The Lord is still sovereign. 
The Lord is still faithful.
The Lord is still good. 
The Lord is still glorified. 
And He is still worthy of [my] praise.

I know to you those just read like words on a page, and maybe you don't feel the energy that went into typing them. But for me, even writing them down has taken months of consideration. I used to be the girl that threw these phrases out like they were candy. Phrases like "Man, God is so good" and songs like "It Is Well With My Soul" and "Blessed Be Your Name" rolled off my tongue without a moments hesitation because what I applied them to was small. Encountering death, loss, and a colossal shift in my spiritual understanding for the first time in my life has made me sit down and reconsider what I'm willing to put on the line when I say the Lord can have it all. I've always known in the back of my mind that the Lord didn't promise us an easy life or earthly happiness. I've always read passages like James 1 and known that joy in trials was going to be impossible in my own strength. But for 20 years "trials" has meant not getting the job / boy / grade that I wanted......and now trials means that after nineteen (almost 20) years of life one of my best and dearest friends is basking in the glory of Jesus' face. 

And I'm here. 

To say that the Lord is sovereign means on some level I have to accept that I will never, until I reach heaven, understand why it happened the way that it did. It means that searching for the Lord's goodness and glory just became much harder because I don't like it, and it hurts. It means that joy has just reached a new level of supernatural grace, because I've never been so aware of how impossible it is for me to produce it on my own. 

It means that I have claimed the Lord's faithfulness, sovereignty, goodness, and mercy my entire life, and it is time to prove whether I believe in the unshakable truth of His character and perfect holiness.....or whether I just said those phrases because for a little while, it seemed like His plans lined up with mine. 

The Lord is sovereign. And just, and faithful, and good, and merciful, and I can't grasp it, don't understand it, and perhaps never will. He has answered my prayers for healing, wholeness, and renewal in ways that were more painful but more perfect than I could ever have anticipated. And of course I still have questions....I'm human, and I miss my friend, and our home, and the life that our CIU family enjoyed two months ago. Sometimes I'm angry, sometimes I'm quiet in the face of the Lord's grace, sometimes I fall into the unbelievable delusion that I know better than the Lord and wish I could change something. But in the midst of it all, the Lord's grace has been there to catch me even when I try and shove it off with both hands. 

I am still processing how much I don't know. And the Lord is still good. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Single Awareness.

I fall into the trap sometimes of thinking I'm extremely qualified and ready to be in a relationship. Then I get upset with the Lord for not putting me in one when I'm VERY OBVIOUSLY so ready to be in one.

Which is probably why the Lord has yet to put me in one.....

But I'm getting off subject here ;)

I realized recently (like this past week) that I've never truly been single in my life. Which is ironic because I've never been in an actual relationship with an actual TECHNICALLY I've been single my entire life. And I'd love to say that I've dealt with it well and drawn closer to the Lord in my singleness, but the truth is I really haven't. Girls have the crazy ability to do this thing where "Hey, wanna go for coffee?" in our head sounds like "Hey, wanna make me coffee for the rest of my life?" and "I'd like to get to know you better" sounds like "I think I'm in love with you marry me." I am awful at taking my thoughts before Christ, and equally awful at guarding my heart so that I don't get too ahead of myself before mystery man's intentions have been made clear. So HOW have I never been truly single?

Because in the midst of everything, I've never sought the Lord purely for the beauty and glory of being in His presence, without some sort of ultimate goal in mind. 

I've sought the Lord in multiple contexts, for multiple reasons, trying to prove to Him one way or another that I was good enough for Boy #1, or mature enough to date Boy #2, but somewhere along the way I get so lost in my motives that I forget that the Lord should be sought for His goodness, and His goodness ALONE....and at some point I start treating the Lord like a divine ATM machine who, when I put in the correct amount of prayer, quiet time, and church going will spit out this perfect man with whom I can ride off into the sunset. NOPE.

I've begun to realize that in the hustle and bustle of trying to get to know whoever the man happens to be I'm hoping pursues me at the time, I've pushed the Lord to the back burner immensely. and that maybe, just maybe, (read: most definitely) I haven't taken the time to get to know my Savior as much as I've pretended to either.

Which essentially means I'm walking around trying to find myself in a relationship that mirrors Christ's unrelenting love and glorifies God, when I've never explored or appreciated the depths of the beauty that is my heavenly Father. It is hard to do relationship well -- but it is impossible to have a relationship that centers on Christ when you've never even taken the time to study or spend enough time with Him to know Him WELL.

Because I don't know my all honesty. His faithfulness makes me nervous, because often God's faithfulness plays out in some pretty painful ways that I cannot help but be thankful for, but are not fun. And His unrelenting pursuit and love terrifies me because I cannot escape it, and I know it's going to change me. And if I'm being honest, I love being comfortable where I am. But I am more afraid of becoming complacent and comfortable in a life here on Earth, and having to stand before my Father one day unable to explain when I wasted my time on things of this world when I should have kept my eyes on the things that are eternal.

So here's to the realization that I'm not quite as ready to be girlfriend, wife, and mother as I previously thought.

And here's to God's grace that reveals my frailty to me. It is crazy that He is so willing to be patient and teach me things. Without it I would be lost.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thankful for the Gospel.

Coming back into school I have been overwhelmed with the faithfulness of the Lord. Not only in the incredible grace shown to me by those the Lord has given me to grow with, but in all the little details of my day that I so easily miss if I start to live too fast, the way He has sustained me over a long break, and way He has so intricately and intimately provided for my needs that so often I take His attention to detail embarrassingly for granted.

I began sophomore year praying the Lord would teach me what humility truly looked like...and I'll honestly confess that at the time most of my motivation was that I knew I could always be a little more humble, and it sounded like a really good and mature prayer to pray. And then when He began to answer I was confused, because the lessons I was learning didn't look anything like I had originally thought they would. Because I forgot that the first step in viewing yourself humbly and accurately before a loving Savior is knowing and remembering exactly what it was the Gospel saved you from. 

Pride for me means forgetting the Lord's kindness and graciousness in shaping me to look more like Him, and assuming that I've done it myself. It's thinking I have the Gospel figured out, because I've heard it so many times that I can spit the words back at you. Because essentially, at the heart of my arrogance, is the phrase  "Lord, I'm not sure I really needed saving." 

And sometimes, just to remind me that I do, the Lord lets me mess up. Romans 1 says that "although they [man] knew God, they neither glorified Him as God or gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened"...and in response God gave them over to the desires of their hearts. Essentially, to punish them for their sinful ways, God allowed them to do what they wanted to do. And by the grace of God it's not often, but when I begin to take credit for the sanctifying grace of a perfect, holy God, I need to be reminded of my own depravity. 

That Bethany before grace, before the Gospel, is not this slightly disheveled, slightly disorganized person that just needs a little growth and a little work. I'm broken, dirty, sinful, depraved, and separated forever from the presence of the very one that created me, because I'm so fallen that I wouldn't even know I needed to be pulled out of the pit I'd put myself into if Christ hadn't relentlessly pursued me first. 

The reminder of just how much I don't deserve the grace, love and forgiveness of Christ, coupled with the joy that He has freed me from the law, has brought the Gospel to the forefront of my mind this week, and though the humbling is not fun I cannot help but be overwhelmingly thankful that God is gracious enough to take the time to teach me and break my heart of pride. I am thankful that He is steadfast comfort when the nights are long, patience when I cannot wait for the future, fills me with grace when I need to give it, and will not stop hitting me over the head with the Gospel when I am ashamed of how much I don't deserve it. 

I am thankful He puts me back together when I have taken myself apart, and that He is faithful not to my desires but to His perfect plan and endless glory. I am thankful that He does not keep me comfortable, and I am thankful He is more concerned with bringing Himself glory than with keeping me happy or giving me what I want when I want...and I am thankful for the promises written out that I can read when I start to forget.  

And I am thankful that I have roommates, friends, best friends, and family that demonstrate the concepts of grace, faithfulness, compassion, love, and hard-spoken truth to me when I need it. Which is daily :) 

Here's to second half of our second year. May the Lord never let me become comfortable or complacent about my knowledge of Him :)