All posts by Bianca Wargo

an open letter to God.

I hate that my heart’s grown numb to You. And maybe the fact that I even can hate means my heart is not quite as numb as I think it is. Perhaps this perceived lack of feeling isn’t quite something to be so dramatic about as I can still feel hate for the gratitude and things I seem not to feel. But if I feel that hate and little to no love for what this condition may mean, then is my heart healthy or sick? Is it possibly both? How could that be possible? It’s not. So it’s either one or the other and I wonder which it is, but even if I were to answer for myself I would wonder whether I speak the truth or speak what I wish to be the truth.

And this is where I should be able to just sit and listen to You or observe the opportunities You place before me as where you either see me fit or see I need growth. I should be. But my heart is so numb that I notice these things and don’t think anything of it. I scarcely look at all these things anymore and say “Lord, thank You for letting me know what you see in me, growth and need for growth alike.” And that’s the part I hate.

So it seems that the hate for this condition of mine is warranted or righteous. Yet this is where I begin to wonder whether I’m doing enough about it– am I allowing it to sit and fester like dirt in an open wound, or am I at least attempting to pour the rubbing alcohol over it despite the searing pain of its cleaning? Do I bite my lip? Do I cry out? Do I mutter or yell out curses from the same lips that claim to praise You? I hate that any one of these could be answered with a ‘yes.’ How does fresh water come from a salt water spring? it can’t. So I often wonder whether or not my praises are then valid and pure enough to be worthy of You.

Truth is, I don’t know how I’m doing. It doesn’t seem to help that every door is getting slammed shut in my face and all I can think is either what am I doing wrong? or why am I not enough? It makes it hard to believe that You’re really there or that you care– but believe I still do.

I guess sometimes all You’re asking of me is to survive. As long as you allow it, my life simply means that your grace, your patience, and your kindness hasn’t run out on me.

So I guess I should be asking myself why am I letting my own grace and patience and kindness run out on myself? any of that which is mine came from You, and yours never runs out– why do I deplete my own supply when you’re right there?

Lord, I know you’re not a feeling, but I just don’t want to feel numb to you.

lord, I know it won’t always be easy to believe in you or your promises, but help my unbelief.

Lord, I know that by my own power my imposter syndrome is right, but it’s Yours I want to draw from and rely on. By your scars I am healed. By your blood, I am purified.

so help me God, please.

foreseeable.

This might be a bit of a repeat, but I wanted to dive a little bit deeper into some of the topics I wrote about back in August on future seasons. With that post, I touched more on how the future and the dreams and fulfillment of desires God’s planted in us all start where we are right now. But what about the things we don’t see happening? Can we trust our own intuition and foresight to determine whether or not something is worth investing in right now?

I’d say that sometimes intuition like this makes sense– God gave it to us for a reason, after all. But here’s the catch: He also tells us explicitly not to lean on our own understanding.

I recently rewatched Hacksaw Ridge with my parents. The thought hardly occurred to me because of the sheer faith Andrew Garfield portrayed Desmond Doss to have— that I’m sure the real Desmond Doss did have,— but it occurs to me now in hindsight: did Doss really believe the whole time, with His whole heart, that he could survive World War II without a single weapon? Though the movie is little more than an adapted reenactment, Garfield (as Doss) still seemed to demonstrate a tinge of fear in his eyes– the doubt that he might not make it because he couldn’t see a way out with his own mind or two eyes. He was pressed with this very human understanding of how a soldier should operate when at war. He was given little else to remind him of why he chose to contribute to the war efforts other than his wife’s bible with a photo of her tucked inside. He was surrounded by human understanding while likely already wrestling his own. But his heart saw that way out, and that way through the atrocities of war unarmed was The Way.

See, I think we often get stuck in places God is trying to call us out of because we focus too much on our own foresight. I’ve been— I am— quite guilty of that. I can’t even tell you how many ideas for businesses, paintings, prints, sculptures, poems, essays, etc. swirl around my mind on a daily basis. I can tell you that the myriad of ideas narrows incredibly when considering the ones that come to any sort of fruition. Why? Because I doubt the idea. Because I doubt myself and my abilities. Because I doubt my resources. Because I doubt that the people around me actually want to help me out, or I doubt my worth to them. My foresight is clouded with doubt.

And ultimately all this doubt is rooted in the doubts I wrestle with almost daily about God— whether regarding His provision, sovereignty, or His very existence depends on the day, the season, etc. The point is that even I, as a believer in Jesus Christ, doubt my God. I would tend to say that any believer that claims to never doubt Him in any capacity is a liar. There are fearsome things in the world, and fear is doubt that things will not work out (in whatever capacity is irrelevant to this point). In the case of Israel right now, there are countless Israelis being held captive by Hamas right now in fear of never making it back to their families— doubting they will see their loved ones again. In the much less tragic case that I brought up in a previous post about my fear of becoming a mother (Lord willing), I’m most afraid of it because I doubt myself most in my ability to be that gentle and understand my child’s needs before they can communicate it all for themselves (in part because I have trouble truly expressing things myself, often times).

And it’s hard to express doubt when it feels like everyone around you is so knowledgeable and strong in their faith. I get it, I’m there all the time. I will straight up be in my Wednesday Bible study listening to someone pour out some insane wisdom and there will be a voice screaming from a cage in the back of my head something along the lines of “you do not really believe these fairy tales, do you?” Even as someone who writes and ponders and posts all about my faith, I still have my doubts— but I have a stronger desire to believe than the enemy clearly has to take me down.

What we don’t believe will or could happen may be exactly what God has in store for us. Did Job really expect to go through all he did? I’m willing to bet not! Through the process of all Job goes through, he doubts God’s goodness. Job doubts his worth, wishing he’d never been born. Job falls into misery and despair in the midst of all the loss and afflictions he endures. Job is confused and angry wondering why God would allow this or what he did to deserve it. Yet he was taken through day by day, and what I think is interesting is something Tim Keller once pointed out:

So when things don’t seem to be going the way you might hope, or whatever God’s spoken over your life just doesn’t seem possible… wrestle with that doubt. Wrestle with God as Jacob did with one of His angels and then named the descendants of Jacob accordingly– the Israelites. That wrestling process is going to look different for everyone. Personally it most often comes in my racing and intrusive thoughts that I’m constantly having to examine and/or replace with the Word and its hermeneutical contexts. I’m still reading Faith: A Journey for All by President Jimmy Carter, and just came up to a part where Carter expresses some of the doubts he faced after leaving the navy and even more so after losing Georgia’s gubernatorial election in 1966. While Carter was third in the governor’s race, the man that topped him and another opponent, Lester Maddox, was “an avowed segregationist” who “proudly displayed [the] political symbol… a pick handle that he used to drive potential black customers from the door of his restaurant in Atlanta.” But the thought that Jimmy mentions that I think we’ve all had at a time or two in our lives is this: how could God let that person get what I would’ve been better for?

See, it would make sense that God would want to heal racial tensions (as demonstrated by Jesus going to the Samaritan woman at the well as Jews and Samaritans of the time were two races at odds with one another). In fact, I’d argue that He does want that– He wants His children to be one Church, and one body, meaning every member works cohesively no matter how different… that’s how we were designed to work anyway. But because the world and our flesh is corrupted, that isn’t always the case.

But let’s go back to the question that we so often seem to ask ourselves when we don’t get the position or the relationship or the anything we strived so hard for:

How could God let that person get what I would’ve been better for? What I would’ve used more wisely? What I worked so hard for?…

And before I elaborate at all, let me just drop this gem here that does most of the elaboration for me:

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 

Romans 3:21-24

I think Paul makes the point here pretty clear: you may think you’re better for the job, but you’re not. God’s plan is the best plan, because He’s after more than just solving the problem. He’s after more than just the surface-level healing we’re so often after. He’s after more than the quick fix. God is more than a band-aid on a bullet hole. He is the God of redemption, and redemption is not something that can only be done in part. He is the God of salvation, and being saved is not something that can only be done in part. He is pure and righteous, and as James points out in his epistle, “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.”

So while it grieves Him to see us all at odds with one another or it may not be His favorite thing to allow such people as Maddox to hold power over arguably “better” people as President Carter (even though I don’t agree with many of his actions in office), it would grieve Him more that we weren’t given the opportunity to seek and find Him as many are driven to do when things are not ideal. It would grieve Him more for us to be eternally separated from Him at the end of time. It would grieve Him more that He did not try to love us, to make Himself known to us, or to save us from ourselves. In fact, if He didn’t allow many of these hard things as a means to seek and to save more people, I’d argue it would go directly against His very nature because God is love. And while love is indeed patient and kind, it is also [from a broken, human perspective] a difficult thing to live out. Love is a lifestyle, and at the core of that is God Himself doing a sanctifying work within us Christians so that we might live with Him forever in heaven. It’s too easy to lose sight of that bigger picture– that He is looking to bring all to salvation and make peace within each of us that allow Him to because He sees the deeper root of all our issues better than we ever could.

And I think that’s why, although I struggle deeply with having the faith to do this, we need to step out into things that don’t make sense just a little more often. I like the practical. Though I’m not great at it, math is in many ways something I appreciate because it doesn’t change. I could have remained with my former interest in STEM but I didn’t. In part this is because I simply realized I was a bit better with artistic endeavors such as writing, but in part I think I appreciated the mildly abstract that could form from such concrete experiences in my life. Among those concrete experiences now is my walk with Christ. He is solid and reliable and does not change, and yet there is this beautifully abstract element to Him. Perhaps this abstract quality is merely the limitations of my human understanding in trying to comprehend such a great God, but regardless it’s beautiful and something I love to explore in my study, worship, and prayer here with you.

And I encourage you to pray and seek Him in some of those things that might not make sense to you. Not everything will come to fruition the way you imagine it will, and I think that’s one of the most beautiful things about God’s plan. Though it seems our sin leaves us with no way of redemption, though the disciples had gone into hiding knowing the Messiah was dead, He rose again and in doing so brought us redemption. Now that’s an ending I don’t think anyone would have expected– hardly anyone did it seems, even with all the scriptures prophesying how Christ would die, and that He would not stay dead. And this is Truth spoken over you. God’s word is as good as done so even when it seems that things aren’t going great to you, don’t lean on your own understanding of the situation, the human point of view is not only limited but (on this side of eternity) largely tainted by sin. God’s point of view is greater; it accounts for even the smallest details we wouldn’t think matter and ties it all together perfectly for the good of those who love Him and respond to His call. Trust that. Trust Him. He won’t fail you, even if what He’s asking you to do doesn’t make sense to you or anyone else. God’s been at this for a long time (like, literal eternity kinda long time). He knows what He’s doing. Trust Him, and lean into that– into Him.

it’s been a year, and it’s also been twelve.

To the day, it’s been a year.

In twelve days, it will be twelve years.


Even with all the other things I’ve been through, I’d say that these two days are among the hardest each year. I read back all that I wrote about the weeks leading up to this day last year, October 30th, 2022. I read through my 30-page senior thesis I wrote this past spring as a means of processing the sharp dip in my Grandma’s health that lead to her passing. I can’t read it all the way through; I have to put it down and keep coming back to it a couple hours later because I cry every time. I can’t quite relive having her here without acknowledging I can’t hold her hand, hear her voice, or watch her stay busy and learn all about different flowers and other plants and caring for them like I used to.

Often times I go back to the things that happened after November 11, 2011. I was bullied for how I coped (I always carried this light-up journal and would write in it as I struggled, typically being a bit extra about keeping it private when others were sitting near me). My journal was ripped from my hands one day on the bus as someone mockingly said “Look! It’s that journal about your dead grandma!” The same kid read some of what I wrote aloud and then tore some of the pages out before handing it back to me– at that point I was balled up tightly and shoved myself as far into the corner of my seat by the window as I could be, trying to cover up the streams of tears that welled up as a result of the humiliation.

I think the difference between how I handled these two situations– the passing of Abuelita (maternal grandma) twelve years ago now and the passing of Grandma (paternal grandma) last year– is one of the greatest character developments that the Lord has put me through to date. Will there be others? Certainly. Have there already been others? Of course there have! (I was talking about one of those other major character arcs of mine with a friend the other day, but I’ll be saving that one for a post I’m planning for April).


Let me paint a quick picture of eleven-year-old Bianca:

If you know me in person now, you know I have at least some lean muscle on me not a lot, but enough to see the muscle here an there even if not clearly aesthetically defined. Eleven-year-old me did not have that. Eleven-year-old me was as close to a human twig as it gets. She didn’t think much of her looks, but just wanted to be and feel stronger (something that still holds true today, come to think of it). She didn’t know how to be strong though. She, like I still am, was sensitive and probably held a habit of taking herself a little too seriously because it never felt like anyone else ever did. She was the one brushed off when trying to plan things with friends, or that they would flake out on last minute with excuses that were not true about 80% of the time. She was the one that refused to sing even though she loved to because she was incessantly bullied for her tapping the desk with a pencil and humming a song in the back of a classroom. She was the one that hadn’t really dealt with a lot of externally hard things. She was used to the battle within her own mind. Eleven-year-old me was starting to give up on knocking on her older brother’s locked bedroom door when she wanted to play or just needed a friend. She was alone, in large part because she hadn’t found herself yet.

So when little B heard that Abuelita wasn’t doing so well, her first instinct was to pray. Now, like I said, little me hadn’t found herself which– at least the way I see it now– is synonymous with turning towards and finding Christ. Even though I know now that God heard me then, little me didn’t understand that God sometimes has to give us some really difficult pills to swallow. He answered with what I thought was a hard “no” at the time… I realize now that He actually said “not yet.”

My prayer was as simple as this: “God, please let me see her alive one more time if this is really it for her. Just once.” I prayed it every day once my parents said we were road tripping to Florida from Jersey to see her– that is, until the call.

I would have been much better off bringing Him that weight and allowing Him to carry it– allowing Him to carry me.

We were probably somewhere near the Florida boarder if we hadn’t already crossed it, but I remember being zoned out staring at the car’s clock (before cars had screens) and noticing the time was 11:11am as my mom’s phone rang. Granted it wasn’t much, there are very few times I’ve ever seen tears fall from my mom’s eyes. This was one of those few.

I knew what the call was for in the back of my mind, but I coped with denial of the reality of what was happening. I had faith even then that God would answer my prayer as I’d imagined He would. So, even though Abuelita knew next to no English, I tried to start a normal conversation, my peppy tone shaking only slightly. “¡Hola, Abuelita! How are you?… Well, uh, maybe that wasn’t the right question but I’ll see you soon!” And that’s about all I got out before having to hand off the phone to my brother.

The weight of what I didn’t say always weighs the heaviest on me though– how could I forget to say I love you?

And I decided to not only carry that weight, but blame God for putting that weight on me. In my mind, all I could think was how dare He!? when I would have been much better off bringing Him that weight and allowing Him to carry it– allowing Him to carry me.

But the reality is that I didn’t. When I got back to school, I always had this tacky light-up journal that I never seemed to let go of while I was there– nearly all of what I wrote in there was from my grieving and grasping at straws trying to make sense of it all. I couldn’t. And eventually there was a kid on the bus that snatched this journal from me, taunting with the words “hey look! It’s that journal about your dead grandma!” before proceeding to read some of my grief aloud for the whole bus and then throwing it at the ground. That was when I decided to believe there was no God.


Despite that decision, I can look back and find the countless disparities between what I refused to believe and what I actually acted upon. I think back to Romans 1, namely verses eighteen and following.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Romans 1:18-23 (ESV)

Paul goes on after this about how God gives us up to the things we chase– the impurity, dishonor and abuse of our bodies, lies and deception, manipulation…

God gave me up to this “genie image” of Him that I had so that I could find that it was not him. He let me be hurt by the lie so that my blind eyes could see that it was not the Truth that He is. No matter how hard I tried to be wise, to attain knowledge, to look better or to sound smarter, that pain only reminded me of what a fool I was to deny the comfort and help and (most importantly) salvation that Jesus has always been ready to provide.


So I thought back less to myself and my mistakes when the time came for Grandma to go, too. As I held open my Bible to Psalms 22 and 23 each day I was at her bedside, I looked back at all the ways I saw her hold the Light on the candle over the table rather than beneath a basket.

I write a lot more about the experience of losing her in a couple of previous blog posts I wrote for a course I took on electronic literature, one you can find here, and the other here.

But I also want to leave you with what’s been the hardest to read through, let alone share, because (although it still needs some editing and proofing done) it’s among my most honest and vulnerable pieces I’ve ever written, because it’s about a couple of the most formative people in my life aside from my parents.

I barely even got through writing this piece in its entirety. See, I take a view similar to that of Madeline L’Engle on creating art in any form (such as writing)– it’s not about trying to create something, but about listening to the art as it comes and crafting it accordingly. That’s not always an easy task. Many times, when I as a writer am being faithful to the work I am creating, I find myself convicted of something. Many times, I find Truth nestled between the crevices of fiction, or divine fingerprints stamped within the letters of the imagery of poetry. That’s what makes real art, real art: it boastfully reflects it’s ultimate Source, even if it does not mention His name.

And much of this 30-page braided essay reflects on seeing that creative process in Grandma and her business. It reflects a lot on that change in my perspective since Abuelita passed, as Grandma was passing, and after it all as I wrote this whole essay. And frankly, I don’t know of any better way to honor them both than to testify about their faith and how (though it took some time and a lot of trials) they both have consequently been imperative role models in my faith journey– how Jesus has used them in my life, and others.

I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience,as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

2 Timothy 1:3-5 (NIV)

vulnerable.

What does it really mean to crucify the flesh? I was pondering this as I stood in the shower after a few long, late hours at work. I know it means to deny certain fleshly, sinful desires, and to actively turn from these things and to God each day; but does it mean more than that? I’d argue that it does, especially given this analogy we’ve been on lately in church of being clothed.

Though the application of this God-given principle of dying to oneself is as simple as it is written, the significance and impacts of its application are much greater than I previously realized. See, I was initially thinking about the different physiological responses to psychological traumas. I was pondering how many different physiological reactions to trauma could potentially develop over time. Some common examples are bloating, indigestion, tremors, headaches or migraines, immune system deficiencies, and hypertension.

I find that when I strip away those traumas from my identity (because somehow it seems to stain my metaphorical clothes all too often), these physiological and psychological symptoms are often aggravated by this sudden naked state of myself. Why? Because I’m afraid of being that vulnerable.

I don’t talk about my feelings a lot; sure, I’ll write many of them here without much of a problem, but when I say talk I actually do mean I have trouble verbalizing my emotions. It terrifies me no matter who I’m talking to. I claim to like having that vulnerability and it is something I value, but I avoid it instinctually. If I don’t I tend to trauma dump, which is not a healthy habit either. So typically, I sit on my own and try to sort out my feelings on my own.

Recently, I took a step out from this mindset. Details aren’t necessary to the point here, but the point is that I was at a point where I knew I’d been holding back and if it wasn’t going to affect my relationship with this person, it was going to keep me in a stagnant relationship with the Lord. What I was refusing to let go of and to state out loud to this friend was keeping me as one of the mid-summer snapdragons I had in the garden this summer. Let me explain:

As I’ve previously mentioned in other blog posts, our marigolds exploded this year to a point where many of the stems looked more like small trees. We hadn’t accounted for this possibility of such large marigolds when planting everything, (in all honesty, my parents and I expected many to fail miserably while we were away on vacation), so things like rosemary and snapdragons had much of their light cut off by their overbearing neighbors. Some snaps even seemed suffocated. That’s where I was before— being held back and feeling unable to fully express what God was putting on my heart, even after . In most friendships I feel like that’s where I am, if I’m totally honest. I hold back because I guard myself so much. I hold back because I don’t want to talk about anything and everything with someone that might not even stay in my life for long (having been the “floater friend” throughout most of my life hasn’t helped with this, but it’s challenged me as of late for sure). I hold back because I’m avoiding confrontation. I hold back because I don’t do as well with vulnerability as I often claim to.

And I still feel somewhat vulnerable well after the fact. I almost feel like I need to fix the situation when there was nothing wrong about anything that was said or resulted from the conversation.

That’s where I want to bring it back to what it means to crucify the flesh:

To crucify the flesh isn’t just to reject our tendencies to blatant, outward rebellion; it’s also to reject our tendency to think we can handle things better than God can. At the end of the day, even though we are in the midst of our situation, we are not outside and around it or within every fiber of it. There’s only One that is. He’s the only one that knows every detail of every situation and knows exactly how it will pan out. It will not always make sense to us in the moment often because we don’t have all the information we think we do, but God knows what He’s doing. He knows it all.

The tendency of the flesh is to focus on lack. I saw this reel the other day and it opened my eyes to the fact that every time I have turned away from the Lord, it’s because of one of two things:

  1. I’m worried I don’t have the necessary skills, resources, or grit to handle what the Lord is calling me to.
  2. I worry about what I will lose by stepping out into this call from the Lord.

But He is Jehovah Jireh. He is El Roi. He is El Shaddai. He is Adonai. He is. There is no lack in Him. And I think it becomes so easy to forget that because we are constantly reminded of the fact that we currently live in a broken, fallen, sinful world. I think we too often fail to remember that everything in the world is ultimately sourced from Him– what makes any of it broken or sinful is man’s disobedience in how it’s all used.

The tree of knowledge of good and evil was not broken or sinful on its own, nor did the tree make Eden a broken place. Eden was the place of the perfect and united presence of God and man and the rest of God’s creation. There was nothing wrong with the tree– it’s what man decided to do with it when they walked past everything they could have with God and still chose what they perceived as lack. It’s natural for the body to want to be fed. It’s natural to crave food. But again, this one tree was right in the center of the garden. To get to it, they had to walk past everything they could have and still be in perfect union with Him in whom there is no lack.


As I was writing this, I paused for a moment as my phone came up with a Bible app notification. I’ve been in this study with some ladies from another church on there, and one of them just commented something so relevant to this point:

I remember there was this person going around asking people “If you could ask God one thing, what would it be?” And a man replied, ” I was going to say ‘why’ but W-H-Y stands for “Who Hurt You?” Which begs the question, “Who Helps You?” And ultimately “Who Heals You?” So I think I would just praise God for being my Helper and Healer in my hurt and confusion.”


I think that at its core, crucifying the flesh is rejecting this distorted focus. It’s taking off the rose-colored glasses; it’s stepping outside the fun-house mirror room; it’s keeping your eyes on the boat (phrase that’s stuck with me since my week at the US Coast Guard Academy for their AIM program in 2017).

I don’t always remember my cadre’s faces all that well until I scroll through instagram and see any of them pop up on my feed because I was often “keeping my eyes on the boat.” The Coast Guard is not a combat-based military branch, so keeping one’s eyes on the boat is just another way of saying “don’t lose sight of the boat in distress” because most functions of this branch are open water search, rescue, and law enforcement.

There are a few perspectives on this real-life metaphor:

  1. We are the cadre. We cry out for Barabbus and try to put out as many possible distractions to take the attention away from the boat– the cross, that is. But at the end of the day, the purpose of the cadre is to discipline someone into keeping his/her eyes on the boat despite the distractions– to stay aware but not consumed by the many other things going on.
  2. We are in the distressed boat. Much like when Jesus calms the storm or when Peter walks on water with Jesus, we are often in a panic. We are in what immediately seems like our imminent demise so much that we don’t look up and see the lights of the boat coming to our rescue, the eyes that have never left us and never not seen us (think of Hagar who gives God the name El Roi, the God who sees me).
  3. We are keeping our eyes on the boat. Our sights are set as we run full-force towards the Lord. This is where we want to be. He is the boat, and when we run toward Him keeping our eyes on Him we will find that the Lord brings people into our lives that need a leg up, or maybe that are our leg up, too. He may ask us to be the ones to leave behind the main ship and trust He will keep you in turbulent waters. With trust– faith– in Him, we find that He will not only keep us, but build and refine us through the storm.

In this analogy, keeping your eyes on the boat is your sole responsibility until you are called to go and someone else has taken your place to keep their eyes on the boat. That person becomes the voice you listen to because they see the boat and they see you trying to get to the boat when you are in this in-between– that moment between taking off the old clothes and putting on the new ones.

It reminds me of a clip I once heard on reels (though I can’t find it for the life of me at the moment) about a student pilot who was on her first solo flight. One of the engines was breaking down, and (if I’m recalling correctly) her landing gear was only partially functional. She had no one in the plane with her. She had gone through the process with an experienced pilot already, and in a sense took off this “old clothing” of studenthood, or crucified that part of who she was to grow into the next stages of becoming a pilot. She was independent, but not alone. She still had the voice of a man in the tower at the nearest airport she was able to make the emergency landing. Amid her panic, he reassured her that he was there to talk her through the process.

And that’s exactly what this guy did, and when this pilot landed she credited this stranger’s voice and her focus on his voice as the reason she was able to make what seemed to be an impossible landing for anyone’s first solo flight.

Now, the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshipped him, but some doubted. And Jesus said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV)

So I think crucifying the flesh is much more than just constant denial of what our physical, earthly urges are. It’s stepping out. It’s taking action. It’s intentionally debunking the lies trying to speak into your life with Truth.

Crucifying the flesh is allowing oneself that terrifying, humbling moment between one change of clothes and another– that moment a naked, broken heart is shone before God and then before the world. At the end of the day, what glory is there to go to God if no one knows what He saved you from? So maybe this is where I could list off a whole bunch of things He’s saved me from, but if I’m honest, I’m still working up to being vulnerable about some of these things. So know that this isn’t the full list, but I will share a few things here and maybe at some point dive into the contrast of my old, dead perspective and my new perspective in Christ:

  • alcohol & weed
  • relationship hopping (at least that’s what I call it)
  • codependency
  • anxiety (I still battle with this one a lot but the Lord continues to be faithful through it)
  • flashbacks
  • unforgiveness (mainly with like two people that don’t even currently play a huge role in my life, even if I feel as though they should)
  • people pleasing

And again, the list goes on. I’ve touched on some of these, but it’s rare for me to do deep dives into emotions, let alone revealing them to people on such a seemingly large scale (even though this Jesus blog really isn’t all that big of a thing, honestly). But my prayer here, I suppose, is that this would be the moment between the old and the new clothes– the cold, vulnerable, naked, difficult, and airy moment my heart and its wounds so desperately need. And I pray that you will take that step this week too, if not with another person then at least with the God who sees and knows it all anyway, and still loves you enough to stay and work with you to grow from those hard places.

circumstance.

I recently began reading President Jimmy Carter’s Faith: A Journey for All. Though I’m not very far into it yet (I’ve only finished the introduction and the first chapter), there’s been a great deal of one thought going through my mind as a response to how he presents these snapshots of his life. Why can’t anything be that simple today?

The thought comes despite Carter being among the first presidents to have the pressures of preventing nuclear war rest on his shoulders. So maybe it wasn’t so simple after all.

What I mean by simple though is this rare-yet-normal ability to just be present. Carter says of his upbringing:

It was a simple, family-centered, deeply religious, working existence, with interracial labor and play on the farm with my black neighbors. All the framework was done by humans or mules, and we grew corn as the common fuel for both.

I knew the Great Depression years to be a time of hope, when the economic situation in America was so bad that everyone believed it could only improve; when things became plentiful, we tended to want not only what we already had but also what everyone else had.

Faith: A journey for all, Jimmy Carter (p.13 & 16)

It’s an existence where we don’t constantly long for more and instead choose to find the blessing in what we presently have– to invest what we have now in the things that matter now, not just what will matter some number of years from now.

I admit that I’m quite guilty of not living this way. I wish it were as easy as it sounds to take the one talent and invest it not because I think the One I’m keeping it for might give me something, but simply because I want to do well by Him. Searching for a full time job has made this especially hard as of recently because bills do need to get paid somehow. I worry that I might not be able to in a few months time with my several part-times and the meager checks I’m able to earn of them. I worry that I may not be liked enough at one that I would be the first one to cut if they need to cut someone. I struggle to find joy in doing the work the Lord has presently called me to at another. I worry that I will not find another to replace the one that was only meant for a season anyway. I’m planning things out and excited for another, but it still does not begin for another few months. I’m up to my eyeballs in anxiety over these things; of course, while acknowledging these issues remains imperative moving forward, when these are the center of my attention I have no reason to wonder why the Lord has taken my peace. He has not taken His perfect peace or His presence from me, it’s I robbing myself of these things and throwing them away. How could I blame Him for my own wandering gaze? How could I blame Him for my own lack of faith?

And it’s because of this revelation about myself as of late that I begin to think of the log in my eye. I feel as though, over the process of the past few weeks of writing these blogs, I haven’t truly given full disclosure that these were not mere revelations to me– they were revelations about me. And maybe I have mentioned it, but I feel as if I didn’t quite make it clear enough that even as the author of these commentaries on the Lord’s revelation of wisdom to me, I do not stand on some moral or spiritual high-ground. Even as the author of these short excerpts of my somewhat scattered brain, I am not the Author. I would never claim to be.

I don’t think I could ever handle that much pressure. Full disclosure, I often feel as though I can barely handle the pressure of authoring my own work (or rather, the work He has trusted me to author well, going along with Madeline L’Engle’s reflections on art). Knowing how angry, hurt, and full of angst my work used to be… how little care, practice, or thought there was to it… the lack of intentional sitting and legitimately dealing with the darkest, most regrettable parts of my life… I look back at those pieces and pity them for the emotional upchuck they are.

And that’s why I often sit and simply be by being active in my being. I rest by meditatively working. I don’t sit idle. I don’t ride bikes, but the image came into my mind: is one able to easily balance on a bike that is not moving without engaging some sort of muscle? Whether that means peddling the bike and getting it moving, putting one’s feet on the ground, or having some insanely good core strength and balance, the bike and its rider only stay up when muscles are engaged. Only then do we somehow get to the top of the hill, then able to coast down for a bit before the next one.

A few weeks ago, (maybe about when I started posting here more regularly again), I’d started reading through Zechariah. I admit, I have not been as consistent with it as I’d like, but the Lord has still used that to highlight the right things about this book for me at the right times. Among those was the verse now in my Instagram bio:

For before those days there was no wage for man or any wage for beast, neither was there any safety from the foe for him who went out or came in, for I set every man against his neighbor. But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days, declares the Lord of hosts. For there shall be a sowing of peace. The vine shall give its fruit, and the ground shall give its produce, and the heavens shall give their dew. And I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. As you have been a byword of cursing among the nations, I house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you, and you shall be a blessing. Fear not, but let your hands be strong.

Zechariah 8:10-13, ESV

See, I don’t think that last part would have hit me quite as hard had I not looked into the historical contexts in which Zechariah lived and wrote this book from. In the days of the prophet Zechariah, Jerusalem was still in ruins. He speaks literally to the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, but also through this book looks forward to the New Jerusalem. Zechariah was encouraging the people of Judah as they’d been freed from Babylonian captivity about fifteen years prior, and were losing hope and motivation to rebuild Jerusalem, let alone the temple that was destroyed.

Fifteen years they were waiting, trying what they thought they could, and still seeming to lose traction around every corner. No wonder they needed some encouragement– a kick in the pants, if you will.

They were waiting for a specific calling that they forgot to work with what they already had. They were looking back to the “glory days” of the temple so much, that they forgot they could presently have a hand in the glory days to come. I’ve been stuck there– am somewhat stuck there– and it’s been difficult to get back to the simplicity of the “simple, family-centered, deeply religious, working existence” that was much easier to enjoy as a kid before things started to get hard for me– whether that be how addictions tore rifts in the family, mean kids at school, or just feeling shoved off to the side most of my life.

But that being “shoved off,” I’ve learned, is an indispensable source of wisdom when you use it as an opportunity to observe. Being able to observe so deeply and often be undisturbed in doing so regardless of how crowded the space has played a heavy role in both the extortion and encouragement I’ve tried to apply to my life and pour out to others. Where there used to be nothing but social anxiety (which is still often present, might I add; it doesn’t typically just disappear), there is now an appreciation for the fear– that it reminds me I’m being given an opportunity to get to know people before getting to know people, to notice things going sideways before they actually do and (when the situation is safe enough and warrants it) being able to sometimes help keep things from going awry.

The rifts that certain addictions have caused in my family have ultimately brought me closer to my parents, and provided me with a deeper gratitude and understanding that even as it seemed my younger self was pushed to the side for the sake of my brother, I get it now that they would do it all over again for me too if I ever made the same mistakes. I get it now that they do that for me, and they always have, even through all the mistakes I have made. They continue to love him now, even when it seems impossible to do so from the outside looking in. And I know the same is true for me because, Lord knows I’ve not been the perfect daughter either.

The bullies when I was younger eventually taught me the importance of guarding your heart (think Proverbs 4:23). It was a long and personally grueling process; various mental health struggles arose, and I didn’t trust other people enough for a while to even go to a therapist, let alone God. I still don’t go to therapy, and I still struggle to swallow my pride at times and go to God, but I do. I go to God and only then am I ever able to get through my issues, regardless of whether or not they are solved. Do I still have the occasional panic attack? Yes. Do I still sometimes have flashbacks? Also yes. Is anxiety still an overwhelming weight sometimes? Yes, yes, and yes. But God.

It’s because I used to worry so much about ‘what if someone sees me cry‘ or ‘what if someone thinks I belong in a mental hospital should certain triggers arise,’ that I was unable to be present. That’s often why people have panic attacks in the first place anyway– an unclear or non-existent grounding in present reality. And it’s because I now have a foundation in a reality greater than the reality this world could ever offer me that I can face triggers and anxiety and still be present in the moment, knowing that I am safe in and loved by our Heavenly Father, who is there for those who earnestly cry out in their trouble and protects those He loves. And all this remains true regardless of circumstance or triggers or the highs and lows of emotion.

And it’s in the simplicity of this truth that I am able to continue my work– to let my hands be strong– and not fear, even when I am afraid. It’s because of this that I do not have to fear getting my hands dirty (as they often do, I love caring for flowers and painting and just about any artistic feat that I can afford).

And this reminds me of another part of President Carter’s book, in which he recalls a dinner he had with a pastor not long after he announced his running for state senate. I sent this to a friend who similarly has been running for public office, as I figured it might be a good reminder to go back to, so I figured I should put it here. Regardless of our professions, I think we all need this witty reminder that Carter quickly gave this pastor when he asked:

“How can you, as a Christian, a deacon, and a Sunday school teacher, become involved in the dirty business of politics?” Without thinking, I gave him a smart aleck response: “I will have 75,000 people in my senate district. How would you like to have a congregation that big?”

Faith: A journey for all, Jimmy Carter (p. )

I found this to be reminiscent of Peter’s vision in Acts 10. Do not call common what [God has] called clean.

It’s because I used to worry so much about ‘what if someone sees me cry‘ or ‘what if someone thinks I belong in a mental hospital should certain triggers arise,’ that I was unable to be present. That’s often why people have panic attacks in the first place anyway– an unclear or non-existent grounding in present reality. And it’s because I now have a foundation in a reality greater than the reality this world could ever offer me that I can face triggers and anxiety and still be present in the moment, knowing that I am safe in and loved by our Heavenly Father, who is there for those who earnestly cry out in their trouble and protects those He loves. And all this remains true regardless of circumstance or triggers or the highs and lows of emotion.

And it’s in the simplicity of this truth that I am able to continue my work– to let my hands be strong– and not fear, even when I am afraid. It’s because of this that I do not have to fear getting my hands dirty (as they often do, I love caring for flowers and painting and just about any artistic feat that I can afford).

And this reminds me of another part of President Carter’s book, in which he recalls a dinner he had with a pastor not long after he announced his running for state senate. I sent this to a friend who similarly has been running for public office, as I figured it might be a good reminder to go back to, so I figured I should put it here. Regardless of our professions, I think we all need this witty reminder that Carter quickly gave this pastor when he asked:

“How can you, as a Christian, a deacon, and a Sunday school teacher, become involved in the dirty business of politics?” Without thinking, I gave him a smart aleck response: “I will have 75,000 people in my senate district. How would you like to have a congregation that big?”

Faith: A journey for all, Jimmy Carter (p. )

I found this to be reminiscent of Peter’s vision in Acts 10. Do not call common what [God has] called clean.

I wrote some about this in my first post after going to Bermuda earlier this year. Whether that means you look at your mistakes entirely with regret, guilt, and shame, or if it means you refuse to go into a career or an environment that “isn’t Christian enough” for you, do not doubt that God can and will use it all for the good of all to His glory. Getting to Bermuda was an amazing experience, as cruise ships tend to be for most who don’t have their trips ruined by seasickness, but for me it was just a lot. There was a lot going on, few quiet spots to escape to, and the constant lurking temptation of alcohol everywhere. But still, I had my parents there to hold me accountable, there were a few people I got to briefly meet and be a light to, some of the shows– however “non-Christian” they may be considered– inspired parts of my faith that needed a little reviving. On top of that, I didn’t expect a beautiful vacation destination to be so rich with church history or densely packed with churches of nearly all denominations.

So, circumstance. I feel compelled at this point to wrap up what I’m saying with a bit more of my English-nerd fascination with etymology (and by that, I mean I Googled the etymology of the word “circumstance” because I seem to be circumventing idea a lot here).

  • circum : word-forming element meaning “around, round about, all around, on all sides,” from Latin adverb and preposition circum “around, round about,” literally “in a circle”
  • -sta : Proto-Indo-European root meaning “to stand, set down, make or be firm,” with derivatives meaning “place or thing that is standing.”
  • root definitions quoted from www.etymonline.com

I guess what I want to ask, given this information, is two things:

  1. Regardless of your circumstance, where are you standing? What do you firmly believe will never change? Is that what you stand on? Why or why not?
  2. Are you aware of all your circumstances? Yes, circumstances in this physical realm, but are you also aware of the deeper eternal reality that this physical word is temporarily coexisting with? Which of these circumstances hold greater weight in your life? Which of these sets of circumstances drive more of your decisions, take up more brain capacity, and/or spend more of your energy each day? Why?

about the roots.

I’m not a huge stickler about English etymology, but it does fascinate me. Understanding the value of our words is much more surface-level than I think we often realize without knowing the roots of the words we say, even regardless of intention sometimes.

Among these roots, I would say the most interesting etymology of a word that I’ve seen is actually quite a simple word that we probably all know. In today’s English vernacular, though I admit I’ve not heard it as often as I used to (for potential reasons I will soon elaborate on), we tend to use this word in response to a retelling of something tragic that happened. We (more often) use this word to describe pungent smells and sensations. The word?

“Awful” is a fairly simple word. We associate it with tragedy, obscenity, and unpleasantness; but hardly had I ever considered the third definition above before learning the etymology of the word during my time in college. Given the two roots of the word taken individually, that definition makes so much more sense.

However, I do believe that the world has largely forgotten that healthy fear exists. Fear can sometimes be one of the greatest educators. Fear does not always send us into fight, flight, freeze, or fawn, nor should it. That, I believe, is why this “archaic” definition of the word awful is specified as something that elicits reverential fear. It’s the kind of fear that reminds us to pray, to worship, to trust and not to worry about our circumstances because there is a greater power presiding over said circumstances than we could ever fully grasp. That greater power being the Christian three-in-one God– Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

So here’s the list of things that were going through my mind at this point:

  • How did the definition of awful do a full 180?
  • Why is awe somehow considered bad?
  • Do we consider God, who is perfectly good, to be awful by the root definition, or by the culturally adapted modern definition?

My mind froze at that last question. I know I’ve been convicted of a thought like that before. I know that for whenever I should start drifting or for any of you that may need that conviction, that question just needed to be written down.

There’s this imagery that Jeremiah uses that I believe to be so applicable to this question:

Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
    and makes flesh his strength,
    whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
    and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
    in an uninhabited salt land.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:5-8 (ESV)

See, we use words today in such a way that doesn’t care for the roots. Sometimes that means pruning our vocabulary from cussing and other vulgar language. Sometimes that means fertilizing it by reading books that challenge and stretch our vocabulary (see this post for more on that). Sometimes that means watering it– by experiencing the rainfall, the river’s currents, or the ocean’s vast and wavy expanse in all its beauty, tumultuousness, justice, and mercy all at once.

As great as it may seem to experience any and all of these things when reading it off of some rando’s Jesus blog, it is not easy by any means. It’s not a graceful, effortless process by any means because we do not presently live in a world that makes following God easy. In fact, Jesus echoes the promise of trouble in doing right by His name in John 16:33 from Genesis 3:16-19. But there’s another verse that I use a lot as a swim coach:

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12:11 (ESV)

Pruning back a dahlia stem with a single flower and three buds is hard– you think waiting for the other three buds to bloom is more worth your while. But dahlias love to be pruned back pretty far. Cut back the dahlia [or really, cut the garbage out of the vocabulary you use and say things more kindly and intentionally] and instead of three more flowers before the plant says its done, you’ll end up with several more shoots with even more flowers and buds.

Source: Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

It seems awful by our modern standards, to cut back such a beautiful stem and the potential for it to flower more, but I’d argue that it’s archaically awful. It scares you for a moment whether or not you’ll get more stems from the one you just cut, but when those new stems grow and flower in a few weeks, there’s a sense of wonder– awe, even– to the beauty and resilience God gave even just this one plant.

There are different types of fertilizer for different types of plants, and I don’t know which type of fertilizer my dad used for the marigolds we grew this year to try and raise money for my church’s annual West Virginia Missions trip, but it worked. We only sold about half of the marigolds we seeded, and they were already much taller than expected and badly root-bound in their plastic flats. We planted what was left in a hurry since we had a cruise to Bermuda coming up, so in some cases we put up to ten in one big hole and hoped for the best. Currently, the average height of the marigolds is nearly 5’2″ (and I’m estimating based on my own height of about 5’4″). My dad claims he didn’t use a ton of fertilizer on these plants, but I guess a little bit goes a very long way.

But also with the marigolds while they were in the flats, there was the issue of water. There wasn’t a whole ton of space for dirt that would hold some moisture for the roots to soak up in those tiny black squares– because the roots took up so much room! A huge reason these flowers thrived more than your typical marigolds from Lowe’s or Home Depot was that the roots were so strong and mature and begging to reach for more water and nutrients when they were planted.

So much like I’ve asked you to consider the roots of this simple word “awful,” I want you to consider your own roots in this same sense. Are you parched for a drink from the Well? Are you desperate to dig your roots deeper into the place where it all comes from– your entire existence? Or are you the shrub? Will you waste your words? Fail to nurture them with the words you take in? Fail to put life-giving words into you and speak life-giving words over yourself and others?

Will you be awful in the modern sense?

Or will you be awful in the sense that God is because He lives, breathes, and shines in and through you?

what is reality, really?

There’s this thing called sensory adaptation that I think is a really important psychological concept to understand as Christ-followers (if you are one). This phenomenon has a lot to do with one’s threshold to a certain stimuli.

AP Psychology was one of my favorite classes in high school, and for the purposes of faith and pondering how to deepen my faith, one of my favorite lessons [in hindsight] was on the related concept of the threshold effect. What we did to demonstrate this effect is hand someone an empty canvas bag and ask them to hold it out over the four fingers of one hand, palm-up, and with the arm straight out in front. This someone (which I’ll refer to as the subject for the rest of this little opening blurb), would keep his/her arm straight out and close his/her eyes or be blindfolded by someone else. The subject is then asked to note when there is a change in the weight of the bag by speaking up.

The way the subject was set to hold the bag left it open and made it pretty easy to put things in. We started with unsharpened pencils, one by one, very meticulously placing them in the bag as not to disturb it. The subject said nothing almost two boxes of pencils in.

Then we had a rock.

Theoretically, if you placed the rock in slowly and carefully enough, you could get it in the bag without the subject noticing the weight change, but if the subject wears a shirt or blouse with anything fluffed or hanging from it that (upon contact with the subject’s side) would alert him/her to his/her arm having moved, the change in stimuli will register in the brain— both the unrealized movement of the arm, and the added weight to the previously empty bag.

I think prayer is a lot like this for us. The pencils are the things we ask for, meanwhile the rocks and bricks and heavier things are the praise and worship we bring. When you hesitate to put the heavier things in, the results will hesitate to occur or be realized. When you throw all you have into that bag, you’ll see a lot more a lot quicker what God has already blessed you with and how to glorify Him in that blessing.

And this isn’t to say that the metaphorical pencil cannot do the same. For most, throwing a pencil rather than painstakingly placing it into the bag won’t cause one’s arm to be yanked to their side, but the brain will recognize that there is now something in the bag even without seeing what it is. All has its own affect. What the affect is [whether it feels more like a pencil or a stone] is more a matter of the heart behind the prayer and/or the recipient of God’s subsequent action.

But here’s where my mention of sensory adaptation comes in: a consistent stimulus will, to the brain, become like white noise if we do not intentionally call attention to it. Likewise, prayer and its impact becomes like white noise after a while when we do it just to rant to God, when we do it just because we should do it every day, or when we fail to intentionally recognize that as much as prayer is for you, it’s also not about you. I mean think about it, God already knows everything… He literally just wants to hear it from you and engage with you. He doesn’t need to know it, but you need to spend time conversing with Him to truly get to know Him. He won’t force you to engage, but He freely gave us easy access into this conversation with Him through prayer.

So when we are selfishly asking for things we want, that’s us trying to mask the weight of the pencil. When you sing your heart out in “worship” because you think you sound good, you’re masking the weight of that stone. When we are “half-in” for Jesus or not “in” at all, we are putting on a facade; we deny ourselves by what the world considers to be “accepting” ourselves.

But to boldly throw all these things into “the bag” (which I hope is kind of clear by now is metaphor for the foot of the cross), we see the impact. There is no doubt of God’s working even in the midst of our doubt when it’s all boldly thrown at the foot of the cross.

I often wonder how many people needed healing in the days of Jesus’s earthly ministry and yet passed up the opportunity to ask Jesus for help because they doubted He could do what so many had seen Him do. How many doubted His intentions in performing all these miracles? How many didn’t honestly say to Him, “I’m not sure You can, but I’m at my end”? How many didn’t admit “I believe, but help my unbelief”?


There’s something else about prayer though that I haven’t heard said enough. Most people (especially people of different or no faith) tend think of prayer as placing oneself in a different world that may or may not exist to talk to some distant, far-off creature that we just decided one day was our source for everything we have and need in this world. Even Christians too often seem to think prayer is this set time we try to carve out of our reality to talk at God.

If either of these are the case for you, it would be remiss of me not to tell you that you’re getting it all wrong.

In its broadest secular meanings and also in a more specific reference to religious life, the word “faith” is profoundly important to all of us… It is obvious that my having kept faith with the citizens when I was in office and the faith that I have in my Creator and moral values are not the same.

Faith: A journey for all, Jimmy Carter

See, we were created to live in constant communion with God. Go back to Eden before the fall and you’ll find this to be true of Adam and Eve’s lives until they decided to step outside of that relationship. God walked among them in the garden, no matter where in the garden they went. That’s reality— the world we were created to live and abide in— but we were born into a world that does not have this as a result of the fall.

Our “reality” is this sin-ridden world and although God is still omnipresent, He doesn’t quite walk among us in the same way He once did, except for the 33 years of Jesus’s life. Our “reality” is that life ends. Our “reality” is that we need to go to school, have a job, a solid career, and a lot of money to be successful. Our “reality” is that Jesus is some guy the lived about 2000 years ago and for whatever reason flipped the years from B.C. to A.D. (or B.C.E. to C.E. if you use more recent textbooks that attempt to push Christ out of the picture).

One of the great sorrows which came to human beings when Adam and Eve left the Garden was the loss of memory, memory of all that God’s children are meant to be.

Walking on Water: Reflections on faith & art, Madeline L’Engle

But prayer grounds us in the reality that God may not walk among us as He did in Eden right now, but He will in heaven and in the new earth when we hear “well done, good and faithful servant.” Prayer reminds us of the reality that yes this life ends, but with Jesus that’s not the end of the sentence. Prayer grounds us in the reality that we need Jesus above everything else to not only have success in any sense of the word (not just monetary or career success) but have joy in the midst of it. Prayer is a chance for us to reflect on the fact that yes, Jesus physically lived 2000 years ago, but He lives on today having changed the course of history and the eternity of countless souls that He doesn’t need but loves anyway.

Prayer is not an escape from reality, but rather an escape into it. As real as everything we see and feel and experience right now is, it isn’t steadfast or eternally true. It’s nothing to build a house on. Prayer is our active diving into the reality of God— that He is our home and our eternal foundation and our peace and our comfort… nothing else that may beg for those titles in our lives could ever live up to that.


This all said, what we pray is not indicative of who we are or what believe, no matter how pure and holy it may sound. What matters is the heart.

I admit, I wanted to tie this whole thing together with a pretty little bow, maybe try to make this whole thing come full circle to the whole psychology lesson I just dished out, but I couldn’t. I spent some time in prayer that didn’t include writing and found this clip that I think really sums up the distinction between prayer as a moment cut out of our days and prayer as a lifestyle and a mindset we have that helps us better live by the reality it helps us access.

Colby had me thinking of the moment I would go back to and say “that’s the moment I was saved.” I confessed in tears among a sea of then-strangers, without a word or a specifically formatted prayer. I’d almost lean towards saying that momentary rush of tears was the beginning of my prayer that hasn’t ended– the beginning of my recognizing and being reminded “the control isn’t mine anyway, so whom else have I to trust but You?” Has that perfectly been the case? Of course not. I am no less human than any of you. I have also had moments or entire seasons where I did not take the time to simply be. Prayer is a conversation, after all, and we are given the wisdom in James 1 of the value in not simply speaking (as Proverbs 18:21 reminds us) but of listening– or as Madeline L’Engle puts it:

When I am constantly running there is no time for being. When there is no time for being there is no time for listening. I will never understand the dying of the green pie-apple tree if I do not slow down and listen to what the Spirit is telling me…

Walking on Water: Reflections on faith & art, Madeline L’Engle

When we are busiest, we tend to find it much harder to truly spend time with God.

I do this thing a lot when I go out with friends late in the day where I check my watch a lot. My reasons aren’t that I don’t want to spend time with them– of course I do– but rather that I don’t want to get home so late that I might wake up my parents once they go to bed. While my reasons aren’t bad, sometimes I start to wonder whether or not I’m really spending time with my friends at that point or not. Even though the issue has become progressively less pressing as of late, on occasion I still scratch my head over it.

Spending time with God should not be us checking a watch every few minutes asking ourselves when is this going to end? Even though in my example above this doesn’t exactly fit, we should be able to simply bask in His presence, hear Him out, and bring Him along for the journey of whatever He directs us to. Prayer is giving God our input, but listening and trusting His action and guidance despite our own confirmation biases. It’s interacting and paying attention because you care enough about the One who cares for you beyond measure.


So what is reality, really?

It’s God.

It’s His presence.

It’s abiding in Him. That’s the reality we were separated from when sin came into our human condition.

Reality is that that does not have to be the end of the story.

Reality is that the bridge between us right now and eternity with God has been built by the blood of Jesus, and it’s a narrow road.

Reality is that as long as you’re breathing, you are loved more than enough and given abundant grace for all of your mistakes and percieved imperfections because you’re therefore given another moment to realize His mercy and love for you along with all the other parts of who He is.

Reality is that when you live a life saturated in prayer and true conversation with God, when you act according to what He’s said, He transforms you from what either you think you made yourself to be, or what you think others have made you out to be.

Reality is that this conversation with God to the earnestly believing heart, though you cannot see Him, brings more Truth to one’s life than anything we consider “reality” here on earth. Though God can certainly use things in this world to speak to us, the things He uses are not Him, nor will the things He says to us through them ever go against His Word.

So yes, carve out that time just for prayer, but don’t limit your prayers to that. Make prayer all that you do.

on future seasons.

I’m very much the type to look forward to the future. It’s not a bad thing to look forward to the next seasons of life or the next step in a business plan… until it is. I often have to check myself and whether I’m living right now or stuck in the future I’ve idealized.

I know I want a man in my life that pursues– if he wants to, he will, after all (something I learned the hard way and still fight myself often not to take on that role myself).

I know I want a family of three or four kids. I’d love to have at least two be my own, Lord willing, and to adopt at least one.

I know I want to be a published author of a full-length memoir or collection one day, and to maybe even have my own business somehow that somehow combines two of my favorite things– growing flowers and making art of all mediums.

I know I want…

The list goes on, but the list is not the point.

The point is that all these things start right now.

This morning (as I’m writing this, at least) I was talking with a couple of friends, and somehow the conversation shifted to how many kids they wanted. One gets to occasionally take care of her nephew, and the other joked about his nervousness about holding and handling such a delicate, small human being. I didn’t think too much of it in the moment, but tonight on my drive home I was thinking about it for some reason. I posed the question to the Lord in my mind, and immediately He reminded me of my biggest fear.

My biggest fear is ironically my biggest dream on this side of eternity: to be a mother. My response? Though I’m certainly not perfect in doing so, I often hold that lower part of my stomach during worship where my womb is. It wasn’t a conscious decision I made, or something I realized I did much of until recently. I think someone asked me why a few weeks ago and I just… didn’t have an answer. I wanted to know that answer. Why do I do this?

It starts now, that’s why.

Abraham and Sarah did not have Issac until they were so old there was no other reason but God that they were able to conceive. Noah did not build the ark in a day. King David did not become a man after God’s own heart in one day. Jesus did not die on the cross the same day He was born.

The same is true of the seasons we long for. Living in the idealized versions of these seasons right now does not get you to the actual season ahead. Listing out the kind of decor I want for my wedding will not get me out there to meet my future husband. It will not exercise the wisdom and discernment of the dating process for me.

What will get me there is the very command from God that has stuck with me in my recent study of Zechariah:

Just as you, Judah and Israel, have been a curse among the nations, so I will save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.

Zechariah 8:13 (NIV)

There’s also so much wisdom in Proverbs 31, and nowhere in it does it say or suggest that the “Proverbs 31 woman” is merely a daydreamer. In fact, one of the few things this proverb tells us this woman does not do is “eat the bread of idleness” (31:27). The proverb does not say when this active lifestyle starts, but simply states she is active by the repeated simple sentence structures of “She [insert present tense verb] …”

And I think some part of me has know this since the moment I recalled in this short personal essay. I knew that regardless of whether or not there was a little human growing in me (though I doubt there was, the possibility still haunts me), God’s promise was and is as good as done. Who He says I am is who I am, even if I’m not presently being that. Just like Jesus is coming back to claim His bride– that is Truth, and there is no changing the fact that He will come back no matter what else happens.

And by no means am I saying that any desire placed in you is of God. Of course the heart is deceitful above all things, but we should also remember that God does plant desires in our hearts (or allow them) for a reason. So with every desire or goal or aspiration I have now, I’m learning to ask first and foremost, How will this bring glory to Him?

Rather, what I’m getting at is that desire my be fulfilled in ways you wouldn’t have previously imagined. There are men out there who long to be fathers, but are not biologically fathers. Those that have regardless decided to prepare themselves for the possibility of one day being so often become some of the greatest father figures in youth groups and children’s ministries. There are women out there who are barren, and yet have devoted themselves to maintaining motherly disciplines and have thus prepared themselves for an arguably greater love of taking other children in as her own through adoption or fostering.

So if what you want is to be a parent one day, start now.

If what you want is to get married one day, be that person’s suppose now, even if you don’t know who your spouse might be yet.

If you want to start that business, do the research– start now– even if that means finding a full-time night shift at Walmart to save up the money to start it.

I don’t say this as someone who’s applied all of this perfectly to my life. Quite the contrary, actually. I write this as someone who is wholly convicted, who is probably just as scared to handle a small child on my own as my friend I mentioned. I write this as someone who is praying for some accountability on these things as I navigate how to apply this to my life– navigate how do I be that wife, that mother, that writer, that business owner now without tangibly being those things just yet. I write this as someone praying this reaches the right eyes in need of such a message as I needed tonight, because Lord knows I am far from the only one.

So again I ask myself, and I invite you to ask yourself too:

How can you start glorifying God in your dreams, goals, passions, and desires today?

response.

Back in January, I chose a word and a corresponding passage for the year. BOLD, Acts 4:23-31 (though I’ve hyperlinked the beginning of the chapter here as well for context).

I admit, I feel like I’ve done anything but live up to that or at least work on that boldness I was so keen on developing seven months ago. I feel like I’ve actually slipped away from where I was. It feels like anxiety has overtaken all of my decisions, as if there’s such a lack of confidence that I can do what I’m setting out to do. It’s like I’m stuck, though I know I’m not.

I’m not stuck, I’m just being held still as I’m trying to keep myself from squirming my way out of the Almighty’s grasp. He is holding me still for a reason, and frankly I’m a bit frustrated at that fact. I don’t know what the reason is. Every bone in my body wants to keep trying and trying and trying to get things moving in my post-grad life; I want to dive head-first into the career I’ve been working towards for the past few years of my life, to start supporting myself more, and to maybe find a place twenty minutes drive from my parents. I want to get to all those milestones and every bone in me wants to skip the process because I’m stubborn and impatient.

Being stubborn, impatient, and a bit frustrated, I took a step back for a week or so from being in the Word. Anxiety and depression hit me more and more until I at least opened myself back up to seeing Him in nature and in the people of Bermuda I was so blessed to meet along with my parents. It was all hitting me so hard until I took time to just be.

I realized how much I was striving, no matter how much I denied that I was. And though I admit that I’ve still had limited time spent reading my Bible since I got back, there’s one word that continues to come back:

REMEMBER.

Until a few days ago when Psalm 42 was on my heart (a psalm that I don’t think I could’ve recalled even the main idea of because I hadn’t gotten to read it myself yet), I didn’t see how often that word has been coming up in the past few months. So, in a time when I can explain how I feel no better than the descendants of Korah did, and understand that I could be responding better for my own sake–

Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;

therefore I will REMEMBER you

from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,

from Mount Mizar.

Psalm 42:5-6 (ESV), emphasis added

– I went back to some of what I wrote when He did fulfill a promise… when He did get me across another “finish” line.

And as I was looking back to my last post trying to remind myself that God fulfills His promises and there is joy to be found in every bit of the process [that is much clearer to my human eyes in hindsight], I realized how much I’d (sort of prophetically, I suppose) called myself out when I said

[My degree] was not handed to me on a silver platter, and that— rather than it simply being bestowed upon me— is how I know God cares not only about our goals and dreams, but also how the process forms us into someone that reflects Him more as a painting reflects the person that painted it.

It’s about the process. It’s about understanding that wherever you are, so long as you trust and have faith in the very God that took on the form of a servant to care for people, love them, show them how to really love, and to die for them the worst possible death so that He could pass into death and defeat it on the third day, there is hope. (Cue to some of you probably whipping out your Bibles to Jeremiah 29:11). And there’s nothing wrong with that verse (it’s just a really common reference), but I personally think it’s so much more weighty with some of its context.

This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Jeremiah 29:10-14 (ESV)

Some takeaways from Jeremiah

seventy years

I’m not great with numbers, but I do often find their symbolism fascinating. Take the seventy years the Lord says will pass before the promise to Babylon is fulfilled, for example. Seventy is also a rather significant number when it comes to Gideon’s seventy sons, particularly Abimelech.

Being the product of 7 and 10, let’s break down what this number means symbolically, accordingly.

Seven is most often considered symbolic of God’s perfection. This goes back to the completion of creation, which took six days and one day (which He consecrated as holy) because it was the day that even God decided to simply be. And it’s that seventh day that God set apart that we should rest in Him too. It’s that seventh day that has given us space to just be as we were created to be, even if we don’t always use it accordingly since the Fall in the garden.

Ten is also symbolic of completion, though mostly emphasized in a different capacity: God’s Law. Think of the Ten Commandments given to Moses in Exodus. The fullness of the Law is summed up in the ten statements God gives us not so He can simply tell us what to do, but as a blueprint of how we were designed. Stepping outside of the boundaries the Law sets is what makes us incomplete because we are sacrificing some part of the whole being that God created us to be. When we envy, we sacrifice the satisfaction there is in being content in God, who reveals Himself generously to those who earnestly seek Him first. When we hate, we give up our once pure ability to love. The list goes on, but I think you get the point here.

He will _______ His good promise.

What God says is as good as done. How fulfillment comes about will often not make sense to us or come on what we might think is an “ideal” schedule, but what God says will happen, will happen.

I was in a Bible study once, and we were discussing the book of Jonah in its entirety. Many people know Jonah was swallowed by a big fish and spit out three days later, but I want to focus on why Jonah is actually significant to this particular point of God’s fulfillment.

See, Jonah didn’t want to warn Nineveh of their impending destruction because he knew God to be merciful. Jonah was anything but with this city– he hated them and their sin and simply saw that they deserved the wrath of God throughout the entirety of this book. Jonah went to every length to not have to warn them, but God ensured His command was carried out by Jonah. So Jonah (after the big fish and all), prophesied Nineveh’s destruction which he did not see come.

Instead, some 120,000 Ninevites (plus whatever number of men were on the boat with Jonah in the beginning) turned to God and were shown mercy. This enraged Jonah, and the book ends with God making the point of “why do you care more about your own shade from some plant I provided you than the 120,000 souls you just helped me save?”

So you might be wondering, where is God fulfilling this word He gave Jonah to pass on to the Ninevites?

Flip your Bible just a few pages past Jonah, past Micah, and look at the first section header of Nahum (if your Bible has section titles). There’s the fulfillment. It just wasn’t when Jonah imagined it would be– when he wanted it to be. But had it been Jonah’s timing, Heaven would be down well over 120,000.

big, big plans

This sort of goes off of the last point I made about Jonah. God’s ways are always better. Yes, there’s that factor of how many souls God saves, but ultimately it’s not about numbers.

God cares more about the journey than anything we accomplish. Sure, He wants us to reach all the cool milestones and all, but I truly believe God is more concerned with the journey for two reasons:

  1. His plan to develop your character
  2. On this side of eternity, we never really “make it,” even as we achieve great things like finishing college, getting engaged/married, having kids, etc.
This one’s a story for another blog post (or several… most likely several).

our response

Going back to Jonah 4 for a moment, we see this closing conversation between this minor prophet being the opposite of what God said our response ought to be through Jeremiah in the above passage. Though Jonah calls on God, he calls to complain and to make all these situations about Himself, to which the question is posed:

But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

Jonah‬ ‭4‬:‭9-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Will we pout over a plant simply because it was helping us, or will we rejoice in knowing that the Lord has used us to save people from eternal death? Will we long only for ourselves and our perceived needs, or will we rest in knowing our every need is provided for even when it might not seem like it?

My point is, if you are loved and cared for beyond any human reason (which you are loved by God in such a way), shouldn’t your first and only response be to thank Him and praise Him that He loves you in more than just word? Jesus proclaimed to the whole world that you– even if only you were saved by the cross and resurrection– are so loved by God that He saw you were to die for. He proclaimed this without really saying it. He proclaimed it in willingly getting up on that cross, giving up His Spirit, and rising again on the third day. What other response is there than gratitude that He took on once what we deserved to take on for eternity out of sheer mercy and grace? What other response is there to that than gratitude and praise?

Where will He be?

The interesting part about this passage is that God doesn’t say where He will be. All we are given is that we’ll find Him when we earnestly seek Him. We know that God is in Heaven from several other passages. We know that God is omnipresent– He is all-present and ever-existing. But where is Heaven?

See, the thing is that our finite minds can’t quite fully wrap around the fact that Heaven isn’t necessarily over our heads or somewhere in the sky that we can’t see. Heaven isn’t a place, it’s a presence. That’s how God is able to be omnipresent and still in Heaven (other than His omnipotence giving Him that power even if Heaven was a place). Heaven is not a place, but it is His very presence. And I think that this ties back to my big, big plans point. He doesn’t care so much about a destination because Heaven is the only destination that matters, and that’s not even a place to get to but a presence to be in… exist in… abide in.

Where does that leave us?

Gratitude and praise are more bold than we might realize, and I think that’s where I’ve been going with this whole thing (as I wrote this piece by piece throughout the summer). I tend to be pretty hard on myself, and feeling like I’m not measuring up as a Christ follower or achieving my personal goals doesn’t sit well. As I write this last section now, I’ve been struggling not to give up on myself as much as give up on God because it’s been so difficult to find a full time job. The whole thing feels more and more like an uphill battle with every rejection letter or missing response.

There’s a lyric from this song that sticks with me a lot though:

Sometimes it takes a valley
To find an Everest of faith

So Help me God, Benjamin William Hastings

And as I pictured above (and post some other pictures below), I hiked up and down Mt. Washington in New Hampshire with my dad over the summer. It’s a long story that I’ll have to post another fe blogs to tell you about, but there is no way that I personally would have made it to the summit without my mustard seed of faith; let alone back to the bottom without God burying, watering, and pruning that mustard bush until it became a full, large tree. The point is, it may not make your circumstances any better or brighter– in fact, they may seem to become a bit darker– but the reward is not in your circumstances or responding to them. The reward is in responding to Jesus first, despite your circumstances.

more of You, less of me

I don’t know why this was on my heart as I was making my pancakes this morning, but it was amplified by this song that I was playing and standing alone in the kitchen singing along. I remember one time that it was pointed out that anxiety (which I’ve struggled with a lot, and on occasion still do) is rooted in thoughts about the self.

Anxiety is the result of a heart that wants more and more for oneself or expects more and more from oneself. I tried disproving this in my own mind by combing through some of my own anxieties and overwhelming expectations about myself and my circumstances. Here’s a list of some of them, since I almost had to write them out myself to make this make sense:

  • Why haven’t I been able to get myself a full time job yet?
  • Will I ever be good enough for the husband I want?
  • How will I be able to pay my ______ bill?
  • What more will it take for me to look pretty enough?
  • Why did I have to say _____ like that? It was so awkward, why can’t I be less awkward.

Notice how the questions are all centered around myself, my actions, my looks, my personality, my abilities, etc. And thinking about that and the American Church today put one thought into my head in particular that is imperative to cultivating a deep-rooted faith– one that isn’t given too much water so it develops shallow roots, and one that isn’t constantly parched and unable to grow at all. The Church here too often makes Jesus out to be like a genie because we are so worried about ourselves or our circumstances or what we can do. And that’s why Motion Worship reminded me in this song (though this isn’t part of the lyrics) :

A gospel centered around the self is no gospel at all.

Jesus tells us to deny ourselves for a reason. John the Baptist says “He must become greater” and we “must become less” for a reason. Jesus tells us “you cannot be my disciple, unless you love me more than you love your father and mother, your wife and children, and your brothers and sisters. You cannot follow me unless you love me more than you love your own life” (Luke 14:26, CEV).

Ultimately, all we actually have control over is how we react to our circumstances. Job is a prime example of this. So is Joseph who was sold by his brothers into slavery. So is Mary, who faced a possible stoning (that clearly did not happen) for being pregnant outside of wedlock. So is Jesus, who we know was crucified and we know submitted not to Himself or His flesh, but the will of the Father because of His prayer in Gethsemane.

Jesus’s focus not on His stress or anxiety in that very human moment. Much like Jesus weeping at the death of Lazarus (though He knew He would raise him from the dead), the worry and the honest conversation with the Father show us how Jesus was fully human and like us in the sense that He, though God, was in that moment subjected to the limitations of the flesh and is in that way able to sympathize with us.

But even in His most human moments He exercises His perfection in showing us the best practices in redirecting our thoughts and the central focus of them (think 2 Corinthians). The focus, instead of it being on his worries, is on the Father and His will; therefore we will see that His focus turns to us.

See, there’s this part of Louie Giglio’s Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table that I love, and that a friend of mine referenced in a youth retreat message about Jesus’s “I am the Good Shepherd” statement. Giglio rewrites Psalm 23 from a standpoint of someone who is their own not-so-good shepherd. I highly suggest looking at Psalm 23 and Louie Giglio’s revised version side-by-side. Notice the differences. Consider them. Consider what it really means to be on the throne of your life— how little peace that brings with the limited power you have (because let’s be real, we human beings don’t have a lot of power even over our own circumstances).

I am my own shepherd,

and I’m a mess.

I don’t have everything I need. That’s for sure.

I wouldn’t know still water if it were staring right at me.

I haven’t taken a rest in a green pasture for quite a while now.

I don’t walk along paths of righteousness, but I know what fear and evil are.

I seek comfort wherever I can get it.

I can’t stand my enemies. I want to hurt them.

My cup definitely overflows— I’m full of angst, consumed by anger and sorrow and rage. I’m so full I easily spill over. I’m packed so tight, it doesn’t take much for me to explode.

I don’t know what’s going on to follow me all the days of my life, but I can tell you one thing:

My soul? Not so great.

Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table, Louie Giglio

And aside from the fact that no one being or thing should be above Him who created us and everything around us, this is why Jesus tells us we should deny ourselves. He was present at the beginning, is one with the Father who created us through Him (as Jesus is the Word incarnate) by the power of His Holy Spirit. There is no one more qualified than any of the three persons of the Trinity— and where one is present, they all are— to understand how we were created and for what purpose. We were not created to love ourselves. We were created to love God who loves us and created us as an outpouring of His love. We were created to reflect Him, not to live a “truth” of our own.


All these thoughts came to mind just days before I officially earned my Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and English Writing— a momentous occasion that I can say I’m proud of, but that I don’t want or need to make about me at all. It’s about the people that got me there, the God that created those people and gifted me with their company, and all that God has provided in both mundane and miraculous circumstances. Yes, I put in work. Yes, there were a lot of tears (it is college after all, and it does get tough as much as it gets good). Yes, I worried a lot more than I needed to. I could go on and on because yes, I do acknowledge the part that I played in getting here. It was not handed to me on a silver platter, and that— rather than it simply being bestowed upon me— is how I know God cares not only about our goals and dreams, but also how the process forms us into someone that reflects Him more as a painting reflects the person that painted it. Hebrews 12:11 is one of my favorite verses to reference as a coach and even to myself.

Being punished isn’t enjoyable while it is happening—it hurts! But afterwards we can see the result, a quiet growth in grace and character.

Hebrews 12:11, TLB

Before Jesus was arrested, He made a triumphal entry. Any ordinary human would soak all of that in and let it feed his/her pride if not careful, but Jesus was not merely human. He was fully human– the Son of Man– and He is fully God– the Son of God. He knew what was coming.

In similar manner, that’s kind of how I’m seeing this. I appreciate all the love, but hearing that I did it, I’ve earned my degree, I’ve overcome so much… as true as it is, it was not me but Christ in me.

I do not discount or discredit the work I’ve put in by saying this– I want to make that abundantly clear. I put in that work though and mustered the strength to push through because God made it abundantly clear that this place, in these classes, is where I’m calling you to be. He didn’t need me there, but for my sake and the sake of others, He put me into a spot where no matter how badly I wanted to quit or how worried I was I could not afford my last year of college I knew that Kean was where I needed to be because that’s where He wanted me.

And this is what I was referencing when I said “God has provided in both mundane and miraculous circumstances.”

When it comes to the ordinary, I can’t tell you how many times I was exhausted and felt alone or singled out for my outspoken faith; yet I had a community to encourage me and pour wisdom into my life on how to handle the persecution. I had a family that I know prayed for me though I almost never witnessed it with my own eyes (my parents are very much not the type to announce to the world all they do despite the fact they do so much more than most people I know). I had time to sit in the Word through Zoom University before being sent out into the world for real– time to let the roots of my faith grow deep and strong.

When it comes to the miraculous, this last year that got me my degree and has cultivated my heart in more ways I’m even aware of almost didn’t happen. I almost didn’t have the opportunity because my family, on paper, seems well off enough to not have a big problem with affording a cheap tuition like Kean, but there really wasn’t much of a plausible way that I could afford it in that moment. I prayed about it for weeks as class registration opened and many of the classes I could have taken filled up. As I was waiting for a miracle to afford it, I went back and forth with English and psych professors via email, trying to plan what I could if God really intended to provide. I had to change my schedule probably five times last August because it wasn’t until literal days before the payment deadline that God provided.

After what I thought was a typical Sunday church service, I went out to my car and found an envelope with my name on it under the driver’s side wiper. I don’t know if it was a person, a group of people, or the church deacons, or what, but the money in that envelope allowed me to at least open up a payment plan for that semester.

The note, though I can’t exactly quote it now because I can’t find it (I know I kept it though), allowed me the choice still– to use it for school as the gift was intended, or to give it to the church as a tithe. I could have done anything else with it too if I wanted, but those were the two options presented in the note.

And it took me back to Eden for a moment. God allowed us to choose eternity with Him or not, and Adam and Eve chose not at the moment of the fall. In large part, as the context given in the previous hyperlinks shows, Eve choses this because she was not personally there when God gave the command not to eat of that one tree, much like we in these modern times were not there to personally witness the birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ. But the other reason Eve was the main target of the serpent was because she was not yet given her name– she was not presented with her identity, no matter how apparent it was. And this is why, in its own twisted way, Covid was a blessing to some like me. My faith grew roots and began growing leaves in that time– I was and am sure of my identity in Christ as a child of the Most High King. And that’s why I knew my only option was to use that money for its primarily intended use– to finish school.

And while getting the classes I needed were a headache after that because I had only six more classes and few available options, the headaches put me into classes where I could freely share the Gospel to people willing to listen regardless of how hard their hearts may or may not have been. I was able to sit back and listen to more perspectives than I’d really gotten to sit back and listen to before– even perspectives that I disagreed or were slightly hurt by. It made Thursday nights my favorite time of the week by far, regardless of whether it was the fall’s elit class or this spring’s network narratives both because of the people and the genuine conversations.

So sure, one could say that I’ve accomplished a lot, but I personally prefer to think more of Him and less of me. For the sake of my anxiety, my temptation to compare myself, my lack of control over most things in life, and also just to stay humble, I think more of Him and less of me.

This is something that God has accomplished in and through me. I’m more proud of that than I am of myself.