Authors' note: I had no friggin' fraggin' clue what to title this one, so I named it after one of my favorite songs on an album that has literally been speaking to my soul for the past three months. So go check out Low by Andrea Marie (Will Reagan's wife/my current girl crush). Please just do it. You'll have #allthefeels (lol get it???) #sorrynotsorry
This is a long time coming. The last months can best be described as hasty, moving much too quickly for my liking. But finally summer is come and I sit, away from Manhattan and back in Overland Park in a little townhouse, sliding back door open so that the quiet, consistent whoosh of the rain and the crisp scent of Mother Nature's spring cleaning drift in through the screen panel. My only companions are this third cup of coffee and the two little mutts at my feet; I'm dog-sitting while pops is out of town on business. Today is precisely what I have needed for months. It is inescapably peaceful and quiet and lonely, but in a sweet way. My extroversion is taking a break and I am grateful that the normal echoes of lonesomeness that accompany Sabbath-time have quieted themselves. And then I got that undeniable itch to write. Thus, the words you are reading.
For those of you who know me, you are wondering why and how this stillness and isolation is hitting me so gently. You know that I am always on the run. You know that I have a coffee mug that was gifted to me that reads "I AM REALLY BUSY." You know that I love being with others and I don't care much for being with myself for longer than an hour or two. If you've talked to me recently, you also know that I have been in desperate need of a break from the reality of this past nine months. The other day I explicitly asked the Lord for Him to bless me with good gifts over these summer months. I am absolutely positive that today is the first nugget of His tender answer to that request.
There are many details concerning the past several months that I will spare you. Many of you have walked with me through the trials that have ensued. You have been the most faithful of friends and my heart throbs fondly towards your loyalty and graciousness. For you less-informed readers: No tangible tragedy has befallen. Rather, there have been a multitude of internal battles - between legalism and grace, contentment and restlessness, joy and pity, hope and despair, loneliness and fellowship. I almost feel as though I have been taught more since March than I have in the last three years combined. I think that points to how small-minded our concept of time is next to God's. Here are some lessons I've been learning boiled down into semi-readable prose.
Lesson #1: The Father loves us. Desperately. It's the simplest of all truths, and yet the most intricate and complex. I'm not sure exactly when this lesson plan began, but around March I began to realize that nearly all my perceptions about God were completely incorrect. Of course, this means I had been living based on these false ideas. I had been living out of legalism and fear for years. I had been living as though God was a constantly disappointed Father who only tolerated me out of "love" but didn't actually like or enjoy me. I imagined He was irritated by my sin and stood at a distance shaking His head and asking me to do better next time. Several things brought these lies into the limelight, the most poignant of those being a book called The Cure. I won't spoil it for you, but it will wreck all of your false perceptions of God in the kindest, most refreshing way. So finally, beautifully, the truth about the God Jesus loves is beginning to sink in and affect the way I live. I've been trying to practice seeing Jesus as He really is - standing with His strong arm around me, chuckling at the pile of crap in front of us: "'That is a lot of sin. A whole lot of sin. Don't you ever sleep?' He starts laughing. I start laughing." (The Cure, p. 22) This is an accurate view of Jesus' character.
Lesson #2: His ways are higher than our ways...seriously. I never really got Isaiah 55:8-9. It made God seem like some aloof puppeteer. But what I've come to understand is that although God is never-changing and always faithful, He is not predictable. He remains the same in the goodness of His character and the outpouring of His grace, but He uses different mediums to show us those things about Himself. He used a trip to California to teach me that He is crazy about me and therefore He wants me to actually enjoy this life He's set out before me. He is using the unexpected move of a dear friend to teach me that He is the only constant and that "anything which drives us to God is a blessing, and anything which weans us from leaning on the arm of the flesh, and especially that weans us from trying to stand alone, is a boon to us" (Spurgeon). He is using my shifting desires and changing plans to show me that "the heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps" (Proverbs 16:9). These lessons are not ones which can be listened to or read over once every few months; they must be learned bone-deep. Oftentimes, in order for Him to reach deep enough, there may be lasting scars that remind us of those lessons learned. Otherwise, our lives will show no evidence of the Truth.
Lesson #3: Life is messy. We are messy. We need to be our messy selves in front of other people. In other words, vulnerability. I truly thought I was good at this stuff, people. I've been dead wrong. Through the process of learning these other lessons, I withheld so much of what was really happening inside of me from the people who wanted to help. I, along with many others, hate feeling like a burden. I thought maybe it's because I'm a leader in my Christian community, or because I'm a highly sensitive and emotional being and people have given me smack for that in the past. But I listened to a podcasted sermon recently that talked about how we are bad at receiving freely (and, therefore, giving freely) because, at our core, we believe everything we have received has been earned by us. I can't freely receive anything because I've had to work for it. Again, this comes from a misunderstanding of the truth about God and His good news. When understand properly that everything we have been given comes from the Lord and then flows through us to others, we are freed up to love and be loved. I could keep going. Really, I could. For a long time. But these are the most fundamental truths that are sinking in of late. And along with these, I thought it might be appropriate to update you all on the tangible events of my life that have emerged as I've been learning all this.
BIG FAT LIFE UPDATE: I have just finished my junior year at Kansas State, which was the most difficult and most wonderful year so far. I moved out of "The Sandlot," a house on Leavenworth Street full of eight other girls whom I already miss desperately. They have become my sweetest friends over the past nine months. The fall will bring me back to MHK to the same house, with six new gal pals moving in. I have one semester of classes and then a semester-long internship left in my degree program (Family Studies and Human Services - or #famstuds as I often refer to it - with a minor in Conflict Analysis and Trauma Studies, which I love with a passion). Through a class I took over winter break in the CATS program, I made a connection with a fantastic woman who works for an organization in Manhattan which provides holistic care for women who have exited the trafficking industry. I am beginning to do research with her about what these women need when they leave their former lives and continuing to build a connection with this incredible organization. I am looking ahead to volunteering there in the fall, potentially interning with them next spring, and maybe even working for them post-graduation.
I have also been working on another research team in FSHS with two dear friends of mine and a stellar faculty member. We have submitted our findings (concerning resiliency between adolescents and non-residential parents following divorce) to the National Council on Family Relations and are waiting to see if we will have a chance to present at their annual conference in Minneapolis in November. I applied for and received a generous travel grant to attend that conference should our work get accepted (nerdy academia stuff, woop woop).
I am still leading a house church in Manhattan (we meet in KC over the summer) and I am once again going to be an apprentice in the Midwest Fellowship/Ichthus summer program (Midwest Summer Institute) after returning back from a couple of weeks of weddings and travel that I'm gearing up for now. I'm also gonna be working at The Upper Crust in downtown Overland Park, the cutest pie shop imaginable. Come see me on Saturday mornings at the farmers' market starting May 28!
Thanks for hangin' in there, assuming you've made it this far. I hope to write more regularly from now on so that I am exercising my writing muscles (and externally processing) in a healthier way. I believe writing is one of those things the Lord has been nudging me about for years, but I'm only just now figuring out how to respond to those sweet nudges.
Isn't He just too good to us?