What I Learned on a Mountain

This post is not an easy, clean-cut one. But in the last few weeks, I have been able to see that life is not that way either. In the words of one of my mentors, “It’s okay, Em. Life is messy, and sometimes things don’t go the way we plan. Now it’s on to the next thing.”

My time in Colorado has been cut short. I don’t want to get into all the details of why I’m no longer there. I honestly haven’t been able to process all of it. It’s hard and blurry, and I’m just not there yet. My hope is that typing out this post will help me process some.

I have gone home to Iberia, Missouri to heal, recover, and rest before the school year begins in August. I’m excited for this season. I hope to be renewed in these next couple of months. I think this time will be a blessing, and will help me in the long run.

It took me a while to obtain this mindset. Honestly, I’ve went through a number of emotions in the last few weeks. This post was originally entitled, “Get Angry.” Most of my feelings have been anger. There have also been lots of tears, guilt, sadness, gratefulness, some laughter at weird moments, and tons and tons of prayer through it all. Angry prayers, joyful prayers, sad prayers, all of it. I have been wrecked.

I want to emphasize that I believe all of these emotions are okay for a time. God is big. He can handle our mere human emotions. But I can’t dwell on them any longer. God is also so big that he has the power to free me from these things.

My time in Colorado was not ideal. It was honestly pretty crappy. (Sorry, that was the best way I could describe it). On the other hand, another word I’ve used to describe it is valuable. As hard as it has been, I don’t think I would change a single part of it.

God taught me a lot on that mountain. I experienced some valleys of darkness, but I was still on a mountain. God was there through it all, and I knew it because sometimes it felt as if he was all I had. He gave me everything I ever needed. (Even when it wasn’t what I wanted). He was faithful, and he spoke to me and delivered me in my distress.

Ironically, I began my time in Colorado reading through the book of Esther. I read how God delivered his people, and stayed faithful and present in all that Esther faced. It was so encouraging, and I don’t think I realized how I would soon experience this for myself.

The majority of my time there I read through the book of Job. God is funny that way. It was both the worst book to read while I was there, and the best. I felt similar to Job in that God was refining me, stripping me of everything but him. I clung to him so closely in that time because he was all I had, and all I needed.

There’s a great song that I believe sums up the book of Job pretty well. It’s entitled Where Were You by Ghost Ship. I encourage you to give it a listen if you’d like. The song describes God’s response to Job. This is how it ends,

“I spoke of things I did not understand,

things too wonderful for me.

Although I had no right to ask,

my God knelt and answered me.”

I listened to this song a whole lot through my time in Colorado. It calmed me down. It reminded me that God never asked me to bear those burdens. Rather, he answers me in spite of them. Those burdens are his because he cares for me. They are out of my hands, but they are still at his feet. I learned that God is always, always seated on His throne, reigning on our behalf.

I began reading The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith in Colorado as well. (You have tons of time to read with no cell phone service). It’s a good one, and I highly recommend it. This quote is one of my favorites from the book,

“Christ in me” means Christ bearing me along from within, Christ the motive power that carries me on, Christ giving my whole life a wonderful poise and lift, and turning every burden into wings . . . not as something you have to bear but as something by which you are borne.”

God definitely gave me what I needed. He carried me on, and turned my burden into wings. He delivers.

After finishing Job, I have begun reading and praying through the Psalms. God definitely equipped me to begin to pray these prayers he has given us. When I had no words to say, he gave me these songs of praise. He truly turns our mourning into singing.

So my heart is heavy after leaving Colorado, but it is also so full. I am so so grateful for those who have encouraged me, offered me wisdom, given me a listening ear, cried with me, prayed for me, and shown me Jesus through this.

He is the God who kneels, dries our tears, and answers us in our distress. For this, and so much more, I am grateful. When we are hurt by this world, weak and shaky, he teaches us to stand, and move on to the next thing.

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He Came

It’s been a while since I’ve written, but I’m beginning to find the time. This last spring semester was a busy one, but it left me with a full heart. I learned a lot about God, who I am, and who I’m not. This was not an easy lesson to learn, but it is one that has proved worthwhile.

At one point last semester I was able to give a devotion on my dorm floor, and this post is adapted from it. It sums up what God was teaching me pretty well.

I was beginning to see more and more of my own flaws. My own humanity became more apparent. I have many shortcomings, and this can be frustrating to accept. I was reminded time and time again that I can’t do it all. However, the more I thought about it, maybe this realization isn’t such a bad thing.

 

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. ” – John 1.14 ESV

Jesus came, and He became flesh. This simple fact changes everything. While He maintained His divinity, Jesus was born to this world as a human baby. Jesus felt what we feel. He hurt. He cried. He laughed. He smiled. This is all because He came.

He became the Son of Man. Through this, He fulfilled the promises of God. We take heart, because this is the same God that we get to serve now. This was no plan B. This is how God chose to save His people from the beginning.

In the weeks leading up to giving this devotion, I prayed and asked God to prepare me however He saw fit in order that I would speak what He wanted me to. I didn’t know what this meant, but I knew that I could not do this on my own.

When the day came to give the devotion, I started to become frustrated because I still didn’t feel very confident about what I would say. That morning I was frustrated with everything. I felt like I wasn’t doing anything right. Finally, I sat down and wrote out my thoughts. I asked God to speak to me as I faced this frustration, and then I began to laugh.

I laughed because God was speaking to me through all of this, and I didn’t even see it coming. My frustration, my shortcomings, needed to drive me toward God. My humanity drives me to Jesus, because it reminds me of my need for Him. This sentence sort of became the main lesson God was beginning to teach me all semester. “My humanity drives me to Jesus.”

“At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'” – Mark 1.9-11 ESV

This same Spirit fills us now as God’s children. This is only because Jesus paved the way for us. In this passage, Mark paints a beautiful picture of the Spirit filling Jesus, who had been made human. Now, because we are so filled with this Spirit, we can no longer sit still. It allows us to be made like Jesus, even in our own brokenness. Without our own humanity, this wouldn’t be possible.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2.5-11 ESV

Too many times, our vision of sin is dim. We do not think of it lowly enough. We tend to lose sight of how far we were from God without Jesus. When we sinned, we committed the ultimate act of treason. This thought isn’t always one that we welcome, but it is one that should drive us to Jesus every time.

Jesus came to bridge the gap between God and man. He could not do this if He had never become fully human. He would not have been able to be made our perfect substitution. This grace is so beautiful, and it is sometimes hard for me to take in.

Jesus did not humble Himself in defeat. He overcame our humanity, and He does not leave us broken. Jesus got down on our level, and He takes us out of the grave with Him. He came to conquer death. He came to conquer us in our own humanity.

Since last semester, I have started a new summer job at Camp Como in Como, Colorado as a secretary. I love this job, but it has definitely been a difficult transition. God began to teach me this lesson last semester for a reason, and it is one that I am still learning. Altitude is hard. Papers in the office pile up. Phone calls are endless. I am separated from friends and family. My own humanity has been very evident in these first two weeks here.

However, I have also been driven to Jesus in a lot of ways. I have felt closer to Him in so many ways. Through prayer, reading, and talking with those around me, He has been even more present than my own weaknesses.

If we want to look like Jesus, we cannot ignore our humanity. It’s okay that I fail because He doesn’t. This is why I need Him. In fact, we should allow our humanity to drive us toward Jesus. When we are intimate with Him, we are able to become more like Him. He came, and this changes everything.

A Word on 2017

Is it possible to capture the span of an entire year in just one word? Honestly, I’m not quite certain. I have noticed a lot of people at the beginning of each new year set out to accomplish this by selecting a “word of the year,” or whatever you would like to call it. I have never really been able to accomplish this trend myself. If this is something that you have been able to do in years past, then I’m glad that you have been able to find success. I have tried to do this for years now, but I have never been able to pull it off.

If you know me, then you know that I’m quite possibly one of the most indecisive people you will ever meet. I struggle deciding where to sit at a movie theater, let alone choosing a single word to define an entire year of my life. Not only that, but I have learned that it is sometimes best to go into new ventures with little to no expectation whatsoever.

While this still remains true when I look ahead at the new year, I am able to look back on this past year with one word ringing in my ears. For me, 2017 was authentic.

The word “authentic” is sort of difficult to accurately and precisely define. It means to be genuine, real, honest, and faithful. Not only is this word hard to pinpoint, I have found that it is difficult to embody. It is much easier to fake it. It takes a great deal of willingness, bravery, and humility to live authentically. In addition, a false sense of security is lost when I am forced to be authentic. I am vulnerable, exposed, and made an easy victim of pain.

This word has been stuck in my head as I have reflected on this past year for numerous reasons. In many ways, 2016 caused me to put a lot of walls up. It was a painful year, and I did not want to get hurt again. I came into 2017 numb. I thought that if I were able to “protect” myself by putting up walls that made me feel safe, then that would ensure a happy new year. It is a dangerous thing to enter new seasons fearful and stagnant, refusing to fully embrace what God has in the present. I failed to realize that not only was I attempting to block off possible avenues for pain, but I was blocking off new opportunities that God was placing in my life. As this year progressed, God put many new things in my life that forced me to be authentic with Him, myself, and those around me.

Authenticity is not always what the world would deem attractive. This year was not always pretty and neat. No, it was raw, messy, and uncensored. I think I cried more this year than I ever have in any other year that I can remember. There were tears of sorrow, but many times they turned into tears of joy. I learned to laugh at things that normally would cause me to be frustrated or overwhelmed. I learned that it is okay to not be okay, because there is sure and steadfast grace every time. Though some days were hard and ugly, they caused me to learn and foster a sense of gratitude.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a lesson that I’m learning and needing to be consistently reminded of. It is a lesson that I’m not done with as I enter 2018. While I don’t have a single word to capture this new year, I am clinging to what Scripture says in the book of James:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” – James 1.2-8 (ESV)

I want to continue to be authentic, real, honest, and faithful, so that I may find true joy through Christ. He is constant, and the only one who will truly make me whole. For Him to do that, I must put away my pride. I must cling to God and ask him to tear down my walls so that I may truly experience an authentic life with Him.

Days in Bethany

Silence is anything but comfortable. It’s inconvenient and uneasy. There is no security or understanding. Peace seems impossible to grasp, no matter how desperately I may try to find it. When silence lingers, I become discontent and unsatisfied. Noise is comfortable, but oh how dangerous comfort is in the life of someone who is on mission with Christ.

This is where I’m at this semester. Since August, it has felt as if God has been silent.

Some days are better than others, but mostly this year has been a rude awakening for me. Through this summer, it was easy for me to stop and be in God’s presence.

I spent this summer on an Ozark Christian College camp team. I can’t express how thankful I am for this summer, and how God led me through all of it in some of the most beautiful ways. Every camp that I got to work at had a devotion time set aside every day for everyone to spend time in God’s Word. I heard sermons almost every night. My camp team had our own team devotion time every day. I was able to sing praises to God at every chapel and campfire through this summer. With every camper I met, every story I heard, everything I experienced, it was easy for me to hear God speaking through all of it. It was challenging, but it was easily the best summer I’ve ever had.

But then it ended, and we went back to school.

It has been a difficult transition to say the least. As much as I love what I get to do during the school year, this one has been harder than I anticipated. I honestly thought that sophomore year would be easier, and that I would have more things figured out than I did last year. In some ways, this is true. But there have been a lot of changes that I wasn’t expecting. Most of these changes have been good, but they have been very sudden, bringing a new set of things for me to stress about. In the struggles that I have faced so far this school year, I have felt no sense of clarity or understanding. This is hard for me. I don’t do well with the whole “going with the flow” thing. I’m trying to be better at this, and this summer helped a lot, but it’s still difficult. So when I am unsure of what God is telling me, I become anxious. I am restless, tired, confused, and drinking ridiculous amounts of coffee.

A few days ago, God shifted my perspective on this entirely.

Right now, I am reading My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. It’s a daily devotional, and I highly recommend it. One of the devotionals last week was centered around John 11.6.

“So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” (ESV)

This verse shows how sometimes God trusts us with his silence. It’s strange and a little uncomfortable to me when I read that Jesus stayed where he was for two whole days before he went to Bethany to heal Lazarus. Some think that Jesus waited so that Lazarus was indisputably dead. Maybe it was so that the miracle would be more impressive. Or it could be to show Jesus’ initiative in taking action, rather than from being persuaded by others. Whatever reason Jesus delayed, I can’t imagine what those days in the house at Bethany looked like until Jesus came to bring healing to Lazarus.

The question is whether or not I will still seek and trust in him when I feel as though he is silent. Can God still trust me to continue to look to him, even when I don’t have visible answers? Do I want Jesus more than I want to understand my circumstances? Will I trust that he is still on the throne?

One of my favorite songs that I heard this summer sums it up pretty well.

“I will look up, for there is none above you

I will bow down, to tell you that I need you

Jesus Lord of all

I will look back, and see that you are faithful

I look ahead, believing you are able

Jesus Lord of all”

This is the truth that I should hold on to when I feel like God is silent.

When I have my days in Bethany, I will still pursue Christ above all else.

For What It’s Worth

So it looks like you’ve stumbled upon my blog.

I have debated on whether or not I should start this blog for a few months now. I have went back and forth many times on this idea because I know that many times blogs are seen as pretentious and stereotypical, but I decided to go for it anyway. When it comes down to it, I am kind of writing this blog for myself.

As I will post in this blog, my hope is that I will become more aware of all of the ways that God is at work in my life. I want to see all that He is teaching me in the midst of the ordinary. I feel that it is important that I do this because sometimes I fall into the trap of convincing myself that I am alone. I forget that God is always with me, and that He is upholding me every step of the way.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41.10 ESV

This is just one of the many places in God’s Word that He reminds us of His presence and steadfast love for us. Here in Isaiah 41.10, after seeing the mighty and fearful power of God in this chapter, He speaks these wonderful words of deliverance for Israel through the prophet Isaiah. Unlike other nations, Israel’s trust and hope was in none other than God. They were different because they belonged to God. These words in verse 10 are words of deep, inexpressible affection. By God’s grace, as His people, we are able to receive this kind of love and hope for His presence. I encourage you to not only take my word for it, but find rest in God’s Word.

I can’t express enough how essential it is to encounter God by reading His Word. It sounds so simple, but many times I forget to do this myself. I never find true peace until I have this communication with my Father and know that it is Him that makes me whole. I am able to find this truth in no other place than the Bible. There have been numerous times in my life that I am restless and in tears, all while experiencing what seems like every emotion in the book. Despite all of this, I am able to find comfort in the assurance of God’s precious Word.

I also find so much comfort in prayer. Knowing that I am heard, and so deeply cared for by my loving and gracious Father allows me to find peace beyond belief. I might write more about my personal experience through prayer in a future blog post. For now, I just want to express the utmost importance of being in constant communication with God through prayer.

Maybe you’re like me. You might also listen to these lies that Satan tries to tell us from time to time. Maybe you also need the reminder that God is always with you, even when it is hard to see. If you’re reading this, my hope and prayer is that you might find some comfort in the way that God is redeeming my story as I share it in this blog. If God is at work in my broken and imperfect life, then I guarantee he is at work in yours too.

I have named my blog “For What It’s Worth” for a couple different reasons.

The first reason has to do with my purpose in starting this whole blogging thing. It is a reminder to myself, (and maybe to you too), of the God that is working in the ordinary things in my life.

“There’s nothing, absolutely nothing, that God can’t and doesn’t use to work his salvation and holiness into our lives.” – Eugene Peterson, Leap Over a Wall

It is only because of Him that life is worth the living, because He is always at work. As I write about my experiences, my goal is to constantly be reminded of what it’s all worth, and that is simply seeking and serving my God with all of my being. In order to do that, I need to allow Him to work in my life so that I may reflect Him. I know that it is in this that I find my worth.

My second reason in choosing this name for my blog is less spiritual. If you continue reading my future blog posts, I want you to “take it for what it’s worth”, as the saying goes. I am no writer. I am just a nineteen year-old college student trying to figure out and follow God’s calling in my life. These are just my thoughts; this is just my perspective.

Read on if you want, but take it for what it’s worth.