To Sit Atop A Rock…

Hello everyone!

I have a cool story to share from last Wednesday, the day before I left California! I am home safe and sound, I flew back home Thursday and got back Friday morning. I was planning on including this in my Weekly Recap that I’m posting on Monday, but as I was writing it, I realized that this experience deserves its own post. Mostly because it would have made the recap twice as long as it usually is, but also because this blog is about my life… and the fact that I want to share as much of my life as I possibly can. So, bear with me a bit on what will quite possibly turn into a bit of a ramble!

Today, I went hiking on a trail that winds up a mountain side and overlooks Morro Bay, which is one of my favorite spots near where my aunt and uncle live. We hiked up, my aunt, youngest cousin, and I on foot, and Matthew on his mountain bike. The trail was dusty and slightly slippery because of that, so I was once again impressed with my cousin’s courage and bravery. Even though he’s ten years younger than me, he does things (like zipping down mountainsides on dirtbikes at break-neck speeds) that I would never be able to do. It was a scorching hot day and the trail had no tree cover at all, but the hike was still enjoyable. The views got more and more gorgeous the more we hiked, and I got to very near the top of one of the hills. There was a large rock that I could sit on, so I climbed up, took a few pictures, and then took a seat to survey the view, looking over the bay and the freshwater reserve that is a bird sanctuary.

My aunt told me something really interesting as we were hiking. That spot is actually really unique because the fresh water from the wetlands and the saltwater of the sea mix together. I did some research later on Morro Bay, and I discovered that this is called an Estuary. This occurrence is actually really rare, and I got to overlook it while sitting on top of a rock. The beauty of God’s creation was so incredibly overwhelming in that moment, and it made me think about that sermon from last Sunday, about Psalm 8. That Psalm is quickly becoming one of my favorites, and it is so fitting for that special moment that I spent overlooking Morro Bay’s Estuary.

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers-
the moon and the stars you set in place-
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
human beings that you should care for them?
Yet you made them only a little lower than God
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You gave them everything you made,
putting all things under their authority
the flocks and the herds
and all the wild animals,
the birds in the sky; the fish in the sea,
and everything that swims the ocean currents.
O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! (Ps. 8:3-9)

Majesty really is the right word to use. Any amount of pictures that I could post couldn’t do this place justice. Not the marsh, the bay, the ocean in the horizon, or even the birds circling the hillside. Just the same, my words can’t do justice to the strong surge of faith that I felt in that moment as well. I felt, and still feel, so thankful to be there. That I got to sit on top of a rock and overlook a beautiful sliver of majesty, worked by the hands of God himself.

After a while, I could hear the voices of my aunt and cousins, were waiting for me at the bottom of the hill. So, I hopped off my rock and headed down to meet them. The boys were starting to get a little squirrelly because they were dying to go meet my uncle. Turns out, he had come to the trail after his work shift ended. He was going to take us rock climbing, much to my surprise! I was not expecting to go climbing… let alone actually do it myself! I originally thought that I would just watch my cousins and my aunt, but my uncle brought an extra pair of shoes, and my aunt lent me her harness. I looked over the rock walls, and decided that if I didn’t try it now, I might not ever do it again. I would have regretted it if I hadn’t at least given rock climbing a try. So, I put on a pair of borrowed rock climbing shoes, and (with some help) strapped on the harness. I watched my little cousin Matthew climb all the way up to the top of the rock wall, and hop back down again. As I watched, I surprised myself with the fact that I was getting excited to give it a try! Once it was my turn to climb, my uncle helped rope me in and “belayed” the rope for me. I learned that is when a person stays on the ground and holds the rope for you. They make sure you feel secure, and they make sure you have enough rope. One side of the rope is tied to the climber’s harness, and the other is fed through the belayer’s harness. The climber puts full trust in the person that is belaying them. They have to trust that if they fall, the person on the ground will hold the rope and keep them safe. And let me tell you, at that high up, that trust is hard to give.

I climbed twice. The first climb was on a wall with plenty of footholds and places to put my hands. The second, however, was more challenging. It was steeper, with not as many prominent footholds. My uncle coached me through each step, telling me that if I find even a place to put my toe, the shoes will hold. What I found the most challenging was the fact that there weren’t as many places to put my hands. I had to use strength almost entirely without a good hand-hold, and one time it made me stumble. I lost my footing, and my feet slid out from under me. I clung to the rope as I twisted around, trying to regain a good position on the rock. All the while, my uncle held the rope. When I fell the rope didn’t even budge. I was safe, even if I was panicking on the inside. After twisting around a little, I calmed myself down and soon found another good foothold and was able to steady myself again.

After I finished that climb, I thought about how that experience is a pretty good metaphor for faith and fear (I know, I know, English major alert). Even though life is difficult and sometimes we’ll have trouble finding a foothold, God’s got the rope. Even if we fall, God’s got the rope. It may sound a little cliche, but I still find the thought extremely comforting.

After sitting on these experiences and letting them percolate in my heart, I’ve realized the lessons that I learned from them. Here’s what I’ve got so far. First, I’ve learned how important it is to stop and take a breath. Stop, sit on top of a rock, and look at the majesty around you. Even if you’re not religious, and many of the people who I love and respect and may be reading this now aren’t, I still think that this is so important. Life is one big chaotic storm of crazy curveballs that are thrown at us one-by-one. It’s so easy to forget that sometimes all we need is just to take a step back and breathe and acknowledge the limitless and humbling majesty of the world in which we live.

Second, a lesson in faith. Faith in the fact that God’s got my rope. Faith in my own strength. Faith in the fact that even if I don’t deserve it, God still “crowned” me with “glory and honor,” and this love and grace will never fade. And in my mind and heart, this limitless love is just as huge, majestic, and humbling, as this view.

XOXO

L

God’s Got Your Back

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Hello everyone~

Life is rough. It is for everyone, and in all seasons of life. Sometimes the state of the world, the country, and my life scares me so much. The only way I’ve dealt with a lot of these feelings is turning to my faith. Here are some of the verses I’ve found most comforting lately.

Colossians 3:15

 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Hebrews 13:5

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.

Isaiah 12:2

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. 

Isaiah 26:3-4

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD is the Rock eternal.

Ephesians 2:14

For He Himself is our peace. 

Ephesians 5:8

For you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. 

2 Thessalonians 3:3

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.

Matthew 11:28-30

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Hebrews 13:6 

So we can confidently say,  “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

And of course, without prayer our relationships with God are nonexistent. If you’re feeling scared or murky inside, send it up in a prayer. It helps a lot, or at least that’s what I’ve found to be true! I hope I was able to help you in some small way with this post… Comment if you have any favorite verses of your own!

XOXO

L

BIBLE STUDY: Gone Swimmin’

I will always be inadequate. When it comes to the world’s standards of what I am supposed to be, that is. I am too short, too fat, too smart, but still not smart enough at the same time. Even though I have lost roughly 75 pounds over the last couple of years, I am still haunted by the demons that tormented me as a young teenager. I’m too fat and I’m worthless because of it, was what I once believed. My mindset has changed a lot since then, but there are still times, more often than I’d like to admit, that I think that my thighs are still thick and my abs aren’t as flat as I would want them to be.

I have come to terms with the fact that I inherited my mother’s “child-bearing” hips, and that just because I’m not a size zero does not mean that I am worth less than any other girl. In fact, Jesus loves me now as a size 4 and he loved me before at  size 16. Do you think that when He was hanging on the cross Jesus was thinking about pant sizes? No. He was thinking about how much he loves us. That we were worth hanging on that cross. He made the ultimate sacrifice for us, he died for us. And he would do it again in a heartbeat.

This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 1 John 4:10

These ideals that society has shaped are impossible only a select few can fit into. It’s kind of like that old game show that aired a few years back, “Hole in the Wall.” Anyone remember that? A wall rushed towards a contestant who had to jump through outline of the hole exactly, no matter if it was a running stance or someone doing a handstand. If they didn’t fit through the wall they were dumped into water. Trying to conform to society is kind of like that. We must act and think a certain way or we’re up the creek.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

The added layer to all this is that life will always be a competition, as well. Keeping Up With The Jones’s is a dangerous “game” to play. One-upmanship can only get you so far, and what do you have in the end? A lot of possessions, sure, but those don’t last. If you win the “game” and beat out your neighbor or your Instagram follower, your victory is short lived. Even the most expensive Lamborghini will rust, Instagram will one day become obsolete, and the tightest body in town will one day grow saggy and old. Nothing on this earth is eternal.

I bet you see where I’m going with this. Worldly possessions and lives expire at one time or another, but God’s love for us is everlasting, no matter what we look like or how much money we have. His love is perfect and unconditional.

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 Corinthians 5:1

So lately I’ve been thinking, what’s so wrong with being dumped into the creek? Why do we want to conform to society when we could have something Greater? If God is on our side, nothing can touch us.

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Romans 8:31

Maybe the trick is to ditch the game show and swim towards Salvation. I always did love to swim.

L

Keeping the Faith (When You Want to Walk Away)

Let’s face it. Life is difficult. Sometimes, or maybe all the time, it seems like all life throws at us are challenges. Whether it be lots of little things that add up or a big challenge that seems to have rocked your life like an earthquake. I know I’ve dealt with both, but more recently I’ve had to deal with the latter. The big question that pops into my mind whenever I’m wrestling with my faith is Why does God let crappy stuff happen?

There is no easy answer to this question. If I’m being completely honest, I’m still struggling with this myself. I’ve asked pastors this question and sometimes even they couldn’t give me a straight answer.

There are a few things you can do when there seem like there are only two choices: walking away from your faith, or staying to sort out your mess of questions. If you choose to wait out the storm and deal with your tangled faith, and I hope you do, here’s what I have done over the past few months to get through my hurdles in life. I hope they help you, too.

  1. Pray. But don’t just pray. When I was talking to a friend about some of the struggles I have been wrestling with recently, my friend told me that it is okay to yell at God. He knows what’s on our hearts, anyway, so just tell Him how you feel. Yell, cry, say how you feel hurt or betrayed or whatever you’re feeling. Go out into a forest and scream it at the top of your lungs. It’s okay.
  2. Write it out. Make a list of grievances, if you will. Write what you feel in your heart. Write your angriest thoughts down. Writing is cathartic, it helps us sort out our feelings.
  3. Talk to someone about it. A pastor, a mentor, a parent, a grandparent, or even a friend. Someone who is walking with Christ as well and has probably gone through the same thing you’re going through now. It’s nice to have assurance that you’re not alone. That’s why God made us a Church, so that we could give each other love and support in all seasons of life. I’ve found that after telling someone what’s been going on in my troubled heart, usually my mom, I feel better. Lighter, even. We weren’t made to carry our burdens alone.
  4. Ask for help. Ask for your “someone” to pray for you. Ask your church to pray for you, even if you haven’t gone in a while. Even if you never go to a church service, just ask. Heck, post a comment on this post (or any post in the future) and ask for us to pray for you! The prayer warriors are on it. Surround yourself with people who care.
  5. Go to a place where you can be alone and think. As you can tell by the title of this blog, I am an introvert. Introverts are wired in such a way that makes them need to be alone to “recharge their batteries.” We need alone time to think. And after all the social interaction of the last three steps, I would definitely need some alone time. If that’s not how you operate, do it anyway. Take a twenty minute walk to clear your mind. It’s amazing what some fresh air in your lungs will do for your think-space.
  6. Bury yourself in the word. Even if it is the last thing you want to do. Even if you’re so angry at God you never want to read the Bible again. Crack it open and read. My favorite book for when I am feeling low are the Psalms.
  7. Listen to music. Music has always been the pathway to my soul. It is how I deal with every emotion in the book. I write with music, read with music, walk, run, eat, you name it. Music is in my blood, and I know this is also the case for a lot of people. Turn off your mind and listen to the words. For a hurting heart, my favorites are “Shoulders” by For King and Country and “By Your Side” by Tenth Avenue North. Really, anything by these two bands.
  8. Pray. Again. I know, there’s a lot of praying on this list. But prayer is our way of talking to God and his way of talking back. Even if he answers in whispers or even in silence. He hears you.

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(Picture cred: Here)

Walking in Christ is a relationship. I have been told that a relationship with God is very much like a marriage. Married couples fight, and sometimes it’s hard to love your spouse. But in the end, they’re always there. I can’t stress this enough, questions are okay! In my opinion, they’re the only way to grow in our faith. Wrestling with big (or little) questions makes us stronger in our faith and our relationship with God.

Bottom line: With God, love will always remain.

(Did my fellow For King and Country fans get the reference?)  Love is the never changing truth of following God. He will always be with you and he will always love you, even if you don’t feel it. Even if it feels like God is a thousand miles away, don’t forget his promise that He would always be with us. No matter what.

L

Here are some verses to help you get started:

Psalm 46:10

Psalm 73:26

Isaiah 45:2

Isaiah 40:8

2 Samuel 22:31

Matthew 7:24

1 John 4:18

Psalm 23:4

John 20:29

Psalm 23:3

Isaiah 43:2

Jeremiah 20:11

Philippians 4:6-7

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.”