Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Tracks in the Snow

There's a specific sort of cadence one has to adopt while walking in snow boots.
It's a slightly indescribable awkward rhythm that weighs you down as you venture. You find that once you're on solid ground there is a freedom of movement you didn't recognize was gone while you were in the snow - such was the concentration of getting through the snow.

I love tracks in fresh snow. Tracks of couples. Tracks of groups. Solitary footsteps forging their own path, leaving the sidewalk behind. I like those best...Even more I appreciate bunny tracks. I imagine their hip hop hop, they pause, and their nose twitches as they test the crisp air. Bunnies are flighty little fellas and I still gasp in surprise and delight when I see them scampering through patches of grass (or snow) in the city.

Last night there was a man sleeping in a coffee shop. First I was surprised. Then I was thankful. This was a place of safety - warm enough for him to snore in peace for a while.
But they politely kicked him out while I was there. They weren't rude - they were closing up shop and began first by cleaning his place of rest. It made me mad; I could stay and he had to leave.

There was an odd extra clunk as he walked. I raised my eyes to the reflection in the window. Did he carry a cane? Was he wearing strange boots? Now outside, eyes roaming, betraying his sense of displacement, I saw his boots. The entire bottom of his shoe flapped, detached as he walked, exposing his feet to the cold and wet white fluff I had been admiring. My heart cried. I had no boots to give him. No socks to replace his tattered pair, no hat to cover his bare and balding head - his lengthy hair also betraying his homelessness - it was long and unkempt - the shape of a monk, the length of a rocker. I prayed he found a place of refuge for the night.

I felt guilty for my own groanings. Mine are very philosophical currently. I certainly have physical concerns as well...indeed some worries, but mine weren't so immediate or dire as his. I didn't need to ask, 'Where will I stay for the night? Will my feet survive?' I hate cold feet in my bed; he had no bed.

The longer I'm alive the less just the world seems. Suffering seems to be round every corner, staring back at me in the face of those in pain. Life seems harder than I remember it being as a child, even a child who thought deeply, a child who never felt she truly belonged. Many of my own generation are pondering these difficulties. Why so much struggle? Why is life so much more difficult than we anticipated? This isn't what I thought my life would be. Why is life so hard? Why are so many people hurting? How can it be that such breathtaking beauty and gut wrenching pain can exist in the same space? To the girl with the five year old Sorel boots, though falling apart internally and occasionally causing blisters on her heels, yet structurally sound on the outside and keeping her dry, the snow is a delight to walk through...even frolic in. To the man with the maimed boots the snow was a peril to his survival.

Why must one man have more and the other less?

I've found myself on both sides of this question.

Why must my life be more difficult than so and so? Why must everything they touch turn to gold? Why do they seem to have it so easy? Why must I work so hard for what I have? Why do I have no one?

Why on earth do I have more than they? Why do I have people who care? Why do I have food and they don't? Why am I not begging on the street? Why do I have a warm place to sleep? Why am I physically safe?

For a girl who wants to fix and take care of everyone these can be difficult questions.

I used to long for marriage. For a family. For delightful fulfillment in this world. I can tell you though that I have never longed for Heaven like I have this year. Sin must be a horrible terrible thing for it to have wrecked God's creation like it has. No one is exempt from its influence. Everybody fails. Often, it seems Christians are the worst offenders. And if so, then who in the world can I trust?  I know all the right answers. But sometimes the 'right' answers can feel like empty promises.

When did we begin to so tightly grasp the notion that life would be easy/shouldn't be hard? The Bible never, ever promised such things. In fact it's full of suffering. If God is good, and He created us, out of nothing, and sin was the ultimate betrayal against Him, then we deserve absolutely nothing. He's withholding suffering that we deserve. If God is ultimate good, and the perfect expression of love, and is in fact love, then He deserves all good and had absolutely no business sacrificing Himself for the sake of His enemy. That's grace. Absolutely no one on this earth is ultimately good.

The world is a difficult place to be in. Has been since our first father and mother believed a lie and acted on it. Will we truly only praise God when life is easy?

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Do Not Grow Weary
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.  
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?"

Hebrews 12:1-7 ESV (emphases mine)
Struggle is worth pondering. Questions are worth exploring. God is worthy of the pursuit of understanding. Justice is worth seeking. People are worth helping. The race is worth running - and races are never easy. The winning of the race at the end is made the more beautiful because of the training, work, struggle, tension, and fight exhibited through the strain of effort. I will never have to struggle so far as to give my own blood to ratify my innocence. And though I sometimes wish I could do this for others, I cannot, for sin is far more offensive and requires more perfect perfection than I could ever offer.  

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing

There are days when the desire to be cared for and taken care of are so overwhelming that I can hardly function. In the same breath though, the requirement for grit is met with the determination to have it, and the grace of the Lord comes alongside to grant me the strength to press on.

I biked to work this morning knowing that it would rain this evening...but I didn't know it would RAIN this evening. I waited until the hour when weather.com informed me that there would be "showers" instead of "rain" or "rain/wind", which was around 8 pm. At 7:58 I determined this was as good as it would get and I headed out, rain jacket over running jacket, hoodie over helmet, eyes squinting in the rain.

At first it was enjoyable. The slight gust of wind and the constant rain caused reflection on my heritage (supposedly Hembree's are originally from Devon in Britain which is marked by gorgeous coastal lines, and a history of piracy - which maybe explains my adoration of harbors and longing to be on the water but not in it) [side note- I've been doing some minimal {read not so minimal} research and I'm a little obsessed and very much want to go someday], and took me back to memories of spending one night and day in Wales with my sister before we boarded a ferry to Ireland. The wind was mighty next to the sea and we marveled at the power of God demonstrated through the power of moving air.

...But it quickly grew miserable and scary. Cars became troublesome objects to avoid, and even though I was moving extra cautiously there were several close calls - it felt like I was in a video game called dodge the vehicle to stay alive. It quickly became a life metaphor to me (as you do) and my initial bliss was like naivete before life gets hard and then the unexpected threats of the cars were like life's troubles popping up to bring you down. So then hot tears intermingled with the cold of the rain and the sweat that I couldn't feel and the wind blowing against my entire body and I was determined not to cry and spoke to myself that I would not and could not cry in this moment because visibility is quite important while biking, and it worked for several blocks but it didn't last long and my determination gave way to the gravity of the situation and my bottom lip just popped out and quivered and when my bottom lip pops out you know the sorrow is dadgum real (long sentence to be read with quickening speed, fyi *wink*)!

In my crying to the Lord I exclaimed that I may never be rescued in this life and I may never be pursued in this life, but I will be carried - for I am redeemed! I am a child of God. While that does not mean an easy life, it does mean a bought life, a belonging life, and an eternal life.

He carried me home. And even though once through my back gate I collapsed over my bike in heaving sobs I knew He was with me. He'd seen me safely through and He'll carry me home.

  1. O Joy that seekest me through pain,
    I cannot close my heart to thee;
    I trace the rainbow through the rain,
    And feel the promise is not vain,
    That morn shall tearless be.

  2. O Cross that liftest up my head,
    I dare not ask to fly from thee;
    I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
    And from the ground there blossoms red
    Life that shall endless be.

O Love that Will Not Let Me Go
George Matheson, 1882

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Rest & Finding Who I Am

Have you ever turned your ankle while dismounting your bike whilst wearing heels?

Haha, stop laughing.

You may have guessed that I did. Last Sunday.

You can't make this stuff up.

With an engagement directly after church and the habit of always biking to church...and the need to present myself in a certain way at said engagement after church I biked to church and post engagement...in heels.

Now they were just one inchers, and really a merger between kitten heels and wedges, so I felt just fine biking in them. The only problem is that they are pointy in the toe and I was afraid of scraping them on the pavement while pedaling. That never happened. Underestimating my speed at dismount and miscalculating the stability of my landing in said footwear, however, did happen. Were it not for the kindness of strangers in the middle of Chicago I would not have gotten home.

Have you experienced the desire to be at rest when it felt like you were in constant motion? Have you also experienced the desire to be in motion when you are finally forced to rest? All the things one could be doing instead of lying in bed with their foot up... I want to read when I can't read and now that it's nigh my only option...

So I'm thinking. Thinking on the many things that have transpired over the past two months. They've truly been quite wonderful months. I have done many things that have been scary to me. Some of them have been moments of large decision, some...small decisions that I consciously knew affected those that are larger and chose to say yes to the small scary, knowing that it is often the small "scaries" that add up and in turn influence the big "scaries".

I have chosen to be bold and vulnerable. I have been courageous and yet dependent. I have stepped out in leadership. I have tackled things I thought were only in a far off dream, or my distant future, but by God's severe mercy have been here and now.

As someone who has spent the majority of her life recoiling in fear and imprisoning herself in the confining cell of comparison...

Well, for understanding, here's an insight:

If you've ever taken the Strength's Finder Test, you'd know that Intellectualism 
is one of the many options for your Top Five. Having taken the test I was 
shocked to discover that it was my third quality, because I've not viewed 
myself as intellectually smart in a long time. 
I equate being an intellectual as someone who knows a lot, knows well what they 
know, and can articulately explain exactly what it is they know. 
I, however, lack the ability to swiftly craft sentences on the fly, stringing together
 scholarly words (heck even laymen's terms) that communicate exactly what I 
want to say. My brain is always a jumble of thoughts and ideas, questions and 
quandaries, worries and wonders. You know those scribbles of charcoal-colored 
mess that hover over the brains of characters in cartoons when they're frustrated, 
or can't communicate their anger? 

It's like that. 
Or, Oh!...

It's like a ball of yarn - but not one quite so tidy, wound up in nice circles before 
it's begun its use - strewn about the room by the curious paws of 
a playful kitten, the fibers coming undone from the carefully wound chord, then 
swiftly gathered together by the kitten's owner, aghast by the mess silly kitty has 
made, quickly crumpled in a tangled mess, for company is coming you know, 
and carelessly thrown into the yarn basket, where its chords become entangled with 
other strings, strands, and colors from other balls of yarn (the cat has a habit of making 
a mess directly before company) and it takes a substantial amount of time to find one 
strand and follow it, making sense of the jumbled mess of ideas, thoughts, indecision, 
worry, endless possibilities, probing inquiries...influenced by a deep (I mean deep) 
understanding of emotional i.q., feeding, feeling, and sensing the feelings 
and thoughts of others...this is my mind. When I open my mouth I feel as if 
the tangled yarn is revealed, and linear thought just doesn't compute. 

...and the thought that something may go horribly wrong so why try?, I have been training my mind to instead have the audacity of hope. This may go wrong...this truly may flop, and it could be incredibly embarrassing, but what if...WHAT IF it succeeds? What if this small step, which may produce not the best result still presents something good...which then grows to something better.

What if I try?

This new mindset has been incredibly freeing, and I cannot tell you the weight that this freedom relieves.

This freedom sheds death; it sends searching tendrils of hope that push through the weight of dust and soil and reach for the light.

This freedom searches for who I actually am, who in Christ I was made to be. 

So maybe I'm a storyteller. Maybe. And not the best of them around, but maybe my strengths do not lie in retaining facts or figures, spouting facts or figures, debating with the best of them, or even in being able to communicate my own strengths aptly. Maybe there is strength in emotion. Maybe there is sometimes strength in silence. Maybe there is strength in listening and observing, in pondering for days on end, in understanding people. Maybe there is beauty in a narrative, in raw emotion felt so deeply, that it translates into art, into communication beyond words, beyond just now.

Therefore, even amidst the pains of growth, I must find delight and joy in shaking off the dust and the chains that entangle and soar ever a bit more into the arms of my Savior. Further up and further in into the realization of a kingdom coming. A whisper heard in full. And a dream a reality.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Go Back & Wait

A few days ago I was very restless. I tend to get that way sometimes when I'm in between life stages, or when I'm waiting on something that the Lord isn't providing. Thoughts and questions will flood my mind and my focus lapses and I no longer can tolerate sitting still. So, after a day at work where I'd been immobile at a desk all day I felt like I might internally explode. I imagine myself sitting at a desk, my brain a boiling tea kettle left unattended; it's been boiling for a while, and there's steam pouring from every facial orifice. Yeah, not pretty.

I've found that often the best way for me to help relieve this anxiety is to be outside and to move. That's why instead of taking my usual route home (actually I now have three interchangeable routes home, because I get bored of the same) I walked further than necessary to the bus stop on Michigan Avenue. On the way I gloried in the fresh air, lightly laughed at the groups of children gathering in Washington Square Park, smiled a salute to Newberry Library, and delighted at the prisms of sunshine light dancing in chandelier-filled windows, Starbucks, office buildings, and 4th Presbyterian. Thanking the Lord for these things, and acknowledging that beauty feeds my soul, I stopped at my designated steel chariot waiting area and...well, I waited. 

Being that it was a very windy afternoon and getting colder by the minute, I looked at the bus stop to see when my fair coach would be arriving. The display read 11 minutes. Eleven minutes?!? But that's an AGE to stand here doing nothing (Remember? I've been restless all afternoon. I didn't want my physical and mental progress impeded by standing and doing nothing! The gall.) so I started walking. Oh, I know it was illogical. Walking would actually increase my commute time, and I'd be cold and accosted by the wind in the process. But I'm not very logical. I'd be doing something, you see? I knew the physical exertion would help calm my mind, the fresh air would be great, that I probably wouldn't go running when I got home anyway, that I could talk to the Lord while walking, and I'd have a great view of the lake and the city to boot. My plan was to walk as far as I could within reason, because I still needed to get things done when I got home, and then take a street west to one of the red line stops to carry me the rest of the way home.

As I was walking praise songs were running through my head. I was thankful for the brisk walk. I kept thinking that I missed my bike and that this would go much faster if I were on my bike. Then I thought how silly I must look in my work clothes, walking along the bike trail. Then I thought of every time I'd been irritated by people in dress clothes moseying about on the trail while I, the super cool biker had to maneuver around them and pick up speed after passing them. If they are like me that day, just needing some fresh air and jumping at the only opportunity they would have to get some "exercise" that day, I shouldn't mentally make fun of them again.

Reaching a point in the trail where normally the artfully or instagram conscious would turn around and snap a photo, I gazed back at the city, my fingers searching for my phone. "No Kayla, this isn't about the city. It's about Me", the Lord corrected. Instructing me to keep walking, I did, until I reached the point where Lincoln Park is adjacent to the trail. Turn left here. Oh! Okay, sure. Run up the stairs. I ran the second half. :/ Take a left at the fork here. I was starting to feel suspicious, this wasn't very close to a red line station...in fact it'd probably be closer to just go back to the one I normally take, but that would seem silly... And we didn't walk as far as I had wanted. I was going to push through as far as I could! Maybe take a couple pictures...maybe write a cute story...you know, express myself! The Lord's voice next very clearly said, "go back from where you came and wait for the bus". Are you sure? "Go back from where you came. I want you to wait for the bus."



(Begins heading back the direction I'd just come from.)

Lord? This feels like one of those Old Testament prophet stories, where you tell them to do things that don't make sense and people learn things from them...

Once again worship songs flooded my mind and we were walking again, and the next thing the Lord brought to mind was that He is for me a fortress. I looked to my right and the home standing next to me was built like a medieval fortress, made from stone, shaped with round turrets and complete with those square cutouts on the top, you know the ones archers hide behind and shoot arrows from? Yeah, those.

Finally across the street from the bus stop, the one I had left impatiently, intending to forge my own path and make my own progress, I see not one, but three 147 buses. Um, hello,wait! I squirm internally, beginning to get nervous. You guys are supposed to be more spread out than that! You see, my traffic light is red, and yours is green, and if you all make it through the green light, then I'm likely to be waiting a very long time for the next bus! At least another eleven minutes!

Lord? This isn't fair. What if I have to wait a very long time now? "Do you trust Me?" Sigh, well I suppose if you could allow three buses to be clumped up in such a fashion, it's possible that one could come quickly behind them and I might not have to wait a very long time. And, Lord? If You don't want me to have any of these buses and You want me to wait, I think I trust You then, too. Two buses have made it through the green light now, but the traffic light turns red! My walking signal directs me to GO, and boy do I 'go'...I made it onto the third northbound 147 outer drive express bus right on time.

At lunch the next day I told a sweet friend this story and she replied, "Boy you really made a big deal out of eleven whole minutes!". To me though this was more than a four-minutes-short-of-a-quarter-of-an-hour-wait on a bus. It was a metaphor for where I am in life. In my restlessness I can move forward on my own, thinking my way will be more effective or beneficial in some way. I can also follow the letter of the law in waiting, not moving physically, but still grumble in my heart that this is silly, and I could do a better job of this. Why isn't the bus here yet? Who isn't doing their job? What caused this effect? It should be here by now. Well dear impatient Kayla, you don't see the big picture. There are many variables, many other people to consider, and you're not the only one alive on this earth. God is the God who sees and He sees all. So circumstances aren't perfect. Is there anywhere in the Bible that states the children of God will have really happy, always perfect and comfortable lives? No? No. Will I eventually get home? Mmhmm. Will I learn things along the way? Definitely. Does God care more about my own well-being than I do? He truly does. And just as much as I can enjoy His presence while we're walking along the lake trail with the thought in my head that we're getting somewhere, I can learn to enjoy His presence when we're standing in place and it feels like we're making leaps and bounds to nowhere.

"...but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles; 
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint."
Isaiah 40:31

"Love the LORD, all you his saints! 
The LORD preserves the faithful
but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, 
all you who wait for the LORD!"
Psalm 31:23-24

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

I Wait

It has been over two years since I have typed words on this page. And as I gaze at the name I've given this blog, I laugh a little. Disappointed Hope. For I have been disappointed. And my hopes have not been met.

You haven't answered me.
Wait. Wait is all You'll say.
And there's nothing I'd like to hear less.
Than wait.

My leg shakes and the chair vibrates beneath me.
My gaze is on the sun that shines just beyond the crest of the building before it.
Out of reach.
My arms won't reach.

This place feels familiar.
This place where I'm helpless.
Where I do nothing but throw out queries and wait for your supply.
I'm waiting.
I'm waiting.

A year ago I took an intermission from school. The semester before was pretty devastating. My Grandad passed away and it was a long period of expectation...waiting for him to die. That semester was spent with much anxiety and depression. I was far from my family and could not mourn with them. I felt alone. I skipped too many classes on the floor of my dorm room, crying in the corner, uncertain of the reason for my tears. I slept a lot. My sweet roommates were patient with me, checking on me if I was in bed for too long. I was frustrated with my load. I kept saying, Lord, if you would just change this I think I could do this.

Finally it became clear that I needed to go home. The plan was to leave during Christmas break, get a job back home, and come back within a year ready to finish my degree, at this point now half finished. So home I went, where I slept for a very, very long time, and started a job search.

I found nothing.

Too old to be under my parent's insurance I couldn't work just any job, and having just come out of the Starbucks world which exacerbated my anxiety I politely refused to go back to that life...and the Lord provided nothing. I was angry.

Why did you send me home Lord? You said to go home and I followed! You led me, I obeyed, and You're not keeping Your end of the deal. This simply isn't fair.

Well, praise the Lord He didn't give me what I wanted at that time, because I received something better. One day I woke to a text message from my cousin in Spain: "Hey girl, have you found a job yet?". Noooooo...no, I haven't. "Do you want to come to Spain and help me with the kids?" Excuse me, what?!? This led to a whirlwind of preparations, and within a few weeks, I was in gorgeous northwest Spain where I lived for almost three months, helping and...waiting.

While there I skype interviewed for a full-time job back at Moody. A job which had been mentioned to me before I left...why don't you consider this? Thanks, but no thanks, I had replied, I know what the Lord's doing, and I'm going home. (Presumptuous much?) When nothing in Albuquerque worked out, I had applied, wondering what the Lord could have for me.

I began an apartment search from Spain. I had limited time to find a place to live. I flew directly from Spain to Chicago with one week to find an apartment. God was so incredibly merciful in that week. Midway through my parents offered to come help. They drove 24 hours from Albuquerque to Chicago to drive me around looking at apartments. With a day and a half left before my flight to Albuquerque, the Lord provided an apartment in the second building we toured. Second building. Third apartment. Crazy. I signed a lease and everything was approved by the next morning. I had a home. I remember sitting in the back of Mom and Dad's rental car beaming...joy radiating from my heart...the Lord loves me! He provided!

The next couple of weeks were another whirlwind of preparations...packing, painting furniture, sorting through possessions...essentially saying an official goodbye to childhood, major dependency on parents, and hello to a bigger 'big girl job', living completely alone, and independence. It was another opportunity to step out in faith. This was how the Lord was providing for me.

This was an answer to prayer.

I'm nine months in now and this is SO HARD. I'm working full time, commuting, living alone, going to school part time, trying to maintain friendships, fellowship in a church, and stay afloat with schoolwork, etc., and sometimes it's all I can do to get out of bed in the morning. I feel as if I'm learning how to do something new in every single area of my life. My brain and body are tired.

I recently told someone that the gifts that initially looked like blessings now feel like a curse:

  • God provided this job so that I could finish school, but this load is extremely difficult to bear. I can take 6 credits a semester, but I'm currently taking five and preparing for a recital, and let's just say God will get the glory if I am standing on the other side of this semester. 
  • Also, if I take a full load of 6 credits a semester I could finish my degree in 3 years. If I can't hack 6 credits a semester and decrease that amount, who knows how long it will take for me to finish. 
  • God provided a super cute apartment in record time. But I'm incredibly lonely. Almost a year into living alone I've learned that I desperately need people. Community is essential...and a large contributing factor to community is proximity. 
  • As a result of having a full time job and living off campus my circle of friends have changed. I'm no longer around peers 24/7. I'm not around anyone in similar life circumstances. It's pretty isolating. Friendships have changed a lot. I've lost some. I've gained some. They're all just different. 

Are there joys? Of course there are. Is life difficult? Extremely. Is God good? Yes, He is. Does it always feel like it? No, it does not. Even so, is He still? Yes, He is.

I'm working through anger. I'm working through disappointment. I'm working through loneliness. I'm learning to lament. I miss my family. I'm seeking community. I experience rejection. I experience failure. Life isn't what I thought it would be. I push through. I get back up. I am incapable of doing this on my own. The LORD is with me. This story is not over.

I wait.

I wait for His answer.
I wait for Him to fill me.
I wait for His return.
I wait for Him.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Confessions of a "Single" Girl at Moody

Valentine’s Day…

For those forging the new territory of a budding relationship, V-Day is the most exciting of days. The anticipation, the thrill; what do I wear? Will he like it? Will he like me? Flowers! Candy! The most adorable of the animal kingdom in miniaturized, stuffed form! Can you put a heart on it? Can it be dyed pink? Maaaarrrket iiiitttt-uh!

But for those of us who are not in the throes of a romantic relationship, Valentine’s Day has the potential to be THE WORST day possible.

We pretend we don’t care. We acknowledge it’s just like any other day.

But is it? Is it really?

I think even the biggest cynic, deep down in the cockles of his heart would rather know that someone loves him. Would rather spend time with someone special with butterflies in their stomach, the light of the reflection of someone’s eyes shining in their own.

I attend a fairly well-known Christian undergraduate school in Chicago, Illinois. I’m slightly above the average age of a normal undergraduate attendee. I might not look my age. I may not always act my age. …heh (and may that never be completely true). The oddity of being in this situation is sometimes emotionally taxing. If I’m attracted to almost any guy on campus I feel like a cougar. However, in many respects age has become just a number to me. Age isn't the perfect gauge for maturity. It can be somewhat of a measure of life experience, but not necessarily. Honestly, some of the guys I've known who are much younger than me can seem much more mature than some I've known who are older. If I’m perfectly honest, I’d definitely date/marry someone younger than me, save he is mature in the Lord, able to lead, and is bold and strong enough that he doesn't care about an age difference. It takes guts to ask a girl out…it takes even more if you know she’s older than you.

On that note, would you allow me to make some comments on some of the trends I notice in Christian dating culture? And honestly, not really that broadly, but more specifically things I've observed in my own experience and on the campus of my school. And please…these thoughts are not authoritative…or final. I’m currently personally working through these thoughts. Philosophies often morph over time, and as mine are in the current process of mutation, they probably will not be exactly the same twelve years from now. Furthermore, these thoughts are not exhaustive. I’m not going to back everything up with three examples and Scripture references. This is just me processing through some thoughts, letting you know what I’m going through, hoping you will join me in considering them as well…

Dating has gotten extremely serious within our culture. One professor here calls our culture’s version of dating a pre-engagement. All our lives we've been told to guard our hearts…but how does one do that when you’re handing it over to one person over a long period of time before engagement? When couples break up it feels like a divorce. And if you’re in a position that prevents you from marriage in the near future, you’re committed, but not truly committed. There’s no promise of a solid future. There’s nothing to prevent you from seeing someone else save the propriety of appearances and the emotional attachment that’s been developed over a period of time. I think a girl can feel very insecure during this time.

I've never been on a date. Never. I've never been asked out on a date. Never. This has definitely been cause for some self-examination and self-depreciation. Am I not good enough? Am I intimidating? Do I smell? (kidding) When I lose ten more pounds I’ll be good enough. If I were just younger. If I were older. If I had done… if… what… how… why…

When I was in middle school and high school I didn't ‘believe’ in dating. Dating is for the preparation of marriage, so what’s the point? Why enter into a committed relationship with someone if I’m not even ready to marry them? I still think these thoughts are valid, but honestly, I don’t feel like I ever truly learned how to engage in genuine friendships with the opposite sex. I must guard my heart. I must act in a certain way. I must not lead on. I must be careful. And once I got to school here I was excited for the prospect of brother-sister friendships and relationships. I was so enthralled with the thought that I might finally have genuine male/female friendships. However, during my first year true friendships didn't really happen.

There’s a certain kind of culture at my school that seems to inhibit healthy guy/girl friendships. There definitely is an exception…there are pockets of friend groups, but for me and several others I've spoken to it’s hard to navigate friendships/dating relationships with the opposite sex. I think a large source of that problem is expectations. There’s a huge joke at my school that we are a “Bridal Institute” instead of a Bible Institute. But instead of turning this post into a criticism that might reflect poorly on a beautiful institute, I’d rather express how I would really love for guys to interact with me personally.

Treat me as a human being.

              …This includes several things
·         Talk to me

You may not be on my “bro-sis” but I would love to talk with you. Are we standing in line in the SDR? Make pleasant conversation. Pass by me in the hallway? Say hi! Are we in a class together? Even better. I know who you are. You know who I am. I will not be impregnated if you say hello. I will not automatically assume we are destined for marriage if we study together a few times. I won’t instantly believe you like me if you ask me how my day is going.

·         Please don’t assume things about me just because you think I’m nice to look at.

Or I may not be attractive to you… Outward beauty is in the eye of the beholder anyway… However, I feel like people make far too many assumptions towards the opposite sex based on their outward appearance. I can tell when a guy looks at me and he thinks I look good that day. I can tell when a guy passes by me and won’t talk to me because of my appearance.

I had an awful week in the city a couple weeks ago. At my place of work on Saturday I was called ‘honey’ by a man in his forties multiple times while he asked me to help him find a certain brand of honey. As we were walking toward another aisle looking for his product his hand grazed the entire length of my backside (my butt… he felt my butt). I felt paralyzed and pretended like it didn't happen and passed him off to another employee. As we parted he again called me honey and waved. Walking down the street later that week, I was alone and running some errands. It was cold and I was walking briskly, squinting my eyes against the glare of the sun. As my eyes adjusted I passed by a man whom I ascertained had been staring at me as I approached. As he walked closely past me he cried out, “ShaZAM! Hey angel!” as his gaze boldly ran up and down my body. I felt instantly colder and my arms wrapped around my torso as I walked home. Later that same day I met a friend for dinner. We had to part as she was going straight to a job that evening and I walked home by myself. A beggar asked if I had any change to spare, and as I had no cash, I looked him in the eyes, said, “I’m sorry sir”, and continued walking. His reply was “Lady, you’re so fine, you have nothing to be sorry for”. What does that even mean? My looks are payment enough for you?

The following weekend I was walking back to the train from church. We had been in the middle of a blizzard and people were out on the sidewalks shoveling and sweeping. I was passing a man sweeping a public sidewalk and I nodded with a slight smile, intending to thank him for his kind effort…I was ‘rewarded’ with a “Hey baby”. I've been cat called before but not quite to that extent and quite so frequently within one week. Honestly, I went home and bawled my eyes out on the floor of my dorm room. I cried out to the Father who loves me completely without fault and asked Him to hold me. I felt so alone and so unprotected…violated…I felt like these men interacted with me in a way that assumed they knew me more intimately than they actually did. Their words paralyzed. Their words tore down. Their words objectified. I cried because I couldn't imagine any guy friend walking with me. I cried because I wanted a man to come back to who did know me, who could be righteously angry for me, who would comfort me.

I am more than how I appear, and especially within the Christian community I long for my brothers to treat me as a sister and as a friend. I long for relationships with guys that make me feel protected and cared for as a sister, without pretense or promise of anything else, emotionally, physically, now or in the future. Just care for me as my own brother would.

·         Be my friend

I have a personality. I’m really quirky. I’m timid. I’m bold. I’m insecure. I’m learning how to be secure in Christ. I love people. I hate crowds. I love the rush of bouldering through a large crowd with a few people close to me…I hate being the center of attention. I’m a performance major. I'd rather sing in front of a really large crowd than a small one....I’m really complicated.  

I’m tired of not being friends with guys because of the unspoken thought that I or you might think one of us likes the other. I’m tired of not having friendships because I’m obviously not your future wife, so you might as well not waste your time on me. I’m tired of not being your friend because you’re intimidated by me…I’m a human being. Please talk to me. Ask me how I’m doing. Speak seriously with me. I love talking about what the Lord’s doing. I love talking through things I’m questioning and working through. I don’t mind (to a certain extent) being transparent, because I know it builds others up in the glory of Christ. I want to be your friend. I want to be known. And may I say that friendship happens before there is something more? So be my friend.

·         Be careful with how much you touch me

I really like touch. In fact I begin to get depressed if I haven’t been consistently hugged in a while. Guys, you communicate A LOT through your touch, and it can be extremely confusing if you haven’t actually stated anything with your words. Touch actually releases a bonding hormone in our bodies, so when used frequently, touch binds two people prematurely and can be detrimental to their emotional health. Touch is beautiful and God-given and I can’t wait to touch and be touched when the time is appropriate, but know what is appropriate and act with dignity and kindness.

·         Use your words

Please be clear with your intentions. If you like me, tell me. I will never actually know for certain if a guy likes me unless he actually says something. You can give hints all you want but I will not know for certain whether you like me to the point that you are willing to pursue me…and really, you've communicated that you don’t if you aren't willing to say it…unless you say something. Your ability to do this communicates a lot to me about your ability to lead me. It also communicates to me that to you I’m worth pursuing, even to the point of your own rejection. If you express your thoughts to me it communicates to me that you've thoughtfully considered the implications of what you’re about to say and are secure enough in who you are in Christ that no matter my answer, you will be stable in your standing in the Lord.

·         Ask me out on a date

Yeah! Ask me out. Most likely I’ll say yes. (I still can totally say no, though.) Ask other girls out on a date. Go on dates with several girls. Let’s help each other learn how to interact with the opposite sex. You honor us when you see characteristics you appreciate and express that by getting to know me better. Find out what characteristics you want in a wife. Don’t be afraid to take a girl out on one date, be up front with what you like about her even if your intentions are just to get to know her better. One date doesn't mean marriage. Marriage isn't the ultimate goal anyways. What?! Yeah. Some of us will go on dates and get married. Some of us won’t get married. The end goal is Christ. In the meantime, we honor Christ by the way we honor one another. So cool down, relax a little bit, and have fun with one another.

·         Pursue the Lord

My brothers, regardless of the status of our relationship, friend or more than friend, my desire is that you pursue the Lord. Would you pursue Him more than you pursue a wife? Would you seek Him with your entire being? Would that you would understand your standing before Him as His blood bought sons, that your entire being is secure in who He says you are, in who He defines you to be. This is the foundation of our friendship. This is the foundation of all that we are – Christ and Him crucified and resurrected. For Him, through Him and to Him are all things. In Him we live and move and have our being.

“On Christ the Solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.”

Honestly, many of these things are just about practically loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself, doing nothing out of selfishness or conceit, but considering one another as more important than yourself. Most of these points can be applied to girls towards men as well. I have heard enough objectification of guys on our campus to turn my ears red in embarrassment and shame. Girls need to treat our brothers as human beings as well. We are broken, sinful people. All our relationships are affected by sin. I understand that we are all still learning how to treat one another in love. I've made mistakes. I’m learning how to be friends with guys. We all have various backgrounds, cultures, and families that have affected the way we interact with one another. I believe though that the potential heart ache is worth the pursuit of God-honoring friendships.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014


It is so good to remember.

Quarantined to my dorm room with the flu, I have had many days of doing nothing, but today...I've been remembering. In light of Rebecca's death this week I've been re-reading many of my old blog posts. Posts about uncertainty, and discomfort, and growth. Just by reading through my posts in order I was able to see God's faithfulness and his incomparable grace.

Rebecca's life exhibited His grace on a grand scale. She took a fall and her life was drastically and forever changed, but she grasped Jesus' hand tightly with the knowledge that His hand ultimately held hers, and she submitted through the pain and the change, learning to rejoice, teaching others around her to say with her, "Thank you, Lord". I was able to be part of only three months of her life, but I was blessed to see more of Jesus in those three months; blessed to know more intimately the God that Rebecca cherished, loved, and lived for. I know Him more intimately now in part thanks to the journey He's had me on since serving Rebecca in Belgium.

As Katina and I were leaving for the airport our last morning in Genval, we rushed to Rebecca's room to say our last goodbye. We entered the room in a whirlwind, and Rebecca was so pleased to see us for she thought we had had to leave earlier without saying goodbye. She was still in her bed, but was about to be lifted out for her breakfast and time with the Lord by her garden window. I remember grasping her hand so tightly and just staring into her eyes, not wanting to release my gaze. Both our eyes were welling in tears, just as mine are now.

As probably all her caregivers can attest to, we had some great times. You can read about some of them in my previous blogs if you'd like, but really, she was a servant of the King: mold-able, usable, loving, caring, insightful, gospel sharing, wise, always learning, always seeking, and always pursuing the Lord. She would have us fold the pages of her Bible in half so she could turn them with her hand, and her prayer list, full of names and previous caregivers whom she hadn't forgotten, whom she prayed for, marked her spot. Sometimes she would call one of us in for a refill of tea, and she would share a particular verse that she was studying along with what Jesus was teaching her that morning.

I loved her laugh, her smile, her knowing wink, her sweet kisses on my cheek, and her hilarious sense of humor. I remember one night, as she was brushing her teeth and I held her spit cup underneath her chin, she paused, smirked, looked slyly at me, resumed brushing and spit, then declared to me in a joking voice, "the devil told me to spit at you, but I resisted him". And her kisses usually came with the sweet message that Jesus had told her I needed a kiss.

...So many memories.

What a legacy.

Since they're seven hours ahead of us, it's the early morning of the day of her funeral. I know it will be blessed. There are so many people whom she has touched. So many she has loved. I pray that in her death, He is glorified as He was in her life, and that Christ's message will be amplified. Please pray for her family, for her husband Paul, for her caregivers past and present, for the nurses who came daily, and that the city of Genval would erupt with the message of the gospel this day.

She is thrilled to be with her Savior. She is free. She endures no more pain. She can walk! She can lift her arms. What a beautiful gospel we have. Full of hope and peace. What a thrill it must be to see Jesus' face!

If you were a caregiver or friend, and you happen to read this, feel free to share any of your favorite stories of Rebecca. I'd love to hear them.