Change: part 3

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I stood in Dillard’s on November 8th, 2017. I perused through the sale jewelry, scanning for rose gold ear rings. The final days of wedding planning were coming to an end quickly, and I was in full-speed to keep up. As popular as the rose gold trend is, finding a pair I liked was surprisingly hard. And when I did find a pair, I’d pick them up, hold them to my ear, and stare at my reflection, pretending I was already standing in that lace, ivory dress.

 

None of them worked. They were too dangly, too casual, too fancy. None of them worked.

 

I was looking through a small, rotating rack when an older, shorter woman came beside me. I couldn’t quite pinpoint where she was from, but as we talked, I could tell English wasn’t her first language. She was looking for Kate Spade, and when she realized I had already found it, she told me to take my time.

 

“Oh, I’m looking for my wedding jewelry. You don’t want me to take my time,” I told her, grinning and stepping away.

 

Her face lit up. “When is your wedding?”

 

“It’s next week. Friday, actually,” I told her. She raised her eyebrows and I could only imagine what she must be thinking: “Who waits until the week before their wedding to find jewelry????”

 

I continued, “Honestly, I’m getting married with or without these ear rings. No matter what, there will be a wedding, and it will be awesome,” I told her.

 

She laughed, doubled over and told me I was the funniest person she had ever met.

 

“You’re like my daughter,” she said. “My daughter said the same thing. She told me, ‘Mom, the wedding is one day only. After the wedding is forever. That is what matters most. That is most important. Our love and promise are most important,’” the woman explained in her accented English.

 

We shopped beside each other for a few minutes. She’d offer a suggestion, and I’d get her opinion on another set- although, it didn’t take us long to realize we had exhausted the options. She wished me the best of luck and happiness, and then we turned our separate ways as I left the store, deciding I’d worry with it the next day.

 

:: :: ::

 

That was one month ago. I was in the final days of wedding planning, and could go from feeling like everything was finished to nothing at all within seconds. I was exhausted, I was excited, I was anxious, and I was ready. The waiting was nearly over as the celebration and tasting of the fruits of my labor neared.

 

Two months ago I was in the thick of a workload that was too heavy to carry. I’d spend an hour commuting into Nashville, lesson plan and teach all morning into the afternoon, and then go to work at Gap all afternoon into the night. I’d get in my car to make that 45 minute drive back home at 10 PM, knowing that my bedtime app was set to wake me up just after 5 AM. There was no time with friends, and barely time to sit and eat full meals. I snapped at coworkers, and yawned throughout my entire shift. I felt distant and tired at home. I missed reading and writing. And somehow, I still found the time to tie up the loose ends on the lessons and wedding I hadn’t quite finished.

 

Four months ago I helped Travis move to Nashville. I cried when we left his parents’ home in the Midwest, because I realized how much they must trust me to let him leave. Watching your son leave for a girl over 300 miles away has never been an easy task, and I felt selfish asking them to do that. But, we did it. We made the trek down I-65 on the day of the Eclipse and made it to the parking lot at our apartment one minute before totality. And then we talked about perfect timing every second after that.

 

Five months ago I picked up my first teaching job. I met a class of 3 students in a small, outdated classroom in the lower level of an apartment complex. This was my first class on the field. I was bright eyed and bushy-tailed. I felt dreams coming true, and if this was the only class I ever got to teach, I wanted to know I had given them my all.

 

That class and I met daily for a few weeks, with the hopes of continuing to meet a couple days a week after that. I knew the class would only get to continue on grant-support if students continued showing interest. I also knew that at the end of the initial 4 weeks—if the class did continue– my paid 18 hours of the class would drop drastically and be replaced with only 6 because of the change in the schedule. The amount of worry and uncertainty woven in that was difficult to accept, but I did it with as much grace as I could because I had been called.

 

And you can’t argue with a calling if you want to get somewhere.

 

:: :: ::

 

At some point in my Christian walk, I learned that faithfulness isn’t always a big, grand step leading to an earth-shaking decision. More often than not, it’s small. Quiet. And it leads to other small, quiet steps.

 

I’m a dreamer– an impatient, eager, anxious dreamer at that. Woven in my core are big hopes, and world-changing desires that I want today. Waiting until tomorrow or the next day isn’t an option. I’m the one who wants faithfulness to look like that big, grand, earth-shaking step. I want to see it right now.

 

But God is wiser than that. Faithfulness would be too easy if we only had to take one big step and finish. We would glory in the work of our hands, and create messes even bigger and grander than the ones we already do.

 

It’s the small, quiet steps that require us to continue coming back day after day. Those are the difficult ones, because they’re the ones that require us to move slower than we want. But, it’s in those little steps that we’re transformed. It’s here—as we put one foot in front of the other, day after day– that our strength learns to depend on Him and our desires rooted in faithfulness are conformed to His. And boy, does He move and work. His plans move thick, sweet, and slow like honey from the comb. I bet I could find a Bible verse about that too.

 

That’s what faithfulness actually looks like: a continuation of focused, intentional decisions followed through with action. This the transforming, difficult task of showing up day in and day out.

 

:: :: ::

 

God, in His kindness that transcends my understanding, has allowed me to live in a season of faithfulness even when I felt unfaithful and worn thin.

 

Six months ago, I published my last blog post. It was about change and not knowing what’s coming next. Since we’re being transparent here, I’ll admit to you that post will remain in every season for the rest of my life. Now that I realize faithfulness comes in small, quiet, and quite frankly, often unexciting steps, I can accept change in the same way.

 

The last season has been busy and stressful, but still woven with a confidence that the right, good things were happening. Day after day, I looked at what had been placed in my hands and decided to do something with it. And my God, did He do miraculous things with it.

 

Since then, that first class I took on has grown. What started as 3 now averages at 10-12 students every class, simply because they told their friends about English class. What’s more, I’ve been offered numerous opportunities to take on tutoring-like classes that meet with students in their home. Now, I meet with 4 different families to teach them English at their kitchen table. My students are from Myanmar, Sudan, Cuba, Iraq, Nepal, Somalia, and even on the most difficult days, they are worth it. We show each other grace and fight to learn an entirely new culture, language, and land.

 

And wouldn’t you know, I have more paid teaching hours now than what I began with 5 months ago. Teaching has never been about the money, but realistically speaking, paid work is necessary. And I’m grateful to have been provided for. What’s sweeter is the collection of conversations and memories I have with my students, when I learned about their life as refugees and about the homes they left behind. Worry number one. Gone.

 

Since then I’ve also moved my entire life to center on the most kind, loving guy I’ve ever met. Travis and I spent the fall scrambling to begin paying bills, while also working to pay for a wedding. The numbers were scary, but it happened. And on November 17th, in a pair of pearl earrings my mother had given me years ago, we promised to love each other first for the rest of our days on this earth. We watched as friends and family both near and far traveled to celebrate with us at a lodge in the woods. We drank coffee together, and we worshipped with the entire congregation, giving praise to God for all He had done.

 

We celebrated our first week of married life hiking mountains and following trails, and when we came back home to Nashville, we were thrilled to remember we have an entire life ahead of us to build. My commutes to work and classes are about 10 minutes now, and we have an adorable Christmas tree in our home. Although we’re now in the middle of learning our routine together, we’re grateful that we have a collection of memories of our perfect wedding day in place of the planning that once overtook us.

 

And just like that, all the other worries subsided too.

 

:: :: ::

 

That lady in Dillard’s was right. The wedding day was important, but the marriage after that continues far past one day.

 

Taking on that first class was important, but desiring to serve my students months later continues.

 

Moving to Nashville was important, but building a home and building a relationship with this community continues.

 

Making one decision to follow that sweet, heavenly Voice was important, but walking more of these quiet, baby steps continues. Faithfulness would be cheap if it were anything less than those quiet, baby steps.

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Change: part 2

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Last August I admitted the words I’ve denied all throughout college: I want to be a teacher. And just two weeks after graduating college, I began training to become a teacher of English as a second language.

 

I began a summer intensive course at the beginning of June. During the last year, the possibility of this course has entered my circles during the most unexpected moments. I’ve gotten connected with the friend of a friend who went through this same course. I’ve met the friend of the mom I babysit for when she arrived unplanned at the front door on a night when I normally don’t babysit. There have been undeniable moments of affirmation. I knew it was where I needed to go—my calling, if you will—but I had a hard time stomaching that.

 

Seriously, God? You want me to give up an entire month of full time work? And you want me to pay the money I won’t be earning in order to take a class? Even though I just finished college? And you still want me to marry Travis, because you know that requires lots of money, right? Can you even do math? Are you sure this is it? 

 

I argued. Not because I didn’t want to do it, but because it made no sense. By the standards of the world and the math equations, it made no sense for me to commit to it.

 

They asked me,

So you just finished school, and you’re going back? 

And you’re planning a wedding and aren’t even working right now? 

But wait, you seriously just graduated college and don’t have a real job?  

I bet you have a lot of debt though, huh? 

 

“Yup, that’s it. You got it,” I’d respond in a poetic, long-winded way. The longer my rambling responses became the weaker my confidence became and the louder my doubt spoke. I grew frustrated at my inability to predict my future and discouraged by the feeling that everyone was disappointed in me because of that.  

 

I’ve come away from those conversations a little bruised and a little timid at the magnitude of everything I’m getting myself into. Something about 22 makes everyone think you’re supposed to have your life figured out. They assume you’re young and invincible. You’re bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. You don’t have kids or a mortgage yet. But, you do have that college degree on your résumé and the engagement ring on your finger. Surely that means you have it figured out, right?

 

My future sister-in-law asked me, “Did you ask them if they had it figured out at your age? You’re in a different place and that’s fine. You do you. You know what you want and you are working to get there. Whether it’s a year from now or 10 years from now when you arrive at that place, it’ll be worth it.” 

 

:: :: ::

 

I’ve found there are many things I don’t have—a specific plan that leads me to six-figures, a job opportunity that will land me full-time and benefits immediately, enough money to pay off all my student loan debt and pay for a wedding in the next 5 months. I’m lacking and in some spheres, I’m just plain empty.

 

But the things I do have far outweigh what I don’t have. Things like faith in a God who calls, leads, and sustains. I have a collection of moments that look something like miracles. I have faith in a God who sees the big picture, and reminds me that my perspective is not His.  

 

He’s in the business of taking us to places during seasons that don’t make sense. They can’t be explained by worldly standards. No matter how many times you work that math problem, you still come up short. He doesn’t stop though—instead, He boldly calls the weak to places that require us to lean on His strength.

 

“You can’t fathom the countless ways I’ve guarded you when you didn’t even realize it. Your very breath is sustained by Me,” He promises.

 

I talk about leaning into His grace as if it’s easy for me. But this is the dirt on leaning: it’s about trusting, obeying, and following. Even when it looks impossible.  

 

 

:: :: ::

 

Two weeks ago:

I observed an ESL classroom. The teacher gave me the names of 6 students before the class began, and only 3 of them showed up. I watched. Observed. Made notes. Prayed I’d be prepared to do this in a just a few days, and wondered if it’ll be too late to jump ship if I’m not.

 

Last week:

I taught the class for the first time. I gathered materials for 5 students, which felt like a hopeful number, and worried that no one would come. Imagine my disbelief when 10 students showed up. My partner teacher and I rearranged the table and chairs, and quickly made extra copies. I observed his teaching before delivering my own 1.5 hour planned lesson to the class. After the students left the classroom later, our trainer immediately applauded us.

 

“Well done. You’re naturals. You got through that first class well. I’m very impressed,” she said.

 

I couldn’t shake the thought: we’re meant to be here. My like-minded partner teacher and I were called by God to be here, and it is by His grace that we not only survived this first class, but even thrived. That was the first day my prayer was genuine when I said, “Give me more. So much more.” 

 

Yesterday:

I planned for 10 students to come, but thought that surely no more than 8 would return this week. As always, I was wrong. All 10 students returned to class. And this week, we laughed a little more. I learned a few more things about them. I asked a few more intentional questions. I delivered a lesson that was way more fun to prepare for and plan. Afterwards, I watched my partner teacher deliver his half of the lesson. And again, at the end of it, our trainer applauded our work.

 

We talked about the nit-picky things we need to fix, and she commended us again, “You’re naturals. I don’t say that lightly.” I had that same thought again—the one about grace, and God calling the unlikely. Before she left, she sent my A+ lesson plan with her remarks back to me, and commented, “This is your beautiful lesson. I’m so proud of your work.” 

 

Left alone to my thoughts, I texted Travis, “This is such a fulfilling work. This is what I want to do.” Something deeper worked in me as I typed that text.

 

He replied, “I’m so happy you found your place, Bri.”

 

I rested in that. And then I grabbed a cold brew and showed up to this Word Document to testify, just because I like the way it sounds: this is fulfilling work. This is what I want to do.  

 

:: :: ::

 

I believe that the English Second Language classroom is worth it because the students I work with are worth it.

 

They represent Ukraine, Mexico, China, El Salvador, Venezuela, Sri Lanka. They are mothers to small toddlers and middle schoolers, they are high schoolers with dreams to attend private university, they are 20-somethings just trying to put it all together. They volunteer at hospitals, drive to Mississippi during the middle of the work week for a funeral, give me advice on how to get over a cold, wake up at 5:30 just to play with their little ones. They get nervous about flying on airplanes because they hear the news and worry about their plane falling out of the sky. But, they also love the window seats in an airplane because they love to see the clouds from the sky, and to look down at the beautiful world below.

 

They come to a 3 hour English class on Saturday mornings, where I encourage them but also correct them. I’ll call them out in front of the whole class because I’m so eager to hear them pronounce the word correctly. And then I’ll do the same with their neighbor just so I can show them that we’re all in this together.  

 

I believe in them. I know they have lives outside of English class. Some work full-time jobs, some are full-time students. They have families to care for, and dreams for their life. And somewhere in the middle of it all, they found a desire to show up for an English class on a weekend morning—whether it’s their one day off work, or they’re going to work right after. They came and I got to meet them there.

 

That’s worth it. That level of dedication and commitment is worth it. I advocate for this diversity because it is the closest earthly image I can grasp of my Heavenly Father. And I prayed again, with so much more certainty than last week, “Give me more, so much more of this.”

 

:: :: ::

 

I received a beautiful, colorful mug that reads, “Oh, the places you’ll go!” at my graduation party last month. My coffee is black, and I spend many mornings over that mug quietly asking God to show me those places. Because I, like you, believe that dream. I believe that dream that we are going to places far beyond our wildest imagination. I believe we’re made to go places we never thought we’d reach, and live a life straight out of a novel.  

 

I also believe those places are so big and transformational. And, it’s of God’s grace that He takes us there one season at a time. If He showed every idea for us all at once, we’d back out and count every inadequacy solidifying our decision to stay put in the safe zone. Like, if we sat down and He read the story of my life to me in His beautiful, holy God voice, I’d lose it. I’d lose every ounce of courage at the magnitude of what I knew He was asking me to do. 

 

You want me to go there? Do that? Invest in those people? You really think I’m designed to do that? No way, God. I’m not that girl. There’s someone else who can play that better than me. Choose her. Not me. I’m out.  

 

I get so caught up in the plan and the end of it, that I miss out on the sheer joy of the discovery during its unfolding. I expect to understand all the little workings of His plans, and when my small humanness can only live a day of it at a time, I’m tempted to look at Him and tell Him I don’t believe Him—as if my inadequacies are His too.

 

:: :: ::

 

I babysat last night after I finished teaching. I hung out with these boys every Tuesday and Thursday last semester, and it was so good to see them for the first time in a couple weeks. Afterwards, I talked with their mom– as we have so many times before– and she promised me there is always a place for me to come back to their home. Since I haven’t been able to do more than 8 hours of weekly paid work this month, you can imagine the awe I felt toward God’s provisions at that offer.

These are His provisions. This is Him taking care of me– taking care of the very breath in my lungs.

She was one of my biggest encouragers to take this step, and is continuing to encourage me as any good, good mother does. It’s no coincidence that I’ve crossed path with people like this. Driving home, I reveled in the awesome opportunities He’s handing me. I came to two thoughts.

 

First thing: I don’t know where I’m going. 

 

A weight is coming off my shoulders just typing that. I don’t know what’s coming next. I’m catching glimpses of what I could do—drive a mobile classroom to teach refugees, take on some classes at the Institute in Metro Center, start my own teaching groups. I think I have some job opportunities ahead, but who can really know until I’m there? The possibilities are endless. And thank God it’s not up to me to know the end of them right now. Thank God all I have to do is be faithful to show up, and He will lead me to the places I don’t even know are an option right now.

 

Second thing: I’m finally getting comfortable with that. 

 

A World Relief coworker prayed over me back in April. He asked God to help me discover His plans with joy and wonder. I smiled when he said it and wrote that prayer down in my notebook. That prayer means so much more to me now than it did even just a few months ago. I hope my friend believed that prayer when he spoke it, because I am clinging to it daily in a season that is full of change, change, change.

 

This story was never mine to write from cover to cover. I only have enough in my pockets to know about today. The first part of change was knowing when to say goodbye, even when it hurts. And the second part of change is having the courage to keep walking to new places, even when it doesn’t make sense.

 

No, I don’t have the answers. No, I’m not wealthy. No, I can’t tell you what life will look like when I graduate with my TESL Certificate in 2 weeks. But to realize that the shackles of authoring my life and perfecting every line have been ruined, I can honestly tell you without doubt or shame: I don’t know what’s coming next and I’m okay with that.

 

I’m free, I’m free.

Change: part 1

An Open Letter to the Places I’m Leaving Behind

 

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May 16, 2017

This week feels like a line in a song. I’m saying my goodbyes as doors that have remained open suddenly close. These are weeks are transition and at the end of it all, everything changes. It’s the part in the song where the soft music builds up all at once as the instruments come in to meet the voice. At the top of it, we bellow out, “Been talking ‘bout the way. Things. Chaaaange!”

I can’t say that I didn’t know this was coming. In fact, I’ve been doing a lot of countdowns the last few months. They’ve been the best of days and the worst of days, and I’ve been so eager to get to the part where everything changes—

Get me closer to saying my vows to Travis. Get me closer to working for a full-time paycheck. Get me closer to reading, journaling, painting, and blogging again. Get me closer to the friends in my corner. Get me closer to the places I’ve been led to so that these wonderful plans can finally come to fruition. Get me to the part where all these dreams come to life.

Finally, those days have come, and honestly: I didn’t know it would feel like this. Somewhere in the midst of all my eager planning, I forgot that I would say goodbye. Like, somehow I failed to realize what those prayers would look like once they were answers.

There would be last times. There would be final moments with people who have walked alongside me for years, and the final moments with those I’ve only known for a short time would be just as difficult. The season of change would come to change my world just like it did when it arrived.

I’ve grown these last four years. And it’s because of the uncountable ways that God has revealed Himself to me through these unique people, places, and moments. I stand in awe at the plots He’s woven.

These are the letters addressed to those places that sat at root of my prayers and countdowns. They each hold a deeper significance in my heart than I could ever pen, but they made goodbye both beautiful and difficult. And aren’t those the best goodbyes?

:: :: ::

To Wyldlife:

I landed in your path and drove the other direction. Literally, I came to meet you and then turned around because of the number of people who I saw also standing in your path. I was so scared and listed every reason why I wasn’t good enough to be in that number too. But, the Lord beckoned me to come back. It took me a few days, but I did come back. The Lord was relentless— goodness, He wouldn’t let me forget it— and I’m so glad for that now. I summoned what little courage I had at the time, and came back to you.

That was 3 years and 9 months ago.

Since then, you have led me to a small group that spoke life into me every week. You led me to rooms of strangers, teaching me to call them sisters and brothers. You led me to early morning ice skating lessons, spontaneous coffee dates, dance parties in the gym. You led me to love the middle schoolers at FRA. You led me to have the courage to show up for them. No matter how tired or worried I was, you were always there to remind me: the fight is worth it.

You’ve pushed me out of my comfort zone. I was a timid, fearful person before I met you. But, you built my confidence so that I could make friends like Jesus did. Every early morning and late night was worth it because of the moments when you taught me what it looks like to live a life of abandon for the sake of others.

You taught me that God doesn’t make junk. In a time when I believed I was “too quiet,” “too awkward,” or “not enough” for this life of ministry, you whispered the truth in my ear: you are who you are because God made it so. He ordained it, and because of you, I have the confidence to rise when He calls.

Thank you for making the Bible come to life. Somewhere along the way, during the long, long time with you, I realized that this life of loving others isn’t meant to be left on the pages. It’s meant to be lived out with sacrifice, grace, trust, and passion to be like Jesus and tell others about Him too. This story is a moving, living, breathing, feeling one, and because of you, I know that now.

No one with a willing heart is too awkward, quiet, or inadequate for the plans of God. And, Wyldlife, you have proven that me and saved me a lifetime of feeling guilty for falling short. Thank you for proving to me my humanity, and walking with me every step of the way. You’ve shown me what it means to show up for someone despite the fear lurking in my heart, and I’ll always remember you as the one who changed me first.

:: :: ::

To World Relief Nashville:

You were not in my plans, but I’m so glad you bravely stepped in anyway. I remember when I heard your name for the first time 3 years ago, but it didn’t work out and my heart wasn’t in it. Honestly, I just didn’t get you and I don’t think I had the compassion to care then either.

This year though, my heart was in a better place to understand. I was opened in so many ways to you, and I’m grateful for that. You taught me to always lean on God’s timing— both in the mundane, everyday routine and in the big-picture dreams.

You worked me to the bone many days. My 5 hour shifts often turned into 7, 8, or 11 hours. But, I stayed faithful to the race because you showed me there was a need to be met and a fruit in the work. I’ve lived in the same 25 mile radius for most of my life, and I never knew how many international communities are represented in sweet Nashville. And how could I have known that many of these people come from war? They’ve spent their lives running and fleeing, and most of them only know what it means to live life by merely trying to survive. You opened my eyes to this: the world is bigger than just me and that begins in this city.

I know why I turned away from you 3 years ago: I wouldn’t have stayed. If you had told me then that I would be walking into the homes of strangers, showing them how to buy groceries in Walmart, attempting to communicate through translators, spending all morning just driving people to and from the doctor’s office… I would have backed away then.

But, you showed me grace in every hard situation. I’ll never forget the way my supervisor ended every text message with, “God bless you, my sister”— even on the days I was late to work or didn’t understand an assignment. Even when I had numerous questions and sometimes took a little longer on an assignment than planned, you still invited me to continue walking alongside you. Those moments spoke life into my heart because you exemplified the meaning of grace on this earth, which is something I’ve struggled with for years.

You broke my heart in the best ways. As I watched the hurt of others and the struggle to learn how to make a life in America out of nothing, my compassion grew. You taught me truth in the midst of innumerable lies, as if you took my hand gently and explained all the things I was wrong about. In hindsight, I’m so glad I was wrong.

And as I watched you close your doors forever, my heart broke more. The news came in February— I had only been with you for a little over a month— that your ministry was nearing its final days. That day, we cried in the office. Every day after that, we prayed together. At first I was mad, but it dissolved as I watched your response. You acted with such grace as you trusted the plans of God first and foremost. I heard you pray for your enemies to be changed and for the friends that you were already missing. I listened closely as you continued to work relentlessly with every last moment offered to you. The desks and cubicles were cleared and by the time I said my goodbye, there were only a handful left. Your trust, maturity, kindness, grace, and leaning on the Lord was awe-inspiring and moving.

You taught me to accept change. You taught me to extend grace in every situation. You taught me to run a race faithfully to the finish. You taught me to lean into the plans of God, not sparing a single

It was never easy but it was always worth. Thank you, WRN, for proving to me the fight is always worth it and that the plans of God are so much more wild than my I could pen on my own. 

:: :: ::

To the Brontës:

You loved me from the beginning of this college journey. As soon as I came to Welch, you saw me and pursued me. And even after I chose to join your number, you continued to love me. That spoke louder to me than you’ll ever know.

You included me when I needed community and invited me when I felt inadequate. I have loved watching your personality shift and shape during our time at Welch. Truly, you have grown into a group of girls that serves eagerly, loves fiercely, and walks alongside each other passionately. You have been an anchor for me during my time at our small Bible college, and a safe place I can go to without fail.

You gave me three incredible gifts. First, you showed me that everything can be done with excellence to the glory of God. Even though our group is a mandatory presence on campus, you showed me how to do that with eager, genuine passion. I have seen that innumerable times— especially this year— and it fills me with pride to see such an active faith lived out in you. We might be a small number, but we have done a mighty work together simply because you chose to show up. Thank you for showing me how to do things with zeal and not just to mark it off the list. Life on campus has been more fun with you.

Second, thank you for trusting me to lead you this year. I couldn’t believe it when you nominated me to be your face and voice last year, but in hindsight, I’m so thankful I chose to believe you as much as you were believing in me. Every good idea I had this year came to life because of you. You took what I gave you with grace and kindness, and you crafted it all into something so much more than I could have done with my own hands. It has been an honor to be your president. My pride and joy for you is unreal— I can’t help but brag on you everywhere I go.

Thirdly, you have taught me that good leaders care about the future of their people. Truthfully, I care more about you all today than I did when I arrived. And that is a testament to the beautiful, beautiful friendship we have created in our sisterhood. I’m so sad to leave you during such a great time during our history, but I have complete confidence in the work that is coming ahead. The best days are just ahead and I am so proud to have stood among your ranks. I truly believe with all my heart that these days coming will be the mountaintops for our society.

From dressing like tacky tourists for a trunk-or-treat. To going camping in my backyard for a night. To passing out popsicles to every person at lunch on our emphasis day during Rush Week. To showing up to serve at a church on Saturday morning— you have been so faithful, and I can only say this: this year couldn’t have happened without you.

Thank you for being the fighters. The adventurers. The peace-keepers. The supporters. The athletes. The encouragers. The joy-givers. The gentle warriors. The angels. The motivators. The sass factors. The ones who love and show up as faithfully as a mother.

You are all the things I aspire to be, and I commend you for living them so well. You are worthy of all the recognition I can offer, and I will always speak of you with grace and love because that is what you have spoken to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

:: :: ::

To the Second Floor in the Girls Dorm:

You are precious. And my only regret from this experience is that I didn’t get to be with you longer. You’ll never know how many nights I came to my room after I checked yours just to snuggle up to my pig stuffed animal and thank God for you.

Because here’s the thing: you made this RA job worth it. Like, this wasn’t just about getting a paycheck or forcing myself to live on campus longer than I actually needed to. This was all about the ways I wanted to love and serve you. Even though there were so many nights that I just wanted to go to sleep before 11:30, you made the job worth it.

When we stopped and talked for over an hour during room checks, whenever you came to my room looking for answers and trusting me to have them, when you texted me just to encourage me in my position— you made the job worth it.

You might have noticed by now, but I am not always eager to go out of my way to approach others. But, you gave me a reason to break out of that mold. Because of your place in God’s plans, my desire to talk to people I wouldn’t normally cross paths with grew. That is a lesson I’ve wanted to learn for years, and you gave me the tools to do it.

Honestly, you all probably taught me far more than I ever could have taught you. Sometimes I still think the school is crazy for allowing me to lead in such a precious position, but I’m immensely grateful it happened. Although I undeniably am eager to get out of dorm life, I am often reminded that these days have been so significant because it means I have gotten to live under the same roof as some of the best girls in the world.

Thank you for teaching me about serving even when it’s uncomfortable. And as you continue to share this roof with some of the best girls in the world, I hope you’ll remember: it won’t always be like this, so make the most of every late night conversation and room check you can get. The Lord bless you and keep you, my friends. Thank you for being my home away from home and a place of refuge.

P.S. thank you for being good sports when I took the trashcan away.

:: :: ::

To the College Lifestyle:

Bye. Bye, bye, bye.

There is no doubt: you came to me at a time when I needed to prove to myself that I could do this. You know— that I could live on my own, find my way around, feed myself, make decisions constantly. I needed to know that I could do those things.

I think my heart for you changed when I realized I could. All the things that once felt impossible became possible because of you.

You were not easy though. It has been a journey of mountains and valleys as I have worked my fingers to the bone to do the things you asked of me. Work, class, ministry, internship, writing— there was never a dull moment with you. Sometimes I hated you. Sometimes I already missed you before you left. But every day, you were creating a person out of me that I wouldn’t have had the courage to be 4 years ago.

All these letters and sentiments have been made possible because of you, and my heart is broken at the weight of the fullness of that realization of that tonight. You have given me an experience that I know the vast majority of the world will never see. I am privileged and gifted beyond measure, and you are only one facet of it. I’ve read wonderful poetry, I’ve studied the Truth of the Bible, and I’ve learned how to be faithful to the hustle because of you.

Every hard day was worth it because of the bigger picture you had in mind. Thank you for giving me a spark to stay, even when it got hard.

:: :: ::

May 18, 2017

I started The Office during the spring of my freshman year. And wouldn’t you know, it’s graduation week and I’ve only made it halfway through season 5. It’s the only show I’ve gotten into during college, and the one thing I never quite learned how to be faithful to during the last 4 years. What a shame.

I just watched the episode where Michael leaves Dundler Mifflin to create Michael Scott Paper Company. After Dwight turns his back on Michael, the pair begin to prank each other and outsmart one another. The thing is, Dwight is just upset that Michael is stealing all his clients and Dundler Mifflin is just upset that Michael’s company is actually succeeding.

Honestly, it made me proud of the guy. Bless him.

The thing gets so out of hand that Dundler Mifflin makes an offer to Michael for his paper company. They make a low offer first, and Michael’s going to take it, and then…. he doesn’t. He declines. And then, Dundler Mifflin comes back with a much nicer counteroffer. It makes his jaw drop, but again, he declines. He tells them, “What we need are jobs to sustain us. We need insurance, benefits, a place to work. Not this money.”

Seriously, bless Michael Scott. As crazy as he is, it works.

At the close of the show, Michael tells the camera: “There are certain defining moments in a person’s life. The day he’s born, the day he grows hair, the day he starts a business, and the day he sells that business back to Dundler Mifflin. What have I learned from all this? It is far too early to tell. All I know is I am flying high and I don’t even want to think about it. I just want to enjoy it.”

I paused when he said it. I replayed it a couple times, and then I wrote it down so I could share it with you too. Because I think he’s on to something—

there’s something really significant about being in the middle of a huge life moment. It’s a moment that you’ve only heard about or read about, and when you’re finally there you just want to experience it for yourself. So when you finally do get there, you just want to soak it in like a sponge.

In just over 24 hours, I’ll say my final remarks to the Welch community. I’ll slide on that black gown and hang that tassel from my cap. They’ll call my name as I walk across that stage and receive the diploma I have worked for these last 4 years. And after that, everything will change.

Everything will change, and praise God for a bittersweet goodbye as it tumbles off my lips. It’s a blessing to know when it’s time to say goodbye, and when that goodbye is difficult because of the fullness of the moments that made it so.

Don’t overanalyze it. Don’t over plan it. Don’t worry about it so much that you forget to just pause and be present.  All the learnings and lessons will fall into place when it’s time, and will likely continue doing so in more ways than you can count.

Don’t miss it— be here. Be present. Enjoy it. And praise God for every good, good goodbye.

Every plan I made in autumn came to life in the spring.

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I always knew I’d fall in love during autumn.

Something about watching the trees turn extravagantly, clutching warm coffee a little closer, and breathing in days that grow shorter makes me want to fall like those vibrant leaves. I’m smitten during autumn, and I never would have guessed that he would fall too.

The truth is, though, I didn’t know that that falling in love in autumn would change my spring. The wonderful, terrifying, beautiful truth is that I didn’t know falling in love in autumn would change my spring, and the way I see growth and beauty. In all those daydreams set in front of a red and orange backdrop, I never thought that falling in love would extend far past one season and I would get the chance to watch the broken leaves come to life over and over again.

I guess when I think of spring, I should think of flowers, hammocks under trees, and grass beneath our bare feet. And I do.

Spring defines more than just the changing of the weather. Her roots extend deeper than the sunlight giving life to the flowers and trees, and inviting all of us to come out of our rooms and out into warmth again—

Those things are noble, but oh, she is so much more than that. Spring is the soundtrack to the change woven within the story of my heart, and the transformation of becoming who I was carefully created to be.

Spring continues the stories that began in the autumn. And honestly, I have to admire her for rising to the task of jumping mid-sentence into my messy, indecisive, scatter-brained stories.

:: :: ::

If I’m going to tell you about spring, I have to tell you about the time I wore a school jersey, and ran around a track that made me feel like a speck. I ran in the last half of the pack, but finished in the first ten because my coach ran alongside me and I hustled to push. It was probably the only time I ever ran with such determination. But, I also have to tell you that I quit that task just days later because I didn’t think I could finish. That was 6 years ago.

I have to tell you that spring is the time when he broke my heart, and the next one did too. Tunes of sadness were my anthems. 6 and 5 years ago.

I have to tell you about the night my best friend and I drove beneath the stars and speculated, “There has to be more to life than what I’m doing now.” He heard me, and just months later, He began to break my heart in a way that was unlike the rest. Whereas the others demolished and burnt, this One tore down so He could rebuild. There marked 5 and 4 years ago.

That led to the first spring of freedom, marked by longing to pen my entire story in beautiful cursive on paper. 3 years ago.

If I’m going to tell you about spring, I have to tell you about the voicemail I listened to a dozen times just to make sure I heart it correctly, and repeated it even more in my head: you got the job. You got your dream camp job–

I battled hard in the spring, believing I had to be perfect before I could be used. 2 years ago.

And I have to tell you that somewhere in the middle of all that, I spent too much time in a hammock, and innumerable times I looking toward the sky and giving myself away over and over—

I have to tell you about the conversations, dreams, heart breaks, victories, and divine moments that filled my springs with hope, excitement, and building; years and years of building.

But there’s one more thing. If I’m going to tell you about spring, I have to tell you about one of the last days of winter. It was the day he asked if he could take me to dinner and hugged me for the first time. It was cloudy, we wore hoodies, and my head spun.

And I have to tell you that he followed up with that promise.

It was the night that I stopped at Gap, just at the top of the escalator, and bought a striped tee shirt dress after work, made it to my dorm room in record time, and saw one of my best friends sitting on my bed with a flat iron. The curls she put in my hair stayed even as I paced around the room, saying, “This is happening. I have a date tonight. This is really happening. Why am I just now freaking out about this?”

I’ll tell you that we walked downstairs to meet him, his eyes passed over the friends that had walked me to the front door like mothers. His eyes immediately found mine, and he just smiled. When we were finally out of ear shot, he said, “You look beautiful.” I heard my heels tap on the sidewalk and I smiled as he opened the car door for me. I caught a glimpse of my best friends looking out from the window just at the end of the sidewalk, and I wondered if the happiness in my heart was the thing they talk about in books and songs.

If I’m going to tell you about spring, I have to tell you about the restaurant we ate at and the way I giggled when he later told me that he could barely eat because he was so nervous.

I have to tell you about the moment we walked beneath the Nashville sky, and he slowed down just so he could call me his girl.

1 year ago.

And if I’m going to tell you about spring, I have to tell you that every story she has ushered in has taught my heart to boldly blossom emerge from the cold, cold winters. Spring has become a symbol of the growth of my being and reconciliation of my desires to its Creator as it meets the fullness of life by seeking wisdom, dreaming bigger, and moving unapologetically.

Now.

:: :: ::

Throughout the seasons, spring became an illustration of flourishing. As I broke my heart, ran hard, and sought Love even harder, my soul became restored. He reached out for me and beckoned me to grow, grow, grow.

Because when I think of the boy I fell in love with in autumn, I think of the way things changed in the spring— the way we grow with the blooming trees, and the way we do things completely beyond ourselves in the moments we choose to not be guided by ourselves.

I think of spring, and I think of the way he loves me when I feel unlovable. The ways that he has moved toward me and with me relentlessly. It’s like even when I want to fall in darkness and short days, he waits for me to come back. He meets me to show me the bright colors, the soft grass, the sun, and the life that is blossoming.

Our story is more than one season. In all my daydreams, I never could have penned that story before he changed my plans last spring.

I’ll still fall in love every autumn, but he’ll never leave me there because every dreamed I dreamed and prayer I prayed in the autumn blossomed in the spring. 

She is a place that has woven herself into my story so that I could grow, rebuild, and become transformed closer to who I’m meant to be. Let me nurture that season fearlessly and relentlessly as I fight to be the girl I was made to be. All my autumn plans and daydreams, let them flourish in the spring.

All the doubts, heartbreaks, victories— let them become real.

Remind me always: every plan I made in autumn came to life in the spring.

:: :: ::

Inspired by the friends who make me wanna love spring more, one year spent with a boy that loves me unconditionally, and the Father cares for me wonderfully so that I might grow, grow, grow.