on feeling known by God

I moved to Chicago about nine and a half months ago, on Labor Day weekend. I loaded almost everything I own into my car and drove 1,200+ miles north by myself.

When I left Bulverde I felt enormously happy and thankful and hopeful, but also sad. I knew that me leaving would change things, in some ways permanently. And while that realization made me melancholic in some ways, I also knew that it was a good thing for the seasons to change.

As I drove through Arkansas, I prayed and sang a song about surrender over and over. As I cut through Tennessee, I cried for the first time – overwhelmed with both happiness and sadness, excitement about the future and regret for some things to end the way they did. When I entered the southern tip of Illinois, I saw the first sign for Chicago and realized that, though I felt a little nervous, I mostly felt like the Lord was going to take great care of me and that gave me such peace and hope.

In the last nine months, I have felt very close to God. I have known him as my closest friend, and I have been so grateful for that. In this season, I’ve remembered just a couple of years ago when the Lord told me we needed to strengthen our friendship, and I’ve remember how incredibly painful that process was. But the fruits of that season are so sweet now.

In addition to the closeness I have felt from God’s friendship, I have also felt close to him through his role as my provider. It’s truly incredible how the Lord has sustained me. He has provided rich friendships and community, he has been so gentle and gracious with my heart and emotions, he has given me supernatural energy and endurance, and he has generously sustained me financially. Honestly, when I think about all that the Lord has provided for me in just these last nine months, I am in awe.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

When I moved here nine months ago, I didn’t know of the things God would do, the people he would bring into my life, the opportunities he would provide, the ways he would love me and teach me and protect me. But now that I’m reflecting on some of those things, I’m realizing that this season has helped me feel known by God.

There are prayers I prayed for years – literally, years – that are being answered. There are things I’ve experienced and learned that are perfect examples of the Lord knowing me well – what I like, what I need, what scares me, what makes me feel alive. There are things God has done, or withheld from doing, that remind me that he understands me in a way no other friend ever will.

I’m reminded that the Lord not only heard all those prayers, but he listened, and he DELIGHTED in responding to them with perfect timing. I’m reminded that God created the deepest and most intricate parts of my character and personality and passions, and he works things out in my life for my good! I’m reminded that God knows what I need and what I don’t need, even when I’m not even sure for myself. I’m reminded that God is close to me, in all seasons, and he makes that closeness known in ways that I will understand.

I know that there are seasons of life in which we don’t feel close to God and we certainly don’t feel known or understood by God. So I am grateful for this season in which I am certain of these things. It will serve as yet another Ebenezer in my life – another season on which I will look back and know of God’s faithfulness, his trustworthiness, his goodness. It will be a light in the darkness when I need a reminder that God knows me and he loves me.

 

a mark of humanity

Written on November 11th, 2016

This morning as I was walking to a meeting, I came upon this tree full of chirping birds. Even from a block away, I could hear the birds warbling so loudly that it was almost startling. I slowed down to look up at the tree – literally hundreds of birds had gathered in its branches. They were all talking over each other, conspiring it seemed. I kept walking, approaching the tree as the sound of the chirping crescendoed, and then, suddenly, ALL of the birds stopped chirping at one time. For almost a full second they were silent. It was the kind of silence that seems loud. And then, in unison, they all sprung up from the branches and flew together across the street to the rooftop of a building. They formed this black cloud across the sky – there were so many of them swarming through the air together.

I gasped and said, “oh my goodness” out loud to myself. Up ahead of me there was another pedestrian who had witnessed the same thing. We’d both stopped in our tracks and watched in amazement at the birds. It was bewildering.

I caught up to the guy and said, “That was amazing!” He said excitedly, “Did you see that?! Did you see how they all stopped at the same time and then flew together?” “Yeah, it was incredible! That was such a special moment!” “I’m glad you saw that, too. Wow!” We laughed as we both stared up in disbelief at the rooftop.

We laughed in this electric sort of way, thrilled and amazed and, in some way, humbled. We’d both just witnessed this truly remarkable moment – something I would describe as the glory of God manifesting on Earth. And to see it together!

That, I believe, is a mark of humanity. To witness and share in the glory of God together, to celebrate it and marvel in it, to go on our separate ways but to be united in this shared experience.

26 goals

For the past few years I’ve been making this kind of list, but last year I didn’t make one. I knew I’d be moving across the country, so it was hard for me to conceptualize what my life would even look like six months from my birthday. A list of goals seemed hard to create. So instead I made a list of things I wanted to do/see/eat before I left Texas. But this year, I’m returning to the original list idea. These are things I want to do/try/grow in/see/experience in the next year of life (in no particular order):

26 Goals for my 26th

  1. Finish the Bible by December – I’ve been working through the Bible for about a year now, and my original goal was to read it all in a year. I think a year and a half to two years will be more likely 🙂
  2. Run that seven minute mile – This has been an elusive goal of mine for a couple of years. I want to accomplish it without risking injury, so I’m thinking it will happen early on in marathon season this year.
  3. Road trip to Michigan – I’ve always wanted to visit, and now I only live a few hours away!
  4. Swim in Lake Michigan – I live a mile away from the Lake! But it hasn’t been swimming weather in the time I’ve lived here. My goal is to swim in that ocean-of-a-lake many times this summer.
  5. Play more piano – learn more chords, more songs, and get better at singing and playing at the same time 🙂
  6. Cook more with a crock pot – Anyone have any good recipes?
  7. Go camping somewhere completely new – Camping makes it on my list every year because I just love it so much and my soul needs a good camping trip at least a couple times a year.
  8. Go to a UChicago football game – I went to a UChicago basketball game this winter and it was surprisingly fun. UChicago isn’t a very athletic school, but the games are free 🙂
  9.  Watch the sunrise over Lake Michigan – I’ve seen the sun rise over the Lake a few times since moving to Chicago six months ago. But I want to make it a semi-regular thing, at least when the weather is nice.
  10. Go fishing
  11. Weekend beach trip – Must be an overnight trip. A lake beach would count.
  12. Go to movies in the park this summer in Chicago
  13. More water color painting – I was starting to do this more in the winter of 2015, and then I just kind of stopped. But I enjoyed it, so I’d like to revisit this hobby, probably this summer.
  14. Find the best margarita in Chicago – Serious question: do good margaritas exist north of Texas???
  15.  Pray for people on public transportation – I love public transportation, and I try to ride it as often as possible. I usually spend time praying/worshiping to myself during my commute, but I want to be more intentional about praying for others when possible. Not sure what this looks like exactly, but it’s on my mind.
  16. Read a (short) book in Spanish this summer – Maybe a children’s book or some short stories that are beginner/intermediate level.
  17. Road trip with friend(s) – After two cross-country road trips on my own this year, I would love a road trip with good company 🙂
  18. More intentional meal times – Before grad school, I would have meals with friends pretty regularly. But since starting grad school my schedule (and budget) has changed a lot, so I don’t share as many meals with others as I would like. This year I want to be more intentional about sharing meals with friends (either at home, with packed lunches, or going out to eat). I think sharing meals with people is one of my favorite ways to be in ministry and community with others.
  19. Blog more – I’ve neglected this space, for many reasons, but I’d like to get back to blogging a bit more. Maybe once a month?
  20. Work on the Ingram family farm – My family owns a farm in southern Illinois, which I visited for the first time last fall. I desperately want to go back again this summer and help with the harvest and/or just do other work for a few days or more.
  21. Social media fast at the beginning of the year – I did it this year, for a month in January, and it was a truly refining and refreshing detox.
  22. Practice yoga more regularly 
  23. Learn more about my grandma – I recently listened to this podcast about listening, and it sort of convicted/inspired me to learn more about my grandmother (among other things – it’s a great podcast). I want to hear her stories and ask questions I’ve been too shy/proud to ask before.
  24. No Netflix right before bed; No checking phone (emails/social media) before getting out of bed – I’m usually pretty good about this, but I want to make it a more defined discipline for myself.
  25. Prioritize relationships (remember, relationships=productivity) – Grad school has kept me insanely busy and sometimes, I find that I will view time with friends as “unproductive” compared to other things I could/should be doing. While I do want to take my school work seriously, I do not want to overlook the rich value of relationships. Spending time with people, even if there truly are a bunch of other things I need to get done, does not need to be seen as unproductive.
  26. Be generous – I usually include a financial goal or two every year, but this year my finances are in a really unique situation (in that I’m basically unemployed, a full-time student, and I have very little financial flexibility). But, despite how stressful that can be, I’ve tried to focus on remembering how faithful God has been and how generous he calls me to be. So my goal is to be generous – with my resources, my prayers, my time, etc. In the past, I’ve learned the most about generosity from people who seemed to have fewer resources than me, so I believe my current situation poises me well to learn how to be generous in new ways. I’m embracing it.
  27. Bonus (only because I thought of it after I made 26 other goals): Go on a bike ride on the lake shore and/or go on more bike rides.

What are your goals for the coming months or year? Who wants to join me in some of these? 

Like a bucket scooping water

After working in ministry for a few years, and traveling to a few places, and generally just getting to know other humans, I have come to wonder with deep curiosity about how some people can survive so much death and still live.

I meet people who have endured unfathomable depths of grief and sorrow and devastation, and I just do not quite understand the true strength of the human resiliency. How can it be so? How can someone survive that, I wonder.


Sometimes, I meet a person and learn of their burdens and I just wish I could absorb all of it for them. I wish I could scoop it out of them, like a bucket scooping water, until there was only a little left – only just enough for them to bear more easily.

Do you think this is how God feels? I suppose this is what he does, actually.

 

those 24 things

It’s that time of year again when I revisit my list of goals that I’ve been working on since my last birthday. I’ve been meaning to post this blog for a couple weeks now, so without further ado, those 24 things:

1. Run 10 miles
I did it! I ran it in Austin by Town Lake with Amber and it was miserable. Once I finished, I felt accomplished but also decided I didn’t really want to do long distance running.

Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 10.46.10 PM

2. Memorize the book of Philippians
I failed to do this. Memorizing scripture one book at a time is apparently not my sweet spot. I will say that this year I have become much more intentional with reading scripture regularly, which is something I slipped away from the year before.

3. Go camping
I went in Texas and Colorado. Both great trips with great friends.

Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 10.47.03 PM
4. Cook a meal of at least 3 courses and serve it to a group/another person
I honestly forgot about this for most of the year. Looking back, I don’t think I ever did cook a three course meal (other than cooking I did for group events, which wasn’t the point). I guess I’ll have to put this on my goal list for the upcoming year because I really truly do suck at cooking actual meals and I need to do something about that.

5. Take the GRE
I took it in the spring last year. Turns out, I didn’t need it for the schools I ended up considering for grad school, but I’m proud of myself for going through with this goal.

6. Do a yoga handstand
I managed to learn a yoga headstand but could never master the handstand. I felt like I needed someone to properly teach me and spot me for the handstand. The headstand was fun to learn though.

Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 10.47.41 PM


7. Run in a race – 
probably a 5k, 10k, or 12k
LOL. I ran a marathon. Year 24 was one of my biggest years in running, considering how much I ran, what I learned about life through running, and who I met because of it.
12484637_10153504334767933_1709056748843033488_o (1)

 

8. Go to an outdoor concert
Never made it to an outdoor concert but, I went to more concerts in Year 24 than any other year (three total).

Josh Garrels in ATX

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 10.49.09 PM

Bethel in San Antonio


9. Improve piano playing enough to play in public
I have played piano in public (at church), but I still wouldn’t say I am most confident on piano versus guitar.

10. Apply to grad school – contingent on how things play out, but if I don’t apply this year I at least want to have picked a program and have a timeline for application
After I took the GRE, it seemed like God was changing the timeline for things I was considering about graduate school. I got a couple job opportunities that I decided to pursue and consequently, graduate school got put on the back burner for several months. But in the fall, it started coming back up again in my prayer time. Long story short: after over a year of researching and praying, I decided to apply in December. To one school. I got accepted in January.

 

11. Run a seven-minute mile
Couldn’t ever get down to a seven-minute, only about a 7:30. But I also didn’t really try to do this as much as I could have. When I was training for the marathon I kept saying that I’d wait until after the race to try a 7-minute mile (I wanted to avoid injury and burnout). But then after the marathon I gave up running for about two months. So, I never quite got to this goal.

12341240_10208064678045373_5772183767421727879_n

Another pic from my marathon; somewhere around mile 23-24

12. Write 2-3 songs – I took a year-long hiatus from song writing after the WR. This happened for a few reasons, but I think it’s time to get after it again.
I wrote two complete songs. One I wrote with the worship team at Hope Arise during the Christmas season. Another, I wrote on my own as a way of singing through some grief.

13. Invest in a new wardrobe
I’ve done this pretty well both through bargain shopping and dominating the Thrift Game.

Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 10.51.44 PM.png

found that dress at a thrift store #holla

14. Take a one-month social media break – I do use social media for work very regularly, but other than that, I’d like to be completely off the grid.
I could never manage a complete month away from social media. But several times I was able to stay away for a couple weeks at a time (usually when I was traveling).

15. Pull an all-nighter; watch the sunrise
I never had a reason to really pull an all-nighter, but I did see more sunrises this year than I’ve seen in a long while. This was in part because of my schedule, and also because of my intentionality in waking up early enough to appreciate the dawn.

16. Establish a fully-funded Emergency Fund – three to six months of living expenses
I did this! I had about 3.5 months of living expenses saved away when I suddenly needed to purchase a new vehicle. Without that Emergency Fund, I would have had to take out car payments and/or could not have afforded to purchase a decent car. Though I had to start over with my Emergency Fund and that left me a bit vulnerable for a few months, I was so proud and relieved to have this tool in my pocket. Thank you, Jesus! (and Dave Ramsey)

17. Take a really stunning photo – i.e. more photography in general!
I took a few decent pics, both with my iPhone and my DSLR camera.

18. Frame my favorite photos – I have so many awesome pictures from my travels, and I always said I would frame my favorites when I moved into a house/apartment. I just need to do it, even if I don’t move this year.
I did start framing pictures more, though most of them are not from my travels rather just pictures from this current season. I love having them spread out over my room though.

19. Go to a Longhorn football game – never been as an alumna!
Did it, loved it, hook ’em forever

Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 10.57.51 PM

Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 10.58.15 PM

20. Make intentional phone calls to long distance friends – I have so many really, really good friends and unfortunately, a lot of them live far away. I want to make sure I keep them in my life by calling and writing regularly, so I’ll probably set aside one day a week to make sure I do this.

Did it, loved it, still doing it

21. Go to the movies by myself – The last time I did this was three years ago when HP8 came out and I was working in Houston for the summer. I enjoy doing things alone, so I want to do this again.

I was going to do this in January, but I didn’t get around to it. Maybe some time this spring…

22. Reduce soda consumption to 1-2 per week – I know I should cut soda out entirely, but this is a realistic baby step in that direction. Hopefully by 2016 I can finally stop drinking soda altogether!
I kept trying to do this all year, but couldn’t manage to actually be consistent with it. So, I decided to give up soda for Lent. As I write this, Lent has been over for one day and I still haven’t had soda! My hope is that I can wane off of it completely.

11208030_1636999946536513_2123231947_n

Though I’ve given up soda, I’m still very much a coffee drinker. This place is one of my favorites in San Antonio.

23. Get rid of road rage  – ya, I have road rage… I think it developed when I lived overseas (driving is so much more aggressive in many countries). I figured it would subside after I lived in the States longer, but oops… it didn’t. Time to re-learn some patience in driving.
I can honestly say that I have worked at becoming a more patient driver.

24. Open a Roth IRA – I have several other financial goals like this, but I probably can’t realistically achieve them unless my finances change (read: unless I get a raise). But if my finances do change somehow, one of my goals is to get started on things like opening an IRA and finishing off my student loan payments.
I haven’t been able to do this, but as I mentioned earlier, I have had other financial breakthroughs this year due to the things I learned in my FPU class. I’m not yet at the point where I can open up an IRA though.


 

My twenty-fourth year was a good one. It was super full of all the emotions. I grew up significantly. I traveled. I settled into my home a bit more. I made a lot of new friends. I got in the best shape of my life. I accomplished some significant things, and I failed as well. In many ways, I felt my age – a feeling that is super poignant and quite inexplicable, yet also undeniable. In general, I would say that 24 was a very good year for me.

 

a year in review

This blog is mostly for me I guess, but since you’re still reading it you might be interested as well. One of my favorite bloggers wrote a year-end blog in the form of lists, and I’ve decided to do the same.

Books:
A Path Appears – Kristof & WuDunn
Wild – Strayed
Mountains Beyond Mountains – Kidder
I Am Malala – Yousafzai
The God of Small Things – Roy
The Poisonwood Bible – Kingsolver
*Modern Romance: An Investigation – Ansari
A Prayer Journal – O’Conner
One More Thing – Novak
The Worst Loss: How Families Heal From the Death of a Child – Rosof
50 Great Short Stories – various authors (I’ve read about a dozen so far)

*This was an audio book. Does that count?

States Visited:
Colorado
New Mexico
California
Missouri

Countries Visited:
Haiti
Hungary

Plane Rides:
17

Weddings Attended:
Maija & Jake
Lindsay & Andres
Alex & Jake
Stephanie & Ross
(Was it really only four??)

Concerts:
Josh  Garrels
(I average about one concert a year)

Road Trips: (more than 3 hrs in a vehicle)
SA to Houston
SA to Laredo
SA to Dallas
SA to Los Angeles
SA to Lubbock
St. Louis to Kansas City

Netflix Series Watched:
Friends
The Office (again)
Prison Break
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt [one season]
Dance Moms (no shame) [one season]

Favorite Things from 2015: (in order of occurrence but not importance)
Maija and Jake’s wedding (what a privilege it was to be in their wedding)
Raising $1,000 for Charity:Water
Going to a Longhorn basketball game on my 24th birthday and going completely insane for free pizza
Running 10 miles on Town Lake with Amber
Hope Helps Day with Hope Arise UMC
Camping trip for Maija’s birthday
Haiti mission trip
Laredo mission trip
Colorado backpacking trip
Tubing the Comal River with friends
Alex & Jake’s wedding (getting to lead worship was so, so special)
The Chris Scott Road Trip
Running 10 miles on Hermosa Beach in California
Getting to teach a small class at a Christian school
Getting some crazy job opportunities
RUNNING A MARATHON and raising over $2,000 for WORLD VISION WATER PROJECTS!
Serving in a refugee camp in Hungary
Going to the One Thing Conference with Chaney and Emily
Making new friends at coffee shops and concerts and parks


 

2015 came with a promise of abundance, and that turned out to be very true. It was abundant professionally, financially, relationally, and emotionally. I experienced personal breakthroughs and developed new friendships and got to travel to some amazing places. I also got my heart bruised up and was faced with some really difficult decisions and experienced deep, nearly devastating grief.

2015 was in different ways a great year and an extremely difficult year. I’m walking away feeling worn out and weathered, but grateful. I can see – and could, for the most part, see all along – that God has been at work. I have a deeper fear and reverence for him. I have a more tender love. I trust his provision more fully. I am humbled. I am grateful. And I look with hope towards 2016.

crossing the river

I contemplated leaving a large gap in these pages, omitting the months after October until things got easier. I did not know where to begin. What words would I write? It seemed far easier to say nothing.

But as I sit here in the St. Louis airport on January 1, 2016, it now seems necessary to acknowledge all that has happened in the last three months. It seems helpful now, not unbearably painful.

Three months ago, I got a call in the middle of the night that there had been a car accident. They both died. I literally could not formulate a thought more than three words long.

The next morning, I got out of bed at 6 AM and ran sixteen miles. I wanted to vomit and scream and slap God in the face, but instead I just ran: one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. I didn’t know what else to do.

In the weeks that followed, I was swept up in a storm of phone calls and funeral arrangements and meeting with family members and friends. I wrote a eulogy. I edited an obituary. I went to work.

I bought books on grieving and stayed up late reading them so that I could feel somewhat qualified to counsel others in a subject I knew little about. I kept running even though I hated it. I drove around town in a daze. Most of the time I was unable to feel anything at all, but a small fraction of the time I would be hit with an onslaught of sobbing and shaking and misery.

I’d come home late at night and lay in my bed by myself. The silence around me was crippling. I’d close my eyes and hear the words of the phone call over and over and over again. I had nightmares for weeks.

Eventually, I got angry. Everything and everyone annoyed me. I was constantly irritable, usually about insignificant things, and people who were undeserving got the worst of it.

One night, I slept in her bed. Boxes of her things were stacked around the room, making me feel suffocated and sick. I laid still for hours, completely exhausted but unable to sleep. I thought about the last time I saw her. I closed my eyes and heard her laugh. I wept into her pillow and said into the silence, “I am so sorry this happened.” 

In the past few months, I have experienced a strong concoction of emotions, many of which I had never previously felt. The potency of all these feelings has really worn me thin. And yet, I know that I am not feeling the worst of it. I imagine the parents and siblings, and the lifetime of sadness they will navigate, and I become so heavy at that thought.

But, this week I experienced some healing that I’d been desperately needing. I had a profound moment with Jesus during a worship service in which he told me some things that, for now, I’ll keep to myself. Though the moment seemed incomplete – I didn’t get all the healing and all the answers that I wanted – it seems sufficient for now.

While I know that I have not cried all the tears and processed all the emotions and closed the chapter completely, I know that I have at least crossed to the other side of the river. There is still a long way yet to go, but I feel that I am no longer wading through choppy waters just trying to catch my breath.

 

IMG_4259

Romania