asking the hard questions

My 15 minute bike ride to work was interrupted this week when I got a flat tire one evening. This turned my 15 minute commute to a 20-45 minutes commute via bus. On my bike ride, I quickly pass people by and make casual eye contact. But on the bus, we all sit on the journey amongst one another. Some are going to work, others to buy groceries and others just finding a place to sit for the day. If I’m honest, some nights I bike home from work, turn on to Lawrence, and my heart feels so heavy I can hardly keep pedaling. I see the men sitting on their front steps passing a freshly rolled joint, the women walking around and young kids. In a season of waiting and preparation, it is so very clear that this is where the Lord has placed me and this is my mission field. But some night I hear myself shouting back, “This is it God? This is my place?! But it’s so hard. It hurts so much.”

How is the gospel good news to the man pan handling and so high he cannot speak? How can I even imagine hearing the words “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty!” escaping their lips? I can’t see it. How can I be heaven minded and not hurt?

I’ve been wrestling. A lot. Asking hard questions and figuring it all out. Sitting at the alter and waiting for the Lord to speak. Because it’s hard and scary and confusing. How does the gospel transcend into the everyday spaces of my transgender neighbors? How do I speak with the man at the bus stop who starts sharing his life with me and “oh isn’t it wonderful how the world has changed and tells me to be proud of my gayness”?

I don’t have it figured out. I don’t have the answers and I feel like I am saying “I don’t know” now more than ever. But I do know that the gospel is truly good news. And there is a coming Kingdom. Even when I can’t see it and I have to sit in the mess with people on the bus instead of zooming by on my bike. There is a coming Kingdom. And all will be made well.

gospel life

Christ in you is the hope of glory. You are the salt of the earth. In Him, we live and move and have our being.

So many of these gospel realities are invading my everyday thoughts. As I bike along Broadway to and from work everyday, I ask myself what does this mean in my life. What does gospel life mean? What does it mean to live out the gospel? What does it mean to embody the gospel when my primary community is my coworkers and we are all such different people? What does it look like to be the hands and feet of Jesus in my community? What does it look like to live out the gospel in the apartment building I’m living in?

If the gospel is truly good news and we are Christ’s ambassadors, what does this look like in day to day life? How do we live kingdom lives in the seemingly mundane schedules? Surely, it is not possible to live a gospel life if we neglect the reality of being the branches. We must be filled with knowing that Christ is the Vine and then abide.

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions and I’m not sure there is an answer. But I do know that when we say, “Jesus in you I do abide”, and we are in Him, the Spirit is faithful and eager to guide us as we delight in Him. Gospel life is abiding in Jesus as His humble and needy child.

thriving awaits

So I graduated from Moody Bible Institute on May 13. Of course, I’ve been asked, “What’s next?” countless times over the last year. So here’s what’s next and NOW…

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On May 1, I moved out of my on-campus apartment with Andreea and Aleana and moved to Buena Park, part of Uptown, on the north side of Chicago. A lot of hustle and craziness and hard work went into getting this apartment. In January and February, I was a nervous wreck as I was thinking through what was next and what I wanted to do. Firstly, I realized I had just been thinking about this for months. Had I been aware of my abiding in Christ and seeking His heart? I had forgotten who I was and this sent me nervous and afraid of what was next. Through prayer and the wisdom and counsel of others, I stayed planted and decided to stay in Chicago for the next year. Out of the Lord’s good and perfect plan, He orchestrated that Chloe, Gaby, Leah, Aleana, Casey and I would live together. Through different seasons and subleases, we would begin looking for a place to call home.

After loads of searching on Zillow, we compiled a google doc of possible apartments and began the viewing process. We went to view our (now) apartment and immediately fell in love. Regardless of the beauty and charm of our place, we were so drawn to our home as it would allow us to do just what we wanted for this next year. All of us chose the hard thing and the not-so-ideal thing to live with multiple girls as we all had just graduated from undergrad with the purpose of living intentionally, with each other and with our neighbors. Being in a big city, it’s easy to live among your neighbors and not know them or enter into their lives, to walk into a coffee shop everyday and not know the barista, to go into work and just know your coworker with their uniform on. As hard, inconvenient, and uncomfortable as it may be at times, we all have committed to staying and being rooted and planted here in our home and in our neighborhood that’s not glamorous to enter into people’s lives and love our city.

So that’s living. But, what about work? Well, from my understanding, it’s a bit unusual for the college grad to land their dream job out of college. I had some interviews for full-time positions in what I thought was my dream job throughout the semester, and I didn’t get it. What would have been devastating, was funnily enough not at all. Throughout the interview process I just knew that this was not at all what God had for me. As much as I knew I would love the job and thrive in it, I knew it wasn’t what God had for me.

Toward the end of March, I began applying for loads of jobs. I believe I applied to at least 35. From coffee shop jobs to restaurants to assistant work, I applied for everything and anything. Several interviews, emails back and forth, and opportunities, I got a job at Whole Foods in Edgewater as a cashier. At first, I wasn’t so jazzed about the opportunity, but as I sat there and was offered a job I smiled as I realized this was exactly what I had desired. I committed to spending this next season in Chicago living in this neighborhood getting to know my community and know them in their everyday lives. What’s more “everyday life” than grocery shopping?! Now, I’m aware this isn’t the fantastic, post-grad dream job, but I honestly love it. Standing on my feet all day, working with people I wouldn’t normally rub shoulders with, and having conversations with people from all walks of life all day long…I’m learning a lot. And I love it!!

I can hardly believe it’s been a year since I left for my internship with Josiah Venture in Croatia. I had no idea how much I would fall in love with this place, these people, all of it. I’d be lying if I said I’m not sad I won’t be there this next year. My heart breaks a bit knowing I will miss camp this year and so many other things. Throughout the year, the writing of my senior thesis, and abiding in Jesus, I have grown more and more fond of, excited about, energized by, and desiring of doing life in Croatia for the glory of Jesus. I am SO overwhelmingly excited about all that God is doing there and I am so ecstatic that He is inviting me to be a part of it. So some days when I make my commute to work on the Lake Shore path along Lake Michigan, I may be daydreaming that I’m biking along the Adriatic, and I know the day will come when that is reality, but I’m excited to learn and live HERE now. This is one beautiful journey that Jesus has me on. I am excited to be back in Croatia in the future and see that dream come to reality.

I am speechless at the Lord’s grace and there’s MUCH to say but I wanted to just post a cluttered, less-than-graciously written post for now. I could write about all that I’ve learned over the last four years at Moody (and that post will come) but for now, this is a little snapshot into life now. Yesterday as I was biking to work, all I could do was smile as I said, “Thank you Jesus that I get to do this and you are inviting me into this beautiful story.” Things are far from perfect and put together, but He is writing my story and I am so, so glad to follow His lead.

When I Feel Unknown

This semester was the hardest. It fled by like a car speeding down the highway. It vanished like warm breath in cold, winter air. I came back to the states with time to spare and get reaquainted with “normal” life. Oh yeah, I’m still an undergrad college student. Moved in to an apartment, organized my books, and got to know Chicago again.

Before I knew it, it was December and August was long gone. I could have sworn it was just yesterday I was standing in a circle with teenagers yelling about a volleyball in some language I had no idea what they were saying. But here I am, with another 18 credits completed sitting in this cabin cooped up in the middle of nowhere. But some things happened between August and December; good and bad, ugly and ravishingly beautiful, trying and building up.

From coming off of a summer where I poured out and saw the Lord use me and felt poured into and loved more than I’d ever known to a season of pouring out constantly and feeling utterly burnt out. When life somehow creeps up on me and abiding in Christ is a scary and weighty task, I’m left tired. When I forget that God is in control and just feel the certainty of my weakness.

This semester I realized the beauty of being alone and spending time to care for myself. Though I didn’t really do a good job caring for myself, I grew in setting up boundaries and listening to my body and myself. I felt the weight of not having someone pour into me and pursue me after coming from such a season filled with that.

As I’ve finished up this short chapter, I’ve reflected a bit. The future is uncertain and most around me are feeling that. But over the last few days I’ve recognized how much I desire to be comfortable, somewhere I’m known, have a place to call “my place”, home, rest. And I realized I don’t have that. And I’m not sure I ever will; at least not for some time. As I’ve been praying through God’s direction for the coming years, I’ve been met with a lot of questions or misunderstanding. “Why would you want to move to a foreign country? Why do you want to be a missionary? That sounds so uncomfortable.”

And as I’ve tried to explain I’ve realized it’s true. It is so uncomfortable. And I’m uncomfortable. It’s not comfortable living somewhere you feel unknown, unable to understand the woman at the grocery store, your old appliances don’t even plug into the wall…there’s so much and it’s all so foreign. But truly, I feel that now. Even here. And as I’ve realized over the last few years, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Though it isn’t easy. The beauty and majesty we will encounter when we move our lives to foreign places and unfamiliar faces, all for the glory and pursuit of knowing Jesus and making Him known, nothing compares. I may not have a place that feels like home. But this world is not my home. He is my purpose and my place. It may not make much sense, but nothing in this world compares to making Him known. And He is worth the sleepless nights, the long drawn out prayers, the question met with answers or no answer, the support-raising process, the discomfort. He’s worth it all.

learning

I hoped to blog regularly. I got into a good cycle over summer. But since leaving the Croatian seaside and the energy of teenagers, I lost it. So I haven’t been bloggin. Really, I should be working on a sermon that I’m preaching on Wednesday but I need to take a break from writing to write. Write about what I’m learning. Where I’m hurting. Where I’m healing. Where I’m hoping.

This season, I’m thankful for my church. With all the racial tension in Chicago and the brokenness nationwide, I’m thankful for a church that is literally building a culture from the ground up. If I think of all that they’ve taught me over the course of this year, I am so, so thankful. There have tears shared, hard conversations, growing moments and I get to do it all with brothers and sisters.The Lord has been so good and faithful to give me a community. It’s crazy to see all that He has done in this body in the last year.

I’m learning I need rest. I take a lot of pride in my “get it done and just do it” attitude. I may have only slept five hours in the last three days but who cares! Well, I’m only human and I need to learn to show weakness. I drink at least two cups of coffee everyday and I don’t sleep much. I’m learning what it looks like to show weakness, rest when necessary, love and care for myself so I can better love and care for others, and maybe to drink less coffee.

I’m learning to give myself grace, love myself and be patient. I’ve been spending lots of time on school work and church work and I want to spend more time making the most of this last year. It’s crazy to think that a lot of the closest people in my life…this is the last year I’ll see them. Life is a crazy, beautiful, interesting adventure.

He Withholds No Good Thing

Being in your early to mid-20s is an interesting thing. It’s a beautiful, uncomfortable, unsure, spontaneous, and discovery-filled season in life. But, the thing is, you can either be fully living into the beauty and discomfort of it all or be half-living, waiting for something more.

The truth is we are always waiting. We will always be waiting. But in this season, we’re waiting for graduation, for a new job, for a husband, for children, for a new house, for retirement, for grandkids…the list goes on and on. We’re in this vicious cycle of waiting and wanting and yearning. We are yearning for Him to come back. For eternity.

But…and this is big. If we know the Father’s heart and if we know God’s character, we can take courage and stay steadfast. We can know that He withholds no good thing. We can fully live! Oh, what good news! He withholds no good thing from us. So, that husband that you’re waiting for? Don’t live a half-life; live fully now because He withholds no good thing from you. That new house you really, really love? Rejoice! Because He withholds no good thing. That fear you feel when you think about what you’ll be doing a year from now? Rest and live. Because He withholds no good thing. We are fooling ourselves and running around a maze, continually hitting the dead ends if we live in this constant state of worry and frustration.

And I get it. I get the deep desires and the hurting hearts and the confusion of what are you doing God?! But, dear sister and dear brother, know that He withholds no good thing and you can trust Him. Do you know the Father’s heart? Do you know the trustworthy character of God? You can trust Him. You can serve Him fully and live with reckless abandon.

Oh Jesus, help us to trust in you. Help us to know and believe in our head and the depth of our hearts that you withhold no good thing. Help us to take you at your Word. Help us to seek your heart and thank you for all the good things you give us. Thank you for your mercy and your grace. You are so, so good to us. Help us Jesus.

Bourne & Egyptian Ratscrew

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Every Wednesday and Saturday of this summer we have had events or hangouts with our students. The last couple of Wednesday’s we have been at camps and so have not had our usual movie night and open “apartment”. So, yesterday was Saturday and we invited everyone over to watch the first Bourne movie, play games and hang out. Part of building relationships with the students has just been built on being present and welcoming them in and creating a space for them to just hang out.

The last couple of weeks we haven’t had many students come because most are on the islands. It’s typical for them to go to the islands for a month or so during the summer. But, last night was exciting. One of the first girls to show up was Ana P. who we haven’t seen since June. Then, we had a lot of guys come who we haven’t seen for quite awhile! John and I played Egyptian Ratscrew with Ana and Korina for awhile…we introduced this game to the students at camp and they love it. We watched Bourne and finished around 9 or so. It’s fun to be able to understand a bit of the Croatian banter amongst the students now.

On a typical Wednesday or Saturday, the students trickle out and leave. But, last night Korina, Grigor, Sven and Ana S. stuck around until past 11. Ana excidedly told us about her cafe and about coming to church tomorrow. Sven, Grigor (sneaky greegy), Korina and Mladen did card tricks (mathemagical) and laughed.

As we played Egyptian Ratscrew around our kitchen table we all excitedly giggled in anticipation. If we slapped too loud, we had to put two cards down. As I sat around that table, a smile washed across my face as I thanked God for these moments that I’ll miss. There’s been beauty and pain in the cultural confusion, joy and laughter. Oh, I am so thankful.

Vinegar, Risotto & Gelato

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Tomorrow feels like it should be a Tuesday. Earlier this week, we visited a camp on an island called Privc Luka. It was a Croatian camp and we stayed there for a night. Sarah and I stayed in a tent. It was the first time in years that I had gone camping and I had forgotten how much I love camping. This camp was on an island with no cars and only a small convenience store…but of course, plenty of places to get gelato and a few restaurants. It was awesome to make connections with more Croatians. I can’t get over their hospitality. On Thursday morning we had breakfast and a woman came over and asked us if we’d like coffee…five minutes later, another woman came over. It was good coffee and I’m sure their love only made it taste better.

But, the point of this post is actually to write about today. After a bit of time in the office, Sarah and I went to the old city, just planning on getting a few things and grabbing dinner. We both have less than two weeks left so we are soaking it up! After exploring for a bit we walked by a caffe called Plac that we knew on of our students worked at. As soon as we walked by to look at the menu, she came running up and asked if we were going to eat there. It was so, so fun. She sat us down, took our order and came and sat with us as we ate dinner. I had risotto and Sarah had a salad…it was great! Ana treated us to ginger soda and an orange Croatian soda called Pipi. It was such a sweet surprise from the Lord to hang out with her, have good talks and giggle at our cultural differences. We laughed at ourselves as we asked her what the different condiments on the table were. On most tables at restaurants there is salt and pepper, a container of toothpicks and one jar of a clear looking liquid and a jar of a red liquid. Ana laughed as we asked her what each was and was stunned that we only have salt and pepper in the states. Turns out, the clear is sunflower oil and the red is red wine vinegar.

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She took photos of us in the center of Split, told us we had to take photos with the “roman soldiers”, and gave us a little history lesson on Split. Her friend from school joined us and we walked the maze through the city and got gelato at Hajduk. Ana insisted on ordering it for us so we got more because she is Croatian and we are Americans. Sarah and I both had kinder and snickers. We walked by the riva and parted ways. Sarah and I walked along the sea on our way home, ran into a blues festival and dreamed about sleeping on the beach one night before we leave.

I only have 12 days left and I can barely believe it. It will be bittersweet. I am thankful for every moment that will fill those final days.

The Bittersweetness of Tragedy

As I’ve spent the past couple of days reflecting on what the Lord is speaking to me, I’ve noticed a continual pattern. As I’ve felt the weight of eternity more than ever before I’ve longed for the glory of God. I’ve known deep down in my bones, to the core of my very being that this earth is not my home. In the midst of global and personal crisis, I’ve learned a few things. And I’m still learning. In the span of two months I’ve lost a good friend, heard of countless terror attacks, wept at the killing of more black brothers and sisters, felt confusion and anger at the killing of police officer, stopped in shock as I heard news close to home, etc. It never ends. And I shouldn’t expect it to.

As I thought about all of this I wondered why the Lord has sovereignly had all these things happen while I’m here. I watched the memorial service for Kenny the other day and through tears I listened to his father and pastors speak words of hope. What they spoke shook me and brought me to confess my unbelief. “It’s tempting for us to say that Kenny’s life was cut short, only being 25 years before he went to go home. But God, He knew that Kenny would live the exact number of days (Psalm 139:16) and he would live his life as a sprint and sprint well.” Oh how those words brought tears of joy to my eyes. And it’s just the same with everything else. It’s tempting for us to allow the enemy to steal our joy, to uproot our doubt, but when the Lord speaks ever so clearly to us that He is in fact good and trustworthy…oh, our souls can surely be at rest.

On Sunday, I shared my story in church. In fact, the day that marked seven years of following Jesus I was asked to prepare for this. God is sweet like that. He sees me and He knows me. As I reflected and prepared to share, the Lord brought a few things to mind.

He has always been faithful. Though there have been many times that I’ve doubted His goodness or faithfulness or provision in my life, God has always provided just what I need. Even if I don’t know it’s what I need. He knows me better than I know myself.
He does all things for His glory and our good. Though my days before Jesus were the most painful I have ever known, I am thankful for them. I know that God is more glorified in my weakness. I know that God used those lifeless circumstances to bring me life. So in that, I rejoice greatly.

[For those of you that prayed for me when I was asked to share my story: In all honesty, I was probably the most nervous I’ve been to share as it’s different in another culture, with a translator, etc. My prayer was that God would be glorified and the gospel would be preached. Praise the Lord, I believe that happened.]

Tonight I walked down to the sea and took in the last several minutes of the golden sun. As I reflected on the past brutal, breathtaking and glory thirsty months we’ve seen, I’ve seen the Lord call me deeper. Through all of this I can see Jesus calling me into greater, deeper and richer relationship with Him than I’ve ever known. I pray that He would continue to cause me to see His goodness, to trust Him always and to know Him as my good Father.

White as Snow

Hallelujah what a Savior
Hallelujah what a friend
Hallelujah King forever
I thank you for the cross

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Today marks 7 years of walking with Jesus. It seems like just yesterday that He saved me, but the days of darkness seem so far gone. I remember how empty life was before but I can’t fathom how I was that person before. The words filled with gratitude I could write are endless. As I reflect on all the Lord has done, I am overwhelmed.

Jesus truly turned my life around. As a young teenager, I was depressed, suicidal, anxiety filled, self-harming, eating disorder, etc. When I think back to my early high school days, I remember rehab and therapist rooms more than classrooms. One day I took the pills, rushed to the hospital and told “your internal organs are fine.” Huh…that’s odd, I just took an insane amount of pills and I’m okay. I asked and God surely answered. Something should have happened…but God. Oh, but God!

I was hopeless but He made me hope filled.
I was in gloom but He gave me glory.
I was in darkness but He gave me light.
I was enslaved but He made me free.

Now my life is new. My shackles have been obliterated. I know Jesus. I know the King of Kings. He calls me friend, beloved, daughter, child, co-laborer, branch. I had no purpose but He has given me the greatest purpose and calling of all. He gave me a new family and so many siblings.

 

The summer I got saved I went to a Hillsong United concert with some friends. I remember hearing Romans 8:38-39 for the first time and tears filling my eyes. These verses still continue to be my favorite and most treasured as God has continually used these words to remind me of His great love for me.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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From the Hillsong concert 7 years ago!
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From the Hillsong concert 7 years ago!
As I’ve shared a bit of my story, I hope you take a few things away. No one is ever too far from God. Who would have thought that He would save me? The Lord’s purposes for our lives are far greater than we could ever imagine. As I’ve been reflecting on who I once was, I cannot believe that He has made me new. All glory be to Christ!