My Beautiful Graduates

The day has finally come.  My sweet Young Life girls are high school graduates, strewn across the country, ready to pursue the next four years of their lives with a spirt of grace and adventure.

Girls, my words could never fully encompass what the last four years have been, but it would be a shame to not try.  This one is for you.

It feels like just yesterday we were sitting outside in the McCallum courtyard, me trying to be cool, you trying to not talk to me.

Well, really, it all started before that.  Here is how I really ended up with you girls.

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Natalie sent an email, and I called dibs.  August 7, 2012.

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We went to Mozart’s.  Natalie got a strawberry steamer, which I pretended was cool, but was really just warm milk and pretty weird.  We talked about her moving to Austin and starting high school and we realized that even with five years difference between us, we had a million things in common.

It all started from there.  I went to McCallum lunch, back in the day when leaders were still allowed in the courtyard, and I sat with some girls who didn’t want to talk to me until Natalie came and introduced me to her friends Hannah and Haley.  The group grew quickly.  At one point Meagan just jumped into my car and put her number in my phone.  Melissa showed up at sleepovers and polar bear, even though she “didn’t even go here.”

Our friendships built quickly, and I am thankful for every moment of them.

I remember those precious mornings your freshmen year, when we would sit around a table at Thunderbird and share our lives.  We talked about what it meant to be a woman, what it meant to seek Jesus.  Those times were transformative.  And then there was the time you didn’t quite make it to school on time, and Mark walked in…oops.  It was in those moments gathered around that table, sharing the Word of Jesus, that I knew these relationships were special and intimate and would last a lifetime.

I remember freshman year sleepovers, too many girls to count.  There was the time Meagan and I showered together, and somehow the curtain was pulled down.  It was one of the many, “don’t tell Mark” moments.  I don’t think there has ever been a time when whipped cream has been in the room and not ended up on my face.  I would let you girls cover my face with whipped cream a million times over if it meant that you would somehow know Jesus a little better because of it.

I remember sitting at Starbucks with you, Haley, and hearing you speak about Jesus for the first time in a way that was full of grace and gospel.  For the first time, you knew Him.  You had experienced grace, and it wasn’t about how well you had performed.  It was about the cross.  I came home and I cried that day.

 

So much can happen in four years.  So much change, so much growth, so much redemption.  Each year, our relationships have looked different, and each year, they have grown and transformed.  Sitting at your graduation parties, looking back on slideshows full of pictures from freshman year, it is evident that none of us are the same as we were when we first met.  Over the past four years, we have laughed, we have cried, we have celebrated and we have been silent.  You have faced conflict, you have been hurt, you have mourned the loss of leaders and friendships, boyfriends and relationships, and each time, we have seen redemption.  Jesus has shown up, revealing his mercy and lavishing his grace upon you.  In the end, you are not the same people because of it.  You have grown, you have been changed by the grace of an ever knowing, unconditionally loving God.

This year I have felt the sweet freedom of knowing that you are not just my Young Life girls, but you are my friends.  I have found rest in knowing that your relationships with Christ are not based on me or on my performance, but that they are based purely in the grace of Jesus.  Any part I have been able to play in that has been a gift, and the ability to step back and know that your hearts are, and forever will be, securely placed in His hands is the greatest gift that I could ever ask for.

So, Natalie, as you move across the country today, and Meagan, as you step out of being a camper into leadership at Pine Cove, and Haley, as you travel across France and eventually land back in the US at one of the country’s most prestigious universities, and Hannah, as you snapchat me from your couch until it’s time for you to head to college, and as all of you move forward into this next stage of life, know that I am right here beside you.  But more importantly, than that, Jesus is always and forever beside you, before you, and behind you.  I am forever yours, and Jesus is forever yours.  We have an eternity to share together.  The party is just getting started.

 

 


To Wilderness

This summer I came home from Wilderness a week earlier than I had planned.  The excitement and anxiety of beginning a new career was catching up with me, and I knew I needed to spend some time at home before life begins at full speed.  In honor of my sweet Wilderness Ranch, the place that has formed so much of who I am over the past three years, here’s a throwback to last summer, my last piece of writing published before I made the switch to the new blog.  To Wilderness Ranch, and all of the beautiful friends who have loved me, challenged me, and grown me, I still mean every word and then some.

 

August 6th, 2014

A week from today, I will be headed back to Austin, hurdling away from the slow-paced mountain life that I have come to know and love so much, and speeding full throttle towards the high paced, unbearably busy life of a college student/student teacher/young life leader.

So today, I spent the day the best way possible.  By myself.  I laid a blanket out in the park, grabbed a latte and some pizza, and spent the entire day reading The Chronicles of Narnia.  Because at a moment sometime very soon, these sweet moments of rest will be long gone, left behind with the mountains.  And I needed one last taste.

I can’t begin to describe the mix of emotions bubbling up inside of me.  This summer has been one of redemption and growth and beauty.  Fears conquered.  Challenges overcome.  New dreams awakened.  Drawn nearer and nearer to the feet of Jesus.  There’s a lump welling up in my throat at the realization that this is the close of my time at Wilderness Ranch.

Wilderness has been a home for me.  A place that has seen who I am and challenged me to become more.  A place where I have met and grown close to some of my closest friends, and a place where I have grown even closer to friends who have been by my side since before double digits.  A place full of laughter, grace, and unyielding faith.  A place where I have been fully known and fully loved, and a place that has left me utterly and completely changed.

I spent my last week on trail trying to cherish every moment.  Not always successful, but attempted.  The last camp fire, the last peak day, the last serving of chicken dinner.  Each time not fully being able to process what it meant.  And now here I sit, trying to struggle through it again.

I don’t know if this is the end of my time at Wilderness; I hope that it’s not.  But senior year quickly approaches, and graduation and a job follow soon after, and friends are getting married, and people are moving, and life is changing.  In the Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis says that Aslan is “always on the move.”  And so it is with life, and with Jesus.  This life is never static, never stationary.  Always moving and changing and winding down an unknown path.  Jesus has new plans and new adventures and new fears to overcome.  And right now, following that path, His path, means jumping in a car and heading back to Austin.

To Wilderness Ranch and all of those who have loved and lived to make it what it is: thank you.  Thank you for loving me and believing in me and forcing me to run faster than I want to.  Thank you for discipling me and growing me and never letting me give up.  Thank you for trusting me in situations in which I would never trust myself.  Thank you for putting me in a places where I could be used by Jesus.  Thank you for giving me a stage to meet and love and be transformed by high school girls.  Thank you for saying yes, for taking a risk on the insecure, unsure, broken girl who naively asked to be a guide two years ago.  You have been at my back, pushing me, yelling at me, praying for me, and encouraging me, both literally and figuratively, for two years.  You have transformed a scared little girl into a woman of the Lord and a minister of the gospel.

As I walk away from Wilderness and into “real life,” (although I am convinced that there will never be any life more real than what’s lived on a mountain), I walk away as a woman of confidence and courage, ready to live life to the fullest.  Because life is not lived on the peak, but rather, in the valleys.  And as I tearfully descend back into the lower regions, I am better because of it.  Because I know what is above, and my eyes will forever see through new lenses.  Because I know what it is like to be afraid, and to be brave, and to live in true community, and lessons learned here are not easily forgotten.

So thank you.  Thank you for making me a better person, a person truer to the woman Christ designed me to be.  Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus, molding me into who I am.  I don’t know all that lies ahead, but I know that as this season of life comes to a close, a new one is opening, and I can walk into it with the confidence of one who has been face to face with the glory and grace of her Creator.

 

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For more words on Wilderness, go here.

 


Life is Not Ending: Thoughts on Graduation

Life has never changed as much as it will in a few months.

Last week was my last week of college, and official graduation is twelve days away.  (Actually, I’m an August grad because the College of Education advising blows, but we can talk about that later) .  But as graduation approaches and everyone posts their last celebratory instagram, throwing up a “hook ’em” after taking their last final or walking out of their last class on the great 40 acres, I have yet to catch on to the sentimental spirit.

Maybe it’s because I transitioned straight from my last day student teaching into full-time substituting, or maybe it’s because my last class on UT campus was actually three semesters ago, but for some reason, I just don’t feel sentimental.  I don’t feel like my goodbyes should be tear-filled, or moving out of my house should be a dramatic ordeal.

Thursday night, sitting around a table in the tiny courtyard of my best friends’ east Austin home, I realized why.  Because life isn’t ending.  Jesus promises us a life of adventure, if only we would look for it.  He promises us new bends and turns in our roads, surprises around every corner.  Life doesn’t end when we graduate college, just as it didn’t end when we graduated high school or graduated from using pull-ups.

Next year will look different.  Come August, I will be living in a one bedroom apartment, working a full time job, no longer leading Young Life, paying all of my own bills, and jumping headfirst into adulthood.  But as this new season approaches, and as I trade in my eleven roommates and Monday night dance parties for clean dishes and early bedtimes,  I want to look at it as just that: a new season.  Not the end of life as we know it, not a reason for panic attacks and dread towards adult responsibilities.  Just a new season,  a new chapter in the beautiful book that Christ has written for me, a storyline that I trust completely.  He has never failed before, and I don’t believe for a moment that the day I graduate college is the day He stops having great plans for me.

Sitting on coolers made into make shift chairs, drinking wine and pulling steak off of kabobs, Christmas lights twinkling above us, I was reminded of the goodness of our Creator.  The goodness and grace of a Creator and Savior who whispers in my ear, “I’m not finished yet.”  And I believe Him.  Deep down into the depths of my heart, I really, truly believe Him.  I believe that the best is yet to come.

I can only imagine that ten years from now,  new spouses and babies will be joining us at that table.  The joys and heartbreaks and successes that will be shared around our tables are unimaginable: babies and book publishings, new jobs and graduate degrees, new homes and paychecks that allow us to upgrade our drink choices from Cupcake to cocktails.  Life will be shared around our tables for many years to come, and these people and these relationships, whether they began in Pre-K or in college, will be woven throughout the pages of my life for as long as I am living.

And now, I am crying.  Not because I miss what we’re leaving behind, but because I cannot even begin to imagine the goodness that is ahead.

 

 


One Last Hoorah

As Christmas break comes to a close, my last semester of college quickly (and quite unbelievably) approaches.

The past three and a half years have been so good to me and so good for me.  I have learned so much and have been pushed to my limits in more ways than I ever could have imagined.  I have learned and loved and lost, celebrated and rejoiced and succeeded and failed.  I have found who I am on my own, apart from my family, apart from Bowie High School.

I am at a crossroads of nostalgia and uncertainty- the roads behind me full of sweet memories and cherished moments that seem to close to let go of, and the roads ahead full of the terrifying unknown- one giant, looming question mark, an ever-growing knot in my stomach.

But it’s not time to look behind me, and it’s not yet time to look that far ahead.  There is one final semester in front of us, one last hoorah before we walk our trembling legs and sweaty palms across that graduation stage.  Before we make that walk, I want to look ahead at the promises and possibility of the next four months.  I want to live in the present, in the fragile promise that lies between January and May.

I want to take this last semester to hold, cherish, and celebrate every moment.

I want to spend less time cleaning and more time playing.

I want to let petty frustrations fall to the ground for the sake of conversation and community.

I want to look at the dishes and crusted pans piling up in the kitchen sink, and instead of internally raging about which of the eleven of my roommates is to blame, sit down on the couch with a cup of coffee and join the conversation.

I want to invest in my Young Life girls.  I want to invite them over for sleepovers and I want to hear way too many stories about the high school boys who have stolen and broken their hearts.  I want to laugh and cry and hold them without letting go.

I want to dance more and worry less.

I want to spend too much money at a fancy restaurant with no justification other than community and reckless adventure.

I want to look friends in the eyes and tell them how much I love them, and how proud I am of them.

I want to take risks and go on adventures, skip class to make borderline irresponsible decisions.

I want to cherish each and every moment, treasure these last days when I can still use the excuse of being a college kid.

I want to spend every second that I can at Wilderness Ranch, playing in the mountains and proclaiming the gospel to high schoolers, regardless of how financially irresponsible it might be.

I want to let my roommates come into my room past 9:30pm, and let them snuggle in my bed, regardless of what time I’m waking up to teach.

I want to live in a constant state of freedom and adventure, saying yes at every opportunity.

I want to do the things that make me feel alive.

I want to grab ahold of this each moment of this semester like a 50 pound set of elk antlers, because that’s the choice of more adventure.

And when May comes along, and I look back at this semester, I want to say, “I am so glad I lived like that.”

 

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Friends like These

Last month I flew to Colorado to visit one of my oldest and dearest friends, Sarah.  We’ve known each other since Kindergarten and have gotten closer each year since.  After we graduated high school, I stayed in Austin to go to UT, and Sarah moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, to study nutrition at CSU.  I’ve gone to see her every year since.

My long weekends in Fort Collins are always so beautiful.  They are treasured, treasured memories for me.  Sarah’s friendship is easy and natural and life-giving.  It’s the kind where we can sit down with the intention of studying or finishing a paper, and somehow we end up talking for hours about Jesus and ministry and marriage.  I treasure all of my friendships, but I treasure Sarah’s friendship especially.

I treasure our friendship not because it’s easy, but because it’s real.  There are no boundaries, no restrictions.  She’s known me for years and years, and I have no secrets.  She knows me pre-Jesus and she knows me post-Jesus.  She knows the hardest parts of my life because she has walked through them with me.  She corrects me when I tell a story wrong, and explanation of “the way I used to be” is never necessary.  Nothing needs a back story, no history needs to be explained.  She knows me and she knows me deeply, inside and out.  She calls my bullshit and pushes me towards Jesus.

Friendships like these are rare.  And I treasure them.

 

That weekend was my last weekend in Fort Collins with Sarah.  In three days, Sarah is getting married.  She is marrying a wonderful man, one I could not approve more of.  Her life will change, and our friendship will change.  Life changes and moves on and we grow and evolve into the people we are meant to be.  But I’m not afraid of the changes.  Friendships built on the strength and foundation of Christ, friendships that have weathered years and climbed mountains, these friendships change and evolve right alongside us.  Friendships like these don’t pass easily by, and they’re not easily abandoned.  They are malleable and brave, willing to evolve and grow.

In three days, I will stand next to Sarah as she says “I do.”  I will cry like a baby and praise Jesus as the couple I have loved and supported for eight years begins their life together.

 

There is a beauty to friends who know you at your best.  Friends who have only looked at you with the thought, “wow, she really has her sh*t together.”  Friends who have no recollection of who you were at your worst.  They see you as you are now, and hear stories of how you used to be.  Those friendships are important.  Truly.  But we can’t forget to treasure the ones who have seen us in diapers, and seen us with braces, and seen us bent over a toilet after a series of bad choices at prom.  The ones who can look us in the eye and call our bullshit.  The ones who know us through and through.  Friends like these are to be treasured, and I praise Jesus for this one.

 

Sarah and Chris, I wish you the absolute best on your wedding day, and for the rest of your lives together.   I pray that you will grow together and push each other towards Jesus.  I pray that you will treasure each other and treasure the gift of life Christ has given you.  I pray that you will see each other at your best and remember each other at your worst.  I pray that you would grow closer to Jesus each day.  That you would call each other’s bullshit.  That you will look your children in the eye and tell of them of the value of a dear friend, that you would point them towards deep and meaningful friendships, remembering the value of yours.  And I pray that you would invite me over for dinner very, very often.

 

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New Years Eve 2011. High School Heroes


Best Friend Christmas

Since senior year of high school, my best friends have shared Christmas together every year on December 23rd.  Every year, it is the only time that we’re all together.  It is a precious day.  This year, I’m spending Christmas in Jamaica, and as excited as I am to be on this trip, I am heartbroken to be away from my best friends.  In honor of BFF Christmas, I want to share the letter I wrote last year.  It’s been a year since I’ve written this, but every single word holds true.  I love you girls more than you will ever know, and I hope you have the most wonderful Christmas celebration tonight.

 

To My Best Friends, My Sisters, My Partners in Crime,

As we all know, my go-to Christmas present involves a picture or two, some scrapbook paper, and maybe an artsy frame.  Over the past couple years, the number of pictures together have dwindled.  But I have my words, and sometimes, I think those are more powerful than a photo.

Three Christmases past high school graduation, and here we are.  So much has changed, and yet so much remains the same.  Life has been a whirlwind.  A whirlwind of adventures, marriages, engagements, heartbreaks, growth, disappointment, excitement- life and life to the full.  Some of us remain ten minutes away, some of us share houses and apartments with each other, and yet some of us are separated by state borders and rivers and mountains and a train mysteriously named the L.

Part of me wants to go back.  Back to senior year, back to living at Jenna’s house and going to Polar Bear together.  Back to laying on the lawn at Crooked Creek, back to running the halls of Bowie.  Back to camping at Pace Bend and crying over our heartaches and knowing the ins and outs of each of your days.  Back to campaigners at Galaxy and helplessly spilling every trouble in my life to Emily.  Back to assumed sleepovers and s’mores in the kitchen and dreaming about who would be the first to be married.  Part of me wants to go back.

And part of me says that being where we are, being apart, is the most valuable place we can be.  Away from you girls, I am reminded of your true value.  I am reminded to never take you for granted, because friendships like these are once in a lifetime.  Relationships like these aren’t freely given out, and we are the exception to the rule.  High school friendships falter, they bust, they end, because they were founded on the weaknesses and insecurities of being 16.  But being apart from you, I know that what we have is different.  It is more, it is stronger, and it is growing me day in and day out.

I don’t know the ins and outs of your days.  I don’t know Rachel’s grade on her geometry test, or why Jenna is having a really hard week.  I’m not there for every moment of it.  But I cherish each one of you more because of it.  Because I realize that you are irreplaceable, and in my life forever.  You have changed me, you have grown me, you have encouraged me, and you have inspired me.  You have reminded me that life is precious, that friendships are precious, and that God is always doing something extravagantly good.

Looking back over the past three years, I am amazed at Jesus’ faithfulness.  God has blessed us with friendships founded on more than ourselves, more than our feelings and our likes and dislikes- He has bound us together in sisterhood, and I have felt that sisterhood every day since May 2011.  There is not a single step that I have walked without the security of knowing that I have eleven girls willing to give up everything for me.  And I pray that each of you have felt that; that each of you know how dearly I love you, how deeply you are cherished, and how thankful I am for you.  We have been blessed beyond measure.

Whether together or apart, on a mountain in the majesty of Colorado, or in the boondocks of Abilene, we are knit together.  Intricately intertwined, hearts beating together, fingers interlocked from across state lines.  You are my best friends, my sisters, my gifts from above.  And I treasure you.

Love, Erin

 

Christmas 2010

Christmas 2010

 


Returning to Say Thank You

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Me and Sophie, 2011

I spent four years of my life working long, long hours to fundraise for Cystic Fibrosis research.  The years of 2008-2011 were spent giving all of my time away to this cause, all because of one little girl.

I spent hours planning events, fundraising donations,  recruiting volunteers, leading meetings, creating fliers, and booking venues.  All of my time was given away to the cause of this one precious little girl.

Now well into college, I don’t think about cystic fibrosis much.  Not like I used to.  My time is given away elsewhere, my mind is consumed with Young Life girls, a class full of 21 third graders, papers and projects due this week, and the always looming question, “what in the world am I going to do after graduation?”  But earlier this semester, Sophie came over, and she spent the night with me.  Just like she does every year on her birthday.

But this year was different.

It was her twelfth birthday.  And she came over with one small bag, filled with clothes and a toothbrush.  That’s it.  Just a normal sleepover, like every other twelve year old.  No pills.  No breathing treatments.  Just Sophie.

So much of the holiday season is about thankfulness, celebrating what we have.  The other day my devotional asked me, how often do I stop and thank the Lord, really thank him, for what He has done in my life.  Not just a short and sweet little “thanks Jesus!” but a really long, sincere, deep gratitude.  How often do I express that?

Here’s the answer: not nearly often enough.  I have a million things to be thankful for.  Right now, my long, sincere, deep gratitude, is for Sophie.

A year ago, I got the strangest phone call from Sophie.  I remember it so vividly.  I picked answered the phone as I was walking into REI, and she exclaimed “I don’t have cystic fibrosis!”  I don’t think anything coherent went through my mind.  Just, “what…?”  She told me the diagnosis had been wrong.  She had never had cystic fibrosis.  The first eleven years of her life, we had thought our days with her were numbered, that each day was one closer to the end of her life.  But now she was telling me that everything we knew had changed.

Her mom got on the phone and used a whole bunch of medical terms that flew right over my head, and I still don’t quite comprehend it all.  Here’s what I do understand: because of the most recent research, doctors now know that Sophie’s variation of CF is much different than what they thought.  The aggressive treatment they thought was needed before is no longer needed.  Sophie is still a carrier for CF, but she is now free to fully live, to be an active twelve year old girl with a lot of life ahead of her.

Sophie doesn’t have cystic fibrosis.  I don’t know if that’s ever really sunk in the way that it is now.  Everything that we worked for for so long, the money we fundraised and the miracles that we begged Jesus for, He answered them.  He took away cystic fibrosis, and He gave Sophie the hope of a full life.  No more ticking clock.  No more heartbreak and fear and worry over health. No more.  Just Sophie.

And it’s what Jesus did for us on the cross.  He took away the ticking clock, He took away the imminence of death, and He gave us the promise of life- eternal life with Him.

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”  Romans 6:4

And so this holiday season, I am overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed with gratitude for Sophie, and for life, and for the promises of our Savior.  Thank you, Jesus.  Thank you for saving Sophie, and thank you for saving me.

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Me and Sophie, 2014


The Perfect Gift

This weekend, my house celebrated Christmas together.  We drew names for secret santa months ago, and have spent every moment since preparing for this one night.  Sunday night, all fourteen of us piled into the living room, Christmas tree lit up in the corner, plugged in our Christmas playlist, and began our gift exchange.

It’s our favorite time of the year together.  In a house full of so many girls, it is such a rare moment that we are all here together.  This one night a year is treasured, and held close to our hearts.image1

The best part of Christmas at The Kingdom is the way we reveal who our gift is for.  The person giving the gift stands up and performs their very best impression of who they are gifting.  These impersonations are always so funny, but things that any outsider would just be confused by.  They’re like secrets, inside jokes just shared between the walls of our house.

As impressions were being made and gifts were beginning to be opened, insecurity, rearing its ugly head once again, began to rise up inside of me.  What if they don’t know how to impersonate me?  I don’t do anything memorable.  What if whoever drew me didn’t know what to get me?  What if my gift isn’t special?  I am not known. 

Every gift was perfect this year.  And as each one was opened, I became more and more anxious.

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Until Allison stood up.  I won’t share the embarrassing thing she did to reveal my name, but immediately, everyone knew the gift was for me.  I began peeling back the wrapping paper, unveiling a corner, and immediately knew what it was.  I opened the beautiful piece of art she had given me and started crying.  Like real, heavy tears.  Sobbing.

Yes- I was exhausted.  I had gotten back from Polar Bear earlier that morning and I was all out of sorts.  I was a mess.  But it was more than being tired that made me cry.  They were incredible tears of joy.  I felt so known.  Any trace of anxiety and insecurity was gone, and I felt a sweet relief and reassurance- I am fully known and fully loved.  It was a gift I didn’t ask for, but one that I loved, and one that only someone who truly knew me would have known to get me.

Gifts are my love language.  They always have been.  I love getting gifts and I love giving gifts.  The beauty of a gift isn’t the thing itself, it’s what it communicates.  The perfect gift can communicate so many things that words can’t always say.  Allison’s gift told me, you are loved.  I know you and I love you and it’s important to me that you are sure of that.

The ultimate gift came to us in the form of a baby.  God sent his Son to Earth, as an infant, to give us the ultimate gift.  Salvation.  Freedom.

He gave us a gift that said, I love you.  I will stop at nothing to let you know how much I love you.  I know you fully, more than anyone else, and I know what you need.  I created you, and you turned away from me, but I will win you back.  I will give my only Son to die so that we may be in relationship together again.  I will move mountains, I will change everything, to win you back.  I will hand over my Son to suffer and to die.

Christ came to Earth, humbled to the form of an infant, holding the promise of salvation within his tiny, fragile body.  That morning in Bethleham, God gave us the one gift that we couldn’t give ourselves.

 

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1-4

 


Like those sweet prints Allison gave me?  Check out TopoBear Designs to see more beautiful artwork from the talented John Coleman.


It is Finished

This weekend my Young Life girls and I spent our third Polar Bear Weekend together.  The past two years have been full of crowded cabins, confessions, tears,  and celebrations of salvation.

This year was a little bit different.  There were no monumental, ground breaking moments.  Cabin times ended on time, conversation was seemingly normal.  Our group was smaller, and I was the only leader for our grade.  I felt like I had less to give, and my energy and patience were spent.  I felt like nothing good came out of me, like all of my girls were the same coming out as they were going in.  Like this whole weekend didn’t really matter.

But as I look back over the weekend, I have to trust.  I have to trust that Christ is working even when I don’t see the fireworks. I have to trust that He is working in the little moments- the morning wake ups, the hugs, the small words of encouragement, the laughs, the piggy back rides, the time throwing the football, the third time jumping up and down to “Let it Go.”  My girls might not remember this weekend as the weekend they accepted Christ, or made a life changing decision, but they will remember me.  They will remember our relationships.  Even when it feels like I haven’t done enough.

During our last cabin time together, the question I asked was, “On the cross, Jesus’ last words were ‘it is finished.’  Everything that needs to be done is done.  We can rest.  In what part of your life do you just not believe ‘it is finished?'”

They had a variety of answers- insecurities, body image, family relationships.  But I realize now that for me, the answer is them.  It is so hard for me to believe that it is finished, that all of the work that needs to be done for them, for those high school girls I hold so close to my heart, is done.  Because of Christ, they are fully loved, fully known, and fully accepted.  There is nothing I can do to make them believe this more, and there is nothing I can do to make them believe this less.  They rest in His hands.  Their futures are secure in Him.  The work for their salvation was done on the cross.  It is finished.  Their futures and their relationships with Jesus are in His hands, and my shortcomings are nothing compared to His grace. Their lives are resting in the palms of the one who created them, and I can trust in Him.  I can stop trying to do everything right, and beating myself up for not doing enough.

One of my favorite memories with my sweet high school girls is one of rest.  We spent a weekend at a lake house in Corsicana last Spring, and while a bunch of the girls were chatting in another room, I curled up on the couch in the living room with Haley and Meagan.  There were no words spoken, no scripture read or hard questions asked.  We laid there wrapped up together, and fell asleep.  It was a moment of complete rest and security.  I didn’t need to say anything, I didn’t worry that I wasn’t doing enough.  I just needed to be there.  To rest.

I want to have more moments like that.  I want to rest, to fully believe that my Creator and my Savior can take it from here.  That I don’t need to work work work for these friends to know Him.  He lets me join Him and walk alongside His precious daughters in this journey, but ultimately, the work is done.  It is finished. He has done what needs to be done, and there is nothing more that I can do.

This weekend was just as valuable as every other weekend together- just as valuable as the tears, and the confessions, and the moments rejoicing over a new sister.  Jesus is consistent, and He shows up and speaks truth to our hearts, even when we can’t recognize it.  He’s teaching me to rest, to give up control and trust that He’s got it from here.  It is finished.

 

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Willow Creek

My first summer of guiding at Wilderness,  my best friend Sarah, another guide Michael, and I took out a group of girls and boys from League City, Texas.

Our second day on trail, we were stuck in a mess of jungle.  There’s a little creek called Willow Creek, and we had been given instructions to go find this creek, and then follow it all the way down to where we needed to go.  Easy Peasey.  When we first began hiking that day, there was a road to our North- a big, fat, 4 wheel drive road, and forest straight ahead.  Naturally, in the spirit of adventure, we led the kids straight into the forest.  The road would take us a couple miles out of the way, and we had been reassured that once we hit that creek, it would be easy.  So just a little bit through the forest, to the creek- not a problem.

About a mile in, we were confused.  We had hit Willow Creek, and we were following it, but somehow we had ended up hiking on such steep terrain, that we weren’t sure how to move forwards.  The creek was about 30 feet below us, surrounded by (who would have guessed) willows.  There was no easy path near the creek, and we didn’t want to risk getting cliffed out, either, so we stayed up high, where the plants were smaller and our foresight greater, but it was impossibly steep.  But we kept trekking, because, well, when you’re hiking and your only human contact is picking you up from a certain point at a certain time on a certain day, you really have no choice but to just keep moving.  So we did.  And it got steeper and steeper, our single file line stumbling and sliding and crying behind me.  With each step, our high school friends become more and more hopeless.

Three hours had gone by, then four, five, six….we had crossed boulder fields and cliffs and yet felt like we were no closer to where we were going.  It was far past lunchtime, but there wasn’t a good spot to stop- no flat ground anywhere.  But we needed lunch.  The campers were starving and they weren’t used to hiking at all, let alone through this jungle.  So we dropped our packs and went down near the creek, where the land was  semi-flatish, and we cleared a place within all the ferns and sat down for my least favorite meal of all, peanut butter and jelly on tortillas.

As the kids sat down to eat, Sarah and I pulled over to the side, took out our compass and maps, and confirmed, yet again, that we were exactly where we were supposed to be.  In the middle of this mess- exactly where we were supposed to be.  Sarah went back to rejoin the group, and I ran ahead half a mile or so to look for a trail.  There was a chance that there was a trail, and being so high up, we had just missed it.  I ran and ran, but no trail.  I sat down on a boulder and prayed.

Jesus, I hate this.  Please help us.  I know this is geographically where we are supposed to be, we have followed all of the information we were given, but there isn’t a place to put our feet.  We are falling and sliding.  Please give us a trail.  Get us out of here.  Oh Jesus, we are so tired.  Just let this day end.

I spent a few more minutes by myself before running back to the group.  Falling apart by yourself is always much better than falling apart in front of 12 high schoolers.  On my way back, it hit me- this sure is a lot like life with Jesus.

There’s a false prosperity gospel floating around these days.  The world has always known false gospels, but this one is especially prevalent right now.  It says, “accept Jesus and your life will be amazing.  You will be successful and everything will be better and easier and you will also probably be rich.”  Hmmm….confused about what Scripture that’s coming from?  Yeah, me too.

Jesus doesn’t promise us that life will be easy.  He doesn’t say that all of our problems will disappear when we let him into our lives.  No, instead, he says this, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

There are days, weeks, months, seasons, when all I can think is “this is so hard.”  I know that I’m traveling in the right direction, I know that I’m following God’s will, so why is this so damn hard?

At the end of our day, we hiked a total of maybe 4 miles.  4 miles in 8 or 10 hours.  The pace was slow, and painful, and treacherous.  We knew we were going in the right direction, we knew we were exactly where we were supposed to be, and yet it was hard.  Painfully hard.  At the end of the day, we came up over a ridge and ended up in a beautiful clearing, right next to- you guessed it, that big, fat, four wheel drive road.  We could have taken the road all along.  But that day, we learned a couple important things.  Following God’s will means going into the messes that he calls us to.  Down into the creek, up on the side of a mountain where we could barely get our footing- into the hard places.  He calls us into messes and into hard times because that is when we truly learn to rely on Him, and trust Him, and turn to Him.

Epilogue: a hailstorm rolled in right as we were setting up our tents and trying to get dinner started.  Sarah and Michael and I half laughed and half cried, together in agreement that no matter where life takes us, we will always choose adventure, confident that Jesus walks every treacherous step right alongside us.

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