The Dude Ranch Diaries: Tattoo

“I will never get a tattoo.”

I spoke those words adamantly as his BMW sped along the curves of the northern California hills. They fell somewhere between my “I love Jesus,” spiel and, “I don’t mess around, so don’t mess with me,” speech. It was approximately an hour drive from the airport, due north towards the ranch, and our conversation (steered by me) covered all my essentials. Meanwhile, I observed with clear caution the large green pot leaf tattooed on his right arm with the cursive, bold, black words scripted, “God’s Gift,” as I shared my I don’t care what you do, but this is how I live beliefs.

“You’ll get a tattoo by the end of the summer,” Mr. Chef replied quite confidently.

“I’m sorry, but no, I will never get a tattoo,” I replied with gusto.

I was so sure of myself at the beginning.

Yeah, things clearly changed.


I shared an A-frame cabin with two other girls, or was it three? By the end of the summer, I had the place to myself because the other girls had either left, or moved into the cabins of their boyfriends. The cabin was one room, with high ceilings and a small deck out back overlooking the stables. Each of the four corners had a twin-sized bed, with a ragged old couch and a couple worn out shelves and dressers scattered along the available wall-space. Our front door didn’t fully close, which I positively accounted to the rustically, “roughing it” experience. Living. The. Dream. I must admit I was somewhat relieved when I had the place to myself because we all had to share a tiny bathroom.

In this tiny bathroom, there was small plaque that was push-pinned into the wood paneling. Squished beside the small shower, and toilet cubby space, and above the sink and dirty mirror were these influential words, that would absolutely affect the way I lived out the summer.

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“If you don’t do it, you’ll never know what would have happened if you had done it.”

-Ashleigh Brillant

Ever since the moment I muttered the word “Never,” I knew I’d live to regret it. Because early into the adventure, early into the craziness, I realized that I kinda, really wanted a tattoo. Not just that I wanted one, but I had a sense that I needed it. Back and forth, back and forth, I prayerfully struggled with my “no tattoo” beliefs. And each morning before work, and each evening before bed, those words would inch their way closer to my heart.

Until I let go…

I started thinking of ideas. Rustic. Cross. Horseshoe. Something to commemorate the dude ranch experience, and the things that helped get me through. And once my creativity took way, I knew I was a goner. I knew I needed this tattoo of my dreams.

I sent my ideas to my best friend back home, because I wanted her to draw it! It would add to the “meaningful” part of the experience. She sent me a few designs…

Saraj

Then I responded to her revisionary ideas… and then she sent THE ONE. It. Was. Perfect. This tattoo would be more than ink etched into my skin. It would be proof that if I could survive this ranch experience, then surely I could survive anything!

sarah

The day after my 20th birthday, Mr. Chef to whom I proudly proclaimed that I would never, ever get a tattoo, not only drove me to the tattoo parlor near the ocean, but he also purchased it for me as a birthday gift!

I really enjoyed the experience. My dear (I say that sarcastically) friend, decided that he would describe the pain as similar to a couple hundred bees stinging me all at once. However, for the hour or two that the tattoo artist was working on me, the most pain that I felt was having to lie on a metal table in the same position for that amount of time. The monotonous buzzing sound would have eased me into a sweet slumber, had I not been so uncomfortable. Though, much to the tattoo artist’s excitement, I jumped a bit as the ink tore into my ankle bone. “Oh I got you there!” he stated satisfied.

Next to me was a sociable lady being tattooed for the who knows how manyth time. The current tattoo was a black outline of two coffee stains. She told me the story of how she and her significant other met in a diner, and the intertwining coffee stains resembled their love story.

The only negative detail about the tattoo experience was that I got it with a few weeks left in the summer – which meant a couple weeks without hot tubs or swims. We also poorly planned our trip, because we went to the ocean after I was tatted. So it was all looks and no feels with Mr. Pacific Ocean.

Originally, I had planned on keeping the tattoo black and white, like the image my friend had drawn. That would keep it nice and affordable for the wallet of Mr. Chef. However, while the tattooist was sketching out the actual tattoo, he recommended creating a larger image, as well as adding shading and color. Generously, he offered to stick to his initial quote in price, and with that information, Mr. Chef and I were sold! Here’s how the finished product turned out with a glistening coating of Walgreen’s A&D ointment:

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  • Cross – Jesus, my center, my everything, especially through the terrible times.
  • Wooden – To fit to the rustic, ranch theme, and as the cross was – two wooden planks that our Savior was nailed to.
  • Flame – A combination of two songs that helped me survive the summer – “Consuming Fire” recorded by Hillsong UNITED and “Consume Me” by DC Talk.
  • Barb-wired heart – God, as my consuming fire, is the true lover of my soul. And though I didn’t know it at the time, it is also a reminder of God’s ability to redeem us from our painful memories and experiences. Can I get an Amen? Plus, do you see the cool “S” at the bottom? Yeah, that was on the bone…
  • WWJD – I know some people think it is cheesy, but really, “What Would Jesus Do?”
  • Horseshoe – To commemorate my love of horses, line-dancing and the ranch experiences. It is facing upward so that the luck won’t spill out. Which is one of the better lessons I learned from my boss.

Oh… You’re wondering how my mom felt about it all? Apparently, I told her it was going to be smaller. But, don’t worry, after the shock wore off, she eased into enthusiasm about it, and its message.

And I must say, I have not ever regretted it. I knew, like the grand message of the small plaque in our miniature bathroom, that had not done it, I never would’ve known, how much I would adore it.


So what’s your story: “If you don’t do it, you’ll never know what would have happened if you had done it”?   

Job Identity Crisis

I’ve had this internal crisis since I’ve moved home, which has now been 1/4 of a year ago. I have been home for a season and I still have not found permanent employment. You know what that does to a person, more specifically to me? It destroys.

I didn’t realize this until I was unemployed, but I place the majority of my identity on what I do for a living. I know I’m not supposed to, as a Christian, I’m supposed to root my identity in Christ. But it’s really hard to stay focused on that in social situations. It’s such an easy go-to question that rapidly follows, “What’s your name?” or “Do you have a family?” or the classic “How are you doing?” –  “What do you do for a living?” or “Where do you work?” My answer for the last four months has been, “I’m still looking,” or “I’m unemployed,” which internally means “I’m a loser,” “I have no identity/purpose/reason to exist,” or “I’m lazy.” None of which are true, but they are the whispers that creep in, as I hopelessly respond to such an mundane life question.

People encourage my response in a variety of ways, but most of them add weight to my already burdening load. You see, I’m trying to have faith and follow Jesus, which often includes paths that are uncommon or nontraditional to the world. When God tells me to “Have faith and wait,” the world looks at me, disapprovingly shaking their heads saying, “Well clearly you need to try harder, apply more, or settle for awhile.” Oooo that word gives me knots in my shoulders. The being that God created in me is unnerved at the idea of settling, even temporarily. (Which also kills me inside, because it would be so. much. easier. to just have a darn job!)

This video summed up my emotions perfectly. I’m definitely the Cory in this clip, though I don’t know who I’m fighting with – God, this town, everyone, my internal critic, the jobs who take their time in the hiring process… but nothing makes me feel more worthless than not having a job.

Talk about an identity crisis. I really wish I could walk into a new social situation and say, “I follow Jesus for a living,” without sounding completely catty or slightly sarcastic. Then again, having support-raised for a living, a usual response is, “How do you pay the bills?” For me, this is when the internal sarcastic sh*t really hits the fan.

Basically our job identities plummet when one of the following three things happen:

  1. We are unemployed: Ah… I don’t have a job…?
  2. We don’t like what we do: Well… I work front desk at a hotel, but I really like the times when I don’t work – then I run half-marathons, and write letters to friends, and hip-hop dance (the last example I made up, but really who doesn’t want to rock the hip-hop dance-floor?)
  3. Who we are talking to, doesn’t approve of what we do: So I run the hospitality side of a retreat center that serves pastors and missionaries and their families… And I support-raise too! (Response: In America we work for our paycheck.) Ah… So do I…?

It is really easy when:

  1. We not only love what we do, but it also serves a greater good: I work with an awesome nonprofit in southeastern Kentucky that loves people for a living, and we help them help themselves get outta poverty while we’re at it! Woo! (Cheerleading kick for added enthusiasm for saving the world!)
  2. When our jobs provide affluently for our lifestyles (I’ve never known this reality, so I’ll make up an example): I work ten hour days with unbelievable pay and bennies, so that I can support myself, my hefty church tithe (wink wink), my family of adopted doggies, and all the gerbils I foster… Basically, I don’t know what to do with all my money!
  3. We do the thing that we always wanted to do (my brother is a good example for this one, so I’ll, in this instance only, pretend to be him): When I was a wee boy, I got my amazing little sis to play news with me. I’d anchor of course. Why, of course! I always knew I wanted to rock at news reporting, and now I do! Funny, how life works out!

I just vomited in my mouth.

But really, I’m happy for those people!

(Okay, the exclamation mark was slightly sarcastic…)

Anyway, identity. During the past several months I’ve been searching for mine – Who am I, when I’m not saving the world? More specifically – Who am I, when I don’t have a steady paycheck coming in? How do I make my time worthwhile? How do I not waste the days away in worry?

I’ve tried everything. I’ve written letters to friends, exercised like crazy, created yummy food and eaten too much, finished all the books I started at the beginning of the summer, spent time with family and friends, tried to reconnect with old friends, camped, hiked, road-tripped, healed, binged watched TV shows and movies, written, watched writing seminars online to improve my craft, and begged… Boy, have I begged God to just let me have a job that I somewhat enjoy that also pays my minimum hourly wage with good bennies!!! Please??? PLEASE!!!

But there’s one thing I haven’t done. I have yet to humble myself down, and ask God to help me root my identity in Him. So in future life crises, I’ll at least know who I am.

“Who are you?” – I am a child of God. – For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

“What do you do?” – I follow Jesus wherever he sends me. – Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

“How do you pay your bills?” – God provides. – Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

“How do you know that what you’re doing is right?” – Because it doesn’t make sense to me… – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

and

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”

“Okay… How do I join?!” – Be born again. – Read the story of Nicodemus here

and CELEBRATE!!! IT’S NOT AN EASY PATH, BUT IT’S SO WORTH IT!!! – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Today was the day I was “supposed” to score an interview with the job that I lakeside cheers’d God for over the weekend. But I knew there was going to be trouble… ahem… life was not going to go according to my plan when I drew my word of the day – “FAITH”. My exact response was: Sigh, God. Come on! Really? So I’m going to have to wait longer? I called to “check in” and remind the organization that I am indeed human, and I am still interested (since the last time we talked… you know… last week…) They didn’t even record that I called, but kindly stated, “Well the closing date was Monday, so they’ll probably review applications this week. Maybe call back next week.” I hope I didn’t sound too disappointed as I responded that I would indeed check back in next week.

My heart sank. Fear crept in. My bank account sent daggers flying in my direction. I found my way swiftly to Indeed.com, and started frantically “easy applying,” when I heard a calm whisper: You’re doing this out of fear. You don’t trust me? I need something to do God! I need a job God! You need to trust me. I’m an adult! I need to provide for myself. My ship is sinking! Am I just supposed to wait on you? That doesn’t seem practical. Yes. Trust me. I will provide. Have I given you any reason to doubt this? No… So what’s the problem? I feel like I’m disappointing everyone, because while everyone else is working… I am not. So?… To everything there is a season. A time to rest, and a time to work. So rest. A time to work is coming soon. Have faith darling, I have come that you might have life, and that you might have it abundantly (John 10:10). There is not crisis, when your identity is rooted in Me – the great I AM.  But…? What do I do in the meantime? No buts about it, just trust. Take a risk – Have faith. 😉

 

Leaving Better

Today I found myself traveling an hour and half away from home to take a test. It sounds exciting right?! Well, actually, it was!

Mantorville, Minnesota is a small town northwest of Rochester, Minnesota. Before a few days ago, I never knew it existed. I have been out of state for the past six years, nevertheless it is a small dot on a map that can easily be overlooked. Then again, so is the town where I grew up.

It would have been easy to GPS my way into town, take the exam and then leave without anyone ever having a clue I’d been there, but that’s just not my style. Deep down I have this desire to leave places better than when I found them. This doesn’t mean I’m some super hero passing through, changing one life after another after another. It can be as simple as my tedious habit of drying off each sink I use in a public restroom, assuming paper towels are handy. Today it meant that, and also one act of kindness manifested by God.

Have you ever had that feeling, like God’s asking you to do something? For me, it feels like a slight pressure on my heart, or really, my soul. I always know it’s God, because the idea usually includes me taking a risk or doing something seemingly uncomfortable at the time. Though it’s usually simple or menial, I regularly try to shrug it off. But God is persistent, even, and especially, when the task doesn’t really make sense to me. You want me to do what?! Really? Are you sure? … Are you still sure? Yes, God’s patience with me is impeccable, and so is His grace. If I’ve been learning anything this past year, it’s that I always feel better, and adrenaline-rushed, when I take those tiny risks of faith and obey. I also repeatedly learn that God always comes through, always.

Arriving in town with time to spare before the merit test, I found my way .2 miles down the road to the County Seat Coffeehouse. Their sweet, yummy coffee drink list was extensive, but unfortunately I knew they would make me shaky, and distracted by the need to use the restroom while being tested, so I resigned to a cup of delicious chicken tortellini soup. I smiled awkwardly and distracted myself with Facebook and Instagram as I felt the eyes of the elders of the town look upon me, knowingly recognizing that I was an out-of-towner. They seemed nice nonetheless; Minnesotans generally are. I dined and ditched (pre-paying of course) and giddily jaunted the .2 miles up to the courthouse.

Upon entering, I was greeted by the officer behind the security entrance. He gladly offered me directions to where I needed to be: down the stairs, to the right and then to the left. In Conference Room 1 surrounded by seven other ladies of varying ages, I mused at the fact that half of them, including the test proctor, received the memo to wear cuffed capris. Clearly, we were all testing for the same job and we seemed to dress the part.

This exam, my second test of the week, humored me through angry customer questions, and cleared me of the test anxiety I once felt as a student. Actually, I quite liked it. I thoroughly enjoyed categorizing numbers and calculating the petty cash totals allotted in the example pages of the test. Honestly, though, my favorite part was editing. I really love editing. I didn’t realize how much until this exam. Perhaps I’ll become an editor when I grow up… Well… and a writer too!

Post-exam, the kind security officer wished me well, and I was off to celebrate my fine office support abilities with a sugary, delicious drink from the coffeehouse. Can you say Peanut Butter Bliss? With one sip of that sugary delight you’d join me in the ooo-ing and aw-ing of coffee meets sugar meets peanut butter. Accompanying my well-sipped sugar rush, the .4 miles more of meandering readied me to gas up my Honda, and head home. However, while I was feeding “Horse” my sturdy, steady Honda, I felt the pressure as I heard the still, small idea:

What if you ask the security officer if he wants a coffee?’

“No God, what?! I already have mine. It’d be weird. Why would I do that? I’m so not doing it. I know you’ll love me anyway.”

I will, but you’ll never know what would’ve happen if you did.’ 

“Playing with my curiosity strings God? … So not cool. I’m still not going.”

‘Okay…’

As I drove up the hill beside the courthouse, I pulled in. I had to know what in the world God was up to. Plus, a part of me gets a thrill out of random acts of kindness. I parked, and headed towards the courthouse doors, again. I spotted another worker visiting with the security guard and I almost turned around, but I was already through the first set of doors. No turning back, no turning back.

There I was. There he was. Arms crossed over my stomach, I confidently asked if I could get him a coffee from town. He mentioned to the other worker he was more of a soda person, and thanked me in a questioning way. I told him he was sitting there through it all, and he had been so kind to me, I thought I’d offer to buy him a coffee drink. Though he didn’t accept, he seemed grateful for the thoughtfulness, and if anything, the officer behind him seemed amused. Continuing to chat, he asked me if I was local and was applying for a job with their county. I told him no, that I drove in from the cities and was interested in work even further north. “I’m all over the place, “I confessed with a chuckle. He smiled just the same, and offered his knuckle. Just kidding, but he seemed grateful nonetheless. (I can’t turn down a rhyme.)

Afterwards, I felt that familiar rush that comes alongside these random-acts-of-kindness moments. It was the same rush I felt last week when I paid for the fries of the lady in the drive-through behind me at Wendy’s. I don’t know what happened, if either really made a difference or not, but through the beats of joy I felt, I know that God was grateful for my obedience (which in the end, is all that really matters). I do hope to see the big picture someday – the giant scheme that perfectly fits together all these acts-of-kindness puzzle pieces.

I’m not bragging, as none of these ideas were of my own accord, but of God. Our Father in Heaven is reaching down to us on earth, reminding us to take care of each other. No matter where we live, how well we know each other, whether or not we agree on our beliefs, how we look or whether or not we are worthy, God asks us to love one another. Take care of each other. None of us are worthy, and no one has it all together. Sometimes all we need is a free coffee on Friday, a compliment on Monday, or a smile on Wednesday. However God asks you to show love, kindness and care, just do it. I promise you that it will make someone’s day, and it will make your day.

Instead of hearing”You better leave,” leave a place better than you found it. Be the change and you will make a difference. I mean look at me – I wasn’t just a stranger in a small town easily overlooked on a map. I was a pebble, hopefully creating a ripple of kindness into a living, breathing community of people who need to know that they are appreciated. They are worthy. They are loved. Even, if only, by a stranger passing through.

PEBBLE

 

“So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” -Luke 10:27

 

The Colorado Diaries

What happens when life doesn’t go according to plan? I discovered this question last week in a big way. I had plans, ginormous leap-of-faith plans, and I was risking it all. Ante in, I bet everything.

It started out good, well kinda; it started out kinda good. Then out of blue skies avalanched a mass of emotions that I didn’t see coming. I pictured sunny skies, and those are the ones my social media depicted, but in all reality: they were gray, gloom with a steady chance of showers.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m so incredibly thankful for all the beautiful people I met last week and their wonderfully kind and thoughtful hearts. On paper, everything was fantastic. I networked. I jumped through hoops, oh boy, did I jump through hoops – I did everything everyone told me to, except in great stress and anxiety, I stopped listening to the only voice that mattered.

And now, a week washed away, I stand amidst the crumbling remains of what I thought were my dreams. Now, I’m scared of what that still, small voice might say.

March 25, 2017

Depleted.

If I could describe myself in one word today, it would be “depleted”. As I board the plane to Colorado, I question every decision I’ve made up to this moment. Like why in the world would I ever leave Kentucky? I glance at the photo of bourbon barrels on the wall for comfort. What am I getting myself into?

All job-searching has left me empty-handed; empty-handed and soon be jobless and homeless. Just me, my stuff and a U-haul. Leaving this land I love to move to a city where I know no one. Jumping, leaping with no sign of landing.

This is when my heart sternly prays, “God, please show up now.”

I’m tempted to worry, oh boy, would I worry, but I can’t. For every doubt I’ve thought there’s a still, small reply, “I’ve got this. I’ve called you. Just trust me.” Every single time. Each step of the way, I can see God working. My resignation date to the gentlemen who offered to help me book the U-haul and attach the trailer, God’s hand is in this; He is working.

As my plane lifts off the ground and into the morning skyline, so does my hope and trust as I take this risk, this epic leap of faith, following that trusty, still, small voice.

Where you go, I will follow.

Here I am, send me. 

Give me peace. Grant me patience. Help me obey.

No matter how hard I try or how much I hope to be involved, I know that this is not of me, my hard work or ability. This is all you Lord. All you. So I give it all to you. All hope, trust and glory be to you God, the Light of the world.

Later that night…

I am officially scared out of mind and body. I keep silently pleading that God will let me move to Lexington instead. I know it’s fear talking. After all my silent pleads I hear, “I think you’re gonna like it here,” which is sing-songed to the newish Annie song. 

It’s all so new, so unknown. Completely different than my Kentucky world – my Kentucky love. Also there’s the sense of hopelessness: Is a month long enough to find a job and a home? What if that doesn’t happen? What if I do something wrong and God doesn’t come through for me? Oh me of little faith. The mocking, belittling voice in my head says, “Who would want to hire you anyways? What do you have to offer? You’re experiences won’t help you. You might as well quit.”

I feel anxious while I’m typing this… Words straight from my journal – not necessarily poetic, but true to this page: raw. What if He makes me relive the experience I had last week, except this time… forever? I need to take a break.

March 26, 2017

Life is working out for me in a way that it never did in Kentucky. This morning, as I worshipped with my new fellow believers at Woodmen – I remembered some important details about the nature of God. Lost in praise I felt the beauty of worship despite a scary and seemingly hopeless venture. As tears threatened to trail down my cheeks and my voice choked to silence, my heart – my soul – thank my precious Savior for what He was about to do. For all the doors He would open and connections He would make so I could follow where He leads me. Seemingly dire, I praised him despite my inkling of human doubt.

It wasn’t perfect, in fact, I’m sure I was gleefully off-key, but it was beautiful. The message, in a series that each week had been speaking to my soul, followed in suit.

Lead by the Spirit, and my mother’s encouragement, after the service, I headed to the connection center. Directing myself to the available helper in the center, God swooped the lady to his left in my direction instead. She was wonderful! I shared my story of how I’m moving there in a month and want to get connected with people my age of 20s-30s. Very informed, she shared all her knowledge and passion for young adults and singles groups in the congregation. Feeling the urge of the Holy Spirit, I added in the “and if you know anyone looking for roommates…” which lead me to deluge my leap of faith.

“I don’t have a job yet… or a place to live,” I explained, “But I know in my depths this is where God is calling me.”

“Several years ago,” she responded, “That was my story too. I moved from Iowa with no job and no place to live, but I had a few folks that helped me settle in.”

In that moment, I felt the most delightful feeling: Hope. She asked me my background and my interests and I could see lightbulbs, left and right, going off. Five minutes prior, we had been complete strangers. Now she was helping me find a solid place to land.

Yesterday, one month seems like no time at all.

This morning, I worshipped despite.

Shortly after, the hope of possibility reignited my faith.

With each passing moment, I can feel you working Lord. It’s still scary at times, but if we just focus on each of the todays as they come, i think I’ll be okay. Thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU! I can’t wait to see what you do next!

I will trust in you.

My good, good Father.

I am no longer a slave to fear!

I am Your child!

I will follow where you lead,

and I know you are in control.

Though I fail and fall short,

I cannot screw this up for you!

A grand praise and thanksgiving to that!

Help me, equip me to continue to follow and obey, and to somehow give back to everyone who is helping me. Your will Lord. Close doors that need to be closed, that aren’t right, and open those you have planned for me. Your plan Lord, your plan. Your move! I’ll follow.

My prayer: Direct my path, guide my steps. So all glory may be given to you!

It’s really hard to read back on this moment without thinking, ‘what in the world are you doing Lord?’ I repeatedly question if I’m just taking my own path, because I have this tendency to believe that God doesn’t want what I want. ‘Surely He calls me to struggle, and take the path of anxiety.’ I must remind myself that He created my desires. He knows that I long to be around the people that I care about, and my heart hopes to be closer to friends and family with every passing minute (even if it means venturing to the frozen tundra and living in an igloo for nine months each year). He knows how to coax me to where I need to be. Knowing my terrible inability to follow, He confidently leads me around the dance-floor of life. He made me just the way I am.

So why do we question? His ways are above my ways, and I know now that I needed to go through the following. I needed these possibilities to be able to give my 110% to my Colorado hopes and dreams fund. Sometimes we need to risk it all and fail in order to willfully follow onto what God originally had planned. Failure is better than regret. Failure means we at least tried.

March 27, 2017

Waking up anxious seems to be the devil’s attempt to distract me. However, it does not distract me for long, as God shines brightly through the kindness of His Colorado Springs children. I have never met so many people so willing to help. Not simply willing but also excited and grateful to help. It is clear that these people are distinctly God’s people. Selflessly kind, generous with their time and willing to help a complete stranger, they amaze me.

Anxiety creeps in as I worry about which hoops I need to jump through, but I know – it is so clear to me now – that God will not let me miss His opportunity for me.

March 28, 2017

One month

Waking up anxious again today has presented less hope. Lots of brainstorming and many good ideas… and a few dead-ends. Will I have a home? Will I be able to pay for said home?

You’re not going to leave me hanging God. I know you’re not. Am I doing too much? Am I doing the right things? How do I sit and wait when pressure from all sides says, “Do this! Apply here! Call there!” My work leads to dead-ends, Lord. Where does your will, your work, your way lead me?

Is there anything I must do besides wait?

I am overwhelmed, pressurized and yet enlightened by the kindness of such strangers, I’m hopeful. On my own I’m lost, rejected, tire and worn, but with you I have hope and new life. Lord please deliver soon – if anything for mom’s nerves. Your will. Your plan. Your steps.

Later that night…

I quit God.

I quit.

March 29, 2017

I’m broken, frustrated, defeated – why in the world would you call me out here and take away all the good things in my life?! Clearly I am not simply content with just you. I feel alone, even though you’ve provided so many thoughtful folks, but there is so much to do. Do opportunities ever show up in people’s laps? Must an already difficult move be even more difficult? I hate this. I hate it.

Rollercoaster of emotion leaving my heart in Kentucky and now this emptiness, worthlessness. Why in the f*cking world would anyone want to hire me anyway? I’m so not worth it.

Are you sure you don’t want me to stay in Kentucky? Please? Let me stay. Let me quit. Please. I can’t do this anymore.

What do you want from me?

I just feel like an idiot for trying.

Marcy 31, 2017

I’m seriously considering moving home. What in the world is wrong with me?

I’m exhausted, worn, depleted. Dead man walking.

Everything’s changing, but not in the way I had planned. What in the world is going on?

Lost and confused seems to be my official state.

I don’t know who I am or what I want anymore. So dazed and confused by jumping through everyone else’s hoops. I am a successful hoop-jumper. When all else is silenced, what is left?

I still question, if that still, small voice is the Right One or simply one in my head. ‘Have I been listening to my own voice this whole time?’ I second guess myself over and over again. It continues to comfort through my doubt, leading me on a path towards peace. I know that if He wants me somewhere, He’ll make sure I get there. Also, He’ll pack my knapsack to the brim with peace, because He’s generous like that. A loving Father, He promised to never leave my side, even when I’m frustrated because things aren’t going the way had planned or expected. Sometimes I feel like a teenager around our Lord, whining because His plan “embarrassed” me or somehow made me feel like a fraud.

Isn’t it tough when faith adventures seem to go awry?

What do you do to cope?

How do you know that you are headed in the right direction?

I think I get caught up in the whole “direction” mode. As an adventurer, I want to feel special and called, so I put all my energy into figuring out the place that God has for me. I’m starting to think along the lines of a quote that a friend has mentioned to me several times over.

“Do we enjoy our work, love our work, virtually worship our work so that our devotion to Jesus is off-center? Do we put our emphasis on service, usefulness, or being productive in working for God—at his expense? Do we strive to prove our own significance? To make a difference in the world? To carve our names in marble on the monuments of time? The call of God blocks the path of all such deeply human tendencies. We are not primarily called to do something or go somewhere; we are called to Someone. We are not called to special work but to God. The key to answering the call is to be devoted to no one and to nothing above God himself.” -Os Guinness

I used to dislike it, because I wanted to have direction, but now I’m wondering if all I need to do is seek Him wherever I am. Whether I be in transition, Colorado, Kentucky, Minnesota, England: Seek Him. By plane, car, U-haul: Seek Him. In coffee shops, bars, clubs: Seek Him. Be it administrative work, nonprofits, or writing: Seek Him. Follow my heart, do what I need to do, and seek Him. He’ll be there, present in all circumstances.

So when your path serves up a curveball, just remember to seek Him. God’s understanding is far beyond our own. Yes, He calls some of us to special places, but sometimes He simply asks us that we just serve Him wherever we are in whatever we are doing. We must use the gifts He created for us to love others, and mostly importantly, love Him.

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P.S. My path is leading me home!!!

(and yes, I’m excited about it!)

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” -Frederick Buechner

 

Weary Sinner

Tired. Worn.

Packing up that which was.

As I prepare for what will be.

Doors close behind, as I wait in faith.

The looming hallway between darkens.

Struggling, I give in anxiously.

How long will I wait?

. . .

On my knees now I pray:

Forgiveness for my impatience.

Patience for my waiting.

Waiting in expectance.

Expecting something greater.

Greater than what is now.

Now soon to be memories.

Memories soon shall be made new.

New doors will open.

Opened by God, those I shall walk through.

. . .

Always forgiven,

His beloved, I am.

White as snow,

Despite my sins,

and disobedience.

Ignoring His voice,

Even when I know

What He offers is GREATER.

. . .

Thankful for His sacrifice.

I run towards His embrace.

Surrendering,

Again,

All that ties me down.

Free,

Now,

To follow His path,

His dream,

At His pace.

“28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

-Bible Gateway – English Standard Version

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Thanks and Good Night [to HomeDreamLight]

[Believe it or not, it is difficult to delete an old blog. It’s like saying goodbye to a part of me, and of course the people that helped me along the way. But in order to focus here, on The Rah Raw Diaries, I had to say goodbye. I copied it here, because I want to remember it.]

Thank you to all of you who followed me as I chased my cleftRock dream through working at CAP. Journeying back to Kentucky was one of the most rash decisions, yet best I have ever made. All the encouragement and “likes” I received along the way through sharing stories of love, loss, adventures and everything in-between, made a beautiful difference in my life.

I have now fully transitioned to my other blog and will be deleting this one in a day or two. Most of my posts were transferred to: The Rah Raw Diaries so you can still find them there, if you need to reminisce on any of the delightful messages that God taught us.

You are more than welcome to continue to follow me on my new adventure of “Harvesting spiritual strength through emotional emptiness.” If not, I bid you adieu and merci beaucoup. It’s been fun 🙂

Risk it, live your dreams, and love people – we need each other ❤

Full Circle

This weekend, I found myself at the Woolly Worm Festival in Beattyville, Kentucky. It was my second frequenting of the festival, and one of many visits to Lee County. Beattyville is the location where I first fell in love with Kentucky, and where seeds of passion and service were planted into my heart and soul.

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My junior year of high school I made one of the best decisions of my life. It was a hard decision, as it was to quit an activity that I had enjoyed in a life-altering way the previous  two years, however said passion had began to fade because of extenuating circumstances [which are not of importance at this instance]. I didn’t like the idea of quitting. Perseverance was more my go-to choice, but something in my heart said it was time.

It was probably one of my first “adulting” difficult conversations as I told the director that “it just isn’t for me anymore.” She was disappointed, but grateful that I told her about it – and supportive of my future ventures. You see, since I quit New Wine, I was able to go on my church’s Kentucky mission trip! One decision to quit, to end something – however good it may have been in its time – radically changed my life for the better.

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Two trips to Lee County, Kentucky, my summers after my junior and senior years of high school, planted seeds that were nourished and grew during my college years. The desires of service helped me persevere through the mundane life of classes, homework, work and research papers. Many times in college, I felt blah, because I just wanted to be actually helping someone.

Towards the end of my senior year of college, one of my high school youth group friends [who I grew closer to through our Kentucky mission trips] and I were researching what to do after we graduated. She was looking into being a long-term volunteer with an organization in Kentucky. Thinking I might be interested in it too, she shared it with me. What’s the name of this organization you ask? The Christian Appalachian Project (CAP).

I probably procrastinated my discernment process, as college taught me well, but God didn’t let that stop him. The August after my college graduation, I found myself moving into a volunteer house with approximately ten strangers ready to invest in community and to serve God in Appalachia. I requested to live in the Jackson County house because it was the closest community to Beattyville, where part of my heart was already planted.

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The first month or two were quite difficult for me. I didn’t immediately transition into loving Kentucky. You see, the summer after I graduated Bethel (or Beth-hell, as I called it – clearly I wasn’t a big fan…) I found myself in a place of comfort. I moved back home, close to Duluth, Minnesota, where I was close to several friends I grew up with while still able to keep in contact with the friends I acquired in college. I didn’t have a steady job, but I occupied my time with leading a Bible study, investing in friends, and taking my Gma shopping. Life was good. Life was comfortable, and it’s difficult to trade comfort for something new, but it is also necessary.

. . .

A couple weeks in to my new Kentucky/volunteer life I wrote about “Trusting God with the what ifs” in my journal. These were my fears at the time:

My what if fears:

  • Grandma will die while I’m away?
  • I’m not good enough for this position?
  • God makes me stay a second year when I’m already homesick now?
  • What if I drive off a cliff?
  • I’m not a good enough housemate?
  • I never get over this homesickness?

Some of them were quite valid, while others were less rational. I ended up getting over my homesickness at orientation a couple weeks later. This is also when I started to invest more in my community and became a great housemate, for the most part. Practice makes perfect, and I have yet to drive off a cliff… ::knock on wood:: #racecardriver  Not only did I stay a second [and a half] year, but I also connected with my friend/twin on a dock who also had an inkling that she would stay a second year. (We both now work at CAP, and have been housemates and apartmentmates in and outside of CAP volunteer life. #justkeeptwinning) I was definitely good enough for the position, and the position planted seeds for future career opportunities. And finally, Gma did pass away in the spring of my second year. Though by that time I was so deeply rooted in my community that such a loss only brought us all closer together. Those months before and after her passing are when I felt the most connected to my community, and felt God’s love more fully than I ever had before.

God is so faithful.

. . .

Watching the Cumberland Mountain Outreach (CMO) float pass by, at the parade on Saturday, I clapped and hollered, and felt a rush of emotions overwhelm me. I could hear my voice choke back tears as I told my friends about the organization and the missionaries that inspired my love of Kentucky and my desire to serve here. This is where it all began, and that lady on the float, Cindy, was who I wanted to be when I grew up. However in this instance, they were more of gratitudinous feelings – as if things were wrapping up.

Mission trips to Kentucky consisted of so many things I loved. We stopped at horse farms, did touristy things and ate Fazoli’s along the way. Kentucky sunrises and sunsets were magnificently pressed into my memory. We square-danced and had a clogging lesson. I line-danced to a local bluegrass group (a key “falling in love with Kentucky” moment for me). We played tennis and swam. We led a day camp for local youth, and did home improvement work at the mission center as well as on participants’ homes. I made friends with people that I thought were too cool for me, and some of them became life-long besties (ahem Jordan 😉 #bunfactory #fruitfighters). We grew in faith and fellowship. #ephesians2:10  We shared and listened to testimonies. And as we listened to the story of Cindy and Bruce, I felt a similar rush of emotions, except these were of a new beginning, a heart-pounding desire to serve.

. . .

It’s funny how life works. In the middle of my CAP journey, I found myself at a meeting at Natural Bridge State Park. This was while I was the volunteer host for our groups during my second and a half year(s) as a long-term volunteer. CMO had used this facility as well, a couple times a week to take a our day-campers for a refreshing dip in the pool. We also hit Hoedown Island on Saturday nights to partake in the square dancing fun.

There, I experienced a full-circle moment. While on break from the meeting, I looked down from the lodge to the pool below. I saw my high school self looking back, proud that I had made it. Glad that though it all, my dreams had come true. I survived college and the rough patches, and I was actually doing it – I had given up my comfortable life, and became a missionary in Kentucky.

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. . .

In Karen Kingbury’s The Bridge (the movie version), at the end of the first movie Molly tells Ryan that it is snowing, and he asks her what it’s like. She says hopefully, “It makes all the lights feel magical. Makes everything feel like… Like a blank slate. New and promising.”

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That’s how felt at the parade. Like my Kentucky journey had come full circle. As the CMO float passed, I felt my Kentucky journey wrapping up, as my heart is opening up to a new door, a new dream… Ready to harvest another seed that was planted awhile ago… A new circle, a fresh opportunity, and an exciting adventure awaits.

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