Saturday, August 26, 2017

When You Can't Keep Going

A few weeks ago, I climbed up a mountain.

Okay, so it wasn't a technical "mountain," and it wasn't exactly "climbing," but it felt close enough. We hiked up a hill.

It was the last day of our mission trip to Ireland. For the previous five days, we had spent our time and energy playing with and loving kids who desperately needed it. I got weird looks from people when I told them I was going to Ireland for a mission trip--isn't Ireland already a mostly Christian country? According to statistics and the teaching in the schools, yes. Ireland is mostly Catholic/Christian. But going there, I saw people, especially the children I spent time with, dry and in need of Jesus' real grace and truth.

On Saturday night, after the "Big Day Out" put on by the church we partnered with, our trip leader Matthew told us he, and anyone else who wanted to come, was going to get up and walk up this hill we had seen on the beach.

To hike up the mountain and have time to get ready for church later that morning, we had to leave at 7:00AM. Normally, getting up that early isn't a big deal. But we had been getting up early every day, fighting through jet lag every day, playing and dancing and talking to kids every day. And y'all, hiking was not my thing. 

But I wanted to hike up that hill. I wanted to see that cross, see the ocean, the view of the town we'd served. I was certain that God had something for me at the top of that cliff.

So I woke up at six. I got up, got ready. And we went downstairs.

The walk to the hill was about 15 minutes long. The hike to the top, we had learned from locals, took about 30 minutes. No big deal. The whole walk would take about an hour.

Rain drizzled as we walked down the beach. The sunrise was soft on the Irish ocean. When we reached the hill, the rain stopped. I was feeling confident. The slope wasn't too bad, and we'd walked up a lot of hills during the week. I could see the cross at the top, could hardly wait to reach that peak.

Then we went off the road onto the actual trail. There were paved stairs, seemed simple enough. Hard because stairs, but also easy to climb. Then the stairs ended and I began struggling.

Soon enough, the rest of the group was far ahead. The path was lined with rocks, and it was uphill the entire time. Among the trees there was no breeze and a lot of sweat. My backpack felt as though it were filled with bricks.

Along with the excess hill climbing, I was hot from shame. I was the only one lagging behind. I couldn't even see the others anymore. One person stayed behind with me--Trey, another of the trip leaders. 

Every muscle burned. I almost slipped on dirt made slick from the earlier drizzle. Beneath the trees, there was no sight of the top. There were only more slopes, more rocks, more trees. Fifteen minutes in, I didn't think I could make it all the way up. I tried to imagine the walk down 

I began repeating Bible verses and every worship song related to mountains. One song played on repeat in my head: For the Lord is, He is able; He is faithful, higher than the mountains that I face.

Trey gave me his extra water and told me what he did when hiking.

You can't focus on the peak, on the ultimate goal, the end of the struggle. You pick a spot, somewhere in your eyesight. You make it there, take a deep breath, drink some water, and choose a new spot.

I kept going. At every stop, I didn't believe I could make it up, to the next tree. We came out of the woods, but hadn't yet reached the top. Now I could see the peak again, but it seemed more impossible now. The others had already almost made it. I was close to stopping, accepting this spot as good enough. 

But I made it this far. I could make it to that long grass over there, reach the end of the burnt trees.

The cold elevated air made my throat sting. I repeated the words of that song in my head over and over. All those songs about going over and moving mountains were becoming a whole lot more relatable. 

The very top of the hill was elevated from the clearing by a steeper slope. The cross, the view, the fruit of my breath aching effort was separated by 30+ feet of an almost 90° angle wall of rocks.

When Trey and I reached the base of the final cliff, Matt came back to us.

"There's no easy way up there," he said.

No hidden short cut on the other side, no ladder, no stairs. Just rocks.

I took a few deep breaths, drank some more water. Every inch of my legs was in pain. If someone had told me my calves had literally been set on fire, I would've believed him.

I could've turned around, looked at the view and accepted the beauty that was already there. But I knew, I was so positive the top would be worth it. God had something for me. I wasn't going to quit and take the easy way out.

I put on foot on the first rock, took Matt's hand, and stepped up. First to that solid ledge, then to another. My lungs were icy, my heart pounding louder, begging me to stop here, walk back down. I kept going, with Matt in front of me and Trey behind me. 

"Almost there," Matt told me.

Each step was tentative and full of thought. Everything in me was clenched, strained to keep going, keep going, keep going. Every time I reached with my hand, stood on a ledge, stepped with my foot, I couldn't believe I would be able to do it again.

His grace is sufficient for me, for his power is made perfect in weakness. 

With altitude and wind and breathlessness fighting against my lungs, I reached the top. My heart still pounded. Trey and Matt left me alone and I stood. There was the cross, so much greater than when I'd seen it from the shore three days that week. It wasn't too twigs tied together with twine. It was stone. Steady, unshaken, stone.

I cried. The freezing wind bit at my hot tears. I made it. Despite wanting to turn back with every step, I kept going. When I couldn't see the top, couldn't see the cross, I kept going. When I felt small and weak because I couldn't keep up with the others, I kept going. When all of my insecurities whispered in the pounding of my heart, I kept going.

God didn't just have something for me a the top. He had so much for me in every painstaking step.

The hike wasn't easy. It was one of the hardest physical, mental, and emotional things I'd ever done. But I made it. I saw the cross, and from the point, saw the ocean for miles and miles, saw Ireland in a way I never imagined, looked down and saw exactly how far I'd come. If I wouldn't have had someone walking beside me and behind me, I know without a doubt I could not have walked all the way up that hill. If I had walked up there to take cool pictures for Instagram, I would've quit halfway through.

The view was beautiful. The stone cross was incredible. But the hike? The hike was everything, every ounce of strength I didn't know I had, every shortcoming made perfect in grace.

Less than a month ago, I would've never said hiking was anywhere near something on my to-do list, but that climb made me realize that the hike, and most journeys in life, aren't about your strength. They're about endurance and perseverance. 

And for me, they're about courage--every step a little more brave.

|| "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:9 ||

Sunday, March 26, 2017

When You Weren't Invited

Dear friend,
You weren't invited. You weren't noticed. You weren't chosen.

It's past midnight and you're scrolling through Instagram, seeing the fun photos and exciting captions. And you weren't there. 

Why? You wonder. After all your effort and time spent, they overlooked you. And the lies seep in. You're not funny enough. Not pretty enough. Not fashionable or thin or curvy or good enough. The friends you thought were your best stop responding, stop speaking.

But friend, this is not who you are. I've met Rejection a few times, and he's not a nice guy. He weasels his way in and replaces your expectations with disappointment and pain. He steals joy and brings down weeks.

When this bully walks into your life, there are a few things you must remember:

1. You are accepted.

Darling, there is a love, a friend, who will always accept you. Yes, you've heard it before. He may not seem like enough now, but when you but your hand in His, Jesus will be with you where you go because that's where true love goes. He doesn't give His heart in pieces because he is faithful even when we are not.

|| I took you from the ends of the earth,
    from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
    I have chosen you and have not rejected you. - Isaiah 41:9 ||

2. You don't have to be "enough."

No, not everyone will like you. You won't be everyone's best friend. And that's okay. There are and will be people who place unfair, unreal expectations on you and that's stupid. Who you are, who you really are, is who you're made to be. You will never meet everyone's expectation of enough. But you are not in competition with any one else. You are your own kind of enough that no one else is because someone else's enough-ness does not change yours.

3. They weren't trying to hurt you.

Those people who rejected you? They've been rejected too. There's a 99.9% chance they didn't mean to exclude you. They weren't trying to point out your flaws or make you feel bad. From what I know about other people--they're battling the same things as you. Their fight may look different, and you probably can't see it, but it's there. People are just people. It doesn't matter how exciting their Snapchat stories and Instagram posts are.

4. You can rise above it.

Don't let rejection define you. Instead of focusing on the loss, focus on the new. Growth happens in the breaking. I'm not telling you to get revenge or become a passive-aggressive subtweet-er or block them on every social media. I'm telling you that you can move on. Move on from the hurt into a new day. And yes, there will come a time when you hurt again but it's not because something is wrong with you. It's because life hurts sometimes. Don't let yourself get caught in the hurt. Keep living. Keep trusting God.

There isn't an easy answer to rejection. It hurts. But if no one else has told you, and even if they have, let me tell you: you're beautiful. You're lovable. You're unique. You're needed. You're wanted. You will be okay.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

The Lost Girl of Astor Street Clue Hunt #17 - Book Review

4.7/5 Stars

The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill

Tornado sirens went off while I was reading the Lost Girl of Astor Street. My first thought was that I’d have to keep reading in the bathroom safe area.

This book had me at the edge of my seat even before Lydia went missing. From Piper to Mr. LeVine, each character came alive within the first words they spoke. I was enveloped in the 1920s, not with flashy name dropping but with living, breathing people who showed me around without showing off.

The Plot
The primary plot is the mystery of Lydia LeVine’s disappearance. Piper refuses to be useless to the investigation, gradually doing more and more to aid the officers involved. But the mystery isn’t the only thread pulled through the novel. Plot lines surrounding Piper’s family, friends, and enemies work together like players in a jazz band.

The twists and turns caught me off guard, exactly as a mystery should, and yet were set up so well beforehand. I laughed, I cried. There were moments I wanted to throw the book across the room but couldn’t because I was reading on my laptop. I loved it. The only issue I had with the plot was that, towards the end, it slowed down before speeding up a little too quickly. Things could’ve taken a little more time to wrap up.

The Characters
Oh. My. Gosh. The characters were my absolute favorite part. Stephanie Morrill is a master of characters. Each one, major and minor, spoke and acted like people. Everyone was a person, with their own goals and motivations. Piper was the spunky, strong lead. Detective Cassano foiled and fit with her in the perfect way. All of Piper’s relationships with everyone Personalities and backgrounds were established without jarring info dumps. I rooted for the heroes and understood the antagonists.

The Setting
Lost Girl didn’t take place in the 20s because it’s a fun time, and it didn’t take place in Chicago because it’s an interesting city. 1924 Chicago was part of the plot, the true home of the characters. Social class, mobsters, locations, and even fashion painted the picture without becoming overwhelming and distracting. It was perfect.

I’m in love with this book. So much so, that even though I got a free ARC on my computer, I pre-ordered a hard copy so I can force it into my friends’ hands and make them read it.

I received a free copy of this book. The review is mine entirely.


Clue 1: Stephanie Morrill
Clue 2: Some Books Are
Clue 3: Gabriella Slade
Clue 4: Page by Page, Book by Book
Clue 5: Pens and Scrolls
Clue 6: Singing Librarian Books
Clue 7: Heather Manning
Clue 8: Annie Louise Twitchell
Clue 9: Noveling Novelties
Clue 10: Kaitee Hart
Clue 11: Classics and Craziness
Clue 12: Zerina Blossom
Clue 13: Rebecca Morgan
Clue 14: Keturah's Korner
Clue 15: That Book Gal
Clue 16: Anna Schaeffer
Clue 17: Hadley Grace
Clue 18: Lydia Howe
Clue 19: Ramblings by Bethany
Clue 20: Matilda Sjöholm
Clue 21: Lydia Carns
Clue 22: Broken Birdsong
Clue 23 & Clue 24: The Ink Loft
Clue 25: Roseanna M. White

Monday, January 23, 2017

New Season

This is my last semester of high school.

Last year, I was desperate to get out of high school. My junior year was, in a word, terrible. There were good moments. It got better towards the end. But I was miserable for a significant portion of my 11th grade year.

My sophomore year, I saw my high school career ending a whole lot differently. I imaged a graduation ceremony with my friends, staying in touch and even as close friends with several of my current high school friends. Now, I'm not good friends with most of the people I was friends with that year.

Six months ago looks much different than right now. I had no idea what the semester would look like. I didn't know who my friends would be, what dual credit classes I would take, or when I would get my license. I didn't know I would get a smart phone, a job, and a two hour drive to debate club. I had no vision for the rest of the year or the next.

I spent the fall semester figuring things out.

I found myself doing something I dreamed of since I was twelve and getting paid for it.

I found myself with stress and pressure and learning to deal with it.

I found myself making friends with just the people I needed and feeling included again.

I found myself preparing for a new season.

That's what senior year is all about, right? Getting ready, planning, figuring things out. What I've figured out? God knows what's best.

Trusting God doesn't mean knowing what's happening next. Trusting God is believing that whatever happens, God knows what's happening next. He isn't surprised by that heart break, that disappointment, that choice. He knows you, He knows what's best for you. And for me.

I'm still figuring things out. Which was my excuse for blogging like, never. So for the sake of figuring things out, I'm going to put some things on this blog I wouldn't have before (like the occasional book review, or photography experiment). Basically, I'm going to blog every week I can with whatever I want to post. (You probably don't care, but I feel like it'd be weird if I started posting different stuff with no warning.) 

New seasons are scary, but they're also super exciting. Yeah, I'm nervous. I'm getting ready to go to university, and I don't know how that's going to treat me. But I'm not scared.